16 May 2022 – Greek Mythology

In this session, we started Greek Mythology by returning to creation mythology. This involved Zeus and the Olympian gods’ take over of the universe from the Titans. We made the point that the Greeks portrayed their gods and goddesses as powerful figures but also with ‘human’ failings such as jealousy, vindictiveness, lustfulness etc. We looked at two contrasting… Read More »

21 March 2022 – The Devil in British Folklore completed

The session completed the topic of the Devil in British Folklore by finishing the sub-topic of the Devil making pacts with humans. In return for worldly gain, the Devil could claim the souls of his victims.  We covered the ways in which the Devil could be outwitted and the human prey escape his clutches.  He was foiled by… Read More »

21 February 2022 – The Devil in British Folklore contd

In this session, we started with the legend of Faust and then traced the same theme of the Devil capturing human souls into British folklore. There is a common theme of the Devil capturing human souls by exploiting human weaknesses and sins: Being disrespectful of the Sabbath; A love of gambling; Greed; An obsession with hunting and other… Read More »

15 November 2021- The Devil in British Folklore contd

In the session we continued the topic of the Devil in British Folklore in the context of the other world creatures we have been looking at. We had previously grouped the topic, for convenience, loosely into 3 categories Legends and tales linked to unusual landscape features, very similar to features attributed to giants. Attacks on Christianity The devil… Read More »

18 October 2021 – The Devil in British Folklore

This session we continued the topic of the Devil in British Folklore in the context of the other world creatures we have been looking at. In the previous session, for convenience, the topic was loosely grouped into 3 categories, though there was some overlapping Legends and tales linked to unusual landscape features, very similar to features attributed to… Read More »

16 August 2021- The Devil in British Folklore

In the session we started a new topic of the Devil in British Folklore in the context of the other world creatures we have been looking at. The devil in this context is different from the biblical one, he is not a fallen angel, nor is he Lucifer. There are different origins and a vast collection of stories… Read More »

18 July 2021- Giants in British Folklore and Mythology contd

In the session we discussed the role of the mythological heroes taking over from the gods in their constant battle against the giants. Gilgamesh from Sumerian and Babylonian myths fought the giant Humbaba, the guardian of the cedar forest. Humbaba was friendly with the gods and was installed as forest guardian by Enlil (the father of the gods).… Read More »

21 June 2021- Giants in British Folklore and Mythology contd

The meeting continued looking at how giants connect to the natural world and feature in the landscape in British folklore. The Role of the Giants in Folklore:- 1/.  So far in the topic the giants we have looked at have been relatively benign and involved in engineering type projects, providing an explanation for the landscape and large buildings… Read More »

7 June 2021 – Giants in British Folklore and Mythology

The meeting considered how giants connect to the natural world and feature in the landscape in British mythology and folklore.   We started by looking at creation myths and then how they featured in folklore. 1/. The Role of Giants in Creation Mythology:- 1.1/. Irish Book of Invasions:- We started by looking at Irish Celtic creation myths.  In Celtic… Read More »

17 May 2021 – Otherworld Folklore Creatures Associated with Water

The session completed the topic looking at Seal People (Selkies), Sea Trows, Water Cattle and Kelpies. 1/.   Seal people’s (Selkies):- In tales from the West of Ireland and Scotland their normal environment is the sea, they can shed their skin and take on human form.  This happens at dawn and dusk and on special days. People used to claim… Read More »

19 April 2021- Otherworld Folklore Creatures Associated with Water

The session looked at mermaids and church bells and then other creatures. 1/.  Legends Concerning Mermaids & Church Bells:- Examples Llyn Cerig Bach, Anglesey:- around 140 Iron Age metal objects discovered in the lake in 1943 Llyn Fawr, Rhondda Valley:- Bronze & Iron Age metal objects found in the lake in 1911. Bosham, Sussex:- church bell said to… Read More »

29 March 2021- Supernatural and Other World Beings

The session started looking at a selection of creatures associated with the natural world covering mermaids, water spirits, seal people, kelpies, all with watery connections. Mermaids in Inland Water:- By late C12th in western art the mermaid had acquired all her familiar features.  In western Christian imagery she was a symbol of lust & desire. In British folklore,… Read More »

15 February, 1 March and 15 March 2021 – Fairy Folk

The sessions continued and completed the subject of the Fairy Folk/Good People: For ease of discussion we grouped the tales into 4 categories:- 1/. Stories where they benefit from human kindness and offer a reward. 2/. React to unkindness and disrespect. 3/. Changelings, fairy left in place of a human baby 4/. Adult humans wander into their Fairy… Read More »

1 February 2021- Black Dog in Folklore continued

The session: Followed on the theme of Black Dogs and Boggy beasts with other similar beasts by completing the flitting with the boggart and starting with the Good Folk and the Fairy Folk. 1/.  Flitting with the Boggart .  Sometimes the helpful or mischievous boggart would become so troublesome a family would seek to move .  We followed… Read More »

18 January 2021- Black Dog in Folklore continued

The session: Followed on the theme of Black Dogs and Boggy beasts with other similar beasts.  Completing mischievous creatures and then looking at helpful ones. 1/.  We finished off the Hedley Kow.  Kow being the North Country name for a Boggart/Boggle.  This was known for playing tricks, could shape shift and would cause torment.  It could appear at… Read More »

4 January 2021- Black Dog in Folklore continued

The session: Followed on the theme of Black Dogs and Boggy beasts with other similar beasts. 1/.  These occur all over the country and vary from being extremely scary and dangerous, through mischievous, to being helpful.  Although they have similar features to black dogs they are considered as different creatures and occur in the same areas.  They tend… Read More »

21 December 2020 – The Black Dog in Folklore continued

The session: Continued the topic of the black dog in Folklore. 1/.  Black Dogs as Guardians We looked at many examples across the country.  Guiding people across difficult terrain, protecting from thieves, saving them from cars.  They appear and disappear mysteriously. 2/.  In Classical and Celtic Mythology Dogs acted as hunting companions to the gods and were also… Read More »

7 December 2020 – Black Dogs in Folklore

The session: Started the topic of the black dog in Folklore, these occur all over Britain and Continental Europe.   Some just have sightings and some have stories added. 1/.  Black Dogs as Portents of Death and Disaster We looked at many examples including Formby Merseyside, Bunbury Cheshire, Portland Dorset, Norfolk, Ely and more. The common themes for these were… Read More »

November 2020 – Scandinavian Mythology

Reconvened remotely after a long break due to Covid-19. The session: Completed the topic of Scandinavian Mythology 1/.  Recapped the last topic from March covering the origins of Thor and his accessibility to both the gods and ordinary people. 2/.  Freya the Bride – Another battle of wits with the Frost Giants which started with the Mjollnir (Thor’s… Read More »

March 2020 – Scandinavian Mythology

The session: Continued the topic of Frey and Freya the twin gods of fertility in Germanic and Scandinavian mythology. 1/.  Frey – means lord According to Snorri Sturluson he was good, gentle, beautiful to look at, had power over sunshine and rain.  He had a boar which pulled his chariot.  Frey was venerated particularly in Uppsala in Sweden… Read More »

February 2020 – Norse Mythology

The session: Continued the topic of Odin and Frig in Germanic and Scandinavian mythology. 1/.  Odin – We covered the tale of The Lay of Grimnir in more detail.  In this story Odin visited the world of men under one of his many disguise.  Odin and his wife Frig were very competitive and Frig warned Gerrod, King of… Read More »

January 2020 – Norse Mythology

The session:  We agreed an earlier start time of 9:50 to avoid congestion in the car park, with an earlier finish. Continued Norse Mythology covering Germanic and Scandinavian mythology with the topic of Odin. 1/.  Odin – Odin became the Sky God, creator of the Universe, King of the gods.  He provided rules which had to be followed… Read More »

December 2019 – Icelandic Sagas and Norse Mythology

The session: Completed the Saga of Gisli and started Norse Mythology. 1/.  The Saga of Gisli In the final part of the story Gisli became a warrior hero, honourable and true.  He would have been seen as a popular hero at the time the story originated.  Not all his killings would have been seen as good now but… Read More »

November 2019 – Icelandic Sagas

The session: Looked at Icelandic Sagas 1/.  Around 700 survived in manuscript form.  Some are based on family history, others covered leaders and battles, early Viking exploration and heroes.  A mix of fact with storytelling. 2/.  The Saga of Gisli – this is a settler saga based on historical records from around 800-1000 AD.  It was written sometime… Read More »

September 2019 – Siegfried

The session: Covered the Siegfried legend featured in the epic poem the Nibelungenlied (the “Song of the Nibelungs”) that was written in the High German language c1200 AD. 1/.  The Nibelungs were a Germanic tribe who lived along the northern reaches of the River Rhine, who possessed a fabulous treasure that was guarded by a dragon. 2/.  It… Read More »

July 2019 – Sigurd continued

The Session: Continued the legend of Sigurd the Volsung 1/.  Sigurd disguised himself as his blood brother Gunnar, rode through the magic fire surrounding Brnyhild’s tower, and claimed Brynhild as Gunnar’s wife.  Back in King Gjuki’s kingdom, a fierce rivalry grew up between Brynhild and Sigurd’s wife Gudrun, over the question of hierarchy and which of them had… Read More »

June 2019 – Sigurd

The session: Looked at Sigurd and compared him with Beowulf the ideal Germanic Hero. 1/.  The legend of Sigurd started with the Franks in Eastern Germany and by the Rhine and by the late C5th had moved across Europe and would have been in Britain. By C8th it was in Scandinavia and the Vikings would have brought it… Read More »

May 2019 – Beowolf

The session: Started a new topic considering some of the heroes who belonged to the Germanic and Scandinavian people who lived in Britain alongside the Celts.  This will include Beowulf, Sigurd, Siegfried and some of the characters from the Icelandic sagas. 1/  Beowulf as the model for the Germanic warrior hero.  Beowulf, the young warrior from Sweden is… Read More »

April 2019 – Merlin completing the topic

The session: Completed the loose ends from the Arthurian Legends looking at Merlin 1/.  We finished off the story of how Merlin brought the stones of Stonehenge to Salisbury Plain from Ireland, to act as Aurelius’ war memorial to the British warriors who died fighting against the Saxons.  When Aurelius was killed, Merlin transferred his services to Uther… Read More »

March 2019 – King Arthur – Tying up the loose ends

The session: Started tying up the loose ends from the Arthurian Legends by looking at the origins of Merlin 1/.  Merlin seems to be a composite figure whose story was added to over time.  We covered Llallogen/Lailoken, Merlin/Myrddin, Ambros/Emrys and Merlin Ambrosius. 2/.  In the North of England, Llallogen/Lailoken, was the bard poet to the King of Carlisle… Read More »

February 2019 – King Arthur building the legend contd

The session: Continued Sir Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte D’Arthur” 1/.  Despite previous events the relationship between Guinevere and Lancelot developed and Arthur heard that Guinevere had committed adultery with Lancelot.  Arthur was bound to sentence Guinevere to death and condemned her to be burnt at the stake.  Lancelot got to hear of this and rescued Guinevere just as… Read More »

January 2019 – King Arthur building the legend contd

The session: Continued Sir Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte D’Arthur” 1/.  The story continued and it was interesting to see the impact on the story of the life and times of Malory, there was a bitter civil war.  Although he used the existing stories as sources he added in his own interpretation and elements to the story.  One particular… Read More »

December 2018 – King Arthur building the legend contd

The session: Continued Sir Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte DArthur” 1/.  This was finished in 1469 or 1470 and was printed by Caxton in 1485 (the first of our sources to make it into print).  The setting of the tale is fifteenth century, and Arthur is portrayed very much as a fifteenth century figure. 2/.  Malory lived at the… Read More »

November 2018 – King Arthur building the legend contd

The session: 1/.  Completed looking at Chretien de Troyes French Romances (Romance is an old version of the French language).  He produced five Arthurian Romances.  He was influenced by the earlier writers and stories and was under aristocratic patronage rather than working in an ecclesiastical environment so could write a different type of book and add his own… Read More »

October 2018 – King Arthur building the legend contd.

The session: 1/. Completed looking at Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “History of the Kings of Britain” including: Arthur’s exploits in Gaul where he killed a giant on Mont St Michel, subdued most of Gaul. Arthur set off towards Rome but returned home to fight his nephew Mordred who had seized his crown.   Guinevere had broken the vows of… Read More »

September 2018 – King Arthur building the legend

The session covered: Continued looking at Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “History of the Kings of Britain”. It was only in the Middle Ages that the story of Arthur started to take off. Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote the “History of the Kings of Britain” c 1136.  He was a well read clergyman.  He would have been familiar with early sources… Read More »

July 2018 – King Arthur building the legend

The session covered: Making a start on Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “History of the Kings of Britain”. In writing his book, Geoffrey used most of the early Welsh sources that we have also covered, plus Welsh folklore and legends that were current in his own time, plus the Classical writers for his Roman history, plus his own imagination.  He… Read More »

June 2018 – King Arthur is there evidence he existed contd

The session covered: A number of theories which support the argument that an historical Arthur did exist. We looked at seven of them 1/. John Morris/Leslie Alcock Arthur was a late C5th/early C6th Romano British war leader from the Celtic Gododdin people who fought  the Picts and Scots in the north and later moved south west to fight… Read More »

May 2018 – King Arthur is there evidence he existed contd

The session covered: The continuation of our search for references to King Arthur in the early Welsh source material. In the Welsh battle poem “Y Gododdin”( attributed to the poet Aneirin and composed sometime in the early 600s) it is said of one Gododdin warrior that ” He glutted black ravens on the walls of the fort/ Although… Read More »

April – King Arthur is there evidence he existed contd

The session covered: looking at the early Welsh “Saints’ Lives” that were written by monks at Llancarfan in Glamorgan, in the C12th (although the saints in question lived c500AD), so again a large time difference between when the events happened and when they were actually put in a written record.  Arthur is mentioned in the Lives of St… Read More »

March 2018 – King Arthur is there evidence he existed contd.

The session covered: A summary of the previous session where we discussed the suggestion he was a British or Romano leader from the north.  There was not a lot of evidence for his existence, no mention of him in the 540’s documents by Gildas nor by the Venerable Bede in 730ish.  The earliest mention is 800-900 AD (around… Read More »

February 2018 – King Arthur is there evidence he existed?

The session covered: The historical context and where he would fit in to what is known of the people, social and political structures and the geographical location of people and tribes of the time. There are no surviving early written references to Arthur at a time when the Romans and others kept good records. When looking at historical… Read More »

January 2018 – The Death of Cuchulainn

The session covered: Culchulainn’s links to the supernatural and the gods. Tales of him show his ability to move between one world and another, so showing god-like characteristics.  Some tales show him to be descended from the sun god and there are references in the Phantom Chariot to him sailing west for many days. The three tales in… Read More »

December 2017 – Irish Celtic Warrior Hero Cuchulainn

The session covered: More exploits of the Irish Celtic warrior hero Cuchulainn, the greatest hero the world has ever known. This session carried on with the story of the Champion’s Portion. After many trials of their strength and courage, Cuchulainn won the contest and claimed the Champion’s Portion.  Consistently, Cuchulainn showed greater strength and courage than the other… Read More »

November 2017 – Cuchulainn

The session covered: More exploits of the Irish Celtic warrior hero Cuchulainn, the greatest hero the world has ever known. Cuchulainn was called Setanta when he was born and given the warrior name of Cuchulainn when he was nearly seven years old after he killed a guard hound in self-defence and replaced the hound by defending its owner’s… Read More »

October 2017 – Conall Caernach

The session covered: The exploits of the Irish Celtic warrior hero Conall Caernach, including the story of the Boar of Mac Dathro, in which Conall got the better of the Connacht champion Caet Mag Macha. There was also a discussion on the part hero/part fertility god aspects of Conall’s character, and the suggestion that he started his mythological… Read More »

September 2017 – Cattle Raid of Cooley

The session covered: The cattle raid of Cooley involving Queen Medb of Connacht, her consort Aillil, a young Cuculainn, Ferghus Mac Rioch, Cormac and Conall Caernach. There are recurring themes of betrayal, loyalty and honour. Symbolism such as running water at a ford which is linked to magic, wizards could not cross, a crossing point from this world… Read More »

August 2017 – Characteristics of the Mythical Hero

June was away, this was a free group session. The session covered: A discussion driven by selecting heroes, this covered Beowulf, King Arthur/Lancelot and Robin Hood, and tying up their characteristics with the list provided. It was interesting to see how many different legends had evolved around each one. It was a short high level session and it… Read More »

July 2017 – Heroes From Celtic Myths and Legends

The session covered: A recap of some of the information about hero Conor Mac Nessa – the mythological King of Ulster.   Conor possessed all the most desirable qualities in a king- skilled warrior and wise and fair in his judgements, but there was also another less positive side to his character. The legend of Deirdre and the Sons… Read More »

June 2017 – Heroes From Celtic Myths and Legends

The session covered: The introduction of the topic – Heroes from Celtic myths & legends with some general information on the aristocratic warrior society that forms the background to the Hero myths. Characteristics of the mythological hero – a warrior, handsome, brave, strong, skilled fighter, superhuman with unusual origins, strong sense of honour and loyalty and playing by… Read More »

Useful References

S. H. Hooke, “Middle Eastern Mythology”, London, Penguin, 1963 Donald MacKenzie, “Mythology of the Babylonian People”, London, Bracken Books, 1996. The Folklore Society which studies all aspects of folklore and tradition – http://folklore-society.com/ Steve Round, “A Pocket  Guide to the Superstitions of the British Isles”, Penguin, 2004 Steve Round,  “The English Year”, Penguin, 2006 Christina Hole and E… Read More »

July 2016 – Creation Mythology – Egyptian Creation Myths

The session covered: Four Main Egyptian Creation Myths – There are four main traditions for the creation for which records have survived, based in cultural centres along the Nile.  These were Heliopolis, Memphis, Hermopolis and Thebes.  These have similar themes of a primeval ocean to the ones in Suma etc. covered in the previous session Khum – In… Read More »

June 2016 – Creation Mythology – Sumer and Babylonia

Topics Covered : Why Creation Myths Came about – a discussion around the topic. Location – Near East/Middle East Maps giving an indication for Sumer and Babylonia’s location, roughly where Syria and Iraq are now. Time Line – Approximate dates to give time context. Sumerian and Babylonian Creation Mythology – these are the earliest with surviving physical records. … Read More »

May 2016 – Completion of Spring/Summer Festivals and Festivities

Topics covered: May Eve – Before 1752, when the Julian Calendar was in place, May Day was later in the year and May blossom was flowering on the day.  Hawthorn was special, representative of the earth mother, fertility and goddess and used symbolically at May Eve. May Poles – were saplings, often birch, where most branches were taken… Read More »

March 2016 – Festivals and Festivities Spring and Early Summer

Topics covered: Eggs. Associated with Spring and new life by many cultures with painted and coloured eggs being given as gifts by the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Persians and Chinese in pagan festivals celebrating the return of Spring.  Eggs were symbols of Christ’s resurrection for early Christians. Colouring eggs. Colouring eggs is ancient and widespread, with mysterious reasons to… Read More »

February 2016. Continuing Christmas and New Year festivities

Topics covered: Dressing as animals. Frowned on by the church but ignored by the people. Mummer’s plays. Plays of the people. Based on pagan traditions. Players always dressed in disguise as a form of protection. Yule candle, yule log. To ensure good luck in new year both candle and log must remain lit. New Year First footing and… Read More »

Previous Sessions

Monday 18 January 2016:  Christmas Festivities and its pre-Christian precursors.  There was much symbolism in the use of greenery and decoration from pagan times.  A good attendance at our third session Monday 21 December 2015:  Halloween and New Year.  This included burning the Clavie in Burghead on 11 January, New Year’s Eve in the old calendar.  The Clavie was a… Read More »