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Conference on Folk Belief and

Traditions of the Supernatural

25-30 March 2014, Shetland, UK


Download conference programme.


The mystery of the mysterious.

This folklore conference explored past and present supernatural traditions worldwide, focusing on how they relate to experience,  place, ritual, and narrative. The conference was a collaboration of the Department of Folklore & Ethnology at Indiana University, the Anthropological Institute at Nanzan University, and the Folklore Society.


Throughout history, scholars and laypeople have theorised on supernatural experience. Europeans have debated, for example, whether fairies should be identified as demons, Jungian archetypes, symbols of nature, a race of humans, childhood bogeymen, or liminality made manifest. Is precognition a blessing, curse, delusion, or transfer of spiritual energy? What about encounters with ghosts, gods, aliens, monsters, or the Virgin Mary? How comparable are traditions from different cultures? Where do we draw the line between religion, folk belief, science, and entertainment?


The conference combined scholarly discussion with visits to sites in Shetland’s North Isles associated with supernatural legends as well as talks with local tradition bearers.