Shifting gears from the asshattery of genre creators for a second (which is difficult simply to sheer volume of said asshattery), a conversation between myself and Pitchblende in Quasi's "Find Your Daemon" thread has gotten me thinking about folklore and superstition.
It's almost That Time of Year. We've already had a few posts about it, like LightningLouie's post about scary stories from yesterday. Usually I roll my eyes in disgust when retail stores roll out seasonal decorations when it's nowhere near the season - it's like Thanksgiving doesn't even exist in the U.S., they're so eager to put out their Christmas stuff.
But I have a giant exception carved out for Halloween. A few stores near me already have some of their Halloween decorations out, some of the season Halloween stores are preparing to open, and Halloween is the best thing to look forward to at summer's end.
Anyway, back to what I was going to talk about. Am I the only one who is slightly disturbed by folklore - particularly folklore that is in a structured form like a rhyme? For example, Pitchblende and I were talking about magpies:
One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret never to be told.
Or there's this version:
One for sorrow,
Two for mirth,
Three for a funeral,
Four for a birth,
Five for heaven,
Six for hell,
Seven's the Devil his own self.
There are a lot of different versions. It's been around a long time. Magpies, in Britain and some other cultures, are considered to be an ill omen. Pitchblende says their grandmother believed that saying "Hello Mr. Magpie, where are your wife and kids?" could ward off the sorrow behind the sighting of a single magpie. Terry Pratchett references this superstition in his Discworld novel Carpe Jugulum (which is one of the best).
And then there's this bit of rhyming folk wisdom:
Monday's child is fair of face
Tuesday's child is full of grace
Wednesday's child is full of woe
Thursday's child has far to go
Friday's child is loving and giving
Saturday's child works hard for a living
But the child who's born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.
Maybe this is just me, but can you see a family with seven children, each born on a different day of the week, forced under a curse to exhibit only the behavior expected of them in the rhyme? At first glance it seems that Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday have it the worst, but come on. All of these lines have ways in which they could be twisted to make the kid's life miserable.
I don't know. Maybe it's because the Monday's Child rhyme is specific toward children. Children are great - don't get me wrong - but in a horror context they are incredibly creepy.
Remember The Tommyknockers? I know most of us are trying to forget. It's definitely not one of Stephen King's better books, and that miniseries based on it was laughable. But the rhyme that is the source of the title (and the theme King really should have gone with) is real.
Tommy Knockers are believed to be the spirits of dead miners that sometimes help other miners find ore - or knock on the walls right before a cave in. Miners who believed in the superstition tried to stay on the Tommy Knockers' good side by leaving behind part of their lunches, or by sculpting tiny clay figures of the spirits.
Late last night
And the night before
Tommy Knockers Tommy Knockers
Knocking at the door.
I want to go out
Don't know if I can
'Cause I'm so afraid
Of the Tommy Knocker Man.
So how about you, Niners? What kind of rhymes or folk wisdom creeps you out? Do you have any lore that's been passed down through your families or culture?