Category: Folklife

Peterborough: Folklore from a Neglected Corner of England

The city of Peterborough in the east of England and its surrounding region is one of the few English areas that has not previously benefitted from a thorough study of its folklore.

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Skeleton Folklore: “I Can Feel it in My Bones”

Icy Sedgwick explores the folklore, beliefs, and superstitions associated with the human skeleton in traditional and contemporary cultures across the world.

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Kulning, An Ancient Scandinavian Herding Call

Kulning is a high pitched singing technique used by women to communicate with animals and over great distances, most common from 1500 to 1800 in Scandinavia.

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Sky Goddesses, Spring Mechanisms, or Sprites: Why Is it Bad Luck to Open an Umbrella Inside?

Madeline D'Este explores the possible origins behind the common belief that the act of opening an umbrella indoors invites bad luck.

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Origins of Breaking the Wishbone: Horseshoes, Groins and Chicken Ouija Boards

‘Breaking the wishbone’ is a tradition around the world in the days after a Sunday roast, Thanksgiving or Christmas.

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Harvest Folklore

Before the advent of agricultural machinery, harvest time was an important period of physical work and folk tradition and ritual amongst rural communities.

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Seven Years Bad Luck? – Reflections, Romans, and Reckless Servants

Bad luck from breaking a mirror has a long history, and the ominous associations are pervasive around the world.

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A Brief Tour of European Wedding Cake Traditions

The cutting of a couple’s wedding cake is often the highlight of a wedding reception with newlyweds making their first ceremonial slice into the cake.

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Cars, Coins and Cursed Colours: A Brief Introduction to the Folklore of Vehicles

Cars and motorbikes have been with us for over 130 years. In that time they’ve gathered superstitions and urban legends around them like exhaust fumes.

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The Origins of ‘Touch Wood’: Tree Spirits, The True Cross, or Tag?

The superstition of 'touch wood', or 'knock on wood' is still common today, but what was its original source? Madeleine D'Este explores some possibilities.

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Folk Healing & Hypnotism: Arthur Spray, ‘The Mysterious Cobbler’ of Bexhill

Arthur Spray, known as 'The Mysterious Cobbler of Bexhill', wrote an autobiography in 1935 which detailed his famed powers in healing and hypnotism.

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Just Hanging Around: The Gallows in English Folklore

The gallows play a dark role in the history of punishment, but also show an important influence in folklore, folk practices, and even everyday language.

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The Duality of Modern Haitian Vodou

When the traditional Vodun religion of West African slaves collided in the Caribbean with the incoming Christianity of colonists, Haitian Vodou was born.

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How to Sell Your Wife …

How do you rid yourself of a wife who no longer pleases you? Sell her, of course.

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Bad Luck comes in Threes: Matches, Murderers or Mathematics

One installment in a series of common superstitions in the English speaking world: ‘Bad luck comes in threes.’

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Spinning a Tale: Spinning and Weaving in Myths and Legends

Spinning is a fundamentally human thing, and something that we have been doing since far into the ancient past.

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Protection and Punishment: Beliefs About Angels in Tudor and Stuart England

In Tudor and Stuart England, angels were believed to deliver messages, protect the godly, carry souls to heaven, punish sinners, and carry out God’s will.

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Dumplings and Dragonboats: The Chinese Duan Wu Festival

When I was a little girl, I used to watch with open-mouthed admiration and puzzlement as my mother prepared the ingredients for the making of zong zi (rice wrapped in leaf). She…

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The Folklore of Bells

Folklore shows that bells were not just used to call to prayer or to make an announcement, but also played a role in healing, superstition, and protection.

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Wobbly Poets: Joe Hill, Signe Aurell, and Scandinavian-American Laborlore

The songs and poetry of the American labor movement are an example of occupational folklore or 'laborlore', which records worker voices and traditions.

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Animal Folklore: A Mole in the Hand

Today, moles are usually unappreciated residents of our gardens and fields, but they are embedded in folklore and for centuries were used in remedies.

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Luke Stephenson & Helen Champion: The Clown Egg Register

For over 70 years, the oldest established clowning organization has been painting the faces of clowns on eggs. Each is a record of a clown's unique identity

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Bringing Venetian Folklore to the Big Screen: The Plague Doctor

Though we’ve not lost any of our academic appreciation for the hearthside story or campsite tall tale, it cannot be denied that we as a species have moved into the art of…

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Folk-Ore: The Magical Power of Blacksmiths and Their Enduring Stories

The folklore of iron and smithing has been common since prehistory, and one of the oldest folktales tells of a blacksmith forging a deal with the devil.

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Sheep Folklore: The Life and Lore of the Shepherd

Sheep have been integral to British life for thousands of years, and a long tradition of lore has developed around shepherds and their flocks.

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The Clarke Charm Collection: Of Witch Bottles, Witch Cakes and Hag Stones

Clarke’s charm collection reveals a range of uses, including cures for sore throats, the protection of seafarers from drowning, and good luck charms.

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Fighting Magic With Magic in Italy: The Good Walkers

The Benandanti were a surprising third party in the fight of good versus evil in Medieval Italy; one that not even the Holy Inquisition could make sense of.

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Spring in Southeast Asia: Diasporic Chinese New Year Folklore

Here are a couple of folklore and stories associated with Chinese New Year. I have grown up with these stories as they are part of tradition and culture.

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What is First-footing and Can It Improve Your Year?

First-footing as a New Year custom is most common in Scotland and the north of England, but it does have regional, and international, variations.

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Christmas Superstitions: A Festive Survival Guide

Many will declare Christmas to be nothing but “a way for card companies to make money, harrumph!” Whilst Christmas has been heavily commercialised, in recent years especially, the traditions of this time…

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Íslensku Jólasveinarnir: the Yule Lads of Iceland

On the evening of 11th December, Icelandic children place shoes on the sills of their windows, before they go to bed.

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Open the Door and Let Us In: Mummers at Midwinter

The appearance of a Turkish knight, Beelzebub, and a horse’s skull mark out a centuries old winter tradition in rural communities across Britain.

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Midwinter Celebrations: Yule, Saturnalia, and Christmas Folklore

Christmas traditions have evolved through the centuries, many of them have ancient origins linked to the midwinter festivals of Yule and Saturnalia

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Krampus: The Christmas Devil of Alpine Folklore?

Beware! Lock up your children, clutch your mince pies, and huddle in against the snow. Haven’t you heard? Krampus is coming to town …

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A Witchy Interview with #FolkloreThursday’s Willow Winsham

@DeeDeeChainey interviews @WillowWinsham about her book, Accused: British Witches Throughout History

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Halloween Folklore and Superstitions

We all know that Halloween, as a festival, is not an invention of the trick-or-treating Americans but it is far older than many people realise.

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Dark Folklore: The Hand of Glory in Folk Magic

We’ve all heard of the infamous hand of glory, the hand of a dead man, hanged for his crimes, and it’s often said that it could be used to open any lock.

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Folklore Festivals: Five Italian Folklore-Filled Weekends in October

Italian festivals offer glimpses of life in a previous time through food, re-enactments and sporting events. These events will satisfy history buffs and foodies alike. PALIO degli ASINI – Race of the…

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All Hael! All Hael! Singing with the Kibbo Kift

What sort of music did a 1920s utopian youth movement fiercely opposed to mainstream society actually like? The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift (‘KK’) were creatures of their time.

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Purgatory in Spanish Folklore: The Night of the Ánimas

In rural Spain, the night still belongs to the ánimas, the spirits of the dead who didn’t go straight to Heaven or Hell.

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