Monday, February 23, 2015


Maslenitsa: Eastern Slavic Folk Holiday 

Maslenitsa, also known as Butter Week, Crepe week, or Cheesefare Week is celebrated during the last week before Lent—the eighth week before Eastern Orthodox Pascha (Easter). Although the Orthodox Lent begins on a Monday instead of a Wednesday, Maslenitsa corresponds to the Western Christian Carnival. This year it is held mid-February. 

With origins in both pagan and Christian traditions it is – in Slavic mythology - a celebration of the imminent end of the winter.

During this week in Christianity meat is already forbidden to Orthodox Christians. Only milk, cheese and other dairy products are permitted, hence the name “Cheese-fare week". 

As in Western Christianity parties, secular music, dancing and other distractions from the spiritual life are prohibited during Lent. So Maslenitsa is a last chance to partake of dairy products and those social activities that are not appropriate during the more prayerful, sober and introspective Lenten season.

The popular crepes and pancakes served at this time are made from butter, eggs and milk. 

Community activities include snowball fights and sledding. In some regions, each day of Maslenitsa had its traditional activity: one day for sleigh-riding, another for the sons-in-law to visit their parents-in-law, another day for visiting the godparents, etc. 

Want to try your hand at making the popular Blini (pancakes)? 
Here are some recipes:
Garden leafs and smoked Salmon  

Monday, February 16, 2015

Legendary Places

  Two Legendary Places

There are some places that are filled with legend, most of it based upon real places and real events as passed down from person to person.
In Dutch culture there are two special spots that wake up the imagination. They are Cockaigne and Devils Bridge.
The places shrouded in folklore are very different from one another. One is located on a map of the country and the other exists only in the mind.

Cockaigne is an imaginary place that came into being during the medieval days. It is a place of luxury and pleasures that was considered to be an antidote to the hardships attached to typical peasant life.  Here is where it had been rumored nuns could show off their bottoms without rebuke and food was everywhere. Even the sky was raining cheese.

In an atlas you'll find  Devil’s Bridge. Also known as Gotthard Pass, it is one of the highest mountain passes in Switzerland and connects the German speaking part of the country to the Italian speaking part. 
This Devils Bridge was not used until about the 13th century.  The most popular Devils Bridge legend involves the story of a Swiss herdsman who wished a devil would build a bridge. 
The devil appeared and agreed to build the bridge, but only if the soul of the first person to cross it was sacrificed.

And there went the herdsman!

Related topics:
Bali:A Traveler's Folktale

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Cards from the Heart

 The Folklore of Valentine's Day Cards

In the Middle Ages people said or sang their Valentines. It wasn't until the 15th century that sentiments on paper began to appear. In fact the British Museum is home one of the earliest Valentine cards.
Over time the cards gained in popularity and were often given instead of gifts. By the 19th century they were designed and mass produced in English factories.  Most of them were black and white with simple drawings. The fancier ones included lace and ribbon.
American printer and artist Esther Howland brought the idea to America.  Amazingly, her home-based industry grossed about $100, 000 annually. In 1881 she sold her business to George C. Whitney Comapny.

It is interesting to note that outside of Christmas, Valentine's Day cards are the most widely exchanged card there are.  

Here are some fun facts:
  • According to Hallmark research, more than 50% of all Valentine’s Day cards are purchased in the six days prior to the observance.
  • In order of popularity, Valentine's Day cards are given to teachers, children, mothers, wives, sweethearts and pets.
  • Women purchase 85% of all Valentine's Day cards.
Related Articles: Esther Howland
History of Valentine's Day Cards Video
Saint Valentine
Valentine's Day Card images

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Mythical Irish

The Magical & Mysterious Fir Bolg

In Irish mythology the Fir Bolg race of beings was believed to have lived in Ireland before Tuatha De Danann (tribe of the gods who were the main pre-Christian deities) arrived. The actual origin of the name Fir Bolg is not completely agreed upon. It is often said that it means “men of bags,” but some dispute that theory and suggest it means “men of spears.” No matter what the actual meaning holds, the Fir Bolg are tied to Irish mythology.

Powers of the Fir Bolg Race

They are said to be smaller in stature than the rest of those people living in that region and also worked with gold in some way. Some assume that the origin of the leprechaun can be traced to folklore about the Fir Bolg race; that the captive of the leprechaun gets to keep the gold.

History of the Fir Bolg

It is believed that there were basically three different groups of people who lived together in Ireland:  the Fir Bolg, the fir Domnann and the Gaileanga. It is said that the king of Tuatha wanted the Island for his own people, but that the Fir Blog would not comply. This led to a battle that left the Fir Blog with only a quarter of the Island for themselves. Their efforts and will were what impressed the King of Tuatha and what earned them some of the Island.

Popular Theories

Stories involving the Fir Blog race are not in agreement, but some myths are more popular than others. Some suggest that Fir Blogs were a working race that was forced to carry bags over their shoulders, hence the name “bag men.” Legend states that they finally escaped their abuse when they transformed their bags into boats used to sail Ireland.

Related topics: