Tag Archives: fae

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.






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…


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 – 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 – 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.

Invisible Creatures

bloody knife               1126931186_imefairy32 Cold iron…Ick!

To see what’s present but invisible – that is the hardest part of any branch of forensics.  And mostly it applies to the very small.  After all, ‘most anyone can spot a hunting knife or a rifle or a bloody rock.  But fingerprints and fibers and microscopic bits of DNA?  Not so obvious, are they?  But it can happen with much larger items as well.  For instance, what if you can’t see the body?

The sad truth is, in human courts, if there is no body, it’s damnably hard to convict anyone of a killing.  The reason?  Humans won’t accept testimony from ghosts or banshees.

ghost on staircase  Why not?  Why would I lie?

Well, yes, as it turns out, a ghost might very well prevaricate about certain things – the same things as most of the living, in fact.  But not about its own existence or its identity, if it remembers who it was.  And banshees – all right, so some of them do get confused about time frames.  They are, after all, best known for announcing a death ahead of time and scaring the hell out of people.  And the banshees have suffered the same hard knocks as the rest of the Fae, so some of them are a bit…um, tetched is the old word for that.  Unreliable.  Crazed, even.

Best mind what you say to a banshee.    thX72KQBMN

Okay, maybe it’s not that unreasonable, but the end result is, it’s damned hard to prove anybody is dead without some sort of corpus delicti.  So if one has any magical talents, the easiest way to deal with a corpse is simply to render those inconvenient remains invisible.

It’s not as hard as you might think.

Your first care should be making sure that no one is going to trip over the newly deceased.  A dead give-away, that is, and no – that was not a pun.  Go to Waller for that sort of foolishness. Since one of the things the killer is trying to avoid is hard work, that rules out many of the things humans do with a corpse – burial, dismemberment and the like.  Burning the body is also a bad choice, since fires of sufficient size tend to attract far too much attention.  But placing a body in a tree, or on a roof, or a telephone pole is quite effective, once it’s been rendered invisible.

How, then, is the forensic tech or detective to locate the carcass? The same way one locates invisible creatures.  What cannot be seen can still be heard, or smelt, or felt.

boggart  A  boggart has a distinctive vinegar reek, and a habit of snorting and snuffling when it’s upset.

Another approach is to make use of natural elements.  Summon a cloud of blue bottle or blow flies, and trust me, they’ll show you what you’re looking for by landing upon it, in their hundreds and thousands.  They’re drawn to death anyway, and are likely to show up on their own, whereupon the buzzing will be your first clue to the body’s location.

th5ILPBXGM  Greedy little buggers!

If you have a sylph handy, you can ask for help in the form of an atmospheric effect – a cloud formation that shapes itself to that of the corpse.

sylph  An air elemental can also be fairly destructive to your crime scene, however, so ask very nicely, and offer fair payment.

If all else fails, you can try smudging likely locations with smoldering sage, and hope the smoke will find and enfold the form of what you seek. Once you’ve located the corpse, however, you will still need to pierce the glamour, or else undo that invisibility spell.  If you’re pressed for time, by the circumstances, bad weather, whatever, then do what you can to visualize the carcass in situ, and record it on film.  You might try using Luminol first.

luminol  Defensive wounds often render the victim’s hands just as bloody as the killer’s, so you may be able to ‘light up’ relevant parts of the body even if you can’t visualize the entire corpse.

Luminol won’t work on ichor nor sap from a wood nymph, of course, but it will work on most kinds of red blood because of the iron content.  Oh hell – this damned machine is shooting sparks out the back.  What did I do this time?