The fluence: who are the “folk” in “folk magic”?

My mum’s family aren’t witches.  They’re not holders of any ancient mystical “fam-trad” lineage.  (In fact, some are from staunch Scots Presbyterian stock, including the “no dancing on the Sabbath!” variety.)

However, they DID pass down a bunch of stuff - little stories, customs, all that, as any culture does.  (And my gran took it and ran with it, loving and researching folklore all her life, teaching it to me and later enthusiastically joining in seasonal rituals.)

One thing in particular, which I grew up with as completely normal, was something the women of the family did: the soothing called “the fluence”.  Fractious children were calmed by this combination of forehead-stroking and deliberately radiating calming feelings, often with a low humming.  Obviously these things are calming anyway, but someone really good at it - like my gran, rest her - could do it from a distance.

I thought it was just one of those quirky family things.  “You’ve got a headache? Come here, I’ll put the fluence on you.”  “Ugh, X kid is being a monster, better put the fluence on them.”

Later on, however, I learned that this was, in fact, A Thing beyond our family - “putting the influence on someone”, which was, indeed, often abbreviated to “the fluence”.  (Etymonline takes this meaning of “the influence” back to the 1500s, and says it shows up earlier in medieval Latin.)  I’d done it to jasminekor when she was distressed; one time she was reading or watching something historical, and a character accused someone of having put the (negative) fluence on someone, and she sat up and said, “Oh my god, it’s actually a thing! I thought it was just your family!” just as I had.

I’m not telling this story to show what a ~magical mystical folk-craft family~ I come from.  I’m telling it to show that, when we talk about folk magic, we’re not talking about some vague people long ago and far away, but just…us.  (I think Pratchett had something trenchant to say about this, as usual.)  It’s not all stuff gathered by Cecil Williams, it’s not all in books, it didn’t mysteriously stop at some point, it’s just…stuff we do.  

Using the fluence to calm a kid down, for their sake and the sake of everyone in the room who’s having to listen to the screeching - that’s folk magic.  Pointing out a single crow to the person you’re with because it’s bad luck to be the only one who sees a single crow, to turn the bad luck - that’s folk magic.  (I’m told this is a specifically Kentish thing, and I grew up doing it without even really knowing what it was, but to this day I still have the urge to point and say “Crow!” when I see one XD)  

Ditto saluting/touching your hat/spitting at/etc magpies.  (For me: flick your fingers three times, spit three times with your thumb between your forefingers, and if you’re being hardcore, “Away with you evil, away with you ill!”  Tricky when you’re driving XD)  Any ill-luck-turning ‘superstition’ is folk magic.  (Broken something?  Quick, run out and smash a couple of jam-jars, cos these things come in threes!)  Cross your fingers to avoid bad luck (or render a promise powerless).  Rub your wedding ring on your stye to cure it.  Throw salt over your shoulder. “See a pin and pick it up, all that day you’ll have good luck.  See a pin and let it lie, that day you’ll see your luck go by.”  Hang up a horseshoe.  Keep a lock of your baby’s first hair to protect them.  Throw coins in the wishing well.

We do so many of these things without even thinking, and call them “superstition”, while looking for obscure lore from tucked-away corners of the country, poring over accounts of cunningmen and executed witches, and never look at what was done by everyone - what *we still do* - every day, 

This too is folk magic, and we are (still) the folk.


  10 Watermelon Sculptures That Are Too Skillfully Crafted to Eat 

Artists across the globe have utilized watermelons as an unexpected canvas for their imaginative creations. For centuries, fruit carving has been a respected art in Thailand and was used solely for decorating royal tables. Now, this uncommon skill has been adopted by others who see watermelons as more than tasty treats. From geometric sculptures to intricate floral arrangements and impressive animals, these creatives have carved this summer fruit into edible, museum-worthy pieces. We’ve compiled some of our favorites, which are expertly crafted and too beautiful to munch on.

Source: mymodernmet


If you’re looking for another hobby, we just learned about a whole new awesome art form, the psychedelic art of Candle Carving. While it may be new to us, carving candles is actually a traditional German craft. These kaleidoscopic sculptures are functional candles made entirely layers of different colored wax. Carving designs into the wax exposes all those layers, creating dazzling sculptures.

This “How It’s Made” video shows the techniques used to make these beautiful candles at Holland, MI-based company Holland House Candles:

“According to the video, it can take up to to a year for a carver to learn how to carve the candle quickly as you only have about 15 minutes before the wax hardens to a point where it is too hard to work with.

Also, in case you are worried about burning it and then no longer having this beautiful candle, the people at Holland House Candles have a solution for you. They, essentially, advise you have a controlled burn of the candle until a nice deep well has been melted out. Then, you can just put in a flickering light to simulate a candle burning and still enjoy the lighting effect without reducing your candle to nothing.”

Candles like the ones pictured above are available to order from Holland House Candles and the Prima Candle Etsy shop. Head to either site to check out even more designs.

[via Make:, Holland House Candles, Prima Candle, and Easy Fresh Ideas]
The Witch and the Wild : Sarah Anne Lawless

Wonderful and essential new blog from Sarah Anne Lawless - The Witch and the Wild:
“Our witchcraft, nay, our very being must become more wild, more intuitive, and more accepting of nature’s amorality and our inevitable demise if we are to make any difference at all. If we are to preserve what we’ve left behind of the earth in our destructive wake, and if we are to survive in any number as a species, we must rewild ourselves and learn how to live outside of civilization. We must lose our faiths, our religions, our meaningless attachment to nitpicketity details only we as individuals and not a whole care about. We who are importers of foreign magics and alien gods. We must become a different kind of witch. Something that needs no definitions, no boundaries, and no expectations. Something more primal and raw than our current incarnation. Something small, something just outside your door…”

Cornish Witchcraft

Good free source material here from sacred texts for those looking into Cornish Witchcraft and Folklore:

For a contemporary view from Cornwall we highly recommend Steve Patterson’s Bucca and the Cornish Cult of Pellar in our Serpent Songs collection. The best writing on the Bucca you could hope to find.

Also a great piece by Gemma Gary in there too.

Steve Patterson is currently working on what looks like a very interesting book on Cecil Williamson (for another publisher).

We’d furthermore recommend visiting our good friends at The Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle if you ever get the opportunity to do so.