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For many, the folklore of Norfolk consists of little more than the Swaffham Pedlar, Black Shuck and Babes in the Wood. Why is there such an apparent dearth of material? Were the old beliefs suppressed here more effectively by the new Puritan faith or, as Peter Tolhurst suggests, was it simply that Norfolk has had no folklore collector like Enid Porter in the Fens or George Ewart Evans in Suffolk?
In this absorbing work – the first of its kind devoted entirely to the county – the author has unearthed a rich legacy of beliefs and customs once widespread in the Norfolk. Evidence of nature worship survives in the lives of Saints Walstan and Withburga, in the Green Man and the Hethel Thorn. There are tales of Hereward the Wake and Tom Hickathrift the Fenland giant, of the Ludham Worm and a rare case of barrow digging from south Norfolk.
Crumbling cliffs, wayside tracks and secret passages are frequented by an array of restless spirits – white ladies, phantom coaches and blind fiddlers – while Lantern Men haunt the marshes and children go in fear of Hyter Sprites. Black dog legends, a staple of Norfolk folklore, are revisited in the context of Dracula and Invasion Literature.
Matthew Hopkins, c17 witch mania and the range of protective magic used to combat the forces of evil are all examined in some detail along with horse magic and the frog’s bone ritual. Tolhurst also explores the rites of passage, love divination and birth through to the macabre death customs – Snatching the Pillow and Sin Eating – practiced in the Fens.
Calender customs – Plough Monday, May Day, the Harvest ‘Horkey’ and Hunting the Wren – marked the seasons while Mystery plays, St George’s Day and Mock Mayor processions were once highlights of the year in Norwich. Here too is the part played by Vaughan Williams and others in Norfolk’s folk song revival.
Full of new insights and beautifully illustrated, This Hollow Land is a vivid exploration of traditional lore in Norfolk and a fitting tribute to the people who kept it alive.
‘… blends fascinating and in-depth research with engaging and readable prose…from those devil dogs to witches, sacred springs to magic stones, love divination to fairy stories, restless spirits to folksongs… ‘