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You Don’t Have to Wait For October. September Has Creepy Folklore, Too!

painting of a cornfield by moonlight

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.

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.

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.

Harvest traditions weren’t confined to the west, of course.

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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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.