Monday, January 30, 2012

Monster Monday: Night Mare

Image: The Nightmare by Henri Fussli.

Have you ever had a horrible, terrifying dream from which you were unable to awake? Or experienced the dreadful sensation of trying to wake from a bad dream, only to discover you’re unable to move, or that a heavy weight presses down on you?

You may have had a visitation from an ancient creature known as the night mare. These demons or goblins sit or “ride” upon a person’s chest while they are sleeping, inspiring the bad dreams we call nightmares.

The night mare is similar to its cousins the succubus and incubus, both of which haunt the dreams of men and women while syphoning away their lives. Victims experience insomnia, stress, weakness, difficulty breathing and if plagued by persistent visits - even death.

Scientists believe the origin of the night mare to be an explanation for the disorder known as sleep paralysis in which upon waking, a person experiences a sense of danger, hallucinations and yet is unable to move. This immobility usually lasts several seconds, but can be endured for several minutes and in extreme instances – hours.

Survival tip: Don’t sleep on your back, or indulge in sleeping in too late in the morning as you may be unwittingly offering an open invitation to a night mare.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monster Monday: Dragons

With the start of the Chinese New Year, there’s bound to bea few more dragon sightings over the next 15 days – especially since it is the year of the dragon.

For those who follow the Chinese zodiac, dragons are a bigdeal. Known as the most noble animal symbol representing the Chinese emperors,dragons are thought to be born leaders and masters of ceremonies. And becauseof this, every Chinese parent is hoping to have a dragon child.

But for monster hunters – and trapped fairy tale princesses– the dragon is much more feared than revered. And a worthy Prince must slaythe beast if he hopes to win the heart of his beloved bride. No easy task.

Often depicted as reptilian with a giant lizard-like bodyand a forked tongue, the most-popular dragons have large eyes, scaly, featheredbodies, and the ability to breathe fire. These fire-breathers, known as FireDrake, make frequent appearances in literature. In addition to Puff the MagicDragon (who lived by the sea), you may be aware of Smaug, the last of the fire-breathingdragons in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, or Norbert, the green Fire Drakehatched by Hagrid, the groundskeeper of Hogwart’s College in the Harry Potterbooks.

Of course, as with most legendary creatures, these beastiestake on a different form depending on were they’re from. Chinese Dragonsresemble large snakes. European Dragons have bat-type wings growing from theirbacks. And in the New Testament, the Devil himself morphed into a red dragonwith seven heads and ten horns for his battle with Archangel Michael.

Regardless of culture, the Dragon is steeped in lore, itsexistence foretelling everything from power to prosperity. Keep your eyes open– this is the dragon’s year.

Survival Tip: Getthee to a sword shop and then watch ThePrincess Bride. A few times. Wesley may not have to do battle with adragon, but his sword-wielding techniques are legendary.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monster Monday: Giants

Fairy Tales such as Jack and the Beanstalk often depictgiants as stupid or violent monsters, frequently said to eat humans, especiallychildren. They can roar like thunder, make the earth shake, and have akeen sense of smell…fee fi fo fum.

And known for their prodigioussize and strength, these beasties have shared more than their fifteen minutesof fame.

With over three dozen known “groups”, the giant is a storybook and popculture favorite. From the one-eyed Cyclops to the Hundred-Armed monsters (yes,with 100 arms and 50 heads each), this creature of giant proportions has mademany appearances in classic fiction and on film.

Even some over-large ogresand trolls are classified as giants.

Regardless of their size andshape, this beastie has been around a longtime.

Indeed, the most famous maybe Goliath. Standing 6 feet, 9 inches tall, this biblical giant faced offagainst young David, and lost – giving hope to the universal underdog.

Survival Tip: What to do if you’re faced with a giant that isn’t jolly and green? Useyour wit. While not all giants are violent, the majority are a few bricks short of a full load. Outsmarting them may be yourbest chance of escape – unless of course, you’re channeling your inner David.But for goodness sakes, never wake a sleeping giant.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Monster Monday: Kelpie

Kelpie artwork credit

Horse myths go back to ancient times when Helios and his chariot, pulled by four stallions, charged across the sky, dragging the sun along behind them. Horse cults spread throughout Britain and Ireland, including those who worshiped the goddess Epona.

These wild creatures have served man for thousands of years, carrying our warriors into to battle and safely home again. Yet not all ponies are created equal. One of the most famous creatures of Celtic mythology is the water horse known as Kelpie. Kelpie are usually beautiful young mares or stallions discovered calmly grazing by rivers or lakes. Weary travellers are fooled by their gentle appearance and once upon the backs of these beasties…the Kelpie goes dark side - bolting for the water and to drown their unwanted riders in its depths.

It's said you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Or can you? Legend has it if you fasten a bridle around a Kelpie’s neck, you can bend the beast to your will. If the bridle is removed, however, watch out…the Kelpie will seek vengeance!

SURVIVAL TIP: Identification in this instance can save your life. The timid, wandering horse you stumble upon may appear innocent enough...BEWARE... if it has a dripping wet mane or tail – let this dark horse RUN – without you.

BONUS: Combining last week’s post about witches with today’s horse mythology, the folksong “Witch of the Westmorland” featuring the artwork of Matthew Westberg and performed by the late, great, Canadian folksinger, Stan Rodgers:

Monday, January 2, 2012

Monster Monday: Witches

“Only bad witches are ugly,” Glenda the Good Witch of theNorth often proclaimed, and she may have a point – at least in books and onfilm. Certainly, her Wizard of Oz sibling,The Wicked Witch of the West, has inspired many a child’s nightmares over theyears.

Might have something to do with that infamous green skin.

Indeed, it is Glenda’s sister often portrayed at Halloween –children and adults alike flock to all-black costumes including tall-pointedhats and striped stockings. Their well-practiced cackles echo on busytrick-or-treat streets.

But not all evil witches can be characterized by thisstereotypical look. In fact, most modern witches don’t conform to anycommercial stereotype at all.

According to anthropologist Phillips Stevens, Jr., forcenturies, witches have been seen as something far more terrifying thananything found in Harry Potter or The Wizard of Oz. A quick look at theSalem Witch Trials of 1692 demonstrates societies long-standing fear of witches– way before Disney and the like jumped on the “evil” bandwagon.

Thankfully, in recent literature, the idea of white magic has becomemore popular, recognizing wicca as religion like any other, including ritualsand a doctrine. Unlike most Western religions, though, Wiccans worship agoddess and a god.

As Stevens points out, “witch” and “witchcraft” are amongthe most loaded words in anthropology, conjuring images not only popularized byfiction, but also the idea of pagan religious practices, the persecution ofinnocent people, mysterious night time rituals, and mass murders.

While the word “witch” is still synonymous with evil, theconcepts of good witch vs bad are still under much debate. The most commoncharacteristics – on either side of the argument – include the ability tochange shape, the power of flight, use of animals as familiars (such as a blackcat), nocturnal behaviors and the ability to cast a spell – either by wavingher wand, mixing up a powerful potion, or simply twitching her nose.

Of course, we’ve merely scratched the surface on this "supernatural" –keep watch for more posts about witches in 2012.

Survival Tip: Wedon’t recommend setting out on a witch hunt. As one of the most camoflaugedparanorms, you could stumble come across a witch anywhere and there’s notelling which side of the good vs evil parallel she stands.