The Tradition of Household Spirits: Ancestral Lore and Practices (Paperback)
Examines how the ancient customs of constructing and keeping a house formed a sacred bond between homes and their inhabitants
• Shares many tales of house spirits, from cajoling the local land spirit into becoming one’s house spirit to the good and bad luck bestowed by mischievous house elves
• Explains the meaning behind door and window placement, house orientation, horsehead gables, the fireplace or hearth, and the threshold
• Reveals the charms, chants, prayers, and building practices used by our ancestors to bestow happiness and prosperity upon their homes and their occupants
Why do we hang horseshoes for good luck or place wreaths on our doors? Why does the groom carry his new bride over the threshold? These customs represent the last vestiges from a long, rich history of honoring the spirits of our homes. They show that a house is more than a building: it is a living being with a body and soul.
Examining the extensive traditions surrounding houses from medieval times to the present, Claude Lecouteux reveals that, before we entered the current era of frequent moves and modular housing, moving largely from the countryside into cities, humanity had an extremely sacred relationship with their homes and all the spirits who lived there alongside them--from the spirit of the house itself to the mischievous elves, fairies, and imps who visited, invited or not. He shows how every aspect of constructing and keeping a house involved rites, ceremony, customs, and taboos to appease the spirits, including the choice of a building lot and the very materials with which it was built. Uncovering the lost meaning behind door and window placement, the hearth, and the threshold, Lecouteux shares many tales of house spirits, from the offerings used to cajole the local land spirit into becoming the domestic house spirit to the good and bad luck bestowed upon those who seek the help of the “Little Money Man.” He draws on studies and classic literature from old Europe--from Celtic lands and Scandinavia to France and Germany to the far eastern borders of Europe and into Russia--to explain the pagan roots behind many of these traditions.
Revealing our ancestors’ charms, prayers, and practices to bestow happiness and prosperity upon their homes, Lecouteux shows that we can invite the spirits back into our houses, old or new, and restore the sacred bond between home and inhabitant.
About the Author
Claude Lecouteux is a former professor of medieval literature and civilization at the Sorbonne. He is the author of numerous books on medieval and pagan afterlife beliefs and magic, including The Book of Grimoires, Dictionary of Ancient Magic Words and Spells, and The Tradition of Household Spirits. He lives in Paris.
“Lecouteux provides plenty of historical accounts and stories that exemplify the various beliefs discussed, and his detailed and thoroughly researched writing remains accessible despite the academic tone evident in this translation. Readers with an interest in folklore, superstitions, or fairy tales will find it enlightening, especially regarding the traces of these beliefs that still exist in modern consciousness, either in lingering cultural traditions or from the folk and fairy tales we continue to pass down over generations.”
— Rachel Hoover, Library Journal, October 2013
“...it is a serious study of the tradition of spirit life within a household. In the end Lecouteux makes the point that as modern families give up their attachment to place, they are also losing powerful ethereal presences that energize not only buildings but also generations of people. It’s a very interesting read.”
— Anna Jedriziewski, Inannaworks.com, January 2013
“The chapters are well laid out, well written, and have both clear conclusions and bridges that bring the reader from one chapter to the next. The author seems to be very thorough in his exploration of household spirits as understood in the Middle Ages in France, Germany, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe.”
— Brian Walsh, SpiralNature.com, January 2014
“There is so much lore and information in this book that reading it is like entering another world. It is a world rooted in the past, but relevant to our time.”
— Robert Simmons, Metaguide Magazine/Heaven & Earth Publishing, January 2014
“There is no other author alive who so thoroughly examines the subject as Claude Lecouteux.”
— Rebecca Elson, publisher/writer of The Magical Buffet website