Celtic folklore is rife with tales of the Fae. According to the lore, to avoid angering the fairies you should always refer to them by a euphemism, such as “the Good People.” The fairies can be friend or foe, though in Celtic folklore they are more often known for their trickery than in neighboring Germanic lore, where elves are quite helpful. Germanic lore did make its way to Lowland Scotland with the Anglo-Saxons. The stories of helpful Scottish brownies, who do chores around the house are analogous with other Germanic domestic elves such as the German kobold and Scandinavian Tomte. Fairies could travel in groups, known as trooping fairies, or be solitary figures, such as the leprechaun.
Hello and welcome to the Archivist's Corner! This is a column dedicated to sharing interesting pieces of history that have buried in the archives of time.
For this installment I bring you some Halloween related treasures from the past three centuries. I hope you enjoy these antique slices of history as much as I do. ~ Carolyn
Ye Olde Halloween Poetry
"Halloween" by Robert Burns
This is a poem written in 1785 by Scotland's famous poet, Robert Burns, called "Halloween." The version on the right contains notations made by Burns himself, "to enable his readers to understand it, he added valuable notes, explanatory of the charms and spells of this eventful night."
You can read the full poem in original Scots dialect with Burns' notes here on Google Books.
The poem is available in translation to contemporary English here from BBC, where you can also hear an audio recording of the poem.
Since this column was written in the Autumn, I thought it would be fitting to highlight some poems by writers of the British Romantic movement. The Romantic Era had its origins in the early 19th century, but it reached its peak between 1850-1900. It was largely considered to be a reaction to, and to some extent a rejection of, the preceding Enlightenment Era. The Enlightenment brought with it the Scientific Revolution and the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution.
In a recent article about the discipline of folklore , I mentioned that one detriment of these movements was the backlash against folk customs. Because the emphasis was on science and progress, country customs were often seen as backward. The Romantic Movement coincided with the birth of folklore as an academic discipline. Both folklorists and Romantic Era writers sought to press the pause button on this fast paced rush into the future.
For this edition, being the month of February, I’d like to share some old Scottish love ballads with you. However, these are not the epitome of what we would consider romantic today! But, they depict true emotion, and maybe a strong dose of heartache, while also giving a glimpse of a world gone by.
In this installment we travel to ye olde Yorkshire. Here is a selection of poems and lyrics in the Yorkshire dialect, accompanied by antique illustrations of Yorkshire. The poems come from “Yorkshire Dialect Poems” edited by F.W. Moorman (no date given, it appears to be circa 1911, with many poems dating earlier). All illustrations come from “Yorkshire Painted and Described” by Gordon Home (also undated, appears late 19th or early 20th century). I hope very much that you enjoy.
(originally published in Celtic Guide's November 2013 issue)