Modern Mythology Monday: Springwort

Modern Mythology LogoWelcome to my Modern Mythology series of blog posts. If you’re not already aware, I’m a huge mythology nerd. I love the stories, creatures, deities, places, events, and general weirdness (at least, by modern perceptions), of these ancient tales. I actually love mythology and folklore so much, that it’s a heavy influence on my writing. This is especially true in my Modern Mythology series of novels. I’m going to post (most) Mondays with a new item from mythology or folklore. These are not to be considered deep scholarly write ups. I do my best to get the information correct and even point out where different reputable sources conflict on the information they provide. These are basically intended to be quick primers on a particular aspect of mythology, but I’ll occasionally add in a tidbit about how the mythos could change or be altered to interact with the modern world.

For the most part, I pick the item at random, but if you have a request for a particular mythological thing for me to research, please use the contact form on the site, and reach out. I’d love to hear from you!


Springwort

Today, I’ll be writing up a brief article about a plant called springwort. It’s a flower of medieval European folklore that is said to open doors and sides of mountains. Most often, there is treasure hidden behind these doorways. There are references to mandrake alongside springwort, but it’s unclear if they are the same plant or somehow related.

A folklore tale claims that springwort can be obtained by closing up or blocking a woodpeckers hole to the next. The woodpecker will then return with a sprig of springwort to reopen its nest. From there, the magical flower can be obtained from the woodpecker.

There is some debate on if the phrase “Open Sesame” in the Ali Baba tale talks about a magical phrase or a reference to this mystical plant.

Some definitions mention the root, not the flower itself, holding the magical powers.

Modern Usage

Many people keep keys to their house in fake rocks, false sprinkler heads, under the welcome mat, or over the door jam. I could see a flower garden outside the house with a few of these flowers nestled among the other plants being used in lieu of hidden keys to gain entry to a house that accidentally locked behind the owner.

Springwort could also be used by thieves to gain illicit entry to their target buildings without leaving a trace behind. Anyone else out there thinking of a character called “The Green Thumb Thief” by modern journalists?

References

Leach, Maria. Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend. Harper & Row, 1984.

“Definition of Springwort.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 11 Mar. 2018, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/springwort.

Modern Mythology Monday: Hiisi

Modern Mythology LogoWelcome to my Modern Mythology series of blog posts. If you’re not already aware, I’m a huge mythology nerd. I love the stories, creatures, deities, places, events, and general weirdness (at least, by modern perceptions), of these ancient tales. I actually love mythology and folklore so much, that it’s a heavy influence on my writing. This is especially true in my Modern Mythology series of novels. I’m going to post (most) Mondays with a new item from mythology or folklore. These are not to be considered deep scholarly write ups. I do my best to get the information correct and even point out where different reputable sources conflict on the information they provide. These are basically intended to be quick primers on a particular aspect of mythology. For the most part, I pick the item at random, but if you have a request for a particular mythological thing for me to research, please use the contact form on the site, and reach out. I’d love to hear from you!


Hiisi

Hiisi (or Hiidet if plural) is from the Finnic folklore. Originally representative of sacred (in some sources sacrificial) groves, but with the advent of Christianity in the area, the meaning was changed to be demonic or trickster spirits.

As a woodland spirit, he was considered the guardian spirit of a special groves. He appears as an ugly, beardless man with lopsided eyes lacking eyelids. He is typically dressed poorly and is considered a scoundrel. The “scoundrel” label may be a twist of the original protector nature of Hiisi because of Christian influence.

Interesting notes are that this is the same name used for Devil, and that in modern Finnish, Hiisi and derivative words are mild profanities.

Hiisi was a giant of ancient times, and is one of twelve sons of Kaleva, the great king of Kainuu.

Modern folklore of the Hiisi have them traveling noisily down roadways and forcing their way past fellow travelers. This view also has them entering homes through open doors to steal things from the owners. If one of the Hiidet attacks or chases you, then the best option is to escape to cultivated lands. The organized manner of worked farmland is an anathema to them since they prefer the natural wildness of untouched lands.

References

Leach, Maria. Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend. Harper & Row, 1984.

“Hiisi.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 28 Feb. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiisi.