The purpose of the women's existence also varies, depending on the combination of elements that are driving their legend and the time and place in which the story is being told. Some are looking to rescue or replace the children that have been lost to them. Some appear to herald the deaths of others. And some find themselves stuck in a recursive loop, repeating their deaths over and over again, never resting and affecting nothing.
#FolkloreThursday: Demons in the Night
Before we understood the nature of sleep, and how our brain and body interact while we're sleeping, it was believed that this paralysis was caused by a literal demon, or night hag, sitting on the sleeper's chest. These night hags, or night mares, would ride the sleeper, leaving them terrified and exhausted come morning.
#FolkloreThursday: Double, Double, Toil and Trouble
The general idea--which I think arises from the fact that so many poor women were accused of witchcraft--is that these women were often illiterate. As such, written spells and incantations would be useless.
#FolkloreThursday: The Sacrificial Gods
The sacrifice of gods and sacred kings was a sacred rite meant to bring life back to the land and ensure a bountiful harvest in the fall. It was a rite of renewal and hope.
My comps have to be completed by April 15th and my oral defense has to be completed by April 30th. So, I'll get back into the good stuff after that. I promise...
#FolkloreThursday: The Poisoned Dress
As you can imagine, the idea is relatively simple. An item of clothing has been coated with poison on the inside so that when it touches the flesh of the victim, the poison is absorbed into their skin and they die a horrific and painful death. It's not fun but it's apparently pretty popular.
#FolkloreThursday: What Do You Do When Everyone Wants To Set Fire To Your Workplace?
There are several stories that attempt to explain the loss of the Library of Alexandria. Some stories are very romantic and would have us believe that the library is intact but hidden beneath the sands, waiting for an intrepid librarian/explorer to find it and reveal its knowledge to the modern world.
#FolkloreThursday: The Many Layers of Santa Claus
As I noted at the top, this post in no way covers the entirety of Santa-related mythology. This is a big story and it has more branches than I could ever hope to cover. But I wanted to give y'all an idea of just how expansive and old this legend is.
#FolkloreThursday: The Snow Child
The basic plot that is common to all of the stories is that a husband has been away from his wife for a long absence. Upon returning, he finds that she has mysteriously had a son. The length of the husband's absence makes it virtually impossible for him to be the father. When questioned, the wife gives a divine explanation for the boy, generally to the effect that she ingested frozen water in some form and thus became pregnant with a miraculous snow child. Other versions omitted the snow, had rather longer absences, and way wilder explanations for the bonus mystery child.
#FolkloreThursday: Hans Trapp, The Cannibalistic Christmas Scarecrow
My guess is that it was children who began this folkloric game of telephone, because it's almost always the children. They hear a story, it begins to morph, they grow up, they repeat the story to their children, perhaps with a little spice added, and on it goes. Because children, then as now, seem to like to make any urban legend as gruesome as possible and one-up their friends, eventually we end up with a Christmas-themed scarecrow that eats kids.