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Jourdemayne, the Witch of Eye

Jourdemayne was burned at Smithfield in London for witchcraft in 1441. Friend to the eminent and educated of her time, she was sought by many for her knowledge of dark matters.

Jourdemayne writes about …

... belief in the supernatural: what and why; where does it lead us? She also occasionally suffers from mission creep. Sorry.

I am editor of …

The Skeptic is the UK’s only regular magazine to take a critical-thinking and evidence-based approach to pseudo-science and the paranormal.

The latest issue:

Quotes & Testimonials

"Everyone's favourite skeptical witch, Jourdemayne, with superbly written thoughts on superstition, religion and the human condition"
Crispian Jago

"My two favourite bloggers ... are Petra Boynton and Jourdemayne ... Jourdemayne draws her insights from a different background: profound historical knowledge of the extraordinary things people have believed in. She then uses this to contextualise more contemporary matters."
Jack of Kent

"... the erudite and charming Jourdemayne ..."
Jack of Kent

"This is brilliant - must read"
('Priests, Pederasts & Privilege')
David Colquhoun

The Anglian Wolf Society

I support the work of The Anglian Wolf Society, which operates a sanctuary for wolves in North Bedfordshire. Its aims are to:

• educate and inform the public about wolves
• promote and support wolf conservation
• give people who would like to study or work with wolves the chance to do so

Please visit their site and donate if you can. You can even visit, and learn more about these wonderful and often misunderstood animals.

Jourdemayne.com – the folkore of fear with Deborah Hyde

Welcome to Jourdemayne for commentary on the supernatural, folklore and skepticism.

If you’d like to root around for stuff on Monsters & Folklore, Modern Witch Beliefs, Politics & Religion and more, go to previous posts. It may surprise you how much our human capacity to believe in the supernatural remains as relevant today as it ever was.

Latest – Numinous Neuroses?

Is your religious style related to your mental health?

The British Journal of Psychiatry published an interesting paper on their website in November but, to judge by the recent coverage, the PR has only just hit the newsrooms.

Professor Michael King and his team looked at people with differing supernatural beliefs – no beliefs; conventional religious and ‘spiritual’ – to see whether there were any correlations between these states of belief and mental illness in Religion, spirituality and mental health: results from a national study of English households. They found that: “Spiritual people were more likely than those who were neither religious nor spiritual … to have abnormal eating attitudes … generalised anxiety disorder … any phobia … or any neurotic disorder … They were also more likely to be taking psychotropic medication”.

Not good for the ‘spiritual’ people then. … more

What’s the Harm?

It is very hard not to feel the deepest sympathy for everybody involved in the Neon Roberts case. Neon’s story hit the headlines earlier this month when a judge took the highly unusual step of identifying him publicly to help him to be located after his mother had taken him to prevent radiotherapy following surgery.

Neon has medulloblastoma. I’m not a cancer-specialist but you can search for information on it easily enough. It’s a serious condition, which seems to have a serious chance of a cure … provided the help gets to you before the rapidly developing tumour does. It’s a metastatic cancer which means that it can spread easily, in this case, through the rest of the brain and spine, which is presumably why it is necessary to deliver radiotherapy to the whole brain rather than just the operation site … more

Latest piece for The Guardian – Vampire legends that refuse to die

Last week the Daily Mail informed us that the notorious Serbian vampire Sava Savanović was reportedly on the loose again after the old mill he haunts in Zarožje, Bajina Bašta, had collapsed.

Savanović isn’t well known outside his own country – I only know of him as a pre-Dracula, 19th century literary character – but according to the Mail the local council has advised people to use the traditional repellents of garlic and crucifixes, just in case.

A piece in the Austrian Times pre-dates the Mail’s, and may be the conduit westwards. If so, it’s a curious echo of the vampire motif’s first journey into English in the 1720s and ’30s, courtesy of the Austrian Empire’s military successes against the Turkish Empire in the Balkans … more

The Guardian – Skeptics, nerds and atheists are on the march across the US

Events for skeptics such as this weekend’s Skepticon are a sign of growing resistance to the power of religion in America

If I were inclined to perceive and react to divine signs I would probably have got the message by now: someone would rather I stayed away from this atheist convention. I’m in New York City, en route to Skepticon, the annual skeptics convention now in its fifth year, which is held on the campus of Missouri State University … more

SFX Special Edition ‘The A to Z of Horror’

I’m on pages 86 to 91 of this lovely SFX Special Edition on the A to Z of Horror. Vicar Carolyn Simcox and I discuss religion in films, and we don’t disagree as might as you might think.

I got to discuss ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘The Wicker Man’, and included ‘Scobby Doo’ for good skeptical measure. This one was a lot fo fun for me, as I got to talk about both my love of horror and my love of the rational approach.

Available at all good newsagents.

Latest Blogpost: ‘Setting Own Goals?’

An only half-serious memoir of flailing, derision, ostracism and black-eyes …

At school I was OK at maths and English, so it didn’t bother me much that I turned into a prototype dodo during PE. My parents, friends and especially netball team-mates totally accepted that I just wasn’t a sporty type. Chief among the unbagsied, I was usually inflicted upon whichever team complained least loudly, and my impotent flailing confined to the back of the gym/pitch/court read more …

Previous Blogpost: ‘Psychics and Princes’

My great-grandmother was psychic.

Everybody knew it. If a member of her extended family paid an impromptu visit from even a great distance, like London, they were greeted with a friendly smile and a dinner that was already virtually at the table. “I knew you were coming”, she’d say. She was known for having ‘a way’ with animals, to the extent that she could pick up and offer comfort to a dog who had been fatally injured in the street, without getting bitten.

She was never subject to rigorous testing for her gift, and that was a blessing really. To have had it revealed that meals cooked for large families inconspicuously subdivide to accommodate unexpected guests, or that … more

Previous Blogpost: ‘High Stakes’

I couldn’t let the discovery of staked corpses by archeologists in Bulgaria pass without commenting why staking was thought to be so effective:

The more observant of you will have noticed that vampires have been in the news. No, not bankers. Although the droll current-affairs metaphor does apply, Voltaire got there first: describing the vampires he had seen in London and Paris in his Dictionaire Philosophique, he wrote “there were stock-jobbers, brokers, and men of business, who sucked the blood of the people in broad daylight; but they were not dead, though corrupted. These true suckers lived not in cemeteries, but in very agreeable places.”

Archeologists in Sozopol, Bulgaria have excavated … more

The Skeptic Magazine: Spring 2013

The latest magazine is out now with great articles, interviews and all the regular favourites. You can buy it here. And remember, that if you subscribe now for the first time, there’s a 25% discount.

The latest issue is printed in colour throughout, and includes:

• Patrick Moore on the cover! We mark his passing with a piece by Stuart Cambell and Christopher Allan – did the great astronomer’s practical joking once get out of hand?

• Is your myth up for renewal this month?
Use the handy chart to sign up for your new one with Crispian Jago’s latest centrefold.

• Beautiful Science
Danny Ress looks at the doomed historical attempts to quantify human allure.

• The App-aritions are Coming
Hayley Stevens goes ghost-hunting with a smartphone.

• The First Cut
Marianne Baker examines our attitudes to circumcision and wonders if we have a blind spot with male genital mutilation.

• Sett Theory
Philip Stott tells us how culling badgers is nearly impossible.

• Does stress make you fat?
Alexandra Johnstone and John Menzies pick out the science from the tabloid headlines.

• The Psychology of Ghosts and Hauntings
In the latest in our Science of the Supernatural series Prof Chris French looks at Factors that might lead people to believe they had seen a ghost.

• There’s all the regular content, including columns from our popular regulars Chris French, Wendy Grossman, Michael Heap, Mark Duwe and Mark Williams plus ‘In Brief’ from Patrick Redmond.