Region of origin: Scandinavian counties
An evil spirit that plants itself on a sleeping person’s chest, feeding off their life-force while “riding” them, causing bad dreams and anxiety along with the sensation of being pinned down. Signs of a mara attack in the night include waking still feeling weary and drained, and tangled hair known as martovor or mare-locks. Mara may also attack livestock and other animals, especially horses, and even trees with particularly tangled branches are said to be victims of the mara. There was some belief that mara were distinct creatures or demons, but other origins labeled them as humans with familial ties to curses or witchcraft, whose spirits would leave their bodies at night. While traveling in this way, mara could take the form of fog, sand or will-o’-wisps that allowed them enter through impossibly small cracks and sneak into their victims’ homes. Mara are primarily female; it was thought a pregnant woman who practiced svartkonst, a form of witchcraft used to ease labor pains, would result in the children being born as mara if female or a werewolf, or varulv, if male. Rarely some male children would be born as mara or possess features of both, known as a marulv.
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Region of origin: Caribbean islands
A shape-shifting, vampiric jumbie from Trinidad and Tobago and other Caribbean regions, by day the soucouyant will appear as a normal human woman, usually elderly, but at night will cast off her skin and take on its true form of a flying fireball. The skin will be stored somewhere such as a mortar to protect it while the soucouyant flies out to look for victims. In this form they are said to be able to fit through any size hole or crack in a building and descend upon whoever they find sleeping there, draining them of their blood or life-force through the bottom of their feet or other limbs. The victim may eventually become a soucouyant themselves or, if drained to death, the feeding soucouyant may take their skin as a replacement for their own. The soucouyant’s hidden skin is the key to dealing with one; similar to European witches the soucouyant will be compelled to count every grain of rice or salt spilled on the ground which can prevent them from making it home and back into their human disguise before dawn. Alternatively it will give you a chance to enter their home while they’re out and find the skin before they can return to it, where you can sprinkle the skin with salt or hot pepper which will render it unlivable to the soucouyant. Witches may also take the skin to be used as a component in magic spells or rituals.
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Region of origin: Japan
One of the sub-groups of yokai of animals believed to increase in intelligence and magic power as they age, it is believed when a fox turns 100 years old it grows a second tail and gains new powers such as shape-shifting or the ability to create illusions. This continues to increase every hundred years up until it has nine tails and their fur has turned from red to gold or white. The kitstune are broadly divided into two categories, the zenko kitsune are considered benevolent and who act as messengers for the Shinto deity Inari, whereas the yako kitsune are more malicious pranksters, but both groups tend to use their magic to the end of punishing people who have done something to deserve it and respect those who show them kindness. Among their more common tricks, they can possess people and cause them to behave erratically or destructively, or they may turn into people their victim knows to sow confusion, or someone the person will find attractive to seduce them away from their families. The latter can be short-term, but there are stories where it results in an actual long-term relationship and marriage, occasionally producing half-human offspring who possess some of their kitsune parent’s magical abilities. Kitsunebi, or “fox-fire,” is a form of ignis fatuui that is believed to be magical lanterns the kitsune can summon and will use in their wedding processions.
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Region of origin: Cornwall, England, UK
Small sprite-like Cornish fae related to piskies and knockers, spriggans have earned a more violent reputation than their cousins but function more in a protective role than a malicious one, acting as bodyguards to the other fair folk or guardians of castle ruins and barrows and the treasures within. Despite their small stature, spriggans are believed to be the ghosts of ancient giants and can grow to massive sizes, as well as perform an array of magical tricks such as causing bad weather, failed crops and illnesses or leading people astray similar to an ignis fatuus.
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Region of origin: Brittany, France
A lesser demon recorded in Collin de Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernal, Yan-gant-y-tan, or John With The Fire, carries five candles on the fingers of one hand, wheeling them about as he walks through the countryside. It’s said encountering Yan-gant-y-tan is an ill omen but he can be warded off with a bribe of some gold left outside a home for him to find before he approaches. In another version, a lost traveler who comes across a will o’ the wisp is actually seeing Yan-gant-y-tan’s flames, appearing to provide them with a light to help guide them to safety, and his reputation for causing misfortune is only directed at people who have offended him.
The Paulding Light
Region of origin: Paulding, Michigan
Since the mid-Twentieth century there have been reports of an orb-like lights that appears to be moving through a valley near Paulding, Michigan. The local legends that built up around the light attributed it to a spectral lantern being carried by the ghost of a railroad brakeman who had lost his head in an accident on the nearby tracks. Perhaps coincidentally, there are similar ghost-lights with a near-identical stories urban legends attached in numerous parts of North America, including Maco, North Carolina, Gurdon, Arkansas, Saratoga, Texas and St. Louis, Saskatchewan.
Originally posted on Tumblr on September 9, 2016
Region of origin: Mie Prefecture, Japan
“Fire of the God of the Bad Way,” the Akurojin-no-Hi is a living flame that may appear to travelers lost on rough or old paths in disrepair. Possibly confused with fox-fire or other local ghost-lights, they are actually a manifestation or aspect of the god of the road, created to show their displeasure over the human’s trespass. A person who shows the god the proper reverence in the form of fleeing from the fire in terror and vacating the god’s domain should be fine, however, anyone who lingers and allows the fire to approach or touch them will begin to grow increasingly ill and die soon after the encounter.
Originally posted on Tumblr on September 8, 2016