Friday, 17 August 2012

Fears, Foes and Faeries

Fears, Foes and Faeries is an exhibition currently running at the Scarborough Art Gallery - coinciding with this is a new venture for the Gallery, called the Thirteen Club (a supper club at the Gallery, taking the idea from the Victorian gentlemen's club of the same name). On Friday, 31st August, 6 - 10pm there will be two talks, inspired by the exhibition, and an informal supper.  I've just booked my place - it sounds really fascinating.

Ammonite fossil

Social psychologist Professor Stephen Sayers from Leeds Metropolitan University and paleontologist Dr Paul Taylor from the Natural History Museum will be speaking.

Stephen Sayers said: “One of my interests is in the psychology of folklore. ‘Folklore’ is shorthand for myths, legends, fairy stories, astrology, superstitions, tarot, runes and so on. My interest is not in debunking it, but in the very opposite: I'm interested in how these things work.

For almost a year now I've been transcribing four volumes journals by William Clarke, the Scarborough naturalist whose collection of charms and amulets form the basis of Fears, Foes and Faeries.

I'll be talking about the collection – I want to know why certain objects were thought to be lucky, or able to protect you, or cure you. Why was this object thought to do it and not another one? I want to know too, what the psychological effects of belief in these amulets are: how does believing in their power change you? In what sense, if any, do they really help you?

There are real mysteries to be found amongst these things; real mysteries that can be explored and understood and enjoyed. If I can do that, it might restore the enchantment of childhood to some people's lives.”

Paul Taylor said: “My talk will explore the peculiar myths that developed around fossils in the pre-scientific era, some still believed by modern societies.

I will show how most of these myths have their basis in the chance resemblance between these fossils and objects to which they bear no relationship.”

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