Clarissa Johal

Thursday, November 15, 2018

#FolkloreThursday - #Scandinavian Water Spirits

This is Part Two of Folklore Thursday - Scandinavian Water Spirits.
You can read Part One HERE

Bjørn som Tegner GFDL
CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Fossegrim is a troll or water spirit who plays the fiddle. An exceptionally talented fiddler, he is often willing to teach his skills in exchange for food offerings. Many stories tell of travelers who have tried to offer something less than acceptable, resulting in the traveler being taught to tune rather than play his instrument. Fossegrim can also lure travelers into lakes and streams in order to drown them.





Theodor Kittelsen [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

The nøkken is a fresh water relative of Fossegrim. The nøkken is especially attracted to women and children and will play the violin to lure them onto thin ice where he is waiting for them. Nøkken can shapeshift into a horse or a man. In their horse form, they will try and make the victim touch their long tail. If they do, the victim will often become stuck and dragged under the ice into the depths of the lake. The nøkken are particularly dangerous after sunset. Swimmers can protect themselves by throwing steel into the water. The nøkken may also be defeated by calling out their name, which causes them to lose power. 


A draugen is the spirit of someone who died at sea. Always evil, they exist only to guard undersea treasure and drown the living. They wear fisherman's clothing, have sharp teeth, skin made of rotting fish scales and a tangle of seaweed where their head should be. The draugen also have magical abilities. They can affect your dreams, shapeshift, control the weather, and walk through stone. They sail the seas in half of a boat with weathered sails. If a traveler spots a draugen, they are in mortal danger unless they can race the draugen and win.

Monday, November 12, 2018

#MeatlessMonday - Grandmother's Apple Dumplings #British #dessert #recipe

My British grandmother was a wonderful cook, especially when it came to desserts. Before she emigrated to America, she worked as a housekeeper for a well-to-do manor house in Sheffield, England. She would tell me many stories about England and how much she missed it. I loved hearing them and found myself pining for the green hills of Yorkshire with her. Many years after her death I was able to travel to her birthplace and saw why she missed it so. My latest paranormal novel, Whispers in the Wood, is a nod to her as it takes place in England.
This was one of my favorite childhood recipes she taught me how to make. If you don't wish to venture into homemade pastry, frozen sheet pastry will do (buy enough for two pies). Enjoy!



2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup vegetable shortening
5-7 T cold water

Cut shortening into flour and salt mixture until it resembles small peas. Add cold water, one tablespoon at a time, until pastry sticks together. Roll out into a thin sheet and cut into 4 squares.


4 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored
Fill each core with a pat of butter, a teaspoon of sugar, and a sprinkle of cinnamon

*Wrap each apple with pastry, closing the top like a drawstring purse, and set in a baking pan.


1-3/4 cup water
3/4 cup white sugar
3T butter
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Boil mixture for 3 minutes and pour over pastry wrapped apples.

Bake uncovered at 500F for 5-7 minutes.
Reduce heat to 350F and bake for 35-40 minutes more. Enjoy with tea (of course!) and a good book.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

#FolkloreThursday - Trolls, Hulder, and Nattmara - #Scandinavian Mythological Beings

Theodor Kittelsen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Part One - Scandinavian Mythological Beings

In Scandinavian folklore, there are several kinds of mythological beings. Trolls (jotnar), hulder and nattmara, to name a few. 
Trolls (jotnar) are said to dwell in isolated rocks, mountains, or caves. They often live together in small family units but are rarely helpful to humans. They are towering, stone-like creatures with colossal limbs. Some of them are so unkempt that plants will root in their skin. The ugliest jotnar can have single eyes or multiple heads. It is said they turn into stone when exposed to sunlight. Trolls are traditionally dim-witted creatures, boasting brute strength and a connection with nature.

Bernard Evans Ward [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The hulder are seductive creatures and can easily be mistaken for attractive humans. They have beautiful voices that mimic wind or water. It is said they can lure men into caves or forests in order to suck the life from them. The only giveaway to their deceptive form is they have a cow or fox-like tail, which they usually keep hidden. If a hulder can convince a man to marry them in a church, that tail falls off and they will become human. However, their beauty will also be lost and the hulder transforms into an ugly creature.

Nattmara (nightmares) are a race of female werewolves. They appear as a pale, skinny woman with long black hair and talon-like fingernails. They have the ability to turn themselves into sand and slip through the smallest crack. Once they've breached the home, they straddle the victim's chest at night to cause nightmares. Nattmara could also tangle one's hair so that the knots would have to be cut out. In some tales, they are similar to the banshee in that they are a death omen. The nattmara would leave a dirty poppet behind to cause a member of the family to contract tuberculosis. To avoid being targeted by a nattmara, a person could leave shoes (or nail a horseshoe) at/to the foot of the bed. Supposedly, the nattmara would see this are being an uncrossable boundary or find them distracting. They would then leave that person alone.

Stop by next Thursday for Part Two: Scandinavian Water Spirits

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Tangled Tuesday - National Novel Writing Month #NaNoWriMo

Committed to writing 50,000 words in the 30 days of November?
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun approach to doing just that. 

On November 1, participants can work towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.
NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.

 Many of my author friends are participating and what a great way to kick a novel into high-gear.
I thought I'd post a collection of photos to inspire anyone looking for photo prompts.
A picture is worth 1000 words, right?
All of the photos are mine (except for the old car, skull and apples, and the shoes, which are Creative Commons) and you are welcome to use them on Twitter.  Good luck!

May you be inspired to write The Next Great Novel... 

Monday, November 5, 2018

#MeatlessMonday - Tomato and Brown Rice Soup #vegan #vegetarian

This is a very easy recipe to make and it's vegan. Enjoy!

Photo courtesy of FOX via Pexels
Tomato and Brown Rice Soup


1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped leeks
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup chopped carrots
3 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups vegetable stock
1 - 16-ounce can diced tomatoes

6 ounces fresh spinach, chopped
1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 cup brown rice, cooked
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. Add the leeks, red bell pepper, carrots and garlic. Sauté over medium heat until the leeks are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the vegetable stock, diced tomatoes, spinach and parsley. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Blend in food processor.

Cook the brown rice according to directions. Add rice to soup.

Season with salt and pepper. Heat and serve. Voila! Dinner is served!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

#FolkloreThursday - Vampires Around the World

Vampires. The mention of these creatures used strike fear and loathing, many years ago. After all, they were undead whose sole purpose was to kill. In the past fifty years, however, vampires have been simultaneously sexualized and emasculated. They share a new list of traits in films and literature. They no longer terrify but instead; their spit heals wounds, their fangs grow in response to sexual desire, they worry over moral choices, fall in love, sparkle and have babies. Oh boy.

But let's revisit the original definition:

Lithograph by Moraine (1864).
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Vampires: mythological or folkloric creatures who subsist by feeding on the life essence (generally in the form of blood) of living creatures, regardless of whether they are undead or a living person/being. Belief in such legends became so rife that in some cultures it caused mass hysteria and even public executions of people believed to be vampires.

Vampiric entities exist in many cultures and go back as far as prehistoric times. These blood-drinking, flesh-eating entities were associated with demons or evil spirits. The term vampire was not popularized until the early 18th century.

Ancient Greek mythology contains several precursors to modern vampires. Empusa, the daughter of the goddess Hecate, was described as a demon with flaming hair, a serpentine tail and one leg of brass and the other of a donkey. She would transform into a beautiful woman and seduce men as they slept...before drinking their blood and eating their flesh.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
[CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Aztec mythology described tales of the cihuateteo; skeletal-faced spirits of women who died in childbirth. Childbirth was looked on as a battle in Aztec culture, and those who died in the process were honored as fallen warriors. The spirits of these women were said to haunt crossroads at night; stealing children, seducing men and causing sickness, seizures and madness.

Various regions of Africa share folkloric tales of beings with vampiric abilities. The Ashanti of southern Ghana tell of the sasabonsam, or forest vampires. They are said to be hairy and man-sized beings with short stubby arms, a wingspan of 20 feet, blood-shot eyes and teeth made of iron. They hang from trees utilizing hooks on their feet, which make it easy to swoop down on their prey and drain their blood.

Illustration by Ernest Griset
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Vetàla are vampiric entities from Hindu mythology. Inhabiting the zone between life and afterlife, they are the hostile spirits of the dead whose children neglected to perform funerary rites in their memory. The vetàla can move from corpse to corpse, stopping decay and existing indefinitely. Victims reanimated by a vetàla would always have their hands and feet pointed backwards. They can haunt the living, kill children, cause miscarriages, and drive people insane.

In China, it is the jiāng shī, also known as a “hopping vampire” or reanimated corpse. The jiāng shī are said to have long, white hair, greenish-white skin, (due to rotting and mold) and a stiff gait. In the daytime they hide in dark places but at night they move, arms outstretched, by hopping. To kill living creatures, they must absorb their qi (life energy).

By Bin im Garten
CC BY-SA 3.0  from Wikimedia Commons
In European folklore, vampires were bloated with ruddy, purplish or dark skin. Their teeth, hair, and nails continued to grow, even after death. Blood would seep from their mouth and nose, and while their right eye was closed, their left eye would remain open. In general, fangs were not a feature. The origins of these physical attributes can be attributed to what we now know of forensic pathology: remaining bacteria in the body cause it to swell, which in turn, rupture blood vessels and cause blood to ooze from the mouth. Skin and gums shrivel and make the hair, nails and teeth look like they’ve grown.  It is the simple process of decomposition.

So why are we not getting down-and-dirty with these types of vampires? Sadly, romance with creatures leaking fluid or hopping about just isn't sexy. We save concepts of the aforementioned vampires for entertainment meant to scare. 
If you're interested in scary vampire movies for Halloween, my current watch list includes Cronos and Let the Right One In. I may even re-watch Nosferatu and What We Do in the Shadows (a not-to-miss comedy).
But if you like your vampires sexy, by all means, have at it. And don't forget your werewolves. They never get any love.

Photo courtesy of Harem Malik via Flickr