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/
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… )
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.
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.
Romany found Andy under a tree on Hampstead Heath at an ‘Alternative Picnic’ and a year and a half later they were engaged. Their wedding concept was inspired by rich fabrics, autumnal colours and the history of their venue, The Charterhouse in London.
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
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.
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.” 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.
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…
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.
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.”