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]
The American Festivals Project takes you along on two guys' National Geographic-funded 2008 tour of the "small, hidden, and bizarre" festivals celebrated all over the United States. Through photos, video, and a blog, discover Rattlesnake Roundup, Okie noodling, an American Fasnacht, the Idiotarod, and plenty more. [more inside]
Come for the Homicide, Stay for the Top Secret Beam-Weaponry Research: The daughter of a man killed along with two others in a slaying some link to the murder of Octopus researcher Danny Casolaro digs into the Web's conspiracy subculture; creates an elaborate online persona; succeeds, nearly thirty years after the murder, in tracking down a suspect via the Web; and then gets him arrested, put in orange jumpers, and hauled into court. Then, on the day of the hearing, Something Happens...
This Christmas Eve spare a thought for the Chrildren of Iceland, who will be suffering a traumatising visit from Kertasníkir, or "Candle Beggar", the thirteenth and final of the strange and somewhat sinister Icelandic Santas, or Yule lads, who are the childre of the ogress Gryla. Most of them don't seem to care if you've been bad or good - mainly they want to steal your food and wreck stuff. [more inside]
Nearly three decades ago, folklorist Alvin Schwartz published Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, the first of three horror anthologies that would go on to become the single most challenged book series of the 1990s. But most of the backlash was against not the stories themselves (which were fairly tame), but rather the illustrations of artist Stephen Gammell. His bizarre, grotesque, nightmarish black-and-white inkscapes suffused every page with an eerie, unsettling menace. Sadly, the series has since been re-issued with new illustrations by Brett Helquist, of A Series of Unfortunate Events fame. Luckily for fans of Gammell's dark vision, copies of the old artwork abound online, including in these three image galleries: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones. Interested in revisiting the stories themselves? Then don't miss the virtual re-enactments of YouTube user MoonRaven09, or the dramatic readings of fellow YouTuber daMeatHook.
It's October, a fine time to learn some spooky stories to tell while you're gathered around a campfire.
American Ethnography Quasi-Weekly is a somewhat gonzo cabinet of curiosities -- a mix of photography, academic essay, archival materials, and bloggy postings on "outlaw aethetics" and outsider culture, presenting glimpses of American subcultures past and present, from Califormia low-riders to "hoochy-coochy" dancers to blackface tambourine jugglers, and plenty more. [more inside]
The 12th-century English chronicler Ralph of Coggeshall relates a strange story: two lost and distressed children appeared in a local village, speaking a language no-one could understand, and, most strikingly, with strangely green-coloured skin. [more inside]
The Banshee Lives in the Handball Alley is a "compilation derived from a collection of folkloric stories recorded with children from the Moyross and St. Marys Park areas of Limerick City between 2004 and 2005. The work serves to highlight how folklore is constantly added to, and how it is linked to memory and occasion, fiction and interpretation."
Argentine folklore composer, pianist and director Ariel Ramírez died last night after a long illness. Those who know of him abroad probably do so for his Misa Criolla. This is just the (deservedly famous) tip of a giant iceberg of Argentine music, as he was teacher to many, collaborator to a lot more, cataloguer and promoter of traditional folk music and dances, and defender of local composers rights since his early years of fame. [more inside]
"If I thought, had any idea, that I’d ever be a slave again, I’d take a gun and just end it all right away." Audio recordings from interviews with former slaves, conducted by WPA folklorists and others, including the Lomaxes and Zora Neale Hurston. Only these twenty-six audio recordings of people formerly enslaved in the antebellum American South have ever been found.
In 2000, the Library of Congress celebrated its 200th birthday by inviting representatives and members of the public from each of the 50 American states to nominate folk traditions, local customs, and special places to a "century's-end time capsule" called the Local Legacies Project. A nice little introductory catalog to points of local pride, like Fountain Green, Utah's Lamb Day, Oakland, CA's Black Cowboy Parade, Kentucky's Bourbon tradition, and Binghamton, NY's Spiedie Fest, and plenty more. [more inside]
Playground Jungle: The "folk process" in the subversive songs, rhymes, stories and jokes you told when the teacher wasn't around. Visit the whole (growing) collection via the index of first lines.
On January 11, 2010, Canon David Parrott blessed laptop computers and mobile phones during the Plow Monday service at St Lawrence Jewry Church in the City of London. Plough Monday is the traditional start of the English agricultural year, and the Church was involved with blessing of tools for the coming year. Before it was involved with church services, Plough Monday was a time for folk plays and dancing (associated with other Mummers plays), with regional variations. Some new Molly Dancers have revived the traditions, complete with plow. There were also races to see who would start their work the earliest, to show their readiness to commence the labors of the year. So sing out now and walk your plough (or play a ring tone on your mobile phone). [more inside]
Namahage (生剥) is a Japanese ritual which is observed throughout Oga Peninsula, Akita Prefecture in northern Honshū, Japan. It is saidto have originated as a ritual for cleansing people's souls, and for blessing the new year. [more inside]
“We got a bit excited because we realized that people have collected lots of dybbuk stories, but our fragment describes a real event, where you see how they come together and pray in order to exorcise the ghost from a widow,” [more inside]
"Common images are bearded, goblin-like demons laughing or whispering sinister speech, a faceless girl (usually covering her face with hair, moving around in bed moaning and feeling my body), hands appearing from the wall and attempting to strangle me. A hung man talking in the corner of the room, and some of the most bizarre experiences may include up to a dozen 'critter' entities (think Gremlins movie) laughing and talking about me. The environment tends to feel like a holographic dollhouse, the experience peaks and then the hallucinations mysteriously vanish when I regain control of my body."- The bizarre world of sleep paralysis, a form of hypnagogia and root of many folkloric figures such as succubi or incubi and the night hag.
"He had stolen a bound devil from a priest in Franconia, using it to practice sorcery. He later sold in for five guilders."
No collection of Folklore and Mythology would be complete without Anti-Semitic Legends, tales of infanticide and changelings, the Christianizing of Faeries, or incest. (previously, previously)
Jon Klassen is an illustrator and designer, with a blog and a lovely website full of artwork, including The Miser (3:53, 2004, made with Kyle McQueen and Dan Rodrigues), An Eye for Annai (5:27, 2005, previously, also made with Dan Rodrigues, .MOV video link), an interpretation of a Mayan folktale (available in full in Flight vol 4, previously), The Adventures of Ship, a family art project, visual development and drawings for sets and props for the movie adaptation of Coraline (a couple previous), amongst other bits and bobs. Illustration Mundo had an interview with Klassen earlier this year.
This entrancing 17-minute film compiled from footage of British folk celebrations was put together in honor of a new project created by set designer Simon Costin. Finding much of his artistic inspiration in the folklore of Great Britain, Costin wondered why there was no national center or museum dedicated to studying and collecting these traditional customs. So he's decided to start one, The Museum of British Folklore, and is launching the project this summer by outfitting a 1976 caravan and traveling to folk festivals around the country. The expedition is intended to build interest in the museum project, and to collect and document some of the surprising variety of more than 700 annual, seasonal, often pre-Christian festival celebrations that continue to this day. [more inside]
Home of the Double-Headed Eagle is a short film by Ali Colleen Neff and Brian Graves, featuring the kaleidoscopic work of visionary architecture created by Reverend H. D. Dennis and his wife, Margaret Dennis.
Now that the fighting in Gaza is over for the time being, it's time for urban legends to arise out of the morass. One story now making the rounds on the Israeli side involves soldiers claiming the Biblical matriarch Rachel warned them of Hamas ambushes and guided them away from booby-trapped homes. Strangely, Rachel supposedly appeared as an Arabic-speaking older woman. Meanwhile, American soldiers during the second Iraq war spawned their own urban legends. But these stories are just the latest entries in a long tradition. [more inside]
Weavings of War: Fabrics of Memory, an online exhibit of comtemporary textiles created (mostly) by women living in war zones.
Have you met the Yuki-onna? You might meet her in a snow storm, and recognize her by her pure white robe marked only with a splattering of blood and her lack of feet. She might kill you with icy breath, or lead you into the storm to die of exposure, or seduce you, only to steal your soul. She's the subject of one of Japan's better known ghost stories (the climax of which was depicted in Tanaka Tokuzo's 1968 film Kaidan Yuki Onna) and has also made an appearance in Akira Kurosawa's Dreams (2:50).
Inauguration 2009 Sermons and Orations Project The Library of Congress invites you to submit digital audio or video recordings of speeches made between January 16 and january 25, 2009 on the occasion of Barack Obama's inauguration. The speeches will be archived in a collection for future scholarship, much like the Day of Infamyand other collections capturing signifcant American moments.
Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore publishes original academic studies in folklore studies, comparative mythological research, cultural anthropology and related fields.
Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore publishes original academic studies in folklore studies, comparative mythological research, cultural anthropology and related fields. Previously.
The Uysal - Walker Archive of Turkish Oral Narrative is an immense repository of folktales from modern Anatolia. The full list of stories but luckily there's a search function. But that's not all, oh no, there's also a music section, with downloadable mp3s and a whole nother section with more stories and Turkish literature and mp3s. Here's a somewhat random selection of stories to get you started (all links pdf): Nasreddin Hoca's Brilliant Donkey, A Saint Urinates in Public, The Girl Disguised as a Monk and the Padishah's Youngest Son, Behlül Dane Discourses with the Dung Heap and finally, Elia Kazan in Kayseri (yes, that Elia Kazan).
In an intriguing blog entry the mysterious jasminembla muses about the man in the moon, and his relationship with thorns, linking finally to a most remarkable collection of sourced and footnoted Victorian Moon Lore authored by a Rev. Timothy Harley, 1885. In the "Man in the Moon" section, we learn that, indeed, the man in the moon has been traditionally linked with thorns, variously being exiled to the moon for stealing a bundle of brambles, strewing brambles on the path to church to hinder the pious, or cutting wood on the Sabbath, among other infractions - and that this folktale has existed since at least 1157, when an English abbot asks, in Latin, "Do you not know what the people call the rustic in the moon who carries the thorns? Whence one vulgarly speaking says, "The Rustic in the moon / Whose burden weighs him down / This changeless truth reveals / He profits not who steals." Furthermore, no less a personage than Shakespeare has mentioned the thorny situation of the poor man in the moon... and most interesting, perhaps, the rather convincing theory that the bramble-burdened man in the moon may very well be an older "Jack" of Jack and Jill fame, who did not steal, but was stolen by the moon, along with his sister. [more inside]
The Southern Foodways Alliance is one weighed-down church-supper table, full of oral history/blog projects like The Tamale Trail, the Boudin Trail, interviews and recipes from the Bartenders of New Orleans, photo essay/interviews from Birmingham's Greek-Americans, a mess o'homemade films, and a passel of event and BBQ-shack photos on Flickr, all smothered in the tangy-sweet academic goodness of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at Ole Miss. These folks get my vote for most flavorful, funkiest food-loving folklorists in the lower forty-eight. [more inside]
Excerpts from Pissing in the Snow, a collection of ribald folk tales collected in the first half of the twentieth century around the Ozarks by Vance Randolph. (NSFW language) [more inside]
You've got just over two weeks to make it to the John Henry celebration in Leeds, Alabama, where some folks believe the legendary steel driving contest actually took place. Maybe you already made it to John Henry Days in Talcott, West Virginia (or read a fictionalized account), where some more folks claim the same. John Garst, Scott Nelson, and other folklorists weigh in here, supplemented by a wealth of links and resources on the subject. While you think on it let Mississippi Fred McDowell, The Boss, Ralph Stanley, John Jackson, Merle Travis, and Jason Isbell tell their own versions. John Garst and his research mentioned previously.
Feel like you've racked up too many sins to be admitted into Heaven? Fret not, my evil friend... just hire a Sin Eater to gobble them all up for you. Voila! More here.
Did Anyone Really Follow the Drinking Gourd? Were you taught that slaves in the antebellum South sang this traditional song to convey coded instructions for escaping Northward? Were you taught that quilt block patterns could be read as a map to freedom, or that quilts were hung outside safe houses as signals to escaping slaves?Though these are among the most often taught stories of the operation of the Underground Railroad, current scholarship indicates that these aren't survivals of pre-Civil War African-American folklore, but legends constructed and popularized within the twentieth century, frequently by white writers and performers. In today's New York Times, these legends battle it out with fact in debate over the proposed design of a new Frederick Douglass memorial [PDF].
You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, but do you know Stekkjarstaur, Giljagaur, Stufur, Thvorusleikir, Pottaskefill, Askasleikir, Hurdarskellir, Skyrgamur, Bjugnakraekir, Gluggagaegir, Gattathefur, Ketkrokur and Kertasnikir? They're the Jolasveinar, the impish "Yuletide Lads" of Iceland, and those are only some of their many names. During the thirteen days before Christmas, legend says that they do their best to monkeywrench the celebrations with hijinks like stealing sausages, milk, and candles, and peeping into windows and up skirts. The children of gruesome child-eating trolls Gryla and Leppaludi, who were known for snatching naughty children, the elves got their start in the 17th century. In the years since, their image has apparently mellowed, and now they leave children presents in their shoes and limit themselves to mild pranks.
Steppin' is an hour-long documentary on an African-American dance tradition, most closely associated with historically black fraternities and sororities (though it's also found in high schools, clubs, and professional dance companies). Combining footwork, hand-clapping, chanting, singing, use of props, and changing configurations of dancers, it's a tightly coordinated dance form in which teams vie for honors in competitions nationwide.
"In a close-knit Chesapeake Bay community, the world’s fastest muskrat skinners face off in a truly cutthroat competition at the National Outdoor Show. One lucky young lady gets to be their queen." [Warning: Fiddle tunes!] Muskrat Lovely, a documentary about the conflation of the world muskrat-skinning championships with the Miss Outdoors beauty competition. The film will air soon on the PBS program Independent Lens. Catch some of the brackish flavor of the Chesapeake Bay's traditional regional culture, including some muskrat recipes and skinning tips.. And don't miss the link to Everything Muskrat.
Auroras have had many explanations throughout history. Now, science has answered many questions, thanks to spending a lot of time in Antarctica taking time-lapse films.
Wade in the Water In 2004, Smithsonian Folklife Festival featured the maritime cultures of the Mid-Atlantic region, from Long Island to North Carolina. Now, this site gives a home on the web to the cultural documentation gathered for the festival -- music, recipes, stories and oral history, an interactive map, the occupational folklore and natural history of regional fisheries, photos, video, and more. The material, ably compiled by folklorists and educators, creates a lasting and very accessible archive of festival highlights as well as an excellent overview of the distinct coastal culture of the Mid-Atlantic. Don't miss the great menhaden net-hauling chantey Help Me to Raise 'Em (links to mp3).
The Pearl A journal of voluptuous reading for discerning readers, hosted in a larger collection of bawdy books, dirty ditties and assorted salacious songcraft. Thrill to cousin-fucking in Sport Among the She-Noodles. Puzzle over endless lashings by old women in Ms. Coote's Confession. Giggle over the protagonist of Lady Pokingham. Note for edification the blasé treatment of homosexuality, both male and female. Memorize limericks that provide both racial and sexual offense for your next social gathering. And learn obscenities you can sneak past all but the most agile editor! Main site also contains hours of mp3s and reams of naughty toasts, drinking songs and folk stories. Other highlights include the ability to compare American ribaldry with earlier British off-colour humour. Some engravings arguably NSFW.
Alan Dundes dies while teaching. The world-renowned folklorist, 70, tackled everything from religion to political jokes with an infectious enthusiam that endeared him to students, academics, and laymen alike. Dundes was often contacted by reporters looking for scholarly explanations of popular culture. His warmth and humor shined through in his speech to UC Berkeley's Class of 2002, characteristically full of wise words and wisecracks. Those wishing to share thoughts and memories of Prof. Dundes can do so at this forum.
Deliberately concealed garments footwear and other items have been found tucked away in buildings, sometimes even wrapped around mummified cats. This project of the University of Southampton's Textile Conservation Centre is developing an online archive of the finds they have made in an effort to raise awareness of this folk custom.
The Lucky W Amulet Archive : "A folkloric resource that contains hundreds of interlinked pages describing and illustrating amulets, talismans, lucky charms, and good luck pieces from around the world and all eras".
The Ballad of Mulan in Chinese calligraphy by, er, Mi Fei; also translated into English. Via the Mulan FAQ.
Happy Thanksgiving! A friend told me the story of Corn Hill the other day (the house he grew up in is right across the street), so I decided to check out what the internet has to say about the situation. Not much apparently. This ugly website is the only other one I found that didn't say that the pilgrims "borrowed" from a "cache" of corn that they "stumbled upon". What's really crazy is that the pilgrims had never seen corn, nor native americans. This means that they either started digging for fun, or found out about the Wampanoag burial traditions and decided it was a good idea. Either way, happy Grave Robbing Day!