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The Ritual Year I: November to April


Since prehistory, festivals and rituals have marked the progress of the year. Their value was recognised during the French and Russian revolutions as well as in Francoist Spain and communist and post-communist Eastern Europe. This is the first of two seminars in which we will examine the development of these rituals. We will divide into two groups: one group will focus on festivals and rituals from November to January and one group will focus on festivals and rituals from February to April.

Seminar Question

Compare and contrast the development of festivals and rituals between November and April across Europe and the British Isles.

Required Reading

Hutton, Ronald, The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in BritainLink opens in a new windowLink opens in a new window (Oxford, 2001) [Each of you should read the Preface and the chapters for the months your group is studying]

Kitowicz, Jędrzej, Customs and Culture in Poland under the Last Saxon KingLink opens in a new window, ed. and trans. Oscar E. Swan (Budapest, 2019) [Each of you should read the Preface and two of the chapters in Part II]

Further Reading

Alford, Violet, ‘The Springtime Bear in the PyreneesLink opens in a new window’, Folklore 41/3 (1930), 266–79.

Ballard, Linda M., ‘Some Christmas CustomsLink opens in a new window’, Archaeology Ireland 3/4 (1989), 132–35.

Bartmiński, Jerzy, ‘Polish Christmas Carols and Their Cultural ContextLink opens in a new window’, The Slavic and East European Journal 34/1 (1990), 83–97

Bennett, Margaret, ed., Scottish Customs: From the Cradle to the Grave (Edinburgh, 1992)

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. 1Link opens in a new windowLink opens in a new window.

Brody, Alan, The English Mummers and their Plays: Traces of Ancient Mystery (Philadelphia, 1970)

Carbon, Jan-Mathieu, 'Ritual Cycles: Calendars and Festivals', in The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion, ed. Esther Eidinow, and Julia Kindt (Oxford, 2015), 537-50.

Cashman, Ray, ‘Mumming with the Neighbors in West TyroneLink opens in a new window’, Journal of Folklore Research 37/1 (2000), 73–84.

Čaval, Saša, ‘Locating the Festival, Positioning the Feast: Natural and Calendar Festivals in Medieval Slovenia’, World Archaeology 50/2 (2018), 300-22.

Costa, Xavier, Sociability and the Public Sphere in the Fallas of Valencia, PhD thesis (University of Warwick, 2015)

Creed, Gerald W., Masquerade and Postsocialism: Ritual and Cultural Dispossession in Bulgaria (Bloomington, 2010)

Cressy, David, Bonfires and Bells: National Memory and the Protestant Calendar in Elizabethan and Stuart England (London, 1989)

Cyriax, A. Kellgren, ‘Swedish Christmas CustomsLink opens in a new window’, Folklore 34/4 (1923), 314–21.

Drury, Susan, ‘Customs and Beliefs Associated with Christmas Evergreens: A Preliminary SurveyLink opens in a new window’, Folklore 98/2 (1987), 194–99.

Esteve-Faubel, José-María, and Rosa-Pilar Esteve-Faubel, ‘The Festivities of the Winter Solstice: Songs and Customs of the Valencian CommunityLink opens in a new window’, Western Folklore 74/3/4 (2015) 343–75

Evans, E. Estyn, Irish Folk Ways (1957; rept. New York, 2000)

Ginzburg, Carlo, The Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, trans. John and Anne Tedeschi (Baltimore, 1992)

Håland, Evy Johanne, Greek Festivals, Modern and Ancient. A Comparison of Female and Male Values (Newcastle upon Tyne, 2017)

Hannant, Sara, Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey Through the English Ritual Year (London, 2011)

Harris, Max, Carnival and Other Christian Festivals: Folk Theology and Folk Performance (Austin, TX, 2003)

Hasluck, Margaret M, ‘The Basil-Cake of the Greek New YearLink opens in a new window’, Folklore 38/2 (1927) 143–77.

Hole, Christina, A Dictionary of British Folk Customs (Oxford, 1995)

Hugoson, Marlene, ‘“Instant Tradition”: The Introduction of the Swedish Easter Tree’, Folklore 117/1 (2006), 75-86.

Hutton, Ronald, ‘Modern Pagan Festivals: A Study in the Nature of Tradition’, Folklore 119/3, (2008), 251-73

Johnson, Helen Sewell, ‘November Eve Beliefs and Customs in Irish Life and LiteratureLink opens in a new window’, The Journal of American Folklore 81/320 (1968), 133–42.

Johnston, Derek, Haunted Seasons: Television Ghost Stories for Christmas and Horror for Halloween (Houndmills, 2015)

Jones, Bryan, ‘Christmas Mumming in IrelandLink opens in a new window’, Folklore 27/3 (1916), 301–07.

Kingshill, Sophia, and Jennifer Westwood, The Fabled Coast: Legends and Traditions from Around the Shores of Britain and Ireland (London, 2014)

Knab, Sophie Hodorowicz, Polish Customs, Traditions and Folklore, rev. ed (New York, 1996)

Langeslag, P. S., Seasons in the Literatures of the Medieval North (Cambridge, 2015)

Lindahl, Carl, John McNamara and John Lindow, eds, Medieval Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Myths, Legends, Tales, Beliefs, and Customs, 2 vols (Oxford, 2000)

Lyle, Emily, ‘The Celtic Seasonal Festivals in the Light of Recent Approaches to the Indo-European Ritual Year’, Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium 23 (2003), 184-99

McCluskey, S.C., ‘The Mid-Quarter Days and the Historical Survival of British Folk Astronomy’, Journal for the History of Astronomy 20(13) (1989) 1-19

Moss, Leonard W., ‘Observations on "The Day of the Dead" in Catania, SicilyLink opens in a new window’, The Journal of American Folklore 76/300 (1963), 134–35.

Motz, Lotte, ‘The Winter Goddess: Percht, Holda, and Related FiguresLink opens in a new window’, Folklore 95/2 (1984), 151–66.

Muir, Edward, Ritual in Early Modern Europe, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, 2005)

Newall, Venetia, ‘Throwing the Hood at Haxey: A Lincolnshire Twelfth-Night Custom’, Folk Life 18/1 (1980), 7-23

Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí, The Lore of Ireland: An Encyclopaedia of Myth, Legend and Romance (Woodbridge, 2006)

Orme, Nicholas, Going to Church in Medieval England (New Haven, 2021)

Ovid, Fasti, ed. and trans. Anne Wiseman and Peter Wiseman (Oxford, 2011)

Owen, Trefor M., ‘The Celebration of Candlemas in WalesLink opens in a new window’, Folklore 84/3 (1973), 238–51.

Owen, Trefor M., Welsh Folk Customs (Cardiff, 1959)

Ozouf, Mona, Festivals and the French Revolution, trans. Alan Sheridan (Cambridge, Mass., 1988)

Pagans in the Early Modern Baltic: Sixteenth-Century Ethnographic Accounts of Baltic PaganismLink opens in a new windowLink opens in a new window, ed. Francis Young (Leeds, 2022)

Parker, Eleanor, Winters in the World: A Journey through the Anglo-Saxon YearLink opens in a new windowLink opens in a new window (London, 2022)

Perry, Joe, Christmas in Germany: A Cultural History (Chapel Hill, NC, 2010)

Robertson, Noel, Festivals and Legends: The Formation of Greek Cities in the Light of Public Ritual (Toronto, 1992)

Rogers, Nicholas Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night (Oxford, 2002)

Roud, Steve, The English Year: A Month-by-Month Guide to the Nation's Customs and Festivals, from May Day to Mischief Night (Harmondsworth, 2008)

Ruiz, Teofilo F., A King Travels: Festive Traditions in Late Medieval and Early Modern Spain (Princeton, NJ, 2012)

Šaknys, Žilvytis Bernardas, 'The Urban Ritual Year. Religion, Ethnicity and Ideology', in Balkan and Baltic States in United EuropeLink opens in a new window, ed. Ekaterina Anastasova, Svetoslava Toncheva (Sofia, 2018), pp. 164-77.

Šaknys, Žilvytis, ‘National and Confessional Features of Festivals and Holidays: Structure of the Ritual Year in Modern Lithuania and Bulgaria’, Yearbook of Balkan and Baltic Studies 4 (2021), 199-222

Salve, Kristi, ‘Fisherman's Work and the Sea in the Livonian Folk Calendar’, Folklore. Electronic Journal of Folklore 1 (1996), 26-50

Salzman, Michele Renee, 'Structuring Time: Festivals, Holidays and the Calendar', in The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Rome, ed. Paul Erdkamp (Cambridge, 2013), 478-96

Sedakova, Irina Aleksandrovna, ‘Restructuring of the Ritual Year in Post-Socialist Countries’, Folklore: Electronic Journal of Folklore 47 (2011), 181-184

Senn, Harry, ‘Romanian Werewolves: Seasons, Ritual, Cycles’ Folklore 93/2 (1982), 206–15.

Shusterman, N. C., Festivals, Calendars, and the Nationalization of Time in France, 1642–1815, PhD thesis (University of California, Berkeley, 2004)

Simpson, Jacqueline, and Steve Roud, A Dictionary of English Folklore (Oxford, 2003)

Siporin, Steve, ‘A Contemporary Legend from ItalyLink opens in a new window’, Journal of Folklore Research 45/2 (2008), 171–92.

Testa, Alessandro, Rituality and Social (Dis)Order: The Historical Anthropology of Popular Carnival in Europe (Abingdon, 2020)

Tokofsky, Peter, ‘Masking Gender: A German Carnival Custom in Its Social Context’, Western Folklore 58/3/4 (1999), 299–318

Von Geldern, James, Bolshevik Festivals, 1917-1920 (Berkeley, 1993)

Walsh, Martin W, ‘Medieval English "Martinmesse": The Archaeology of a Forgotten FestivalLink opens in a new window’, Folklore 111/2 (2000), 231–54.

Westwood, Jennifer, and Jacqueline Simpson, The Lore of the Land: A Guide to England's Legends, from Spring-Heeled Jack to the Witches of Warboys (Harmondsworth, 2005)

Westwood, Jennifer, and Sophia Kingshill, The Lore of Scotland: A Guide to Scottish Legends (London, 2009)

Williams-Davies, J., ‘“A Time to Sow and a Time to Reap”: The Welsh Farmer’s Calendar’, Folklore 94/2 (1983), 229–34.

Electronic Resources

Ben Edge, Frontline Folklore: A Journey Through the Ritual yearLink opens in a new window (2024)

Bettany Hughes, Bacchus Uncovered: Ancient God of EcstasyLink opens in a new window (BBC, 2018)

The Folklore Podcast: The Year WalkLink opens in a new window