She-Wolf: a Cultural History of Female Werewolves, ed. Hannah Priest. Manchester UP, 2015
The Wolf-Man, and other movies, told the story of a man who was cursed to transform into a wolf every full moon, but in modern times female werewolves have taken their place on stage, in everything from movies to books to role-playing games to songs by Shakira. She-Wolf, a one-stop shop for all things feminine and lycanthropic, covers all these and more.
The death of Bridget Cleary, killed for being a changeling, brought together many different strands of politics, folklore and literature. It made literal the folk culture that Revivalists like Yeats and Lady Gregory were studying, but in a horrifyingly realistic way – a woman burned and beaten to death because of the “fairy-faith”. Or was it a perversion, as Yeats and others argued?
Here’s a great ghost story for you from Vince Roche that I recorded in the kitchen of the house we were staying in Branch in rural Newfoundland on the 30th of April this year. Vince called to the door at 9.45pm with a present of some moose and in the usual fashion we started to chat about places that were haunted locally and shared stories from Wexford and Newfoundland. This particular account is about a fairy woman who would be heard screaming in a spot in Branch and is similar to the many stories I heard growing up in Wexford. Vince tells a first hand account but also adds that others heard her scream here too.
This was recorded holding the camera on my knee and you can hear our kids playing in the background which adds to the reality of the whole thing. This is how real folklore and stories exist – in real situations, in real life and it was in these kitchen spaces that I encountered these stories growing up In Wexford. What’s special here is we are 3000km plus away from Ireland and these stories are well and truly alive in the minds of certain people from Newfoundland even though their people left the South East of Ireland centuries ago.
Silvanus was a popular god in Rome, up there with Jupiter and Mercury in terms of altars and other devotional evidence. As a god of the common people, he had a large audience, and soldiers, slaves and freedmen to spread his cult abroad.
His popularity worked both ways, too: a British craftsman explained his god Callirius as Silvanus, and many of the other examples in this post could have worked the same way.
The Roman god Silvanus may not be the best-known, but he was popular with the people. He had no official cult or priests dedicated to his worship – his was a cult of country people, farmers, labourers and slaves.
I know I tend to write about goddesses more than gods, but the slightly mysterious god Condatis has a special place in my heart, because I used to live in Durham. He seems to be a local god, with three altars dedicated to him dotted around the county. A further one was recently unearthed in Cramond, Scotland.
It’s a well known fact that the Celts – and later the early Christians – in Ireland were extraordinarily creative people, regularly expressing their philosophies, beliefs and histories through art. At first this was done through stone carving, metalwork and most likely wood. Celtic society revolved around the concepts of war and wealth, so they spent much of their time creating intricately decorated weapons and jewellery from bronze and gold, to show off their fighting prowess and status in society. They were also a highly spiritual society with an astronomical and seasonal calendar, various ritualistic festivals throughout the year, and revered burial practices. At sites where these ceremonies took place stone monuments were very common and often featured elaborate carvings, sculptures and the like.
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The goddess Litavis or Litavi presents us with a dilemma. If we follow the etymology, her name connects to the Hindu earth-goddess Prithivi, and means something like ‘the Vast One, the Broad One’. On the other hand, the Romans may have equated her to Bellona, the fierce companion of Mars.
So the other day I was thinking about the colors of the rainbow when something I had read in the Prose Edda came back into the back of my mind and began to nag and eat at me. The Prose Edda says that the Bifröst has three colors. Three colors. Three. That just did not compute for a hot minute. I sat there stumped thinking about how a rainbow on even a meagre day has more colors than that.
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This reblog is a chance for me to post another cool picture of the aurora borealis.