Roeschaard

Roeschaard’s name is attributed to his call of “Roes, roes, roes!” Etymologically it may be derived from the Scandinavian ruske, “to rush at”; the Anglo-Saxon breosan, “terrify”, or the Dutch roezen, “making a din”. It may also simply be another variant of Osschaard, derived from ors, “horse” or “mount”, and hard, “strong”. Sometimes the name is used to simply mean the devil.

The 1874 almanac of Blankenberge tells of the dreadful storm of 1791. It destroyed the hut of a suspected witch on the beach, and the inhabitants were overjoyed, smashing what little was left of the ruins. Then a spinechilling sound rang out over the dunes – “Roes, roes, roes!” A huge black dog with bells around its neck came running down the dunes, and the villagers scattered. That dog was Roeschaard.

Roeschaard puts his shapeshifting powers to use in performing cruel pranks. There is no limit to the forms he can take. He turns into a fish and allows himself to be caught before destroying the net. He gets into boats and tips them over. He pounces on people’s backs and rides them to exhaustion. In the form of a baby, he allows people to take him home before laughing wickedly and escaping, calling out “Roes, roes, roes!” behind him.

The sailors of Blankenberge eventually found a way to escape Roeschaard’s attentions. By giving themselves a second baptism and a new name, they would break Roeschaard’s power over them. The ceremony undertaken by new sailors involved being splashed with salt water while the following formula was intoned:

I baptize you, and may Roeschaard, the thrice-ugly one, turn away. Turn, turn, turn, your name is [here the requisite sea-name was given]

Thus if Roeschaard came to claim someone, they could simply tell him they were not the person he was looking for. Since then Roeschaard’s power has been in decline.

References

van Hageland, A. (1973) La Mer Magique. Marabout, Paris.

de Vries, A. (2007) Flanders: a cultural history. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Osschaert

Variations: Osschaard

Found in maritime Flanders, land of Waas, and especially Hamme, near Dendermonde, Osschaert is one of several mischievous shapeshifters that plague Belgium. He was particularly around the chapel of Twee Bruggen.

According to van Hageland, his name may be a combination of ors, an archaic word denoting a horse or more generally a mount, or os, an ox, with hard, meaning “strong” or “valiant”. In this sense, Osschaard or Osschaert is a headstrong and dangerous steed.

As with others of his kind, Osschaert appears in countless forms, most notably a human-headed bull with heavy chains on its legs and feet. He has also appeared as a dog, a rabbit, a horse, a giant, a dwarf… At Knoche-sur-mer, where he serves as a bogey to frighten children, he is a ghost with a bull’s head. Commonly he drags a long length of chain behind him.

Osschaert is mischievous rather than actively evil. He delights in jumping on the backs of people and forcing them to carry him until they collapse. He is just as likely to jump off his mount’s shoulders to dive into a woman’s basket, causing her to stagger under the sudden load. Osschaert particularly enjoys tormenting sinners and wicked people, and will target them above all others.

He rules over all the water in the area, so the first fish caught is returned as an appeasing gift to Osschaert. Not that he’s guaranteed to ensure a good catch. And beware of catching fish without thanking Osschaert! One fisherman dragged his catch onto the beach only to find himself pinned down for an hour by Osschaert; when he was finally released his catch had disappeared. Another fisherman pulled an incredibly heavy net onto his boat, only to find it full of horse manure.

At the church of Twee Bruggen, daring Osschaert out loud to scratch you will result in a mauling. Specifically, one only has to utter the formula Grypke, Grypke grauw, wilt gy my grypen, grypt my nou (“Grypke, Grypke grey, if you will gripe me, gripe me now”) and Osschaert will appear on your back and ride you to the nearest crossroads or image of the Virgin Mary. In fact, in areas where people dared Osschaert to appear resulted in the spirit becoming more cruel and aggressive due to being repeatedly called upon.

A young man of Doel, crossing a field by night, found himself face to face with an enormous, monstrous horse. “This is Osschaert”, he thought to himself. “I must get out of his way”. He decided to pass through the churchyard, but then met a dog the size of a horse on the main road. He crossed himself and took another path to the churchyard, but there was Osschaert in the form of a rabbit, jumping back and forth towards him. He tried to turn around the churchyard, only to find Osschaert waiting for him in the shape of a donkey with enormous fiery eyes the size of plates! That was the point when the man gave up, jumped the wall, and ran home in a cold sweat.

Another man, a fisherman of Kieldrecht named Blommaert, thought he could outsmart Osschaert. He usually placed his catch of fish in a water-tub near the window. One night he found that some fish were missing; not only that, but there were ashes on the hearth, as though someone had broiled the fish on the embers. Blommaert could find no signs of break-in, and concluded Osschaert was behind this mischief. When the same thing happened a second time, he decided to cure Osschaert of his thieving behavior. He covered the entire hearth with horse-dung, and scattered some ashes over it to disguise it. Osschaert showed up as usual, pronouncing “Blommeken, vischkens braeyen”, but when he tried to cook the fish it ended up spoiled with the dung. He ran away screaming and cursing in frustration. Blommaert celebrated his cunning revenge – but alas, it does not pay to outwit Osschaert. The next day, when Blommaert drew in his net, he found it extraordinarily heavy. After much effort, he hauled it on deck, and found it to be full to cracking with horse-dung. Osschaert laughed loud and long, and Blommaert returned home angry and defeated.

Today Osschaert is retired, if not dead. A priest at Hamme was said to have banished Osschaert to wander at the sea-shore for ninety-nine years. And at Spije, Malines, one can see Osschaert’s coffin. It is a small coffin-shaped bridge over a stream.

References

van Hageland, A. (1973) La Mer Magique. Marabout, Paris.

Harou, A. (1905) Mythologie et folk-lore de l’enfance. Revue des Traditions Populaires, v. XX, p. 96.

Thorpe, B. (1852) Northern Mythology, v. III. Edward Lumley, London.

Kludde

Variations: Kleudde, Kleure

The first notable record of Kludde’s appearance was penned in 1840 in Ternat, by the Baron of Saint-Genois. This back-riding shapeshifter appears in Brabant and Flanders, notably in Merchtem and in Dendermonde, where he lives in the Dendre. In Ostend he is considered a necker or nix, and the flat country knows him as a werewolf. He causes fear and confusion and drinks green pond-water, but avoids crosses and consecrated areas.

Kludde comes out at night in the Flemish mists. He has earned his name from the call he cries while fleeing – “Kludde, Kludde”! As a shapeshifter, he has no fixed appearance, and Kludde has been encountered in the forms of a great black dog with a rattling chain around its neck, a half-starved horse, a sheep, a cat, a bat, a frog, or even a tree. The only constant in Kludde’s transformations is the presence of two dancing blue flames that flit ahead of him. These are Kludde’s eyes.

The pranks Kludde plays are mischievous but not deadly. In the guise of a black dog or werewolf he will jump onto a person’s neck, and vanish after wrestling his victim to the ground. As a horse, he tricks people into riding him, only to gallop full-tilt and fling his rider into a body of water. As his erstwhile jockey flounders in the water, Kludde lies on his belly and laughs loud and long, vanishing only when the victim emerges from the water. As a tree, Kludde appears as a small and delicate sapling, before growing to such a height that his branches are lost in the clouds. This unexpected event shocks and unnerves all who see it, and amuses Kludde.

It is foolish to evade Kludde, as he can wind like a snake in any direction, foiling attempts to outmaneuver him. Trying to seize him is like grabbing air, and it leaves burns behind. He can also make himself invisible to some people and not to others, driving travelers out of their minds as they try to describe the protean creature tailing them – yet when their companions look behind, they see nothing but an empty road.

References

de Blécourt, W. (2007) “I Would Have Eaten You Too”: Werewolf Legends in the Flemish, Dutch, and German Area. Folklore 118, pp. 23-43.

van Hageland, A. (1973) La Mer Magique. Marabout, Paris.

de Plancy, J. C. (1863) Dictionnaire Infernal. Henri Plon, Paris.

Thorpe, B. (1852) Northern Mythology, v. III. Edward Lumley, London.

Bøjg

Variations: Boyg, Bøjgen, Bojgen, Bøygen, Boygen, The Great Bøjg of Etnedal

Bojg

The Great Bøjg of Etnedal is a troll encountered by Peer Gynt in his Gutsbrandal adventures. It was memorable enough that Ibsen included it in his version of Peer Gynt, making it an even more otherworldly creature.

The Bøjg is vast, slimy, slippery, persistent, and shapeless. In the original fairytale, it has a head, which lessens its shapelessness somewhat. Ibsen describes it as a misty, slimy being, neither dead nor alive. Running into it is like running into a nest of sleepy growling bears. Its name comes from bøje, to bend, implying something twisting but also something that forces you to turn elsewhere, conquering without attacking. It coils around houses in the dark, or encircles its victims and bewilders them. Attacking the Bøjg directly is futile.

Wherever Gynt turns, he finds himself running into the clammy unpleasant mass. The Bøjg blocks his path to a mountain hut and nothing Gynt does can defeat it. In the fairytale Gynt fires three shots into the Bøjg’s head but to no avail; he eventually defeats the Bøjg through trickery. In Ibsen’s play the Bøjg is overcome by women, psalms, and church bells.

Within Ibsen’s symbolism it is seen as an insurmountable obstacle, a being of compromise and lethargy.

References

Hopp, Z.; Ramholt, T. trans. (1961) Norwegian Folklore Simplified. Iohn Griegs Boktrykkeri, Bergen.

Ibsen, H., Watts, P. trans. (1970) Peer Gynt. Penguin Books, Harmondsworth.

Rolling-calf

Variations: Rolling Calf

Rolling Calf

A duppy is a type of ghost or spirit native to Jamaica. While described as the souls of dead people, duppies have much in common with Old World shapeshifters and roadside tricksters. They may be found in bamboo thickets and cottonwood groves, and feed on bamboo, “duppy pumpkin”, and strangler figs. Duppies appear from seven in the evening till five in the morning, and sometimes at noon. Duppy activities range from simple mischief to arson, beating, burning, poisoning, and stoning, but they are powerless against twins and those born with a caul. A left-handed crack with a tarred whip and the burning of certain herbs keep them away.

Some of the more dangerous duppies include Three-foot Horse, whose breath is poison and which can outrun anything, but which cannot attack those in the shadow of trees. Then there is Whooping-Boy who rides Three-foot Horse while whooping loudly. Long-bubby Susan has pendulous breasts that reach the ground, and which she throws over her shoulders. Old Hige, the witch, is fond of abducting children, but can be confounded by rice thrown on the doorstep – the duppy cannot count above three, but is compelled to count the grains anyway.

Then there is Rolling-calf, one of the worst and most feared duppies. “Rolling” in this context means “roaming”, as in “rolling through town”. It is a shapeshifter that can appear in a number of guises. The best known is that of a hornless goat, black or white or spotted, with a corresponding caprine stench. One of its front legs is human, the other is that of a horse, and the two hind legs are those of a goat. Its tail curls over its back. Its eyes are red and glow like blazing fires. Flames come from its nostrils. There is a collar on its neck, with a chain that drags on the ground and rattles ominously. The rolling-calf can also appear as a cat, dog, pig, goat, bull, or horse, with the brindled-cat form being particularly dangerous. It can be as small as a cat, or as big as a bull.

A rolling-calf is the soul of a particularly wicked person. Butchers and murderers return as rolling-calves, as do Obeah men; the latter can also set rolling-calves on people. Rolling-calves are found in bamboo and cottonwood as well as caves and abandoned houses, coming out on moonless nights in search of sugar (they are fond of molasses) and breaking into cattle pens.

Rolling-calves can wreak all sorts of evil and blow “bad breath” on their victims, but they can be warded off in a number of ways. Flogging them with a tarred whip always helps, as does sticking an open knife into the ground. Even more useful is the fact that rolling-calves are terrified of the moon to a comical extent.

But whatever method is used to escape a rolling-calf’s clutches, you would be well-advised to leave the premises at once. The rolling-calf will return with a vengeance.

References

Beckwith, M. W. (1924) Jamaica Anansi Stories. G. E. Stechert and Co., New York.

Beckwith, M. W. (1929) Black Roadways: A Study of Jamaican Folk Life. The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.

Kăk-whăn’-û-ghăt Kǐg-û-lu’-nǐk

Variations: Akhlut (erroneously)

kakwanugat-kegurlunik

Around the coastlines of the Bering Strait, pack ice constantly breaks off and floats away. If there are wolf tracks on the ice, and a chunk of that breaks loose, then it looks as if the prints lead into the water’s edge, or as if a wolf came out of the sea. Yupik folklore holds that this is evidence of the Kăk-whăn’-û-ghăt Kǐg-û-lu’-nǐk.

A kăk-whăn’-û-ghăt kǐg-û-lu’-nǐk is a killer whale (akh’-lut) that can shapeshift at will into a wolf (kǐg-û-lu’-nǐk) to hunt on land. The name of kăk-whăn’-û-ghăt kǐg-û-lu’-nǐk is applied to those creatures when in wolf form. They are aggressive and will kill humans if given the chance.

The kăk-whăn’-û-ghăt kǐg-û-lu’-nǐk is typically depicted as halfway through its transformation – whale at one end and wolf at the other. The beluga whale and caribou are a similarly symbiotic pair, becoming a whale in the sea and a reindeer on land.

References

Nelson, E. W. (1900) The Eskimo about Bering Strait. Extract from the Eighteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office, Washington.

Each Uisge

Variations: Each-uisge, Water horse

each-uisge

While the kelpie plies the rivers and streams of Scotland, the lochs and seas are home to the far more dangerous Each Uisge, literally the “Water Horse”. Each uisges are carnivorous, and relish human flesh. While other water-horses are content with playing pranks, tossing riders into ponds and laughing at their lot, an each uisge’s actions are always predatory. In addition to hunting humans, they will also reproduce with farm animals, siring foals with flashing eyes, strong limbs, distended nostrils, and an indomitable spirit.

Like kelpies, each uisges are shapeshifters and can assume a wide variety of forms, from sea life to attractive human beings. Their most common guise, however, is that of a fine horse, standing by the waterside and waiting to be mounted. Such horses are always magnificent, sleek, and wild-looking, and their neighs can wake people up all around the mountains.

The each uisge in human form is attractive and charming, but always has some features that give it away – horse’s hooves, for instance, or hair full of sand and seaweed, or a tendency to whinny in pain. In such cases where an each uisge lover was found out, it is usually killed by the girl’s father or brothers before it can devour her. Regardless of the shape it has taken, an each uisge’s carcass will turn into formless jellyfish slime by the next day.

Sometimes the each uisge is a large bird, although this may be confusing it with the boobrie. More worrisome features have been observed, including viciously hooked, 17-inch long beaks, enormous claws, and footprints larger than an elephant’s. An each uisge observed at the Isle of Arran was light grey, with a parrot-like beak and a body longer than an elephant’s.

For all their carnivorous nature, each uisges can be easily tamed by slipping a cow’s cap or shackle onto it, turning it docile and harmless. If the cap or shackle ever falls off, the each uisge immediately gallops off for the safety of the loch, possibly dragging its would-be master with it. Each uisges can also be tamed by stealing their magic bridles. They use them to see fairies and demons, and are vulnerable without them. Finally, like many other evil creatures, each uisges avoid crosses and other religious symbols.

Every loch in Scotland has its own each uisge. Loch Treig was said to have the fiercest each uisges. Loch Eigheach means “Horse Loch” and is home to a much-feared each uisge, with a deadly charm and a silky grey hide. It would yell triumphantly as it bore its prey into the water.

Seven girls and a boy once found an each uisge on a Sunday afternoon near Aberfeldy. It was in the form of a pony, and it continued grazing as the first girl jumped onto its back. One by one, the other girls followed their friend onto the pony, but only the boy noticed that the pony’s back grew longer to accommodate its riders. Finally, the pony tried to get him on as well. “Get on my back!” it said, and the boy ran, hiding in the safety of the rocks. The terrified girls found that their hands stuck to the each uisge’s back, and they could only scream as it dove into the loch. The next day, seven livers floated to the surface.

The son of the Laird of Kincardine encountered an each-uisge near Loch Pityoulish. He and his friends found a black horse with a bridle, reins, and saddle all made of silver. They got onto it and immediately found themselves on a one-way trip to the loch, their hands glued to the reins. Fortunately for the heir of Kincardine, the youth had only touched the reins with one finger, and freed himself by cutting it off, but he could only watch as the water-horse took his friends with it.

While the water-horse legend may be pervasive and universal in northern Europe, some of the each uisge’s appearances may be more prosaic. The beak and large footprints of some each uisges suggest a leatherback turtle more than they do a horse.

References

Fleming, M. (2002) Not of this World: Creatures of the Supernatural in Scotland. Mercat Press, Edinburgh.

Gordon, S. (1923) Hebridean Memories. Cassell and Company Limited, London.

MacKinlay, J. M. (1893) Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs. William Hodge & Co., Glasgow.

Parsons, E. C. M. (2004) Sea monsters and mermaids in Scottish folklore: Can these tales give us information on the historic occurrence of marine animals in Scotland? Anthrozoös 17 (1), pp. 73-80.