A to Z Challenge Folklore

Abominable Wraiths #folklore #AtoZChallenge

A is for Abominable

Learn more about the challenge here.

abominable adj detestable, very bad

Collins English Dictionary

I’m doing folklore and book review posts to reach and please a larger audience. Previous years have shown select interest in both and to minimise blogging throughout the year, I’m focusing my efforts on April.

If you’d rather check out my book review for today, go here.

Learn more about the A to Z Challenge here.

The first time I encountered wraiths as a main antagonist, was in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” — and the film made it a lot scarier than in the books. In most literature and film, I’ve only seen them as part of the bigger cast of scary things. Though “The Lord of the Rings” have them as main antagonists, too, I do like the form they took in Harry Potter, though.

Wraith. Image credit.

Folklore

The Night-Side of Nature by Catherine Crowe [1847]

There must be few persons who have not heard, among their friends and acquaintance, instances of what is called a wraith; that is, that in the moment of death, a person is seen in a place where bodily he is not. I believe the Scotch use this term also in the same sense as the Irish word fetch; which is a person’s double seen at some indefinite period previous to his death, of which such an appearance is generally supposed to be a prognostic. The Germans express the same thing by the word doppelgänger.

Wraith. Image credit.

Witchcraft and Superstitious Record in the South-Western District of Scotland by John Maxwell Wood [1911]

The “wraith” was the natural-looking semblance of one about to die, or just immediately dead, appearing life-like, usually at some distance from the body, but so realistic as to be unvaryingly mistaken for the actual person. A further point is, that such appearances gave rise to no fear or apprehension unless seen at some considerable distance from their usual surroundings.

In dealing, firstly, with the wraith, it may at once be noted that a great many accounts of such appearances are still existent in the south-west of Scotland.

“Oft his wraith had been seen gliding
’Mang the meal sacks i’ the spence,
Till the house, folks scarce could bide in,
Terrified maist out o’ sense.

“One afternoon a well-known lady, Mrs G——, was setting out to call upon a neighbour who lived about half-a-mile distant across the moor, when she saw her friend, evidently bent upon the same errand, coming towards herself. Retracing her steps, she entered the house again to wait her friend’s arrival. Her expected visitor not appearing, Mrs G—— went to the door to see what detained her, but although she looked in every direction there was no one to be seen. As the afternoon was now well advanced, Mrs G—— decided to defer her visit until the following day. Walking across on the morrow, she remarked in the course of conversation:
‘I saw you on the way to see me yesterday! What made you turn half-road?’
‘Me coming to see you!’ exclaimed her friend, ‘I can assure you I wasna that, for I was scarce frae my ain fireside the hale day.’
A week later Mrs G——’s friend and neighbour died, and her corpse was carried to the churchyard, over the very track her wraith had appeared on the afternoon of her intended call.”

Wraith. Image credit.

Pastorals of Dorset by M. E. Francis [1901]

Martha’s heart was thumping like a sledgehammer; it was Sam sure enough—or rather Sam’s wraith, for surely no living thing could look or move in that ghostly fashion.

Element Encyclopedia of Fairies by Lucy Cooper

Wraith

In the Scottish tradition, an apparition, a spectre supposed to appear at the time of a person’s death. Wraiths can also appear as vengeful spirits, jealous of living creatures, feeding off human emotions and strength to fuel their shadowy existence, longing for the mortal life that they remember.

*More can be read in the book.

Wraith. Image credit.

Encyclopedia of Wicca and Witchcraft by Raven Grimassi

WRAITH is an energy that is typically negative and destructive, although sometimes this is a matter of perspective. A wraith can be a spirit or a magickal creation. Sometimes a wraith spirit comes as a warning of impending death or serious misfortune. Wraith spirits also serve as guardians of mystical realms or enchanted treasures.

*More can be read in the book.

Wraith. Image credit.

The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore by Patricia Monaghan

Far Gorta

Irish folkloric figure. The “hungry man” of Irish legend may be the ghost of someone who died of famine or a wraith from the Otherworld; he stood by the roadside begging and rewarded those who gave him alms with good forturne.

*More can be read in the book.

Two sides of the wraith. Image credit.

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft by Judika Illes

Fetch: A synonym for “double,” “doppelganger” or “shadow soul”; in horror fiction “fetch” sometimes indicates a wraithlike ghost. The word derives from Nordic shamanism: the fetch is technically a human soul that can be trained to leave the body, travel, and return while the shaman is entranced. This is more than just dream-journeying: the fetch actually manifests physically, usually in the form of a small insect or animal, typically flies, mice, butterflies or cats. (Sometimes the fetch looks like the shaman’s twin, hence “double” or “shadow.”)

*More can be read in the book.

Wraith. Image credit.

Further Reading:

Angry wraith. Image credit.

Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

A very Scottish creature, the wraith is sometimes a person who’s about to die’s spitting image – though gliding along instead of walking – usually in a place this person won’t commonly frequent. At other times, wraiths are malicious spirits, longing for the life they’ve left behind and thus feeding on the emotions of the living to fuel their unnatural existence. Though wraiths are usually seen as a negative and destructive energy, they sometimes come to warn about impending death. Some believe that wraiths are magical creations and not spirits – or even both – and can be used to guard treasures and entrances to other realms.

Whatever they are, folklore suggests that encountering them leads to great tragedy.

Wraith. Image credit.

Wraiths in Modern Culture

The Lord of the Rings

Wraith. Image credit.

wraith is someone who has been killed yet lives on by some dark sorcery (necromancy or a Morgul-blade), or someone who died in darkness or serious dishonour (the latter are comparable to popular culture’s notion of ghosts).

During Sauron‘s influence and rule in Middle-earth, he swayed and corrupted nine powerful Men of Númenórean and Easterling stock by giving them each one of the nine Rings of Power. Afterwards, they slowly faded into darkness, becoming Ringwraiths enslaved to the will of Sauron, fated to roam the world until their end.

Learn more here.

BBC’s Merlin

Wraith. Image credit

The spirit of a dead man conjured from the grave.”— Gaius to Merlin

Wraiths are tormented souls whose bodies have been raised from the dead and reanimated by necromancy. No mortal weapon can kill them and nothing can stop them until they achieve their revenge.

Learn more here.

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A Brown (My Review)

“But the worst of all the kinds of grim folk were the wraiths—wayward spirits trapped between the realm of the living and the dead, with bodies formed of roiling black shadows that coalesced around a bloodred cloud that had once been their hearts. It was the wraiths who scared Malik most of all, and it was the wraiths who surrounded him now as the panic threatened to pull him under.”

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A Brown

Harry Potter

Dementor. Image credit

Dementor was a gliding, wraithlike Darkcreature, widely considered to be one of the foulest of the Dark creatures to inhabit the wizarding world. Dementors literally fed on human happiness and thus generated feelings of depression and despair in any person in close proximity to them. They could also consume a person’s soul, leaving their victims in a permanent vegetative state, and thus were often referred to as “soul-sucking fiends“, and the people they left soulless were deemed to have been turned into an “empty-shell”.[4]

Learn more here.

Wraiths in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Wraiths

There are two kinds of wraiths: the cloaked type made of roiling shadows that floats, feeding off human emotion, and the ones with seemingly moral bodies, resembling those about to die.
The first type never take physical form, preferring their shadowy existence. They are jealous of the living, longing for the lives they’d lost. They feed off the emotions and life-force of the living – especially humans. These wraiths are born from suffering and, at times, a death so sudden and violent that they are in need of revenge before moving on. Unfortunately, these spirits never find rest and are used by more powerful dark fae for their own purposes.
The second type keep a physical form even though they can take on the smoky shape of the first type of wraith, though their appearances are constantly shifting to that of the closest person about to die. They are formidable fighters, have glowing red eyes once their true nature is discovered, and are employed by the Dark Court as spies and assassins. Though they do sometimes warn of coming misfortune and death, their roles have been so twisted by others, that they don’t even know who they are anymore. Born from unnatural dalliances in the Dark Court, their allegiance is to the Dark King.

Wraiths translated to Afrikaans: Skimme.

See this fae in action in my writing:

Unseen (Faery Tales #2)

Had she known that it would be extremely difficult to watch and not do anything, she wouldn’t have agreed so easily to the rabbit’s terms. Anja watched wraiths sail through the village outside the forest, feeding off the villagers’ emotions and life-force. She wanted to stop them. But she didn’t know how to send the shadowy spectres away. There was a time when wraiths only appeared before a person was to die. But what she saw were jealous spirits longing for the lives they’d lost.

‘You cannot help them,’ the rabbit said sadly. ‘The only way to send the wraiths away is to mend that which is broken.’

‘The Veil?’

Unseen (Faery Tales #2) by Ronel Janse van Vuuren

Remember that you can request all of my books from your local library!

What are your feelings about ghosts, wraiths, shades and the like? Any wraith folklore you’d like to share? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.

You can now support my time in producing folklore posts (researching, writing and everything else involved) by buying me a coffee. This can be a once-off thing, or you can buy me coffee again in the future at your discretion.

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image credit https://pixabay.com/illustrations/ai-generated-fairy-wings-magic-8121013/

No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.

18 thoughts on “Abominable Wraiths #folklore #AtoZChallenge”

  1. Well at first I thought this was going to make me feel guilty for my own languishing TBR pile. But we have quite a few books in common so that is nice. I highly recommend anything by Judika Illes. The The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore by Patricia Monaghan is just fantastic.
    Looking forward to seeing what you do all month long!

    Tim Brannan, The Other Side blog
    2024 A to Z of Dungeons & Dragons, Celebrating 50 Years of D&D

  2. Ronel, I always appreciate how thoughtful your posts are—they reflect extensive research. I remember reading about Wraiths in LOTR as a child before these images took to the screen. Never want to walk into one on a Scottish Moor that’s for sure.
    Excited to see that you are part of the A to Z team – thank you for your tireless work.

    Moonie

  3. What a creative and accomplished author you are. The research, both in text and supporting photos , is extensive and impressive. Although, not my genre of reading, I am familiar with Wraiths via movies…which, I’m sure are based on creative minds like yours. Thanks for visiting my Texas blogs Letter A.
    Sue at WhereBluebonnetsGrow

  4. I have heard of malicious wraiths as in the Lord of the Rings type etc. I hadn’t heard of the doppleganger type as a wraith (and doppleganger I only knew as someone who looked just like someone else) – I’ve learned a lot today, thank you!

  5. I am enjoying your theme. I’ve always been fascinated in other-worldly and supernatural creatures so it’s interesting to learn some of the backstories on them.

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