"May Day: America's Traditional, Radical, Complicated Holiday," from the Smithsonian NMAH blog. Part One, Part Two.
Edward Lovett was a bank employee and amateur folklorist fascinated with charms and amulets and the superstitions they represented. He rambled early 20th century London collecting charms from soldiers, sailors, street vendors and others. Today the charms are preserved in the Wellcome Collection, Pitt Rivers Museum, and Horniman Museum. [more inside]
North Bank Fred, described in the New York Times as "[p]erhaps the most well-known recreational hobo," runs a website that's packed with fascinating photographs and stories of the life on the rails. Want to know more about nomadic rail ways? Then let's visit the The Black Butte Center for Railroad Culture, "preserves and promotes railroad culture by documenting and furthering the art, music, literature, community, and work of those who, historically and in modern times, travel or work on the railroads of North America." [more inside]
"Desiderata" is a 1927 poem by Max Ehrmann. It's been subjected to misattribution and mutation (the second Google result is a typo-ridden version that's lurked on a .edu site since 1996 and substitutes "Neither be critical about love" for "Neither be cynical about love" and "Be careful" for "Be cheerful". Even Snopes prints a version with "careful" rather than "cheerful.) Daniel Nester digs into the history of the poem in a piece published on the website of the Poetry Foundation.
Black dog tales - Stories of the shuck, the skeff, the barghest, the hairy jack, the cu sith, the gwyllgi and more, the black dog across the British isles and beyond. Here's a map of sightings.
Yesterday, "Surf and Turf" Joey DaSilva slid, slipped, and skipped to the end of a 45-foot-long telephone pole suspended over the water and covered with grease and slop. By grabbing the flag at the end, he became the 2015 Saturday champion of the annual Greasy Pole contest, making him one of the elite crew eligible to compete again on Fiesta Sunday for the rest of his life. It's one of the highlights of the unique St. Peter's Fiesta, an annual festival sponsored by the Italian-American fishing community of Gloucester, MA. The festival is a five-day celebration including a procession of St. Peter's effigy accompanied by bands and Sicilian chants, a Sunday mass on a large outdoor altar, seine boat races, a carnival, food, and drinking - lots of drinking. The annual festival is a defining force in Gloucester's tight-knit community, even as the fishing industry that generated it continues a long decline. [more inside]
The Stonehill Jewish Song Collection is a website by the Center for Traditional Music and Dance containing songs sung by Jewish refugees in Hotel Marseilles in New York in 1948. All songs include the original lyrics and translations into English. Not all the songs have been digitized and translated already, but there is a variety of themes already, with more on the way soon. The songs were collected and recorded by Ben Stonehill who went to the refugees and asked them to sing anything they like.
A Girl, A Shoe, A Prince: The Endlessly Evolving Cinderella - Linda Holmes, NPR's Monkey See:
"The idea that animates the classic Cinderella is that the prince would not be free to consider Cinderella a desirable mate if he first saw her as she is, but he can meet her under false pretenses and fall in love with her. And, most importantly, once achieved, that love will be durable enough to survive her reversion to her real identity. Getting him to literally recognize her — getting him to look at a woman in rags and realize she's the woman he wants to marry — seems to function as sort of a stand-in for him proving that he can overlook her low status and choose her as a partner. Whether that's more a fantasy of romantic love or a fantasy of economic security, power and rescue from a lifetime of washing floors may depend on who's telling it and who's hearing it and when."[more inside]
Beginning in 1808, a young man begins keeping a secret, ciphered journal of his life with terse detail of his days. Astronomical observations, interpersonal relationships (to put it mildly), weather notes, and the minutiae of a planter's life in 19th Century North Carolina were collected into these volumes that were nearly lost, decoded in 1979 and mostly forgotten again. The Coded Life of William Thomas Prestwood.
Happy Baba Marta Day! Time to get your Martenitsas together and pick out a tree to hang them on when spring finally comes. ...Or, if you're not in Bulgaria, just read this. [more inside]
Mamuthones move slowly, with heavy steps, as if they were chained. Their backs are curved under the weight of the bells, under the coarse vests, under the grimacing masks. Rhythmically, they shake their right shoulder, the left foot advances, bells clang in unison. Issohadores move with agile, deft steps, surrounding the darker figures as if they were hoarding them, guiding them, then confronting them.
Neil Gaiman: Why Disney's Sleeping Beauty doesn't work (Gaby Wood for The Guardian):
"I feel like some kind of alchemist," Gaiman suggests. "I have to go to the cupboard and take one ounce of Snow White and two ounces of Sleeping Beauty, and heat the Sleeping Beauty and froth the Snow White and mix them together: it's kind of like fusion cuisine. It tastes like both of them but it's actually a new dish."
Are fairy tales back in fashion? Certainly, the recent success of Disney's films Frozen and Maleficent seems to point to something. But most of the fairy tales we know have come to us via 17th century France or 19th century Germany, and have since been subject to so many retellings and rebellions that trends are difficult to map.
The term "fakelore" has one basic core definition: modern tales that are similar to true folklore, the stories and traditions of a culture or group. But there are a few different takes on what exactly fakelore is, from the anti-alcohol lessons inserted in the modified fairy tales re-written and illustrated by George Cruikshank, which earned Horatian satire from Charles Dickens, to Paul Bunyan (the Red River Lumber Company produced the most well-known material; full scans - but this hasn't kept people from giving him a grave marker) and Pecos Bill (Google books preview), who were created as for marketing purposes or to replicate traditional tall tales, and more recently 'so-called "multicultural folktale" picture books [that] are a popular means for teaching about other cultures, especially in the primary grades.'
"It is somewhat of a mystery why the English-speaking world has had to wait until 1981 for the first translation of the Deutsche Sagen (German Legends) by the Brothers Grimm. After all, the Legends, which first appeared in 1816 and 1818, were translated into French, Danish, and even Rumanian in the nineteenth century, and have always been considered a vital source book for folklorists and critics alike. Perhaps we have always assumed that the German Legends had been translated since many of them are known through romances, novels, adaptations, selective translations, films, comic books, and references in critical studies. The two most famous examples are Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser and Robert Browning's 'The Children of Hameln.'"-Jack Zipes, in an approving review of Donald Ward's translation of the Legends. Ward's work has since fallen out of print, but you can read select legends at the eclectic Golden Scales folktale collection.
"He makes love to her, his first time with a woman, but she's not really a woman—is a woman, then a man, then his exact double, then a peacock, feathers alluringly erect. " Rumaan Alam's "Scene From A Marriage" imagines the domestic bliss of Zeus and Hera and assorted boytoys.
Ring Around the Rosie: Metafolklore, Rhyme and Reason "After all, the story [of Ring Around the Rosie's plague origins] is itself folklore: a tale that was passed on by word of mouth first, then in writing and online media. And because it is also about folklore, folklorists classify it as 'metafolklore': folklore about folklore."
The gals at Anglo-Filles have an entertaining (and epicly long) talk about the history of Dracula and vampires as characters and symbols throughout the ages and throughout fiction - topics discussed include Varney The Vampire, The Vienna Vampire Scare, Where Does Sunlight Killing Vampires Come From, The Secret Spanish Dracula, and Jonathan Harker As An Abuse Survivor.
Papyrus Turin 55001 is code for "the erotic papyrus." Then there's the 2,500-year-old erotic graffiti from Greece, with a rude claim about who did what where. If you're amid graffiti of a more recent vintage -- specifically that of the American public restroom -- you might want to consult "Here I Sit -- A Study of American Latrinalia" (.pdf) by Alan Dundes (obit, previously). Good reading!
Landon "Dadhacker" Dyer reminisces about Patching the Newton: "How do you fix bugs in a ROM, if you can’t change the image?"
The patches live in the battery protected low-power RAM of the Newton, and they’re theoretically immortal as long as power holds out. This is why the battery compartment has a wacky mechanical locking system meant to discourage people from simultaneously removing both the main and the backup batteries. It’s a byzantine contraption of sliders and buttons molded in Holy Shit Yellow, and it’s meant to scare people into being cautious.[more inside]
When the Song Dies
In Scotland, folk songs serve as memories, of places and the dead who once inhabited them. Exploring the theme of change, When the Song Dies seeks to bring the audience under the captive spell of the old ways. Featuring a range of contributors, the film is a poignant reminder that the dead linger on, all around us, in the houses and landscapes we live in, and in the language and music of our culture. Whilst Scottishness is at the heart of the film, this story is as universal as it is specific. It is the story of a culture that is, like so many, in danger of fading from human memory.A 15-minute film directed by Jamie Chambers.
"The cinema was made for horror movies. No other kind of film offers that same mysterious anticipation as you head into a dark auditorium. No other makes such powerful use of sound and image. The cinema is where we come to share a collective dream and horror films are the most dreamlike of all, perhaps because they engage with our nightmares." And so Mark Gatiss opens his three-part series, A History of Horror. "One of the great virtues of this series is that it is thoroughly subjective. Gatiss does not feel any particular obligation to give us an A to Z of horror, but instead lingers lovingly over his own favourites," taking the viewer with him from the Golden Age of Hollywood horror through the American horror movies of the 1960s and 1970s. [more inside]
Japanese folklore and horror stories are known for their psychologically terrifying ghosts and monsters that prey on the minds and bodies of humans. But there’s also a lighter side to Japanese folklore, where bumbling spirits cause only mild annoyance, actually enhance your daily life, and otherwise generally botch the whole job of haunting mankind and teaching vague moral lessons about treating your parents with respect and such. 8 Hilariously Nonthreatening Monsters from Japanese Folklore
"With a flood of dark memes and viral horror stories, the internet is mapping the contours of modern fear" - How creepypasta is reinventing folklore, via io9.
"I did not see the appeal of a wife. We had never had one before. She would not be half as interesting as our buffalo." Read a lengthy excerpt from Catherynne Valente's Six-Gun Snow White, an adaptation of the Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 709 fairy tale as a campfire story set in the American west.
Many of the Macintosh team members gathered Wednesday, September 11 2013 to play with one of the original “Twiggy Mac” prototypes still in running condition. Quick, Hide In This Closet!
The Sound of the Earth is sound artist Yuri Suzuki's spherical record project, modeled after a topographic globe of the Earth. The grooves represent the outlines of each geographic landmass. Each country on the disc is engraved with a different sound. As the needle passes over, it plays field recordings collected by Suzuki from around the world over the course of four years: traditional folk music, national anthems, popular music and spoken word broadcasts. [more inside]
The song is a catchy summer jam by British producer Naughty Boy, which topped the charts in the UK and Italy (though got little airplay in the US). The video, shot in Bolivia by British director Ian Pons Jewell, is a little more complicated: for 90% of viewers, it's a pretty obvious (if rather bizarre) urban retelling of the Wizard of Oz. For the rare viewer acquainted with Bolivian folklore, however, the video is a bit more: a retelling of a traditional folktale about a deaf boy with an abusive stepfather who sacrifices himself to stop a demon who rules over silver mines... [more inside]
In an idle moment, you've probably drummed on a desk with your pen. But chances are middle schoolers could show you some skills. Masters like Shane Bang and many less well-known practitioners are pushing the old idea of pen-as-drumstick - Pen Beats, aka Pen Tap - to new heights. [more inside]
Old People Wearing Vegetation. Seniors from Norway and Finland (NSFW) model wearable art made of plants, in Eyes as Big as Plates. [more inside]
"Its not like we all sat in silence and stared blankly at our TVs waiting for the Internet to show up. We have probably always had vernacular webs of communication." Digital studies scholar Robert Glenn Howard talks about vaccines, the Christian right [PDF], AC/DC guitar tutorials and other "born-digital folklore" on the "vernacular web."
Seven For A Secret - an anonymous fanfic author creates seven unhappy ( or at least, unconventional ) endings for Disney Princesses by placing them in proper historical, mythological, or thematic context.
"Dead Bears" is a photographic collection by artist Michael Fortune documenting the regional Irish habit of erecting stuff animals wearing local Gaelic sporting colours as territorial markers. [more inside]
Ever heard of the Jewett City Vampires? Sure, you know about Salem and its witches, but New Englanders also went through several vampire panics that come far closer to the present than any Salem shenanigans. But who were the real people behind the modern legends? One common thread in the American myths: Tuberculosis (PDF).
Historical versions of Aesop's fables - text and pictures - collected by Laura Gibbs. She gives thousands of historic texts in English, Latin, and Greek, but even better, has Flickr sets of the historic illustrations (that page is sorted by artist) from editions by Rackham, Caldecott, and other artists going back to the 1400s. [more inside]
"There was a time when the woods near Duva ate girls. It’s been many years since any child was taken. But still, on nights like these, when the wind comes cold from Tsibeya, mothers hold their daughters tight and warn them not to stray too far from home. “Be back before dark,” they whisper. “The trees are hungry tonight.” Tor.com brings us some short horror/fairy tale fiction from Leigh Bardugo, "The Witch of Duva: A Ravkan Folk Tale."
Peasant culture and Russian folklore in Soviet animation (~400 minutes whereof): Soviet animation abounds in fantasies about the natural, wholesome lives of honorable, strong-willed Russian peasants and folk heroes and their struggles against villainy and adversity. Decorated with splendid folk art motifs that verge on horror vacui, these cel-animated cartoons are excellent aids for learning about (popular conceptions of) Russian folk material culture: decoration, architecture, dress, weaponry, textiles, domestic culture, manners, and so on. [more inside]
A visually inventive, super-stylized, 27 minute Soviet cartoon telling of The Little Mermaid / Rusalochka from 1968.
Alan Garner's Weirdstone of Brisingamen trilogy is to be concluded with Boneland, over 50 years after it started.
A decade after the death of renowned folklorist Alan Lomax, his vision of a "global jukebox" is being realized: his vast archive — some 5,000 hours of sound recordings, 400,000 feet of film, 3,000 videotapes, 5,000 photographs and piles of manuscripts, much of it tucked away in forgotten or inaccessible corners — is being digitized so that the collection can be accessed online. About 17,000 music tracks will be available for free streaming by the end of February. NYT article here.
Tobar an Dualchais will keep you busy for awhile. It's a collection of over 26,000 oral recordings made in Scotland, from the 1930s onward. Folklore, songs, music, history, poetry, oh my. Includes some fascinating material from Belle Stewart, the McPake Sisters of Peebles and John the Bard.
Originally published by Finnish forkloristAntti Aarne and expanded by American Stith Thompson and German Hans-Jörg Uther, the Aarne-Thompson Classification System is a system for classifying folktales based on motifs. [more inside]
Stetson Kennedy died yesterday at 94. The folklorist and writer was best known for infiltrating and exposing the secrets of the Ku Klux Klan, increasing public resistance to the organization and helping lead to the revocation of their national charter. Kennedy revealed details of the KKK to writers of the popular radio show "Superman," giving the Man of Steel a new postwar enemy through 16 episodes of the series "Superman vs. the Klan". [more inside]
Whitestone Motion Pictures presents Blood On My Name, a short musical film in the style of Americana folklore. [more inside]
The mark strolls along a city sidewalk, fresh out of the bank, his wallet in his back pocket, blithely unaware that he's stumbled into the clutches of a practiced jug troupe. Slate's Joe Keohane mourns the dying art of picking pockets. [more inside]