Nuovo libro di Ronald Hutton: The Druids (2007)

Fra le sua varie pubblicazioni, Ronald Hutton, professore di storia alla Bristol University, ha dedicato volumi assai interessanti alla storia del calendario rituale nel Regno Unito (The Stations of the Sun. A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1996) e alla storia del paganesimo contemporaneo (il pioneristico The Triumph of the Moon. A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1999; si vedano anche i saggi in argomento nell’antologia Witches, Druids and King Arthur (London, UK: Hambledon and London, 2003)).

Lo scorso marzo ha pubblicato il primo volume dei due che intende dedicare ai druidi. Si tratta di

Hutton, Ronald (2007). The Druids. London: Hambledon Continuum.

che mi è arrivato ieri.

Ecco la seconda di copertina:

Ronald Hutton’s latest book is the first comprehensive study of what people have thought about the ancient Druids and why. Written in a racy and accessible style, it is essential reading for everyone interested in exploring our mysterious past.

Most books written on the Druids hitherto have been by archaeologists specialising in the Iron Age, who have occupied a great deal of space trying to find things to say about the ‘original’ ancient priesthood. Most have then devoted a final section of their books to people who have called themselves Druids since 1700 – until recently with contemptuous dismissal. Hutton’s contention is that the sources for the ancient Druids are so few and unreliable that almost nothing certain can be said about them. Instead, he reverses the traditional balance of interest to look at the many ways in which Druids have been imagined in Britain since 1500, and what this tells us about modern and early modern society. In the process, he achieves many new insights into the development of British national identities, established and ‘alternative’ religions, literary culture, fraternal organisation and protest movements. He also suggests new ways in which the discipline of archaeology can be perceived – which will delight some practitioners and enrage others.

Nuovo libro di David Clarke e Andy Roberts: Flying Saucerers (2007)

David Clarke e Andy Roberts hanno pubblicato da soli o insieme diversi volumi. Segnalo fra gli altri

  • Randles, Jenny, Roberts, Andy, & Clarke, David (2000). The UFOs that never were. London: London House
    (in cui esaminano 8 eventi UFO britannici, alcuni dei quali assai noti anche all’estero, dei quali presentano l’evidenza che li porta a considerarli dovuti a cause identificabili).
  • Clarke, David, & Roberts, Andy (2002). Out Of The Shadows. Ufos, the Establishment & the Official Cover-up. London (UK), Judy Piatkus
    (sulla documentazione e sull’interesse “ufficiale” nel Regno Unito nei confronti degli oggetti volanti non identificati; ricordo che Clarke è uno dei due ricercatori, con Gary Anthony, che ha ottenuto nel 2006 la declassificazione del cosiddetto rapporto Condign; il volume suddetto è stato recensito da Jenny Randles su Fortean Times n. 162 e la recensione disponibile on-line qui).

Oggi mi è arrivato l’appena pubblicato:

Clarke, David, & Roberts, Andy (2007). Flying Saucerers. A social history of UFOlogy. Wymeswold Loughborough, UK: Alternative Albion

(La distribuzione del volume nelle librerie tradizionali britanniche è prevista dal 17 aprile, ma il volume era già disponibile nelle librerie web almeno dalla fine di marzo).

Di taglio divulgativo (ma si tratta di buona divulgazione), si occupa della storia sociale dell’ufologia britannica fino agli anni ’70: gli autori si occupano quindi di personaggi, gruppi e idee legati al Regno Unito (ma che spesso hanno avuto ben più ampia diffusione). E’ prefato da Shirley McIver, Senior Fellow all’Health Services Management Centre dell’University of Birmingham, che nei primi anni ’80 si occupò dell’ufologia britannica dell’epoca per il suo dottorato di ricerca in sociologia.

Ecco la quarta di copertina:

Since August 1945 the Western world has been fascinated with the notion of ‘flying saucers’, subsequently termed ‘Unidentified Flying Objects’ or ‘UFOs’. Numerous ‘experts’ have offered explanations, often involving extraterrestrial entities. These early experts promoted their beliefs enthusiastically. Some were undoubtedly sincere – although somewhat maverick – while a few might have been intentional ‘psychological con men’.

The various opinions of these ‘experts’ generated extensive tabloid and media attention in the 1950s and 60s with the result that reported sightings became wrapped up in any number of beliefs and legends. David Clarke and Andy Roberts carefully unpick the origin of these beliefs, looking carefully at the key individuals involved. This reveals how the paranoia of the Cold War era generated its own myths and also shows that many aspects of the subsequent ‘New Age’ ideology had their origins in the UFO cults.

Flying Saucerers is not written for people who believe in UFOs. Readers are not expected to believe in their ‘nuts and bolts’ existence, still less the prospects of a Close Encounter of the Third Kind. Instead it is both a social history and a history of ideas, revealing how the notions of a few inspired ‘experts’ evolved into one of its most pervasive modern day myths.

Ed ecco invece il comunicato stampa della Sheffield University presso cui Clarke insegna giornalismo:

Space babies and flying saucer religions

Issued 12/04/07

Dr David Clarke, lecturer in Journalism Studies at Sheffield Hallam University and co-author of Flying Saucerers, a Social History of UFOlogy, has been researching the folklore of UFOlogy for two decades with colleague Andy Roberts. Stories from the book include:

The Space Baby
Mum-of-two Cynthia Appleton claimed that she was visited in her Birmingham semi by beings from Venus in November 1957, one month after the launch of the first space satellite, Sputnik 1. The story took an even more bizarre turn in 1959, when the aliens told Cynthia she was going to give birth to a baby from Venus.

Her strange visitors insisted the child would be a boy and should be named Matthew. They said he would become a ‘leader of men’ at the age of 14. Just after midnight on 2 June 1959 Matthew was indeed born and press reports show that at 13 months there were no obvious signs of his amazing future. The book tells the full story up to the present day.

UFO cult investigated by Special Branch
A London taxi-driver, George King, founded a small cult in 1954 that grew to become an influential New Religious Movement with thousands of followers and branches across the world. The Aetherius Society was formed after King, a yoga devotee, claimed to have heard a disembodied voice announce: ‘Prepare yourself, you are to become the voice of Interplanetary parliament’, whilst meditating in his Maida Vale flat.

King continued to channel telepathic messages from alien intelligences until his death in 1997. His followers have dedicated their lives to spreading these messages, which include warnings of a future apocalypse and the dangers of atomic experimentation.

The book reveals how the society’s pacifist, anti-nuclear stance at the height of the Cold War brought them to the attention of the Metropolitan Police Special Branch who suspected the society might be a front for communists. Drawing upon papers released under the Freedom of Information Act, the book reveals how Special Branch sent undercover officers to monitor a rally organised by the society against Government secrecy on ‘flying saucers’ held in Trafalgar Square in 1958.

Dr Clarke said: “Belief in UFOs and aliens is a fruitful area of research for social scientists but until recently the idea of alien visitations as ‘a modern myth’ had received little attention, possibly because it is a phenomenon that is occurring here and now. For instance, an opinion poll in 1998 revealed that almost a third of UK residents believe that ‘extraterrestrial life has already visited earth’ and two per cent of those questioned claimed to have had direct experience of alien visitations.

“Flying Saucerers examines how and why people develop these types of beliefs. It examines how interest in ‘flying saucers’ originated in the USA at the height of the Cold War. When UFOs arrived here during the 1950s, the subject quickly became a British obsession with its own clubs, magazines and cast of famous believers which included celebrities such as Lord Mountbatten, Prince Philip and Lord Dowding, of Battle of Britain fame.

“The book isn’t about UFO sightings and doesn’t set out to debunk the claims of those who have had UFO and other extraordinary experiences. It is about the people who see, investigate and write about UFOs and what has led them to believe what they believe. Whatever opinion you hold, it cannot be doubted that belief in UFOs and aliens has shaped modern history and continues to do so.”

Notes to editors
Flying Saucerers: A Social History of UFOlogy, by David Clarke and Andy Roberts will be published by Heart of Albion Press on 17 April 2007.

For an advance copy please contact Bob Trubshaw, Heart of Albion Press on 01509 880 725 or visit

For press information contact: Contact Lorna Branton on 0114 225 5104

Lo scorso 29 marzo il volume era stato recensito da Nick Redfern sul suo blog qui.

Infine, per chi volesse un assaggio, un’anticipazione di quello che è oggi possibile trovare nel volume era apparsa su Fortean Times 211 (June 2006) in un articolo di Clarke dal titolo “Flying Saucers From Hell”, che è disponibile qui.

Episodio di Supernatural e legend-tripping

Il decimo episodio della prima stagione della serie televisiva statunitense (attualmente in programmazione su Rai Due al martedì in seconda serata) a tema paranormale Supernatural, era intitolato in originale “Asylum” ed era stato trasmesso il 22 novembre 2005 su quello che era all’epoca il network televisivo WB. Questa notte alle 00.30 ne è andata in onda la versione italiana col titolo “La rivolta”.

Lo segnalo perché è in parte ispirato al fenomeno che i folkloristi hanno etichettato col nome di legend-tripping, oggi studiato principalmente da William “Bill” Ellis, professore di inglese alla Penn State Hazleton e studioso di folklore contemporaneo, da ultimo nel suo interessante Lucifer Ascending. The Occult in Folklore and Popular Culture pubblicato dalla casa editrice accademica The University Press of Kentucky (di Lexington, Kentucky) nel 2004 (ne esiste una traduzione italiana coll’orrido titolo Il grande libro del diavolo, delle streghe e dell’occulto apparsa presso gli editori romani Newton & Compton nell’estate 2005, purtroppo non consigliabile).

Scrive Ellis, all’interno del capitolo sull’argomento (intitolato Visits to Forbidden Graveyards, pp. 112-141):

Ritual visits to uncanny places in the United States have been termed legend-tripping by folklorists who have studied the contemporary practice intensively since the late 1960s. […] [T]he legend-trip involves a set of cautionary legends that both warn of the danger of a site, and then function as a dare to visit the very place and carry out the ritual that leads to danger. The number of youngsters involved in this activity in unknown; however, surveys suggest that a significant proportion -between 14 percent and 28 percent- of American adolescents participate in legend-tripping in some way. Most will engage in one or two ritual visits out of curiosity, but several folklorists have noted the role of small groups of “experts” in publicizing and perpetuating the tradition […]. (p. 114)

Non è la prima volta che Supernatural si ispira a temi studiati dai folkloristi che si occupano di leggende contemporanee: negli episodi già trasmessi in Italia era già avvenuto con “La caccia ha inizio” (13.02.2007, episodio 1, titolo originale “Pilot”, ispirato al tema dell’autostoppista fantasma), con “Terrore allo specchio” (13.03.2007, episodio 5, titolo originale “Bloody Mary”, ispirato alla leggenda omonima) e, infine, con “L’uomo uncino” (25.03.2007, episodio 7, titolo originale “Hook Man”, ispirato alla leggenda intitolata “The Hook”).