Category: folklore

Christmas Devils and the Feast of Fools

Christmas Devils and the Feast of Fools

From St. Nicholas Day through Christmas, the Devil figured prominently in medieval plays, embodying a subversive seasonal element also celebrated in the Feast of Fools.

We enter the topic of medieval Christmas plays sideways through German composer Carl Orff’s 1935 composition “O Fortuna,” a piece much beloved in Hollywood soundtracks.  The lyric Orff set to music happens to belongs to one of 24 11th-century poems preserved in a Benedictine monastery in the Bavarian town of Beuren, providing the collection with its name, Carmina Burana, a Latinized version of “Songs from Beuren.”

After a brief look at some of the rude and blasphemous poems, for which the collection is notorious, we switch to its poem on the Nativity, a much less scandalous composition which formed the basis of one of Europe’s first Christmas plays.  We focus on the prominent role given Satan and his demons in that text as well as the comic portrayal of the Antichrist in Ludus de Antichrist, “Play of Antichrist,” preserved in a collection from a nearby monastery in Tegnersee.

From there we switch over to medieval portrayals of another sort of Antichrist, namely King Herod, whose role in the Christmas story is to order the execution of all infant males in his kingdom, hoping thereby to exterminate a potential rival, the “King of the Jews,” rumored to have been born in his kingdom.  We discuss some fantastically grisly portrayals of this event from the medieval stage.

We next have a look at some of the stagecraft employed in portraying the Devil and his minions, discussing the fabrication of “Hellmouths,” a set element, which swallowed sinners and vomited up devils on the medieval stage.  Alongside this, we examine costumes and pyrotechnics used to enhance the theatricality of demons and their realm.

From there, we turn to another subversive, sometimes violent, undercurrent in holiday celebrations, namely that of the Boy Bishop. Beginning around the 10th century, the title was given to a youth elected to lead mass either on the Feast Day of St. Nicholas or on December 28, the Feast of the Holy Innocents.  On the surface, the tradition may sound innocently charming enough, but as we learn from quite a few contemporaneous accounts of mayhem and violence involved in the festivities, this inversion of the hierarchies could quickly lead into Lord of the Flies territory.

boy bishop
16th-century depiction of the Boy Bishop tradition from Bamburg, Germany

Related to the Boy Bishop tradition, is our next topic, the Feast of Fools.  While many listeners will be familiar will be with the carnivalesque street parades, and election of a mock King, Bishop, or Pope of Fools, these chaotic elements were not limited to the secular world.  Indeed, the festum fatuorum began within the church itself, consisting of a number of days in which lower clergy assumed roles usually belonging to those above them in the hiearchy (priests for bishops, etc.).

The “Feast” actually constituted of a number of different days during the Christmas season during which such inversions took place, a period sometimes extending all the way to January 14, on which the “Feast of the Ass” took place, a celebration honoring the animal which bore the Blessed Virgin to Bethlehem, and one involving the congregation in a litany of “hee-hawing.”  Mrs. Karswell reads for us a number of historical accounts detailing the mayhem involved in these celebrations.

We close with a nod to the most the most famous literary reference to the Feast of Fools, one which novelist Victor Hugo imagined in his 1831 novel The Hunchback of  Notre Dame, and in which the titular character is crowned “King of Fools,” (or “pope” in the original French.)

NOTE: This episode is adapted from the chapter “The Church Breeds a Monster” from Mr. Ridenour’s book, The Krampus and the Old, Dark Christmas.

“Feast of Fools” by Frans Floris, mid-1700s.

 

 

 

Villainous Victorian Women

Villainous Victorian Women

Our survey of villainous Victorian women examines six individuals associated with some of the most ghastly crimes of the era, many directed against children (and for this reason possibly a bit of a rough listen for some.)

Five of these criminals inspired murder ballads, or more specifically “execution ballads,”  single-sheet broadsheets sold at the time of the trials or executions.

The sixth woman, Mary Ann Cotton, a poisoner from the north of England, also inspired verses, in this case, however, a schoolyard rope-skipping chant of the type memorializing Lizzie Borden.  (We begin the show with a version the Borden rhyme from 1956 episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents remixed by Bob’s Vids.)

Mary Ann Cotton

Cotton, Britain’s first female serial killer, was executed in 1873 for the murder of her stepson, the last of 13 offspring whose lives she’d taken, that along with three of her four husbands, who were generously insured to ensure the poisoner would profit from her evil.

Like Cotton, our next murderer also preferred arsenic as her lethal weapon. The American, Lydia Sherman, throughout the 1860s and early ’70s poisoned eight children as well as three husbands in New York and Connecticut. Dubbed “the modern Lucretia Borgia” by the press, Sherman was also the subject of an 1873 book, The Poison Fiend: The Most Startling and Sensational Series of Crimes Ever Committed in this Country.  Unlike Cotton, however, Sherman escaped the gallows, sentenced instead to end her life in prison. We begin her segment with a snippet of  the broadside “Ballad of Lydia Sherman” by the Mockingbirds.

We next look at Emma Pitt, a schoolteacher in the British village of Hampreston in Dorset, who murdered a child in 1869. While only taking the life of a single victim, her crime was regarded as particularly heinous as that victim was her own newborn baby, not only killed but mutilated by its mother.

Kate Webster

Our next murderess, the Irish servant Kate Webster was found guilty of killing her mistress Julia Thomas in 1879. While she also  committed but a single homicide, she’s remembered for the particularly grisly details shared in her trial regarding her disposition of Thomas’ body.  Webster’s trial was such a sensation that Gustav, Crown Prince of Sweden, traveled to Britain for the trial, and Madame Tussaud displayed her figure in the Chamber of Horrors for nearly six decades.

The unspeakable deeds of our next criminal are recorded in the 1843 ballad, “Mary Arnold, the Female Monster.”  The less said here about this abomination the better as it may be the most horrific account related in the history of our show.

Our final segment opens with a snippet from another ballad,  “Mrs. Dyer the Baby Farmer,” as sung by Eliza Carthy. In 1896 Amelia Dyer was executed in London for the murder of a single child, though many more deaths were suspected during her 17 years working as a “baby farmer.”

Dyer is the most notorious example of this shady practice by which mothers arranged adoption of illegitimate or unwanted children with mercenary caregivers.  The sum paid, being was a relatively low fee affordable to lower class women, was therefore not realistically expected to sustain the child for long. For this reason, infants thus abandoned, tended to be poorly fed, or outright starved, quieted with gin, or even killed, the last being the case made against Amelia Dyer.

We close with a snippet of the ballad heard earlier, in this case sung  by Derek Lamb.

Amelia Dyer
“Helloween” Video Remix

“Helloween” Video Remix

A short video based on our episode “Who Put the Hell in Helloween?
The audio is a remix of elements you hear in the show soundscape (along with bits of the 1922 film, Häxan, which many of you may recognize.)

ON HALLOWEEN I’ll post the extended 10-minute remix to be blasted on loop from on your porch for the benefit of trick-or-treaters or others susceptible to Satanic Panic.

Who Put the Hell in Helloween?

Who Put the Hell in Helloween?

During the Satanic Panic, the notion of Halloween as a Satanic High Holy Day came to prominence, but the elements necessary to this mythology were set in place much earlier.

This episode focuses particularly on the early years of Wicca, some missteps in disassociating  the movement from Satanism, and early evangelical personalities spinning “ex-Satanist” yarns from this material, which is to say, we focus particularly on the 1960s Occult Revival  up to and including 1973. To set the mood for the era’s pop occultism, we hear some audio snippets by records released by witches, Louise Huebner, Gundella the Green Witch,  Barbara the Gray Witch, and Babetta, the Sexy Witch.

Barbara the Gray Witch
Back of Barbara the Gray Witch 1970 LP

We first have a quick look at Anton Lavey’s creation of The Church of Satan in 1966. While this sketched out cartoonish tropes of  the Panic narrative, Lavey’s carnival-barker style and insistence that there was no actual Satan in his school of Satanism, undermined the influence he might have among all but the most credulous and paranoid.

The real roots of the Panic lay not in Lavey’s publicity stunt, which in the wider historical context was a mere flash in the pan, but in a much older idea conceiving witchcraft and Devil worship or traffic with demons, a notion that held sway for more than seven centuries and therefore not to be quickly rooted out by modern Wiccans.

Some of the sticking points here are rooted in 19th and early 20th century writings on witchcraft by the American folklorist Charles Leland and British Egyptologist Margaret Murray, and their “witch-cult” concept regarding witchcraft as an underground survival of ancient pagan religion.  Problematic here too were their identification of the deities of this religion as “Lucifer” (Leland) and “The Horned God” (Murray).

We then turn to Gerald Gardner, the British civil servant, who in his retirement got the whole Wiccan ball rolling, declaring in the early 1950s, that he had been initiated into the ancient mysteries of this witch-cult by members of a surviving Coven in the New Forest region.  In particular, we examine the way in which Gardner’s emphasis on UK traditions within Wicca, strengthened an association between Halloween and witches (despite virtually no mention of witch gatherings actually occurring on Halloween in earlier historical writings).

Sibyl Leek
Sibyl Leek and her jackdaw “Mr. Hotfoot”

We then have a brief look at Sybil Leek, first acolyte of Gardnerian Wicca in the US, and darling of 1960s journalists. (Leek was profiled in our 2019 Halloween episode, “All of Them Witches.”) As the United States was the birthplace of the modern Halloween, Leek’s insatiable engagement with the press around that time, did much to strengthen the idea of Halloween as a singularly important time for witch gatherings and ritual.  She also provides Halloween recipes!

By the 1960s, Wicca had branched into two paths, Gardnerian and Alexandrian, the latter named for the British witch Alex Sanders, who with his wife Maxine, headed a coven in London. Sanders has much to do with continued confusion between Wicca and Devil-worship thanks to his indiscriminate pursuit of media interest inclined to titillate audiences with the old diabolic model. We discuss his involvement with the British band Black Widow and their Satanic sacrifice stage-show, publicity involvement in the film Eye of the Devil (1966) , and his feature role in the documentary Legend of the Witches (1970) and mondo “documentary” Secret Rites (1971).

Sanders Secret Rites
Sanders in “Secret Rites”

Just as Wicca originated in the UK, only later to be embraced in the US. fraudulent ex-Satanist testimonies were first told in Britain. In 1970 Bristol-born Doreen Irvine began relating stories of her involvement in the occult, tales that took their final form in her  1973 publication From Witchcraft to Christ.  We hear a bit of her tale of teenage street-life, drugs, and prostitution leading to Satanism, her claims to curious supernatural abilities, and her crowning as the “Queen of the Black Witches” on the Dartmoor moor.  As well as her warnings about celebrating Halloween.

While the ex-Satanist narrative, never really caught on in the UK, it hit the big time with American Mike Warnke’s 1972 book purporting to document his experiences in Satanism, The Satan Seller.

Mike Warnke
Mike Warnke in his early days.

While Warnke’s fraudulent stories garnered him celebrity in the early days of the modern evangelical movement, by the late 1970s, he had reinvented himself as a popular Christian comedian.  He did, however, revisit the theme once the Satanic Panic got rolling, with the 1979 release of the album “A Christian Perspective on Halloween.”

We hear his Satan Seller narrative of a good Midwestern boy corrupted by drugs in a California college, eventual elevation to High Priest within global Satanic underworld, eventual self-destruction through drugs leading to a stint with the Navy, during which he’s saved. Along the way, are some bizarre details about his fingernails, strange ordinations in real-world sects, and eventual exposure and fall within the evangelical community.

Another evangelical making the rounds with ex-Satanist stories in in Warnke’s day was John Todd, who began spinning his yars tales around 1968 in Phoenix. We only briefly discuss Todd as he really hits his stride outside our timeframe, namely, in  the late ‘70s when his story of involvement in a Satanic underworld reached its greatest audience via Jack Chick comics.

We wrap up the show with a look at some early collaborators with Warnke in the the occult fear-mongering business — David Balsiger, Morris Cerrullo, and Hershel Smith (AKA “the Skin Eater) as well as their collaboration on the legendary “Witchmobile,” an “anti-occult mobile unit” that roamed the US and Canada from 1972 to 1974.

Witchmobile
Herschel Smith and the Witchmobile
Spirits of the Corn

Spirits of the Corn

Spirits of the corn (grain) fields from the United Kingdom to Russia have been imagined as embodiments of the harvest and guardians of the fields, sometimes evolving into fantastically cruel fear-figures in the process.

We begin with a look at the Scottish and English ballad “John Barleycorn,” first appearing as a broadside in 1568. The suffering hero of the song, “Sir John,” allegorically endures the brutal process of being buried, harvested, threshed, and eventually turned into beer.  We hear some snippets of the song from The Watersons and Fred Jordan.

Some, like the turn-of-the-century mythologist James Frazer, imagined the ballad as an allegorical representation of ancient human sacrifice ensuring good harvest, and while that’s not generally believed now, by way of evidence, Frazer assembled an invaluable and encyclopedic catalog of now extinct agricultural folk customs in his 1890 magnum opus, The Golden Bough.

We examine a number of rituals, documented by Frazer, in which the spirit of the fields is said to take up residence in last grain to be harvested, often as an animal.  One such creature, around which a substantial mythology has been spun, is a goat-like being called the Habergeiss.  I’ve mentioned this bit of Alpine folklore previously in the context of Krampus and Perchten traditions, but here provide a more in-depth look at the many ways in which it’s been imagined.

Habergeiß at Nicholas play in Tauplitz. Photo by Wolfgang Böhm.

Also from German-speaking lands, the Bilwis, a sort of goblin or witch said to protect fields but  more often described as a nocturnal thief of grain, employs small sickles attached at its feet.  We also hear some methods of defeating this sort of mischief as described by Jacob Grimm.

Another German bit of folklore discussed is the Rye Wolf, often closely associated with a female embodiment of the grain. While more broadly referred to as the “Corn Mother,” she assumes her most fearful aspect in German rye fields, where she becomes the Rye Aunt (Roggenmuhme).

An extremely comprehensive and grisly catalog of her terrifying traits was compiled in Richard Beitl’s 1933 study, Investigations into the Mythology of the Child. We take a loving and lingering look at some of these horrific aspects and hear the Rye Aunt described in a tale from the Grimms as well as a story from 1926, told as true (even then) by the grandmother of Otto Busch, author of Thuringian Legends.

We also examine a lighter side of this figure, literally lighter, as she only appears at the hour of noon. Particularly common more in northeastern Germany and Slavic lands (Polednice in Czech, Poludnitsa in Russian) in English literature, she is usually called “Lady Midday,” or “The Noonday Witch.”  Not only does she function as a fear-figure preventing kids from running into the fields but also serves to warn workers to cease their labors at the hour the sun is hottest lest she strike them down with exhaustion, pains, or madness.

Noonday Witch
Polednice/Noonday Witch., by Jiří Farský (1938)

A couple Czech films featuring this character are discussed —  2016’s The Noonday Witch/ Polednice and 2000’2 Wild Flowers/Kytice. The latter is based on an 1853 anthology of folkloric tales (Kytice) folkloric by Czech poet Karel Erben.  Mrs. Karswell reads for us a recent translation of  “The Noonday Witch.”

The show closes with some cinematic scarecrows, primarily a smuggler disguised as a scarecrow created by Russell Thorndike for his 1915 novel, Doctor Syn: A Tale of the Romney Marsh.  We hear some clips from adaptations of Thorndike’s work, the 1962 Hammer film (with Peter Cushing) The Night Creatures, and Disney’s 1964 production The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh starring Patrick McGoohan.

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Master of the Wolves: Transylvanian and Balkan Wolf Lore

Master of the Wolves: Transylvanian and Balkan Wolf Lore

The Master of the Wolves is a supernatural figure central to Transylvania’s (modern Romania’s) voluminous body of wolf lore, a mythology that extends more broadly into Balkan regions once occupied, like Romania, by the ancient Dacians.

We begin with a snippet from a contemporary recording of the 1857 poem “St. Andrew’s Night,” by the Romanian poet and statesman Vasile Alecsandri. The poem’s association between the undead strigoi and moroi and the Romanian St. Andrew’s Night (November 30) was explored in our Transylvanian Vampires episode last year, but there is perhaps an even deeper connection between the St. Andrew, Romania, and the wolf.

Naturally, this brings us to the topic of werewolves.  There are two wolflike monsters in Romanian folklore, the vârcolac and the pricolici, the latter being a closer match to our idea of the werewolf.

We discuss pricolici superstitions, which overlap largely with beliefs about the undead, of which the pricolici is often said to be a member.

The vârcolac, as we see, is rather different. Originally, it seems to have occupied a very limited and specific mythological niche as a creature that rises into the heavens at night to eat the moon, thereby causing an eclipse, or sometimes, the lunar phases.  Over time, the vârcolac seems to have merged with more widespread werewolf beliefs.

The animal form associated with both pricolici and the vârcolac, however, is not always strictly defined as wolf-like.  While the pricolici is sometimes said to assume the form of any number of “unholy” (but real-world) animals, the vârcolac has sometimes been compared to a dragon.

Draco
Dacian draco from Trajan’s Column

This wolf-dragon hybridization can also be found in the draco battle standard carried into by the Romanian Dacians in their wars against Rome. In its original form, the draco, consisted of a wolf head crafted of light metal, trailing a dragon-like windsock body. When in motion, a sort of whistle within the head emitted a shrieking sound that contributed to the Dacian’s fearsome reputation as warriors.

The historian Herodotus commenting on this reputation, also offered some observations on a particularly brutal Dacian rite, that of sending a “messenger” to their god Zamoxis. Mrs. Karswell provides the gory details in her reading of this account.

More modern Romanian myth-making brings together the man-god Zamolxis and the Dacian wolf, in the legend of The Great White Wolf, also read by Mrs. Karswell.  This tale of a wolf leader seems to borrow from genuinely old legends describing  St. Andrew as the “Master of the Wolves.”

Cave of St. Andrew
Romanian cave said to have been the home of St. Andrew

In this role, Andrew is said to return to earth on his night to share with the wolves what prey they are to be allotted in the coming year. The gathering of wolves from all quarters and apparition of the saint on the occasion is a sight mortals witness only with dire consequences, as we hear in another legend related by Mrs. Karswell. Nor is it a good time to be abroad with wolves racing off after their pray, especially so as they’re sometimes said to be supernaturally enabled on this night.

The Master of the Wolves myth did not exclusively attach St. Andrew and his day (or night). St. Martin’s on November 11, can be the setting as in Greece and Germany.  (Germany is is also home to a folk tradition discussed,  Wolfauslassen (“Letting out the Wolves” or “Ringing in the Wolves” in which shepherds returning from the fields for the year parade through towns ringing bells to let the wolves know they are free to roam the pastures.

As well as on St. Martin’s day, the Wolf Master can also appear a bit later, on December 6 when St. Nicholas serves as the Master of the Wolves in Russia and Poland.

While generally associated with the late fall and winter when dwindling food sources makes wolves more aggressive, the Master of the Wolves could also appear in the spring, when the herds would return to pasture, and predators might require a different sort of magical wrangling.  The saint controlling wolves in these cases is almost always St. George.

While versions of this figure are found throughout eastern Europe and Russia (and certain parts of western Europe), it is in Romania where the wolf is most prominent — celebrated with no less than 35 designated “wolf holidays,”of which St. Andrew’s is only the most well-known. This season runs from October into January and its observance is marked by an arcane body of superstitious practices designed to keep the animals at bay.  These include reciting prayers, locking corrals with charmed locks, and binding scissors to keep shut the predator’s jaws, and the like. A folk figure called “St. Peter of Winter” appears at the end of his season with dire consequences for those who have neglected the requirements of the season.

Strangely, the most dreaded wolf of all during this season, is a lame wolf, who not only attacks livestock but man.  Several of Romania’s wolf holidays pay homage to this figure in their name, such as “Lame Philip,” ostensibly named for the apostle Philip, but undoubtedly rooted in older pagan tradition. In Serbia, which shares Romania’s Dacian heritage, a similar figure appears during this season as Lame Daba, a demon portrayed in the company of wolves.

A possible clue to this association between lameness and a dreadful power over human life may lie in Romania’s version of the Three Fates, the ursitoare.  The third member of this trinity, the one given the ultimate power to cut the thread of human life, is traditionally portrayed as lame.

We end the show with a look at a wonderfully bizarre 1976 Romanian-French-Russian co-production, Rock and Roll Wolf AKA Mama, a retelling of a Romanian tale also collected in Germany by the Grimms as “The Wolf and the Seven Young Goats.”  Here’s a short preview clip of the film, which you can find in its entirety with English dubbing here on YouTube.

Episode 93: Marvelous and Rare

Episode 93: Marvelous and Rare

As a “summer intermezzo” Bone and Sickle is offering three episodes this August in our “Marvelous and Rare: Antiquarian Circle” format.  These are shorter episodes normally enjoyed once a month by our $4+ supporters on Patreon (www.patreon.com/boneandsickle).

There’s a reference in this particular episode to “world events” and the contemplation of heavenly phenomena as a balm to the current uncertainties.  It was originally broadcast immediately after the outbreak of the Russian-Ukraine war.

We look forward to returning in September with our regular shows.

 

Episode 92: Marvelous and Rare

Episode 92: Marvelous and Rare

As a “summer intermezzo” Bone and Sickle is offering three episodes this August in our “Marvelous and Rare: Antiquarian Circle” format.  These are shorter episodes normally enjoyed once a month by our $4+ supporters on  Patreon (www.patreon.com/boneandsickle).  We look forward to returning in September with our regular shows.

Episode 91: Marvelous and Rare

Episode 91: Marvelous and Rare

As a “summer intermezzo” Bone and Sickle is offering three episodes this August in our “Marvelous and Rare: Antiquarian Circle” format.  These are shorter episodes normally enjoyed once a month by our $4+ supporters on Patreon (www.patreon.com/boneandsickle).  We look forward to returning in September with our regular shows.

Dark Fairy Tales II: Heads in a Fountain, Bones in a Bag

Dark Fairy Tales II: Heads in a Fountain, Bones in a Bag

Dark fairy tale elements including floating heads and bags of bones are featured in a family of tales classified under the Aarne-Thompson system as Type 480, “Kind and Unkind Girls.”  Imaginative punishments and rewards for the kind and unkind characters in question are a further interesting element.  The girls in these tales are always sisters or stepsisters, and a wicked stepmother (sometimes mother) is part of the formula.

Our first example is the English tale, “The Three Heads of the Well.”  The fairy tale bears a strange connection to an earlier 11th-century British legend featuring as its heroine the Byzantine Empress Helena, here portrayed as the daughter of the mythical “Old King Cole” of nursery rhyme fame.  Both legend and fairy tale are set to the town of Colchester in Essex, understood to be named for King Cole.

King Cole
Father of Empress Helena?

From “The Three Heads of the Well,” we learn that being polite to heads floating out of magic wells serves one well, while rude behavior is strictly punished.  A curious element of the narrative  is the request made by the floating heads that their hair be combed.

Our next tale, “Three Fairies,” comes from Giambattista Basile’s Il Pentamerone, or Lo cunto de li cunti (“The Tale of Tales), a source used in our previous episode for the story “Penta the Handless.” The tale involves an encounter with fairies living in a fantastic palace hidden deep within a chasm.

Basile’s tales are particularly noteworthy for their extravagant and playful verbiage, illustrated in several lengthy passages read for us by Mrs. Karswell.

In this tale, we learn the value of diplomacy in discussing the hair and scalp conditions of fairies. A second lesson: one must be particularly wary when allowing oneself to be sealed in a barrel.

Perrault
Perrault’s 1697 Tales of Passed Times

Our next story, “The Fairies,” comes from perhaps the most famous collection of fairy tales pre-Grimm, Charles Perrault’s 1697 volume Tales of Passed Times, sometimes subtitled Tales of Mother Goose.  This French story can be found in certain English-language collections under the title “Diamonds and Toads,” referring to what falls from the mouths of its kind and unkind girls respectively — a blessing or curse depending on the girls’ charity toward fairies disguised as mortals.

The Grimms’ story, “Frau Holle” is introduced with a snippet of the “Frau Holle Lied,”  a children’s song describing the grandmotherly (and witch-like) Frau Holle shaking feathers from her featherbed to make the snow in winter, an element from the Grimm story.

As in the Perrault’s “The Fairies” the Kind Sister in “Frau Holle” is sent to fetch water, and ends up not in an enchanted chasm, but falling into an enchanted well, passage to a sort of parallel dimension in which ovens demand their bread be baked, apple trees their fruit be picked, and Frau Holle has all sorts of housework for the heroine to perform.  The girl’s unkind sister, however fails miserably when confronted with identical tasks, and we see both the rewarding and punishing side of Holle, an aspect of the story that relates it loosely to the winter mythology of the Frau Holle/Frau Perchta figure I discuss in other shows and my book as inspiration for the Krampus.

The rewards and punishments doled out in “Frau Holle” are likely borrowed from Basile’s “The Three Fairies,” as you might be able to guess from these depictions:

We introduce our next  iteration of this tale with a clip is from an English-dubbed version of the 1964 Soviet folklore film Morozko (or Father Frost) by pre-eminent Russian fairy-tale director Alexander Rou.  The film weaves its own elaborate story around the bare bones of the classic tale “Father Frost” collected by Alexander Afanasyev in the 1850s. Here, goodness is demonstrated by the Kind Girl’s willingness to endure cold, a particularly Russian virtue.

Illustration of Father Frost from a 1932 volume

Our last story is the most obscure (and gruesome): “Rattle-Rattle-Rattle and Chink-Chink-Chink” from a 1919 collection by Parker Fillmore called Czechoslovak Fairy Tales.  As with several of our stories, a key role is played by an all-knowing housepet who can speak.

We wrap up with a footnote to our first story, “The Three Heads of the Well” and its connection via an Elizabethan play, George Peele’s “The Old Wives’ Tale” to “Willow’s Song” from The Wicker Man (1973), all of which leads us into the bizarre folklore of an aphrodisiac charm known as “cockle bread.”

(NOTE: For details on the 2022 Bone and Sickle shirts and merch mentioned in the show, please visit boneandsickle.com, or go directly to our Etsy shop.)