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

Mermaids and George Noory: Coast to Coast AM TONIGHT

among the mermaidsGreetings guys and ghouls! I’ll be conversing with the great George Noory tonight, Wednesday the 17th, on Coast to Coast AM and I hope you can join us! The show starts at 10pm PST , and I’ll be on at 11PM PST. We’ll be discussing mermaids, and other strange and mythical beasties, banshees, and things that howl and bump in the night!

Click the link below to find out what stations will be airing the show. If you are a subscriber you’ll get it as a podcast too.

http://www.coasttocoastam.com/

Check out my new book, Among the Mermaids: Facts, Myths and Enchantments of the Sirens of the Sea. and keep your eyes here for special give-aways, Varla-approved book trailers, mermaid swag and other goodies.

Summer reading for supernaturalists!

If you’d like to read an excerpt, click here: mermaid excerpt

 

 

Chickens, Yes! Goblins, No! Or yes, really.

voteMy good pal Reginald Bakeley’s book Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop, is up for a PRIZE. And he’s made today’s UK Telegraph because of it. The Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year, has announced its shortlist of books. Goblinproofing joins How Tea Cosies Changed the World and Was Hitler Ill? as contenders.

Please click the following link and vote for Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop, and ask your friends, family, and lovers to join the campaign!

http://www.welovethisbook.com/diagram-prize-2013

Click here  to read the full article and see the most amazing juxtaposition in the history of publishing.

You can also read my review of Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop and a Q&A with dear old Reginald.

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

The Screaming Banshee~A Just-in-Time Cocktail for Thanksgiving’s Happy Hour of Horrors

My Happy Hour of Horrors are usually late Friday themes but since this week is a madhouse of gluttony, joy, and frenzied family freakery, I’ll let you have a drink right now. (I always say drink early and often). But seriously, you know that over dramatic little sister that “can’t quite handle” the family gatherings and bursts into tears after a few too many? Right when you realize you’ve not had quite enough? Well, she’s probably more related to the banshee of folklore than to you, but you can’t very well prove that right?

So now, for the low-low price of just $2.99 grab your little nerdy device and buy one (or both!) of these banshee books, then rush out and get all the ingredients you’ll need for The Screaming Banshee. And when you are feeling very full and someone starts to discuss politics or religion in the post-turkey consuming haze, tuck yourself away in a corner, maybe with your coolest cousin, and drink up and read up to your heart’s content. I guarantee you the creatures in these books will make you feel a little better about those relatives you think are the worst. Your heart will grow two sizes, after being scared out of your wits.

The Malevolent Banshee by Varla Ventura and Elliot O’Donnell Amazon or B&N

Alleged Counterparts of the Banshee by Varla Ventura and Elliot O’Donnell (Currently available only on Amazon)

The Screaming Banshee

(I got this one from Good Cocktails, but as usual adapted it slightly)

Screaming Banshee Drink

Ingredients

  • 1 oz. Vodka
  • 1 oz. Banana Liqueur (seems a little gross but just try it!)
  • 1/2 oz. Crème de Cacao (White)
  • 1/2 oz. Cream / Half & Half/I like to use whipped cream straight from the can. And it’s nice on the drink too.

Instructions

Pour all ingredients into a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. So easy!!!
It’s okay to put this in a plastic pint glass so everyone thinks you’re drinking soda. No garnish necessary, but you will need some alone time. Goes great with chocolate cream pie.

Happy Thanksgiving!

An Interview with Reginald Bakeley~Author of Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop

After recently reading and reviewing Reginald Bakeley’s Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop, I scored a very interesting interview with this man that loathes the fairy kingdom. He believes that fairies are actually pernicious, malevolent, and dangerous. Famed gnome-hunter, fairy-cattle herder, and goblin-banisher, Bakeley shares what he’s learned over years of adventures with these “unnatural” creatures in his book. I thought I’d catch up with him and get some questions answered, in case any of you were as uninformed as I once was about the fey.

Which member of the Fairy Kingdom do you believe to be the most dangerous, the most “malevolent meddler?”

It’s a tricky question, that one, because each sort of fairy has its own way of mucking things up. I’m tempted to point the accusatory finger at the pixie, but they strike only whilst one is trying to enjoy a walk out-of-doors. There’s another, more pernicious sort, who dwells much closer to home. I’m speaking of the common house brownie. He seems innocuous enough, doesn’t he? A little manikin bopping around of an evening filling all the coal scuttles and sewing the buttons back on shirts. But that’s his game, see? The brownie’s a social climber, and that sort of behaviour in a fairy is incredibly dangerous. If allowed to ingratiate himself with you through his wheedling industriousness, the brownie will invariably convince you that he—a little fairy and nothing else—is as good as any human. From there it’s a short journey to the brownie’s assuming an attitude equal if not superior to the householder. Master becomes servant and servant becomes master and the whole world’s gone topsy-turvy. It’s insidious behaviour, and given the relative saturation of the brownie population throughout Britain—and in areas of New England in the Colonies as well, I’ve learned—many, many people need to be aware of it.

Have you ever had your own home inhabited by a brownie?

I must admit that, yes, my ancestral home of Bakeley Hall in Pembrokeshire has been seized by a brownie lodger more than once during my life there. Rural homes seem to attract the blighters more readily than homes in town, and of course the brownies thrive anywhere there is plenty of tea and laundry. Bakeley Hall is such a place, and so I should never be surprised to discover evidence of nocturnal brownie activity. All the same it’s damned disconcerting to get out of bed and put one’s foot squarely into a large bowl of steaming porridge garnished with cream, walnut halves, and pomegranate seeds. If it’s ever happened to you—and I hope it hasn’t—you’ll know what I mean. Brownies will fill one’s entire house with bowls of porridge unless one strikes back immediately.

Did you simply drive him out, or were you able to use his ambitions against him and trick him into midnight housecleaning?

 

I’m not a man to toy with the Faerie realm. I prefer the direct approach, frontal assault. In the case of beating back a troublesome brownie infestation this usually means going round to the stationers or the Savile Row tailors, for means of brownie-abatement I detail in my book. It’s never an inexpensive operation, but what price can we put on piece of mind?

You know the perils of being involved in the fairy world, but your knowledge has allowed you to dedicate your life to hunting these pernicious creatures. If you could, would you give up your Second Sight and live a “normal” life?

 

In an instant, yes. I’ve often thought of taking up cheese-rolling.

You write that the changeling egg of a goblin once turned a young girl’s legs backwards. What is the strangest curse you’ve ever encountered?

 

Ah yes, poor Ettie Ungerslud. We can draw strength in our campaign against the Fairy Kingdom every time we think of her and how she always wears very full skirts these days. Hers is an unfortunate curse, but as for the strangest, I’ve been surprised and dismayed in recent years to find instances of what might be categorized as “half-curses.” Instead of a classic fairy curse that turns a victim into a goose, for example, we see people touched by the fairies who now exhibit mere gooselike behaviour. Offenses which under usual circumstances would have blinded a fairy’s victim now produce a blindness which comes and goes. My research is as of yet inconclusive, but I’m beginning to suspect that these “half-curses” are coming about either because the fairies’ magic is weakening or people are growing a stronger resistance to the fairies’ meddling ways. One might take either of these possibilities as good news, except for the fact that there are no tried-and-true methods for reversing half-curses. It used to be that an angry fairy might whisk away a lover to a desert island, and the grieving partner remaining would have to travel there to rescue him or her. But what’s to be done when only a portion of the lover is transported? It’s most distressing, and the growing number of half-curses I’m seeing can hardly be called progress in our fight against the fey.

I’m working on a book about mermaids, and I noticed that in your youth, you had a tragic love affair with a mysterious woman. Was she a mermaid?

 

Who? You mean Cordelia? I’d never thought of it that way. Hmm.

In Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop, you enumerate the benefits of flower-fairies in the garden and fairy livestock on the farm. What are some of the other benefits of discovering fairies?

 

Those two instances are special cases, for the most part. Flower-fairies and fey livestock are inherently useful in their own, limited ways, but broadly speaking the discovery of a fairy is beneficial only in that it gives one an opportunity to squash it, thereby reducing the fey population and lessening the trouble they bring to mankind. There are quite a few edible fairies flitting about, and some are downright scrumptious. I’ve got a weakness for pansy-blossom sprites on toast, for example. As with any sort of foraging, though, it pays to know precisely what you’re looking at. Eat the wrong fairy and anything could happen. I haven’t yet found a field guide thorough enough for using when hunting edible flower-fairies. I’d suggest beginners stick to gnome hunting, as those fellows aren’t as easily mistaken for anything else.

What is the best way for a novice to begin gnome hunting?

 

As with any straightforward countryside pastime, it’s best to find others who’ve been at it for a while. Follow their lead. If you weren’t raised in a family boasting a long line of gnome hunters, though, it’s easy enough to take it up on one’s own. I present it all in a very clear manner in my “On Gnoming” chapter in Goblinproofing, and I’ve also produced a small pocket guide strictly on the subject, available through Wonderella Printed and a few sympathetic outfitters here and there.

I learned the unsettling facts about trolls from Goblinproofing—their incredible strength and massive appetites and the single comforting detail, their weakness for solving riddles. In case any of us should have the misfortune to run across a troll, do you have any tried-and-true riddles to offer for our protection?

 

A troll doesn’t stand a chance against a clever riddle. Its faculty for logic inhabits the lowest rung on the biological ladder, cozying up with that of the Mollusca Class Gastropoda, which incidentally is a favored food of trolls. Nearly any riddle will do, but you must deliver it with conviction. Clap your hands once loudly and shout, “What ho, troll! Answer this riddle and I’ll fetch a rowboat full of snails for you to eat!” That will capture his attention. It’s no bother if you haven’t the foggiest notion where to find a rowboat, or snails. You won’t need either, because the troll won’t ever answer your riddle. He’ll either sit there thinking over possible answers until the sun comes up and turns him to stone, or he’ll strain his feeble brain until the pressure explodes it. It’s worth sticking around to watch either eventuality, just for the spectacle of it all, but I don’t recommend keeping your shooting coat once it’s covered in bits of troll. The stains—not to mention the stench—simply will not come out.

What would you recommend for an anti-fairy emergency kit?

It’s funny you should ask that, because I’ve been assembling several such kits for my local rambling chapter. So far I’ve thrown in a flask of whisky, a cat’s eye marble, some doll’s house furniture, an iron nail, an alarm clock, and an O.S. map. Anyone who reads Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop will appreciate the assemblage.

You can buy the book now, wherever books are sold. Check out this link:

Amazon, B&N, or Wonderella

 

Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop~A Review

Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop

I flipped open a page of this irresistible, yellowed little relic and found myself up til midnight stuck to the pages. I can’t help sharing some of Reginald Bakeley’s wisdom with those of you who are unfamiliar–

In the foreword, Clint Marsh describes Bakeley “was a man who, unlike other writers on the subject, had no wish to go further into Faerie, but was determined to fight tooth and nail to get out.” Okay, intrigued.. Naturally, I wanted to know how to goblinproof right away. I was totally caught off guard by the detail of this little book:

“Aside from the peril presented by their eggs, which they do indeed begin to lay after a short while, goblin hens are notorious for their tempers, which are nearly as quick as their razor-sharp beaks.”

Bakeley recommends making sure your chicken coop is not built on a ley-line (a channel of energy which runs along the surface of the earth) and re-routing the ley-line if you do have the misfortune of settling over one. A goblin can be tricked into moving on or, in the best of cases, simply freed from the coop to allow him to complete his natural migration. Simply keeping the coop neat and tidy deters new goblins, who prefer a dark, dank mess. But these Faeries are no casual matter:

“Nothing spoils a carefully prepared breakfast like the cracking of a changeling egg. Whilst so many of these dangerous ovoids look and feel perfectly normal, they possess repulsive qualities seldom noticed until mealtime.. the Ungerslud family of Shrophsire was the unlucky recipient of a goblin curse via changeling eggs, for the morning after the eggs were eaten, the lot of them awoke with their legs n backwards, as they remain today. Young Ettie Ungerslud went on to become a source of local pride by clinching the National Backwards Hopscotch Championship later that year, but surely you can imagine that life is not all fun and games under such a curse.”

Never fear, aspiring chicken coopers! After a quick perusing of the chapter, you’ll have all the information you need to protect yourself and you can “go to bed early, my happy friend, and rise at dawn to gather eggs from your freshly goblinproofed chicken coop.” I did just that, minus the chicken coop, and had a ridiculous dream about joining the town council so I could advocate for getting revenge on the goblin that turned my legs backwards.

Read my interview with Bakeley here:

Bakeley Q&A

But the book now at Amazon or B&N or wherever books are sold!

Mermaids on Huffington Post

My most recent article on mermaids!

Huff Po Article on Mermaids (click here)

Please read and comment on the mermaid conspiracy…

the enchantments of the sea

Calling All Mermaids

Image

Have you ever seen a mermaid? Do you know someone who has? Do you have a family legend or terrifying (or delightful tale) that involves a sea creature, a mermaid, or a magical creature relative to the mermaid? Or perhaps you know a real-life mermaid and/or you can hold your breath for a really long time under water? If any of these questions have sparked your imagination or memories send them to me at varlaventura@gmail.com and I may include them in my next book. Note: I am NOT looking for lengthy fiction submissions. This is a collection of facts and folklore, so your great grandmother’s Irish tale is a yes, but your own romantic short-story is a no. I’d love actual encounters with the merfolk–I know they are out there!!!  This includes your first-hand account of the giant squid! And watch here for more details on the forthcoming new book on mermaids–a real print book!! If I pick your story you’ll be notified and receive a signed copy of the book when it comes out in the Spring of 2013.

Of Magical Creatures: A Pre-Preview

You may have noticed the question or the requested comment that I’ve asked you, dear readers, to answer for me as part of this Bizarre Giveaway. What is your favorite magical creature? Dear Varla, why-ever do you want to know?

I’ve been working on a series of e-book only books for my publisher, Weiser Books, on the subject of Magical Creatures and we are very pleased to pre-announce that one creature in particular is making it to print early next year. And more will likely be on the way. So your comments are serving as more than a mere factoid–they are helping me help the publisher pick from my menagerie of banshees, werewolves, mermaids, phookas, and other crazy, creepy, cute, crawling creatures of mythical and magical proportions. So stay tuned, weigh in, and write to me about your favorite freaks! And in the meantime, buy my digital books!! Image