Avoiding Being Taken By Faeries

In faerie lore there is the tradition where the fae whisk away humans to fairyland. Humans also run the risk of accidentally wandering into fairyland, which is why one might want to stay away from bluebell fields and other fairy-rich environments, and avoid consuming fairy food or drink, which could leave one vulnerable to being tricked into making a little visit there. The fairies don’t really need a reason to do so, but they might take a young man or woman who’s especially desirable to be the husband or bride of a fairy ruler; there are stories of fairies using humans as slaves in their palaces, and young mothers were desirable for their milk, which apparently is of better quality than the fairies’. And of course if you betray or upset the fairies, all bets are off.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid this tragic fate:

  • Do not step in mushroom rings.
  • If you hear music from an unidentifiable source, try not to listen.
  • Take off your coat or shirt and turn it inside out if you think fairies may be near. It sounds odd, but it works. It doesn’t so much repel them, but it does confuse them long enough for you to escape.
  • Fairies hate iron, which is like poison to them. Carry some with you—a nail or small object—just in case.
  • To avoid being taken by fairies, keep on their good side. Show them respect. Leave them a bowl of milk (or bread, cream, butter, or ale) outside your door.
  • As you walk by a natural body of water, throw in a piece of silver as a gift for them.
  • By all means, if you ever take anything from nature, leave a small biodegradable gift in token.
  • Never, ever say thank-you to fairies for anything they’ve done. A human thank-you offends them, because they feel it trivializes their contribution and effort.
  • Do not accept fairy gifts. If you do so, you owe them. And they can ask for anything in return.
  • Never tell a fairy your name. Names have great power. If a fairy ever gives you his or her true name, it’s a huge sign of trust and not to be misused.
  • Always be polite.
  • If you do find yourself trapped in fairyland, do not eat or drink anything, no matter how alluring and delectable. You may still be able to escape as long as you follow this rule.
  • Be prepared for time to have passed differently in fairyland if you ever have need to go there. You can never visit the fairies and leave unchanged.

Sources: The Faerie Handbook

Battle of Sekigahara

October 21, 1600,…421 years ago, the great Battle of Sekigahara was fought and won by the Tokugawa.

Sekigahara was the greatest, most violent and decisive samurai field battle in history.

Japan had long been at civil war until brought under the rule of first Oda Nobunaga, and upon his death at the hands of a traitorous general, that of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who completed the unification of Japan and brought unknown peace. However, following Hideyoshi’s death, a power struggle emerged between those loyal to the Toyotomi, and the second most powerful warlord, Tokugawa Ieyasu. With Hideyoshi gone, Ieyasu made moves that brought the ire of a number of his contemporaries, and soon the entire country was divided into two great armies, East and West. Leading the loyalist cause was Ishida Mitsunari, a samurai, but not of the warrior faction, but the administrative faction.

Both sides hurried to take strategically vital highways and castles. These attacks and sieges culminated in the decisive Battle of Sekigahara that took place on the morning of Saturday October 21, 1600. Over 160,000 troops had filled the 2x2km wide basin between the mountains that divided Japan into east and west at Sekigahara.

The battle lasted just over six hours but saw the deaths of an estimated 30,000 samurai, the destruction of a number of noble families and the creation of the Tokugawa Shogunate that was to rule Japan for 260 years of relative peace. The loyalist Western forces, despite having commenced with superior numbers, the higher ground and excellent battle formations, were defeated as a number of Western troops defected midway, turning the tide of the battle.

Victory was claimed by Tokugawa Ieyasu and his Eastern coalition forces. Victory at Sekigahara changed Japan’s history forever, leading to the Tokugawa or Edo period, during which Japan was at relative peace for 260 years.

Alfheim

Alfheim (“elf home”), in Norse mythology, is one of the nine worlds. It is located on the highest level of the Norse universe. Also found on this level are the worlds of Asgard and Vanaheim. Alfheim is the palace of the god Freyr and the homeland of the elves of light. Neither the elves of light nor the elves of darkness, who live in Svartalfheim, participate in any of the events described in the Norse myths. Elves do, however, have active roles in the literature of quite a few of the other branches of Indo-European mythology.

Alfheim is never described in the sources that form the basis of our current knowledge of heathen Germanic religion, but is rather merely mentioned in passing in a few places. However, the elves are described as being luminous and “more beautiful than the sun,” so we may suppose that their homeland was a gracious realm of light and beauty. Although the realms that comprise the Nine Worlds of the Norse cosmology are never listed, it seems highly probable that, given the prominence of the elves in Germanic religion, Alfheim was one of them.

The Vanir god Freyr is said to be the ruler of Alfheim. Scholars have long puzzled over what to make of this, and no wholly satisfactory conclusions have been put forth. The relationship between the elves and the Vanir is highly ambiguous and involves considerable overlap between the two groups. Freyr’s position as lord of Alfheim, therefore, while hard to interpret with much precision, shouldn’t be entirely surprising.

Fenrir

Fenrir (or Fenris) is a gigantic and terrible monster in the shape of a wolf. He is the eldest child of Loki and the giantess Angrboda. The gods learned of a prophecy which stated that the wolf and his family would one day be responsible for the destruction of the world. They caught the wolf and locked him in a cage. Only the god of war, Tyr, dared to feed and take care of the wolf. When he was still a pup they had nothing to fear, but when the gods saw one day how he had grown, they decided to render him harmless. However, none of the gods had enough courage to face the gigantic wolf. Instead, they tried to trick him. They said the wolf was weak and could never break free when he was chained. Fenrir accepted the challenge and let the gods chain him. Unfortunately, he was so immensely strong that he managed to break the strongest fetters as if they were cobwebs.

After that, the gods saw only one alternative left: a magic chain. They ordered the dwarves to make something so strong that it could hold the wolf. The result was a soft, thin ribbon: Gleipnir. It was incredibly strong, despite what its size and appearance might suggest. The ribbon was fashioned of six strange elements: the footstep of a cat; the roots of a mountain; a woman’s beard; the breath of fishes; the sinews of a bear; and a bird’s spittle. The gods tried to trick the wolf again, only this time Fenrir was less eager to show his strength. He saw how thin the chain was, and said there was no pride in breaking such a weak chain. Eventually, though, he agreed, thinking that otherwise his strength and courage would be doubted. Suspecting treachery however, he in turn asked the gods for a token of good will: one of them had to put a hand between his jaws. The gods were not overly eager to do this, knowing what they could expect. Finally, only Tyr agreed, and the gods chained the wolf with Gleipnir. No matter how hard Fenrir struggled, he could not break free from this thin ribbon.

In revenge, he bit off Tyr’s hand.Being very pleased with themselves, the gods carried Fenrir off and chained him to a rock (called Gioll) a mile down into the earth. They put a sword between his jaws to prevent him from biting. On the day of Ragnarok, Fenrir will break his chains and join the giants in their battle against the gods. He will seek out Odin and devour him. Vidar, Odin’s son, will avenge his father by killing the wolf.

Ginnungagap

Ginnungagap (“seeming emptiness”), in the cosmology of Norse mythology, is the primordial void separating Niflheim and Muspell, the land of eternal ice and snow and the land of eternal heat and flame.In the beginning, before the world of men and gods existed, the spring Hvergelmir, deep in the frozen wastes of Niflheim, gave rise to eleven rivers known as the Elivagar. Over a long period of time, water of the Elivagar ran across Niflheim and poured into the northern part of Ginnungagap. The water froze, forming vast sheets of ice in the void. Hot air from Muspell melted some of the ice, creating a zone of meltwater amid the ice and snow. Here life began, and the first living thing was a frost giant.

The Younger Futhark

The runic alphabet that was used during the Viking Age is called Younger Futhark. These runes can be found on hundreds of runestones throughout Scandinavia. This alphabet does not consist of many runes, and that is because the Norse language evolved a lot during the Iron Age, which meant that the runic alphabet was reduced from 24 to 16 runes.

Each rune has its own name and sound. Some of the runes are used to spell the same letter, for instance, the Týr rune is used for the letters “t” and “d”, and kaun is used for “g” and “k”. 

The names on this list of the Younger Futhark runes have been taken from the website of The National Museum in Copenhagen. The names of the runes may vary slightly depending on the language and on which runologist has conducted the research.

Heka & Akhu: Ancient Egyptian Magic

Heka (magic) was already at the heart of Egyptian beliefs by 4000 BCE. Creator deities such as Nu (the watery abyss) were said to have used heka to bring the world into existence from primordial chaos. In doing so, they subdued the forces of chaos, but the forces constantly sought to return and could only be stopped by heka. For the ancient Egyptians, it was not just the gods that handled magic. Lesser supernatural beings, pharaohs, and the dead were thought to possess an element of heka, which they could channel through the use of spells to deflect the attention of malevolent spirits.

The ancient Egyptians also believed in another form of magic power called akhu, which was malign and closely associated with beings of the underworld. To protect against akhu magical practitioners such as priests, scribes in the “Houses of Life”—which held the manuscript collections of Egyptian temples—sunu (doctors), and sau (amulet-makers) employed heka spells, rituals, and magical objects. Indeed, faith in heka was so widespread that ancient Egyptians used it in all aspects of life from matters of state to the delivery of oracles and more mundane village affairs, such as love matches, protection during childbirth, and curing minor illnesses. As well as being an abstract force, there was a god called Heka who personified magic. Heka helped ensure the harmony of the cosmos and acted as a conduit through whom worshippers could seek divine favors. He had a female counterpart, Weret-hekau (Great of Magic), who was depicted in the form of a cobra. It is thought that the snake-headed staffs often used by ancient Egyptian magicians may have represented her.

Sources: A History of Magic, Witchcraft and the Occult

Fólkvangr

In Norse mythology, Fólkvangr (“field of the host” or “people-field” or “army-field”) is a meadow or field ruled over by the goddess Freyja where half of those that die in combat go upon death, whilst the other half go to the god Odin in Valhalla.

Others were also brought to Fólkvangr after their death; Egils Saga, for example, has a world-weary female character declare that she’ll never taste food again until she dines with Freya. Fólkvangr is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. According to the Prose Edda, within Fólkvangr is Freyja’s hall Sessrúmnir. Scholarly theories have been proposed about the implications of the location.

After each battle, Odin and Freyja would choose the einherjar who have proven themselves to be the most courageous fighters and divide them among themselves. The fallen Viking warriors will later be brought to either Folkvangr or Valhalla. The less fortunate ones, however, had no choice and would go to Hel. In the underworld, they would live eternally, but only merely continuing their ordinary lives on earth: eating, drinking, and sleeping.

There are not many differences when it comes to practicality and routine in these two dwelling places of the Gods. In fact, life in both of them equally would be an envy of any Viking warrior. In Folkvangr, as well as in Valhalla, warriors would fight amongst each other every day, making sure they will be prepared when the Ragnarok comes. Many of them would be injured, many of them slaughtered; however, in the evening, their wounds would heal, and they would be ready to feast.

Actually, the only real difference between Valhalla and Folkvangr lies in the way of entering them. Namely, those who die honorably are chosen between Odin and Freya to enter their respective realms. The ones chosen by Odin enter Valhalla, while those who are selected by Freya enter Folkvangr.

Jewish Poland

The history of the Jews in Poland dates back over a millennium. For centuries, Poland was home to the largest and most significant Jewish community in the world. Poland was the centre of Jewish culture thanks to a long period of statutory religious tolerance and social autonomy. This ended with the Partitions of Poland which began in 1772, in particular, with the discrimination and persecution of Jews in the Russian Empire. During World War II there was a nearly complete genocidal destruction of the Polish Jewish community by Nazi Germany, during the 1939–1945 German occupation of Poland and the ensuing Holocaust. Since the fall of Communism there has been a Jewish revival in Poland, characterized by the annual Jewish Culture Festival, new study programmes at Polish high schools and universities, the work of synagogues such as the Nozyk, and the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

From the founding of the Kingdom of Poland in 1025 through to the early years of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth created in 1569, Poland was the most tolerant country in Europe. Known as paradisus Iudaeorum (Latin for “Paradise for the Jews”), it became a shelter for persecuted and expelled European Jewish communities and the home to the world’s largest Jewish community of the time. According to some sources, about three-quarters of all Jews lived in Poland by the middle of the 16th century. With the weakening of the Commonwealth and growing religious strife (due to the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation), Poland’s traditional tolerance began to wane from the 17th century onward. After the partitions of Poland in 1795 and the destruction of Poland as a sovereign state, Polish Jews were subject to the laws of the partitioning powers, the increasingly antisemitic Russian Empire, as well as Austro-Hungary and Kingdom of Prussia (later a part of the German Empire). Still, as Poland regained independence in the aftermath of World War I, it was the center of the European Jewish world with one of world’s largest Jewish communities of over 3 million. Antisemitism, however, from both the political establishment and from the general population, common throughout Europe, was a growing problem.

At the start of World War II, Poland was partitioned between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. The war resulted in the death of one-fifth of the Polish population, with 90% or about 3 million of Polish Jewry killed along with approximately 3 million Polish non-Jews. Examples of Polish gentile attitudes to German atrocities varied widely, from actively risking death in order to save Jewish lives, and passive refusal to inform on them; to indifference, blackmail, and in extreme cases, participation in pogroms such as the Jedwabne pogrom. Grouped by nationality, Poles represent the largest number of people who rescued Jews during the Holocaust.

In the postwar period, many of the approximately 200,000 Jewish survivors registered at Central Committee of Polish Jews or CKŻP (of whom 136,000 arrived from the Soviet Union) left the Communist People’s Republic of Poland for the nascent State of Israel and North or South America. Their departure was hastened by the destruction of Jewish institutions, post-war violence and the hostility of the Communist Party to both religion and private enterprise, but also because in 1946–1947 Poland was the only Eastern Bloc country to allow free Jewish aliyah to Israel without visas or exit permits. Britain demanded Poland to halt the exodus, but their pressure was largely unsuccessful. Most of the remaining Jews left Poland in late 1968 as the result of the Soviet-sponsored “anti-Zionist” campaign. After the fall of the Communist regime in 1989, the situation of Polish Jews became normalized and those who were Polish citizens before World War II were allowed to renew Polish citizenship. Religious institutions were revived, largely through the activities of Jewish foundations from the United States. The contemporary Polish Jewish community is estimated to have approximately 20,000 members, though the actual number of Jews, including those who are not actively connected to Judaism or Jewish culture, may be several times larger.

Oskar Schindler

“I just couldn’t stand by and see people destroyed. I did what I could, what I had to do, what my conscience told me I must do…”

~ Oskar Schindler, Righteous Among the Nations.

Oskar Schindler was a German industrialist and a member of the Nazi Party who saved the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and munitions factories near Krakow. These Jews were registered on what came to be known as “Schindler’s List”.

Thousands of descendants of “Schindler’s Jews” are alive today thanks to his brave actions.

Oskar Schindler died on the 9th of October 1974 in Germany, and is buried in Jerusalem. Before his death, a tree was planted in his and Emilie’s honor in Yad Vashem’s Avenue of the Righteous. He is pictured standing next to his tree on Yad Vashem’s campus.

Oskar and Emilie Schindler are among the 27,000+ heroic non-Jews recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations for risking their lives to rescue Jews during the Holocaust.

Sources: Yad Vashem