Jaculus

Variations: Iaculus, Jaculare; Sagitta (Latin); Acontia, Acontias, Saetta (Greek); Cafezati, Cafezasi, Altararat, Acoran, Altinanti (Arabic); Orchilanne (Turkish); Saettone (Calabria and Sicily); Ein Schosse Oder Angelsch Lang (German); Decurtati (Hungary)

Jaculus

The Jaculus, “javelin” or “dart”, is one of the many snakes that attacked Lucan’s forces during their march through the Libyan desert. While catalogued as a Libyan desert snake, Topsell expanded its range to include Rhodes, Lemnos, Calabria, Sicily, Germany

It can be considered a flying snake, although the “flight” is long-distance leaping over ten to thirty feet. They get into trees and bushes, bunch themselves up in bow and hoop shapes, and fling themselves at high speed onto their prey. Traveling as fast as a thrown javelin, they can puncture clothing and flesh alike. Jaculi are cunning and cruel, and will lie in ambush for human prey, but their presence is given away by the noise they make while coiling in dry plants.

The appearance of the jaculus varies, but it usually has small black ocelli, no bigger than lentils, on its body. The jaculi of Rhodes are ash-colored with a white belly and two black lines running from its head to the tip of its tail; the cafezati or “jumpers” of the Middle East are red, and have been posited as the Biblical fiery serpents. The Hungarian jaculi or decurtati are thick and short-tailed, only two hands long.

A jaculus killed Paulus, one of Lucan’s men, by darting from a distance before it could be seen. It was not venom that felled its victim, but rather the gaping hole left behind after it passed through Paulus’ head at the temples. Topsell believed it was a jaculus that attacked the apostle Paul and bit his hand. Another such snake coiled around the arm of a Zurich peasant; even though it didn’t bite, the arm ended up putrefying and requiring yearly bleeding to drain the black blood inside.

Topsell attests that the same antidotes used for viper venom can be used for jaculus bites. He adds that jaculus gall with Scythian stone yields eye-salve.

References

Aelian, trans. Scholfield, A. F. (1959) On the Characteristics of Animals, vol. II. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Aldrovandi, U. (1640) Serpentum, et Draconum Historiae. Antonij Bernie, Bologna.

Isidore of Seville, trans. Barney, S. A.; Lewis, W. J.; Beach, J. A.; and Berghof, O. (2006) The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Lucan, trans. Rowe, N. (1720) Pharsalia. T. Johnson, London.

Topsell, E. (1658) The History of Serpents. E. Cotes, London.

Jetin

Variations: J’tin, Crion

Jetin

Jetins (from jeter, “to throw”) are tiny lutins native to the seaside caves of Brittany. Their appearance is uncertain; Dubois suggests they are hirsute and rough-looking, with silver shoes. Despite their size – ranging from thumb-sized to 1.5 feet tall – they are incredibly strong, capable of lifting and tossing huge boulders with ease.

Always looking for a chance to show off their strength, jetins amuse themselves by throwing rocks around, sometimes over great distances. Standing stones, menhirs, all manner of megaliths; such stones are discarded playthings of the jetins.

Rock-throwing was not the only pastime the jetins enjoyed. They were also fond of tying knots in horse tails and releasing livestock, and, like any good fairy, they often exchanged human babies for one of their own. The ugly, wrinkled changelings they leave behind are never weaned and never grow. Jetins can be convinced to return stolen children by carrying the changeling to a jetin hole and threatening to kill it. The human baby will quickly be returned and swapped with the impostor.

The jetins shared their territory with the even tinier Fions and the secretive Fées des Houles (“Fairies of the Sea Caves”). Due to their size and their reclusive natures, none of these have been observed in great detail, although the Fées have been benevolent towards humans. The Crions, perhaps the same as jetins, were tiny dwarfs who carried the stones of Carnac on their shoulders.

Elsewhere, the discobolous function of the jetins is fulfilled by Gargantua and other giants, whose size is more proportionate to their strength, and the fairies known as Fileuses (“Weavers”).

References

Dubois, P.; Sabatier, C.; and Sabatier, R. (1992) La Grande Encyclopédie des Lutins. Hoëbeke, Paris.

Morvan, F. (1998) Vie et mœurs des lutins bretons. Actes Sud.

Sébillot, P. (1905) Le Folk-lore de France, Tome Deuxième: La Mer et les Eaux Douces. Librairie Orientale et Américaine, Paris.

Sébillot, P. (1907) Le Folk-lore de France, Tome Quatrième: Le Peuple et L’Histoire. Librairie Orientale et Américaine, Paris.