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Posts Tagged ‘folklore’

I’m off at Lake City Comicon, but I’m still excited about Nalo Hopkinson’s Voodoo-rich House of Whispers, so here’s another post from 2017 about dragons in the Voodoo religion.


We’ve all heard of Voodoo, that mysterious, wicked form of magic where curses are bestowed by sticking pins into dolls and the dead rise as zombies. Pop culture offers a sensational and even scandalous view of Voodoo in movies, books and on TV.

In reality, Voodoo/Vodou is a folk religion practiced in the Caribbean, especially Haiti. It is thought to be a fusion of West African, Native American, and Catholic religions. Vodou has spread all over the world, wherever Caribbean immigrants have traveled. Without a central authority or holy writings, it’s hard to know how many people practice Vodou today.

Every religion has its deities. In the case of Vodou, the supreme deity is Bondye but scores of nature spirits called loa serve as his intermediaries. And the loa just happen to include a few dragons. Damballah-Wedo and Ayida-Wedo are leaders of the Rada pantheon. Both take the form of gigantic rainbow serpents who give shape to the world.

Damballah, the father figure,  sired most of the pantheon. His relationship with humans is said to be remote, but fond. A lord of rivers and streams, he was honored in special pools where he could come to bathe. He also enjoyed forests with many trees. Whenever he came to Earth, his body would carve the land into canyons and valleys. At sea, his swimming provoked great waves.

His wife, Ayida, is a goddess of rain, and consequently fertility. It is said when she milks her cows, the rains fall onto the Earth. She can most often be seen as a rainbow arched over the land. Not surprisingly, Ayida is a popular deity compared to the more distant Damballah.

Together,  Damballah and Ayida are a perfect team, loving and devoted. Earth and sky shape each other. Without one, the other has no meaning. Decorative items often show them twining together. Their stable and affectionate relationship is an example to their earthly followers.

And you thought Voodoo was just about casting curses!


Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

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St. Leonard’s Forest is a region of The Weald, an ancient forest located in what is now Sussex, England. Legends say that many dragons once lived in this deep, wild forest. It must have been good habitat for them, with many hiding places and deer to feed upon.

The forest became associated with Saint Leonard of Limousin (485-559 C. E.), who ran a monastery nearby. During the last years of his life, he lived in the forest as a hermit. Saint Leonard wasn’t too old to have a few adventures, though! So many dragons were coming out of the Weald to attack the countryside that the people begged this holy man for help. Saint Leonard went in answer to their pleas. He fought the dragons, and patches of lily-of-the-valley sprang up where his blood flowed.

Saint Leonard was believed to have killed the last of their breed in the Weald. However, there may have been survivors. Dragon sightings were recorded in St. Leonard’s Wood as late as 1614 C. E.


Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

 

 

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Here’s another teaser from my e-book, Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore. It was especially exciting to learn that Native Hawai’ian tradition included a type of dragon called the mo’o that was connected with their ancestral dead. I hope you’ll enjoy this tidbit from 2014.


Mo’o, Hawai’i’s Ghost Dragons (December 2, 2014)

Did you know Hawai’ian mythology includes dragons? Until a few days ago, I didn’t either!

Native Hawai’ian people are part of an extended cultural family generally known as Polynesians, who explored and colonized all over the South Pacific from New Zealand to Rapa Nui (a.k.a. Easter Island) and of course to Hawai’i. It’s believed that Polynesian culture spread from somewhere in Southeast Asia, possibly around Malaysia, and so the Hawai’ian dragons share some features with other Asian dragons. Yet they also have their own unique origins.

Mo’o are great water spirits who can change form between that of a water dragon and a human woman. There are male mo’o, but the majority are female. They dwelt in pools and ponds as well as in caves. Mo’o had power over weather and dangerous waves (tsunami), and other magical powers as well. They are described as twenty to thirty feet long, jet black, and shining in the water.

Because fresh water is one of the most precious resources in the island environment, the mo’o who guarded these pools were worshiped along with the other nature deities of Hawai’ian lore. Every pond capable of providing fish had its own altar dedicated to the mo’o who defended it. Local people burned fires and made offerings of awa (a drink made from the kava plant) in the belief that a mo’o who was well cared for would provide plenty of clean water and fish to the community. Likewise a neglected mo’o could become vicious and spiteful.


Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

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I’m in the final days of preparing Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore for publication. This is the frustrating part, where every T has to be crossed and every I has to be dotted. It all has to be right, so my book doesn’t look like something a lame amateur spit out.

I had hoped to be done by now. I wanted to be giving you the big, exciting announcement today. But I’m being hung up by some sort of technical bug. The software for formatting the print book keeps inserting blank pages at the end of paragraphs. I’ve corrected this three times and the blank pages reappear in the same places. I wish I could send a flight of flaming dragons!

Hmmm, maybe that wouldn’t be helpful. But if anyone knows what might be causing this, I’d love your suggestions.

Anyhow, here’s a snippet from one of my favorite posts, back in 2014 — Number Five Lucky Dragon.


 

As Hallowe’en approaches, I bring you a true horror story from the cold war. Daigo Fukuryu Maru was a humble Japanese fishing vessel that set out from Yaizu to catch tuna in January of 1954. Its name translates roughly as “Number Five Lucky Dragon,” a cruel irony in light of the ship’s fate. Daigo Fukuryu Maru ran into engine trouble almost immediately. Near Midway Island, it snagged its lines on a coral reef and lost nearly half of them. The young captain, Hisakichi Tsutsui, refused to return to port without something to show for it. He headed south, toward the Marshall Islands.

By the end of February, 1954, Daigo Fukuryu Maru was fishing near Bikini Atoll. Yes, THAT Bikini Atoll. Supplies were running low, and they planned to fish one more day before heading back to port. None of the crew had any idea that the U. S. Government had established an exclusion zone around Bikini Atoll because they were planning a Hydrogen bomb test. The hapless vessel was outside the exclusion zone, but that was little consolation after the fact.

At 6:45 a.m., a tremendous flash drew the crew up to the deck. It looked like the sun was rising in the west. “Bridge, sky and sea burst into view, painted in flaming sunset colors,” recalled crewman Matakichi Oishi. What the stunned crew witnessed was the detonation of Castle Bravo, a new type of nuclear weapon that worked a little too well. The blast had been expected to yield 6 kilotons; the actual yield was closer to 15. It was the greatest human-caused explosion to date, and the consequences were devastating.

Well, I hope this piques your interest for Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore! Which will be coming soon, I swear it!


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Last time, I mentioned the Lagarfljot Worm, a lake-dwelling cryptid believed to exist in Iceland. According to the story, the creature was a heath-dragon or lingworm kept as a treasure guardian, but it was thrown into the lake when it grew too large to control. I’ve heard of lindworms, two-legged and wingless dragons of Germanic myth, and the lingworm doesn’t sound too different.

However, the story made me wonder what a heath-dragon might be, legendarily speaking. Just when you thought the Internet could tell you absolutely anything… I can’t find them. So I’m left to speculate.

Let’s see… Obviously, heath-dragons must live on the heath. Heath is any area of open land with poor soil, so it is left uncultivated. Bushes like heather are the main vegetation. You won’t find a lot of cover on the heath, nor large animals for prey. So while many great dragons are found in magnificent mountains or darksome forests, heath-dragons might be creatures on a lesser scale. Small enough to conceal themselves among the heather, they could be ambush hunters preying on rabbits, stray sheep, and the occasional unwary traveler.

Or, perhaps heath-dragons represent a younger stage in draconic life. Only when they grow older and more powerful can they claim those magnificent mountains and darksome forests.

Well, friends, can you help me out? I’d love it if you can suggest any legends and tales about heath-dragons!


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Taniwha are nature spirits in the folklore of New Zealand’s Maori culture. They can appear as large sharks, whales, crocodiles — or dragons! According to legend, these spirits traveled alongside the canoes that carried Maori ancestors over the sea from their original islands. After the Maori established their new homes, the taniwha remained to watch over them. Even in modern times, many tribes and local communities can name a specific taniwha who is their guardian.

It was believed that taniwha granted visions to priests, warning of natural disasters or that enemies were nearby. However, taniwha could be both friendly or deadly. They made their homes in deep rivers, caves, and ocean shores prone to dangerous currents or sneaker waves. Friends of the taniwha might be guided away or rescued from drowning. In return, taniwha expected to be treated with respect. They received offerings of the first fruit each season. Even friendly tribesmen passing near a taniwha’s home would make offerings to please these spirits.

In addition to spiritual guardianship, taniwha were enforcers of tapu (commonly Anglicized as taboo), the social code governing Maori life. Violations of tapu would be met by swift retribution. So would any intrusion into the taniwha’s domain. Though they protected their own people, outsiders were fair game. Strangers might be dragged into the water or attacked and devoured. Women might be captured as brides.

Respect for the taniwha has remained strong even into modern times. Several news reports from the early 2000s related that construction projects had been moved or redesigned to avoid disturbing areas where taniwha were believed to dwell.

Check back on Saturday for a few taniwha legends.


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Legend tells that a dragon named Blue Ben once lived in the county of Somerset, on the west coast of England. He dwelt in shale caves near the sea, so if his fiery breath over-heated him he could dip into the waves and refresh himself.

Blue Ben was huge, as all dragons are. Due to his great size, he sometimes got stuck in the mud flats along the Somerset coast. The legend says that, in order to save himself, the dragon built a limestone causeway so he could reach solid ground without becoming trapped.

Ben seems to have been a mild-mannered dragon. There’s little mention of him ravaging the countryside or devouring livestock. Alas, being a good neighbor did not spare the mighty beast. The Devil himself happened to spy the dragon frolicking in the waves. He cast a spell that chained Blue Ben’s will. Poor Ben became the Devil’s steed for a wild ride all through the fires of Hell.

No one knows how long this went on. The dragon ultimately freed himself and escaped back to Somerset. Desperately hot and tired, he flung himself into the water to cool off as he usually did. Alas, he had chosen a spot far from his causeway. As he emerged from the sea, Blue Ben became stuck in the mire. No matter how he struggled, he couldn’t get free. In the end, he succumbed to his exhaustion and was entombed in the mud. A sad end for such a magnificent creature.

True fact #1: Blue Ben’s “causeway” is a naturally occurring limestone formation that resembles a paved road. Several sections can be seen along the coast, near the town of Kilve.

True fact #2: In the 19th Century, a shale quarry outside Kilve yielded the fossil skull of an ichthyosaur. The local people immediately proclaimed that this was the skull of Blue Ben. The fossil can still be seen in a Somerset museum.


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