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Questions tagged [folklore]

For questions on the traditional beliefs, customs and stories of a community or culture.

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What is the origin of these creatures in Appalachian folklore?

My family (for these intents and purposes) comes from the mountains of Appalachian southern Virginia. The older folks told tales of three specific monsters as warning against wayward children ...
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Who is Ashirah in Hebrew mythology?

When I heard about the myth regarding Asherah as God’s “wife”, it started to appear some questions which I’d like to ask because I could not find the answers I’m looking for. Here is a list questions: ...
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Stories of areas/buildings/objects that disappear and reappear during fixed intervals?

I remember back when I was young that I saw an episode of Smurfs featuring a castle that disappears and reappears each few centuries and when, more recently, I thought about the whole concept of ...
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1answer
73 views

What are the supernatural properties of gold in mythology and folklore?

I would like to research the supernatural properties and/or uses that gold shows in mythologies and/or folklore. I am not talking about the properties or abilities of specific artifacts made of gold ...
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1answer
59 views

How did you survive my 100-step punch?

I remember from long ago a story about a martial artist, The Bully, who was renowned for his "100-step punch": if he lands the blow, you will die after taking 100 steps. One day another martial ...
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Folktales or Fairy Tales in Native Language (if any exist anywhere)

Wondering what the languages are where there do exist resources of folktales / fairy tales written down in the native language. I think I may have found some in Celtic here, such as this: I am not ...
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Any ancient myths/folklore/tales/etc. about extraterrestrial voyages/people/beings?

Stories like the tale of the bamboo cutter that are about extraterrestrial beings who visit earth and either return to their place of origin or not. They can also be about people from earth visiting ...
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Zombies and stopping them?

I know that there’s a wide variety of zombies. Now my question is what are the versions of them & how are they stopped from attacking the living? Zombies are (now these days) concedered mindless ...
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1answer
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What's the best way to go about researching obscure mythologies?

So basically, I want to learn more about Zulu (or possibly some other South African culture) polytheism, among other things. Trouble is, it's hard to find a lot information about it, even from ye olde ...
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1answer
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Can Vampires Take Form of Nocturnal Animals?

In Bram Stoker's Dracula, it was hinted that he may have taken form of a bat while visiting the asylum inmate, Renfield. Is that possible? And could he take form of all the other animals, like wolves ...
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1answer
89 views

What do you call a human who can take energy from other living objects?

I'm not exactly sure what to think but after doing it so often I was just curious if there is a name? I've noticed that when I'm tired while say I'm at work I can place my palm to a tree and it begins ...
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Where does the personification of the River Thames as Old Father Thames originate?

I'v been doing some light research into the figure of Old Father Thames, he appears as the personification on the River Thames through the 18th to 20th centuries but seems to have lost popularity ...
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Where is the Ancient Greek belief of Pre-Existence referenced?

There's a Greek belief about choosing your parents, your life, and the problems in the world. As mentioned in this video. I'm trying to find the full story/myth. Where can I look? TEDxSinCity - Dave ...
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2answers
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Why do ghosts mess with electricity?

The concept of ghosts (shades in the sense of spirits or phantoms) predates the understanding and harnessing of electricity by humans. But, in modern folklore and mythology electric lights often ...
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1answer
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When was the first known account of the Tooth Fairy?

In some cultures, when a child loses a baby tooth they put it under their pillow for the Tooth Fairy to replace it during the night with a coin. In my experience, she is never seen or heard and she is ...
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What is the origin of the story that kefir grains were given to Orthodox Christians in the Northern Caucasus by the Prophet Mohammed?

Several websites (for example, here and here) report the story that kefir grains, which are used in the making of the fermented milk drink kefir, were given to Orthodox Christians in the Northern ...
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What is the origin of the 'Light' as a ghost?

As a ghost (or after death), it is popularly believed that you will see a light and that light will take you to the afterlife. Where, and/or when, does this 'light' emerge in folklore's history?
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What is the difference between a phantom and a ghost?

These are compared as such: a phantom is a ghost, but a ghost is not a phantom. The meaning of that is every phantom is a ghost, but phantoms have characteristics that prevents every ghost from being ...
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Why are the domains of sexuality and fertility commonly associated with battle & war?

For example, Semitic Astarte/Babylonian Ishtar, Hittite Shaushka, Slavic Radegast, Irish Anann, etc. In studying mythology and folklore, I can't help but notice that violence and sex are often ...
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1answer
670 views

What was the origin of the nursery rhyme “Don't care was made to care”?

Many a child who has expressed indifference has had the following verse spoken to them: Don’t care was made to care, Don’t care was hung: Don’t care was put in a pot And boiled till he was ...
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2answers
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Did tales about a house made of sweets predate Hansel and Gretel?

Having heard the tale of Hansel and Gretel orally, the brothers Grimm published it in 1812. One of its most memorable themes is the witch's house made of sweets. Does such a theme predate this tale? ...
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When were “air quotes” first used?

When did speakers first draw in the air with their fingers to indicate that a word or phrase should be heard as if between quotation marks?
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What pagan or folk customs and beliefs relate to Pentecost (Whitsun)?

Whitsun, also called Whit Sunday and Pentecost, is the Sunday 49 days after the Christian festival of Easter and in the Gregorian calendar it falls on a date between 10 May and 13 June. What pagan or ...
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1answer
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How are domovye (domestic spirits) experienced in Russian flats (apartments)?

In Russian culture, the domovoy (домовой) is a domestic house spirit. Traditionally he lives under the stove or threshold, in the cattle shed or in the stable. He is the home's guardian and if kept ...
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What connects the Welsh and English Gogmagog with the Hebrew Gog and Magog?

The guardian statues outside London's Guildhall, the building that houses the administration of the Corporation of the City of London, are known as Gog and Magog. Originally they were understood to be ...
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When was the first known Maypole?

Tall wooden posts, or Maypoles, have been erected and danced around in several European countries to mark the first day of May. What is the earliest known instance?
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Which current cultures have April Fools' Day on 1 April?

I have come across descriptions of an April Fools' Day tradition in Britain, Ireland, Poland and Scandinavia. But it is not true to say it is western-wide because it is hardly known for example in ...
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What are the origins of April Fools' Day?

On April Fools' Day, 1 April, it's the custom in several cultures to play practical jokes and to spread hoax stories. Where and when did this custom originate?
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Were shaggy dog stories known before they got that name?

A shaggy dog story is a lengthy anecdote that induces an expectation of a surprising, amusing or otherwise memorable conclusion but which ends instead with a punchline that is utterly mundane or even ...
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2answers
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Why is easter called 'easter'?

The Christian feast of 'easter' is based on the ancient Yewish religious feast (their main one), is widely spread and was linked to remember the 'Passion of Christ'. Recall that 'Christianity' started ...
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3answers
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Where do Easter eggs come from?

In Christian cultures, many people give Easter eggs as presents at Easter. They can be painted chicken's eggs, or they can be chocolate. What are the origins of this practice as a Christian tradition?
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What is conveyed or connoted in the story that St Patrick banished snakes from Ireland, when in his time Ireland had no snakes?

According to tradition, St Patrick banished all snakes from Ireland. But it is thought that at least since the end of the last glacial period in about 9700 BCE, Ireland had no snakes. What is being ...
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What is the earliest known appearance of a hero's greatgrandparent in folklore?

What is the earliest known appearance of a hero's greatgrandparent in any genre of folklore? By that I mean where the hero's greatgrandparent is alive and interacts with the hero.
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Why do we wear green on St. Patrick's Day and get pinched if we don't?

Wearing green on St. Patrick's Day is a tradition. No questions asked, just do it, kinda thing. So, as I'm running away to ask this, in my green shirt (it says "WORLD'S TALLEST LEPRECHAUN), I came to ...
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What is the earliest known instance of the nursery rhyme “The House that Jack Built”?

What is the earliest known instance of the popular nursery rhyme "The House that Jack Built", which has verses of increasing length?
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1answer
773 views

What are the origins of the “okay” hand signal?

An "okay" hand signal is formed by making a circle with index finger and thumb while splaying the other fingers out, roughly upwards. What are its origins?
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How old is the legend that the insulting “V” sign was first used at or with reference to the Battle of Agincourt?

There is a legend that since bowmen captured by French forces sometimes had their bow-drawing fingers cut off, the English and Welsh longbowmen at the Battle of Agincourt, which an English army won in ...
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What is the oldest known story from the Paleolithic or Mesolithic, if any are known?

What is the oldest story known to have been told by people living a Palaeolithic or Mesolithic way of life, in other words who have not used metals such as copper, bronze or iron and who do not engage ...
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1answer
177 views

Pre-Tolkien Orcs in myths or folklore?

So what I'm trying to understand is what exactly pre-Tolkien orcs were like in regards to folklore. I understand that Tolkien has had a massive influence on how we conceptualize many creatures from ...
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What is the oldest known appearance of clairvoyance or telepathy in myth or folklore?

Clairvoyance is the sensing of an event, thought or fact by other means than the five physical senses; telepathy is the deliberate sending of a thought, feeling, knowledge or information using such ...
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1answer
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Where did the notion the moon was made of cheese originate?

We've all at one point or another heard something about the moon being made of cheese- does anyone know where this myth got started?
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1answer
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What is the world's oldest joke?

What is the world's oldest joke? I mean the earliest known story, set of affairs, or action that people spread to other people in order to cause the receivers to be amused.
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1answer
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Historic-geographic spread and variations of the children's rhyme “My friend Billy had a 10-foot willy”

Around the turn of the 1970s a rhyme was sung by small children in southern England: My friend Billy had a 10-foot willy. He showed it to the girl next door (or: He put it through the neighbour's ...
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What is the provenance of the reindeer antlers that are used in the Abbots Bromley horn dance?

Every year in September a "horn dance" is held in the village of Abbots Bromley, Staffordshire, England, a ceremony mentioned for example in J G Frazer's The Golden Bough. There are recorded ...
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What are the origin and geographical spread of the belief that a girl or woman should not wash her hair when she is menstruating?

The belief that a girl or woman who is menstruating should not wash her hair has been called an "old wives' tale". Supposed reasons for it have included the idea that at that time of the month her ...
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1answer
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Earliest recorded instance and geographical spread of the idea that banging your head on your pillow N times can ensure that you wake up at N o'clock?

Some people believe and report the effectiveness of a method of ensuring they wake at a certain time that consists of banging their head against their pillow the required number of times before they ...
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What is the earliest known instance of “When Shepherds Washed their Socks by Night”, the children's version of the Christmas carol?

A popular Christmas carol runs While shepherds watch'd their flocks by night, All seated on the ground, The angel of the Lord came down, And glory shone around in its first verse. It was ...
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1answer
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Origin of “horses that instinctively open a vein with their teeth in order to breathe more freely”

In Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werther (1774), we find this sentence: Man erzählt von einer edlen Art Pferde, die, wenn sie schrecklich erhitzt und aufgejagt sind, sich selbst aus Instinkt eine Ader ...
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3answers
490 views

What are the origins of the snowman?

In many countries where snow falls there is a folk tradition of building snowmen. Almost always male, these temporary statues are usually human in scale, standing 0.5 to 2 metres tall, and made from a ...
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1answer
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Crystal taped to radiator?

I bought a house and found a crystal taped to the radiator. Anyone know why someone would want to tape a crystal to the radiator? It looks like a mountain crystal but as I'm not knowledgeable about ...