Whose Folk? Community, Folklore, Landscape and the Case of the Lancashire Witches

Spooner, Catherine (2023) Whose Folk? Community, Folklore, Landscape and the Case of the Lancashire Witches. In: Folk Horror : New Global Pathways. University of Wales Press, Cardiff, pp. 43-57. ISBN 9781786839817

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The twenty-first century Folk Horror revival has been dogged by accusations of a conservative ethos expressed through veneration of ‘deep England’ and a nationalist preoccupation with ‘blood and soil’. This chapter seeks to recuperate the political dimensions of Folk Horror by arguing for the specificity of place and paying close attention to the interactions between community, folklore and landscape in modern representations of the Lancashire witches, one of the most notorious instances of witchcraft accusation in English history. The chapter traces a tradition of locating the witches in a specific landscape that begins with William Harrison Ainsworth’s novel The Lancashire Witches in 1848, and continues with William Billington’s poem of 1876, ‘Pendle Hill’. It suggests that from an early stage, the encounter with witch folklore was mediated through tourism, continuing into the present through Visit Lancashire’s marketing of witch-themed walking and driving trails. In the 1980s, however, that began to be inflected by an alternative tradition of psychogeography, as seen in Pawel Pawelkowski’s documentary Lucifer Over Lancashire (1987). Drawing on Michel de Certeau’s discussion of walking as narrative, the chapter examines the culmination of these two traditions in a range of work across different media created to commemorate the 400-year anniversary of the trials in 2012, by Green Close, Carol Ann Duffy, Philippe Handford and the Eccentronic Research Council. Through these texts, the chapter offers a blueprint for new ways of thinking about folk horror as explicitly politicised in ways that reflect specific local and regional identities.

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14 Jun 2023 12:30
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16 Jul 2024 05:19