From lavish feasts to naked mock marriages, death has long been an excuse for a party, even in the Christian era. This tension between life and death, celebration and grief, is marked by communities in different ways through the ages, but one common theme throughout is the need to come together, to strengthen the bonds of the community as a whole when one of their number is lost.
‘The widow-making, unchilding, unfathering deep.’
—Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1899)
It has been said that no group of workingmen harbour as many superstitions within its collective breast as sailors do—and well this should be, because no body of workers endures such dangerous conditions of employment as those mariners who ply the seven seas to make their living. In this piece, I’ve gathered just a few pearls from the deep. Here you’ll find some interesting superstitions, legends of beasties and ghost ships—ending with one full-length tale of pirate horror.
How is the Green Man linked to the Jack-in-the Green? When was green—instead of red—the colour of lust? And what does any of this have to do with church carvings and pubs? Come with me on a journey through May celebrations of yesteryear.
Robin Hood was first the subject of epic legends under different names before becoming a character of country festivals and the Tudor stage. Georgian literature then elevated him to the status of national hero. From bawdy street performance to ecological festivals today, Robin Hood is an outlaw hero for every age.
The Horned God is a popular image today, from neo-pagan traditions to pop culture. But who is he? And is he really a he? Follow me down this rabbit hole, as I show the journey of the Horned God from ancient feminist Deer Goddess, to Cernunnos—taking a detour by way of Shakespeare, Brothers Grimm, and Victorian Gothic fiction—to a 20th century mock-historical Wiccan fantasy revival and 21st century pop icon.
“If the study of ghost belief lacks academic respectability, the study of belief in non-human ghosts is still more beyond the pale.” (Knox 262)
The vernal equinox is almost upon us. A time to hail the arrival of spring and to wake up our bodies and minds from a long winter’s cosy. This seasonal flux might feel a bit odd this year. We’re all welcoming the coming of spring from our stay-inside lockdowns, but we can create a feeling of renewal by brightening up our homes and cleansing our bodies to best prepare for the times ahead.
Now—while a good spring cleaning is surely a wonderful thing for the spirit, when it comes to how I’ll embrace the season, I’d rather play with herbs in the kitchen than bust out a mop, so here’s my contribution to the Vernal Equinox: beverages!