Welcome to Dark Dorset
Welcome to the Dark Dorset website - Dorset's premier website devoted to local folklore, customs, mysteries and the unexplained.
Based on the publication Dark Dorset: Tales of Mystery, Wonder and Terror by Robert. J. Newland and Mark. J. North. and Dark Dorset Calendar Customs by Robert. J. Newland. This site is an online compendium of information relating to local folklore and mysteries that can be discovered in the county of Dorset.
Click on the menu on the left of your screen to explore the wonderful world of Dark Dorset.
The site is regularly updated, so I do hope that you come back soon!
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- Folklore, Thomas Hardy, and Rural Writing
11th - 13th April 2014
The Corn Exchange, High East Street,Dorchester, Dorset
A joint conference of The Folklore Society and the Thomas Hardy Society exploring Wessex folklore, folk customs and rural traditions, and the works of Thomas Hardy.
For more information and list of speakers click here
- Easter Hares
Have you ever wondered how the symbol of the rabbit became associated with the Easter Festival? The origin of the Easter Bunny probably goes back to the festival's connection with the pagan goddess Eostre. Eostre (sometimes spelt Oestre) was a fertility goddess from whom we derive the word "oestrogen" and she is closely associated with fertility symbols such as eggs. The rabbit is known as a highly fertile creature and hence an obvious choice for Easter symbolism.
In fact the use of the rabbit is probably a mistake - the Easter "bunny" is more likely to have been a hare, since it is the hare that is usually considered the sacred creature of Eostre.
Pagan fertility festivals at the time of the Spring equinox were common. It was believed that at this time, when day and night were of equal length, male and female energies were also in balance.
The hare is often associated with moon goddesses; the egg and the hare together represent the god and the goddess respectively. The earliest known reference to our modern Easter Bunny tradition appears to be from 16th century Germany. In the 18th century, German settlers to America brought the tradition with them. The Bunny was known by them as Oschter Haws (a corruption of the German Osterhase ) and brought gifts of chocolate, sweets and Easter Eggs to good children. Often children would make up nests for Oschter Haws, sometimes using their Easter bonnets, and the Bunny would leave his treats there.
It is because of this strong connection with pagan traditions that Hares were strongly associated with witches and witchcraft in Christian times. People claimed that a witch could shape shift her form at night and become a hare. These solitary creatures, rarely seen, sometimes standing on their hind legs like a person, aroused suspicion.When in distress they uttered a strange, almost human-like cry, which gave the animal a supernatural quality. For its behaviour would mimic that of a supposed witch. In this form she stole milk or food, or destroyed crops. Others insisted that hares were only witches' familiars.
In Dorset there are many stories associated with Witch Hares. Click here to read about 'Daggers Gate' witch hare
- St George's Day: 'God cry Harry, England and St.George
In Palestine, George of Lydda destroyed the shrine of the Roman god Bacchus. For this George of Lydda was cast into prison and tortured, but because he would not renounce the Christian faith he was martyred by decapitation on the 23rd April 303AD.
His Martrydom has been commomorated on this day when England celebrates its gallant Patron Saint.
The 30th April is the eve of St. Walpurgis or as it is known traditionally in Germany Walpurgisnacht. Described by Bram Stoker in his short story ' Dracula's Guest ',
'Walpurgis Night was when, according to the belief of millions of people, the devil was abroad - when the graves were opened and the dead come forth and walked. When all evil things of earth and air and water held revel.'
- Folklore, Customs and Ghost Stories in Sherborne - Elisabeth Bletsoe of Sherborne Museum explores the folklore, customs and hauntings of this ancient Dorset market town.
- Well Dressing and Sacred Water - Dorset Archaeologist Chris Tripp, looks at the folk customs and traditions associated with water and how these ancient rituals still remain with us to this day.
- Folklore of William Barnes - We revisit an early article from the 1920s written by local Folklorist and Historian, John Symonds Udal. He discusses folklore of the county and how it influenced the writings and poetry of Dorset dialectologist Rev. William Barnes.
- Cerne Abbas - A brief history of the village with local Legends and Customs.
- Sea Dragons, Fairy Loaves & Serpents of Stone - Dr. Karl Shuker explores the folklore and proto-scientific beliefs attached to Lyme Regis's most famous fossils.
- Daisy Wheels and a Ritual Landscape in Dorset - Ric Kemp examines the strange, centuries-old religious symbols and carvings which can be found in churches in and around Dorset.
Drawing on historical and contemporary sources, 'Haunted Weymouth' by local ghost tour guide Alex Woodward, is sure to send a shiver down the spine of anyone daring to learn more about the haunted history of the area. Including many previously unpublished stories, this book will appeal to both serious ghost hunters and those who simply want to discover what frights lurk beneath the surface of this once royal seaside resort.
The Recollections of Rifleman Harris Audio CD is abridged from an 1848 first edition of this famous historical memoir of a Rifleman Benjamin Randell Harris, from the 95th Rifles, in the Napoleonic Wars. This CD production by Explore Multimedia is read by Jason Salkey, who played the character of ‘Rifleman Harris’ in the Sharpe TV Series and provides a brilliant complement to his Harris diaries DVD series. Sound FX are provided by The 95th Rifles Re-enactment Society. A musical score by Adam Wakeman adds to this excellent production.
The tale of the Black Dog of Bungay and the infamous attack on the church of St. Marys in 1577, has inspired and fascinated residents and visitors to the town for centuries along with tales of Black Shuck the Ghostly Dog of Norfolk.
To this day, sightings of the Black Dog are common through the region and form an integral part of local folklore and myth. At the same time, the history of the legend itself tells its own tale of the town of Bungay and how the community has responded to crisis through local folklore and myth.
This book, a collaborative effort between local historian Christopher Reeve and historian and anthropologist Dr. David Waldron, traces the rise of this story from its origins in the trauma of the English Reformation to the contemporary era where it has become a central part of Bungay’s communal and civic identity and a colourful and intriguing aspect of local folklore.
Paranormal Purbeck - A Study of the Unexplained by David Leadbetter
A collection of remarkable experiences from the Isle of Purbeck. It visits nearly 70 sites and has contributions from over a hundred local people.
Most of the first-hand accounts have never been published before, suggesting that the ‘paranormal’ is more commonplace than we generally suppose and is perceived intuitively, depending on the right combination of circumstances.
The author challenges fixed opinions and beliefs, offering detailed personal experiences from a small geographical area and arguing that we need a fundamental reappraisal of how we view the world.
Anyone with a thirst for mysteries and a desire to extend the frontiers of human knowledge will be gripped.
If you are looking for something different this year, then ghost tours can provide some great entertainment, especially if they're ghost tours after dark. With Dorset having a lot of ghosts, it stands that there will be quite a number of ghost tours and haunted walks to be enjoyed.
We have gathered a collection of haunted walks, some permanent, some seasonal, which you can investigate.
PLEASE NOTE - Most of these guided ghost tours will require booking - and because of the nature of these ghost tours you should always at least contact the organisers (as they are NOT organised by Dark Dorset) to ensure there have been no changes to the plans as changes can occur at any time for many reasons.