Leaping Leprechauns: A Bit of Lore

Leprechauns are also known by more than pots of gold in the Fairy Kingdom. The leprechaun can be identified by the sound of his knocking or tap-tap-tapping upon his little shoe bench, as they are cobblers and the sound is that of their tiny hammers making elfin shoes. Fairies prize shoes and fine clothes far more than gold. If you can trap a leprechaun—some say green velvet and fine wine do the trick—the location of all that hidden gold could be revealed. But be aware that simply looking away from the ’chaun for a moment can allow them to vanish back into the green grass or woods where you happened upon them. The leprechaun is believed to be a perpetual bachelor elf who successfully staves off scores of proposals from all manner of feminine fairy, although it could simply be that he prefers the solitary life rather than that he has an actual disdain for the feminine ilk.

Victorian-era Irish writer and folklorist David Rice McAnally Jr. amassed an entire volume of Irish legends, Irish Wonders, upon which William Butler Yeats and other scholars draw quite heavily. While little is known about McAnally, we do know he was a clergyman who heard many stories including accounts of pookas (you’ll find one of my favorites in the chapter on the subject). He wrote one of the best extended descriptions and accompanying stories of the leprechaun to date, which I have excerpted from here.

McAnally describes the leprechaun, or leprechawn, as a creature of neither evil nor good, but of rather mixed quality, the child of an evil father and a degenerate fairy of a mother. (Apparently she spent one too many nights knocking back the whiskey with a pooka). The best way to spot a leprechaun is to know what one is looking for. For physical description, McAnally’s account is unmatched. He writes:

He is of diminutive size, about three feet high, and is dressed in a little red jacket or roundabout, with red breeches buckled at the knee, gray or black stockings, and a hat, cocked in the style of a century ago, over a little, old, withered face. Round his neck is an Elizabethan ruff, and frills of lace are at his wrists. On the wild west coast, where the Atlantic winds bring almost constant rains, he dispenses with ruff and frills and wears a frieze overcoat over his pretty red suit, so that, unless on the lookout for the cocked hat, “ye might pass a Leprechawn on the road and never know it’s himself that’s in it at all.”

If you’re curious about leprechauns and how to catch one, you’ll enjoy a selection of stories I’ve chosen for my new book, Fairies, Pookas and Changelings: A Complete Guide to the Wild and Wicked Enchanted RealmYou’ll hear the story of a man who was sure he could outsmart a leprechaun; the tale of a man who was ostracized from his village for not revealing the supposed golden store/indentured leprechaun (though it’s more likely his fortune came from hard work and a decided distaste for The Drink) and an epic tale of fairies and leprechauns on Halloween. All this, and much, much more.

If you’d like a copy, order now at:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Indiebound 

And watch this site for a giveaway contest coming up soon!

Excerpt and text copyright Varla Ventura/Weiser Books 2016.

photo: Nathan in San Diego via flickr cc

 

The Occult Power of Goats

Do you believe in the occult intellectual power of goats? An American journalist, born in the 1830s, William Wirt Sikes did. Or at least he believed it was necessary to record this belief along with other fascinating “old ways” of the Welsh people as he traveled there as consulate, and never left.

goats

Many of us have an immediate association with goats and Baphomet or another horned god, seen cavorting with witches at the sabbat, and dancing around the bonfire at all hours of the night. (Yes, please). But Sikes is talking about a more specific relationship: that of goats with the Gwyllion: female fairies with “frightful characteristics, who haunt lonely roads in the Welsh mountains, and lead night-wanderers astray.” These wild goblin women (which remind me a bit of the banshee) lurk and loom in craggy mountains and behind the shadows of boulders. The Welsh word “gwyll” Sikes tells us, is used “to signify gloom, shade, duskiness, a hag, a witch, a fairy, and a goblin.”  In this excerpt from his greater work, British Goblins, we learn the story of a goat who did not transform into a man but rather a beautiful maiden who seeks to avenge a man’s anger.

Sikes writes:

Among the traditions of the origin of the Gwyllion is one which associates them with goats. Goats are in Wales held in peculiar esteem for their supposed occult intellectual powers. They are believed to be on very good terms with the Tylwyth Teg [the common Welsh name for all fairies. V.V.] and possessed of more knowledge than their appearance indicates. It is one of the peculiarities of the Tylwyth Teg that every Friday night they comb the goats’ beards to make them decent for Sunday. Their association with the Gwyllion is related in the legend of Cadwaladr’s goat: Cadwaladr owned a very handsome goat, named Jenny, of which he was extremely fond; and which seemed equally fond of him; but one day, as if the very devil possessed her, she ran away into the hills, with Cadwaladr tearing after her, half mad with anger and affright. At last his Welsh blood got so hot, as the goat eluded him again and again, that he flung a stone at her, which knocked her over a precipice, and she fell bleating to her doom. Cadwaladr made his way to the foot of the crag; the goat was dying, but not dead, and licked his hand—which so affected the poor man that he burst into tears, and sitting on the ground took the goat’s head on his arm. The moon rose, and still he sat there. Presently he found that the goat had become transformed to a beautiful young woman, whose brown eyes, as her head lay on his arm, looked into his in a very disturbing way. ‘Ah, Cadwaladr,’ said she, ‘have I at last found you?’ Now Cadwaladr had a wife at home, and was much discomfited by this singular circumstance; but when the goat—now a maiden—arose, and putting her black slipper on the end of a moonbeam, held out her hand to him, he put his hand in hers and went with her. As for the hand, though it looked so fair, it felt just like a hoof. They were soon on the top of the highest mountain in Wales, and surrounded by a vapoury company of goats with shadowy horns. These raised a most unearthly bleating about his ears. One, which seemed to be the king, had a voice that sounded above the din as the castle bells of Carmarthen used to do long ago above all the other bells in the town. This one rushed at Cadwaladr and butting him in the stomach sent him toppling over a crag as he had sent his poor nannygoat. When he came to himself, after his fall, the morning sun was shining on him and the birds were singing over his head. But he saw no more of either his goat or the fairy she had turned into, from that time to his death.

Learn more strange tales and exciting folklore in my new book, Fairies, Pookas, and Changelings: A Complete Guide to the Wild and Wicked Enchanted Realm. Pre order it by clicking the links below:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Indiebound 

photo of goats: Shawn Clover via flickr creative commons

Something Wicked This Way Comes: An Excerpt from My New Book!

I’ve a little surprise for you tonight. My newest book, Fairies, Pookas, Changelings: A Complete Guide to the Wild and Wicked Enchanted Realm is due on April 1st. You can pre-order it now at Amazon, B&N, Indiebound, or at any local bookshop. If the title is not enough to convince you, perhaps a little excerpt from the intro will entice you.

johann_heinrich_fussli_022

Johann Heinrih Füssli’s (Henry Fuseli) Titania and Bottom, c. 1790. Image courtesy Wikimedia commons.

From the introduction to Fairies, Pookas, Changelings: A Complete Guide to the Wild and Wicked Enchanted Realm

If you are usually a fearful person, who likes to barricade your door and hunker beneath the bedclothes each night, worried about what might rattle the locks or slip through the cracks, you should not undertake to read the book that follows this introduction. Many of the stories in this book harken back to a different era: one without the niceties of today. A time when most homes did not have electricity, where candlelight failed to chase away all the night shadows, horses were the main mode of transport, and the fairies and goblins of olde still roamed the earth in large numbers. Today, we can leave a night light on or we can listen to the soothing sounds of ocean waves on our iPods lull us to sleep. We fear burglars or worse; our nightly news is more terrifying than some gentle old tale. Or is it? If you think fairies are not merely delicate beings who follow you about on gossamer wings, you are in for quite a shock: The Kingdom of the Fairy is one of vengeance, thievery, trickery, and wild creatures who wish nothing more than to steal your child, drown you in the bog or spoil your best Sunday shoes. The woods are lovely, dark and deep. You have been warned.

Before we head deeper into the shadowy forests and craggy caves of the Fairy Kingdom, I should begin by explaining what I am referring to when I say fairy. The Irish or Gaelic word for fairy is sidheóg or sidhe, (shee). The bean-sidh (bahn-shee) is a wild and fearsome member of the fairy kingdom signified by her mourning like wail, but can also refer to any female fairy spirit, and daoine sidhe (deenee-shee) can be any fairy creature. The Dutch, German and French words are all similar: fée. In Russian, the phonetic translation is feya and Italian or Latin, fata all of which give root to the modern word for fairy, faerie and fae. They are known as the Good People, the Little People, the Wee Folk. Around the world there are terms for magical beings who dwell in a land not far, far away, but rather one that co-exists or overlaps with our “regular” world. Fairyland. It can be accessed on purpose by witches and seers, on accident by drunken fools, and without effort by children. Faeries can be called upon to help as they can be implored to bring harm. Their trickery is legendary and perhaps this is the origin of the phrase, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Under the domain of fairies one might find all manner of loathsome, fearsome or irresistibly naughty beings. They love to test human nature. Hobgoblins, sprites, bogeys, pixies, changelings, pookas, goblins, bonga, duende and elves, all dwell in the Kingdom of Fairies. They creep about at cross roads, they hide beneath leaves. They are the twig-snap behind you on a walk in a moonlit forest, the rattle at the window that you can only hope is just the wind. They are seen with a drunken eye and with a sober nod, a fit of laughter and a scream of terror. The hobgoblin will clean your house for a saucer of milk but the banshee will destroy every cup and saucer in your cupboard with a vengeance stronger than a hurricane.

Read more when the book comes out!

Preorder at:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Indiebound 

Excerpt copyright Varla Ventura/Weiser Books 2016.

Spend the Night with Me (and George Noory)

Nobed by creepy pasta

DAHLINK. I know you thought tonight is the night you’re finally going to get to bed at a reasonable hour but you were sadly mistaken. You can’t miss tonight’s Coast to Coast AM with George Noory. Why? BECAUSE I’LL BE THE GUEST.

Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to eat your gruel and pour yourself a draught of ale before I’m on. I’m the second segment so that’s MIDNIGHT to 2PM PST.

TUNE IN HERE if you are a Coast Insider (you can also listen after-the-fact as a Coast Insider).

Click HERE to find your local station and tune-in live (and call in!)

We promise to keep you very, very awake.

 

Image: CreepyPasta 

What Are You Doing RIGHT Now? Get Thee to a Listening Device

Paratruth Radio Show, tonight at 8pm EST/5 pm PST. Me, a couple of freaky hosts, and a whole lot of banshees. And probably a vampire, a ghost, and a werewolf or two.

Listen here:

PARATRUTH RADIO LIVE NOW!!

T-minus 20 minutes or so. old-radio

2014, The Year of the Freak: My Episode of Beyond Belief with George Noory (TV!!!!!)

 

 

BB-Mkt_Promo-VarlaV-1Should auld acquaintance be forgot…don’t forget my face! LIVE on Beyond Belief on  Gaiam TV.  Come nurse your hangover with a little cure for what ails you: my peeling laughter and wicked antics.

Here is how it works. Click this link. On January 1st, this link will take you directly to the show. Before then, the link takes you to the main page for Beyond Belief, but once the show airs it will remain the direct link to my episode.

Beyond Belief with George Noory: Creatures of the Night with Varla Ventura 

If you want to watch it YOU MUST SUBSCRIBE. You can get a FREE 10-DAY TRIAL, and watch it any time or as many times as you want during that 10 days, plus any of the other episodes! After the 10 day period if you want to keep watching it, because you want to wake up to/fall asleep to the sound of my voice throughout the year, you have to sign up to GaiamTV.

Once you’ve signed up for the 10-day trial, you can stream the video of  me and George yukking it up over vampires, banshees, a little bit of Crowley, and other delightful horrors, through your computer, tablet, phone, etc.  Here’s a little info about the show!

Creatures of the Night, Beyond Belief with George Noory

Banshees, werewolves, and mermaids are all the stuff of fantastical legends stretching beyond the limits of recorded history. But what if there was some truth to the tales of these mysterious creatures? Author Varla Ventura’s passion is researching the bizarre and she reveals the truth behind the legends of several creatures of the night in this interview with George Noory originally webcast January 1, 2014.

 Varla Ventura is a lover of all things strange, freaky, and terrifying. She is the author of Banshees, Werewolves, Vampires, and Other Creatures of the Night and curates the Weiser Magical Creatures and Paranormal Parlor series of e-books. When not burning the midnight oil writing about weird news for her Blog of the Bizarre, she can be seen traversing the hidden cemeteries and phantom ships in the greater Bay Area. She can be found online at www.varlventura.com. 

Don’t I look like a happy little freak? See more of me than you ever thought you wanted to.

www.beyondbelief.com 

 

Reginald and His Goblins Mix it Up with Church of Mabus’ Jeffery Pritchett

goblinproofingYou may recall my earlier review and interview with the one and only Reginald Bakeley, author of Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop. 

I’ll be straight with you: Reginald is a scamp. He knows more about the fairy kingdom than any one I know, and he has the gift of the second sight. But if you ask him, he’ll tell you it’s a curse. While I agree with Reginald that the fairy realm is not one of sweetness and gossamer-winged light, when it comes to waging war on the beasties and nasties we differ. I want to befriend them, run rampant with those troublesome gnomes and bewitching flower fairies, he wants to (I’ll be blunt) kill them. Or at least maim them.

Jeffery Pritchett, aka Church of Mabus radio host and paranormal pursuer extraordinaire, did a really fun, funny, and informative interview with Reginald. You can read it here:

Reginald Bakeley on Waging War Against the Fairy Kingdom: Interview on Examiner.com

 

Ring in the New Year with Murderous Bells: A Very Happy Hour of Horrors

the bells that committed murderThe usual gaiety of chiming bells ringing in the New Year might sound a little more sinister once you get through this short little eBook, selected by me from a collection of fairy and folklore by Welsh “Grimm” William Wirt Sikes.

Don’t walk into that churchyard or a schoolhouse without a hard-hat! There are more than just the usual hazards of daily life in rural Wales that could bring you harm. There are murderous bells afoot!

Bells on B&N 

Bells on Sony

Bells on Amazon  

You can grab your little e-reading device and buy the book, it’s less than $3, and then mix up a nice Champagne Cocktail. You’ll want to have a few before serving them to guests–to be sure they are as delicious as they sound, so you might as well test run them tonight!

If you want a nice list of other champagne and sparkling wine cocktails, check out Martha Stewart’s List HERE for amazing ideas like Blood Orange Champagne Cocktail and Lemon Drop Champagne Punch.

Bells on B&N 

Bells on Sony

Bells on Amazon  

This is Martha’s recipe, and I like it just the way it is, although I prefer just one or two drops of the bitters.

Ingredients

  • 3 drops bitters
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 1 ounce Cognac
  • 4 ounces chilled Champagne

Directions

  1. Drop bitters onto sugar cube; let soak in. Place sugar cube in a Champagne flute. Add Cognac, and top with Champagne.

Happy New Year! May it be merry, bright, and safe. And be careful where you walk, for the bells of towers may be chiming your own demise.

Saturday Night Special~Church of Mabus!

Hey Freaks! Whatcha’ doin Saturday night? Want to get into the “spirit” of Christmas? Join me on Church of Mabus radio.  Hosts Jeffery Pritchett & Erica Goetsch are ripe and ready to discuss Christmas trolls, Krampus, terrifying creatures of the night, little men you should beware of, freaky facts, dark and strormys and so much more!

Follow this link and listen live this Saturday DECEMBER 15th from 8pm-11pm PST, 11pm-1am EST:

http://churchofmabusradio.com/1328/church-of-mabus/varla-ventura-yuletide-krampus-christmas-terrors-the-totally-bizarre/

And if you aren’t up for the night (pathetic! you fall asleep sooo early these days!) you can listen to the archived show the morning after. Or sometime to follow that.

So if you’re worried that that isn’t Santa scratching on your rooftop, join me. It probably isn’t. And it aint’ the wind, neither.

Krampus Date

Taming the White Rabbit~A 99 Cent Happy Hour of Horrors

TAMING THE POOKAPooka, phooka, puka. No matter how you spell it the shape shifting beastie, most commonly appearing in Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, often takes the form of a black horse or a white rabbit. Even Lewis Carroll’s white rabbit was a pooka of sorts. They trick you, they lead you in the wrong direction, you are the only one who sees them and your driven to think you’re crazy. Most accounts are dismissed as the ramblings of a drunkard (Harvey) and while actually relatively harmless, there are pookas that appear to scare the living daylights out of you. YOu may be taken on a fearsome midnight ride. You may be lead on a dark-of-the-night ghost chase through a graveyard. They are really pretty unpredictable.

So to honor this beloved creature of the night, I’ve put together a collection of pooka stories form folklore, available only in digital form and priced at the low, low rate of a mere 99 cents. Includes a T. Crofton Croker story and  tales from William Butler Yeats. So grab your digital reading machine, download Taming the Pooka, and mix yourself up a stiff drink. The more you drink, the more you will believe.

Taming the Pooka on Amazon

Taming the Pooka on B&N

Try this recipe for a White Rabbit, adapted from Drinksmixer.com

3-4 oz vodka

1 oz milk

2 oz vanilla liquer

Now, if you use something like Vanilla vodka (Stoli makes one) you can omit the vanilla liqueur. I like to add a little whipped cream to the top, for fun. This version of a White Rabbit is a bit more like a White Russian, really but with vanilla. You can also make a version that involves brandy, baileys, vodka, and Kahlua. But who has all of those on hand? Put all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker, over ice, and shake.

Serve this drink  in a coffee cup. Why? So that when no one believes your story of the pooka you saw, you can claim you were just sipping tea.

Happy Happy Hour!