Women on a wind-swept island: Hagstone, by Sinéad Gleeson, reviewed

This absorbing and wild debut feels at once muzzily folkloric and sharply contemporary. It follows Nell, an artist who lives on a wind-whipped island without ties or commitments – until, that is, a group of women living an even quieter life commission her to make an artwork that will tell their story. The Inions, as they’re known, have come from all over the world to Rathglas, a crumbling old convent overlooking the sea. Naturally, rumours abound about them being a cult or a coven, but really they’re ‘ordinary women wanting a different kind of life’, who have rejected hatred and inequality in favour of seclusion and simplicity. Gleeson, who in

The Victorian origins of ‘medieval’ folklore

I would guess that contemporary pagans have a love-hate relationship with Ronald Hutton. With books such as The Triumph of the Moon and Stations of the Sun, scholarly accounts of the history of modern witchcraft and the ritual year in Britain, no one writes more sensitively about their worldview. On the other hand, as an academic, Hutton assiduously seeks to saw off the branch on which many of their fondest assumptions sit. The paradox can be explained. Queens of the Wild returns to one of Hutton’s key themes: the debunking of the idea that pagan practices and beliefs survived intact in Europe from archaic times. With characteristic frankness he explains