The Horned God is a popular image today, from neo-pagan traditions to pop culture. But who is he? And is he really a he? Follow me down this rabbit hole, as I show the journey of the Horned God from ancient feminist Deer Goddess, to Cernunnos—taking a detour by way of Shakespeare, Brothers Grimm, and Victorian Gothic fiction—to a 20th century mock-historical Wiccan fantasy revival and 21st century pop icon.
Why do the dead return? Why, in the darkness of the night, when all activity has been reduced to a trembling in the distance, do the dead disavow their rest and return to the living? Those who pass from the land of the dead to the living carry with them the promise of a place to come, and that place is haunted. –Dylan Trigg
We love our ghost stories. We love to share them, analyse them, hunt for them, and hopefully even capture them with our cameras. But therein lies the troublesome aspect of ghosts—because our search is the pleasure, there is no joy in the answer.
There is in an excitement in these feelings; as a child, many of us remember the sudden horror, then the thrill, of walking through a cemetery and imagining a hand creeping out of a cracked grave. Or walking through an old ruin, forgetting the heritage of the place to instead imagine deep tragedies of our own invention, wishing for glimpses of the ghostly Grey Ladies who cry for justice amongst the stones.
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.