Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Divination: Norse Runes: The Nine Worlds

Before my brain injury, I wove altar cloths using wool on my lap loom. As I wove, I meditated on what I was creating. During these times, I could sense the Norse Goddess Frigga whispering to me. As the Lady of Asgard, Frigga would guide my efforts, since She holds the Distaff. Eventually, the All-Mother became my Matron.

After I made my Runes, I decided to weave a divination cloth in Frigga’s honor. To ascertain the colors for this Goddess, I consulted Freya Aswynn’s “Northern Mysteries and Magick.” Aswynn said that silver grey was the color for Frigga. I also researched various depictions of Her. I noticed that many featured blue, gold, and white, which were symbolic of her position in Asgard. The green and red of the divination cloth was requested by Frigga to honor the women, as the Keepers of the Household, with their blood and fertility. Then with her Blessing, I wove this cloth for my Runic divination.

 For storing the Runes, I purchased a linen bag and a wooden box (to put the bag in). Although both were undecorated, I felt the Runes (Who I came to see as living entities) wanted a depiction of the Nine Worlds on each. My sense was that the Runes belong to all of the Nine Worlds, from which They gain their substance. After reading Raven Kaldera’s “The Pathfinder’s Guide to the Nine Worlds,” I understood that the Runes also holds the essence of the Worlds in Themselves. Therefore, I think that it was appropriate to have symbols of the Nine Worlds on the box and bag.

 I used two different artistic mediums for the bag and box. I employed magic markers for the bag, and painted the box with tempura paints. Using Kaldera’s narratives, I was able to envision representative colors for each World. Hel, the Land of the Dead, is black and white. (It is the Ninth World, where all the Dead of the Worlds go.) I placed Hel’s symbol in the center of the bag and the bottom of the box. Muspellheim, the Land of Fire, is the orange and red circle. Niflheim, the Land of Ice and Fog, is white and blue (box) or blue and white with a fork (bag). These Worlds are near Hel, and on either side of the box.

 For the worlds of Ljossalfheim, Vanaheim, and Asgard, the circles all contain yellow to represent the golden auras of these worlds. The world of the Light Elves, Ljossalfheim also has green, the traditional color for elves. Vanaheim, the land of the Vanir, includes brown for its fertile fields of grain. Asgard, where Odin the All Father lives, is white symbolizing the shining world of the As.

 Since Jotunheim is similar to Midgard (according to Kaldera), I painted the two worlds green and blue. Midgard, the home of the Humans, is green on the left, and blue on the right. Jotunheim, the land of the Jotuns, is blue on the left, and green on the right. On the bag, the world of the Jotuns is green and brown.

 Svartalfheim is shared by the Dark Elves and the Dwarves. Brown is for the Dwarves, who live underground on this world. Meanwhile, dark green is for the Dark Elves. On the bag, Svartalfheim is red and purple for the forges of the Dwarves and the darkness of the Elves, respectively.

 After I decorated the box and the bag, I placed the Runes first in the bag, then in the box. After They resided for some time in the bag/box, the Runes seemed, to me, happy. I also felt that their power had increased since They were now connected with the Nine Worlds.

 Works Used:
Aswynn, Freya, “Northern Mysteries & Magick,” Llewellyn, Woodbury, MN, 1998.
Kaldera, Raven, “The Pathfinder’s Guide to the Nine Worlds,” Asphodel, Hubbardston, MA, 2007.
Wild, Sean, “The Runes Workbook,” Thunder Bay, San Diego, CA, 2004.
Please note that I decorated the box and bag for this assignment.
Asgard and other worlds
image of box lid and divination cloth
 bag og the worlds
image of the worlds

Monday, December 09, 2013

Mythical Animals: The Catoblepas

As described by the Roman naturalist Pliny, the Elder (1st Century CE), the Catoblepas was a four-legged bovine-like animal. According to Pliny, this beast had the body of a buffalo and the head of a boar. As an herbivore, the Catoblepas ate poisonous plants that caused its breath to be toxic. Because of this, the beast was often found alone, for out of self-defense, many animals stayed far away from the Catoblepas.

Later Aeolian, a Greek naturalist in the 2nd Century, noted that the Catoblepas had a killing stare. He called the beast “Katobleps”, the “Down-looking One,” since the naturalist observed that the beast was conscious of its peculiar power. Since the animal seemed unwilling to lift its heavy head, people were safe from its stare. The Greek naturalist added that the beast’s eyebrows were high and shaggy, with narrow and blood shot eyes.

Although Pliny and Aeolian agreed that the Catoblepas lived in North Africa, they differed as to where. Pliny, in his writings, said that the Catoblepas inhabited Western Ethiopia near the source of the Nile. Aeolian believed that the beast lived in Libya. Meanwhile early travelers said that the beast could be found near the islands of the Gorgons in the far side of the Mediterranean Sea near the Hesperidies.

Travelers’ reports lead to confusion between the Catoblepas and the Gorgons, which caused people to think that both possessed killing stares. Another reason for the confusion was that the Catoblepas had a scraggly mane which fell over its forehead. This mane covered its eyes similar to the snakes on the Gorgon’s head. Because of this similarity, people thought that the gaze of the Catoblepas would turn them into stone. Since the mane covered the beast’s head, people believe that they were relatively safe. However, when the Catoblepas raised its head and belched, the breath would kill anyone nearby.

In his book, “The Temptation of Saint Anthony,” (1874), Gustave Flaubert (France, 1821 - 1880) described various Monsters that appeared in Saint Antony’s nightmares. One of them was the lonely and solitary Catoblepas. This beast told the desert saint that it was aware of very little around it. The beast was mostly focused on the warm mud under its stomach. Then mournfully, the Catoblepas informed St. Anthony that once it had absently-mindedly eaten its own foreleg. (This contradicts Pliny’s observations that the beast was an herbivore.)  Flaubert described the Catoblepas with a long thin neck that could not support the head, but had stiff bristles hiding its face. For whatever the reason, St. Antony survived his encounter with the beast.

Later a naturalist, Baron Georges Cuvier (French, 1769 - 1832) deemed that Pliny and Aeolian were describing an African gnu or wildebeest. Modern zoologists agree that Cuvier’s identification of the Catoblepas was accurate. However, that does not mean that the Catoblepas is a fictional beast or a misidentified member of the deer family. Flaubert observed that this beast does wanders absent mindedly through our nightmares. That alone makes the Catoblepas real in our world.

Works Used:

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

Atsma, Aaron, “Katoblepones,” Theoi Project, 2011,

DeHoff, Nathan, “The Catoblepas that Got the Cream,” Vovatia, 20 May 2013,

Macumbeira, “‘The Temptation of Saint Anthony’ by Gustave Flaubert,” A Reader’s Dairy, 21 August 2010,

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

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

Monday, December 02, 2013

Mythical Animals: The Peryton

From Wikipedia
Little known in modern times, the Peryton was an animal feared by ancient peoples, for these beasts often hunted humans out of spite. Resembling a winged deer, the Peryton had the antlers, head, and legs of a deer. In addition, this beast possessed the wings and body of a bird. Furthermore, some Europeans thought that Perytons were relatives of the Stymphalids, the man-eating birds of Arcadia.

 Jorge Luis Borges (Argentina, 1899 - 1986) documented in his “The Book of Imaginary Beings” (1969) that the Peryton had originally came from Atlantis. When that continent sank, these beasts fled east beyond the Pillars of Hercules to the mountains of Greece and North Africa. Since they perceived that Atlantis, their home, was destroyed by humans, the Perytons sought their revenge by murdering people.

 Whenever a Peryton hunted, the beast would cast the shadow of a human on the ground. Since it was not vulnerable to human weapons, a Peryton could easily kill a person. However once the beast did so, its shadow was transformed into that of a winged deer. According to Dr. Karl Shuker, (U.K., 1959 - ) a zoologist and cryptozoologist, a Peryton lost its invulnerability after slaying a person. Moreover, the beast could only kill one human in its lifetime.

 Roman accounts tell that a sibyl prophesied that the Perytons would bring about the end of Rome. During the Punic Wars (264 BCE to 146 BCE), these beasts fought for Carthage against the Romans. From their home in North Africa near the city, Perytons regularly attacked Roman ships in the Mediterranean Sea. 

During the Second Punic War in 218 BCE, Hannibal had attacked Rome. As he laid siege against the city, Hannibal waited for more reinforcements to arrive from Carthage. Meanwhile the Roman general Publicus Scipio Africanus sailed to North Africa to stop them. As he sailed, the Perytons attacked his fleet killing many Roman legionaries. To stop the on-going carnage, Scipio ordered the survivors to raise their large square shields (scutum) towards the sun. The reflection from these shields blinded the Perytons, which then fled to the mountains of North Africa where they are reputed to be living today. 

  Various scholars have claimed that Borges made up his stories about the Perytons. According to them, Borges’ sources were bogus, and the Peryton was a figment of the writer’s imagination.  Borges, himself, claimed that his information came from a 16th century Rabbi’s essay, who cited an ancient Greek scholar. Borges said that the only known copy of this Rabbi’s treatise was destroyed in World War II. Many think that this is very suspicious and highly coincidental.

 However, Dr. Shuker points out the abundance of portrayals of winged deer in various cultures. He thinks that Borges had other sources for his information about the Peryton. Dr. Shuker points to the statues in Segovia, Spain, and at the palace grounds of Linlithgow Palace in Scotland as evidence. 

 Meanwhile, Caspar Henderson (U.K., 1963 - ), author of  “Book of Barely Imagined Beings: A 21st Century Bestiary,” asked, “which dreams are wholly fantastical and which are vision or distortions of what is real or has the potential to be so?” Henderson observed that life is inventive and creatures today are as fantastic as the ones that Borges wrote about. Therefore, the Peryton exists whether we want to believe Borges or not.

 Works Used:

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

Henderson, Caspar, “Rereading The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges,” “The Guardian,” 23 November 2012,, .

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

Shuker, Karl, “‘And Hast Thou Slain the Peryton?’ – An Antlered Atlantean,” ShukerNature, 21 November 2011,, .

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