In Welsh culture, professional sin-eaters attended funerals to ritualistically eat a meal over the corpse to absorb the deceased’s sins. Every sin stayed with them until their own death, and they were often social outcasts because of the spiritual uncleanliness they accumulated. One has to wonder if sin-eaters would eat the sins of other sin-eaters, passing the spiritual debt down for generations. Image: Two Old Ones Eating Soup, Francisco Goya, 1819
A superstition of the American South: the first person who walks into your house on New Year’s Day will be like your chickens that year. If fat, the chickens will be fat, and vice versa. From North Carolina Folklore Journal, July 1966 Issue. Image: Brent Moore via Flickr CC-BY-NC
In Irish folklore, a changeling is a fairy child that was left in place of a human child stolen by the fae. Changelings often appear exactly like a human children but with strange differences such as long teeth, a full beard, uncanny intelligence and odd behavior. Jinn from Arabic folklore are also known to steal human children and replace them with changelings. Image: Titania and the Changeling Child (detail) by John Anster Fitzgerald, 1832-1906
The Björketorp runestone in Sweden is famous for being among the tallest in the world—and the ancient curse inscribed on it. The monument’s purpose is unknown, but the curse is clear: destroy the stone and be doomed, like the farmer who was burned alive trying to remove it. Image: Sveriges Montelius, 1877
The mandrake is a mythologized plant with a root that looks like a human figure. The root is poisonous and hallucinogenic, it was once a common anesthetic and potion ingredient. Legends say mandrakes scream and cry when uprooted—killing anyone who hears. So use safe harvesting methods! Image: Ernte eines Alrauns (Medicina antiqua), 1250
A broom placed on the doorsill will keep witches from entering your home. From The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Image source: Workshop of Rembrandt, possibly painted by Carel Fabritius, 1651.