Each morning the sun rolls across the sky. In Estonia it was the hatched egg of the enchanted swallow bird, an emu’s egg bursting into flames in Australia, and a golden piece of bacon for the Nama people of South Africa. In the evening, it descends into the sea, as a bridegroom or warrior, golden rays transformed into spears or robes of light, hissing with heat as the waters close over it, before swimming back to the east. Sometimes in gloom-shrouded nights, we may imagine it will never return and we will be plunged into unyielding darkness, but still it rises and always will, at least for the next five billion years or so!
Until the 20th century, the inadequacies of orthodox medical services left a large proportion of the population dependent upon traditional folk medicine – essentially a mixture of common sense remedies based on the accumulated experience of nursing and midwifery, combined with inherited lore about the healing properties of plants.
Incorporating folklore can add authenticity, richness and whole new layers of meaning to historical fiction. Novelist Melissa Harrison explores how traditional practices and beliefs around the harvest informed her creative process when she was writing her new book, All Among the Barley
May Day is a traditional spring celebration in many cultures, linked with Gaelic Beltane, and is now also the date of Labour Day.
I began writing ‘Maypoles, Mandrakes and Mistletoe: A Treasury of British Folklore’ back in April last year.