Folklore Thursday: Harvest Spirits ~ Black Earth

In the autumnal glow of Folklore Thursday’s Harvest theme, here are a few Slavic spirits of the grain

POLEVIK

Polevik

(Also known as Polewiki. Polevoy. Polovoi.)

The Polevik is a strange spirit of the grain fields. they are usually masculine though some accounts mention females and children of the species. The Polevik is described as a rugged dwarf with dark earthy skin and grass for hair. They are frequently dressed in white and each of their eyes is a different colour. It is sometimes claimed that their feet are cloven like those of goats.

When in a jovial mood, Polevik may amuse themselves by killing wild birds or by causing travellers to become way-led and confused in surroundings which may normally be familiar to them. In their more aggressive moods, which accounts for most tales about them, they are violent, dangerous creatures.

They do not like idlers, and lazy field-workers may be lucky just to receive a hefty kick from a Polevik, for if they chanced upon someone drunk and asleep in the fields they would strangle the person to death. Like the Rye Wolf and the Poludnitsa, tales of the Polevik may be told to children to stop them playing in the cereal fields and risk damaging valuable crops, but legitimate workers may too feel ill at ease working with a Polevik presence looming. Therefore it was hoped that they would be appeased with an offering of two eggs and a cockerel that could no longer crow, placed in a ditch alongside the field. The Polevik were most active at noon and dusk, so it was desirable not to be in the fields at those times.

It is said in Russia that the Polevik shrink to the size of chaff or stubble when the harvest is nearly complete and will hide in the last few stalks and be taken in to the sheds. As it is also claimed that the Polevik causes disease amongst those who displease him, it is possible that he is symbolic of Ergot fruitbodies. Ergot (Claviceps purpurea) is a fungus that infects cereal crops, especially Rye, sometimes with calamatic effect. Whilst its hard dark purple fruitbodies are quite apparent it can still get get into the food supply as it is not noticable when ground and cooked. If ingested by people or animals it can result in poisoning called Ergotism. Rather than kill the toxicity baking the grain may strengthen the effects.

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Rye Mother

(Also known as Rye Grandmother. Rugia Boba. Zalizna Baba. Rzhana Baba. Zhytnia. Zalizna Zhinka – The Iron Woman.)

The concept of a Corn Mother was prevalent in the faiths of many cultures across the world. She may have often had a dark side relating to her association with the natural cycle of life, death and rebirth, yet in Slavic and also Germanic lore her sinister side is most prevalent.

Manifesting as a sinister old crone, she hunts for children with her iron hook, and once captured she will take them to suckle upon her iron breasts, yet it is not white wholesome milk that the children will drink but black poison that will sicken, madden and perhaps kill them. In this dark aspect she is not the personification of the nourishing grain but perhaps the embodiment of the toxic fungi, Ergot (see also Polevik).

Whilst the causes of Ergotism or Holy Fire were only officially recognised by science in the 16th Century, it can be assumed that peasants whose lives depended on the land would have known the cause and effect of the dark smut growing on their crops, if only by the resulting condition of the consequences of their livestock having eaten infected grain. Superstition may have also developed blindly around Ergotism as when cooked in human bread it is not visibly discernible. Obviously good grain would be used in favour of bad, but in hard times it may be a choice of either starvation or eat infected crops – damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Alas in bad weather when yields may be low already, the climatic conditions are also better for Ergot to grow. In the Little Ice Ages (1150-1460 AD and 1560-1850 AD) ergotism outbreaks were prevalent across Europe. In Russia in 1926-27, approximately ten thousand people were reported with Ergot poisoning

Also in harsh times wolves may be more inclined to move closer to human habitation, if coupled with the hallucinatory effects of the Ergot, then it is possible to see how tales of werewolves may have evolved, it is noteworthy that Rye also has a supernatural association with wolves and in some regions the Rye Mother would be accompanied by a wolf. Ergotism outbreaks have been debatably associated with the Witchcraft panics in various countries, though the ‘Burning Times’ never really descended upon the Slav countries, though witches were certainly not unknown there. Ergot may be associated to the Witch-like figure of the Rye Mother by a number of factors. The word Baba means both the last sheaf of crop and witch. Her hard dark poisonous nipples may be indicative of Ergot fruitbodies and ergotism can be transferred to a child if the mother’s milk is infected. Also the decrepit Rye Mother may be seen as a failure of fertility, both in the crop and in people, as Ergotism can also cause infertility and can cause abortions of foetuses, indeed it was used deliberately in folk and traditional medicine for this purpose.

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Poludnica

(Also known as Polednica. Pryzpotudica. Psezpolnica. Polednice. Poludnitsa. Pudnitsa. Pscipolnitsa. Potundiowka.)

Known across the Slavic countries and neighbouring territories from Siberia to Moravia, the Poludnica is the Midday Spirit or Lady Midday that brought terror to the people. Because of her strong affinity to the fields and the assertation that in some regions she manifests as an ugly old hag, there may be association between the Poludnica and the Rye Mother; however she is also reported to assume the form of an adolescent girl with a whip whose lash will lead to a short life. More frequently she will appear as a tall, beautiful woman dressed in a white cloak or gown brandishing a scythe, sickle or shears. Her beauty however may only be skin deep as there is a cruel streak to her nature, yet ironically her presence is in some regions deemed healthy to the vitality of the crops.

The Poludnica deems that noon time is sacred to her to wander the fields and should she venture upon a man whom is not taking rest at midday, she will pull their hair and tickle or twist their necks, if they do not desist working there and then and return home she may continue tickling them until they die or strike them down with madness. For this reason she is considered the embodiment of sunstroke.

Yet in some regions there are other bizarre and sinister tales told of the Poludnica. If the weather were stormy she would sometimes suddenly appear in the peasants cottages; the uncomfortable inhabitants would have to sit out the storm on their very best behaviour lest they offend their strange, uninvited guest.

She may also appear in a sudden gust of wind or dust storm and kill anyone in her path, or approach people and ask them questions or riddles and if their answer is not to her liking she would inflict them with illness, misfortune or insanity.

At other times she would either lure children to become lost in the grain fields or kidnap ones who have been left unattended at harvesting time. She would sometimes also kidnap women in childbirth and keep them captive for a year, or assault women and children who were not at home at noon. In parts of Poland she was said to hunt down the children and women with a pack of seven large black dogs. She was often utilised in the words of parents to stop their children wandering in lonely places or strong sunshine, to keep them away from valuable crops and if they were generally being naughty – “Behave or the Poludnitsa will get you!”

from Black Earth: A Field Guide to the Slavic Otherworld by Andrew L. Paciorek

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Available to purchase from – https://www.blurb.co.uk/user/andypaciorek

Urban Wyrd : Spirits of Time and Place

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Now available from Wyrd Harvest Press
Folk Horror Revival – Urban Wyrd: 1. Spirits of Time

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Discover Hauntology, Weird Technology & Transport, Hauntings and much much more in the realms of TV, Film, Literature, Art, Culture , Lore and Life. Travel in time and spaces with Adam Scovell, Stephen Volk, Scarfolk, Julianne Regan, Sebastian Backziewicz, Sara Hannant, The Black Meadow and many other contributors.

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Folk Horror Revival – UrbanWyrd: 2. Spirits of Place

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Urban Wyrd – Spirits of Place. Discover within its winding streets Psychogeography, Genii Loci, Edgelands, Urban Exploration, Weird Places and many other strange matters within film, TV, music, literature, life and culture. Perambulate in the company of such contributors as Will Self, K.A. Laity, Bob Fischer, Iain Sinclair, Diane A. Rodgers, John Coulthart, Karl Bell and many many more.

Available now from –

https://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?keyWords=urban+wyrd&type=

100% of profits from FHR / Wyrd Harvest Press books sold in our Lulu store is charitably donated at intervals to different environmental, wildlife and community projects undertaken by the Wildlife Trusts.

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Our second Witch Cults Announcement is Here.

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The second announcement for our Witch Cults event which takes place at the Star and Shadow Cinema in Newcastle upon Tyne, on July 14th is finally upon us and what a wonderful selection of speakers and musicians we have for your delectation.

Joining our musical programme we have the world’s finest “purveyors of sonic archaeology” The Heartwood Institute

The Heartwood Institute

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Their latest album Secret Rites has been described as “an unholy collision of Throbbing Gristle style proto industrial, kosmiche krautrock and 70’s folk horror soundtracks.” The album’s overriding  focus lies heavily on the witchcraft documentaries of the 1970s, Secret Rites, The Power of the Witch, Witchcraft ’70, and The Legend of the Witches, and in particular the prominent stars of the period Alex and Maxine Sanders, the self appointed King and Queen of the Witches. The album is in their own words ” A hauntological delve into a time when the Occult was making inroads into mainstream media, truly the Age of Aquarius…”

For their performance at Witch Cults you can expect a setlist largely fashioned from the material on this album. We here at Folk Horror Revival are very much looking forward to checking them out on the evening.

Hokano

Hokano

Hokano is the solo project of Andy Hokano, mainly known for his work with the coldwave/neofolk outfit The Psychogeographical Commission and Newcastle based occult drone trio Chonyid. Andy will be performing a set based upon his forthcoming release “Witch Pricker” which is based loosely upon the 1650 Newcastle witch trials.

Gail-Nina Anderson

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Gail-Nina Anderson is a cultural historian, lecturer and journalist based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, with a specialism in the visual traditions of the Gothic.

She has contributed to the Fortean Times and the Journal of the Folklore Society, as well writing on Victorian art, William Burroughs, fairy traditions, and the Angel of the North. She reviews regularly for The Crack, is an active member of the Dracula Society and is one of the founders/readers for the Lit & Phil’s bi-annual “Phantoms at the Phil” ghost story event. Her third exhibition of weird and wonderful postcards will take place this summer in Newcastle.

We can’t wait to hear Gail-Nina’s talk “Hecate or the Horned Man – was there a God of the Witches?”. How about you guys?

Ok, that’s enough for today’s announcement. So far we have talks from Gail-Nina Anderson, and Darren Charles, Bob Beagrie’s poetry recitals, music from Black Mountain Transmitter, Hokano and The Heartwood Institute, and our first film Simon King of the Witches.  We still have quite a bit to come so please stick with us and hopefully we shall have our next announcement up in a few days time.

Tickets are available now from the eventbrite link below, priced at £25 for the full day event and £15 for the evening event alone.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/folk-horror-revival-presents-witch-cults-tickets-45698031041

 

Folk Horror Revival at the Scottish Pagan Federation Conference 2018

 

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This weekend sees the 25th annual Scottish Pagan Federation Conference taking place in the beautiful city of Edinburgh. Andy Paciorek and I are immensely proud to be representing Folk Horror Revival on this most auspicious occasion. We will be presenting a brand new talk on ‘The History and Folklore of Witchcraft, Faeries, Angels, Daemons, Ghosts & Other Worlds in Folk Horror cinema and television’. The following should give you an idea of what to expect if you are coming along.

 

 

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The amazing Inkubus Sukkubus will be our evening entertainment. We expect loads of old favourites from their extensive discography, plus one or two from their new album!

We will delve into the world of Folk Horror Revival with Andy Paciorek and Darren Charles, our keynote speakers. They will present a never-been-heard-before talk on the history and folklore of witchcraft, faeries, angels, daemons, an ghosts in relation to folk horror revival cinema and television. It’s absolutely fantastic we can bring them to Scotland and we are sure everyone will want to hear what they have to say on this amazing topic.

Rich Blackett – Chair of Asatru UK and part of Folk Horror Revival – will give an amazing insight into werewolves, wolf cults and Heathen warriors. A feast of magic and folklore.

The magnificently open Cat Treadwell will talk about being a modern Druid as well as being a Pagan and living with depression. A really insightful discussion to be had!

We’ll also explore Aleister Crowley and the Elixir of Life as Jean Fowler, Pagan Celebrant and Edinburgh University Honorary Chaplain, presents her research on the topic.

Spin some magick with Dr Jennifer Lauxman McCorkell, expert in wool and metalwork, with two unique workshops – hand spinning and weaving – both limited numbers!

An exploration of everyday Enochian magic is the focus of a much anticipated workshop by Paul Sykes. Paul will reveal the work of John Dee and Edward Kelly as they unveiled the angelic language and made contact with the Angelic realm.

Having explored Voodoo, western mysticism and traditional witchcraft, to name but a few, Avi Lago will take us through a workshop on Espiritismo: working with the ancestors.

Hear about the King of the Scots, King Arthur, with an thrilling talk by Glaswegian historian Hugh MacArthur, who has spent many years studying the roots of the legendary king.

If you’ve ever wanted to talk with two experienced Wiccans, here is your chance. Fee and Jon will facilitate this fascinating open discussion group.

Members of Midlothian AVoD Lodge will lead everyone in a Thelemic ritual for this year’s closing ritual; a first for the SPF conference and one we hope everyone enjoys experiencing.

From inspring talks, interactive workshops, open discussions and spectacular evening entertainment, we’ve got a brilliant day out in the heart of Edinburgh.

Avanced tickets will close on Wednesday 18 April 2018 at 11:59pm.

Advanced adult all-day (evening included) tickets: £15 per SPF or affiliate PF member or £20 per person (non-member).

*NEW* Advanced teen tickets: £8 per teen (must be aged 12 to 17 years-old and accompanied by parent/guardian/carer with valid all-day conference ticket).

Advanced evening (gig only) tickets: £8 per person.

Tickets are still available from the link below.

http://www.scottishpf.org/conference.html

Christmas on the Black Meadow

A perfect Christmas gift to satisfy all of your Folk Horror Christmas cravings…

Do you see shadows in the mist? Are you stalked by meadow hags? Do you long to play with black stars? Do you crave a darker yule? Then this book could be for you!

It is Christmas on the North York Moors.

The snow sits upon the heather and bramble. The fences around RAF Fylingdales are silent and still. A dense mist grows in the distance. If you listen closely you can hear strange Yuletide chants, the hum of a land sphere and the cackle of a meadow hag.

This collection of Christmas tales from the Black Meadow contains three new Yuletide stories. Experience a beautiful inversion of The Nativity in A Black Meadow Christmas, warm your toes in a tale of matriarchal terror in The Meadow Tree and marvel at the delightful wonders of The Black Star. You will also find details of ideal gifts you could give and games that you can play when visiting the Black Meadow.

With beautiful illustrations by Andy Paciorek and Nigel Wilson, this is a festive treat that will bring joy and fear in equal measure to your Christmas celebrations.

All profits from the sale of this book go to Worldwide Cancer Research.

Click here to buy!