Monday, December 29, 2014

Mythic Monday: Huldra

I haven't Mythic Monday'd in a while...but post-Samhain we move into the traditional storytelling season. It seems appropriate to begin with tonight's Scandinavian myth, since the Norse were serious about their stories during the long, dark winter nights (not unlike the great-grandmas who can't see you tonight because their STORIES are on T.V.).

Disclaimer: you stopped here because you're searching for the gun manufacturer, sorry to disappoint but BOY have you landed in the wrong space. You've probably already figured out I'm not discussing the virtues and drawbacks of a gas-piston rifle and wandered off to If you're still here, feel free to hang out and discover your gun is named for a hot female...who occasionally becomes a (literal) man-eating monster. 

Image: Wikipedia

Also, while researching today's creature I found this: Huldra And Victim creation app. It's horrifyingly wonderful.

It's possible I wasted some time playing with online doll versions of pretty woodland people-ish entities...who eat their victims (presumably after the sex part, like a Norse Preying Mantis without the extra limbs). I sort of wish I could get a couple made for the family members who have a doll-phobia, but that's another story.

The Huldra (or Hulder: I'll use them interchangeably here because the terms aren't linguistically different in meaning) is a fascinating figure in Scandinavian mythology whose story and attributes changed as Christianity spread throughout the area. She is both beautiful and monstrous, naked and clothed, helpful and vengeful, compliant and deadly: all depending on how she's treated.

In the Pagan era myths, she is consistently described as a beautiful wild woman of the forest, who has an animal tail. In Norway the tail is always a cow's: in southern Sweden it could be a cow's or fox's. The further north you are, the more likely she has either a hollow back or a back covered in tree bark. Regardless, there is always something just a bit animal or forest about her.

In the earliest myths, the Hulder was often a seductive woodland fairy nymph, and was usually recognizable as something other than a human woman only because of the tail. Dealing with the Hulder is somewhat similar to the Irish Celtic ideals of dealing with Fairies: politeness is paramount, satisfaction is rewarded. It's also interesting to point out the Hulder myths don't have a lot of mortal women involved (in general, the Hulder appear to be a temptation to men alone, much like a Succubus, only without the demonic aspects).

There is a male version, the Huldercarl, who acts in a similar manner as the Hulder only toward women: the gender specificity implies both the Hulder and Huldercarl are examples of man and woman dealing with the dangers and bounty of the wild.

Legend has it, a man (or woman) who is kind, polite, and sexually satisfying is rewarded by the Hulder/Huldercarl. However, every power comes with a price. The old myths of Hulder include her ability and willingness to kill, and even eat, those who didn't satisfy her. The implication in the tales is definitely sexual satisfaction, but it's important to note that rude or inhospitable behavior could just as easily offend. The Huldercarls' myths don't include the sexual implications of satisfy-or-I-kill-you, which perhaps reflects ancient Norse views on sex to a certain extent: it's possible to infer a supposition that females are harder to please, and therefore only those skilled enough could win her favor. At the same time, it's possible the Huldercarls' satisfaction was assumed simply out of an idea that males are less difficult to please, and also possibly that women weren't expected to "work" as hard at sex. MANY fairy myths involving sex imply that it takes great skill to satisfy a woman: this could also just be another area of prowess for the Hero cycle of a story.

In the earlier myths it appears the reward was protection by a superhuman entity. Imagine what Scandinavia was like before roads and effective land-clearing techniques: the forests were so thick and inhospitable they literally made isolated "islands" of arable land and could cut off huge swaths of area between towns. The Vikings weren't seafaring folk just out of convenience, but out of shipping and communication necessity. Dark things lived in those forests, from trolls to bandits to bears, and a Hulder whose favor you've gained could potentially protect you and your family from ALL of them. That's nothing to scoff at, and was actually so highly regarded even as Christiantiy took over the area the luck of befriending a Hulder was incorporated as acceptable practice.

Christianity spread over the Norse slower than the rest of Europe (indeed, partly due to the isolation of the land), but eventually it did effect the details of the Hulder/Huldercarl. One Christianized tale says the Hulder were once mortal children who weren't washed by their mother: the "unclean" children became Hulder. This isn't terribly different from the Christian myth of the Fae, who were God's angels who didn't take sides in the war in Heaven, and so fell but only to Earth, not to Hell with Lucifer and his band.

As time went on, the Huldra became pretty milkmaids who looked completely human and innocent except for the tail, but if a farmer could win her heart and convert her to the faith the tail would fall away (as she loses her fairy immortality and becomes mortal and "saved"). Hulder and Huldercarl lost their danger AND their protective abilities, and were relegated to rather benign figures in pastoral life: simple cattle herders who brought luck and prosperity if you were able to convert and marry one, but the threat had been nullified. Domesticated.

Of course, who knows if they were ever truly domesticated...

Norway, by the way, produces some wonderful movies about Norse mythology, including one about the Huldra. I saw it recently on Netflix, and recommend it if you're interested: Thale.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Trials and Tribulations of a Jedi Dog.

Chewy has been particularly unimpressed with us lately. 

Ok let's be honest: he's perfectly fine with Husband. He's less than thrilled with me. 

In the past week, he's burned his tongue off*, endured humiliating tortures, and been denied wintertime treats. All because he has the unfortunate happenstance of birth to be reincarnated as a giant Star Wars fluffball with four legs, no arms, and more importantly no thumbs. 

Episode IV: A Burnt Tongue

We left for dinner (because we're lazy and neither wanted to do dishes, therefore cooking was utterly out of the question) for a couple hours one evening, Husband forgot to put his Wasabi peas away. If you've never had them, Wasabi Peas are crunchy, shriveled pieces of hell masquerading as "healthy snacks." All that means is once you've burned out your sinus infection or allergies and your eyes stop watering, you'll stop snacking. 

When we returned, we found two perfectly sets of perfectly piled peas. Both had the wasabi carefully licked off, both appear to be fully intact peas. Apparently neither dog was impressed with the idea of a good nasal cavity stinging: they BOTH walked right past the piles like someone else left them. Secretly, you see, there are kobolds in my house who LOVE wasabi hell bites, and are just considerate enough to leave the healthy leftovers in easily vacuumed piles. 
One of 2 neatly piled peas...sans Wasabi.

Chewy's other pea pile...which he sniffed and left.
 I'm not terribly sorry about that incident, you know. Dogs should stay the fuck out of human snacks.

Episode V: The Wampa Strikes Back

I'm somewhat more guilty (a little) about this week's humiliation. If you didn't know, Great Pyrenees grow two coats: one almost like down close tot he skin to regulate body temperature (it's actually somewhat insulating against heat in the summer as well as heating in winter, which doesn't count in Texas since "winter" is a big fat fucking LIE). The second is the super-long, waterproof, leaf/dirt/salamander carrying outer coat, which pretty much 1) turns him into a polar bear and 2) leaves 5" long fine hair everywhere. Also, did I mention bugs and lizards? Both have hitched a ride from the yard into the house on Choo Choo Chewy.

Anyway, we finally broke down and bought a set of clippers after the last incident at the groomers (nobody wants to discuss THAT horrible event), and Husband spent about three hours Sunday shaving the fluff down to an acceptable length. As you can see, someone was less than thrilled with us.
I fucking HATE you right now.
 I don't feel guilty for hte shave...I DO feel guilty that after getting rid of the mats he inevitably grows behind his ears I talked Husband into grabbing theear wash and drops (Chewy gets chronic ear infections). My big teddy bear was comfortably snoozing with his ear exposed like a damn fool, and I washed AND dropped it before he could get away.

Afterward, he stayed 20 feet away from both of us, harrumphing in a corner and glaring accusingly at us both. FINALLY!! I'm always the bad guy, people: this is the first time Husband's received the death-of-1000-suns stare. It's about damn time.
We found six Wampas in this pile...and an arm.
 Episode VI: Return of the Dishbreaker

Remember how my fuckface dogs have broken almost every glass in my house, and we had to buy plastic cups? We have some coffee mugs far. Yesterday, I came home to this:
I like your cocoa mug. I left it here so you'd know I WANT SOME.

Yup, that'd be my hot cocoa mug from the day before (my fault: I left it on the couch table). Notice the SPOON is still in it, the mug was carefully not dropped on the tile from the couch to the door, and Mr. "I like this smell" had fully licked clean any remnants from the bottom of the cup. Sigh. Do you see remorse there?

Yeah. Me neither. Welcome to my dog. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

No, I Don't Know Why Either.

I don't have enough of one topic for a funny post tonight, but I have a bunch of weird episodes from the past few days I thought I'd share. 

  • Earlier this week, I found the following in my cube garbage can at work: 
But WHY is this even a question?

  • WHAT THE FUCK does any of that mean? Is the question whether there's chicken in the breakroom or somewhere else (the CEO's office, perhaps)? Is there more than one chicken? Are there yellow-bellied cowards hanging out with the coffee? I don't know. I don't know who left this in my trash, either.  
We're just going to cover See No and Speak No Evil at the same time...because EFFICIENCY

  • Evil and her brother are currently in the wilds of Montana (or, in their Grandpa's back yard in Helena). It's apparently awful to get to Montana from Minnesota this year: Han horked on the descent  into Helena (if you've never been, Helena is in the center of a bowl in the middle of the mountains...this girl requires two Dramamine to get there without puking. I have sympathy for little dude.) after running himself into exhaustion at the Mpls airport due to an hours' long delay, (which really affected his parents more than in any way slowing HIM down any). I suspect the picture above is Evil's "good lord, I'm related to that guy!" face. It's possible she's just sleepy. 

  • My father has called every day for the past two weeks to ensure Husband and I have NOT opened the "Santa" presents delivered by the super secret UPS people. HA! As though I'm not fully capable of opening and re-taping the boxes? OBVIOUSLY HAN LEARNED IT FROM SOMEONE. 
  • I managed to coin "Elftra" on Twitter today. That'd be during a conversation about writing Elf porn, in which I wondered: 
    • 1) if Elves would have SPECTACULAR skills and flexibility (being all extra-balancy AND old enough to have tried everything at least once). 
    • 2) if we're talking Santa's elves, I'm willing to bet there's a secret adult toy R&D room at the North Pole (probably with eleven elven strippers). 
    • 3) either way, Elves would have mastered Tantric sex, right? Therefore...Elftra: three millenia of development, possibly including dragon sex or elvish/dwarf matches. 
  • Of course, it was suggested by the awesome Karina Cooper that "Elftra" sounded suspiciously like the character in a She-Ra cartoon. 
  • If Marvel* were to create a male super hero who got his power from silky ladies underthings (you know, like Thor with his hammer only...softer), what would that power be? And who would have the balls to cross-dress in lingerie for said super powers? 

*I maintain it HAS to be a Marvel hero, because DC would never allow anything so risque as a man wearing a teddy and thigh-highs. Nipple-armor is ok (Batman, I'm looking at you!) but NEVER anything so tawdry as silky drawers.  

I sort of feel I should quit while I'm ahead here. Ahead of what, I really don't know...but it's likely better to stop talking when the babbling about ladies underwear begins. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Molon Labe

This is not a funny post. It's likely to cause me some hate mail (or hate-facebooking, I suppose). Ah well.

I am completely NOT shocked, nor even mildly surprised, about the CIA torture report. What DOES dishearten me are the variations of "This is why I don't give a fuck that we tortured terrorists" memes on social media. No, I'm not posting any examples, because I won't give credence to the idea. It disheartens me that many of the people whose opinions I value to at least some degree are willing to jump on the "it's ok to do anything to get results" bandwagon.

When you reduce a person to a label or pull an "ends to means" justification to excuse horrific brutality, have you not just proved you're no better than the enemy you're fighting? I would challenge any supporter of torture as an appropriate means to an end to read detailed descriptions of what happened in medieval torture chambers, and examine whether the rack or hot pokers are humane. Then read accounts of what happened to POWs during the Civil War or WWII or Vietnam (or, really, any other war). Torture hasn't changed much in the past few thousand years except in sophistication: in fact, as humans we've gotten BETTER at it.

Humans have gotten BETTER at breaking another human's psyche and spirit through physical and psychological pain without actually killing them. This is not an accomplishment we should be proud of as a species.

Here's the thing. I am not, at my core, a gentle person. In the words of a t-shirt I will soon own, "I am comfortable with violence."  I don't advocate peace at the expense of freedom, and, perhaps more importantly, I don't advocate standing by when someone else is attacked. As such, I'm both pro-military and pro-law enforcement in general. I get that it seems counter-intuitive to some of my really liberal values, but those who protect us are important to me. I admire those who serve because they do jobs that, by their very nature, chip away at the soul. They sacrifice immensely on our behalf. There are certain situations, both personal and as a member of humanity, in which violent response is the only available answer. I understand many will disagree with my position: I'm ok with that. The point of writing this isn't to advocate for my ethics: it's to give you a framework for what I'm about to say.

The moment you endorse the torture of another human being, even if you're not doing the torture yourself, is the moment you choose to kill a piece of your own humanity. Maybe it's just a little piece. Maybe you have humanity to spare. Maybe you truly feel justified that your response is fair retribution. Let me be painfully clear:

If you think it heinous and depraved for the ENEMY to shock American prisoners' genitals with electrodes, to repeatedly drown and revive them, to pull fingernails out, to refuse food and water and sleep, to force them to stand for days on end in joint-breaking positions, but you think it's acceptable for US to do so under the fallacy of getting "information," you have failed your argument

I don't agree with the Abrahamic religions' idea that everyone, even the most evil, have some bit of good to nurture. There is a level of depravity and cruelty in the world that, to my mind, deserves no quarter. No second chances to cause additional damage. I don't have a problem with the death that comes with war. It's part of war. I don't have a problem with the death penalty for certain levels of criminals. I don't have an issue with carrying guns or defending ourselves from violence done upon us. But if death is the response, it needs to be a clean, humane death.

There are people who are the equivalent of rabid dogs attacking individuals and society. The response to a rabid dog is NOT to become rabid yourself.  I think inflicting death upon another soul, taking someone or something's life, is already a serious and soul-damaging act. Inflicting pain because the judgement is made that the pain is "deserved" is both unjust and creates a dark, unclean space in the spirit.

I work, hard to cultivate compassion and empathy for others. Yes, this is a direct countermeasure to my ability to consider violence as an option. The better I am at seeing both sides of a situation, the more likely I am to be able to DE-escalate.  Empathy leads to finding a point of common ground, which can lead to a point of understanding between two otherwise contentious parties. Empathy leads to compassion for others' situations, and maybe, just maybe, empathy and compassion can provide a single moment for a person to step back and look without judgement. Imagine that: a break in the cycle of "you hurt me, so I'm going to do worse to you and yours."

Every attempt toward compassion is worthwhile. Every moment of empathy achieved is a step toward making your life more positive. And when it fails, as it most definitely will fail on many occasions, there is a choice. Choose to keep trying, or to give in to the negative, vengeful, destructive side. It's HARD to look at a situation from the other party's point of view.  But in my opinion the work is worth the effort, the failures, and the frustration, both personally and in hopes that I can make a little corner of my own universe a little less dark.

I'm not giving up my empathy and compassion to anyone, especially not to propaganda and a false sense of vengeance perpetrated by misinforming social media garbage.

Molon Labe

Friday, December 12, 2014

"Mrs. Titts" isn't an empty title, people.

Today, I was coerced by a pushy coworker to PARTICIPATE in group "fun" activities. I think work fun activities should involve alcohol and the ability to watch people make idiots of themselves.

Well, I suppose I got half of that. We were "festive" and made gingerbread houses. Because what's better at an insurance company than a bunch of accountants, underwriters, and IT folk making rickety-ass candy houses that fall apart and are generally unsound?

Did you know the "icing" is a LIE LIE LIE. Dear Gingerbread House Kit Makers: "icing" contains at least a modicum of sugar. That shit was PASTE, and tasted like kindergarten only without the stinky full-pants-kid sitting next to you at the arts and crafts table. I suppose that's a plus of doing arts and crafts as a work teambuilding thing, right? No poop. Just paste.

FYI: the faucet in the kitchen at work was busted today. So everyone is covered in paste with no way to wash hands. Yeah. Awesome.

Anyway, my team's house is here. Please note the red, sugar-tipped, askew and slightly sagging nipples. I did not put them there. But you can be certain I not only noticed, but immediately pointed out that our house is now Old Lady Sugartits Nipples.

Is it cold in here? I think my pasties fell off...
Personally, I think Santa would be a happier guy if his doorbell knocker was a set of knockers. Maybe perkier ones, though.

So this whole ridiculousness reminded me of a story I foolishly told the same coworker.

When I went to my first prom, as a foolish 16 year old dating a senior, I sat on my boyfriend's lap in a big comfy chair in the lobby outside the DECC ballroom. I was cocky and feeling ALL THAT in my fancypants boob enhancing halter dress (and foofoo hair...let's not forget the foofoo hair and makeup. It WAS the early 90's, after all. There were bangs. Big ones. And I don't mean the fun kind). Yeah. I was 16 and stupid: get off me.

Anyway, his dad had given him a crisp new hundred dollar bill for the occasion. Hey, we were teenagers in Duluth, MN of all places. Our lives weren't terribly exciting in general, and neither of us had ever SEEN a hundred dollar bill.

I thought I'd be all smooth and sexy. Yes, I know...but just let me share the gravity of the failure there.

I put the hundred down the bodice of my dress, in my first-allowed-lingerie strapless bustier.


We tore the goddamn chair apart. He freaked out and was livid at me most of the evening. The money never did turn up.

So basically what I'm saying here is: when I was 16 I discovered my boobs are apparently an interdimensional portal. I imagine that money is on the floor of some random space station warehouse along with somebody's keys, all the missing socks from the laundry, and apparently pieces of people's souls which go galavanting around without permission (remember the Soul Retrieval lady? Yeah, she's in Duluth, MN too...WEIRD SHIT HAPPENS AROUND THAT, LAKE PEOPLE).

Um, just to be clear, I'm not saying socks, keys or souls get lost in my boobs. Just that single bill, as far as I'm aware.

Holy Christ, what might've been lost while I sleep?