Posts Tagged ‘folklore

08
Sep
20

National Telephone Day

Where would we be without our phones? Especially these days, they are key to keeping people in touch with loved ones, health care professionals, stores and the outside world.


It’s always been that way, though to a lesser extent of course! I remember the emotion and excitement in my family when we were scheduled to receive a call from my brother serving in Viet Nam – what an amazing feat of technology!


You may have read a story that circles around on social media now and then about a young boy, decades ago, who was often home alone after school and had learned that he had a terrific friend and helper on the other end of the phone by dialing “O” for operator. She helped him with spelling words, first aid, geography and even pet questions. Later in life, he learned that he had made an impact in her quiet, lonely life by giving her something to look forward to.


All of these questions could now be answered with a quick call to Siri or the like, but the personal connection is not there. We can watch movies and the news, listen in on webinars and play games, read books and take classes, but these are mostly done in a solitary manner without personal interactions.


When we had to re-invent our Maine walking tour business at the outbreak of COVID19, we thought of options of virtual tours or videos, among other possibilities. Our choice was to utilize the power of the phone, but we felt strongly about keeping the personal connection; we did not want to offer a recorded tour. Thus, our private, live TeleTour walks were born.


While taking one of our TeleTour walks, you’ll have the opportunity to interact, ask questions, say “wait a sec, I need to tie my shoe” or let passers by pet your dog for a minute. Even though I am not there guiding you in person, I am there to point out interesting architecture, caution you on crossing a particularly dangerous street or suggest photo opportunities. You can ask for recommendations on where to eat dinner or how to spend your last afternoon before leaving town.

Of course, you’re also getting a very informative tour of one of 11 Maine towns! All of our walking tours are historically based, but we often add twists such as ghost stories, mysteries, secrets, legends, famous folks, etc. These have been the ideal way to deal with social distancing, yet allow for people to still experience something fun and different while on vacation, or staycation. 


So, Happy National Telephone Day from Red Cloak Tours and we hope to “see” you on one of our TeleTours soon!

29
Jul
20

Ghost Storytelling around the world

I learned something interesting the other day – something I kind of knew, but it inspired me to do a little more research.

Ghost storytelling around the world is very different!

I learned that now, mid-summer, is the most common time for ghost stories in Japan! Dating back to ancient times, it is believed that during summer the souls of the dead temporarily come back to this world. These spirits would include your ancestors, but also those who had no relatives praying for them as well as vengeful ghosts.

In some households the traditional custom of greeting your ancestors with a welcoming fire or altar is still practiced. Also during this summer season, ghost stories are told and plays are performed with themes developed from village folklore of unusual, other worldly stories.

The season is symbolized by these events used for interacting with the spirits of ancestors and taking pity on the unhappy souls. They say that telling the chilling tales also helps people to cool off in the summer heat.

This is similar to the Ghost Festival in China and some other East Asian countries. It is held on the 15th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. The seventh month is generally regarded as the Ghost Month. At this time the deceased are thought to visit their living relatives.

Many cultural traditions are honored during the Ghost Festival. These can include preparing food offerings and having elaborate meals with empty seats for the visiting ghosts. Incense is burned to pay respects and sometimes paper boats or lanterns are released to guide any lost spirits.

Hawaiian culture also uses lunar phases to base their ghostly activities on. “Marchers of the Night,” spirits of ancient Hawaiian warriors, appear at sunset during these specific times, usually around the new moon, and march from their burial sites to battlefields or other sacred areas.

The Nightwatchers arrival is announced with the beating of drums and blowing of conch shells. The warriors are carrying torches so they are usually seen from afar. Often fog, thunderstorms or high winds accompany them.

There are no festivals or celebrations surrounding the Nightwatchers; in fact, it is quite the opposite. No one should look at, or be seen by these warriors, according to Hawaiian legends. If a mortal should be accidently in the area, they should lie face down on the ground, motionless, to show proper respect and deference.

Hawaiian history, rich in mythology and folklore, is full of supernatural entities so the Nightwatchers are not the only ghosts of the islands.

I knew that in Victorian England, telling spooky stories around Christmas time was very common – I often hold some storytelling presentations during the holidays – but why is this?

The Winter Solstice, the longest and darkest day of the year occurs just days before Christmas and is a harbinger of the end, or death, of the year.

Many people focus on those no longer with us during the holidays and it makes sense to think that during this dark time of change to the new year that the dead might have a closer connection with the living.

Inuit stories are full of ghosts, monsters, shapeshifters and other paranormal entities. These tales are told year-round, day or night, by the elders of the community and are used as lessons for the children.

Also based on oral history, Jamaican Duppies often manifest in the form of a relative, and like Inuit folklore, are always present.

A Duppy may also manifest as a shadow, animal or material object so it is hard to know when one is present, though they only come at night. Here are a few ways to tell – if you smell food but there is none in the area, if you hear a stick break, if a dog whines or howls, if you have a spider web in your face.

Duppies are restless spirits and usually malevolent. They can be controlled in various ways which often involves using their grave dirt. They are said to live in bamboo thickets and the roots of cotton trees.

Here in the U.S., in spite of my line of work, telling ghost stories year-round, ghosts are generally thought of around Halloween, or All Hallows Eve.

The Halloween tradition stems from Samhain, an ancient Celtic festival held during harvest when people would wear costumes and light bonfires to ward off ghosts.

Other All Hallows’ Eve traditions can include lighting candles on graves, attending church, lighting jack-o-lanterns and eating certain vegetarian foods such as apples, potato pancakes or soul cakes.

Over the years, Halloween has become a time for trick-or-treating, parties and telling ghost stories. It is only about 3 months away, in case you’re counting!

26
Oct
17

Candles

It’s my birthday week, so I thought this was a timely article to write –

Candles are romantic, candles are for birthdays, candles are for scent, candles are for religion and celebrations, candles have lots of different meanings for many of us – crossing cultures around the world.

The earliest candles may have been small torches – branches dipped in animal fat and lit for a slow burning, dependable light source.

In 3000 BC, Egyptians were using tallow (fat rendered from animals other than pigs) for candles and as time went on, other cultures began finding different sources to use. In India they found that a residue was left by melting cinnamon and it would burn (also smell nicer than tallow, I presume!). China was using whale fat and insects, while Japan extracted oil from tree nuts.

Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest found that fish called eulachon had a very high fat content during spawning, so they would dry them and use them as candles for lighting, thus the fish’s new name “candlefish.”

In more modern times, beeswax, bayberry wax and whale spermaceti were used. Spermaceti was made by crystalizing sperm whale oil which was a harder wax that didn’t melt in the summer, produced a brighter light and didn’t smell as badly as tallow.

In the early 19th century a French chemist discovered how to extract stearic acid from animal fatty acids, which lead to stearin wax, a wax that burned cleanly and was hard and durable. Later, paraffin wax, made by distilling coal, came into use.

Candles seem mystical – have you ever been mesmerized by watching a candle’s flame flickering? It’s easy to understand why/how certain superstitions got started. If a flame burns blue, supposedly a ghost is in the area and if there is a tall, straight flame it means a stranger will come. Burn a candle in the window to make sure a lover will return.

You should always light a candle with your right hand, otherwise, expect bad luck! Also, it’s bad luck to melt the base of a candle to make it set well in its base or to light it from a fire’s flame. I do hope, for your sake, that a candle that you light does not immediately go out – otherwise bad luck will follow! If it is difficult to light – rain is on the way.

The Irish used to have a superstition that 12 candles must be lit around a body at the wake as protection from evil spirts.

In 1700’s New England, a cultural tradition was begun using wax and oil of the bayberry plant added to their candles. They found the candles burned longer and gave off a wonderful scent. They presented these new candles to friends and neighbors at Christmas time, with the poem that indicated all good wishes would be lost in the smoke if they were blown out.

A Bayberry candle, burned to the socket

Brings joy to the home, and wealth to the pocket.

And now to the point of this whole article – birthdays! And of course, with birthdays, come candles on birthday cakes (or in my case birthday pies) and the tradition of blowing them out.

Apparently, the first birthday party was recorded in early Egypt, for a pharaoh on his coronation, which marked the moment he was “birthed” as a god. But the Greeks made cakes in offerings to some of their gods and eventually placed lit candles on some cakes as a way to symbolize the moon. It was believed that when the candles were blown out their prayers were carried up to the gods.

In the 1700’s in Germany, there were many accounts of cakes and candles used to celebrate children’s birthdays – a kinderfest. A record of a cake decorated with a candle for each year of life was in 1746, for Count Ludwig Von Zinzindorf.

Just when the belief of having to blow out all the candles to have your wish (or prayer) come true is unsure, but we still all make that important wish (prayer) annually, and send the wishes up to the heavens.

25
Aug
14

Research is Fun, but Sharing is Better

I have selfish reasons for this business – I love history and I love research! As fulfilling as intriguing research can be, I’ve found that it really needs to be shared for the best results.

I think of it as a treasure hunt – whether it is genealogy or a ghost story or historical research, once I find that first clue, I’m sucked in. I often can’t devote the time I’d like to continue the hunt, at least for the moment, but sometimes it’s hard to break away. The challenge is to find the information I need, but not get swept away for the whole day!

I have a diary that I’ve been reading. It dates to the late 1800’s – spanning 40 years! I don’t know how many transcribed typewritten pages it is but I’m only on page 70 something and not a third of the way through. It’s at a nearby library, in the reference section, which is probably a good thing. If I could check it out, no one would see me for days!

In my last post I mentioned a new offering coming to Wiscasset. It is an afternoon tour called History & Haunts of High Street. At either end of beautiful High Street are 2 historic buildings that we will tour through, while telling history, folklore and tales of both as well as all the homes in between. We will offer these only once a month June through October. Our first is this coming Friday, August 29.

One of the buildings is a courthouse; the oldest continuously working courthouse in Maine, dating to 1824. The other is “Castle Tucker,” now a museum owned by Historic New England, but once was a private home. It dates to 1807. The other buildings we will see are sea captains’ homes, a painted lady, an old bank with a “jug vault” in the cellar, a duplex dating to 1852 (who knew they built them that early?!) and more.

As I’ve been researching for this new tour, I’ve found myself getting so excited about sharing the information I’ve found! I can’t wait until Friday, and I hope the guests will appreciate the tidbits that I’ve come up with.

Another exiting “show and tell” that I experienced recently was during Boothbay’s 250th Anniversary Celebration. I was fortunate enough to be able to share “Ye Ol’ Burying Ground” with about 50 people. The amount of history found in old cemeteries and graveyards is incredible! Did you know a cemetery is different from a graveyard? A cemetery is not associated with a church, while a graveyard is. We ran into difficulties at this particular burying ground because it is now called a cemetery, but there did used to be a church right next to it. I didn’t know about the church until a local person shared with me during this celebration, so now there’s yet more research to be done – which came first the church or the burying ground?

I had a winter full of research this past year, and now it’s time to share… my husband has written a book, with my assistance, and it is now available to the public! “Haunted Damariscotta, Ghosts of the Twin Villages and Beyond” by Greg Latimer was published by History Press and can be purchased from them online here:

https://historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Series/Haunted%20America/Haunted-Damariscotta/9781626193055

Obviously, we’re very excited to have accomplished this, but also to share with all of you. Please let us know if you’d like to purchase signed copies from us – we can take care of that for you.

I hope you enjoy these last days of summer – I know I will, peeking out between the pages of that diary!

30
Aug
12

Once in a Blue Moon!

Tomorrow is a full moon night; always special, but this time it’s extra special as it’s the second full moon during the month of August! 2 full moons in one month does not happen often, the last one was in March 2010.

A blue moon has nothing to do with the color of the moon, just the old folklore expression for something that doesn’t happen very often.

Of course, many people believe it’s good luck to be born on a blue moon, or even in the month of a blue moon, so lucky birthdays to those!

The next blue moon will be in July 2015, so take advantage of this one, especially being on a Friday night, and enjoy – it’s a great night for a Haunted History Tour!




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