Hilda Ellis Davidson

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Hilda Ellis Davidson
BornHilda Roderick Ellis
(1914-10-01)1 October 1914
Bebington, Wirral, Cheshire
DiedJanuary 2006 (aged 91)
GenreMythology, folklore
Notable awardsCoote Lake Medal (1984), Katharine Briggs Prize (1988)

Hilda Roderick Ellis Davidson (born Hilda Roderick Ellis, 1 October 1914 – January 2006) was an English antiquarian and academic, writing in particular on Germanic paganism and Celtic paganism. Davidson used literary, historical and archaeological evidence to discuss the stories and customs of Northern Europe. Gods and Myths of Northern Europe (Penguin Books, 1964) is considered one of the most thorough and reputable sources on Germanic mythology. Like many of her publications, it was credited under the name H. R. Ellis Davidson. Davidson was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and was president of the Council of the Folklore Society from 1974 to 1976, and served on the council from 1956 to 1986.[1] Davidson has been cited as having "contributed greatly" to the study of Norse mythology.[2]


Hilda Roderick Ellis was born in Bebington, Wirral, Cheshire, in 1914. She was educated at Park High School for Girls, Birkenhead. Later, Davidson received a First Class Honours degree from Newnham College, Cambridge, in English, Archaeology and Anthropology, and afterward studied pagan Scandinavian religion for her doctorate.[3] In 1943, Davidson, under her maiden name Hilda Ellis, published her first book; The Road to Hel: A Study of the Conception of the Dead in Old Norse Literature.[3] Davidson was a lecturer at Royal Holloway College from 1939 to 1944 and after that at Birbeck College.[3] In 1949, she joined the Folklore Society.[3]

Davidson joined the Lucy Cavendish College in Cambridge in 1969 as a Calouste Gulbenkian Research Fellow, was appointed a College Lecturer in 1971, was an elected a Fellow in 1974, and was made the Vice-President between 1975 and 1980.[4] In 1980, Davidson also began working on a biography of Katharine Mary Briggs, which she published in 1986.[4] Davidson received the Folklore Society's Coote Lake Medal in 1984, and her 1988 work Myths and Symbols of Pagan Europe won the Katharine Briggs Prize that year.[5][6] Davidson was an honorary member of the Folklore Society beginning in 1985 and she founded the Katharine Briggs Club in January 1987.[7] The first three publications of the club were edited by Davidson and the third was dedicated to her.[7]

Another interest Davidson held was in the history of folklore scholarship itself, which led to her editing with Carmen Blacker a collection of essays on Women and Tradition: A Neglected Group of Folklorists (2000). In Davidson's later work, she focused on cultural and religious links between Germanic and Celtic cultures, showcased at her presence at the Nordic-Celtic-Baltic Legend Symposiums in Ireland and Copenhagen throughout the 1990s.[3] She was unable to attend the 2005 meeting due to poor health.[3]

In her later years she ran the Cambridge Folklore Group.[8] Davidson was a bellringer and churchwarden at her local church.[4] Davidson died in Kent in January 2006, aged 91, leaving 2 children and 10 grandchildren.


  • (1940) Eschatology and Manticism in Old Norse Literature. (Doctoral dissertation). University of Cambridge.
  • (1941) "Fostering by Giants in Old Norse Sagas", Med. Aev. 10: 70-85.
  • (1942) "Sigurd in the Art of the Viking Age", Antiquity 16: 216-36.
  • (1943) The Road to Hel: A Study of the Conception of the Dead in Old Norse Literature, Cambridge University Press, "originally part of a thesis accepted in 1940 for the degree of Ph.D. in the University of Cambridge."
  • (1950) "The Hill of the Dragon" (Anglo-Saxon Burial Mounds), Folklore 61.
  • (1950) "Gods and Heroes in Stone" In C. Fox and B. Dickens (eds.), The Early Cultures of North-West Europe (H.M. Chadwick Memorial Studies), 123-9, London.
  • (1958) The Golden Age of Northumbria, Longmans, [a volume in the "Then and There Series"].
  • (1958) "Weland the Smith," Folklore 69: 145-59.
  • (1960) "The Sword at the Wedding" Folklore 71, 1-18.
  • (1962) The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England, Boydell Press, Woodbridge.
  • (1963) "Folklore and Man's Past", Folklore, 74: 527-44, London.
  • (1964) Book Review: Myth and Religion of the North by E. O. G. Turville-Petre. London: Weidenfeld Nicolson (History of Religion), 1964. Antiquity 38: 309-310.
  • (1964) Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, Penguin Books Ltd, Harmondsworth. (later re-published as Gods and Myths of the Viking Age, Bell Publishing Company, 1980).
  • (1965) "The Finglesham Man", Sonia Chadwick Hawkes, H.R.E Davidson and C. Hawkes, Antiquity, 39: 17-32.
  • (1965) "Thor's Hammer", Folklore 76: 1-15.
  • (1965) "The Significance of the Man in the Horned Helmet", Antiquity 39: 23-7.
  • (1967) Pagan Scandinavia, (Ancient Peoples and Places 58) London.
  • (1967) "The Anglo-Saxon Burial at Coombe [Woodnesborough], Kent", Medieval Archeology 11: 1-41 (by H.E. Davidson and L. Webster).
  • (1969) Scandinavian Mythology, Paul Hamlyn, London.
  • (1969) The Chariot of the Sun and Other Rites and Symbols of the Northern Bronze Age, by Peter Gelling and H.E. Davidson, Frederick A. Praeger Publishers, New York.
  • (1969) "The Smith and the Goddess", Frühmittelalterliche Studiern (University of Münster) 3: 216-26.
  • (1971) Beowulf and its Analogues, by George Norman Garmonsway, Hilda Roderick Ellis Davidson, and Jacqueline Simpson; E. P. Dutton.
  • (1972) "The Battle God of the Vikings", (G.N. Garmonsway Memorial Lecture, University of York, Medieval Monographs I, York.
  • (1973) "Hostile Magic in the Icelandic Sagas", The Witch Figure, ed. V. Newall (london) 20-41.
  • (1974) "Folklore and History", Folklore 85.
  • (1975) "Scandinavian Cosmology" in C. Blacker and M. Loewe's Ancient Cosmologies, 172-97, London.
  • (1975) "Folklore and Literature", Folklore 86.
  • (1976) The Viking Road to Byzantium, Allen and Unwin, London.
  • (1978) Patterns of Folklore, D.S. Brewer Ltd, Ipswich. [Appears to reprint earlier articles such as "Thor's Hammer" and "The Sword at the Wedding" also includes an essay on "Lady Godiva"].
  • (1978) "Shape-changing in the Old Norse Sagas" in J.R. Porter's and W.H.S. Russell's Animals in Folklore, 126-42 Folklore Society, Ipswich.
  • (1978) "Mithras and Wodan", Études Mithraïques 4: 99-110, Acta Iranica, Leiden.
  • (1979) "Loki and Saxo's Hamlet", The Fool and the Trickster; Studies in Honor of Enid Welsford, ed. P.V.A. Williams (Cambridge) 3-17.
  • (1979–80) Saxo Grammaticus, The History of the Danes, Books I-IX [Peter Fisher Translation]: Edited with Commentary by H.E. Davidson, Woodbridge: Boydell.
  • (Date unknown, pre-1980) Author of the article "Hero" in Encyclopædia Britannica.
  • (1980) "Wit and Eloquence in the Courts of Saxo's Early Kings", "To be published as part of the Saxo Symposium, University of Copenhagen 1979."
  • (1980) "Insults and Riddles in the Edda Poems", Published in Edda, A Collection of Essays, 25-46, University of Manitoba Icelandic Series 4, 1983.
  • (1981) "The Restless Dead: An Icelandic Story", in H.E. Davidson and W.M.S. Russell's (eds.) The Folklore of Ghosts, Mistletoe Series 15, London Folklore Society.
  • (1981) "The Germanic World" in M. Loewe and C. Blacker's Divination and Oracles,115-41, London.
  • (1984) "The Hero in Tradition and Folklore: Papers Read at a Conference of the Folklore Society Held at Dyffryn House, Cardiff, July 1982" (World Bibliographical Series), Folklore Society Library.
  • (1984) "The Hero as a Fool: The Northern Hamlet", The Hero in Tradition and Folklore, (ed. H.R.E. Davidson) 30-4, (Mistletoe Books, 19, Folklore Soc.) London,
  • (1988) Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe: early Scandinavian and Celtic religions, Manchester University Press, Manchester.
  • (1989) The Seer in Celtic and Other Traditions, ed. by Hilda Ellis Davidson, John Donald Publishers, Ltd., Edinburgh, 1989.
  • (1989) "Hooded men in Celtic and Germanic Tradition" in G. Davies, Polytheistic Systems, Cosmos 5, 105-124.
  • (1989) "The Training of Warriors" in S. C. Hawkes, Weapons and Warfare in Anglo-Saxon England.
  • (1990) "Religious Practices of the Northern Peoples in Scandinavian Tradition", Temonos 26:23-24
  • (1992) "Human Sacrifice in the Late Pagan Period of North-Western Europe" in M.O.H. Carver's The Age of Sutton Hoo: The Seventh Century in North-Western Europe, 331-40, Woodbridge.
  • (1992) "Royal Graves as Religious Symbols" in W. Filmer-Sankey's Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archeology and History 5, 23-31, Oxford.
  • (1993) Boundaries and Thresholds: papers from a colloquium of the Katherine Briggs Club (editor).
  • (1993) The Lost Beliefs of Northern Europe, Routledge, London.
  • (1993) "The Hair and the Dog", Folklore 104: 151-63 by H. E. Davidson and A. Chaudhri.
  • (1993)The Seer in Celtic and other traditions'
  • (1996) Katharine Briggs: Story-teller, Lutterworth Press.
  • (1996) "Milk and the Northern Goddess" in S. Billington's and M. Green's The Concept of the Goddess, Routledge, New York. [This work is a tribute to Davidson].
  • (1998) Roles of the Northern Goddess, Routledge, London.
  • (2001) "The Wild Hunt" in Supernatural Enemies, Edited by H.E. Davidson and Anna Chaudhri. Carolina Academic Press, Durham, N. C.
  • (2001) Women and Tradition, Hilda Ellis Davidson and Carmen Blacker, Carolina Academic Press, Durham, N.C.
  • (2003) A Companion to the Fairy Tale, Hilda Ellis Davidson and Anna Chaudhri, Boydell & Brewer Ltd.


  1. ^ Billington (1996:XII).
  2. ^ Lindow (2001:339).
  3. ^ a b c d e f Simpson (2006).
  4. ^ a b c Billington (1996:XIV).
  5. ^ "The Coote Lake Medal Archived 7 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine", Folklore Society. Accessed 7 November 2009.
  6. ^ "Previous winners of the Katharine Briggs Folklore Award Archived 2 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine", Folklore Society. Accessed 7 November 2009.
  7. ^ a b Billington (1996:XIII)
  8. ^ Heathen Gods tribute page


  • Billington, Sandra. (1994) "Preface: The Life And Works of Hilda Ellis Davidson" as collected in The Concept of the Goddess (1996) Routledge ISBN 0-415-14421-3
  • James, E. O. (1965). Review of Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, Folklore
  • Lindow, John (2001). Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-515382-0.
  • Tucker, Michael (1989). Review of Myths and Symbols of Pagan Europe, Journal of Design History.
  • Simpson, Jacqueline (August 2006). "Hilda Davidson". Originally published in Folklore, hosted at BNET.

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