fantasy myth

People often misunderstand what the old saying about a cat having nine lives means. The cats prefer to keep it a secret, as most humans can’t be trusted with information so fragile and precious, but there are exceptions.

The merchant who shares his leftover fish. The young girl that hides littler after litter of newborn ones in her room until they find new homes. The old man with scars who still has enough kindness to open his shed to let them slip in from the rain. Boys, teenagers, mothers, warriors, brothers - some are trusted.

Exceptions, yes, few nowadays and rare, but honoured all the more.

So nine lives there are indeed. Each cat is born with them and no matter the time or place, they are lost easily.

This is where the story ends for most people.

But for those who are trusted, those who wake up one morning and find a weird taste in their mouth, the scent of a forest never touched by human hands in their nose, and a strange lingering touch of whiskers on their forehead - they know the truth.

Nine lives for this world, is what all our legends used to say.

You, friend of cats, know the ancient, almost forgotten sayings.

You know of cat eyes shining in the deepest night when they shouldn’t be able to. You know of cats staring past your ear, at that forbidden spot right by the frayed corner of your vision, and you fear that if you look, your cat won’t be able to stare it into submission anymore. You don’t look. The cat purrs. You’re safe.

The kittens have all their lives still. They do not look at the edgewalking beasts that whisper through their humans’ house. It will take time until they fall, hurt, learn.

The oldest cats know so much that a touch of their paw will make an entire village shudder. Their quiet voices cast spells. Let them roam. You cannot imagine the things that flee from them as they walk in silence.

Cat friend, you know it in your heart.

You know of the paths they walk that human feet can’t find.

You know of the nights they vanish and return with the scent of blood, earth and salt in their fur, and when your fingers touch their coat, a cold shiver awakes your skin.

Sometimes, they hear things. You don’t know what, but you know enough to let them sit in front of your house or room, paws tucked under, dark stare never leaving an invisible spot in the air.

And when you float between sleep and life, when you’re unlucky enough to claw at the edge of death before you’re ready to go…

Then maybe, friend of cats, you’ll feel a brush of fur along your legs. Maybe, just before you startle with awe in your heart and wake once more, the same pair of eyes that should sleep by your side winks at you from another world.

‘Deep as Hell Kettles’
15.5x19.5 inches
Mixed media on watercolor paper

The Hell Kettles, three small circular ponds about seventeen feet deep near Darlington, have long been regarded with superstitious awe. Holinshead’s Chronicle reports:

There are certaine pittes or rather three little pools a myle from Darlington, and a quarter of a myle distant from the These [Tees] bankes, which ye people call the Kettles of hell, or the devil’s Ketteles, as if he should seethe souls of sinful men and women in them: they adde also that the spirites have oft been hearde to cry and yell about them…

It’s added that “the water is nowe and then warme,” and seventeenth century chronicler William Camden had heard the same - ‘“The common people tearme them Hel-Kettles, because the water in them by the Antiperistasis or reverberation of the cold aire striking thereupon, waxeth hot.”

But had Holinstead or Camden tested the water? Or had they simply heard the pits described in much the same terms as were used in 1634 by the Military Company, who dispatched “a captain, a lieutenant, and an ancient” on a survey and ultimately reported: ”The three admired deep pitts, called Hell Kettles, we left boiling by Darlington”? This might refer to heat or motion, as the kettles contain vigorous springs, and the water was certainly not hot in the nineteenth century, nor indeed at the turn of the seventeenth.

Camden had said that the pits were “of wonderful depth” and this was put to the test by “a very ingenious Gentleman” on behalf of Camden’s translator:

Sir,
According to the promise which I made you, I went to sound the depth of Hell-Kettles near Darlington. The name of the bottomless pits made me provide myself with a line above a hundred fathoms long … but much smaller preparations would have served: for the deepest of them took but fifteen fathoms, or thirty yards of our line. I cannot imagine upon what grounds the people of the Country have supposed them to be bottomless…

That more than one person must have known that the Kettles were not very deep did nothing to dampen the belief that they were bottomless, and in the nineteenth century they were proverbial - “As Deep as Hell Kettles.” Regarding their origin, Camden was probably nearer the mark when he reported the belief of the wiser sort that they had come by the sinking down of the ground swallowed up in some earth-quake. This might have been the one described in a Chronicle from 1328:

1179. About Christmas, a wonderful and unheard of event fell out at Oxenhale [part of Darlington township], that …the ground rose up on high with such vehemence, that it was equal to the highest tops of mountains, and towered above the lofty pinnacles of the churches; and at that height remained from the ninth hour of the day to sunset. But at sunset it fell with so horrible a crash that it terrified all who saw that heap, and heard the noise of its fall, whence many died from that fear; for the earth swallowed it up, and caused in the same place a very deep pit.

Whether or not they were created thus in 1179, a tradition of an earthquake seems to lie behind a tale told here in the nineteenth century. According to some versions, the farmer who centuries ago owned the land was about to cart his hay on St Barnabas’s Day, and when reproved for this act of impiety replied:

“Barnaby yea, Barnaby nay,
A cart-load of hay, whether God will or nay!”

Instantly he, his carts and horses were swallowed up in the pools, where they can still be seen on a fine day with clear water, floating midway, many fathoms deep.

They bought the puppy for Christmas. The fire that warmed it was almost like its mother’s fur, the blankets it rested on so close to its sibling’s touch. Small fingers caressed its body. The food was exciting, rich, strong on its tongue. The puppy decided that it would love these ones forever.

They threw it out on Easter. Snow covered the streets. The road was grey, the sky was grey, its nose felt grey and scentless. It had wanted to become strong for them, had done everything to grow quickly. Its fur was thin still, its paws too big for itself and too small for the world. It howled for hours. Nobody returned.

The woman that found it was different. Her hands weren’t small. Her house was tiny and the scents whispered spices across the puppy’s tongue, twisted its ears inside out and back again. She gave it food, and while the puppy ate, her old veiny fingers wove patterns over its head, and she mumbled words it didn’t recognise in a language that sounded like wind and water and the fire’s wrath.

The puppy stayed.

It wasn’t a puppy anymore.

It ate, it ran, it drank the scents and locked up the magic that the woman poured over its fur when the storm roared outside the windows.

October came. The puppy wasn’t a puppy wasn’t a dog anymore. New snow had fallen.

The woman took one look at it and went to the door, opening it wide. “Run and take from them what you want,” she said, smile black and white from teeth and those that were missing. “But after that, you are mine, and the strength I gave you will be faithful to me, and my fire will warm you for as long as your fur returns to my doorstep.”

The hell hound bared its teeth, crossed the threshold, and lifted its heavy head. The scent had never faded from its memory.

They met their puppy again on a dark October night.

And only the small fingers still reached out to it the same as before, and spoke its name in an awed whisper of “there you are”; the large hands that had pushed it aside and filled it with the cold were now, finally, cold.

literature genres

Gryffindor: Anything gripping and Nonsense; at least it shouldn’t get boring. Gryffindors are only enthusiastic about books with a fluent story; otherwise they’d stop reading in the middle of the book. About the half of the Gryffindors actually read a lot of books; the others aren’t really passionate about reading.

Slytherin: Nonsense and Horror. Just like the Gryffindors, they hate stories that flatten down in the middle. Slytherins usually read a lot and share their muggle books (after the war against Voldemort, they got more tolerable with muggles and mudbloods), so they’re all reading the same books and nobody’s alone in their fandom.

Ravenclaw: The most of the Ravenclaws are fond of either dramas and non-fiction or real stories. They don’t really like made-up, surreal stories and fiction, except old tales and myths; they also read and write a lot of poems. Only a few purebloods read muggle books because the Ravenclaws usually like to buy the books themselves.

Hufflepuff: They’re having a soft spot for Comedy and schmaltzy Romance. The Ravenclaws find it pretty tasteless of the Hufflepuffs for liking kitschy books, but they actually just read them for fun. Hufflepuffs never really take novels they read in their spare time serious; that’s why they avoid creepy or serious texts. They basically read for amusement.

the houses as literature genres requested by anon

inbox is open!

Elidyr’s Sojourn
9x12, watercolor and pencil

The tradition of fairies in the Vale of Neath goes a long way back. In his Journey Through Wales (ca. 1191), Gerald of Wales tells the following story, set around Neath and Swansea:

‘The priest Elidyr always maintained that it was he who was the person concerned. When he was a young innocent only twelve years old and learning to read, he ran away one day and hid under the hollow bank of some river or other, for he had had more than enough of the harsh discipline… meted out by his teacher… Two days passed and there he still lay hidden, with nothing at all to eat. Then two tiny men appeared, no bigger than pigmies. “If you will come away with us,” they said,“we will take you to a land where all is playtime and pleasure.”’

So, they led him through an underground tunnel to a beautiful land of meadows and rivers, where the days were dark because the sun did not shine, and the nights pitch-black, for there was neither moon nor stars.

The people there were very tiny, but perfectly formed, fair in complexion, the men with flowing hair. They had horses about as big as greyhounds, and never ate meat nor fish, but lived on junkets. More than anything in the world they hated lies. Elidyr was brought before their king, who handed him over to his son, a child like himself, and they would play together with a golden ball. Elidyr would often return to the upper world to visit his mother, and was never hindered. But one day she asked him to bring back some of the fairies’ gold, and he stole the golden ball. He ran home with it to his mother by his usual route, hotly pursued by the fairies. He tripped over the threshhold, and and as he fell the ball slipped from his hand. The little men at his heels snatched it up, and as they passed Elidyr they spat at him and shouted, “Thief, traitor, false mortal!” The boy was red with shame for what he had done, but was ultimately unable to relocate the entrance to the underground passage. He searched for a year along the overhanging banks of the river, he never found it again.

The boy later became a priest, and whenever the Bishop asked him about the tale, Elidyr would burst into tears. He could still remember the language of the fairies, and when the Bishop related it to Gerald of Wales, he responded that it reminded him of Greek.

If Elidyr was lying to cover his truancy, he was spinning a traditional yarn which he knew could be believed. The underground land of the fairies is found in other early fairytales in Britain as well as Ireland, where the fairies inhabit the sidh or barrow - suggesting that fairies owe at least part of their origin to a cult of the dead.