The Folklore of Glamis Castle

glamis 2Have you ever wondered about what goes bump in the night?  Ever seen the spooky spectres who haunt the halls or heard footsteps on the floor above you when you know no one is there?  As Halloween draws near, we hear about ghosts and spirits, demons and imps that terrorize our homes and attack the everyday person.  We will not be talking about those today, however, and instead we will be focusing on some famous ghosts that haunt the Glamis Castle all the way in Scotland.

Quick history of the castle itself: it was originally built during the fourteenth century and sits beside the village of Glamis in Angus, Scotland and has been home to the Lyon family since then.  Which brings us to our ghosts. Over these centuries, the castle has become the home to several famous ghosts, with many accounts by eyewitnesses who have come face-to-face with them — in a manner of speaking.

Our first famous ghost is the woman without a tongue.  No one knows who she was, however many people have reported seeing her wandering around the grounds, pointing to her disfigured face, or even staring out of the barred castle windows.  Next up is out young servant boy who has been spotted sitting by the door of the Queen’s room on multiple occasions, quietly waiting. Though not much is known about either of these spirits, we do have two very famous ghosts that have been known to roam these halls.

glamis 3The grey lady is reportedly the ghost of Lady Glamis — or Lady Janet Douglas.  Lady Glamis was burned at the stake in 1537 supposedly because she was a witch, accused of murdering her husband and planning on poisoning the King — King James V of Scotland.  Though she was accused of poisoning her first husband, she was acquitted and so married her second husband. However, nine years after her husband’s death in 1528, she was accused of planning to murder to king.  She was innocent, of course, but that didn’t stop the king from torturing her family and servants until she was convicted, resulting in her being burned at the stake on July 17,1537. Now, people claim to see the grey lady as she runs up the stairs in the clock tower, supposedly leaving a trail of ash in her wake.

The final of our famous ghosts is the ghost of Alexander Lindsay, 4th Earl of Crawford — also known as Earl Beardie.  The story of our Earl goes like this: supposedly he was cruel man who tended to drink heavily, and — according to legend — he had been visiting the castle at the time and returned, drunk and shouting, looking for someone to play cards with.  However, it was the Sabbath, and since no one would take him up on his challenge, he shouted that he’d play the Devil himself. Well, soon after there was a knock at the door, and standing there was a tall man in a long, dark coat — though some stories claim he wore a dark, hooded robe.  He asked if the Earl still needed someone to play cards with, and together they locked themselves in a room in the castle and proceeded to play cards into the night. Well, following this, loud swearing and shouting began to come from the room, and a servant peeking through the keyhole to see what was going on was blinded in that eye and was sent away, accused of spying.  However, that was the last time the Earl was seen — the man had disappeared, along with Earl. It is said that to this day, he is still playing cards in his secret room, shouts echoing from within. It is also said that children who stay in the castle wake in the middle of the night to see a dark figure standing over them, watching them sleep.

glamis 1We might not know what exactly lurks in the darkness, but when we hear these stories we are reminded that some people are never forgotten.  Whether it is a trail of ash or the screaming shouts of a drunk Earl, there are reminders of the past everywhere. That is, if one is only brave enough to stay around after dark and find them.

For more reading on the ghosts of Glamis castle (sources):

https://www.rd.com/culture/most-haunted-places-world/

https://www.hauntedrooms.co.uk/glamis-castle-angus-scotland

The Myth of the Bunyip

Bunyip_1890Australia.  Home to twenty-one out of the twenty-five most venomous snakes in the world.  A magical place where deadly creatures from sharks to box jellyfish to spiders roam free.  And yet, despite all of these known creatures, there is a myth of one that is far more terrifying living in the swamps and lakes and rivers.  Its name is the Bunyip.

Bunyip is the aboriginal term for ‘devil’ or ‘evil spirit.’  It is an aquatic Aboriginal creature of myth described differently in several regions — under different names until European settlers used the more popular of them — and ranging in appearance from an ox to a hippopotamus to a manatee with a long neck.  Though the image changes, one fact that all the legends have in common is that the Bunyip is said to be massive — a giant man-eater.

The Bunyip is known for its monstrous looks, his cries that echo, and the fact that it has killed several people definitely adds credence to the legend.  However, not all agree that the Bunyip is harmful. In fact, he is sometimes described as being a protector of wildlife.  This benevolent image is portrayed in popular culture where there exists a series of children’s books featuring the Bunyip.

bunyip 2.jpgThough the Bunyip can be either a monstrous man-eater or a benevolent protector, the legends seem to have some facts in common.  If you find yourself traversing near bodies of water in Australia, remember to keep an eye out.  For there may be something worse than the deadly bugs and snakes lurking about. One thing is for certain: if you hear its echoing cries or see a massive creature rise up from the depths, run.

For more reading on the Bunyip (sources):

https://aminoapps.com/c/thewitchescircle/page/blog/aboriginal-lore-the-bunyip-devil-spirit-of-australia/8qv1_pjSmuW5YWz1WpgLErK2XMR851GGP

https://mythology.net/mythical-creatures/bunyip/

https://www.britannica.com/topic/bunyip

 

The Folklore of the Kelpie

 

kelpie

Every culture has some form of animal lore, from the fox to the wolf to the coyote.  Stories can be found telling tales of shifters who prowl around searching for their next victim.  In Scotland, they have such a creature, and it is known as the Kelpie.

The kelpie of Scottish folklore is a water horse that has ties with the realm of faerie.  It is considered malevolent, however, and could generally be identified by its constantly dripping mane.  In most cases, the kelpie appears as a beautiful horse standing near or in running water, and awaits weary travelers, hoping to entice them onto their saddles.  Though this is where it becomes deadly, as it is said that once touched, magic causes the skin of the rider to adhere to the kelpie, thus making it easy for the kelpie to drown its victims.  Of course, if that wasn’t enough to make you cautious, the kelpie also has the ability to shift, and when it does it chooses the form of a beautiful woman wearing green who entices men into water, drowning them of course.

kelpie 3

As with all stories of faerie creatures, there is also advantages in captureing one as the kelpie is said to possess the strength of ten horses and have the endurance well beyond that.  However, in order to control it, one must have control over its bridle. Otherwise there is no stopping this creature whose tail — when smacked on water — sounds like a thunderclap and causes floods to make it easier to drag their victims beneath the surface.  

kelpie 2Be wary travellers, when traversing the countryside alone.  Keep your eyes peeled for a saddled horse dripping water. For it may not be a horse but a kelpie in disguise, waiting to drown its next unsuspecting victim.

For more reading on the kelpie (sources):

https://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/riding-seas-kelpies-and-other-fascinating-water-horses-myth-and-legend-006170

https://mythology.net/mythical-creatures/kelpie/

https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/The-Kelpie/

The Folklore of Robert the Doll

robert-2.jpg

Horror movies and urban legends always talk about haunted and cursed objects, from the Anguished Man painting — supposedly painted with the blood of the artist who committed suicide shortly after painting it — to the Busby Stoop Chair — which is currently mounted on the wall of the Thirsk Museum so that no one may sit in it and, according to legend, die.  But what about dolls? Haunted dolls have been a fascination of the public for years, and one of the most infamous haunted dolls out there is, of course, Robert the doll.

The story behind the doll is this: The Otto’s had a son named Gene who was given the straw-filled doll by the family maid.  Gene became attached to the doll, even naming it after himself: Robert. However, shortly after receiving the doll, the family would hear Gene in his bedroom, talking to himself, though there would be two entirely different voices speaking.  The doll began to becomes mischievous as the years passed, and the family would wake up due to hearing Gene screaming in the middle of the night. When they would go and check up on him, all of the furniture in the room would be overturned, the doll staring at him from the foot of the bed.

The mischief progressed.  Mutilated toys would be found throughout the house, and the sounds of giggling could be heard throughout the rooms.  People began seeing the doll moving from window to window as they passed by. Eventually, the doll was moved to the attic.

After Gene inherited his parents house, he moved back in with his wife, taking Robert out of the attic and putting him back into his old bedroom.  Of course, once Gene and his wife passed away, the doll was brought to the Fort East Martello Museum in Key West, Florida. Though people claim that his hair color — and, in turn, his soul — are slowly fading, there are still mysterious happenings at the museum.  Lights flicker, cameras malfunction, and curators claim to hear giggling coming from the doll.

robertAs if this wasn’t bad enough, there is a curse surrounding the doll.  According to many who have sent in photos accompanied by a letter of apology, anyone who takes a photo of Robert without asking for permission supposedly befalls terrible luck and tragedy.  In order to break the curse, they send back the photograph with a letter — these letters line the walls surrounding the doll at the museum in which people beg for Robert’s forgiveness and ask that the curse be lifted.

Maybe Chucky might not have existed, but Robert the doll is very much real.  If you wish to see him, the Museum still has him contained in his glass case.  Though, do err on the side of caution and ask the doll for his permission to snap a photo, lest the curse of Robert the doll befall you.

For more about Robert the doll (sources):

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/robert-doll

http://robertthedoll.org/

The Myth of the Scarecrow

scarecrow 2Now that fall is here, we are starting to turn our attentions to some of the lesser known myths and legends regarding this time of year.  And what better way to kick off the autumn season than with the myths surrounding the scarecrow?  Therefore, today we will be looking at a few of the origin stories of scarecrows from around the world.

Scarecrows have been around since the ancient world, used by farmers to ward off birds from fields in order to keep the crop before it is harvested.  The earliest signs of scarecrows being in use actually comes to us from ancient Greece. Aphrodite had a son named Priapus — God of fertility and horticulture — who was considered horribly ugly, and it was discovered that birds had tended to avoid any fields in which Priapus had been.  Therefore, wooden statues of Priapus were erected in fields in order to keep the birds at bay.

However, the ancient Greeks were not the only ones to use a scarecrow.  In pre-feudal Japan, scarecrows of different styles littered the rice fields.  The most popular of the scarecrows used, however, were called the kakashi.  These scarecrows were thrown together using old, dirty rags and bells and stick and were mounted on a pole before being lit on fire. Due to the smoke and the smell — kakashi literally translates to “something stinky” — the birds would stay away.  The kakashi were actually based off of a Japanese deity named Keubiko who was a god of agriculture and wisdom.  He couldn’t walk, but he knew everything, and his likeness was mimicked in the creation of the kakashi.

 

scarecrows

Human-like figures weren’t always used as scarecrows, and sometimes keeping the birds away was a full-time job.  In Europe during the Middle Ages, small children would run around in the fields and clap blocks of wood together in order to scare away the birds.  These children were called “crow-scarers.” Though after the plague struck, leaving fewer children around, the farmers decided to try to stuff old clothes with straw, placing a turnip or gourd on top as a head, mounting these figures in the fields.  This method worked, of course, and soon these human-esque figures were used instead.

Of course, we still see this tradition continuing on today.  Straw-stuffed clothes and fabric disguised as human-like guardians are still used, leaving them to protect not only our fields, but to decorate our homes during the fall season.  So next time you see a scarecrow, keep in mind the history of such a simple figure, and remember what our ancestors did in order to ensure that the birds would stay away.

 

For more reading on the scarecrow (sources):

https://japanesemythology.wordpress.com/tag/kuebiko/

https://www.thoughtco.com/scarecrows-guardians-of-the-harvest-2562307

The Folklore of the Autumnal Equinox

With autumn fastly approaching, and the trees losing their leaves, it is always important to remember the traditions that come along with this time of year.  Whether it’s pumpkin picking or visiting the graves of our ancestors, the autumnal equinox has become a center of tradition and folklore around the world. Instead of focusing on one, however, we will be taking a brief look at a few different cultures and how they celebrate the change of season.autumn-equinox-4

Paganism has always had roots tied with the natural world, and the autumnal equinox is no exception.  This equinox, in the pagan tradition, is called Mabon — or Second Harvest. Mabon is a time in which pagans will give thanks to the summer and pay respects to the approaching darkness.  A few rituals that tend to be associated with Mabon include — but are certainly not limited to — the building of an altar with harvested fruits and vegetables, the gathering and feasting of apples, offering apples to the goddess, and sharing food with the community.

ohigan-2While pagan traditions tend to lean towards the harvest itself, Japanese tradition tends to focus inward towards their own family and ancestors.  However, it isn’t just the autumnal equinox but both, and these periods are called Ohigan. According to Japanese Buddhist beliefs, the land of the afterlife is due west, and during these times the sun sets directly west, causing these solstices to become symbolic of both the deceased and the transitions of life.  During the weeks surrounding the equinoxes, it is common to visit both your living relatives and the graves of one’s ancestors in order to both pay respect and clean the grave site, leaving flowers behind when you depart.

fall festival

Of course, pagan tradition isn’t the only one that celebrates the equinox with community and harvests, and Japanese Buddhist beliefs aren’t the only ones who focus on their ancestors.  However, we should also take a moment to consider the complete opposite of rituals and folklore that have developed over time, and so we will also be taking a look at the Western traditions as well.  Celebrations that surround the time of the fall equinox tend to be less about some of our older traditions and more about different activities that are celebrated such as county fairs and festivals, apple and pumpkin picking, decorating with the images of fall from leaves to fruits and vegetables and blowing Halloween way out of proportion.  And though we do not celebrate some of our ancestors’ traditions, we do have a feast that finishes off the fall season.

So whether or not you still practice your own traditions or you are celebrating with festivals and decorating with pumpkins, each tradition surrounding the autumnal equinox is unique and centered around the cultural beliefs of the people.  One thing that remains the same, however, is the idea that the equinox brings along change.

For more about autumnal equinox traditions (sources):

http://mentalfloss.com/article/59049/autumnal-equinox-traditions

http://acad.depauw.edu/~mkfinney/teaching/Com227/culturalportfolios/japan/traditions.htm

https://wicca.com/celtic/akasha/mabon.htm

The Myth of the Kludde

kluddeAre you ever terrified of traveling alone at night down dark roads?  What if there were reports of a large, black dog that jumps on top of travellers and viciously attacks them?  Terrified now? Well, in Dutch folklore there exists such a creature, and it is called the Kludde.

Though not much is known about the Kludde, it is said that it can change its shape from that of a large dog to a cat, a frog, a bat, or a horse, sometimes even appearing as a small tree or shrub that grows in height before your eyes.  The only thing it keeps through all of its shapes are small, blue flames that flicker about its head. This creature is accompanied by the sounds of rattling chains as it paces the roads in search of unsuspecting victims. Though once the Kludde finds them, it is said that the creature jumps onto the back of the traveller, growing heavier and heavier until it forces the person down and tears them apart with its sharp teeth and claws.

Whether you are traveling alone or with a group, it is better to just stay off the roads at night if you happen to find yourself walking through the Dutch countryside.  One thing is for certain, if you hear the rattling of chains or see blue flames in the night, run.

Kludde 2

For more reading about the Kludde (sources):

https://www.mythical-creatures-and-beasts.com/mythical-creatures-list.html

https://pantheon.org/articles/k/kludde.html

Matthews, John, and Caitlin Matthews. The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures: the Ultimate A-Z of Fantastic Beings from Myth and Magic. Harper Element, 2009