By Romany Reagan
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…
Continue reading Tattooed Ladies: Between Myth & Truth, from Burma to Barbie, the Feminist Evolution of ‘Monster Beauty’
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.”
I’ll be giving a virtual talk Sun 27 Sept 10pm BST for the #RuralGothic conference. There will be lots of amazing speakers over the course of two days! All for a tenner!
My talk closes out the conference:
‘Hail the Highgate Vampire! Goth kids, cemeteries, and the search for the secular sublime’
Through repetition and shared community lineage rituals become codified in society. The lines between acceptable and unacceptable ritual tend to follow the law of established shared-heritage practices going unquestioned, winning validity over recently invented rites. From media-hungry occultists battling it out with mock satanists in Highgate Cemetery in the 1970s to 21st-century wiccan white witches in Abney Park cemetery today, older sites of ritual continue to draw new practices. Our Victorian garden cemeteries offer the pull of an historical site with the aesthetics to match. From their crumbling chapels to their Egyptian follies, new rites fit into the old ways. This talk will take you on a journey through alternative meanings of space as practitioners search for the secular sublime.
By Romany Reagan
Now considered a cloying cliché to be rejected by the modern feminist, the fascination with flowers and, in turn, a desire for a flowery aesthetic, was not initially about dainty innocence but instead showed evidence of a scientific mind. What follows here is what I’ve discovered about the connection between flowers and women.
Continue reading The Language of Flowers: Breaking into the Boys Club of Botany & the Flowery Dress as a Feminist Act
By Romany Reagan
Comets, importing change of times and states,
Brandish your crystal tresses in the sky.
— William Shakespeare, (Henry VI, Part 1, Act 1, Scene 1)
Seeking answers in the heavens has a history as old as humankind itself. Every culture across our planet shares a heritage of calculating and making sense of the wondrous universe that surrounds us by studying the clockwork of the night sky. This is England’s story.
Continue reading Clockwork Sky: Astrology in Early Modern & Victorian England
By Romany Reagan
Noises? I myself have sat in the dismal parlour listening, until I have heard so many and strange noises that they would have chilled my blood if I had not warmed it by dashing out to make discoveries. Try this in bed, in the dead of the night; try this at your own comfortable fireside, in the life of the night. You can fill any house with noises, if you will, until you have a noise for every nerve in your nervous system.
—Charles Dickens, Haunted House
In honour of Charles Dickens Day, which celebrated the 150th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ death on 9 June 2020, I’m dedicating both last week’s and this week’s posts to one of my favourite storytellers. For this week, I’ll delve deeper into the meaning behind Dickens’s ghosts.
Did you know that Charles Dickens had an enduring obsession with Mesmerism? It’s so strange when you start to dig into it, because you can begin to see how this belief informed his conception and presentation of ghosts and the supernatural within his stories. The themes that Dickens addresses most famously in his writing are the state of Victorian society and its treatment of the poor; but his ideas about the workings of the mind come through in his writing when you start to see his characters and their hauntings through the lens of his mesmeric philosophy.
Continue reading Charles Dickens Day Part II: Haunted Dickens: Mesmerism, Spiritualism & ‘Enjoyable Nightmares’
In Victorian times, in some parts of northern England, it was considered a sin to point at the moon, while gentlemen would touch their hats 🎩 and young girls would curtsy to the new moon. The new moon shining on your purse would keep you poor; only make wine 🍷🍷🍷 in the dark of the moon; calves weaned during a full moon produce the best milking cows 🐄; and sleeping in moonlight can make you blind. 🛌