Category Archives: Folklore

The Doctor and the Devil

The Devil on HorsebackLONGDENDALE has always been noted for the number of its inhabitants devoted to the study of magic arts. Once upon a time, or to give it in the words of an unpublished rhyme (which are quite as indefinite)—

“Long years ago, so runs the tale,
A doctor dwelt in Longdendale;”

and then the rhyme goes on to describe the hero of the legend—

“Well versed in mystic lore was he—
A conjuror of high degree;
He read the stars that deck the sky,
And told their rede of mystery.”

Coming down to ordinary prose, it will suffice to say that the doctor referred to was a most devoted student of magic, or, as he preferred to put it—“a keen searcher after knowledge”—a local Dr. Faustus in fact. Having tried every ordinary means of increasing his power over his fellow mortals, he finally decided to seek aid of the powers of darkness, and one day he entered into a compact with no less a personage than His Imperial Majesty, Satan, otherwise known as the Devil. The essentials of this agreement may thus be described.

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Tree Lore – Blackthorn

The Blackthorn, which is widespread and abundant in woods and hedgerows throughout the British Isles, has the most sinister reputation within Celtic folklore, in ancient Ireland it was known as Straif, thought to be the origin of the word strife.

Although associated with trouble and bad luck, it is also associated with the overcoming of these negative aspects and the transformation that this struggle can bring.

 

Cailleach the Celtic goddess of winter is depicted as a blue veiled old woman with a raven on one shoulder and a blackthorn staff which she uses to summon storms. She emerges at Samain and takes over the year from the summer goddess Brigid.

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The Giant of Sessay

The Darrel family owned Sessay (a small Yorkshire village around 4 miles from Thirsk) from the end of the 12th century to the days of Henry VII. It was during reign of that king, that the three sons of George Darrel died without fathering heirs, the manor therefore passed to his daughter — a strong-minded young woman, named Joan.

Taking advantage of the lack of a lord to defend the manor an evil giant took up residence in the woods around the village. He was a huge brute in human form — legs like elephants’ legs, arms of a corresponding size, a face most fierce to look upon, with only one eye, placed in the midst of his forehead; and a mouth large as a lion’s, garnished with teeth as long as the prongs of a pitchfork.

His only clothing was rudely fashioned from cow hides; while over his shoulder he carried a stout young tree, torn up by the roots, as a club.

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Bowd Slasher

For hundreds of years the Peace Egg or Pace Egg play was a common part of the Easter festivities in Lancashire with bands of disguised mummers going from house to house presenting their play.

Gradually what was once an adult tradition became one enacted by children often gaining more in donations than their parents could earn in the wool and cotton industries.

Below is an contemporary observation of one of these performances by the Lancashire dialect writer John Trafford Clegg (Th’ Owd Weighver)

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Robin Hood’s Visit to Longdendale.

Robin Hood, the greatest bowman that old England ever knew, frequently visited Longdendale. Probably the “thick woods of Longden,” with their wealth of wild red deer, induced him to lead his band from the haunts of merrie Sherwood to the no less merrie land of Longdendale.

Old traditions tell of a “mighty forest in Longdendale, whose trees were so thick that the squirrels could leap from branch to branch from Mottram to Woodhead.” Such a country might well attract a lover of the free forest life like bold Robin Hood; moreover, there ran a road over a good portion of Longdendale, along which the fat old Abbots of Basingwerke were wont to convey their treasures from their township of Glossop, to their fine abbey seat in Wales. Doubtless the Abbot dreaded a meeting with the mighty outlaw, for Robin dearly loved to pluck a fat-bellied churchman that he might place the golden nobles in the pouches of the poor.

This story, however, has nothing to do with the robbing of the Abbots or Monks of Basingwerke. It is a story of skill and fabulous strength. Indeed, there are many who doubt that the incidents related ever occurred—simply because such things seem impossible. But then those incidents are recorded in the traditions of the people of Longdendale, and, consequently, they are worthy of serious consideration. He must be either an amazingly bold or an exceedingly ignorant man, who would cast a doubt on the veracity of a Longdendale tradition. Read more »

The Giant’s Cairn, the Last Battle and the Lady of the Lake

In just a few weeks I’ll be scaling Snowdon’s lofty heights with a group of friends. It’s been suggested that as the leader of this expedition I should be able to point out landmarks and the history of the place.

1. (Walk) Entering the Horseshoe

2. (Legend) The Giant’s Cairn

3. (Walk) Ascent of Y Lliwedd

4. (Legend) The Last Battle

5. (Walk) The Watkin Path and summit

6. (Walk) Descending the Pyg Track

7. (Legend) The Lady of the Lake

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Robin Hood and the Monstone

The Monstone Looking towards Blackstone Edge

Blackstone Edge on the horizon

From “In Olden Days” by Rev. G. R. Oakley, M.A., B.D.,

The glorious beauty of an early autumn morning, the sweet scent of the wide-stretching moorland, the invigorating breeze from the east sweeping over the hills, the occasional calls of the birds or the flutter of their wings, all combined (as they still combine) to make life seem more than usually joyous on a certain day in the year 1247, when a company of men might have been seen assembled on that part of Blackstone Edge which we now call “Robin Hood’s Bed.”

Robin Hood's Bed

Robin Hood’s Bed

Stalwart fine fellows were they, clothed in well-fitting tunics of the fashion of the day, and of a colour so like that of grass that one could readily understand how easily the owners might lie in ambush in some parts of the country—in forest lands, for instance—were they so disposed.

There were at least a hundred men, and every man was armed, most of them with that splendid English weapon, the long-bow, which in later days gained Crecy and Poictiers and Agincourt, and the use of which Bishop Latimer (in 1549) described as “a godly art, a wholesome kind of exercise, and much commended in physic.” Many of them, however, carried quarter-staves—tough poles of wood some seven feet long, shod at each end with iron, and which, when grasped in the hands of athletic men and twirled with practised skill, became terrible weapons, one blow from which usually terminated a combat.

These archers and others—all clad in the costume of Lincoln green already described—made a striking picture as they stood in a semi-circle listening intently to the words of the man who stood upon one of those great stones which still mark “Robin Hood’s Bed.”

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The Seal Catcher and the Merman

mermanThere was a man who lived not very far from John o’ Groat’s house, he lived in a little cottage by the sea-shore, and made his living by catching seals and selling their fur, which is very valuable.

He earned a good deal of money in this way, for these creatures used to come out of the sea in large numbers, and lie on the rocks near his house basking in the sunshine, so that it was not difficult to creep up behind them and kill them.

Some of those seals were larger than others, and the country people used to call them “Roane,” and whisper that they were not seals at all, but Mermen and Merwomen, who came from a country of their own, far down under the ocean, who assumed this strange disguise in order that they might pass through the water, and come up to breathe the air of this earth of ours.

But the seal catcher only laughed at them, and said that those seals were most worth killing, for their skins were so big that he got an extra price for them.

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The Pace Egg Play

Children”Pace Egging” in Hebden Bridge.

The Pace Egg Plays are traditional village plays, with a rebirth theme, in which St George smites all challengers and the fool, Toss Pot, rejoices. The drama takes the form of a combat between the hero and villain, in which the hero is killed and brought to life, often by a quack doctor.

The plays take place in England during Easter; indeed, the word ‘Pace’ comes from the old English word ‘pasch’ literally meaning ‘Easter’, but have also been known to have been performed at other religious celebrations such as Christmas.

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The Life of Dr. John Dee (1527 – 1608) by Charlotte Fell Smith

The Life of Dr. John DeeDr. John Dee, Elizabethan Scholar, Astrologer, Occultist  and Alchemist.

John Dee was a much respected mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occultist, alchemist and adviser to Queen Elizabeth I, but subsequently derided as a conjurer and a trickster.

Dee became Queen Elizabeth’s trusted advisor on astrological and scientific matters, choosing her coronation date himself. From the 1550s through the 1570s, he served as an advisor to England’s voyages of discovery, providing technical assistance in navigation and ideological backing in the creation of a “British Empire”

Dee’s library, at 4000 volumes, was the largest philosophical and scientific library collection in Elizabethan England.

Queen Elizabeth finally made him Warden of Christ’s College, Manchester, in 1595.

AVAILABLE AT LULU.COM – £7.99

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