Day of the Banshees

Ireland celebrates an annual Celtic Feast of the Dead which honors those who have passed. This celebration lasts for three days, beginning on October 31st (Samhain/All Hallow’s Eve) which serves as a vigil of preparation for the following two days.

November 1st – All Saints’ Day
On this day preparations are made to welcome the souls of the dead, for it was once widely believed that the souls of Irish ancestors would return to their family home that night, All Souls Night. Great care was taken to make sure they felt welcome and the door (or window) would always be left unlocked. Spirits would walk the earth that night – for this is the time of year when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest – so no one dared venture out after dark. It’s also said that anything you throw out on All Souls Night would return to you.

Today in Ireland, All Soul’s Day (November 2nd) remains a day of commemoration when prayers and Masses are said for those dearly beloved who have passed, similar to Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos.

Day of the Banshees
November 1st

The name “banshee” is derived from the Old Irish for “woman of the fairy mound”, mounds of earth dotted around the Irish countryside known as tumuli. These tumuli traditionally covered a grave or a number of graves and were said to be home to spirits of the dead.

The Banshee is a spirit in Irish folklore whose mournful “keening” (or wailing, screaming, or lamentation) at night was believed to foretell the death of a member of the family of the person who heard it. She is often described as having long streaming hair and wearing a grey cloak over a green dress, with red eyes (from continual weeping); although some maintain the Banshee has red hair, an ashen complexion, and wears a dress of white. Sometimes the Banshee appears old and frail, other times the embodiment of a young member of the family who died in some tragic circumstance or other.

Many have heard the beginning of its low, sustained shriek but few the end.
Magic: The Gathering

Some legends state that the Banshee appears as an old woman with rotten teeth and long fingernails. According to some tales, there are evil Banshees that derive pleasure from taking a life and they actively seek out their victims and wail at them to the point where the person commits suicide or goes insane. But most agree that the Banshee doesn’t cause death but serves as a prediction of death. She is known in Ireland by many names: Hag of the Mist, Little Washerwoman and Hag of the Black Head.

Far, far away something made a single ghostly howl, like a Banshee in the dark.
– Lucy Christopher

Banshee howl…

Legend of the Banshee

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You Say Lycanthropy – I say Therianthropy

It’s October and today marks this month’s Full Moon – in Aries. The “Hunter’s Moon” also known as “Blood Moon”. Can you hear the howling and snarling of the predator? No? Well, you will. (Although mine emits more of a whine.)

Dokken’s “The Hunter” also comes to mind…

While lycanthropy only deals with “wolfery” (the ability to change into a wolf), therianthropy is the ability to morph into any animal by shapeshifting. Almost every culture around the world has some type of transformation myth. So while the Full Moon conjures up images of werewolves, let’s take a Walk on the Wild Side and step into all sorts of animal personas.


Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter
The title character, Anita Blake, starts as a human with the power of necromancy. She joins the organization Animators, Inc. as an animator (a person who raises zombies) and a vampire executioner. In later volumes, she acquires some powers that are commonly associated with vampires. She contracts the lycanthropy viruses which makes her associate with were-creatures. She also grows powers as a succubus. [source]

I’ve read most of the Laurell K. Hamilton books in this series, mainly because they started out focusing on vampires. But then they began including various iterations of therianthropy, many of which are FELINES: Wereleopards (including black leopards), werejaguars, werelions, and weretigers of many different colors. There are also wererats, werehyenas, werefox, swanmanes, mer(maids/men), and lamia.

lamia
n. (Classical Mythology) one of a class of female monsters
n. female demon; a vampire or sorceress

From Latin lamia, from Greek lamia (female vampire); literally “swallower, lecher” from laimos (throat, gullet).

The Lamiai (Lamiae) were fearsome demons which assumed the forms of beautiful women to lure young men to their beds – where they fed on their flesh and blood. Behind the illusory facade the creatures were truly demonic: the Lamia had the tail of a serpent in place of legs. The Lamiai were the ancient equivalent of succubi. [source]

John Keats published his narrative poem “Lamia” in 1820. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s epic poem “Aurora Leigh” contains numerous references to Lamia. In Whitley Strieber’s novel “The Hunger”, the mother of the main female vampire (Miriam) is described as Lamia, who gave birth to Miriam in the pre-Christian era. “The Lair of the White Worm” is a 1911 book written by Bram Stoker in which the White Worm is a large snake-like creature which feeds on whatever living creature it can find – which sounds pretty close to a Lamia. (The book was made into a 1988 movie of the same name.) The 1982 novel “Lamia” by Tristan Travis sees the mythological monster relocated to 1970s Chicago.

A lamia appears in the movie Drag Me to Hell (2009) as a powerful demon. Michelle Pfeiffer stars as Lamia, a powerful witch(/vampire?) in the 2007 film Stardust which was based on a book by the same name. The sci-fi series Raised by Wolves features a character named Lamia who has the ability to shapeshift.

“The Lamia” from Genesis’ 1974 album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway describes three snake-like creatures with female faces. In the song “Prodigal Son” from the 1981 Iron Maiden album Killers, the singer directly asks Lamia for help since the devil has got hold of his soul. Other bands that have recorded songs based around the lamia include Shadowland and Dragonlord.


Feline therianthropic creatures

1763 engraving of a weretiger.

European folklore usually depicts werecats as people who transform into domestic cats. Some European werecats became giant domestic cats or panthers. African legends describe werelions, werepanthers or wereleopards. In the case of leopards, this is often because the creature is really a leopard deity masquerading as a human. When these gods mate with humans, offspring can be produced, and these children sometimes grow up to be shapeshifters; those who don’t transform may instead have other powers. In reference to werecats who turn into lions, the ability is often associated with royalty. Such a being may have been a king or queen in a former life. Mainland Asian werecats usually become tigers. In India, the weretiger is often a dangerous sorcerer, portrayed as a menace to livestock, who might at any time turn to man-eating. In Thailand a tiger that eats many humans may become a weretiger. In both Indonesia and Malaysia there is another kind of weretiger, known as Harimau jadian. In Malaysia, Bajangs have been described as vampiric or demonic werecats. The foremost were-animal in pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures was the were-jaguar. It was associated with the veneration of the jaguar, with priests and shamans among the various peoples who followed this tradition wearing the skins of jaguars to “become” a were-jaguar. Among the Aztecs, an entire class of specialized warriors who dressed in the jaguar skins were called “jaguar warriors” or “jaguar knights”. In the US, urban legends tell of encounters with feline bipeds. [source]

The “Malleus Maleficarum” asserted that witches can turn into cats, but that their transformations are illusions created by demons.

The title character in Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 Gothic novella, “Carmilla”, turns into a large black cat in order to prey upon the heroine while she sleeps. Cheetah is a fictional character appearing in DC Comics publications and related media. In “Dead to the World” one of the characters is turned into were-panther. “Angel: After the Fall” (also known as “Angel: Season 6”) is a comic book containing a cat-changing character named Dez. There are Forvalaka (undead were-leopards) in “The Black Company” series of books, and the “Shifters Series” by Rachel Vincent features werecats who change at will and live in lion-like prides. H. G. Wells’ 1896 novel “The Island of Dr. Moreau” spawned three films, and although the characters weren’t shapeshifters they could be considered similarly hybrid: Leopard-Man, Puma-Woman, and Ocelot-Man.

A woman who turns into a black panther is the protagonist in both the 1942 and 1982 versions of Cat People. Likewise 1944’s The Curse of the Cat People. Curse of The Werecat, is a 2016 supernatural comedy horror film.

In the video “Maneater” by Hall & Oates, the shapshifting into a black panther is implied.

Although “Thriller” is best remembered for the zombies, Michael Jackson is transformed into a gorgeous werecat.

Finally, Monster High’s doll collection includes twin werecat sisters: Meowlody and Purrsephone.


Werewolfery – aka Lycanthropy

Full Moons go hand-in-hand with werewolves, do they not? In literature, film, and music there are far more examples of werewolfery than any other types of therianthropy. The following is by no means an exhaustive compilation, but does include some favorites.

Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night,
may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.

– Maleva the Gypsy Woman (Maria Ouspenskaya), 1941’s The Wolf Man

Creepy #4 cover art by Frank Frazetta

Literature: The most renowned werewolf novel of the 20th century was “The Werewolf of Paris” (1933) by American author Guy Endore. (Which I’ve read. It’s excellent and was the basis for the movie Curse of the Werewolf…see below.) Steven King’s “The Cycle of the Werewolf” was also turned into a movie: Silver Bullet. “The Howling” is a 1977 horror novel by Gary Brandner that was the inspiration for a movie by the same name. (Are you seeing a pattern here?) “Cry Wolf” by Patricia Briggs is another I’ve read.

Film: Hammer’s The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) turns Oliver Reed into the most gorgeous werewolf ever to grace the silver screen.

An American Werewolf in London (1981) was groundbreaking at the time due to the special effects by Rick Baker. Silver Bullet (1985) gives me the chills every time I see it. The Company of Wolves (1984) – from a short story of the same name by Angela Carter. Rob Bottin’s werewolves in The Howling (1981) are simply magnifico. Wolf (1994) with Jack Nicholson and James Spader as rival werewolves. Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) is loosely based on a real-life series of killings that took place in France in the 18th century and the famous legend of the Beast of Gévaudan. Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant (2009) includes one werewolf in its repertoire. 2002’s Dog Soldiers is one of the best modern-day werewolf films EVER! The Wolfman (2010) is a remake of the 1941 Universal classic starring Lon Chaney Jr: The Wolf Man

I just re-watched Werewolf of London (1935); Henry Hull’s final transformation is second only to Oliver Reed’s.

Belle Bête in Jean Cocteau’s 1946 French fantasy film Beauty and the Beast.

Music/Music Videos: – I picked some of these because of the lyrics, others because of the video, and the rest because the word “wolf” appears in the song’s title.

“Send Me an Angel” by Real Life

“Heads Will Roll” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

“Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran
“The Wolf” by Heart
“Cry Wolf” by Warlock
“Run With The Wolf” by Rainbow

“Bark at the Moon” by Ozzy Osbourne

“Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Night Wolf” by Krokus
“She Wolf” by Megadeth
“Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon (“I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic’s” LOL! I love that line!)

“Werewolf, Baby!” by Rob Zombie

“Little Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham & the Pharoahs


One last note: Vampires can also be labeled as being “therianthropes” but I chose not to include them here because they are considered to be dead and, well, they deserve a Post all to themselves…

Related Posts/Pages
Push Me, Pull Me. Are you ready for the Hunt?
(Post) Countdown to Halloween: My Favorite Films (1960-1969)
Countdown to Halloween: My Favorite Films (1980-1989)
Countdown to Halloween: My Favorite Films (1990-1999)
Countdown to Halloween: My Favorite Films (2000-2009)
Countdown to Halloween: My Favorite Films (2010-2017)
My Life as an Archetype III
Spirit Animals

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A Night of Hekate

Tomorrow we honor the great Dark Goddess, Hekate. Sunset on November 16th marks the beginning of the Night of Hekate. Her origins are Greek but for some Wiccans Hekate has become identified with the Crone stage of the Triple Goddess – the third phase of the Moon Goddess – and is associated with the wintery death of the Earth and the darkside of the Moon.

And we fairies, that do run
By the triple Hecate’s team…

– Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

Hekate (also spelled Hecate) is the Goddess of witchcraft and magick, crossroads, doors/gates, and thresholds between the living and the dead. As such she is aligned with the Underworld and the spirit realm. Hekate is the Patroness of Witches. Her priestesses (the most famous was Medea) were trained herbalists and well-versed in the use of baneful herbs. Hekate is the witness to all crimes, especially those against women and children, and may be invoked when justice is not forthcoming from other channels. She has the power to grant (or deny) any mortal’s wish and may be petitioned for swift, painless death.

She honours your own choices, though, and will not protect you from yourself
— and yet She is always there for guidance if you choose to look for Her.

– wicca-spirituality.com

Although Hekate has been known to assume the shape of a black cat, she most often manifests as a mature woman or black dog (esp. female). The frog is sacred to her and she is closely aligned with bats, horses, ravens, and lions. Sacred plants: willow, yew, hellebore, garlic, mandrake, belladonna, and hemlock. Hekate’s emblems are the star and crescent moon and her sacred number is 3. Sapphire, moonstone. black tourmaline, onyx, hematite, smokey quartz are her gemstones.

So at sunset tomorrow, light black candles and burn Dragon’s Blood. Serve a feast of eggs, mushrooms, honey, crescent-shaped treats, raisin & currant cakes, red wine, and mead.

Hecate, goddess of the crossroads, hear my cry,
Protect and guard me under your midnight sky.
Hecate Phosphoros “she who brings the light,”
Hecate Trevia bless me with your wisdom tonight.

Ovid writes that Hekate could be conjured up from darkness “with long howls.”

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It’s a Saturnalia Miracle*

If the video doesn’t automatically start at 3:13 in,
you may have to manually forward to that point.

*The Big Bang Theory (S2 E11, “The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis”)

“In the pre-Christian era, as the winter solstice approached and the plants died, pagans brought evergreen boughs into their homes as an act of sympathetic magic, intended to guard the life essences of the plants until spring. This custom was later appropriated by Northern Europeans and eventually it becomes the so-called Christmas tree.”
– Sheldon Cooper, on the festival Saturnalia

lo, Saturnalia!
(Pronounced “eeyo sa-tur-NAL-ee-uh”)

Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival celebrated in honor of the god Saturn, an agricultural deity said to have reigned over the world in the Golden Age of peace and plenty. Traditional held on December 17th it lasted from one to five days (variously) throughout its history – which continued into the 4th century C.E.

A huge public celebration would be held at the Temple of Saturn in Rome. All Romans (including women and slaves) spent Saturnalia feasting, singing, playing music, putting on satirical plays, and gambling. Equality and free-speech were embraced and role reversals were de rigueur; some slaves would even find themselves being fêted by their masters. Considered free men during the festival of Saturnalia, slaves were allowed to wear the pileus or cap of freedom.

As celebrations continued into the night it’s no surprise that traditional gifts of white candles (cerei) were exchanged. Romans decorated their homes with greenery and the aristocracy traded their traditional togas for brightly colored garments in shades of red, purple, and gold. The people would feast on bread, nuts, dried fruits, cheeses, sweet treats made with honey, nuts and dried fruit, pork, winter vegetables, and plenty of a mulled honey wine called mulsum.

A mock king, the “Lord of Misrule“, would be chosen to serve as a master of ceremonies. The King of Saturnalia was responsible for making mischief during the celebrations and generally ruling over the ever-increasing chaos and debauchery.

Sources:
How to Celebrate Saturnalia December 17th-23rd
Happy Saturnalia! Roman Festive Food
Mulsum recipe
Saturnalia @ History
Saturnalia @ Wikipedia
Saturnalia @ Witchipedia

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Paraskevidekatriaphobia

paraskevidekatriaphobia = Fear of Friday the 13th

From Wikipedia:
Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day in Western superstition.

The superstition surrounding this day may have arisen in the Middle Ages, “originating from the story of Jesus’ last supper and crucifixion” in which there were 13 individuals present in the Upper Room on the 13th of Nisan Maundy Thursday, the night before his death on Good Friday. While there is evidence of both Friday and the number 13 being considered unlucky, there is no record of the two items being referred to as especially unlucky in conjunction before the 19th century.

According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of this day, making it the most feared day and date in history. Some people are so paralyzed by fear that they avoid their normal routines in doing business, taking flights or even getting out of bed.