The Light in the Underworld: “The Moon” by the Brothers Grimm

“In days gone by there was a land where the nights were always dark, and the sky spread over it like a black cloth, for there the moon never rose, and no star shone in the obscurity.” So begins the Brothers Grimm “The Moon,” a cosmological story of how the moon came to be. Four…

Witches Incognito: The Goose Girl (and Her Mother, and the Chambermaid)

(Note: I recommend first reading the story here if you haven’t before. It makes this post easier to follow.) Some stories resonate with a specific kind of magical practice.  For “The Goose Girl,” it’s protective magic. In a culture where magic and witchcraft is often sanitized, limited to candle lighting, meditation, and personal affirmations (all…

Old Frick, the Devil’s Grandmother: Goddesses in Folk Tales and Lore

Old Frick is a complex, mysterious figure in Brandenburgian lore, sometimes fearsome, other times helpful. Alternately referred to as Frau Fricke, she is one of a number of feminine spirits given the respectful title Frau (meaning “lady”) across Germany (Hammer 62). I first came upon Frick while researching the Norse goddess Frigg. Wikipedia cites “Fricke” as the Low German…

Witches Incognito: The Spindle, the Shuttle, and the Needle

  “Once upon a time there was a girl whose father and mother died when she was still a little child. Her godmother lived all alone at the end of the village in a little house, and earned her living with spinning, weaving, and sewing.” So begins the Grimm Brothers’ tale “The Spindle, the Shuttle,…

Bells as a Magical Tool

The boughs do shake And the bells do ring, So merrily comes our harvest in, Our harvest in, our harvest in, So merrily comes our harvest in. “Harvesting” Nursery Rhyme Bells, like drums, are very old instruments that have played important roles in many aspects of human life. For centuries, they have been part of…

Witches Incognito: Aschenputtel

One thing I’ve begun to notice as I look more closely at fairy tales is that there are many more “witches” in them than previously believed, and that many of the beloved characters that are portrayed as helpless damsels in distress actually employ quite a bit of agency. Quick note: I put the word “witches”…

Magical Animals in European Folk Tales and Lore: Chickens

Chickens are humble animals. They’re heavy, mostly earthbound birds, spending their days pecking at the ground, clucking or crowing (not exactly musical), bobbing their heads as they strut around the farmyard. In media, they’re often depicted as fussy and silly — think Foghorn Leghorn and Prissy in Looney Tunes cartoons, or Lady Cluck in Robin…

Mirror, Mirror: Glass as a Magical Tool in Fairy Tales

Thus, her mirror represents the ability to see through the ‘veil’ that mystics say separates the visible and spirit worlds. – Skye Alexander, Mermaids (200). When I spirit journey, more times than not I enter the Otherworld through glass of some sort — a mirror or a window — a technique that has a long history in…

To Ride Through the Air on a Very Fine Gandr: The Staff as a Magical Tool in Fairy Tales

I’ve been reading Claude Lecouteux’s Witches, Werewolves and Fairies: Shapeshifters and Astral Doubles in the Middle Ages, which I was lucky enough to find at my local library. It’s a fantastic examination of the Double (also variously called the fylgja, familiar, fetch, etc., depending on where you’re looking) and the role it played in medieval and…

A Hedge Witch’s Holiday Calendar

Several months ago, I decided to write down and formalize my own cycle of holidays. While I’ve been inspired in some ways by some of the Wiccan and Celtic holidays, not all of them have meaning for me and I don’t feel comfortable celebrating them. I realized that I need a cycle of holidays that…

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