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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in folklore
Kitchen Witch Dolls: Modern Household Icons

My great-grandmother, whose father immigrated from Norway when he was around nine years old and whose mother was a third-generation German American, had a kitchen witch that was passed down to my mom, her granddaughter. Unfortunately, it was lost over time, but my mom remembers that it wore a long, red dress and perched on a straw broom. This is the traditional form of the kitchen witch: a long dress, usually a kerchief tied around its head rather than a witch hat, often a characteristic long nose on a friendly face, riding upon a miniature broom (or a wooden spoon!)

Over time, craftspeople have branched away from this traditional form, creating kitchen witches that reflect the various interests and needs of contemporary cooks. This is typical for folk traditions: to remain relevant, they transform over time, taking on new elements and meanings. One thing has remained the same, however: they are always friendly, always helpful, always good luck.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I remember a little kitchen witch over the sink in my parents house. I think one of my sisters got it after my mother died, but I

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

A diaspora, a scattered and exiled people is held together mainly by shared stories and songs, customs and language. Through space and time, generations and movement, the traditions passed down change. They fade and dwindle, but they also are revived and brightened. They are added onto, embellished. Neighborhoods and cities become their territory, each gaining its own character, each city having a synthesis of all the waves of immigrants that enter its gates. Conquest, slavery, genocide, war, so many tragedies and trauma haunt us all in different ways. Expressing what has been lost and erased and  asking gods, spirits and ancestors why all these things happened, and asking who we are now, what are we becoming, what is this this idea, this great story we are all part of, called America? We struggle, who tells this larger story of who we are, who controls and steers it determines who are the heroes and the villains.

What was the original version of the story, of the song may not be remembered?  There are a thousand versions. How well it is sung or told and whether the people believe in its poetic truth and power matters more. Each people has a story of their journey of how they became American, each is a part of a great story, the story of America.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Setting Out on the Fairy Road

For many people the concept of fairies and the land of Fairy is the subject of children’s stories and cartoons; for some of us though these beings and their home is very real. Finding the truth about them, however, is a difficult proposition in a world that in many ways would rather relegate them to the toy bin and juvenile book shelf. Yet stories of fairies and encounters with them persist, enough that author Simon Young conducted a fairy census published in early 2018 that included hundreds of modern sighting of fairies which filled over 400 pages. Rather than relics of the past or twee kids’ tales we find a rich history of fairylore that extends fully into our modern era and persists today, but which is being buried beneath the more well known and popular mainstream cultural views. And that could be a problem when those mainstream cultural views only show one tiny piece of the picture and leave out the parts with teeth and claws.

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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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  • 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 Wife
    The Cunning Wife 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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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Winter Crone

Cailleach walks the winter hills: in an old Gaelic song 'Cailleach Beinn a' Bhric' she has 'a great grey grisly paw' and is cold and wet, but cares for her deer. The hunter who sings to her laments her keeping the deer from him. This version is from Songs & Hymns of the Gael:

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