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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in folk magic
Stones, Bones, and Blood: Rituals to Prevent a House Fire

If you’re familiar with household folklore and traditions, you’ve probably noticed that there’s a lot of concern about housefires. While fire was a necessary element for survival – keeping warm, cooking food, boiling water to make it safe to drink and clean wounds with – it was also a hazard, especially in homes made of wood and thatch. Lightning could strike during a storm, and the roof would be set ablaze. An accident or malfunction could happen in the hearth, and the house would be consumed from within. Loss of a home spelled disaster, just as it does today, although fire codes and emergency response units have reduced risks for many of us.

Fiery Gods and Devils

Many household spirits were associated with fire. The German kobold is one example. Kobolds, like alps, were often described as fiery spirits that dwelled near or within the stove and, if they were treated poorly, could cause housefires in vengeance. Feeding the kobold regularly, refraining from speaking ill of him, and keeping the house clean and tidy were good ways to keep him happy and supportive of the household.

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Plough Monday Play

The liturgical calendar was essential in the medieval age but a lot of the older agricultural time markers found their place within it: Plough Monday was the Monday following the Epiphany (AKA The Twelfth Day of Christmas). One of the tradition associated with the day was another type of folk play. The existing plays are all from the northeast of England, but the tradition may have been more widely practised. Chambers tells us that the performers called themselves, 'Plough Jacks, Plough Jags...Plough Witchers and Morris Dancers' and woe betide the churl who turned them from his door, for they would plough up the ground before his door.

Like Mumming for the New Year, there was usually a mock battle and a healing, but there was an additional elements: sometimes the recruiting sergeant but most often, the Fool's Wooing. It was the last chance for a party as Plough Monday meant a return to work after the yuletide holidays. The Fool's Wooing gave an opportunity for fun and his wedding an excuse to ask for food and drink.

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Storm-Warding Charms and Rituals

Florence is pounding at the coastline of the Carolinas as I write. If you’ve been watching meteorologists’ predictions this past week, you’ll have noticed how frequently and wildly projections of her path have changed. She is a massive, powerful, and unpredictable force. Storms like Florence remind us of Mother Nature’s terrible power and that, in spite of all our cunning and advanced technology, we cannot control her; we remain subject to her, a small part of the greater tapestry of teeming, whirling life.

My neighbors’ parents live in Charleston and have come to stay with them to escape the worst of the storm. But even here, some 300 miles from the Virginia coast and buffeted by the ancient Appalachian peaks, we’re still anticipating winds up to 35 miles per hour and three to five inches of rain – nothing compared to our easterly neighbors, but a shock nonetheless for a region that doesn’t often see hurricanes. And, considering how our valley is predisposed to flooding and has already received quite a bit of rain in the past week, we’re all more than a little nervous, wondering how Florence will treat us when she arrives at our doorstep. It’s the subject of every half-overheard conversation I pass by. I can feel it coming – the sky is a mass of mottled gray; the winds are cooler and more persistent; there’s a tension in the air itself, as if every tree and bird and beast is bracing itself for the impact.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I live in Colonial Heights a town south of Richmond. Florence turned south and will miss most of Virginia. I did no storm wardin
  • The Cunning Wife
    The Cunning Wife says #
    That's great! I love hearing about others' rituals and traditions. At the time I was writing this post, it did look like Florence
Witches’ Marks and Galdrastafir: Protection Symbols for the Home

Most of the time, I believe that bad things just happen. Not every misfortune is a product of the evil eye or a malefic spirit but part of the natural flux of life that keeps a necessary, healthy, wavering sort of balance. Rarely, however, I do find that something else seems to be at work. This can happen when a shift or transformation happens -- a birth, a death, moving house -- creating liminal times and spaces that make everything within its sphere more vulnerable (and desirable) to misery-making things. Scarlet Magdalene recently published a helpful guide on Patheos Pagan for deciding whether or not someone has been cursed or hexed; I recommend checking it out and giving it a good think if this sounds like your situation.

As I mentioned in my last post, my husband and I recently bought an old house in the mountains. Two months later, we still haven’t been able to really move in. January was a series of large and small disasters, expenses, inconveniences, and illnesses. It's almost comical, except that we’re so tired and overwhelmed and almost broke from it all.

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The Magic of Vinegar

The Magic of Vinegar

I love to use ordinary every day ingredients and items from my kitchen cupboards for magical workings, it makes perfect sense to me to utilise things I already have without the need to spend a lot of money or order expensive and exotic items from thousands of miles away.

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Witches' Ladders

Witches' Ladders

The first recorded find of a witches’ ladder was in 1886 during the repairs of an old house in Somerset, England.  Within the roof space they found a pile of broomsticks, an old chair and a length of braided cord, with a loop at one end and lots of cockerel feathers threaded through the braid.

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The Lighted Hearth

The hearth. The center of the home, the center of domestic life. For our ancestors, it was where food was made, stories were shared, textiles were crafted and mended. Eminent scholar of medieval traditions and folklore Claude Lecouteux writes: "Hearth is a generic term for designating the place where fire burns. The hearth can mean different things depending on the era and the region; it ranges from the simple fire pit of primitive dwellings to the more modern earthenware and cast-iron stove, and includes the open chimney, the fireplace, the oven, or the furnace" (The Tradition of Household Spirits, 69). So when I refer to the hearth, I mean the place where the fire dwells and provides warmth and sustenance.

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