Hob & Broom: Household Lore & Traditions

An exploration of the old spirits, symbols, customs, and crafts of the home.

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The Cunning Wife

The Cunning Wife

The Cunning Wife is an animist, writer, diviner, crafter, witch, spirit worker and traveler, guided by both philosophical Taoism and Germanic and Slavic folk traditions. Her written work has been published in a number of online and print magazines, including Witches & Pagans. She gets excited about scholarly essays and books on folklore, magical tales, and ancient spiritual practices, and is passionate about sharing that information in ways that are accessible and relevant. She is also an avid crafter of magical and mundane items. She believes that there is magic in the mundane, just waiting to be remembered.  
White Storks in European Traditions and Stories

"I know the pond in which all the little children lie, waiting till the storks come to take them to their parents."

-Hans Christian Andersen, "The Storks"

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    The local library used to have a book called Australia Dreaming. If I remember correctly it mentioned that the spirits of the unb
Not Only Lammas: Other August Harvest Holidays and Traditions in Europe

Grains are goldening, apples and other fruits are ripening, and beehives are thick with honey. The harvest season has come and is rapidly maturing. While Lammas and Lughnasadh have passed in the UK and Ireland, other harvest holidays are still just beginning. Each festival celebrates the culmination of hard work and good luck, and marks the turning of the year, the slow fade of summer into fall, and the gratitude that people still feel for the benevolence of their lands.

Grains, Apples, and Honey

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Lammas, the First Harvest, the Beginning of the End of Summer

Many people have been readying for Lammas this past week. My Instagram feed has been full of beautiful loaves of bread in all shapes and sizes, filled with herbs or sprinkled with oats and other grains. I’ve made my own loaves of bread in preparation and am planning for other elements of the holiday: an outdoor fire in our fire bowl, homemade kvas, some soup or stew to sop up with the homemade bread, a fresh salad, some outdoor games with the kids, maybe a walk in the woods.

I love this holiday that is essentially a celebration of bread. Bread is a sacred and ancient food, one so common and humble that we often take it for granted. But no one can deny the wholesome, enriching influence of homemade bread: the feeling of connecting with old ways as we get messy with flour and meditatively knead the dough; the rich, savory perfume emanating from the oven as it bakes; the softness of the inside and the hard crust of the loaves eaten plain, with cheese, or slathered with butter or jam. It is a gift to make bread -- to ourselves, our loved ones, and our homes. It’s no wonder that the Matres and Matronae, ancestral mother-goddesses worshipped by Celtic and Germanic tribes across northwestern Europe and whom I worship and honor, were depicted in iconography with grains or loaves of bread, along with fruits, babies, and dogs. Bread is a staple in many meals, a magical food born from grains carefully grown from the earth, at first green and then gold, milled and baked, wholesome and hearty.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I made corn pudding yesterday. I have enough left over rice to make rice pudding later in the week.
  • The Cunning Wife
    The Cunning Wife says #
    Yum! Enjoy!
Powerful Hues: Protective Colors in Household Lore

Color symbolism is a major and timeless element of magical practice. Colors have been used in spells and rituals, in the construction of talismans and spiritual art, and in the protection of the household for centuries. Humans are highly visual creatures; as animals, we rely primarily on our sight for nourishment and protection, and color perception has helped our species identify safe things from dangers. It's natural that colors would take on powers of their own over time.

 

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Chicken Magic in Folktales and Lore

Chickens are humble animals. They’re heavy, mostly earthbound birds, spending their days pecking at the ground, clucking or crowing, bobbing their heads as they strut around the farmyard. They don’t exactly radiate mysterious elegance in the way that cats and rabbits do. However, when we look closely at European folk tales and medieval lore, we see that chickens very much had a significant place in European folk magic, especially as creatures of protection and sacrifice.

In lore about the river-dwelling Nickelman, or Nixie, Benjamin Thorpe notes that “in Thale they were formerly obliged annually to throw a black cock into the Bode [River]; for if they omitted to do so, someone would certainly die within the year” (87). Claude Lecouteux makes note of this kind of sacrifice several times in The Tradition of Household Spirits, one example being:

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Animal Guardians on the Roof

A while back, my husband and I came across Escape to the Country on Netflix. We love house-hunting shows in general, and we enjoyed the glimpses into the local cultures, traditions, and landscapes of different regions of the UK, where the majority of our ancestors came from. In episodes featuring thatched homes, the straw bird finials that sometimes occupy the roof lines stood out to me as a particularly interesting craft. The show didn't make too much mention of them, but it was obvious that there was more to them than mere decoration.

 

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Silence Before Dawn: Folk Magic, Darkness, and the Taboo Against Speaking

Imagine waking in the hour before dawn, rising in the cool darkness -- no electricity, no gaslights, just the stars and what's left of the moon, and perhaps a candle to light your room. You pull on your clothes, no sound but that of your feet shuffling and the ruffling of fabric. You put on your shoes and grab a bucket and head out in the darkness. You walk down the road, the air chilled and moist. If you pass someone, you nod your head but don't dare to speak. Their footsteps shuffle away, and the scent of cold earth and dew fills your nostrils as you continue on your way. Soon, you hear the faint trickling of a creek. You come to the edge of it, and the faint light glints on the ripples as you dip your bucket down into the freezing water. You pull it up again, and it's heavier than before. The faint light glints silver on that, too, almost as if you've captured some of the stars in it. Then you head home, the water sloshing softly in the bucket, and still you don't speak until dawn breaks on the horizon.

 

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