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

Merry Maidens of Cornwall

1804 postcard of the Merry Maidens Stone Circle in Cornwall—legend has it that these stones were once a group of young girls who, while walking in the fields on a Sunday, began to dance to the music of two pipers— who were of course evil spirits in disguise 😈—and the young dancing girls were turned to stone in a flash of lightning.⚡This stone circle is one of many examples of a common theme of revellers being turned to stone for having fun on a Sunday when they should be at church!

Horseshoes

Today, people hang horseshoes for  good luck without realising that a century or more a go they were considered powerful  apotropaics—or ‘warding away’ objects against witches. Here we have a representation of two separate traditions: because iron weapons aided the Iron Age Celts to vanquish the bronze-using peoples who proceeded them, the belief arose that iron was a powerful protection against earlier inhabitants & their gods, which in time became represented by faeries, goblins, witches ect.—therefore iron was a protection against witches. 🧙🏻‍♀️ The second tradition is connected with the  moon goddess—the horseshoe resembles a  crescent moon so a house with this talisman was under the protection of the moon goddess. 🌚🍀🤞

Moonlight Lore

In some parts of Northern England it was thought that sleeping in moonlight could make you blind, cause birth defects or alter mental health. Many thatched cottages have extra thatch extensions projecting over upstairs windows to protect moonshine from falling on sleeping inhabitants. 🌚🌜

Hag-ridden

In previous centuries nightmares were believed by some to be caused by supernatural beings. The medical condition sleep paralysis was blamed on witches It was described as being witch-ridden or hagridden – a term referenced by J.K. Rowling for the beloved character Hagrid in Harry Potter The experience is accompanied by a feeling of weight on the chest and hallucinations, which gave rise to the notion of pressing demons such as the incubus and succubus.

Audio Walk: ‘They Walked in Moonlight

They Walked in Moonlight is an audio walking experience through St George’s Gardens in London, next to the Foundling Museum, taking a journey around the gardens and graves, listening to tales of the moon as told through folklore, legends, and nursery rhymes. The narrative of the walk explores how myth and oral tradition help us process difficult themes in an accessible way. The focus is on the moon, in particular, as representative of the feminine and as a light through personal moments of darkness.

Abney Park gets crucial Heritage Lottery Fund backing!

Abney Park has been awarded a development grant from The Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery for the Abney Park Restoration Project. This initial grant, of £315,000 will see the project developed further and a second bid will be made in June next year. If successful at this second round, the project will see nearly £5 million in lottery funding dedicated to the restoration of Abney Park.

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Abney Rambles in ‘A Small Guide to Stoke Newington’

By Andrea Gambaro

Located in the north-west corner of Hackney, Stoke Newington has been recently dragged into the rapidly expanding makeover of the East End. Nevertheless, gentrification hasn’t erased the village-like character which distinguishes “Stokey” – as it is known locally – from the typical London urban landscape.

Such character is particularly evident along Church Street, where the original hamlet developed. At its east end, the Neo-Egyptian gates mark the main entrance to Abney Park, home to one of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ London cemeteries. Past the gates, the inscriptions of ancient gravestones accompany the visitor through wide avenues and narrow paths, alongside memorials, monuments and, in the middle of the park, the Gothic chapel.

Read more on Travel Mag here.

All Hallows’ Evening String Quartet in Abney Park Cemetery

‘All Hallows’ Evening String Quartet’
31st October – 8pm to 9pm (gates open 7:30pm for prompt 8pm start)

Tickets available here.

Abney Park Trust are excited to announce that The Winter Quartet will be playing a All Hallows’ Eve concert at Abney Park within the chapel. They’ll be performing some wonderful, spirited, and atmospherically thematic tunes that will be familiar to the listener, by well-known classical composers, brought to life in this performance recital. They will take you on a musical journey, exploring our fear of the unknown and our own personal demons through fantasy. Stories of mountain kings, castles, dances of marionettes, and spirits emerge as the melodies becoming more regal and majestic. The mood lightening as the dances take on a major key for a celebration before our final moment of clarity and salvation.

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Afternoon in Abney Park Cemetery: Tea, Cake & Audio Walks

Abney Park cemetery offers a variety of guided walks throughout the year that are hosted by the Abney Park Trust, as well as local historians. In addition to these in-person guided walks, PhD researcher and cemetery historian Romany Reagan has written four audio walks through Abney Park that are available to be taken independently as part of her PhD project ‘Abney Rambles’. As opposed to traditional historical audio tours, these audio walks are artistic interactions with a selection of aspects of Abney Park cemetery presented as provocations to peek through different doors of perception to the various meanings the cemetery embodies.

We invite you to join Romany in the cemetery for an afternoon to take one (or all!) of these audio walks. Romany will be in the classroom from 1-4pm, just to the right when you enter the main Egyptian gates entrance from Stoke Newington High Street. She’ll be on hand to offer map routes for the various audio walks and answer any questions you may have. There will also be tea and cake to anyone who would like to stop by after they’ve taken the walks have a chat about both the audio and guided walks available in Abney Park.

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The Gendered Garden: Sexual Transgression of Women Walking Alone in Cemeteries

My PhD research is a study of the layers of heritage and cultural meaning within the Victorian garden cemetery Abney Park in Stoke Newington, north London. I am a practice-based researcher, and my research methodology is to explore these themes by way of a walking practice in the cemetery. I have crafted four audio walks in an endeavour to offer the community an invitation to view a selection of, perhaps, new perspectives and doors of perception into the various aspects of the cemetery space.

Throughout my four years as a walking practitioner researching Abney Park, I have walked alone through the cemetery, at all times of day, at all times of year. However, I have been walking in Abney for a total of nine years, simply for my own personal enjoyment. Sometimes I would walk with other people, but the majority of my time in Abney has been as a woman walking alone.

Perhaps from naivete, or a certain rash boldness, I never considered my walking practice as strange, or particularly dangerous. And it wasn’t until two years ago, when I read psychogeographer Geoff Nicholson’s account of taking a walk through Abney Park Cemetery, that I considered my gender – and my favourite pastime – could be perceived this way.

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