folklorelei: (bigfoot)

1. Let me Thread you a story… (1-14)
2. Peaches McCaffrey stopped into Bar-Bar’s Ice Cream Parlor. She told Bar-Bar she’d been having strange dreams.
3. Now, Peaches is a sensitive soul. She runs the Peace Now Meditation Center down on Greenbriar Road.
4. She likes to talk about chakras and higher consciousness & all kinds of stuff I don’t rightly understand, but it seems to make her happy.
5. And folks come out of her center with big smiles on their faces so I guess something must be going right down there.
6. But she said that every time she ate Bar-Bar’s orange ripple chocolate ice cream—her favorite—she dreamed the same dream.
7. In it there was a beautiful white horse with sapphire eyes that always tried to coax her to frolic with it in Laverty Pond.
8. Bar-Bar told her, “Not everyone can take the higher emanations of the chocolate-fruit infusion.”
9. (Or the mystical spells some say Bar-Bar mumbles as she’s mixing batches.)
10. She told Peaches to try a dollop of Calming Sprinkles next time she got the orange ripple chocolate.
11. Oh—and on no account was she to follow that horse into that pond, in dreams or in real life.
12. Some say Bar-Bar was a high priestess of some sort before she moved here from New Orleans, but nobody really knows if that’s so.
13. She’d be far from the only one in town fond of spells and potions. It’s that kind of place. It don’t make no difference to me.
14. Because who am I to judge? I’m just a Narrator and everyone knows narrators are unreliable sots, fruit infused chocolate or not.

This story can also be found on Twitter @downportalville.

Mirrored from Better Than Dead.

folklorelei: (siren)

Random quote of the day:

“To me dreams are a part of nature, which harbors no intention to deceive, but expresses something as best it can, just as a plant grows or an animal seeks its food as best it can.”

—Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

Mirrored from Better Than Dead.

folklorelei: (the siren)

Shasta-Road

Whether you’re looking to find Bigfoot or find a cure for what ails ye, believe in flying saucers and the hollow earth theory, or just feel called to go spiritually journeying in a place where the “veil between this world/dimension and the next is thinner” there’s a destination in California that will fit the bill: a currently inactive volcano called Mt. Shasta. That it’s in California may not surprise some—Cali is the state of oddball seekers, after all—but the fact that the legends stretch back to the earliest settlers and further back into Indian lore may surprise some.

The New Agey stuff, of course, has been grafted onto the place wholesale, but Shasta has always been a place of legend. The mountain is sacred to many Indian tribes in the area: the Wintu, who believe they emerged from a sacred spring on the mountain; the Achumawi; the Atsugewi; the Modoc. The Shasta Indian tribe believe it to be the center of the universe and home to their creator god, Chareya, often called Old Man Above or Great Man in English. While he was creating the world, he made himself a gigantic tipi out of ice and snow. He lived there for thousands of years and the Indians knew he was in residence because they could see the smoke of his fire coming out of the tipi’s top. However, when white folks showed up in the area, Old Man Above decided it was time to go and the smoke wasn’t seen on the mountain after that.

Perhaps that’s why there are people who to this day believe Shasta is hollow inside, a interdimensional passageway, the place where the last of the Lemurians live in a crystal city called Telos, home of the ascended masters, a covert UFO base, a…well, you get the picture. UFO sightings are quite frequent in the area, even without the lenticular clouds that frequent the mountaintop. And it’s said to be a Bigfoot hotspot, as a recent Finding Bigfoot episode claimed. Many spiritual seekers there report “telepathic communication” with Bigfoot when they pop in and out of the fifth dimension…and saucer occupants, and Lemurians, and…again, you get the picture.

shastacloudsovermountain

I do not laugh at the belief systems of others. I may not take them on as my own, but I figure that as long as they’re harmless and make these people happy, why not? And the beliefs clinging to the mountain are mostly that—peaceful and transcendental. Well, if you discount that one Guy who started a cult in the 1930s. His wife and son wound up swindling people out of a lot of money and getting busted by the Feds. The Guy himself did not go to prison—he was dead when the swindling occurred—so his name remains “pure” and the cult lives on in a Visitor’s Center in the town of Shasta.

But hey, Mt. Shasta is not to blame for the darkness at the heart of some humans, and most activity there is pretty positive. One might even come to believe that Mt. Shasta could purify even the darkest of hearts.

At his first sight of Mt. Shasta in 1874, John Muir is reported to have said, “I was fifty miles away, afoot, alone and weary, yet all of my blood turned to wine and I have not been weary since.”

And therein may lay the essence of the Mt. Shasta experience. More than anything, what fascinates people about the mountain is the gosh-awful grandeur of the place. It inspires awe, and so people pour that awe into a multiplicity of belief systems. The place may very well be a vortex to some otherworldly place, or it may just be a vortex of amazing beauty.

As Steven Jackson put it, writing for NPR, when he hiked there: “I don’t have a spiritual epiphany. But the air feels cold and sharp. The old-growth cedars are covered in brilliant green moss and shape-shifting clouds whip across the sky impossibly fast. In short, it is literally awesome. And regardless of what one believes about the mountain, it’s easy to see why it has so many legends to its name.”

Mirrored from Better Than Dead.

folklorelei: (the siren)

IF

The Firewolf

Some years ago, when I was still doing art inspired by American Indian sprituality, I had a powerful dream. In this dream, I was gazing into a campfire out in the woods. An enormous grey wolf emerged from the fire, leaping over my head and knocking me flat on my back, his fur trailing sparks of fire that left my eyes dazzled. He ran off and disappeared into the darkness of the forest.

When I woke, I thought perhaps this was a power dream sent to me by the wolf spirit. My teacher had encouraged me to take such dreams seriously and to use them in the artwork. As it happened, I was in the process of making a medicine shield, an object inspired by personal visions, or vision quests, and used by various tribes to protect them spiritually. I figured the dream had sent me the image I needed for it.

When I presented the finished shield to my teacher, she was amazed. “What inspired you to use this image?” she asked.

I told her about the dream.

“You already knew about the firewolf, then?”

“Firewolf? No, I’ve never heard of that.”

She went on to explain that in the traditions of some tribes, fire is considered a wolf and must be treated with respect. You must remember to thank the firewolf for its help in keeping you warm and cooking your food, for the positive benefits it brings, or it might turn on you.

“It’s really significant,” she said, “that you had that dream and had never heard of the firewolf before.”

I thought so, too, and was amazed. I wondered briefly if it might be a case of cryptomnesia, where one is exposed to an idea but doesn’t recall the exposure. But whatever it was, I was thrilled.

I thought I’d write about it for the folklore blog. I duly set about looking up the firewolf legends on the internet in order to provide some references. And therein lies the problem. I found pagans named Firewolf, fictional stories about fire wolves, games featuring fire wolves, so clearly the concept is in the zeitgeist. But I found almost nothing about American Indian traditions concerning fire and wolves. According to Native American Mythology A to Z by Facts on File, Incorporated, the Ute Indians believed Wolf brought fire to mankind:

Tales frequently involve the theft of fire from the being that possessed it. Often the bringer of fire was an animal or a bird, such as Beaver (Nez Perce), Coyote (many traditions), Deer (Nootka), Fox (Jicarilla Apache), Muskrat (Anishinabe), Turkey (Cherokee), or Wolf (Ute). Grandmother Spider (Spider Woman) stole fire for the Choctaw. In one Cherokee tale, a water spider was responsible for the gift of fire.

So, I don’t know what tradition my teacher was referring to. Indian mythology is not a monolith—each tribe has their own set of stories and beliefs. Sometimes there’s overlap, but each tradition is unique, and there are many, many stories out there. I just have no idea which one she meant.

And the cryptomnesia idea is playing through my mind again, once I saw that the Utes believed Wolf brought the first fire. My mother, you see, grew up on the Ute reservation. It’s entirely possible I heard something along the way.

Which does nothing to diminish the vividness and power of that dream. That remains a gift of the unconscious realm, the realm where all things are possible, where mysteries are far more important than answers.

IF

Mother, with Firewolf

Mirrored from Better Than Dead.

folklorelei: (the siren)

Warning: I’ve been asked by a friend to post an advisory that you might not want to read this just before bedtime.

mummenschanz

Mummenschanz.

A murky borderland exists between folklore, the weird, active imagination, and illness. Many people encounter it when they’re most vulnerable: while sleeping. Or more precisely, when they are just falling asleep or just waking. They feel completely awake and conscious, roused from their drowsiness by some sense of presence and menace. Everything has the crisp edge of consciousness, a hyper-real sense of awareness. Strange occurrences are frequent in this borderland, with scary hags and demons, or aliens, or shadow people populating the bedroom and radiating hostility. At times the monsters are more exotic. Other times, it’s just a feeling of being frozen, unable even to cry out, as something sinister hovers over the bed. As WebMD puts it:

Almost every culture throughout history has had stories of shadowy evil creatures that terrify helpless humans at night. People have long sought explanations for this mysterious sleep-time paralysis and the accompanying feelings of terror.

Science has labeled this phenomena “sleep paralysis syndrome,” and I can attest to the terror of it. Many years ago I went through a phase that lasted over a year. Some people have only one or two incidents in their lifetime, some go through a specific period like I did, others are tormented by it for years, perhaps most of their life.

My roommates and I were living in a “haunted” apartment and we all had odd experiences there, but I was the first to enter the strange borderland and suffered the most intense effects. I’ve often wondered since if I started a psychic contagion, influencing them into weird dreams and the hearing of odd sounds: people in the front room moving furniture around or walking across the hardwood floors of our duplex…even when we knew the people upstairs were out of town and couldn’t be the source of the noise. Sometimes we heard the front door open and close with a solid thunk, but when we rushed into the living room, it was bolted tight, the furniture was where it had been when we went to bed, no one else was in the apartment.

I would often wake up sensing a dark cloud hovering over my bed, something evil reaching tentacles out for me while I lay frozen, panicking. I knew that if I could just get myself to move, just reach out to turn on the light, the menace would disappear, but I couldn’t move, couldn’t even blink, only send up fervent prayers for movement and light. Then, all of a sudden like a bubble bursting, I could move, lunged for the light, shot out of bed, panting with terror.

I can’t emphasize enough how real all of this felt.

A few times I caught a glimpse of a figure I’ve labeled (long after the fact, when I feel safer) the “shadow wench.” She was a shapely woman dressed in a black body stocking that went completely over face and head, every speck of “flesh” covered, giving her a Mummenschanz appearance (only without the comic masks). I could see no eyes, and she was the blackest black I’ve ever seen—no light escaping her, all light absorbed into her. She used to sit in a chair beside my bed. Except there was no chair beside my bed. Unlike the amorphous hovering cloud, I got no sinister sense from her. More like a deep puzzlement and curiosity about me, perhaps a slight sense of alien judgment, as if she examined a specimen. As soon as I moved and turned on the light, she disappeared like all the other phenomena.

Eventually, we moved out of that apartment and went our separate ways. My roommates experienced no more weird things, and I had only one more incidence of sleep paralysis in my new place. Many months later, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The doctor said it had probably been responsible for the emotional rollercoaster I’d been on for the previous couple of years—sweeping swings of emotion that came out of nowhere and bore no relation to the events of my life. Oh, and had I been having odd dreams?

To say the least.

Once the cancerous gland was removed and I was on a stable dose of thyroid hormone, all of that disappeared. I have been cancer-free for many years, and thankfully, sleep paralysis free. The thing is, I never felt sleep paralysis syndrome an adequate explanation for all incursions of the weird in the dark of night. Perhaps the majority of these experiences can be attributed to it, especially where beds or comfy chairs are involved, but sometimes weird invasions occur when they can be corroborated by others. People aren’t always in bed. Sometimes they are in their cars, or reading a book, or sitting around a campfire when the strangeness comes creeping in and about them.

And why did my experiences, and those of my roommates, stop as soon as we left that apartment? Why didn’t they continue in the months before I received treatment for my thyroid cancer? I had very intense, weird dreams after that, but only that one incident at the new place of waking up with something creepy in the room. One last farewell appearance before the carny of odd went permanently on the road. I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation, but I do wonder, and always will. Certainly, I have not stopped having uncanny experiences, but my sleep remains untroubled. Thank the gods.

Mirrored from Better Than Dead.

folklorelei: (the siren)

This is one of those stories where folklore and history intersect, and more compelling for the union.

Some of you may know this haunting song by Alison Krauss:

Some of you may even know it’s based on a true story.

On the morning of April 24, 1856, in the remote and dense forest of Spruce Hollow, Pennsylvania in the Blue Knob region of the Alleghenies near Pavia, Samuel Cox went out hunting for dinner while his wife was distracted with chores. When he returned to the log cabin he’d built for his wife Susannah and their two sons, Joseph, aged 5, and George, aged 6, his frantic wife told him that when she’d looked up from her work the boys had disappeared. She’d been calling their names and searching the area but they never responded to her calls, and she could find no trace of them.

Samuel began a desperate search, but had no better luck. Neighbors were implored for help and within hours nearly two hundred people had joined the search. They scoured the area for days, the numbers of searchers growing to almost one thousand persons. Some came as far as fifty miles to aid the Cox family at a time when traveling through that rugged country was very difficult. A dowser and a local witch were even brought into to help. Nothing—no one could find any trace.

Inevitably, with so many searchers coming up empty, rumors and gossip began to fly. Eventually, even the parents were suspected of murdering their own children, some people going so far as to tear up the floorboards of the cabin and digging up the land around it to search for bodies.

At the height of this rumor-frenzy, a man named Jacob Dibert, living some twelve miles from Spruce Hollow, had a nightmare. In this dream, Jacob saw the search parties looking for the Cox children and saw himself amongst them—though in reality he hadn’t joined them. In the dream, he became separated from the rest and didn’t recognize the part of the forest he moved through, but then he came to a fallen tree and saw a dead deer. Just beyond the deer, he spied a small boy’s shoe, and just beyond that a beech tree lying across a stream. Crossing the stream, he ascended a steep and stony ridge, then down into a ravine. By the roots of a large birch tree with a shattered top, he found the missing boys lying in each others’ arms, dead from exposure.

Shaken by this dream, Jacob at first told only his wife, but it returned to him the next night, and the night after that, so he finally told his brother-in-law, Harrison Whysong, who lived in Pavia. Whysong was skeptical, but he knew the area and knew a ridge that matched Jacob’s description. Jacob was so shaken up that Whysong decided to ease his mind by taking him there. On May 8, they began their search. They found the fallen tree, they found the dead deer, they found the small shoe. They ran for the stony ridge and down into the ravine, towards the roots of that birch tree with the shattered top. They found the two small boys, lying in each others’ arms, dead from exposure.

lost children

The boys were buried in Mt. Union Cemetery. In 1906 on the fiftieth anniversary of the tragedy, the people of Pavia erected a monument. In 2002, it was vandalized, but the good folks from Culp Monumental Works of Schellsburg restored it. C. B. Culp, who founded the company, made the original chiseled marble stone. You can still visit the monument. It’s quite a hike, I understand, and there’s even a geocache there for people who are interested in geocaches. It is rumored to be a place of strange lights and odd occurrences, even to this day.

Sources for this story:

The Lost Children of the Alleghenies
Anomalies: The Pavia Monument
Lost Children of the Alleghenies

*Another irregular series that I will probably keep up with irregularly.

Mirrored from Better Than Dead.

"Because I have heard that for those who enter Fairy Land there is no going back. They must go on, and go through it." —R. Macdonald Robertson, Selected Highland Tales

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