Folklore question: woods / mills

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Folklore question: woods / mills

Postby Diane » Fri Nov 03, 2017 3:41 pm

Back in the 90s when I was in college and grad school, I remember reading in a history book that in early America, there was a common idea that the woods were infested with spirits, and that mills were seen as staving off the wood spirits and offering protection to towns. I though to myself, "Oh, this why there is so much chaos in Twin Peaks after the mill burns."

Later I went back to the book I thought it was in and couldn't find what I'd read. I've never been able to find another reference to this.

Has anyone come across this idea? Or did I just dream it and think it was real?

My apologies if this topic needs to be moved out of season 3 discussion.
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Re: Folklore question: woods / mills

Postby Jasper » Fri Nov 03, 2017 8:18 pm

Woods being full of spirits is really too common in Anglo and Germanic folklore for very old American wood spirits to be anything spectacularly original.

When I was a little kid we were told there were fairies who lived in moss, and that the moss should never be trampled, and that there were spirits or elves in the trees.

I don't know about the mills, but of course I thought mills were neat, like most kids who were lucky enough to see the old fashioned types. There are many European traditions of sacred wells and springs and such, with accompanying land spirits. Farms could also boast little tomte or nisse (or other creatures like that), which were often said to be a left-behind part of the spirit of he who originally had cleared the farmland, built the first buildings there, and in all likelihood was buried on the premises. They were helpful, and gifts like porridge were left out for them. If the farm wasn't being treated well and kept in an orderly, decent manner, they could become nasty towards the occupants. There are some famous Swedish books about such a character, who goes about at night, looking after a particular farm.

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Another thing that comes to mind is the first chapter of Over the Garden Wall, an animated story made up of ten 15-minute chapters (which can be watched in one go like a film). The first chapter is called the Old Grist Mill. I'm not going to describe it, because I don't want to spoil it, but the story, generally, draws heavily from old European and American folklore. It's made to be watched in October/November. Upon its original release the moon in the story was synced with the actual moon at the time, which is an approach different than the haphazard moon phases in the first two seasons of Twin Peaks.

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