Monday, April 29, 2013

Robin Hood: Who Was He?

One of the most popular English folk heroes is Robin Hood. This “prince of thieves” stole from the rich and gave to the poor – or so the saying goes. This subject of ballads, books and films has proven to be one of pop culture’s most enduring folk heroes.

Who was this elusive outlaw? Historical searches have turned up numerous possibilities, such as the Yorkshire fugitive Robert Hod, also known as Hobbehod or Robert Hood of Wakefield. Efforts to identify the man behind the legend are complicated because over time the name Robin Hood became a common term for an outlaw. In literature the folk hero was sometimes described as Prince John or Richard the Lionheart.
Here are some fun folklore facts about this Sherwood Forest folk hero who led his gang of Merry Men throughout Englands’ wooded kingdom: 

  • In the 1400’s some Christian revelers celebrated May Day with plays and games involving a Robin Hood figure who was almost become a religious figure.
  • Robin Hood and the Merry Men were often called ‘wolfsheads’ because the sheriff decreed that anyone could hunt them down and collect a bounty just as they did wolves.
  • Considered a rebel, he was a faithful supporter of the rightful king, Richard the Lionheart and fought against Richard's corrupt brother, the usurper Prince John.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

St. George: A Folk Hero of Faith

The celebration of St. George’s Day occurs in several countries around the world, including  Spain, Libya, Canada and Croatia. On this day, people dress up in red and white, and participate in folk dance and enjoy medieval feasts. This day is commemorative of the martyrdom of St. George. This Christian Saint day is generally celebrated on April 23, because that is the day that George died in 303 A.D.

There are many myths and legends about St. George and what he accomplished in his lifetime. It is said that he was born in Eastern Turkey, and moved to Rome to become a solider. After his service in the military, he faced a major religious conflict in Palestine. He refused to recant his faith as a Christian during a time of persecution of those who followed the Christian faith. Therefore the Emperor ordered for his beheading for his dedication to his faith. Christians around the world recognize his bravery, and he is immortalized in the hearts of many European, Canadian, and Middle Eastern people who share his faith.

Today, St. George is the Patron Saint of England. His feast day is celebrated annually, and individuals participate in folk events. England represents St. George Day as a feast day for all to enjoy music, food and patriotic unity. Spain also celebrates the feast day of Saint George with great enthusiasm. For example, in Catalonia, Spain the Christian people celebrate “La Diada de Sant Jordi” annually. St. George’s Day is a celebration of loved ones. In the myth of St. George slaying the dragon, he save the princess and presented her with a red rose. This day is now spent giving gifts to sweethearts, friends or coworkers. Millions of roses are exchanged on this day, as well as thousands of books.

The exchange of books as holds significance for the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural organization that declared this same day, April 23, International Day of the Book. Roses have been traditionally involved since the middle ages, and in more recent history books are traded gifts as recognition for writers Miguel Cervantes and William Shakespeare who died in April 1616.

Overall, this feast day represents faith and goodwill. Those who celebrate St. George’s Day commemorate his heroism and commitment to the Christian Church.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Wine & Dine with Writers


Wine & Dine w/Local Authors
Redwood Cafe, Cotati, CA
Tuesday, April 23,  6-8pm
Antique Farm Equipment, Historical, Chuck Elsbree
Lotus Cross, Adventure Mystery, Ray Anderson
Swimming Against The Tide, Novel, Gloria Tausk Glickman
Mill Rats, suspense novel, Gabriel  A. Fraire

Black Pepper Visions, food stories, Karen Pierce Gonzalez
Six Sonoma County authors will present their works. Call 707-889-3419 or email to request seating at a specific author’s table.
$4.00 minimum food purchase.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Frog Lore

In the spirit of April’s National Frog Month, here are some examples of folklore and mythology surrounding this amphibious creature; especially its development from infancy to maturity. Frogs must go through the process of metamorphosis to reach the stage of being a frog. They start as tadpole, and then sprout tails and gills, and soon after that have legs and can be land or aquatic living creatures. It is no wonder they represent birth and transition in many cultures. Some societies also believe that frogs represent fertility, healing, and opportunity.Here are some examples of folk knowledge and wisdom:

  • Pacific Northwest: It is believed that if you rub the tummy of a frog you will soon be rewarded with good luck. For more details, check out the Snohomish Ground Frog Day.
  •  China: the frog symbolizes “Yin” or good energy. Images of frogs placed in the windows of houses can create happy family living or aid with childbirth.
  •  Japan: A traveler who wears an amulet of a frog is ensured of a safe journey.
  •  Ancient Egypt: The goddess “Heket,” had the head of a frog. Many worshiped her as the Goddess of Birthing. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Rodeo Lore & Superstitions

The history of rodeos dates back to the 1700s, when men in the American wild west hosted competitions to find the best riders, ropers and cattle drovers. The rope swinging, cow tying and branding feats of these western Spanish, Mexican, and Texican men were able to transform their work as vaqueros (cattlemen) on ranches into the sport of rodeo.  They inspired those who came from the East, imitating their dress, equipment, and traditions with their competitions. These rodeo men were able to transform their work as vaqueros (cattlemen) on ranches into the sport of rodeo.  
Many of the first rodeo competitions were held in parts of California and New Mexico.
Interesting to note that in other parts of the world, other societies were developing their own versions of horse-related sports, including Polo which was based upon Persia military training practice. 

As the west became more developed the need for cowboys dwindled. Under the Manifest Destiny policy that the American government implemented, cowboys turned to honing their cattle handling rodeo skills for entertainment purposes rather than small territory rivalries.
Among the first most famous Wild West showmen was Buffalo Bill Cody, who became the lead organizer of the shows that are now referred to as “rodeos”. Rodeo pageantry is still present today. 

As cowboys and cowgirls prepare for competition they pay attention to rodeo  superstitions that have evolved and been shared by word of mouth. Here are a few fascinating ones:

Never set your cowboy hat on a bed. This is based on the idea that a bed is a resting place, and if a hat is set on the bed then it is likely to bring injury or death to that rider.
Wear two different colored socks.  This good luck omen has also been applied to other sports.  

 The Red Bluff Round Up competition is hosting their 92nd rodeo, on April 19-21st. The daily event includes barrel racing, tie-down roping, and riding competitions for both men and women. For details, click here.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Folklore of Swallows

The animal kingdom has long been a part of folklore. The woolly mammoths, bison, and even earlier creatures of the natural world were a mystery that could only be understood through stories. Not only were they sources of sustenance, they were friend and/or foe, depending upon the situation.  In an effort to know how best to relate to them, people developed traditions and customs to protect themselves against threats these animals might pose.  The lore also helped to explain the animals' connections to the mysterious spiritual world.

The understandings that helped to dispel fears and ensure safety appeared again and again in tales, myths, folk art and even folk dance.  In almost all cases, the animals were considered to be clever, wise, foolish, magical and/or destructive, just like human beings.

Birds, in particular, were credited with being able to fly between worlds. As such in many cultures they were messengers to and from the celestial world that remained “up there” and invisible.

The swallow  is one example of a small bird that has a ‘big’ folkloric image. It can bring on its wings either good or bad luck. Here are a few examples:

Denmark: Danish tradition notes that the chatty swallow comforted Christ on the cross. The birds sang, “Svale, svale,” which translates to, “Cheer up, Cheer up.”

Germany: One superstition says that if a woman steps on a swallow’s nest or eggs, she will be barren for the rest of her life.

France: French animal lore states that whomever’s shoulder a swallow lands on, misfortune is sure to occur.
America: Farmers' tales warn that if a swallow is harmed a poor harvest will follow.