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

Calling All Mermaids

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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.

Banshee Banter

A Kiss in the Dreamhouse

One of my favorite bands as a young, surly teen was Siouxsie and the Banshees, whose front-woman Siouxsie Sioux was a gothic chantress who howled like a mythological siren—luring you with her tales of travel and woe. So when I came upon Elliot O’Donnell’s book about banshees I simply had to dust off the old vinyl (for you youngins’ whose main experience with vinyl is the sheath you keep your iPod touch in, I am referring to a vinyl record) and paint on some heavy eyeliner so I could have a good ol’ fashion Banshee Bash.

Banshees are among the most feared creatures of the fairy kingdom, and this may be in part to the sympathies they invoke when you hear their wailing. You could easily be lured into the dark of night, hoping to help the pathetic creature who sounds as if she is in mourning. Some tales recount that banshees are the ghosts of women who have died in childbirth; others say they are the restless sprits of unrequited lovers.

Check out the story of The Malevolent Banshee available now as an e-book.

The link:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Malevolent-Banshee-Collection-ebook/dp/B0077D8KH8/ref=sr_1_38?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1331326303&sr=1-38

or on the nook:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/malevolent-banshe-elliott-odonnell/1108862203

L. Frank Baum Was a Woman

And other weird things I’ve learned just in time for the holidays!

Seriously, though…I was reading A Kidnapped Santa Claus, this fantastic short story written by beloved Oz author L. Frank Baum way back in 1904. It takes place in Laughing Valley–Baum’s alternative to The North Pole–which happens to be surrounded by mountains where there happen to be cave dwelling demons, lurking and sulking and plotting to ruin Christmas. It is like How the Grinch Stole Christmas meets The Nightmare Before Christmas with a dose of The Wizard of Oz!

I was researching Baum to get  handle on the many not-Oz books he wrote when I discovered that he was not only prolific, but he also had multiple prolific pseudonyms. Of seven known pen names, three of them were female. Edith Van Dyne wrote an entire series of Aunt Jane books. He also authored under the amazingly common names Laura Bancroff and Suzanne Metcalf. In addition to these feminine non de plumes he wrote under the far more manly names of Captain Hugh Fitzgerald, Floyd Akers, Schuyler Stunton, and John Estes Cooke.

If you’d like to read A Kidnapped Santa Claus, you can get it for free on my publishers website by following this link:

Free Download of A Kidnapped Santa Claus

You will also find there a free download of The Christmas Troll, a collection of creepy Yuletide beasts that lurk in the night around this time of year…and I’ll be discussing this folkloric freakery on Coast to Coast with George Noory, this Friday the 23rd at 10pm PST. More on that later!

Varla on Coast to Coast!

Another Feast for the Freaks

As we all roll out of bed on this post-Thanksgiving Monday morning, possibly still clutching our guts in regret of the pie-we-ate-that-lasted-too-long, we can have a nice snack from an entirely different table. Dive into the juicy tidbits on this wonderful site The Magical Buffet. Lots of fun things, but of course you know I am shamelessly linking directly to my interview with the founder Rebecca Elson.

http://themagicalbuffet.com/blog1/2011/11/27/10-questions-with-varla-ventura/

Varla