4 January 2021- Black Dog in Folklore continued

By | January 8, 2021

The session:

Followed on the theme of Black Dogs and Boggy beasts with other similar beasts.

1/.  These occur all over the country and vary from being extremely scary and dangerous, through mischievous, to being helpful.  Although they have similar features to black dogs they are considered as different creatures and occur in the same areas.  They tend to be more than sightings, with more of them having detailed folktales attached.

2/.  We looked at a wide range of examples.

These included:-

  • Monstrous creatures called the Baobhan Sith:- which were vampire like, in the form of beautiful women; haunted lonely countryside in the Scottish Highlands; trapped unwary men and drank their blood.
  • Boggle:- amorphous glowing shape; haunted a lane at Orton, Kirkby Stephen, after dark
  • Buckies:- haunted lonely roads at night in Lowland Scotland
  • Madame Pigott:- haunted lonely lanes around Chetwynd, Hereford & Worcester, jumping up behind horsemen and strangling them with long boney fingers.
  • “The White Bucca and the Black” folk tale from Cornwall where a feisty old Cornish woman gets the better of someone playing tricks upon her. A good example of an entertaining story.

Common themes occurred in the tales and characteristics of the beings.  Long boney fingers, shape shifting.  Locations were frequently lonely, dark, late at night, near to water, abandoned castles, scary places.  They often preyed on travellers.

3/. Ignis Fatuus (Foolish Fires)

Includes: – Lantern Man, Shiner, the Shiners, Jack O’ Lantern, Will o’ the Wisp, Hobby Lanthorn, Kit with the Canstick.  These used false lights to tempt travellers off the paths and into marshes, bogs & other dangerous countryside.  These were linked to marshy places and had a very direct link to the geography of the area so frequently occur in Dartmoor, The Somerset Levels, East Anglia.  Originating as explanations for the ignition of marsh gases before these were understood.

In Northern Europe bogs were special places, seen as the boundary between this world and the other world.  Beautiful Bronze and Iron Age artefacts have been found in bogs and are thought to be offerings.  There is also a history of bog bodies.

We looked in detail at the folk tale of the dead moon, the story can be found in ‘British Folk Tales and Legends: A Sampler Katharine M Briggs London, Granada/Paladin, 1977 pp 21-23’.  We discussed the rituals they had to perform for protection and in order to free the moon.  This tale took place by boggy water a dark and scary place.  The moon is personified as a beautiful woman.

4/.  We started looking at an example of a mischievous being.  The Hedley Kow:- a hob that appeared in various forms and pestered people in Hedley, Northumberland.  This was a shape shifter frequently playing tricks on servant girls in farmhouses whilst they were away from their tasks tangling their knitting, letting the cat at the milk and similar tricks.

Next time we shall continue with more on the Hedley Kow and mischievous creatures and household creatures which are friendly to humans if treated properly.