Ever been for a walk in a thick wooded area and thought you saw something flit past? Or perhaps you have heard a soft childish giggle echo through the trees when no children are about?  If the answer is yes, then you have most likely been in the company of a Sprite without even knowing it.

Sprites are minor nature deities or nature Fae tasked with maintaining the natural balance of magic and nature and preserving “green areas”. Guardians of some of the most sacred magical places, Sprites are happy to let humans reside peacefully side-by-side unless a threat is raised.

It is believed the Alchemists of old, left offerings for the Sprites and in return were allowed to harvest herbs and flowers without hassle. Those that took without thanks, had the unfortunate horror of being “pixed” or hexed, with skin afflictions the most common and no doubt shaming result. An alarming and perhaps dangerous misconception, is the lumping of Sprites into the same category as  the common garden Faery (who are believed, on the whole, to be quite harmless and powerless). Although only minor on the scale of power that some of the Fae can punch, Sprites have the ability to harness the elements with such force, it is believed that they can in fact invoke floods, cyclones and bush fires.

As to the physical appearance of  Sprites … we again find ourselves in deep confusion. In some accounts they appear as breathtaking young maidens (especially those charged with protecting water). Other eyewitness accounts describe miniature versions of human children, with mischievous attitudes to match. Some theories also hold to the belief that Sprites can also change shape into plants, flowers and water when under threat (e.g. The Spiderwick Chronicles)

All in all, the same warning is repeated in all fables and myths – Sprites are a force to be reckoned with and deserve our utmost respect. So next time you think you see that glint in the corner of your eye, it may be prudent to leave a little offering, lest you find yourself pixed.

Some Sprite-ly Tales:

The Spiderwick Chronicles-Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

Artemis Fowl– Eoin Colfer

We have all heard the saying “screaming like a Banshee”. I must admit I have had the horror of being tagged as the said Banshee once or twice, and have known a few that perhaps deserve the title. What is a Banshee though? And why was she screaming in the first place?

Two main schools of thought leap to the forefront. First is from the realm of English Folklore and surrounds the tale of arguably the most famous Banshee of them all- Black Annis. The English believed Banshees were an extreme form of nature-worshiping witch. Black Annis, in particular, was said to have been extremely fond of children—unfortunately as food.

Protectors of ancient sacred spaces and guardians of the untapped magic that lay in the area, Banshees would let out a terrifying scream to keep us pesky humans out of the way. It was also believed that even thinking of her could cause permanent madness. Whether or not poor old Annis deserved her horrid reputation, who can truly know; but she has certainly earned a solid place in mythical history.

(Smallville's Silver Banshee)

(Smallville's Silver Banshee)

Now the Irish, on the other hand, were a lot kinder. Belonging to the Irish “Bean Sid-he”, Banshees were in fact the feminine guardian spirits of the fairy mounds and forces of nature. Possessing a magic with a powerful punch and being a master of disguise, it is also believed that most of the myths surrounding old hag witches stem in fact from the Banshee hiding in plain sight. According to Irish belief, Banshees were also more or less harmless unless in a state of “keening” or screaming.  Their piercing wailing, heard mostly only at night, was an omen of death straight from the otherworld. Anyone seeing the Banshee in the act was also assured of imminent death either for themselves or a close loved one.

So whether or not  the Banshee is a horror tale to scare small children, or she deserves to be revered as a powerful Fae force, the best advice would be never to mess with one.

An interesting side note I dug up in the research was the last reported sighting in Ireland in 1948. Could it really be possible the Fae are still among us?

MUSIC: Siouxsie and the Banshees – Cities in Dust

I have a confession to make- I wish I was a Dragon. The ability of flight, longevity super strength and, some days, being able to slightly roast your enemies would feel very rewarding. Plus you would never run out of ways to toast your marshmallows or worry about your coffee going cold ever again. But what do we really know about these majestic creatures of myth and legend?

Well, surprisingly, there is a lot of information out there on both the European Dragon, with its cute little bat-type wings and rounded belly, and its skinnier, and often more ferocious-looking, cousin who hails from Asian culture. Surprisingly, the cuter of the two (in my opinion), the European dragon  is believed to be the more malevolent. Believed to make its home in caves or underground lairs, not only do they have the ability to toast you to a crisp, but some species are also believed to be deadly poisonous. Ancient creatures of the earth element, these Dragons will guard their territory with a fierceness unmatched in the animal kingdom. Its Eastern counterpart, on the other hand, is supposed to be quite benevolent and is also said to possess a Human form. This dragon is also a symbol of good luck and longevity. Chinese emperors used the Dragon as a symbol to bring prosperity to  their reign.

Both sets are considered extremely potent in the magical arts and it is believed that early practitioners would risk life and limb to gain Dragon scales and the like for the magical mixings.

Then there is the scientific answer that the Dragon myths and legends were born out of the early uncovering of fossils before anyone knew what dinosaurs were. Makes you wonder what all those knights of old were really heading off to slay, then.

Despite all the differing myth and legends, I still want to be a Dragon; but, I’m combining the two – a fierce earth warrior with cute little wings and a Human form, bringing prosperity and good luck wherever I go. Just don’t disturb my lair or come to visit  in shiny armour. Gives a whole new meaning to the term “Dragon Lady”, doesn’t it?

~Some fierce tales featuring Dragons to sink your claws into~:

The Harry Potter series — J K Rowling       Books Based on the TV Series — Merlin

Dark Heavens and Journey to Wundang Series — Kylie Chan

The Fire series — Chris d’Lacey      The Eragon series — Christopher Paolini

The existence of Werewolves, in particular, has been bandied about in both myths and fairy tales for probably as long as anyone can remember and usually they feature as the villains of the piece.

Now, with so many Weres popping up in popular media, it seems time to try to discover just where our furry-turning friends originated from, and if they do indeed deserve their howling-at-the-moon-big-bad rap.

A popular thread of thought yet again takes us back to the original Fae that lived amongst us before the great divide between theirs world and ours. Often, noble Fae men and women were thought to have the ability to transform themselves into an animal at will, or, in extremely powerful cases, any animal they chose.

Regarded as fierce warriors, these shifters were highly sought after during inter-Fae wars, and often had high ranking status as Royal body guards. Unfortunately, the history and reputation of  Weres becomes quite murky after the majority of the Fae hightailed it back when things with the Humans became a bit tricky.

Whether the Weres that stayed behind took to the more animalistic side of their natures or the inter-breeding with Humans warped their gifts, no one is sure, but it is after this time that they went from being revered to feared.

There is also no definite answer as to why there are so many different breeds of shifters. One theory that keeps popping up over and over is that, once they’d left earthside and needing to hide their true natures, those with the ability to shift to more than one animal found their power diminished and became stuck with just one shape – or that the power faded with a diluted bloodline.

Another train of thought I found fascinating is that science is to blame; that Lycanthropy is in fact the result of some mad genius with a God complex, and those unfortunate (or fortunate depending on your view) to be exposed find themselves changing into the first animal to bite them. My only problem with this theory is, if that’s the case, why aren’t we overrun with Mosquito Weres?

As for the Big Bad Wolf rap that all Weres tend to have to wear (pun intended), perhaps the most important thing to remember is that most Weres spend a fair chunk of their time furry and on the hunt. Would you try to pat a lion like you would a tabby?

And just in case the science theory proves to be true, sign me up for a shot today, as long as I get to pick my animal. Who doesn’t want super strength and senses and a slow ageing process to boot?

Some shifter tales to have you howling:

Thyla — Kate Gordon
Wolfborn — Sue Bursztynski

Nightshade — Andrea Cremer
Paranormalcy Kierstin White
Twilight saga — Stephanie Meyer

Ask someone what the first image that pops into their head when you say the word “Angel” and they will more than likely describe a heavenly apparition surrounded by bright light and a chorus of astounding voices. Angels have long been revered as messengers from God and perhaps the most holy of all creations (except the big guy himself- but how do we really know?).

In Embraced, Jessica Shirvington brings us a new reality regarding angels and, although it is a work of fiction, some of her theories  tend to ring true. Take Cherubs for example, Cupid possibly being the most well known of them all. Sure that little guy takes aim with his bow and arrow to bring us all some love, but how many times is his aim a bit off? How often do we fall like a ton of bricks—madly and deeply in love—to find we have scored ourselves a real dud? Of course he does get it right, eventually; but, if he truly was holier than holy, wouldn’t there be no mistakes?

In the early part of this century, the British also tried to wake us up to the potential truth of the halo-wearing set with the cult TV Show “Hex” (where fallen angels were up to all sorts of no good). Portrayed as very selfish and bordering heavily on evil, they would stop at nothing to gain their goals. They also had a very human feel to their personas, but I can’t see them fitting in up above.

Many theories abound regarding Angels, but the most common thread seems to be that they are in fact tasked with guarding and watching over us mere mortals; but they are not averse to some inter-mingling on the side. Who doesn’t want a warrior with supernatural powers and foresight guiding their path?

MUSIC: Aerosmith – Angel

Smashing Pumpkins – Cherub Rock

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