sunday legends

A is for Abundance

I have become increasingly aware of a theme running through neopaganism/neofolk thought patterns that I’m sure I’m not the first to pick up on. It’s just one that I’ve come increasingly sensitive to.

The basic idea is this-it’s perfectly fine to ask the gods/Universe/angels/whatever for ‘fertility’ or ‘abundance’ as long as you’re not asking for material items. It doesn’t matter why you need money (or food, and I’m going to touch on that in a moment), it’s against the ‘rules’ to ask for anything that you can actually touch-unless you’re talking about children. I mean, you can physically interact with a child. But they’re in a special class amongst themselves.

I have my pet theories on why this has happened, ranging from something tinged by Weber’s work on Calvinism to good old fashioned class blindness. But however it happened, this is the problem with it: abundance in the form of cash or crops or stuff in general, has a very very long standing history in mythological and folkloric thought.

There are the admonishments against too much stuff, ie greed-Midas didn’t end well. But the fact that he even got his wish is telling. Zeus turned himself into a shower of golden coins. The pathways back from Beltaine’s current emphasis on ‘fertility’ don’t have a straight line back to simple ‘gee I wish we could have more people,’ a lot of that fertility is framed around ‘gee, it would be awesome if this summer managed to produce enough food we don’t starve to death.’ As in, there’s definitely a ‘stuff’ angle here.

In fact, the undertone of ‘abundance is greed, but asking for children is awesome’ is fairly new and not really backed up fully in the folklore. People have been asking for kids right along, but there’s as much stuff warning about messing with human fertility as there is for asking for too much material items. There’s no real suggestion that fertility is better than abundance; there are as many or more warnings regarding the manipulation of love and sexuality as there are Midases and a love for too much gold.

But, should you be asking the Universe for abundance? And what is abundance in the first place? I ask the Universe for abundance daily, for whatever form of abundance the Universe sees fit that day-money, overtime, not missing my bus, easy social interactions. I just, put myself in the place I need to be to collect what I need. Ethically and historically speaking, there are schools of metaphysical thought that have no issues with abundance work (and not so ironically they’re paths that have always attracted a high amount of lower class and marginalized people-not great shock there. Also, common to American folk magic. That’s another tangent). There are generally limitations-it’s not going to be instantaneous, make sure you’re asking from a place of need, be willing to work…make sure you actually need the money-but it’s well within the limits of acceptable behavior.

Krampus

gruss_vom_krampus

I got lucky this year. People didn’t flood me with Krampus related links on social media. Because there’s a whole hell of a lot o folklore I like more than Krampus, and for some reason my friends got really stuck on some sort of connection between Krampus and myself last year. It was enough to make a person grumpy.

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I’ve mentioned Krampus in passing, several times, but as his popularity has grown in American pop culture has grown over the past few years (want to smell like Krampus? Because you can. No, really…you can buy Krampus themed perfume) maybe it’s time he gets his own standalone entry.

It seems that European cultures are much more willing to play up the ‘bad’ side of Christmas-in America, at least, while there’s this veiled threat against misbehaving children the end result is pretty benign on the whole. The worst that can happen is that you don’t make it onto the ‘nice’ list and therefore don’t get presents. I suppose in a culture that is as commercially driven as my own, not being gifted-especially as a child-is pretty traumatic.

I suppose as a prior warning, if you click any of the links provided in the end of this entry, you might see vintage images of children being physically punished. It’s not horribly graphic, but if you don’t want to see these things you might want to avoid clicking those links.

You might also want to stop reading now, since that’s sort of the point of Krampus-otherwise known currently as the Christmas demon.

Krampus, like most folkloric figures, has a slight range of appearances, ranging from the Baphomet inspired cloven hooves and horns to a surly gentleman in black, to a gentleman in black who may be slightly furrier than normal. He comes holding some form of weapon for physical punishment (either rusty chains or whips) and a basket or other holding device. It should be noted however that there are other interpretations of the items he holds including the chains marking the binding of the devil by the Christian Church (Wikipedia has a full paragraph on the symbolism of his items; article is linked below.)

Krampus has one specific job: to accompany Santa Clause or St. Nicholas and heavily punish misbehaving children. If you’re lucky he’ll just beat you…if you’re not so lucky he’ll beat you and drag  you into hell. This is not a minor folkloric, throw away concept either-December features Krampusnacht, held the night before St. Nicholas’ Day. Krampusnacht features dancing, singing, drinking, mummery, parades, and other carnival like events to ring in Krampus’ return.

Krampus even had his own Christmas cards, often with slightly more adult tones than you would think.

As the Santa Clause image began to filter into American culture, the Krampus image with its potential ties back to Pagan solstice rituals (National Geographic claims that Krampus is the son of Hel) and emphasis on punishment lost favor and was never really picked up in the States outside of regional traditions. While the image also never died out fully in Europe, Krampus is now slowly making a re-emergence both Europe and the States with increasing numbers of Krampus parades, the reintroduction of Krampus cards, and the reintroduction of the image back into popular culture.

However, the States would not be the only culture to reject Krampus. The Austrian government took an unfavorable view on Krampusnacht and banned the practice by law in 1934. In the 1950s they distributed pamphlets warning against the evils of Krampus. This was most likely was a reaction to political thought in that era than the actual image, however. Further, perhaps understandably, the Catholic church wasn’t exactly fond of him either.

 

(As an aside, while Buffalo hosts a Santacon this weekend-and I would very much like to see it-several cities hold a challenger Krampuscon. I’m assuming that if Santacon is drinking and collecting charity gifts-which it is in Buffalo- then Krampuscon must be drinking and brooding.)

Krampus.com

Krampus

Who is Krampus? Exploring the Christmas Devil

10 Fun Facts About Krampus, the Christmas Demon

Needled

sundaylegends

I’m knitting again.

I know it’s a weird statement, on a knitting blog. But this rut I’ve been in has extended to anything harder than garter stitch blankets. But I’m working on a trade, a scarf for a Christmas ornament, and I’m really enjoying the project. I’m not working on anything terribly complicated-lace on largish needles with bulky yarn. It’s pleasant enough though-and I like the yarn. Always a bonus.

As I settled into the rhythm, I realized that the needles I’m using are bright green-which triggered an idea I’ve had for this column for a long time and have mentioned in passing on occasion. But it’s unofficially Memory Month, so if I’m rehashing an idea, it’s actually appropriate.

There is an idea, in relation to folk magic and urban legend, that you can work spells and raise energy with fiber arts. The basic idea is an extension of knot magic: knitting is basically a series of needle-worked knots, and knots can be used to ‘trap’ or catch energy. So in theory, you could work up spell bits and bobs, in various colors, and hold onto energy that way. If you wanted, you could hold the piece until the end of the spell and burn the piece then to release the energy. Or you could hold onto it like a talisman. This idea actually extends to a superstition that’s floated around my Internet career on various fiber sites-that different cultures had the idea that it was terrible to rip out your own work because it tears out your own luck.

The idea of this binding means that you can also bind a person to you through knitting or other fiber work-working your hair or the hair of another person will bind the two of you together.

Knitters will sometimes say that projects and yarns have personalities, and you can ‘raise’ energy will working on a piece. It’s not necessarily bad luck to work a project that you don’t like, but it can be rough going and sometimes yarn will tell you what it does and does not want to be-it’s easier to work with a yarn that wants to be, say, a scarf than yarn that doesn’t.

In terms of energy, it also possible to use fiber to work with manifestations, meditations, and other mindsets that are aided by repetitive motion. If you wanted to work an abundance chant, for example, you could use green needles (hence what triggered this post), green yarn, or both (or neither, to be honest) and work your chant across each chant. Spinning and knitting are both helpful to clear the mind for meditation.

Folklorically, a lot of the myth surrounding European hearth spirits mention fiber, at least in passing. Many of these spirits (fae or otherwise) are deeply interested in spinning and other fiber arts. Some will actually do the spinning for you if you stay on their good sides, for others, if you slack on your fiber work, you risk enraging them.

Knitting is not without its own little urban legends and superstitions-it’s terrible luck to knit for a baby before it is born. As in, potentially fatally bad luck. There is also the infamous sweater curse-don’t knit for your partner before you’re engaged, or you run the risk of breaking up the relationship. You should also try to never hand a person a pair of needles with the points to them or risk damaging your relationship. Dropping needles is bad luck. Don’t leave knitting needles empty.

Anoka

Via Pixabay

Via Pixabay

I said last week that it was impossible to track the beginnings of Halloween.

We do know that it’s linked to early harvest rites that were often further linked into death and renewal nights (Samhain being one of them).

(A minor sidetrack, I said years ago that I didn’t see the connection between Samhain and fae faiths. Being too trained not to, I have readjusted that stance in the years since. I’m just too lazy to go back and readjust that entry. But, yes, I’m willing to meet people further up the road on that one, though I’m still not sure that that the mounds were the main drive of that holiday.)

(A complete sidetrack, speaking of faeries and Halloween. Try coming up with a fast, simple, yet thorough way of describing the sluagh and the Wild Hunt to someone who knows absolutely nothing about fae lore.)

Once the Catholic church rose to cultural dominance, the holiday that we now call Halloween began to take shape-but we don’t have a set, easily verifiable date to look at and say, ‘this is the year that it tipped over into what we would recognize as Halloween.’

Except for the United States and a city called Anoka.

Prior to the 1920s, there was really nothing to control children and teens from heavy pranking during events such as Nut Crack and Bonfire Nights. Halloween was practiced, but it was mainly a home-based holiday with parties and other events held on private property. While there was limited practice of treat or treating at the time, it was not as well established as a cultural icon as it would be in later decades. The pranking aspect of the holiday was in full force, leading up to Halloween night proper.

Towns would wake up destruction from the annoying but not necessarily completely damaging such as eggings and toilet paper to outright destruction of property and thefts.

In Anoka Minnesota, a town leader named George Green held a meeting in 1920 to address the pranking issue in a manner that would fulfill the population’s desire for social outlets, interesting enough to divert attention away from pranking and other less than desired activities, and community minded. What the town decided to put together was the first known civic Halloween event-which solidifies the town as the birthplace of American Halloween as we know it (sorry Salem, you have nothing to do with this one).

The events included a giant bonfire that has been held every year since, other than years affected by World War II in the 1940s, a giant parade, and mass distribution of candy. According to Anoka’s history website, the event has changed over the years to account for changing tastes; at one point, a giant snake dance was involved.

Was the Anoka the first place in the United States to shift into a ‘modern’ style Halloween? Probably not. In fact, I would be more surprised if it was. But Anoka has been acknowledged as the first place to fully ritualize it as a community event. Therefore, in a sense, you can date American Halloween to Minnesota, 1920.

 

Into the Mounds

myth and meme month

The host is riding from Knocknarea
And over the grave of Clooth-na-Bare;
Caoilte tossing his burning hair,
And Niamh calling Away, come away:
Empty your heart of its mortal dream.
The winds awaken, the leaves whirl round,
Our cheeks are pale, our hair is unbound,
Our breasts are heaving, our eyes are agleam,
Our arms are waving, our lips are apart;
And if any gaze on our rushing band,
We come between him and the deed of his hand,
We come between him and the hope of his heart.
The host is rushing ‘twixt night and day,
And where is there hope or deed as fair?
Caoilte tossing his burning hair,
And Niamh calling Away, come away.

The Hosting of the Sidhe, William Butler Yeats

There’s been increased requests for fae information coming from various areas of my life, so I’ve decided to cheat a little and put together a list (which I’m going to try to keep updated) of the faerie and fae lore that I’ve collected thus far.

Fae folklore is hard, because it’s slippery and often based heavily on oral lore, which means it’s dependent on who is teaching you. A lot of what I know is orally taught as well, so there may be differences between what you know and what I know.

…It also tends to run much darker than what most people are currently familiar with. There’s a lot to be said on why (and I will be touching on that eventually), but the shorthand is that the Victorians had a lot to do with ‘toning down’ the folklore because it wasn’t child or society friendly-therefore a lot of the darkness was stripped out of the stories. This is why there is a subculture of people working with fae energy and folklore tend to emphasize that no, actually, the fae are not actually creatures of joy and light-the beansidhe is still a faerie, like it or not. It’s like anything else, some are, some aren’t.

I don’t classify a folklore that includes things like ‘turning into dust coming out of the mounds’ and ‘rivers of blood, waist deep’ to be a ‘light’ tradition. As with all things, balance.

I will also include on this list some of the pop cultural pieces I’ve reviewed with a heavy fae influence.

Alp Luachra

Bansidhe

Baobhan Sith

Barghest

Black Shuck

Brownies

Cat Sith

Dullohan

Facen and Saci

Fae (Overview)

Fae in Pop Culture

Glamour

Pooka

Sluagh

Tuatha De Danann

The Whole Victorians and Fae Thing

 

Black Forest

The Faeries of Blackheath Woods

House of Dead Leaves

The Hum and the Shiver

Inhabited

Tam Lin

Low Barometer

summer of ghosts

The south-wind strengthens to a gale,

Across the moon the clouds fly fast,

The house is smitten as with a flail,

The chimney shudders to the blast.

 

On such a night, when Air has loosed

Its guardian grasp on blood and brain,

Old terrors then of god or ghost

Creep from their caves to life again;

 

And Reason kens he herits in

A haunted house. Tenants unknown

Assert their squalid lease of sin

With earlier title than his own.

 

Unbodied presences, the pack’d

Pollution and remorse of Time,

Slipp’d from oblivion reënact

The horrors of unhouseld crime.

 

Some men would quell the thing with prayer

Whose sightless footsteps pad the floor,

Whose fearful trespass mounts the stair

Or burts the lock’d forbidden door.

 

Some have seen corpses long interr’d

Escape from hallowing control,

Pale charnel forms—nay ev’n have heard

The shrilling of a troubled soul,

 

That wanders till the dawn hath cross’d

The dolorous dark, or Earth hath wound

Closer her storm-spredd cloke, and thrust

The baleful phantoms underground.

–Robert Bridges

July Birth Symbolism

jewelry-625726_1280

Ruby-Symbolizing luck and protection, as well as a material wealth stone. Also standing for courage and devotion.

Waterlily- The waterlily stands for majesty and love.

Larkspur- The larkspur stands for love, but the type of love that is being expressed changes by the color of the larkspur.

Trees-Apple, Fir, Elm, Cypress-I’ve touched on trees briefly here.

Apple trees stand for rebirth and beauty. Polish folklore has the tree used for divination purposes, especially for those seeking love. The apple is often a death tree in the sense of bringing energy back out of the underworld.

Fir varies by the type of fir, but is another rebirth tree, a wisdom tree, protection, and change.

Elm trees are another death tree (I’m not sure why the death trees show up so frequently in birth symbolism) as well as standing for knowledge and wisdom.

Cypress trees (oh look another death tree) represents immortality and resurrection.

Other folkloric themes to note: The dog days of summer start in the end of July.

Closing the Gates

Another week, another early folklore post.

I have been doing heavy duty cleaning since 6 this morning and will probably be up again that early tomorrow, to pack for festival and do more cleaning. Of course the insurance inspection would fall on the same week as my vacation-therefore-I’m-going-out-of-town-week.

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If you are a fan of or at least seen more than few episodes of Supernatural then you have already been exposed to the idea of warding.

Energy flows like water. It moves from place to place, managing to find any opening it can get into a person, building, or other vessel.

A ward functions like a gate-it allows only certain energies in or out. It is a block that prevents something from either leaving or entering; think the infamous circle of salt that Dean and Sam always fall back on.

Folklorically speaking, wards can take on different roles and different intensities. You can ward against a person’s energies, a group, a deity, ghosts, weather, bad luck…whatever energy you find yourself needing to block. Many people start using wards as a basic security level-even if there’s no known concern (such as hexing, crossing, cursing, or other forms of energetic attacks), having a block against other people’s emotions is a good idea to many.

The actual structure of a ward varies, depending on who is casting the ward and what is needed to be done. In some cases something like a mirror can be used-mirror magic works in part by reflecting back whatever is sent. It’s actually a fairly neutral warding style, since the only energy moving is the energy that’s already being thrown at a person. In other cases something like an element is used-each element (water, fire, etc) carries a different energy and that energy is used to protect the caster.

A second form of warding invokes a heavier use of the Shadow and isn’t as common (or sometimes ‘accepted’ though I don’t like that word, if you don’t like something, nothing is forcing you to do it)-a type of if/then statement. It involves a type of mantra work and starts bordering on outright spell work-it is sometimes linked to a deity or other energy directly. “If you hurt me, then get lost in the darkness. If you follow me, get lost in the darkness”, “May you be loved as you love”, even something as subtle as “I’m not here, you don’t see me”. This is where ideas such as glamouring start coming into play.

The third (though not necessarily final) form of warding is physical, where you use an actual item to ward with-the salt circle, a necklace a stone, a ‘built’ charm. Something to bind the intent to and use as a touch point. A traditional fae ward would be broken glass and nails hung in the doorways (well maybe traditional depending on which fae tradition you’re working with). The ward will vary from person to person and need to need, with the potential side effect that it will need to be charged before use, and then cleansed after use is stopped.

The trickiest part of warding is not tying your own energy to the ward (unless doing so deliberately). You are trying to avoid the exchange of energy, so you don’t want to tie yourself to whatever you are doing, or limit the exchange to as little energy flow as possible. The other issue with tying wards to Self is that once your energies start to go low, so does the ward. Earth wards will carry energy for much, much longer than you will.

 

Shoeless Joe Jackson and the Baseball Hall of Fame

baseball-454559_1280

I know that posting a folklore entry on Saturday makes it sort of a cheat to call it the Sunday folklore post.

But it’s festival season, I’m trying to get Mid ready to go-and I have 30 pounds of cherries that I’m trying to get processed out (I have peach cherry butter on the stove right now).

I haven’t written anything for the Haunted Western New York series in a very long time. This is a story that I grew up with (though I admit I grew up in Central New York so I’m cheating a little). I worked within walking distance of the Baseball Hall of Fame and its haunting status was sort of a given. Rather, it came up every so often that it’s haunted (and it was mentioned on the tours during that time-mid to late 1990s anyway). It wasn’t a huge topic of conversation but we knew.

I don’t know anyone who has actually seen Shoeless Joe but the whole town is steeped in ghosts, at least in a manner of speaking. Cooperstown takes its baseball really seriously, but it’s also the seat of the New York State Historical Society. The Cardiff Giant is housed at the Farmer’s Museum. It’s a very historical area that is sort of self aware about it, we know it, but we don’t really talk about it either-that’s tourist stuff, or special occasion stuff, not stuff we ever really sat around talking about.

The way that we’re told the story as locals is that the building is haunted, period. The most common story is that Shoeless Joe Jackson is not terribly impressed that he hasn’t been elected into the Hall of Fame. And there’s the generic sort of haunting reports that every building with a reputation seems to cause. But things apparently have moved and it’s apparently not uncommon to hear the sounds of someone breaking the cases at night-of course the cases are never being broken.

It’s not hard to think that a building that’s full of the relics of sports legends would carry some sort of residual energy. It’s especially not hard to see in a town that sort of vibrates with it.