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Alps: nightmare creatures of German folklore

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Alps are creatures that appear in nightmares in the middle of the night.
This mythical creature would appear in the dreams of men and women but prefers to disturb women more.
It is defined by the Althochdeutsches Wörterbuch as a “nature-god or nature-demon, equated with the Fauns of Classical mythology…regarded as eerie, ferocious beings…As the mare he messes around with women”.
They could manipulate dreams to their liking and would create horrible nightmares, and this is probably why “Alptraum” is the word for nightmare in German which if translated literally would mean “Alp dream”.

An alp attack is called an Alpdruck, or often Alpdrücke, which means “elf pressure”.
Other than manipulating dreams, they like to sit astride a sleeper’s chest and becomes heavier until the crushing weight awakens the terrified and breathless dreamer. The victim awakes unable to move under the alp’s weight, and this may have been an early explanation for sleep apnea and sleep paralysis, as well as night terrors.
They are often associated with vampires because they would drink blood from the nipples of men and young children, though women are the preferred victim, to get the extra taste of breast milk.
Alps also exhibit a tendency for mischief similar to elves, like souring milk and re-diapering a baby.
A maid must sign a cross on the diaper or the alp will put the soiled diaper back on her child. They also enjoy tangling hair into “elfknots” or chewing and twisting horse’s tails. They will ride a horse to exhaustion during the night and may sometimes crush smaller farm animals to death during a pressing attack. Alps are also similarly blamed for minor illnesses and milking cows dry, for they enjoy the taste of cow’s milk as well.
However, the alp is best known for its shapeshifting abilities. They can change into cats, pigs, dogs or even small white butterflies.
It has also been said that it can fly like a bird and ride a horse, but to know that the animal is a shape-shifting Alp is by the hat it always wears.
The hat is known as a Tarnkappe which means magic or camouflage hat that gives them the power to turn invisible and maybe even shape-shift. The hat is always visible no matter what shape the creature takes.
An Alp who has lost this hat will offer a great reward for its safe return.

The alp’s history originated in the mountainous regions of Germany and Austria. The alp’s Tarnkappe, as well as its demeanor and abilities, suggest that the dwarf king Alberich from the Teutonic epic poem Nibelungenlied is the source of inspiration for much of its mythology.
In Teutonic myth and folklore, alps were considered friendly elf-like beings which lived in the mountains, but eventually turned more negative and malevolent.
The alp, in many cases, is considered a demon, but there have been some instances in which it is created from the spirits of recently dead relatives, more akin to a spirit or ghost.
Children may become an alp if a woman bites a horse collar to ease the pain during an extremely long and tortuous childbirth. Moreover, If a woman who is pregnant is frightened by an animal, the child may be born an alp, while stillborn infants are also suspected to return from the grave as alps and torment their family.
People who have eyebrows that meet are suspected to be alps.
Sometimes an alp is a spirit summoned by a witch or an evil person wishing harm on another, and sent to torment them, but It may also have been expelled by the breath of the horerczy, a German demon which exhales vampiric butterflies.

Protections against an Alp include laying a broomstick under a pillow, iron horseshoes hung from the bedpost, placing shoes against the bed with the toes pointing toward the door, or placing a mirror on the chest. Steel and crosses are also used. If awoken by the Alp and finding him still there, one can address him by asking him to return in the morning to borrow something or have coffee. The Alp will dash away at once, arriving in the morning either in his “true” form, or else in the form of a human with eyebrows that meet to receive his gifts.
Plugging up any holes (specifically keyholes) before a visitation will keep the Alp out, but plugging them during a visitation will invariably seal it inside the room, as they can leave only through their original entrance.
A light kept constantly on during the night will also effectively.
The Alp appears all but impossible to kill, and sometimes even after being turned away it may reappear years later in a worse mood.

Images from web – Google Research

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