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Besides the big ol’ gods, legends, and spirits–the ones that get all the press–myths are populated with a myriad of often tiny, more often unmentioned beings. Their job as minor characters in the mythos is not always mentioned, but they exist (well, in the mythical sort of existence) nonetheless.
While writing the Witches of Galdorheim series, I delved into western European mythos finding the supporting cast for my books. Like bit players everywhere, they often ended up on the cutting room floor.
For example, in the opening scene of Bad Spelling, I mention tussers and tomtes. Raise your hand if you can tell me what they are. No peeking at the book OR the internet! Right, you’ve never read the book (except for a couple of you), so you’d not have a clue. Please note in the comments if you already know. Anyone? Go look it up in the Encyclopedia Mythica.
The screenwriter either made the name up or also hit the Encyclopedia Mythica like I did. If the latter, then he simply used the name because a skrat is not a proto-squirrel at all.
One of the many creatures that are said to move into the farmhouses from time to time is the skrat. He usually lives in a beech tree or a cave and looks like a chicken that has been caught in a downpour. His wingtips and tail drag on the ground. He may also transform himself into a small bird, a goose, a dog or cat, or even a hair-covered man. Any family he lives with becomes rich.
Excerpt from Scotch Broom:
Here’s a brief scene illustrating the skrat playing its minion role.
A scratching at the door caught her attention. Walking over, she peered through the peephole but didn’t see anyone. “Oh, bother. Is some spoiled brat trying to play tricks on the old woman?” She grabbed the handle and jerked the door open, screaming, “I’ve got you!”
Nobody stood on her porch. A clucking made her look down. A scraggly, wingless chicken, looking as if it’d been out in the rain, crouched at her feet. The skrat stood on four wobbly legs, staggered around Cailleach’s legs and into the house. It squatted by the fire and ruffled its feathers.
Cailleach glared at the scruffy creature. She never could tell one from the other, but they had their uses. “What do you want, Skrat? I’m busy—”
Skrat spoke in a high-pitched, ragged tone as if he was gargling pebbles. “I have news.”
Cailleach stepped closer. The skrats didn’t bother her unless they had something good to report. “Tell me.”
“Witch is near.”
The hag considered for a moment. “Is it one of the Wiccans? They’re harmless. Always collecting plants for some potion or another.”
“Wiccan, yes, but witch, not wannabe.”
Cailleach narrowed her eyes and plucked at the hair growing from her chin. “Where, exactly?”
“Why would a real witch be there? Staking out territory?” The crone pondered a moment then looked down at the skrat, which had not dried out at all.
“You watch. Bring your brothers with you. Report thrice daily to tell me what she’s up to.”
The skrat nodded its featherless head. “What you pay?”
Cailleach aimed a kick at the skrat, but it scuttled out of the way. “Bother! You’re always asking about pay. Have I ever shortchanged you?”
“No. Want to tell brothers.”
Cailleach glared at the creature. “A month’s grain for each of you.”
“Done. I go now.”
The skrat wobbled to the open door and departed. Cailleach closed it behind the creature and returned to her fireplace. She swished the brew in the cauldron a few times.
“Bah. This isn’t right. It should be green by now. Besides, it stinks.” She hefted the handle and dragged the cauldron to the sink. Grunting, she lifted it and tipped the rim, pouring the slimy yellow guck down the drain. She had no more time for experimenting with ancient formulas. If this invading witch was out for a fight, Cailleach needed to be ready to give her one.
Note: Cailleach is the Scottish Celtic goddess of winter fallen on hard times in the present day world. She’s tired, aging, a mere vestige of her former glory, but a scheming old bitch like her won’t ignore opportunities when they fall from the sky. Which is exactly what Katya does.
Witches of Galdorheim Series
BAD SPELLING - Book 1 of The Witches of Galdorheim Series
A klutzy witch, a shaman's curse, a quest to save her family. Can Kat find her magic in time?
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If you’re a witch living on a remote arctic island, and the entire island runs on magic, lacking magical skills is not just an inconvenience, it can be a matter of life and death–or, at least, a darn good reason to run away from home.
Katrina’s spells don’t just fizzle; they backfire with spectacular results, oftentimes involving green goo. A failure as a witch, Kat decides to run away and find her dead father’s non-magical family. But before she can, she stumbles onto why her magic is out of whack: a curse from a Siberian shaman.
The young witch, accompanied by her half-vampire brother, must travel to the Hall of the Mountain King and the farthest reaches of Siberia to regain her magic, dodging attacks by the shaman along the way.
MIDNIGHT OIL - Book 2 of the Witches of Galdorheim SeriesShipwrecked on a legendary island, how can a witch rescue her boyfriend if she can’t even phone home?
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Kat is a nervous wreck waiting for her boyfriend's first visit to her Arctic island home. He doesn't show up, so she's sure he’s given her the brushoff.
When she learns he’s disappeared, she sets out on a mission to find him. Things go wrong from the start. Kat is thrown overboard during a violent storm, while her brother and his girlfriend are captured by a mutant island tribe. The mutants hold the girlfriend hostage, demanding the teens recover the only thing that can make the mutants human again–the magical Midnight Oil.
Mustering every bit of her Wiccan magic, Kat rises to the challenge. She invokes her magical skills, learns to fly an ultralight, meets a legendary sea serpent, rescues her boyfriend, and helps a friendly air spirit win the battle against her spiteful sibling. On top of it all, she’s able to recover the Midnight Oil and help the hapless mutants in the nick of time.
SCOTCH BROOM - Book 3 of The Witches of Galdorheim
A magical trip to Stonehenge lands a witch in the Otherworld where an ancient goddess is up to no good.
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Kat expects to have a great time on her graduation trip to Stonehenge. However, from the moment she leaves the witches’ arctic island, Galdorheim, she gets in nothing but trouble. Her younger half-brother tries to horn in on her trip, she gets lost in the magical Otherworld realm, is led astray by a supposed friend, then she has to confront a Scottish goddess who’s fallen on hard times.
While dodging the goddess’ minions and trying to find her way out of the Otherworld, Kat soon learns she shouldn’t underestimate the old has-been for one second; the crone still has a few tricks that can drain a witch’s magic in a flash. To make matters worse, Kat's brother secretly followed her into the Otherworld. Now he’s in danger too. Kat has to go one on one with the goddess to save herself and her brother.