March 2022 - Folklore

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MARCH 2022


Table of Contents Dry Scales, Sea Tails

Words by Anna Geier and Illustration by Elena Hayward


Words by Zsuzsa Goodyer and Illustration by Sah Campbell

Nuns on the Moon

Words by Jack Smith and Illustration by Rachel Middleton

Spoken Word

Words by Ananthi Parekh and Ilustration by Xinyuan Yang

Politicising the Witch

Words by Ruth Sellin and Illustration by Alice Catteau

My Folk, Their Lore

Words by Natalie Beech and Illustration by Margarita Louka

Black Shuck

Words and Illustration by John Chamberlain


Words and Illustration by Zsuzsa Goodyer


Words and Illustration by Indigo Branscombe

Cover and Endpapers: Jethro Wilson Editor: Margarita Louka

By: Anna Geier

Dry Scales, Sea Tails

“Now and henceforward serve unshod, through wet and wakeful shifts, A present and oppressive God, but take, to aid my gifts.” - Rudyard Kipling, Poseidon’s Law (1904). For many millennia, world cultures have glorified the rains, rivers and seas. In preindustrial societies, water was deemed a sacred element, the giver and sustainer of life. It fuelled agricultural practices, such as crop cultivation and livestock farming, which determined the livelihood and survival of the poorest. It is no wonder then that such motifs featured heavily in Classical and Medieval folklore. If we look back to Classical antiquity, there are early signs of ‘weather lore’. The Romans worshipped Neptune, (‘god of waters’) and dedicated the festival of Neptunalia in his honour. Celebrated during peak summertime, Neptunalia was thought to appease Neptune and prevent drought from destroying their lands. Similarly, the Ancient Greek god, Poseidon (‘god of the sea’) was said to dry out lands as a symbol of his wrath. The fears of drought permeated from GrecoRoman times into the Medieval period. In the early 1300s, Western Europe experienced extreme cases of drought, known as the Medieval Warm Period. Modern-day scientists have analysed these historical weather patterns and concluded this as evidence of rapid climate change. Fortunately, due to excessive rainfall in the British Isles, ‘Drought never bred dearth in England!’.

Another prominent superstition among Greco-Roman and Medieval cultures was the fascination with merfolk. Often portrayed as bad omens, merfolk similar to their Ancient Greek counterparts - sirens and nymphs (naiads) - who were considered mischievous and cunning water sprites. The earliest depictions of merfolk appeared in c.1000 BCE in ancient Assyria, with later portrayals across Europe, Eastern Asia and Western Africa. During the colonisation of the Americas throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, tales of mermaids began to re-surface. Mermaids were believed to be heartless sprites, causing tempestuous seas and shipwrecks, to lure sailors to their deaths. Cartographers mapped areas of alleged sightings through detailed mermaid illustrations to warn seafarers of danger zones. On a more positive note, some seamen considered merfolk to be good luck, and embossed mermaid figureheads onto their ship bows to ‘guide’ the way to safe waters. It is unsurprising that such myths resurfaced during the era of unequivocal naval imperialism. The combination of fear and intolerance of the unknown through ‘othering’, conjured waves of superstition across distant shores.

Illustration By: Elena Hayward

By: Zsuzsa Goodyer


Described as a creature with a deer torso, an ox tail, horse hooves and a mane, the Kirin is a Korean legendary creature. They are often pictured with antlers and their manes flow with grace. Kirin are one of four divine creatures in Korea, along with the phoenix, dragon and turtle. Kirin are said to possess fearsome powers; they are said to be able to incinerate people that they judge to be wicked or cruel. They value pure intentions and the pure-hearted. They can also fly, despite their lack of wings, and they are also sometimes said to have the ability to walk on water. Kirin are beasts of purity and goodness, so have been used in carvings and paintings to symbolise these virtues, as well as symbolising justice and wisdom, to which they are also linked. Common colour choices for depictions are often associated with the elements, precious metals, stars, and gemstones like opal. Opals take their name from the Sanskrit word “Upala” which means jewel or precious stone. The Precious Opal displays different flashes of colour called “opalescence”, usually against white or black backgrounds.

The opalescence appears as vivid colours that seem to float on the background, and it often has a blue or purple overall tone. This feeds back into this creature’s powers of flight as it lifts from the page in this depiction. Opal inspires originality and creativity, as well as encouraging you to express your true self. Opal is also believed to enhance your cosmic consciousness and strengthen your mystical and psychic visions.

Illustration By: Sah Campbell

By: Jack Smith

Nuns on the Moon

They had a mouse problem on the moon. They could fit between the silt-rock and the stones of the abbey. They were littering the kitchen. They were nipping at the hymnbooks. Sister Gertrude had the biggest feet and could stomp a few a week. The old cat, Mouser, would catch his fill, grow round and lazy, and still the next mischief came in from the grey. One night in sheer frustration, from the tallest turret, Sister Angelique hurled a cry out from the rock like an old wavering cattle call, which didn’t echo even once. Then, on an icy tail, a herd of comet-driven cows clanged their bells and swayed themselves wide-eyed onto the moony moor. This did nothing to the mice, but it occurred to Sister Beatrice that they could make the whitest cheddar as had never been tasted before (for it came from comet-cows). Getting the culture right was hard to master. Fostering the renet took a few, but observant Sister Mabeline noticed in this time they were swinging out of orbit. ‘The added weight of husbandry,’ she said, ‘will move us out into the hands of God.’ They sang a mighty hymn that evening (though mostly from pages with nibbled corners) as they fell away from Earth as if in a lullaby. Far too soon, the abbess thought, they were

deep in the dark palm of God. Maybe the dark of His eye, even. It was always night. There was just enough starlight to see each other in sterling shades of silver. It was quiet too. When resting, during prayers or all alone, one could hear the mice chewing just one at a time now, quiet as apology. One night, Gertrude and Angelique met beneath the leafless they’d brought from Loches—which had neither lived nor rotted all that time. There was enough gravity to fill the crater next to it with water and tears (but if someone disturbed it, silver drops would leave into the air). Many nights, the castle heard them sigh each others’ names in candlelight. The mice had carved enough out between the walls and through the floors to let each sister lean into the sound and colour the dark. So they came, again and again, into the hidden hands of God.

Illustration By: Rachel Middleton

By: Ananthi Parekh

Spoken Word

When I think of folklore I always remember lying in bed with my Grandparents when I was little, those moments before I fell asleep in their king-sized bed, after crawling into their bed when the dark had grown a little too dark. Being chaotic little me, I’d wriggle my way between them both and wait until one of them acknowledged me, which they would always do by telling me a Hindu folktale.

One of which was about a beautiful woman (as many mythical stories begin). This beautiful woman was born to a respectful and wealthy Indian family, so when she came of age she began to receive many proposals for marriage. Her parents, wanting the best for her, eventually arranged for her to be wed to a suitor of their choosing. However, the maiden didn’t want to marry. Instead, she wanted to devote her life to the Gods. When her wedding day finally came, she went to the temple and prayed as hard as she could to Ganesh, pleading for some help and promising that all she wanted was to devote her life to her Hindu faith. Suddenly white petals began to fall from the sky, a huge shower so thick that they covered the girl, and when she finally found her way out of the petals she realized that she had turned into an old woman. Her hair and formerly red Sari, both now as white as the petals. With her appearance now changed, the woman was able to live her life as she had wanted. Allowing the Gods to speak through her, she spent her life travelling India and bestowing the myths, legends and wisdom from the gods to the people she met. Eventually, when she felt her life coming to an end, she decided to walk to the Himalayas to meet lord Shiva. As her feet became bloody and worn, Shiva saw her plight and met her on her journey, carrying her the rest of the way to enlightenment.

Illustration By: Xinyuan Yang

By: Ruth Sellin

Politicising the Witch

Folklore and fairy tales are some of the first stories we hear as children; handsome princes and helpless maidens shaping us into the society-approved shapes of boys and girls that dictate how we are supposed to live the rest of our lives. Tales of witches and wolves in the woods began as a way to teach lessons to children in interactive and memorable ways, so they wouldn’t wander off alone when the world was perhaps more dangerous than today. Western society has for a long time enforced stereotypes of acceptable maleness and femaleness onto children almost as soon as they enter this world, and one of the ways they do this is through the seemingly innocuous stories children are surrounded with as they grow up. I myself grew up with princesses waiting in castles for their princes to save them. This has only recently started to change, with the influx of female characters who don’t rely on men to rescue them as mainstream media realise that girls don’t want to wait around for a man to save them. One of the most iconic character archetypes seen the most in folklore is the witch. Witches seem to appear dichotomously in narratives; either as the traditional ugly old crone living by herself in the middle of the woods eating children or the more modern hyper-sexualised young woman dancing naked in the woods and luring men into sin. Witches thus appear as some of the only female characters from folklore who exhibit any agency in their stories, as they act outside of the traditional boundaries typically ascribed to female characters, although they are ultimately punished for straying so far from the relative safety of such tradition.

I am not suggesting that in order to demonstrate our own power women should take to living in edible houses in the woods (despite how alluring that may sound) or kidnapping children. The mere idea of witchcraft has been used to persecute women all over the world across the centuries, some of the most infamous including the Salem witch trials in America and the English witch-hunts of the 16th century which saw 112 supposed witches executed. The women who were tortured or murdered for being branded witches are now recognised as innocent victims of the patriarchal states they lived in. However, this absolution does nothing to take away from the horrors that were enacted onto them and does nothing for the women who still suffer the same atrocities today. The witch has become an important symbol of feminist protest in recent years, which, in my opinion, is the best way to honour those who have suffered because of this title. Politicising the witch politicises the uncontrollable femininity that was so threatening to the patriarchy in the past, thus empowering anyone who identifies as a woman to rise up for all women who suffer today and all those who have suffered in the past. “We are the granddaughters of the witches you weren’t able to burn.” - Tish Thawer, The Witches of BlackBrook

Illustration By: Alice Catteau

By: Natalie Beech

My Folk, Their Lore

A family is folklore Nothing more Nothing less Each year the story is told And though I tell you You’ve told me You’ll tell it again I am your favourite page Once turned, so softly I am ragged now All smudges and lines No matter No fear For I am nothing If not memorised.

Illustration By: Margarita Louka

Black Shuck

Words and Illustration By: John Chamberlain

Ghost Dogs. Or, “Well, Old Shuck just does!” “When an old person dies, a whole library disappears.” - Simone Schwarz-Bart. We’d take the trip from Yorkshire, to the North Norfolk coast, to visit grandparents. To the other side of the world. Their house was an old house, with different timelines and memories existing at once. Round a few corners from their front door, stretched the sea. You’d go from the town to the furthest end of the beach you could walk. If you kept on walking, you’d tip off the edge of the map and never be seen again. Ancient mammoths were being dug up. Bones embedded in the cliffs, exposed by storms. Stones with holes worn through gave good luck, or were portals to other worlds. Dark shining stones like jet, or honey coloured stones like amber, could be taken home and shaped into jewels. After exploring the beach, you’d run back to the house. In the kitchen, ‘grandpop’ would always have various projects on. Or in the shed, wooden toys would be made. Either side of the garden were hedges in the shapes of cats and birds. In the back room, sitting in the corner armchair, he’d ponder, doodle or write. Gazing at the holly tree in the back garden. The sound of ticking clock or purring cats punctuating the space. This particular day, he was sat on a stool in the kitchen, sleeves rolled up, and wearing

an apron. He was a man of very few words. I’d watch the mime routines of bread making or wine-making. Today though, he had something to say. A pause, then the story. There’s a headless dog, called Black Shuck, with eyes like saucers. It runs along the cliff at night, chasing smugglers away. But a dog can’t have eyes without a head! Well this one does! But how? Well, Old Shuck just does! A few years later, I took a night walk along the cliffs, and up Beeston Hill. I see Black Shuck running along, fur fitful and eyes glowing. The top of the hill’s in darkness, and the sea’s grumbling. Back towards town, the street lights blink on, one by one. An cat runs across the street. Back to the house, and blankets cover me, and an easy deep sleep follows. At night, in my mind, Black Shuck runs along the cliff. Miles away from those cliffs, in my West Yorkshire home, I still see him running, chasing the smugglers away, bringing bad or good luck.


Words and Illustration By: Zsuzsa Goodyer

Words and Illustration By: Indigo Branscombe


Icarus (ascent, descent)

faltering to climb atop false mountains, reaching with desperation, a shining golden obol rests, ready to pay your fare

Copyright © 2022 by Jethro Wilson, Anna Geier, Elena Hayward, Zsuzsa Goodyer, Sah Campbell, Jack Smith, Rachel Middleton, Ananthi Parekh, Xinyuan Yang, Ruth Sellin, Alice Catteau, Natalie Beech, Margarita Louka, John Chamberlain and Indigo Branscombe All rights reserved. This publication or any portion thereof may not be reproduced, copied, reprinted, reworked, redistributed, or used in any manner whatsoever without the explicit written permission of the copyright holders.

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