Vincent and Goram – The Bristol Giants

Bristol, a city in the south west of England, is my home. It’s also a bit of an abnormality when it comes to folklore. Although it shares many traditions with its neighbouring counties of Gloucestershire and Somerset, Bristol-specific folklore is hard to come by. One of the reasons could likely be the contested nature of […]

Witch Trials: The rare Case of Ireland

Very few countries were immune to the large number of Witch Trials that swept through Europe in the early modern period. Ireland, however, proved to be a rare exception. The combination of prevailing pagan beliefs and Christianity created a completely different spiritual and cultural identity to that of its neighbouring countries, leading to a society […]

Witch Trials and The channel islands: annoyingly hard to research

tw: mention of torture, bodily harm. Eight islands lie between the English and French coasts, the largest being Jersey and Guernsey. Although the populations of these two islands are rather small they suffered more from the witch trials than any other country within the British Isles. Their proximity to mainland Europe, continued practice of Catholicism […]

Ethnobotany: An Introduction

Ethnobotany is an interdisciplinary study of a region’s plants and their practical uses through the traditional knowledge of a culture of peoples. In short, the relationship between plants and communities (Okogun 2002). Traditionally the subject focused on cataloguing the ways people use plants but over the last few decades ethnobotany has grown to become an […]

The Witch of Eye-next-Westminster

We don’t know much about Margery Jourdemayne; we know she was born around the end of the 14th century; we know she married a man named William Jourdemayne, and we know she had an awful lot of high profile, wealthy friends… which was quite unusual for the wife of a cowherd. Margery was known in […]

Gwen ferch Ellis of Llandyrnog – the First Witch of Wales

Witchcraft and magic were not unusual in Wales during the early modern period (1500-1800 AD). Like much of Europe, cunning folk – common people who could provide healing and assistance – were commonplace in its rural communities. However, Wales remained largely undisturbed by the witch-hunts of its neighbouring countries. Although this can be largely explained […]

Sheela na gig

In architecture a grotesque refers to a mythical creature used in decoration. Often quite hideous and outlandish, they adorn early modern stone buildings such as local churches, cathedrals and castles. Sheela na gigs are a form of grotesque but… well, they’re a bit of an odd phenomenon. Mainly located in Ireland and Great Britain (although […]

The Witches of Belvoir

In the early 17th century the Rutland family – of Belvoir Castle, North East Leicestershire – experienced tragedy upon tragedy. In 1613 the 6th Earl, Countess and their son Henry fell ill and, sadly, Henry passed away. In an eerily similar turn of events their daughter Katherine and son Francis fell ill suddenly in 1618. […]

Witch Trials in the British Isles: a Very Brief Introduction

The early modern period was one of transition and uncertainty; Europe ‘teemed with invisible supernatural entities, which constantly influenced…the lives of men’ (Wilby 2005). Unexpected and catastrophic hardship caused by disease, political upheaval and crop failure occurred with alarming regularity. It is easy to understand why many would turn to magic – supernatural beliefs that […]

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