The best books on folklore and traditions of ancient sacred places

Who am I?

I have been fascinated by ancient sacred sites since I first visited the ancient Rollright Stones on the Oxfordshire/Warwickshire border decades ago. I am interested in how the study of folklore and local traditions can be used in conjunction with archaeology to trace the origins and purposes of ancient monuments. I am an author and researcher who has had seven books published on the subjects of ancient civilizations, prehistoric monuments, and supernatural folklore. Born in Birmingham, England, I am a qualified archaeologist with a BA in European Archaeology from the University of Nottingham, and an MPhil in Greek Archaeology from Birmingham University.

I wrote...

Haunted Spaces, Sacred Places: A Field Guide to Stone Circles, Crop Circles, Ancient Tombs, and Supernatural Landscapes

By Brian Haughton,

Book cover of Haunted Spaces, Sacred Places: A Field Guide to Stone Circles, Crop Circles, Ancient Tombs, and Supernatural Landscapes

What is my book about?

Examines the megaliths of Britain and Ireland, the tombs of the Etruscans, the ancient Native American city of Cahokia, and other legendary and mysterious places around the world, with a review of the myth, lore, and paranormal phenomena for which they are known.

The books I picked & why

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Avebury: Biography of a Landscape

By Joshua Pollard, Andrew Reynolds,

Book cover of Avebury: Biography of a Landscape

Why this book?

Dating back over 4,500 years, Avebury is the world's largest prehistoric stone circle. It stands inside a village in Wiltshire, southern England. This book is not just a biography of the ancient site itself but also of the fascinating and highly unusual ritual landscape surrounding it. The most detailed, interesting, and clearly expressed account of the origins of Avebury I have read. The context of this magnificent prehistoric site is finally revealed in all its mysterious glory.

Pagan Celtic Britain

By Anne Ross,

Book cover of Pagan Celtic Britain

Why this book?

I am fascinated by the author’s contention that neither the Roman invasion of Britain nor the coming of Christianity eliminated pagan religious practice across the land. I also like the combination of archaeological and anthropological evidence with folklore and tradition, which is very unusual in such works, and provides a far broader insight into the early Celtic world than most books of its type. 

Lore Of The Land: A Guide To Englands Myths And Legends

By Jennifer Westwood, Jacqueline Simpson,

Book cover of Lore Of The Land: A Guide To Englands Myths And Legends

Why this book?

For me, the widely varying folklore and myths of England covered in this book help to reveal the rich, unique history that the country possesses. One worry I have is that such traditions are already disappearing from the fields and squares of the land, and indeed the minds of the people. This is due in no small part to the homogenisation of individual cultures by the mainstream mass media, something which unfortunately shows no signs of abating. 

Britain Begins

By Barry Cunliffe,

Book cover of Britain Begins

Why this book?

I was attracted to this book as it uses the most up-to-date archaeological evidence together with new work on DNA and other scientific techniques to tell the story of the origins of the British and the Irish peoples, from around 10,000BC to the eve of the Norman Conquest. Whilst there are new archaeological discoveries made every week, one or two of which could potentially challenge some of the ideas in this work, at the moment it is the most up-to-date book on the subject which we have, and as such should be treasured.  

The Greek Myths

By Robert Graves,

Book cover of The Greek Myths

Why this book?

Whilst there have been hundreds of books published about Greek myths, for me this is the one that appeals to my peculiar nature the most. Although the work has been heavily criticised by many academics, what I like is that Graves combines scholarly detail with the skill and imagination of the poet. Hence the characters are made to live and breathe again, as if the stories had been first recorded last month rather than thousands of years ago.  

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in folklore, England, and Celtic mythology?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about folklore, England, and Celtic mythology.

Folklore Explore 144 books about folklore
England Explore 647 books about England
Celtic Mythology Explore 11 books about Celtic mythology

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Sword in the Stone, Concepts of Arthur, and Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century England if you like this list.