Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mythical Animals: Birds: Stymphalian Birds (Greece)

Stymphalian Birds (Greece, Near East)

Known for their bronze beaks and sharp metallic feathers, Stymphalian Birds often killed their prey by flinging their feathers as arrows. Also, these flesh eaters terrorized farms and towns near the marshes of Lake Stymphalus in Arcadia. Living around the lake, Stymphalian Birds nested, by the thousands, in the cliffs and islands. This resulted in the accumulation of their dung, which was toxic.

 Roosting together, Stymphalian Birds were easily frightened by noise, and often flew off in unison. In his Sixth Labor, Hercules frightened them off by shaking bronze rattles. As they flew off, He shot as many of the Stymphalian Birds as He could. The remainder of the flock returned to Arabia, where they had originated. Some birds flew to live on various islands in the Black Sea.

 The lifestyle of Stymphalian Birds resembled modern day ibises, which live in marshes and semi-arid areas. Ibises have sharp curved beaks to spear frogs with, and to poke into the hard ground searching for food. Both are marsh birds, roost in large numbers, and are easily frightened. Places, where many large flocks of ibises congregate, accumulates a lot of bird dung. Though ibis droppings are not known to be toxic, bird dung, in general, considered to be a health hazard since it harbors fungus and parasites. 

Meanwhile the waldrapp (northern bald ibis) resembled a Stymphalian Bird with its spiky feathers and bronze coloring. Also, the waldrapp once lived throughout the Near and Middle East, like the Stymphalian Birds. However this bird did not hunt by shooting its feathers.

 There are other differences between ibises and Stymphalian Birds. While ibises used their beaks to poke the earth, Stymphalian Birds used theirs to stab people. Ibises fed on carrion, while Stymphalian Birds preferred fresh meat.

 Works Used: 

Allan, Tony, “The Mythic Bestiary,” Duncan Baird: London, 2008.
Atsma, Aaron, “Stymphalides,” The Theoid Project, 2008,
Nigg, Joseph, “The Book of Dragons and Other Mythical Beasts,” Quarto: London, 2002.
Perrins, Christopher, ed, “Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds,” Firefly Books: Buffalo, NY, 2003.
Serra, Gianluca, “Mysteries Surrounding the Legendary and Vanishing Oriental Bald Ibis,”, 31 October 2012,

Friday, August 23, 2013

Mythical Animals: Birds: Barnacle Geese: Europe

Barliate (Barnacle Goose): The U.K. and Ireland

The magickal beast, Barliate (the Barnacle Goose) did not lay eggs like today’s birds. Instead this “goose” grew on trees near the water’s edge. On these tree branches were barnacles from which feathery gills emerged. A few days later, tiny feet would appear, and then finally the fully grown “gosling,” hanging by its beak. Any “goslings” that fell into the water thrived, while those on land died. On the coasts of Ireland, Scotland, and England after storms, people would often find driftwood covered with feathery barnacles. These were infant Barliates that had fallen into the water. Because of this phenomena, most people considered Barliates to be fish.

Often confused with Barnacle Geese (Branta leucopsis), Barliates resembled these geese in their coloring – a black head, white face, and silver grey wings. Both resided along the islands around in Ireland, Scotland, and England, and lived off the water’s bounty during the winter and spring. One difference between the two was that Barnacle Goose migrated to the Arctic (Greenland, Norway, Russia) in the summer. There, they nested on the cliffs and islands, laying their eggs and raising their young. Meanwhile, Barliates also disappeared in the summer, not to migrate, but to grow from barnacles on trees. Unlike modern birds, adult Barliates did not raise their young, but left them to survive on their own. And because Barliates grew on trees, people also considered them as fruit and not birds.


Works Used:

Allan, Tony, “The Mythic Bestiary,” Duncan Baird: London, 2008.

Atsma, Aaron, “Stymphalides,” The Theoid Project, 2008,

---, “Barnacle Goose,” Ducks Unlimited,

Carefoot, Thomas, “Goose-barnacle Legend,” A Snail’s Odyssey, 2010,

Nigg, Joseph, “The Book of Dragons and Other Mythical Beasts,” Quarto: London, 2002.

Perrins, Christopher, ed, “Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds,” Firefly Books: Buffalo, NY, 2003.

Zell-Ravenheart, Oberon and Ash DeKirk, "A Wizard's Bestiary," New Page Press: Franklin Lakes NJ, 2007.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Mythical Animals: Semi-Human: Yeti

Yeti (Central Asia): 

First reported by Pliny the Elder in 79CE, the Yeti was a part of the folklore of peoples who lived in the Himalayas. In the 19th Century, stories of this hairy humanoid became popular in American and Europe. Various theories of the origin of the Yeti abound. They range from this beast being a local God, mistaken identity of another animal, an actual animal not yet discovered, or a construct of the human imagination.

Krystek, Lee, “Yeti: Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas,” The UnMuseum, 1996,

Sullivan, Tim, “Yeti myth dying out as Bhutan modernizes,” San Francisco Chronicle, 17 August 2008,

Zell-Ravenheart, Oberon and Ash DeKirk, “A Wizard’s Bestiary,” New Page Press, Franklin Lakes, NJ, 2007.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Ethics for Magical People: Cultural Appropriation or Cultural Appreciation (3 of 3) Sources

Works Used:
Aldred, Lisa, “Plastic Shamans and Astroturf Sun Dances: New Age Commercialization of Native American Spirituality,” The American Indian Quarterly, 24:3, 2000,

Bennett, Stella, “The Star That Never Walks Around,” Weiser Books, Boston, 2002.

Cole, Joan, “Pseudo Native American Tarot Decks: A Picture is Worth 1000 Words,” 2004,

Cormack, Bridget, “The ethics of cultural borrowing,” The Australian, 18 December 2012,

Donaldson, Laura, “On Medicine Women and White Same-ans: New Age Native Americanism and Commodity Fetishism as Pop Culture Feminism,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 24: 3, 1999,

DenElder, “The Star That New Walks Around by Stella Bennett,” Blog, 12 March 2013,

Dominquez, Jr, Ivo, “Source Struggle,” Witches and Pagans, 12 Mar 2013,

Fontana, David, “The Essential Guide to the Tarot,” Watkins Publishing: London, 2011.

Green, Heather, “The Hula Dance: From Sacred to Commodity,” The Wild Hunt Blog, 23 June 2013,

Paganaidd, “Cultural appropriation?,” Blog, 12 March 2013,

Stallings, Ariel, “Liberal bullying: Privilege-checking and semantics-scolding as internet sport,” Off Beat Empire, 15 October 2012,

Young, James and Conrad Bunk, “The Ethics of Cultural Appropriation,” John Wiley: New York, 2011.
Young James, “Profound Offense and Cultural Appropriation,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 63: 2, 2005,