Here Be Monsters: Sailor Stories & Nautical Folklore

By Romany Reagan

‘The widow-making, unchilding, unfathering deep.’

—Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1899)

It has been said that no group of workingmen harbour as many superstitions within its collective breast as sailors do—and well this should be, because no body of workers endures such dangerous conditions of employment as those mariners who ply the seven seas to make their living. In this piece, I’ve gathered just a few pearls from the deep. Here you’ll find some interesting superstitions, legends of beasties and ghost ships—ending with one full-length tale of pirate horror. 

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Of Churches & Liquor: Green Man, Jack-in-the-Green & the Revels of May

By Romany Reagan

How is the Green Man linked to the Jack-in-the Green? When was green—instead of red—the colour of lust? And what does any of this have to do with church carvings and pubs? Come with me on a journey through May celebrations of yesteryear. 

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An Outlaw Hero for Every Age: The Enduring Legend of Robin Hood

By Romany Reagan

Robin Hood was first the subject of epic legends under different names before becoming a character of country festivals and the Tudor stage. Georgian literature then elevated him to the status of national hero. From bawdy street performance to ecological festivals today, Robin Hood is an outlaw hero for every age. 

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Who Is the Horned God? A Journey from Ancient Deer Goddess Cult to Pop Culture

By Romany Reagan

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. 

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Spectral Animals: Ghost Pets to Hellhounds

By Romany Reagan

“If the study of ghost belief lacks academic respectability, the study of belief in non-human ghosts is still more beyond the pale.” (Knox 262)

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Springtime Renewals: Drinking to the Vernal Equinox

By Romany Reagan

The vernal equinox is almost upon us. A time to hail the arrival of spring and to wake up our bodies and minds from a long winter’s cosy. This seasonal flux might feel a bit odd this year. We’re all welcoming the coming of spring from our stay-inside lockdowns, but we can create a feeling of renewal by brightening up our homes and cleansing our bodies to best prepare for the times ahead. 

Now—while a good spring cleaning is surely a wonderful thing for the spirit, when it comes to how I’ll embrace the season, I’d rather play with herbs in the kitchen than bust out a mop, so here’s my contribution to the Vernal Equinox: beverages! 

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Woodland Magick: Modern Animism & the Folkloresque

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

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Witch Wheels & Old Shoes: Home Protection Folklore Practices

By Romany Reagan

Everyone can identify with the desire to protect our homes. Today, 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’.

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The Witchy Gothic Wonder of Mother Goose

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?

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Grey Ladies in the Crumbling Stones—Our love affair with the uncanny gothic feminine

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.

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Folklore, legends, myths, and lost histories from the British Isles – collected by Dr Romany Reagan

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