New Daily Grail post: Alton Towers’ Wicker Man and Ye Olde English Theme Parks of Doom

The Wicker Man and The Beornen

Today (January 8th, 2018) UK theme park Alton Towers has made a somewhat unexpected announcement. Spring 2018 will see the opening of a new attraction at the Staffordshire based park: Wicker Man.

Wicker Man is the UK’s first new wooden rollercoaster experience in 21 years and comes with a globally unique twist – bringing together wood and fire for the very first time. A Wicker Man structure standing at 57.57ft (17.55m) tall – the height of a six-storey building – will dominate the very centre of Alton Towers Resort, appearing to burst into flames as the wooden track races three separate times through the structure.

Read the full article on DailyGrail.com

Free Articles from Darklore Volume 9

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If you haven’t yet managed to get your hands on a copy of the newly released anthology Darklore Volume 9, you can now read three articles from it completely free over on the Darklore website.

We are pleased to offer three sample articles from Darklore Volume 9, as examples of the quality writing and layout inside the book – simply click on each graphic to download the PDF file. The first is “The History and Practice of English Magic”, in which John Reppion explores the real history and lore behind a fantasy fiction bestseller. The second sample article, “The Most Important Man on the Planet”, offers Adam Gorightly’s insights on the amazing life of Kerry Thornley, co-founder of Discordianism and one-time JFK assassination suspect. And lastly we have Greg Taylor’s article “Rocks in Your Head”, in which he surveys the strange phenomenon of ‘electrophonic meteors’ and suggests that they offer a lesson to us on the value of listening to eye-witness reports of UFOs.

The sample articles offer just a taste of what you’ll find in the print issue of Darklore Volume 9, so pick yourself up a copy to see the rest (links below). It takes much time and money to create the Darklore series (and maintain and run DailyGrail.com) – all contributors are paid for their articles – so those who take time to buy the books and/or support on Patreon are helping to keep the weird dream alive.

Hope you enjoy the articles!

Darklore Volume 9 Paperback

Darklore Volume 9 Limited Edition Hardcover

darklore-volume-9

Double #FolkloreThursday post: Hare’s Eggs for Easter, and Invoking the Spirits of Place

Hare’s Eggs at Easter

As the Easter weekend draws close, children and adults alike anticipating a chocolate egg binge, the internet is alive with articles on the “true” origins of Easter. Yet, could there be any truth in the idea that rabbits – or hares at least – do lay eggs?
Read the rest on DailyGrail.com


Invoking the Spirits of Placecalderstones-showing-cup-and-ring-f-beattie

South Liverpool, where I was born and live still, is a place full of green-spaces. Its abundance of woodlands, parks, cemeteries, playing fields and golf courses are linked by an intricate network of narrow, bramble-lined public footpaths and overgrown roadside verges. The more romantically inclined might be tempted to call them faerie paths, or corpse roads, and perhaps some once were such; back when an Iron Age fort stood on top of Woolton’s Camp Hill, or perhaps longer still.
Read the rest on FolkloreThursday.com

New article on Daily Grail: Oh apple tree, We wassail thee

Tom
“Wæs þu hæl” is an Anglo Saxon toast meaning “be thou hale” (“be in good health“). The toast, if not the customs which the term has come to be associated with, is thought to date from the early eleventh or late tenth century, at least.

There are two kinds of Wassailing – the first of which has come to be closely associated with Christmas and carolling. Wassailers call at people’s homes then offer a song and a drink of warmed, spiced ale or cider from a Wassailing bowl (or cup) to the answerer in exchange for money or gifts.

The second originates in the South West of England (“the West Country”), where apple orchards were already providing cider for the thirsty population by the time our Roman invaders arrived.

Continue reading on DailyGrail.com

British Ash Tree Folklore, from Fortean Times #297

This short Forum piece was originally published in Fortean Times #297, released in January 2013 (dated February 2013 on the cover).

Reposted here for possible #FolkloreThursday interest

FT297

The common ash is the third most widespread tree species in Britain, making up 5.5% of UK woodland with an estimated further twelve million ashes in non woodland areas. 1 2 Although the ash may not have the same iconic status as Ye Olde Oak, it is nevertheless a tree whose roots are firmly embedded in the history and folklore of the UK.

Continue reading “British Ash Tree Folklore, from Fortean Times #297”

Daily Grail Strange & Norrell articles: V – The Raven King

jonathan-strange

My fifth and final Strange & Norrell piece for the Daily Grail is now online. It’s called The Raven King.

I’ve really enjoyed writing the S&N pieces (almost as much as I’ve enjoyed the genuinely wonderful TV series) and probably could have gone on and on but thought it best to quit before people got too bored. Thanks for all the lovely things people have been saying about the articles. I hope I can do something similar again in the future.

Daily Grail Strange & Norrell articles: IV – Magic and Madness

jonathan-strangeToday (the 24th of June) is Fairy Day, so what better way to celebrate than with a new Strange & Norrell piece?

My penultimate article of the series, Magic and Madness, is now free to read at DailyGrail.com

Daily Grail Strange & Norrell articles: III – Away with the Fairies

jonathan-strangeSusanna Clarke’s 2004 historical fantasy novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell has been adapted into a seven part television series by Peter Harness, currently airing on BBC One and BBC America.
My third article for the Daily Grail on the history and folklore Strange & Norrell draws upon is entitled Away with the Fairies and is free to read now.

Daily Grail Strange & Norrell articles: II – On Fairies and Witchcraft

jonathan-strangeSusanna Clarke’s 2004 historical fantasy novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell has been adapted into a seven part television series currently airing on the BBC (beginning on BBC America June 14th). I’m plucking out some of the more easily disentangled fragments of folklore, magic, and the like from the book (and the show) and taking a closer look at them for The Daily Grail.

My second Strange & Norrell piece On Fairies and Witchcraft is free to read online now, and contains no (or only extremely minimal) spoilers.

 

Daily Grail Strange & Norrell articles: I – The Language of Birds

jonathan-strangeIn March 2006 Leah and I flew over to Dublin, Ireland for the first time in either of our lives as guests at the third annual Phoenix Convention (or P-Con, as most people know/knew it). The guest of honour that year was Susanna Clarke – author of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell which had, at that point, already been out for eighteen months and won a Hugo Award. I, a chronically slow reader at the best of times, had not yet started reading the 800ish page novel, and I think that Leah was only part of the way through it. Nevertheless, we found that we got on well with Susanna and her partner, sci-fi writer Colin Greenland – who were both lovely, charming and funny – and the brief time we spent together over the course of the con was very enjoyable. It was perhaps two years later that I finally finished reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I have on only a couple of occasions in my life finished a book and at once turned to the front to begin reading it again. I thought about doing that with Strange & Norrell but I am, as I have said, a very slow reader. Instead I immediately downloaded the thirty two hour long audio-book version which to date I have listened to perhaps three or four times.

In a piece entitled “Why I Love Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” published on the Guardian website recently, Neil Gaiman recalled writing to the book’s editor to say that it was, in his opinion, “the finest work of English fantasy written in the past seventy years. I am not so widely read as Mr. Gaiman and I don’t pretend to be an expert in such matters, but what I can say with certainty is that I, like Neil, love Strange & Norrell. The blend of alt. history and fantasy, the handling of Englishness and of English Magic, of otherness and madness, the subtly, the comedy, the eeriness, the epicness – in every sense; all these factors combine to make Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell a work which does not so much stand apart as it does occupy a space that seems no other work could ever fill. It is as though a Strange & Norrell sized gap waited hungrily on some shelf in the realm of forms up until a decade or so ago.

Today, in 2015, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell has been adapted into a seven part television series for the BBC and as I type we are three episodes in here in the UK. With Clarke’s wonderful world of magicians theoretical, practical, and street being beamed into living-rooms across this scepter’d isle, now seems like an ideal opportunity to pluck out some of the more easily disentangled fragments of folklore, magic, and the like and take a closer look at them.

Read on at dailygrail.com

Saint Mark’s Eve

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Today is the Eve of the Feast  of Saint Mark – a date with a number of strange customs and traditions attached to it. You’ve probably never heard of any of this, but luckily for you I’ve written a new article for The Daily Grail all about it.

Read it now at dailygrail.com (and get ready for a night in the cemetery, or before an open fire)

Oak Apple Day: Article on DailyGrail.com

GarlandKing&ConsortMay is an important month in the British folklore calendar, falling as it does midway between spring equinox and summer solstice. It is the month when the rising sap reaches its culmination; buds become blooms, lambs are in the field, and chicks are in the nest. The Old English name for the month was Þrimilci-mōnaþ (“month of three milkings”) while the modern name is thought by some to derive from the pre-Christian goddess Maia to whom a pregnant sow would be ritually sacrificed on the first of the month. Associations with fertility and with plenty are abundantly clear in both cases.

Although many surviving customs such as the crowning of May Queens (young women picked for their beauty and virtue to act as May personified for the day), dancing around the Maypole (a relic of pre-historic dendrolatry, or phallic pagan fertility symbol, depending on who you ask/believe), and so on, chiefly take place on May Day there are many varied traditions spread throughout the month. As we approach May’s end we come upon a curious cluster of events centred upon today’s date.

Read the full article over on the Daily Grail website.

Lightning Tree Lore in Fortean Times #297

Fortean Times #297I have a little Forum piece about some of the British folklore surrounding Ash trees in the February issue of Fortean Times.

Ashes were once believed to be a magnet for lightning strikes – probably because of their tendency to split as they grow older, taking on the appearance of having been struck.“Avoid an ash, It counts the flash”, runs one old rhyme. Electrocution hazard aside, the ash’s status as Lightning Tree was generally considered to make it powerful and magical tree.

Read the rest in FT #297

John Reppion’s Cabinet of Curiousities on Yo Liverpool

For the last couple of months I’ve been writing a (semi) regular posts over at Yo Liverpool about weird history, forteana, folklore and other fun stuff related to Liverpool and Merseyside.

The forum is called John Reppion’s Cabinet of Curiosities and should be of interest to anyone who has enjoyed 800 Years of Haunted Liverpool and/or any of my other articles.

At present I’m only managing a couple of posts per month and, to be honest, that’s probably how it will stay for the foreseeable future but hopefully that will be enough to keep you coming back.

Darklore VI reviewed on The Magonia Blog

Every issue of Dark Lore is eagerly anticipated, and the sixth is no disappointment. The twelve essays cover a huge range of the paranormal, the anomalous, and just simply the weird, and all are written with authority.

As a Liverpudlian I was delighted to read John Reppion’s well-researched account of the history and legend of Liverpool’s Calderstones, a group of Neolithic stones, marked with spiral patterns, whose origin is obscure but which seem to have been moved around various sites in a small area, currently being securely hidden away in a conservatory in their eponymous park. They represent a remarkable prehistoric anomaly amongst the modern suburbs of south Liverpool.

Read the full review.

Suggested stuff to buy this gift giving season #8 – Darklore Vol 6

Ladies and gentlemen: the sixth instalment of Darklore – a fantastic anthology series covering hidden history, fringe science and general Forteana – is now available for sale.

Contents:

  • Cat Vincent examines the birth of a modern monster meme: The Slenderman.
  • Mark Foster unlocks the mystery of the ‘Trial Passages’ beside the Giza pyramids.
  • Robert Schoch evaluates the chances of our Sun wiping out modern civilisation.
  • Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince lift the veil on the esoteric foundations of The Royal Society.
  • Neil Arnold goes in search of sewer monsters.
  • Mitch Horowitz points out America’s mystical history.
  • Nigel Watson shares a case of ‘alien contact’ that he investigated.
  • John Reppion sheds some light on Liverpool’s forgotten megalithic history.
  • Martin Shough looks into the strange case of ‘double suns’.
  • Blair MacKenzie Blake discusses the mystery man of 20th century alchemy, Fulcanelli.
  • Greg Taylor points out the astronomical archetype behind depictions of gods and kings in ancient cultures.
  • Jack Hunter heads to the dark side of anthropology and finds the weirdness that doesn’t often get talked about in academic circles.

You can pick up your copy from any number of online retailers through a simple search. But here are the links for Amazon:

Darklore VI Paperback

Darklore VI Limited Edition Hardcover

Coming soon… [revised, updated and fixed]

Sometimes with Twitter, and Facebook, and Google+, and everything else, we get so used to putting bitesized chunks of information out quickly, as and when, we forget that some of the more major stuff can easily get lost amid more trivial things. So, for the benefit of those of you who might not be addicted to any of the above sites (as well as those who are but just missed any of this info as it zipped past), here are few exciting bits of Moore & Reppion news:

  • The Thrill Electric will be available on iTunes (still 100% FREE) as of next month.
  • Darklore Vol VI is coming early December 2011 (just in time for Xmas) and features an article about the mysterious prehistoric Calderstones monument here in Liverpool, written by John Reppion.
  • Moore & Reppion have just sold their first Black Museum story to 2000 AD (thanks Tharg).
  • We’re writing a brand new 8 issue series for Dynamite Entertainment (we also have our second Sherlock Holmes series – The Liverpool Demon – coming next year).

That’s all we can tell you about for now but there’s plenty more exciting news to come very soon. If you’re not one who Twits, or a Facebooker, or whatever, you might want to subscribe to our mailing list to make sure you don’t miss anything. Otherwise, please keep checking the site for regular updates.