The Upiór is present in Slavic and Turkic folklore and resembles the vampire. The Upiór is depicted as a ravenous and insatiable creature with vampiric features. Belief in the Upiór may have spread across the Eurasian steppes through migrations with its origins in the regions surrounding the Volga River and the Pontic steppes.
An Upiór is created after the death of those who practised sorcery who undergo transformations in their graves and can assume animal forms. The Upiór is described as having an enlarged cranium and an elongated tail and also capable of flight.
Upiór can assume any form including human forms. Individuals under the sway of an Ubır are tormented by a ceaseless hunger and progressively become frail. An Upiór deprived of sustenance becomes aggressive and eventually driven to consume carrion and human blood.
Upiór are blamed for causing epidemic outbreaks, distress and madness in humans and animals.
In suspected Upiór cases, the grave is exhumed and nails driven into the coffin. This practice, reminiscent of contemporary vampire narratives, is widely regarded as effective.
In 2012, the discovery in Bulgaria of an 800-year-old skeleton with an iron rod stabbed through its chest, led to speculation of a vampire burial.
Upiór and Vampires
Immortality and Feeding off Life Essence:
The Upiór and the vampire both possess an insatiable hunger – whether blood, life essence, or energy. The Upiór is voracious and devours not only the flesh but also the life force of its victims leaving them weakened and dying. The vampire is also known for its hunger for human blood in order to prolong its existence.
Shape-shifting and Manipulation:
The Upiór is also a shape-shifter, which allows it to assume various forms including animals. Vampires are sometimes suggested to take the form of bats or wolves to enable them to blend into the night. This shared attribute with the Ubir suggests a link between folklore.
Dread and Vulnerability:
Both the Upiór and the vampire evoke a sense of dread and vulnerability in their victims. The ability of both Upiór and vampires to deceive the senses, blend with humanity and consume life energy strikes a common fear of violation that transcends cultural boundaries. The shared fear of deceitful danger hidden beneath a facade.
The Rusalka is related to water-dwelling nymphs and appears in the form of a beautiful woman. Water nymphs, unlike mermaids, have legs and can walk on land.
Rusalki are found in rivers or lakes they come out of the streams at certain times a year to dance and walk in the woods especially in summer months. In prehistory, they’ve been associated with fertility, but by the 19th century, they represented aggressive water sprites who would seduce young men to a watery deaths.
The origin folklore of the rusalka is unclear, but they are always women and usually virgins who had an untimely death near water. The restless soul became a rusalka because they were un-sanctified or they’d had a violent and untimely deaths. Rusalki are almost always associated with women betrayed by their lovers. They remain in the region to haunt the area of water where they died.
Rusalki often come out of the water and climb into a tree or sit on a rock, singing or combing their hair. Rusalki have green or golden hair which is always wet and their pale skin may take on a greenish hue.
I’m really excited to announce I’ve been nominated for the Ditmar Awards for Best New Talent and Best Novella for Bluebells – an LGBTQI, disability dystopian alternate history horror.
I’m a recipient of the 2023 Horror Writers Association Diversity Grants to allow me to continue research for my HWA mentorship project with Lee Murray. The final piece will be an alternate history, gothic horror, GBTQI, disability with Fae versus gangsters in 1920s Sydney.
It’s a great time to be writing with my heart, soul and passion. Very excited to see where diversity in horror and dark fantasy can take us!
Merlin is the archetypal wizard from Arthurian lore. Merlin is a Latinized version of the Welsh Myrddin. His exact origins are lost in myth and there is no concrete evidence, but there was possibly several individuals who were guardians to kings, prophets and bards existed toward in the late fifth century. What we have today has become the basis for the Arthurian lore about Merlin.
Merlin’s first appearances in the Latin works of Geoffrey of Monmouth, a 12th-century Welsh cleric. The Prophecies of Merlin written in the early 1130s and are verses apparently made by the fifth century prophet, Merlin. Monmouth did invent many of the prophecies himself which stretched beyond the 12th century. In the History of the Kings of Britain, Monmouth formed the foundations for the Arthurian legends where Merlin becomes a key character. Monmouth confuses the chronology placing Merlín in both the fifth and sixth centuries. He is allegedly a magical child born from a union between a mortal woman and a spirit (a daemon, which later Christian writers interpreted as the Devil) but he has great magical abilities with prophecy and matures quickly like many demi-gods from Classical mythology.
Accordingly, Merlin moves great stones from Ireland to the Salisbury Plain to construct Stonehenge (which actually much older than the fifth or sixth centuries CE). It is Merlín who organises for king Uther Pendragon to seduce Igraine. From the union is a son – the infant Arthur. Here, Monmouth’s story leaves Arthur and he doesn’t reappear until a third poetic workwhere The Life of Merlin continues the tale of Artur but instead focuses on Merlin sister- Ganieda. Vita Merlini written by Monmouth in about 1150, is a biography of sorts about the adult Merlin but it a written account of twelfth century oral lore, mythology, cosmography, cosmology and natural history.
In Vita Merlini, Merlin fights at the Battle of Camlann. Unlike many Arthurian stories and romantic poems, instead of glorifying war, the horrifying effects of trauma on individuals and their families are made plain. Merlin rules South Wales. Peredur of North Wales argues with Gwenddoleu, the King of Scotland and Merlin and King Rhydderch of Cumbria join with Peredur against the Scots in a savage battle. Arthur is wounded and taken from the battlefield to Avalon for healing.
The Britons finally rally their troops and force the Scots to retreat. Seeing victory ahead, Merlin instructs on the correct burial rites for all the dead before the trauma of war overwhelms him and he flees into the forest. There he exists as a hermit – naked and mad, he hunts animals and harvested nuts and wild fruit. He observes the animals and birds learning their ways and studying all the natural world around him.
After the Battle of Camlann and Merlín has fled to the woods, Queen Ganeida, Merlin’s sister and the wife of King Rhydderc worries for her brother’s well-being. She sends searchers into the woods to look for Merlin in hope of bringing him out of his madness. One of the searchers comes to a fountain hidden by hazel thickets. There he finds Merlin, naked and unkempt, talking to himself. The searcher doesn’t want to alarm Merlin with his presence so instead he softly plays the lyre and sings about the mourning of Guendoloena for her beloved husband, Metlin and of the worry of Ganieda for her brother.
The music was enough to sooth Merlin’s soul and he remembered who he was, and what he had been, and everyone he had set aside in his madness. He asks the searcher to take him to the court of his old friend King Rhydderch. There, Metlin walks through the city gates, and his sister Ganieda and wife Guenedolena run to meet him. In their love and joy at his return, they lead him to the royal court where King Rhydderch receives him with great honour. Suddenly surrounded by the vast crowd which he’s been unaccustomed to such human company, his madness returns and desperately, he tries to escape to the sanctuary of the woods.
Rhydderch refused to let his old friend go, fearing for his safety in the wild, he has Merlin chained whereupon he falls silent and morose, refusing to speak or acknowledge anyone.
Merlin bowed his head for a moment as if softening, but then the madness in him spoke, “I will be free of her, free of you, free of love and its binding chains, therefore it is right that she be allowed her chance of happiness and marry a man of her own choosing, but beware should that man ever come near! On her wedding day, I will come to her and give her my gifts.”
Metlin explained King Rhydderch’s wife – Merlín’s own sister- is having an affair. He prophecies three different deaths for the son. The king laughs at so many different prophesied deaths for the same boy and apologies for doubting his wife’s fidelity. Queen Ganieda is greatly relieved to have her secret affair kept hidden as a jest.
Merlin is granted freedom but neither his sister Ganieda or his wife can entreat him to stay in the city. Merlin’s sister and wife watch him leave for the solitude of the forest. Both were convinced his derangement had no truth to the three different predicted for the death of the queen’s son.
The boy in question grew into a young man, and one during a hunting expedition with friends and his horse throws him over the cliff but his boot snags a tree the branch suspending his body in the air while his head is submerged beneath the water and he drowns. This fulfils the three deaths for the son according to Merlin’s prophecy.
Merlin was freed and made his way the gates. His sister caught up with him there, telling of her love and begged him to at least see out the winter in comfort with her.
Merlin left and Ganieda built a lodge for him, where she brought him food and drink. Merlin thanked her for that and for her company. On one occasion, Merlín forts the death of the king she must to return quickly to court. He asks that when she return to him, she must bring Taliesin, who lord recently arrived after visiting Gildas in Brittany.
Ganieda returns to Merlín with Taliesin. Merlin explains how they’d taken the badly wounded King Arthur to the Avalon after the battle of Camlann, leaving him in the healing care of Morgan le Fay. He explains events from Vortigern to King Arthur and long period of Saxon domination which would eventually lead to a return to British ruler after a prolonged and bloody conflict.
Perhaps the best-known portrayal of Merlin comes from Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur written in 1485. This is romanticised tale of how the infant Arthur was raised in a stewardship until after on the death of his father, Uther Pendragon, Merlin presents the youth, Arthur to the knights of the land. Merlin sets a task to prove Arthur is Uthet’s true heir by if he can withdraw the sword Excalibur from the stone in which Merlín has embedded, he is the rightful ruler of Britain. Here, Merlin acts as Arthur’s adviser but disappears from the story early in Arthur’s reign. An unrequited passion for Nimue (or Viviane) the lady of the lake tricks Merlín into revealing how to construct a magical tower of hidden by mist which she then uses to imprison him.
Danu is one of the oldest Celtic goddess. She is represented by the earth and its abundance. Many place names in Ireland are associated with her, most notable the Paps of Anu in Kerry, which resemble the breasts of a large supine female, part of the land.
Danu is known as the ‘beantuathach’ (farmer) associating her with fertility. Rivers are also associated with her and in general, the fertility and abundance of the land.
Not many stories involving the Danu survive, but she appears is one story about Bile, the god of light and healing. Bile was represented as a sacred oak tree that was fed and nurtured by Danu resulting in the birth of Daghdha.
Danu is associated with the Tuatha Dé Danaan, the people of the goddess Danu. These were a group of people, descended from Nemed, who had been exiled from Ireland and scattered. Danu offered them her patronage allowing them to reunite, learning new magical skills and return to Ireland in a magical mist. The mist is Danu’s symbolic embrace. The Tuatha Dé Danaan are the clearest representatives in Irish myth of the powers of light and knowledge. The Tuatha Dé Danaan were associated with Craftsmanship, music, poetry and magic, as was Danu herself.
Frigg (Old Norse Frigg, “Beloved”) is the highest-ranking of the Aesir goddesses. She’s the wife of Odin, and the mother of Baldur.
Frigg is depicted as a völva – a Viking Age practitioner of the form of Norse magic known as seidr. Seidr was a shamanic discerning fate and working within that structure to bring about changes – often weaving new events into being. In this way, Frigg and the Vanir goddess Freya are confused or by the Viking Age – combined into the same figure.
In the Viking Age, the völva was an itinerant seeress and sorceress who traveled from town to town performing commissioned acts of seidr in exchange for lodging, food, and often other forms of compensation as well. Similar to other northern Eurasian shamans, her social status was highly ambiguous – she was exalted, feared, longed for, propitiated, celebrated, and even scorned. This seems a very unlikely practice for a woman in Frigg’s position as the wife of a Chieftain and leader of the gods, Odín.
The Vanir goddesses Freya is often confused with Frigg in later writings – so much so that they are often the same figure. Freyja means “Lady” which is a title rather than an actual name. In the Viking Age, Scandinavian and Icelandic aristocratic women were sometimes called freyjur, the plural of freyja.
Odin’s has frequent absences from Asgard when he assumes the role of The Wanderer donning a ragged black cape and hat and walking among the mortals in Midgard. During Odin’s absences, Frigg assumes control of Asgard and the gods and she is the only other than Odín who may sit on Hliðskjálf – the high seat that enables sight anywhere in the Nine Worlds.
Frigg’s had a significantly elevated position among the Aesir but was treated cautiously because her weaving included not just fate but also the weather and her clothing was known to change appearance based on her moods.
Favoured people: Women; especially wives and mothers
Manifestation: She wears a belt which keys hang as common for the Viking Age ruler of the household
Attribute: Distaff from a loom
Constellation: In Norse cosmology, the constellation now known as Orion’s belt was called Frigg’s distaff or spindle
Runes: Mannaz, Pertho, Wunjo
Hall: Fensalir (“Marsh Hall”) is the after-death destination for happily married couples who can spend eternity together.
Morgan le Fay is also known as Morgana, Morgana and is one of the most powerful enchantress from Arthurian lore. She became very popular in the modern times from the novel by Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Mists of Avalon. Some of legends have their roots in medieval times which were transformed into the novel which was incredibly popular.
Morgan probably appears the first time in literature in The Life of Merlin by Geoffrey of Monmouth (1100 -1155 AD). This text became one of the classic texts connected with the Arthurian legends. Among the stories Arthur’s of knights and adventures, Morgan is portrayed as a dark character. She often leads the heroes of the legends into danger and has a very sensual part in the stories as a seductress.
It is still open for debate concerning the legends, myths, and literature about Morgan Le Fay’s true character in the Arthurian tales. In the medieval stories, Morgan le Fay is one of the most popular, intriguing, and mysterious women connected with Camelot. She was believed to be a healer, enchantress, and a witch with many spiritual talents.
According to the tale written by Thomas Malory (1415 – 1471), Morgan was unhappily married to King Urien. She became a sexually precious woman who had many lovers – including the famous Merlin. Her love of Lancelot was unrequited and Morgan appeared to be involved either directly or indirectly with King Arthur’s death.
In the later medieval stories, Morgan le Fay was a woman who served the people with her spiritual talents changed. Morgan appeared as the daughter of the Lady Irgraine and her first husband Gorlois which made King Arthur her half-brother. She was also an adviser to Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.
Morgan also became Merlin’s lover and he apparently taught her witchcraft. She was a keen became a powerful witch.
In the 13th century, her role expanded in the Vulgate Cycle and Post-Vulgate Cycle. Morgan le Fay became an anti-heroine. She was cast as malicious, cruel, and an ambitious nemesis to Arthur. In these tales, Morgan was sent to a convent to become a nun but this was also the place where she started her study of magic.
One of the most important parts of her story is her unrequited affection for Lancelot. She used all of her knowledge, potent herbs and enchantments trying to make Lancelot love her. In these stories, he appears tries to resist her enchantments but eventually he succumbs to her spells and keeps him in a prison. When he gets ill and is near death she releases him. There are many different variations of this story – in some Morgan appears as seductress and in others, as a lost woman who really loves Lancelot.
The final version of the legend concerns her use of witchcraft. She is described as a witch using her spells for her own goals. In these tales, she gains the ability to transform herself into a crow, a horse, or any other black animals.
When Morgan Le Fay disappears for a considerable time, Arthur believes her dead until he meets her again and she declares she’ll move to the Isle of Avalon. Arthur discovers the rumors about a secret affair between her and Lancelot were true.
The story ends with Morgan dressed in a black hood who takes the dying Arthur to his resting place in Avalon. She seems strongly connected with death and belongs neither the world of the dead nor the world of the living.
Circe was a daughter of the Greek sun god Helios, and his wife the Oceanid Perseis. Her siblings include another powerful sorceress, Pasiphae, the wife of Midas, and their brothers Perses and Aeetes. The brothers didn’t seem to inherit any magical abilities but the niece of Circe, Medea infamous did.
Circe was one of the most powerful enchantresses of Greek mythology, who some have called a witch and others a goddess. Circe is best known as the hostess of Odysseus and his crew when they sought shelter on their return after the Trojan War.
Of the three female sorceresses, Circe, Pasiphae and Medea, it is Circe who is considered the most powerful. She concocted potions and transformed humans and animals into other shapes. She is also known for calling upon Chaos, Nyx and Hecate for assistance.
Circe was banished to the island of Aeaea and delivered there by her father, Helios using the god’s golden chariot.
Aeaea does not appear on any map and in antiquity there was great debate about where it could be found.
Circe remained an important mythological figure through until the Roman period where writers told of the Island of Aeaea as actually being the island of Ponza.
Circe lived within a stone mansion on Aeaea which was located in a forest clearing. She reportedly had her own throne and was attended by nymphs who provided flowers and herbs Circe used in her potions.
She also had a menagerie of animals including lions, bears and wolves and reportedly these wild beasts behave like domesticated animals around her. There are some stories that Circe tamed the beasts but others tell darker tales that they were once men who Circe had transformed into beasts.
One famous take involving Circe was she loved Glaucus, a minor sea deity, but Glaucus knew loved Scylla, a beautiful maiden. Circe poisoned the water in which Scylla bathed, and she was transformed into a hideous monster who later became famous for wrecking ships.
Circe is most famous for her encounter with Odysseus told by Homer in The Odyssey. Odysseus and his men landed on the island Aeaea not knowing where they were but seeking safe refuge.
Quickly it became clear that Odysseus and his men were in as much trouble as they had been previously. When one the men searched the island, came across Circe’s mansion, and they were enticed to enter by Circe herself. These unwary men ate of food given to them by Circe but as they ate they were transformed into swine.
Circe would have used her magic upon Odysseus as well, but the king of Ithaca was aided by Hermes with the god advising him about a potion to counteract that which Circe had concocted. Circe and Odysseus became lovers and Circe transformed Odysseus’s men back into their previous forms. For a year, Odysseus and his crew lived in the relative paradise on the island of Aeaea.
Eventually, Odysseus decided to leave Circe and she Circe gladly have him aid to enable to return home. Circe tells Odysseus how he can enter the Underworld and afterwards how he can safely traverse between the monster Scylla and Charybdis.
In the generation before Odysseus and his men, Circe hosted Jason and the Argonauts after Medea led the Argo to the island of Circe when Jason and his men fled from Colchis.
To enable the escape of the Argonauts from the Colchian fleet, Medea killed her own brother, Apsyrtus, and then tossed his dismembered limbs into the sea which delaying her father Aeetes, who stopped to retrieve all of the body parts of his son.
For such a crime, Medea and Jason required absolution, and Circe purified them and allowed them to continue their voyage unmolested.
Circe and Odysseus had three sons: Agrius, Latinus and Telegonus. Of these three, Telegonus is the most famous for not only being a king of the Etruscans, but Telegonus accidentally kills his father. Subsequently, Telegonus marries Penelope, while Telemachus, the son of Odysseus and Penelope, marries Circe.
Circe was apparently made Penelope, Telegonus, and Telemachus immortal through her potions and all four lived on the Islands of the Blest.
Manifestations: She is eternally young, attractive and beautiful. As a great sorceress, and can appear in any form she chooses but as a descendent of the sun god, her eyes shine with brilliant light. That is clue to her true identity.
Sacred animal: Pig
Sacred plants: Alder, nightshade, junipers and mandrake
Skadi (Old Norse Skaði) is a frost giantess. Her name is identical to the Old Norse common noun skaði which means “harm,”. Her name may be related to the naming of landmass of “Scandinavia.”
Skadi’s domain is the highest peaks of the mountains where the snow never melts. She is an keen huntress and her bow, snowshoes, and skis are her most commonly mentioned attributes.
In the Norse cosmos, frost giants are forces of darkness, cold, and death. Skadi has particular associations with winter and was worshipped as a goddess of winter subsistence (skiing, hunting etc.).
Skadi is the daughter of the frost giant Thrazi, who died during an altercation with the Aesir gods. Skadi’s dresses in her armour and marches on Odín and the Aesir demanding reparation for her father’s death. Skadi and Odín negotiate two things of the Aesir: that the Aesir make her laugh (deemed an impossible task) and that she be provided her with her choice of husband. Both terms are met.
She hoped to marry Baldr – the handsome son of Odín and Frigg. After a trick by Odín to make her choose her husband by his feet – she marries the sea god, Njord who had the most handsome feet.
Unusual for a frost giantess, Skadi is allied with the Aesir. It is Skadi who ties a venomous snake over Loki’s head after Baldr’s death. Loki’s had boasted about being responsible for the trickery that led to her father’s death. This enmity towards Loki never faded from Skadi.
Origin: Daughter of the frost giant Theazi
Classification: Jotun or frost giantess
Manifestation: Skadi presents as a tall, strong, beautiful and athletic woman. She travels through the snow mountains on skis and snowshoes and hunts with a bow and arrows. She is often accompanied by wolves.
Attributes: Ice skates, skis, snowshoes
Creatures: Wolves, snakes
Realm: Skadi takes over her father’s domain called Thrymheimr but also dwells among the remote mountain peaks.
Offerings: Images of wolves and snakes. Traditional winter foods.
Hades may be one of the most-well known and most popular gods from Ancient Greek mythology but wasn’t one of the recognised Olympian gods even despite being the brother of Zeus. Hades was the Greek god of the Dead and his domain took on his name and didn’t exist in the mortal realm but an Underworld.
Hades was the son of the Titans Cronus and Rhea which made him brother to Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Poseidon and Zeus. Cronus – fearful of his position as supreme ruler and determined to avoid a prophecy about his own downfall, swallowed each of his children when they were born. Hades and his siblings were imprisoned in the stomach of their father.
Zeus was the only one if the sibling to escape being swallowed by Cronus and escaped to Crete – where when he reached maturity- he returned to confront Cronus. Aided by Cronus’s wife Rhea and Gaia, Cronus was presented with a potion he was told would bring gift him invincibility. Instead, it made him regurgitate all his imprisoned children.
Zeus led a rebellion against Cronus and Hades was presented with a Helmet of Darkness by the Cyclopes. The helmet would make the wearer invisible and in later legends, Perseus would make use of it. During the war against the Titans, Hades wore it was was responsible for bringing the war to an end when Hades entered the Titans’s encampment and destroyed all their weapons.
Victory over the Titans meant the cosmos was divided between the three sons of Cronus. A drawing of lots saw Zeus became lord of the heavens and earth, Poseidon the lord the earth’s waters and Hades the lord of the Underworld.
The ancient Greek underworld holds many realms and was more than Tartarus, the fiery pit – it also included the Elysian Fields, a realm of paradise. The dead would be judged as to how they had lived their lives and an eternity might be spent in Tartarus, the Elysian Fields or the nothingness of the Asphodel Meadows.
The dead were a population of Hades’s realm but the god did not take judgement over them. Instead, he gave those tasks to others and was revered for the fear and power he invoked. Hades doesn’t bring death either – this was carried out by the god Thanatos, a son of the goddess Nyx.
Hades had an ebony throne and held a sceptre in one hand and a two-pronged spear in the other. When travelling, his black chariot was pulled by four coal-black horses. The most famous association to Hades was his guard dog, Cerberus, the monstrous three-head offspring of Echidna.
Other Names: Aidoneus, Pluto
Manifestation: A large man with a curly black beard
Attribute: A helmet of invisibility
Familiar: Cerberus, the monstrous three-headed guard dog
Plants: Black narcissus, mint, cypress tree, fava beans
Animals: Black ram, wolf, bear
Sacred site: A shrine on Mount Mentha in Tryphelia, Elis. Hades was also worshipped with Athena at her temple near Koroneia in Boeotia.