A two-fer Day with stories from Celtic and Native America (Iroquois) cultures.
The Scottish Cu’ Sith—Fairy Dogs– are harbingers of death. They usually remain silent but sometimes bay three times so loudly they can be heard for miles. They are the size of bull calves with paws as big as a man’s hand. They may steal nursing mothers away and take them to the fairy mound or they may transport souls of the dead to the afterlife—whether they want to go or not. Sometimes the dogs appear as huge black or grey hounds, but occasionally they are white.
White hounds are also considered the hunting dogs of the Little People. They lurk beside fairy mounds and chase deer. These, too, can predict death but only if they bay or walk with you. They are distinguished by red eyes and ears.
Similar tales of Irish and northern English origin tell of a young worker who discovered an injured dog along the roadway. Thinking the dog was a lost foxhound, the lad gathered dock leaves to wrap around the dog’s feet which seemed to be the source of the dog’s discomfort. As he approached the animal, the boy realized this was one of the hounds rumored to bring death or bad luck. A little shaken, the boy couldn’t leave the animal in pain, so he wrapped the dock leaves around the dog’s feet , patted the dog’s head, and wished him well.
The boy looked over his shoulder for weeks afterward, expecting the worst, but no bad luck seemed to result from the encounter so he dismissed it. As he was going home late one night, taking a shortcut possibly too near the fairy mounds again, a horrible goat-like creature reared up before him. Before the boy could take two breaths, a shaggy white dog with red eyes and red ears leapt between the boy and the monster. The goat creature turned tail and ran and the hound trotted away. The boy went home and had a wee dram of comfort and decided to take the long way home from then on.
White hounds are reported even these days near certain fairy mounds, stone circles, and tombs near West Kennet Long Barrow and Wiltshire in England. Midsummer’s Day is a popular time to sight them but one is supposed to appear every night at midnight at Devil’s Den in Wiltshire.
It happened in northern New York, near the source of the Hudson River in the Adirondack Mountains long before Europeans came along and messed up everything.
During a time of famine, the young men of the tribe came to the elders with a plan to migrate north. The moose and deer were gone, the fishing was bad, and hostile tribes surrounded their village. The old men of the tribe dismissed this idea, saying they would rather die by inches in their ancient home than live in plenty as exiles. The young men didn’t have any intention of dying of starvation, so they fell upon the elders, killing them and, in some versions of the story, eating parts of them. Hoping to appease their gods for this heinous crime, the young men offered the bodies of the elders—the least tasty bits, I guess– as sacrifices. They beheaded the bodies and tossed them in the lake.
In the coming days, an ooze grew on the surface of the lake and the waters bubbled as if heated to boiling. On a dark and stormy night, hideous heads covered in black hair and standing as tall as a man flew out of the lake on bat-like wings. They tore the young men apart with their talons and devoured them.
Once the Flying Head held a victim in its ravenous jaws, the poor dope was doomed. The jaws clamped shut and would not open until the victim was dead and digested. The Flying Heads are always hungry because they have no bodies to fill. They came most often on stormy nights. The rest of the village fled for their lives but the Flying Heads pursued until the entire tribe was wiped out.
The Iroquois tell a story of how the Flying Heads were defeated. On a dark and stormy night, an old woman built a fire in her lodge. She tended it until large coals shimmered in the pit. She tossed chestnuts on the coals and sat beside the fire as the smell of roasting chestnuts filled the lodge and wafted out into the night. Taking out a handful, she popped them in her mouth, crunching the chestnuts loudly and remarking on how good they tasted.
The Flying Heads were drawn to the smell, remembering the time when they were alive. They couldn’t resist just one little taste so they swooped into the old woman’s lodge, gobbled chestnuts from the fire, and beat a hasty retreat. In their haste and greed, they gobbled coals along with the chestnuts and once their mouths were shut, they couldn’t spit them out. The Flying Heads flew away in agony. No one knows for sure what happened to them, but on stormy nights it is prudent to toss a handful of chestnuts on the fire—— just in case.
I am having a blast looking up monsters and reporting back here at Sorchia’s Universe, but at heart, I am a mercenary. The real reason I’m posting in the A-Z Challenge is to add to my mailing list. I’ll have a new book out this year—maybe two—and I’ll be offering a couple of freebies, several contests, and some great deals to people who subscribe to my blog. If this appeals to you in the least, please look at the top of the right column on this page and join up. I send emails about 3 times per year and won’t sell your email address unless I run out of Scotch. You can always change the settings to get notifications of new posts only when you want them.