Well, I did do a post on cannibals and didn’t even mention Zombies. Hopefully this cool little illustration from lukeswaineillustration will make amends.



Full view of the “Figures in Environment” piece. A3 made with inks and waterclolor paint.

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Cannibalism, just say no.

I was just replying to a discussion with the lovely Phil Slattery (Check out his blog it’s a writer’s best friend), and responded to a comment on the Greek legend of the werewolves of Arcadia (Wiki link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lycaon_(Arcadia)). It made me think of the Wendigo of course (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wendigo). Clearly due to lack of meat in the diet or ceremonial drives cannibalism was something early cultures had to deal with. Now we can put on our sensible hat and say “Well, they were clearly trying to reinforce the message that cannibalism is a no no, it’s taboo.” I wonder was this one of the transitions our early hunter gatherer/early farmer ancestors dreaded returning to? Was this creation of a taboo a firm act in the human psyche that said “we must never again need to resort to that”. Surely that is a potent driver in the need to congregate, plan and become sedentary. Was this one of the factors that led us to endure what would have often been a harder existence for the farmers under the rule of elites than the roaming hunter gather populations? Meh, who knows. But it did leave us with one thing, potent fables that have lasted thousands of years of transformations into bestial forms if we committed such a vile transgression as the consumption of human flesh.

If you know of a cannibalism myth from your part of the world then let me know. I would quite like to gather world myths under common headings as a possible future project.


An Dullahan – The Real Headless Horseman

Awesome legend! Walpurgisnacht will soon be upon us. Get in the mood with this.

Ed Mooney Photography

“The Dullahan serves no master but death.”

An Dullahan 2

Now for a more sinister tale from Irish lore. The Dullahan is the original Headless horseman on which the character from the 1820’s tale The Legend of Sleepy Hollow may be based. The Dullahan or Gan Ceann is said to be a dark Faerie, a collector of souls, whom roams the countryside at midnight in search of suitable souls to take. People say that he  is dressed in a long black cloak, the Dullahan has no head on his shoulders and is usually seen riding a large black horse and carrying his head under one arm. Little is known as to why this monster carries his head under his arm or how in fact he became separated from it. But the head’s eyes are said to be huge which constantly dart about like fire- flies, and it has a mouthful of hideous razor…

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The origin of Werewolves – A Russian folktale

By J.O. Slocombe

When Brother Man was younger than he is now he fought against his Brother Wolf for the kill. Before long they came to conflict, spear and claw. When both Brother Man and Brother Wolf had fought to exhaustion both neither could hunt alone.

Brother Wolf turned to Brother Man and said “Brother Man, why do we fight for the same prize when we could work together?” Brother Man replied “Because we both have hungry children.” Brother Wolf and Brother Man agreed to hunt together so all their children would have flesh

So Brother Wolf went to live with Brother Man and so Brother Dog was born.

And in return Brother Man went to live with Brother Wolf also and so Brother Werewolf was born.

Oral folk tale from the Ugrian indigenous tribes of the Yakutsk region of Russia.

The Curse of Old Lill – A Cornish folk tale.


The curse of Old Lill – A Cornish folk tale.

By J.O. Slocombe

The following is a version of one of the lesser known myths of Cornwall taken from a transcript of a conversation held by an English folklore student and a Cornish fisherman. The myth itself is believed to date from the late 16th Century.

“Well, where d’ya want me to begin then?”

“If you could recount the tale as you know it that would be perfect.”

“Right then, well it was an ill favoured night see and a force of wind was tearing up the coast of Sheolton. The lads there had had rum luck landing anything close to a full seine of pilchards see. The boats hadn’t brought in little more’n a handful between ‘em for nigh on a month truth be told. It was rare to hear the Huers shouting Hewa in Sheolton let me tell you that. Well you can imagine how they were faring. Little mouths and wives with tongues lashing needed their bellies lining. Whole town was grinding to a halt. Town like that lives and dies on it’s catch. Well, town elders got together see. Had to do something di’n’t they?

So they did a bit a praying or righteous and such. Asking the Lord for what help he might see fit to send their way. Di’n’t avail ‘em much though now did it? Wouldn’t be a story if it had and I wouldn’t be sitting here getting plied with ale. Hunger forced ‘em down a tricky road. They had a bit of food here and there stored away but it wasn’t long ‘fore people were willing to do things they wouldn’t find so palatable on a full stomach.

So came to it didn’t it, knew they needed somethin’ doing by someone. So they all gets together before the church and call the Vicar out all aggrieved. “Where’s our salvation, what have you fine words and prayers got us?” Comes a voice out of the crowd with a shared murmur of agreement. “How about some loaves and fishes now then eh?” Well the joking soon ended. A mother steps up holding her babe, screaming it’s tiny eyes out. “Maybe we should start looking elsewhere for help.” She says. Crowd goes all quiet just like that and the Vicar gets a furious light in his eyes brighter than the sword guarding Eden. Chastises ‘em for straying. “Did Job stray in the face of adversity?” says he. On he goes and they take none to kindly to it. Well they haul him off his feet and out onto the beach, like they used to back in Godless times, the Mayor himself at their head. Standing they’re on the beach they hear a voice not a one of ‘em could recognise “If God won’t help us maybe the Devil will!”. Oh the silence lad. A silence you have not known you can be sure of that. Even the sea knew better than to break that silence.

Now some of these fine Cornish lads had found queer things in their catch from time to time. Odd things carved in stone. Three eyed creatures, six winged men with the aspect of snakes. Strange objects of a blue metal like nothing known to men in this age. Remnants of a lost era some say. It warped their sensibilities to the good and pure I reckon. They’d been on a path to this next foul act long ‘fore the catch had dried up. Mayhap tha’ was the cause in the very first place.

So there they all are on the beach with the Vicar and now his family aside him. Wife and little children wailing, not a word uttered since that unknown voice. Then they took that young Vicar upon an outcrop of stone, The Skelos Altar they called it. Well the Mayor grim of purpose and resolute, man by the name of Nathaniel Lowcrofte drags the vicar to kneel afore him and yells his challenge into the roaring storm. “The Lord has forsaken me and mine so I forsake him and his in turn. Hear me old tempter of men, Old Nick, first of the fallen, you great liar and all your kith and kin.” And legend has it the sky marbled with a cast of thunder the likes of which creation has not seen since the flood. “Save us the people of Sheolton and claim your infernal compensation.” He finished with a spit upon that rock. Well the Devil must have had his hands full, and I bet he wished he’d made the time. But Old Lill, A local hag that anyone with sense shunned and those that didn’t whispered about, well she came hobbling towards the crowd waving her cane. Cackling as she carved a path to stand aside Nathaniel. Only he, Lill and the Vicar knows what was said exactly upon that rock with the fury of God illuminating them. But what is known is this, a deal was struck with Old Lill that day. By day the town would be the home of the townsfolk. But by night, well Old Lill and all her children would have the run of the place, all in exchange for a never ending bounty of fish. And so it was. The Vicar he tried to fight it but his flock had turned and burned him out of his home with his family inside. He hung himself on the outskirts of the town along the road in. Bad bloody business the whole thing and if you’ve any sense you’ll leave the buggers be.”

I am as yet unable to identify the whereabouts of Sheolton, records of it’s location are vague to begin with and there ceases to be any reference of it all after 1518. Is it possible that Old Lill may be the Lillith figure Handel and his associates have warned me against?

What does Anglo Saxon poetry and Batman have in common?

I’m reading a lovely little book at the moment on the earliest English poems, it’s conveniently titled “The Earliest English Poems”. Translated and introduced by Michael Alexander the book provides a sampling of the best examples of technical achievement to be found in Anglo-Saxon poetry. Particular favourites of mine include the “The Ruin” which is a Scop’s (Bard’s) haunting description of the ruined Roman city of Aquae Sulis (Bath) and some excellent riddles that would stump a Baggins.

One word in particular caught my attention however, Wraecca. Alexander describes Wraecca as “An exile (wraecca, also meaning ‘wretch, stranger, wanderer, pilgrim, unhappy man’)”  and it is placed in the context of a bard without a lord who can provide him with the community integral to Anglo-Saxon life. But the idea is a wonderful one and in direct contrast to the boastful unashamed hero of Beowulf. But how does this relate to heroes of today’s fiction?

The conflicted or struggling superhero is a Wraecca. In short Batman, Spider-man and the X-men among others all have traits of the Wraecca about them. They struggle to find acceptance and are sometimes actively rejected by those they seek to please or support. Batman/The police, Spider-man/New York, The X-men/humanity. Their quest is one of acceptance in many ways through a journey. Bruce Wayne seeks to fight injustice but realises the fight at his doorstep can’t be fought by conventional means. Spider-man, a kid to begin with not only has the trauma of adolescent peer pressure to contend with but also the right of passage of man hood in gaining acceptance as a legitimate force for good by a whole city. The x-men are actively persecuted by those they try to protect and find a place amongst. 

Granted it’s a tenuous link. But the idea of the wandering outcast as a protagonist if not specifically applicable to some of our most beloved comic book characters is one we can all associate with. We’ve all felt at one time or another that we don’t belong or haven’t found a place to be ourselves yet. That common feeling is a fantastic tool for a writer as it all but guarantees an emotional connection by using this hero template.

Cynical, manipulative? Not at all. Just like the bards of 6th or 7th century England the best stories are those that pull on the heartstrings and for me the idea of the Wraecca brings storytellers from 1300 years ago a little closer.

What do you think? Pile of fluff or solid stuff?  Have a chin-wag below if the mood takes your fancy.

R’ha. A wonderful little short with big promise.

R’ha. A wonderful little short with big promise.

If you have’t yet had the chance to check this short movie out then click on that link now. I’m not going to waffle on re-iterating what you can read yourself on the main article apart from the name of the wonderfully talented gentleman behind it, Kaleb Lechowski. 

What I do want to talk about is the name of the main character and a possible interpretation. R’ha looks like an evolved snake creature, more specifically a cobra. R’ha sounds like the Egyptian God Ra. I’m not trying to offer some profound analysis here, I just thought these two elements ring out some link to ancient Egypt.

What I do want to talk about is a common theme we seem to be exploring in fiction at the moment and one I’m a huge fan of and try to cover in my stories (Only two so far and not even in order, who is this clown? Number two is on it’s way so get off my back strange schizophrenic co-narratting interloper, seriously, could you just, please just get off my back? Seriously? Thank you. Shouldn’t really have to call you on that. Anyway…) that of origins. We saw “Chariots of the Gods” paraphrased in Prometheus and I deeply enjoyed it. Yes it’s a flawed film but a brilliant one. We rarely tackle these huge concepts in fiction. We rarely go so far as to provide the actual answer. We hint at it. We shy away from it but rarely do we out and out present an answer. At least that’s how I feel. And in the interests of drama, in the interests of characterisation I understand why we don’t or why we can’t because sometime that ambiguity is in itself a driving force or a plot point. In my short story “The wolves of Yakutsk” I offer one possible origin of werewolves for example. In hindsight the plot is ropey the characterisation is barely there. Let’s face it it’s a vehicle for a myth and I’m using it as a stepping stone on my story arc. But it’s the sort of story I enjoy. The sort of story that asks a big question and enables us to go on the journey to answer it via the characters. For many of us this is the only way we can try to peel back or deepen the mystery of the world around us. By and large we’re not brilliant physicists or doctors in philosophy. But that’s no reason not to sit down and try and figure it all out. Some of the greatest questions that have been posed have been posed by story tellers and we’ve asked science to catch up with us. I like that and for people who slog it out trying to entertain others with a good yarn that’s a thought worth being proud of. Anyway back to the slog…