folklore

Articles in ‘folklore’

A Spanish nursery rhyme

March 27th, 2009

Cinco Lobitos
Cinco lobitos tiene la loba
blancos y negros detrás de una escoba.
Cinco tenía y cinco criaba
y a todos los cinco tetita les daba

Five wolf cubs
The mother wolf has five cubs
black and white behind a brush
She had five and she raised five
and she gave all five her breast to feed

To be sung to babies to distract them. Swivel your five fingers, the five wolf cubs, in front of the baby.

Cold brings cranes back

October 5th, 2008

With the cold, the first of this year’s cranes have arrived in the dehesas of Cáceres and Salamanca, and the lagoon of Gallocanta in Aragon. La Crónica Verde reminds of the Castillian saying:

“cuando las grullas van para Castilla, coge el hacha y haz astillas” When the cranes set off for Castilla, get your axe and start chopping firewood.

Flocks of lapwings are also arriving.

The Legend of Monte Perdido

October 2nd, 2008

Monte Perdido, the Lost Mountain, (3355m) is the third highest peak in the Pyrenees but until the early 19th century it was thought that to be the highest. It does, however, boast the highest waterfall (400m) in Europe and the second largest glacier in the Pyrenees. The mountain is home to many legends, perhaps the most evocative of which is this one:

A palace was built at the beginning of time by the mythical Enchanter of the Peaks, Atland, who put a spell on the palace so that only certain people could enter it. Polished walls and towers protected it and hid behind them vast gardens and meadows that were like an earthly paradise. The palace is still bound by Atland’s spell and can only be entered if you are riding on the back of a flying horse. More legends from Aragon

The bear and the princess

September 10th, 2007

The Monasterio de San Salvador in Cornellana, Asturias was founded in 1024 by Princess Cristina, daughter of King Bermudo II of Leon, also known as Bermudo el Gotoso (Gout-stricken). The gate into the vegetable garden is decorated with the relief of what is perhaps a female bear breast-feeding a human child. The legend goes that when Cristina was a young girl she got lost in the forest and was saved by a bear which fed and protected her.

Fox Legends

August 27th, 2007

I compiled these legends about foxes in Spain from the excellent Seres míticos y personajes fantásticos españoles by MANUEL MARTÍN SÁNCHEZ.  

  • Zorro de tres cabezas The three-headed fox. Resides in a megalithic monument near Tortosa, Catalonia and comes out on the night of San Juan to terrorise peasants.

  • Raposa de Morgaza. Lugo, Galicia. Nobody has ever seen this fox which emits chilling howls at night announcing misfortune or death. 
  • Raposa de Morrazo. Appears in front of travellers on lonely Galician county lanes with its spine curdling howl and breathing fire from its mouth. It is thought that the fox is really lost soul condemned to wander for his/her sins.
  • Loberono (Vulpus canis) Ferocious Galician mammal produced by the cross between a fox and a wolf. Sometimes appears as a fox and sometimes as a wolf with red fur and black spots. Often found in cemeteries digging up the dead on which it feeds. It is capable of paralysing a human (Homo sapiens) with its look and can see through walls. Shouting at a loberono is useless as it is deaf as a post. Fox mythology, Spanish cryptofauna

See also Foxes in Spain

Mermaids in Spain

July 22nd, 2007

“They write from Galicia in Spain that some fishermen lately took on that coast a sort of monster, or merman, five feet and half long from it’s foot to its head, which was like that of a goat. It has a long beard and moustaches, and black skin somewhat hairy, a very long neck, short arms, and hand longer than they ought to be in proportion to the rest of the body: long fingers like those of a man, with nails like claws, very long toes, joined like the feet of a duck, and the heels furnished with fins resembling the winged feet with which painters represent Mercury. ”

From Scots Magazine 1739.

In Spanish a mermaid is a sirena. More Iberian knicknackery here

Book on reptiles and amphibians in Spain

March 6th, 2007

27/02/2006 I recently bought Anfibios y Reptiles de la Peninsula Iberica e Islas Baleares (Guias Verdes) by Toni Aragon Rebollo, 2006. 39 euros or thereabouts. This is a very well organised and clearly written guide. Before the field guide itself, there is an ample introduction on the status of herps in Spain and a fascinating section on their place in Spanish folklore, from which I’ve quickly translated this on lizards.

In the north of the Peninsula, it was believed that lizards were friends of men, while snakes were related to women. They told that lizards would leap at women during their period (Translator’s note: My mother-in-law has told me about this). Similarly in Seville , geckos were said to chase after women. There also stories of lizards climbing into women’s vaginas while they slept. In the southeast there is the belief that if you come across a lizard with two tails and you put it in a plate scattered with flour, it will draw the winning numbers in the lottery (two-tailed lizards occasionally occur when a new one is regrown without the old having been totally severed). Another belief related to lizards tails is that they are a cure warts. This belief should be combated as the loss of its tail can cause great harm.

There is also lots information on the folklore around individual species in the field guide part. On the Turkish gecko we have for example:

Murcia they are known as pelás. This comes from the “powers” they are said to have. It is thought that if you misfortunate enough for a gecko to fall on your head you will go bald as a coot. In some villages just the mere spit from a gecko is enough to leave you hairless”.

All no doubt true, although biologists claim that geckos can’t spit. Thoroughly recommended. Good drawings and photos too.

See Foroum on this Book on Spanish reptiles and amphibians