Monday, August 27, 2012

Back to Ghoul: Tools of the Monster Trade - Grimoire

Students aren’t the only ones heading back to the classrooms next week – it’s back to business for monster hunters, as well, especially with Halloween only a couple of months away.

Which is why we’ve dubbed September “Back to Ghoul” – a month of profiles on infamous tools of the trade, whether you’re a beastie or a monster slayer, kicking off with a favourite among witches and warlocks: The Grimoire.

Considered the textbook of magic, a modern Grimoire covers everything from how to create magical objects like talisman and amulets, to how to perform magical spells, and even how to invoke supernatural entities. In today’s pop culture, the Grimoire has morphed into more of a “paranormal bible” but the term dates as far back as between the 5th and 4th centuries, BC when the earliest known incantations were found on various clay-tablets excavated in modern Iraq.

These days, "Grimoire" is an alternate term for a spell book or tome of magical knowledge, the most famous being the literary fiction Necronomicon, the creation of horror and fantasy author, H.P. Lovecraft.

Whether in the real or fantasy world, Grimoires are one of the most-sought after and sacred tools of the monster trade. Chances are, you’ll have a hard time getting your hands on one, but here’s the list of the top 10 “real” Grimoires just in case:

1. The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses – with its pseudo-Hebraic mystical symbols, spirit conjurations and psalms, this book containing the secret wisdom of Moses was a founding text of Rastafarianism, a 1930s spiritual movement that arose in Jamaica.

2. Clavicule of Solomon – The granddaddy of Grimoires. Believed to be written by King Solomon, this text was used to obtain wisdom, discover treasures, and vanquish spirits. No wonder it was in hot demand.

3. Petit Albert – As well as practical household tips, this “little” book included spells to catch fish, charms for healing, and instructions on how to make a Hand of Glory, which would render one invisible.

4. The Book of the St. Cyprian – Said to have been first written by St. Cyprian in the 18th Century, this magical guide for the treasure hunter can still be purchased from the streets of Mexico City to herbalist stalls high in the Andes.

5. Dragon rouge – Another product of the cheap Grimoire boom of 18th Century France, the Draon rouge was infamous for including an invocation of the devil and his lieutenants.

6. The Book of Honorius – Through prayers and invocations, books of Honorius gave instructions on how to receive visions of God, Hell and purgatory, and knowledge of all science.

7. The Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy – Though the influential 16th Century philosopher Cornelius Agrippa wrote three books on occult sciences, the fourth text was written after his death – and blackened his name when the witch trials swept across Europe.

8. The Magus – Published in 1801, and written by balloonist Frances Barrett, the Magus was a re-statement of 17th Century occult science. Though a flop at the time, it influenced 19th Century and contemporary magical traditions.

9. The Necronomicon – Despite being a literary fiction created by horror and fantasy writer H.P. Lovecraft, several “real” Necronomicons have been published over the decades.

10. Book of Shadows – The founding text of modern Wicca. Through its mention in such pop culture TV dramas like Charmed, The Book of Shadows has achieved considerable cultural recognition.

If you’re lucky enough to stumble across one of these ancient texts, hold on tight – you could be holding the key for monster hunters around the globe. Because the more we know about the world's most-wanted monsters, the less chance they have to get YOU.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monster Monday: Nyx

The Greek goddess of night, Nyx can assume the form of a strikingly beautiful winged woman or a black bird. She walks in shadow and may dwell in dark caves. One of the oldest goddesses her power is great and to be feared. As are her children, Hypnos – god of sleep, Thanatos – god of death, Moros – god of doom, and many others.

When the mood strikes her, or if called upon by magic, Nyx serves as an oracle, foretelling of great or terrible events. Humans and gods are vulnerable in her presence, as both good and evil deeds can be performed or hidden under the veil of darkness.

Survival Tip: An ancient goddess, Nyx can not be defeated, however, her world is darkness, therefore the light of day may be the very thing to drive her off. If sunrise is hours away - there are always flashlights and nightlights.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Monster Monday: Sasquatch

Of all the beasties in the world, I probably believe in the Sasquatch - or Bigfoot - the most.

Maybe it's because I grew up in the British Columbia Kootenays or the fact that my first taste of beer was from a bottle of Kokanee, for which the Sasquatch has become the brand's mascot.

In a world crawling with perceived cooler paranorms, Bigfoot tends to get shuffled aside, its existence often rationalized by a combination of folklore, misidentification, and hoax.

But it isn't just a handful of monster hunters that believe these hairy cryptids walk the earth - real scientists like Jane Goodall and Jeffrey Meldrum have expressed interest in the creature and agree the evidence warrants further testing.

Described as a large, hairy ape-like creature, standing 6-10 feet tall and weighing more than 500 pounds, the Bigfoot is named for for its enormous footprints, some measuring as large as 24 inches long and 8 inches wide. If you don't hear the creature coming by its thunderous walk, perhaps you'll be tipped off by its infamous strong, unpleasant smell. Phew.

Still, as my family and I traveled through BC last week, I couldn't help but hope for a glimpse of one of these hairy creatures. Alas, we found only a 4-foot tall bronze statue, in which someone had cleverly placed a Kokanee box in its hands. Empty, of course.

Survival Tip: Most Bigfoot sightings are reported at night, and the beast is believed to be an omnivore (and maybe a bit of an alcoholic), so chances are, you're safe. But if you're camping in the forest and you hear its thunderous footsteps, you might want to get out of the way.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Monster Monday: Thunderbird

We watch them soar over fields, mountain ranges, and bodies of water. Feed them in parks. Keep them in cages.

How we love birds - angry, or otherwise.

They've been the subjects of cartoons, comics, horror films, video games, epic poems, and it has been argued they’re the modern evolutionary representatives of the dinosaur - they've even inspired the creation of cars, motor cycles, jet planes, computer software, and musical instruments. Symbols of wisdom, victory, messengers, guidance, protection, strength, freedom, rebirth, death, and more - the bird has certainly captured our collective imagination.

Yet no species has inspired both fear and awe like the legendary aboriginal creature, the Thunderbird. With supernatural power and a vast wingspan, the beating of a Thunderbird’s wings is said to cause the thunder we hear in the sky. Lightning bolts burst from its eyes and it can generate fierce storms.

Some are said to assume human form to avenge their kind who have been captured by humans in the past. Cryptologists investigate current sightings and hope to discover where these giant birds nest. One account describes a massive bird that clutched a man in its claws and flew into the air for several feet before dropping the human to the earth and vanishing into the sky.

Survival Tip: Thunderbirds can be ornery and as moody as the storms they control. They also have a long memory and will wait for the right moment to strike. Best to avoid ticking them off by NEVER attempting to trap one of their flock.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Monster Monday (ish): Mothman

It's probably the mosquitoes that are causing you the most angst in the past week, but if moths and butterflies also give you the heebie jeebies, you're really going to shudder over this week's monster profile, the Mothman.

Described as a man-sized creature with wings of a moth and red eyes, the Mothman is believed to be a harbinger of doom. The monster was first spotted in 1966  by a number of residents in Charleston and Point Pleasant, just prior to the collapse of a suspension bridge that killed 46 people.

Since then, sightings have mostly tapered off, but that hasn't stopped residents of Point Pleasant from paying homage to the creature every year. Now in it's 10th year, the Mothman Festival takes place in early fall and features two days of mysterious, family-fun events, high profile guest speakers, a hayride, and...a pageant? Want to check it out? Find out more at

Survival Tip: Like all cryptids, the Mothman's existence is not supported by science, but it does occupy a unique place in pop culture, lending enough credence to make a person wary. While there have been no accounts of the Mothman harming anyone, a sighting may not be good news for you and your loved ones. Maybe avoid the festival...