The Many Secrets of Easter

LukeLore Easter Special Hello everyone, welcome to Lukelore. A quick deep dive into a folklore topic, where I share some of the stories from around the world that have piqued my interest. Welcome to an unexpected Easter Special! All a bit of an impulsive Spring celebration, which is pretty appropriate really. In collaboration with Wanda Fraser’s Dark Art series we’ve gone all Spring lately and leaned into some art of The Fair Folk Friday’s and as a Saint Patrick’s Day special! For this special it’s simple enough. We have a quick look at some pre-Christian traditions that have endured in the background to the modern day, then showcase some of the Aos Si in both original and modern contexts. Spring has sprung on the Northern hemisphere everyone! Let’s enjoy it. SECTION BREAK – The surprisingly simple explanation for chocolate eggs Easter is one of those weird things that Christianity kind of hoovered up as it absorbed its way across Europe like The Theological Blob, yet a weird amount of paganism survived this one. Christianity still has its own things going on here. There’s some question of the Resurrection being moved to coincide with Easter as a link to the rebirth of celebrating the Spring Equinox, but Lent is very much the Church’s own thing. There’s also a lot of festivals surrounding these traditions which I don’t want to detract from.

But that leads to the relative scarcity of mildly blasphemous chocolate Jesus’s to eat around the time, during Northern hemisphere spring renewal rituals…

Which leads us to what’s going on with Easter Eggs. The pagan clue remains in the name, to be fair. While also known as Ostara, the Germanic Goddess Eostre or Eastre was the goddess of Spring and Summer, and the egg is explicitly her symbol. Representing fertility and new life like she does, the pagan brickwork under the Christian wallpaper is all about a welcoming of the Spring and the rebirth of the world. Rabbits and chicks are also Eostre’s symbols, and it’s not much of a leap to work out where Easter gets its name. Check out the Easter displays in stores the next time you swing through, and beneath the jolly bunting there’s a cornucopia of traditional pre-Christian celebration in Stealth Mode.

In appearance, Eostre is said to be a maiden old enough to bear a child, but not yet a mother. Much more than that, though, is lost to time or else buried. Eostre is a dancer who comes dressed in flowers and new growth, full of joy but not to be trifled with as they can turn with the suddenness and danger of Spring weather turning bad. According to the Brothers Grimm she would be seen riding a horse with a collection of keys on her belt as she goes to collect fresh brook water and the dew of plants to be used as holy water in youth renewing rituals.

Eostre can be traced back to Eos, the Greek Goddess of Dawn, both in turn can be traced back to Proto-Indo-European Goddesses of Spring. What the Spring Equinox has meant to humanity for its entire existence is a long chain of varied traditions that modern revivals in the secular societies of European heritage countries means a lot of these much older original cultures are still at least a little present today. SECTION BREAK – To Sidhe or not to Sidhe Let’s talk about the Fair Folk a little.

First, let’s get out of the way why I’m calling them anything but “fairies”. Episode 4 of LukeLore (wow, this has been going a while now…) was on The Good Folk and gave a foundation for this. What people now call fairies are the Aos Si, or just Sidhe, being “of the Otherworld”, and there’s quite a lot of discussion how calling them the more modern names may well be an insult. As a part of the Easter Special I wanted to go over some more modern terms used to refer to the Sidhe, and give them some context rooted in the older stories. When it comes to names, respect is everything. More accurately, disrespect is everything to avoid as angering otherworldly beings tends to go pretty badly wrong. Modern terms can be very inadvertently disrespectful, as explained more in Episode 4 of LukeLore with fairies and the fae. They’re very interesting descriptors that have taken on interesting meanings in pop culture, but their origin is from the 1400s and was an attempt to tie the Sidhe in to Classical Greek storytelling. It can be somewhat an unwelcome attempt to repurpose them. Traditional honorifics are about being polite and complimentary. The Fair Folk. The Good Neighbours. The Seelie Wight. Seelie, a very common term for the assort Aos Si who represent Spring, Summer, new growth, and the less dangerous of their kind (please please note less dangerous is not the same as safe), was originally from one of these honorifics. ‘Wight’ simply meaning spirit, a term which has warped across pop culture starting with Tolkein to now more mean some sort of undead creature, and Seelie coming from an old Anglo-Saxon word Saelig or Saellic that means roughly happy and/or prosperous. To call the Scottish based Sidhe a Seelie Wight is supposed to be very flattering, so a great one to remember if you wander somewhere you shouldn’t have in the highlands. Which leads us to a term only from the 1800s: Unseelie. If the Seelie are the Court of Summer, the Fair Folk of the Day, the Good Neighbours who may be inclined to do a favour or two for the mortals, then the Unseelie are the Court of Winter, the Fair Folk of the Night, and the Neighbours who want nothing to do with the mortals willing to attack trespassers on sight. The idea is to categorise these Sidhe as those who would attack a human in the wilds on sight. Now, to call the Unseelie is a multi fasceted insult. First, it’s a term 200 years old. By many accounts, the older and more powerful the Sidhe you encounter the greater the insult such a thing could be. Then you’re taking one of the most pleasant honorifics the Fair Folk like, and spitting in their face telling them they are the opposite of this. Now, calling something like The Nuckelavee or a Redcap a bad and unprosperous neighbour probably isn’t going to make a dent, being noticed by something which hates humans more than mortal comprehension is a drop in the ocean, but it still feels like being polite in passing is probably a good call. Personally? I love urban fantasy stories making good use of the terms! And being able to come up with a good story is a great way to stay on the right side of the Sidhe, so being able to explain yourself may amuse them to the point they don’t turn you into a fashion accessory. But remember that those of the otherworld are not just people from some other place. Never forget that they are not us. They have their own rules, their own morals, and their own civilisation. All that groundwork being laid, let’s go look at some Sidhe! . SECTION BREAK – They might be lucky, you not so much Leprechauns may not quite be what you expect… Well, unless you like the horror movies. Strangely, you’re better off leaning into ‘Leprechaun 4: In Space’ than you are ‘Darby O’Gill and the Little People’. I’ll circle back around to this. First up, the brass tacks.

A Leprechaun is the archetypal “Little Person”, appearing as a small old man dressed in either Green or Red. But for the fact they are always depicted in Green, anyone could spot a depiction of a Leprechaun. They are most often seen as a tiny old man either in red clothes or the more commonly known green. Pop culture depicts them as a somewhat jolly figure, and that isn’t too wrong. Just a little misleading as to what you really have to deal with. They are famous cobblers, for example. Hearing their hammering as they work in the wild places where there really shouldn’t be the tapping sounds of a cobbler at work is a way to find where a leprechaun is active. They’re such dedicated cobblers because they’re such dedicated dancers! Leprechauns love to dance and revel, and as such they like humans who do the same. So Leprechauns, whether alone, or in groups that may just be other Leprechauns or a mixed group of Aos Si, like to lure away mortals to come party in the otherworld. Party until they physically cannot go on…

There’s a common tale you will find told across Ireland of a woman lured away by a Leprechaun who was returned seven years later after every last toe had worn away to nothing from non-stop dancing. Leprechauns are probably most famous for their gold though, their pot at the end of the rainbow. The thing here is… They don’t seem to need that gold, and it mostly seems to exist to mess with greedy mortals. While looking like tiny old men Leprechauns are agile, fast, and supernaturally lucky with the ability to vanish at will. They appear to use their gold to lure in unwary humans who they are happy to teach a lesson about respect and humility.

Apparently should you manage to capture a Leprechaun, you will be offered three wishes in exchange for letting them go. Now I’m not saying something like this is impossible in the old stories, as the Sidhe have to follow their own laws and traditions, but I will stories of Leprechaun wishes seem to go very dangerously awry to the point I suspect that if you should catch one it wanted to be caught to mess with you. They’re a centuries, if not aeons, old monkey paw on legs made out of equal parts cunning and mischief. It may actually not be possible to truly capture one, and the wishes are a game to try and trick disrespectful humans where losing results in a lifelong curse of terrible luck.

Just leave well alone is the advice. Your greed is their chance to have a good time at your expense. Leave out an offering of their favourite treat the Irish moonshine Poteen, and don’t go following strange sounds of music into the wild places. Now… the rather infamous horror movie franchise helmed by the massively underrated and brilliant Warwick Davies. Well known for it’s B movie aesthetic and incredible excess, going from Space to Da Hood, have you actually watched the original one? At least, seen it recently? It’s a surprisingly good run at how dumb it is for humans to mess with a Leprechaun hitting quite a lot of notes of folklore with quite a lot of dark undercurrents. You could do far worse than give the first Leprechaun a watch. SECTION BREAK – The red caps of gnomes, and the Redcap itself Pop culture, and how it assimilates folklore, can be a funny thing. I shouldn’t need to explain the existence of garden gnomes to people. Apparently their name gnome is an acronym for “guarding peacefully over mother earth” and they seem to be a relatively recent reinterpretation of assorted Little Folk stories. Which can worry me quite a lot.

See how they almost only have a red cap? Well, there’s a type of Goblin called a Redcap.

So, the good news here is there’s a very likely solid folklore link to garden gnomes having their red cap, but the good news is now over. A Redcap is a vicious goblin creature that, if you're unlucky enough, can be found at historic battlegrounds and in ruins with terrible bloody histories. They love to scrounge up old murder weapons and they wear iron boots, which on the plus side means they're easy to hear when they start running but on the downside you may have noticed they don't have the usual Sidhe aversion to iron...

The cap they're named after gets its red colour from being dipped into blood. Human, animal, found that way or "helped" to die by the Redcap, they mop up blood and have an incentive to make sure there's always more victims: Should a Redcap's cap dry out, the Redcap dies. If you can deprive a Redcap of victims or else trap them you can kill them. The only other safe suggestion is to avoid them, their iron boots charging towards you are a very good audible cue to start running away! SECTION BREAK – A fairy tale of Cowslips Okay, it’s the Easter Special, and I’ve just used it as a soapbox for murder. Let’s end this with flowers. There’s a story of a girl in Lincolnshire whose life became linked to the new growth of Spring. Across the Winter her health began to fade, and there was nothing anyone could do to help her. Spring came late that year, and as much as everyone hoped she would live to see it the girl told her mother that should spring not come the next day she would surely die. But Spring did come, and with it the girl’s vitality. As new life budded everywhere, her strength began to return. While the sun shone, her energy returned, her parents helping her sit outside to help speed up her miraculous recover. As this life bloomed, so too did she! With the cowslips in full flower, she was full of vigor and somehow growing more beautiful each day until the flowers surrounding their house finished fully blooming.

But this was no natural recovery.

One day a young man hoping to woo her picked one of the cowslips to present to her as a token of affection, not knowing what he was doing. The young woman was devastated as she took the flower, a spell broken and a price now about to be paid.

As the cowslip she held died, she too followed it. Her health declined all through the rest of that day and through the night until the next morning she disappeared to become a part of the season itself. Bit of a bittersweet one, but certainly a Spring story. SECTION BREAK That’s all for this episode of LukeLore. The Fair Folk are a topic Brennan doesn’t much like to cover, so everyone please be extra nice to him as he’s been stuck dragged along with mine and Wanda’s Spring Sidhe Shenanigans. There’s an interesting theory that got raised by a fan about that… It may not be that the Good Neighbours don’t like us, and instead that the Seelie Wights of the Winter Court may in fact like us quite a lot, and that is the problem with getting their attention! If you want to discuss that, again please be nice to Brennan and keep it away from the Main Show areas. Come find Wanda or LukeLore places to chat, Wanda’s Irish blood seems to carry her through and I’m either the right level of respectful to get away with discussing the Aos Si or else I’m just mistaken for some sort of Troll or Ogre due to my size.

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