The health and well-being of valuable livestock exercised the people of yesterday’s Brittany every bit as much as human health. Some of the popular remedies and traditional treatments for animal diseases used in Brittany during the 18th and 19th centuries have survived to us today even if their practice has long since died away.
First set down from the oral tradition in the middle of the 19th century, the tale of Peronnik the Idiot has often been described as a Breton re-telling of Chrétien de Troyes’ 12th century romance Perceval, the Story of the Grail. However, others maintain that the story is truly a surviving descendant of one once transmitted orally by the Celtic bards of old and that the tales of Peronnik, Perceval and the medieval Welsh romance Peredur all share the same ancient, lost source.
As the oldest and most important Christian festival, it should come as no surprise to note that several popular traditions and superstitions once surrounded Eastertide here in Brittany.
The history and folklore of Brittany contain many intriguing references to once flourishing cities that disappeared from the face of the earth, having left little or no trace of their ruins upon the land.
Born into grinding poverty, Marie Tromel is remembered by history under the name of Marion du Faouët; a Breton Robin Hood who robbed the rich to aid the poor. A colourful character, she raised a family and commanded a notorious band of brigands for more than fifteen years. Arrested four times, having escaped from prison she was hanged in effigy before finally being publicly executed.
The windswept moors and uncultivated lands of Brittany have long been linked with the ghostly activity of the dead. However, the beings that traditionally inhabit these areas in Breton folklore are the malevolent children of the night. For it is not only the dead who inhabit the gloom; dangerous and evil beings, who are not of the race of men, roam abroad during the hours of darkness and to encounter them could be fatal.
Home to about 70 per cent of the island bodies of metropolitan France, the 800 islands and islets that surround the coast of Brittany offer something for everyone.
The novena of Candlemas was once a devotion popularly believed to reveal one’s true love. In Brittany, a curious legend merges this belief with a more ancient tradition; the power of the fairy mirror.
The Knights Templar were known, here in Brittany, as the Red Monks. Their evil deeds and cruel reputation survived in the popular imagination long after their medieval heyday; cruel ghosts, condemned to forever wander the lonely places to atone for their terrible crimes.
Sacred plant of the ancient druids, mistletoe has, for centuries, been highly prized for its supposed medicinal virtues. Here in Brittany, this pretty parasitic evergreen has traditionally been associated with love, luck and the promise of the New Year.