Mythical Monday: The Merry Wanderer of the Night by Mae Clair

I’ve had an affinity for Robin Goodfellow (or “Puck”) ever since reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream in high school. How can you not love a cavalier mischief-maker? Every mythology has a trickster or devilish imp, and when it comes to English folklore and faeries, Robin Goodfellow takes the crown.

Rendering of Puck in field coming upon two human children

Photo courtesy Arthur Rackham [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A nature sprite, Puck (as he’s nicknamed by country folk) is a mischievous knave who inhabits woodlands and delights in leading night time travelers astray. He’s also been known to engage in tomfoolery at homesteads, souring milk in the churn, pinching lazy housemaids and blowing out candles to steal a kiss from young maidens. He delights in confusing mortals with pranks and practical jokes but isn’t opposed to lending a hand with minor housework such as grinding corn or churning butter if treated well.

If not in the woods, you can find him lurking about farmsteads and barns. Small gifts such as milk and sweet cream may gain his favor for a time, but at heart he is a free-spirited soul who never tires of watching the foolish antics of mortals. One of his favorite tricks is to replace a sleeping infant in their cradle with an elfling child.

Puck is one of the brownie faeries, also called a hobgoblin, and is able to shapeshift at will. He uses echoes and lights to confuse travelers on their journeys through the woods at night, and is capable of stringing humans along like circus animals with his bewitching piping.

Though it would seem this ill-behaved imp is capable of hurtful pranks, most of his tricks are of a harmless nature. He may cause chaos, such as when he bungled who loves who in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but in the end, matters are usually resolved. Described by Shakespeare as “that merry wanderer of the night,” Puck is endearing and bewildering, a roguish and wayward pixie who is both charmer and scamp.

What do you think? Love the guy or avoid him? Are you a fan of Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Mythical Monday: The Benedith Y Mamau by Mae Clair

Mention the word Faerie or Fae and it’s easy to conjure the image of an ethereal creature gifted with exquisite beauty and grace. But not all faeries are blessed with delicate, angelic features – at least not those of half-blood.

bigstock-Water-Goblin-1564516Benedith Y Mamau, prevalent mostly in Southern Wales, are believed to be the offspring of faeries and goblins. They are stunted, vile-looking creatures who resent attractiveness in any form, and delight in stealing human children. When taking a child they will usually leave a changeling in its place, one of their own misshapen offspring known as a Crimbil. While true faeries only steal infants, Benedith will take any small child, even those old enough to walk and talk.

Although grotesque in appearance and spitefully envious of beauty, Benedith nonetheless treat their captives well. The human child is taught music and song. Later, if returned to their family, the child will remember nothing of their time in captivity other than a lingering sense of sweet music.

The name Benedith Y Mamau is translated from Welsh as “the mother’s blessing.” Some believed that by giving these abhorrent faeries a pleasing name, they would be less inclined to wreak havoc. They were prone to steal cattle, kill farm animals, smash tools and generally make life miserable for any human in their vicinity. Clannish, they constructed their homes in underground warrens and took human children in order to improve their stock through the infusion of mortal blood — or so some believed. Mothers took extreme caution with their newborns and children, fearful they would be snatched away and replaced with a Crimbil.

Sometimes, through the use of spells and magic, parents were able to get their child back, but usually at extreme cost to the poor Crimbil abandoned by the Benedith Y Mamau. I can’t help feeling sorry for that malformed, unwanted child. What about you? Don’t you think legends and superstitions are often cruel and dark…or perhaps darkly cruel?

Mae Clair’s Mythical Monday: Channeling Changelings

Hey, friends! It’s Mythical Monday!

Before, I kick off today’s star mythology player, I want to announce the winner of my Vampires vs. Werewolves Blog Hop giveaway. Congrats to Tracey D. who won an ebook copy of my paranormal/time travel romance, WEAHTERING ROCK. Tracey, I will contact you by email to see if you prefer a Kindle or Nook version.

Also, congratulations to Joder, who won the Kindle copy of Deborah Palumbo’s paranormal novel, THE UNDERPARTED. Deborah will contact you directly regarding her giveaway. Thanks to everyone who participated and dropped by my blog.

And now, I’d like to channel some changelings 🙂

bigstock-Twilight-in-the-forest-mystic-16150733There is an old legend that circulates among the varied cultures of Western Europe about humans who were spirited away by faeries, with changelings left in their place.

Although adults were often taken, infants were most at risk. New parents were wise to watch their babies closely and stand guard through the dark hours of the night until the day the child was baptized. Left untended for even a brief time, an unbaptized baby might be snatched away and replaced with the unwanted offspring of a faerie, elf or troll. To protect from such calamity, crucifixes or iron could be placed by the cradle as defensive wards. An article of the father’s clothing or a sprig of boxwood blessed by a priest served the same purpose.

Why would the Fae abandon their children? Many were born sickly or frail and deemed a nuisance by their ethereal parents who much preferred a healthy human babe. The changeling child would be placed in the cradle, characteristics like wizened, parchment skin and licorice-black eyes concealed by faerie glamour. Sometimes an enchanted piece of wood, called a stock, would be left instead, magic employed to make it look like the child. Unsuspecting parents wouldn’t realize what had happened until the changeling was presented for baptism and the touch of holy water made the child scream uncontrollably. If a stock, it would wither and die in a short time.

Although changelings were evil creatures, bringing ill fortune to those that housed them, they were not long for the mortal world. Perhaps because they were such a miserable lot, shrieking and howling throughout the day, biting, ravenous of appetite, delighting in mishap. They rarely lived more than two to three years, though even that span was a harsh eternity to any family burdened with one.

It’s no wonder attempts were made to drive the changeling off. Some methods included ignoring its constant wailing, abandoning it on a hillside, threatening it with a heated ploughshare or making it laugh. Given its nature, gaiety of any sort must have been equivalent to a death knell should it hang around.  In many respects, it’s hard not to feel sorry for these wretched creatures who were unwanted by their natural parents. If the changeling was successfully driven away, even years later, the human child would be returned. Those who found their way back to their real parents reported being treated kindly in the Faerie Court.  How pitiful the Fae didn’t extend that same courtesy and love to their own children.

Woman with a nest in hairI think of changelings as one of the darker aspects of fairytales and mythology.  Although I can’t recall a specific book, I know I’ve read several tales in which changelings played a part. Can you think of any fairytale, book or movie that included a changeling? If you’d lived in a time/reality where changelings were real, do you think you could have sympathy for such a pathetic and malicious creature? Do you think a changeling could be turned if treated as a human child?

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