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Weird Walk, the book – a review

The new Weird Walk book is an essential guide for those reawakening to the wonder of the land.

Release Date
10 October 2023
Weird Walk: Wanderings and Wonderings Through the British Ritual Year
The Weird Walk book, robust and enchanting, redefines folklore in 2023. It captivates all seekers of the mystical and curious, blending wit, local history, and a rekindling of enchantment with the natural world. An essential guide for those reawakening to the wonder of the land.

The Weird Walk book arrives with a thud on the doormat. Elegant, well-researched, beautifully designed, and as solid as the rocks it encourages its readers to visit, the very robustness of this tome hints at its position as a cornerstone. Of all the myriad publications and pamphlets that have been published in recent years on what may loosely be termed the subject of ‘enchantment’ – from Katherine May’s recent book to the emergence of the new Roam magazineWeird Walk feels like the original, and certainly the most focused. Stone Club may have turned the magic of a wander around ancient stones into an Instagram phenomenon, but Weird Walk has turned it into a mini publishing house – first a zine, then a website, and now a new book – the jewel in their burgeoning firmament.

Books on the wheel of the year and its spiritual connotations have been written before, of course, but (with the exception of Julian Cope’s modern classic, The Modern Antiquarian) they’re most commonly history books, there for referencing rather than reading back to back. Anyone with even the slightest interest in calendric rituals will own a copy of Steve Roud’s The English Year, or Ronald Hutton’s Stations of the Sun, so what need have we of yet another collection of, “wanderings and wonderings through the British ritual year”? Simply put, this is a book that resets the story for readers coming to folklore, enchantment, calendric rituals, etc, in 2023, a time when “we are conditioned to push back against any sense of innocent bewilderment with nature and its mysteries; we are taught to accept enchantment as naïve.” And there’s no question that there’s an audience for this, and that it seems to have been growning rapidly since the beginning of this decade. Look, for instance, at the interest in the work of Ben Edge, as well as the arrival of a new documentary on Edge’s inspiration, Doc Rowe. Look at the popularity of Bridget Christie’s The Change, with its “sheela-na-gig chic”, perhaps best exemplified by Boss Morris and their mystical beasts. Look at the soaring popularity of Lally Macbeth’s Folk Archive Instagram account and subsequent print publication. It’s not a coincidence that these things are sprouting up at the same time. As we wake to daily news of human atrocities committed against the planet and its inhabitants, it’s easy to see how this re-engagement with lore and the law of the land becomes so enticing.

This is an essential guide for those reawakening to the wonder of the land.

That’s not to say that this is a book that will only chime with the neo-pagan, new-age crowd. It’s a book for anyone with an interest in what’s ‘out there’ (however you wish to interpret that phrase). Whether you’re keen to learn a bit more about hauntology, or you simply want to know where the best pub in Fenworthy Forest is, there’s plenty here to inspire you. Along the way, you’ll learn the local history of some of Britain’s most weird and wonderful landmarks and rites, written up with a refreshing lack of academia, frequently laden with wit and poetry. Writing about the Cerne Abbas Giant, the authors note that, “The face is curiously framed, with eyebrows and mouth producing a slightly startled expression, as though you have interrupted the colossal geoglyph in a particularly arousing, yet private, cudgel-wielding session.” Attempting to sum up the wonder of the Abbots Bromley dancers, they tell us that “time buckles as the rite is enacted”, squarely hitting the nail on the head.

I write this as the weakening afternoon sun dips behind gold, autumnal leaves, and I’m prompted to note that the wheel of the year is three-quarters turned. As Stewart Lee challenges in the book’s foreword, “[The authors] have re-enchanted themselves. Can you be re-enchanted too?” I suspect I might be on my way. If you’re up for heading out on the same path, the Weird Walk book should prove a useful guide.

Weird Walk: Wanderings and Wonderings Through the British Ritual Year is out now, published by Watkins Publishing.