Kindling Spirit

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LeshyFinal

Continuing with mythological creatures, this story comes from Slavic folklore. The Leshy is a male woodland spirit that protects wild animals and trees. He is a shapeshifter, but mostly appears as a bulky old man with branches, vines and bark all over his body.

He is known to be very mischievous… Leshy find joy in confusing weary travelers in the forrest- he does this by moving trees and paths to lead them deeper and deeper into the woods.

There’s a really fun article about them here: http://mythandlore.blogspot.com/2012/04/leshy.html

release the Kraken!

Kraken2

With sightings being documented as far back as the 13th century (but most likely a giant squid) the Kraken is a legendary monster of the sea that supposedly hangs out in Norway and Greenland.

, despite various fictitious interpretations, the original sightings report the creature to be more crab-like than the massive ship-eating octopus we’ve come to imagine. The mile-long (not kidding) crab thing caused giant whirlpools and forced boats to burst up on a flying fountain of water coming from it’s nostrils! Zut alors!

The word Kraken translates to an unhealthy animal, or something twisted, in modern German, it translates to Octopus. In dutch, the words means breaking or the sound of crackling. Hmmm.

The phrase “release the Kraken” comes from the original Clash of the Titans movie in which the gods are angry and want to release this destructive beast upon the humans who have angered them.

There’s a great article with more information here: http://anomalyinfo.com/articles/sa00102.php

turn and face the strange… ch-ch-ch-changlings

TylwythTeg

Unbeknownst to me, there are a TON of different fairies. This is the Tylwyth Teg. She is most popular in Welsh folklore. She is also known as Gwyllion or Ellyllon. The name itself means “the Fairy Folk” or “Forest Family”.

These fair-haired fairy-ish female creatures lurk through the land in search of golden-haired children to kidnap. They replace the human children with a changeling (called a Crimbil).  But aside from kidnapping (scary) they also are said to dance, and deliver gifts to their favorite humans, but the gifts disappear if you talk about your good fortune.

There is a legend in which a 3-year old son was taken from his mother. The mother seeks the help of a magician to get him back. She removed the top from a raw egg and began stirring the contents- the changeling, left by the fairy, looked on as she did so. She then went to a crossroads at midnight during the full moon, then obtained a black hen without plucking it and roasted it until every feather fell off— well, this did the trick. Her son was returned and the changeling mysteriously disappeared. Hmmm. Sounds legit.

The Tylwyth Teg are associated with moonlight dances, supernatural passage of time, as well as stealing children.

I may paint/profile some other types of fairies- here’s a list of ALL them: http://zeluna.net/list-fairy  cool website.

There’s also a book on all of them, including the Tylwyth Teg here: http://www.amazon.com/Fairies-Myths-Legends-Skye-Alexander/dp/1440573050/ref=sr_1_18?ie=UTF8&qid=1431625977&sr=8-18&keywords=Tylwyth+Teg

and I may just order that book and the entire series because it includes books on Mermaids, Vampires, and wizards! oh my!

old wives tail.

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themermaid

For the next few weeks, I plan on painting and profiling mythological creatures and the history behind them.

First up- Mermaids!

Mermaids have appeared in folklore and pop culture for over 3000 years. They are most often portrayed as beautiful women with a long fish tale (sometimes one, sometimes two tails). From romantic stories to horrific tales of terror, the mermaid seems to have left a mark on seafarers no matter where in the world they were.

The very first stories are found in ancient Assyria where the goddess Atargatis tried to transform herself into a fish out of shame, apparently she accidentally killed her lover. The sea refused to conceal her beauty, so she was only partly transformed (although, according to the story, she was a fish from the neck down with one human arm. weird.)

There have been recorded sightings for almost all of time- which can be best explained by misunderstood encounters with various sea creatures, hell, even Christopher Columbus reported seeing them when sailing through the Caribbean.

The earliest artistic depiction of these beauties can be found in Durham Castle (British Isles). Built in 1078, a carving can be located in one of the pillars that would seem to be a half-woman, half-fish creature. Oddly enough, Mermaids are an unlucky omen in those parts, as they were thought to only speak to doomed ships or be a sign of bad weather.

If you’d like to read more, I found a GREAT website with fantastic articles on EVERYTHING mermaid. http://www.realmermaids.net/mermaid-history/history-of-mermaid/

There’s also a great book available here: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-History-Mermaids-Ari-Berk/dp/076364515X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431457249&sr=8-1&keywords=History+of+Mermaids

Castrated Knights… thought that would get your attention.

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JoanII

Stumbled across this story and was intrigued.

Joan II, Countess of Burgundy (1292 – 1330) was an heiress to Otto IV, and eventually became Queen Consort of France through her husband, Philip V.

In 1314, Joan’s sister Blanche and her sister-in-law Margaret were accused and convicted of adultery. Apparently they both had hot and heavy affairs with a couple of Knights. The scandal was labeled the Tour de Nesle Affair. The Tour de Nesle was a tower in Paris in which everything went down. Bow-chicka-wow-wow.

Joan was said to have known about the affairs and was placed under house arrest. It was also speculated that she too had an affair, but her husband denied this and stood by his wife. She insisted that she was innocent, and eventually got her name cleared in 1315. Some say that Philip only campaigned for her innocence as a way to hang on to Joan’s titles and lands. Mon dieu!

When King John I of France died, Joan’s husband became King Philip V of france, and Joan was crowned as Queen Consort. They had 3 children, but only their daughter, Joan III, Countess of Burgundy survived childhood.

When her father and brother passed away, she inherited the county of Burgundy and the County of Artois. Cha-ching. When she died, in 1330, her will ensured the founding of a college in Paris.

But more about the scandal (because that’s what we all want to read about)…

Blanche and Margaret were imprisoned and their lovers- Knights Gautier and Philippe were tortured and executed (and it was NOT pleasant… they were castrated, drawn and quartered and eventually hanged. ouch).

Blanche was kept in prison (at the Chateau Gaillard) for sometime and then forced into a convent, Margaret was kept imprisoned at the same place- but in an underground cell and died under suspicious circumstances. Her husband, Louis X married Clementia of Hungary five days later. If it makes you feel better – Louis died a year later after a game of tennis. Zut alors!

You can read more here: http://www.worldheritage.org/articles/Tour_de_Nesle_Affair

a wee dram.

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HelenCumming

I had the pleasure of touring Cardhu Distillery while I was in Scotland. burp. So much history and delicious whisky, and even more amazing… it was run by women. I happened to notice a beautiful silhouette of a woman waving a flag on their packaging and asked our tour guide for the story. It was riveting.

So to make sure I got my facts straight, I emailed them for more info on Elizabeth and Helen Cumming. Here was their reply:

In 1811, John Cumming took a lease of Cardow farm.  In 1816 he was caught and convicted 3 times of malting and distilling ‘privately’ without a licence.  According to tradition, his wife Helen carried out these activities. She is said to have taken the produce to Elgin, walking barefoot over the Mannoch Hill. All things being equal, she was more than a match for the excise men. Once, when brewing she was warned that they were approaching. There was just enough time for her to hide the distilling apparatus, to substitute the materials of bread making, and to smear her arms and hands with flour.  As there was no inn for miles Helen would invite the men to stay at the farm.  Once she had prepared their meal she would go out into the back yard and raise a red flag over the barn to alert the neighbours that the excise men were in the area.

In 1923 the government eased the restrictions on legal distillers, and cut the duty.  The more professional of the illicit distillers took out liscences under the new Excise Act, including John Cumming in 1824.

Lewis, the eldest of the Cumming’s children managed the distillery from 1832, and when his father died in 1846 he took over the farm as well.  The distillery was not much larger than a smuggler’s bothy, but the output helped to pay for the farm, and the farm helped the distillery to pay. 

Lewis Cumming died in 1872, leaving his mother and his widow Elizabeth with 4 children.  In order to bring up and educate her family Elizabeth resolved to carry on the farm and the distillery herself. Helen died in 1874 aged 97

In order to increase the output of the distillery Elizabeth purchased 4 acres of land and built a whole new distillery within 300 yards of the old buildings.  The new distillery was built in 1884 and was capable of producing 3 times the output of its predecessor.  All possible precautions were taken to make sure that there were no changes in the character of the whisky.  “New Cardow” used the same water, peat for the same area and so far as they were suitable, some of the old utensils.

When Elizabeth’s eldest son, who had been helping her run the distillery, died in 1886, her second son John Fleetwood gave up his medical studies to take his brother’s place.

There were difficult decisions to make after the whisky industry entered a decade of boom in 1886.  In order for blenders to secure supplies of whisky, it was felt they either had to buy distilleries at inflated prices, or build their own. As Elizabeth Cumming was the owner of a first-class Highland malt distillery, it is likely that she must have come under intense pressure to sell.

In 1893 the distillery was sold to John Walker & Sons Limited, of Kilmarnock.  The purchase price of £20,500 included shares valued at £5000.  These were transferred to John.  A condition of sale was that John should be appointed to the Walker’s board.  The takeover marked Elizabeth’s final retirement from the business, and she died a year later in 1894”

The distillery is the only distillery to be pioneered by a woman and in fact had 2 very strong women behind it. Helen was the one who started off making Cardhu whisky and Elizabeth was the one who grew the business and later sold it to the Walker family.

I was so impressed with the distillery and this story!!! For further reading you can purchase a book on Cardhu here: http://tinyurl.com/n6wqu3m

Or visit their website to see beautiful pics of the property and information on their products: http://www.discovering-distilleries.com/cardhu/

the Battle of Culloden

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I just got back from spending an entire week in beautiful Scotland!!! I’m so inspired by all the incredible history I got to see firsthand! I’ve posted a TON of photos on the Facebook page here: http://facebook.com//historywitch. Pics from Stirling Castle, Linlithgow (probably my favorite site), Dunnottar Castle (another favorite), Edinburgh Castle, Rosslyn Chapel, Blackness Castle- and so much more!

One of the most moving sites was definitely the Culloden battlefield. So much so, I decided to paint a map!! Click to enlarge the map – or – you can view a larger version over at They Draw And Travel here: http://tinyurl.com/ndpn9kt

The battle was a total BLOODBATH. The Jacobites didn’t stand a chance. If you are lucky enough to go – do not miss this museum/monument. It is both breathtaking and horrific! (my favorite combo.)

I will definitely be painting more of these fascinating stories from Scottish history soon!

MapofCulloden_1746

let us prey.

BaobhanSith

A boabhan sith is a female fairy in Scottish mythology. The story is very similar to that of a banshee. This blood-sucking seductress preys on those traveling at night and takes the form of a beautiful lady in green (sometimes white).

The legends say that she will invite men to dance and then pounce with her sharp teeth to suck their life force. Just like vampires, boabhan siths cannot tolerate daylight and return to their graves by morning… but (strange) they are extremely afraid of horses.

They are mostly attracted to hunters, and (supposedly) live only in the Scottish Highlands. They can also speak any language but when heard, seem to have a strange accent.

Some stories say they have the vampire teeth, while others say they use long fingernails to pierce their victims.

Either way, I’m not wandering alone in the woods of the Scottish countryside. Or, er, any woods for that matter.

Typhoid Mary.

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TyphoidMary

In 1906, Henry Warren was on vacation with his family in Oyster Bay, NY. They had hired an Irish woman, by the name of Mary Mallon (1869 – 1938), as their cook. The family LOVED her ‘peaches on ice’ dish along with everything else she cooked. After a short period, Mary left to look for another job.

After a few weeks, 6 out 11 members of the Warren house contracted Typhoid fever. At the time, it was thought this disease only effected poor people in the slums – living in filthy conditions. In shock over how his wealthy household could have Typhoid, an investigator was called in.

It had recently been documented that healthy people could carry the disease, so the investigator immediately suspected the cook. He tracked her down to another household but just missed her. sort of. Mary was hiding in an outdoor closet. After many tests, they discovered that she did, indeed, carry the virus- with no symptoms.

She spent three years in an isolation hospital… but the public got wind of a healthy woman in an asylum and demanded her release. The officials let her go, but only under the condition that she have her gall bladder removed – or – stopped working as a cook.

Mary did not follow the stipulations set and disappeared.

In 1915 there was an outbreak of Typhoid in Sloan Maternity Hospital in NY. The hospital’s cook was, you guessed it, Mary Mallon (using the alias Mrs. Brown).

She was committed to the isolation hospital once again and stayed until her death in 1938.

“The Most Harmless and yet Most Dangerous Woman in America” – Headline, 1909.

don’t get her dander up.

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graceomalley

This is a HW Follower request! Perfect for this month’s feature: Ireland & Scotland.

Grace O’Malley (1530 – 1603) was the called the Sea Queen of Connacht. She inherited a large shipping and trading business from her father (they were accused many times of piracy). Between this and the land passed on to her through her mother, Grace was a very wealthy woman in 16th century Ireland. In 1593, her sons and half-brother were kidnapped by the English governor of Connacht, Sir Richard Bingham, Grace sailed straight to England to petition to for their release. She made her case directly to Elizabeth I at Greenwich Palace.

The two (FABULOUS) women agreed that Sir Bingham was to be removed from his position in Ireland and Grace was to stop supporting the rebellion. Btw- their entire discussion was in Latin, Elizabeth did not speak Irish and Grace did not speak English.

Seems quite civil… but neither kept their end of the bargain. Bingham went back to his post, O’Malley never got the cattle he stole – and – she rejoined the rebellion with zeal!

There is a LOT more to this story, I found a great article here (which I like mostly because of the blog name): http://www.badassoftheweek.com/omalley.html

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