Shell grottos have a certain murky ambiguity to their history and folklore. This for me made them all the more enticing to use as the basis for a ghost story in my tale, ‘The Grotter’ in Nyctophobias. Especially with my roots as a Whitstable native in Kent, where grottos are still primarily lit once a year as part of the Oyster Festival celebrations. These grottos are usually stacked in a ‘beehive’ style pyramid, held together with wet sand and illuminated by a short candle.
Plants play a major part in the many customs surrounding the Christmas festivities. The Yule log for example, was essentially associated with Christmas Eve, for on the evening of that day it was traditional to transport the log to the fireplace, ignite it and allow it to burn for at least 12 hours if ill-luck was to be avoided.
On Michaelmas Day the Devil takes possession of the blackberries and to eat one after that day would risk… well, something on the spectrum between a bad taste and instant death.
Mention Maid Marian and Sherwood Forest in the same breath, and most people think of Robin Hood’s lady love. The forest outlaw and the noble lady are tied together so closely in modern folklore, popular literature, and movies, it’s hard to imagine one without the other.
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.