USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘iron’
Customs
Earth cycle
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Michaelmas Festival

Content:
Informant – “Every fall, on September 29th, Waldorf schools celebrate Michaelmas Festival to honor Saint Michael defeating the dragon. The 4th grade puts on a play. The play is different from year to year, but the overall plot is the same. A town is besieged by a dragon. A maiden gives herself up to the dragon to save the town. Saint Michael saves the maiden by taming the dragon. After the play, the high school sings a powerful three part harmony.
‘Hearken all, the time has come when all the world at last the truth shall hear; then the lion shall lie down with the lamb. Our lances shall be turned to reaping hooks, swords and guns be cast as plowshares, nations shall live in lasting piece, all men unite as brothers.’ ”

Context:
Informant – “Around this time, meteor showers are very prevalent in the Northern Hemisphere. The whole festival is very indicative of iron coming down to earth and strengthening humanity for its fight against the darker forces as summer ends and winter begins. The dragon isn’t really a dragon – it’s the evil within us. Saint Michael is the Lord of Light, his iron comes to strengthen mankind with light. The whole festival is a celebration of our higher, nobler self defeating our lower, base impulses.”
The informant learned about this festival on her own when she was studying Waldorf education.

Analysis:
The festival is an interesting mix of pagan and Christian influences. It’s intrinsically linked to both Saint Michael and the ending of summer. The fact that the dragon is tamed and not killed is also interesting. It reinforces the informant’s claim that the dragon is not an external enemy, but our own internal demons. We cannot kill our base impulses, but we can learn to control them. The timing of the festival is also interesting. It is a celebration of light and peace at a time when the world is getting darker and all the plants are dying.

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends
Narrative
Protection

“Some Stuff About Fairies”

I. To keep fairies away, you keep iron around—because fairies are “allergic” to iron, which is where putting a horseshoe above a door came from (because fairies can’t come through a door if it’s got iron on it).

II. Rings of mushrooms—those are fairy rings, and at night fairies come out to dance in them and you’re not supposed to walk through them, because if you do the fairies will take you away and leave a changeling in your place…

III. Changelings are like fairy babies put in the human world because fairies want human children so they leave fairy babies, or fey, in their place.

I vaguely remember a story where a girl is a changeling and nobody knows it for a really long time, but eventually they figure it out and the reason there’s a changeling, and the way they figure out she’s a changeling is because she’s allergic to iron.

 

How did you come across this folklore: “I probably got this through family or read these things somewhere, but I’m not sure… possibly my grandmother told me.”

Other information: “these are just some general things I’ve heard about fairies, individually, not necessarily forming a coherent story.”

These are just bits and pieces of existing folk beliefs, supposedly deriving from the Irish tradition/”fairy faith,” but handing them down, even in this fragmented form, keeps them alive and shows the resilience of folk beliefs against mainstream or popular culture, which has trivialized these beliefs into commercial and often comical representations (such as Disney’s Tinkerbell character).

Folk Beliefs
Magic
Protection

Lucky Horseshoe

My informant described to me on of the good luck charms, (perhaps superstitious), that her sister used when she was younger. She would keep an actual horseshoe by her bed and hang it so that the horseshoe was like the letter U on the wall. It was hung this way to make sure that luck did not literally pour out. For whatever reason, my informant’s sister hung it up to keep the luck in, whereas in some cultures the horse shoe is hung upside down so that luck pours down on a person.

I asked my informant if she knew the history about the horseshoe, why it was used, and what region the horseshoe as a good luck charm originated. She was not certain, but she thought maybe it was from their Irish heritage.

Upon further research I found that horseshoe, made out of iron, was originally used to ward off faeries as part of Celtic tradition. Since then the tradition as been adopted as a good luck charm and the symbolism of the iron in the horseshoe is no longer an essential part to the good luck charm.

It should be noted that my informant told me her sister was superstitious and that she used multiple luck charms from multiple regions, though most of them were European. The informant’s mother even had an elephant pointed at the front door, which was said to bring good luck. I speculate that this might be an American adoption of multiple customs and luck charms.

[geolocation]