A Modern Bestiary – L is for Llallogan

1126931186_imefairy32 Poor Lallogan – he’s been known by so many names.  Llallogan is the diminutive of Llallawg, his original name, but he’s also been called Lailoken and, in later years, Myrddin Wyllt (meaning Myrddin the Wild).  Which you may recognize as the Welsh form of Merlin.

wilder_mann-by-paulus-vischer-ca-1521  Wilder Mann by Paulus Vischer, ca. 1521 A.D.  This is how the Wild Man of the Woods is usually portrayed, nearly or completely nude, and terribly hairy.  A madman, of course, because who else would live like this? 

Sometimes the Wild Man is shown as something of a giant.


The Fight in the Forest, a drawing by Hans Burgkmair, ca 1501 A.D.

The original, however, was the size of an ordinary man.  Perhaps a bit taller and more slender than most, Llallogan was a bard in the service of King Gwenddoleu in Strathclyde (yes, that’s in Scotland, not Wales).  In 573 A.D., Llallogan was present at the Battle of Arfderydd in which his king was killed.  In fact, as he told it to me very nearly a hundred years later, everybody was killed.  King Gwenddoleu’s rival was Rhydderch Hael of Strathclyde, who was not a forgiving soul.  He had every man jack of the defeated army slaughtered, leaving alive only Llallogan, so that the bard could tell the tale and terrify those who might want to oppose him.


Llallogan was not even particularly hairy, though he did wear furs and sometimes a mask with an animal’s face.

The whole thing was too much for Llallogan.  He developed what would be called, today, PTSD.  It drove him mad, and he took to the woods in hopes, I believe, of becoming an animal.  He no longer desired to be a man, having seen the darkest side of mankind.  And while he wandered, it is said that he also developed the gift of prophecy.

And then he met St. Kentigern.

I was not present at the time, so I cannot attest to the truth of the legend arising from that encounter, called Lailoken and St. Kentigern, but the saint apparently tried to help poor Llallogan find peace through prayer and simple comradeship.


Eventually, he succeeded in converting Lllallogan to Christianity, an event commemorated here in a stained glass window at Stobo Kirk.

merlins_altarstone_stobo_kirk  And this is the altar stone at Stobo Kirk where Llallogan (or Myrddin) was baptized by St. Kentigern.

Baptism did not resolve Llallogan’s madness, however.  What St. Kentigern did not know was that Llallogan was a changeling.  Born of Faerie and traded for a human child, he did not know it himself, save that he never fit into society and found solace only in music.  Being fae, he was horrified far more than most by unnatural death, and murder en masse overwhelmed him.

Thus what he needed was comfort, calm, and training in the use of magic, so that he could attain control of the memories that troubled him so.  That was not my doing.  I merely transported the creature, for he was one by then, back to Faerie and put him in Oberon’s care.

His fae nature, of course, is what gave birth to the prophecies.  One, alas, concerned the man who tried so hard to help him – St. Kentigern.  On the very day mad Llallogan came to the saint and asked for the Sacrament of Baptism, he foretold St. Kentigern’s martyrdom, calling it a triple death.  This must have set the priest back on his heels a bit, but he carried out the rite.  Then, later that same day, he was captured by King Meldred’s men, all pagans.  They beat him with clubs and then threw him into the river Tweed where his body was impaled on a stake.  This, of course, did nothing for Llallogan’s peace of mind.  He blamed himself for the saint’s brutal murder, along with all those committed by Rhydderch Hael.

merlin_history  Much later, when he had somewhat recovered himself, Llallogan returned and settled in Wales and became an archetype well known from Arthurian legends.  His like is found nowadays in all manner of foot-thick fantasies and video games and TV shows and movies.  He remained what he was at heart, a stranger in a strange land, never quite part of this world. 



A Modern Bestiary – K is for Ki Du

1126931186_imefairy32I feel a certain fondness for the Ki Du, the great black dog of Brittany.  Dogs, in the main, are more forthright than humans, and far more loyal.

Not that the Ki Du is loyal to men or fae.  Much more, I would think, to the concepts of justice, of fairness, of worthy outcomes.  Which I must admit can be thin on the ground where either the fae or most humans are involved.


Sidney Paget’s illustration from Hound of the Baskervilles will give you some idea of what the Ki Du looks like, although even in fiction, Sherlock Holmes never encountered the actual Hound.

The Ki Du has a better reputation than the Hound of the Baskervilles or many another of his kin, for he is not malevolent.  Instead of attacking anyone, he merely brings a portent of death, and then accompanies the newly dead soul to the afterworld, a shepherd of sorts.

A darker cousin of his is the great black dog that haunted Newgate Prison for more than 400 years.  His habit was to appear just before executions there, gliding up and down the streets or crawling along on his belly at the top of the wall overlooking the gibbet.


Tucked behind Newgate was a narrow alleyway known as ‘Deadman’s Walk’.  This passageway was used to convey condemned criminals as they were led towards their execution.  Today it’s known as ‘Amen Court’, a reference perhaps to the prayers of those facing the bitter end.


Executions at Newgate Prison were considered holidays by the common folk and eagerly attended by those with no particular fear of the noose.

The Black Dog of Newgate first made its appearance in 1596, when  a man named Schoiler was sent to the prison for dabbling in witchcraft.


Conditions inside Newgate Prison were so horrid it was called a ‘Portico to Hell’ by some and prisoners suffered great torments there, from beatings to disease and hunger.

Schoiler himself did not suffer for long.  He was imprisoned there during a famine in London, and was killed and eaten by starving fellow prisoners before he could be brought to trial. The dog appeared soon after, and tore into Newgate several nights in a row, ripping limbs off of prisoners and causing others to perish from pure fright.  The guilty parties, desperate to escape before the hellhound returned, then murdered a number of guards and broke out, but it did them no good.  The Black Dog hunted them down wherever they fled and administered its own brand of justice.

I mention this because of recent sightings of another black hound, this one distinguished by far more glowing red eyes than the usual…


Perhaps all those extra eyes give this Hound greater insight into the failings of those he hunts.

The dog has been seen inside the fence at the prison hospital complex newly built outside of Stockton in response to court orders concerning the health care needs of inmates in California’s overcrowded state prisons.


The so-called “California Health Care Facility” did not get off to a sterling start when it opened, lacking adequate staffing and many basic supplies, such as latex gloves.

Is the Ki Du coming around to guide ailing inmates into the afterlife?  Or avenge those who shouldn’t have died?  And would those people be the prisoners themselves?  Or their victims?

I don’t know but I, for one, would not get in his way.



A Modern Bestiary – J is for Jenny Greenteeth

1126931186_imefairy32She’s no friend of mine, Jenny Greenteeth.

For one thing, I cannot abide halitosis of a kind apt to peel the paint off the hulls of small boats and the walls of lakeside cottages.  Is it so much to ask that she brush those long sharp teeth of hers every decade or two?

I don’t mind her green skin.  It’s a natural hue, if not the most appealing.  Her long hair, too, is a feature claimed by many fae, though most of us keep it cleaner, and comb it with some regularity.


Something of a water hag, her appearance varies with her mood.  Here, Jenny is showing her irritability, hence the spiny character of her form.

Jenny Greenteeth, you see, doesn’t take well to noisy intrusions, and is apt to defend her watery home in the most direct of fashions.  Let an unwary child wander much too close to the edge of a pond or a stream and Jenny will probably snatch it up, pull it under, and drown the poor thing.


This is the sort of woodland pond Jenny favors, especially when it’s acquired a fine skin of green scum or duckweed, concealing its true depth.

Often called Peg Powler or Peg O’Nell, Jenny’s cousins include Jamaica’s River Mumma.


The River Mumma sometimes looks more like a mermaid, but often enough relies upon a long eel’s tail to propel herself through the deeper waters.  She is far more fastidious than Jenny, however, taking care to bathe daily.  She then likes to sit upon a sunny rock and comb her long locks.  If you happen to see her doing this, however, I’d recommend slipping away again and granting the Mumma her privacy.  If you make a sound and she spots you and manages to lock her gaze to yours, well, then you’ll wish you had listened to my advice.

Another of Jenny Greenteeth’s kin:  the Japanese kappa.


Here, twelve kinds of kappa are illustrated.  As you’ll have noticed, the kappa more closely resemble their preferred victims, children, than the fish or eels that Jenny tends to imitate.  You can spot them, however, by means of the small pool of water cupped by the tops of their heads.

It’s less certain whether the bunyip of Australia might also be a relative, given the wide variations in form and size reported by both Aborigines and whites in that country.


The eyes portrayed here strike me as pure exaggeration.  And really, that mouth doesn’t even appear to have teeth!  Very unJennylike!

Here in the Sacramento-San Francisco River Delta, Jenny’s found herself a home, though.  There’s more than a thousand square miles of meandering waterways to choose from, and lately the droughts have greatly reduced water flow through the whole estuary, provoking blooms of toxic green algae humans call Microcystis.  The stuff turns still waters into pea soup and will poison those foolish enough to drink it or go swimming in it.  Together with the mats of water hyacinth that clog many sloughs and canals, it provides concealment for Jenny and many of her other cousins.


One wonders if Jenny and her kin are actually encouraging blooms like this one in Lake Erie for the sake of added habitat, regardless of what it does to fish and farms and thirsty humans.

Best to provide some reserves in the wetlands, however.  When Jenny’s kind cannot find or create what they need, they’ve been known to make do in other ways – ways I’d rather not even contemplate!  I might have my complaints about human technology and their abominable obsession with cold iron but I will admit, I am rather fond of modern plumbing – so long as I don’t have to touch any metal bits.


Leave Jenny Greenteeth nowhere to go, and she’ll make you regret it!



A Modern Bestiary – I is for Insealbhú

1126931186_imefairy32 It means “inauguration.”

If you’ve seen the word before, it was probably part of the Scottish phrase cloch insealbhú – referring to certain well-known inauguration stones.  The most famous, of course, would be the Stone of Scone.

stone of scone in westminster  Here it sits beneath the royal throne of the United Kingdom in Westminster Abbey, where it was last used to inaugurate the current Queen, Elizabeth II.

The stone itself is unprepossessing, to say the least.

The Stone of Destiny Stone of Scone Liath Fail Picture  Here, the stone has been cast in a pink light no Scotsman of my acquaintance would ever find acceptable.

The Stone of Scone was supposedly brought to Scotland from Ireland centuries ago and used to crown 34 Scottish kings.

Alexander_III_at scone abbey in 1249 Including Alexander III, seen here during his coronation at Scone Abbey in 1249 AD.  He is seated on the Stone of Destiny, and listening to a poet as he recites Alexander’s genealogy.

Then, in 1296 AD, along came Edward I, King of England.  He’d been asked to act as referee in a dispute over which of two Scottish cousins should succeed to the throne there.  His solution?  He named himself King of Scotland instead of either one!  And then he stole the Stone of Scone and installed it in Westminster Abbey.

Edward_I_of_England  Greedy sort…The Brits like to call this lad Edward the Great and Edward the Lawgiver.  Scotsmen recall his putting some 10,000 men, women and children to the sword when his troops overran Edinburgh.  Why?  Because they should have known better than to defy him in the first place.

The Stone of Scone has been returned to Scotland, however (in 1996 AD), and no one knows whether it will be used when the next king or queen is crowned.  I doubt it will make any difference, for this stone is lifeless.

stone of scone stolen  When the Stone of Scone was stolen by a band of Scottish nationalists on Christmas Day in 1950 … they managed to drop the damned thing and break it in two!

For yes – the stones are living creatures.   What else would explain the ancient legends about the original Lia Fail, which would scream or roar when the true king touched it?  Has anyone ever recorded the Stone of Destiny doing that upon the coronation of either Scottish or English monarchs?

Indeed, they have not, though a stone surely knows its own father and therefore his kinsmen.

Inauguration ceremonies, you see, originally involved a stone whose ‘presence’ was brought to this world from Faerie, although the ‘source’ remained on the other side of the doors between the worlds.  And the thing was not a coronation.  It was a wedding feast.  The new king spoke of his lands as his “betrothed” and all of the rituals were those of a banais righe.  The hilltop location of the inauguration site generally offered panoramic views of the lands in question, and yes, there was a chivaree followed by a wedding night.

maeve The new king would ‘plow his field’ in the time-honored fashion, and if he was lucky, his ‘betrothed’ would for one night take the form of a goddess, even the shape of Maeve, seen here.  If he were crude or rude or unlucky, well, it could be a long, cold encounter with an entity far harder and more determined than he.

This marriage was meant to bring fertility to lands on both sides of the doors between the worlds, and to produce a new insealbhú in this one.

lia fail 2  Thus the phallic shape of this Lia Fail, situated upon the sacred hill of Tara in Ireland.  Clearly, penetration had to be achieved in one direction or the other.

Other rites involve cloch insealbhú carved in the shape of footprints.


Here, for example, is the Lia Fail of the Isle of Manx.  The mere act of setting one’s foot within its cavity, however, is not enough to achieve consummation!  I won’t go into particulars, but leverage is involved and on a monumental scale.

I would advise avoiding close contact with any of the surviving cloch insealbhú, some of whom have become rather cranky of late thanks to the ever-increasing lifespans of royalty on this side of the doors between the worlds.  Look at the Queen of England.  The woman is 90 years old, and still going strong!  Which means that if the Stone of Scone had survived its ‘recovery’ by certain rash young men, and was a true cloch insealbhú, the poor thing would have gone without for more than 60 years.  It’s enough to make anyone temperamental!




A Modern Bestiary – H is for Hippocerf

That’s right.  Hippocerf, not hippogriff. 1126931186_imefairy32

Everyone who’s seen the Harry Potter movies has some idea what a hippogriff looks like, although what you see of it in those movies is highly misleading.  The hippocerf is a whole different matter, and looks like some mad scientist overindulged in absinthe and then slapped a deer and a horse together.

Not true, by the way.  Although the Fachen derive from something like that, the hippocerf has natural origins.

hippocerf 1

Handsome beast, isn’t he?

They’re about the same size as a large moose, or maybe a little bit bigger. That means a hippocerf weighs a ton.  I mean that literally.  Two thousand pounds, or 990 kg, if you’re into the metric system.  Both systems being totally arbitrary, I leave that choice to you.

hippocerf 3  This will give you a decent idea of its size, compared to a smallish human.

Unlike the hippogriff, the hippocerf does not eat meat, as a general rule.  Something we should all be grateful for, as it does have quite the appetite.

hippocerf 2Here’s another view of the creature, fairly accurate, although the snow is due to the artist’s imagination.

The beast is not an habitue of the mountains, but of temperate rain forests and  grassy meadows where it can graze in peace.  Think western Oregon or Washington rather than the Sierra Nevada.

They haven’t been seen in this world in ages, having been wiped out by human hunters and loss of habitat as humans and their herd animals multiplied endlessly.  But a few were swept up by the shockwave of the Fall and found themselves, somewhat bewildered, here.  Much to the delight of human Harvey Hunter types.  And no, I do not mean the baseball player.

harvey hunter  I mean this kind of man – a redneck with a big gun, a small brain, and a truly tiny codpiece.

It took concerted effort on the part of the Fae to save them from a second extinction here, at a time when we were hard-pressed ourselves.  We have managed it, largely for fear that all is lost on the other side of the doors we can no longer open.

Those Fae who’ve taken up the task of guarding them from further human depredations – those are the Fae you should worry about.  The Horned One, in particular, has an affinity with the hippocerf, for obvious reasons.


He holds his own version of the Wild Hunt these days, targeting those unwary enough to offend him, or shoot his charges.  Then he cleans up the scene by feeding his prey to his hounds.

I’d avoid that fate, if I were you.  Hunting deer is one thing.  There are plenty of deer on hand.  Too many, where their own natural predators have been wiped out.  Hunt them, and you’ll have many a fine meal as a result, and actually do the woods some good.  Take a hippocerf down, and you’ll become the game yourself.

Oh, and one final word on the subject.

M giganteus Some humans believe the hippocerf is merely a mangled memory of the Irish Elk, seen here.

Not so.  Look at the feet, if you’re in doubt.  The Irish elk has two-toed feet, while the hippocerf has a horse’s hoof.

elk hoof   An elk’s hoof.horse hoof  A horse’s hoof.

The hippocerf also has a horse’s luxurious tail, and thus its posterior does not really resemble an elk’s ass.

blacktaildeer plat elk

Magnificent too, in its own way. 

So be certain you know what you’re shooting at, if you should seek meat the old-fashioned way.  Your biggest threat will remain other hunters.  Careless hunters. But they probably won’t eat you afterward.



A Modern Bestiary – G is for Gan Ceann

   1126931186_imefairy32  I’d rather not even look at one.

To the Irish, the Gan Ceann is better known as the Dullahan, but in this country, he’s the source of all those stories about the Headless Horseman!

Dullahan 1 And that whip of his?  It’s made from a human spine.  You do not want to meet with the business end of it, as he is quite fond of snapping it into the eye of an onlooker, thereby removing the organ.

In most cases, the Gan Ceann rides a black horse and carries his head underneath his arm. The rider’s eyes are small, black, and beady, and they’re in constant motion.  The mouth, however, is locked into a death’s head grin that changes only when he speaks.

Dullahan 3 You do not want to hear him speak, because he can say only one word – the name of the person about to die.  Which might well be you.

Some say the rider is what remains of the ancient Celtic god known as Crom Dubh, or Black Crom.  And yes, this is the very same Crom that Conan worshipped in the stories written by that madman, Robert Howard.

conan  I wonder if Mr. Muscles has heard enough of “the lamentations of the women” yet.

In his heyday, Black Crom demanded human sacrifices each year during his festival, which was held at the end of August or in early September.  This much I can tell you is true.  For when St. Patrick (the much misnamed in my opinion) became a Christian missionary and then returned to Ireland, it was he who put an end to all that, along with the Red Serpent sect of the Druids.  St. Patrick’s purpose had little to do with religion, of course, but that is a tale for another day.

Crom-Dubh-by-Bryan-Perrin  The annual rites of Crom Dubh were a harvest festival of sorts, the crops including both wheat and human beings.

Defeated by St. Patrick and his henchmen, the worship of Crom Dubh was abolished early in the 6th century A.D., but some say that he still wanted his due and took to collecting souls himself, as the Gan Ceann, the Dullahan  or the Far Dorocha (meaning the Dark Man.)

The Gan Ceann will sometimes drive the Deaf Coach, and use it to collect more than one victim at a time.

dullahan 4

Only two horses are shown here…

The coach’s name comes from the Irish phrase coiste bodhar, meaning ‘deaf or silent coach’ because you won’t hear it until it’s upon you.  Normally drawn by six black horses, the coach can travel so fast the friction created by its movement often sets fire to the bushes along the sides of the road.

In any case, you cannot escape him.  All gates and doors will fly open at his approach to let the headless horseman through, no matter how thoroughly they are locked.

dullahan nightstalker  Since the Fall, however, the Gan Ceann has sometimes taken to riding motorcycles.  The upkeep is cheaper and he no longer gives a damn about how much noise he makes.

So how can you protect yourself from this fell creature?  Throw gold at him.  A coin, a necklace, a watch…anything made of gold.  The legends say it will scare him off, but that’s not true.  The Horseman isn’t afraid of gold.  He adores it, and while you are running hell for leather down the road, he will stop and pick it up.  That’s how he’s progressed from riding that cheap little Honda to this gold-plated Harley:

dullahan Harley

And yes, that is his girl friend.  Don’t even ask about the ruby slippers.

A Modern Bestiary – F is for Fachen

1126931186_imefairy32  I can’t even look at them!

The Fachen is a creature better known to men as Peg Leg Jack, although he has no Peg.  In fact, he’s something of a Halfling, since he has only one arm, one leg, and one eye.  That does not make him a hobbit, however, regardless of his other name:  Direach Ghlinn Eitidh, or the Dwarf of Glen Etive.

fachen 1

Nor does it make him the giant shown here!  Fright was the mother of this exaggeration! 

It’s also something of a misnomer to use the pronoun ‘he,’ for the Fachen is neither male nor female.  It is hermaphroditic, and capable of self-gratification and self-fertilization if it cannot find a willing partner.  Such arrangements do not lend themselves to a balanced and rational outlook on life.  Hence its frightful reputation.

The creature is also surprisingly agile despite its lack of symmetry.  It can hop along with all the speed of a galloping horse, but its single arm is an unsightly mess – muscular, yes, but mangled, and some say it’s withered in comparison to its leg.  Worse yet, the arm juts out from the middle of its torso, rather than one side or the other.  Its foot also emerges from the body at an awkward angle.

The limbs are arranged more like this fachen 5


fachen 2  than this.

But both of these are well wide of the mark.  The Fachen does not wear clothes, as such.  Instead it sports a thick mane of black or blue feathers which may or may not form a tuft or a crest at the top of its head.

fachen 4

This crude image comes closer to the truth, especially where the attitude is concerned.

The Fachen, you see, is willing to eat anything.  Anybody.  And if it has time, and it isn’t too hungry, why, Peg Leg Jack likes to play with his food.  That means torture and torment and frequently, slow dismemberment.  Therefore you’d be well-advised to avoid the Fachen.  Do not on any account attempt to go to its aid as you might a wounded veteran or a human handicapped in some other way.

It would be wise to take care at the zoo as well.  Since the Fall, the Fachen stranded here have adopted the same kinds of mimicry as their lesser brethren, the Ellyll. They dare not spend much of their magic on that, though, and therefore seek out the company of creatures whom they can easily imitate.


No one thinks twice if they see a flamingo standing around on one leg!

If they conceal the one arm with their feathers, the glamour required is not all that taxing.  The bright pink, even, can be achieved with a bit of food coloring, Peg Leg Jack being pretty much useless at filtering brine shrimp out of the water.

Flamingos do not seem to mind the additional company either.  Perhaps it’s because of the birds’ propensity for group sex.  They won’t breed until the flock is large enough to allow it, which is why zookeepers sometimes resort to placing mirrors in their cages, to make the flamingos think they’ve achieved a reproductive quorum.  A few Fachen hiding out in the flock can make all the difference, and the Fachen are willing participants.

flamingo 3  Fachen babies can also be concealed among the flamingos’ chicks, without even needing the pink food coloring.

As for their origins…we do not speak of that.  I will say only that they were made, not born of Nature, in the same fashion as the Fiji Mermaid once so beloved of P.T Barnum.  Or Frankenstein’s monster.  Their maker has been punished for this, and as far as I know did not survive the Fall.  Or if she did, she is still trapped in Faerie, beyond our reach.  I wish the Fachen were as well.