Portraits and ponderings from the writing desk of Jill Foote-Hutton.

Monsters of World History Series

Last Friday on April 10th at Honey's Cafe in downtown Red Lodge. Robert Lockheed and I presented a one-day workshop we called "Monsters of Spring". Leading up to the event, I posted a couple of stories on the Whistlepig Tales Facebook page introducing some monsters as teasers. 

Getting ready to step off on our Monster Parade!!

Getting ready to step off on our Monster Parade!!

My interest in monsters is rooted in a broader interest in religion and mythology and the very real need fulfilled by both. To be honest, in the first Whistlepig Studio community collaboration I dropped one of the framing questions immediately. I'll tell you now what it was and why I let it go.

Originally, I wanted to ask participants to consider three questions.

1. What is a monster?

2. What is a hero?

3. What is a god?

At the end of the day, my goals are to get more people to participate in a creative act. Beyond creating an image or an object, I want the community collaborators to understand the extended power of their creativity. We can all make something out of nothing. We can all be responsible for defining the parameters of our lives. The third question, if you didn't already guess, is the question left behind. The objective of Whistlepig is to be inclusive, not exclusive. I mean to empower, not undermine.

Monster is actually proving a better bridge, time and again. What do we mean when we say something or someone is a monster? What have been the classical definitions? What is the metaphor is monster manifesting?

In my teasers last week, I focused on what I always focus on: the ability we have to turn the shadowy thing into an ally and a think of light. More often than not, if we take a moment to really examine what is scaring us, we can give it a name. Once it is named, we can call it out and make it a friend. That's the line of thinking I examine with community groups in the Monster Meditation workshops.

However, over the course of the day last Friday, two children were scared by the masks. And it made me think a little more expansively as I saw the fear and worry in their sad, little eyes. Sometimes, a monster is just plain bad. When a monster is just plain bad, there is no logic to be forced upon it. I do believe there is still power in naming the shadow, even when it is pure evil or just bad. Remember the fable of Rumpelstiltskin? Once the princess called him by name, he went away. FOREVER. 

I am grateful to those two little ones for bringing the oversight to my attention. It has increased the conversation and will enrich future monster workshops.  In the meantime, I'm going to institute a Monster from History post once a week on the Whistlepig Tales Blog page. Let's call is Monster Monday. We'll learn there are some creatures who need to be terrifying to fulfill their role in a cycle, some who are innocents abused by man, and some who are just plain bad.

To kick off this cycle, let's look at the Fachan.


The Fachan is a hideous being sometimes represented as a giant or as a dwarf in the folklore of Ireland and the Scottish Highlands. It is described as having one hand that protrudes from the chest, and one leg from the hip, one eye, and one tuft of hair on its head. All of which are usually concealed by a cloak of rough, matted feathers. This evil creature belongs to the group known as the Fuaths. The Fachan inhabit deserted places and attack any mortal who strays near. 

We might find out upon close inspection that a contemporary Fachan, sitting alone and isolated has a backstory that led it to resent any intrusion. Looking like it does, the world could not have been kind. At what point though, does the responsibility shift and a wounded soul has to take responsibility for the wounding it is now exacting upon others? Someone has to go first. Are you willing to take a run at your Fachan and get to the bottom of things? Will you name the Fachan and give it instructions to change or go?