Monday 21 March 2011

The Alphabet of Crones

Images from The Crone Alphabet 

© Andy Paciorek. 2006

A is for Atropos:
The Inevitable. Atropos is one of the Moirai ~ the Olympian spinners of Fate. It is she that brandishes the shears that at any time may sever the threads of life.

B is for Black Annis:
On stormy nights the blue hag of Leicester will hunt for the flesh of lambs and children. Cleaving them asunder with her razor talons, she devours the meat and hangs the skins on her cavern walls to dry.

C is for Cyraeth:
A mournful wail that carries on the wind, strange disembodied lights ... a grotesque bat-winged figure tapping upon your window? The Welsh recognise this as the Cyraeth - a warning that death approaches.

D is for Dziwitza:
Wild women of the Polish woods, the Dwizozony wander at midday in the company of mangy hounds. Cruel-spirited in nature, they are known to rape young men and bizarrely also to tickle people to death.

E is for Empusa:
The Empusae are vampiric entities from Ancient Greece. Though they may manifest as alluring young women in order to seduce and slaughter men, one of their legs will always remain brass, the other hairy and hoofed.

F is for Furies:
Alecto, Magaera and Tisiphone; the daughters of Night. They are the 'Kindly Ones' who with violence and torture, avenge the murdered. Even after death, sinners can expect no respite from the Furies' retribution.

G is for Grugach:
If permitted to sit by a farmhouse hearth on a bitter Scottish night, a Grugach will repay the kindness by guarding the herds of cattle. However care must be taken for they have a tendency to kidnap infant boys.

H is for Hel:
The offspring of a treacherous god and a giantess; Hel is the Norse queen of the dead. However only the souls of those who died a diseased or dishonourable death are hers to claim. Her siblings are a ferocious wolf and a collosal serpent.

I is for Ix Chel:
The crone aspect of the Mayan Rain Goddess; Ix Chel is known as the 'Angry Old Woman' and is the bringer of violent storms, war, death and destruction.

J is for Jendzyna:
This Polish Witch-spirit is a notorious kidnapper of children. She takes her victims to her hut in the heart of the forest, where she butchers and eats them. She is herself the mother of a legion of foul pig-faced entities called Jezinky.

K is for Kali:
The Destroyer. Hindu Goddess and slayer of Demons; Kali the Black's rage and war-frenzy is so intense that she failed to notice that she had inadvertently trampled to death her own husband.

L is for Lha-Mo:
Traversing the perilous passes of the Tibetan plateau on her twisted mule, saddled with the skin and bones of her own dead son; Lha-Mo is deemed responsible for the spread of disease and disaster, malady and madness.

M is for Mara:
The old-English 'Mara' is just one of the many names given to this universal nightmare. She is the nefarious hag that climbs upon your chest as you try to sleep and sups upon your suffocating breaths.

N is for Nochnitsa:
The oxen-headed Night-Hags of Eastern Europe will sneak into the rooms of sleeping infants to torment their dreams and drain their blood. If disturbed from their feeding, they will vanish leaving fever and pestilence in their wake.

O is for Oshun Ibu Kole:
The Buzzard Mother, feared by the slaves taken west from Africa. She is the crone-aspect of the beautiful Orisha Water Goddess, Oshun. Frequenting the foulest, most deadly swamps, she is attended by reptiles and scavenging raptors.

P is for Peg Powler:
This water-witch of County Durham, England will leave small trinkets and baubles upon the banks of the River Tees; then should a small child come to investigate she will seize, drown and devour the youngster.

Q is for Queen of the Night:
Hecate - the distant one is an ancient dark goddess who generally resides in the Underworld, but may manifest at crossroads in the form of a woman or as a black dog, pig, bear or hen.

R is for Rusali:
In the week before Whit, the Romanian Rusali will sing like young girls and wail like the wind. These bringers of hail are the grim spectres of women who either commited suicide or otherwise died upon their wedding day.

S is for Stryx:
Through the use of magical unguents, these Roman Witches transform into monstrous owls at night, in order to rape men and cannibalise babies. The Striges are rumoured to lay eggs and to lactate poisonous milk.

T is Tzitsimine:
Melancholic and malevolent Aztec revenants of women that died whilst giving birth. Bitter towards those whom escaped the same fate, the Tzitsimine infect healthy children with disease.

U is for Urd:
The eldest of the Norse Wyrd Sisters or Norns; Urd is the one who watches over the future. She also guards the primeval Fountain of Urd, whose mystic waters she uses to nurture the roots of the World Tree.

V is for Vargamor:
The Wolf-Crones that wander the forests of Sweden are formidable sorceresses that yield power over wild animals.

W is for Wakwak:
Normal-looking by day, hideous by night; the Wakwaks of the Philippines use their long hollow tongues to feed upon the blood of infants, pregnant women and unborn babies. They then suckle their own offspring upon the gorged fluids.

X is for Xmucane:
The first Mayan sorceress and grandmother of the human race. Xmucane is not renowned for compassion, when a maiden became impregnated by her son's severed head, she forced the girl to fill a large basket of maize from a single plant.

Y is for Yama Uba:
The Mountain Mother of Japan has a voracious appetite for human flesh. She will stalk her prey, then capture it in her long writhing hair before forcing the victim into the ravenous mouth on her scalp.

Z is for Zweda Polnica:
The Slavic Spirit of Midnight. Together with her sisters (Twilight and Dawn) she watches over the Doomsday Hound; for should this beast escape its chains, it will destroy the universe.


For much more art and information on some of these and other Hags see the book 'Strange Lands: A Field Guide to the Celtic Otherworld' by Andy Paciorek

And also the books in progress 'Black Earth: A Field Guide to the Slavic Otherworld' by Andy Paciorek

and also 'Creatures of Shadow and Darkness' by Karl Shuker & Andy Paciorek.

More details on the latter books to follow in time.

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