All posts by Romany Reagan

Romany Reagan received her PhD from Royal Holloway, University of London in performing heritage in 2018. Her practice-based research project ‘Abney Rambles’ is comprised of four audio walks that she researched, wrote, and recorded from 2014 to 2017 within the space of Abney Park cemetery, located in the north London community of Stoke Newington. Researching the layers of heritage that make up Abney Park led to a study of the occult literary heritage of Stoke Newington, ‘earth mystery’ psychogeography, and folklore. Since completion of her PhD, Reagan has expanded her folklore research scope to encompass legends and lore from the British Isles which she is documenting on her blog, Blackthorn & Stone. Publications: ‘Crossing Paths/Different Worlds in Abney Park Cemetery’, Ways to Wander (Bridport: Triarchy Press) 2015; '"Thoughts on Mourning" Audio Walk Exploring Mourning Heritage and Death Positivity in a Victorian Garden Cemetery', Thanatos Journal, Volume 6, 2017, p50-82; 'The Gendered Garden: Sexual Transgression of Women Walking Alone in Cemeteries', Death & the Maiden, 2017, https://deadmaidens.com/2017/10/10/the-gendered-garden-sexual-transgression-of-women-walking-alone-in-cemeteries/ Website: https://blackthornandstone.com/ Twitter/Instagram: @msromany

Spirit Photography in the Museum

Last October 2021, we gathered some friends, historians, a museum curator, and fellow spectrophiles to run an experiment at the Museum of the Home in London. We wanted to see if we could recreate spirit photographs using historically accurate Victorian methods.

This post contains three parts. First, a short history of spirit photography. Second, an interview with our photographer Selina Mayer. And finally, our Spirit Photography Album with the outcomes of the experiment.

***If you want to skip straight to our Spirit Photography Album first, scroll to the bottom of this post.***

Continue reading Spirit Photography in the Museum

‘Women’s Weeds’ Research Journal — Week 10 VIDEO: Exploitation of 17th & 18th Century Folk Healers by the Professionalised Medical Community

A potted history of the exploitation of folk healers in Europe, as well as in conquered lands (the Americas, West Indies), in the 17th & 18th century by the professionalised medical community—with a special focus on how this impacted female folk healers.

Haunted Bloomsbury Audio Walk: Spiritualism & Ghost Stories in WC1

Happy 1st of September! You know what this means?? Officially only one month until 🎃🦇💜 !OCTOBER! 💜🦇🎃 London Month of the Dead have a fabulous calendar of spooky delights for you!

Check out my #spiritualism audio walk through 👻#HauntedBloomsbury👻 — it even comes with a glossy guidebook! 🔮

Click here for more info:

Haunted Bloomsbury Audio Walk: Spiritualism & Ghost Stories in WC1

HAUNTED BLOOMSBURY – Spiritualism and Ghost Stories in WC1
An Audio Guided Tour and Map Book with Dr Romany Reagan

ABOUT
Take a journey through darker Bloomsbury as your tour guide Dr Romany Reagan leads you through the occult pathways and hidden histories of this birthplace of British Spiritualism.

The Victorians were fascinated by a wide range of phenomena that might loosely be termed the ‘occult’. In their search for meaning in their mortality during an increasingly secularised age, interest in Spirituality and connections ‘beyond the veil’ touched almost every aspect of Victorian life, from scientific study to literature. Tracing Spiritualism’s lines of origin, we’re driven through these occult pathways into the heart of Bloomsbury. Join your tour guide, Dr Romany Reagan, for an evening stalk of gothic intrigues and Victorian ghosts.

WHAT YOU GET
– An A5 full colour map and guide book
– Each book comes with a download or streaming code so that you can take your tour at any time alone or with a friend

‘Women’s Weeds’ Research Journal — Week 8 VIDEO: Introduction to what it’s all about (+ bonus gorgeously Creepy Fort)

Here is a little video I’ve made explaining a bit of what my project is about. I’m now almost two months into my research journey! I will be presenting my preliminary findings at the Bridges 2022 conference, ‘Bridges Between Disciplines: Gender in STEM and Social Sciences’, at the Universitat Politécnica de València – Campus of Gandía. I’m excited to share what I have learned so far!

The blog post I reference in the video is ‘The Language of Flowers: Breaking into the Boys Club of Botany & the Flowery Dress as a Feminist Act’

‘Women’s Weeds’ Research Journal — Week 7 Spotlight: Beatrix Potter Takes on the Botanical Boys Club

“I fancy he may be something of a misogynist.” 
— Beatrix Potter, in her journal December 1896, about Mr Thiselton-Dyer Director, Kew

Several years before Miss Helen Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) became the beloved children’s author whom we all treasure, creating the world of Peter Rabbit and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, she had much smaller lifeforms on her mind: fungi. And there was a man (or rather, several men) standing in her way to mycorrhizal greatness. One of whom was no less of a personage than William Turner Thiselton-Dyer, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

It all began with her illustrations. She was a very talented artist, in both sketch and watercolour, but alongside this ability she also had the gift of very close observation. Beatrix sketched and painted a variety of fungi that she found in the Lake District in England and in Scotland. As her documentation became more detailed, she began to be fascinated by how fungi reproduced. By the autumn and winter of 1895, when she was 29 years old, she was spending an increasing amount of time drawing fungi under a microscope. She became convinced that she could germinate some spores herself. She wanted to study the environment in which they germinated, discover whether or not conditions were the same for each species, what the spawn of each consisted of, and whether or not she could reproduce it more than once. This is where her hobby graduated from observation to experimentation. 

Beatrix Potter
Continue reading ‘Women’s Weeds’ Research Journal — Week 7 Spotlight: Beatrix Potter Takes on the Botanical Boys Club

‘Women’s Weeds’ Research Journal — Week 6 Fun Fact: Well-behaved women seldom make history

Lead image ‘Well-Behaved Women’ by Barry D Bulsara
(Instagram: @barrydbulsara)
Available to buy: https://www.edinburghart.com/product/well-behaved-women/

Ah, the archive… That reliquary of truth and unbiased historical fact.

This week’s ‘fun fact’ is one of those research moments when another researcher points out a solution to your problem that actually should have been obvious from the beginning: if you’re looking for hidden histories, do not look at ‘official’ records, such as those kept by licensing guilds or at published works, nope. Look at court documents. Fines, punishments, incarcerations—executions. That is where you are going to find the true stories of what historical people—who were not White Christian Men (WCM)—were actually up to.

Continue reading ‘Women’s Weeds’ Research Journal — Week 6 Fun Fact: Well-behaved women seldom make history

Live Talk in London, Sat 1st October 2022 – Witches, Faeries & Ghosts: Our Dreamscapes of Legend & Lore

Saturday October 1st, 6pm at the Museum of the Home, 136 Kingsland Road, London E2 8EA

Tickets £7 and includes wine!

TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE

Where do we go when we dream?

Throughout history, using legend and lore, we have sought to understand this night-time adventure. Witches have been condemned as the conjurers of nightmare sleep paralysis and faeries blamed for time loss or sleep-walking; we convince ourselves that ghostly spirits visit us at night with messages of hope or portents of danger.

The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli, 1781 

In this illustrated lecture, Dr Romany Reagan will explore the creatures and meanings that fill our dreamscapes, from mediaeval British horrors to 19th-century curiosities and theories—and how these nocturnal happenings can play out in our waking lives.

Dr. Romany Reagan is an Arts Council England-funded research fellow with Museum of the Home, studying the hidden histories of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, from mediaeval cunning women and herbal witchcraft to 19th-century feminist botany. Her research has explored the layers of heritage within Abney Park cemetery and an occult literary heritage of London’s Stoke Newington area, as well as ‘earth mystery’, psychogeography and folklore, legends and lore from the British Isles.

This event is part of the Museum of the Home’s Festival of Sleep, running from June through September 2022.

‘Women’s Weeds’ Research Journal — Week 5 Fun Fact: The rise of the female saint led to the hunt for the witch

This week’s ‘fun fact’ has to do with one of my favourite research subjects—witches. Research into the history of women in medicine will inevitably lead us back to the witch hunts. (And yes, there will be ongoing research into this particular flavour of persecution still to come… )

There were many factors that contributed to the witch panics that cycled in waves over a 300-year period from the 15th to the 18th century. I discussed several of these—such as climate change and severe economic depression—in a post I wrote two years ago: ‘Ice & Fire: How a Folk Demonology in the ‘Little Ice Age’ Led to the Witch Hunts of the 16th & 17th Centuries’

But this week I learned of a new factor I’ve had yet to come across in my research: the resurgence of the ‘goddess’ in the guise of the ‘saint’.

Continue reading ‘Women’s Weeds’ Research Journal — Week 5 Fun Fact: The rise of the female saint led to the hunt for the witch

‘Women’s Weeds’ Research Journal – Week 4 Fun Fact: ‘Modesty’ is a code word for shame

Ok, so perhaps there isn’t much ‘fun’ in this week’s Fun Fact! This week, I’ve been marvelling at the notion of ‘modesty’. This concept has presented a huge stumbling block in medical care for women throughout history; but ‘modesty’ is just a polite word for shame. I’m currently reading about modesty from the mediaeval and early modern perspective, however the tendrils of this insidious concept can be felt in society today.

The thing about modesty, is it appears to be something imposed upon women by others. Yes, women perhaps do end up taking upon themselves the shame they are told they should have (if you tell someone something long enough, they will start to believe it themselves) but the idea that a woman would rather suffer in silence—and perhaps die—than present her gynaecological problems to a physician is the horrible result of this.

Continue reading ‘Women’s Weeds’ Research Journal – Week 4 Fun Fact: ‘Modesty’ is a code word for shame

‘Women’s Weeds’ Research Journal – Week 2 Fun fact: The rise & fall of the mediaeval female gynaecologist

LFemale healer, Trotula, holding urine flask, 14th C Credit: Wellcome Library, London.
Pen and wash drawing showing a standing female healer, perhaps of Trotula, clothed in red and green with a white headdress,
holding up a urine flask to which she points with her right hand.
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons

One thing I found fascinating this week, is in ancient Rome and Greece, up until the 2nd century, medical texts were written directly to midwives. It was expected that women would be taking care of women’s issues, but also that they would be literate (read Greek, Latin, and/or Arabic) and had knowledge of the full anatomy. They were respected medical practitioners. It was only after waves of plague hit north Africa and the Mediterranean during the 5th and 6th centuries that governments and organised education fell apart, entering in an age of chaos, which these various societies never quite recovered from for the next 600 years.

Continue reading ‘Women’s Weeds’ Research Journal – Week 2 Fun fact: The rise & fall of the mediaeval female gynaecologist