This considers a set of superhuman female figures found in medieval and early modern European cultures- Mother Nature, the roving nocturnal lady often called Herodias, the British fairy queen, and the Gaelic Cailleach. None seem to be surviving ancient deities, and yet there is nothing Christian about any of them either. It is suggested that they force us to reconsider our own existing terminology when writing the religious history of Europe.
This lecture was recorded by Ronald Hutton on 8 November 2023 at Barnard's Inn Hall, London
The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website:
Gresham College has offered free public lectures for over 400 years, thanks to the generosity of our supporters. There are currently over 2,500 lectures free to access. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to learn from some of the greatest minds. To support Gresham's mission, please consider making a donation: https://gresham.ac.uk/support/
Good evening everybody. At least in British time, I've stuck the expression pagan survivals into the subtitle of my talk, so I'll start with that concept. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, many scholars expressed a belief that paganism by some definition and in some form had survived through the European Middle Ages and far into the early modern period. This belief took many forms to Jeffrey Colton, the great historian of the medieval English church. Christianity had merely been a veneer brushed on top of a world of rural commoners who still secretly honored the ancient deities, folk loyalists classified whole categories of modern popular custom as relics of ancient pagan belief and ritual persisting into modern times. And archeologists and experts and English literature accepted this idea with enthusiasm. Medieval church carvings such as foliate heads and women displaying their vulva were interpreted as representations of older deities still venerated within a Christian setting. Experts in Anglo-Saxon healing and protective charms eagerly identified the names of heathen Gods preserved in them. Popular magic of the sort practiced by wanting wise folk or cunning folk was labeled pagan simply because orthodox Christianity was always disapproving of it. Some authors of whom Margaret Murray was the last and most celebrated, even argued that a full blown pagan cult had persisted beyond the end of the Middle Ages and was persecuted in early modern trials under the name of witchcraft, Margaret Murray convinced such leading historians in the mid 20th century as Sir Stephen Runciman, sir George Clark and Christopher Hill, two different forces united to create this tradition. One was almost as old as established Christianity itself, a desire to police the boundaries of Christianity and condemn anything that did not conform with strict orthodoxy, especially elements of popular belief as pagan. It was a theme of evangelical and reforming clergy all through the centuries. The second force that created the tradition was decisively modern, a desire to undermine Christianity and to break its cultural dominance by suggesting that even in its apparent medieval and early modern heyday, its hold had never been as complete, especially among ordinary people as had been claimed, perhaps because of the transition to an increasingly post-Christian set of cultures in the west. Both forces weakened during the later 20th century. By the 1990s, historians tended to make a distinction between surviving paganism and pagan survivals. A unanimous agreement had apparently been reached among them by then that there was no surviving paganism in any area of Europe for more than one or 200 years after its official conversion to Christianity. In other words, no coherent and self-conscious pagan resistance movement persisted anywhere in the continent for long with the retention of allegiance to pagan deities in preference to Christianity. By contrast, there was equal unanimity that large quantities of ideas, figures, stories, spells, customs, and motifs had been taken into medieval and early modern culture from ancient paganism and some proved remarkably endearing. These span the fields of architecture, art, literature, magic medicine, and folk tradition scholars were not unanimous regarding the extent of this importation or the spirit in which it was conducted or whether specific phenomena should be assigned to it or not. Nonetheless, the general principle was accepted its united authors as different in their interests as Norman Cohen, the historian of apocalyptic movements. Carlo Ginsburg, the greatest living Italian historian, expert in popular culture, Ava pos in Hungary, expert in Hungarian shamanism and myself, and it inspired the collection entitled The Pagan Middle Ages, edited by Ludo Meis in 1991. During the 1990s, however, some colleagues began to reject the term pagan altogether for these borrowings proposing that expressions like lay Christianity or religious folk law should be employed instead during the present century, this reaction has gone still further. Chris Wickham, a fine historian at Oxford, has emphasized how much what he terms traditional rituals were seen as Christian by those who use them. Stephen Maroney in America has insisted that such customs were not substantially different from broad Christian spirituality. Cole Watkins young historian at Cambridge has gone furthest attacking Carlo Ginsburg, Norman Cohn and me for using the concept of pagan survivals at all when to do so simply in his opinion, reflected the misrepresentations of evangelical, medieval and early modern Christians by calling things pagan. My talk tonight is intended as a response to these views, not with the intention of attacking them in return, but of recasting the basic terms of the discussion. I'm going to look at a set of figures found in the medieval and early modern imagination, which do not seem to me to fit very well into the categories of pagan or Christian. They cannot straightforwardly be called pagan because they don't seem to be demonstrable survivals from pre-Christian cults. On the other hand, they have absolutely no derivation from Christian theology or cosmology, so simply to term them a form of Christianity seems to beg an awful lot of questions. One of them is found in learned and elite culture and three in popular culture. Those in popular culture seem to me to be more interesting and significant, but the former also has its place in this discussion, so I shall deal with it first. She consists of a mighty female figure fought to represent the natural world, the terrestrial realm, or sometimes the cosmos below the level of heaven. Certainly the Greeks and the Romans have conceived of such beings, the Greek Gaia and the Roman Terra Marta, literally mother earth. In that sense, their presence in medieval and early modern texts might be called an inheritance from the ancient world, and they might even be termed pagan survivals in another. However, such terminology is questionable. This is because such figures featured in ancient culture, mostly as representative figures in literature having little actual worship attached to them, and no major cult centers, no temples. The ancient peoples who've left records could therefore conceive of such figures as abstractions, but have not much use for them in religion. This may have made it easier for Christian culture to find a place for them. They play a part in two well-known early medieval charms. One is a polished poem in praise of earth, divine goddess, mother nature, which may have been composed by a late Roman pagan, but it was prescribed for the collection of herbs in Christian times to increase their potency in medicine and as such found in Latin manuscripts and one English translation between the sixth and 12th centuries. The other charm is the Anglo-Saxon acre bot, a right to increase the fertility of fields. It calls on a range of Christian Powers, but also on Earth's mother. This entity is treated as the indwelling spirit of the soil to be fertilized, granted her power by the Christian God who also makes the gift of fertility. Such a theology of finding a place for this kind of divine female entity within Christianity was continued by some of the leading figures of the 12th century renaissance. They pitched on the figure of NA nature which had been developed by pagan poets At the very end of the ancient world, the greatest of all late antique Christian theologians or Augustan had sanctioned regard for her by calling nature a teacher of truth appointed by the Christian God himself. Moreover, Augustine regarded her as possibly an animate being. This made it much easier for later medieval scholars to embody her. She was represented as a divine female in Christian texts between the fifth and the 11th centuries, but it was really the school at 12th century Shark in the center of France, which took her up at Shark Bernard Sylvester, whose images on the screen made her divinity sprung from God and given the task of calling matter into being remaining the force which engendered fertility and procreation. His successor, Alan of Le called her the agent of God in earthly affairs and the maker of human beings. He represented her as a virgin crowned with stars and riding at a glass coach drawn by peacocks and attended by a train of spirits personifying the virtues a century later. And the great poem, the Homa DJOs, she became a being of inexpressible beauty created by God to govern the universe on his behalf. This idea was taken into English letters by Jeffrey Chauser and John Litigate in the early modern period. It was transferred into the cosmology based on the teachings of Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher. By speaking not so much of nature as of a world soul, a mighty female figure standing between God and the earth and functioning as the foun of life and inspiration and pictorially. As many of you can see, she was identified with the night sky, the moon and the stars. It's been a short step from here to the 19th century romantic preoccupation with the divine feminine as both or alternatively a moon goddess and as mother earth. More of that next year, none of the medieval and early modern expressions of it represented serious theology. They were all forms of poetic allegory, but the consistency with which this preserved such a figure is striking. I have, however, already laid more stress on popular treatments of supernatural females than those of high literary culture and it's time now to turn to the three of these which I'd regard as especially important. One is British, one Western European, and one specifically Gaelic the British. One is the fairy queen who seems to have been a distinctively late medieval creation. The Anglo-Saxons certainly believed in fairy like beings, which they called elves, but we know very little of certainty about them saved that they were supposed to blight. People with physical maladies like those in the manuscript shown effectively demons. We may presume that elves were prehistoric because they appear near the beginning of English history and also that the native British believed in land spirits of various kinds because traditional peoples always do. English texts of the 13th and the 12th centuries contain a lot of information about fairy like beings, which was to pass into later fairy law and which was reported at all levels of society. It included the concept of a parallel realm of human-like beings superior in some respects to humans with its own ruler. This was not, however, a consistent motif when speaking of fairy like beings, and there seems to have been no coherent belief system to contain and explain the stories told about them, which treated them as aspects of reality. High medieval intellectuals struggled and failed to create a general category for them. That category was to be created ultimately from a different genre that of literary chivalric romance, which was composed for and consumed by lords and ladies and represented patently as pure fantasy. This featured beings usually called phase like those on the left of your image up there who had sumptuous lifestyles resembling those of the same elites but wielded superhuman powers. As such, they functioned as patrons, lovers or predators. For the knights and ladies who are the leading characters of the romances, the French word Faye, was to supply the origin of the English word fairy as a entered Britain through the medium of these romances. By the opening of the 14th century, the literary tradition was apparently blending with a popular one. As English churchmen began to condemn people who believed in beautiful female spirits who danced at night in wild, natural places. The position of a queen among such beings, with or without a male consort emerged in French and English literature. Around the same time, the classical goddess zaine the Greek Persephone had some influence in her development as the most prominent existing model for a divine queen of an underworld. And as such, Zaine appears around 1300 in the romance author of Little Britain as Queen of fairy, while another romance Oreo of about the same date has a well-rounded picture of a fairy land, which is also the classical Greek underworld. Oreo is the Greek hero Orpheus searching for his wife. By the end of the 14th century, the fairy queen or elf queen was becoming fully established in English letters featuring most famously in the work of Jeffrey Chauser. Some existing romances were reworked to accommodate, for example, a French romance from the 12th century. Sir l Fal had starred a beautiful and mysterious Faye who aids a knight in a late 14th century English rewrite. She becomes explicitly the daughter of the king of fairy redressed in what was becoming the signature fairy color of green. By the early 14th century. By the early 15th century, the literary construct of the fairy kingdom in which the queen was the more prominent ruler was fully established and found in Scotland as firmly as in England. The famous Scottish romance, true Thomas or Thomas of Al Dune, featuring just such a queen magnificently was composed in the first quarter of that century. Until now, fairy had meant enchantment rather than signifying a type of being, but that transition had been made by the 15th century. Furthermore, the concept of the queen of fairies had got firmly into popular culture by 1450. It was found used in England by criminal gangs, by maniacs and by frauds and village magicians were claiming to have learned their skills from the queen, the use by English commoners of what had been a French word , specifically related to the actions of beings known by the French word Faye, shows how much this tradition had been imported from the romance literature thereafter, its remained a major theme of both popular culture and literature all over England and Scotland. For the remainder of the early modern period right through to the end of the 17th century, poets and playwrights regularly portrayed the fairy queen in their work. Her most celebrated appearance being as Shakespeare's Nia. Sometimes like Nia, she had a husband and sometimes not. She was also, however, just as prominent in the beliefs of ordinary people across most of Britain popular magicians, the cunning or wise folk claim to have been taught their craft by the queen or her followers, those accused of witchcraft sometimes likewise claimed to have enjoyed her favors and confidence, tricksters quite frequently defrauded victims by promising to obtain her favors for them. What is really interesting about all this is that fairies in general often still retained the character of Anglo-Saxon elves of blighted humans or stealing their children. Their queen, however, was almost invariably viewed in positive terms as a benevolent and capable protectress and benefactors. The second really significant supernatural female whom might identify in medieval early modern popular tradition appeared much earlier than the fairy queen in a more mysterious circumstances and belief in her covered a much larger geographical area. She traveled the night with a ue of spirits and or special human beings and was known as Diana Heras Hol or Holder per or Bertha Ben Soia, Satia, RIA, Abia Illa, and by a host of local names quite commonly, and especially in Italy. She was simply the lady and her ue, the blessed or good ladies or the ladies of the knight. What she and her followers generally did was to visit the houses of favored humans, usually the better behaved and cleaner in a community. The good guys, and bless them with good fortune, they often feasted in those houses, but what the lady and her followers consumed was miraculously restored as they departed. Sometimes they held a revel of their own in some rural place, which is why in Italy the ladies court was often known as the good game. Three aspects of her tradition seem consistent. First, it was a belief of commoners and especially of poor women and sometimes of men of the same class. Their claim to travel with the lady gave them a status which normally they wouldn't have possessed. Furthermore, the activities in which they said they took part represented a classical piece of wish fulfillment for an underclass to become favored members of a supernatural royal court and visit the houses of their wealthier neighbors to feast to their heart's contempt. Second, the women who claim to rove with the lady who often, or mostly the folk magicians of their communities like those in Britain, who attributed their skills to the tuition of the fairy queen, they frequently said they'd learned their magic from the lady and her companions fur. The tradition seems nowhere to have involved any actual group activity. The travels of the humans who claimed to join these female phantasms were experienced in their minds while their bodies remained static. The first reference to these beliefs comes in the ninth century in the famous cannon Episcopy, which regarded them as already shared by a large number of people for the next 300 years, they are recorded in texts from the frankish lambs with their epicenter in the Rhine Valley. During the rest of the Middle Ages, they spread out over the whole of the French and German speaking areas and across Italy to Sicily and into Spain. By the early modern period, they were contracting again, vanishing from most French speaking regions. There is no solid evidence that they ever reached Britain. Though they may have helped influence the developing figure of the fairy queen there as they shrank into a continental heartland, they also broke into more clearly defined regional forms, a German one in which the spirits remain, remained a leading figure or had a leading figure, but humans didn't join in an alpine one in which they had no leader and humans could join them and an Italian one in which they had a leading figure and humans join them. So where did this idea come from? The obvious answer, which is indeed the one which has always been made is that it derived directly from ancient paganism and from the cult of a pre-Christian goddess. This remains entirely possible, but it seems very hard to prove. The names given to the superhuman leader by churchman from the ninth to the 16th centuries were Diana and Herodias. Diana was indeed an ancient goddess of the night and wild places, but she was a Roman one with no widespread popular cult north of the Alps, nor did miff portray her as sweeping up human followers. Moreover, when those who claim to rove with the lady were interrogated by the authorities, it was Churchmen who named her Diana, while her followers gave her other names associated with abundance, generosity, wisdom, and stateliness. Likewise, it may be as Carlo Ginsburg thought that the churchman concerned or influenced by classical learning, or it could simply be that Diana is the only pagan goddess found in the New Testament, and indeed the only European one in the whole Bible, and for that matter her is the wickedest woman found in the New Testament and a 12th century legend actually explained how she came to develop from her biblical persona to become the leader of the Knight rides the great French scholar. Claude Lata proposed the Greek he as the ancestor of the medieval lady. She was associated with the night witchcraft and the dead and known to the Romans. However, she was never portrayed as the leader of a ue of earthbound spirits. Recognizing this Carlo Ginsburg proposed two other contenders, both of which had enjoyed huge popularity under the Roman Empire with an epicenter in just the right place. The Rhineland for the appearance of the medieval myth. One of the goddesses proposed by Carlo Ginsburg was a poner goddess of horses and patrons of their welfare and fertility, and so worshiped by riders. However, she was never shown with a retinue of any kind. While the medieval spirits when they did ride, used wild beasts as their steeds and not horses. The other cult was of the mar trays or trona, the mothers or ladies. They were portrayed as three stately women standing or more usually seated in a row and holding symbols of prosperity such as bread, fruit, and flowers. As such, they could make plausible originals, benevolent female superhumans who might visit and bless houses at night, but they were never shown with a ue or in motion and they never associated with animals. Conversely, the medieval ladies never traveled in trios. There is therefore no goddess or set of goddesses attested in the whole of the archeological record, which makes a good fit with the medieval ladies. There remains a possibility that a pagan Germanic cult from outside the empire and so outside of iconographic or epigraphic evidence lay behind these ladies on the face of it. However, a Germanic origin for the medieval myth seems a little unlikely, given that the most thoroughly Germanic lands further north did not contain that myth. Its recorded range was mostly within the former Roman Empire. It remains possible that ancient goddesses lie behind the ladies'. Germanic names holler and pert, but the linguistic evidence is dubious. Pert is not recorded before the 14th century, and her name seems to derive from the Christian feast of the epiphany 12th Night when she was most active. Holler or holder is mentioned earlier in the 11th century, but her name is at first used of the Knight's rides themselves. She therefore seems like a personification of them. Scholars of ancient Germanic mythology have often used medieval Norse literature to try and plug the gap left by the absence of evidence from pagan Germany that is indeed full of revels by none human beings to which human magicians could fly in spirit. These revels were not, however, mainly female and had no identifiable leader. There are superhuman females called Valki, whom we all know andia in the literature, who ride through the air sometimes in troops, but they never ride behind a leader or invite living humans to join them. Modern Scandinavian folklore sometimes made the Norse God Odin leader of nocturnal cavalcades, but in the medieval literature, he's a solitary traveler and only one text associates him with the night rebels of spirits, which he breaks up in anger. Odin's not a party leader. He's a party pooper. There is therefore no clear pagan progenitor at all for the Lady of Medieval myth. It is entirely possible that that myth was assembled from aspects of the variety of ancient cults. There is even a possibility that the original inspiration was actually Christian and that it was adapted from legends of female saints who visited houses to bless them. There is however, no evidence for this at all, and the medieval lady was neither saintly nor had any Christian associations. It is interesting in this context to note that the churchmen who condemned the belief all through the middle ages knew what both paganism and heresy looked like and didn't think that it belonged to either category. They treated it instead as a rather silly superstition carried on by people who are otherwise orthodox Christians, at least until in a few places, mostly in Italy. It got eventually mixed up with the lethal early modern stereotype of the Satanic witch. What we seem to have in it, therefore is a long lived, widespread and tenacious, popular and counter-cultural motif of wish fulfillment, personal space, and the acquisition of personal prestige. It appeared well into the Middle Ages burgeoned for half a millennium and then atrophied again exist existing for the whole period alongside Christianity. My third example of a popular figure of this sort is the Ka, the old woman recorded in 19th and 20th century folklore across the Gaelic world of Native Ireland, the Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland and the Isle of Man. She features in it as a mighty giant female figure of immense age associated with mountains, hills, and other wild places in Scotland. She is specifically the spirit of of winter. This stature and her wide range naturally led most folk loist to assume that she was a major pagan goddess. The difficulty here is that she doesn't feature in her modern form in the older literature of her regions. Medieval and early modern Scottish poetry certainly has supernatural or semi human hags of the sort found across the Celtic cultural zone, but nothing really like the Ka. Even more striking, she's missing from the very rich literature of Medieval Ireland, which a bounds with none human beings in particular. It includes a whole genre called the , which is devoted to explaining place names. The Ka is associated with lots of place names in modern Ireland, but none of the medieval texts attach her to any of them. This cannot really be because she was a deity of the common people and the texts were produced by elites because medieval island was divided into so many tiny kingdoms that a cultural gap between rich and poor had hardly room to develop. Nor is it plausible to suggest that medieval authors avoided her outta distaste or fear as they treat of several other superhuman females like the Morrigan equally abhorrent to medieval Christian morays and have an awful lot of erotic and scatter stuff in them, which is rather difficult for a lot of modern readers, let alone medieval. There is, however, a direct link between the medieval and the modern in her case because in both Ireland and Scotland, the great land spirit was sometimes known specifically as the , the old woman of the Ver district. This character is found in medieval texts. She is not however the same character in the two periods because in the medieval literature, which depends ultimately on just one early medieval poem, she is a royal woman once powerful and attractive, who is reduced to poverty and obscurity in old age. The name Kaiya, most scholars currently agree ultimately derives from the old Irish word. For a nun, it means the veiled one, which is what the original Kaiya ver seems eventually to have become as an old lady. And the poem about her is a meditation on the transitory and ultimately worthless nature of worldly success of the kind that devouted Christians of the Middle Ages would value. The scholars who've assumed that the modern kaiya was an ancient goddess have assumed likewise that the same goddess lies behind the lamenting woman in the poem. But there's no evidence for this. The evidence as we have it suggests the reverse that the folk figure of the great land spirit developed since the Middle Ages outta the character of the lamenting woman. It may well be that in the process she swept up the person I of local hag spirits associated with wild places to produce a Pan Gaelic character. Nonetheless, that would still make her a post medieval creation. It's time to conclude if we're going to have space for questions. What I'm suggesting that should be obvious is that the Christian Middle Ages across Western Europe and at all levels of society were capable of developing new superhuman figures which operated right outside Christian cosmology. They did not do so in opposition to Christianity and were not associated with a particular sect or faction or heresy. Though they are often thought to favor and teach folk magicians, they were part of the thought world of people who are otherwise normal Christians for their place and time. It seems wrong to refer to such figures as pagan survivals, though they may have drawn on ancient ideas and motifs, they appear to have been creations of the Christian period and to have gone on being created. If my characterization of the is correct into early modern times, on the other hand, to describe them as Christian unproblematically and straightforwardly is to miss the point of how completely they functioned outside of and alongside the Christian world. Picture what all have in common is that they are expressions of a superhuman feminine, which interacted with humans and was completely different in kind from the female saints integrated into Christian theology. If all this is true, then there are two big concluding points to draw from it. The first is that the European Middle Ages were an even more complex and exciting place than we had thought. And second, that we need to find a new labeling system for such beings to fit an increasingly post-Christian society for which the old polarizing terminology of pagan and Christian May no longer be suitable. Thank you for your patience this autumn evening, Ronald. Thank you. That was an absolutely compelling lecture. I'm sure I'm getting already getting some questions through here. If you've got questions, there's still time to send 'em through to Slido or we'll take a few from the floor in a moment. I'm going to take advantage of having the microphone and jump in with a question myself. So from what I understood of the argument, we are actually talking about something really quite fascinating here. So it's not necessarily that these figures were sort of leftovers from a previous age that hadn't quite died out yet, and they're not quite, however, just simply projections of Christianity. So are they saying, so we are talking about something genuinely hybrid here, or Not even hybrid? Not even hybrid. Uh, they look like pagan goddesses, but they're generated within medieval Christian society. So is that something that is just growing out of Christian ideas of the divine feminine or is it something actually expressing a lack in those ideas that, that they can't, that that needs fulfilling somehow? I'd suggest the latter because they are doing such different things right, from Christian saints. Right, okay. Shall we, um, let's take a question from the floor. I say I've got one here from John H is the superhuman female traveling the night with her retinue of spirits. The origin of Mozart's Queen of the Night. Not really. Uh, Mozart's Queen of the Night is a mozartian figure, so as well as being a genius in music, Mozart was quite capable of taking a fairy queen like figure and making her his own. There may have been some Austrian memory of perch knocking around in the background there, but perch is actually quite a scary figure who travels winter nights and Mozart's f Mozart's Queen of the Night is quite unlike her. Right. Okay. Do you have any questions from the floor? We do. We'll start over. Thank you. I just wondered why it was female figures that I've, uh, figured in the, um, revival of the whatever it is, and the Christian religion is mainly patriarchal and, uh, male figures predominate and uh, it's now we're trying to, anyway, I just wonder if you'd expand upon that, please. I can't really expand a lot because I've only really just started thinking about all this, and indeed it hasn't been a topic that's been considered before. Uh, if I am correct and these figures are generated within medieval Christian society, then there's an even thicker screen between, uh, a lot of ordinary people and the essentially patriarchal nature of Christian theology than we thought. But there's a pretty thick screen anyway, because medieval Christianity, teams with saints and around half of them are female led by the queen of heaven herself, the Virgin Mary and women in the Middle Ages are often especially devoted female saints, and it's to saints shrines that people go on pilgrimage. It's to saints that people's local guilds are dedicated. So in many ways, it's rather like a political situation in which the Lord or lady of your area are too high and far off or a peasant contact, but you can get in touch with one of their staff and saints fulfill that kind of function like ancient deities, presiding over and helping with gender matters, particular illnesses, farming processes, manufacturers and regions. Do we know if there was an effort to present these figures in Christian, uh, medieval Europe, was there an effort to present them as pagan, a bit of a kind of, uh, forerunner of the invention of tradition? For example, They, they didn't really represent them as pagan, as simply as other, uh, as being superstitions. They weren't terribly interested in their origins. They're just interested in the fact they were there and were working out what to do about them. And, uh, instead of launching a crusade against them, they simply gave people app penance of bread and water if they owned up to these beliefs, uh, for a relatively short period. Right. Um, a question here, and I I'll apologize for my terrible attempt at pronouncing this, but we'll give it a go, is be Cynthia, be Cynthia. Does that sound right? Bea, Cynthia, the mother goddess in any way related to these pagan goddesses, I can't find a link any more than I can with Diana ti Pon Odin, et cetera. No link. Um, please, could you comment on the apathic witch marks, particularly in rural communities and caves? Might these be appeals to goddesses or fairies? Not really. We, we know a lot more about these now than we did even 20 years ago. There's been a huge amount of recent research, and they are called witch marks in, in a way that a lot of scholars find unhelpful, uh, because they're not made by witches and they're probably not made against witches. They are particular designs that are thought to be effective in repelling evil spirits, uh, of the kind that, and I'm not joking, might literally come under your front door or down your chimney or through a window, which is why the symbols are placed around these, uh, aetate to guard them. Uh, they particularly boom after the reformation when the protective magic of the old church, like the holy water and consecrated candles was abolished, and so people were thrown back on their own defenses, but they sometimes appear in medieval churches. My absolute favorite here is, uh, a church in, uh, rural Suffolk, which, uh, has, uh, a an amazingly carved grinning figure of a demon with a pentagram, which was one of the symbols used to ward off demons carved right across it. Where's that? So this, that, this is a demon being stomped by one of these protective symbols. Whereabout, whereabouts in Suffolk is that? It's in one of the parish churches there, uh, it's occasionally appears in programs, but I I'm a little cautious about naming it'cause we'll all go immediately that Yes, <laugh>, uh, and, and it's, it's, uh, the Vicar won't know what to do on Sunday. Yes. These places are under a lot of pressure already. Sure. Um, well there more questions from the floor. I think there was ah, one over here. Thank, thank you very much. Um, professor Hilton, I wonder if you could just say a little bit more about whether these figures were primarily seen as kind of forms of entertainment or whether they actually had some deeper symbolic significance for the people who were listening to them, uh, and so forth with Pleasure. They're definitely not forms of entertainment. They're taken really seriously by the people who professed belief in them. And in many ways what they do for those who contact them is confer prestige in a community in which they don't normally possess it. Uh, those who claim to travel with the Lady of the Night, those who claim to be contacted by the Fairy Queen claim to get special privileges as a result, insights into the cosmos magical powers. And that gives them status in their communities, uh, because they tend to be poor people, especially poor women. And as long as they don't push it too far and get in trouble with the authorities, uh, they very often make, uh, quite a prestigious and well regarded new role for themselves in the communities in which they operate. So you have a great comment here from Mary who says, thanks for this very interesting lecture. It seems that overcoming the categories, pagan and Christian would help to disentangle some of the popular assumptions about historical figures and situations that are indeed much more complex than text suggests. I think that, um, very much is in sympathy with what you've been saying. Yes, Yes. Here, Yeah, absolutely. Here, here. Um, okay, let's go to, uh, another question. What evidence is there of Christian power figures wiping out any trace of pagan goddesses? Um, certainly they wiped out pagan goddesses at the beginning by destroying their temples and shrines along with the rest of the apparatus of ancient paganism in the Middle Ages. They, they don't seem to have paid very much attention to the fairy queen, although when people try to earn money by claiming to work magic learn from the fairy queen, the authorities get rather strict. But, you know, there, there are no executions. Uh, they are simply told to knock it off and given a, a fine or more, usually just a penance in church. So it's interesting, you've mentioned this a couple of times now. There seems to be quite a lot of tolerance for this in, in many Society. There is, yes. Uh, the Lady of the Night is forbidden in, uh, all sorts of handbooks dished out to parish priests and people taking confession. Uh, and people who express belief in them, especially those who argue about it, are to be punished with a penance. But as I say, the penance given for most of the Middle Ages is relatively light. I mean, there are loads of offenses in the handbooks and compared with most, the penalty awarded is pretty skimpy. What's the chance that the Diana figure of the Middle Ages did create lingering Italian folk beliefs that Charles Leland compiled or interpreted for our radio? And similarly, I would add to that, obviously in the traditions of things like Comedi Delate, we see those sorts of supernatural figures coming through again and then through Ced delate into Shakespeare and things like That. I think the Cmed delate, uh, the, uh, the famous Italian theater, the earlier modern period, which was hugely influential everywhere, uh, did a, did draw on Italian folklore, but also more particularly on medieval literary tradition for its characters. But I think that, uh, the questioner referred to Charles Godfrey Leland's 1899 Text Raia, which Leland fought, was or claimed to be the book of spells and, and beliefs of a live Italian pagan witch cult. No research has managed to identify such an actual cult, but the figures that, uh, Leland's belief system he credited to pagan witches in involves are very much those of, uh, the tradition of the Knight roving lady of early modern Italy, but filtered through the perceptions of early modern Christian theologians. So she's twinned with and Mar Diana, the Lady of the Knight is twins with Lucifer, who is Satan, and the daughter of Diana is Raia, who's her, who's the other name for the Diana figure, not her daughter in the medieval text. So this is a garbled version of, uh, a Christian demonologist view of the original legend there. There's real stuff there, but it's gone through two filters. Right. Fantastic. Well, Ronald, thank you. Thank you for the lecture and thank you for some brilliant answers to some really great questions. Thank you guys for those. Um, please join me in thanking Ronald Hutton and goodnight to yourselves too.