Category: Articles

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The Elder Mother, Elder Tree

In Danish folk belief every Elder Tree is inhabited and protected by a female spirit known as the Hyldemoer, and is revered as a sacred tree. This tradition may have some parallels in Britain, as I heard a similar folk belief when I was growing up in England. I was told that the tree was guarded by a female spirit and it was unlucky to bring the wood into the house.

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The Ankou

The Ankou was a grim harvester of souls from the dark side of Brittany folklore, once believed to ride the dark lanes of Brittany in search of unwary travellers and the benighted.

The Ankou came in many guises, most commonly as a gangling skeletal figure with long white hair and a revolving head so he could look in every direction, his features shaded by a long brimmed hat.

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Crossroad Blues

“I went down to the Crossroads, fell down on my knees” Robert Johnson.
When Robert Johnson sang of the Crossroads down in the 1930’s Mississippi Delta, he was paying homage to a tradition that has existed in varied forms for centuries, and at the same time adding his own contribution to the wealth of folklore that exists around the crossing place of two highways.

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Robert Burns and Folklore

Robert Burns was born on the 25th January 1759 during the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ but also in a time when the country superstitions and supernatural beings were an integral part of folk belief. The landscape of Burns’ was one where the natural rhythms of nature were much more intertwined in the day to day of working life.

Snakes Of The Derwent Valley

According to local folklore, before 1715 there were no venomous snakes in the Derwent Valley, but after the execution of the Earl of Derwentwater an abundance of adders started to appear along the length of the river Derwent.

Charmed Irish Stones

There is a tradition in the North of England and Scotland pertaining to special stones brought over from Ireland that have the ability to heal snake bites on cattle. In Irish Charms in Northern England, Denzil Webb referred to an article by William Morley Egglestone, which appeared in the March 1889 edition of the Monthly Chronicle of North-Country Lore and Legend.

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The Feytin’ Ape

Here’s a tall tale I collected from a local character when I was researching folklore in Oldham, Lancashire. While the tale is purely fictional it does include some half truths and was ‘doing the rounds’ of the local pubs.

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Phantom Black Dogs

Stories of phantom black dogs abound in Britain, almost every county has its own variant, from the Black Shuck of East Anglia to the Padfoot and Bogey Beast of Yorkshire. Phantom black dogs have been witnessed too frequently in modern times to parcel the phenomena as pure folklore and legend, but then folklore and legend often has origins in real events.

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Canobie Dick

This story relates to a legend common throughout Britain, namely that of a secret cavern containing sleeping warriors. Often a test is conferred to the person who is shown into the cavern. Usually the tests are failed.

Once upon a time in the Borders region there lived a horse cowper (trader) named Canobie Dick, he was widely admired and feared for his fierce courage.