Smithsonian Channel is set to reveal the secrets of Britain’s most mysterious sites via Mystic Britain, a road trip mixing mysticism with very British humor, premiering Monday, August 5 at 9 PM ET/PT.
In this 10-part series, television and radio presenter Clive Anderson (Whose Line Is It Anyway?) and anthropologist Mary-Ann Ochota explore the island’s ancient places and rituals. With Mary-Ann more than a match for Clive’s signature wit and irreverence, the pair travel the length of Britain to investigate the strange and sacred beliefs of its past, joining scientists, archaeologists and historians to look at the latest discoveries unearthing what ancient Britons did in the name of their beliefs and why.
In the series premiere, Witches And Demons, Clive travels to the ancient Church of St. Mary’s Troston, where the walls are scored with medieval demonic symbols. Mary-Ann tries her hand at spells and curses, learning why demons really weren’t very smart. Clive tries to understand why people 600 years ago truly believed that demons walked the earth doing the devil’s work. The two discover that these evil creatures transformed into something very real and very human – witches. What drove such intense levels of superstition in our ancestors? And were people really practicing black magic?
Here’s an exclusive look at the premiere episode’s cold open:
Subsequent episodes of MYSTIC BRITAIN are:
THE ROLLRIGHT WITCH
Premieres Monday, August 12 at 9 p.m. ET/PT
In an anonymous field next to a busy main road, Clive visits one of the lesser known mystic locations in Britain: The Rollright Stones. Some of the ancient stones placed at Rollright are twice as old as Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Egypt. For 6,000 years, people have been drawn to this strange place and told supernatural tales of witches, fairies and druids. But who built it, and why? While Mary-Ann Ochota uncovers historical records and tales of witchcraft, Clive tries his hand at Dowsing and Druidic worship. He also meets a metal detectorist who has uncovered an ancient burial ground filled with mystical artifacts, and Clive and Mary-Ann attempt to uncover the true purpose of the stones and their builders.
HADRIAN’S MYSTIC WALL
Premieres Monday, August 19 at 9 p.m. ET/PT
Clive investigates the most impressive legacy of the Roman Empire’s 400-year rule in ancient Britain: Hadrian’s Wall. Clive discovers how the Roman legionaries conquered the known world, while Mary-Ann finds out if ancient Britons were really supernatural warriors, as the Romans claimed. Travelling to the ancient Roman fort town of Vindolanda, Hexham Abbey, the Treasure House in Hull, and of course, along the wall itself, they uncover the supernatural beliefs and defenses used in the mystic battle between the ancient Britons and the Roman invaders along Hadrian’s Wall.
Premieres Monday, August 26 at 9 p.m. ET/PT
Clive visits the best-preserved medieval village in Britain, where a jumble of bones found 50 years ago has recently been discovered to carry the signature marks of violence. Were they human sacrifices, outsiders murdered by angry villagers, victims of cannibalism? Legend holds that they may have been revenants – the medieval undead who rose from their graves to cause chaos and spread evil. To find out, Clive drives a tractor and trains as a butcher while Mary-Ann Ochota puts her anatomy skills to the test in a lab and visits an empty field with a very gruesome secret.
THE PAGAN PRINCE
Premieres Monday, September 2 at 9 p.m. ET/PT
In the famous seaside town of Southend, Clive unearths the story of the lost Prince of Prittlewell, whose burial is a strange fusion of ancient paganism and Christianity. Clive discovers the astonishing contents of his grave, containing hundreds of precious items including gold, swords and, most amazingly, two tiny crosses placed over the eyes. Clive plays Saxon lord for a day to come to grips with this long dead world, while Mary-Ann discovers an unknown skill as a Saxon lyre player. What really happened in this battle between paganism and Christianity, and who was this long dead prince?
Premieres Monday, September 9 at 9 p.m. ET/PT
In this episode, Clive disproves some common misconceptions about mummies – namely, that they were all Egyptian and wrapped in bandages. He learns that the Bronze Age Britons had their own bizarre and gruesome way of preserving the dead. On a Dorset farm, Clive confronts a skeleton that was pegged together like a marionette, and Mary-Ann discovers how the ancient Britons created unique franken-mummies. The two go on to reveal the connection between smoked salmon, beef jerky and Bronze Age British mummies.
Premieres Monday, September 16 at 9 p.m. ET/PT
Could ancient Britons really have practiced human sacrifice? Travelling to mighty Iron Age hill forts, Clive makes bread and drinks beer while Mary-Ann Ochota interprets this ancient world through the surprising medium of Lego. Britain’s legacy as the home of cream tea and bowler hats is put into question as Clive and Mary-Ann discover whether the Britons still sacrificed people during the Roman period in defiance of the law.
ICE AGE SHAMAN
Premieres Monday, September 23 at 9 p.m. ET/PT
Clive travels back before the dawn of civilization to a lost ice age world of shamans in Yorkshire. While he dons antlers and takes part in a shamanistic ritual, Mary-Ann helps build a copy of the oldest house in Britain. Clive hunts for dead fish with the world’s oldest bow, and Mary-Ann investigates the oldest piece of jewelry in Britain, uncovering its Scandinavian roots in the process. This is the discovery of an astonishing world lost to us until now, an alien time when the island’s north still lay under glaciers.
SECRETS OF STONEHENGE
Premieres Monday, September 30 at 9 p.m. ET/PT
Clive tries to unravel why Britain’s greatest Stone Age monument was built – and why whoever built it chose the middle of Salisbury Plain. Builder suspects include Merlin the wizard (with the help of giants), as well as the last of the Stone Age people. Mary-Ann meets a long dead visitor from abroad and searches for the truth behind one of the world’s most famous monuments – whether it be Stone Age tourist attraction, mystic burial site or the last gasp of a dying way of life.
Premieres Monday, October 7 at 9 p.m. ET/PT
In the season finale, Clive and Mary-Ann take a whistle-stop tour through the last 11,000 years and review the remarkable mystic mysteries they’ve unraveled along the way.
Mystic Britain is produced by Blink Films for Smithsonian Networks. Dan Gold is the series producer, while Andra Heritage and Dan Chambers are executive producers for Blink Films. John Cavanagh, Charles Poe and David Royle serve as executive producers for Smithsonian Channel.