Saturday, 28 May 2011

Next up: Our Highland Folklore Heritage by Alexander Polson

Our Highland Folklore Heritage
Alexander Polson

A while ago I read and reviewed another of Polson's books, Scottish Witchcraft Lore, which - over all - I liked. It's one of those books I wish I could afford, so I could add it to my hoard. It was mainly for that reason that I picked this one up - to see if it was as good as the one I've already read, and to see if this book has anything to add to the subject.

For the most part, the answer to the latter point is: not really. In many respects, this book is like a precursor to Scottish Witchcraft Lore - Our Highland Folklore Heritage was published slightly earlier, and is slightly shorter in length, too, and in general there's quite an overlap in subject matter and content between them when dealing with witchcraft and related matter. This book has a broader scope at least, so it's not all the same sort of stuff by any means. For me, a downside is that what's missing here are most of the things that I enjoyed so much about Scottish Witchcraft Lore - mainly the interviews with witches and groundwork that Polson himself did for that book - so for me it's not really a cheaper substitute (this book is at least within my means if I want to buy it) in that respect. Then again, it would be pretty pointless writing two books that are basically identical, so looking at the book on its own merits, that's a big plus.

What this book does offer is a simple introduction to various aspects of Highland folklore - lore at sea, witches and witchcraft, fairy lore, second sight, ghosts, various kinds of spirits, and so on. Each chapter is quite short, but they hit all the right notes for giving a basic overview and there are plenty of stories, many of which Polson collected from his students during his time teaching in various places in the far north of Scotland. They probably aren't ones that you'll find published in too many different places, so that's a major plus too.

For the most part, each chapter covers things that you might already know if you've read other introductions to the subject, but Polson presents everything in a brisk but engaging style, at least (sometimes, it's more like he's just putting some notes down than attempting to write anything more flowery), and a lot of it is from the horse's mouth. Polson doesn't offer too much in the way of detailed analysis, rather he lets the material speak for itself and you can draw your own conclusions.

As a quick and straightforward read, and for anyone looking for a good introduction to the topic, or just something that adds a little more to the subject, I'd definitely recommend this one.


Anonymous said...

I only got a fragmented PDF of the Witchcraft Lore book ... Is it truly worth purchasing the entire thing?

Seren said...

I'd say if you can find it for a reasonable sum, yes. I've only ever seen it on offer for stupid amounts, though, and I wouldn't say it's that interesting that you should fork out a small fortune for it. If you can get your hands on it, there's some interesting stuff in there, but it's not necessarily earth-shattering, more a good supplement to the more easily available sources out there.