FOLKLORE

The Legend of Bandung Bondowoso and the Slender Virgin of Prambanan

Princess Loro Jonggrang didn’t want to marry the magician who killed her father. So she came up with a clever plan to deceive his demon helpers.

 An Indonesia stamp commemorates the legend of Roro (aka Loro) Jonggrang and the magician Bandung Bondowoso, who summoned demons to perform a seemingly impossible task

An Indonesia stamp commemorates the legend of Roro (aka Loro) Jonggrang and the magician Bandung Bondowoso, who summoned demons to perform a seemingly impossible task

The massive towers and reliefs of the Hindu temple complex of Prambanan in Java, Indonesia flourished in the late 9th century. A marvel of ancient engineering, the dark volcanic stone structures took decades to complete — though local lore holds that the complex was built in single night by nocturnal spirits.

 The temples of Prambanan on Java in Indonesia are the setting of a legend involving demons and a princess trapped in stone

The temples of Prambanan on Java in Indonesia are the setting of a legend involving demons and a princess trapped in stone

According to a stone tablet found while excavating the ruins of Prambanan, the temple was built to honor Lord Shiva, one of the most important gods in the Hindu pantheon. The compound’s original name was Shivgarh, the House of Shiva, when it was constructed around 850 CE by Rakai Pikatan, a king of the Sanjaya dynasty. It later took the name Prambanan, after the village where it’s located.

The princess’ deceit angered the magician, and he cursed her.

She was turned into a statue of the goddess Durga and remains enshrined in the central spire of Prambanan.

Although the temples were abandoned and reclaimed by the jungle, they were never completely forgotten. The origin myth popular among the Javanese tells of the story of the Slender Virgin, Roro or Loro Jonggrang, which is set in Prambanan. Like most stories told in the oral tradition, many variations exist, but its conclusion is generally the same.

Bandung Bondowoso and Loro Jonggrang

Long ago, in feudal Java, there were two neighboring kingdoms, Pengging and Prambanan. The kingdom of Pengging was prosperous and wisely ruled by Prabu Damar Maya. The other, Prambanan, fell under the reign of a wrathful and wicked half-demon king named Prabu Ratu Boko. Although he lived in a massive stone palace, he grew envious and devised a plan to take the kingdom of Pengging by force.  

 Loro Jonggrang was so beautiful, the man who killed her father wanted to marry her

Loro Jonggrang was so beautiful, the man who killed her father wanted to marry her

The troops of Damar Maya put up a good fight, but were no match for the supernatural armies of Ratu Boko. Fearing he would lose his kingdom, Damar Maya consulted his chief brahmin priest, whose nephew, Bandung Bondowoso, was skilled in dark magic and was able to summon demons. Bondowoso created a supernatural arrow and climbed to the highest vantage point in Pengging to assess the enemy. When he saw Ratu Boko, he drew his bow back and shot the arrow straight through the demon king’s heart, killing him instantly.

Ratu Boko’s army retreated to Prambanan and delivered the news of the king’s death to his daughter, Princess Loro Jonggrang, whose name translates as “Slender Virgin.” Her beauty was known throughout the land, and like her father, she was willful and arrogant. The princess asked who had slain Ratu Boko and was told that it was a man named Bandung Bondowoso.

Loro Jonggrang arranged an elaborate ceremony to cremate the remains of her father on the palace grounds and extended an invitation to Bondowoso. Not only was she slender and beautiful, but she was also a graceful dancer. At the ceremony, accompanied by her court dancers, Loro Jonggrang glided out into the audience hall to perform a dance in homage to her father. Grief made her even more striking, and Bondowoso fell under her spell, determined to marry her.

 Demons are said to have built 1,000 temples in a single night

Demons are said to have built 1,000 temples in a single night

Some days after, he sent a small delegation to request her hand in marriage. The princess reluctantly agreed, but set a seemingly impossible challenge: She would only marry Bondowoso if he were able to build 1,000 temples in a single night. The magician accepted her unusual request, and as the sun set, summoned an army of nocturnal spirits and demons. They worked tirelessly and quickly.

 As punishment for her deceit, the princess became the statue of Durga in the Shiva Temple at Prambanan

As punishment for her deceit, the princess became the statue of Durga in the Shiva Temple at Prambanan

Not wanting to marry the man who had killed her father, Loro Jonggrang conceived of a plan to trick the supernatural beings. She enlisted the help of her servants and ordered the women of the village to fill their stone mortars with dried rice stalks and pound the grains from their stems, a task performed daily at dawn. The princess then sent her servants out to the east to burn the dried paddies. The combination of noise and firelight prompted the confused roosters to crow. Alarmed, the spirits fled back to the underworld, thinking the sun was rising and leaving the final temple incomplete.

 The badass Durga, riding her tiger mount, defeats an evil buffalo demon

The badass Durga, riding her tiger mount, defeats an evil buffalo demon

Loro Jonggrang’s deceit angered Bondowoso, and he cursed her, uttering the words, “There’s only one temple left — let you be the one to complete it!” The princess was turned into a statue of the goddess Durga the Inaccessible, now known as the Slender Virgin. The statue remains enshrined in the north chamber of the central spire of Prambanan, presumably the 1,000th temple. –Duke

The Demon Lilith and the Ghost of Doc Benton

The monsters of Supernatural, Season 3, Episodes 15 & 16 include Adam’s first wife and a Dartmouth urban legend.

 To ensure his immortality, Doc Benton steals body parts from other people, and over the years has come to resemble Frankenstein’s monster

To ensure his immortality, Doc Benton steals body parts from other people, and over the years has come to resemble Frankenstein’s monster

S3E15: “Time Is on My Side”

Monster: Doc Benton

Where it’s from: Moosilauke Ravine Lodge in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, owned and operated by Dartmouth College

 Moosilauke Ravine Lodge in New Hampshire, where unsuspecting Dartmouth students stay — not knowing they could be the next victims of Doc Benton!

Moosilauke Ravine Lodge in New Hampshire, where unsuspecting Dartmouth students stay — not knowing they could be the next victims of Doc Benton!

Description: On the show, Doc Benton is cobbled together from various people’s body parts, like Frankenstein’s monster.

What it does: Doc Benton is the star of a ghost story used to scare freshmen. He was an insane recluse who kidnapped a girl named Mary. Benton threw her off a cliff, and when locals examined her corpse, they noticed a scratch behind her ear and a red dot on her head. Doc Benton became obsessed with the idea of living forever, and figured out a way to do so by stealing the vital organs of healthy young specimens (like Dartmouth freshmen, for instance). He has beaten death for centuries now, and can continue to commit his sick surgeries for eternity.

 Doc Benton has been stitched up numerous times over the centuries. Don’t go near him if you want to keep that kidney!

Doc Benton has been stitched up numerous times over the centuries. Don’t go near him if you want to keep that kidney!

On Supernatural, a dead man’s fingerprints are all over a guy’s stomach, but only his liver was removed — surgically.

“Zombies do like the other other white meat,” Dean quips.

Another victim is missing his kidney. He’s sewn up with silk, which was used for sutures in the 18th century. And maggots are placed on the wound to eat infected tissue and leave the good — a startling practice still used today, if you can believe it.

The snarkiest of the Winchester Brothers, of course, has some great nicknames for Doc Benton: Slicey McHacky and Dr. Quinn, Zombie M.D.

Doc likes to set up shop in the middle of the woods near a river — a good place to dump intestines, fecal matter and whatnot.

Reading the mad doctor’s medical notes, the Winchester Brothers realize that he has discovered the secret to eternal life.

“Drink blood out of a baby’s skull?” Dean asks.

No black magic, Sam says. Just science.

Sammy gets kidnapped by Benton, who’s about to scoop out his eye with a Victorian-era melon baller. Eww!

How to defeat it: Doc Benton tells Dean and Sam that Daddy Winchester cut out his heart. “That was very inconvenient,” he adds.

You can’t run him over. And you can’t shoot him. “What part of immortality don’t you understand?” the phantom asks.

So they dip a knife in chloroform to knock out the not-so-good doctor and bury him alive.


 This terra cotta carving from Mesopotamia is called  The Queen of the Night  and possibly depicts the demon Lilith

This terra cotta carving from Mesopotamia is called The Queen of the Night and possibly depicts the demon Lilith

S3E16: “No Rest for the Wicked”

Monster: Lilith

Description: On the show, Lilith takes the incarnation of a little girl. It’s a solid choice and scores high marks on the creepiness scale. Especially when her dress is covered in blood cuz her pet Freckles was mean to her — along with the babysitter lying dead nearby.

Where it’s from: The Near East, especially in what is now Iraq

What it does: Lilith has been described as the most notorious demon in Jewish tradition. She was the first woman and was Adam’s wife before Eve. Lilith is particularly dangerous to pregnant women and newborns, and her breasts are filled with poison instead of milk.

 Lilith was Adam’s first wife in Jewish lore. When she refused to be subservient to him, she was demonized, and Eve was created to take her place

Lilith was Adam’s first wife in Jewish lore. When she refused to be subservient to him, she was demonized, and Eve was created to take her place

Her name means “Night,” and she embodies all that goes along with that: terror, sensuality and unbridled freedom.

The Babylonian Talmud says, “It is forbidden for a man to sleep alone in a house, lest Lilith get hold of him.” That’s because Lilith fertilizes herself with unsuspecting men’s sperm to give birth to other demons. Some of us might be demon baby daddies and not even know it!

How to defeat it: This demon is best avoided. She’s one badass bitch: “Lilith would have peeled the meat from your pretty, pretty faces,” the Winchesters are told. That would’ve been a shame; they do have such pretty, pretty faces.

Sam and Dean get the demon-killing knife from Ruby, but she warns them that to Lilith it would be a mere “pig sticker.”

Dean can see demons’ true forms as his time on Earth nears its end. But how are they going to convince others that the child is a powerful demon? It’s not like they can sneak in, grab a 10-year-old girl and give her a Colombian necktie (a slash across the throat and the resulting bloodbath).

Dean has a deadline: At midnight his time is up — and sure, enough, once the clock strikes 12, he gets torn apart by hellhounds. Bad doggies! –Wally


READ MORE SUPERNATURAL EPISODE RECAPS

The Crocotta and Other Monsters

The villains of Supernatural, Season 3, Episodes 12-14 include the old standbys demons and ghosts, as well as Thomas Edison’s spirit phone.

 The crocotta, seen in this illustration from the  Aberdeen Bestiary,  lures its victims by sounding like someone they know in need of help

The crocotta, seen in this illustration from the Aberdeen Bestiary, lures its victims by sounding like someone they know in need of help

Rip out the crocotta’s crystal eyes, put them under your tongue — and you’ll be able to tell the future!
 A demon found at Ostia, as depicted in  Demonology and Devil-Lore

A demon found at Ostia, as depicted in Demonology and Devil-Lore

S3E12: “Jus in Bello”

Monster: Demon

Where it’s from: All over the world

Description: There’s something demonic in even the most appealing of gods, argues Moncure Daniel Conway, in his 1879 work Demonology and Devil-Lore. “Man found that in the earth good things came with difficulty, while thorns and weeds sprang up everywhere,” he writes. “The evil powers seemed to be the strongest. The best deity had a touch of the demon in him. The sun is the most beneficent, yet he bears the sunstroke along with the sunbeam, and withers the blooms he calls forth.” In fact, “deity and demon are from words once interchangeable,” Conway points out.

What it does: We’ve covered demons before, and their propensity for possessing people.

In this episode, demons are beelining for the Winchester boys, surrounding the sheriff’s office they’re in. “It’s like we got a contract on us,” Dean says, adding, “I think it’s ’cause we’re so awesome.”

How to defeat it: You can get matching pentagram sun tattoos, like Dean and Sam. They’re cheesy as hell, but hey: They keep you from being possessed.

 A snouted demon, also from  Demonology and Devil-Lore

A snouted demon, also from Demonology and Devil-Lore

You can also use a rosary to make holy water in the toilet. And, of course, there’s good old salt. Which leads to this funny exchange with the FBI agent:

Henriksen: Fighting off monsters with condiments. So, turns out demons are real.

Dean: FYI, ghosts are real, too. So are werewolves, vampires, changelings, evil clowns that eat people.

Henriksen: Okay, then.

Dean: Makes you feel better, Bigfoot’s a hoax.

Henriksen: It doesn’t.

The boys learn about a “big new up-and-comer” named Lilith. “And she really, really wants Sam’s intestines on a stick.” Grilled sausage, anyone?

Dean and Sam contemplate a spell that will vaporize all demons in a square radius — but it requires the sacrifice of a “person of virtue,” which is just another way of saying “virgin.” Not up to cutting Nice Nancy’s heart out of her chest, the Winchester Brothers decide to fight their way out, with the help of an exorcism over the PA system.

Demon Ruby gives them black mojo bags to throw Lilith off their trail. For now…

 Some ghosts are trapped in continuous loops that play out their deaths

Some ghosts are trapped in continuous loops that play out their deaths

S3E13: “Ghostfacers”

Monster: Ghost

Where it’s from: Morton House, a haunted house possibly in Benton Harbor, Michigan

Description: This ghost looks remarkably lifelike.

What it does: The phantom returns every four years. Some call it the Leap Year Ghost. A crew of ghost hunters is filming an episode of their show Ghostfacers, and of course the Winchester boys show up masquerading as police to take on the evil spirit as well.

An apparition of a gangster gets gunned down. It’s a death echo, Dean explains. They seem to be an invention of the show, though there are plenty of reports of ghosts caught in neverending loops.

 The  Ghostfacers  crew has some competition, including Josh Burger and Stan Maczek, shown using an electromagnetic field (EMF) detector

The Ghostfacers crew has some competition, including Josh Burger and Stan Maczek, shown using an electromagnetic field (EMF) detector

There are multiple death echoes, including a man hit by a train. These people didn’t die in Morton House, though. So why are their spirits trapped there?

Turns out the home’s last owner, Daggett, was a janitor at the hospital. He brought the bodies home “to play with them.”

Sam disappears. He and Corbett the intern are in some creepy kitchen while “It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to” plays over and over. Poor Corbett, who was in love with Ed, one of the Ghostfacer crew, gets poked through the neck and dies.

Daggett is wearing a party hat. He gets lonely, you see. But Dean has no sympathy. “He’s never heard of a RealDoll?” he quips.

How to defeat it: “You gotta be gay for that poor dead intern,” the other Ghostfacer host tells Ed. He concedes and is able break Corbett out of the death echo and convince his spirit to take down Daggett. Remember, people, as Ed says, “Gay love can pierce through the veil of death and save the day.”

 The crocotta looks like a big wolf-hyena hybrid, seen in the illuminated manuscript the  Rochester Bestiary

The crocotta looks like a big wolf-hyena hybrid, seen in the illuminated manuscript the Rochester Bestiary

S3E14: “Long-Distance Call”

Monster: Crocotta

Where it’s from: India and Ethiopia

Description: In folklore, the crocotta is a mishmash of animals, often described as a giant wolf-like hyena with cloven hooves. On the show, though, it’s a humanoid who lives in filth. In both versions, the monster has a unique means of luring its victims: It can mimic human speech and will call out someone’s name and other personal information, pretending to be someone in trouble. It then devours the poor suckers with the bone ridges it has instead of teeth.

Fun fact: Rip out its crystal eyes, put them under your tongue — and, by Merlin, you can tell the future!  

What it does: A man gets a call on the phone from a woman named Linda. She wants him to join her. They love each other. He pulls the phone out of the wall, but it still rings. “Okay, Linda, you win,” he says. And blows his brains out.

The man’s wife confesses that she picked up the phone during one of these calls — and she only heard static.

The caller ID on the phone reads, SHA33. It’s actually a phone number that’s over a century old. Ten different homes all got calls from that number in the past two weeks, including Dean, who spoke with what sounded like his dead dad.

Which leads us to a red herring — but a fascinating one nonetheless. The Winchester boys are in Milan, Ohio, the birthplace of Thomas Edison. The inventor told The American Magazine in 1920 that he had been working on a spirit phone, “building an apparatus to see if it is possible for personalities which have left this earth to communicate with us.” He thought that a scientific device could detect the “life units” that get scattered throughout the universe when we die.

 Thomas Edison tried to invent the spirit phone, which would let us speak with the dead

Thomas Edison tried to invent the spirit phone, which would let us speak with the dead

The killings all turn out to be the work of a crocotta: in this case, a man at the phone company. He’s a bit of a Luddite, offering up this meditation on the modern condition: “You’re all so connected. But you’ve never been so alone.” Preach!

How to defeat it: Ramming its head into a metal hook will do the trick. –Wally

Altered Reality: Witchcraft, Lucid Dreaming and Mystery Spots

Supernatural Season 3, Episodes 9-11 cover the Malleus Maleficarum, African dream root, tricksters and hex bags.

 Don’t sabbaths look fun?!  Hexen , or  Witches , by Hans Baldrung, 1508

Don’t sabbaths look fun?! Hexen, or Witches, by Hans Baldrung, 1508

S3E9: “Malleus Maleficarum”

Monster: Witch

Where it’s from: All over the world, including the Middle East, Europe and America

Description: While they sometimes are depicted as being hideous, with long, warty noses and greenish skin, witches are just ordinary people. In fact, many, if not most, of those accused of witchcraft during the medieval Inquisition in Europe were simply natural healers, who fell victim to the patriarchy’s refusal to allow women in influential roles.

 Be careful what you wish for:  The Witch of Endor  by Martynov

Be careful what you wish for: The Witch of Endor by Martynov

One of the first mentions of a witch is the Witch of Endor, in 1 Samuel in the Bible, believed to have been written between 931 and 721 BCE, according to History. King Saul convinces the witch to call up the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel to help him defeat the Philistine army. She’s reluctant to help, as practicing witchcraft at the time was punishable by death. But Saul assures her she’s safe, so she performs her dark arts, and Samuel’s ghost appears.

Things don’t work out too well for Saul, though. Samuel is all doom and gloom, and sure enough, the next day Saul’s sons perish in the battle. Saul, in despair, commits suicide.

 The trouble with predicting the future is that sometimes it sucks:  Saul and the Witch of Endor  by Edward Henry Corbould, 1860

The trouble with predicting the future is that sometimes it sucks: Saul and the Witch of Endor by Edward Henry Corbould, 1860

Even though the Witch of Endor isn’t depicted as a villain — in fact, you could argue that she performs God’s work — there’s another Old Testament verse, Exodus 22:18, which decrees, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”  

The name of this episode of Supernatural refers to a medieval treatise, the Malleus Maleficarum (Latin for The Hammer of Witches) by Catholic clergyman Heinrich Kramer (and possibly Jacob Sprenger). Published in Germany in 1487, it instructed magistrates how to identify, interrogate and convict witches. The writers endorsed executing witches.

 This book, which tells you how to identify and exterminate witches, was all the rage in medieval times

This book, which tells you how to identify and exterminate witches, was all the rage in medieval times

The book was a hit — it was the second-bestselling book, behind the Bible, for almost 200 years.

What it does: “I hate witches,” Dean whines. “They’re always spewing their bodily fluids everywhere.”

On Supernatural, a coven is masquerading as a book club. They cast some Arabic-sounding spells, cut their hand, drip blood onto a victim’s toothbrush — and her teeth fall out and she dies.

 Witches cast spells to get their way and curse their enemies

Witches cast spells to get their way and curse their enemies



Hex bags are used to curse people. On the show, they’re relics of Old World black magic, containing bird bones, rabbit teeth and something the victim owned. Here are a couple of other versions:

How to Make a Hex Bag

Gather four symbolic items to include in the hex bag.

1. Intent: One ingredient that represents the purpose of the hex bag.

After the bag is created, you can “feed” more of these items to it to strengthen its power.

2. Spirit: Something that belongs to the possessor of the hex bag — and has never belonged to someone else.

3. Life: A plant, herb, seed or natural oil associated with the intended purpose of the bag. You can also use once-living items, like bone, hair, fur, antlers, claws or snake skin.

4. Sacrifice: One item that shows what you’re willing to offer to have the bag do its work.

Source: Sorcery and Shamanism

 

Black Magic Hex Bag

You’ll need:

  • Small black fabric bag
  • Pieces of dragon blood resin
  • Dried rue, basil, wormwood and nettle
  • A pentacle made of metal or wood

Focus on your target as you put the items into the bag.

Ideally, bury the hex bag outside their home, but if this isn’t possible, put it in their locker, desk or somewhere close to them.

Source: Spells of Magic

How to defeat it: Burning the hex bag negates its power.

 This shaman might be dreamwalking, but he’s certainly tripping his balls off

This shaman might be dreamwalking, but he’s certainly tripping his balls off

S3E10: “Dream a Little Dream of Me”

Monster: Dreamwalker

Where it’s from: South Africa

Description: Xhosa shamans of the river valleys on the eastern cape of South Africa are said to possess the power to enter other people’s dreams.

 Some shamans can take over your dreams

Some shamans can take over your dreams

What it does: The Winchester Brothers’ buddy Bobby is trapped in a dream. Someone’s entering people’s dreams (dreamwalking) and killing them. As the saying goes, if you die in your dream, you die in your sleep. It’s all very A Nightmare on Elm Street.

 The horror icon Freddy Krueger killed people in their dreams, and they died in real life

The horror icon Freddy Krueger killed people in their dreams, and they died in real life

How does one dreamwalk? It can be surprisingly easy.

A white flower called undlela zimhlophe, which translates to “white paths,” grows in South Africa. Its blooms only open at night, emitting a mesmerizing aroma. The plant, more commonly known as African dream root (Silene capensis), induces psychedelic, prophetic dreams.

 African dream room, which helps you lucid dream, is available for sale. Wally knows what he’s asking for Christmas!

African dream room, which helps you lucid dream, is available for sale. Wally knows what he’s asking for Christmas!

For the Xhosa, dreams are seen as gifts from the ancestors, characterized as drifting white winds or ghosts, in which they impart healing guidance or other knowledge to their descendants, according to World of Lucid Dreaming.

“This dream root is some serious mojo,” Sam says. “You take enough of it, with practice, you can become a regular Freddy Krueger.”

So how do they find this homicidal Sandman? Dean wants to know.

To control someone’s dream, you need to drink part of their body. The boys put in some of Bobby’s hair. Eww.

Bobby’s being tormented by a woman in a white nightgown with holes in her chest — who turns out to be his wife. He had to kill her — she was possessed, rabid. This horrific experience is what got him into hunting.

The villain turns out to be Jeremy, one of the subjects of a medical experiment — he’s basically a god in the dream world.

How to defeat it: Enter the dream and confront the dreamwalker. Remember, he’s dreaming, too. Use his subconscious fears against him.

 Mystery spots defy the laws of nature

Mystery spots defy the laws of nature

S3E11: “Mystery Spot”

Monster: Trickster

Where it’s from: Various parts of the world, though the Greek god Hermes and the Norse deity Loki are two of the best known

Description: There’ve been some strange goings-on at the Broward County Mystery Spot.

What it does: These mystery spots are popular roadside attractions in the U.S. They’re said to defy the laws of physics, where gravity doesn’t work, and perspective is skewed.

 Next time you’re at the Oregon Vortex, try the popular  Titanic  pose

Next time you’re at the Oregon Vortex, try the popular Titanic pose

Dean’s not having any of it: “Sam, joints like this are only tourist traps, right? I mean, you know, balls rolling uphill, furniture nailed to the ceiling — they’re only dangerous to your wallet.”

But Sam thinks locations that bend space and time are a distinct possibility: “There are spots in the world where holes open up and swallow people.” He mentions the Bermuda Triangle, part of the Atlantic Ocean between Miami, Bermuda and Puerto Rico, where dozens of ships and airplanes have disappeared, as well as the Oregon Vortex, one of the most famous mystery spots.

 Numerous vessels have been lost forever in the Bermuda Triangle

Numerous vessels have been lost forever in the Bermuda Triangle

What it does: Sam’s living his own personal Groundhog Day. Could you imagine a more frightening way to repeatedly start each day than your alarm going off to Asia’s “Heat of the Moment”?

Poor Dean keeps dying: He gets shot by the owner of the Mystery Spot; he’s run down at a crosswalk; then he’s smashed by a falling piano. And that’s just the start. This cycle goes on for over 100 days.

It turns out to be the work of a trickster. A man who recently disappeared didn’t believe in wormholes — so the naughty god thought it’d be fitting to throw him in one.

 Mischievous Mercury (the Roman equivalent of Hermes) lulls a watchman to sleep so he can steal a cow:  Mercury and Argos  by Abraham Hondius, late 1600s

Mischievous Mercury (the Roman equivalent of Hermes) lulls a watchman to sleep so he can steal a cow: Mercury and Argos by Abraham Hondius, late 1600s

Bobby says they’ll have to perform a summoning ritual. They’ll just need a gallon of human blood. Sam coldly agrees to kill someone for it — but then stakes Bobby. He knows his hunter buddy would never suggest such a bloodthirsty plan. And sure enough, the trickster god reveals himself.

How to defeat it: Beg. The trickster, in his sick and twisted way, is actually trying to get Sam to accept life without Dean. But Sam doesn’t want to imagine that (awww!), so the trickster lets Sam leave his virtual hell. –Wally

Vampires, Pagan Gods and a Ghost Ship

Belsnickel, the magical uses of meadowsweet and the Hand of Glory play a part in the monsters of Supernatural, Season 3, Episodes 6-8.

 A fiery sunrise could mean a stormy day at sea

A fiery sunrise could mean a stormy day at sea

S3E6: “Red Sky at Morning”

Monster: Ghost ship

Where it’s from: All around the world, particularly England and the United States

 Ghost ships have been sighted for centuries

Ghost ships have been sighted for centuries

Description: This particular spectral ship is a three-masted clipper. There have been reports of ghost ships for centuries, including:

The S.S. Violet, a paddle steamer, ran aground crossing the English Channel in a snowstorm. She was sighted by a lookout at Goodwin Sands at the start of World War II. A lifeboat went out to investigate — but no ship was found.

 The  Griffon ’s maiden voyage was also her last. This ghost ship now haunts northern Lake Michigan

The Griffon’s maiden voyage was also her last. This ghost ship now haunts northern Lake Michigan

The Griffon, one of the first major vessels to sail the Great Lakes, which is said to haunt Lake Michigan. Her maiden voyage in 1679 was also her last. She went down during a storm…but has been seen on the northern part of the lake ever since.



The title of the ep comes from a nautical saying:

Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.
Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.

That is to say, that a red sunrise could mean a storm is coming.

What it does: The ghost ship of the Espírito Santo, a three-masted clipper (and an apparent invention of the show), appears every 37 years. Don’t look! If you happen to be one of the poor saps who sees the ship, you’ll end up drowning, like the woman in the shower and the man in the bathtub. The ghost ship will find a way to drown you — even if you’re just sitting in your car.

The Winchester Bros. start detecting a pattern: The ghost ship is targeting those who have spilled their family’s blood.

How to defeat it: There’s a gruesome but super helpful charm known as a Hand of Glory.

(Insert Dean joke here: “A Hand of Glory? I think I got one of those at the end of my Thai massage last week.”)

 This desiccated body part is said to be a genuine Hand of Glory

This desiccated body part is said to be a genuine Hand of Glory

The Hand of Glory has magical properties that make it ideal for thieves: It can open any lock and sometimes makes the holder invisible.

The Hand of Glory

A Hand of Glory is actually the hand (usually the right) of a hanged man who’s still swinging from the gallows — preferably during a lunar eclipse, but any ol’ night will work as well. You pickle it for 15 days, then dry it in the sun. It’s said to have magical properties that make it ideal for thieves: The Hand of Glory can open any lock and allows intruders to enter buildings undetected, sometimes making the holder invisible. The fingers burn as candles that never go out or hold a candle made from the fat of the hanged man in their grip. Once lit, it puts people to sleep or renders them motionless. In some tellings, the thief can only light a finger for each person asleep in the house; those that don’t light reveal that someone inside is awake. The lit fingers ensure that those sleeping won’t be able to be awakened.

Honestly, where can I get one of these for myself?

 A Hand of Glory is a great magical item — especially if you’re a thief

A Hand of Glory is a great magical item — especially if you’re a thief

To break the curse of the spectral ship, the fellas summon the ghost of the brother who killed the captain of the Espírito Santo. The two ghosts destroy each other in a watery sploosh.

 On  Supernatural , vampirism is a blood-borne virus

On Supernatural, vampirism is a blood-borne virus

S3E7: “Fresh Blood”

Monster: Vampire

Where it’s from: Romania

Description: A girl named Lucy gets dosed with vampire blood at a club and turns into a vamp. In the Supernatural universe, vampirism is a virus; if you ingest a vampire’s blood, you become one.

Bright light hurts their eyes — though they do have infrared vision. And they can hear heartbeats from a block away.

What it does: The vampire has a type. He’s turning pretty blondes. He feels misunderstood, that he’s a victim. He even cries when his “daughters” get killed, fearful of facing eternity alone.



A fellow hunter, Gordon, thinks our boy Sam is the Antichrist. So it’s particularly satisfying that a legendary vampire hunter like him gets turned into one of the monsters he so despises. Serves him right, the jerk.

The Winchesters were going to kill Gordon back when he was a human, so it makes it easier on their consciences to off him now that he’s a vampire.

How to defeat it: A shot of dead man’s blood knocks a vampire out.

To kill them, try decapitation or a silver bullet. (Though the novelist Anne Rice, an expert on vampires, told Marketplace, “Vampires are not particularly affected by silver bullets. Traditionally what kills vampires is a wooden stake through the heart.”

 

S3E8: “A Very Supernatural Christmas”

Monster: Pagan gods

Where it’s from: Britain

Description: At first Sam thinks they’re dealing with an evil Santa: “There’s some version of the anti-Claus in every culture. You’ve got Belsnickel, Krampus, Black Peter. Whatever you want to call it, there’s all sorts of lore.”

He continues, “Santa's brother went rogue, and now he shows up around Christmas time. But instead of bringing presents, he punishes the wicked.”

I doubt there’s a demonic counterpart to Santa in every culture, but Sammy’s right that there are quite a few.



 A dark take on Santa Claus, Belsnickel rewards good children but comes up with bizarre punishments for those on the naughty list

A dark take on Santa Claus, Belsnickel rewards good children but comes up with bizarre punishments for those on the naughty list

Belsnickel, a Sinister Santa From Germany

 Santa’s psychotic helper from Germany whips a bad little boy

Santa’s psychotic helper from Germany whips a bad little boy

This Christmas crazy wears a mask and often a wig, dresses in dark furs, lurks outside your house, and knocks on your door or window to announce his presence. He’s been known to give nuts, candy and small gifts to good children — but those who’ve been naughty get whipped and dragged into the woods. Belsnickel makes them pay for their bad behavior by dancing, doing tricks, singing or reciting poems for him.

It’s Sam that makes the connection to paganism.

Sam: Pretty much every Christmas tradition is pagan.

Dean: Christmas is Jesus’ birthday.

Sam: No, Jesus’ birthday was probably in the fall. It was actually the Winter Solstice festival that was co-opted by the church and renamed Christmas. But I mean, the Yule log, the tree, even Santa’s red suit — that’s all remnants of pagan worship.

Dean: How do you know that? What are you gonna tell me next? Easter Bunny’s Jewish?

The Winchester boys come across wreaths made of meadowsweet. Sam explains it as a powerful pagan herb that’s basically chum for their gods. “Gods were drawn to it and they’d stop by and snack on whatever was the nearest human,” he explains.

 Use meadowsweet in spells for love and positivity — or to lure human-devouring pagan gods

Use meadowsweet in spells for love and positivity — or to lure human-devouring pagan gods

Meadowsweet, though, once used to sweeten mead, is actually used in spells for love or creating a positive environment.

 Hold Nickar, the Celtic god of the Winter Solstice

Hold Nickar, the Celtic god of the Winter Solstice

Sam concludes they’re looking for Hold Nickar, the pagan god of the Winter Solstice, who grants clement weather. Ancient pagans (and Wiccans today) worship the Goddess, who takes the form of the Great Mother. She gives birth to the Sun King on Yule, symbolizing a beam of light in the dark of winter, promising renewed life and the return of the sun’s warmth and sustaining energy.

What it does: The Hardy Boys are the pagan gods’ newest tributes. The couple are sticklers for details and are gathering the ingredients they need for their ritual. That includes collecting blood from the Winchesters and prying off one of Sam’s fingernails. After this horrific exercise, we can only hope they’re done. But no: “Sweet Peter on a popsicle, I forgot the tooth!” the god exclaims, heading toward Dean’s mouth.

How to defeat it: Guess these gods aren’t so immortal: Wood stakes kill them…for now, that is. –Wally

Belsnickel wears a mask and wig, dresses in dark furs, and drags naughty kids into the woods, where he whips them.

Gruesome Grimm Fairy Tales

Bettelheim’s Freudian analysis of “Cinderella,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Hansel and Gretel” and “The Three Little Pigs” helps understand the monster of Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 5.

 A little girl’s spirit makes fairy tales come true in this episode of  Supernatural  — revealing just how violent these stories truly are

A little girl’s spirit makes fairy tales come true in this episode of Supernatural — revealing just how violent these stories truly are

S3E5: “Bedtime Stories”

Monster: Spirit that makes fairy tales come true

Where it’s from: Fairy tales were collected by Charles Perrault in France in 1697, then later in Germany by the Brothers Grimm from 1812-1857. 

Description: A cute little girl wearing a white dress that has a red bow with a red ribbon in her hair.

What it does: Something tears apart two brothers, devouring their innards. They were arguing about how to build houses — like the Three Little Pigs. “Actually, those guys were a little chubby,” Dean says with a smirk.

Many adults today tend to take literally the things said in fairy tales, whereas they should be viewed as symbolic renderings of crucial life experiences.
— Bruno Bettelheim, “The Uses of Enchantment”

Talk of fairy tales always makes me break out Bruno Bettelheim’s seminal work The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. And sure, he’s extremely Freudian — his analysis is filled with oral fixations and oedipal complexes — but he helps get at the root of these stories and why they resonate with children on a subconscious level.

“Many adults today tend to take literally the things said in fairy tales, whereas they should be viewed as symbolic renderings of crucial life experiences,” Bettelheim writes.

 “The Three Little Pigs” reveals the dangers of following the pleasure principle

“The Three Little Pigs” reveals the dangers of following the pleasure principle

“The Three Little Pigs”

Bettelheim explains how this fairy tale teaches children that they have to tame their id as they move into adulthood:

The littlest pig built his house with the least care out of straw; the second used sticks; both throw their shelters together as quickly and effortlessly as they can, so they can play for the rest of the day. Living in accordance with the pleasure principle, the younger pigs seek immediate gratification, without a thought for the future and the dangers of reality … Only the third and oldest pig has learned to behave in accordance with the reality principle: He is able to postpone his desire to play, and instead acts in line with his ability to foresee what may happen in the future.
 The third Little Pig acted like a sensible adult — and was able to keep the wolf at bay

The third Little Pig acted like a sensible adult — and was able to keep the wolf at bay

Of course, the bad guys are something within us, according to Bettelheim:

The wolf’s badness is something the young child recognizes within himself: his wish to devour, and its consequences — the anxiety about possibly suffering such a fate himself. So the wolf is an externalization, a projection of the child’s badness — and the story tells how this can be dealt with constructively.
 “Hansel and Gretel” plays upon kids’ dominant fear, according to Bettelheim: being deserted by their parents

“Hansel and Gretel” plays upon kids’ dominant fear, according to Bettelheim: being deserted by their parents

“Hansel and Gretel”

A little old lady invites in two lost hikers — they’re “deep in the woods,” just like Hansel and Gretel — and drugs their cherry pie. Then she grabs a knife, slits the man’s throat and stabs him repeatedly, smiling all the while like a sweet grandma.

Outside the window, the little girl watches, pleased.

“The fairy tale expresses in words and actions the things which go on in children’s minds,” Bettelheim explains.

In terms of the child’s dominant anxiety, Hansel and Gretel believe that their parents are talking about a plot to desert them. A small child, awakening hungry in the darkness of the night, feels threatened by complete rejection and desertion, which he experiences in the form of fear of starvation.

The parents in “Hansel and Gretel” attempt to abandon their children. It’s hard not to imagine Bettelheim is referring to breastfeeding here:

It is the child’s anxiety and deep disappointment when Mother is no longer willing to meet all his oral demands which leads him to believe that suddenly Mother has become unloving, selfish, rejecting. Since the children know they need their parents desperately, they attempt to return home after being deserted.
 The gingerbread house, as seen in this old advertisement, is actually a symbol of… a good mother, who offers up her breast for nourishment?!

The gingerbread house, as seen in this old advertisement, is actually a symbol of…a good mother, who offers up her breast for nourishment?!

There’s a lot of symbolism packed into that gingerbread house, according to Bettelheim:

Carried away by their uncontrolled craving, the children think nothing of destroying what should give shelter and safety. …
The child recognizes that, like Hansel and Gretel, he would wish to eat up the gingerbread house, no matter what the dangers. …
A gingerbread house, which one can “eat up,” is a symbol of the mother, who in fact nurses the infant from her body. Thus, the house at which Hansel and Gretel are eating away blissfully and without a care stands in the unconscious for the good mother, who offers her body as a source of nourishment.
 While the fairy tale is scary, children appreciate the fact that Hansel and Gretel ultimately trick and kill the witch

While the fairy tale is scary, children appreciate the fact that Hansel and Gretel ultimately trick and kill the witch

And then there’s that cannablistic witch:

The witch, who is a personification of the destructive aspects of orality, is as bent on eating up the children as they are on demolishing her gingerbread house. …
A witch as created by the child’s anxious fantasies will haunt him; but a witch he can push into her own oven and burn to death is a witch the child can believe himself rid of. As long as children continue to believe in witches — they always have and always will, up to the age when they no longer are compelled to give their formless apprehensions humanlike appearance — they need to be told stories in which children, by being ingenious, rid themselves of these persecuting figures of their imagination.

The murders on Supernatural are obviously connected to these fairy tales. And in the originals, there weren’t happily-ever-afters; the Grimm tales are gruesome. Originally they had sex, violence and cannibalism. “It got sanitized over the years,” Sam says, “turned into Disney flicks and bedtime stories.”

There’s a frog on the path in front of them. Dean’s finally convinced, though he adds, “I’ll tell you one thing: There’s no way I’m kissing a damn frog.”

When Sam sees a pumpkin and a mouse, he thinks of Cinderella’s carriage. “Dude, could you be more gay?” Dean says. I hope he has to make out with the frog for that comment.

A young woman is handcuffed in the kitchen. Her stepmother went crazy and abused her. Sound familiar?

 Children relate to Cinderella, whose place is in the ashes of the hearth, because they, too, like to get dirty — and they feel guilty about their oedipal desires

Children relate to Cinderella, whose place is in the ashes of the hearth, because they, too, like to get dirty — and they feel guilty about their oedipal desires

“Cinderella”

“Cinderella” has its origins in China even before the 9th century, when it was first written down. Bettelheim points out that that particular Asian country has had a controversial past involving foot fetishism and abuse of women:

The modern hearer does not connect sexual attractiveness and beauty in general with extreme smallness of the foot, as the ancient Chinese did, in accordance with their practice of binding women’s feet.

The conflict in “Cinderella” involves her nasty stepsisters, which Bettelheim justifiably ties to sibling rivalry.

Despite the name “sibling rivalry,” this miserable passion has only incidentally to do with a child’s actual brothers and sisters. The real source of it is the child’s feelings about his parents.Despite the name “sibling rivalry,” this miserable passion has only incidentally to do with a child’s actual brothers and sisters. The real source of it is the child’s feelings about his parents. …
Fearing that in comparison to [a child’s sisters or brothers] he cannot win his parents’ love and esteem is what inflames sibling rivalry. This is indicated in stories by the fact that it matters little whether the siblings actually possess greater competence.

Cinderella acquires her name by hanging out in the cinders of the hearth. Bettelheim posits that children connect with this uncleanliness:

Some of the child’s pervasive feelings of worthlessness have their origin in his experiences during and around toilet training and all other aspects of his education to become clean, neat, and orderly. … As clean as a child may learn to be, he knows that he would much prefer to give free rein to his tendency to be messy, disorderly and dirty.
At the end of the oedipal period, guilt about desires to be dirty and disorderly becomes compounded by oedipal guilt, because of the child’s desire to replace the parent of the same sex in the love of the other parent.
It makes every child identify with Cinderella, who is relegated to sit among the cinders. Since the child has such “dirty” wishes, that is where he also belongs … This is why every child needs to believe that even if he were thus degraded, eventually he would be rescued from such degradation and experience the most wonderful exaltation — as Cinderella does.  

Then again, there might be something actually noble and desirable about Cinderella’s station by the fire:

We are so accustomed to thinking of living as a lowly servant among the ashes of the hearth as an extremely degraded situation that we have lost any recognition that, in a different view, it may be experienced as a very desirable, even exalted position. In ancient times, to be the guardian of the hearth — the duty of the Vestal Virgins — was one of the most prestigious ranks, if not the most exalted, available to a female.

Bettelheim adds that “in many societies ashes were used for ablutions as a means of cleansing oneself.”

 The Fairy Godmother gives Cinderella the means to attend the ball in style — but she has to leave early to keep her virginity intact

The Fairy Godmother gives Cinderella the means to attend the ball in style — but she has to leave early to keep her virginity intact

And it wouldn’t be a Freudian reading of “Cinderella” if there wasn’t a stand-in for the vagina, right?

A tiny receptacle into which some part of the body can slip and fit tightly can be seen as a symbol of the vagina. Something that is brittle and must not be stretched because it would break reminds us of the hymen; and something that is easily lost at the end of a ball when one’s lover tries to keep his hold on his beloved seems an appropriate image for virginity. … Cinderella’s running away from this situation could be seen as her effort to protect her virginity.
The godmother’s order that Cinderella must be home by a certain hour or things will go very wrong … is similar to the parent’s request that his daughter must not stay out too late at night because of his fear of what may happen if she does.

Then again, maybe the shoe means a marriage commitment:

[I]n many stories it is the prince who slips the shoe on. This might be likened to the groom’s putting the ring on the finger of the bride as an important part of the marriage ceremony, a symbol of their being tied together henceforth.
 Bettelheim saw the glass slipper as symbolic of a vagina — more specifically, a hymen

Bettelheim saw the glass slipper as symbolic of a vagina — more specifically, a hymen

And there’s a creepy ending to “Cinderella” that Disney decided to leave out:

For the last time the stepsisters, with the active help of the stepmother, try to cheat Cinderella out of what rightly belongs to her. Trying to fit their feet into the shoe, the stepsisters mutilate them. …
They engaged in symbolic self-castration to prove their femininity; bleeding from the place on the body where this self-castration occurred may be another demonstration of their femininity, as it may stand for menstruation.

Back on Supernatural, the creepy little girl is there, but flickers and disappears, leaving a shiny red apple where she was standing. That’s symbolic of Snow White’s long sleep — sort of like the coma the doctor’s daughter is in.

Turns out he’s reading her Brothers Grimm fairy tales. Why aren’t we surprised? When he reads “Little Red Riding Hood,” the Big Bad Wolf (well, the dude with the Wile E. Coyote tattoo, that is) attacks a grandmother and kidnaps her granddaughter, who happens to be wearing a red hoodie.

 Little Red Riding Hood is given a red cloak, which shows she’s been sexualized at too young an age — leaving her prey to the Big Bad Wolf, a stand-in for lustful men

Little Red Riding Hood is given a red cloak, which shows she’s been sexualized at too young an age — leaving her prey to the Big Bad Wolf, a stand-in for lustful men

“Little Red Riding Hood,” or “Little Red Cap”

In the famous tale, Little Red Riding Hood wanders off the path, is tricked by the Big Bad Wolf and gets swallowed whole. Bettelheim sees this as a coming of age story, rife with sexual metaphors:

Little Red Cap tries to understand, when she asks Grandmother about her big ears, observes the big eyes, wonders about the large hands, the horrible mouth. Here is an enumeration of the four senses: hearing, seeing, touching, and tasting; the pubertal child uses them all to comprehend the world.
“Little Red Cap” in symbolic form projects the girl into the dangers of her oedipal conflicts during puberty, and then saves her from them, so that she will be able to mature conflict-free.

It’s ultimately a story about young women coming to terms with men, who are

split into two opposite forms: the dangerous seducer who, if given in to, turns into the destroyer of the good grandmother and the girl; and the hunter, the responsible, strong, and rescuing father figure.
It is as if Little Red Cap is trying to understand the contradictory nature of the male by experiencing all aspects of his personality: the selfish, asocial, violent, potentially destructive tendencies of the id (the wolf); the unselfish, social, thoughtful and protective propensities of the ego (the hunter).
Little Red Cap is universally loved because, although she is virtuous, she is tempted; and because her fate tells us that trusting everybody’s good intentions, which seems so nice, is really leaving oneself open to pitfalls.

It’s no coincidence that our heroine is wearing red:

All through “Little Red Cap,” in the title as in the girl’s name, the emphasis is on the color red, which she openly wears. Red is the color symbolizing violent emotions, very much including sexual ones. The red velvet cap given by Grandmother to Little Red Cap thus can be viewed as a symbol of a premature transfer of sexual attractiveness …
Little Red Cap’s danger is her budding sexuality, for which she is not yet emotionally mature enough.

Bettelheim, channeling Freud, gets creepy when he starts talking about how Red, standing in for all little girls, really wants to be seduced by her father:

The story on this level deals with the daughter’s unconscious wish to be seduced by her father (the wolf). …
It is this “deathly” fascination with sex — which is experienced as simultaneously the greatest excitement and the greatest anxiety that is bound up with the little girl’s oedipal longings for her father, and with the reactivation of these same feelings in different form during puberty. …
“Little Red Cap” externalizes the inner processes of the pubertal child: The wolf is the externalization of the badness the child feels when he goes contrary to the admonitions of his parents and permits himself to tempt, or to be tempted, sexually. When he strays from the path the parent has outlined for him, he encounters “badness,” and he fears that it will swallow up him and the parent whose confidence he betrayed. But there can be resurrection from “badness,” as the story proceeds to tell.
 When Little Red Riding Hood is cut out of the wolf’s belly, it’s a metaphor for her being reborn as a young woman

When Little Red Riding Hood is cut out of the wolf’s belly, it’s a metaphor for her being reborn as a young woman

I suppose it makes sense that kids would see a pregnant woman (such as Mommy) and think that the baby has to be cut out of her:

Little Red Cap has to be cut out of the wolf’s stomach as if through a Caesarean operation; thus the idea of pregnancy and birth is intimated. With it, associations of a sexual relation are evoked in the child’s unconscious.

By the end of the fairy tale, Red has undergone the sort of hero’s journey Joseph Campbell wrote of:

Little Red Riding Hood’s childish innocence dies as the wolf reveals itself as such and swallows her. When she is cut out of the wolf’s belly, she is reborn on a higher plane of existence; relating positively to both her parents, no longer a child, she returns to life a young maiden.

How to defeat it: Listen to the spirit. Once the message is received, the killings will stop.

Bet you’ll never read (or watch) a fairy tale the same way you did before, will you? –Wally

Azazel, Lucifer, Changelings and Cursed Objects

Protect yourself from The monsters of Supernatural, Season 3, Episodes 2-4 with this cleansing ritual.

 You can tell something’s not right with the baby in this illustration of a changeling by P.J. Lynch

You can tell something’s not right with the baby in this illustration of a changeling by P.J. Lynch

S3E2: “The Kids Are Alright”

Monster: Changeling

Where it’s from: Ireland

Description: It looks like your kid — but it’s an imposter left behind by fairies when they spirited away your real child. You might catch its true form in a reflection: gross raw red and white sinewy skin. Oh, and the Supernatural version has a round sucker mouth with rings of spiral teeth like a lamprey.

There’s documentation of parents from the late 1800s who killed their kids, thinking them changelings. One woman put her child in the oven, while another drowned her 3-year-old son because he couldn’t stand or speak.
 Keep iron by your baby’s crib if you don’t want fairies to kidnap it and replace it with a changeling imposter

Keep iron by your baby’s crib if you don’t want fairies to kidnap it and replace it with a changeling imposter

What it does: Fairies have the nasty habit of stealing away human children and leaving sub-par copies in their stead. What’s up with all this baby-napping?

There are a variety of reasons for this despicable act. Some say that fairy babies are actually quite ugly. Some think that fairies offer human babies to the Devil in a blood sacrifice. And some believe it’s so fairies can cross-breed with humans to enhance their bloodlines. A fairy’s true motives are nearly impossible to know.

A changeling typically exhibits signs of sickness. Even if it has a prodigious appetite, it will still end up weak and unhealthy, with long, bony limbs. Sometimes it’s deformed or has strange features, including a full set of teeth within a few weeks. It may be aloof or unable to talk. And it might cry nonstop, bite or otherwise misbehave.

“To any modern reader the symptoms of a changeling child can be conflated with autism, Down syndrome, and a host of other developmental and congenital disorders,” writes Randomdescent. It sounded like a somewhat condoned means of disposing of disabled children.

You see, parents supposedly could force the fairies to return their child by treating the changeling cruelly. There’s documentation of parents from the late 1800s who killed their kids, thinking them changelings. One woman put her child in the oven, while another drowned her 3-year-old son because he couldn’t stand or speak.

  The Changeling  by Johann Heinrich Füssli, 1780

The Changeling by Johann Heinrich Füssli, 1780

On Supernatural, there have been a series of deadly “accidents,” including a man falling (getting pushed) onto a power saw. They’re the work of changelings, which crawl in through windows and assume the shape of a child.

The mothers get marked with a red bruise on the back of their necks. Turns out it perfectly matches that creepy round mouth lined with razor-sharp teeth. The kids are draining their moms’ synovial fluid.

 Saying that your kid was a changeling used to be a way to get rid of troublesome or impaired offspring

Saying that your kid was a changeling used to be a way to get rid of troublesome or impaired offspring

How to defeat it: It’s tough to kill these changelings. One woman puts her daughter in the car and sends it into a nearby lake. She returns home to find the little girl dripping wet, still wanting that ice cream she was promised.

Fire works, though it might be hard to get away with burning children alive. As Dean points out, “We’ll just bust in, drag the kids out, torch them on the front lawn. That’ll play great with the neighbors.”

The Winchester brothers realize that if you kill the mother changeling, all the others will burn up as well. Luckily, the real kids weren’t taken off to fairyland but were kept underground, and they all get rescued.

In Irish tradition, fairies hate iron, so people would leave something made of this metal near their baby’s crib, such as fire tongs, scissors or a knife. Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me, but I suppose you have to weigh your risks.

Baptizing a baby as soon as possible also prevents fairy abduction.

 Why do we think these grotesque maimed animal parts are so lucky?

Why do we think these grotesque maimed animal parts are so lucky?

S3E3: “Bad Day at Black Rock”

Monster: Cursed object

Where it’s from: All over the world

Description: Cursed objects can be a variety of things, including paintings (such as The Hands Resist Him, which you can read about in this post), mirrors, dolls — or tombs, like that of King Tut.

What it does: Curse boxes have binding runes and are meant to keep the bad stuff in, like Pandora’s box. And we all know how well that worked out.

What’s inside the curse box Dean and Sam find in their father’s storage space? A frickin’ rabbit’s foot?!

 They wouldn’t be smiling if they knew those rabbit’s foots might be cursed!

They wouldn’t be smiling if they knew those rabbit’s foots might be cursed!

While that doesn’t sound like much, it’s actually a super powerful token of hoodoo magic. If you have a rabbit’s foot that was cut off in a cemetery under a full moon on a Friday the 13th, you’ll have a run of amazing luck — for about a week. Then you lose the rabbit’s foot, your luck runs out…and you die.

Of course when Dean gets his hands on the cursed object, he says, “I’m Batman!”

 If you really want a lucky charm, cut off the left hind foot of a rabbit on an evil person’s grave at midnight on a Friday the 13th

If you really want a lucky charm, cut off the left hind foot of a rabbit on an evil person’s grave at midnight on a Friday the 13th

Hoodoo lore adds that it must be the rabbit’s left hind foot, and that the meaner the person whose grave you’re on top of, the more powerful the charm will be.

The association with rabbits and good luck supposedly goes all the way back to 600 BCE. It was believed that holding part of an animal would give you that creature’s strengths — in this case, the ability to run swiftly from danger or be extremely fertile, according to WebVet.

How to defeat it: Perform a heavyweight cleansing ritual. The boys use one that involves bone ash and cayenne pepper. It takes place in a cemetery, cuz why not? Here’s another you can try, from Wiccan Spells:

Cleansing Ritual

You’ll need something representing each of the four elements:

  • Air: Sage incense
  • Fire: Silver or gray candle
  • Earth: Sea salt
  • Water: Chalice filled with water

Hold your hands over the incense and say, “With air I cleanse myself.” Let the smoke swirl around your fingers for a few moments. Feel the cleansing properties of sage immerse you.

Hold your hands above the candle (at a safe distance) and say, “With fire I cleanse myself.” Visualize the flame burning away anything unwanted within you.

Take the sea salt and crumble it between your fingers and gently rub it on your hands, saying, “With earth I cleanse myself.”

Dip your hands in the water, again gently rubbing your hands, and say, “With water I cleanse myself.”

Sit in silence for a moment while you let the elements do their work.

Say: “Any energy that no longer serves me, please leave now. Thank you for your presence. Now I am sending you home.” Say it with conviction. Keep repeating it until you feel you’re done — this might be 10 times, or it might be 50. Negativity will shed from you like the skin off a snake. You may experience a pulling sensation or a feeling of suddenly becoming lighter.

After releasing the negative energies, you will have holes in your aura that must be filled with light — otherwise other negative energy will easily latch onto you and you’ll have to start the process again.

Visualize the top of your head opening up, with a funnel going from the heavens into your body. Pull down divine light to fill every gap in your aura as you repeat the words, “I ask that my energy body is filled with pure healing light.” I know that phrasing is a bit odd, but I figured there’s power in words, so just go with it. Repeat a few times, then thank the spirits and elements.

 Lucifer arouses other fallen angels in this  Paradise Lost  illustration by William Blake

Lucifer arouses other fallen angels in this Paradise Lost illustration by William Blake

S3E4: “Sin City”

Monster: Demon

Where it’s from: All over the world

Description: These powerful evil creatures are usually distortions of nature — though on Supernatural they tend to be hot chicks.

What it does: Fellow hunter Ritchie goes home with a bartender. He follows her down to the family crypt — and promptly gets his neck snapped.

Demons usually like to possess people. As this demon colorfully describes it: “You know what happens when demons piggyback humans? They leave ’em rode hard and put up wet.”

She most definitely has a superiority complex. “All you got to do is nudge humans in the right direction,” she says. “Some whiskey here, a hooker there, and they’ll walk right into Hell with big, fat smiles on their faces.”

Later, Dean comments, “Demons are evil,” to which she replies, “And humans are such a lovable bunch?” throwing out Dick Cheney as an example. She has a point, especially given our current president.

 In another  Paradise Lost  illustration, this one by Gustave Doré, Lucifer is cast out of Heaven by God

In another Paradise Lost illustration, this one by Gustave Doré, Lucifer is cast out of Heaven by God

She talks of Lucifer like he’s the Second Coming. Lucifer means Lightbringer, she explains. The name is also a reference to the Morning Star, Venus. She says that people believe Lucifer created demons and that he will come again one day.

Although he was once an angel, Lucifer is now associated with Satan. Ezekiel 28:17 describes his downfall: “Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.”

This excessive pride pissed off God, who threw Lucifer down to Earth. Eventually, he ended up in Hell, which he pretty much took over.

 Ancient Israelites sacrificed goats to Azazel to send their sins back to the original source — the demon who corrupted humanity

Ancient Israelites sacrificed goats to Azazel to send their sins back to the original source — the demon who corrupted humanity

It’s in this episode that we finally learn the name of the Yellow-Eyed Demon: Azazel.

Azazel is another fallen angel, this one with the claim to fame of having corrupted humanity. At least Eve with her apple finally gets cut a break.

He’s described as an unclean bird that feeds on carcasses in the Apocalypse of Abraham (which didn’t make it into the Bible’s official version).

Nowadays, he’s depicted as having red skin, glowing yellow eyes and a barbed tail, according to Mythology.net. His favorite fashion accessories are goat skulls and bones. Jewish desert tribes, including the Israelites, would make sacrifices to Azazel at the same time that they made sacrifices to Yahweh. Offerings to Azazel were accomplished by driving a goat into the wilderness or by pushing it into a deep ravine. These sacrifices symbolized sending sins back to their original source, Mythology.net says. This is why Christian versions of the Bible translate Azazel as “Scapegoat.”

Azazel became the leader of the Grigori, a group of rebellious angels who married human women and produced a line of monstrous children.

How to defeat it: Try the trusty Devil’s Trap. But even though a demon is bound within the area, it can still cause destruction, as this one does. She destroys the crypt, which crumbles around Dean, leading to this witty exchange:

Dean: What are you laughing at, bitch? You’re still trapped.

Demon: So are you, bitch.

Dean wants to perform the exorcism rite. Trouble is he’s forgotten it. To be fair, it’s a lot of Latin to memorize. That’s what you should bookmark this page. –Wally

15 Best Articles of 2017

Our top blog posts cover the Paris Catacombs, India’s transsexual hijras, jinns, vintage Halloween, Fès hammans and more.

 

Duke and I tend to be drawn to the bizarre. We’re fans of the strange (chambers lined with skulls and bones, creepy vintage Halloween postcards and photos). We like to meet those who are societal outsiders (like India’s legal third sex, the hijra). We’re obsessed with the supernatural (jinns, gypsy love spells). But we also appreciate a good pampering (at a Fès hamman, say) and architectural beauties (such as the Milan Duomo).

Seems like you do, too. Here are the top 15 blog posts from last year. What was your favorite? –Wally

 

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1. GRUESOME FACTS (AND HELPFUL TIPS) ABOUT THE PARIS CATACOMBS

No bones about it: If you think piles of skulls and hallways formed of bones are pretty effin’ cool (like us), then the Catacombs of Paris are for you.

 

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2. SECRETS OF THE HIJRA: INDIA’S LITTLE-KNOWN TRANSSEXUALS

Prostitution, curses and dangerous sex change operations are a way of life for this marginalized community.

 

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3. HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM JINNS AND BLACK MAGIC

Black magic in Islam is a serious concern — and the holy writings offer numerous ways to negate magic jinn.

 

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4. THE BEST PLACE TO MAKE OUT IN PUBLIC IN DELHI

Not a typical tourist stop, the Garden of Five Senses is a whimsical sculpture park worth visiting. It’s also popular with local couples escaping societal judgment against PDA.

 

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5. 24 VINTAGE HALLOWEEN CARDS THAT ARE NOSTALGIC — BUT A BIT CREEPY, TOO

Halloween greetings from the past featured common Halloween symbols: the witch, black cat, jack-o’-lantern, ghost, devil — and one that has been forgotten.

 

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6. 21 VINTAGE HALLOWEEN PHOTOS THAT ARE SO CREEPY THEY'LL GIVE YOU NIGHTMARES

Halloween costumes of the past were scary as hell.

 

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7. WHAT’S THE BEST HAMMAM SPA EXPERIENCE IN FES, MOROCCO?

Reinvigorate yourself at the luxury hammam Les Bains Amani.

 

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8. 7 FUN FACTS ABOUT THE MILAN CATHEDRAL

What to do in Milan, Italy? Visit the gorgeous Duomo di Milano, covered with statues of saints and gargoyles — and don’t miss the amazing view from the rooftop.

 

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9. LOVE SPELLS FROM THE GYPSIES

How to cast a love spell to make someone fall in love with you — or fall out of love with you. Plus, secrets from the Roma that will reveal your future spouse!

 

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10. THE PISHTACO OF PERU

Why one of the world’s creepiest vampire legends lingers to this day.

 

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11. WAT RONG SUEA TEN, THE BLUE TEMPLE

No day trip to Chiang Rai is complete without a visit to this breathtaking wat, between the White Temple and Black Museum.

 

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12. THE BEST AND WORST PARTS OF LIVING IN QATAR

What’s it like living in a Muslim country that fasts for an entire month and limits the sale of booze? What do Qataris think of Americans? And how the heck do you pronounce Qatar?

 

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13. THE INDIAN CASTE SYSTEM EXPLAINED

Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra, untouchable: How did the caste system get started, what is the difference between castes — and how does this shameful practice persist to this day?

 

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14. HOW ST. NICHOLAS BECAME SANTA CLAUS

The surprising origins of jolly old St. Nick include a tie to prostitution, kids chopped into pieces, a devil named Krampus and a racist tradition around his helper Zwarte Pieter, or Black Peter.

 

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15. THE BEST SHOP FOR BLUE POTTERY IN THE ENTIRE FEZ MEDINA

If you’re shopping in Fès, just off of Place Seffarine is a small shop with a friendly owner and great deals.

The Seven Deadly Sins and Binsfeld’s Classification of Demons

Defeat the monsters of Supernatural Season 3, Episode 1 with the help of palo santo.

  The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things  is attributed to Hieronymus Bosch, though some scholars think it might be by one of his followers

The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things is attributed to Hieronymus Bosch, though some scholars think it might be by one of his followers

S3E1: “The Magnificent Seven”

Monster: The Seven Deadly Sins (pride, envy, gluttony, lust, wrath, greed and sloth)

Where it’s from: Egypt, then Italy. In 375 CE, Evagrius Ponticus, one of the so-called Desert Monks, created a list of eight evil thoughts or temptations that lie at the heart of all sinful behavior. A couple of centuries later, in 590 CE, Pope Gregory I, known as Gregory the Great, refined the list to the seven we know today.

“You can repress and deny us all you want,” Envy says, “but the truth is you’re just animals. Hungry, greedy, horny, violent animals.”
 Pieter Bruegel’s  Lechery , part of a series of etchings and engravings from 1558 on each of the Deadly Sins

Pieter Bruegel’s Lechery, part of a series of etchings and engravings from 1558 on each of the Deadly Sins

  Pride  by Bruegel, 1558

Pride by Bruegel, 1558

Description: On Supernatural, the demonic entities look a lot like the Smoke Monster from Lost. They flow into a person’s mouth and possess them, turning their hosts into personifications of the Seven Deadly Sins.

 A page from an illuminated manuscript on the personification of the Seven Deadly Sins

A page from an illuminated manuscript on the personification of the Seven Deadly Sins

 This page shows the personification of lechery

This page shows the personification of lechery

What it does: There’s a cicada swarm at ground zero. How biblical. A family is found rotting away on their couch, having died of dehydration and starvation (that is, sloth). A woman gets touched by a man who puts a suggestion in her mind. She really, really likes a pair of shoes — enough to smash another woman’s head into a windshield (envy). Talk about fashion to die for.

And poor Isaac, another hunter, gets persuaded to chug-a-lug a big ol’ container of Drano (gluttony).

Envy insists that the supposed Deadly Sins are really natural human instincts: “You can repress and deny us all you want,” she says, “but the truth is you’re just animals. Hungry, greedy, horny, violent animals.”

 

Binsfeld’s Classification of Demons

In 1589 the German bishop and notorious witch hunter Peter Binsfeld paired each of the Deadly Sins with a demon who uses it to tempt people.

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Lucifer: Pride

Lucifer was the first fallen angel (you know what they say about pride goeth-ing before a fall). He’s now the ruler of Hell and the Father of All Devils.

 

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Mammon: Greed

One of the princes of Hell, Mammon literally means “money” in Hebrew.

 

DEMONS - ASMODEUS

Asmodeus (Asmodai): Lust

There must be some power struggles in the fiery pits, because Asmodeus is known as the King of the Nine Hells. He’s described as being quite the mishmash of animal parts in the Dictionnaire Infernal by J. Collin de Plancy: three heads (a man spitting fire, a sheep and a bull), the torso of a man, one rooster leg and a serpent’s tail. As if that’s not enough, he rides a lion that has a dragon’s neck and wings.

 

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Satan: Wrath

One of the highest-ranking demons of Hell and certainly the best-known today (he’s become synonymous with the Devil).

 

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Beelzebub: Gluttony

Not surprisingly, the Lord of the Flies looks like a disgustingly large fly.

 

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Leviathan: Envy

A sea monster thought by some to be a crocodile, though it later came to represent a whale. Its name means “twisted in folds,” leading many scholars to believe it’s a sea serpent.

 

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Belphegor: Sloth

One of the Seven Princes of Hell, Belphegor is connected to sloth by Binsfeld, though others say he seduces people by giving them ingenious ideas for inventions that will make them rich and that he was originally worshiped as a phallus and was associated with orgies. In the Dictionnaire Infernal, he’s Hell’s ambassador to France.

How to defeat it: Palo santo, a holy wood from the coast of South America used by the Inca. It’s a mystical tree that’s part of the citrus family and related to frankincense and myrrh, according to Sacred Wood Essence. Not only is it good for keeping insects away, which is why it’s so popular in Ecuador and Peru, it cleanses an area, much like sage.

“Its smoke is so powerful that it has become a staple in sacred rituals, becoming an essential energy tool for shamans and saints alike,” writes the Energy Muse Blog.

In addition, “it provides an uplifting scent that raises your vibration in preparation for meditation and allows for a deeper connection to the source of all creation,” Sacred Wood Essence says. “It is also said that palo santo enhances creativity and brings good fortune to those who are open to its magic.”

If you’re dealing with someone possessed by a demon, you should always try the rite of exorcism. You’ve been practicing your Latin…right?

Getting saved in the nick of time by a mysterious girl with a magic demon-slaying blade certainly helps, too. –Wally

Norse Mythology "Thor: Ragnarok" Got Wrong

Learn the truth about Thor, Hela, Ragnarok, Loki, Odin and Valkyries.

 There’s a lot going on during Ragnarok, the Norse version of the apocalypse. In fact, practically everyone dies — before the world is engulfed in flames

There’s a lot going on during Ragnarok, the Norse version of the apocalypse. In fact, practically everyone dies — before the world is engulfed in flames

While Thor: Ragnarok was a surprisingly funny intergalactic romp, Marvel’s version doesn’t quite match up to the actual Norse mythology. Here’s a look at some of the big themes from the movie, and how they differ from the legends.

Be warned: Spoilers below.

 Hel, the goddess of death, is actually Loki’s daughter, not his sister

Hel, the goddess of death, is actually Loki’s daughter, not his sister

Who was Hela really?

Cate Blanchett’s badass bitch is more commonly called simply Hel (which means “Hidden”) in Norse mythology. And while she is indeed the goddess of death — an extremely powerful one at that — she’s not Thor and Loki’s older sibling. In fact, she’s Loki’s daughter, her mom being the giantess Angrboda, whose name has the pleasant translation of She Who Brings Grief. Hel’s siblings are the monstrous wolf Fenrir and Jormungand, the Midgard Serpent.

Hel’s putrid stink is a sure sign she’s in the vicinity.
 Hel is half a beautiful woman, half a rotting, skeletal corpse

Hel is half a beautiful woman, half a rotting, skeletal corpse

The goddess doesn’t have Blanchett’s steely beauty — well, at least half of her doesn’t. Hel is usually depicted as being split down the middle, with one half a young woman, the other half a rotting skeleton, according to Northern Tradition Paganism. Hel’s putrid stink is a sure sign she’s in the vicinity.

Hel rules over a dominion that shares her name (much like Hades in Greek mythology). It’s this word that inspired the Christian version of Hell.

 The fire giant Surtur leads the army that battles the Asgardian gods during Ragnarok

The fire giant Surtur leads the army that battles the Asgardian gods during Ragnarok

Who’s Surtur the fire giant?

Perhaps not surprisingly, he’s Loki’s godfather, having helped raise that little troublemaker.

The fire giant is more commonly called Surt (“Black”) due to his charred appearance. Instead of being a cool flaming demon as he’s depicted in Thor: Ragnarok, he’s more humanlike in Norse mythology, with a flowing beard.

He carries a flaming sword and has a destiny to fulfill (everyone in Norse myths seems to be playing out preordained roles): Lead his kin and Hel’s undead minions into battle against the gods of Asgard during Ragnarok, the cyclical destruction of the cosmos. Surt sweeps his sword across the earth, leaving nothing but an inferno. He killed the god Freyr, who in turn offed him. Few survived Ragnarok.

 Everyone seems to kill each other during Ragnarok, including Thor and the Midgard Serpent

Everyone seems to kill each other during Ragnarok, including Thor and the Midgard Serpent

What exactly is the Ragnarok prophecy?

The “Doom of the Gods” is an appropriate name for the Norse version of the end of the world.

Like the Christian apocalypse described in the book of Revelation in the Bible, Ragnarok, too, is foretold by a series of omens, starting with a Great Winter (how very Game of Thrones) that lasts for three years, brought on after humans and even the gods have sunk into nihilism.

Then come the three cocks. One red rooster warns the giants that Ragnarok has begun, while a second alerts the dead. The third, which resides in Valhalla, the majestic drinking hall afterlife for heroes, lets the divine partiers know their fun has come to an end.

Even though Odin could foresee that there was no defeating Surt and his army, he and the gods still fought valiantly. During this epic war, the world is utterly destroyed and sinks into the sea. The end.

And yet it’s not the end. A new world rises from the depths of the water, and two mortals will repopulate the Earth.

 The giant wolf Fenrir kills Odin, swallowing him whole during Ragnarok

The giant wolf Fenrir kills Odin, swallowing him whole during Ragnarok

How does Odin really die?

Though he was prone to wander, Odin doesn’t go off to Norway to die (after his rest home gets destroyed) and dissolve into gold dust. Instead, he perishes during the battle of Ragnarok.

 The naughty Fenrir was kept chained up — until he escaped to wreak havoc during Ragnarok

The naughty Fenrir was kept chained up — until he escaped to wreak havoc during Ragnarok

Fenrir, the massive wolf who’s Loki’s son and Hel’s brother, has been a bit too wild and has been chained up by the gods. He escaped, though, and “ran across the land with his lower jaw on the ground and his upper jaw in the sky, consuming everything in between. Even the sun itself was dragged from its height and into the beast’s stomach,” according Norse Mythology for Smart People. He also swallows Odin whole, ending the life of the Father of the Gods.

 You wouldn’t want to fight Thor, especially when he’s armed with his hammer Mjollnir

You wouldn’t want to fight Thor, especially when he’s armed with his hammer Mjollnir

Do Loki and Thor have a troubled relationship?

In a word, hell yes — though they did bond once in a cross-dressing ruse to win back Thor’s hammer, Mjollnir.

Thor and Loki did bond once in a cross-dressing ruse to win back Thor’s hammer, Mjollnir.
 Loki convinces the manly Thor to dress up as a woman to pretend to be the goddess Freya (it’s a long story)

Loki convinces the manly Thor to dress up as a woman to pretend to be the goddess Freya (it’s a long story)

Loki is a trickster, so you never know what to expect. He’s likely to cause damage — in fact, at the time of Ragnarok in Norse mythology, he’s been chained inside a mountain as punishment for his involvement in the death of the god Balder, a favorite of the Asgardians. (Loki gave his blind brother Hod a mistletoe dart — the only thing that could harm Balder — and guided his aim so it struck and killed the deity.)

But Loki’s also known to actually help the gods as well. The Marvel universe has captured his mercurial spirit; you never know if he’s on Thor’s side — and you know you should never fully trust him.

During Ragnarok, Loki breaks free of his chains and launches an attack on his Asgardian brethren, sailing on a ship that’s somehow constructed of dead men’s nails. Eww.

In some versions of the myth, it’s Loki and not his daughter Hel who leads the army of the undead.

 Thor defeats the massive serpent Jormungand — but perishes from its poison right after

Thor defeats the massive serpent Jormungand — but perishes from its poison right after

Loki’s offspring Jormungand and the god of thunder have an intertwined destiny. The two have always been bitter enemies, and the serpent is a formidable foe: He’s so large that he encircles the Earth, biting his own tail — what’s known as an ouroboros. During the apocalyptic war of Ragnarok, Thor kills the Midgard Serpent — only to die from its poison. There’s a lot of these double deaths going around.

 The Valkyries choose who lives and dies in battles

The Valkyries choose who lives and dies in battles

What’s the truth about the Valkyries?

These fierce, beautiful maidens ride in groups of nine upon flying horses and guide fallen heroes to Valhalla for Odin.

Scandinavians in the Middle Ages believed the gorgeous streaks of the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, were the Valkyries sweeping across the night sky, according to Credo.


LEARN MORE ABOUT THE NORTHERN LIGHTS: Why You Should Consider Visiting Iceland


A common misconception is that the Valkyrie are warriors — probably because they’re decked out in armor, are often depicted holding spears and like to hang out on battlefields.

“The meaning of their name, ‘choosers of the slain,’ refers not only to their choosing who gains admittance to Valhalla, but also to their choosing who dies in battle and using malicious magic to ensure that their preferences in this regard are brought to fruition,” writes Norse Mythology for Smart People.

 The Valkyries were fierce woman who soared over battlefields on flying horses — until they were relegated to waitresses at Valhalla

The Valkyries were fierce woman who soared over battlefields on flying horses — until they were relegated to waitresses at Valhalla

While they started out as dark angels of death swooping over the slaughter of a battlefield, the Valkyries later became associated as Odin’s shield maidens, lovely virgins with golden hair and snow-white skin who serve an all-you-can-eat-and-drink buffet of mead and meat in the great feasting hall in the sky. Dead heroes remained there until called to fight by Odin’s side during Ragnarok.

Marvel’s version of Ragnarok might be a bit off-base, but it’s still a fun one nevertheless. And as much as I’d love to have seen Loki captaining that ship of yellowed fingernails and toenails, I’m glad that hottie Chris Hemsworth’s Thor survives to star in another movie. –Wally

During Ragnarok, Loki launches an attack on Asgard, sailing on a ship constructed of dead men’s nails. Eww.