‘Buried Moons: Folks Tales from Beyond the Patriarchy’

Centrespace Gallery, Bristol - March 2023
Cacao House, Stroud - May 2023
Bristol Folk House - July, August 2023

‘BURIED MOONS’ was a multidisciplinary, group art exhibition, recounting the lost tales of brave, independent and wise FINT (female, intersex, non-binary, transgender) characters. It was curated by Annie Randall and Emily Unsworth-White, with eleven other FINT artists exhibiting. Creative workshops were held throughout, with an evening of poetry, folk and traditional dance on International Women’s Day 2023.

The exhibition gets its name from ‘The Buried Moon’, an old English fairy tale, first collected in the Ancholme Valley in North Lincolnshire, by Marie Clothilde Balfour in the late 1800s. In this story the moon rescues a man from the Evil Things in the Carland Bog, but is herself captured. After the moon stops rising, the villagers become worried and ask the wise woman for advice. With her guidance, they find the moon and raise her back into the sky. From that moment on, she shone even brighter than before.

Read the stories in full here

Video created by Emily Unsworth-White

(Exhibition Text)


The definition of a ‘folktale’ is a story that has been passed on over generations by word of mouth. We all enjoy stories, but the tales many of us know are only a fraction of the tales that have existed. Unfortunately, stories disappear for many reasons. Sometimes the storytellers have disappeared – a language is no longer spoken or the traditional community no longer exists. The oral tradition is often out-competed by television, film, radio and books. Education and political ideology play a direct role in influencing what stories are told and which traditions are kept alive. Much can be forgotten, and folklore is often intrinsically tied to traditional music, dance and skills. And if, in the case of many folktales, only heroic males remain, how can we imagine powerful FINT characters in our current worldview?

The Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index (ATU Index) is a commonly used classification system for folktales that was first published in 1910 by folklorist Antti Aarne, but is limited to Indo-European stories. When revising the categories in the 1920s and 1960s, the scholar Stith Thompson privileged a male-centric worldview and disregarded most of the empowering LGBTQ+ and female-led stories.

Some indigenous societies have managed to hold on to their ancient tales and beliefs (despite all attempts to eradicate them), while in other places we see remnants of stories of lore in the stories that exist today. The mythological ‘Crone’, so often depicted as a malicious old woman, originates in the goddess worship of ancient Pagan societies. Patriarchy and christianity diluted her power, casting her off as an evil being, fuelling the common demonisation of the ‘witch’.

In some ways, that is still the magic of folklore. It is ever changing. And for that reason, perhaps we can bring back the forgotten figures and re-establish them in our everyday lives. The merging of stories with different cultures can be a rebellious act, ensuring that culture and ideas are not forgotten.

Sometimes you don’t have to look that far to find wondrously FINT deities. Şahmeran, meaning ‘Ruler of Snakes’, is a story from pre-Islamic times told in both Turkish and Kurdish languages, that celebrates an incredibly wise and caring snake-woman. Hawaiian mythology talks of many LGBTQ+ deities, one being Wahineomo whose name means ‘thrush woman’, who engages in relationships with other goddesses Hiʻiaka and Hōpoe. Erzulie Dantòr is a Haitian voodoo goddess who has two husbands, but is also renowned as a powerful bisexual goddess of love, romance, and passion. Moreover, she is the patron goddess of lesbians. Sometimes considered a hermaphrodite, appearing in women’s dreams as women and in men’s dreams as men, other times depicted as a tree-dwelling serpent.

But this really is just the tip of the iceberg.

This exhibition is a homage to the power of storytelling, and an important reminder of the strong FINT characters that have existed since the first story was told. It has not been easy for the artists to find these tales, and we encourage you to carry on this work, unearthing FINT folklore in your own culture and heritage.


Through rediscovering these marginalised FINT figures, we pose the question: what brave icons from the past can we embody to tackle the issues of today?

Folktales are often a tapestry of nature including herb lore, animal shifting and rich depictions of land. In highlighting the subdued characters of folklore, we also bring to the forefront a kinship with nature often found in these tales and note this as a fundamental step we must address in tackling climate change today. In celebrating FINT folklore, we also celebrate the traditional skills of FINT individuals and the importance in rewilding ourselves and the land.

The climate crisis does not affect people equally. As UN Women states, ‘Climate change is a “threat multiplier”, meaning it escalates social, political and economic tensions in fragile and conflict-affected settings’. Long-standing inequalities are exacerbated. And yet, it is the exploitative patriarchal-capitalist model that has led to where we are. For millennia, women, trans, nonbinary and queer folk have played essential roles in the fabric of our cosmologies, as healers and elders, sometimes having mystical powers. But their stories have been largely ignored, forgotten, or erased.

International Women’s Day has always been an incredible opportunity to celebrate all things woman – whether that be the experience of womanhood, notable women throughout history, or the continuing fight for women’s rights and recognition. However, to truly discuss gender equality, we must be inclusive of the many other marginalised genders and sexualities (as well as race, class, and ability!). This means more visibility, more acceptance, and more solidarity. Equally, many of the terms we use today that categorise gender and sexuality didn’t exist until relatively recently in human history.

As we desperately search for new narratives to help us in times of multiple crises, it’s essential that we look back on our previous connections to the land, air, water, to our fellow creatures and plants, and to each other. We believe this connection of struggles and revisiting old tales in a new light can be a stabilising force at a very uncertain time, reminding us of our intrinsic connection to our planet and other beings.

© Copyright Annie Randall 2024. All Rights Reserved.