English Folklore and Myth
England has been a major point of civilization since Roman times. As a result, pertinent folklore and mythology travels across millennia. This is the current offerings for English myth, superstition, and history.
- Sir Walter Scott wrote of an old belief around the “Brig of Dread.” This was when the soul left the body and had to cross a bridge the width of a thread, to get to heaven. If the soul succeeded, he found heaven on the other side. If he fell, he was lost.
- Robin Goodfellow- An English domesticated fairy. This typically nocturnal creature was most often benign, but many supposed he led men astray at night.
- Hand of Glory- This was a severed hand of a hanged criminal. It was used centuries ago, in England, to aid in burglary. Users believed the Hand of Glory would freeze those in the structure, and let them steal without being discovered. Some people would desecrate the grave of a newborn infant to take their hand. If the hand was affixed to the doorknob, the home’s occupants would be thrown into a near-coma state. When the robbery was done, the thief would remove the hand from the door, and break the “spell.” In Europe, this was the hand of a hanged man, holding a candle made of the hanged man’s fat, virgin wax, and sesame of Lapland.
- Arcannerez Nos- Ghostly washwomen who scrub their linens in a stream at night. They ask passersby for help. If you agree, they’ll break your arm. If you refuse, they drown you.
- Mary Anne Atwood authored A Suggestive Inquiry with Hermetic Mystery. It was first published anonymously in London, in 1850. Because it was alleged to reveal alchemical secrets, it was withdrawn from circulation.
- August Order of Light- Maurice Vidal Portman started the order in England, in 1882. It eventually became the “Oriental Order of Light,” and was headquartered in Bradford, Yorkshire. Also called an, “Oriental Order.” It was created to develop practical occultism, but eventually began emulating the Kabala.
- Barguest- A mischievous goblin, imp, or phantom that sits atop gates.
- In the western part of ancient England, many believed people lost their shadow once they sold their soul to the devil. This was thought to echo the Egyptian notion of a shadow holding the soul.
- The people of Yorkshire once believed if you walked around a room at midnight, in complete darkness, you could see the devil if you looked in the mirror.
- Steep violets in goat’s milk and rub it onto your face. Any prince on Earth will be charmed by your beauty.
- You can summon the devil by repeating the Lord’s Prayer backwards.
- Edward Alleyn, who founded Dulwich college in 1619, was an first actor. He rehearsed for the part of the devil, and the devil himself appeared before him to mock him. He left acting and devoted his life to religious studies.
- J. Morse was an English trance medium who began to practice about 1870.
- William Stainton Moses- A famous medium. He helped found the British National Association of Spiritualism, among other deeds.
- Bealings Bells- a mysterious outbreak of bell-ringing in February of 1834. The event was near the residence of Major Moor, in Bealings, Suffolk. The bells mysterious and randomly rang from February 2nd to March 27th.
- Charles Bradlaugh- a notable member of the Committee of the London Dialectical Society. In 1869, he was appointed to investigate claims of spiritualism.
- It is a “sin” to point at a rainbow.
- Cock Lane Ghost- a poltergeist that terrorized a home on Cock Lane, in Smithfield, London. The Parons family lived there at the time. The haunting occured in 1762. The spirit claimed to be that of Mrs. Kent, former occupant of the home, who was murdered by her husband. The disturbance was eventully blamed on Parson’s 11-year-old daughter. Parsons was then prosecuted and sentenced to the pillory.
- Hallowing Cramp-Rings- this ceremony took place on Good Friday. It began with psalms and prayers being recited, and the king rubbed the rings between his fingers. The rings were then said to be consecrated, and would drive away muscle cramps.
- The death coach silently passes at midnight, to pick up the souls of those who’ve passed. The coach and horses are black, and a black dog runs in front. Sometimes the horses and driver are headless.
- One superstition from Devonshire involved coffin nails. If three nails, or screws, from a coffin were fashioned into a ring, it would be a charm against convulsions, or “fits.”
- A chamber of the Knebworth House was said to belong to the “Yellow Boy.” The phantom child had long blond hair, and only appeared to foretell a violent death. The child would know the place, time, and means by which the occupant would die. Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh stayed in the room, where he encountered the Yellow Boy. He died a short time later when he slit his own throat.
Isle of Man
- The body of a murderer can’t be buried during daylight. Murderers were buried at midnight, with no religious ceremony.
- The Silk Lady appeared occasionally off the coast of Lyme. If you followed her until she disappeared, she would lead you to coins and gems.
- Lady Sanford is doomed to wander a portion of Lyme, riding a rooster. She repeats, “I rue the time I sold water for wine, and combed my hair of a Sunday.”
- Pertaining to the Mabinogion, or the earliest writings in the United Kingdom. The stories were compiled by Welsh authors around Thirteenth Century.
- Addane of the Lake- Monster from the Mabinogi legend Peredur.
Other English Curiosities: