A Coven of Scholars
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Presented here is a selection of items from the Margaret Murray Collection in the Folklore Society Archives. Murray’s notes and correspondence relate mainly to witch beliefs and legends, seasonal customs, and fairy lore – including first-hand accounts of sightings of fairies and other apparitions. Of particular interest are the materials concerning Fenland legends, the Dorset Ooser, the Puck Fair at Killorglin (Co. Kerry), and Mother Ludlam’s Cauldron, Frensham (Surrey). These papers, published here for the first time, offer illuminating insights into Murray’s methods of collecting and interpreting folklore. The edited texts are preceded by an introductory essay examining the sources and formation of Murray’s “witch-cult” theory, its impact on neo-pagan witchcraft and its reception among folklorists and historians. Although now discredited, her idea that early modern witches were the followers of a secret religion was extremely popular. That many people shared her basic assumptions about the survival of secret cults and esoteric traditions is amply illustrated by the extracts from the Murray Collection.