Category Archives: folklore

What’s Your Poison?

The first time I was asked, “What’s your poison?” was at a British pub.  As a young, non-native English speaker, I was wondering what I did to offend my host so that he would offer me poison.  Since then, I have learned that it is just a way of asking what drink I would like.

Err….that is a way of asking what drink I would like, right?

But some of you gentle readers may be surprised to learn that one man’s poison is another man’s cure.  And so, here is a post on drink and poison.

I refer to the Korean practice of having the notoriously deadly and venomous Asian Giant Hornets and other stingers in their alcohol or soju.  I came across this in a market in the city of Sokcho which is in the northeast of South Korea and not too far from the border with the North.

It is said to give a richer flavor profile to the soju as well as a characteristic bitter after taste.  More importantly, like most such medicinal alcohols, it is supposed to give a boost to “male stamina”.  And so, for those of you gentle readers who may be interested in alcoholic drinks or traditional medicines or need help with “male stamina” or are poison wielding murderers in training or are just interested in the bizarre ……. try this poison!

This is the shop where the magic happens.  The metal distillers can be seen.
Ingredients for Traditional Medicines:- The usual dried mushrooms, roots, fruits and even eggs
And then, there are these – hornet hives.
The display shows some of the venomous stingers being used
The Hornet Nest is quite pretty, I think.
And finally, the drink with a sting (quite a few stings actually)

I could only find one video in English that covers this beverage. So here it is….

So….would you try it?

Sage Squirrel Predictions

Dear Reader, I have always thought that I had special prophetic powers.  You know, like Nostradamus.  You don’t believe me?

I recently came across an old post that I made right here in the Realm of the Lone Grey Squirrel.  The post entitled “Have an Ox-picious Year” was written in 2009 and in it, the Lone Grey Squirrel gave predictions for the next 12 years according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar.

You can click on the link above to read the whole post but I just want to draw your attention to the prediction that I made for 2016.

2016 (Year of the Monkey) – After two terms under President Obama, the political mood swings and unfortunately a monkey is returned as President. In world news, U.N. observers will declare that there was wide-spread monkey business during elections in a South American banana republic.

Hmmmm……….. looking at the current Republican nominations race in the USA and the crazy televised debates amongst the candidates, one just has to think that we might be eerily close to seeing that prediction come true.  What do you think?

I know politics can be a very volatile and contentious topic and   it is not my intention to offend anyone.  However, I have to be true to my own beliefs and apparently after taking another one of those quizzes that float about on the internet and Facebook, I have been told by the Internet Gods that my beliefs are most closely aligned to Bernie Sanders.

So now that you know, allow me to share the following meme which would clearly appeal to anyone who thinks like Bernie Sanders.  Anyway, I think it is funny and possibly prophetic as well.  Hope you agree…..

last president


As an bonus feature (cause the squirrel is feeling generous), here is a tribute to the “Monkey Man” by the great Amy Winehouse.



Knock, Knock

I was deciding what to post today and lacking any particular inspiration, I just closed my eyes and moved my mouse cursor over my categories cloud list on my blog sidebar.  I decided to write on whatever category topic the cursor ended up resting on.  Guess what!?!?  It landed on “horror”.

Now this was a bit strange and eerie as my topic selection method was not too different from the Ouija board method.  Was I “guided” by unseen forces?  hahaha -hahaha (nervous laugh).

Actually, I do enjoy tales of the supernatural and the unexplained and I have posted about this before under “horror” and “folklore” categories.  However, I was surprised to find out, when I checked, that I hadn’t done a post on this theme for almost 3 years.  So it seems that such a post is due.

Now, strangely enough, I just had someone tell me about a story yesterday that I had not heard of previously and was quite interesting.  Coincidence?  Anyway, here is the story:-

In 1972, the Toronto Society for Psychical Research (TSPR) decided to carry out an experiment to research into contacting spiritual beings.  Dr. A.R.G. Owen, a member of the Department For Preventative Medicine and Biostatistics at the University of Toronto, assembled a  team of people who were considered prominent or respectable members of society and who did not have any particular previous interest or involvement in the paranormal.  In all, there were three men and five women in the group and included a housewife, a bookkeeper, a sociology student, an accountant, an industrial designer, a psychologist, and a former chairperson of MENSA.

Together they met regularly to contact the spirit of one “Philip Aylesford”.

Philip was an English aristocrat who lived sometime in the mid 1600’s.  He lived at his family home, Diddington Manor and had a wife named Dorothea who was the daughter of a neighbouring nobleman.  The marriage was not a happy one.


Then, one day Philip came across a gypsy encampment near the boundaries of his lands and met Margo, a dark haired gypsy beauty.  He fell in love with her and set her up to live at he gatehouse of his estate.  In this manner, they maintained their liaison in secret.


However eventually Dorothea, found out about Philip’s affair and publicly denounced Margo, accusing her of witchcraft and stealing her husband.  Being a nobleman and a Catholic, the scandal was a great shame and a smear on his family name.  In fear of losing his reputation and his possessions, Philip did not protest or come to Margo’s aid during her trial.  Finally, Margo was convicted of witchcraft and burned to death at the stake.


But guilt and remorse would plague Philip after Margo’s death and unable to sleep, he would often pace the walls of Diddington Manor at night, until one day, his broken body was found at the foot of the walls – an apparent suicide.

As you can see, Philip’s tragic story seemed to make him a perfect subject in an experiment trying to make contact with the spirit of the deceased.

Anyway, the team tried to make contact with Philip’s spirit in a laboratory setting with equipment to record sound, photos and video.  Nothing much happened initially.  They tried for several months and apart from a couple of participants saying that they felt a presence, there was no tangible evidence of anything supernatural.

The team re-evaluated and one member suggested that they try to get away from an academic environment and mimic a seance where they would sit around a table in a dimly lit room with their fingers placed lightly on the tabletop.  Objects from the 1600’s were also placed in the room.  It was thought that this might be a more conducive environment for their goals.

It did not take long for strange things to occur.  It started with a loud rapping sound which was repeated on many occasions.  This sound was recorded and analysed and it is said that nothing found in the room created a sound that matched what was heard.  They were then able to communicate with the spirit by asking the spirit to rap or knock once for ‘yes’ and twice for ‘no’.

In this way, they were able to confirm that the spirit was Philip and were able to receive answers to many questions that they asked Philip about his life and the period that he lived in.  Interestingly when asked if he loved his wife, Dorothea, he replied with a very loud double rap.  At other times, when Dorothea was mentioned, the team heard scratching sounds rather than raps.

philip experiment

As the sessions progressed over many months, the manifestations grew stronger.  Some members began to hear answers to questions asked being whispered in their ear.  There were also occasions when the table tilted to the side, or jumped or spun on one or two legs and even rising up and sliding across a carpeted floor.  Lights would go off but come on again when asked to do so.  Strong wind could be felt.  Once a member was trapped in a corner by the moving table.  Every attempt was made to rule out that someone in the group was perpetuating a hoax and no evidence of a hoax was found (Skeptical Squirrel: “although that doesn’t necessary mean that a hoax is completely ruled out”).

This seems to be one of the best documented cases of communication with the spirit of the dead. Are you convinced yet?

Unfortunately, there is a problem; a fly in the ointment in what became known as the Philip Experiment.

The problem was that Philip never existed.  Philip was a fictitious character that the team was asked to create.  Before doing the experiments, They came together and helped write the life-story of Philip.  They even had an artist do a portrait sketch of the imaginary Philip.  Some true facts were included but “traps” were also set so that a trickster may be caught.  For example, Diddington Manor does actually exist but the description of the manor given to the team was incorrect.

The “Philip” that communicated with them during the experiment gave answers that fit the story that they had collectively concocted, including facts and factual errors that had been included.

So what is the conclusions that we can draw from this strange set of events?  Firstly, the team was in fact trying to “create a ghost”.  They were testing the hypothesis that ‘ghosts’ could be produced somehow by the human mind, as in this case, it would seem they could even create a ghost of someone that never existed.

However, the phenomena that they witnessed both surprised and even terrified them.  It exceeded anything they imagined they could achieve and to the best of our knowledge, no scientific explanation has been forthcoming as to how they were able to create those phenomena with stories in their minds.  Some say that the Philip experiment does prove the power of our minds in creating the paranormal.  Remembering though that seances were originally conceived by people attempting to contact their dead relatives, others suggest that the phenomena may indicate malicious or at best mischievous spiritual entities that try to deceive us by giving us what we want to hear.

Two interesting footnotes to the Philip Experiment story.  First, all phenomena came to an abrupt end after one of the team members said, “we only made you up, you know”.  Secondly, the experiment has been repeated around the world with different groups trying contact  Lilith, a French Canadian spy;  Sebastian, a medieval alchemist;  Skippy, an abused Australian 14 year old girl and even Axel, a man from the future. All of them were completely fictional, yet all produced similar unexplained communications with an entity/entities claiming to be them.

Any thoughts on the matter?

Moon River

I took a bit of liberty with the title of this post. It isn’t about the Andy Williams’ song by that name. Sorry if I misled you.

This post is actually about a photograph I took of a bridge in South Korea. I had previously posted about going to Hahoe Village which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The village lies within a loop of the Nakdong River.  Nearby is the town of Andong and it is there that we find Woryeong-gyo or the “reflection of the Moon on the river” bridge.  

The Woryeong-gyo, with a length of 387 m, crosses the Nakdong River and is the longest wooden pedestrian bridge in South Korea.

There is a legend associated with the bridge.  It is said that the construction style of the bridge resembles that of the mituri which is a type of traditional straw shoes made of paper, mulberry, bush clover, hemp, and rice straws. The legend speaks of a grieving wife who expressed her love for her deceased husband and her deep sorrow by making a pair of mituri sandals using her own hair.  The bridge, so they say, commemorates her act of devotional love.

So in short, the bridge is about romance.

Mituri sandals
Mituri sandals

I got there on a cold winter night and I did indeed get to see the reflection of the moon on the river.  It was indeed a beautiful and romantic spot.  I might have enjoyed it more if I was not busy shivering and bracing myself against the chilly blasts of wind coming off the water.  It took me many cups of ht tea later to feel warm again and to regain sensation in my fingers and exposed ears.

Still, despite the shivering, I managed to take this hand-held and long exposure photo of a pavilion located near the middle of the bridge.  Sure, it ain’t perfect but I am still rather pleased with how it came out.

Ladies and gents……….(drum roll)………… the spirit of ethereal love as seen at the pavilion of the “reflection of the Moon on the river” bridge  on the Nakdong River.

korea bridge
Pavilion on the Reflection of the Moon on the River Bridge. (Photo by LGS)

Squirrel’s Secret Spot 15: Korea – Hahoe Style

My nephew’s wife (would that be my niece-in-law?) is a lovely Korean girl.  So I guess it was just a matter of time that there was a family vacation to Korea to get to know the culture better and that is what we did last September.

We did make a trip to Gangnam to witness the Gangnam Style made famous by Psy ( the ladies wanted to do some shopping)  but for me, it was just a cityscape like you could find almost anywhere in the world and filled with overpriced designer goods.  So the real Gangnam like the Gangnam Style video just left me cold.

Instead, the highlight of the trip for me was our visit to Andong Hahoe Village.  This UNESCO World Heritage site is a snapshot of Korean life that has remained relatively unchanged since the Joseon Dynasty at around the 16th Century.

Hahoe Village is beautifully located within a bend of the tranquil Nakdong River with beautiful sandy beaches and the imposing Buyongdae Cliff on the opposite bank.  It’s name actually means “Village that is enveloped by water”.

Its buildings represent the architecture of the 16th Century and the Confucianism philosophy ascendent at that time.  Indeed the village was suppose to be an incubator of intellectuals and court officials of the Joseon Dynasty.

However, what really makes this special is that the place (unlike many) has not been put on for tourists – it is still very much a real, working, living village with the villagers still living a mostly traditional life.  A real time capsule with insight to the Korean psyche.

The villagers still work the land.  Paddy fields, vegetable gardens, and orchards are found both in and around the village.  Traditional crafts like mask making are still practiced and traditional costumes are still worn especially at weekends.

I loved the place.  Hope you will enjoy the photos (all photos by LGS).

Oh, and the beef bbq Korean style in Andong is mucho delicious. A must try.

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Silly Rabbit, Easter is for…..

“Well, in just a few days time, it will be Easter. And really early, before the sun rises and all the good children are awake, the Easter Bunny will be hopping across lawns and gardens all over the world, hiding colorful eggs for all the good children to find”.

Say WHAT?!?!  Rabbits can’t even lay eggs – so just where is he getting them eggs and does he have elves like Santa does, to help paint all those eggs or is it outsourced to some sweat factory employing child labor?  Rabbits are also known to be health fanatics, eating only carrots and salad.  No way a rabbit would be promoting chocolate eggs.  So why is there a bunny/rabbit/hare intruding on Christianity’s most meaningful celebration?  It makes no sense at all.

Why is an overweight man in red the poster boy for Christmas and why is a egg-centric bunny the mascot for Easter?   Christmas remembers Jesus’ birth and Easter – his death on the cross and his resurrection from the grave. Why, then, is the world promoting these mythical characters instead of  showing reverence for the real and historical Jesus Christ for which these festivals are actually meant to remember?

It is most unacceptable.  The world talks about respecting each other including our different cultures and religions.  It would not think of doing this kind of thing with other religions, so why does the world think its okay to do it to Christians?  I mean, the Muslims would be offended if the media and businesses start promoting the “Camel of Eid-ul-Fitri” on their holy month.  No one would dream of using the “Holy Cow of Deepavali” to push sales to Hindus.  Even pacifist Buddhists may be riled up if some PR guy came up with something like the “Grand Pokemon of  Vesak Day”.  I do not mean any disrespect to any of those religions.  I am just trying to illustrate how silly it would be and possibly offensive.  No such festival creature exists for any of the world’s religious festivals (except maybe the Holiday Armadillo of Hannukah from a certain episode of “Friends”).  In the same way, I will thank you for leaving the Bunny out from Easter.

Sorry, there really is no "Holiday Armadillo of Hannukah".


The Easter weekend starts with Good Friday and ends with Easter Sunday and commemorates Jesus death on the cross on Friday and his resurrection from the dead on Sunday.  It is the most important event in the Christian faith.  The birth of Christ is not even discussed in two of the four Gospels but the events relating to his death and resurrection occupies 9 of 21 chapters in John’s Gospel.  Where Christmas was the start of Jesus’  work of redeeming mankind from the burden and penalty of their sin, Easter was the completion of that work.

John 3: 16-17:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. ”


So silly rabbit, Easter is not for you but it is for mankind loss and weary, separated from God – now given new hope through the love of God and Jesus’ sacrifice in our stead.  Have a blessed Easter.


Our friend Mago does a series on his blog called “Sunday Music” and just recently he covered a song by Annette Hanshaw (1901-1985).  In his post, he included the use of that song in an animated version of the Ramayana story.  A rather unusual combination which you should check out.

Anyway, this reminded me that I had a related post that had long been on the back-burner and I decided it was time to bring it to a boil.

In Bali, Indonesia, there is a dance called the kecak dance in which dancers enact the Ramayana story with musical accompaniment provided by the rhythmic, hypnotic chanting of a large group of men.  It is quite an experience.  I have had the good fortune of witnessing it twice.  Once, I saw it as part of a dinner performance at an international beach hotel in Nusa Dua (which is where all the photos  below were taken) and once at a sunset ceremonial performance at the clifftop temple at Uluwatu.  Of the two, I really must recommend the spectacular setting at the Uluwatu temple which also includes a fire dance.  If you are ever in Bali, this is definitely one of the highlights not to be missed.  To tantalise you, I have included a video by Hawaiian filmmaker and reknown hula dancer Kimokekahuna at the Uluwatu temple.

The Ramayana is a classic Hindu story.  In brief, the kecak dance is about the hero Rama and his beautiful wife Siti.  One day while in the forest, Siti sees a golden deer and begs Rama to capture it for her.  He leaves Siti under the protection of his brother Lakshmana and chases after the deer.  Sometime later, Siti is misled into thinking that she hears Rama calling for help.  Fearful for her husband, she pleads for Lakshmana to go and search for Rama.  Lakshmana is reluctant to do so at first but eventually gives in to her pleas and disappears into the forest looking for Rama.

But it was all a ploy to get Siti alone and unprotected and she is kidnapped by the demon King Ravana and taken to his kingdom of Lanka.  The rest of the story is about how Rama defeats Ravana and rescues Siti with the help of the white monkey king, Hanuman and his army of monkeys.


Kecak Dance and Dinner at the Grand Hyatt, Nusa Dua, Bali.


The Bad Guy Appears


Fight! Fight! Fight!


Left to Right: The Golden Deer, Little Tourist and Some Character that I Can't Remember


The Bad Guys After Losing Again


The White Monkey King Giving Me the Thumbs Up


Vodpod videos no longer available.



Enter the Dragons

Well, after a relatively good year in 2010 courtesy of us tigers (secret agent woman and I say “You’re welcome!”), 2011 has been a humdinger of a bad year for many.  There were so many tragic incidences that I don’t even want to mention again.  Don’t say that secret agent woman and I didn’t warn you about those silly rabbits running the year (Beware the Year of the Rabbit) or should I say “ruining” the year.

Well, now it is the Year of the Dragon.  Now what kind of year is a year run by dragons?  My mother-in-law is a dragon and my wife reads this blog, so what is a squirrel under duress to say?  It will be a GREAT year!

While by now most regular readers will know from the posts on this blog that rabbits are evil, most of you probably think that dragons are mythical creatures and don’t exist and that’s exactly what those sneaky, crafty dragons want you to think.

In Chinese tradition, the dragon is a symbol of potent and auspicious power.  Hence  many Chinese Emperors used a dragon as their personal emblem.  For example, both the Qin and Zhou dynasty emperors were always represented as 5-clawed dragons.  More recently, the famed martial arts exponent, Bruce Lee, was also compared with the dragon.  Hence his big breakthrough movie in 1973 was called “Enter the Dragon“.

So dragons typically are big movers and shakers but they like to carry out their activities and plans covertly and out of sight.  So expect big things to happen in 2012.  But unlike evil rabbits, dragons can be both good or bad.  If they are good, they do great good but unfortunately, if they are bad then they are bad to the bone.  So we can expect the two extremes this year.  Get ready for a roller-coaster year.

Now while many of us are unaware that dragons exist and walk amongst us in disguise, there are ways of spotting them.  Bosses that breathe fire are probably dragons.  Cold blooded reptilian-like dowagers are another giveaway.  Take your time and you can begin to see through the mystical veil and see the dragons in their true form.

Take a close look at politicians.  They share many characteristics with dragons; they have a lot of hot air, thick hides which are impervious to barbs thrown at them and they speak with forked-tongues.  Finally, many dragons tend to keep names that have an association with their reptilian nature.  I’m not implying anything  but I have always thought that U.S. Republican presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, has a rather odd name!  Newts are a type of aquatic salamander and in folklore, salamanders are believed to be born from fire and there is even a species called a fire salamander.  Coincidence?  I think not!

Spot the Power-crazed Dragons in Our Midst*

*in case dear reader, you are not familiar to what the picture is referring to, Newt Gingrich made a proposal to sack all inner city school janitors and to pay school children to replace them.

For this reason alone, vote Obama. Or at the very least…….don’t vote Newt!  Please!

Scaring Nian

I was asked to help out at a special gathering for parents and kids from the church supported kindergarten and play group to mark the approaching Chinese New Year which falls on the 23rd of January this year.  The kids age from the youngest (6 month old) to the oldest (6 years old).  The teachers and helpers went out of their way preparing activities, crafts and games as well as a sing-a-long session and a cute lion and dragon dance which was done by the kids themselves with scaled down lion and dragon dance costumes.

My role was to be the storyteller.  I made the mistake of volunteering to be the storyteller for a group of older children a couple of Christmases ago and I guess parents talk.  Anyway, I was pressed to help out again.  It was a lot of fun, of course.  Kids that age make a very receptive audience.  A few funny faces and funny voices as you read the story and you are a star.

Anyway, I was asked to read the traditional folklore story about the origins of the Chinese New Year celebration and I thought that I would share it with you.

A long, long time ago, there was a monstrous mystical creature called Nian which means year.  This is because the Nian appears once a year on the eve of the New Year and causes all kinds of trouble and eating people.  This caused the people to live in fear and always run to the mountains to hide whenever New Year’s eve came around.

Then one year, an old beggar comes into Peach Blossom Village and the villagers treated him kindly, giving him shelter and food.  But when New Year’s Eve came round, the villagers fled to the mountains and warned the beggar to do the same.  However, the beggar stayed, promising the villagers that he would get rid of Nian as a way of thanking the villagers for their hospitality to him.  The villagers thought that he was mad and left him behind to face Nian alone.

But the old beggar had a plan. When Nian appeared, first the old beggar waved and twirled red banners.  Nian was mesmerised by the twirling red banners until it got dizzy from watching the circular movement.  In that way, Nian was unable to walk straight and kept stumbling around.  In this way, Nian was no longer able to effectively chase anyone.

However, Nian was still able to bite and eat anyone which was too close to it.  The old beggar then fed Nian some sticky cakes made from rice flour called Nian gao which means cakes for Nian.  Nian ate the cakes but it made his mouth stick together  so that it was not able to open it and bite anyone.

Although dizzy and unable to bite, Nian was so big that it could still do a lot of damage just stumbling around,  So the old beggar took some fire crackers and thew it exploding on the back of Nian.  Nian was so frightened by the exploding fire crackers that it ran away and was never heard from again.

That is why, even today, people celebrate New Year by placing red banners on either side of the front door, preparing sticky rice cakes and by setting off fire crackers.


Red Banners on Both Sides of the Door


The Sticky Rice Cake - "Nian Gao"




Foul Beast

For my Halloween post this year, I fall back on one of the creatures of the night that has longed intrigued me – the wild beast hound/wolf.  The thought of some creature prowling the countryside in search of victims has always made my blood chill.  Some of these creatures like the famous “Hound of Baskervilles” were fictitious creations but often some of these stories of demon dogs or wild beasts were based on some historical incident.

Take for example, the story about the Beast of Gevaudan.  Between 1764 -1767, in the former province of Gevaudan whichwas located in the mountains of south-central France, a man-eating creature is claimed to have killed more than 100 people.  This creature bore some resemblance to a large wolf but it did not hunt in packs as wolves do.  It seemed to attack people preferentially even when cattle and other livestock were present.  It attacked the head and killed by biting the neck or taking the whole head off.  Many of the victims’ bodies were found partially eaten.

Things got so bad that King Louis XV sent professional wolf hunters to help and though they killed a number of wolves, including a particularly large one called Le Loup de Chazes, the attacks and killings continued.   Eventually a local hunter, Jean Chastel, was credited with killing the real beast.  Chastel claimed that he was part of a larger hunting group when he stopped to read the bible and pray.  At that point, the beast appeared and stared at him.  Upon finishing his prayer, he killed the beast.  Survivors of the attacks positively identified the carcass as that of the beast that attacked them and human remains was found in its stomach.

However, others wondered about Chastel’s tale and some suspicion arose that the beast did not immediately attack Chastel because it had in fact been raised and trained by Chastel.

But what was the beast?  It was described as being wolf-like but much larger, the size of a cow.  It had a wide chest, a long tail ending in a lion like tuft of fur,large pointed ears and a long jaw with protruding fangs.   It’s fur had a reddish tinge and smelt horribly.  Some witnesses claimed that its feet resembled hooves rather than paws.  Others claimed the hide was so tough that it was practically bullet proof.

Traditional stories suggest that the beast was a werewolf or a warlock who could shape-shift.  Another early theory was that the beast was the result of cross breeding wolves with certain breeds of domestic dogs.  Or perhaps it was a lion wearing armor, or it was a rare form of hyena.

I think it is interesting that some cryptozoologists and scientists suspect that it could have been a surviving remnant of a Mesonychid which are a group of animals that seemed to resemble the creature described by the survivors; especially the description of the size, protruding fangs, hooves and reddish fur.  The only problem is that Mesonychids are believed to have died out some 32 million years ago.

So what do you think it was?  And are they still prowling around today?

This is what a Mesonychid might look like………..

The Beast of Gevaudan?