Tag Archives: fairies

288 – St. Patrick’s Day: Legends and Lore Of The Emerald Isle

Every year on St. Patrick’s Day, we all hear the story of St. Patrick so we know it by heart, right? Even before most of us were old enough to slurp cheap green beer and scour the streets in search of Jameson, we knew the story of Ireland’s most famous Saint. He used the shamrock to explain to the Pagan Celtic heathens the mystery of the Holy Trinity (three leaves in one shamrock equal the Father, Son, Holy Spirit all God) and he banished all the snakes from Ireland, right?

Not quite, bucko. Patrick was way cooler than that.

Sláinte from the Junior Varsity St. Patrick’s Day Parade! (Otherwise known as our Halloween show at an Irish bar)

How about this?

  • He was captured by Irish slavers
  • An ethereal voice helped him escape captivity
  • He had frickin’ magic duels with pagan wizards
  • He argued with an angel about letting him judge the Irish souls on Doomsday.

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, we set the record straight on one of Ireland’s favorite saints in this episode celebrating his Feast day and some of our favorite Irish creatures.

The Lady Wilde, Oscar’s Mother and Author of Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland

If you’re looking to learn about Irish legends, faeries, and cryptids, one of the perfect places to start is Lady Lady Francesca Speranza Wilde and her book Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland. She wasn’t only a remarkable researcher, writer, and suffragist, but she raised literary giant Oscar Wilde . Even better since her book is in the public domain, you can read the whole thing right here.

Wendy took a dive in to talk about the legend of the banshee, which is steeped in the Celtic tradition of “keening” where a woman or group of women wail a lament over a dead body as part of the burial and grieving process. The banshee would be a premonition of the “keening woman” and it would signal a death in the family, sometimes in the form of an innocent virginal sister of the family who died early.

This banshee image was the scariest I could find, damn.

Banshees could also be a type of fairy and Irish legends are full of those as well, including the Phouka and the Kelpie. The Celtic word for the fae is Sidhe (pronounced “she”). Of course that includes everyone’s favorite, leprechauns, whose legends have even made it off Earth and into (ahem) outer space.

Scott Markus from WhatsYourGhostStory.com once again joins us to talk about the Hellfire Club, an Enlightenment-era Eyes Wide Shut-style party group whose ritualistic orgies that even Jonathan Swift (of Gulliver’s Travels fame said were “a brace of monsters, blasphemers and Bacchanalians”. Hellfire Club rumors include a huge black cat that haunts the grounds as well as stories of Satanic Black Masses where unwary passers-by were left scarred for life. In reality did they worship the Devil? Probably no more than the modern Church of Satan does, they were just rich pr!cks who wanted to party with no rules or repercussions.

Scott also did a livestream of Irish legends that you might enjoy…

It sounds like it was a lot more like Donna Tartt’s The Secret History than Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby, which is actually more frightening. It’s Satan’s job to ruin people’s lives, with humans, it’s our choice.

The Hellfire Club on Montpelier Hill outside of Dublin, where rich playboys used to meet for sex and drinking parties meant to thumb their noses at Christian morality. Photo by Joe King.

Ireland is a place where it feels like anything can happen and the fanciful folk tales are legion, we also discuss:

For this week we decided to create some Irish jigs inspired by our discussion of Irish legends. This “trad set” includes three original tunes by Sunspot: Druid’s Duel, Lady Wilde’s Fetch, and The Fairy Rath!

254 – Hawaii Paracon: Ancient Wisdom Meets Parapsychology

Last July at the inaugural Hawaii ParaCon, I felt an unmistakable spark, sadly lacking at most conventions of this kind. Oahu’s annual and only paranormal conference returns July 19-21, 2019 to offer a fresh, cross-cultural approach. This year the conference has expanded to include an exploration of the history and practices of parapsychology.

Organized by native Hawaiian Lopaka Kapanui, Hawaii ParaCon unites seldom explored cultural teachings with the scientific boundary work that dares to study the paranormal. Our keynote speaker for the event, July 19-21, is Loyd Auerbach. Professor Auerbach brings with him a vast knowledge of parapsychology as we learned in Episode #27. What will happen when the scientific study of the paranormal steps out of the laboratory and into such a spiritually powerful place as Hawaii? I hope you’ll be there to find out.

Although it’s harmful and cliche to see native Hawaiians as some exotic other, it’s undeniable that different cultures, especially long-silenced indigenous cultures, have something to teach us. Hawaii ParaCon offers us an opportunity to bridge this gap.

One of my favorite presentations from 2018 was delivered by the kind, soft-spoken Keli’i Makua. Hawaiian traditional tattoos are a symbolic way to connect with ancestors, a continuous prayer for protection, and a constant reminder of your place in the spiritual cosmos that surrounds us and gives us life. I was humbled to learn of the incredible importance of a practice that I had always overlooked. Such surprises abound when you come into contact with perspectives that are completely unfamiliar. For those of us on the bleeding edge of materialist reality such glimpses of other paradigms can better inform our research.

Keli’i Makua shares surprising teachings about the spiritual significance of traditional Hawaiian tattooing.

I came to Hawaii to reignite my sense of wonder and to reconnect with the Earth, and I was not disappointed. Then I went out for pizza with the gang. Although Honolulu often feels like the Chicago of the Pacific, the magic in the land is still abundant. On Oahu, you can rub shoulders with the profound one minute, and the next, go hang out at Zippy’s (Hawaii’s answer to Denny’s). My point is that the cultural teachings of Hawaii are not as inaccessible as they may seem.

Whereas in most places in the continental U.S., I feel a need to breathe life back into the lore of the land, in Hawaii, a persuasive presence of belief breathes life into you. In Episode #57, I recount my some of my paranormal experiences from my first visit to Hawaii and include an audio clip from Lopaka. He shares a supernatural tale that illustrates a connection with nature that many of us are detached from in the dominant materialist culture.

My first experiences in Oahu included what seemed to be messages from the spirits of the land.

The potential for reconnection with something beyond yourself, especially in the jungle of the windward side of the island, feels immense, eternal, and dangerous. When I step foot on a Hawaiian island, I get a strong sense that anything could happen — surprising and drastic changes for good or ill. Explorers beware because there’s a power in the atmosphere of the place that is alive and vital. Make no mistake, the Hawaiian Islands are a paranormal paradise as described in Episode # 136, but when you visit prepare act with the utmost respect or else.

In this episode, Lopaka shares his origin story and other incredible tales including that time a pro-wrestling match became an unintended distraction in the middle of a haunted bus tour.

When you visit Hawaii, besides instructive cultural differences, you may also notice some startling similarities in the reported paranormal phenomena, as I did in a recent blog article. Such curious parallels evident in such a far-flung culture hint at a nebulous, yet undeniable reality.

Hawaii ParaCon, unlike so many other paranormal conferences, offers a unique prospect, a chance to grow as both a paranormal investigator and a person. Enjoy our latest episode with behind-the-scenes stories from 2018 like the time the speakers separately encountered a mysterious hitchhiker on the road to an awa ceremony. We also provide a sneak peek of some of the new opportunities, ceremonies, and workshops awaiting you this year.

Because Hawaii was just voted the Happiest STate according to website WalletHub.com (Hey, Madison came in as the third happiest city, so we must be doing something right!) we decided to put our goofiest song in this episode. It’s pretty simple, it’s “The Happy Song”!

I want to know, 
How far to go, 
Before you see, 
What you mean to me. 

On you. On you. 
I appreciate you. 

Make me happy, 
I feel sappy, 
When you’re around. 
Make me queasy, 
Because loving’s so easy, 
When you’re around.

F is for Faeries: Friend or Foe?

Many of us were first introduced to fairies when we were young children. We were enchanted by Tinkerbell from Peter Pan, and wished we had our own Fairy Godmother to grant our wishes the way Cinderella’s did. In the summertime, we imagined fireflies were magical creatures sprinkling our backyard with fairy dust. And when a loose tooth finally freed itself, a simple right of passage went from mundane to miraculous with the promise of a visit from the Tooth Fairy.

My young imagination savored the notion of having a cute little mystical friend at hand. It would be like having a small pet who would entertain me with endless visual delights of sparkling aerial acrobatics; a wee companion who would not only entertain, but also provide serious guidance when I struggled with a big decision… A petite personal adviser of conscience. I loved immersing myself in the fairy stories so prevalent in library books, cartoons, and movies.

But one night, this fascination leapt right from the whimsical world in my mind to the physical world. I saw a fairy with my very own eyes.

I awoke in the middle of the night and there she was: Pale with dark, silken hair to her waist, wearing a long, flowered gown of blue and green. She was closer to actual human-size than the tiny fairies common to folklore, yet still seemed mystically miniature. Near the foot of my bed was a clothing dresser about four feet high, and she was standing tip-toed on a chair, examining the top of the dresser. I remember her looking over at me at one point, but I said nothing, and she turned back to her work of perusing my dresser top in the near darkness.

Although the vision was fleeting, it remained in my mind the next morning as I shared it with my sister and parents. While I’m sure they assumed I was dreaming, I knew the truth: I had witnessed the one and only Tooth Fairy in my bedroom! Some things don’t need to be explained, one just knows, and this was one clear cut case of simple gut instinct. She was obviously looking for a tooth, lost recently by either my sister or myself, and I had awoken to see her hard at work, and presumably eventually she would leave a monetary gift in exchange for our tooth sacrifice.

The fairy I saw in my childhood bedroom was a lovely, good, kind fairy. The legendary fae were not always creatures of good tidings, though. They had a reputation for wreaking mischief and havoc, and for sabotaging their human neighbors if certain demands weren’t met. We explored the history and folkore from Ireland in Episode 187:

Luck O’ The Irish: St. Patrick’s Day Traditions, Mythss, and Legends

Thank goodness it was the Tooth Fairy that I saw, and not one of the dark fae known for doing much more unsavory work! Had that been the case, I may not be around today to tell the tale, for many a story tells of creatures stealing young children from their beds in the night (as illustrated when David Bowie’s dreamy but evil goblin character Jareth snatched baby Toby RIGHT OUT OF HIS CRIB in the movie Labyrinth!). We covered this terrifying concept in depth in Episode 204, where author Joshua Cutchin shared some of the supernatural child-snatching tragedies from his book, “Thieves in the Night: A Brief History of Supernatural Child Abductions“:

Thieves In The Night: Faeries, Aliens, and Child Abductions with Joshua Cutchin

I am relieved that what I saw was not one of “Satan‘s Little Helpers” (that’s not a typo) either. Elves are another example of childhood golden books instilling a belief that tiny mythical creatures are cute, fun, and helpful. But we learned that this is not always the case in Episode 175. Indeed, the original jovial assistants to Santa weren’t there to help, they were there to hurt:

Elves: More Than Just Santa's Little Helpers

Ultimately, my personal fairy experience was positive and fun, a manifestation of some of the magic I so enjoyed reading about from the page into the very real space of my own room. But if you awake in the night and see one of these folk has visited, bear in mind that it may not be a visit of good tidings…

204 – Thieves In The Night: Faeries, Aliens, and Child Abductions with Joshua Cutchin

When most people think of fairies, they think of Tinker Bell from Peter Pan. The idea of little supernatural creatures living in the forest has been co-opted by Lucky Charms and Santa Claus. They’re kind or helpful or merely mischievous. They’re cute. Remember the brownies from Willow? They were funny, and goofy. Fairies, elves, sprites, etc… they’re not terrifying anymore. In fact, there’s “fairy godmothers” who grant us the greatest wishes of our hearts’ desires. They’re fun and if they are real, they even play with children! Remember The Cottingley Fairies? Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed in them, and he invented Sherlock Holmes so he must be smart!

cuttingly fairies joshua cutchin
The Cottingley Fairies

In fact, a hundred years after the pictures of “The Cottingley Fairies”, there are still people that believe in them, decades after one of the girls admitted it was all a hoax! In The Usual Suspects, there is a famous line:

“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

That’s a rephrasing of a famous quote by the French poet, Charles Baudelaire, but the idea here is the same. Fairies must have an incredible publicist, because  been in the public imagination, fairies are as real as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s only a modern idea that fairies are harmless and fun little magical beasties that live in the forest and are just like “tiny little people with wings” that care about the environment.

Der Wechselbalg by Henry Fuseli, 1781 joshua Cutchin
Der Wechselbalg “The Changeling” by Henry Fuseli, 1781

But that’s pretty far from the original myths and legends of faerielore. In fact, one of the most enduring myths about the fae is the terrifying story of the “changeling” where faeries steal a human baby and leave a faerie child, an old fairy, or a deceased child in the baby’s place. You would know it was a changeling because the baby was constantly crying, or would not stop suckling at mother’s breast, or would eat voraciously and never be satisfied… in any case, the parents would just “know” that it was not the same child as went to bed the night before.

And there could be multiple reasons why faeries would steal a human baby, it could be that human mother’s milk makes faerie babies stronger, or to replace a troublesome faerie child, or sometimes even because faeries enjoyed human flesh. You might be able to get the changeling out and your baby back by something as innocuous as attempting to cook the family dinner inside a single eggshell (something that would shock the changeling into laughter and running away) or as insidious as holding the child over an open stove or an iron spade.

changeling pj lynch joshua cutchin
The Changeling by PJ Lynch, 2011

And when it comes to the human experience, that’s about as horrific as it gets. Our biological imperative is to reproduce and keeping that child alive is one of our most basic instincts. But before modern medicine, the infant mortality rate was exponentially higher. Droughts, starvation, and famine were much more common. If a child was sickly or a burden on the scarce resources of a peasant home, the drain on the family could be significant, it could be deadly.

In a superstitious world, the changeling real because how else do you explain it? What else can a birth defect or mental illness be but a supernatural curse when there is no scientific explanation yet? The changeling is a very human way of interacting with a very real trauma. It’s a dark road to go down, but when we talk about 4,500 cases of infanticide in Ireland between 1850 and 1900, it’s not just some strange ancient faceless past, it’s a real history with relatives that many of us can trace directly back to.

joshua cutchin
Joshua Cutchin – A man and his tuba

Fortean author Joshua Cutchin wrote the ground-breaking A Trojan Feast: The Food and Drink Offerings of Aliens, Faeries, and Sasquatch in 2015 to examine millennia of strange, cross-cultural paranormal food taboos. Following it up with The Brimstone Deceit: An In-Depth Examination of Supernatural Scents, Otherworldly Odors, and Monstrous Miasmas Joshua explored olfactory experiences reported during paranormal encounters. Josh is not only a painstaking researcher and gifted writer, but a fellow Badger (Wisconsin alumni, like Wendy and I) and a talented musician.

In this episode,  Joshua Cutchin joins us to talk about perhaps his most frightening work to-date, his new book, Thieves in the Night: A Brief History of Supernatural Child Abductions, which examines the disturbing history of paranormal kidnapping.

  • How fairy stories relate to demonic possession
  • Aliens abduction tales and fairies  – what’s the connection?
  • Changelings and autism in medieval times
  • The peculiar similarities across cultures of supernatural child abduction stories

Inspired by the idea of waking up to find someone that you care about isn’t someone you seem to recognize anymore, we revved up a  Sunspot rocker for you,  This is “The Changeling”!

Hot line
it’s a wake up call
for a lifeline
then you go awol
you know it’s time
before you fall
to put on the brakes or you’ll hit the wall

so low
on the bottom shelf
in a black hole
is where you’ll find yourself
where you gonna go
when there’s no one else
to put up with the shit that you’re trying to sell

And I don’t know if you looked lately
but you ain’t the same person that you used to be.
you’re the changeling
that just ain’t my thing
you’re a changeling
And I don’t know if you looked lately
but you ain’t the same person that you used to be.

Go hard
until you hurt
play the wrong card
and you’re in the dirt
in the graveyard
calling red alert
you’re a cardiac arrest in a miniskirt

So long
that’s what you prefer
it’s a swan song
to who we thought you were
you’re so headstrong
so put on your spurs
and get the out of town until you find a cure.

And I don’t know if you looked lately
but you ain’t the same person that you used to be.
you’re the changeling
that just ain’t my thing
you’re a changeling
And I don’t know if you looked lately
but you ain’t the same person that you used to be.

187 – Luck O’ The Irish: St. Patrick’s Day Traditions, Myths, and Legends

I don’t know when St. Patrick’s Day turned from a sweet celebration of a wonderful culture into an excuse for binge drinking  (a Guinness holiday instead of a Hallmark one?) , but I think it was at some point in my lifetime. Before it used to be just about wearing green, running in the almost Spring grass looking for four-leaf clovers, eating Lucky Charms, drinking Shamrock Shakes, and of course, watching wonderful family films like Leprechaun.

the leprechaun
Feeling lucky?

But seriously, St. Patrick’s Day is flush with weird legends and myths of the patron saint of Ireland. The story of St. Patrick is that he drove the snakes out of Ireland (metaphor for Pagans), Christianized the country, and he used the Shamrock to help explain the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Irish culture has plenty of fun superstitions, but luck of the Irish, pinching people on St. Patrick’s Day, and turning their rivers green aren’t any of them. Join us for a conversation on where all our silly St. Patrick’s Day traditions come from and some of the real history of St. Patrick’s Day as well as legends and myths about the Emerald Isle’s patron saint himself.

Our show on March 17th, 2007 at Bikini’s in Austin, TX. Still a, ahem,  personal favorite!

One of the strange stories we talk about in the show is this weird shadow that’s cast by Saint Patrick at this New Jersey church. Sure, it’s just a coincidence… OR IS IT?!

st. patrick's day
From St. Joseph’s Church in Keyport, NJ

It’s a good time as any to bring out one of our favorite Irish songs done by an amazing Irish band. Thin Lizzy wasn’t in love with getting famous through an Irish folk song, but their version of “Whiskey In The Jar” made it a Top 40 hit all over the world. We do an acoustic guitar and violin version of it that you can request at the next Sunspot Acoustic Duo show or See You On The Other Side live event!

As I was goin’ over
The Cork and Kerry Mountains
I saw Captain Farrell
And his money, he was countin’
I first produced my pistol
And then produced my rapier
I said, “Stand and deliver or the devil he may take ya”

Mush-a ring dum-a do dum-a da
Whack for my daddy-o.
Whack for my daddy-o
There’s whiskey in the jar-o

I took all of his money
And it was a pretty penny
I took all of his money,
Yeah, and I brought it home to Molly
She swore that she loved me,
No, never would she leave me
But the devil take that woman,
Yeah, for you know she tricked me easy

Mush-a ring dum-a do dum-a da
Whack for my daddy-o.
Whack for my daddy-o
There’s whiskey in the jar

Being drunk and weary
I went to Molly’s chamber
Takin’ Molly with me
But I never knew the danger
For about six or maybe seven,
Yeah, in walked Captain Farrell
I jumped up, fired my pistols
And I shot him with both barrels

Mush-a ring dum-a do dum-a da
Whack for my daddy-o.
Whack for my daddy-o
There’s whiskey in the jar

Now some men like a fishin’
But some men like the fowlin’
Some men like to hear,
To hear the cannonball roarin’
Me, I like sleepin’,
‘Specially in my Molly’s chamber
But here I am in prison,
Here I am with a ball and chain, yeah

Mush-a ring dum-a do dum-a da
Whack for my daddy-o.
Whack for my daddy-o
There’s whiskey in the jar-o

175 – Elves: More Than Just Santa’s Little Helpers

When most people think about elves in the modern day, they either think about Legolas in The Lord of the Rings or they think about the short little fairy like creatures with Mr. Spock ears that make toys for Santa Claus.

I’m a sexy elf.

I am not a sexy elf.

Now, Santa’s Workshop and the elves that build his toys is a creation of mid-Nineteenth Century magazines, but the history of elves goes a lot deeper than just working overtime at the North Pole.

In this episode, we talk about where Santa’s helpers came from historically, but we also explore the millennia-old legends of elves, how Christian missionaries turned them into Satan’s little helpers (not a typo!) and how these nature spirits might still just be running around Iceland. In fact, in Iceland there’s The Elf School which teaches their history on the island and an Elf Whisperer who will have you over for tea with leaves grown by her little friends!

And here’s an interview Allison got with Magnus from The Elf School!

These Icelandic elves are ready to haunt your dreams

For this week’s song, we took a poem that was written anonymously in 1857 for Harper’s Weekly and put some music to it. There just aren’t enough Christmas songs that talk about Santa’s elves. Since this poem was one of the first documents of St. Nick’s sweatshop, we are excited to be the first ones to immortalize it in song! Here is Sunspot with “The Wonders of Santa Claus”.

Beyond the ocean many a mile,
And many a year ago,
There lived a queer old man
In a wonderful house of snow;
And every little boy and girl,
As Christmas Eves arrive,
No doubt are overjoyed to hear,
The old man’s still alive.

In his house upon a hill,
And almost out of sight,
He keeps his many elves at work,
working with all their might,
To make a million pretty things,
Cakes, sugar-plums, and toys,
To fill the stockings, hung up
By the little girls and boys.

It would be capital for sure,
to glimpse his wondrous shop;
But when he hears a stranger he
Orders the elves to stop;
And the house, and work, and workmen all
just take a little twist,
just when you think they that are there,
They’re off in a frosty mist.

In his house upon a hill,
And almost out of sight,
He keeps his many elves at work,
working with all their might,
To make a million pretty things,
Cakes, sugar-plums, and toys,
To fill the stockings, hung up
By the little girls and boys.

It were an endless task to tell,
The length his list extends,
Of curious gifts the queer old man
Prepares for Christmas friends.
You might be guessing who he is,
And the country whence he came.
Why, he was born in Turkey,
And St. Nicholas is his name.

In his house upon a hill,
And almost out of sight,
He keeps his many elves at work,
working with all their might,
To make a million pretty things,
Cakes, sugar-plums, and toys,
To fill the stockings, hung up
By the little girls and boys.