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.
#FairytaleTuesday: The Three Ravens
this story has been told in a number of ways and the basic gist is pretty much always the same: a varying number of older brothers get turned into birds of some kind (usually swans, geese, ducks, or ravens) by a female family member that wants them to just go away and and so the clever and devoted little sister must search them out and break their curse. There are some variations that don't include the brothers turning into birds, like the North African story "Udea and Her Seven Brothers," but even that involves assistance from ravens and pigeons.
#FairytaleTuesday: Mother Holle
Mother Holle is a little like Baba Yaga in that she has a fearsome visage and she may offer help or hindrance, depending on how she feels about you. Unlike Baba Yaga, however, Mother Holle's motivations are much simpler: she really just wants someone to fluff her bed every morning.
Much like Santa Claus, Perchta was believed to visit houses between Christmas and Epiphany in search of who had been good or bad. If you had been a good child--worked hard and behaved yourself--you might find a silver coin in your shoe. If you hadn't, well...
#FairytaleTuesday: Cinderella, aka Aschenputtel (The Little Ash Girl)
Cinderella has got to be the most well-known fairytale in the world. It is also incredibly old and has thousands of variations...That being said, there is no way that I can possibly do full justice to the rich and fascinating history of this tale type. But I'll do my best to give a suitable overview of the Grimm version.
It was Hekate and her torch that assisted Demeter in her search for Persephone, and it is Hekate who leads Persephone back and forth on her yearly journey between life and death. Hekate's transformation into the patron of witches arose out of this chthonic and nocturnal nature and she became heavily associated with herb-lore and the use of poisonous plants. It was written that Hekate was the patron of the witch Medea, which helped to further her reputation as the Goddess of Witches.
#FairytaleTuesday: Hansel and Gretel
The fact that the woman who willingly marries the widowed father was most likely doing so because she literally had no other options--due to poverty, age, or suspected infertility--is never considered because her feelings are of little value. The potential for being resentful at having a husband and children forced upon her for reasons out of her control is is great, but it doesn't matter, given that women are expected to be motherly, no matter the situation.
There are reams of lore and academic texts and hypotheses and theories about who she was, where she came from, and what she became. But in studying the fragments, it's not hard to see how women would find a kindred spirit in her. All the stories seem to agree that Lilith was passionate and wanted to be independent.
#FolkloreThursday: The Wild Hunt
At its root, the hunt is believed to serve as a symbol of the wildness and chaos of nature. It reminds us of nature's inherent darkness and that we should remember to be afraid of the black night because dangers abound for those who are careless enough to be caught out when the riders come to call.