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The Fate of the Dead

— Theo Brown
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When the Protestant reformers of the early sixteenth century attacked Roman Catholic ‘superstitions’, one of the chief areas where differences between the new and old doctrines appeared was over the question of purgatory. The formal and precise Roman Catholic teaching on the fate of the soul after death that had been evolved in the later middle ages was swept away, and no similar belief officially replaced it. It the fate of the dead was not a point of immediate concern to Protestant theologians, it was a lively topic of debate among ordinary people, and Theo Brown’s book sets out to chart the beliefs that replaced those of the Roman Catholic Church, using material from the West Country. To some extent, the abolition of purgatory gave rise to the popular ghost-story and to the idea of hauntings; other stories reflect a continuing belief in forms of penance and punishment for wickedness, while some tales show up new class-divisions and antipathies. But as well as giving a scholarly analysis of folk belief, Theo Brown has many excellent ghost stories to tell, drawn from wide research into traditional material.

Hardback | London: Woodbridge, Suffolk and Totowa, NJ: D.S. Brewer and Rowman and Littlefield, for The Folklore Society, 1979 | ISBN: 0859910490