The Land of the Long White Cloud - guest post by Ripley Patton
The Maori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa, which loosely translated means "The Land of the Long White Cloud." And it is a wholly appropriate name. I have seen this long cloud creature, thick and material as you or I, broil over a hill and fill a valley with its ethereal presence in minutes. I have seen it creep in from the sea and swallow a small bay settlement whole. I have seen its long serpentine body curled around the peaks of mountains.
I have lived many places, but only in New Zealand have the clouds taken on such personality, such intent and solidity. Here, clouds are not just wispy hints of weather in a distant sky. In New Zealand the clouds come down to earth and treat with us. They are alive; we have seen their faces, and this is their land.
And so, when I heard there was going to be an anthology of New Zealand Speculative Fiction published by Random Static, I knew I wanted to write a fantasy story about the mythology of clouds.
As soon as I started my research, I stumbled upon the concept of sylphs.
The Meager Mythology of Sylphs
Before this, I had never heard of sylphs and maybe you haven't either.
Sylphs are mythological air elementals out of the Western tradition, and there is very little known mythos surrounding them. I found that exciting because it meant that I could make some up.
The first mainstream mention of sylphs in literature was from Alexander Pope in Rape of the Lock, in which women full of spleen and vanity turn into sylphs when they die because their spirits are too full of dark vapors to ascend to the skies. Belinda, the heroine of Pope's poem, is attended by a small army of sylphs, who foster her vanity and guard her beauty.
Other than that, sylph has passed into general usage as a term for minor spirits, elementals or fairies of the air.
But in the absence of literary mythology, humans have a way of filling in the gaps.
Modern Sylph Mythology
Google the word sylph and you will find a wealth of information, including numerous photos of actual sylphs in the sky.
Here are some of the basics of the modern sylph mythology.
What are Sylphs?
Sylphs are air elementals who live in Earth's skies (as well as the skies of other planets) and can manifest as transparent, or take on the appearance of clouds, though usually with very strong, distinguishing shapes. They are INTRA-dimensional, existing in both the third and fourth dimensional densities. They were called Thunderbirds by the Native Americans, and are sometimes referred to as Wingmakers, but are not to be confused with Cloudships.
Where do Sylphs come from?
One theory says that, as elementals, sylphs are simply a part of nature's supernatural manifestation, much like any other fairy being. They have always existed and always will.
Another more sci-fi theory is that sylphs are the living spirits of heavenly bodies, such as comets, meteorites, asteroids, moons, and even planets.
And yet another theory concerns the birth of sylphs. Some say that sylphs can divide themselves and birth new, smaller sylphs. But it is also commonly accepted that sylphs and other elemental beings can be born from the wombs of human women. This may be a concept used to explain false-pregnancy, or very early miscarriage, an idea I used heavily in my sylph story, The Future of the Sky.
What do Sylphs do?
Sylphs are the shepherds of the sky, our atmospheric care-takers. They coordinate weather, climate, forest growth, forest fires, land animal migrations, bird migrations and the dissolution of dangerous pollutants in the atmosphere. They herd clouds, and direct lightning. They are the spirits one calls to for the gift of rain. They clean up chemtrails, dispersing the dangerous chemicals man injects into his skies. Some claim it was sylphs who repaired the hole in the ozone layer. Crop circles are attributed to sylphs as an increasingly complex attempt to warn us and guide us toward a more earth-friendly path. The larger the sylph the older it is and the more sky clean-up it can handle. Sylphs have no problem flying through space. Extremely large sylphs may actually migrate from the sky to more roomy places such as the belt of comets beyond Pluto's orbit.
Enemy of the Sylph
It may come as no surprise that man is the main enemy of the sylph. Many people believe that the world's military has been aware of the reality of sylphs for decades and has developed specific technology to combat the interference of sylphs in man's exploration and domination of the skies.
Photographing the Sylph
A Sylph is more than an odd-shaped cloud. Sylphs manifest as distinct forms you won't find in any cloud book or weather guide. There are oodles of photos and quite a lot of video footage of sylphs all over the net but below is one of my favorites from the website www.indianinthemachine.com and it served as inspiration my The Future of the Sky story. More About Sylphs
If you'd like to find out more about sylphs, much of my research came from the website Educate-Yourself here; http://educateyourself.org/cn/sylphandchemtrailindex.shtml
You can also read my sylph story, THE FUTURE OF THE SKY, in the anthology A Foreign Country: New Zealand Speculative Fiction. Just click the image below to pre-order your copy now.
Ripley Patton is an American writer of short speculative fiction and flash who lives on the South Island of New Zealand. She currently has two works on the final ballot for the Sir Julius Vogel Award, one short story and one novelette. She is also the proud founder of SpecFicNZ, the new association for New Zealand spec fic writers, which will be launched at Au Contraire on Saturday, August 28th, 2010 in Wellington. Other than that, she is quietly plugging away on her first novel, a YA urban fantasy that will be nothing like the Twilight Saga. To find out more about Ripley and her work visit her website at http://www.ripleypatton.com/ or her blog at http://rippatton.livejournal.com.