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, spirit worker and traveler, and folk magic practitioner guided by both philosophical Taoism and Germanic 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.  
The Magic of Childbirth: Rites of Protection

Violet Moore Higgins, "Three days agone - I found a tiny fair-haired infant"

This year has been a year of changes for me, some of which have yet to occur and others that have already occurred. The biggest, of course, was the birth of my second child in August. With her came the upset of routine, family dynamic, sleep, and all those other disorienting but completely natural shifts inherent in bringing a new life – a new spirit (or spirits, depending on your conception of the Self) – into this brilliant, dynamic world of the living. Of course, thanks to modern medicine, childbirth for me was a much less daunting experience than it was for my ancestors (and, sadly, for those today who live without access to adequate medical care).

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Soul Cakes: An Old Tradition and a New Recipe

Image via Lavender and Lovage 

God bless the master of this house,
The misteress also,
And all the little children
That round your table grow.
Likewise young men and maidens,
Your cattle and your store;
And all that dwells within your gates,
We wish you ten times more.

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Ancestors at the Hearth: Hallowe’en Edition

I love the word Hallowe’en. It conjures all the warmth and mystery that I associate with the middle of the harvest season, and having celebrated it secularly throughout my life doesn’t diminish my now more spiritual experience of the holiday; instead, it accentuates it. Maybe it’s just me, but I find so much satisfaction in deepening my experience of the familiar, seeing beneath the surface of what is already around me. Making Hallowe’en sacred to me as a pagan is a rewarding experience.

While Hallowe’en, or All Hallows Eve, is a later, Christian term denoting a holiday that stems from the more ancient Samhain, it can still be relevant to pagans. After all, to “hallow” means to sanctify or venerate – to recognize something as sacred or worthy of veneration — which is what many of us do during this time. We pay homage to the dead: family members, beloved dead, cultural and/or spiritual ancestors, and sometimes even the dead with whom we have little to no emotional connection but who have walked the same earth.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Corn Dollies: A Harvest Tradition

Since I can remember, my mom has had two small corn husk dolls. I’m not sure where or why she got them, but it was before I was born, so they’ve always been there, through all my family’s moves from city to city, country to country. Even now, they’re nestled among other knick-knacks in the enormous Bavarian schrank my parents keep in their formal living room. They are quaint, dainty little things, and they’ve always held a kind of mystery to me that, for a long time, I couldn’t quite pin down.

As an adult, I learned that corn husk dolls originated among the Iroquois, and the tradition was picked up by European settlers who had similar traditions. In some ways, corn husk dolls are the indigenous American cognate to European corn dollies, which are usually not so much “dolls” as we think of them as they are decorative objects taking a variety of shapes: hearts, handbells, lanterns, horseshoes, to name just a handful. Another difference is that corn dollies are often made of wheat, barley, or oat sheaves, not the ears of maize used to craft corn husk dolls.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Hugh Gadarn
    Hugh Gadarn says #
    Fascinating. I find corn dollies intriguing and there are examples in early Britain. On the eve of St. Bride's day girls used to m
  • The Cunning Wife
    The Cunning Wife says #
    Thanks for sharing, Hugh! I love learning about the similarities and differences in corn dolly traditions across European cultures

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Kobolds: Household Tricksters

Household spirits fascinate me. Not too surprising, given the subject of this blog. Modern popular paganism tends to focus so much on the greater deities and the wild spirits of the forests, bodies of water, mountains, etc., that spirits of the home tend to be overlooked or shrugged off. Perhaps house spirits seem less interesting because they occupy the same spaces we live in day after day; perhaps they seem too domestic, too banal. Or perhaps, like many, many other spirits known to our ancestors, we have just forgotten about them. Whatever the reason, I can say that household spirits are just as mysterious, rich with character and personality, and even dangerous as other types of spirits. They offer just as much spiritual value and the potential for material reward. They are just as vital to our lives as they were to those who came before us.

One of these spirits is the kobold, a German spirit of the home as well as mines and ships. It is a helpful trickster, one that can come into a family in a number of ways – including choosing the family itself – and promises a fruitful (if complicated) relationship that can last a lifetime.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Protecting the Threshold

Just as a field has a fence or hedge, and every forest an edge, so does every household have a boundary, a liminal space in which, for perhaps no more than a split second, one is neither in nor out. One is in between.

Power lies in these in-between, or liminal, spaces – power that can be benign or malign. Scholar Claude Lecouteux describes the house as a "protective cocoon, one that is sacred and magical" (48). As ancient homes tended to be passed down from generation to generation, it was common for a man (as women often joined the homes of their spouses when they married) to be born in the house in which they lived and to die there. This means that inherited homes were also the places in which one's parents, grandparents, and so on had been born, lived, and died.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • J'Karrah
    J'Karrah says #
    We have two Foo lions who guard our front door (male and female) and an iron dragon who watches the back. We also painted protect
  • The Cunning Wife
    The Cunning Wife says #
    Very nice! I also have a bindrune written beneath our threshold that I created for protection. Love your guardian figures as well.
  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    Informative and interesting, Thanks!
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    My parents kept a wreath on the door most of the year. Theirs was just decoration I'm sure but the habit probably grew out of ear
  • The Cunning Wife
    The Cunning Wife says #
    Thanks for sharing! Very cool that your parents carried on that tradition with their wreath. I'm not very familiar with Jewish or

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Dragon of the Home

It flies above rooftops, snaking down chimneys to steal wealth or sustenance. Sometimes it appears as a bolt of fire. Other times, it takes the form of a small, red-coated man. Still other times, it appears as an animal -- a lizard, serpent, black cat, rooster or chicken. In Occitan and Catalan cultures, it's called drac, a term related to the more familiar dragons ("Drac"). Like dragons, dracs are connected with wealth and fortune, although unlike "wild" dragons, domestic dracs bring these things to the masters and mistresses of their dwelling (albeit, at the expense of their neighbors) (Encyclopedia of Norse and Germanic Folklore, Mythology and Magic). It makes its home in chimneys or behind the stove -- hot places, where fire naturally dwells, the center of the home. It is a shape-changing spirit, a trickster, but it is happy to serve its chosen family as long as it is well cared-for.

Wild Spirits

So how do dracs come to be? One tradition states that they are born from a yolkless egg; another claims that they are established in a household through a contract with a devil (The Tradition of Household Spirits 154). In Demons and Spirits of the Land, medievalist scholar of folklore Claude Lecouteux argues that the term "devil" is used in these instances to represent a land spirit:

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  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    I love this, thank you!!!!!!! —a dragon's granmother and a daughter of dragons.

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