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As the year darken the London Fortean Society once again explores the folklore, ghosts and curses of the British Isles with the one-day symposium The Haunted Landscape 2017.
Authors, experts and researchers discuss ghosts, strange beasts and magic. From haunted folk songs to 3000 year old chalk giants, phantom black dogs, Albion’s Goat God and the Queen of the Fairies. Join us at Conway Hall to learn that this green and pleasant land we abide in has dark, strange and uncanny other side.
- The Haunted Landscapes of World War One – Professor Owen Davies
- The Walking Dead – Dr. Carolyne Larrington
- The Appearance of Ghosts: shrouds, sheets or see-through? Dr. Susan Owens
- 'I Shall Goe Unto a Hare' - Isobel Gowdie, Covens, Shamans and Familiar Spirits in Seventeenth Century Scotland – Dr. John Callow
- Phantom Black Dogs - Mark Norman
- How to Clean a 3,000-Year-Old Hill Figure - Emily Cleaver
- The Goat God in Albion – Gyrus
- Talk of the Devil – Jeremy Harte
- In the dead of the night, when all people were sleeping: Ghosts in folk songs – Dr. Paul Cowdell
The Haunted Landscapes of World War One – Professor Owen Davies
Details to follow
The Walking Dead – Dr. Carolyne Larrington
The dead don't always stay peacefully in their graves. British folklore and chronicle relates from very early times instances of vampire-like and undead behaviour, spelling disaster for communities. Radical social upheaval – such as the Norman Conquest – spawns narratives about the undead; later chroniclers remark that there are so many tales of the undead it would be tedious to list them all. Recent archaeological finds seem to confirm the survival of these beliefs right up to the end of the medieval period; time-honoured ways of preventing the dead from walking again offer the best explanation for the unusual post-mortem treatment of some bodies. Nor is it just the British Isles that suffer from the plague of the walking dead; Icelandic sagas have many such tales, and some useful tips about how to settle such revenants once and for all.
Carolyne Larrington is a Tutorial Fellow in English Literature at St John's Oxford and the author of The Land of the Green Man, Winter is Coming: the Medieval World of Game of Thrones and An Introduction to Norse Myths.
The Appearance of Ghosts: shrouds, sheets or see-through? Dr. Susan Owens
The idea that the dead can return to haunt the living is deeply rooted in the British imagination, and ghosts are central to countless plays and paintings, stories and ballads, photographs and films. But why has the appearance and behaviour of ghosts in art and literature altered over time? When did they stop wearing shrouds and put on white sheets or become see-through? And what do these changes reveal about them – and us?
Dr. Susan Owens, former Curator of Paintings at the Victoria and Albert Museum, is the author of The Ghost: A Cultural History (Tate Publishing, 2017).
I Shall Goe Unto a Hare - Isobel Gowdie, Covens, Shamans and Familiar spirits in Seventeenth Century Scotland – Dr. John Callow
The four confessions given by Isobel Gowdie to a Scottish court, in May 1662, are seminal witchcraft texts; bringing folk belief in the faerie, the world of familiar spirits, night flight and the coven to stark prominence. This talk shows how a marginal figure, in her own day, moved towards the cultural mainstream, through the works of modern composers, rock musicians and novelist, and was comprehensively recast in the process.
John Callow is an author, screenwriter and historian, specialising in Seventeenth Century politics, witchcraft, and popular culture including Embracing the Darkness: A Cultural History of Witchcraft (IB Tarsus 2017).
Phantom Black Dogs - Mark Norman
Mark Norman is the creator and host of the Folklore Podcast and author of Black Dog Folklore, Black Dog Folklore, a comprehensive study of the image of the Black Dog in folklore, with an extensive gazetteer of over 700 UK sightings and traditions. He holds the UKs largest archive of black dog material and in this talk, will introduce the symbolism of the Black Dog motif.
How to Clean a 3,000-Year-Old Hill Figure - Emily Cleaver
Emily Cleaver recounts a recent ‘scouring’ of the Uffington White Horse, the traditional cleaning event that has kept the chalk figure from becoming overgrown since its construction in the Iron Age. Exploring the archeological evidence for the origins of the figure, plus local folklore from fertility rituals to furniture arrangement.
Emily is a writer with an interest in folklore, local traditions and history.
The Goat God in Albion – Gurus
Gyrus explores the bonds between the British landscape and the Greek god of nature, Pan. The Victorian obsession with Pan forms a historical backdrop for strange present-day encounters in rural darkness, and synchronicities which unearth Pan's hidden presence in the famed landscape of Avebury.'
Gyrus is the publisher of Dreamflesh and the author of North: The Rise &Fall of the Polar Cosmos
Talk of the Devil
He builds bridges, he drains punchbowls, he hurls quoits, he preaches strange doctrine from his pulpit. There’s no getting away from the Devil in the English legendary landscape, but who is he really? From his Arse to his Elbow, the Devil of local lore is a strange compound of fiend and buffoon. Those sulphurous hoofprints do not lead to any orthodox theology.
Jeremy Harte is a researcher into folklore and archaeology, with a particular interest in sacred space and tales of encounters with the supernatural. He is the author of English Holy Wells: A sourcebook and Explore Fairy Traditions.
In the dead of the night, when all people were sleeping: Ghosts in folk songs – Professor Paul Cowdell
Traditional songs are full of folklore about ghosts. They tell you why people become ghosts, what ghosts look like, what the living must do to allow the dead to rest in peace. Paul Cowdell, folklore expert on ghosts and a fine singer, will be talking about ghostlore in and around traditional songs, and singing some. Songs may include The Yarmouth Tragedy, The Unquiet Grave and Polly Vaughn.
Paul completed his PhD at the University of Hertfordshire, where hewas looking at contemporary belief in ghosts. The thesis is available online here.