Pagans, Folklore, and Dogs

Click over to Pagans for Archaeology, where Yewtree interviews Australian Pagan scholar David Waldron, author of Shock! The Black Dog of Bungay: A Study in Local Folklore, about dogs, folklore, and the Pagan revival.

I think a key issue for me was that transmission of symbols, images and ideas from the pagan past are very fragmentary, complex and ambivalent. People are very quick to throw the “Pagan Survival” label around because they so badly need to feel a connection to the past and a feeling of pastness in what they do. People can also be very quick to deny connection to a Pagan past when debunking. One thing that was really apparent to me when doing my research on the Black Dog of Bungay from a local history perspective, was that it is not a zero sum game. Let’s look at the Black Dog of Bungay for example. There are fragments in the myth from the Celts, Vikings and Romans for example. However, if I was to speak to a 16th century Puritan in Bungay he may not even know what a Celt was and would certainly take offense at the suggestion his view of the attack on St Mary’s church by a Black Dog or “Devile in such a likenesse” was Pagan.

He makes some interesting points about how folklore incorporates outside interpretations, digesting them, and  presenting them as truly indigenous and original. Worth a read.

Little Red Riding Hood is Older than You Think

The story of Little Red Riding Hood, usually dated to the 16th or 17th century, may be much older, says an anthropologist who studied multiple versions from around the world.

Professor Jack Zipes, a retired professor of German at the University of Minnesota who is an expert on fairy tales and their origins, described [Dr. Jamie Tehrani’s] work as “exciting”. He believes folk tales may have helped people to pass on tips for survival to new generations.

He said: “Little Red Riding Hood is about violation or rape, and I suspect that humans were just as violent in 600 BC as they are today, so they will have exchanged tales about all types of violent acts.

“I have tried to show that tales relevant to our adaptation to the environment and survival are stored in our brains and we consistently use them for all kinds of reference points.”

I had heard it argued lot of the classic European fairy tales reflect the social destruction of the Thirty Years War (1618–1648)–disease, fighting, looting.

But apparently “Little Red Riding Hood” counts as ancient Pagan wisdom.

(Via Arts and Letters Daily.)

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The Fairies of Torchwood

I never joined the Doctor Who cult, although I had friends who remembered every episode and could debate whether Peter Davison made a better Doctor than William Hartnell.

At a post-INATS dinner, however, a publisher friend said that I had to see Torchwood, a Doctor Who spin-off. He compared it to the X-Files. Netflix had it, so I ordered Season One (2006).

We-l-l-l. The X-Files it’s not. Underneath the aliens and “time rifts” and occasional goriness, it’s not as dark  — there is not the sense of hopelessness against greater forces and the personal doubts that pervade the world of agents Scully and Mulder.

In fact, every time that I see the four main Torchwood operatives running down the street — they seem to run a lot, for running and frenetic music cover up plot slippages and cheesy special effects — I want to sing along, “Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees.”

But I heartily approved of the episode called “Small Worlds.”

Every time I see someone who gets all mushy about fairies, I want to remind them, “The fairies are not your friends, anymore than the coyotes are your friends.” You can interact with them, but under other circumstances they would eat you. They are a different life form, and they are not All About Us.

Gallimaufry with Bells On

These women know how to dress for an outdoor festival.

¶ Jason links to articles and web sites for new, nontraditional Morris sides. I am not sure if I would call what they are doing “reclaiming” — nor do I know if Jason chose that word for its this-side-of-the-pond connotations. Any folk tradition changes with time, even as its practitioners insist that “we’ve always done it this way” or “we are just going back to the way that the old-timers used to do it.” Lots of good links.

¶ Hecate has a Wiccan landscaping question. I have already contributed my two cents’ worth.

¶ The US Postal Service is piloting a program to make it easier to recycle inkjet cartridges and small electronics. (Via Lupabitch.)

The Wee ‘Oss in Cornwall and California

Folklorist Alan Lomax’s 1953 film of the Padstow, Cornwall, May Day festival, Oss Oss, Wee Oss! is now available on DVD, together with the Pagan hobby horse procession from Berkeley, California, and an updated film from Padstow in 2007.

Order before July 3 for free shipping.

You can also see small video clips from the original 1953 documentaryon the Web.

A nice touch: the two-sided DVD has both NTSC and PAL formats, so it can be watched anywhere.

Oss Oss, Wee Oss!

Several clips from a 1953 filming of the Padstow, Cornwall, May Day “hobby horse” procession are available on the Web. The film was made by Peter Kennedy, George Pickow, and Alan Lomax, an American folklorist.

Some .wmv selections are here.

But the best clip is here, especially for its slightly eerie, archetypal ending, which some people say prefigures The Seventh Seal. UPDATE: This last link no longer works.