Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Eldritch: Halloween 030

So, in short… Seamus doesn’t age.  And he can jump through time… but only forward.  Oh, and he doesn’t pick when, but at least he can feel it coming on.  That kind of sucks. 

Time travel is tricky, and it’s way too easy to abuse it.  If he had absolute control over time, he could go back in time and ‘save’ faith from being bitten… but that would create a time paradox.  By forcing Seamus to only go forward, it allows me to play with time travel, but not in a way that can alter the consistency of the story.  It also makes him somewhat of a tragic character.  In this way, he’s a bit different from the initial incarnation I had of him.

When I first started coming up with Seamus as a character back around 2006, he was simply what I called the style of writing I used when writing my italicized descriptions for several of my pieces.  Unlike in Eldritch, he had no real family, because his main love was books. I playfully said he was from Neverwhen… that is, he resides in no time or place in particular, and can pop up anywhere and anywhen.  Well, for the aforementioned reasons, that wasn’t going to work for Eldritch.  It’d make it way too easy to make him a power character, and frankly, I know I’m not talented enough to handle a super-complex time travel story with a character that isn’t even the main one.

However, where it counts… Seamus is pretty much the same.  He loves science and myth and magic… he loves researching and of course… talking to others about it.  A Lot.  Besides, you can’t blame a guy for cramming as much information as he can into a conversation, since he never knows if he might accidentally leave or not.

Anyway… on to the next page.  Woo~

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Eldritch: Halloween 028

So… Seamus mentions vampire killing methods. Personally, I prefer my vampires in a state of undeath, rather than total death, but, well, sometimes a bad vamp needs to be put down (I prefer death by ruler or stereo these days). But how is vampire-killing supposed to be done? Well, truth is, no one seems to be able to completely agree on that, because folklore is inconsistent like that. Now, I’ll readily admit that vampires aren’t my forte, but this, like all of my little articles, is a collection of few brief comments on folklore, so I feel that can talk a little on the subject.

The best-known method of vampire killing is, of course, a steak through the heart. Of course, some folks will say one wood is better than others for vampire-killing (such as maple, aspen, rowan or hawthorn, to name a few) but truth is, I expect that if you’re being attacked by a vampire, any ol’ stick will do the job. Personally, if I’m ever attacked by a vampire, I pray it’s in a sushi joint. Looots of chopsticks. However, I digress. In some tales, slaying vampires was very complicated, such as in The tale of Abhartach from Ireland, where the undead must be slain with a sword of yew and buried upside down, along with other things such as placing a rock over the gravesite and surrounding that place with thorns. But what about sunlight, you ask? That’s a pretty well known means of killing vampires. Well, truth is, depending on the type of vampire, sunlight might not save you. Sure, the Strigorii of Romania could be defeated by sunlight, particularly the first rays of morning sun, but other varieties can still get you.

Other killing methods include decapitation, burning, and even exoticism, which is a more modern, christianized method, like stakes and holy water. (People tell me that I misspelled stake there.  However, that is the correct spelling, really X D. You see, the blood from the fresh steak will distract the vampire, preventing it from feeding on the living and causing it to die when it's forced to hunt until the sun comes up. Classic vampire folklore there, truely.  Okay, I'm kidding, but it amused me, so I'm keeping the typo.) Personally, I prefer the first method, though sometimes the means of decapitation is very specific, such as using a gravedigger’s shovel, and some suggest that stuffing the mouth with various herbs will seal the deal. Honestly though, I wouldn’t get my fingers anywhere near a vampire’s mouth under any condition (Unless I really liked the vampire). While I expect it would smell bad, and thus I’m less keen on it, burning the vampire’s body is also a pretty secure means of vampire death, in my opinion. Though, sometimes it can be real simple. For instance, the vampiric Wood Wives of the Germanic countryside could be killed by simply burning small bits of wood. How simple is that?

Meanwhile, there are less drastic means of protection… such as, in the Philippines, the shapeshifting (and thus, werewolf-associated) monstrous aswang (I dare you to say that name out loud without giggling) can be warded off with salts and herbs… of course, some say that herbs work better than salts, depending on the type of aswang, and the herbs used vary. Oh, the joy of varying folklore. According to a history channel documentary I saw (I’m so sorry, I wish I remember which it was; I’d love to cite it) cramming a brick into the mouth of the dead kept them from vampiric activities, and in other sources, sometimes, protecting oneself can be as easy and using garlic or turning your clothes inside-out. My absolute favorite protective method, however, is the scattering of seeds. Apparently some vampires are obsessive-compulsive and would have to count all of the spilled seeds… remember The Count in Sesame Street? Yeah. There’s actually folklore behind his behavior.

However, while in some places a werewolf is supposed to become a vampire after death, my favorite means of killing vampires is the use of a white wolf… which not only keeps vampires inside their graves by haunting cemeteries, but also can kill the vampire ‘by strangulation.’ In addition, some Gypsies said that a vampire was to wander the world until it met with a wolf, which would rend it limb from limb. I suppose if it’s in the nature of wolves to maul vampires, it’s no wonder that werewolves and vampires don’t get along in modern media (and here, I thought they were all ripping off Abbot and Costello).

So, should your life ever end up with too many vampires in it, at least there are a few solutions, aside from closing whatever book you’re reading. And speaking of books, before I get to the “You should read” list, I hear that Bob Curran has published a book of Irish vampire myths called “Bloody Irish.” Heck, I haven’t even seen the book in person (so I can’t vouch for it being any good or not), but I’d take a look at it just for the name. If you’re looking for a way to entertain yourself in a less werewolfy and more vampiric way this St. Patty’s Day, that may be a rout for you. Personally, I’m gonna spend it with werewolves and sidhe, myself.

And, as always, you should read:
The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves and Other Monsters --Rosemary Guiley
Vampires –Dr. Bob Curran
The Beast Within --Adam Douglas
The Werewolf in Lore and Legend --Montague Summers
The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures --John and Caitlin Matthews
Vampires -- Rosemary Ellen Guiley

Other possible books of interest:
They Bite – Jonathan Maberry and David F. Kramer
Real Monsters, Gruesome Critters, and Beasts from the Darkside – Brad Steiger

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Eldritch: Halloween 027

And the calvary has arrived! (lead by someone who's likely a WoWtard)  Alas, there isn’t much to say, folklorically speaking.  Well, not much that I won’t cover next week.  So, today, I’m going to take some time to talk about what I see as the nature of folklore.
Folklore, frustratingly, is oftentimes rather unlike science. Should someone destroy the only copy of a scientific paper that explains how to perform a specific bit of say, chemistry, (though, we all know that no scientist would ever let that happen), the destroyed information is likely not lost forever.  Through study and experimentation, the same information can be rediscovered, and duplicated.  After all, even if the whole world somehow forgot that glycerin added to potassium permanganate would result in an exothermic reaction, it would be rediscovered the minute someone got curious and tired it. What is learned through science can be reproduced, meaning that it is hard to permanently loose something.

Folklore, however, is a combination of fiction, speculation, and social influences, and thus does not follow scientific laws.  So, once a piece of information is lost, it’s gone forever.  Kind of like how history is written by the victors, folklore is defined by the ideas that survive.  You cannot simply add moonlight to the son of a French priest to see if they’re compelled to become a werewolf and thus rediscover that bit of information, should it be lost.  And sure, based upon the striking similarity of myths across the world, folkloric elements that are very similar will undoubtedly spring up again, but the original specifics will be gone, or replaced with new specifics.

You see, folklore is much like a popularity contest, with all of the nitty gritty politics involved.  The most popular pieces are remembered, while the lesser tidbits are often forgotten and vanish. Of course, pieces become more popular through the use of the most easily consumable forms of communication, such as oral tales, books, or today, TV and the internet (which is why almost everyone will say that silver would kill a werewolf, even though that is very rare in older folklore). However, today I’m going to leave the audio-visual media out of this, and focus on oral tales and books.

It seems that while some information can be lost forever, thankfully, folklore evolves and changes on it’s own, ensuring that there will always be new tidbits to chew on.  These changes can be caused by a plethora of different things, many of which are results of the fact that human language, while beautiful, is also a little flawed.  Causes range from the natural variations that are produced when a tale is passed around orally (anyone here ever play the game “telephone?”), by different interpretations, by the author’s spin on things, by simple error on the part of the storyteller, or through variances in translation. 

I feel this would be particularly true for older books, which could have antiquated words that have fallen out of use, or words that have meanings that differ from modern definitions.  I mean, look at how the meaning for the word “gay” has changed over time.  On a more werewolfy note, today, a wolf can indicate a man who pursues beautiful women, sometimes paired with a wolf-whistle.  But back in the day, however, calling someone a wolf could mean that they were an outlaw. That’s a big difference. Such discrepancies can result in multiple interpretations within its original language, and when it’s translated into a different language, that means that multiple translations could have distinct differences, depending on how literally people translate things.  Two people can go to the same source and come away with very different interpretations, thus causing folkloric variation.

It is possible that any number of these variations will be equally accepted in the folklore popularity contest, or, that certain aspects or variants may be disregarded for any number of reasons. For some, they may simply choose to be concise and leave what they consider to be extraneous details out. For others, they may simply dislike the source of the variant, and denounce it. And sometimes, one bit of folklore merely catches the interest of more people, and they in turn continue to spread it more so than its conceptual cousins.  Or, they may wish to make a certain point, and thus disregard or not include a variant that supports another point of view. For instance, Montague Summers mentions in his book, currently printed under the title of <I>The Werewolf in Lore and Legend</I> that there are spells or mantas regarding shapeshifting that have been preserved, but Summers intentionally did not specify anything about them. Given that he was a holy man, he followed Boguet’s thinking that such ‘barbaric jingle’ was potent in regards to satanic pacts. Thus, he chose to withhold that information, and did not to include the incantations or even the books in which they were, because it goes against his specific wishes.  Because of this, I don’t know if the grimoires and the spells within that he mentioned are even still available.  They could have been lost, and since folklore cannot be scientifically rediscovered, they could be gone forever.  Thankfully for me, Elliot O’Donnell preserved several in his book, adding to folkloric diversity. 

At the end of the day, while earthquakes are caused by shifting plates in the earth’s lithosphere, varying pressures in air create wind, and the sun is powered by fusion, folklore has a far less scientific, but equally amazing source:  Folklore is powered by people.  While people have no influence over the sun or the weather, everyone takes part on the phenomenon of folklore, through the telling, and retelling of these tales.  The way I see it, the addition and loss of information is all part of the nature of folklore, and personally… While I think that it all makes folklore rather difficult to work with sometimes, it also makes it endlessly fascinating.

Just my two cents.