Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Mythical Creatures: Each-Uosge


The Each-Uisge (pronounced ech-ooshka) is a Scottish water horse from the Highlands of Scotland. It is similar to the kelpie, but much fiercer and lives in the sea, sea lochs or fresh water lochs, whereas kelpies live in rivers or streams. It can shapeshift to turn into a horse, a pony, a handsome man or an enormous bird and will drag unsuspecting victims down into the depths of the sea. 

The creature will eat sheep and cows but likes to attack humans on land, or will allow itself to be ridden. Having touched the horse, the victim will become stuck, unable to free himself and the horse will dash into the loch, drowning the rider so the horse can eat him. People who lived in the Highlands were wary of lone animals or people at the side of lochs and kept away, for fear that they might be the each-uisge. 

In the shape of a human man, the each-uisge can be recognised by the weeds and mud in his hair. He will attempt to seduce women, probably to eat them, but there are tales of women escaping, either through their own efforts or the intervention of their father and/or brother.



There is also a version of the each-uisge in Ireland, the Isle of Man and Wales. The one on the Isle of Man is like the each-uisge in that it will eat humans, but the Irish and Welsh versions can be tamed and ridden like an ordinary horse. In the Isle of Man, it is called the cabyll-ushtey, in Ireland it is named the each-uisce and in Wales, it is the ceffyl dwr. I know a bit more about this Welsh version, having read more folklore about it.

It is much the same as the others, but will tempt a traveller to ride, then gallop away, throwing the traveller to his death. The horse can be dappled, grey or the colour of sand. There is a tale of one particular ceffyl dwr at St Bride’s Bay in Pembrokeshire. After a storm, a horse appeared in the bay and was captured by a farmer who used the horse to pull the plough in his fields. However, one day, the horse, with no warning, whisked the ploughman and the plough into the waves, dragging them to the deeps. We are not told whether the man survived. 



In my paintings here, I tried to captured the essence of the sea in the horse and to show that the each-uisce is of the sea, a sea spirit, if you like. I couldn’t decide which version to do, a close up or a horse in the seascape, so I did both. 

As always, you can find me here:

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Research:
Myths and Legends of Wales retold by Tony Roberts
mysteriousbritain.co.uk
Wikipedia

Monday, 23 March 2020

Mythical Creatures: Dryad


The next mythical creature on the list is the dryad. They are tree spirits from Greek mythology and are the daughters of Zeus, the most powerful of the gods. They live in forests or woods and protect it by frightening humans who wish to do it harm. Usually, though, dryads are peaceful beings. They are not immortal, but live for many years and usually take the form of young, beautiful women moving among the trees.

Hamadryads, on the other hand, are beings within individual trees, each spirit having her own tree, unable to move and living as long as the tree does.

This is the sort of spirit that the Celts and many other cultures around the world believed in. Spirits were everywhere in the landscape. Each tree, each stone, each river had its own spirit. I love this idea and so I painted an image of a tree with its spirit inside it, something you might miss unless you look really closely when you pass by….



 Back in the time of the Celts - the Bronze Age and Iron Age - and among cultures such as the Native Americans, the landscape was sacred and commanded respect. If a tree was cut down for its wood to be used, an offering was given back to make up for what was taken. They only took what was needed.

I wonder if we had kept that belief whether we might have continued with that respect for the natural world and treated it and its animals better.

The idea that each tree has a spirit is actually not that far away from the truth, because its been shown that trees are full of life; the trunk pulling up the water and food from the ground, the leaves doing their thing with photosynthesis, lichen and moss on the bark, insects living in and on the bark and – this is what I really love – trees can actually communicate with each other. If one is being attacked, it can send out a chemical to warn the other trees around it. They can’t move to escape, obviously, but those trees can then produce another chemical to make their leaves less tasty to whatever is eating them.

As well as that, trees have a symbiotic relationship with fungus in the ground. They share nutrients and the trees communicate through the fungus too. How they do it is not really within the scope of this blog, I’m here for art, myth and stories, but there are plenty of books or websites that you can find information in. If you’re interested, do go and find out. Nature is wonderful. 

You can find me here;

Shop: Etsy: Rusty and Boots
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Monday, 16 March 2020

Mythical Creatures: Cat Sidhe


The third Mythical Creature in our alphabetical list from Animal Alphabets is Cat Sidhe. twitter.com/AnimalAlphabets

The Cat Sidhe is an Irish or Scottish creature which is all black except for a white spot on its chest. Names for it vary; as well as Cat Sidhe, there is also Cait Sidhe and Cath Sith. It is a large fairy cat which will try to steal the souls of the dead before they are buried, but in my painting, he seems like he’d look really cute while doing it!





Just as a side note, in case you’re wondering, the Sidhe are Irish fairies, which are divided into the Seelies and the Unseelies.

The cat is meant to haunt the Scottish Highlands and there are many legends about it in Scotland and some in Ireland. He will try to steal the souls of the dead before they are claimed by the gods by walking over the corpse. To prevent this, people held wakes to keep the cat away and used games to distract the cat, such as riddles and wrestling. The riddles were always left unanswered for the cat to ponder, therefore taking his mind off the dead body. They also spread catnip in other rooms to take the cat’s attention and played music, as the cat loved to dance. They also never lit fires in the room where the corpse was as the cat was attracted to the warmth.

The cat may also be a witch who can shape-shift, but she can only become a cat nine times. If she transformed into a cat for the ninth time, she would stay a cat permanently. This is thought to be where the idea of cats having nine lives originated from.

It was believed that on Samhain (Halloween) the cat sidhe would bless the house of those who left a saucer of milk out for him to drink. Those who didn’t would be cursed, their cows failing to produce milk.

There are tales of the cat transforming into human shape, but retaining his cat legs and his tail and feline features. They are also told to be able to perform basic magic.



There are other cats in mythology which you may find interesting too:

In France there are fairies called White Ladies. They wait near bridges after dark and ask a lone man walking past to dance. If he refuses, the White Lady throws him over the bridge or sets her pet owls and cats on him.

Witches had familiars, of course, which were most often cats.

Vampires, as well as being able to turn into bats, dogs and wolves, could also become cats.

In Japan, there was a two-tailed vampire cat who didn’t bite her victims, but strangled them.

Finally, there is a creature called the barguest, which haunts lanes and churchyards at night. It is usually a huge dog, but can become a cat or a goblin.



I hope, if you are interested in this, that my brief summary of mythical beings leads you on to find out more. If you do, beware! It can lead you down a mythical rabbit hole. I’ve been there! So much to read about.

As always, you can find me here:

Instagram: @rusty_and_boots

Twitter: @RustyandBoots

Facebook (art): @RustyandBoots

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Information from:

Wikipedia

Fantasy Encyclopedia, A Guide to Fabulous Beasts and Magical Beings by Judy Allen


Monday, 9 March 2020

Mythical Creatures: Brownie


The next mythical creature set for the Animal Alphabets challenge was Brownie. I’d heard of these beings, but didn’t know a lot about them, as they’re Scottish. I’m more familiar with the Welsh bwbach, so I started with finding out what they look like. 


They’re creatures who live in houses but prefer farms as they like being with the animals. They help with jobs that need to be done, like tidying, washing, or mending at night when the people are asleep, so they’re never actually seen. Payment for their work is a bowl of milk or cream and some bread left out for them, but they are insulted if it is given to them directly. If you’re critical of them, or annoy them, they’ll play tricks on you. 


They are dressed in ragged clothes, which is often a brown hood and cloak or white robes and if given new clothes, they vanish forever, either because they see it as the ultimate insult, or because they take it as a full payment for all their work, (a probable influence for Dobby in Harry Potter). They are variously brownish, covered in hair or have curly brown hair and can be either human sized, very big or small. In fact, the original idea of the brownie was thought to be very big and a spirit of the house, looking after all inside.


An angry brownie can turn into a boggart, a creature which loves to scare people, causing problems in the house, making noises, throwing things around (a bit like a poltergeist) or following you in the dark. They are covered in black hair. 


So, taking all this into account, I went for the happy version of the brownie and painted this:





There are versions of the brownie all over the world, it seems; the gobelin, the bog and the baga are just a few. There’s also the English hobgoblin and the bwbach in Wales. The bwbach was good-natured and worked with the maid in the kitchen, where he was thought to live in the fireplace. The maid would make the fire, sweep up, set the bowl of milk and the bread ready for the bwbach at the end of the day, then leave the cream filled churn nearby and go to bed. In the morning, she would wake to find the milk and bread gone and the churn worked so that the butter was ready. The bwbach was not fond of people who did not drink and would, if he took against someone, cause mischief in the house, making dogs howl, or frightening the maid. He could also carry people off into the air, transporting them somewhere else.  


All these versions of the brownie or bwbach are probably descended from the belief of ancient people that every house had its own spirit, as I mentioned above, looking after the house and the family, either a spirit of the home or an ancestral spirit. For example, its possible that the ancient Celts set some food aside for the spirit in return, or as recognition, for its protection. If displeased, the spirit would probably have shown its anger. For the ancient people it was just a fact of life that spirits were everywhere and although they’ve been very much diminished in modern times, I’m really glad that we still have these beings in folklore.



You can find me here:

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Facebook (art): @RustyandBoots

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Books referenced:

British Goblins:Welsh Folklore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions by Wirt Sikes

Fantasy Encyclopedia A Guide to Fabulous Beasts and Magical Beings by Judy Allen

Exploring the World of the Druids by Miranda J. Green

Monday, 2 March 2020

Mythical Creatures: Afanc


You may have seen on Twitter and Instagram that there’s an art challenge every Monday called Animal Alphabets. It’s a challenge going through the alphabet with different themes and a creature beginning with each letter. If you’d like to take a look at the type of thing I mean, you can find it here: AnimalAlphabets The last round, which was the first one I joined in, was all on birds. The current round has the theme of Mythical Creatures and, as I love mythology, I thought I’d post here about each creature. 



The first one was A for Afanc, which I was really excited about because the Afanc is a Welsh creature. There is variation in the name, though. In the tale Peredur, Son of Efrawg, which is one of The Three Romances usually included with The Mabinogion, it is called an Addanc.

I knew what it was as I’ve read a lot of Welsh myth and folklore, but none of the tales tell you what it looks like. I’d been wondering about an Afanc’s appearance for a long time, since I first read The Mabinogion, but never really come up with a solution. The general description of this creature is that it looks like a beaver, a crocodile or a dwarf and is very fierce. You wouldn’t want to meet one! But they can be tamed by maidens. The thought of coming up with a picture of an Afanc put dread into me, but suddenly I had a vision of what it could look like: a sort of beaver/crocodile cross in brown and green looking very angry. Here is my painting:



In folklore, there are quite a few stories of the Afanc. They live in rivers or lakes and cause inundations when angry. All tales are more or less the same, with some variation. One tells of Hu Gadarn who pulled an Afanc out of Llyn Llion (a lake) using two oxen to drag the creature out in order to prevent an inundation.

Another tells of one in Llyn yr Afanc (Lake of the Afanc) in the River Conwy. A maiden lured the Afanc out of the water and while he slept on her lap, men bound him in chains. When he woke, he was furious (quite understandably I think), threw the men off and headed back into the lake. They sent for two oxen, attached the chain to them, and dragged the Afanc out, taking him to Llyn Cwm Ffynnon Las (Lake of the Blue Well Valley) where they left him. They obviously weren’t too bothered about that lake flooding!

There is even a tale of King Arthur pulling an Afanc out of Llyn Barfog with his warhorse.

In the tale of Peredur, who was one of King Arthur’s men, Peredur went on a long journey during which, he came to the court of the Sons of the King of Suffering. He saw three horses carrying a man each in their saddles, all dead. A woman took them off the horses and bathed them in turn in a tub of warm water, applying ointment to their bodies and all three men came back to life. Peredur asked one of the men why this happened and the man replied that every day, they were killed by an Addanc in a cave and came back to be revived to go through the same thing again and again.

The following morning, Peredur asked to go with the men to the cave, but they wouldn’t allow it, saying that if he was killed, there would be no one to bring him back to life. However, Peredur followed them. On the way, he came across a woman sitting on a mound.

‘I know where you are going,’ she said. ‘You go to the cave to fight the Addanc and he will kill you, not with his strength, but with his guile. There is a stone pillar in the entrance of the cave and he hides behind it so that he can see everyone who enters the cave, but they can’t see him. He kills everyone with his poisoned spear. If you promise to love me, I will give you a stone so that you can see him, but he won’t see you.’

Peredur said he did love the woman, she placed the stone in his hand and disappeared. Carrying on his way, Peredur came to the cave, took the stone in his left hand, making him invisible, and his spear in his right hand. Entering the cave, he saw the Addanc, killed him with his spear and cut his head off. As he left, he was met by the three men, who told him that there was a prophecy about him, saying he would kill the monster. They offered him any of their sisters for a wife and half their kingdom, but Peredur refused the offer and carried on his journey.

So, there is a brief summary of the tales of Afancs. I’m hoping to give you a brief overview of other mythical creatures as we go along. I’m also going to tell you more stories from The Mabinogion and the characters within it. I hope you’ll join me and enjoy what I have to tell.

You can find me here:

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Folklore from Myths & Legends of Wales retold by Tony Roberts

Tale from Peredur, Son of Efrawg from The Mabinogion translated by Gwyn Jones and Thomas Jones

  

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Poems of Myth and Lore


Something a bit different today. I’ve been writing poems for a while, but in the last year, I’ve been joining in with #mlprompts on Instagram. The lovely hosts give out a list of prompts every month, all on a different theme, but always to do with mythology and folklore. I’m enormously interested in these subjects, as you may know by now, so I had to join in! 



I’ve done several paintings and begun to write poems which I’m happy to put out there for you to read. I’ve had some good feedback on my work, so as a writer and artist, that’s lovely to have. I’m including some of my poems here. They’re all inspired by nature, myth and folklore and include the subjects of Lughnasa, Samhain, mid-winter and Yule, which are all festivals of the Celtic people.

I’ve had several people suggest that I make them into a book of poetry, so have a read and tell me what you think!
















As always, you can find me here:

Instagram: @rusty_and_boots

Twitter: @RustyandBoots

Facebook: @RustyandBoots

Facebook (Writing): @talesfromdemetia

Monday, 27 January 2020

Valentine Gift Ideas


Today I thought I’d tell you a little bit about my hand-painted hearts, my process and thoughts to give you an insight into things and let you know what goes into making them. They are all lovingly made with care and attention to detail, because my aim with everything I make is to provide something beautiful to brighten up someone’s day. I’m inspired very much by nature as nature and art have been shown to help with mental wellbeing.    


My hearts are all made from responsibly sourced birch wood and I hand paint each one individually with acrylics, both sides being decorated, which obviously means I have to wait for the first side to dry properly before I can paint the other side. (I once was too impatient and tried to paint the second side too quickly, which ended up in the paint getting smudged and stuck to the protective paper I had underneath it.)


With some of them, I know exactly how I’m going to achieve the effect I want, for example, this nature inspired one. 




I painted the background, then the grass, painted the wooden flowers separately, then glued them on. Also, my Kintsugi inspired heart was quite straight forward. 




 This was based on the Japanese concept of Kintsugi, where broken items are repaired with gold, giving them a web of golden lines all across the surface and in the process making them more valuable. We’ve all had broken hearts in one way or another which have had to be mended, or if not completely mended, glued back together. 


This purple one was another I really enjoyed making, with the different textures of the acrylic paint and the Prisme paint. The Prisme paint takes a whole day to dry properly, which means it takes two or three days to complete both sides, but it has a lovely sheen when it catches the light.




 One of the hearts that gave me more of a challenge, was the Steampunk inspired one. I had to decide how exactly I was going to position the painted cogs for the best effect, wait between each layer for them to dry to get the shaded look, and decide how best to position the metal cogs, which I attached after everything was completely dry.




 My vintage inspired heart also required more thought. It also has more elements to it and more work. A painted background to give it the appearance of faded paper, stamped and coloured rose and notes, all attached in decoupage style and the border painted to look like old letters. This one is single-sided, because if I did the same amount of work on both sides, it would be a bit more expensive!




I also make personalised hearts with a name of your choice hand written using pyrography. This is an example:




 The flowers are painted separately and attached, and it is varnished to protect the wood.


My favourite one to make is my turquoise heart with purple swirls and a jewel for a bit of shine.




 This needed a lot of paint mixing to get the right colours and accuracy for the swirls. It also has faint stamped writing which shimmers slightly in the light. 


Each heart measures 8cm x 8cm and is about 0.4 cm deep. They all have a ribbon attached to hang them up or they can simply be placed on a shelf. However they’re displayed, they would make a lovely gift or keepsake for a loved one. 


There are more designs available in my shop, along with all of these, which you can find here: etsy.com/uk/shop/rustyandboots


Some are ready for shipping, others I’ll need to make especially for you, but in any case, they take around two to three days to ship. 


There is also currently 10% off all items for a limited time, so get them while you can. Oh, and there’s free shipping in the UK!     


As always, you can find me on social media:


twitter.com/RustyandBoots

instagram.com/rusty_and_boots

pinterest.com/RustyandBoots

facebook.com/RustyandBoots


If you have any comments or questions, feel free to get in touch.