Changelings

Changelings could be things like glamoured rocks and logs, but were also often old fairies that no one wanted to deal with anymore, and so they were given to mortals in exchange for children. There were many myths about how to get one’s loved one back from fairies when they were replaced with a changeling. One of the ways to discover if your child was a changeling in Ireland involved brewing eggshells. The changeling would be so perplexed that it would comment on the act, revealing itself to be far older than a human infant or child. Once found out, the changeling could be exchanged for the true human child.

People who have studied the phenomenon and its history have a dark tale to tell. They believe that the changeling legend was eventually used, specifically in Ireland, as an excuse for people to abuse, neglect, and even kill disabled people, as changelings were often described as being different from normal humans in many ways. However, it was also occasionally used as an excuse to kill anyone who did not quite fit in, much like the excuse of witchcraft was used in other European countries. The last recorded case of this was in 1895, when an ill woman named Bridget Cleary was murdered by her husband and several of his friends. Her corpse was found burned and brutally mutilated, and her husband refused to murder. He instead said that he had succeeded in driving the fairy out, and that his wife would soon be returned to him. He was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to fifteen years in prison, but this was in a much more modern age. The stories of changelings are much older than that.

~Victoria

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The Evil Eye

The Evil Eye is a common concept in many cultures around the world. The Evil Eye is sort of like a curse, where the person who has been looked upon with it will face misfortunes. The Evil Eye can occur in various ways, depending on the culture. In most, the Evil Eye occurs when someone looks at you and envies what you have. In some cultures, the Evil Eye can be cast, so to speak, on purpose.

The Evil Eye beliefs are most common in the Mediterranean and in West Asia, although these beliefs have spread as far as South America. In many areas in the Mediterranean and Middle East, it is believed that people with green eyes are more likely to be able to cast the Evil Eye than those with brown. Those with blue eyes are the most likely to be able to accidentally, or purposely, use this power.

Eye symbols and talismans are often used as a sort of defense against the Evil Eye. For instance, the above image was one method used by the Egyptians. Normally the eye above is referred to as the Wedjat or The Eye of Horus. It was often used as a symbol of protection and one of its functions was to ward off the Evil Eye.

~Victoria

Four-Leafed Clovers

Four-Leafed clovers are considered to be good luck all over the Western world. However, they’re not always easy to find. In fact, for every four-leafed clover, there’s estimated to be 10,000 normal three-leafed clovers.

Nowadays four-leafed clovers represent luck overall. Some say that the four leaves actually represent faith, hope, love, and luck. In medieval times, carrying a four-leafed clover was supposed to allow you to see faeries, witches, spirits, and other entities or beings that could cause you harm.

Five-leafed clovers also exist. They’re considered to be even luckier than the four-leafed clovers. Also known as rose clovers, the fifth leaf is supposed to stand for money. The most leaves ever found on one clover stem is 56. The clover was found in Japan in 2009.

~Victoria

A Tour Through The Greek Afterlife

So you decided to go and die in Ancient Greece did you?  Well you’re in luck, for today only we’ll be having a tour through the Afterlife.  So hold onto your sandals and pray to Hermes for luck because here we go!

The Styx

The first stop on our tour is the River Styx, and sadly, it’s our last stop for many people.  If you’re unlucky enough that your family didn’t put a coin under your tongue or two over your eyes, then I’m afraid you’re out of luck.  The ferryman, Charon, is stingy as Tartarus and never lets people ride for free.  While in some myths he ferries the river Acheron, you’ll still need a coin to get through.  Once across you’ll be taken to the Judges of the Underworld, who will decide where you go.

Notable People:

-Charon: Stingy ferryman and only way to cross the River Styx.  Said to be extremely filthy with eyes like jets of fire (maybe some eye drops man?).

-Cerberus: Three headed guard dog of the underworld.  Known for keeping souls from wandering back to the living and for being a big softie when it comes to music

Tartarus

Oh man, if you ended up here, you did something horrible in life.  Similar to the Christian version of Hell, it’s a huge pit filled with all the people who defied the gods.  From the titans to Tantalus, you’ll probably never be bored here, as you’ll have your eternal punishment to keep you busy.

Notable People:

-Tantalus: Tried to offer his son as a sacrifice to the gods.  Now he stands in a neck high pool of water with fruit hanging above him.  Every time he tries to reach up, the branches move out of his way and every time he tries to drink the water recedes.

-Titans: The precursors to the Greek Gods, they were thrown down here after the great battle.  Missing are Atlas, who holds up the sky, Prometheus, who created humans and then stole the fire from the gods, and Epimetheus, who fell in love with the doomed Pandora.

-Sisyphus: Chained Thanatos (Death) to a pole so that no one could die.  Is forever stuck rolling a boulder up a hill, as it nears the top, it then rolls back down.

Asphodel Meadows

Neither good nor bad, this is the middle ground of the afterlife.  Here you’ll enjoy wandering through never ending fields.  But this is only after you drink from the river Lethe, which will remove your memories from your previous life.

Notable People:

-None: No one remembers who they are

Elysium

The land of heroes, you’re extremely lucky if you end up here.  Filled with every delight you can possibly imagine, it’s only for those who were chosen by the gods or who distinguished themselves throughout their life.  Given the option of reincarnation, if they end up in Elysium three times, then they go to the Isle of the Blessed, and even better afterlife.

Notable People:

-Socrates: Famous philosopher who was forced to end his life by drinking hemlock

-Achilles: Great Greek hero, with one hell of an Achilles’ heel

Other Important People to Know

-Hades: Ruler of the Underworld and eldest of the Gods.  Sometimes considered a god of wealth, he rules the underworld fairly.

-Persephone: Hades’ queen, she is the daughter of Demeter and Zeus.  She lives in the underworld six months out of the year and is known to be a powerful ruler

-Thanatos: Death himself, he guards the gates of death.  Known for having been chained by Sisyphus.

-Erinyes: Also known as the Furies, these are winged women who avenge crimes done by children towards their parents.  Their names are Alecto, Tisiphone, and Megaera.

~Elyce

Púca, Trickster and Shapeshifter

Also known as a pooka, phouka, puca, phooka, puck, and púka among other things, this creature is an Irish trickster and shapeshifter. There exist similar creatures throughout Britain, Wales, and the Channel Islands. In Wales this creature is known as a pwca, in Cornwall a bucca, and on the Channel Islands as a pouque. Being shapeshifters, these creatures appear in a variety of forms. They can take the form of goats, horses, dogs, cats, bulls, foxes, eagles, or any other animal. In some tales, they naturally have a goblin-like shape (as they are sometimes considered a type of goblin). Sometimes they even take human shape, with only one animal feature (such as ears or some kind of tail) to give them away. A púca normally is described as having gold eyes and black fur or hair.

In most legends, the púca is a trickster that likes to mess with people. For instance, they often take the form of horses and take people on wild, but harmless, rides that end with their rider in a creek or mud puddle. However, these creatures are usually benevolent towards humans and have been known to even guide people out of forests when they get lost. In some stories they are much more dangerous creatures that quite enjoy eating humans, but most of the time they are nothing but well-meaning tricksters that often enjoy a good laugh at a human’s expense. On Samhain (sunset of October 31st to sunset November 1st), these creatures can sometimes be found in forests, hills, and mountains and will offer prophecies and advice.

The only person to ever be able to control a púca was Brian Boru, a high king of Ireland. He managed to capture one in the form of a horse, by sliding a special bridle over its head. The bridle had three of the púca’s hairs from its tail woven in. Once he had the púca in his possession, Brian Boru used it as a steed.

In some areas, there are actually agricultural traditions surrounding the púca. All crops must be gathered before November in these traditions, as anything after has been faerie or púca blasted (or defecated on) and is no longer edible. In addition, a portion of the crops must be left in the field for the local púca to make sure it stays satisfied. The portion left in the field is called “the púca’s share”.

Simple Breakdown (tl;dr):

Origin: Northwest Europe (Ireland, Britain, and the Channel Islands). The name of the creature, and its behavior, varies per region.

Territory: Usually lives in mountains, hills, and forests.

Creature Type: Often considered a type of faerie (similar to goblins). Also falls under the categories of trickster, shapeshifter, and nature spirit. Most often mischevious.  In some locales they are considered to be man-eating monsters.

Attributes:  A púca has gold eyes and black fur/hair. In human form, they usually have one animal attribute, most often animal ears or an animal tail.

Abilities: Animal form and human form shapeshifting and sometimes simple faerie magic. Capable of human speech.  A púca can provide prophecies and warnings on Samhain (sunset on October 31st to sunset of November 1st).

Weaknesses: A púca can be controlled with a special bridle with three of its own hairs woven in. Supposedly one of the Irish high kings, Brian Boru, was the only one to do this.

~Victoria

Egyptian Weighing of the Heart

In the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, you had to pass through the Hall of Ma’at, the goddess of justice, truth, and harmony and the daughter of Ra, before you could move on to the afterlife. In the hall, a dead person’s heart would be weighed against Ma’at, represented by a feather. If their heart was lighter than the feather, they were free to move on. If it was heavier, then a goddess named Ammut would gobble up your heart. She is usually depicted with a crocodile’s head, a hippo’s hindquarters, and a lion or leopard’s forelimbs. Besides Ammut and Ma’at, Anubis and Thoth would attend this ceremony. Anubis, the god of mummification and the afterlife, would weigh the heart and Thoth, the god of wisdom and writing, would record the findings.

~Victoria

Egyptian Pantheon

This list is by no means complete, but it does list many of the major Egyptian deities. All of these deities also have several different names and variations in spelling those names.

Geb: Geb is the god of the Earth. He lies flat on his back, with his wife bent over him. She is held away from him by the god Shu. His wife is Nut and his children are Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephthys.

Nut: Nut is the goddess of the sky. She is bent over her husband, Geb, held apart from him by the god Shu. Her children are Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephthys.

Amun: Amun is a god with a ram’s head that ruled over the wind. He was once king of the gods, and he later was combined with Ra as Amun-Ra.

Ra: Ra is the great Egyptian sun god and is often considered one of the most powerful gods. He was later combined with Amun to become Amun-Ra. In one Egyptian creation myth, Ra called all things into existence by saying their secret names. He is often depicted as a falcon with a sun disk on his head.

Osiris: Osiris is the god of rebirth, renewal, fertility, and the afterlife. He is married to his sister, Isis, and is the father of Horus. At a party, his brother, Set, asked Osiris to climb inside a sarcophagus. Osiris did so and Set killed him, chopped him up into little bits, and hurled them all over Egypt. Isis managed to put Osiris back together (except for his genitalia, which she recrafted for him out of wood) and resurrect him with her magic. Because of this, Osiris became associated with not only the afterlife, but the Nile itself. Every year, the Nile floods onto its banks and deposits fresh, fertile soil for farming, which allows life along the river to continue.

Isis: Isis fit the ancient Egyptian ideal of the perfect mother and wife. She is a goddess of nature and of magic and is associated with resurrection, as it is her magic that resurrected her husband, Osiris, when he was murdered by Set, and that allowed her to have her son, Horus. She is usually depicted with a headdress with a throne on it. Isis actually was so popular that the Greeks and Romans even worshiped her. Cleopatra and her family were actually Greek, not Egyptian. She actually was the first of her family to learn the Egyptian language and to actually behave and worship like an Egyptian. She heavily worshiped Isis and actually made herself out to be sort of “Isis on Earth”, making herself very popular with her people.

Set: Set is the god of chaos and desert storms. He is the son of Geb and Nut, the brother of Osiris and Isis, the brother and husband of Nephthys, and the father of Anubis. No one is entirely sure what animal Set’s head is supposed to look like, and it’s been compared to an aardvark, donkey, fennec fox, and a jackal.

Nephthys: Nephthys is the goddess of funerary rites and, like her sister, is also skilled in magic. She is usually depicted as a woman with a headdress with hieroglyphs on it or as a woman with falcon wings. She is the sister and wife of Set and the mother of Anubis. According to the Pyramid Texts, it was before her and Isis that evil spirits quaked with fear. While Isis was the birth mother of Horus, Nephthys nursed him. Like her sister, Nephthys also had some Greek and Roman worshipers.

Anubis: Anubis is the god of burial and mummification and is usually depicted with a jackal’s head. He is the son of Set and Nephthys.

Horus: Horus is a god of the skies and is the son of Osiris and Isis. He directly opposed Set and often tried to avenge his father by fighting his uncle. In one story, Horus loses an eye to his uncle in a fight. The eye he lost became known as The Eye of Horus, or Wedjat Eye, and was used for protection and warding off the Evil Eye. He is usually depicted with the head of a hawk or as a hawk.

Hathor: Hathor is the Egyptian goddess of love and happiness. She is most often depicted with a cow’s head, or as a woman with cow horns with a sun disc in between them. She is the wife of Horus.

Ma’at: Ma’at is the Egyptian goddess of justice, truth, and harmony. She is usually depicted with a feather in her hair, or just as a feather. She is the daughter of Ra, and it is against her that someone’s heart must be weighed when they die. If their heart weighs more than the feather, their heart is devoured. If their heart weighs less or the same, they get to go to the afterlife.

Ptah: Ptah is the god of craftsmen and is usually depicted as a man carrying a staff.

Thoth: Thoth is the god of knowledge and writing. He is usually depicted as having the head of an ibis or sometimes a baboon. The Egyptians believed that Thoth gave them the knowledge of hieroglyphic writing.

Sobek: Sobek is the god of water and of crocodiles and is usually depicted with the head of a crocodile.

Sekhmet: Sekhmet is a lioness-headed goddess of destruction, fire, and war.

Bast: Bast is a cat goddess of protection.

~Victoria

Human Sacrifice Among the Inca

The Inca had a different way of going about sacrifices than many other cultures. First of all, the Inca rarely, if ever, sacrificed prisoners, or even adults in general. All Incan sacrifices were children between the ages of six and fifteen. These children went through a process called capacocha, a process which ended with their inevitable sacrifice. Children were sacrificed to the gods because they were considered the purest of all beings, and so much more worthy than any adult could ever be. Those chosen were always the healthiest, and the closest to the Inca idea of perfection. To be chosen was considered quite the honor. Chosen children were given clothes and food that were quite similar to those of the highest-ranking people in Incan culture. They also were taken to Cuzco to meet the emperor. Then, they were taken to live high in the mountains. Until the time of their sacrifice, they’d be given increasingly high amounts of coca, which is the type of plant used in cocaine production and the production of the soft drink, Coke. Although, Coke has started removing the cocaine from the leaves before using them. The children would chew the leaves and several of the mummies have been found with chewed leaves still inside their mouths. A few weeks before the sacrifice took place, the children’s dose of coca would increase dramatically and they would also start consuming large quantities of alcohol. These would have made them very incoherent by the time of the sacrifice, if not unconscious. At that point, the children were killed in one of three ways: strangulation, one quick blow to the head, or left in a secluded cave to die of hypothermia in their sleep. Strangulation was the least common, with the quick blow to the head being the most. Usually, the children were killed quite quickly while as incoherent as possible, in an effort to make the child’s death not quite as traumatic.

~Victoria

Norse Mythology

Ever since the release of movies such as Thor and books like Rick Riordan’s new series, Norse mythology has come back in the spotlight.  Mainly known as the religion of the Vikings, the practice actually spanned throughout much of Northern and Central Europe before the spread of Christianity.  Recently it’s also experienced a revitalization through Neopaganism and it was announced in Feburary 2015 that Iceland would be building the first major temple to the Norse Gods since the end of the era of Vikings.  Below is a list of major Norse Gods and terms, however, since this is a widespread religion with many local gods, this is by no means a complete list of all the Norse Gods that ever existed.

Terms

Aesir-The main group of gods in Norse mythology lead by Odin.  They generally represent war and power.

Vanir– Another group of gods, they originally fought the Aesir but reached a truce.  They generally represent fertility and cultivation.  Njord and his children, Freyr and Freya, originally came from this group.

Ragnarock– End of times, the Norse apocalypse.  The majority of the gods will meet their end here.

Yggdrasil– The world tree, it connects all nine realms that exist in Norse mythology.

Gods

Odin– The All-Father and god of war, death, and knowledge.  He is the husband of Frigg and the father of Thor and Balder.  After trading his one eye for knowledge, he sends his two ravens Huginn (“thought”) and Muninn (“memory”) out to gather information for him across the nine realms.

Thor– The god of thunder and battle, he is the son of Odin and Frigg.  Known for his blond hair and red beard, he rode through the sky on a chariot pulled by goats.  His hammer, Mjolnir caused thunderclaps and would always return to the wielder when thrown.

Frigg– Also pronounced Frigga, she is the wife of Odin and goddess of marriage and motherhood.  As the keeper of domestic arts, her attendants are the goddesses of fertility and protection.  While she has the gift of prophecy, she does not openly share her visions, though it was through this power she foresaw the death of her son, Balder.

Freyr-Originally a member of the Vanir, he came over to the Aesir after the war with his sister and father.  The god of fertility and prosperity, he is one of the few gods to have sat on Odin’s throne.  When he did this, he saw a giantess named Gerd and eventually traded his magical sword to marry her.  During Ragnarok, he will be struck down by Surtr, the fire giant, who will be wielding the very sword.

Freya– Like her brother and father, she came over from the Vanir after the war.  As the goddess of fertility, battle, and love, she rides through the skies on a chariot pulled by cats.  Her sacred realm, Folkvang, receives half of the fallen warriors while Odin’s realm, Valhalla, receives the other half.

Loki– The trickster Jotun, he is the blood brother of Odin and due to this is considered a member of the Aesir.  The god of mischief and trickery, he’s also at times shown to be a god of fire as his name means “wild fire”.  The father of Fenrir, Hel, and the World Serpent, he was demonized when Christianity started becoming popular.

Heimdallr– Also known as Heimdall, he is the son of Nine Mothers and is the guardian of the Bifrost bridge.  Supposed to have incredible hearing, he can hear grass grow.  As he doesn’t need any sleep, he is always on guard, ready to blow his horn should trouble be seen.  He has a rivalry with Loki and the two will slay each other during Ragnarok.

Sif– Sif is most famous for her gorgeous golden blonde hair, which Loki shaves off at one point. As part of his punishment, Loki made her new hair out of literal spun gold. Sif is a goddess of fertility, the harvest, wedlock, and the family. She is married to Thor.

Balder– Also known as Baldur or Baldr. He is the second son of Odin and Frigg. His twin brother is the blind god Höðr. He is often considered a god of love, peace, forgiveness, light, and justice. He was killed by Höðr with mistletoe on accident, when Höðr’s hand was guided by Loki.

Tyr– The god the skies and war, he is most famously known for only having one hand.  The reason for this missing limb is while the gods were trying to bind Fenrir, the demon wolf, Tyr agreed that the wolf could hold his hand in his mouth as collateral.  When Fenrir realized he was actually bound, he bit off Tyr’s hand.

Bragi– God of poetry, music, and the harp, he is actually one of the newest gods in the Norse pantheon.  His wife is the keeper of the golden apples and every morning Bragi woke the world with his harp music.

Forseti– He is the god of justice and reconciliation. His name means “the presiding one” and he is the son of Balder and Nanna. His home is called Glitnir, meaning “shining”. It is known for its silver ceiling and golden pillars.

Skadi– She is also known as Skade or Skathi and she is a jotunn and a goddess. She is the wife of Njord and the goddess of bowhunting, skiing, winter, and mountains.  When she came to Asgard demanding compensation for her father’s death, the gods agreed to let her marry one of them, but she could only pick her husband by his knees and down.  She picked Njord because she thought his legs belonged to Baldr instead.

Ran– The goddess of storms and the sea, she is greedy and cruel.  Responsible for those who died at sea, her nine daughters are called the Waves.  She wears a huge net as a skirt which collects all the valuables that fall into the sea.

Njord– The god of the sea, fish, and wealth, he is a much kinder sea god than Ran.  The father of Freyr and Freya, he was originally a member of the Vanir.  While his feelings are not returned, Njord does actually love Skadi, and when she is away, his sadness causes the storms at sea.

~Elyce and Victoria

3 Types of Faeries

Humans as a species love classifications, because if someone can classify something, they feel like they can understand it. In some of his famous works about faeries, Irish author William Butler Yeats described two types of faeries: Trooping and Solitary. Later, Katharine Mary Briggs added a third category for Domestic Faeries.

Trooping Faeries

Trooping Faeries were those that would travel in large troops, which lent them their name. They also were known for holding grand balls and parties and generally wanting to have a good time. They were normally pretty friendly to humans, as long as they were properly respected.

Examples:

Daoine Sidhe

Seelie Court

Tylwyth Teg

Elves

Solitary Faeries

Solitary Faeries were faeries that lived on their own. These faeries tended to be more outright nasty towards humans, some eating humans or keeping them as pets. However, some of them were just mischievous and not necessarily harmful.

Examples:

Redcap (Harmful)

Nokken/Neck/Nixie (Harmful)

Puca/Pooka (Mischievous)

Domestic Faeries

Domestic Faeries were faeries that lived in the houses of humans. Many of these faeries were actually helpful to the humans they lived with, as long as they were properly respected.

Examples:

Brownie

Hobgoblin

Image From: Fine Art America

~Victoria