Tag Archives: Welfare

More work in progress: Ritual, Supernatural, and Superstition

It’s perhaps clear from the previous post that I have many research interests – yet there’s more![i]  I dip into other topics, though less regularly – some of which cross over with the previously mentioned projects. I’ll mention these topics in brief as I return to them, as I sometimes work with sources (such as oral history recordings and transcripts) and information provided by the public (so I’m interested in hearing about relevant material that might be of use), and it’s always good to hear from others carrying out similar research.

A glance at the blog archive will reveal posts that appear to contain completely frivolous content, seeming unconnected to academic work. Some posts – such as that on the Derby ram struck by lightning – certainly are! But others – such as those on Halloween and Christmas culture and customs – do relate to ongoing ‘serious’ research. The following perhaps has the appearance more of an episode of ‘Comedy Connections’,[ii] than an overview of historical research. All (or at least, hopefully, more) may become clear in future, as I explain my apparently eclectic approach.

I’ve previously published an academic article (as a chapter in this book) on ritual and superstition that, though focusing attention on prehistory and early historic periods, incorporated a theoretical discussion on the role of ritual, and ‘ancestral’ landscapes, in the formation of social (particularly community), local, and cultural identities.[iii] My thesis also examined these topics, integrating studies of burial and memorial practices.[iv] I’m developing the ideas contained within these works in examining post-medieval contexts, which ties into my research on attitudes and practices relating to death and burial in the 17th – early 20th centuries (including body snatching), as mentioned in the preceding post.

My studies of Halloween rituals relates to this work, so I continue to peruse local histories and gazetteers that outline seasonal traditions of the sort mentioned in another previous post, and will post more on local and regional customs as and when I collate sufficiently interesting data. My interest in artefacts associated with death and memory also forms a part of this work: ‘memento mori’, unsurprisingly; mourning clothing and accessories – as briefly mentioned in this post, and photos of which I put on Flickr, here and here (I’ll soon have more photos on this topic to upload); and 19th – early 20th century spiritualism.

In going through parish records at the local studies library and public record office (in addition to searching for the information previously outlined here), I’m looking out for mention of Christmas traditions, particularly parish and charitable welfare provision, bringing together research on customs, and poverty and welfare (again, see here). Seasonal superstitious practices surrounding courtship and marriage at Christmas and Halloween again link to research mentioned in the previous post, on gender relationships.

I’ll present snippets of research in progress as I go (if and when I find time) here. But first, back to the books…


[i] I’ll hopefully find time to explain why I’m involved in multifarious research projects in another post!

[ii] I must issue an advance apology for this narrow cultural reference: I expect only a few will remember this TV series.

[iii] Jarrett, K. 2013 ‘Telling tales? Myth, memory, and Crickley Hill’, in A M Chadwick & C Gibson (eds.) Memory, Myth and Long-Term Landscape Inhabitation, available here and here.

[iv] Jarrett, K. 2010 Ethnic, Social, and Cultural, Identity in Roman to Post-Roman Southwest Britain, University of Sheffield (available here).