Posted tagged ‘buying the wind’

Blog Post 53 – Riddle Me This

April 27, 2010

Which is the Maid without a Tress?
Which is the Tower without a Crest?
Which is the Water without any Sand?
And which is the King without any Land?
Where is no Dust in all the Road?
Where is no Leaf in all the Wood?
Which is the Fire that never Burnt?
And which is the Sword without any Point?

-Riddles from Dawn Jackson’s (sadly defunct) Hedgewytchery site (a version still exists at Archive.org, however)

I love riddles.  I’ve always enjoyed letting them roll around in my brain until I can figure them out.  I’m that way with many brain-teasers, but there’s something very special about riddles, I think.  As a witch, I value riddling because riddles have had a place in mystical practice for a long time now (just think about Oedipus facing off with the Sphinx’s riddle).   I think they have the potential to help move one into an altered state of consciousness, and to force the brain to stop thinking in a simply linear, rational fashion.  The mindset which comes after a little riddling is an ideal one for magic, because connections that aren’t immediately obvious suddenly become apparent.  Or such is my opinion on the subject.

Today I’m going to look at a few riddles from American folklore (though some of them may be older in origin).  I’ll post a response in the comments section with the answers in case you don’t want to see those right away.  I’ll also try to point out anything that might have magical significance as I go along.  Without further ado, the riddles (from Richard Dorson’s Buying the Wind):

From the South:

The ole man shook it an’ shook it;
The ole woman pulled up her dress an’ took it.
(The solution to this one is simple, but I like the sexual connotations to the riddle itself.)

About six inches long, an’ a mighty pretty size;
Not a lady in the country but what will take it between her thighs.
(Again with the sexual innuendo…apparently we Southerners are a dirty-minded lot.  The solution to this one, though, is interesting because of the idea of “riding” to the witches’ Sabbat—in may folkloric versions, there is a sexual side to this riding).

From the Pennsylvania Dutch:

What goes and goes,
And yet stands and stands?
(Solve this one and you’ve got an interesting way to look at one version of a witch’s magical circle).

What poor fellow passes up and down the steps on his head?
(No witchy significance I can see; I just like this one)

What has its heart in its whole body?
(The answer to this one is worth remembering, for naturally-inclined folk)

What resembles half a chicken?
(A simple answer, but exactly the kind of riddling answer that I like, because it is both slightly funny and a little weird—it does a nice job of making the brain shut out its over-analytical side, for me at least)

From the Louisiana Cajuns:

If a man can lift two hundred and fifty barrels of rice when it is not raining, what can he lift during the rain?
(Again, this one isn’t really magical, but helps to get that child-like mindset which can be very useful in witchcraft)

What goes to the bayou laughing and returns crying?
(This one has more to do with sound than anything else, and getting the guesser to use his or her imagination a little)

What was it that was given to you that belongs to you only but that your friends use more than you?
(This one has particular significance for a witch, I think—if you think of “friends” in this context as covenmates, gods, spirits, etc., it makes sense, at least to me)

So what about you all out there?  Do you have any favorite riddles?  Do you ever use riddles as a way to get yourself into a magical mindset?  I’d love to hear what you have to say, so please feel free to leave a comment!

Thanks for reading,

-Cory

Advertisements

Blog Post 24 – Book Review

March 3, 2010

Hello everyone,

So today I’d like to offer a review of a book I’ve cited several times on the blog already, Richard Dorson’s Buying the Wind.  It’s a book of folklore divided by region and focusing on the different stories, beliefs, and practices of those who inhabit those regions.  The regions he covers are broken down as follows:

  • Maine Down-Easters
  • Pennsylvania Dutchmen
  • Southern Mountaineers
  • Louisiana Cajuns
  • Illinois Egyptians
  • Southwest Mexicans
  • Utah Mormons

Each section then goes into further detail regarding the specific folklore of the regional group examined.  For example, under Southwest Mexicans, there is a section called “Proverbios” which contains the bits of folk wisdom like:

Dar atole con el dedo.

“To give gruel with the finger.”  (To deceive with words or acts, especially to deceive one’s husband).

Entre menos burros, mas olotes.

“The fewer donkeys, the more cobs.”  (The fewer, the better…corncobs, dried as well as green, are given burros to eat).

And under Louisiana Cajuns, in the section “Riddles,” we find:

What has a tongue and does not speak?  A shoe

What has teeth but does not bite?  A comb

If a man can lift two hundred and fifty barrels of rice when it is not raining, what can he lift during a rain?  An umbrella

Each section has its own unique attributes.  Some have the songs and proverbs of their region, some have stories and even some loose versions of “spells.”  I say loose because they aren’t exactly how-to’s on spellcraft, but provide some information that could be turned into a how-to pretty easily.  For example, the Louisiana Cajuns section has information on Hoodoo, including a tale from one informant who described a luck mojo bag that “was a little bag of linen and it had like nerves and then bones.”  The nerves are from a vulture, and the bones from a snake, which both could be used in a lucky mojo hand (though I’ve never heard of nerves being used, per se, but that’s what makes these accounts so interesting—their variety).

The entire book is loaded with bits of magic like this, as well as stories of witchcraft and magic which, while more fanciful, give insight into what the occult practices of those areas might be.  In the Southern Mountaineers section, for instance, there’s an interesting account of a “witch-ball,” which is a bit of hair, wax, and other substances rolled into a ball and “shot” at a victim to curse them.  I’ve seen similar stories in other books of American folklore, especially based in the Appalachian areas, so it’s interesting to me to see how prominent such a magical tool seems to be in that area, though it is largely forgotten elsewhere.

I learned a great deal from this book—the entire section on Illinois Egyptians, for example, was a revelation to me, and has opened up a whole new area of interest for me regarding New World Witchery.  And the stories, songs, and proverbs are fantastic!  I can’t get enough of the Southern “Jack” tales!

I should point out that Dorson uses the Aarne-Thompson system of folklore classification, which divides tales into various types for ease of cross-referencing.  It is definitely a book aimed at folklorists and not particularly at a wide audience, but I think anyone can get a great deal from reading it.  And it may open up a whole new love of folklore as a field of study for some folks.

I’ve been reading a borrowed copy from my public library, and it’s just about due to go back there, which was going to be a sad loss, as I still find myself referencing Buying the Wind frequently.  But thanks to a generous donation from reader/listener Amber (many, many thanks to her!), we’ll be able to procure a copy for future reference now.  So hooray for Amber!

That’s all for now!  Thanks for reading!

-Cory


%d bloggers like this: