Centre for Folklore, Myth and Magic
One day Symposium - 19th October 2019, 10am to 8pm (registration from 9.30am)
Fielden Hall, Ewood Lane, Todmorden, OL14 7DD
Once upon a time, we lived in fear of witches, we sought charms to protect ourselves from them, neighbour watched neighbour and blamed them for misfortune, we hung them and drove them from our towns and villages. But that’s all over now, isn’t it?
The story book wicked witch, living alone with her cat, her broomstick and potions, haggard and outcast, is a familiar stereotype, but how true is this picture? Do we really know what a witch is? In the cracks between pop culture representations, hidden behind what we think we know, lie the real stories of actual women, and men. Cunning folk, service magicians, witches: they are figures of history, folk belief, religious and societal persecution, superstition, fairytale, entertainment, feminism, rebellion; feeding literary imagination and artistic creativity, and have even been reinvented to produce ‘the only truly English religion’- Wicca.
Witches have moved from reality to fiction and back again, from a figure of fear to one of fascination, but have never gone away. In our modern age, the witch still defies definition and yet sits solidly within our cultural repertoire. Part of our way of life in many forms, the influences are felt in communities around the globe. Evil, innocent, magical, spiritual, independent, an integral part of a community, a healer, in touch with the natural rhythms of the Earth, a shapeshifter, devil worshipper, scapegoat, a friend. Our relationship with witches continues to be resolutely ambivalent.
And yet, somewhere in there are deeply fascinating, real, stories….
This Symposium seeks to explore some of the historical witchcraft themes and how they resonate with us today- from the social history behind the Early Modern witchcraft trials, local folklore, the history of folk magic, traditional witchcraft, and cunning folk, to the development of modern Wicca. Following a day of exceptional speakers and a delicious lunch, we will have afternoon tea and enjoy the first Northern performance of Circle of Spears ‘Witch’, a dramatic interpretation of transcripts from actual witch trials, with an in-depth discussion afterwards. There will be plenty of opportunity for questions and discussion throughout the day, as well as mingling with friends old and new. We look forward to meeting you at this, The Centre for Folklore, Myth and Magic’s first major event in Todmorden.
Tickets £35 from Todmorden Information Centre www.ticketsource.co.uk/todtic 01706 818181 or in person at Todmorden Information Centre, Burnley Road, Todmorden. (Please give any dietary requirements at time of booking)Speakers:John Billingsley:Some Calder Valley witchcraft cases.
The upper Calder valley also experienced witch trials in the 17th century. Although their full conclusions do not survive, John Billingsley looks at some of the allegations and events surrounding multiple accusations in Todmorden and Heptonstall.
Folk Magic House Protection in Local Vernacular Architecture
Alongside concealed objects and other ritual protective activities, Calderdale is rich in more overt assertions of magical protection in the vernacular architecture of the 17th century. John Billingsley shares his research into stone heads, devil's arrows, pentacles and other symbols.
John Billingsley is a committee member of the Hebden Bridge Local History Society and convenor of its Folklore Section. He has written five books on local folklore and folk-magic traditions and is currently compiling a guide to local house protection measures. He has co-organised with Brian Hoggard and Jeremy Harte the two Hidden Charms conferences to date, and co-edited publications containing their transactions. He is also editor of the world's longest-running neo-antiquarian journal, Northern Earth. Find Northern Earth on Facebook and Twitter. www.northernearth.co.ukPhilip Heselton:Mothers of the Wica
Gerald Gardner claimed to have been initiated into what he referred to as ‘the witch cult’ in the New Forest in 1939. Philip has been researching the coven into which Gardner was initiated and has discovered a group of esoteric women who each contributed to the character of the coven as it evolved. He will be revealing the character of some of these remarkable women.
Philip Heselton: ‘I have had an affinity with paganism for as long as I can remember, seeking out the wild woods and desolate moors for my spiritual refreshment.
The two themes of the landscape and the inner world have dominated my life, and it is in paganism that they have come together.
Stimulated by a well-stocked local library, I became interested in UFOs and thereby met Tony Wedd, my first mentor, who introduced me to Alfred Watkins’ great discovery – leys. Jimmy Goddard and I started The Ley Hunters Club and founded “The Ley Hunter” magazine in 1965. The subject of Earth Mysteries emerged out of this and I subsequently wrote several books, including “The Elements of Earth Mysteries” and “Leylines – A Beginner’s Guide”.
My interest in landscape led to a degree in Geography and a career in Town and Country Planning, eventually becoming a Conservation Officer before my retirement in 1997.
I have always been aware of the existence of realms other than the physical and this has led to a continuing interest in psychic phenomena and techniques, including astrology.
I first read Gerald Gardner’s “Witchcraft Today” in 1960 and discovered strange echoes in my being which have stayed with me for the rest of my life, although it was much more recently that I was initiated.
For me, paganism is about our own experience of the deeper side of the landscape around us, and I tried to express this in a series of books published by Capall Bann, “Secret Places of the Goddess”; “Mirrors of Magic” and “Magical Guardians – Exploring the Spirit and Nature of Trees”.
I have recently tried to go back to my roots in researching the sources of Gerald Gardner’s writings. This has resulted in the two books – “Wiccan Roots” and “Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration” and my full-scale biography of Gerald Gardner, “Witchfather. My most recent book is “Doreen Valiente Witch” (2016).’Brian Hoggard:Within Walls: The Archaeology of Magical Building Protection
In this lecture Brian will talk about the evidence of witchcraft beliefs which has been discovered in the fabric of buildings throughout Britain and far beyond. Objects such as witch-bottles, dried cats, horse skulls, written charms and markings which have been carved onto surfaces are all testimony to these strong the beliefs which were once commonplace.
Brian has been studying history, archaeology and folk beliefs since his teens. His undergraduate dissertation focused on folk beliefs and witchcraft and, having previously read Ralph Merrifield's Archaeology of Ritual and Magic (1987), he noticed there was a huge amount of work which could be done to further explore the archaeology of witchcraft. At that point – back in 1999 – his research really escalated into a major project which has culminated in the publication of Magical House Protection: The Archaeology of Counter-Witchcraft (Berghahn 2019).www.apotropaios.co.uk https://www.berghahnbooks.com/title/HoggardMagicalMark Norman:Traditional Witchcraft Now and Then
Examines the lore and practices of those who follow a Traditional pathway of Folk Magic: the Cunning Man, the Wise Woman, and asks to what extent the role and the techniques of the Traditional Witch have changed over the last 200 years and how similar the folk magic beliefs are in more modern times.
Mark Norman is creator and host of the Folklore Podcast. Mark is a folklore researcher and author based in the United Kingdom. He is a committee member of the Folklore Society, which is the longest standing learned society for the study of Folklore, and is also a committee member of the Friends of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.
It is through Mark's work in these areas of Folklore research that he is able to access and invite the calibre of guests which makes The Folklore Podcast such a rich and varied place to learn and enjoy about Folklore themes.
Mark works with many areas of Folklore but is one of only a few researchers specialising in the field of Black Dog apparitions. He holds what is believed to be the UK's largest archive of Black Dog sightings and eyewitness accounts, spanning 900 years, and is the author of the only full length study of the subject by a single writer, "Black Dog Folklore" which is available from his publisher, Troy Bookswww.thefolkloreodcast.com
Also on Facebook and Twitter.Julia Phillips:Cunning Folk and Faeries
There is a lengthy history of the relationship between Cunning Men and Women, and faeries. From Hereward the Wake in the 11th century to people such as Agnes Hancock (1438), John Walsh (1566) and Ann Jefferies (1626-1698), there is a rich tapestry of stories about faeries and how they helped (or otherwise) those with the ability to see them.
Julia Phillips has been studying esoteric subjects since 1971, initially at the Society of Psychical Research in London. By the 1980s her interest in tarot and hermetic magic encouraged her to specialise and she began to teach both subjects. She has been actively involved in Wicca since 1983, running covens in England and Australia and over the last 12 years, helping with the development of a thriving family in the USA and Canada.
Julia presents regularly on a wide range of subjects including traditional witchcraft, tarot, hermetic magic, and specialist talks about Madeline Montalban and Rosaleen Norton. She is researching the subject of witches and witchcraft (1850-1900) for a PhD at University of Bristol.
She is the author of “Madeline Montalban: The Magus of St Giles” (Neptune Press, 2015 2nd edition) and “The Witches of Oz” (Capall Bann, 1994 2nd edition).
Julia's contributions to anthologies include “The Magical Universe” for “Practising the Witch’s Craft” edited by Douglas Ezzy (Allen & Unwin, 2003); “Bast and Sekhmet: Eyes of Ra” by Storm Constantine and Eloise Coquio (Hale, 1999); “The Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism” by Shelley Rabinovitch and James Lewis (Citadel Press, 2002); “POP! Goes the Witch” edited by Fiona Horne (Disinformation Company Ltd, 2004); and “Madeline Montalban: Elemental and Fallen Angels” for “Both Sides of Heaven” edited by Sorita d’Este (Avalonia, 2009).Circle of Spears- ‘Witch’, Tracey Norman:
"I graduated from the OU in 2015 with an Honours degree in History. I wanted to create a unique piece of theatre for Circle of Spears which also incorporated my love of history and came up with the idea of dramatizing actual witch trial transcripts. I approached the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic for help. They kindly provided me with copies of a variety of documents and once I had read through them, I realised that they would not translate well to the stage.
Instead, I started researching English witch trials and, by using details from the papers from the museum and from my research, I created three fictional characters - the accused, her accuser and the local magistrate who deals with them. Social history has always held a fascination for me, so I wanted to focus on what actually gave rise to accusations of witchcraft. The three characters each bring different aspects of social history into the story, whilst illustrating how such an accusation could have arisen.
In order to tell the story, I had to play fast and loose with the early Elizabethan legal system. What audiences see is the story unfolding in the setting of a sort of informal deposition in the magistrate's library, where the accuser is questioned and the accused (unusually!!) is given a voice and has the opportunity to offer rebuttal - which she does with great vigour.
One of the key things for me was that the play should stimulate discussion. I didn't want to just create a linear story that progressed neatly from A to B with a woman who was clearly guilty as charged. I wanted to create something that would get audiences thinking - not only about the guilt/innocence of the accused, but also the definition of 'guilt' as it would have been interpreted back in the Elizabethan era, when the play is (loosely) set. Therefore, I worked hard to ensure that the accused's words and actions could be interpreted variously as innocence, guilt or misunderstanding. I soon realised that, in order to portray this as an actress, I would need to ensure that I myself had no clear view of her guilt or innocence, otherwise that would colour my performance.”www.circleofspears.com/witch www.traceynormanswitch.com
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