"He had stolen a bound devil from a priest in Franconia, using it to practice sorcery. He later sold in for five guilders."
September 14, 2009 12:26 AM   Subscribe

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)
posted by orthogonality (9 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Nothing says tradition like criminally libelling your neighbours and scaring the bejasus out of your kids at the same time. More innocent times!
Had several collections of these as a kid (fortunately only of the fear-inducing rather than racist type) and The Brewery of Eggshells is one of the tales reproduced at your links that's stuck in my mind all these years later. Doesn't seem to have The Black Bull of Norroway which also made an impression, largely for the idea of limitless food and drink.
Sure I read some of those Christianisation legends that had the old gods of Ireland shrinking physically from their pagan giant size to become the Wee Folk after conversion, which I took as a warning of the diminishing effects of religious faith. Sneaky subversive sub-text deliberately added, I wonder.
posted by Abiezer at 4:38 AM on September 14, 2009 [3 favorites]

Great post, and the site is a great resource. I've run across all these categories before, but not all the regional variations.

In spite of how outdated the programming is, I'm still ridiculously fond of R. A. MacAvoy's Tea With the Black Dragon because of the recounting of how Thomas the Rhymer stole away the son he had with the queen of Elfland:

"Hiding the boy at the monastery at Lagan -- this was in the days Cormac O'Dubh was Abbot -- he rode off, leading the hunt away.

"Crofters heard the racket of his horse's hoofs pass in the early night, but in the coldest hour they saw the passage of riders who made no sound, a company with faces like chalk and horses shining without moonlight. This part of it has been remembered in Lagan Valley from then til now.

"In the last hour before dawn this ghastly company arrayed itself before the gates of the monastery, and she who led them threw down upon the grass the body of Thomas. Knowing she could not storm such a stronghold of the new faith she offered a trade: her son for the small breath of life she had left in the father.

"Cormac himself stood at the gate. He cried out that he would pray for souls, but he could not sell them.

"But out from the gate squirmed the boy himself, and he ran to his father and knelt beside him. Spurring her horse the queen plucked up her son. In the same moment Abbot Cormac O'Dubh ran out from the monastery gate to Thomas Rhymer. Him he took and carried to safety behind the gates.

"But even this is not the end of the story. For the queen of Elfland, chalk faced on her pale horse, let out a wail of anger, and she held the boy at arm's length from her, and she put him down from her horse.

" "He stinks!" she cried, "He stinks of the dove! My boy, ma'cushla! Heart of my heart, has been dipped in the filthy bowl!"

"And all the shining horses reared up and sank into the earth, and the Sidhe were gone.

"Because the good Abbot had put the boy beyond the reach of his mother's people as long as time holds sway. He had baptized him."

posted by timeo danaos at 5:02 AM on September 14, 2009

timeo-- that story gave me goose bumps.

Thanks for a great link, ortho. I have a long shelf full of folk tales, great to have a new resource.
posted by nax at 7:08 AM on September 14, 2009

Had several collections of these as a kid (fortunately only of the fear-inducing rather than racist type)

You were lucky. At age ten or so, I was given by a distant relative a horrible book titled "Saints at Your Age", purportedly narrating the lives of very young Catholic saints and specifically directed at prepubescent boys. It was all sorts of fucked up, and I suspect that whoever wrote it had some serious choirboy issues. Within its general wretchedness, one story did however stand out as particularly inappropriate, namely the "life and martyrdom" of "Saint Dominguito del Val". It was the first time I was exposed to the blood libel.

Oh. My. God. It's still in print.

Fortunately I had much better other influences in my upbringing.
posted by Skeptic at 7:12 AM on September 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Shoot, it wasn't just faeries that were Christianized. A number of Celtic gods, goddesses, heroes, and etc. were all Christianized one way or another.

Most of what we know of the Fenian myth cycle in Irish mythology is because of a manuscript titled Agallamh na SeanĂ³rach, or "Colloquy of The Old Men" in English. It starts with a couple of the now-elderly members of the Fenians bumping into St. Patrick, and St. Patrick first baptizes them and then asks them "so who are you guys and what do you do." And the rest of the book consists of the Fenians telling Patrick about the hero Fionn mac Cumhaill and his men, and their adventures.

There's a passage in the middle somewhere, after several days these stories, when Patrick has a bit of a crisis of conscience about whether he should be listening to these heathens and writing all their stories down, like he's been doing; he's visited by two angels who tell him that no, it's cool, because rather than seeing them as true stories, people will think these are just plain fun yarns and they'll all get a kick out of hearing them someday. Thus reassured, Patrick goes back to chronicling the Fenians' story.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:31 AM on September 14, 2009

Whoa. Truthy.
posted by ignignokt at 8:17 AM on September 14, 2009

The judge and the Jew were out in front and were the best at jumping.

Well duh. We do have an uncommon boogie at times.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:25 PM on September 14, 2009

The christianizing of faeries reminds me of that excellent footnote in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell...

In GregoryAbsalom's The Tree of Learning there is a famous passage which relates how, while journeying through Faerie, the last of the great Aureate magicians, Martin Pale, paid a visit to a fairy-prince. Like most of his race the fairy had a great multitude of names, honorifics, titles and pseudonyms;but usually he was known as Cold Henry. Cold Henry made a long and deferential speech to his guest. The speech was full of metaphors and obscure allusions, but what Cold Henry seemed to be saying was that fairies were naturally wicked creatures who did not always know when they were going wrong. To this Martin Pale briefly and somewhat enigmatically replied that not all Englishmen have the same size feet.

For several centuries no one had the faintest idea what any of this might mean, though several theories were advanced and John Segundus was familiar with all of them. The most popular was that developed by William Pantler in the early eighteenth century. Pantler said that Cold Henry and Pale were speaking of theology. Fairies (as everybody knows) are beyond the reach of the Church; no Christ has come to them, nor ever will and what is to become of them on Judgement Day no one knows. According to Pantler Cold Henry meant to enquire of Pale if there was any hope that fairies, like men, might receive Eternal Salvation. Pale's reply that Englishmen's feet are different sizes was his way of saying that not all Englishmen will be saved. Based on this Pantler goes on to attribute to Pale a rather odd belief that Heaven is large enough to hold only a finite number of the Blessed; for every Englishmen who is damned, a place opens up in Heaven for a fairy. Pantler's reputation as a theoretical magician rests entirely on the book he wrote on the subject. In Jacques Belasis's Instructions Mr Segundus read a very different explanation. Three centuries before Martin Pale set foot in Cold Henry's castle Cold Henry had had another human visitor, an English magician even greater than Pale - Ralph Stokesey - who had left behind him a pair of boots. The boots, said Belasis, were old, which is probably why Stokesey did not take them with him, but their presence in the castle caused great consternation to all its fairy-inhabitants who held English magicians in great veneration. In particular Cold Henry was in a pickle because he feared that in some devious, incomprehensible way, Christian morality might hold him responsible for the loss of the boots. So he was trying to rid himself of the terrible objects by passing them on to Pale, who did not want them.

posted by Phanx at 1:15 AM on September 15, 2009

ortho, this folklorist tips her hat to you. Great post, thank you.
posted by futureisunwritten at 6:49 AM on September 15, 2009

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