Folkdays: Folktale Closings

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It has grown late, and the campfire has reduced to smouldering embers, which glow in the breeze that begins to creep in from the surrounding dark.

As the flames recede, so does the story: both have spent hours dancing in the air, and both now begin to wane. The tale teller, as if to coax the very last enchantment out of both fire and story, draws in closer.

Every story must have it’s ending. It is the role of the tale teller to make sure that ending is brilliant enough to keep glowing, long into the night…

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Folkdays: Reviewing The Hedgewitch Botanical Oracle

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My very first Folkdays post was a review, of Shakespeare and the Folktale by Charlotte Artese. This was a book I had read, aside from simply for my own enjoyment, as preparation for my MA dissertation. Well, that dissertation is now underway, and so I have not had much time to dedicate to writing a Folkdays post this week!

I have wanted to do another review ever since that first post. This week seems as good a time as any to write down my thoughts on The Hedgewitch Botanical Oracle, by Siolo Thompson. Read about it below!

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Folkdays: The Oak King

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With Midsummer only a day away, it feels apt to use this week’s Folkdays post to write something about the traditions and folklore associated with the summer solstice.

There were so many things I could have written about: whether it be beliefs, rituals, celebrations, or traditions. Yet, one story captured my imagination more than any other: the tale of The Oak King and The Holly King.

This story stems from pagan, particularly Celtic, mythology, yet it bears similarities to many other beliefs too. Read more about this story and these intriguing deities below!

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Folkdays: Rose Lore

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I’ve been working with roses quite a bit recently, as I’ve been making pigment from rose petals and using them to paint the flowers themselves. They’ve crept into my life in all sorts of other ways, too: I’ve recently written a piece about thorns (and the Anglo-Saxon rune ᚦ, ‘thorn’); meanwhile my research into foraging for a different creative project lead me to look a bit closer at rosehips.

As one might imagine, based on their popularity, roses are steeped in all sorts of lore, from how they were created and how they got their colours, to their meanings and associations. There’s plenty out there to read (as ever, links below); this post will focus on the aspects I find most fascinating!

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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: 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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