True Bits in the book
Geoffrey of Monmouth was a 12th-century monk
whose work Historia Regum Britanniae kicked off the fascination with Merlin.
The Roundhouse on the Kymin exists. It was built by a
gentlemen’s luncheon club in the 18th century. It is now owned by
the National Trust.
Tewkesbury Medieval Festival takes place every July in
Auld (Scots) = old.
Cailleach (Gaelic) = old woman. In Gaelic mythology,
the Cailleach is a goddess associated with winter.
Nyaff (Scots) = a stupid, irritating, or
Bairn (Scots) = a child.
Shite (British slang) = shit.
The 2010 volcanic eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull in
Iceland disrupted air travel across western and northern Europe in April/May.
Kitsune (Japanese) = fox. Japanese folklore depicts
them as shapeshifters with paranormal abilities and wisdom.
The story Loki sued about and The Lay of Heron
Halfelven are my creations. They are on my website, www.were-wolf.com.
What Rikki says about a seita is true.
Hof (Old Norse) = a temple.
The National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham is real.
Just do it and the swoosh are trademarks of the
shoe company Nike.
Gofer (British and US slang) = someone whose job
is to fetch and carry for others.
Tamworth was the royal capital of the great Anglo Saxon
kingdom of Mercia. The first Christian king of Mercia donated land at Lichfield
for a monastery. There is no hof.
The description of the hof is based on Norwegian stave
churches, which may have been influenced by the design of Heathen temples.
A goði (m) or gyðja (f) was an Old Norse term for a
chieftain-priest, mainly in Iceland during the Viking period. I’ve Anglicised
that to godwife. Wife was a standard Anglo Saxon suffix for a woman carrying
out a trade.
The birth of Ymir, his nourishing by the cosmic cow,
Audhumbla and the use of his body to create the world are told in the Prose
Edda Gylfaginning 5-8.
In Heathen mythology, Idhun is a goddess who guards the
apples that make the gods young.
Loki borrowed Freya’s cloak of hawk feathers to take the
shape of a hawk.
Ettinfolk is my rendering of a word generally
mistranslated as giants in Heathen mythology. The disir are female ancestors
and clan protectors.
Scoff (British slang) = eat quickly.
Daoine sidhe (Irish) = the people of the [burial]
mounds: a supernatural race in Irish and Scottish mythology.
Tacitus mentions ‘the sticks’ as the form of divination
used by the Germanic peoples. Insufficient information is given in Germania
10 to know what these are. As of 2020, there is no evidence of runes being used
for divination before modern times.
The Kalevala is the great poem of Finnish
mythology. What is said about Lemminäinen, his mother and Väinämöinen is true.
I invented the Hero for Scarlett’s tarot deck, substituted
wyrd for the wheel and changed the suite names. Otherwise, the reading is
authentic to the meanings normally assigned to the cards. As is anything in the
text about the characters on the cards. Credits for the artists at the front of
The images (where not explained in the text)
The Hero – Siegfried slays the dragon, from Richard
Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. The original source is the Icelandic Völsunga
The Magician – Loki eating the witch’s heart comes
from the Poetic Edda Hyndluljoð.
Death – Hermoð asks Hel to release Odhin’s son,
Baldr. The story is in the Prose Edda Gylfaginning 49.
The High Priest – Väinämöinen is one of the three
heroes of the Kalevala. In Finnish mythology, he is as old as the world.
The struggle to acquire the Sampo is one of the central
stories of the Kalevala.
In Greek mythology, Dionysos/Bacchus is associated with
wine, fertility, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, and theatre.
In Heathen mythology, the Aesir are one of the two
families of gods.
Queen of Torches – Gullveig was probably Freyja in
disguise. She went to Asgard during the war between the god families and was
killed three times, coming back to life each time. The story is in the Poetic
Edda Voluspa 21-22.
Strength – the Prose Edda Gylfaginning 34
tells how Tyr (cognate Tiw) placed his right hand into the mouth of Loki’s
wolf-son Fenrir to guarantee good faith. Tyr lost his hand.
Youth of Horns – the Rhinemaidens lure Alberich at
the beginning of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. The tale
doesn’t appear in the same form in Heathen mythology.
Wyrd – the three Great Norns tend and shape wyrd,
which is a supernatural force that links events and outcomes.
The Moon – the story of Loki’s theft of the apples
of youth is in the Prose Edda Skaldskaparmal 56.
Five of Ships – Kullervo is a character from the
Kalevala. He suffers multiple tragedies that drive him to mass murder.
Judgement – the Midgard Serpent raises the sea
against Asgard, while Naglfar (ship of nails) brings the forces of those who
will defeat the gods. The imagery is from the Prose Edda Gylfaginning
The Roman site at Letocetum is owned and run by the
National Trust. It is close to Lichfield in Staffordshire, England.
Pattern welding is a technique used to make swords and
knives. It was used by the Anglo Saxons. Several pieces of different metals are
forge-welded together and twisted and manipulated to form a pattern. It’s also
known as Damascus steel.
Tang and fuller are parts of a blade.
The information about foetal development was what was
known in 2010.
In Greek mythology, the river of Lethe in the underworld
offered forgetfulness to anyone who drank from it.
In Finnish mythology, Tapio and his wife Mielikki are
Finnish gods of the forest and hunting. They have three or four daughters, one
of whom is Tellervo.
It’s not known whether any of those who died in the medieval
European witch-craze were witches.
The Salem witch trials took place in colonial Massachusetts
between February 1692 and May 1693. Nineteen people were found guilty and
executed, one man was crushed and at least five people died in jail.
Tat (British slang) = low-quality items that look
The hierarchy of specialness exists within the modern
pagan community. I made up the bit about Scandinavian fraudsters claiming to be
Finnish or Sami.
In European folklore, the seventh son of a seventh son is
regarded to possess special powers.
There are repeated references in the Icelandic Sagas
(part of Heathen mythology) to learning magic from the Finnish or Sami peoples.
The books, TV series and games mentioned all exist.
Väki (Finnish) = a type of haltija. In Finnish
mythology, haltijas are elf-like creatures that help or protect something or
The information about re-enactors is true.
The three days of the ‘dark' moon were used to mark the
start of a new month in many lunar calendars.
Brand (Anglo Saxon) = torch or sword.
Fionntan is a Gaelic name derived from fionn
(white, fair) and -tán (unknown, possibly fire or bull.)
In Heathen mythology, a human being comprises many parts.
The fetch (ON fylgja, Anglo Saxon fæcce) is one. It forms part of the person
and is present from birth. It protects the person and can be sent out by a magical
practitioner to collect information or accomplish a task. It can appear in
dreams, including the dreams of others. Fetches take the shape of animals or women
and have an awareness of future events.
Ça suffit pour l’instant, mon vieux = That’s
enough for the moment, my old [friend].
The nursery rhyme Bye Baby Bunting exists. It
mentions wrapping the baby in a skin.
The conversion of northern Europe to Christianity took
place between the 6th and 12th centuries, beginning with
Britain and ending in Scandinavia.
The soul bird is a belief from Finnic Paganism: the
pre-Christian religion of what is now Finland, Karelia and Estonia.
Keats wrote La Belle Dame Sans Merci (the
beautiful woman without mercy). It is the tale of a fay seductress
who breaks hearts.
In Finnish mythology, the Milky Way is known as the
Linnunrata (Bird Road) to Lintukoto, the home of the birds. The bear is a
sacred animal with a taboo on the word for a bear. Euphemisms like Mead Paw are
The Finnish and Sami religions have many girl goddesses
as daughters of other deities. In Finnish mythology, Tellervo is a daughter of
Tapio and Mielikki.
In Heathen mythology, the disir (Old Norse) are female
ancestors and protective spirits.
The Sami are a nation of reindeer herders.
Leib-olmai (Sami) = Alder Man. A god of the forest
in the Sami religion. He guards wild animals, especially bears. He can give
good luck in the hunt.
Until the 20th century, the sauna was a
popular place to give birth in Finland. It is still used for some births.
The SAS use Pen-y-Fan in the Brecon Beacons for their
final selection test.
Con’s misadventure is based on Major Mike Kealy, an SAS
veteran. Kealy died of hypothermia in February 1979 when he joined SAS
candidates on a selection march in the Brecon Beacons in deteriorating weather
conditions. He had contributed to his situation by refusing to wear cold-weather
gear or warm clothing.
On 7 July 2005 four bombs were detonated in central
London by terrorists. Three were detonated in the London Underground and a
fourth on a double-decker bus. Fifty-two people were killed and more than 700
Chouchou (French) = little cabbage. (A term of
In much north European folklore, seeing your fetch
Cherie, attends! (French) = Listen, darling.
The word enchantment comes from the chanting of spells. Galdor
(Anglo Saxon = song) acquired the meaning enchantment through chanting or
singing spells. The Anglo Saxon word galdorcræft referred to the magical arts.
Glee was a specific form of English part-song popular
between 1650 and 1900.
Gleecraft (Anglo Saxon) = the art of music.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is a 1989 American comic
science fiction film.
The description of where Finland is in relation to the
countries surrounding it is true.
Finland is not part of Scandinavia, which refers to Denmark,
Norway and Sweden. The Nordic countries include many outside that description,
The information about the Sami people, Sapmi and joiking
Folie à deux (French) = delusion or mental illness
shared by two people in close association.
Uppsala is the capital of Sweden and Helsinki the capital
Nimue, Viviane and variants of those names are given to
the female fay/Lady of the Lake who began appearing in the French chivalric
romances by the early 13th century. The Prose Merlin section of
the Lancelot-Grail cycle has the tale of Merlin falling in love with Viviane
and of her trapping him in a tree, beneath a stone or in a tower. In Breton
folklore, he is imprisoned beneath the Fairy Mirror lake in The Valley Without
Return in Broceliande (modern Le Forêt de Paimpont).
Stállu is from Sami folklore.
Háigir (Northern Sami) = heron.
Haikara Puolihaltija (Finnish) = Heron Halfelven.
Stones are a common feature of saunas and other types of
sweat lodge. The stones are heated and steam is generated by pouring water over
In Greek mythology, Athena was born fully grown from the
head of Zeus.
The Marches are the English counties that border Wales.
Leominster is one of the four largest towns in
Herefordshire. It stands at the confluence of the rivers Lugg and Kenwater. The
geography is real.
The Snowman was a 1982 animated TV film of a
children's picture book by English author Raymond Briggs. Its one song Walking
in the Air was an immediate hit.
Swallows are found in the UK between March and October.
They find it difficult to take off if they land on the ground.
The quote is from Andrew Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress.
Izzy quotes half of a couplet from T S Eliot’s poem East
Coker, from The Four Quartets. Each of the four poems examines an
aspect of the relationship between humanity and time. East Coker takes
the cosmic timescale.
The Flower Fairies were the creation of English
illustrator Cicely Mary Barker. They were published in the first half of the 20th
century. My description of Bramble does not match Barker’s illustration.
In Western and Eastern folklore, dragons have great
knowledge. In Eastern folklore, it is unlucky to see all of a dragon.
Men in Black is a popular 1997 movie about a
secret organisation dealing with aliens. The agents carry ‘neuralyzers’ to make
people forget meeting them.
In Fafnismal (Poetic Edda) Sigurd slays the dragon Fafnir
and drinks its blood. He overhears bad news from birds and kills his
foster-father as a result.
Mens sana in corpore sano (Latin) = a healthy mind
in a healthy body.
In Heathen mythology, there are many norns. They
determine the fate of people and attend births to give gifts. These lesser
norns are mentioned in the Prose Edda Gylfaginning 15.
The age limits for riding motorcycles and mopeds are true.
Blaise is named as Merlin's foster-father and tutor in
Robert de Boron's medieval French poem Merlin and subsequent tales of
Magister (Latin) = teacher, professor.
The tale of Loki taking the shape of a mare is in the
Prose Edda Gylfaginning 42. He gave birth to Odhin’s eight-legged steed,
Icelandic horses are known for their small size. They
have two lateral gaits unknown to other breeds of horse. Tölt is a walking gait
known for comfort and fast acceleration into a speed similar to a trot. The other
is skeið or flugskeið, which is fast and smooth. They also have normal walking,
trotting and canter/gallop gaits.
Cover (horse-breeding term) = the act of breeding
when the stallion covers the mare.
The Twilight films were based on Stephenie Meyer's
novels. They appeared between 2008 and 2012. The main relationship in them is
between Bella Swan (human) and Edward Cullen (vampire).
Gakti is the Northern Sami word for the traditional Sami
tunic. Traditional Sami dress is characterized by primary colours especially
Scrying is a divination method.
Dr John Dee’s scrying mirror was made of obsidian although
it was not the shape I describe.
Fairy eye ointment to dispel the glamour is common in
Akku (Northern Sami) = grandmother.
Mummi (Finnish) = mother.
Mari Boine and Wimme Saari are two of the most renowned
Nyckelharpa (Swedish) = key harp. A traditional
Swedish musical instrument.
The mistral is a strong wind that blows from southern
Ariel is a spirit who appears in William Shakespeare's
play The Tempest.
Struwwelpeter is a mid-19th-century German
book of cautionary tales aimed at children. It was popular into the 20th
In Finnish mythology, Tuulikki (Little Wind) is a
daughter of Tapio and Mielikki.
Weobley is a black-and-white village in Herefordshire. The
village geography is real.
Shadowfax is the steed of Gandalf the Wizard in Tolkien’s
The Lord of the Rings.
John Dee’s crystal was stolen from the Science Museum in
2004 and later recovered by the police. It is neither a crystal ball nor Dee’s
showstone. Those objects are in the British Museum. The real showstone is a
flat obsidian disc.
Mære (mara) (Anglo Saxon) = a malicious entity in
Germanic and Slavic folklore that rides on people's chests while they sleep and
brings bad dreams
In the Kalevala Rune 14 (Crawford translation),
Mielikki is described as wearing gold, silver and pearls, with a golden girdle
and sky-blue clothes.
Hale (Anglo Saxon) = hale, healthy.
Fast (Anglo Saxon) = fast, firm. Modern English ‘fasten’
comes from this.
Ostrobothnia is one of the two Finnish regions with a
Swedish-speaking majority. The other is Åland.
Finlandssvenskar (Swedish) = Finnish Swedes.
Bien fait (French) = well done.
Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient
Express were two of Agatha Christie’s novels featuring her detective Poirot.
In Finnish mythology, Mielikki nurtured the bear into
existence and gave him teeth and claws. See Kalevala Rune 66 (Crawford
Double jeopardy is a procedural defence that prevents an
accused person from being tried a second time on the same charges following a
Väinämöinen was renowned for using his kantele (a
traditional Finnish and Karelian plucked string instrument) to charm animals.
In Heathen mythology Loki had his lips sewn together as
the outcome of a wager. See the Prose Edda Skaldskaparmal 5.
Lumoojatar (Finnish) = enchantress.
A year and a day was an ancient rule that existed in
British law until 1996. Death could not be tried as murder or manslaughter if
it occurred more than a year and one day after the act that might have caused
the death. The period is used by some modern witches and Wiccans as a ritual
period. It’s also used within modern pagan handfastings in the erroneous belief
it’s an ancient form of marriage. That myth began in the 18th
century and was spread by Sir Walter Scott in his novel The Monastery
Alice follows the rabbit on Lewis Carroll’s Alice's
Adventures in Wonderland.
In Heathen mythology, the squirrel Ratatosk carries
information throughout the world tree.
Brava (Italian) = well done. The feminine form of bravo
and often shouted by audiences at the end of an opera to praise the leading
The red pill or the blue pill is a reference to the 1999
film The Matrix. The offer represents a life-altering choice.
The Cannes film festival takes place every year in May.
C’est bien (French) = it’s good.
Breizh (Breton) = Brittany.
Salem has an extensive tourist trade based on witchcraft.
A minor under the age of 18 cannot own land or property
in the UK.