foolish fire

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Feu Follet {French} known as will-o’-wisp, or ignis fatuus (Medieval Latin: “foolish fire”) is an atmospheric ghost light seen by travelers at night, especially over bogs, swamps or marshes. It resembles a flickering lamp and is said to recede if approached, drawing travelers from the safe paths. 

Long ago in a distant land, I, Iroh, the fire breathing master of tea, unleashed an unspeakable goodness. But the foolish Fire Lord Ozai, wielding a magic comet, stepped forth to oppose me. Before the comet struck, I took my nephew to find the avatar. Now the fool seeks to destroy the avatar, and undo the goodness that is Iroh!
Fire

The fire salamander gurgled happily in the lava, rolling around in the sweltering heat. The red dragon roared with laughter and showered the tiny beast with melting gold coins. The salamander ran around with unbridled joy, diving into the liquid rock as if it were as water. It surfaced slowly, allowing just its eyes to peak out. The dragon roared gleefully, recognizing the alligator impression for what it was.

“It is like watching a dog and its master,” the knight observed from what was wrongfully perceived as ‘a safe distance’ and ‘out of ear shot.’

Simultaneously, salamander and dragon arced serpentine necks to face the knight’s direction and narrowed their reptilian eyes.

Mythical Origins of Magic: the Gathering Cards


WILL-O-THE-WISP (Alpha)

Also called “ignis fatuus” (Latin for “foolish fire”), will o’ the wisp is a sort of ghostly light that hangs about marshes and bogs at nighttime, luring travelers away from their paths. Often connected with fairies or the spirits of the dead in European folklore, modern scientific explanations for the phenomenon abound as well, from fireflies buzzing around to lightning igniting gases above a swamp. The card’s ability to regenerate is likely drawn from their trait of disappearing and then reappearing again.


SANDALS OF ABDALLAH (Arabian Nights)

The story of Abdallah ibn Fadil is often considered a variant of the “Cinderalla” folk tale. Virtuous Abdallah’s wicked brothers try to murder him by throwing him overboard–but a djinni whom he rescued from danger gives Abdallah the ability to walk on the water, and saves him from drowning…just like how the artifact can give your creatures islandwalk!


WHIPPOORWILL (The Dark)

While the whippoorwill is, in fact, a real bird, its strange, ethereal song lead to interesting folkloric interpretations. Just like the card’s ability suggests, residents of New England believed that a whippoorwill could sing its song while a person was dying and steal that person’s soul for itself, preventing them from reaching the afterlife. This idea is even referenced in the works of Washington Irving and H. P Lovecraft!


FYLGJA (Ice Age)

Fylgjur are guardian spirits in animal form who assist human beings, in the mythology of the Norse people. Typically, a person can see their fylgja only in their dreams–glimpsing one while waking is an warning of one’s impending death. The card is arguably somewhat confusing or unintuitive in that despite the fact that a fylgja is a personal entity, it’s being represented as just an enchantment on a creature; the Coldsnap card “Ursine Fylgja” preserves the ability of the card to heal others but puts it on the body of a creature, making the meaning of this tough-to-pronounce Nordic term a lot clearer.


TANIWHA (Mirage)

In the mythology of the Maori, taniwha are large monstrous sea creatures, who usually resemble whales or great lizards. While some taniwha are benign, even serving as guardian spirits to human beings, others are more dangerous, preferring to kidnap or eat them. Legends about taniwha being able to tunnel through the ground may be the inspiration behind the ability of the creature, which prevents those who control it from using their lands.


REVENANT (Stronghold)

Often considered a precursor to the modern concept of the zombie, Medieval “revenants” (from the Latin for “returning”) were the souls of recently deceased and often wicked human beings who had returned from death to torment the living, often people whom they knew in life. How could Medieval townsfolk deal with such a problem? By heading to the graveyard and destroying the original corpse, just as emptying an enemy graveyard would destroy their copy of this card.


HORN OF PLENTY (Mercadian Masques)

Many people are familiar with this symbol of abundance and fecundity. Its origins go all the way back to antiquity, where a tale of Zeus’ childhood claimed that the infant god, unaware of his own strength, accidentally broke off the horn of his nursemaid, a goat called Amalthea. Blessed by his mystical energies, the severed horn had the ability to nourish indefinitely, just as the goat had so graciously done for Zeus, and the card will do for everybody at the table.


KODAMA OF THE CENTER TREE (Betrayers of Kamigawa)

The world of Kamigawa is steeped in the stories and practices of Japan’s native religion, Shinto, probably more deeply and accurately than any other world in Magic’s history, and a gallery this size could easily be filled with nothing but explanations of its associated cards. The kodama, for instance, are spirits who inhabit trees. While a tree that one lives inside appears normal, they are said to bleed when cut into, and, if felled, the spirits will wreak havoc on the mortals who have made this mistake. Naturally, these beings are associated with green mana in Magic, due to their associations with trees.


DROWNED RUSALKA (Guildpact)

In Slavic legends, rusalky are the spirits of women who died young, ordinarily near bodies of water. They are said to lure men with their alluring beauty, and then drown them in their native waters, hence the card’s need to sacrifice creatures.


GLAMER SPINNERS (Shadowmoor)

In the folklore of the Celts, mischievous faeries have many ways of achieving their devious ends, one of which involves altering their appearances and playing upon the emotions of their marks at will through the use of magical contrivances called “glamers” that can alter their appearances, represented here by the Auras this card can manipulate.


MOON HERON (Innistrad)

In Innistrad, the heron is a symbol of Avacyn–and in Christianity, the real-life inspiration for Avacyn’s church, the heron is also an important symbol. Because they prey upon serpents and eels, which in turn represent Satan, the heron is likened to Jesus Christ.


KRASIS INCUBATION (Dragon’s Maze)

Sadly for a proud Slav like the author, the world of Ravnica, originally intended to have a considerable Slavic flavour, suffered significant “culturewashing” during its return, likely given its newfound significance as Jace Beleren’s adoptive home and the new hub of action in the Multiverse now that Dominaria is a smoldering crater of a plane. The few traces of the flavour that still remain can be seen in naming conventions, like the term “krasis,” which is used for the Simic Guild’s hybrid creatures. In Orthodox Christianity, “krasis” is a technical term for the mingling of water and wine during the Eucharist.


VULPINE GOLIATH (Theros)

A lesser-known Classical myth recounts the story of the Teumessian or Cadmean Fox, a massive vixen, destined to never be caught, who terrorized the residents of the city of Thebes. When the hero Amphitryon was sent to slay the creature, he brought with him a hound called Laelaps, who was destined to be able to catch anything. So what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Zeus intervenes and turns both parties into stone, if you ask the Greeks.


RAKSHASA VIZIER (Khans of Tarkir)

A rakshasa is a type of spirit native to Hindu mythology. While certain rakshasas are noble-hearted in the Sanskrit epics, they are primarily cast as villainous beings similar to demons. Though they have the power to shapeshift and can assume many shapes and sizes, rakshasas are usually depicted as hideous, fierce humanoids with large fangs or tusks and clawed hands. They are often depicted as drinking blood and eating the corpses of those they slay, fitting with this card’s ability to gain power from creatures who have died.

A dozen wix die every year attempting body modifications with Switching Spells, like Andy Winthrop, who only wanted a fiery addition to his mustache, but who never recovered after his neck melted into his chest. Use any Switching Spell with caution, and never attempt a Switching Spell on your own person without a Ministry-certified transfiguration stylist.

This message has been brought to you for your own safety from the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes

(photo source)

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Foolish Fire was the featured band at the Queen Bean Coffee House open mic event on February 8. 2015. In case you missed it, here is a video of (most of) our set that night! Courtesy of Jake E. Heredia for filming it!