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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in folk traditions
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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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • 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
  • The Cunning Wife
    The Cunning Wife says #
    That's fascinating!
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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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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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
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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Edible Luck: German Traditional Foods for the New Year

As with any holiday celebration, food plays an important role in New Year's Eve and Day traditions around the world. Many people eat pomegranates, that sacred fruit of Persephone associated with rebirth. In Spain, since the turn of the 20th century, it's been the tradition to eat twelve grapes -- one for each month of the coming year and for each toll of the midnight bell. In Charleston, SC (and across the American South), hoppin' john is considered good luck -- the beans symbolize coins -- a tradition originating in African American culture. While waiting for the New Year's ball to drop, my family has always shared a platter of crackers, summer sausage and ham, and a variety of cheeses with champagne for the adults and sparkling grape juice for the kids (we always called it Kinderwein, thanks to our time living in Germany and our partially German American roots).

In addition to pork and ham, Germans also make and eat Glückschwein, marzipan confections in the shape of pigs. The Germanic veneration of pigs goes back a long way to pre-Christian times. Remember that boars are associated with Freyr and Freya -- the golden-bristled Gullinbursti and the disguised lover Hildisvini, respectively. That tradition continues today -- pigs are lucky animals in German culture, symbolizing wealth and health. The term Glückschwein means just that: "lucky pig."

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  • Tyger
    Tyger says #
    I grew up in Switzerland. On New Year's Eve at the dinner-and-dance clubs, they used to bring a baby pig at midnight and let every
  • The Cunning Wife
    The Cunning Wife says #
    Thanks for sharing these traditions! I remember the pigs with clover from parts of Germany, too. The piglet tradition is new to me
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Greens were supposed to represent folding money, but dad would always turn the heat up to high and scorch them. The kitchen stank
  • The Cunning Wife
    The Cunning Wife says #
    Sounds like you're from the Carolinas! I love those food traditions. Thanks for sharing!

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