I have just signed a contract with Cambridge University Press to publish my next major book, entitled Twilight of the Godlings: The Shadowy Beginnings of Britain’s Supernatural Beings.
Britain has passed through many religious transformations over the past two millennia, including the introduction of Roman religion, the arrival of Christianity, the introduction of Germanic paganism and the final process of Christianisation in the early Middle Ages. Yet historical, linguistic and archaeological evidence reveals that belief in ‘godlings’ – those lesser earthbound spirits of nature, of the home, and of human destiny – has remained a constant throughout the island’s recorded history. From the highly localised deities of Roman Britain to the elves of the Anglo-Saxons and the fairies of late medieval England, Britain’s ‘small gods’ have presided over a twilight realm of belief and ritual co-existing alongside the authorised religions of its rulers. Twilight of the Godlings delves deep into the tangled roots of British folklore by tracing the history and mythology of Britain’s folkloric beings from the pre-Roman Iron Age to the late Middle Ages, arguing that we must cast aside many common cultural assumptions about the ‘Celtic’ origins of fairies and the likelihood of folkloric survivals over many centuries. Setting aside the cherished idea that Britain’s folkloric beings are the decayed remnants of pagan gods and goddesses, Twilight of the Godlings argues that this class of beings has always been part of popular religion. The godlings survived because they fulfilled particular needs, regardless of religious change, and while their names and identities altered, their essential importance remained.
Twilight of the Godlings will be the first book for many years to revisit the once hotly-c0ntested question of the ultimate origins of Britain’s fairies, drawing on the latest research and interpretations and the resources of history, archaeology and linguistics. The book reaches the conclusion that the key to unlocking the secrets of Britain’s godlings is understanding the nature of popular Christianity and the legacy of the Classical world.