Good afternoon, everyone! We’re back for another pick of our Session’s Highlights. Yesterday (24/09/22), we gave our warmest welcome to this time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, with orange sunsets and longer nights, and superstitions of Autumn & The Equinox! From falling leaves, to acorns, rowan and conkers—you told us so many of your favourite cosy tales! Here, are just a few of our favourites.
Our first Highlight was from Jane Hoodless, who told us about an emblem of this season called the Cornucopia, commonly known as The Horn of Plenty. As the name says, this horn-shaped woven basket often appears filled with all manner of fruit and vegetables, symbolising the prosperity and abundance of the harvest season. But as these legends go, the Cornucopia is said to have originated in Ancient Greece, with a tale about an infant Zeus who was hiding from his father Kronos. Taken in by a goat-shaped deity called Amalthea (whose name means “tender goddess”), it is said that Zeus accidentally broke off one of its horns while being fed milk from its teats—and lo and behold, from the broken shard began to pour a never-ending supply of nourishment. From then onwards, the goat’s horn, and horns in general, became associated with magic, and tales that they were capable of being filled with whatever its owner desired; whether that be vegetables, fruit, herbs or nuts, as Jane mentioned in the tweet below. Such an intriguing object allowed the legend to persist into the Ancient Roman period, for example, seemingly adapted by Ovid in his epic Metamorphoses (available to read here):
“His fierce hand seiz’d my stubborn horn, and broke from my maim’d front the weapon. Naiäd nymphs this consecrated, fill’d with fruits, and flowers of odorous fragrance, and the horn is priz’d by Plenty’s goddess as her favorite care. He spoke, a nymph close-girt like Dian’s train, Her ample tresses o’er each shoulder spread, enter’d, supporting all of Autumn’s fruit in the rich horn, and mellowest apples came the second course to grace.“
For our second Highlight, how about another tale of nature’s bounty with sumptuous blackberries? At this time of the year, blackberries can be found almost anywhere (whether that be woods or side of the road), growing from brambles and inaccessible thickets. But this doesn’t seem to stop its enthusiasts, who collect it for virtually every purpose, from jam, to smoothies, pies—you name it! Such a feast is invariably bound to spoil, half-eaten or turned to mouldy mush with time, which is probably how the following story began. As told by irishspiritmag, folk belief says that it is ill-advised to eat blackberries after Michaelmas Day on September 29th, on account of the Devil cursing this fruit. After falling on some thick, spiky brambles following his fight with Archangel Michael on this day, the Devil was so upset that he spat on all blackberries and cursed them for eternity! Some versions claim that he stomped down on them with his foot—while other, cheekier fables swear that he did more than just spit and stomp: he peed on them! Whether that’s true or made-up (I suspect so…), one thing’s for sure: don’t eat them after September ends, lest you want to end up with a devil of a stomach ache! And don’t gather them from close to the ground either, especially in urban areas—and this is no tale, but common sense: dogs do pee on them, you know!
Keeping in line with abundance, we’ve got a double whammy for you for our third and final Highlight: a conker mash-up between the Bard of Cumberland and Samantha SL, who both told us about the folk remedies of the horse chestnut. Not be confused with the sweet chestnut, which can be eaten roasted, boiled, mashed, stuck in a stew, at this time of the year. Like potatoes, you see? Yum! No, the conker is the inedible fruit of the horse chestnut tree and it has been used in children’s games all across the world, all the way to New Zealand, it seems. And besides being a good substitute for a marble, the conker is riddled with other beliefs, such as: that it’s capable of keeping moths away from your closet, that it can deter spiders from entering your house (as the Bard said), or that it can relieve you from arthritis (as told by Samantha SL), as well as cure sprains and bruises. From these three, unfortunately, only sprains and bruises seem to be the most likely to be cured by this seed, as the conker was found to contain aescin: an anti-inflammatory component, which may have been behind the credence it was also good for your joints. For more lore on the conker, check out this short, free-to-read article by the Woodland Trust, here.
That was all for today! As always, whether you’re old, new or just passing through, your presence is very much appreciated and I am glad to see you stop by for our #SuperstitionSat Sessions every week. I hope you enjoyed our selection of Highlights today, picked with love and a warm drink—and a lingering anticipation that we will be hiding under the covers soon, for Halloween Month is almost upon us! We can already hear things going bump in the night, as the veil starts to thin and the spirits begin to wander. So, it is good to be prepared against all manner of supernatural dangers waiting for us in October, which is why next week we’ll be welcoming Spoopy Season with superstitions of
CHARMS, SPELLS & AMULETS AGAINST EVIL!
And speaking of Halloween, have you thought about how you’re going to celebrate it? We might have a suggestion for you next week, so keep your eyes peeled on our Folklore Friends Blog for another feature and a very special place to visit before October 31st!
– Superstition Sam 🐾