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In continuation of last week’s blog about all things Fae (Fairy Odd Things), I now bring you a sampling of seven strange fairy creatures.  This list is not meant to organize the many hundreds (thousands?) of fairy types and lump them into seven orders.  Instead I’ve selected a handful of the lesser known and downright bizzare types of Fae, just for fun– as the fairies would surely have it!

1.  The Gooseberry Wife  There is, in fact, a whole list of fairies called nursery bogies that were meant to frighten children into doing as they were told.  If I were to classify them, I would call them The Tooth Fairy’s Wicked Kin, because though adults gooseberrymust have snickered as they made them up, they were resolutely believed in by children; the more fearsome, the better.  A few examples include Jenny Greenteeth, Nelly Longarms, Churnmilk Peg, and Lazy Laurence.  I chose The Gooseberry Wife to top my list because of her unusual form, appearing as a gigantic, hairy caterpillar meant to frighten children from gorging on gooseberries.

2.  Night Mares  Before you envision a black horse riding through your worst dreams, know that this Mare refers not to a female horse, but to Mara, a kind of demon that was blamed for nightmares and that horrible feeling you get of a weight on your chest when emerging from sleep to semi-consciousness.  However, they do like to ride horses, and were often blamed for exhausted steeds they’d supposedly ridden all night.

3.  Encantado  The name means “enchanted one” and refers to a Brazillian fairy that can be found in several forms, including a crazed though highly attractive woman, a shape-shifting snake, or a fresh water dolphin.  serpent mermaidThey are said to hail from a mythical underwater realm and attract lovers and illegitimate children to their riverside homes to keep them company.  In true Cinderella fashion, Encantados are often encountered at parties and are well loved, but tend to run off into the night.

4.  Oakmen  Said to be guardians of animals, these little men dwell in oak forests, especially those shot with bluebells.  Though rare in fairylore, they are splended to imagine.  In fact, some claim that the name Druid literally means “oak men,” as the Druids were worshipers of the oak.  These cranky old dwarves were not to be trusted and didn’t take kindly to humans invading their sacred groves.  Delicious looking food offered by the Oakmen turned into poisonous mushrooms when eaten.

5.  Termites  No, termites are not fairies, and wouldn’t belong on this list except for the fact that a certain species creates “fairy rings” in the desert (and I’m a sucker for odd little creatures that inspire myth!)  One of the myths of the Himba people of Namibia where these fairy circles appear is that they are the footprints of local spirits or deities.  I was intrigued by their scientific name, Psammotermes allocerus Silvestri, knowing that silvus is a root word meaning forest; an odd reference for a desert species.  But according to BBC, their name is derived from terms used to describe the woodland rings of fungi we associate with fairy rings.  Read more about these almost magical, ecosystem-enriching little bugs here:  http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23331-termites-are-the-fairies-behind-weird-desert-rings.html

6.  Wag-by-the-Way  Sometimes a cat-like creature, other times a gnome-ish old man with a tail, the Wag-by-the-Way could be called upon by swinging an empty pot over the hearth.  His kin were the Brownies, and like them, he was a loyal household spirit, friendly except to certain strangers and, of course, lazy or conniving servants.  Though he is said to love the warmth of the fire and is often found covered in cinders, he has also been classified as a guardian of passages and even treasure, standing out along certain Scottish roads by night.

7.  The Seven Whistlers  These seven spirits are said to be encountered one by one, and never all together.  They whistle at night,mythical bird warning of a pending death, much as a Banshee would do, except that these are not in the form of a woman, but of animals, most often appearing as seven black dogs, or seven mythical birds.  Some dismiss the spirits as the eerie voices of curlews, a kind of wading bird, whose calls at night contort the fearful imagination.  They are found at the end of my list because the sight of them all together forwarns the end of the world.

For further information on fairy kind and their habits, take a peek in An Encyclopedia of Fairies by Katharine Briggs; this is an excellent source which I used heavily in my research.  Also, find my own interpretation of fairy kind in my novella, Opal, where the Fae are shape shifters who draw deep magic from nature.  You’ll even encounter a mysterious group of seven you’re sure to recognize.

Happy Foraging!