18 October 2023

Weird Walk: a reading list

Posted by Weird Walk

Our Book of the Week Weird Walk is a journey through the British ritual year in the company of the creators of the iconic zine of the same name. We asked them about some of their favourite books, and they did not disappoint: read on for megaliths, pagan gods, visionary music and Fighting Fantasy

Queens of the Wild: Pagan goddesses in Christian Europe by Ronald Hutton
Hutton’s brilliant investigation into deity-like figures in Christian Europe shows us that these characters are much more complex than was once thought. The epilogue features the definitive account of the evolution of the Green Man.   

Monuments in the Making: Raising the great dolmens in early Neolithic northern Europe by Vicki Cummings & Colin Richards
Archaeologists Vicki Cummings and Colin Richards offer up a radical take on dolmens in this copiously illustrated tome. They see our favourite prehistoric structures as ‘megalithic installations of affect, magical and extraordinary in construction and strategically positioned to induce both drama and awe in their encounter.’ Fascinating and inspirational stuff. 

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
Ancient and modern swirl together during a ‘holiday’ spent taking part in an experimental archaeology camp in Northumberland. Sarah Moss’s densely packed novella whizzes by as Iron Age rituals and the threat of present day violence seem to be intersecting.  

The Forest of Doom by Ian Livingstone
Once passed around playgrounds as charmed objects, the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks remain a potent way to while away the hours in a torchlit tent or moorland hostelry sans Wi-Fi. Obviously get the mid-eighties edition if you can.

Smocks (Shire Album: 46) by Maggie Hall
Formerly the rural agricultural worker’s top layer of choice, the humble smock has now ascended to the status of a very cool and groovy thing to wear in 2023 (see hip boutiques like Meadows and Weven for proof) which is something we are very much in favour of. Volume 46 of the Shire Library – an invaluable archive of heritage, folklore, and social history – explores the highly skilled art of smocking, and presents in detail some of the history and techniques that have passed down the generations.

The Outcast and Other Dark Tales by E.F. Benson
Hauntology OG, E.F. Benson’s wonderful, eerie tales often focus on resonances, with the spectral imprint of past events reemerging in the present. This collection features an account of the author’s supernatural experiences at his house in Rye. The revenant presence is described in terms familiar from Benson’s ‘spook stories’: ‘It was as if something out of the past, some condition of life long vanished, was leaking through into the present.’

Electric Eden by Rob Young
Rob Young’s peerless overview of Britain’s ‘visionary music’ explores a tangled web of folk connections, from song collectors and pastoral composers to acid folk eccentrics and electronic pioneers. All are united by the inspiration they draw from this haunted old place we call home.

The Modern Antiquarian by Julian Cope
Just an absolute and total TOME, without which it is highly unlikely we would be typing these words you are reading. Top shelf material of the most sacred and venerated kind. He’s a dab hand at writing tunes too. Hail to the Arch Drood.

Once A Year: Some Traditional British Customs by Homer Sykes
One of the most beautiful and fascinating photo books of all time, and another heavyweight (both in terms of the book’s heft, and HS’s sizeable influence on the Weird Walk worldview) that deserves a place on everyone’s coffee table – especially those with an interest in the strange and arcane calendar customs that still thrive in the margins all over the British Isles.

Weird Walk: Wanderings and Wonderings through the British Ritual Year is published by Watkins Publishing, priced £19.99.

Books mentioned in this blog post