You Don’t Have to Wait For October. September Has Creepy Folklore, Too!
Yes, time still, apparently, exists, and according to the “calendar,” it is September. That means many of us want to start getting ready for Halloween, even though it’s a long way off. Well, I have great news for you: October doesn’t have a monopoly on creepy traditions and folklore. September has all sorts of spooky traditions and stories, as well! And who better than our friends over at Folklore Thursday to share some of the best from all over the world.
September is a time of harvest and also the month of the Autumn equinox (which happens this year on the 20th). It’s the time for the Harvest and Corn moons, when reapers would use the light of the moon to keep working in the fields. It’s a time when the world begins to “die,” and across many cultures, people focus on how it will be reborn.
The bringing in of crops and preparation for winter, along with the nights becoming longer than the days, means this is a time of year when people naturally think a lot about, well, death. The grim reaper, let’s remember, was a reaper—that is, a person who harvested grain. The association of the harvest with death (and rebirth) is an ancient one.
#FolkloreThursday The Grim Reaper, here shown sharpening his scythe, has been a symbol of Death harvesting humanity for centuries. Maximilian Pirner, c. 1886-1893https://t.co/JwoGhb6cHv#TheVictorianBookoftheDead pic.twitter.com/NYwMV9WBE0
— Chris Woodyard (@hauntedohiobook) September 17, 2020
“Children are warned against entering the corn-fields because Death sits in the corn” (Frazer)
… and in the rye, haunted by a multitude of Feldgeister, field spirits, notably the fertilising, punishing, shape-changing, child-stealing Kornmume, the rye aunt#FolkloreThursday pic.twitter.com/tVT5larNG7
— Wunderkammer (@DirkPuehl) September 17, 2020
In ancient Greece, the autumn Equinox was when Persephone was believed to enter the underworld, and her mother Demeter would begin to mourn, and thus the world would enter the season of darkness.
Tuesday is the Autumn Equinox, when Persephone leaves her mother, Demeter, and returns to the Underworld as its Queen. Hekate guides her to The Crossroads and beyond. This myth is the foundation of The Eleusinian Mysteries, one of the world’s oldest rituals.#FolkloreThursday pic.twitter.com/88pyvbTHXQ
— Jennifer Soucy (@bansheetales) September 17, 2020
But there are many a rather spooky legends and traditions for the time of the Harvest. Many of them involve the grain itself and the practice of “preserving” some of it in some way to last through the winter. In England, most grain was called “corn,” even if it wasn’t maize. So many people across the continent and the British Isles made “corn dollies,” which would stay in houses through the winter, or even in the field. People would dress and feed these “kern babies” and then burn them the next year after a successful harvest.
The dead were never far from the living in Brittany. A small area of each field was never cultivated or cleared; it was a home for the dead. After each field was harvested, the eldest man present would invoke the dead. This was also done after threshing too. #FolkloreThursday pic.twitter.com/Uf2T9A8iyb
— Bon Repos Gites (@BonReposGites) September 17, 2020
For this week’s British folklore I’m going talk about the harvest tradition of Symbolic corn dolls.This custom began with Saxon farmers, who believed the last sheath contained the spirit of the corn. It was kept until spring for a continuing good crop. #FolkloreThursday pic.twitter.com/BT1cSCcE12
— (@purplelady853) September 17, 2020
corn dollies were made to “House” the spirit of the grain throughout winter. it would be returned to the earth at springtime. here are the corn dollies my mum and I made in August ✨#FolkloreThursday pic.twitter.com/2uwe1dRr3o
— wirt (@mega_melt) September 17, 2020
Polevik was an old Slavic spirit who looked after crops. During harvest he would hide in the last sheath, which would be carefully harvested with ceremonial singing and respectfully stored in a barn until spring time, so the guardian could return to his field.#FolkloreThursday pic.twitter.com/5iKwaVWY1i
— Silver Frost (@Silver__Frost) September 17, 2020
Today the #FolkloreThursday theme is #harvest .
In Scotland,the last sheaf of corn to be cut was made into a intricate design called The Maiden. This was to represent the spirit of corn. It would hang in the home all winter for luck and be fed to the animals in the new year pic.twitter.com/tlfd3aIXaJ
— National Museums Scotland Library (@NMSlibraries) September 17, 2020
The ballad of John Barleycorn sings of him being the Spirit of the Corn or Grain, harvested at Lammastide. He sacrifices his life so that others may live, sustained by his spirit after
consuming the grain. #FolkloreThursday
John Barleycorn https://t.co/uiO3uVm8lp via @YouTube
— Sharon Carr (@Tales4All) September 17, 2020
Today’s #FolkloreThursday theme is Harvests!
Lady Midday, or Poludnitsa, is a slavic demon associated with heatstroke. She appears before workers in fields, asks them riddles, and chops off their heads/drives them insane. Typical gal things.@FolkloreThurs pic.twitter.com/NcZwe8G03Q
— Brendan Atkins (@BrendanSketches) September 17, 2020
Harvest traditions weren’t confined to the west, of course.
#FolkloreThursday Tsukimi (月見) is the Japanese harvest festival, celebrating the full moon nearest the autumn equinox. Decorations are made of grass and wheat, dumpling treats like dango are made, and moon-viewing parties take place, a popular Heian activity. pic.twitter.com/X2DiJP39Zh
— Godyssey (@GodysseyPodcast) September 17, 2020
#FolkloreThursday Ancient Chinese emperors traditionally used the Mid-Autumn Festival to pray for the harvest, fine weather and peace for the country.
Because the harvest was tied to the moon cycle, the festival took place when the moon was at its fullest. pic.twitter.com/t5xXt5hSfe
— Skot Armstrong (@SkotArmstrong) September 17, 2020
The Wangala festival of the Garo tribespeople of Meghalaya, North India. Fruits, grains and rice beer along with music and song are offered to the deity Misi Saljong, who provided the first grains and taught people how to grow them. #FolkloreThursday pic.twitter.com/3yctm2P8Nv
— Alastor Moopy (@AlastorMoopy) September 17, 2020
An old pre-harvest rite in inland Panáy, Philippines involves the tying up and hanging of 7 stalks of perfect rice heads above the home’s stove. It is believed that drying these choice grains by the fireside will hasten the ripening of other heads in the field. pic.twitter.com/WwuQBtGlZ5
— Grammantic (@grammantic) September 17, 2020
In Paraguay, Falajitax is snake like reptile that protects the honey #harvest. It’s known to eat humans alive—whole. Some can escape by cutting out the heart from within, but it has a series of decoy hearts, with its real one in its tail. @FolkloreThurs #FolkloreThursday pic.twitter.com/PITh4pHTSt
— New Gothic Review (@newgothicreview) September 17, 2020
#FolkloreThursday Inari Okami (稲荷大神) is the god of rice, fertility, industry, and success. Inari has had an active evolution over the last 1500 years and part of that is a malleable sex: she is both god and goddess. Harvests depend on her; foxes are a sign of their pleasure. pic.twitter.com/jPKCv062n8
— Godyssey (@GodysseyPodcast) September 17, 2020
There’s so much great folklore out there, from all over the world, and the weekly Folklore Thursday tag is a great place to explore. We don’t need to wait for Halloween to celebrate and learn about fascinating stories and traditions.
(image: Samuel Palmer, A Cornfield by Moonlight with the Evening Star, 1830. Wikimedia commons.)
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