If youâre familiar with household folklore and traditions, youâve probably noticed that thereâs a lot of concern about housefires. While fire was a necessary element for survival â keeping warm, cooking food, boiling water to make it safe to drink and clean wounds with â it was also a hazard, especially in homes made of wood and thatch. Lightning could strike during a storm, and the roof would be set ablaze. An accident or malfunction could happen in the hearth, and the house would be consumed from within. Loss of a home spelled disaster, just as it does today, although fire codes and emergency response units have reduced risks for many of us.
Fiery Gods and Devils
Many household spirits were associated with fire. The German kobold is one example. Kobolds, like alps, were often described as fiery spirits that dwelled near or within the stove and, if they were treated poorly, could cause housefires in vengeance. Feeding the kobold regularly, refraining from speaking ill of him, and keeping the house clean and tidy were good ways to keep him happy and supportive of the household.
ââDo not come any farther in, wretched fellowâ, said the woman; âI fear the wrath of ÃÃ°inn; we are heathen.â The disagreeable female, who drove me away like a wolf without hesitation, said they were holding a sacrifice to the elves inside her farmhouse.â (âAustrfararvÃsurâ)
Feast of Spirits
The Alfablot is an ancient Norse holiday celebrated around this time of year, the end of the harvest and the start of the winter season. As for many other peoples across the world, offerings to the spirits were in order during seasonal shifts, especially when advancing into the most challenging season.
For about a year, my son had a mild fear of goblins, ever since he saw the kidnapping scene at the beginning of Jim Hensonâs Labyrinth â nothing that kept him up at night, but something he mentioned frequently and required reassurance about.
What I find particularly interesting was his belief that goblins reside in and enter from his closet. His belief was so strong that, for a few months, my husband and I had to tie his closet doors shut with ribbons every night to reassure him that the goblins couldnât come in. The closet seems a natural residence for fearsome things -- it is the darkest place in a room, especially at night, and we fear what we can't see. Yet this belief about spirits in storage places isn't new.
Most of the time, I believe that bad things just happen. Not every misfortune is a product of the evil eye or a malefic spirit but part of the natural flux of life that keeps a necessary, healthy, wavering sort of balance. Rarely, however, I do find that something else seems to be at work. This can happen when a shift or transformation happens -- a birth, a death, moving house -- creating liminal times and spaces that make everything within its sphere more vulnerable (and desirable) to misery-making things. Scarlet Magdalene recently published a helpful guide on Patheos Pagan for deciding whether or not someone has been cursed or hexed; I recommend checking it out and giving it a good think if this sounds like your situation.
As I mentioned in my last post, my husband and I recently bought an old house in the mountains. Two months later, we still havenât been able to really move in. January was a series of large and small disasters, expenses, inconveniences, and illnesses. It's almost comical, except that weâre so tired and overwhelmed and almost broke from it all.
My husband and I recently bought a home in the Blue Ridge mountains â a dream weâve held since we married eight years ago. Itâs an old house with history, an acre and a half of land, and beautiful views of the mountains. I fell in love with the house and surrounding land almost immediately. As we look forward to moving in, Iâve been thinking about traditions to perform as we get established there â traditions that will familiarize and unite us with the spirit(s) of the house and ensure a long-lasting, productive relationship for years to come.
Violet Moore Higgins, "Three days agone - I found a tiny fair-haired infant"
This year has been a year of changes for me, some of which have yet to occur and others that have already occurred. The biggest, of course, was the birth of my second child in August. With her came the upset of routine, family dynamic, sleep, and all those other disorienting but completely natural shifts inherent in bringing a new life â a new spirit (or spirits, depending on your conception of the Self) â into this brilliant, dynamic world of the living. Of course, thanks to modern medicine, childbirth for me was a much less daunting experience than it was for my ancestors (and, sadly, for those today who live without access to adequate medical care).