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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Welsh Folk Tradition and Peasant PRactices

Cambrian Superstitions, Comprising Ghosts, Omens, Witchcraft, Traditions &C.to Which Are Added a Concise View of the Manners & Customs of the Principality & Some Fugitive PiecesCambrian Superstitions, Comprising Ghosts, Omens, Witchcraft, Traditions &C.to Which Are Added a Concise View of the Manners & Customs of the Principality & Some Fugitive Pieces by William Dean Howells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A rather dated book but sometimes dated materials are the most pristine [rue and accurate. The author is clearly of a modern bent for his time. From the style of his writing and that way he describes some of the superstitions you can tell that he is protestant or a member of the The Church of England. While looking down at several of the superstition , he is also quite prould of his Cambrian Welsh heritage and the impact it has had on European mythology.
The book covers several areas ghosts, omens, witches, faeries and customs.

The author himself does not believe in ghost and seems to feel that it is only the week minded that are the ones to perceive ghosts. There are three types of sprits that in habit a person and upon burial each goes to a different place. The first part of the spirit goes to Heaven, the second hangs around the grave of thee body,  the third part descends to the underworld. Usually a ghost will appear to a person when it wants to show them treasure or it wants them to do something for them that they the ghosts cannot do.

Omens are like telling the future through certain signs like if a dog or vervain animal appears in your path something will happen. Some feel that seeing a crow at a certain juncture could pertain to a future death.  There still was a belief in the Banshee, the ghost whose scream means that someone is going to die.

WItches are known for their spell casting. and blighting peoples crops. Back i the authors time almost every village had a wizard or cunning man that used magic to heal or retrieve things. Witches were often perceived as being able to harness an animal and ride it to their celebrations. THey also visited babies in the night and drained their blood or energy. This was after all how they fed themselves. THey could also assume the shape of cats, rats or anyn other animals. THey did this in addition to having familiars.

Faeries are another factor in Welsh mythos.  THe author is not sure if faery lore of England and by extension that of Europe was strongly influenced by Middle Eastern or Iranian sources. He believes that much of European faery lore is informed by Welsh Faery Lore. Faeries are of many different types of species. There are sylphs, elves, dwarves and trolls along with your average pixies. THe fae are vicious warriors when provoked. IT is said that some live on an island and that they used to let people visit during certain holiday times. Once when someone stole a golden leaf the privilege was revoked. THere are several accounts of people chancing upon  a faery ring and then joining the dance. SOmetimes it seems like they are dancing for ever and yet they come back only a moment later. Other times the dance lasts for well over a  100 years and when the mortal returns everything has changed. Moments after returning thug the mortal turns to dust.

THe last chapter discusses verious Welsh customs for marriage and holiday . The author takes pride in discussing Welsh bravery and hospitality. In particular he writes about their love for freedom and how they will fight like devils to keep it. THey used to practice archery, quarter staffs and fencing.
A nifty little book.

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