Saturday, October 29, 2016

Each-Uisge (Water-Horse): Be Cautious, Be Aware

Throughout the lands surrounding the North Sea, stories abound of dreaded lake monsters who lurk below the surface. These tales describe many of the monsters as “water-horses.” This beast resembles a seal with two sets of flippers, a long neck and a small head. People usually divide “water-horses” into two types – the long-necked Nessie and the maned Each-Uisge. While Nessie of Loch Ness is more benign, the Each-Uisge, also of Scotland, is more sinister. Haunting lakes and lochs, this shapeshifter kills and eats unwary humans (leaving only the liver). The Each-Uisge usually lures people by pretending to be a docile horse.

 From ancient times, the Each-Uisge has filled people with dread and fear. The Picts depicted Him in all his ferocity their pictographs. The Romans recorded deadly sightings of this beast during their time in Britain. Described as a glistening black horse with a greenish patina, the Each-Uisge would appear on the roadside as a tame horse. Seeing relief, the weary traveler would mount Him, only to find themselves firmly affixed to the beast’s back. After that, the “horse” would quickly trot off. When the Each-Uisge smelled water nearby, He would race into the lake drowning the unfortunate victim.

One blood-curdling account tells the killing of several children by the Each-Uisge. This creature had appeared to several children as a pretty pony. As each child sat on his back, the “pony” would lengthen it to fit more children. When commanded by the Each-Uisge mount, a frightened boy ran away. As the boy escaped, he heard his friends scream as they were drowned in the lake. The next day, the sorrowful villagers only found the children’s livers floating in the water.

The Each-Uisge is called by many names throughout the North Sea region. In Norway, this beast is Backahasten or Nokken, the “brook-horse.” In The Faroes, He is known as Nukur, and Nuggle in the Orkeys. The Irish call Him, the Capall-uisce, and the Manx, the Cabbyl-Ushtey.

In Wales, the Each-Uisge is known as the Ceffyl Dwr. This small beautiful “horse” lived in mountain pools. Once someone mounted Him, the Ceffyl Dwr would fly over the water and, then melt into a mist. After the victim drops into the water, He would reform and eat the body. At other times, this beast would transform into a frog and leap on the victim’s back.

No one is quite sure what the Each-Uisge is. Is this creature, an undiscovered mammal such as a new species of otter or seal? Or are the stories too fantastic for an ordinary animal? Whatever the Each-Uisge is, everyone will agree that He is deadly and vicious.

The Each-Uisge is real to those who believe the old myths. Something lives in those lakes, pools, and lochs; Something that will kill and eat you. Ignore the myths at your own peril. Be cautious and aware that not everything you encounter is benign.
Note: The Kelpie is similar to the Each-Uisge, except that She dwells in rivers and waterfalls.

Drawing Copyrighted by Liza Phoenix (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, October 21, 2016

Tarot of the Animal Lords: Major Arcana: Justice, The Hanged Man, and Death

Justice is a barn owl who stands on the edge of a mountain cliff. She holds the scales and sword of Justice. However, this owl cannot go backwards because of the massive tree behind her. One misstep forward, she falls to her doom. High in the mountains, the owl stands keeping her balance. Like Justice, she has to weigh both sides carefully or risk disaster. (Barn owls are traditionally found in church and grave yards. This explains the artist’s choice for Justice, for me.)

 The Hanged Man presents a bat hanging between two trees under a full moon. Underneath him is a small pool of water that mirrors his face. Around the pool are night lilies, and two rats with their paws on skulls. Since bats sleep upside down and during the day, this bat is perfectly content to wait patiently. However, the rats seem to indicate a sense of impending death. I wonder if the scene is depicting the feeling of peace just before dying. This card is both disturbing and serene at the same time for me.

 This leads to the next card, which is Death. At the front of a cave littered with bones and weapons stands a raven with a scythe. He has his hand on a crowned skeleton. Behind him is a misty swamp. The only way out is to cross the river in front. Meanwhile, a chameleon stands in from of the raven. In African legend, this lizard is a sign of death and misfortune. The two animals together give a sense of doom. There seems a sense of finality to the card.

Other entries in this series:

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Tarot of the Animal Lords: Strength, The Hermit, and The Wheel of Fortune

The Tarot deck that I use is The Tarot of the Animal Lords. Although Strength is XI and Justice is
VIII in this deck, I switched them. The switch now has Justice as the middle card of the Major Arcana. Justice then becomes the “balancer” of the Major Arcana.

 Strength depicts a mongoose wrestling with a cobra. While that is happening, the earth is opening up under them and volcanoes are erupting behind them. The scene is enveloped in smoke and ash. I can almost smell the sulfur spewing out of the earth. In front of the battling pair, are two salamanders, who are facing in opposite directions. I feel the immediacy that someone has to decide quickly to flee or be killed. However, the two center characters are frozen in the moment of the chaos. Does that mean that Strength can be either the calm focus or the frozen stance? Is the downside of Strength to be locked in a struggle oblivious to what is going on?

 The Hermit presents a black bear entering a dark cave. His lamp barely pierces the blackness. This bear carries keys and scrolls with him. This made me wonder if he hoped to find a treasure chest. Behind him in broad daylight is a peaceful countryside. Right above him, dripping in honey is a beehive. I think that the Hermit is leaving the sweetness of the known life for an unknown future. This card elicits a feeling of answering a sacred call, of going deeper into the Divine.

The Wheel (of Fortune) telescopes the concept to a circular tree branch and the life cycle of the butterfly. The adult butterfly lays her eggs on a leaf that hatches into the various stages of caterpillars until finally the juvenile butterfly becomes the adult. And the cycle continues. To emphasize The Wheel’s motion, the wind blows in a circle high up in the mountains. The dominant theme of this card is a circle, going round and round. I get dizzy just looking at The Wheel. This Wheel focuses on the cycles of life that we all experience repeatedly at different points in our lives. 

Other entries in this series:

Monday, October 17, 2016

Griffin: Majesty and Nobility

The Griffin (Gryphon) has had a long association with humans. For example, She is a part of people’s last names and featured in their coats of arms. Since the time of Sumner, the Griffin has stood for majesty and nobility.

 Various myths depict the Griffin as the combination of the lion and the eagle. Since both of these earthy animals are monarchs of their own domains, the Griffin is considered the Ruler of Heaven and Earth. This mythic animal, with her offspring Hippogriff, are the only members of the Tribes of the Cosmos. While the Griffin protects the Tree of Life with its Golden Apples, the Hippogriff carries the worthy traveler between the worlds. Because of this, the Griffin is also the Sentinel of the Throne of Heaven and Earth.

Archeologists have uncovered representations of the Griffin from Egypt, Persia, and the Middle East. She attended the Pharaoh and guarded the Persian Emperors. From ancient times, the Griffin represented earthy and heavenly power, for She guarded the royal graves. For the Greeks, the Griffin was called “The Hound of Zeus.”

According to the ancient Greek historian, Herodotus, Griffins were native to Scythia (central Eurasia). Living in the northernmost part of the known world, these mythic animals guarded their gold from humans. Later, other writers said that Griffins lived high in the mountains of India. In their aeries, these mythic animals guarded emeralds and other treasures from those who would steal from them. Flavius Philostratus said that in India, Griffins were sacred to the sun.

The dual nature of the Griffin led Medieval Christians to associate Her with Christ. The eagle reflected the divinity of Christ, while the lion, His humanity. St. Isidore noted, “Christ is Lion because He reigns and has strength; Eagle, because after the Resurrection, He rises into Heaven.” Because of this, the Griffin is often featured in cathedral windows and carvings.

 The legends say that the Griffin also guards the Holy Grail of Christ. (The Grail is carved from a single emerald.) Many Knights of the Round Table have searched for the holy artifact, but usually gave up after a futile search. Only the pure of heart was allowed to find the Grail. The Griffin killed everyone else who persisted, as She did all those who would steal from Her.

 As the Monarch of the Heavens and the Earth, the Griffin teaches nobility and majesty. This fierce and intelligent animal, subject of many legends, watches intently over her domains. Protecting the Tree of Life, She ensures that only the pure of heart can receive its blessings. With her power comes her responsibility to use it wisely. Remember that this is a part of nobility. Follow Her example in what you do as you lead others.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Tarot: Hanged Man, The Tower, and The Devil and me

My current life can be expressed in three cards. The Tower is a visual display of what happened to me. I was not hit by lightening but a wall literally fell on me. In an instance like The Tower, my life was changed completely.
 My brain injury, itself, is The Devil, since it limits me in what I can do. It inhibits me from living freely, since I have to choose and weight the consequences of doing an activity. If I go to a party, I will become overstimulated by the people, noise, and disruption to my daily routine. This means two days after the party of not leaving my house and living in darkened rooms. In response, I employ creative problem-solving to deal with each challenge as it presents itself. 

The card that reflects me now is The Hanged Man. Now upside down in my life, I have a different perspective on life. After nearly dying and then coming back to life, I live between two worlds. For me, life becomes a paradox as I navigate in a new world. For these reasons, I see my life with ebbs and flows instead of a Hero’s Journey.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Lake Monsters: Expect the Unexpected

Throughout the world, mysterious “monsters” are often sighted in deep water lakes. Known as “Lake Monsters,” these freshwater beasts both frighten and intrigue people. Nessie of Loch Ness is the most famous representative of these animals.

Worldwide, there are about 1,000 lakes where Lake Monsters are often seen. Most of these lakes lie in the Northern Hemisphere ranging from the northern boreal forests to the southern hardwood forests. In contrast, sightings in the Southern Hemisphere have only been in Argentina and Bolivia.

Cryptozoologists have classifications for Lake Monsters, which they consider to be undiscovered or unknown animals. The most prevalent species of Lake Monsters is the “water horse.” Nessie is a typical long-necked water horse. This type has a small head on a long neck, with a rounded body and two sets of flippers. The water-kelpie (Each-Uisge) who drowns people is an example of a maned water horse. Other famous water horses include Champie of Lake Champlain (US), Ogopogo of Lake Okanagan (CA) and Storsie (Storsjoodjuret) of Storsjon Lake (SD). Rarer species of Lake Monsters include the giant beaver of Utah, the giant shark seen in Alaska, the giant turtle of Vietnam, and the mystery dinosaur seen in China. No one is sure what They are but scientists keep investigating to determine whether They exist or are only a myth.

Often sighted but never found, Lake Monsters exist just beyond human science. Various theories as to what They are range from prehistoric plesiosaurs to primitive whales. These beasts could be new species, unknown species, or simply mutated animals. Nobody knows for sure.

Whatever Lake Monsters are, They inspire fear and curiosity in people. Fear because of They attack and drown people. Many are vicious monsters who attack unsuspecting victims in the water. Curiosity since people want to know more about Lake Monsters. These elusive beasts pop up when people least expect them. Before anyone can react, these mysterious animals disappear from sight. Learn to expect the unexpected teach Lake Monsters. Just remember to be on guard lest They attack you.