This article taken from The Devon News has all the hallmarks of a classic H.P. Lovecraft or Arthur Machen story. A group of University history students conduct a study into ancient magick and attempt to summon fairies and demons using rituals from 16th century manuscripts; what could possibly go wrong? Could this be the folklore equivalent of the Cern project? The opening of portals to the underworld and the awakening of ancient gods? I certainly hope so!
Exeter University to study best way to summon fairies and demons
Researchers will start with ancient spell books up to 600 years old
The mysterious methods used by people in bygone times to summon fairies to help navigate the trials and tribulations of day-to-day life are set to be uncovered.
Researchers from the University of Exeter have launched a new study to examine collections of 15th to 17th-century spell books and grimoires that gave instructions on how to summon and conjure fairies, demons and other spirits.
This period, starting in the late medieval times, saw the writing of many books giving instructions on how to perform sorcery and necromancy, and fairies played an important role.
Among the common theories were that they were demoted angels, spirits of the dead, prehistoric human precursors, and minor deities in pagan beliefs.
Fairies were not always considered as virtuous, particularly as Puritanism grew after the Reformation in the 16th century.
A popular phenomenon was the will-o'-the-wisp, a fairy that led travellers astray at night.
As such, various spell books were written to conjure fairies, demons and other spirits for noble and nefarious purposes.
Samuel Gillis Hogan will begin trawling through ancient manuscripts in many of England's libraries to find evidence and records of how people thought they could harness the power of fairies over the 300-year period, and what influence this had on people's lives and culture.
"Fairies were thought of as wondrous and beautiful, but mostly dangerous," he said.
"But people wanted to summon them and harness that power for their own gain. For example, fairies were often asked to teach how to heal people."
Mr Gillis Hogan, who is starting a PhD, will move from Canada to join a team of historians at the University of Exeter who are already investigating the history of magic.
"The study of the history of magic is a rich vein for analysis and insight into the history of thought, religion, medicine, science, and philosophy," he said.
"It shows much about beliefs at the time. By fully understanding these practices, we can often reconstruct how it was perfectly rational given contemporary beliefs.
"It's easy to look down our noses at past or present cultures and dismiss them as 'backwards' or 'primitive', but intimately understanding these very different worldviews emphasises that our own is simply one among many."
Mr Gillis Hogan will be supervised by two historians, Professors Catherine Rider and Jonathan Barry.
His PhD will be funded by a Rothermere fellowship which supports students who have previously studied at the Memorial University of Newfoundland to study in the UK.