Coronavirus (Covid-19): Latest updates and information
Skip to main content Skip to navigation

The Supernatural


In this seminar we will consider the development of beliefs regarding the supernatural. We will divide into three groups: one will look at folk tales and legends, one will look at ghosts, and one will look at paganism.

Seminar Questions

What do folk tales and legends reveal about beliefs in the supernatural in the British Isles?

How have attitudes towards ghosts changed in the British Isles since the Middle Ages?

How has paganism developed in the British Isles since prehistory?

Required Reading
Folk Tales and Legends

You should each choose and analyse four folk tales and legends from the following books:

Briggs, Katharine M., British Folk Tales and Legends: A Sampler (London, 1977)

Campbell, J. F., Popular Tales of the West Highlands, 4 vols (Edinburgh, 1860-1862)

Davies, Sioned, ed. and trans., The Mabinogion (Oxford, 2008)

Glassie, Henry, ed., Irish Folktales (New York, 1985)

Rhys, John, Celtic Folklore, Welsh and Manx, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1901), Vol. 1 and Vol. 2


Joynes, Andrew, ed., Medieval Ghost Stories: An Anthology of Miracles, Marvels, and Prodigies (Woodbridge, 2001)

Handley, Sasha, Visions of an Unseen World: Ghost Beliefs and Ghost Stories in Eighteenth-century England (Abingdon, 2016)

Owens, Susan, The Ghost: A Cultural History (London, 2017)

Parnell, Edward, Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country (London, 2019)


Hutton, Ronald, Pagan Britain (London, 2013)

Hutton, Ronald, The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft (Oxford, 1999)

Sneddon, Andrew, Witchcraft and Magic in Ireland (London, 2015)

Further Reading

Aldhouse-Green, Miranda, The Celtic Myths: A Guide to the Ancient Gods and Legends (London, 2015)

Bell, Karl, The Magical Imagination: Magic and Modernity in Urban England, 1780-1914 (Cambridge, 2012)

Brand, John, Observations on Popular Antiquities: Chiefly Illustrating the Origin of our Vulgar Customs, Ceremonies and Superstitions, ed. Henry Ellis, 2 vols (London, 1813), Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.

Briggs, Katharine M., A Dictionary of British Folk-tales in the English Language, 2 vols in 4 (London, 1970-1971)

Carr-Gomm, Philip, and Richard Heygate, The Book of English Magic (London, 2009)

Carrassi, Vito, The Irish Fairy Tale: A Narrative Tradition from the Middle Ages to Yeats and Stephens, trans. Kevin Wren (Lanham, MD, 2012)

Edmundson, Melissa, Women's Ghost Literature in Nineteenth-century Britain (Cardiff, 2013)

Evans, George Ewart, and David Thomson, The Leaping Hare (London, 1972)

Evans, George Ewart, Horse Power and Magic (London, 1979)

Green, Miranda, The Gods of the Celts (Gloucester, 1982)

Haase, Donald, ed., The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Folktales and Fairy Tales, 3 vols (Westport, Conn., 2008)

Hing, Richard, et al., eds, Folk Horror Revival: Urban Wyrd 2: Spirits of Place (Durham, 2019)

Hutton, Ronald, Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain (New Haven, 2009)

Hutton, Ronald, The Witch: A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present (New Haven, 2017)

James, M. R., Collected Ghost Stories, ed. Darryl Jones (Oxford, 2013)

Jarvie, Gordon, ed., Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales from Burns to Buchan (Harmondsworth, 2008)

MacKillop, James, A Dictionary of Celtic Mythology (Oxford, 2004)

MacKillop, James, Myths and Legends of the Celts (Harmondsworth, 2005)

Maier, Bernhard, ‘The Celtic and Germanic West and North’, in Josef Lössl and Nicholas J. Baker-Brian, eds, A Companion to Religion in Late Antiquity (Hoboken, N. J., 2018), pp. 99-114.

Morrison, Sophia, Manx Fairy Tales (London, 1911)

Paciorek, Andy, et al., eds, Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies, 2nd ed. (Durham, 2018)

Palmer, Roy, The Folklore of Warwickshire (London, 1976)

Rhys, John, Celtic Folklore, Welsh and Manx, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1901), Vol. 1 and Vol. 2

Roud, Steve, The Penguin Guide to the Superstitions of Britain and Ireland (Harmondsworth, 2003)

Scovell, Adam, Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange (Leighton Buzzard, 2017)

Simek, Rudolf, Dictionary of Northern Mythology (Cambridge, 1993)

Simpson, Jacqueline, '"The Rules of Folklore" in the Ghost Stories of M. R. James', Folklore 108 (1997), 9-18

Smith, Andrew, The Ghost Story, 1840-1920: A Cultural History (Manchester, 2013)

Vickery, Roy, Vickery's Folk Flora: An A-Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants (London, 2019)

Warner, Marina, Once Upon A Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale (Oxford, 2016)

Westwood, Jacqueline, and Jacqueline Simpson, eds, Haunted England: The Penguin Book of Ghosts (Harmondsworth, 2008)

Zipes, Jack, ed., The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales (Oxford, 2000)

Zipes, Jack, The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of a Genre (Princeton, N.J., 2012)


'A Warning To The Curious' (1972 BBC Ghost Story For Christmas)

A Warning To The Curious

(BBC Ghost Story For Christmas, 1972)