The Barghest and Beasts of England’s Shores

Canines and their relatives have long had their place in the folklore of the world; from the classic werewolf to the tanuki of Japanese myth and Celtic mythology is no different. In this case, mythological beasts tend to run in the circles of the faerie or the far beyond as ghosts.

Faerie dogs haunt the crossroads where the barriers between our mortal world and the realms of the faerie are the thinnest and most fragile. They’re said to be bright green and guard their doors quite fiercely. They say that the faerie dog will bark only twice in warning to trespassers; if you hear the their third bark then you’re doomed to die.

The Church Grim was made famous in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as an omen of death in the form of a giant black dog. The original myths of the Grim paint the creatures as a little more friendly; they’re guardian spirits tied to a particular church or graveyard who oversee the welfare of their lands and rather enjoy loudly ringing the church bells. The black dog is the most common form for them but they can take shape of several animals including a ram, horse, or raven.

Perhaps most monstrous of all the Celtic dogs is the Barghest, the legendary spectre that is said to haunt pathways and roads and preys upon those who travel alone. It can also take many forms, from a giant dog with fiery eyes and massive claws to a headless sorcerer who vanishes in a cloak of flames. Like the bean sidhe the Barghest can foretell the death of an important individual and like the traditional vampire cannot cross running water.

Sources: Faerie dog, Church Grim, Barghest

Viking Recipies: Barley Flatbread

               Also called Osyrat Kornbröd, Viking flatbread made from barley flour is pretty simple to make.  It only has two ingredients and, though originally meant to be cooked on a stone over an open fire, can be made on the stovetop with a skillet pan or baked on an oven sheet.  All that goes into it is barley flour, which I found at my local bulk food store but can also be found at health food stores and larger grocery stores, and water; in a three parts four to one part water ratio.  A manageable amount that makes eight servings is 1.5 cups of flour and .5 cup of water.

               Once a stiff dough has been formed divide it into balls around the size of a walnut or a golf ball and roll it out as thin as you can make it.  My favourite tip for rolling dough easily (you start googling tricks when you’re in charge of the Christmas sugar cookies every year) is to place the dough between two pieces of parchment paper.  Not only is it easier to roll, and doesn’t make as much of a mess, it won’t stick to your rolling pin or your counter.  Cook the bread on high heat for about 30 seconds on each side or until golden brown.  It’s best eaten right away while it’s still hot but can also be frozen and reheated.

I originally found the recipe, along with a lot of fantastic information on Viking foods, here: http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/food.shtml#BarleyFlatbread

Shieldmaiden

In Old Norse skjaldmær, Shieldmaidens were the female Viking warriors who had chosen to fight alongside the men and are mentioned often in the sagas of Norse folklore and mythology. Through the mythologies they have become associated with the Valkyries, valkyrja, Odin’s warriors who choose those who will die in battle and take the fallen warriors to their place in Valhalla.
Warrior women inspired by the Shieldmaidens tend to find a place in popular culture fiction, especially in the fantasy genre. From Tolkien’s Éowyn who slew the Witch-King of Angmar in Lord of the Rings to DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon with Astrid Hofferson and her trusty battleaxe (even though, much to my chagrin, she seems to have fallen out of that role in the new film and ends up being mostly emotional support for the protagonist…), female warriors provide balance in previously male dominated genre of action adventure and especially the parts that involve wading into battle with swords drawn.
Now, when one googles Shieldmaiden the second article to come up is on Lagertha, a historical figure who has been featured as a protagonist in History Channel’s Vikings. The show, though not perfect it its historical accuracy, brings to popular attention not only an amazing and inspiring historical figure, who’s list of accomplishments isn’t limited to becoming an Earl in her own right and the head of her own army, but also a firm affirmation that anyone, regardless of gender, can be a powerful warrior.
For more about the show, which I highly suggest that everyone at least have a look at even if historical drama is not your typical thing, you can find it here: http://www.history.ca/vikings/