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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in folklore
Types of Animal Teachers: Introduction

A part of working with animals is learning as much about them as you can. Since common names are confusing, scientists will use taxonomic names for each animal. In taxonomy, animals are separated into various groupings according to their DNA and biological characteristics. Therefore, every animal has a scientific name based on where they fit in the Web of Life. Taxonomy (this scientific classification system) is essentially the animal’s name, rand, and serial number.

Taxonomy aids in understanding how animals are alike and how they differ. Take badgers for example. Honey badger (Mellivora capensis) of Africa, North American badger (Taxidea taxus), and Eurasian badger (Mele mele) are called “badgers” because of their distinctive badger stripe. However, each of the these animals are not directly related to each other except as members of the larger Mustelidae (weasel, badger, and otter) family. From the taxonomic first name, you can see that these various badgers are not closely related. Instead, they are in their own sub-groupings of Meles, Taxideae, and Mellivorae within the Mustelidae. Therefore when consulting “animal totem” dictionaries, check to see which “badger” they are discussing since each have different teachings. Eurasian badgers live in ancient setts (homes) developed by their ancestors, while American badgers, who live alone, dig a hole to stay the night in.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Magic, Wonder, and Spiritscraft

Magic and wonder have been important to me spiritually for my entire life. As a child, I learned basic magical skills — like energy protection, artistic magic, relaxation, and healing meditation — from my family. We were all very connected with nature, and the sacredness of the outdoors.

I began having out of body experiences when I was a teenager. When I met my familiar spirit, it was an angel who protected me when I was very sick. My familiar helped me to become a stronger and braver girl.

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Horseshoe Magic

Horseshoe Magic

You may be lucky enough to find a horseshoe when you are out and about on your travels but what is all the fuss about them?

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Easter Witches

In Sweden, the witch is a major symbol of Easter.

I kid you not. Swedish Easter cards feature pictures of witches flying off to the sabbat. Kids—these days it's mostly little girls—dressed as witches (with babushkas and painted-on rosy cheeks) trick-or-treat from door-to-door, collecting their goodies in, not sacks, but coffee-pots.

It's an interesting chapter in the long, twisted story of relations between the old ways and the new. Pull up a stump.

In Swedish witch-lore, Good Friday is the biggest sabbat of the year because, of course, God is dead and the powers of evil reign supreme. So keep those brooms, pitchforks, and billy goats locked up, or some old crone may nab one for her evening jaunt to the big shindig at the Blåkulla, the “Blue Mountain.” Keep a fire burning on the hearth and the windows shut tight, or the mirk-riders may steal your aquavit, cheese, and coffee (!) for their celebration.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Well, one could hardly ask for higher praise than that. Thanks, Lizann; I'm glad you're enjoying the ride.
  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    I so love all your posts, this one is particularly delightful!
The Grateful Witch: A Tale of the Slovenian Roma

While eating lunch one day a girl noticed that, having shelled their hard-boiled eggs, her parents crumpled up the shells before throwing them away. She asked why they did this.

“If you don't, the witches use them for boats,” they explained. At one time this belief was quite widespread throughout Central Europe.

“Witches need boats, just like anyone else,” she replied, and threw her eggshell, uncrumpled, over her left shoulder. A whirlwind caught the shell and whisked it away.

One day the girl was fishing from an island in the middle of a river. Suddenly, due to a heavy downpour upstream, the water began to rise. Before she knew it, her boat was swept away, and soon the rapids were in danger of covering the entire island.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Milk Pails and Prayer Books

The thing about superstitions is, you just never know.

One of my favorites comes from southern Germany. If you want to find out who the witches in your parish are, when you go to church on Good Friday, slip an Easter egg into your pocket. You'll recognize the witches by three things: 

  1. Instead of hats, they'll be wearing milk pails on their heads.

  2. Instead of prayer books, they'll be carrying slabs of pork. (!)

  3. They'll be standing with their backs to the altar.

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Genii Loci: Communal Spirits of Place

Having returned a few years ago to the general vicinity of my birth, I found myself more than ever considering regional cultus. There's something magical to the land touched by the Missouri River for me; it sings to me about it being my home and blood. I am the 5th generation of my family that has called this space home, and I marked the birth of the 6th generation with my daughter here as well. My husband jokingly refers to this as my spawning ground, but I sometimes wonder if there's truth to that.

I've set to trying to learn what I can classify as the Genii, an ambiguous term for the divine part of spirit in all things with souls. These may be Lares, heroes, natural spirits, or minor Gods; they may be Manes, the spirits of the Dead not quite elevated to the status of Lares yet. They may be somewhere in between, indefinable when not stretched under the pull of over-rationalization that I'm sometimes prone to.

This isn't always an easy task, but it's one I feel is important to undertake. So many times I fall to the trap of keeping my mind intellectually pinned into the space and time that the Roman Empire touched that I build solid walls that trap myself in. So I find myself asking regularly Who are our American Gods? Where do we find Them? And not simply the Spirits and Gods who were here before my European ancestors got here, but those we have created and transplanted as we've settled in this space.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anna Applegate
    Anna Applegate says #
    Wonderful article! I've had experiences both positive and negative working with the land spirits of places I've lived in (not my b
  • Camilla Laurentine
    Camilla Laurentine says #
    I agree most emphatically that not all spirits wish to have anything to do with humans. There are places we really simply don't b
  • Anna Applegate
    Anna Applegate says #
    That's so cool that you used to live by the Marshall Field's building--you have no idea how much I miss shopping there! (Macy's ca

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