Lore + Backstory
Relinquish yourself to the wild woods.
Enraged nature spirits have emerged from the woods and streams, donning human skins and masks and bringing heathen music to mankind, eager to devour the listener's humanity. Human civilization has encroached upon their sacred dwellings with the crowding of the land, pollution of the air and waters, and desecration of the forests. Humanity, which has forgotten its primal connection with its animal brethren and kinship with all life and land, fears the primal undercurrents of thought and the animalistic nature that dwells within them. Shapeshifters of Nordic and Magyar legends have banded together to form the group Nøkken + The Grim, led by Nøkken, the uncanny, musical spirit of water.
Nøkken, the shapeshifter, has always regarded human beings as trespassers into the wild woods and rivers, and in bygone days of Norwegian folklore, he would deceive them into drowning in the waters through hypnotic melodies that could "move the winds and trees". As a shapeshifter, he would sometimes assume the form of a horse, known as Bäckahästen or "the brook horse," which, akin to the Scottish kelpie myth, tricked riders upon his back by appearing unusually tame. Once upon his back, they could not dismount as he plunged into the waters and claimed their lives. Nøkken is the darker sibling of his Fossegrim brethren who were all musical water spirits, often violinists who played the Hardinfele (Hardanger fiddle). Unlike the Fossegrim, who could be bargained with through offerings (usually fine meats), even convinced to teach one how to play violin such that "the trees dance and the waterfalls stop at his music," Nøkken was always seeking to deceive humans who trespassed into the woods. "Nøkken" is the Norwegian word which comes from Old Norse "NykR," a water spirit in the form of a horse.
Ajatar is primarily a Finnish legend, the witch mother of nature spirits, who was thought to bring death and plague to humankind. She is also a shapseshifter. She is closely associated with dragons, wyrms and serpents and can assume the form of them at will. It is said that her body has warped so many times that she is always part dragon in appearance, no longer having a form of her own but always of some serpentine creature. Some tales tell of her living in the mountains of Pohjola, and she may have originated from Lithuanian and Estonian folklore. She is the dragon mother of gnomes and other spirits of the woods, resembling Mother Earth and the sacred femme. It is said that those who look at her become ill, the modern interpretation that she is a spreader of disease, but in reality, she bears knowledge with respect to creation itself and that "to look upon her" is to behold forbidden, wild knowledge, whereby one may become tormented by the deception of human civilization. Ajatar is reminiscent of Gaia or Mother Earth, perhaps an avatar of her living body in all organisms and the environment.
Peryton, The Black Stag, was once the White Stag of Magyar (Hungarian) legend, the guardian of the forest, who was hunted in the folklore of Hungary by the brothers Hunor and Magor. They were led to the region of Scythia by the White Stag where they would settle and their descendants would become the Hunnic and Magyar tribes. In Magyar legend, the White Stag was not hunted to kill for a mere prize but rather hunted in order to be led to new territories, whether literal and physical or figurative and intellectual. The hunter would inevitably fail to capture The White Stag but, through the journey of the hunt, would discover new territories of thought and experience, even new lands. Once the inspiring and elusive White Stag, his feathers and fur have turned permanently black with soot from human industry. Corrupted and maddened by the desecration of Nature, he has taken human form to create untamed music. The White Stag, now The Black Stag, adopted the name Peryton, after the writer Jorge Luis Borges: the feathered deer who must consume humankind to gain his own shadow and form.