American children are used to being told that something gives adults the ‘creeps’. As a child in Britain before the Second World War, I was often told by grown-ups that I ‘gave them the willies’. It’s the same thing. But I was confused because ‘willy’ was the accepted child euphemism for ‘penis’. Thanks to The Dancing Goddesses I now know that ‘willies’ are vili or rusalki: the spirits of girls who died before marriage and, since their fertility had not been discharged (as it were), became a special kind of ancestor spirit, at once powerful and dangerous. In southeast Europe and Russia, where these beliefs were most prevalent, the rusalki were water spirits – beautiful slender girls with long dark hair, diaphanously clad (sometimes with detachable wings), emerging from lakes and streams at crucial times to dance, swing and bestow or withhold fertility on the villagers. They appeared in folk tales and art across Europe as naked girls, sometimes with fishtails, sometimes wings or claws, sometimes all of these. If discovered without their chemises and wings they could be captured and married, but inevitably they retrieved their accoutrements and literally flew away.
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Happy #IndexDay! "Reading in reverse" is about as perfect a description of using an index as we've come across. (We've been #indexing from home this week, and the total immersion in a book's themes and schemes is oddly soothing. Categorical love to indexers everywhere 📚) https://twitter.com/Lit_Review/status/1244897571161755649
Wishing you all a very happy National Indexing Day! To celebrate, have a read of this piece by Stuart Hannabus on the joy of indexes, and the fun of reading in reverse. #indexday
'There can’t be many histories of London that have given room, for instance, to the Koreans of New Malden or the Bombay Emporium of Mayfair in the 1930s.'
Jerry White on @profpanayi's 'Migrant City'.