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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Monday, 11 April 2011

April A-Z: Iron

I thought I'd meditate on the folklore surrounding iron for my 'i' post today. Iron is lucky, in that it repels faeries, witches and possibly the devil. Horseshoes are therefore lucky and protective (possibly doubly so, because of their moon-like shape), and that is why people nailed them to their walls - although in some cases, two strips of iron are nailed up as an equal-armed cross. This magical and protective power meant that blacksmiths, who could control and manipulate iron, were seen as practically magic workers themselves.

I vaguely remember reading once that all this power was ascribed to iron because it was metalworking which had allowed the Iron Age tribes to prosper when the Stone Age peoples perished. I'm not clear on exactly how, but this superior weaponry and tool-making skill became inherently associated with the iron itself, and the later belief that iron protects us from faeries and spirits is a kind of folk-memory deriving from this stage of human evolution.  

In doing a bit of research for this post, I discovered that some people think iron has these 'powers' because of its association to blood. There are also interesting theories about ley lines being related to iron deposits, and the iron  in our blood being what makes us sensitive to these lines - both of these ideas were new to me.

Finally, since I am speaking from the Hearthfire, it would be remiss of me not to talk about the importance of iron fireside tools. It is a tradition in some areas that an iron poker laid in front of a hearth will fix a poorly-burning fire, and some people still mark out a cross in the grate with the poker before laying a fire in a new house.

1 comment:

  1. Very fun...we came up with the same topic for today!


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