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

Museum Late 29/10/2021 at the Museum of the Home in London — ‘NightIn: Magical Home Protection’

We’re holding our first-ever #museumlate at @MuseumoftheHome! 🌙 For #Halloween 🎃🎃🎃 we’re hosting an evening of #witchbottle making workshop by @rebeccambeattie, talks on #witchcraft (by Christina, founder of @treadwells) & #Folklore (by me!), cheese toasties + vegan deli trucks, bespoke #HedgeWitch herbaceous cocktail bar 🍸spooky tunes DJ set by @andyravensable 🦇🦇🦇 & live music by ‘broken folk’ band @lunatraktors 🍂🕸

☠️✨ Come play with us!!! ✨☠️

https://www.museumofthehome.org.uk/whats-on/events/night-in-magical-home-protection/

This event marks the beginning of our Winter Festival as we all prepare our homes for the coming winter. As well as experiencing our galleries after hours, this Night In has a workshop, talks and music for all things magical.

  • Visit our home protections charms workshop with Dr Rebecca Beattie
  • Attend talks on witchcraft and folklore with Dr Christina Oakley Harrington and Dr Romany Reagan
  • Try our bespoke ‘hedge witch’ cocktail bar
  • Enjoy delicious food with cheese toasties from Grate & Grill and vegan/gluten free salads and fritters from Dorothy’s Deli 
  • Dance to a DJ set by DJ AndyRavenSable and a live musical performance by ‘broken folk’ band the Lunatraktors
Continue reading Museum Late 29/10/2021 at the Museum of the Home in London — ‘NightIn: Magical Home Protection’

Panel Discussion 28/10/21 at the Museum of the Home in London — ‘Home Truths: Keeping a Magical Home’

I’m chairing a panel discussion this Thursday 28/10 7pm with Sim Gray of #ZeroFoolsTarot @zero_foolstarot; Raqia Nur #witchcraft historian @raqianur; Alex David, practicing witch @burningbayleaves; Brooke Palmieri #CampBooks @camp.books for the @MuseumoftheHome #HomeTruths ‘Keeping a Magical Home’ — and there will be mulled wine! 🍷

October is a time to prepare the home for the coming winter, to lay down stores and tend to our inner life and Halloween marks the beginning of these preparations.

Join us as we discover how contemporary magical practitioners prepare their homes for Winter. 

Enjoy a glass of mulled wine as we learn from the lived experiences of several contemporary practitioners who offer unique perspectives on their private rituals for safety, warmth, and protection in their magical homes. 

https://www.museumofthehome.org.uk/whats-on/events/home-truths-keeping-a-magical-home/

‘Terra Incognita’: Tracing Literary Occult Pathways in North London

By Romany Reagan

North London has quite a gothic pedigree. From Bram Stoker’s Lucy Westenra stalking Hampstead Heath to Stephen King’s terrifying Crouch End ‘Towen’, an otherworldly atmosphere lingers here. The region has captured the imagination of writers through the ages, casting the area as both friend and foe.

William Blake felt uneasy in North London. Shortly before his death, in a letter to painter and friend John Linnell, Blake said: “When I was young, Hampstead, Highgate, Hornsey, Muswell Hill, and even Islington, and all places North of London, always laid me up the day after and sometimes two or three days.”[1] It is rather strange that he kept going back, if these persistent physical ailments always followed the journey. Perhaps there was something about the otherworldliness of North London that drew Blake almost as a siren call.

Read the full article on FolkloreThursday.

 

Photo credit: Romany Reagan

Tattooed Ladies: Between Myth & Truth, from Burma to Barbie, the Feminist Evolution of ‘Monster Beauty’

By Romany Reagan

Everyone knows: tattoos are for convicts, prostitutes, and drunken sailors. Any woman who dares get one is destined to live fast and die young. Harlots of the saucest degree. Her only job prospects are the circus sideshow or a biker’s Old Lady.

Or so we think…

Tattooed women have meant many things over the past several hundred years that have nothing to do these stereotypes: an emblem of the aristocracy, an unlikely international impulse towards sisterhood, and a mark of feminism. 

But before I dive into what the tattoo is, let’s explore what it is not. Debunking myths is, to me, one of the most thrilling aspects of historical research.  So here we go…

Continue reading Tattooed Ladies: Between Myth & Truth, from Burma to Barbie, the Feminist Evolution of ‘Monster Beauty’

Haunted Bloomsbury—Audio Walk Tracing Spiritualism, Ghost Stories & the London Occult

By Romany Reagan

Whether it was considered an intellectual pursuit, a genuine religious order, a feminist flag, or just a grand excuse for a gin-soaked party, Spiritualism was a crucible where many of the conflicting and newly forming ideas of the late Victorian era brewed and clashed. At one point it was the domain of the intellectual elite, who held literary salons discussing Swedenborg and Blake. At the other extreme it was reverse colonialism gone mad, with female liberation, drunkenness—and worst of all Americanness—running rampant through England. 

The Victorians had long been fascinated by a wide range of phenomena that might loosely be termed the ‘occult’; and earlier manifestations of interest in spirituality had made their mark during the first half of the 19th century. Tracing Spiritualism’s lines of origin, we’re driven through these occult pathways into the heart of Bloomsbury. Button your greatcoat and steel your nerves as your tour guide Dr Romany Reagan leads you on an audio journey through the Bloomsbury backstreets into a landscape of gothic intrigues and Victorian ghost stories.

‘Dickens, Mesmerism & Ghosts’ Video for The Dickens Project, Dickens-to-Go

I made this video with The Dickens Project out of University of California, Santa Cruz for their Dickens-to-Go project.

Just in time for Halloween, Dr. Romany Reagan explains how the Victorian revival of Mesmerism of the 1830s allowed Dickens to explore “ideas about the workings of the mind [that] come through in his work when you start to see his characters and their hauntings through the lens of his mesmeric philosophy.”

21st-Century Victoriana: Our love letter to the dark

By Romany Reagan

We humans would rather have something a bit flawed but true than gloss-plastic perfection. On the surface, that doesn’t seem to be so—with ‘reality’ TV shows illustrating a life that’s nothing like reality and Instagram influencers filtered into poreless automatonica—but there is an undercurrent backlash to this that I see all around us. Our collective psyche is seeking to balance itself: enter Victoriana.

Continue reading 21st-Century Victoriana: Our love letter to the dark

Podcast: ‘The Romany & Sheldon Death Show’, by Cemetery Club

The Romany & Sheldon Death Show

In May 2020 Dr. Romany Reagan shared a Facebook status posing a scenario: the events experienced by a hypothetical person born in 1900. Aged 14, World War One begins. When you’re 29: The Great Depression hits. Aged 62, you have the Cuban Missile Crisis. This led Cemetery Club founder Sheldon K.Goodman to question: how sheltered are we from death nowadays? How has Coronavirus changed our attitude towards it? How are cemeteries adapting to changing ways of memorialisation and remembrance? Are they even needed any more? Join cemetery historians and guides Romany and Sheldon in a friendly death-positive conversation that we’d love you to get involved with.

Listen on Spotify.

Listen on Apple Podcast.

Listen on Radio Public.

Virtual Talk: Hail the Highgate Vampire! Goth kids, Cemeteries & the Search for the Secular Sublime’

I’ll be giving a virtual talk Sun 27 Sept 10pm BST for the #RuralGothic conference. There will be lots of amazing speakers over the course of two days! All for a tenner!

My talk closes out the conference:
‘Hail the Highgate Vampire! Goth kids, cemeteries, and the search for the secular sublime’
☠️⚰️🧛🏻‍♂️🕯
Through repetition and shared community lineage rituals become codified in society. The lines between acceptable and unacceptable ritual tend to follow the law of established shared-heritage practices going unquestioned, winning validity over recently invented rites. From media-hungry occultists battling it out with mock satanists in Highgate Cemetery in the 1970s to 21st-century wiccan white witches in Abney Park cemetery today, older sites of ritual continue to draw new practices. Our Victorian garden cemeteries offer the pull of an historical site with the aesthetics to match. From their crumbling chapels to their Egyptian follies, new rites fit into the old ways. This talk will take you on a journey through alternative meanings of space as practitioners search for the secular sublime.

Witch Bottles & Hidden Curses: Objects of Protection; Objects of Vengeance 

By Romany Reagan

Written accounts of witchcraft, witch trials, cunning folk, and folk magic were largely recorded by the Church, with all the prejudices associated with a one-sided narrative. Given these practices were handed down generation to generation through oral histories as a form of intangible heritage, only the Church’s ‘official’ version of these practices has traditionally survived as our record. Luckily for researchers, instructions for creating witch bottles were written down and tangible items such a old shoes and written curses were tucked into walls kept safe from destruction in their hidden places. Stepping away from the ‘official’ texts to these scraps and personal finds can help us learn from another perspective about these practices, offering a fascinating look at the fears—and sometimes wrathful vengeances—secreted away in hearths and walls by our ancestors.

The following is an excerpt from a talk I gave at the Museum of the Home (formerly the Geffrye Museum) in November 2019, ‘Witch Bottles & Worn Shoes: Home Protection Folklore Practices’.

Continue reading Witch Bottles & Hidden Curses: Objects of Protection; Objects of Vengeance