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

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1answer
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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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0answers
33 views

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 ...
2
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1answer
53 views

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
110 views

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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0answers
81 views

Why are some Amazigh/Berber gods considered Greek gods?

I live in Morocco and as you know Moroccans are Amazighs (Berbers), and our ancestors worshiped a sea god who was called Poseidon, as Herodotus stated: [..]these I think received their naming from ...
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1answer
52 views

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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0answers
36 views

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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0answers
21 views

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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1answer
168 views

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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1answer
74 views

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
109 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
643 views

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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1answer
2k views

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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0answers
25 views

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 ...
3
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1answer
109 views

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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0answers
43 views

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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0answers
22 views

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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1answer
66 views

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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0answers
18 views

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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0answers
28 views

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 ...
7
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2answers
124 views

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
2k views

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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2answers
85 views

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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1answer
46 views

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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1answer
61 views

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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17 views

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
175 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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0answers
109 views

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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0answers
82 views

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
142 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 ...
3
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0answers
60 views

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
174 views

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
14k views

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
745 views

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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0answers
45 views

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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0answers
121 views

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 ...
3
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1answer
96 views

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 ...
5
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1answer
144 views

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 ...
10
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1answer
112 views

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 ...
13
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3answers
336 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 ...
9
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1answer
107 views

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 ...
6
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2answers
173 views

Why did Rumpelstiltskin want the baby?

The story of Rumpelstiltskin is quite well known, but I can't recall what his motivation for wanting the human child. The question can be extended to Goblins in general. (Although in the case of the ...
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0answers
48 views

Tales of bats as witches' familiars?

One of the superstitions in the article 13 Halloween Superstitions & Traditions Explained is about bats: Medieval folklore also described bats as witches' familiars, and seeing a bat on ...
7
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2answers
179 views

What were the origins of the Santa Lucia processions in Sweden featuring candle-wearing Lucia and the cone-capped star boys?

Were there street processions before local newspapers started encouraging them in the 1920s? And how did the "star boy" element - perhaps related to the practice of Epiphany singers, although Epiphany ...
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0answers
67 views

Why does the Yara-ma-yha-who live on fig trees?

The Yara-ma-yha-who is the indigenous Australian version of the vampire. It's a "little red man with a very big head, a large mouth with no teeth and suckers on the ends of its hands and feet" that ...
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2answers
214 views

Are there any elf like creatures in non-European folklore?

I know that the elves didn't survive the transatlantic crossing but are there any stories of elves or similar creatures in other world mythologies?
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2answers
141 views

Cows adapted to life on a steep hillside

I'm trying to remember the details of a legend I read years ago - and I don't even remember which body of folklore it came from - about a hero with a herd of cows, all of whom had legs on one side ...
3
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0answers
62 views

What are some good sources for understanding about the Kleevauks?

Has anyone else heard of the Kleevauks? I've heard a myth about a separate fay being created by the Elementals. Supposedly to help keep nature and magic balanced. I heard that these Kleevauks were ...
9
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2answers
153 views

Are there any stories that present solar eclipses as a good sign?

I have been reading about solar eclipses and it appears most cultures view them as a bad sign. For example, according to the article Solar Eclipses in History and Mythology it appears that all ...
5
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1answer
141 views

Did the vikings/medieval Scandinavians actually worship Odin, Thor, etc?

Or were they seen more as folklore, like, for example, Holger Danske or St George and the Dragon?