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frameacloud: A white dragon with its tail in a knot. (Heraldry transparent)
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Content warnings: Redfern's article describes cannibalism in medium detail. Some unrelated fantasy artwork included with the article shows gore.

October: Cryptozoologist Nick Redfern wrote an article about a wendigo trial that happened in Canada in 1879. A Cree man named Swift Runner confessed that he had survived a bad winter by eating the bodies of his family. Swift Runner said this happened to him because he was possessed by a dangerous type of entity called a wendigo. Swift Runner was executed for cannibalism.

In Algonquin mythology, Wendigos are cannibal entities associated with cold winters. They possess people and turn them into wendigos. Sometimes people who know those stories believe they possessed by wendigos. People of European background think that problem is a culture-bound syndrome, and call it "wendigo psychosis."
frameacloud: A white dragon with its tail in a knot. (Heraldry transparent)
[personal profile] frameacloud
Content warnings: None.

A historical anthropologist named Willem de Blécourt published an academic article on common problems in studying werewolves. In "Monstrous Theories: Werewolves and the Abuse of History," he points out that researchers tend to misrepresent this subject because they focus on werewolves only within one field: historical witch-trials, folklore, or fiction.
frameacloud: A white dragon with its tail in a knot. (Heraldry transparent)
[personal profile] frameacloud
Trigger warnings: Religion. Dragon-slaying. Dangerous bodies of water.

July: An anthropologist called EsoterX, in their blog of research about monsters in mythology and folklore, posted a new research article about dragon-slaying in medieval France. EsoterX argues that the "dragons" in these myths were, in reality, dangerous bodies of water, such as floods and whirlpools. In allegory, the saints "slew" these "dragons" by building levees. Later, the allegory was lost, and the myths were taken literally.

This article is not about otherkin. However, it could be of interest to otherkin who identify as dragons, or for whom dragons figure significantly in their spirituality or personal mythology.


Source


EsoterX, "Dragons Check In, But They Don’t Check Out: Saintly Medieval Pest Control in France." 2013-07-21. EsoterX: If Monsters Don't Exist, Why Are They Out To Get Me? http://esoterx.com/2013/07/21/dragons-check-in-but-they-dont-check-out-saintly-medieval-pest-control-in-france
frameacloud: A white dragon with its tail in a knot. (Heraldry transparent)
[personal profile] frameacloud
Trigger warnings for this post: blood-drinking, bad publicity.

As mentioned in an earlier article here, the Channel 4 documentary about the Crimson Blood Wolf Pack aired on November 13, 2011. The pack in question is a mixture of teenage vampires and werewolves living in Antonio, Texas. Unfortunately, the documentary showed the teens drinking blood without taking any safety precautions. The incautious behavior shown in the documentary should not be seen as typical of the vampire community.

As a public service announcement, a “signal boost” of what Merticus pointed out on the Atlanta Vampire Alliance (AVA) media center forums regarding the documentary:

“The Atlanta Vampire Alliance [AVA] is abhorred after viewing the content depicted in this documentary. The real vampire community and self-identified real vampires do not condone such reckless and dangerous blood sharing practices. The adults, ‘vampires’, ‘donors’, and documentary film crew responsible for this film should be ashamed of their actions and held accountable as provided by law.”

Merticus goes on to recommend that interested parties should read The Vampiric Ethos and Real Vampire Community Personal Safety & Privacy Awareness.1 The real vampire community is very conscious about ethics and safety, particularly in regard to blood sharing, which requires sterile conditions in order to protect against cuts becoming infected or worse. The ignorance of these issues in the documentary could lead to viewers causing themselves serious physical harm.

In order to spread awareness of what the vampire community is really like, and particularly to raise awareness of safety issues related to blood drinking, Merticus was interviewed in a Yahoo UK & Ireland article on the 17th, titled “Twilight debunked: A vampire expert on the truth about vampire lore.”2 That article does not mention the Channel 4 documentary.

- O. Scribner

Sources )
frameacloud: A stylized green dragon person reading a book. (Default)
[personal profile] frameacloud
Just published this year: a new expanded second edition of Steiger’s The Werewolf Book: The Encyclopedia of Shape-Shifting Beings. The first edition (from 1999) included a paragraph about the therianthrope community of the newsgroup alt.horror.werewolves in the entry for “Howls,” but didn’t mention anything about the therianthrope philosophy that originated in that group. I do not know whether Steiger includes anything about therianthrope philosophy in the second edition.

Sources )
frameacloud: A stylized green dragon person reading a book. (Default)
[personal profile] frameacloud
Trigger warnings for this article: environmentalist issues, suffering nature spirits, credulous and incredulous views of supernatural. Work-safe.

During this July in the village of Bolungarvík in Iceland, human construction of an avalanche wall and a tunnel through a mountain were halted by strange accidents, including an accident with dynamiting in which flying debris caused damage to the village. Seer Vigdís Kristín Steinþórsdóttir claimed that the accidents were caused by the spirits who live in the hills, including both elves (huldufólk, hidden folk) and giants. (No relation to the Earth Liberation Movement [ELF], which has also been known to sabotage construction.) These spirits were angered because the humans didn’t ask for permission to work in their hills. According to Steinþórsdóttir, some of the spirits had been hurt or killed by the construction.

To appease the spirits and give them time to safely evacuate, locals held a ceremony in their honor, and sang for the elves. Local musician Benedikt Sigurdsson performed and said, “I have now been asked by both elves and men to broker a compromise here, and I hope that this song will suffice.”

Officials avoided associating themselves with what they saw as an irrational explanation. “The mayor Elías Jónatansson did not attend the ceremony.”1 “Seers requested the Bolungarvík municipal government make a full apology to the hidden people [but] the council … refused to co-operate.”2 After the ceremony, construction resumed.3

The hidden folk are a significant part of Icelandic folklore. The Icelandic Elf School (Álfaskólinn), established 1991, educates about this folklore by collecting stories about them and offering field trips to sites thought to be haunted by hidden folk. The head of the school, Magnús Skarphéðinsson, claims that according to a 2006 survey, “26% of Icelanders believe in elves.”4


Sources )
frameacloud: A white dragon with its tail in a knot. (Heraldry transparent)
[personal profile] frameacloud
Trigger warnings for this article: none that I can think of. Work-safe.


Note: I found out about a dragon-related seasonal event that I’d never heard of before. I wrote this article last year, but the research took so long that I couldn’t post it in time for that October. I decided to wait until this October to post it. Another thing… despite all the tourism this event attracts, I couldn’t find any satisfactory photos or drawings of it anywhere! So I drew it based on the descriptions.

Every year around this time, on the last night of Buddhist Lent, hundreds of glowing fireballs float up from part of the Mekong River in Thailand. According to legend, these are the fiery breath of the Naga, the supernatural serpents who live underwater. In mythology, the Naga are shape-shifters who have much wealth and magic. Stories about the Naga influenced the development of stories about dragons in Chinese mythology. Other explanations for the fireballs are being sought, but so far, the event’s cause is still a mystery. 

The fireballs happen yearly, and they have done so for over a century, which is confirmed by the writings of contemporary monks.1

Location: Along a 100-kilometer stretch of the Mekong River, near the ancient Wat Paa Luang temple and the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, in the Nong Khai province in the Issan region of Thailand.2 Sometimes, the fireballs appear simultaneously in ponds in a neighboring province, where they had various colors: red, yellow, and green.3 “[S]cientists found that 90 percent of the fireballs appear near the confluence of the Mekong River and estuaries of secondary streams, while ten percent of the fireballs appear at inland water ponds.”4

The fireballs are called bung fai paya nak (Naga fireballs) because the locals believe that the fireballs are breathed out by supernatural water-serpents called Nagas. Because the fireballs coincide with the end of Buddhist Lent, it’s thought that the Nagas are celebrating the return of Buddha from heaven.5

The fireballs happen like this: they are luminous orbs, usually red or pink in color. One by one, they float above the water, moving straight up into the air, and then disappear high up. The fireballs are silent, odorless, and leave no debris; they range in size from grapefruits to basketballs.6 They appear on the last night of Buddhist Lent in October, on the full moon of the 11th lunar month.7 The fireballs appear again in May.8 They begin to appear starting at 6 pm.9 There are usually hundreds of them. In 2002, “at least 1,000 balls of light were spotted despite clouds and rain.”10 In 2007, there were only 67 fireballs in total, the majority of which were in the Ratana Wapi sub-district.11 Read more... )

frameacloud: A white dragon with its tail in a knot. (Heraldry transparent)
[personal profile] frameacloud
Trigger warnings for this article: wild birds in captivity. Work-safe.

In fables, animals speak, do clever things, and otherwise behave like humans so that we humans may more easily see ourselves.  We take for granted that fables are teaching-tales, not to be taken as literal facts.  The animals do fanciful, imaginary things.  However, there seem to be some exceptions where the stories could have been based on observation of real animals.  There is a curious case with the fable of the Crow and the Pitcher.  It’s included in Æsop’s Fables, a collection of ancient Greek moral tales.  I’ve been told that an identical story is in the Pancha-Tantra (“Five Chapters”), an Indian book of fables.  The fable goes like this:

Antique illustration of this fable.

“A thirsty Crow found a Pitcher with some water in it, but so little was there that, try as she might, she could not reach it with her beak, and it seemed as though she would die of thirst within sight of the remedy.  At last she hit upon a clever plan.  She began dropping pebbles into the Pitcher, and with each pebble the water rose a little higher until at last it reached the brim, and the knowing bird was enabled to quench her thirst.  Necessity is the mother of invention.”1

            Is this anthropomorphism (interpreting animals as human-like, as is characteristic of fables), or could this be something that real animals do?  Usually the events in fables are clearly imaginary, but this one is to be wondered about.  We are beginning to understand the remarkable intelligence found in crows and other members of the corvid family.

            A recent study in animal intelligence resembled the fable.2  Four rooks (crow-like corvids) were presented with this scenario: they were each given a vial, containing a little water, with a worm floating on top as bait.  Then they were given stones.  The clever rooks were able to solve the problem quickly and intuitively.  As reported in Science Daily, “Two of the birds were successful on their first try to raise the height of the water to a level at which the worm floating on top could be reached whilst the other two birds needed a second try.  […R]ather than attempting to reach the worm after each stone was dropped, they apparently estimated the number needed from the outset and waited until the appropriate water level was reached before dipping their beaks into the tube.”  The test was repeated with variations, each revealing a little more of what the rooks understood of what they were doing.  For example, rooks showed that they understood that this was a property unique to fluids: they didn’t bother to drop any stones into a vial of sawdust.  When given stones of assorted sizes, the rooks “learnt rapidly that the larger stones displaced more water and they were therefore able to obtain the reward more quickly than using small stones.”3  The rooks weren’t trained to do this.  They just figured it out.

            This isn’t the only tool use expressed by rooks.  In another study, rooks learned to bend a piece of wire into a fish-hook shape to pull some food out of a narrow jar.  In this study, the researchers said they doubted that rooks use any tools in the wild… in any case, they haven’t been observed doing so.  Why not, though?  Anyone who has kept parrots knows that the smartest animals love a brain-teaser.  A challenge to the wits keeps them entertained.  In a healthy ecosystem, an animal’s time isn’t entirely taken up by a grim struggle for survival, and they even find time to play.  Tool use is awfully hard to observe in the wild, so much so that we only recently found out that animals used tools at all.

This experiment is one of Aesop’s fables captured in real life, showing that intelligence in animals isn’t necessarily anthropomorphism.  (So vain we are to think that intelligence is exclusively human-like!)  In my opinion, we should consider the possibility that the fable of the Crow and the Pitcher appeared in both Greece and India not because the story migrated from one place to another, as has been suggested by folklorists.  Rather, I fancy that it might have been a real and natural corvid behavior that was independently observed by people in various parts of the world.  The memorable sight could have been first told not as a fable, but as an anecdote. “I could learn something from that bird,” they might have said.

- O. Scribner

Sources )

frameacloud: A white dragon with its tail in a knot. (Heraldry transparent)
[personal profile] frameacloud
Trigger warnings for this article: description of violence in a folktale about the slaying of a dragon. Safe for work.

           May 27, 2009: In South Yorkshire, England, a new statue of a famous dragon was unveiled.1  It stands in a forest across from the cavernous crags (Wharncliffe Chase) that were said to be the home of the Dragon of Wantley, from a 17th century comedic play.2

The statue’s serpentine body is similar to an old-fashioned dry stone wall, meandering 15 meters (16.4 yards)3 before terminating in a large elm-wood head.  (See a photo of the statue4 on the site of Stone To Steel, a project working to preserve the region’s history.)  The wall portion was assembled by John Alston, and the head was carved by Mark Bell.5

To begin with, the Dragon of Wantley seems to have been a resident of folklore, not of myth.  Folktales are stories considered to be fictional by their culture of origin, whereas myth and legend are those stories thought by their tellers to be true.  (Myth is religious, and legend is historical.)6  The dragon’s tale was written to make fun of other dragon-slaying stories, as well as to mock contemporary figures; the contemporaries who understood this never believed that it was real.  In meaning, the play The Dragon of Wantley is now thought to have been an unflattering caricature of a current politician, or a satire of a recent court case in which a much-loathed lawyer was defeated.  However, when this context was later forgotten, the story was taken seriously, and so passed into legend.

Woodblock print of More kicking the Wantley Dragon.

The story of The Dragon of Wantley originated in 1685 as a burlesque opera.  Its satirical tone is clear: unlike dragon-slayers who are usually written as pure and holy, this knight is hedonistic, a drunk and a womanizer.  More of More Hall defeats the dragon not in the manner of saints and heroes (by the sign of the cross, a lance in the throat, or decapitation) but in an undignified manner: by wearing spiked armor, and kicking the dragon to death.7

Specifically, More kicked the dragon’s behind, as shown in the woodblock illustration that usually accompanies the poem (shown to the right).  The version most commonly reprinted now is the censored one published by Thomas Percy, which says this dragon’s one vulnerable place was instead its mouth, and omits several verses of base humor.  You can read the poem in both its permutations, being forewarned that even the cleaned-up one retains enough of its comedic character that it has the ability to offend (for example, with the terrible rhyme “Do but slay this dragon, who won't leave us a rag on”).8 

In 1892, The Dragon of Wantley was loosely adapted into an illustrated novel, similarly irreverent in tone, although the dragon expires in an altogether different manner.  By its vintage, it has passed into the public domain, so you can read the novel9 through Project Gutenberg, an online library of free public-domain e-books.

It’s appropriate that there is a statue of the Wantley Dragon on the very site described in its story.  The new statue of the Dragon of Wantley is different from other statues of famous dragons.  Take a look at it,10 it’s no delicate-featured bronze.  However, a folk craft such as chainsaw sculpture perfectly suits the character of the story it celebrates.

- O. Scribner

Sources )

frameacloud: A white dragon with its tail in a knot. (Heraldry transparent)
[personal profile] frameacloud
Trigger warnings for this article: description of altered state of consciousness. Safe for work.

2009-05-14, from the Herald Weekend Post, a South African newspaper est. 1846:

An artist, Guy Thesen, is having an exhibition in the Knysna Fine Art Gallery this May, called Considering Therianthropes. His original sculptures and paintings are inspired by the therianthropes (meaning “human-animals”) in ancient cave paintings made by the local San people.1 You can watch a video about Thesen’s exhibition, where he talks about the symbolic meanings of his own therianthropic art, as well as that of the San.2 (Video makes sound, but is otherwise “safe for work.”) He gives a fascinating lecture about how the therianthropes in rock art are thought to be based on the sensations that people have while they’re in trance, which are interpreted in art as physical transformations. You can read more about the inspiring cave paintings in the book Capturing the Spoor: An Exploration of Southern African Rock Art, by Eastwood & Eastwood.3 Some of the phenomena of the trance described sound similar to those in metaphysical traditions in other parts of the world.

- O. Scribner

Sources )

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