spirits


TV Show pitch: This Old Crone
Like the PBS seres, This Old House (the original remodeling show), but featuring the transformation of an old crone rather than an old home. It should be hosted by the person who really knows how to do the work rather than the half-assed dilettante hosebag. In this series, instead of covering up the flaws in the crone, we shine a bright spotlight on them so that anyone, including the crone, can learn from them. And the eccentricities of construction will be celebrated rather than trying to turn them into something sleek and modern. Repair work will be done, of course, but with the knowledge that decrepitude is inevitable and the only sure and certain principle ruling the Universe is entropy. Rather than mourning this, the show will encourage us to accept it with as much grace and dignity as possible and learn from it, as well. But we must also remember that if entropy rules the Universe, irony is its only begotten daughter.

Everyone’s path is their own. No path is superior. Everyone has to find their own way. The path of quiet contemplation is as valid as the full-throated war cry. Anyone who judges your path isn’t as secure in their own as they think they are. One person has trouble crossing a room without pain; another climbs mountains. In the end, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is the flame in your heart. If it dies, you’ve failed. If it’s still burning, you’re still burning, and you’re where you need to be.

One of my ancestors is named Mary Polly Armor and I always want to read that as Mary Polyamory. #BecauseThatsJustTheSortOfBrainIHave

What’s the first major news event you remember in your lifetime? I was going to say the assassination of JFK but it’s really the Cuban Missile Crisis. I remember those drills, our young teacher herding us little bitty kids into the cloakroom to shelter. I remember her crying each time and I didn’t figure out until later that it was because she never knew if we were hiding out because it was real and the bombs were on the way or if it was just another drill. I was terrified and didn’t really know why.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the notion that paranormal activity is caused by places being built on Indian burial grounds. It’s quite prevalent in paranormal research and I’ve also fallen prey to the thought of vengeful native spirits. Lately, I’ve reconsidered this. It’s as essentially racist as the Ancient Aliens/Van Daniken notion that primitive (read “people of color”) societies could not possibly have invented the wonders they did—it had to be gifted to them from Space Overlords. The Indian burial ground notion has even pervaded popular horror movie culture. The one exception to this that I can think of in popular culture (rather than supposedly legit research) is the movie Poltergeist. The dead folks in that movie were just vengeful dead folks, not vengeful natives. I can’t think of such an exception in paranormal research. It makes me feel guilty that I even considered the Indian burial ground scenario. Although I’m not sure my white guilt is any more helpful than white appropriation or white nullification of culture. Mostly I realize it’s not about me except for when I can work for positive change.

Here near LAX we got a gentle rolling from the July 5th 7.1 earthquake (downgraded to only 6.9), but it did go on for a very long time. Sometimes they are gentle at first then the big whammy hits, so until things stop there’s always the fear it will get bigger. One of my neighbors was standing out in her front yard screaming, however, which I thought kind of extreme but it takes everybody different. I did feel seasick afterwards, though.

The only thing I know is that whatever negative thing you are when you’re young, you will still be that negative thing when you’re old, only more so. Unless you do a s*** ton of work on yourself between youth and age, if you’re a young rage monkey he’ll be in old age monkey; if you’re a judgmental young twat you’ll be a judgmental old twat. The good news is, if you’re a thoughtful, considerate person when you’re young you’ll most likely still be a thoughtful, considerate old person. The seeds of who our selves are planted at the moment of our birth.

I think the dictation on my Word program must be Scottish. It never wants to capitalize the name Ken.

I lived a block from the Sidewalk Cafe in the 80s. We often ate there in the day time, but knew to stay off the Boardwalk at night: too wild & dangerous for girls on their own. It sounds like things have changed—and not changed: https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2019/05/08/a-night-with-a-bouncer/#.XRlOldiNsgk.twitter

I have to confess that as much as I loathe Ancient Aliens, it’s a good show to have on for background noise when I’m not feeling very well. I can read Twitter while it’s playing and look up every once in a while to yell very rude things at the screen. #NeverSaidIWasntWeird

I don’t feed the crows every day. But every time I do feed them, the day after one of them will perch on the rail near my open front door and yell at me to feed them again. #LoveThemCrows

The Detectorists – a lovely, gentle, funny show. One of my favorites.

I have a terrible confession to make. I hope you’ll still be my friends once you hear it: I like the lumps in cream of wheat.

Last night I re-watched My Dinner with Andre for the first time in a very long time. At least 20 years, maybe longer. I’ve seen it many times. There was a time when my friend and I would go to see it every time it played at the Nuart cinema in West L.A., an “art house” theater which still exists (though it’s part of the Landmark chain now). Every time I saw Andre I felt as if the conversation had somehow magically changed, that new things, new concepts had been added. My sympathy would swing back and forth between the two people talking, I’d laugh at one and then the other, cry with one and then the other. The ending always made me appreciate the mystery and the wonder of life, from the ordinary details of a cold cup of coffee, to the mystical wonders of Findhorn, to living life consciously, and living life in a dream. And it still works. It still works.

In some ways it works better in today’s society than it did in 1981. The themes of living consciously rather than floating along; the themes of how distracted we all are and how difficult that makes it to live meaningfully.

“A baby holds your hand and then suddenly there’s this huge man lifting you off the ground. And then he’s gone. Where’s that son?”

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And speaking of watching, I just finished season 3 of The Detectorists. What a lovely, lovely show. Low key, gentle humor, sweet spirit. One of my very favorites.

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Mom and her starling, Baby:

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Butterflies are such beautiful creatures. Which is why I can’t understand the urge to collect them, kill them, and use them as art objects, preventing them from living out their life cycle and reproducing so that we will continue to have beautiful butterflies.

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My mother grew up right in the middle of Uintah Co., UT, a place well known in paranormal circles and home to the infamous Skinwalker Ranch. It was a little farming community called Willow Creek, not to be confused with the current day town of Willow Creek which is some ways northwest of where Mom grew up. Mom’s community doesn’t exist any more, as it became part of the Ute reservation. I had to locate the Creek it was named after to get an approximate location on Google maps (below).

I’ve often wondered if Mom’s nervousness regarding “weird shit,” as she called it, was because she grew up in a place where it was common.

Having said that, one of the shows she really liked to watch in the last years of her life was Finding Bigfoot. It was one of the few “weird” shows she could tolerate. Every time we’d watch she’d be fascinated and almost every single time she’d say afterwards, “There has to be something to this.” Not sure why she found it so convincing. But maybe Uintah County had something to do with it.

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Speaking of weird (as I do so love to), I was reading a thread on Twitter about the superstitions of health care workers. One of the most frequently mentioned was that health care workers would open a door or a window when someone died so the soul could find its way outside. (This is a very old folkloric belief.) While reading this I remembered that when my mother, who was in hospice here at home, passed away, the very lovely hospice nurse (a lady from Africa—and I’m sorry, sweet nurse, I no longer remember which country you said) took care of business and then went to open the front door.

I don’t think I even asked her why (I was in grief shock) but there must have been something in my expression because she hurried to say, “That’s so the funeral home knows what house it is.” I accepted it at the time but in retrospect, that makes no sense at all. It makes more sense after reading that thread on Twitter.

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It’s so difficult to overcome the “I want I want I want” mentality so many of us have been raised with in this society and replace it with the “We are we are we are” mentality. But necessary deprogramming.

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I’m a rather half-assed pagan. I do witchy things but I respect and honor witches too much to call myself one unless I feel I’ve earned it. I think I’m on a parallel but different path, anyway. I have a kind of spiritual practice that I’m getting back in touch with after many years of distraction and tamping it down to deal with this world. Any spiritual practice that’s worth its salt, I think, has to deal with both the mystical and the mundane or it’s just escapism. (Yes, I know, some would say all spiritual practice is escapism, but that’s their problem. I have no patience with them.)

In recent times, I have meditated and put out calls of—how to phrase it? Belonging? Certain deities respond and when they do I honor them on my mantelpiece. Others are just “the spirit of the rock” or “the spirit of the tree.” I am sure there is a spirit of the house, this house, but it’s unnamed. My mother, as I’ve mentioned, was not comfortable with discussion of anything spiritual. But I think she had some talents. She said the first time she walked into this house it opened its arms to her and said welcome. And I still feel that.

Everyone on the mantelpiece seems okay with everyone else, but I always ask before I place a representation there if everyone welcomes the addition. On rare occasions they say no and I honor that, but most times they’re accepting. And not just spiritual things go on the mantle. It’s a kind of cornucopia of silly and sacred and artwork, but it seems to work for everybody.

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What’s something about myself that I once wanted to change to fit in but am now happy with? My weirdness. I never saw things the way most people did. I now realize that’s not my affliction but my treasure.

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“It’s not a swastika it’s some kind of Tibetan symbol,” said the guy in the Nazi war helmet when asked why he put a concrete swastika in his front yard. “I don’t think he’s a Neo-Nazi,” said his neighbor, adding sheepishly, “But he may be racist.” #TalesFromTheLocalNews

Random quote of the day:

“Some spirits are indeed figments of the human imagination, yet there are others who have been around much longer than human beings. Among spirits there is a vast hierarchy, from simple energy forms and nature spirits to angelic and higher forms of divine and galactic intelligence. These may be terrestrial or celestial, intimately associated with human life or not, but all are aspects of the one Universal Being, conceived of as the totality, inner and outer, or as its creator.”

—Rab Wilkie, “Spirited Imagination: Ways of approaching the shaman’s world,” in Being Changed by Cross-Cultural Encounters, eds. David Young and Jean-Guy Goulet

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Orville and Wilbur, Katy Perry, or the Avengers. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

  1. Let me thread you a story… (1-16)
  2. Sam Hotchkiss is the caretaker down to Shady Groves Cemetery. Sam says as how he likes his job, walking through the quiet and peace,
  3. making sure the residents are happy. Most enjoy the peace as much as Sam. Any that don’t tend not to stay in Shady Groves.
  4. They get up and wander ‘round town and sometimes have to be dealt with by Madame Nimby and her son Rupert.
  5. Others just wander the streets taking in the sights, seeing what old friends and family are up to.
  6. Wanderin’ gets old after awhile—and takes a passel of energy. When they dissipate enough of that restless mojo they go back
  7. to Shady Groves and their sod beds, wrap their grass blankets back around themselves, and rest eternal.
  8. Sam takes particular care of the children there. He feels bad they got cut off so young and didn’t have a chance to live long and prosper.
  9. He likes to leave marbles by their graves so they can have a game now and then. Used to leave stuffed animals, too,
  10. but they tended to get soggy when it rained and the kids didn’t care for ‘em much after that.
  11. Electronic games don’t work for similar reasons. ‘Sides, it’s difficult for the kids to maintain corporeal fingers long enough to swipe and tap.
  12. They do enjoy a nice game of hide n’ seek, sometimes with Sam, sometimes with each other.
  13. Ain’t rightly fair when they play with Sam, though. If he gets too close to finding them, they can just go invisible.
  14. That trick don’t work with each other—spirits can always see other spirits—but Sam is a mere mortal, after all.
  15. Them kids laugh and laugh when Sam seeks and seeks and never finds. “Play fair, you kids!” he’ll call out to them.
  16. But mostly he’s laughing when he says it. Can’t blame kids for having a good time.

This tale can also be found on Twitter @downportalville.
You can read about us from the beginning at: http://bit.ly/2k1j8B7


1. Let me Thread you a story…(1-16)
2. We got us some spooky properties here in town, left over from the days of the Great Spirit Invasion of ’07.
3. Spirits poured into town from all over through a rip in the Space-Time Continuum, taking up residence in homes and businesses.
4. Madame Nimby, town exorcist, & her son Rupert sewed up the rip with existential thread and that kept new ghosts from coming through.
5. But they were so busy exorcising the ones already here they couldn’t keep up. It took a deal of time for things to settle down.
6. Most ghosts was just lost souls sucked through the rip by accident and easily persuaded to move on to a higher place.
7. Some, though, were stubborn & not inclined to persuasion. Folks who had those spirits in their homes & businesses had a tough choice.
8. Either move out or learn to live with haints. Some businesses made deals with the ghosts to stay quiet during business hours.
9. Likewise, some residents made similar deals, asking that the hauntings stop after everyone had gone to bed.
10. Still others just couldn’t live with the ruckus, or the spirits refused to cooperate. But we take care of our own.
11. The town banded together to build new homes & businesses for those forced out. That left about a dozen spooky abandoned buildings.
12. Madame & Rupert laid down salt & warding spells ‘round those places. Kept the bad spirits from wandering.
13. Nowadays our biggest problem is out-of-towner ghost hunters pestering us to do investigations (cuz we got us a ghosty reputation).
14. Some of these are sincere folks just wanting to understand the nature of the universe & we towners got no problem with them.
15. Others seem to see ghost hunting as entertainment. I don’t hold with people who use the lost souls of the dead that way.
16. But ain’t no spells for exorcising dilettantes. More’s the pity.

This story can also be found on Twitter @downportalville.

In April 2008, around the anniversary of the death of my Aunt Maxine, I started seeing 11:11 every day when I looked up at the clock. Not every time I looked at the clock because 11:11 only comes twice a day for those of us on a 12-hour clock, but often I’d feel compelled to look at the clock at this precise time. It went on for over two weeks and became rather unsettling.

What was the Universe trying to tell me? Something significant, or just that random chance sometimes gets stuck, throwing “heads” 85 times in a row?

Then I remembered my Aunt Maxine’s birthday was November 11 and wondered if it was her saying, “Hey, I’m still around. Don’t worry so much.” This was a comforting thought and the creepiness factor went away, although the 11:11’s didn’t. I kept seeing them for weeks after.

So I did what any semi-rational human being would do in such circumstances. I googled it.

Golly. There are a universe of beliefs around the coincidence of seeing 11:11. Yeah, I still (mostly) call it a coincidence, even though my personal anecdote seems to convey meaning, because post hoc theorizing and confirmation bias and because of all the fuzzy and convoluted theorizing I read online.

For instance, there’s this guy:

Um. I did scurry to my tarot to see what card was 11. It’s Justice. I thought, “If it’s the Hanged Man I’m going to mess myself.” Because for me that relates to 9/11 and I just didn’t know if I could stand that. The Hanged Man was 12.

Mr. Fuller is right about it being more important for me to find my own answers, but I looked online for more data points.

Uri Geller has a lot to say on 11:11 but I can’t tell you all of it. I fell asleep about halfway through his article. In all fairness to Mr. Geller, this strange phenomenon happened to me on more than one article on 11:11, which doesn’t always coincide with clear and concise theorizing.

Of course, no consideration of 11:11 would be complete without this:

However, some of the folklore surrounding 11:11 is charming, like the idea that if you look up to see it your wish will come true. Or when you see it repeatedly it means that you are beginning to “awaken” spiritually, and 11:11 is the indicator that you’re on the right path. Some believe it’s a sign that your angels are listening and you should ask for their guidance.

Other beliefs are darker, like the theory that 11:11 is a portend of great earth changes or history on the brink of something momentous…Actually, I don’t want to think on that one too hard, given recent seismic events in politics. I much prefer the belief that when you see 11:11, you should stop and consider the significance and importance of the moment in which you live. Of the moment, in the moment.

But Maxie, if that was you, I love ya, babe.

Random quote of the day:

“The microscope shows you the creatures on the leaf; no mechanical tube is yet invented to discover the nobler and more gifted things that hover in the illimitable air. Yet between these last and man is a mysterious and terrible affinity…”

—Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Zanoni

 air4WP@@@

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

 

torches

The purpose of this post is mostly to call attention to this fascinating and readable academic article by Katharine Luomala from Pacific Studies, 1983. Ms. Luomala does a thorough—and nonjudgmental—investigation of the widely perceived phenomena of Night Marchers, torch-bearing spirit processions which are still being perceived today in the Hawaiian islands. These processions seem to share similarities with the trooping fairies of Ireland, as well as other marching “beings.” There may also be something of the Wild Hunt in this mythology, as well.

The Night Marchers, however, are distinctly Hawaiian, incorporating in their processions the ritual of taboo, where it was on pain of death that ordinary people looked upon the being of sacred chiefs.

As Ms. Luomala explains:

The most sacred chiefs and chiefesses were carried in litters because their feet would taboo the ground. They seldom went out except at night, thus preventing the disruption of daily labor and the chance of a polluting shadow falling on anything or anybody. A taboo-breaker might be killed or seized for a sacrifice at a high chief’s heiau (place of worship). Sometimes the penalty was extended to the violator’s entire family group.

Even in spiritual form, it is widely believed, if you look upon the Night March, you will die—or be kidnapped and forced to march with them for eternity. Whenever you see a line of torches flickering in the distance and dark, folk of the islands say it is best to run as fast in the opposite direction as you can. If flight isn’t possible, hide—but by all means, do not do any curious peeking from your hiding place or you are doomed. If even hiding is not possible, prostrate yourself on your face on the ground and do not look up until you have heard the sound of marching feet pass you by and disappear in the distance.

Here’s the testimony of a limpet picker from 1970:

Suddenly I heard the sound of a conch shell blowing in the distance. Keoki heard it too. I thought it was the wind. Then a little while later we heard it again. This time it was a little louder. It was spooky because we didn’t see anything. Then we heard it again. We looked toward Ka-wai-hae side and then we saw it. It looked like a procession. At first we saw a line of torches in the distance. The procession was moving along the coastline. The conch shell blew again.

I took out my knife and Keoki got the rifle. We went seaward and laid down on the lava rock. We knew about night marchers from other fishermen. We knew you aren’t supposed to look upon the marchers and to lay on the ground face down. We did this. The marchers passed about fifty yards in front of us on the sand path. As they passed we could hear the sound of a drum pounding beat by beat. We didn’t look up until they were farther down the coast. All we could see now was the line of torches, and all we could hear was the far away sound of the conch shell. We didn’t know if they were going to come back that night, but we didn’t want to stick around and see.

Ms. Luomala recounts many such reports—from native islanders, tourists, European explorers—and places them within the context of Hawaiian belief. Like I said, a fascinating article.

I shouldn’t confess this, but I have a terrible addiction to junk TV. I saw a recent episode of Ghost Asylum, one of the stupider ghost hunter shows on the air. They did an investigation of the abandoned Coco Palms resort, reportedly built over one of the well-known pathways of the Night Marchers of Kaua’i. Many locals believe the resort was cursed from the start and is badly haunted. They won’t go there after dark, and say Night Marches are common on the property. It was destroyed by Hurrican Iniki in 1992 and never rebuilt. Some locals say this was a curse visited on them for the sacrilege of building on sacred land. But…developers are currently planning to tear down the Coco Palms and rebuild a new, grander resort. This would bring much needed jobs to the island, but local sentiment is mixed. It’s not for me to say whether development on a sacred site is a wise plan or just more developer hubris, but the investors have pledged to respect the land. They also brought in a shaman to do a blessing, just in case.

supernatural

When I was reading Graham Hancock’s book, Supernatural: Meetings With the Ancient Teachers of Mankind, he talked about the hallucinogenic vine called ayahuasca. The name means “Vine of the Soul” or “Vine of the Dead,” and shamans in Amazonia have been using it since way the hell back in order to make contact with the ancestors. The drug derived from this plant is illegal in the U.S. and Britain, but in Amazonian countries it is protected under the laws of religious freedom as it is integral to the religious practice in many indigenous cultures.

Hallucinogenic plants are used for similar purposes in all cultures around the world, but what I found so fascinating about ayahuasca is that the leaves of the plant are rich in a chemical—Dimethyltryptamine (DMT)—that the human brain secretes naturally in minute quantities. Normally, substances which contain DMT are blocked from absorption into the body by a naturally-occurring enzyme in the human stomach. The vine part of the ayahuasca contains a chemical inhibitor for this enzyme, thus the shamans must cook both leaves and vine together in order for the hallucinogenic effect to happen. This is a fairly arduous process of cooking and layering and recooking that goes on for hours. Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations episode on Peru features a segment on this process, if you happen to catch it some time. (Good episode—well, except for the guinea pig segment.)

I’m left wondering, first, how the shamans discovered the particular chemical interaction going on here; and, second—as I always wonder in the cases of non-technical societies discovering complex processes for making Thing A become Thing B—how the hell they figured it out in the first place. The shamans say that the plants themselves told them how to do this and what effects would happen. Similar explanations occur in other parts of the world: the gods told us how to do this; the plants did; the spirits whispered in our ear.

Take, for instance, the olive. It takes an ungodly amount of complex processing to take the hard, bitter, inedible nut of the olive tree and soften it so that it is not only deliciously digestible but, more importantly, pliable enough to crush and extract the olive oil. Greek legend maintains that Athena came down from Olympus to clue mortals into this process. Western scientists prefer to say that it must have come about through trial and error.

Even so, that’s pretty mind-boggling. Who was the first person who said, “Gee, I bet this thing that looks, feels, and tastes like a rock would yield a delicious condiment and extremely useful cooking oil if only we put it through a series of brine baths for days on end to soften it up”? Who was the first shaman who said, “Wow, I bet if we take this incredibly foul-tasting vine and pound it for hours until it’s fibrous, then boil it with its leaves and layers of other stuff for hours more that at the end we’ll get one of the foulest-tasting liquids known to human taste buds but a kickass vision of the Otherworld”?

The skeptics would say it occurred because of a series of accidents and was more cause-and-effect than messages from the spirit world. But human ingenuity is still a wondrous thing, is it not, whether or not you prefer the mundane explanation or the talking plant explanation?

brownie-sm

Illustration by Jean-Baptiste Monge

There’s always one in every crowd. You know, you’ve got a good thing going and that one guy or gal pushes things too far and ruins it for everyone. This is no less true when dealing with fairies.

I was reading R. Macdonald Robertson’s Selected Highland Folktales and he told the story of “The Fairies of Pennygown.” If any of the townsfolk of Pennygown needed help with a task, they brought the work of an evening to a certain nearby sithean, a lovely green fairy hill. By morning, the task would be nicely completed: spinning, weaving, repair, mending, you name it. One villager, though, kept leaving more and more difficult things, pushing it.

One night he left by their hillock a piece of driftwood which he had picked up on the sea-shore, with instructions that it was to be made into a ship’s mast. When the villagers came next morning to collect the property left overnight, they found none of the tasks executed. This last request had angered the fairies so much that they had left their hillock, in disgust, for good.

Any reasonable being would be put out by such oafish behavior, it’s true. But it’s also true that helpful fairies are a tricky lot. They can have goodwill towards humans, but it can also turn on a dime. If they’re insulted, they can get mischievous and mean. Some say poltergeists are fairies who’ve become insulted by a householder and take it out in spite.

They also have sometimes exacting standards of what constitutes insult. Brownies and hobs, for instance, will gladly help out with the housework, usually at night like the Pennygown folk. However, they don’t want to be seen, and don’t want payment, or even expressions of gratitude. They will, though, accept gifts, mostly in the form of food, especially porridge and honey. If a householder starts taking them for granted, openly thanks them, or considers the food “payment”—or if they try to get a glimpse of them—the brownies will forthwith abandon the house, never to be seen again or lend their help.

There are other European versions of such beings: tomte in Scandanavia, domovoi in Slavic countries, Heinzelmännchen in Germany, Haltija in Finland, many others. Some have even made the trip over the Atlantic to the Americas. But in my (admittedly limited) investigation of helpful fairy folk, I’ve only found one non-European example of work-helpful fairies, the koro-pok-guru of the Ainu people of the Northern Japanese islands.

These beings would hunt and fish for the Ainu in exchange for little gifts, leaving the goods overnight. Like the brownies, they hated being seen. Of course, one Ainu loser couldn’t leave well enough alone and blew the gig for everyone. The young man in question waited by the place where the gifts were left, determined to see a koro-pok-guru, and laid hands on the first one to appear. It was a beautiful koro-pok-guru maiden, but she and her people were so angered at this affrontery that they disappeared, never to help the Ainu or be seen again.

Very strong parallels with the European myths, but that isn’t entirely surprising. Ainu are racially distinct from the Japanese. Recent research suggests Okhotsk origins and there is still a small population of Ainu in Russia. They share that pan-European ancestry, so they share those ancient pan-European stories.

But as I said, I haven’t found anything else like it around the world. Good and bad spirits aplenty, but none who will pitch in to do the work for humans in exchange for small gifts. I am far from an expert on this, so if anyone knows of such a tradition in a non-European context, I would love to hear about it.

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