A Modern Bestiary – U is for Uncail

Uncail, however, is not what he is. It’s simply the Irish word for “Uncle.”

I do not know his true name. I’m not even sure if there’s only the one, or if there are more of his kind. Nor do I know the name of his kind. What I do know is that he is old, and he presents himself as an old man. As in human. Which he is not. Or at least not entirely.

  Uncail has always been old, for as long as I’ve known him, and I am not young. He is old in the geologic sense, as mountains are. And not upstart mountains like what you see in the Sierra Nevadas or even the Himalayas. Appalachian-old.

There a stories told about him, but even then he goes unnamed. He is simply “the old man” who lives all alone in a cottage remote from any town or other human habitations. His home is avoided by all, and that includes the Fae.

Much of what little we do know comes from Fae who stray into his domain by accident,  in ignorance, or through confusion rather than malice.

  This water goblin, for example, has a rather limited intellect and has been known to wander into many odd corners of the world(s). Harmless, in large part, this creature follows the fluttering butterflies in hopes of finding the Little Folk among them and enticing them to play with her.

The tale she tells is one that some humans have told as well, and the outlines are always the same.

  It begins with a whirlwind. Sometimes no more than a dust devil. More often, though, it’s a full-grown tornado. Whatever it’s size, it comes swirling across the land in the heat of the day, full of fury… and sometimes full of Fae!

That is what makes it a fairy whirlwind.

What? Did you think the idea for Sharknado sprang full-grown from a script-writer’s brow?

Personally, I think I could handle Sharknado (so long as it doesn’t include hammerheads – I refuse to believe they are creatures of Nature). I’m not so sure about taking on a fairy whirlwind.

Much like a swarm of bees, the typical fairy whirlwind takes shape when a colony of the smaller Fae grows unhappy with its current situation. Discomfort, despair, fury, frustration and hormones running amok all play their part. Encroachment by humans is commonly the cause of their sudden displacement. When that happens, the little ones may come together to create a greater whole in the shape of a larger, more powerful Fae.

This composite Fae can be dangerous, even to other Fae, for most of its higher functions are limited. It operates on instinct, and that instinct tells it to strike out, either in retaliation or for new and much less crowded territory.

In its earliest stages, a building swarm can be beautiful, especially at night.

Fairy lights lend ethereal grace to their movements, even in moments of anger.

But as the day dawns, and the summer’s heat builds, the swarming Fae soon reach a fever pitch of irritation. Together with the upward whirl of hot air, what was merely a mass movement can become violent.

 When this happens, the fairy whirlwind takes on a demonic character, and sometimes the shape of one in its willful destruction of everything in its path.

Yet when Uncle sees one, he does not run from it. He doesn’t try to take shelter (though YOU should!). No, Uncle responds to the whirlwind by crying out, “God bless you!”

And if the Fae within the whirlwind are in the midst of their usual pranks, and they’ve taken a human child from someone’s home, leaving a changeling in its place? They will then drop the stolen baby.

And Uncle catches it.

Which isn’t easy. These two men managed to catch a baby thrown from the upper floors of a burning apartment building – no tornado torque involved – and narrowly avoided disaster.

Why Uncle does this, I do not know. It may have been instinct on his part at one point – the Fae dropped it. He caught it.

Then what? Whenever the story is told by humans, it always turns out that the “old man” has no kin of his own and no way of knowing where this baby came from. And so Uncle raises the child as his own.

But Uncle himself never grows any older. And human children do grow up. So what then? Does he need to catch another? Or is there something else going on?

Sometimes, that composite Fae inhabiting the fairy whirlwind takes on far more definite form. A female form. And she is most certainly ticked about something.

I’ve taken to calling her Auntie. Mostly for lack of a better name, I admit. She’s a mystery all her own, and she comes armed with thunder and lightning, so I’ve been reluctant to ask any personal questions.

I’m dying to know, though. Why does the mere offer of God’s blessing cause her to drop those stolen children? And why does Uncle do it? Is he trying to save the babies? Or simply to spite her? Or does he actually mean what he says? And is it that which gives him his power?

A great many Irishmen and women to this day can claim descent from one of the rescued, so clearly they suffered no serious harm and did rejoin human society.

They might not have been very happy about it at first, of course.

This little girl is clearly upset by the sudden loss of her fairy playmates.

And so is this sad little tyke, who’s lost his very best human friend.

I cannot explain what is going on, with Uncle or with Auntie. I can tell you, if you encounter them, best you stay out of it altogether.

And keep a weather eye out for those twisters. Where once they were rarities in California, even the utterly natural kinds of whirlwinds are building in strength and numbers now, thanks to climate change. Because of that, funnel clouds are no longer unusual here. And some of them are full of fairies.

 

 

 

 

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A Modern Bestiary – T is for Trowe

  T is for Trowes, and I don’t mean britches, though many Trowes wear them, and so they spare us the sight of that which no woman can find enticing. They are thought to be barrow wights by some, but are not ghostly. Merely invisible when they wish. Some consider them close kin to trolls because they too are creatures of the night. Others think them a form of the undead. But sunlight does not burn a Trowe, as it will a vampire. Nor will it turn one into solid rock.

  Now a rarity even in the Orkney Isles, and sometimes the Shetlands, the Trowes are dwarf-like in appearance, being short and somewhat misshapen, low-browed creatures.

They mainly go barefoot and cannot be shod by a cobbler working with any type of hide less resilient than that of a dragon. Their toe nails, you see, can drill right through boiled leather. Besides which, a Trowe with a howe to maintain soon grows annoyed by the need to remove his shoes or boots for the sake of digging in the dirt or tunneling into the dark red sandstone of the Orkneys, using his natural assets.

Some there are who live in sea caves, or atop rugged sea mounts, preferring those which offer them a solitude untroubled by the presence of humans.

  One such rocky pinnacle, the so-called Old Man of Hoy (Hoy being the island itself), was actually named for the Trowe who calls it home, although most modern men have long since forgotten about him.

Another group of Trowes guards the Yesnaby cliffs on the Isle of Hrossey. 

The most-feared of the Trowes is the Hogboon, which once haunted nearly every old mound to be found in the Orkneys. The word itself is a corruption of the Old Norse term haug-bui, or sometimes haug-buinn. It can be roughly translated as “mound-dweller” or “mound-farmer.”

An especially unpleasant Hogboon once inhabited the most famous mound of all, called Maeshowe by modern men and Orkahaugr by the Vikings.

 Maeshowe is a passage tomb, built nearly five thousand years ago. The Vikings never succeeded in evicting the so-called Hug Boy or Hog Boy of Maeshowe, who possessed amazing strength of both body and body odor. But tourists have now accomplished the feat using cameras and cell phones and loud, silly questions!

The Trowes and the Hogboons, however, should not be considered true Fae. They are instead hybrids of men and mound-dwellers! For long before ever the Vikings showed up, there were men here. Smallish, dark-haired, clever men.

And women too, of course. They were Pictish, and wild enough to give even the Roman legionnaires a real run for their money. Hence Hadrian’s Wall, built to keep the nasty buggers out!

 Much inclined to go naked in battle, especially during fair weather campaigns, it was the Picts’s custom to paint themselves bright blue with woad, which only made them more frightful to look upon. Worse, it did nothing to ease that personal aroma problem, also horrific to the bath-addicted Legionnaires.

The Romans never did succeed in conquering Pictland, let alone the Northern Isles. In 875 A.D., however, the Vikings invaded. They did take over the islands, and many a Pict went into hiding. Some moved into the mounds, where sharing close quarters with hogboons all through the long dark winters of the Northern Isles (and remember – the winter wind can scour them at 130 miles per hour, come January)… well, nature took its course.

One result? The Trowe has now acquired a taste for certain human forms of music and dance! For fiddlers, in particular.

Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy, for example, are the favorite musicians of many a modern hogboon!

And since the Fall, there are more than a few Trowes living here in the New World. You will find them in the Mother Lode, where old gold mines offer them shelter and privacy near enough to what they had at home in Faerie.

Some old mines offer much more than others, however.

The Black Bart Inn, in San Andreas, California, for example, has a dance floor in its basement that IS an old gold mine, wherein much music is made. And tales are told of a ‘ghost’ who pulls many a prank on customers and bartenders alike.

I cannot say whether this mischievous spirit is truly a ghost or a Trowe who has taken up residence in a congenial tunnel. No need to worry overmuch, as the haunting of the Black Bart Inn has never resulted in serious injury to a human, although on at least one occasion, it did lead to flying pie in the restaurant. A rude remark by a tourist led to the pie case being yanked open by unseen hands, and the contents being flung in all directions. Without whipped cream, so it could have been worse. Or maybe just a bit tastier.

If you should wander into an old mine up in the Mother Lode, however, and happen upon an odd ‘face’ in the rock…

  Beware!

You’ve certainly stepped into a Trowe’s howe!  Save yourself. If you can, run. If you can’t, bring a fiddle along, or least a bit of fiddle music you can play – Alison Krauss and Union Station, for example – and be polite! Because no one is likely to find your bones if you trespass upon a Trowe’s hide-out and don’t even bother to carry an I-pod!

A Modern Bestiary – S is for Spriggan

Yes, S is for Spriggan – perhaps the most unsightly of the Fae.  Sometimes referred to as ‘goat-men’, they are grotesque in several ways, and dangerous despite their small size.

         Here, a spriggan is shown emerging from a wall in Crouch End, London. It’s a talent born of the creature’s make-up, which is closely related to stone.

A spriggan often looks like a wizened old man, but has a large child-like head that resembles a human child with progeria. That would be the rare genetic defect that causes a human child to age with such rapidity the youngster is already dying of old age by the time he or she approaches anything like adult size. Nearly all of them die before reaching the age of 14.

  Humans suffering from progeria tend to go bald at a very early age, but commonly wear headgear to conceal the fact. Because of this, one might mistake a human for a spriggan, which is not nearly as risky as its converse, mistaking a spriggan for a human.

These are traits common to progeria victims, to which I would add ‘manga eyes’ – the disproportionately large head often features eyes that look too large as well, as is often depicted in ‘manga’ style graphic novels.

   Some look less human than others.

   And some, like this little girl, resemble living mummies.

The spriggan, however, is actually kin to the trolls of Scandinavia.

  Note the large nose and sparse hair and fur on this young troll’s body.

  The adult troll, however, can grow to a considerable size, and is as well known for its brute strength as its body odor and its lack of intellect.

The spriggan can also grow to enormous size, and do so almost instantaneously!  This is why they are sometimes said to be the ghosts of giants.  Well, in the Nordic sense of the Jotun, this is partially true – the Norse have never clearly drawn a line separating the giants from the trolls in Jotunheim. The spriggan is distinct from the troll, however, in one important respect – a spriggan can withstand direct sunlight where a troll is apt to be turned to stone in a permanent fashion or burnt to a crisp.

This unfortunate fellow poked his head of his cave at the wrong time.

A Celtic spriggan of the traditional sort is mostly likely to be found in Cornwall these days. Wherever you find one, however, it is best to view the creature as anything but ethereal, whether or not it can pass through walls and emerge from stones.  In some ways, it is made of stones and sometimes looks like a stack of rocks come to sudden and rather horrifying life.

  Do NOT throw rocks at a spriggan!  They are apt to return the favor by throwing chunks of themselves at you in turn, and with deadly accuracy. What’s worse, they can recall the parts they’ve hurled at you, rather like Thor’s hammer, and then, of course, they can do it all over again.  As many times as they like.

For this reason, and because they are impervious to so many magical weapons and spells, the spriggans often serve as bodyguards to other fae.

Unlovely, yes, but effective in their own way.

Spriggans also serve as guards and watchmen. Formerly, they were often found at the sites of ancient ruins, stone cairns (which they can imitate to an amazing degree), and barrows, especially if the tombs contain any form of buried treasure.

Nowadays, and especially since the Fall, spriggans often work as security guards at banks and check-cashing offices.

If you should spot a security guard who sports a prominent nose, large eyes, and a bald head, like either of these two fellows, be polite and keep your distance.  Above all, if you should have grand larceny in mind, go pick another bank to rob!

 

 

A Modern Bestiary – R is for Rosmer

1126931186_imefairy32 The Rosmer is a peculiar creature, often described as having the head of either a horse, a whale, or a dog with its tongue hanging out.  Sailors have also reported seeing a mane of coarse hair on its pate and lots of whiskers on its face.  Supposedly, it has a human’s arms and torso, though those “hands” are heavily clawed, and its body ends with the tail of a fish.

rosmarine_27681_lg  This version sports four feet while others depict only two.  And that tusky head looks more like that of a boar than a dog or a whale.

Sometimes called a Ruszor by the Vikings, or a Rosmarine by the British, it normally prefers the icy waters of the north, and is far better known from the shores of Norway, or the Orkneys and the Shetlands, than it is from the rest of Great Britain.

The Rosmer, however, is not a Hippocampus or true sea-horse, like the one shown below.

seahorse-by-oz-best  Nor is it half as friendly as the Hippocampus tends to be.  The Rosmer will certainly not offer a ride and rescue to sailors who have been washed overboard.  Alas, the Rosmers are lascivious creatures and highly inclined to disport themselves with any hapless humans they run across in their domain.

Rampant by nature, they are apt to assault passersby with the relevant body parts and such encounters are commonly lethal.  That is because the typical Rosmer has an organ that is stiffened and reinforced with a sturdy os penis, or baculum, such that it resembles a battering ram and lacks only a forged iron ram’s head.

battering-ram  The Romans were highly dependent on symbolism, and considered rams to be admirable for their overt “masculinity” if not their aroma.  Literal-minded, the lot of them.

In times of old, the Rosmer was inclined to ignore humans, whether it encountered them in the water, aboard a boat, or ashore on either land or ice.  They could come ashore themselves and take off their “skins” in the same way as selkies, but seldom did so.  In any case, humans were fewer in number and boats were far smaller back then.  Humans who were inclined to slaughter living creatures purely for the sake of those ivory tusks were not armed with rifles, like those who kill elephants now, and so were more evenly matched with their prey.

walrus-ivory     For some reason, humans often feel compelled to carve pieces of ivory, as has been done here.

walrus-scrimshaw-2          In other cases, they seem to think that scrimshaw, somehow, is more needful and beautiful than the living creature itself.

Try to take a Rosmer’s tusks, however, and the outcome will be anything but artistic.  Instead of a walrus, which they greatly resemble, the ivory hunter may find himself confronting an irate fae creature massing as much as 22 times the weight of the man.  The Rosmer will not hesitate to express his opinion on the matter, using either his bulk, his tusks, or his penis which, as noted above, is even more impressive than that of the average walrus.

rosmer-3

And the walrus is rather amazing.  Here, for example, is a link to video showing a walrus engaging in autoerotica.  Warning:  you may wish to view it in privacy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ros73m7xBRA

The walrus’ baculum often reaches two feet in length, and is hefty enough that the Inuit, who call them oosiks, once used them as war clubs.

walrus-baculum1Imagine, then, the Rosmer whose baculum is displayed below:

rosmer-the-largest-ever-penis-bone-2    And  imagine what that bone might do to a disrespectful human!

Worse yet, the Rosmer feeds in much the same way as a walrus.  It uses vibrissae (whiskers) on its face to search the sediments on the sea bottom for shellfish.

walrus-vibrissae                  On sensing clams and the like, it will either root for its supper or use its tongue to shoot hydraulic jets at the muck.  Upon catching the clam, it will then use that tongue in reverse to suck its prey right out of its shell, a process which requires no more than six seconds regardless of the clam’s size (which may rival that baculum).

walrus-food    An irate Rosmer may do the same to those parts of a man that are cylindrical and therefore vaguely clam-shaped. Thus the hapless hunter may find himself catching it fore AND aft.

Since the Fall, Rosmers are finding life difficult in this world.  Like the walrus, they depend on pack ice overlaying the continental shelf where the seas are shallow.  There, they can most easily reach their own happy hunting grounds 150 feet below and then rest or reproduce in relative safety on the ice floes.

walrus-rest-swim-eat-750px-688f52842a0dd720471a67ad896a2eda

The north polar ice cap, however, is shrinking, and retreating from the continental shelves with astonishing speed as a result of global warming.  Here’s a look at what is happening in the Chukchi Sea:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pF-aNYhCr8k

This leaves the walrus and the Rosmer with fewer places to even exist, let alone prosper.  Should the Rosmer realize what is happening, I would expect them to act in self-defense, or perhaps to seek vengeance.  What form that might take, I cannot say, but must assume it will be proportionate to the crime, which is a form of genocide.

A Modern Bestiary – Q is for the Questing Beast

1126931186_imefairy32The Questing Beast is a curious creature.  Some say it’s compounded of several others .  It has the head of a snake, the body of a leopard, the backside of a lion and the hooves of a deer.

questing_beast_by_navarose-d6y907x  Which sounds something like this, does it not?  Or even this:

questingbeast-2  The latter version looks less like a Frankenstein’s monster, I think.  The color scheme is far more functional for a beast well known to spend most of its time in the woods.

The traditional view is taken from the legends of King Arthur.

questing-beast-and-arthur According to the highly unreliable Mallory, the Questing Beast confronted Arthur after his affair with Morgause, his half-sister.

Somehow Mallory overlooked the fact that Arthur waylaid both his half-sisters, and was not in the least confused about who they truly were.  Morgause, after all, was the wife of King Lot of the Orkneys, and therefore a personage in her own right.  As for Morgaine… ah, that is a long said tale for another day.

morgan_le_fay-sandys_frederick_  Morgaine le Fey was a good friend of mine, and of many other elves, which is why I named my only daughter in her honor.  I did not know Morgause well at all but you may rest assured that both sisters had good cause for the enmity they held toward their brother.  As did Mordred, the bastard son born to Morgause and Arthur who would later destroy his father’s kingdom.

Supposedly, Arthur was taking a nap and woke from a dreadful dream about the lad and that catastrophe to come.  And that is when he saw the Questing Beast drinking from a nearby pool. 

questing-beast-w-arthur  Here is a far more accurate depiction of the Beast, which is closer kin to a giraffe than a leopard, snake, or lion.  One wonders if earlier artworks were based upon third or fourth-hand accounts of the African wonder, as is the camelopardis.

The man most famous for hunting the Questing Beast was King Pellinore, whose whole family was dedicated to the task.

sir-palomedes-2   It was Sir Palamedes, the Saracen Knight of the Round Table, though, who finally succeeded in killing the creature.

Pellinore claimed the Questing Beast had been born of a human woman, a princess who lusted after her brother, the prince (reverse the genders involved and it sounds familiar, doesn’t it? )  She proceeded to sleep with a demon who promised he would make the boy love her.  When she turned up pregnant as a result, the princess promptly accused her brother of rape.

Interesting how both of the brothers involved in Mallory’s incestuous situations with their sisters end up being “falsely accused” in one way or another.

 

artus2-by-durer  Here is the “heroic” King Arthur as Albrecht Dürer portrayed him.  Literally a knight in shining armor.

As for Pellinore’s “innocent” prince, his father had him torn apart by dogs as punishment for his crime. Before the prince died, however, he predicted his sister would give birth to an abomination, and that the monster would make the same sounds as the pack of dogs waiting to kill him.

This is supposed to be the origin of the sound the Questing Beast makes, which originates from its stomach and has been described as resembling that made by a pack of thirty or forty dogs on the hunt.  Because of this, the Questing Beast is also known at the Beast Glatisant, which means the Barking Beast.

dog-pack  Personally, I find a large pack of dogs in full cry to be quite disturbing.  Especially if they are hunting me and mine.

Tales of the Quest for the Holy Grail, however, describe the Beast in very different terms.  In one case, it  is pure white in color.  It is still a chimera, but smaller than a fox and quite beautiful.  The noise from its belly, however, is that made by its unborn offspring, who achieve birth by tearing their mother apart from within.

The truth is worse than this.  The youngsters consume their mother, and then set off as a group to pursue and pull down other prey.  In Faerie, they would have been schooled by older males even as older bull elephants train young rogues.

marauding-elephants  Here, a young bull elephant is about to learn a lesson in manners.

In this world, however, few adult males survived the Fall.  The Barking Beasts do not truly mature here.  They do not part ways with the pack either, and their savagery is remarkable.  Their handiwork is now commonly mistaken for the work of werewolves despite the striking differences in the wounds made by their fangs.

If you would defend yourself from even one of them, however, you would be well-advised to rely on cold iron rather than silver bullets.

werewolf-full-moon  And do not think you are only at risk when the moon is full.

 

 

A Modern Bestiary – P is for Pillywiggins

1126931186_imefairy32Pillywiggins – silly name, isn’t it?  And so are the tiny flower fairies who go by that name.  Or at least they used to be.  But like so many of the Fae, they’ve been changed by the Fall.  And not for the better.

Once they were pretty, good-natured little creatures, most often seen among wildflowers or in the garden or in churchyards.  They’re not much given to pranks, unlike some of the other Little People, and normally ignore humans.

flower-fairy-1  Human art always depicts the Pillywiggins as childlike beings, and in some ways they are like pixies.

They are also rather simple-minded, though sometimes given to imitating humans they happen to encounter.  They’ll copy human gestures, for example, if they see a priest in the midst of religious rites at a funeral.  Their chief concerns, however, center on the flowers they tend.  They often identify with their charges and so they like to wear blossoms and acorn caps.

fairy-flower-2  Depictions like this one are based on the accounts of humans (mainly children) who have encountered the Pillywiggins and suffered no ill will on their part.

However, if you should meet up with these little fairies, you would be well-advised to remember that they are not much inclined to adhere to human laws or customs.  They are amoral in both the larger and the smaller sense, and may react badly if you try to trap them.  You should certainly not judge their behavior by Christian standards.

Also known as Vairies, Farisees,  Hotties, Feerins, and Greenies, they are as fond of insects as flowers.  So much so, they’ve acquired wings and other features by interbreeding with flutter-bys and dragonflies.

flowery-fairy-5  Here is an example of a Pillywiggins with more insectile than humanoid traits.

flowery-fairy-6  The Greenies also vary greatly in size.  Some, like this one, are small enough to ride around on a beetle’s back. 

flower-fairy-4  Others reach the size of bats.  These are the remains of a large Greenie who had a sad encounter with a power line.

Since the fall, however, the Pillywiggins have had a hard time surviving in a world overrun by lawnmowers and blowers.  Having few natural defenses, many have added the chitinous armor of beetles, the stingers of bees and hornets, and/or the jaws of the preying mantis.  If bothered, they will sting or bite with abandon.

They’ve also grown highly suspicious of humans and inclined to react to any disturbance in the same way yellowjackets do.  They normally live in troops and can rally to each other’s aid in sizeable numbers.

fairy-swarm  A smallish flock may not look all that threatening.

fairy-swarm-2  But a swarm of this size can easily take down humans or indeed the horses they rode in on.

The Pillywiggins have also learned to make use of certain flowers whose natural defenses against pests include a number of alkaloid compounds.  In some cases, they’ve learned to distill essential oils containing these chemicals and are selling them to foolish humans in order to acquire the cash required to purchase so many necessities here.

henbane  Henbane, for example, is so poisonous that simply smelling the flowers can induce giddiness in a human.

Among other compounds, henbane contains hyoscine (aka scopolamine) and atropine.  Ingested, it is strongly hallucinogenic.  Ingested in quantity, it can induce a variety of other neurological symptoms, culminating in hypertension, coma and death.

solanum-dulcamara-flowers    solanum-dulcamara-berries

Another source of trouble is bittersweet, sometimes known as woody nightshade.  It is a relative of deadly nightshade but not as toxic.

The poison involved here is solanine.  It causes nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps, heart flutters, headaches, and dizziness.  Too much results in hallucinations, and can lead to loss of sensation, paralysis, severe chills, and death.  Humans come to the Pillywiggins for this in hopes of hallucinations but if they are rude or destructive to the flowers, the flower fairies are apt to award them what Waller calls a Darwin Prize.

ragwort  Ragwort is less dangerous, since it is only poisonous if eaten – the pyrrolidizine alkaloids in it are harmless until converted into toxic forms by digestive processes.  These compounds are not hallucinogenic, but can be highly unpleasant or even lethal if included in someone’s salad.

Human picnickers have learned to their great discomfort that annoying the Pillywiggins can lead to food poisoning that has nothing to do with ptomaine or salmonella and which does not respond to Imodium or Pepto Bismol.

 foxglove  Foxglove is well-known for its medicinal properties, useful in treating dropsy, a malady of the heart.

However, digitalis (the active ingredient) often causes a great reduction in appetite.  So overfed humans have begun seeking out the flower fairies in hopes of purchasing a weight-loss aid their doctors will not prescribe.  An overdose of digitalis, however, can cause great digestive upsets and affect one’s vision, turning everything yellow and blurring the outlines of objects.  It can bring on serious irregularities of the heart’s beat, tremors, seizures, and of course death.

So my advice is, if you encounter the Pillywiggins, let them be.  Do not buy or use their wares.  Confine yourself to taking cell phone photos WITHOUT flash.  Take great care to do no harm to the blossoms they tend, and do not on any account try to capture flower fairies.  The results of such an attempt may well leave you wishing you’d only had a run-in with Africanized killer bees.

bee-sting  This man did not listen to my advice.

 

 

A Modern Bestiary – O is for Oak Men

1126931186_imefairy32 Yes, I know.  Oak is an Anglo-Saxon word.  But I would not complain of this to the Oak Men.  They are guardians of the oaks, and language is the least of it where they are concerned.  What they speak is older by far than any human tongue, or fae for that matter.

Some consider them dryads of a sort, but this is a serious error.  They are kin to tree spirits but partake too deeply of oaken strength and stubbornness to be classed with any nymph.  Too masculine, down to their roots.

oak-spirit  You may espy an Oak Man wherever a limb has been lost, especially if that branch has been lopped off by a human.  His purpose is healing where the tree is concerned, and vigilance toward the woodsman who would do such damage without permission.

The Oak Men, who are also known as the Inifri Duir, have scant patience with those who do not revere the trees or the creatures and plants who are sheltered by oak groves and forests.

tree_roots  The Oak Men can also be seen among tree roots, where they lurk in winter’s cold, often asleep yet ready to trip up or even seize and eat the feet of an unwary traveler.

The Oak Men are also called the Bodachan na Croibhe Moire, where a bodach is a herder, originally of cows, and Croibhe Moire refers to the heart of the great oak.  Thus they are in some sense tree herds, but for your own sake, do not address them as Ents.  They are unimpressed with Tolkien’s take on their ancient race, and not much inclined to mercy in any case.  Nor are their wives missing.

oak-woman  Indeed, the Oak Women have their own views on all matters to do with the forest, and their frustration with their husbands is often on display, as seen here.  But they are certainly not ‘missing’ much though the Inifri Duir might sometimes wish they were.

The Oak Men, you see, have a problem opposite that of the Macamores.  They are not jealous of any mortal men who may seduce their females.  Rather the Oak Men envy the Macamores their situation and speak longingly of the peace and quiet embracing the woods while the Oak Women pursue such delights.  What do they desire instead?  What do they lust after?

Man-caves.

awesome-man-caves1  Especially those equipped with a wet bar and Guinness on tap.  Exposure to such conveniences, and to televised rugby and soccer games, have utterly corrupted them.

So beware the Oak Men.  They’re common enough in California, whose Central Valley is dotted with magnificent valley oaks in addition to scrub and blue oaks of various kinds.  The valley oaks are protected by law, but since the Fall, many also have personal guardians.  And the Inifri Duir may be stubborn folk, but even they have been forced to adapt to changing conditions.

oak-man  Thus the ancient depictions, like the one shown here, are no longer reliable guides to their ways.

In olden times, the tree herders made much use of their mycelial side.  They are as closely linked to the fungus kingdom as the oaks because the trees themselves are dependent on fungiform networks in the soil and in rotting logs for recycled nutrients essential to the growth of seedlings and saplings.

Back then, the revenge taken by an offended Inifri Duir might have taken the form of a gift.  The Oak Man in question could assume a human’s form and present himself as a fellow traveler.  As a kindness, he might offer other travelers or weary woodsmen a fine-looking journey cake.  That cake, however, was commonly made from poisonous toadstools and glamoured to look appetizing.  Eat of it and you’d surely suffer an agonizing death…

amanita_muscaria_crop  …for the Oak Men would often use fly agaric mushrooms like these.  This toadstool’s scientific name is Amanita muscaria and the alkaloids it produces can destroy the human liver.  In fact, Amanita poisoning can only be cured by means of a liver transplant if no fae healer is at hand.

Now, however, the threat is even more serious for in their mad search for ESPN, cold beer, and recliners, in addition to revenge, they will often attempt to invade your home.

Therefore do not be deceived by the modern guises the Oak Men rely upon nowadays.  If you’ve been out in the woods, say, cutting down a Christmas tree or collecting fire wood, hunting deer, or clearing land for construction purposes, beware of hucksters who place themselves in your path but are only human in appearance.  For example:

savage_huckster  The man at the mall, offering to restore you to perfect health using various ‘natural’ all-organic remedies.

lottery-mega-millions  The man at your door or on the phone telling you that you’ve just won the lottery, although you never bought a ticket.  All you need do to collect your winnings is pay the man a small ‘handling’ fee.

used-car-salesman  The used car salesman who ends his pitch by inviting himself to your house on game day.

Do not give such men entry into your life, your wallet, or your house, and especially not your den.  Do not on any account eat their offerings whether it be home-brewed beverages or nutritional supplements or chips and dip!  Even if you should survive the initial encounter, you may never be able to evict them from your basement hideaway!