Folkdays: Rainbows

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We’re living in a very precarious and frightening moment in time. Looking back through history, humanity has faced moments like this many times before; look through the lens of folklore and myth, and we see that humans have always been able to combat our fear with creativity.

Today, creativity is being revived in a myriad of different ways, as people all over the globe seek an emotional outlet during the various quarantine measures. Here in the UK, the reoccurring motif has become that of the rainbow. Paintings and collages decorate the windows of homes, places of work, and schools; rainbows can be seen everywhere, from roadsides to the virtual platforms online.

Inspired by this, I thought I would take a look into the folklore and myth surrounding the rainbow, and what it has meant for humans and our creativity.

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Folkdays: Cave Art

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Some weeks, for these Folkdays posts, a topic will reveal itself to me and more-or-less demand to be written about.

That is precisely what happened this week. The phenomenon of prehistoric cave art has been on the peripheries of my mind for a while: a writing residency that I have been working on has led my trail of thought from foraging, to hunter-gatherer communities, to cave art.

At the beginning of this week, the subject came more to the fore, as my family and I watched an fascinating film about cave art. The following morning my partner sent me a link to another, very different but equally inspiring, video on the same subject! It practically asked to be written about, so here it is.

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Folkdays: Hedgehog Lore

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For the past few evenings, my parents’ patio has been visited by a hedgehog, who appears quite brazenly from out of the undergrowth to feed at the birds’ ground table!

Enticed back night after night with the promise of scraps of corned beef, he has grown increasingly comfortable with us watching him. A patch of white spines on his back has made him quite recognisable, and we’ve named him Beefy, on account of his favourite snack (not to mention his hefty size)!

These nightly visits got me thinking of what folklore there might be surrounding this little creature. Read below to learn more about them.

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Folkdays: Folktale Openings

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Come and have a seat. The campfire has been lit, dusk is drawing on, and the golden flames appear ever more vivid as the sky darkens. Somewhere, a blackbird trills his evening song.

Look into the depths of the fire. Perhaps you see blue there too, maybe green? As vivid as a mermaid’s scales. Keep looking, and I’ll begin the story.

‘Once upon a time…’

‘No!’

‘No?’

‘I’ll never tire of hearing your stories, but please, begin them with words other than ‘once upon a time’.’

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Folkdays: Bluebells

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I am blessed to have grown up in an area where bluebell woods abound. At this time of year, the Clent and Walton Hills, Uffmoor and Hagley Woods, and Wychbury Hillfort are carpeted with swathes of this beautiful flower. Though I cannot walk through these indigo seas this year, I found a much-desired stand-in this spring at the Key Hill Cemetery, close to where I live in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.

Sitting amongst these stunning blooms, even if only for a little while, I really felt at peace. I decided to write about bluebells for this week’s Folkdays post, and share some facts, folklore, and photos of this, the country’s favourite flower.

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Folkdays: Rag Trees

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The walks, especially the less-trodden tracks, around the Clent, Walton, and Wychbury Hills are where I get most of my inspiration, and where I feel my creativity recharging. One of the most special spots on these walks is the dell behind St Kenelm’s church. The spring is said to be where the Anglo-Saxon boy-king Kenelm was martyred, and the trees and undergrowth which still grow there feel powerful in an ancient way.

It is no surprise then, that the people drawn to this spot feel compelled to follow an ancient Celtic ritual, and deck the surrounding branches with rags and ribbons.

The folk tradition of the ‘clootie well’ is a fascinating one: read more about it below.

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Folkdays: Reviewing Shakespeare and The Folktale

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When I stumbled across a copy of Charlotte Artese’s book while Christmas shopping in Bath, I was compelled to buy it as a gift to myself. In the title alone, my two favourite topics for research were brought together: Shakespeare and the Folktale.

I had, somewhat on the margins on my mind over the winter break, wondered what I should choose for my MA dissertation topic. I knew I wanted to build upon my undergraduate dissertation in some way; however, I was registered on the wrong course to write my dissertation as poetry. What Artese’s book showed me was that I could combine a study of Shakespeare with the themes I like to explore in my poetry: namely folklore.

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New Thread: Folkdays

The third and final of my new threads is something I am calling ‘Folkdays’. A portmanteau of the words ‘Folklore Fridays’, these posts will explore a little element of folk culture: folktales, lore, or anything I find that fits in with my current research.

As well as researching folklore for my own poetry, I am also currently writing an MA thesis on the subject of Shakespeare and the folktale. ‘Folkdays’ posts will be anything I feel would be interesting to share, from either side of my research. If you’re interested in this topic, all ‘Folkdays’ posts (and other bits and pieces not worthy of a full post) will be archived on my ‘blog’ page.

As the name suggests, these posts will appear on Fridays, though not every week!