The Old Corpse Road Folklore Collective
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When the winter winds blow and the Yule fires are lit, from the north of Scandinavia down to Switzerland, it is best to stay indoors, safely shut away from the dark forest paths and the wild heaths. Those who wander out by themselves during the Yule-nights may hear a sudden rustling through the tops of the trees -- a rustling that might be the wind, though the rest of the wood is still. But then the barking of dogs fills the air, with the hunters behind whooping "Wod! Wod!" a man's voice cries from above, "Midden in dem Weg!" and the host of wild souls sweeps down, fire flashing from the eyes of the black hounds and hooves of the black horses.
The belief that fairies were elementals - creatures made only of earth, fire, air or water - seems to have been common amongst medieval magicians, who devised complex spells and rituals for raising them and using there powers. One ritual recorded in an early 15th century manuscript now in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, involves stripping the bark from three hazel wands, writing the fairies name on the wood, and burying the wands ‘under some hill whereas you suppose fairies haunt’. The fairy will come if she is called on the following Friday, after the wands have been dug up.
Stachys is a genus of about 300 species of annual and perennial herbaceous plants and shrubs in the family Lamiaceae. The distribution of the genus covers Europe, Asia, Africa, Australasia and North America. Common names include Heal-all, self-heal, woundwort, betony, lamb's ears, hedgenettle, Stachys betonica, lousewort, purple betony, bishopwort, bishop's elder, spiked betony, and St. Bride's comb. There are five species of Stachys growing wild in England - the once much-valued Betony (S. Betonica); the Marsh Stachys, or Clown's Woundwort (S. palustris); the true Woundwort (S. Germanica), a doubtful native, occurring occasionally on limestone soils in England, but very common on the Continent, where the dense covering of its leaves was at one time in rustic surgery employed in the place of lint for dressing wounds, the low-creeping Field Stachys (S. arvensis); and the Hedge Stachys, or Hedge Woundwort (S. sylvatica), perhaps the commonest of them all. This plant can still be found growing wild in New York and Massachusetts, but it is protected some places, like in Northern Ireland.
The fairies of Britain vary as much in dress as they do in appearance and size. Most people, asked off-hand about the colour of the fairies' clothes, would answer 'green' without hesitation, and they would not be far astray. Green is generally acknowledged to be the fairy colour, particularly in Celtic countries, and for this reason is so unlucky that many Scotswomen refuse to wear green at all. Fairies believe that they alone have the right to wear green, and are apt to deal harshly with any mortal foolish enough to infringe this right. this lead to the idea that green is an unlucky colour. Red runs green very close, and in Ireland the small trooping fairies, the Daoine Sidh and the Shefro, wear green coats and red caps while the solitary fairies, such as the Leprachauns, the Cluricaun and the Fear Dearg, generally wear red. William Allingham describes Wee folk, good folk, trooping all together, Green jacket, red cap and white owl's feather.This seems to be the typical costume of the small trooping fairies.
So central to the economy of Britain and Ireland was the cow in early times that it was considered a unit of currency. In Ireland, for instance, a slave-woman was worth three cows. Lords were called 'bo-aire' or cow-lord. Until the last two hundred years, drovers' roads were the main routes across country and , anciently, the two halves of the Celtic year were determined by the movement of cattle: Beltaine marking their coming into summer pasture and Samhain being the time when winter-slaughter of cattle was undertaken, to lay down stocks of meat against the long cold time and to conserve the strength of the herd. The cow was considered to be under the special protection of Saint Brigit, who was invoked to keep the beasts in good health and to promote their milk-yield and fertility. The bleached hide of cows made the vellum upon which the very stories in this present book were originally recorded by clerics. The cow is also under the protection of Saint Colomba who would, however, not allow any on Iona because 'where a cow is, there a woman is also, and where a woman is, trouble follows.'
The King of the Fairies - From J. Bowker, Goblin Tales of Lancashire, p. 52.
On the high road from Manchester to Stockport, where Levenshulme Church now stands, there lived many years ago an old man named Daniel Burton. (His grandson was afterwards for many years Rector of All Souls' Manchester.) "Old Dannel" was amazingly lucky. All that he did turned out well, so that in time it began to be said that he must be in league with the Devil.
Unlike dogs and horses they were said to be fond of ghosts and purr whenever they encounter them. They may also have the ability to forecast the weather: they predict the wind (or according to some accounts raise it) by clawing at the carpets and curtains; rain is certain to come when a cat busily washes its ears or sneezes. If a cat sneezes near a bride on the morning of her wedding then a happy marriage is forecast fore her. Black cats are most often believed to be lucky, although in Yorkshire, where it is lucky to own one, it is very unlucky to come across one by accident.
This particularly sinister folktale of the wild hunt is from Devon, and is based in the Dartmoor area, a place full of tales of the supernatural, especially the wild hunt.
One wild stormy night a farmer was returning home from Widecombe, somewhat worse the wear from the strong local beverages brewed on-site. The wind raged, and the rain beat down on him, forcing him to pull his hood over his face, and to wrap his jacket tight around him.
Brahan Seer. The wild boar, once commonly hunted throughout the British Isles is now only to be found in remote areas of Europe. The ferocity and cunning of the animal made him a dangerous quarry, yet the art and literature of Celtic peoples attest to his importance in their mythology. The Boar was sacred to the Celtic Goddess Arduinna, patroness of the forests of the Ardennes. Few animals are more important for the Celts than the boar; it was a sacred, supernatural, magical creature, symbolizing the warrior, warfare, the hunt, protection, hospitality and fertility.
The blackthorn has a long and often sinister history, associated with witchcraft and murder, but it is also associated with the concept of the cycle of life and death and protection not to mention its practical physical uses. Prunus spinosa. Deciduous. Family Rosaceae (the large rose family).
Birds serve throughout the entire Celtic tradition as symbols of divinity and as messengers and servants of the gods. There was a Celtic belief in malevolent otherworld flocks of birds, which came to bring harm and destruction to villagers in closely regulated season, usually Samhain. The druids used birds as a form of prognosis, the raven was one of great importance. The druids in Gaul fore told the future by observing the flight of certain birds and in Ireland the raven and wren were much used in augury. In Celtic folkore and mythology, birds are heavily associated with death and transformation. Many significant figures were said to not have died, but rather have been transformed into various bords. Some examples of this can be seen below: