The Old Fairy Bridge of the Isle of Man (and how to find it)

Locals of the Isle of Man are well acquainted with the folklore around the so-called Fairy Bridge on the A5 between Ballasalla and Newtown. Local superstitions state that those who do not greet the bridge’s fey inhabitants with something like “Hello, fairies!” as they pass over it may fall prey to their malicious, mischievous whims. From the 1950s, it was reportedly the custom to advise a visitor of the myth on the journey south from Douglas or north from the airport. Also motorcycle racers and spectators at the annual TT…

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White deer in myths and legends

What does it mean if you see a white deer in the woods? The deer is one of the most silent and elusive of woodland creatures in its native habitat. However, they have adapted also in our industrialised and heavily farmed landscape. Interestingly Great Britain have more deer now than at any time in the last ten thousand years, to the point where they can be a serious pest. Britain’s native deer species, the red and the roe, have been joined more recently by fallow, probably a Norman introduction, sika,…

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Buried under a boulder: the grave of Meg Shelton, the Woodplumpton Witch

In the old Lancashire village of Woodplumpton near Preston, England, is the church of St. Annes, originally 11th Century but rebuilt in 1639 and 1900, with its structure that stands to this day. Interestingly, among the variety of gravestones in its burial ground, lies the very distinctive sight of a large boulder partially embedded in the ground. In front of it, a small sign reads: “The Witch’s Grave. Beneath this stone lies the remains of Meg Shelton alleged witch of Woodplumpton, buried in 1705.” When one mentions Lancashire and witches…

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The Month of October: holidays, folklore and traditions

“October glows on every cheek, October shines in every eye, While up the hill and down the dale Her crimson banners fly.” Elaine Goodale Eastman (1863–1953) In October, fall (or autumn, if you prefer…but what’s the difference?) comes into its full swing. This month’s name stems from Latin octo, “eight”, because this was simply the eighth month of the early Roman calendar. When the Romans converted to a 12-month calendar, the name October remain despite that fact that it’s still today the 10th month. The early Roman calendar, thought to…

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Michaelmas: the day the Devil spit on blackberries!

Michaelmas Day is the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, celebrated on this day, 29 September. Traditionally St. Michael is the patron saint of the sea and maritime lands, of ships and boatmen, but also of horses and horsemen. He was the Angel who hurled Lucifer, the devil, down from Heaven for his treachery. It is one of the Quarter Days, the days that marked the four major divisions of the year (Lady Day on 25th March, Midsummer on 24th June, Michaelmas on 29th September, and Christmas on 25th December).…

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Matthew Hassal, Isle of Man Vampire

The Isle of Man is an ancient land steeped in old superstition, including dark wraiths, fairies and even vampires. Located on the outskirts of Castletown is Malew Churchyard, a regular graveyard with gravestones dating back centuries, but with also a curious gravesite. The burial plot is cornered by four iron stakes driven deep into the ground, draped with heavy chains, while a huge slate slab covers the grave. But It remains a mystery as to exactly why the chains were placed here back in the 1850s, and they still exist…

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The owl of Cwm Cowlyd and the oldest animals in the world

In Welsh folklore the Owl of Cwm Cowlyd lived in the woods that once surrounded Llyn Cowlyd, the deepest lake in northern Wales, that lies in the Snowdonia National Park. Even if today the woods are gone, the legends live on in two tales that feature a search for the oldest and wisest animals in the world. In the first the owl is said to be among the oldest animals in the world, while in the second the owl is really the oldest. The first story is “Culhwch and Olwen”,…

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The Sluagh: Celtic spirits of the unforgiven dead

Celtic folklore has given us some of the darkest and most frightening stories in history including three-headed monsters, headless horsemen, famine-spreaders, and a variety of creepy spirits. One of the most fascinating are probably the Sluagh na marbh (host of the dead), or “Fairy Host”, spirits of the unforgiven or restless dead who soared the skies at night searching for humans to pick off, and especially the dying. Some believed them to be Fallen Angels, while others thought them the spirits of unbaptized children who had returned to earth to…

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Folklore and magic of crows and ravens

Both crows and ravens have appeared in a number of different mythologies throughout the ages. In some cases, these black-feathered birds are considered an omen of bad tidings, but in others, they may represent a message from the Divine. But, above all, they have long been synonym of doom and devastation as they destroy crops, devour corpses, act as emissaries for soothsayers and gods, and are closely linked to human fortunes. But not only, as they have long plagued farmers and gardeners by devouring their freshly planted seeds. An old…

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The month of September: holidays, curiosities and folklore

There are flowers enough in the summertime, More flowers than I can remember— But none with the purple, gold, and red That dye the flowers of September! —Mary Howitt (1799-1888) September, in Old England, was called Haervest-monath, literally Harvest Month, as a time to gather up the rest of the harvest and prepare for the winter months. The Anglo-Saxons called it Gerst monath (Barley month), because it was their time when they harvested barley to be made into their favourite drink – barley brew. September’s name comes from the Latin…

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Sturgeon Moon: August’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 the Northern Hemisphere seasons, and many of these names are very similar or identical. Today, we use many of these ancient month names as Full Moon names. A common explanation is that Colonial Americans adopted…

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August 19: celebrate National Potato Day!

National Potato Day is today, August 19, so if you like spuds, this one’s for you! A bag of chips, french fries, baked potatoes and mashed potatoes are just some of the delicious things you can make with potatoes, little tubers that have played an important role in the history of the world and was even the primary food crop for an entire nation. Potato Day celebrates the tuber and all the things you can use it for. What’s your favorite potato treat? Potatoes were first cultivated by man in…

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Celebrated International left-handers day on August 13!

International Left-Handers Day is today, August 13! It was started by the Left-Handers Club on 13th August 1992, when they launched International Left-Handers Day, an annual event when left-handers everywhere could celebrate their sinistrality and increased public awareness of the advantages and disadvantages of being left-handed. According to other sources, the day was first observed in 1976 Campbell, founder of Lefthanders International, Inc. But, in any case, this event is now celebrated worldwide, and in the U.K. alone there have been more than 20 regional events to mark the day…

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Why is Friday the 13th considered unlucky?

Ready for Friday the 13th? Well, depending on where you are, August 13, 2021, is considered a lucky (or unlucky) day. But why exactly is this day often associated with good or bad luck? What is the meaning of Friday the 13th and how did this superstition even begin? Friday the 13th occurs one to three times each year. For example, 2015 had a Friday the 13th in February, March, and November, while 2017 through 2020 had two Friday the 13ths each, and the years 2021 and 2022 will both…

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August 3: National Watermelon Day

Mark Twain said: “When one has tasted watermelon, he knows what the angels eat.” Well, this American literary hero understood the serious deliciousness of this fruit (or vegetable?), and, hopefully, after reading this article, you do, too. National Watermelon Day on August 3 recognizes the refreshing summertime fruit and, since it is 92% water, it is very satisfying in the summer heat. In fact, in the Kalahari desert (in Southern Africa), where they are called tsamma, watermelons are one of the main sources of water during the dry, hot season.…

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The Month of August: holidays, falling stars and folklore

“Summer declines and roses have grown rare, But cottage crofts are gay with hollyhocks, And in old garden walks you breathe an air Fragrant of pinks and August-smelling stocks.” —John Todhunter (1839-1916) Welcome August! What do we celebrate in this month? August is the time to reap what you’ve sown, quite literally even, as most summer vegetables are ready to be harvested. In fact for us it brings the best bounty of the season, including ripened tomatoes, melons and watermelons, sweet corn on the cob, and zucchini. Canning season is…

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Lammas: welcoming the harvest

We are in the middle of the dog days of summer, when the gardens are full of beautiful flowers, the fields are full of grain, and the harvest is approaching. The hot days of August are upon us, much of the earth is dry and parched, but we know that the bright reds and yellows of the harvest season are just around the corner. Corn has been planted, tended, harvested and consumed for millennia, and so it’s no wonder that there are myths about the magical properties of this grain.…

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The Spirit of the Grain Fields

Harvest is the most important time of the agricultural calendar. Not only in past, the fortunes of farms, families, and even entire communities were tied to its outcome. And thus, unsurprisingly, harvest has developed its variety of deities, traditions, and superstitions which are found in almost every farming culture worldwide. Ever since the first farmers planted their crops over 10,000 years ago, people have had an anxious wait for summer. Will there be enough hot weather to ripen the corn? Will an unlucky spell rot the grain in the fields?…

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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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Tanabata: the Japanese Star Festival

Tanabata (Japanese: たなばた or 七夕, meaning literally “Evening of the seventh”), also known as the Star Festival (星祭り, or Hoshi matsuri), is a Japanese festival that celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi, represented by the stars Vega and Altair respectively. According to legend, the Milky Way separates these lovers, who are allowed to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the lunisolar calendar. The festival was introduced to Japan by the Empress Kōken in 755. It originated from “The…

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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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The Hartest Stone

If stones could talk – what stories could they tell? Hartest is a small village south of Bury, Suffolk, England, located in a deep dale. At its North end lies its silent stone sentry, a limestone boulder with an interesting past. And, of course, there are different versions of its story. Just as the Treaty of Utrecht brought Britain the Rock of Gibraltar, it is also said, in at least one story, to have brought it this more humble roughly one metre cube rock, dragged to its present spot in…

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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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The Three Wise Monkeys of Tōshōgū Shrine in Nikko, Japan

The grand Tōshōgu Shrine was built in 1617 in Nikkō, and it is one of Japan’s most lavishly decorated shrines. It is actually the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was later deified, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, a dynasty that ruled Japan from 1603-1867, with its capital in Edo, current day Tokyo. This Shinto shrine is a part of ‘Shrines and Temples of Nikko’, a UNESCO World Heritage site and 5 of its structures are categorized as the National Treasures of Japan. A cobbled path leads up to its…

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