Short Fiction, Writing

Aztec Rituals & the God of Death

One of the most interesting folklore research I did recently involved the Aztec Empire in Mesoamerica. I have always been fascinated by the Aztec Empire and the many intriguing mythologies and my latest research was into the god of Underworld, Mictlantecuhtli. The death-god is often depicted in constant combat with the opposing force, the god of renewal Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent. The two gods are constantly locked in a fight for supremacy, the balance between life and death.

The Aztecs practised human sacrifice on a colossal scale in the late stages of the empire. Recent archaeological excavations in the sacred city of Tenochtitlan at the base of one of the largest pyramid temples, the Tempo Mayor, huge wooden racks of skulls were offerings to the gods of war and rain. The extreme numbers of suggested human sacrifices coincided with Aztec empire expansion, it was probably considered necessary to appease the gods who could provide battle success and the rains to grow crops and support an increasing population.

The Aztec Underworld or Mictlán was ruled by god Mictlantecuhtli. To the Aztecs, every soul no matter the privilege or poverty during life, would descend through the nine layers of Mictlán to face Mictlantecuhtli. Not surprisingly, worship of Mictlantecuhtli was important to all Aztecs and during the Aztec month of Tititl , the temple Tlalxicco conducted a specific ritual human sacrifice. A chosen sacrifice became the embodiment of Mictlantecuhtli and sacrificed at night to honour the god.

In my flash fiction story, I was inspired by the elaborate skeletal depictions of Mictlantecuhtli and the creation myth where Quetzalcoatl is deliberately delayed in the Underworld while searching for the bones of every creature destroyed in the previous world. The Aztecs, like many past civilisations, had a cyclic view of time rather than a linear one. Drawing on inspiration from depictions of Mictlantecuhtli adorned in carved bones or as a skeletal figure, my flash fiction story was set during the Aztec month of Tititl at night at the temple Tlalxicco. Here the ritual sacrifice gruesomely transforms the flesh embodiment of Mictlantecuhtli into a skeletal representation of the death-god before sunrise.

events, Short Fiction, Writing

Showcasing my Dark Fiction: Coming Soon

As the celebration of Women in Horror Month comes to an end, I’ve got a vampire themed dark micro-fiction coming soon in Blood Lust (Legends of the Night, #2) by Black Ink Fiction.

For a final hurrah, here’s a sneak peek at one of my most recent dark fiction works, the folklore, history and vampires in “The Hungering” . Enjoy!

events, Short Fiction, Writing

Showcasing Horror: Dark Fiction Coming Soon

Continuing the celebration of all things women in horror, I’ve got a horror/dark fiction short story set in the Australian Alps inspired by the wendigo legend, case of a cannibalistic monster or a monstrous human? Coming soon in Gluttony (Seven Deadly Sins, #6) by Black Hare Press.

Here’s a sneaky peek at my story “The Monster” and the folklore and legend of the wendigo. Enjoy with dark delight!

events, Short Fiction, Writing

Showcasing Horror: Forthcoming Microfiction

Continuing the celebration of all things women in horror, I’ve got a microfiction story set in Viking Age Iceland coming soon in April Horrors by Raven and Drake Publishing.

Here’s a sneak peek at the inspiration behind my story “Necropants” and the grisly Icelandic folklore.

Short Fiction, Writing

Reimagining Hansel and Gretel Fairytale

One of my favourite fairytales is the story of ‘Hansel and Gretel’ recounted by Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm, with two variations in the tale published in the 1812 and 1857 versions to accomodate a wider selection of similar folktales. From the fairytale and folklore indexes developed by Professor Ashlimanm , the ATU system identified at least ten variants in many countries following similar themes.

The most commonly known version of ‘Hansel and Gretel’ is a tale set during a bitter winter, and poor parents forced to choose between their personal survival and the cost of raising a girl and boy without resources. On the brink of starvation, the children are taken into the woods and abandoned. When they find the cottage where a witch lives, she offers them their desires (mostly food). When the danger of the bargain is revealed, Hansel and Gretel use a trail of breadcrumbs to follow their way back to their village and escape the witch.

In my own reimagining, I thought of the gothic folklore surrounding the Forest, a common themes in many fairytales. The only reason the Forest might be entered willingly would be if the danger outside the Forest was worse than the unknown terrors of the Forest. To reimagine another time when similar conditions in Hesse-Cassel existed, I used s more modern setting such as WWII. Here, Hansel and Gretel equivalents must escape the dangerous of the Forest and it’s haunting presence of a witch. I wanted to create that same dark threat of the witch and her malevolence towards children, choosing corpselights, often thought the souls of murdered or unrestful child spirits, to provide a safe path for the children to follow and escape the Forest.

Short Fiction

Horror, History & Folklore

While it’s Women in Horror Month, I’ve been researching gothic and dark folklore themes. Here’s a few of the diverse research topics I encountered including the history of witchcraft and an Icelandic folklore sure to make your skin crawl.


Witchcraft: the Devil’s Influence

Accusations of witchcraft have a long history. The era of associated with the highest prevalence of witch trials and executions was the 14th century, but before these later witch hunts of the Middle Ages, those often accused of witchcraft included midwives, healers and those dwelling on the fringe of their community, blamed for sickness, crop failure and unexpected deaths. When researching this theme, I examined the folklore of the Devil’s involvement through deliberate actions or more subtle means such as manipulation.


Necropants: Grisly Icelandic Folklore

A folklore tradition believed to be practiced in Iceland as late as the 17th century, was the gruesome lore behind necropants. A deal made with a male friend upon his death, involved flaying the skin from the waist down in a single piece and wearing the pants which adhered to the new owner. A coin stolen from a widow and a magical sigil, were inserted into the scrotum make certain the testicular sacks were always full of coins. I decided to explore this dark and grisly folklore in a mico-fiction story set during the early Viking Age.

Short Fiction

European Folklore

The past several weeks, I have been exploring many different aspects of European folklore, particularly involving the Fae. Below is a series of some of my research favourites, fae beings and associated folklore.


Seelie and Unseelie Fae

In Scotland, the Fae are often divided into the Seelie and Unseelie courts, or the Light and Dark , respectively. Unlike the Irish Fair Folk, the Seelie and Unseelie beings follow a stricter divide, those fae which are malevolent are found in the Unseelie Courts, while those who are more kindly toward mortals such as brownies (but like all fae beings, this does not mean there is no in dealing with the seelie. Just with all Fae beings in Icelandic, Irish and Welsh folklore, the tendencies of the Fae are not comprehensible by mortal means and their own needs will almost always take precedence.


Elf-Stones

In Iceland, elves are an integral part of Icelandic culture with folklore infused throughout everyday Icelandic life. Elf-stones as they are sometimes called are believed to be doorways to the underground realms and otherworldly lands where elves dwell. The disturbance of an elf-stones is often considered a major concern with recent road construction and a series of disasters befalling the site, workers and nearby region occurring when a recognised elf-stone was moved. Subsequently, the stone was relocated and the course of the highway adjusted to avoid disturbing the area further.

In Icelandic legend, the renowned waterfall Skogafoss, a spectacular waterfall in southern Iceland, fed by glacial melt is also associated with a legend of elves, buried treasure and the founding of the Icelandic landscape. A Viking Age sorcerer, Þrasi Þórólfsson directed the flow of two rivers threatening the drown nearby villages sparked the volcanic eruption of in the Mýrdalsjökull Caldera. According to the legend, a chest containing a valuable and powerful symbol of Þrasi’s magic was stored and guarded by the elves at Skogafoss until his return. Þrasi’s ring is believed to be just one small part of the treasure the sorcerer left buried and guarded behind Skogafoss but never returned to claim.


The Oak and Holly Kings

Throughout the British Isles and in some Germanic folklore, the Oak and Holly kings are ancient rivals, a timeless battle between Summer and Winter, Although both kings are sometimes depicted as older men the elemental and enduring nature of each gaining dominance only long enough until the next seasonal change. There have been some attention paid to the similarities with the ancient legend of the Horned god, or the Green Man.


Pisky Pixies

Cornwall, while considered by many as a part of the UK , the Cornish people have their own unique legends and folklore Amin to The British lands. Pixies are known generally as mischievous and practical jokes. The Cornish pixies have become very popular in folklore and, where can be associated Piskies as they are often referred to in Cornwall, rare and responsible for the classic saying ‘away with the pixies.”

Piskies as they are often referred to in Cornwall, rare and responsible for the classic saying ‘away with the pixies.”


The Yuletide Troll

In Iceland, folklore and legend of trolls can be found at nearly every strange rock formation. Constant volcanic activity in Iceland has meant the these are plentiful and these formations are believed to be the mountain-dwelling trolls who were caught in the dawn sunlight, instantly turned to stone. Testimony to the Icelandic trolls versus the popular media view that they are stupid and slow-witted, is the dark yuletide legend of the troll-witch Gryla. You won’t find any stories in Iceland of red-nosed reindeer, present-making elves or a merry St. Nicholas. Instead, one of the oldest legends is Gryla and her 12 Yule lads, twelve mischievous and sinister trolls present for 12 days before and after Christmas Day, or the length of Yuletide. But on Christmas Eve, the Yule Lads’ mother leaves her mountain home to stalk the night. Gryla takes orphan children who, without the protection of hearth and home, are defenceless. Once stolen away in a sack, they are taken back to her husband in their mountain cave and cooked into a stew. For Icelandic lore, the safety of having a home, protection of family and from the harsh Icelandic winter is embodied in the threatening figure of Gryla.

Short Fiction

Impossible Tasks & the Fae

My research has been delving into the folklore of mortal dealings with the Fae. References to the performance of tasks, is common in folklore, see the Thompson Motif Index for an example of “Tests” present in folklore. In modern fantasy an traditional fairytales, three (also a commonly tool for repetition in fairytales) tasks or quests is often the number required by a mortal to complete in order to achieve the predetermined goal.

In a new short story, I was interested in presenting the three tasks in impossible nature of the Fae, tasks which no mortal could be expected to endure, or tasks which, if completed successfully, would render irreversible harm to the mortal who completed them. I was interested too, in a way the Fae might silence anyone who successfully completed the tasks and therefore, defeated them.

In choosing the mortal who could endure all manner of tasks, which would be irreversible punishments, I chose someone to whom the Fae would also inherently fear and respect to a degree. The role of bards in ancient societies was more than provide entertainment, they provided record keeping, biographical accounts of battles or certain heroes and could as easily turn opinion against someone as turn it in their favour. The traits most important to any man able to support a family including a bard, is the strength or health of his body, the fine-tuned senses of touch in hands on instruments and the ability to sing. The completion of three tasks would require the mortal to endure tests that could permanently disfigure or damage but not to outright kill. These were some of the darker aspects that impossible tasks could take when mortals made deals with the Fae, a reason why such battles were rarely won or, as my story suggested, kept silent if they did succeed.

research

Iceland’s Yule Trolls

In Icelandic tradition, the Yule lads are thirteen trolls who arrive, one one each of the 13 days before Christmas then depart in the order they arrived, on the subsequent days following Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve, the troll witch Gryla, leaves the mountains to enter the city, seeking any children who had been ill-behaved or were without the protection of their parents. These she would take back to her mountain dwelling, cook them into a stew for her lazy troll husband.


The thirteen Icelandic Yule Lads are names for the acts they are most famously known for, often tormenting human communities. More can be found at the Smithsonian Magazine here.

Sheep-Cote Clod: He tries to suckle yews in farmer’s sheep sheds
Gully Gawk: He steals foam from buckets of cow milk
Stubby: He’s short and steals food from frying pans
Spoon Licker: He licks spoons
Pot Scraper: He steals unwashed pots and licks them clean
Bowl Licker: He steals bowls of food from under the bed (back in the old days, Icelanders used to sometimes store bowls of food there – convenient for midnight snacking?)
Door Slammer: He stomps around and slams doors, keeping everyone awake
Skyr Gobbler: He eats up all the Icelandic yogurt (skyr)
Sausage Swiper: He loves stolen sausages
Window Peeper: He likes to creep outside windows and sometimes steal the stuff he sees inside
Door Sniffer: He has a huge nose and an insatiable appetite for stolen baked goods
Meat Hook: He snatches up any meat left out, especially smoked lamb

Candle Beggar: He steals candles, which used to be sought-after items in Iceland


Since 1746, the Yule lads became less scary, depicted as mischievous, trickster characters illustrated as jolly ‘Santa Claus-like figures’ who left gifts for the well-behaved children in their shoes and potatoes for the ill-behaved ones. In earlier times, the Yule lads were emaciated and clothed in rags. There is a current movement in Iceland to return the Yule lads to their more traditional vagabond nature, the desperate orphans who accompanied Gryla.

Short Fiction

The Wendigo & Dark Fiction

Another of my recent work-in-progress short fiction pieces, has been a dark fiction story inspired by wendigo psychosis an unusual form of ‘cultural psychosis’ specific to First Nations peoples of Canadian-North American Great Lakes regions where belief in a supernatural being, the wendigo, provides a unique cultural framework for a psychosis. This psychosis has specific disease symptoms which like the cultural belief – is unique – and found nowhere else in the world.

What is a wendigo then? It is a legendary being originating from northern Algonquian First Nations oral folktales and legends (recently popularised in supernatural fiction and movies), described in varying ways but, almost always, as a ravenous cannibalistic monster with an insatiable hunger. Historically, the First Nations peoples including the Algonquian, Cree and Ojibwa attributed wendigo possession to those driven mad in the harsh winter months of isolation and deprivation who resorted to cannibalism, often without a famine present.

In this short story, I was interested to take wendigo folklore and wendigo psychosis deliberately outside its necessary cultural context to explore the shadowy boundary between reality and insanity, and the inherent horror of uncertainty: a human monster or monstrous possession? This story was written through a single character’s point of view, exploring the darker, unintentional psychological motivations of a declining mental state and attempts to rationalise violent, aberrant behaviour.