Scattering Violets

An exploration of funerary traditions and innovations, care of the dead, and pagan perspectives on death

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The Cunning Wīfe

The Cunning Wīfe

The Cunning Wife is an animist, writer, diviner, crafter, witch, and spirit worker and traveler. Her work has been published in a number of online and print magazines, including Witches & Pagans and Hagstone Publishing's Stone, Root, and Bone ezine. She gets excited about scholarly essays and books on folklore, magical tales, and ancient spiritual practices, and is passionate about sharing that information. 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.  
Frau Harke, Goddess of the First Harvest

Around Lughnasadh or soon after, I saw my first mourning dove at our Appalachian farmhouse. We’ve lived here since March, and while I’ve seen blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, falcons, crows, and more, mourning doves were conspicuously absent. And then there it was on our white post-and-rail fence. The next day, I saw another, and then more appeared in the bushes and trees over the next weeks. This morning, there were five perched on the fence, observing me as I let out our dog.

I think of Frau Harke when I see them, thanks to Jacob Grimm, who wrote in Teutonic Mythology that "Harke flies through the air in the shape of a dove, making the fields fruitful” (Vol. 4, p.1364). Harke is a giantess of German folklore in the Brandenburg and Thuringia regions. Her name means “to rake,” calling to mind the harvest and care of the earth. While usually a dweller of wild mountain forests, she does travel about during her holy days, like other goddesses of her type. Folklorist Benjamin Thorpe wrote that "At Heteborn, when the flax was not housed at Bartholomew-tide [August 24], it was formerly the saying, 'Frau Harke will come'” (142).

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Monsters in the Closet: Echoes of Household Spirits

For about a year, my son had a mild fear of goblins, ever since he saw the kidnapping scene at the beginning of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth – nothing that kept him up at night, but something he mentioned frequently and required reassurance about.

What I find particularly interesting was his belief that goblins reside in and enter from his closet. His belief was so strong that, for a few months, my husband and I had to tie his closet doors shut with ribbons every night to reassure him that the goblins couldn’t come in. The closet seems a natural residence for fearsome things -- it is the darkest place in a room, especially at night, and we fear what we can't see. Yet this belief about spirits in storage places isn't new.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I remember reading about old stone axe heads being regarded as thunderstones. Those definitely qualify as ancient artifacts. Th
  • The Cunning Wīfe
    The Cunning Wīfe says #
    I love Natsume Yuujinchou! I know he'd be a big fan of Nyanko-sensei (but who isn't?), but some of the more aggressive yokai would

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Birch: The Tree of Midsummer

 

 

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Snake Spirits: Health and Wealth

"Snake, snake, come swiftly 
Hither come, thou tiny thing,
Thou shalt have thy crumbs of bread,
Thou shalt refresh thyself with milk."

-The Brothers Grimm, “Stories About Snakes: First Story”

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Beer, the Sacred Drink of the Hearth

Bonfires, drinking, music, raucous celebration: Walpurgisnacht is a wild night that celebrates the coming summer – longer days, sometimes brilliant heat, and bursting fruitfulness. Since the medieval period, the bonfires were believed to ward off witches, but it may have been witches themselves who first lit the fires on hill-tops and mountains. Last year, I discussed the broom lore associated with this holiday. This year, I’d like to take a look at another favorite aspect: the alcohol, or more specifically, beer.

Homecrafted and Wholesome

Beer is one of the most-consumed drinks in the world, and an entire subculture has built up around craft beers, ales, and ciders over the past decade. Where I live, there are at least four or five craft breweries in a 30-mile radius. I love it. Beer is sacred to me (as it has been to many peoples since time immemorial), and the smaller and more artisanal a brewery is, all the better in my opinion.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I remember reading an article in either Natural History or Discover magazine about fruit beers in the Amazon. One of the local In
  • The Cunning Wīfe
    The Cunning Wīfe says #
    Thanks so much for sharing that info! Love the story about the Amazon beers. It''s no wonder that beer was/is so revered -- clean,
Rites of Spring: German Easter Traditions

Osterfeuer in Rugen, Wikimedia Commons

While the word Easter has long been used to denote the Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Christ, I see no problem also using it to refer to the pagan holiday celebrating the return of spring. Aside from the secular aspects of contemporary Easter traditions that are less focused on resurrection and salvation and more on fertility – eggs, rabbits, chicks, etc. – the very word Easter is pre-Christian in origin (the original Christian holiday name is the Hebrew Paschal).

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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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