Fantasy, Fiction, ireland, Lore, love, Magik, Nordic, Orkney Islands, scottland, Seals, Selkie

Romance of the Scottsh Sea: Selkie Lore

“As soon as the seal was clear of the water, it reared up and its skin slipped down to the sand. What had been a seal was a white-skinned boy”
-George Mackay Brown


Selkie
is the Orcadian dialect word for, “seal”. The word derives from earlier Scots, selich, (from Old English, seolh) So, selkies are a very common sight across Orkney. Heads bobbing above the waves, they are often seen  by the shore, watching  inquisitively with uncannily human eyes.

In the Faroe Islands there are two versions of the story of the Selkie or Seal Wife. A young farmer from the town of Mikladalur on Kalsoy island goes to the beach to watch the selkies dance. He hides the skin of a beautiful selkie maid, so she can not go back to sea, and forces her to marry him.
He keeps her skin in a chest, and keeps the key with him both day and night. One day when out fishing, he discovers that he has forgotten to bring his key. When he returns home, the selkie wife has escaped back to sea, leaving their children behind. Later, when the farmer is out on a hunt, he kills both her selkie husband and two selkie sons, and she promises to take revenge upon the men of Mikladalur. Some shall be drowned, some shall fall from cliffs and slopes, and this shall continue, until so many men have been lost that they will be able to link arms around the whole island of Kalsoy. Unlike the Finfolk, who retained their malicious tendencies  throughout the years, the selkie-folk have come to be regarded as gentle  creatures,  with the ability to transform from seals into beautiful, lithe  humans.

In the surviving folklore, there is no agreement as to how  often the selkie-folk were able to carry out the transformation. Some tales say  it was once a year, usually Midsummer’s Eve, while others state it could be  “every ninth night” or “every seventh stream”.

Regardless of how often they were able to transform, the  folklore tells us that once in human form, the selkie-folk would dance on  lonely stretches of moonlit shore, or bask in the sun on outlying skerries (rocks).

The selkie skin

A common element in all the selkie-folk tales, and perhaps  the most important, is the fact that in order
to shapeshift they had to cast off  their sealskins. Within these magical skins lay the power to return to seal  form, and therefore the sea.

If this sealskin was lost, or stolen, the creature was  doomed to remain in human form until it could be recovered. Because of this, if  disturbed while on shore, the selkie-folk would hastily snatch up their skins  before rushing back to the safety of the sea.

Amorous encounters

. The selkie-men were renowned for their many encounters with  human females — married and unmarried.

A selkie-man in human form was said to be a handsome  creature, with almost magical seductive powers over mortal women. According to tradition, they had no  qualms about casting off their sealskins, stashing them carefully, and heading  inland to seek out “unsatisfied women”.

Should such a mortal woman wish to make contact with a  selkie-man, there was a specific rite she had to follow. At high tide, she  should make her way to the shore, where
she had to shed seven tears into the  sea.

The selkie-man would then come ashore and, after removing  his magical sealskin, seek out “unlawful love”.

In the words of the 19th century Orkney folklorist, Walter  Traill Dennison, these selkie males:

“. . . often made havoc among thoughtless girls, and  sometimes intruded into the sanctity of married life.”

There is a folk song called, “The Maiden & The Selkie,”  that is a very lovely and tribal depiction of the romance of the Selkie-man to the women of the Orkneys, to hear it click the link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=om8LzIcFmbA

If a girl went missing while out on the ebb, or at sea, it  was inevitably said that her selkie lover had taken her to his watery domain —  assuming, of course, she had not attracted the eye of a Finman.

But while the males of the selkie race were irresistible to  the island women, selkie-women were no less alluring to the eyes of earth-born  men. The most common theme in selkie folklore is one in  which a cunning young man acquires, either by trickery or theft, a selkie-girl’s  sealskin.

This prevents her from returning to the sea, leaving the  seal-maiden with no option but to marry her “captor”.

The tales generally end sadly, when the skin is returned,  usually by one of the selkie-wife’s children. In
some accounts, her children go  with her to the sea, while others have them remaining with their mortal father. Tragic and connective the lore of the Selkie is a profound representation of the human connection and longing for the sea.

Literature

The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry or The Grey Selkie of Suleskerry is a traditional folk song from Orkney. The song was collected by the American scholar, Francis James Child in the late nineteenth century and is listed as Child ballad number 113.

“The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry.”

An earthly nourris sits and sings,
And aye she sings, “Ba lilly wean,
Little ken I my bairns father,
Far less the land that he staps in.”

Then ane arose at her bed fit,
And a grumly guest I’m sure was he,
Saying “Here am I, thy bairns father,
Although I am not comely.”

I am a man upon the land,
I am a silkie in the sea,

And when I’m far frae every strand,
My home it is in Sule Skerry.”

“It was na weel”, the maiden cried,
“It was na weel, indeed” quo she,
“For the Great Silkie of Sule Skerrie,
To hae come and aught a bairn to me!”

Then he has taken a purse of gold,
And he has laid it on her knee,
Saying, “give to me, my little young son,
And take thee up thy nouriss fee.

It shall come to pass on a summer’s day,
When the sun shines hot on every stone,
That I shall take my little young son,
And teach him for to swim the foam.

And thou shalt marry a proud gunner,
And a very proud gunner I’m sure he’ll be,
And the very first shot that e’re he shoots,
he’ll kill both my young son and me.”

An interpolated 5th stanza has also been heard:

‘Twas weel eno’ the night we met,
When I’d be oot and on my way,
Ye held me close, ye held me tight,
“Just ane mair time ere the break o’ day!”
Phrase Key

nourris = nurse
ken = know
 staps = stops
bed fit = foot of the bed
 grumly = strange

The version I like best of this was done by Joan Baez. To hear it click below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zZy2Q3QY0Q&list=PL4593CF2488169FD8

Great books for more on Selkies:

  • Thomson, David. The People of the Sea: A Journey in Search of the Seal Legend
  • Katharine Briggs, An Encyclopedia of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Brownies, Boogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures
  • Williamson, Duncan (1992). Tales of the seal people: Scottish folk tales
  • “The Brides of Rollrock Island” by Margo Lanagan

Source material: http://www.orkneyjar.com/index.html

http://www.stolaf.edu/people/hend/VictoryMusic/July-MusicTrad_SelkieLore.htm

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All Halows Eve, Ancestors, fall, Halloween, harvest, harvest festival, ireland, Lore, Samhain, Samhain Ritual, scottland

The Eight Fold Wheel: the lunisolar nature of Druids

 

The Wheel of the Year &  Druid Festivals

The importance of recognizing these particular times of the year is something that I feel a lot of people both pagan and not over-look or take for granted. I have a friend whose personal practice doesn’t employ any usage of recognizing these times and it made me think very hard upon the subject over the last couple of weeks.

Before we had our current system of measuring time, the Gregorian calender, ancient Celts used the Coligny calender. It was discovered in France near Lyon in 1897, made of bronze and inscribed in Latin and Gaulish, it is said to have been created by the druids. During this period the Druids were converting to Christianity, but it is imagined that in this case, they wished to record a piece of their belief system and history that was of exceptional importance: Time.

Now the ancient Celts were certainly not the only ones to have such a lunisolar calender, however it is our focus here. The term lunisolar, reflects the due equality of import that the people using such a system would have given to both night and day, winter and summer, and everything in between. The system was one that attempted balance.

According to the current Arch Druid of the OBOD, Phillip Carr-Gomm (2002) , author of Druid Mysteries, “…Druidry recognizes eight particular times during the yearly cycle which are significant and which are marked by eight special festivals. Of these eight times, four are solar and four are lunar – creating thereby a balanced scheme of interlocking masculine and feminine observances…These four festivals are astronomical observances, and we can be sure our ancestors marked them with ritual because many of the stone circles are oriented to their points of sunrise or sunset. By the time the circles were built, our ancestors had become a pastoral people, and times of sowing and reaping were vital to them.”

The observance of these particular times of the year when broken down into their respective corners all earmark specific times of plenty, wanting, change, burgeoning, and all of the other remarkable experiences we undertake throughout our lives as humans.

The Celtic year begins at what westerners heed as the end of the year, winter. Similarly the same is practiced in the acknowledgement of the day. For the ancient Celts the beginning of the day was at sundown and went forward from there. It was Julius Cesar who noted in his Gallic Wars (Book VI Pg.343), that, “The Gauls affirm that they are all descended from a common Father, Dis, and say that this is the tradition of the Druids. For that reason they determine all periods of time by the number, not of days, but of nights, and in their observance of birthdays and the beginnings of months and years day follows night.”

Samhuinn-

The next important marker in the year is Samhuinn. Modernly celebrated as All Hallows Eve,  it was believed by the Celts that all began in darkness, and so the Celtic New Year became the first point on the wheel, Samhuinn. This was a time of great spiritual importance for many different peoples. To the Druids it was the place where the ouroboros bit its tail, and the veil that lay between the world of the living and the dead became sheer. For a good example of a modern Samhuinn rite, Sarah Anne Lawless is a well respected author and artist, and the story here, is a vibrant pagan experience eloquently formed.

 

 

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All Halows Eve, American Lore, Ancestors, autumn, Beer, celebration, fall, Feast, Halloween, harvest, Hearth Fire, holiday, ireland, Lore, love, love lost, Magik, new year, poetry, Ritual, Samhain, Samhain Ritual, scottland, spirits

Samhain: A Night to Honour…

All Hallows Eve is a contemplative night for me and my household.

It is a time for joy and tears as the veil is now quite sheer. On this night we light candles and make a large feast of stuffed mushrooms, brown sugared carrots, rosemary potatoes twice baked, and roast salted pork, we throw open all of the doors and windows so that none may be left out, be they man or spirit. We wear masks for protection. We drink wine, mead, or beer, offer sweets for security, and most importantly we hail the honored dead.

This is a night of holy reverence to acknowledge the lives and deaths of those that came before us.

My extended family has let this tradition go for many years, giving into Protestantism, but the ways of our ancestors have come around full circle into our not so modern little house. The snake has bitten its tail, and so I will say the prayers long neglected, and light our hearth after midnight to usher in the new year to come.

As we light it I will say,

” Save. Shield. Surround,

The hearth, the house, the household

The eve, the day, the year.

We honor & thank you.”

For you see, as Celts, the onset of Winter is the birth of our new year, which is actually entirely optimistic. The hardest part is the beginning, Spring is born, matures into Summer, and before you know it, the year wanes…and you have come full circle.

So on your Hallowed Night, make a circle and say a few words of kindness, let it all go, tell raucous stories about family members present and past, for this is the heart of our wild selves and this is the tradition of our people.

I really felt like this poem by Fredrick Manning well represents my heart this season:

“Yea, she hath passed hereby, and blessed the sheaves,
And the great garths, and stacks, and quiet farms,
And all the tawny, and the crimson leaves.
Yea, she hath passed with poppies in her arms,
Under the star of dusk, through stealing mist,
And blessed the earth, and gone, while no man wist.

With slow, reluctant feet, and weary eyes,
And eye-lids heavy with the coming sleep,
With small breasts lifted up in stress of sighs,
She passed, as shadows pass, among the sheep;
While the earth dreamed, and only I was ware
Of that faint fragrance blown from her soft hair.

The land lay steeped in peace of silent dreams;
There was no sound amid the sacred boughs.
Nor any mournful music in her streams:
Only I saw the shadow on her brows,
Only I knew her for the yearly slain,
And wept, and weep until she come again.” 
― Frederic Manning

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American Lore, autumn, Blood Moon, cold, fall, Full Moon, harvest, harvest moon, Hunter's Moon, indian, ireland, Lore, Lunar Eclipse, Moon, Moon lore, mythology, native american, native lore, poetry, Uncategorized

The Blood/Hunter’s Moon: Tonight’s lunar eclipse & full moon

Tonight the moon will wax full again. The sun and moon will be in perfect balance across their ecliptic longitude, meaning that they will be exactly 180 degrees apart and on the same line, causing full view of our Earth’s constant companion.  Being the first moon after the Harvest Moon or Autumnal Equinox, this moon is called the Hunter’s Moon by the Native people of the Algonquin Tribe.

According to http://www.earthsky.org, it was called the Hunter’s Moon by the Algonquin because, “ In the days before tractor lights, the lamp of the Harvest Moon helped farmers to gather their crops, despite the diminishing daylight hours. As the sun’s light faded in the west, the moon would soon rise in the east to illuminate the fields throughout the night. A month later, after the harvest was done, the full Hunter’s Moon was said to illuminate the prey of hunters, scooting along in the stubble left behind in the fields.” 

The effect of such a moon has held its sway over mankind longer than time can reveal. One modern song by Gregory Alan Isakov called, “That Moon Song,” is a new take on a feeling that I am sure the ancients could easily relate to.

According to many British and Celtic sources the full moon occurring at this time of year is referred to as the Blood Moon. This was common because of the killing of excess livestock that took place at this time per annum. To conserve winter resources, it was necessary to slaughter all but ones breeding stock in the fall leading into winter. This way you would maximize the food supplies one would have for the best part of the herd, and ensure that you and your neighbors had a supply of meat for the winter months.

This poem reflects well upon our time during this moon:

AT A LUNAR ECLIPSE

Thy shadow, Earth, from Pole to Central Sea,
Now steals along upon the Moon’s meek shine
In even monochrome and curving line
Of imperturbable serenity.

How shall I link such sun-cast symmetry
With the torn troubled form I know as thine,
That profile, placid as a brow divine,
With continents of moil and misery?

And can immense Mortality but throw
So small a shade, and Heaven’s high human scheme
Be hemmed within the coasts yon arc implies?

Is such the stellar gauge of earthly show,
Nation at war with nation, brains that teem,
Heroes, and women fairer than the skies?

By Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

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Beer, Beer Recipe, Brewing, herbal remedy, Herbology, Herbs, Home Brew, ireland, Lore, mythology, Nettle Beer, Nettle Tea, Nordic, Norse Gods, Orkney Islands, plants, Thor

Nettle Beer: Homebrew, Lore, & Medicinal Usage of Nettles


Stinging nettle
 or common nettleUrtica dioica, is a herbaceous perennial flowering plant, native to Europe, Asia, northern Africa, and North America, and is the best-known member of the nettle genus Urtica. The species is divided into six subspecies, five of which have many hollow stinging hairs called trichomes on the leaves and stems, which act like hypodermic needles, injecting histamine and other chemicals that produce a stinging sensation when contacted by humans and other animals. The plant has a long history of use as a medicine and as a food source.

LORE:

There is a telling of the Norse God, Thor that after arranging some bones
on goatskin before a cooking fire, that He returns the animals to life by raising his hammer, Mjollnir, over the bones and blessing them. I perceive this revivifying action as a metaphor for urtication and suggest that this is why nettle is sacred to the Thunder God. Indeed, the Norse believed that when Thorr flung Mjollnir across the sky, lightning flashed. Certainly a nettle thrashing is a “fiery” experience! Further, in Holland, young boys would go out early in the morning to gather bunches of nettles to tie to the doors of the village houses. Grimm notes that this was done on the “Zaterdag before Pentecost”, suggesting that it was a Heathen fertility custom which survived the conversion—perhaps an ancient remnant of flogging (birch branches were used likewise in the saunas to bring blood to the surface).
It should also be noted that Thorr was a god of fertility of both Earth and womb. Bunches of fresh Nettles were also laid across vats of beer to prevent thunder from turning and spoiling the beer. Young nettles were boiled and eaten with meat on Grün-donnerstag (Maundy Thursday). Depending on the author in secondary sources, stinging nettle was called Wergulu or Stithe in the Nine Herbs Charm, which was a charm used by Odhinn for protection against the “flying venom”(one of four causes of disease in Teutonic etiology). The Anglo-Saxons used purple dead-nettle in butter based eyesalves and “holy salves” against disease; red nettle was used in salves against rash or “elf-shot”, another cause of disease within this etiology (note that many of these texts were written prior to the establishment of the binomial nomenclature developed by Linnaeus; so identification of herbs based on folknames is imprecise at best).

Edibility: This is a highly nutritious plant, high in iron, calcium, potassium,
vitamins A, C and D. When cooked, the harmful ingredients are neutralized and the plant can be treated like a spinach for spring greens or used for tea. Young plants prior to blooming should be used as older ones become fibrous (see below) and after blooming the leaves develop cystoliths which irritate the urinary tract if eaten in large amounts. Nettles were widespread as a foodstuff. Sir Walter Scott discusses them in Rob Roy, Pepys refers in his diary of 1661 to eating Nettle Porridge which he thought to be very good. Victor Hugo included some discourse on Nettle usage in “Les Miserables”. Grieve gives recipes for Nettle Pudding and Nettle Beer. ( I will share a recipe with you for this further down!)


Medicinal:
 As species of Urtica (such as Urtica dioica) grow worldwide, there is considerable old literature as to folk and medicinal use. There are 17th century Russian tracts on its use. The most common medicinal use was as a diuretic, an astringent and a tonic. It is also a styptic – something which checks the flow of blood from the surface (acting very quickly); by the use of powdered root or softened and bruised leaves, Nettle has few equals in that regard. It was recommended for nosebleed that a small piece of fine cloth be moistened with Nettle juice and placed in the nostril. Several references list a use of the fresh leaves or stems as a “counter-irritant”, that is, it is applied to the skin where there is another painful irritation such as arthritis. The best explanation for that effect is that the nettle sting took ones mind off the other pain. However, the juice of the Nettle is a complete antidote for its own sting. Likewise, the juice of Dock, particularly Yellow (Curly) Dock, has the same effect. Grieve reports on the old English Saying “Nettle in, dock out. dock rub nettle out”. Densmore reports its use among the Minnesota
Chippewa for dysentery and for stoppage of urine.

There are many references to Nettle preparations involving the seeds and the flesh of the plant for a hair tonic – i.e. “restorer”; so many references that one could assume one might have had some success with it prior to today’s preparations. The presence of formic acid, mineral salts and carbonic acid was the key.


Practical Uses:
 Besides beer as mentioned above, the most practical use for Nettle is as a substitute for Cotton. The fiber of Nettle is similar to Hemp and Flax and thus it can be used for making cloth, sacking, cordage, etc. Nettle produces less fiber than Flax. It’s fibers varying from 3/4” to 2 1/2”. The upper sizes equal the best Egyptian Cotton. Plants that grow in good loam, such as near ditches and other moist sources produce the best fiber. Nettle is so effective for making cloth that when Germany and Austria were short of Cotton in 1916 – 1918 during the Great War they resorted to collecting huge quantities of Nettle. In 1916 alone 2.7 million kilograms were collected for cloth production. In 1917 The British analyzed some German overalls and found they were made of 85% nettle. It does not take dye the way wool does because of its microscopic structure, but there is nothing else close to it for making cloth when you are short of Cotton.
Hans C. Andersen refers to coats being woven of Nettle in the story, “The Princess and the Eleven Swans.” As does Juliet Marillier in her interpretation of the same tale, “Daughter of the Forest.”
If humans can like to eat them, so can the animals. The plant makes great fodder once it has been allowed to wilt and begin to dry. Then the stinging effects have dissipated (although in some species dissipation is not complete). While a number of insects may feed on the plant, it is distasteful to flies and a bunch of Nettle near foodstuffs can keep flies away. It is also an important host to a number of butterflies. A decoction of Nettle produces a permanent green dye – widely used in old Russia.

Alright! So! On with the BEER!!!

A refreshing Spring or early Summer Country Drink which can be enjoyed after three weeks.

What you’ll need

1.0 kg of nettle tops (approx. 50 nettle tops with 4/6 leaves)
450gms of brown sugar
1 gallon (4.5 litres) water
2 lemons
25gms Cream of Tartar
6gms of beer brewing yeast

How to make Nettle Beer

  1. Wash the nettle tops to clean off any insects and dust.
  2. Put in large pan and add 4.5 litres of water.
  3. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Strain into a food grade plastic bin and add the brown sugar, lemon juice and rind (not the white pith), and cream of tartar. The brown sugar adds a little colour to the beer.
  5. Stir well and allow to cool to about 20 to 25 degC. Then sprinkle the yeast over the surface and cover with a cloth.
  6. Leave in a warm place for between 5 to 6 days to allow the fermentation to take place. If a scum forms after 2 or 3 days it can be removed. A hydrometer can be used to check that the process has finished. The SG reading should be approximately 1.000.
  7. Strain again through a fine mesh bag or muslin so that it’s ready for bottling.
  8. Using clean strong swing top bottles or similar, add half a teaspoon
    of sugar to each bottle and then syphon the beer into bottles. You should have enough for 8 pint bottles or 9 bottles 500ml size.
  9. Leave the bottles in a warm place for 2 days and then move to somewhere cooler to allow the beer to clear.
  10. Nettle beer doesn’t have a long life, so once the beer has settled it is ready to drink in about 2 weeks.
  11. Enjoy! Try it with a little bread and cheese as they did in the old days!

http://www.friendsofeloisebutler.org/pages/photosubpages/photoinfopages/stingingnettlelore.html

http://www.herbshealing.com/herbal_ezine/march04/wisewoman.htm

http://www.hopsandvineshomebrew.co.uk/page.asp?id=101

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autumn, autumn equinox, celebration, fall, harvest, harvest festival, harvest moon, holiday, ireland, Lore, mabon, Magik, moon cakes, mythology, scottland, september, Uncategorized

Mabon & The Autumn Equinox

Tis’ Mabon (May-bon) time again!

This year the Autumnal Equinox will fall on the 22nd of September.  An exciting time for those of us who follow the ebb & flow of our little galaxy. This is the time of year when the harvest is brought in, the leaves begin to turn, and what was new, ripe, and young begins to feel the waning of time and of youth. It is symbolic of the transition between the, “mother,” time & the,”crone,” time. To many pagan faiths the equinox also represents the preparation of the horned god’s death, and the phase before the most spiritually open time of the year: Samhain (Sow-en).

For Celtoi & Druids, the celebration of Alban Elfed occurs this night. Druidry.org says, “Alban Elfed marks the balance of day and night before the darkness overtakes the light. It is also the time of the second harvest, usually of the fruit which has stayed on the trees and plants that have ripened under the summer sun. It is this final harvest which can take the central theme of the Alban Elfed ceremony – thanking the Earth, in her full abundance as Mother and Giver, for the great harvest, as Autumn begins.”

Modern magic folk celebrate the history of their practice, culture, & the lore that is the basis of the traditional Celtic/Welsh path that so many tread.

The tale of Mabon (Modron), the Welsh God, (the “great son of the great mother”), also known as the Son of Light, the Young Son, or Divine Youth, is celebrated. The Equinox is also the birth of Mabon, from his mother Modron, the Guardian of the Outerworld, the Healer, the Protector, the Earth. Mabon was taken after he is a mere three nights old (some variations of the legend say he is taken after three years). Through the wisdom of the living animals — the Stag, Blackbird, Owl, Eagle and Salmon — Mabon is freed from his mysterious captivity. All the while Mabon had rested within his mother’s womb; a place of nurturing and challenge. With strength and lessons gained within the magickal Outerworld (Modron’s womb), Mabon is soon reborn as his mother’s Champion, the Son of Light, wielding the strength and wisdom acquired during his captivity. http://www.twopagans.com/holiday/Mabon.html

The Chinese have a similar celebration, but it is centered differently than that of our European traditions, and it is called the Moon Festival:

“it is a day for family reunion. This lively festival takes place on the 15th day of the 8th Chinese lunar month every year, so its exact date by the Western calendar is different every time. Full of joy and happiness, friends and loved ones gather to celebrate a time when the moon is at its fullest and brightest of the whole year, and everyone gathers together to delight in eating moon cakes and appreciating the spectacular beauty of the full moon.”

 http://www.chinatravel.com/focus/mid-autumn-festival/

So regardless of your beliefs…

HAPPY HARVEST TIME ALL.

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Fantasy, Fiction, greek, imps, ireland, Lore, Magik, mischief, scottland, Uncategorized

Imps In The Pantry: LORE OF THE MISCHIEVOUS


“We have a task before us which must be speedily performed. We know that it will be ruinous to make delay. The most important crisis of our life calls, trumpet-tongued, for immediate energy and action. … It must, it shall be undertaken to-day, and yet we put it off until to-morrow, and why? There is no answer, except that we feel perverse, using the word with no comprehension of the principle. … [Then] The clock strikes, and is the knell of our welfare. At the same time, it is the chanticleer note to the ghost that has so long overawed us. It flies—disappears—we are free. The old energy returns. We will labor now. Alas, it is too late!”

–Edgar Allan Poe

The Imp of the Perverse is a metaphor for the urge to do exactly the wrong thing in a given situation for the sole reason that it is possible for wrong to be done. The impulse is compared to an imp which leads an otherwise decent person into mischief. So to further understand these creatures, let us explore the definition of them:

imp noun \ˈimp\
: a small creature that plays harmful tricks in children’s stories

: a child who causes trouble in a playful way : a mischievous child

Full Definition of IMP

1.obsolete : shoot, bud; also : graft
2. a : a small demon : fiend
2.b : a mischievous child : urchin

Origin of IMP

Middle English impe, from Old English impa, from impian to imp
First Known Use: before 12th century

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/imp

“The creature known as an Imp is a sentient beast not more than two fores tall that is said to resemble a thin lizard-like goblin with wings. Additionally, the Imp has an unusual looking face that resembles a smooth, bone-like mask with glowing red eyes. Imps have been favoured as intelligent and loyal familiars among many archmages over the centuries…” -Santharia

Originating from Germanic folklore, the imp was a small lesser demon.

It should also be noted that demons in Germanic legends were not necessarily always evil. Imps were often mischievous rather than evil or harmful, and in some regions, they were portrayed as attendants of the gods. Imps are often shown as small and not very attractive creatures. Their behavior is described as being wild and uncontrollable, much the same as fairies, and in some cultures, they were considered the same beings, both sharing the same sense of free spirit and enjoyment of all things fun. It was later in history that people began to associate fairies with being good and imps with being malicious and evil. However, both creatures were fond of pranks and misleading people. Most of the time, the pranks were harmless fun, but some could be upsetting and harmful, such as switching babies or leading travelers astray in places with which they were not familiar. Though imps are often thought of as being immortal, many cultures believed that they could be damaged or harmed by certain weapons and enchantments, or be kept out of people’s homes by the use of wards.

Imps were often portrayed as lonely little creatures, always in search of human attention. They often used jokes and pranks as a means of
attracting human friendship, which often backfired when people became tired or annoyed of the imp’s endeavors, usually driving it away.
Even if the imp was successful in getting the friendship it sought, it often still played pranks and jokes on its friend, either out of boredom or simply because this was the nature of the imp. This trait gave way to using the term “impish” for someone who loves pranks and practical jokes. Being associated with hell and fire, imps take a particular pleasure from playing with temperatures.
To this end, it came to be believed that imps were the familiar spirit servants of witches and warlocks, where the little demons served as spies and informants. During the time of the witch hunts, supernatural creatures such as imps were sought out as proof of witchcraft, though often, the so-called “imp” was typically a black cat, lizard, toad, or some other form of uncommon pet.
Imps have also been described as being “bound” or contained in some sort of object, such as a sword or crystal ball. In other cases, imps were simply kept in a certain object and summoned only when their masters had need of them. Some even had the ability to grant their owners wishes, much like a genie. This was the object of the 1891 story The Bottle Imp by Robert Louis Stevenson, which told of an imp contained in a bottle that would grant the owner their every wish, the catch being that the owner’s soul would be sent to hell if they didn’t sell the bottle to a new owner before their death.

Imps can be found in art and architecture throughout the world, usually carefully and painstakingly hidden under the eaves of a church or the foot of a ceramic cup, so they can only be found by the most interested and observant of people.
Imps may be described as an evil spirit or demon. They frequently appear in children’s stories such as ‘Silvia’ in which she is followed by a black Imp. Since their time, they have become more overlooked as not many people actually know what they are.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imp

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