Buck Moon: July’s Full Moon

A moon-flooded prairie; a straying Of leal-hearted lovers; a baying Of far away watching dogs; a dreaming Of brown-fisted farmers; a gleaming Of fireflies eddying nigh, — And that is July! James N. Matthews (1852–1910) As we already know, full Moon traditional names come from a number of places, including Native American, Colonial American, and European sources. Traditionally, each full Moon name was applied to the entire lunar month in which it occurred and not only to the full Moon. July’s long and hot summer days are filled with the…

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July 15: the weather folklore of St. Swithin’s Day

What’s the weather doing outside your window today? July 15th is St. Swithin’s Day and, according to an ancient tradition, if it rains on this day, it will rain for the next 40 days. In short, the story began in the year 971, when the bones of St Swithin (who had died over 100 years before) were moved to a special shrine at Winchester Cathedral, and there was a terrific storm that lasted for 40 days. And People said that the saint in heaven was weeping because his bones had…

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The secret history of Closeburn Castle, one of the oldest continually inhabited houses in Scotland~

Closeburn Castle is a tower house and one of the oldest continually inhabited buildings in Scotland. It is located 1 km east of the village of Closeburn, in the historical county of Dumfriesshire. The lands were granted to the Kirkpatrick family back in 1232, with the likelihood that the ancient fortalice was built thereafter. The tower house was probably built in the late 14th century, although some sources give a date as early as 1180 or as late as 1420. In any case, everything about the building was designed for…

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The ancient origins of the Dog Days of Summer

According to popular folklore: “Dog Days bright and clear Indicate a happy year; But when accompanied by rain, For better times, our hopes are vain.” It sounds good…but what are the Dog Days of summer, exactly? And what do they have to do with dogs? The exact dates of the Dog Days can vary from source to source and probably they have changed over time. However, most sources agree that they occur in mid- to late summer, from July 3 to August 11. This is soon after the Summer Solstice…

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The Month of July: holidays, a Summer Triangle and folklore

Traditionally, July is the month that seems to be dedicated to freedom, independence, and celebrations of countries and culture. It is named after Roman dictator Julius Caesar (100 B.C.–44 B.C.), after his death. Julius Caesar made one of his greatest contribution to history: with the help of Sosigenes, he developed the Julian calendar, the precursor to the Gregorian calendar we use still today. Its celebrations iclude July 1, Canada Day, a Canadian federal holiday that celebrates the creation of the Dominion of Canada in 1867. In short, this federal statutory…

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July 1: It’s time to celebrate Canada Day!

Canada Day, in French Fête du Canada, is a federal statutory holiday celebrating Canadian Confederation. Originally called “Dominion Day”, the holiday commemorates the unification of the three North American British colonies, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and the Province of Canada (which at the time consisted of Ontario and Quebec). Historically, it was on July 1, 1867 when the British North America Act formally joined the colonies, creating the unified, semi-independent Dominion of Canada and, basically, Canada became a self-governing dominion of Great Britain. The enactment of the British North America…

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Remembering Undercliff Sanatorium, Meriden

The state of Connecticut is home to many well-known abandoned mental hospitals. For decades, the Undercliff Sanatorium, a former state health facility, lied at the base of South Mountain, near Hubbard Park in Meriden. Even though it was shuttered, some claimed it was still in use….by the ghosts of former patients. It was originally opened in 1910 as the Meriden Sanatorium and, in 1918, became the first facility in the nation dedicated exclusively to treating children afflicted with tuberculosis but also measles, chickenpox, and smallpox. The name was changed to…

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Strawberry Moon: June’s full moon

As we already know, in ancient times, it was common to track the changing seasons by following the lunar month rather than the solar year, which the 12 months in our modern calendar are based on. For millennia, people across Europe, as well as Native American tribes, named the months after features they associated with seasons. However, some years have 13 Full Moons, which makes one of them a so-called Blue Moon, as it doesn’t quite fit in with the traditional Full Moon naming system, even if this is not…

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Midsummer: history, folklore and magic

Litha, or Midsummer, is a celebration that has been observed for centuries, in one form or another. Its exact dates vary among different cultures, but is primarily held close to the summer solstice. The celebration predates Christianity, and has existed under different names and traditions around the world. It is no surprise, then, that there are plenty of myths and legends associated with this time of year. We all have heard of the ancient summer solstice celebrations held at holy places like Stonehenge and Chichen Itza, and we have read…

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Why do fireflies glow?

Fireflies, also known a lightning bugs, have been captivating humans for centuries with their enchanting lights on summer nights. Insects have a vivid history within folklore and mythology. Butterflies, bees, scarabs and other bugs have become symbolic markers of rebirth, purity, life and death, and the firefly is no exception. In ancient Amazonian mythology, their light came from the gods and provided hope and guidance while, in Japanese legend, two species of firefly, the Genji-hotaru and the Heike-hotaru, are associated with the ghosts of the Minamoto warriors and the Taira…

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June Solstice: first day of Summer

In 2021, the June solstice occurs on Sunday, June 20, marking the start of summer. At least, in the Northern Hemisphere. But the solstice happens at the same instant for all of us, everywhere on Earth. Only our clocks are different. But really is the summer solstice the first day of summer? Yes and no. Basically, it depends on whether we’re speaking about the meteorological or astronomical start of the season. Most meteorologists divide the year into four seasons based on the months and the temperature cycle, which allows them…

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An Irish (true) story: the Enniscorthy poltergeist

You want to exange this life of the modern journalist for the dashing life of an Edwardian hunter news? Well, a century ago, back in 1910, one of the local reporters for County Wexford, Ireland, was one Nicholas Murphy, a man of the Roman Catholic faith who lived at George’s Street in the town of Enniscorthy. He was aged in or around forty at the time, when the call came to cover a most unusual event just a short stroll from his house. The scoop was that an upper room…

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Buried in a Barrel: the story of Captain Sluman Gray~

We’ve probably heard of metaphorically being “over a barrel”, but what about literally being in one? This is the curious sea-farin’ tale of Captain Sluman Gray of Lebanon, in Connecticut (and what happened to him after his demise and burial), even though the gulf between the story and the truth can be as wide as the ocean itself. Well, for a long time, the story regarding Capt. Gray went something like this: an experienced whaling captain, Gray—with his wife Sarah and their children in tow—put out aboard the James Maury…

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The Folklore of Bees

In the middle of spring, outside, in addition to the greening of the earth, we notice a change in the local wildlife. Suddenly, squirrels are everywhere, birds are twittering away madly in the trees, worms are popping in the soil and, everywhere you look, life has returned. Among others, you’ll see bees buzzing around your garden, partaking of the rich pollen in your flowers. The plants are in full bloom at this time of the spring, and the bees take advantage, buzzing back and forth, carrying pollen from one blossom…

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The Month of June 2021: holidays, curiosities and folklore

“It is the month of June, The month of leaves and roses, When pleasant sights salute the eyes, And pleasant scents the noses.” –N. P. Willis (1807-67) The month of June brings beautiful flowers, delicious fruits and vegetables, and an urge to get out there and enjoy the sunshine. June was most likely named for the Roman goddess Juno, patroness of marriage and the well-being of women, or from Lucius Junius Brutus, the one who drove out the last king of Rome and founded the Republic. Another version says that…

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The legend of Richmond’s phantom Drummer Boy~

It seems there is a particular charm that attaches itself to the world of hidden tunnels, especially to ones that are held to possess ecclesiastical associations. Somewhere deep in the English imagination there seems to lurk the suspicion that the monks of yore, dispossessed and done away with during the years of Henrician terror, held close a knowledge of secret subterranean networks that connected their abbeys to other centres of worldly power and, in some instances, to realms neither secular nor holy. Hidden treasures, madness, slumbering knights and kings: these…

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A short story of English Witchcraft Acts

From 1541 to 1951, England had laws strictly prohibiting the practice of witchcraft. During the early years it was a crime punishable by death and the forfeiture of goods and chattels. Put into effect on June 1, 1653, the laws mandated the outlawing of any kind of witchcraft-related activities. However, the 1653 Witchcraft Laws were not the first to appear in the English judicial system, as in 1542, King Henry VIII passed a piece of legislation that made witchcraft a felony, punishable by death. Henry VIII’s Act was the first…

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Crackpot Hall: the dramatic remains of an abandoned farmhouse on the edge of a remote hillside in North Yorkshire, England~

On the slopes of Swaledale, near the village of Keld, North Yorkshire, England, stands the shell of a 300-year-old farmhouse. The building, curiously named Crackpot Hall, is an abandoned 18th-century farmhouse shrouded in its own myths and legends. Its name is said to be derived from the Old Norse words for ‘crow’ and ‘cave’ and, not by chance, many of the underground caverns in the area are also known as Pot, meaning a deep hole. An earlier 16th-century hunting lodge is thought to have stood on the site, when this…

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May’s Full Flower Moon: Full Moon and Bonfire

As we already know, the full Moon names come from a number of places, including Native American, Colonial American, and European sources. May’s Flower Moon name should be no surprise, because flowers spring forth in abundance this month. Its name has been attributed to Algonquin peoples, but also May’s Moon other names tend to speak to the arrival of spring and all that it entails. The Cree names “Budding Moon” and “Leaf Budding Moon” celebrate the awakening of local flora, which really begin to leaf out now in many areas…

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Swaledale Corpse Way: a winding medieval path used by mourners to carry their dead to the nearest church~

There was a time in England when commoners couldn’t afford to hire a horse or a cart to transport their dead, and so they were forced to carry the corpses themselves to the nearest church. This unpleasant situation led to the creation of paths like the Swaledale Corpse Way, now known simply as the Corpse Way or corpse road, a 16-mile medieval track linking the hamlet of Keld with Grinton, farther down the valley, a small village and civil parish in the Yorkshire Dales, in the Richmondshire district of North…

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Devil’s Lake (and its stories): a remnant of the last Ice Age in Wisconsin, this lake is surrounded by fascinating rock formations.

Nestled near the small circus town of Baraboo, Wisconsin, is Devil’s Lake State Park, named for the large lake that sits at its center. The lake is located in the middle of a deep chasm, with no visible inlet or outlet. Its name comes from a misinterpretation of a term from the Ho-Chunk Nation, the region’s Indigenous inhabitants. In any case, on a cool foggy day, it’s not too hard to imagine why, and imagination probably had a lot to do with it. At the time when white trappers, then…

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The story of Dick Whittington and his faithful cat

Born in the 135Os, Dick Whittington was a poor boy even if, eventually, became a wealthy merchant and three-time Lord Mayor of London. According to legend, he made his fortune thanks to the extraordinary ratting abilities of his cat. The story of Dick Whittington and His Cat is the folk tale surrounding the real-life Richard Whittington (c. 1354–1423) and it is not just a fairy tale, but it is part of the folklore of London. Today, near the foot of Highgate Hill is the famous Whittington stone, which is supposed…

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The curious London’s time-traveling tomb

Swinging open the gate of Brompton Cemetery is a bit like swinging open a little bit of London history. Here rests famous suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst, and Beatrix Potter strolled its 39 acres, plucking names from tombstones to use in her work, including deceased Peter Rabbett and Mr. Nutkins. Moreover, here more than 35,000 monuments in all are present, rich and poor, known and unknown. In the middle of the grounds and shrouded by trees stands a fascinating mausoleum in Egyptian style made from granite, with a heavy bronze door secured…

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The princes in the Tower of London: one of the great mysteries of English history

In the White Tower, the old keep at the Tower of London, there is a small staircase tucked away near the entrance. Called the Two Princes Staircase, it’s where the skeletons of two young boys, one aged about 10 and the other 13 were found during renovations in 1674. It’s widely believed the skeletons are of the two princes who disappeared at the site in the late 15th century. And this is one of the great mysteries of English history. Though there has yet to be any scientific evidence to…

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The gray cat ghost at Fairport Harbor Lighthouse – Ohio

Even though the Fairport Harbor Light on Lake Erie, Ohio, was given the amazing nickname “The light that shone for 100 years”, it actually doesn’t live up to its name. The current lighthouse didn’t earn the nickname alone, because Its predecessor, which was built in the same site, shone for the first 46 years. The original lighthouse was built in 1825 and, when the population of the town reached 300, the Painesville Telegraph issued a notice asking for lighthouse bids. Collector of Customs, A. Walworth, signed the proposal but, unfortunately,…

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Jewett City Vampires: the graves of a Connecticut family thought to be plagued by a vampire ~

When people think of early New England, one of the many things that come to mind are the infamous witch trials of the late 17th century, of which Connecticut was quite an active participant with lot of people tried as witches and some of them even executed. During that dark time in state’s history the belief in and fear of supernatural creatures was quite strong: not only were witches a source of concern, so was the Devil himself. This general sense of apprehension in regard to the supernatural was so…

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North Island Lighthouse: the oldest lighthouse in South Carolina ~

Heralding the entrance from the Atlantic Ocean into the shipping channel between North Island and South Island stands the oldest lighthouse in South Carolina. For two centuries, mariners have passed this lighthouse on their way to or from Winyah Bay and the Seaport of Georgetown, located 10 miles away. On a sunny, clear day, the North Island Lighthouse (or Georgetown Light, as it has sometimes been called) is visible from Belle Isle Marina as a tiny iridescent white column while, at night, it is discernible from the same vantage point…

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History and lore of Beltane, the ancient Celtic festival of May Day

Traditionally, Beltane honours life, and represents the peak of Spring and the beginning of Summer. This spring celebration is all about new life, fire, passion, and rebirth, in a time when the earth is lush and green, as new grass and trees return to life after a winter of dormancy, and flowers are abundant everywhere. The Beltane holiday is the time when, in some traditions, the male energy of the god is at its most potent. He is often portrayed with a large and erect phallus, and other symbols of…

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Pink Moon, Planter’s Moon, Seed Moon..or April’s Full Wind Moon

Once someone said…a full Moon in April brings frost. If the full Moon rises pale, expect rain. Well. It’s April, and about halfway through the month, the thunderstorms of March are beginning to subside, and the wind picks up. Seeds are being blown about on the breezes, spreading life all around from one place to another and, not by chance, this lunar cycle is often known as the Seed Moon. Trees have buds, spring daffodils and tulips abound, and the birds are nesting once more. Just like March, this is…

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Maria Higgins, the woman who was buried twice

Glasnevin Cemetery, in Irish Reilig Ghlas Naíon, is a large cemetery in Glasnevin, Dublin, Ireland which opened in 1832. It has its famous occupants, including Eamon de Valera and Michael Collins, author Christy Brown and Dubliners star Luke Kelly. But it is also the final resting place for many ordinary citizens who led interesting lives and deaths. This is the case of Maria Higgins, a completely ordinary person with a completely normal life. Except for the fact that she managed to die twice. According to her husband, Charles Higgins, Maria…

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