Brief Histories of English Cultural Phenomena:
- The English Drinking Culture: A Brief History
- On The English Love of Swearing
- The English Love of Gambling: A Brief History
- The Irreligiosity of the English: A Brief History
- The War on Pubs: A Brief History
Nostalgia for an imagined rural idyll that existed in England prior to industrialisation and urbanisation is not grounded in reality. When, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, people poured out of the English countryside and into cities, they faced many new challenges and hardships, but they also escaped from a world filled with the worst kinds of ignorance and superstition.
British Folk Beliefs and Culture:
- Christianity as Folk Magic in Medieval England
- Saints in the Folk Devotion of Medieval England
- Alcohol Consumption in 16th Century England
- The Wakes and Feasts of Country Parishes
- Seventeenth Century English Folk Magic
- Eighteenth Century British Folk Religion
- British Crossroads Magic
- Sacred Wells in Britain
- Love and Death in British Folk Magic
- Love Powder in British Folk Magic
- Witch Bottles in English Folk Magic
The Eighteenth Century:
Three hundred years ago, long before ‘Drill’ music came along, the air of London was filled with the sound of obscene and criminally-linked music.
The Nineteenth Century:
Long days, back-breaking work, poor living conditions, and a monotonous, uninspiring diet.
A violent clan living in squalor on a run-down old farm; a hatred of civilisation and religious authority; a house shared with animals; the suggestion of incest; and the traveller who escapes back to the safety of urban modernity… Although this sounds like a typical American horror film scenario, the Cheriton family actually existed in nineteenth century rural Devon and became so notorious that they even made the pages of the New York Times.
Despite Christianisation, the onset of scientific advances, and the Englightenment, the common people of Britain (and plenty of its more formally educated citizens) continued for a long time to adhere to a wide variety of magico-religious folk beliefs. The West Country county of Devon was a bastion of such beliefs and practices, up to at least the beginning of the twentieth century.
Throughout the nineteenth century (and into the early twentieth century), the worldview and belief system adhered to by a large proportion of the English population – particularly those dwelling in the countryside – was not grounded in Christianity and the teachings of the church, but, rather, in a longstanding belief in witchcraft, as evidenced by newspaper reports of the time.
Source Texts On English Folk Beliefs:
- JR Chanter on the Folk Beliefs of Devonians (1867)
- William Henderson on the Folk Beliefs of Devonians (1879)
- Arthur H. Norway on the Folk Beliefs of Devonians (1897)
- Sarah Hewett on the Folk Beliefs of Devonians (1898)
- Sabine Baring Gould on the Folk Beliefs of Devonians (1908)
SOUTHERN HISTORY AND CULTURE
What is ‘the South’? It depends who you ask…
Contrary to popular belief, fried chicken and biscuits were foods of the wealthy elite, and most Southern food was bland and monotonous.
Fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese, sweet tea… All came from the North.
Arguably more than any other region of the United States, the South has most closely preserved its origins in the England of old. In its speech ways, food, architecture, gardens, culture, and folklore, the South remains deeply English at its core.
The ‘Virginia hospitality’ that forms the basis for the early construction of the notion of a uniquely ‘Southern hospitality’ was in reality the result of the transplanting of the social mores of the English gentry to the colony. Likewise, the barbecue tradition of the South is actually rooted in the social events of the wealthy elite, who reenacted the medieval hog roast of England using cooking techniques developed by Native Americans, and seasoning techniques popular in England.
The accents, dialect, and vocabulary used in the Southern states of the US (as well as the African American Vernacular English of American blacks descended from slaves of the old South) are very different from the ‘American English’ you will find in many other parts of the US. The reason for this is that Southern speech ways are derived from the speech of settlers who came from very specific areas of Britain.
In Britain, ‘I reckon’ is used widely across social classes, yet in the United States it has come to be associated with lower class rural whites. This post looks at the history of the expression and how it came to be seen as ‘Southern’.
When ‘hoodoo’ is examined, it becomes clear that the true origins of a number of black Southerners’ folk beliefs lie in Britain.
Selling one’s soul to the Devil at the crossroads and the use of the black cat bone have a long European history.
Sowell misunderstands and misrepresents the culture both of the Old South and of England.
Contrary to the claims of Confederate apologists, white supremacy and slavery were absolutely central to the Confederacy and the Civil War.
The South retains a strong religious identity and is a key part of the ‘Bible Belt’, but the notion that it is deeply Christian is inaccurate.
When neotraditionalists claim there is such a thing as ‘true’ country music, and when they claim that today’s radio country sound is ‘inauthentic’, I would argue that they are presenting a notion of country music that is disconnected from its actual history.
While English food has a reputation for being mild or bland in flavour, in past centuries the wealthy of England enjoyed capsicums, cayenne pepper, chilli vinegars, and hot sauce.
For the better off at least, the English cookery of past centuries was highly spiced and featured a wide variety of seasonings.
Southern fried chicken finds its origins in the kitchens of the English gentry, not in a supposed meeting of Scottish and African cooking techniques.
Tracing the evolution of Southern fried chicken from England to the Southern States.
Sweet potato pie is a dish of English origin, first enjoyed by royalty and the gentry.
Collards, bacon and greens, and pot liquor all originated in England.
Now considered poor people’s food or black ‘soul food’, the variety meats that made their way into Southern and soul food cookery came to America from England.
The real history of Guinness reveals it to be an English drink, produced by an Ulster Unionist family, which gained international success via the British Empire.
When the foods given to the slaves are compared with those eaten by the English rural poor, they are revealed to be almost identical.
Debunking pseudohistory from National Geographic.
A look at the true origins of Red Stripe, beyond the promotional myth-making.
Magnum Tonic Wine is hugely popular in Jamaica and among the Jamaican diaspora. The popularity of tonic wines in Jamaica is the result of a British product being adopted and given a Caribbean identity.
The United States remains uniquely religious, but that religion is not Christianity as historically understood.
Surprisingly, they’re not in the South…
A popular – and populist – claim about farmers being ‘controlled’ by Monsanto is disputed by farmers themselves.
Traditional Western European medicinal and magical uses of a variety of herbs and plants.
When settlers from the British Isles and Germany arrived on the shores of North America, they brought with them not only Christianity, but also a variety of folk beliefs and practices related to every aspect of life and death.
So-called love powders offer another example of how European folk magic continued to thrive in the New World.
Rastafari is a strange mix of black nationalism, a bizarre reading of the Bible, Hindu traditions, and misrepresentation of the historical Haile Selassie.
Articles at HubPages on saints and spirits in non-European folk religion:
An important spirit in the Voodoo religion.
A skeletal Latin American folk saint.
A Mayan folk saint also known as San Simón.
Photos, videos, and writings from my trips to the United States:
WRITINGS ON SOUTHERN FOOD IN CHICAGO