Mythical Monday: Morning Coffee with the Alp by Mae Clair

Saint Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, brimming with the luck of the Irish, pots of gold, and mischievous leprechauns. Given the playfulness of tomorrow’s holiday, I thought I’d focus on a different kind of imp for Mythical Monday—the Alp.

Did you ever have a really bad nightmare? If so, you can probably blame this nasty elf-like creature who has its roots in Germanic folklore. Alps delight in nothing better than filling the sleep of their victims with ghastly dreams. Some people believe Alps to be the spirits of recently deceased relatives, others that stillborn infants return as Alps. The majority of Alps are male, but their female counterparts are given the name “mare”….as in nightmare.

Photographic representation of painting "The Nightmare" by John Henry Fuseli  [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photographic representation of painting “The Nightmare” by John Henry Fuseli
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Crafty beings, they are able to gain entry to a house through the tiniest of holes. Locking doors and windows does little to deter them once they have selected a victim for their nighttime visit. To protect yourself, plug any keyholes with rags and seal up cavities in walls.

Once arriving, the Alp makes itself comfortable by squatting on its victim’s chest and exerting “elf pressure,” as it grows heavier and heavier. Eventually, the density of its weight drags the victim awake. The person normally returns to consciousness disoriented, terrified, and out of breath. Many believe elf pressure was an early explanation for sleep apnea. But the Alp has more going for it than a single nighttime propensity.

Among its magical abilities, it is able to turn invisible, fly, and shapeshift into a dog, cat, pig or white butterfly. The source of its power comes from a hat it is never without. Whatever shape or ability the Alp elects to use, the hat is always visible. Should an Alp lose its hat, it will offer a great reward for the item’s return.

Those in the old country knew there were certain methods to protect themselves from the Alp through the use of wards. These include hanging an iron horseshoe from the bedpost, placing a mirror on a chest, or a broomstick under the pillow. Burning a light all night and having a cross handy will also protect against an Alp. And—as bizarre as it sounds—if you wake during the middle of the night with an Alp squatting on your chest, invite it to return in the morning for coffee.

Yes, coffee. Can you imagine that conversation?

“Uh…if you could just see your way clear to stop squatting on my chest, Mr, Alp, I’ve got some nice French roast I’ll brew up in the morning.  How does sevenish sound?”

Provide a polite invitation, and the Alp will immediately dash off and leave you in peace. But you’d better have your Keurig ready in the morning as promised, because the Alp will be back, eager for its caffeine treat.

So the next time you have a bad dream, stock up on fresh coffee. Maybe you can convince your particular Alp to leave you alone over a cup of Vermont Country Blend or Keurig Dark Magic.

I’m curious…what kind of coffee would you offer an Alp?

19 thoughts on “Mythical Monday: Morning Coffee with the Alp by Mae Clair

  1. Well, I’d be reluctant to share my favorite drink, coffee, with an alp, but in the end. . .
    And speaking pf St Patrick’s day, let me offer you an Irish blessing, my favorite that I used to give to my students at their graduation:
    May the road rise to meet you.
    May the wind be always at your back.
    May the sun shine warm upon your face.
    And rains fall soft upon your fields.
    And until we meet again,
    May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

  2. Well let’s see, we’ve got some old horseshoes around here somewhere, mirrors, a broom or two, some candles so I think I’m set! As for coffee? Whatever he-she wants! Fun post Mae and Happy Saint Paddy’s day tomorrow!

    • Happy Saint Paddy’s day back’atcha, Debbie. It would probably be my luck to get a picky Alp who only liked certain types of coffee (naturally, ever thing I’d have on hand). Then again, they do seem over eager for that morning cup of java. Must be something they can’t get anywhere in Alp land, LOL!

  3. Yes, I have definitely been visited by alps many times. One of the most interesting things to me about the lore regarding such creatures is the utter important of how you address them and exactly what you say. Any deviation could be disaster and would, at minimum, result in your not getting what you want. Ahhhh–the power of words! Thanks for a sparkling Monday post, Mae.

    • I had an Alp visit last week, which is actually pretty odd for me. I guess it felt I was being neglected, and it was time to squeeze through a keyhole. Hopefully, I said something right that will keep it at bay for a while 😉

      You are so right about old legends, Flossie. There is no room for deviation when it comes to addressing creatures of folklore. They are, without a doubt, of a very precise mind!

  4. This reminds me of “The Old Hag” story, probably from the same legend. An evil spirit that sits on your chest giving you sleep paralysis. It’s known as “Old Hag” syndrome.
    Iron horseshoes are popular gifts in Irish themed souvenir shops. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

    • Wow, I never heard of the Old Hag story. I’m going to have to look that one up. And if I ever get to Ireland, I’ll have to buy a horseshoe (among many other things!). Happy St. Paddy’s Day, Emma!

  5. This sounds awfully like a Teutonic excuse for the bad night that follows one Steiner too many! I’ve experienced some of that heavy Bavarian beer and believe me, pressure on the chest was the least of my problems – pink elephants flying in a circle around the light shade, yes, although I don’t remember any hats. And black coffee in the morning; that fits too. I think the image of a still-born baby in a hat sitting opposite me snorting espresso might remain with me for some time…

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