Questions tagged [folklore]

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

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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 ...
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5 votes
1 answer
236 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?
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4 votes
1 answer
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Why is the helhest three-legged?

I recently stumbled upon a reference to the helhest, a "three-legged horse associated with Hel". Unfortunately, searching for more information on about this fascinating legend didn't turn up much. ...
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9 votes
1 answer
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Who's afraid of steel? Is iron different?

In Swedish folklore, carrying something made of steel – a knife, a pair of scissors, or anything really – is said to ward off various dark forces, anything from trolls to witches. Where does this ...
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9 votes
1 answer
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Why do so many cultures have monsters that prey on families?

While researching La Llorona and vampiresses, I noticed that lots of cultures have predominantly female monsters that use deception to prey on families. Lamia that prey on young men and children, deer ...
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7 votes
1 answer
478 views

How are bears associated with the world of dreams?

I was looking for information on bear cults when I stumbled upon this little gem: In Native American folklore there are many tales about bears. It is highly respected as the 'keeper of dreams', and '...
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9 votes
1 answer
222 views

Does Pippi Longstocking have mythological roots?

Failing that, is she based on or similar to any characters in folklore of the region? As far as I know, the extraordinarily compelling children's character was purely an invention of the author, ...
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9 votes
1 answer
217 views

Were the grottoes of the Mitcham Fair in South London really connected with the veneration of St. James of Compostela?

In Mitcham in South London, children often used to build "grottoes" out of pebbles, pieces of broken pottery, candles, and sometimes shells, flowers, or pieces of mirror. They would ask for "a penny ...
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10 votes
1 answer
710 views

What is the origin of horse brasses depicting sun, moon, star, and wheel?

In England and other countries, many shire, cart and parade horses carry brasses, which often depict the sun, the crescent moon, a star, or a wheel. When did these designs first appear on horse ...
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5 votes
2 answers
316 views

The Origin of Werewolf: Deities Cursing People into Animals?

I read some years back, about some ancient mythology where people believed the gods would rather commonly curse mortals into animal forms. There may've even been terms specific to this process. I ...
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12 votes
1 answer
776 views

What’s the origin of the Weird Sisters in Macbeth?

The use of a trio of witches is quite common in literature and lore. Greek, Slavic, and British tales have used them as antagonists or catalysts in their (sometimes cautionary) stories. In other ...
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5 votes
1 answer
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Is there any reference to this story about Inari?

The Japanese rice Goddess liked to wrap herself in a fox’s body.  Sometimes, too, She took the shape of a human woman in order to sleep with men, who had excellent crops as a result.  One of these men,...
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6 votes
1 answer
167 views

How can a melusine manage to disguise their true appearance?

I wanted to know how could a melusine manage to hide their true appearance. How is this portrayed in the folklore? Is there a magic spell cast upon them that prevents them from exposing their true ...
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12 votes
1 answer
307 views

Are there parallels between Ymir/Auðumbla and Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox besides the obvious?

It's something I've been thinking about for many years now and I figured I might as well ask, as there seems to be an exceptional Norse mythology braintrust on this site. By "obvious" parallels, I am ...
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9 votes
1 answer
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Why can't a vrykolakas cross the sea?

In Paradoseis, Nikolaos Politis records the belief that a vrykolakas cannot cross the sea. More specifically, tale 933 explains how the people of Myconos kept themselves safe from vrykolakes by ...
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6 votes
1 answer
771 views

What is a Planetnik?

From what I gathered, a Planetnik seems to be an air spirit that is somehow associated with Perun, the Slavic god of thunder and lightning. However, my sources are not particularly credible, sometimes ...
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7 votes
1 answer
298 views

How did Princess Argyro lose her breast?

Princess Argyro is the legendary founder of Gjirokastër, in Albanian and Greek folklore. According to Nikolaos Politis1, in Greek tales she is sometimes referred to as "Μονοβύζα", the single-breasted. ...
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5 votes
1 answer
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What is the folkloristic origin of cats having 9 lives?

Long ago, people believed cats had 9 lives. (As shown in ice age) When and where did that belief come from?
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8 votes
0 answers
224 views

What are the earliest known origins of Sasquatches in Native American culture in the Americas?

What are the earliest known origins of Sasquatches in Native American culture of North or South America? Almost everybody has heard about these mysterious creatures known as Sasquatches or Bigfoot, ...
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10 votes
2 answers
877 views

Have any cultures of N, NW or E Europe used symbols for warding off the "evil eye" that are related to ones used around the Mediterranean?

Painted figures on the prows of boats and amulets for warding off the "evil eye", sometimes themselves called "evil eyes", are used around the Mediterranean and connected seas (North Africa, the ...
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16 votes
1 answer
326 views

Is there a connection between the use of the metaphor "black dog" for depression and the black dog of British folklore?

"The black dog" has been used as a metaphor for depression or sulking since at least 1790. Today it is used to denote depression and sometimes a broader range of mental illnesses. For example, in ...
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9 votes
2 answers
3k views

How old is the belief that spilling salt is unlucky and should be followed by throwing a pinch of salt over the shoulder?

In much of Europe it is believed to be unlucky to spill salt, and it is thought advisable that someone who spills it should throw a pinch of it over their left shoulder. How old is this belief?
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12 votes
1 answer
1k views

What is the oldest traditional children's game?

Many traditional children's games are of fairly recent origin. For example, the game of conkers dates back no further than the 19th century, making it no more than about 10 generations old. The ...
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21 votes
1 answer
393 views

Does any folklore of Pictish origin survive in Britain or Ireland?

There is a sheep-counting system in northern England, also used for counting stitches in knitting, which derives from a Brythonic Celtic language. Is there any surviving folklore that is known or ...
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10 votes
1 answer
503 views

What was the first example of a "Only true love can awake" in folklore?

Snow White's story (unabridged): And now the king’s son had it carried away by his servants on their shoulders. And it happened that they stumbled over a tree-stump, and with the shock the ...
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7 votes
0 answers
205 views

Are there any sort of chief pantheon in Japanese mythology? Who do they consist of?

I've read some of the more well known ones like Izanagi and Izanami...Amaterasu, Tsukuyomi, Susanoo, and Orochi... I mostly want to know about the Shinto side but Japanese Buddhism legends are good ...
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9 votes
2 answers
541 views

Are there any ancient unicorn myths that originated from Tibet or its bordering regions?

I remember reading some years back how missionaries in Tibet were told stories of how prevalent in the 1800's the belief that there were unicorns living in the mountains of Tibet! Do any ancient ...
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9 votes
1 answer
455 views

Why did Unkulunkulu send the lizard after the chameleon?

In Chapter II: Where Man Came From, and How Death Came of Alice Werner's Myths and Legends of the Bantu we find the chameleon legend of the Bantu people. The legend explains how death came into the ...
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4 votes
1 answer
450 views

Twice a bridesmaid, never a bride?

I was reading Lafcadio Hearn's New Orleans Superstitions, when I came upon this proverb: There are many superstitions about marriage, which seem to have a European origin, but are not less ...
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11 votes
2 answers
456 views

What is the source for this legend about baking virgin's blood into breads?

Rabbi Solomon ibn Verga writes the following in his work Shevet Yehuda (Ch. 7): A temple of Lucifer/Venus had a statue with a phallic device which was used to deflower virgins brought in for that ...
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8 votes
3 answers
9k views

Are vampires called anything else in European folklore?

Does there exist alternative names for vampires? Perhaps an euphemism; for example, in Harry Potter, those who feared Voldemort called him "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" in lieu of his real name. Or ...
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9 votes
2 answers
1k views

What is the oldest known version of the Thessalonike legend?

Thessalonike was the daughter of Phillip II of Macedon, and a half sister to Alexander III of Macedon. Legend has it that when Alexander died, Thessalonike "became a mermaid passing judgment on ...
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18 votes
3 answers
753 views

Did the word "fairies" originate after the creation of stories about fairies?

From Wiktionary: Fairy : Etymology From Middle English fairie, from Old French faerie, the -erie abstract of fae, from Vulgar Latin Fāta (“goddess of fate”), from Latin fātum (“fate”) This seems ...
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21 votes
2 answers
2k views

Where does the story of selling one's soul to the devil first occur in Christian myth?

Many people have been said to have soul their soul to Satan. Musicians such as Robert Johnson and Niccolò Paganini are said to have sold their soul for their musical virtuosity. Faust provides ...
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13 votes
1 answer
606 views

Why doesn't Mukiti want Mwindo to visit his aunt?

In the african folklore epic Muwindo, Muwindo goes to see his aunt Iyangura after his father attempts to murder him. However, the husband of Iyangury, Mukiti, does not want Muwindo to do so and blocks ...
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20 votes
1 answer
5k views

What is the relationship between werewolves and vampires in Balkan folklore?

In Balkan folklore, several words that originally meant werewolf (e.g. the Bulgarian vǎrkolak and the Serbian vulkodlak) either ended up being used for both creatures or for vampires alone (e.g the ...
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23 votes
2 answers
1k views

Do Welsh fairies marry human women?

The Welsh Tylwyth Teg, or fairies, is said to take human mates. This website mentions how: There are many tales of intermarriage between faeries and humans, and advice on how to make sure you ...
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14 votes
1 answer
247 views

When did Korrigans become part of the Breton folklore?

Korrigans are part of the modern Breton folklore, as water spirits. Some sources give them an origin in ancient Gaul (Thomas Keightley's 1892 "The Fairy Mythology" for instance). Is there any evidence ...
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13 votes
1 answer
891 views

How was Guan Yu deified?

Guan Yu was a real general who lived almost 2000 years ago, but was deified as early as the Sui dynasty (circa 7th century). He is still an important figure of Chinese folklore today, worshipped by ...
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19 votes
2 answers
535 views

What is the meaning of not giving clothes to supernatural helpers?

There is a theme that I found in several folk tales from Ireland to Russia - although mostly in Irish/Celtic stories. It is where a house has supernatural helpers, who do work overnight. However, the ...
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