By Romany Reagan
In this post, I’ll share with you some of the investigations into the scientific basis for animistic folklore that I explored for my PhD thesis, which resulted in my two nature audio walks through Abney Park cemetery: Woodland Magick and Woodland Networks.
I cannot avoid the conclusion that all matter is composed of intelligent atoms and that life and mind are merely synonyms for the aggregation of atomic intelligence.
– Thomas Edison, 1903
As a metaphysical monism, animism is based upon the idea that nature’s essence is minded.
– Emma Restall Orr, 2012
Continue reading Woodland Magick: Modern Animism & the Folkloresque
By Romany Reagan
Everyone can identify with the desire to protect our homes. Today, we might use alarm systems or family dogs to keep our domestic spaces safe from human predators, but our ancestors’ fears weren’t only for these terrestrial threats—they felt that their homes could come under attack from unseen forces as well.
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 Wheels & Old Shoes: Home Protection Folklore Practices
By Romany Reagan
Ahhh, the cosy childhood memory of Mother Goose, what could be more innocent? But where did Mother Goose come from and what darker societal secrets is she hiding?
Continue reading The Witchy Gothic Wonder of Mother Goose
By Romany Reagan
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.
Continue reading Grey Ladies in the Crumbling Stones—Our love affair with the uncanny gothic feminine
In 2002, scientists recreated a #Shakespearian #lovepotion ❤️ Studies of #midsummernightsdream led them to create the elixir used on #Titania 🧚 Queen of the Fairies to make her fall in love with the first person she saw. In the play, the mischievous character #Puck was instructed to find a “little western flower” and produce a magic potion from its juice. The brew is applied to the sleeping Titania’s eyes and she falls in love with Bottom—despite the fact that he has been given a donkey’s head. 🐴
The Royal Society of Chemistry says research of the play’s text revealed the wild pansy—or ‘heart’s ease’—was the basis of the potion. It was used in old folk remedies for cardiac problems—so, problems of the heart!
Fragrance company Quest International was then asked to create a #perfume based on this fictional potion. Dr Charles Sell, head of organic chemistry at Quest, said: “There are scores of references to plants and herbs in Shakespeare, who was obviously very knowledgeable about their real and mythical potency.” The resulting perfume was called ‘Puck’s Potion’, but it had a powerful, old-fashioned parma violet smell, and they opted not to commercialise it.
You’ll have to rely on your wit and good looks instead this #ValentinesDay ! 😉❤️ Painting: ‘Scene from a Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titania and Bottom’, Edwin Landseer, 1851
#FolkloreThursday #folklore #potions #shakespeare #herbalremedy #folkremedy
The advent of the printing press & resulting mass sharing of frightening #tales regarding #witchcraft spread fear of #witches & the harm they could inflict. This led to the rise of counter-witchcraft #folklore & #cunningfolk offering personal spiritual protection.
Stories of the misfortune that befell those who dared cut down a #faerietree are legion.🌳 Perhaps the most famous tale about faerie thorns is that of the ruin of the #DeLorean car company, whose factory was built over the sacrificed roots of a faerie tree.🧚 The tree was one of the most important religious symbols to the #Celts. Virtually all species of trees were deemed magical in some ways, however none was more tightly linked to the faerie world than the #thorn or #hawthorn, whose spiky thorns, white blossoms, and distinctive red haws or berries were said to have been favoured by the Good People. All individual hawthorns shared the faeries’ general beneficence towards their species, but certain thorns marked faerie lands: those that grew in a group of three; those that grew alone in a stony field; and those those that grew together with an oak and ash to make the most magical of all groves.
“For centuries, #Alewives dominated the brewing industry.🍺 Professional brewsters and alewives had several means of identifying themselves and promoting their businesses. They wore tall hats to stand out on crowded streets. To signify that their homes or taverns sold ale, they would place broomsticks—a symbol of domestic trade—outside of the door. 🐈 Cats often scurried around the brewsters’ bubbling cauldrons, killing the mice that liked to feast on the grains used for ale. “If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because this is all iconography that we now associate with witches. 🧙♀️ While there’s no definitive historical proof that modern depictions of witches were modelled after alewives, some historians see uncanny similarities between brewsters and anti-witch propaganda.” – @addisonnugent @atlasobscura https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/women-making-beer Image: #MotherLouse #Alewife by David Logan (1634-1692) Wellcome, Wikimedia Commons #witches #folklore #brewing #feministemployment
As the linguistic legend goes, the #Appalachian ⛰️ dialect is so odd and archaic, hundreds of years out of step with the rest of the English-speaking world, that it’s the oldest living English dialect—older than the speech of Shakespeare, closer to Chaucer. Isolated from the outside world by natural barriers, they have preserved the language of #ElizabethanEngland. It’s a myth repeated frequently by linguaphiles, but is it true? Language has an important place in the #folklore of #Appalachia and one of the ways Appalachian communities show solidarity and belonging. Perhaps it’s evolved to become its own entity, but the romanticised past is a story all its own. JSTOR by linguist #ChiLuu Photo: Tony Barber, Getty Images #FolkloreThursday #WorldMountainDay #language
In the 1986 classic Labyrinth (i.e. best film ever) Sarah’s dog ‘Merlin’ is also Sir Didymus’ mount ‘Ambrosius’. 🐾 In Geoffrey of Monmouth’s The History of the Kings of Britain Merlin is called Merlin Ambrosius 🧙♂️—revealing the dog’s secret identity.