American History: Writing the Present?

Now here is an interesting challenge. If you were writing a history of the United States in the 21st century, what would you include, and how would you tell the story? And yes, there is indeed amply enough of this century already for it to demand a substantial history. That is a problem I face [Read More…]

The Place Called Dagon

I have been posting abut the modern mythology that tried to understand witchcraft as an authentic underground survival of ancient paganism, and how those myths of witchcraft and devil worship evolved into the modern farrago of Satanism. Throughout, I stress the role of academics, and of fiction-writers, whose ideas came to be believed as sober [Read More…]

European Films on Faith

My colleague Chris Gehrz recently did a valuable blogpost on films that treat religious topics well, basing his findings on a non-scientific survey of reader suggestions. The resulting list of the top seven films is very good, in the sense that they are all well worth seeing, although everyone will have their complaints about omissions. [Read More…]

Up on the Downs

I have been posting about the creation of modern myths about paganism, human sacrifice and other dark rural deeds in twentieth century Britain. Throughout, I have emphasized how artificial these ideas are, in the sense of being literary or artistic creations, commonly reinforced by the growth of sensationalist tabloid media. Many of the works in [Read More…]

Britain’s Pagan Twilight

I have been writing about the long-standing British fascination with the idea of a continuing rural paganism, ideas that in the 1960s grew into the genre of Folk Horror. But why did the ideas of witch-cult theorist Margaret Murray attract such a wide and credulous following? Looking at the writings of such mainstream figures as [Read More…]

Wood Magic

I have been posting about pagan survivals into Christian times, not in terms of actual continuities so much as modern romantic reconstructions of those matters. As I noted, scholars like Margaret Murray used such a vision as the basis for a whole recreation of a supposed ancient paganism surviving in modern times in the form [Read More…]

Witches in the Village

In 1945, English villager Charles Walton was gruesomely murdered in what sensationalist media decided was a sinister “witch murder,” even a human sacrifice, in the community of Lower Quinton. That story, as described by detective Robert Fabian, became the foundation of a whole genre of fantastic fiction, Folk Horror, and this spilled over into the [Read More…]

My Trump Syllabus

I recently found myself on the fringes of an academic controversy. The Chronicle of Higher Education approached me to suggest books for a hypothetical “Trump Syllabus” that they were preparing, Trump 101. Together with many other academics, I duly contributed. The Syllabus itself was, though, bitterly criticized by some for its neglect of major aspects [Read More…]

The Black Dog and the Wicker Man

Last time I described how rogue academics produced a mythology of continuing paganism and human sacrifice in supposedly Christian England, right up to modern times. The main rogue in question was an Egyptologist gone bad by the name of Margaret Murray. Supposedly, there was a continuing tradition of secret underground paganism linked to ancient cults [Read More…]

Dark Majesty and Folk Horror

This coming Monday, August 1, marks the medieval feast of Lammas, Loaf-mass, the year’s first harvest festival, and that coincides with one of the great feasts of the ancient Irish calendar, Lughnasa. This also brings me to a curious anniversary, which tells us a little bit about medieval history, and a great deal about the [Read More…]