Folk-lore & Antiquities

History is the record of the actions of individuals and civilizations. Their customs and actions are determined by their beliefs, mythologies and superstitions. But what is the source of these? Are they purely ideas and literary inventions or do the stranger elements of mythology, folk-lore and superstitious beliefs derive from individual or collective perceptions or hallucinations? Further, do these perceptual phenomena have any objective correlations, perhaps within the brain's neural structure or with some unknown environmental stimulus, control mechanism or 'informing' field?

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Books & Articles (PDF & RTF formats)

The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns & Fairies Robert Kirk

Late in the seventeenth century, Robert Kirk, an Episcopalian minister in the Scottish Highlands, set out to collect his parishioners’ many striking stories about elves, fairies, fauns, doppelgangers, wraiths, and other beings of, in Kirk’s words, “a middle nature betwixt man and angel.” For Kirk these stories constituted strong evidence for the reality of a supernatural world, existing parallel to ours, which, he passionately believed demanded exploration as much as the New World across the seas. Kirk defended these views in The Secret Commonwealth, an essay that was left in manuscript when he died in 1692. It is a rare and fascinating work, an extraordinary amalgam of science, religion, and folklore, suffused with the spirit of active curiosity and bemused wonder that fills Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy and the works of Sir Thomas Browne. The Secret Commonwealth is not only a remarkable document in the history of ideas but a study of enchantment that enchants in its own right.

 

 
 
 

A Tour to Milford Haven in the Year 1791 (Extract) Mrs. Morgan

An extraordinary eyewitness account of a 'merman' on the South Pembrokeshire coast.

 

 

 

 

 
 

A Relation of Apparitions of Spirits in the County of Monmouth, and the Princilality of Wales Rev. Edmund Jones

A collection of testimonies from many witnesses to encounters with supernatural beings - such as fairies and spirits of the dead - in Wales in the 17th and 18th centuries by the dissenting minister Rev. Edmund Jones.

 

 

 

 

 
 
Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft Sir Walter Scott

In ill health following a stroke, Sir Walter Scott wrote Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft at the behest of his son-in-law, J. G. Lockhart, who worked for a publishing firm. The book proved popular and Scott was paid six hundred pounds, which he desperately needed. (Despite his success as a novelist, Scott was almost ruined when the Ballantyne publishing firm, where he was a partner, went bankrupt in 1826.) Letters was written when educated society believed itself in enlightened times due to advances in modern science. Letters, however, revealed that all social classes still held beliefs in ghosts, witches, warlocks, fairies, elves, diabolism, the occult, and even werewolves. Sourcing from prior sixteenth- and seventeenth-century treatises on demonology along with contemporary accounts from England, Europe, and North America (Cotton Mather's Magnalia Christi, for one), Scott's discourses on the psychological, religious, physical, and preternatural explanations for these beliefs are essential reading for acolytes of the dark and macabre, the letters dealing with witch hunts, trials (Letters Eight and Nine), and torture are morbidly compelling. Scott was neither fully pro-rational modernity nor totally anti-superstitious past, as his skepticism of one of the "new" sciences (skullology, as he calls it) is made clear in a private letter to a friend. Thus, Letters is both a personal and intellectual examination of conflicting belief systems, when popular science began to challenge superstition in earnest.

Review by Darkbooks

   
 
 

British Goblins Wirt Sikes

This is one of the most in-depth and scholarly attempts to explain the phenomena of the Celtic belief in fairies. Based on Evans-Wentz' Oxford doctoral thesis, it includes an extensive survey of the literature from many different perspectives, including folk-lore, history, anthropology and psychology. The heart of the book is the ethnographic fieldwork conducted by Evans-Wentz, an invaluable snapshot of the fairy belief system taken just on the cusp of modernity. There are regional surveys of the fairy-faith in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Brittany and the Isle of Man..
 
 
Celtic Folklore: Welsh and Manx V1 J Rhys.
Celtic Folklore: Welsh and Manx V2 J Rhys.

Important collections of Celtic folklore and one of the most important collections of Welsh folk and fairy legend, including many stories of fairy women who become wives and lovers. Many of these are from the lakes of Wales. John Rhys collected these tales from the Welsh speaking people. Their relationship to the Medieval manuscript material such as the Mabinogion and the Arthurian romances is amazing. The Lady of the Lake is a sister to many of the Lake Fairies here discussed. Included are a list of bibliographical references and a geographical list of authorities. At the time of original publication in 1901, John Rhys, D. Litt., was Professor of Celtic and Principal of Jesus College, Oxford University.

 

   
 
Folk-Lore and Folkstories of Wales MarieTrevelyan
The folk-lore here brought together is primarily that of Glamorgan and the immediately surrounding districts, but it also includes much from other parts of Wales.... Living among the people, [Trevelyan] has made it her business to seek out those who were best versed in tradition, and to take methodical notes of the information they put at her disposal. The result... helps us materially to an insight into the mind of bygone generations.

From the introduction by Sidney Hartland.

 

 
 
The Fairy Faith In Celtic Countries W.Y. Evans Wentz

1911. This is one of the most in-depth and scholarly attempts to explain the phenomena of the Celtic belief in fairies. Based on Evans-Wentz' Oxford doctoral thesis, it includes an extensive survey of the literature from many different perspectives, including folk-lore, history, anthropology and psychology. The heart of the book is the ethnographic fieldwork conducted by Evans-Wentz, an invaluable snapshot of the fairy belief system taken just on the cusp of modernity. There are regional surveys of the fairy-faith in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Brittany and the Isle of Man.

 


 
 
The Elizabethan Fairies: The Fairies of Folkloreand the Fairies of Shakespeare Minor White Latham

Any investigation of the fairy mythology of the 16th century is immediately concerned with two problems: the problem of the native fairies of tradition, and the problem of the fairies of Shakespeare. In this essay an attempt has been made to study both conceptions of the fairy world; to present the traditional fairies of folklore, and the whole body of beliefs popularly held in the 16th and 17th centuries concerning them; and to trace the development of the fairies of Shakespeare, and their influence upon subsequent literature and folklore.

From the preface.

 

   

The Celtic Twilight W B Yeats

1893.A collection of supernatural writings by W. B. Yeats, based on his own researches and fieldwork in folklore. Most are stories collected in Co. Galway, often with Lady Gregory's help, together with Sligo material from Mary Battle. The second edition of 1902 was enlarged. The final poem, originally named ‘The Celtic Twilight’, gave its name to the volume and to a school of writing produced under Yeats's influence.

 

 

 

 
Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland V1 Lady Gregory
Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland V2 Lady Gregory

1920. This material collected over a period of more than twenty years proved to be a valuable source not only for Gregory's own plays but also for Yeats' work. A classic, it presents many aspects of the supernatural seers, healers, charms, banshees, forths, the evil eye and contains a treasure trove of Irish folk-beliefs from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cambrian Superstitions William Howells

1831. This volume is comprised of ghosts, omens, witchcraft, traditions, etc. to which are added a concise view of the manners and customs of the principality and some fugitive pieces.

 

 

 

 

   
 
Welsh Folk-lore Elias Owen

1896. A collection of the folk tales and legends of North Wales, being the prize essay of the National Eisteddfod 1887. The author lends a literal rendering of the narrative given to him from many aged Welsh persons, through a translator, without embellishment or additions of any kind. This volume is dedicated solely to one branch of popular superstitions.

 

 

 

   
 
The Fairy Mythology Thomas Keightly

1884. "According to a well-known law of our nature, effects suggest causes; and another law, perhaps equally general, impels us to ascribe to the actual and efficient cause the attribute of intelligence. The mind of the deepest philosopher is thus acted upon equally with that of the peasant or the savage; the only difference lies in the nature of the intelligent cause at which they respectively stop. The one pursues the chain of cause and effect, and traces out its various links till he arrives at the great intelligent cause of all, however he may designate him; the other, when unusual phenomena excite his attention, ascribes their production to the immediate agency of some of the inferior beings recognised by his legendary creed..."

 

   
 

Folk-lore of West & Mid-Wales Jonathan Ceredig Davies

1911. This collection of material includes love, wedding, funeral, and other customs: lore of fairies and mermaids, ghosts, death portents, witches, healing, fountains: and local traditions.

 

 

 

   
 
Stranger Than Fiction: Being Tales From the Byways of Ghosts and Folklore. Mary L Lewes

"So, much of the ghostly gossip in the following chapters belongs to Wales; indeed my riginal purpose was to deal with Welsh ghosts and superstitions only. But in the course of collection, I came across so many interesting particulars and incidents concerning people and places beyond the borders of the Principality, that I decided to include them in this volume, on the chance that they may be new to most of my readers. All the stories to be narrated are what are known as " true" ones, or have at least a well-established reputation in tradition ; the majority having either been told me at first-hand, or imparted by people who believed in their truth, and who, in many cases, had personal knowledge of the people whose experiences they related, and of the localities they described."

From the Introductory

   
 

Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland Thomas Crofton Croker

In 1825 Croker produced his most popular book, The Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland. These folktales of Irish mythology feature uniquely Irish creatures such as the Pooka and other types of fairies, such as banshees and leprechauns. They are accompanied by drawings done by his walking companions.

 

 

 

   
 
Shropshire Folk-lore. A Sheaf of Gleanings Edited by Charlotte Sophia Burne from the Collections of Georgina F.Jackson
Jackson was amongst the first major C19th field-workers in the collection of English folklore, but was unable to bring her material to press before her death. Burne, a shrewd and meticulous collector herself, not only edited Jackson's mss. but amplified it with material from her own sources. It stands today as one of the most exemplary C19th printed folklore collections.

Tom Randall

 

 

   
 
Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britiain: Chiefly Illustrating the Origin of Our Vulgar and Provincial Customs, Ceremonies, and Superstitions, Vol 1 John Brand and Henry Ellis
Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britiain: Chiefly Illustrating the Origin of Our Vulgar and Provincial Customs, Ceremonies, and Superstitions, Vol 2 John Brand and Henry Ellis
Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britiain: Chiefly Illustrating the Origin of Our Vulgar and Provincial Customs, Ceremonies, and Superstitions, Vol 3 John Brand and Henry Ellis

These three volumes represent a vast and rich collection of folklore, customs and superstitions of Great Britain. Brand has attempted to trace their origin as far back into antiquity as was possible for him.

 

 

 

 
 
Cross-Cultural 'Encounter' Experiences and Neuro-Hormonal Transmission, Part I

Researched and written in cooperation with Karen Border, D.C.M., Anthropology Dept., Bekshire Community College. This paper presents evidence relating encounters with tiny humanoid or semi-humanoid beings with cultural influence and neurochemical states involving pineal gland functioning and the endogenous tryptamine psychedelic Dimethyltryptamine.

 

 

 
Links
At The Edge Exploring new interpretations of past and place in archaeology, folklore and mythology
Mysterious Britain & Ireland Mysterious Britain & Ireland is a resource and community website dedicated to mysterious places, legends and folklore of the British and Irish Isles.
The Folklore Society A learned society devoted to the study of all aspects of folklore. Lots of links.

The Celtic Tree of Life A detailed resource guide on the Celtic Tree of Life symbol which also provides links to further resources on Celtic Mythology and Folklore.