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Basic Information

Walrider - also known as Walriderske, Walriesche, Walrüsche, Weilriderske, Bodhexe, Ridimär, Wolrider, Nachtmär, or Undeert - are spirits from the folklore of Northwestern Germany. They are mostly female, though a few are male. Their primary characteristic is that they visit sleeping people in their spirit form and "ride" them for extended durations, causing sleep paralysis great exhaustion in them. Depending on the story, they might be:

  • Witches - in that case, this represents just one more of their nefarious powers.
  • Hags were also said to be able do this - but traditionally there is some confusion between them and witches.
  • Women (and sometimes men) who were born during an "unfortunate hour" and are cursed to this fate without having any control over their abilities.
  • Nonhuman spirits - in this case, their home is usually believed to be England.

In the first two cases, their bodies are left behind in a lifeless form, and their spirit must reappear within a set time span (usually before morning) or else their bodies will truly die. Their spirit form may appear as barely visible mist (compare with the mist form of vampires - although Walriders are not considered to be undead) - as a small animal (such as a cat), an inanimate object (such as a piece of straw), or as a child.

When entering a home in spirit form, they must enter through a hole such as a keyhole or a broken window. Furthermore, they must leave through the same hole, or they become trapped - usually appearing as a beautiful young woman who has to obey the commands of her captor. In several stories this has led to the captor marrying the Walrider and siring several children with her, only for her to escape years later when the hole accidentally or deliberately becomes opened again.

Some Walriders are known to travel great distances in vehicles when visiting a victim - the traditional conveyance is a milk sieve as well as a human or cow shoulder blade used as an oar, although one male Walrider, posing as a helmsman, "borrows" the ship he has hired on overnight and manages to fly from the city of Emden at the North Sea coast to the Mediterranean and back again with it in a single night. It is possible to steal the milk sieves from the Walriders (who usually hide it beneath a convenient haystack after landing), and they will offer significant bribes to get them back, although these bribes might be cursed.

See Also

  • Pressure Spirit
  • Selkie - similar to Walriders, selkies also have stories where they are captured and forced to marry a human, only to disappear years later when they manage to get freed.



Game and Story Use

  • Walriders make a good alternative to vampires when your players are deeply versed in vampire lore - while some elements might seem familiar, the differences will be baffling.
  • Playing a Walrider could also be interesting - their spirit form is useful for scouting, while their powers of magical travel can be very useful for a party in a rush - especially once they get access to their own ship.
  • When bringing them into a setting, it will be necessary to clarify their exact operating method: what function does "riding" a victim serve? If the walrider can fly about in a milk sieve - or even a flying ship, presumably they don't need to ride the victim to travel … unless of course the human victim serves for some kind of astral projection into ultramundane realms that their physical flight cannot penetrate.
  • Otherwise we probably need to assume that the "riding" is some kind of psychic vampirism or other spiritual predation.
  • Interesting that walriders were said to originate in England, given the absence of such things from English legend - unless, of course, English witches were travelling to the continent by night to bother the Germans (and if so, why not the French?).
    • Possibly this is old enough that it was a Celts vs. Germanics thing, later remembered as coming from across the North Sea even after the Germanic settlers had driven the Celts into the west.
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