Dr Sheila Young

Dr Sheila Young
Dr Sheila Young
Dr Sheila Young

Honorary Research Fellow



Sheila Young in an Honorary Research Fellow at the Elphinstone Institute at the University of Aberdeen. She is also qualified Inter-cultural Communications trainer and ran her own consultancy in Aberdeen for 15 years. She teaches Inter-cultural communication and Dress and Adornment on the Mlitt in Ethnology and Folklore at the University of Aberdeen.

She has presented academic papers at academic Ethnology and Folklore conferences, such as SIEF, AFS and the Nordic Ethnology Conference. She has published articles in academic journals such as Nomina, Journal of Scottish Name Studies, Folklore and Cultural Analysis, and in 2019  her first monograph Prenuptial Rituals in Scotland was published by Lexington Books.

Young worked and studied concurrently and graduated from Aberdeen University in 2009 with a 1st class Honours degree in Scottish Cultural Studies.    After having a well deserved rest for a year, she joined the Elphinstone Institute's MLitt programme in Ethnology and Folklore and then began her Phd research , which she completed in 2016.

She won the 2008  Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland Essay Prize for her work on Oilfield Names and was co-winner of the Ruth Michaelis-Jena Ratcliff Prize in 2018 for contributions to British Folklore for her doctoral thesis. 








  • PhD Ethnology and Folklore 
    2016 - University of Aberdeen 
    Dissertation Title: The Hen Party: Form, Meaning and Function
  • MLitt Ethnology and Folklore (audited) 
    2011 - University of Aberdeen 
  • Post-graduate Diploma Careers Guidance 
    1980 - Edinburgh Napier University 
  • MA (ord) Arts 
    1978 - University of Aberdeen 

External Memberships

Foklore Society - Member

American Folklore Society - Member

International Society for Ethnology and Folklore - Member


Latest Publications

View My Publications

Prizes and Awards



2018 Ruth Michaelis-Jena Ratcliff Prize for contribution to British Folklore for PhD Thesis: The Hen Party: a study of the form, meaning and function of a prenuptial ritual for women  


2008 Essay Prize. Society for Name Studies in Britain and Ireland. ‘Oil and Gas Field Names in the Central and Northern Sectors of the North Sea: their provenance, cultural influence, longevity and onshore migration’






Research Overview

  • The hen party - its evolution, current form, meaning and function
  • The blackening - its evolution from the feet washing, current form, meaning and function
  • Drinking practices at hen parties
  • Marriage during the Covid pandemic - the challenges of organising a wedding during a pandemic. Changing attitudes to marriage as a result of the pandemic. 
  • Place names - oilfield names in the Northern North Sea
  • Place Names - the names of rock and ice climbs on Lochnagar in NE Scotland
  • Place names as evidence for the deer park in the Royal Forest of Drum

Current Research

Prenuptial Rituals in Scotland: Blackening the Bride and Decorating the Hen was published in 2019 and was based on my doctoral research into pre-wedding rituals for women in Northern Scotland. Pre-wedding rituals are surely some of the most distinctive features of Scottish cycle of life traditions, so my book will examine the form, meaning and function of these customs as they are practised today, their local and regional variations, as well as how they have evolved and how they are communicated and perpetuated. I will focus particularly on the contemporary hen party and the blackening. 

The hen party and the blackening give women the opportunity to engage in collective activities which license otherwise taboo behaviour. What impact does this have on group and individual identity, on attitudes towards the marriage and on society’s attitudes towards women? My book  goes some way towards answering these questions and helps us gain a better understanding of the social function of the traditions we see around us. Through examining the small we discover the big.  Pre-wedding rituals have much to tell us about women as they approach marriage in the twenty-first century.

As part of my PhD research into hen parties I created a typology of hen party games and activities.

I am currently researching the effects of the Covid pandemic on wedding planning. The pandemic has caused huge upheaval for those trying to get married since the virus appeared at the end of 2019.  At one point, the Scottish government reduced the number attending a wedding to 5, which included the couple and the official conducting the ceremony. For much of lockdown the number of guests allowed was around 20. The rules changed frequently, and often quite suddenly. As a result couples faced difficult choices. Guests were invited, then uninvited, and at times, re-invited. This caused enormous stress on the one hand, but it also forced couples to re-evaluate the terms "marriage" and "wedding". Did the couple want the wedding of their choice, and if so, how long were they willing to wait for that? Or was it more important to get married, and if so, would they be willing to do so with a considerably fewer number of guests? It also made couples examine their reasons for getting married. 

I am interested in finding out if any of the short term changes to the marriage ritual brought about by the Covid pandemic are carried into the future. Will weddings become smaller, more intimate and potentially less expensive? Or will they perhaps become more lavish? 


Teaching Responsibilities

I currently teach inter-cultural communication, and dress and adornment to our Mlitt students. 


Page 1 of 1 Results 1 to 7 of 7

  • Prenuptial Rituals in Scotland: Blackening the Bride and Decorating the Hen

    Young, S. M.
    Lexington Books, Lanham. Boulder. New York. London
    Books and Reports: Books
  • "Stick that in your ****ing PhD!": The dilemma of how to respond to aggressive behaviour during fieldwork

    Young, S.
    Contributions to Conferences: Papers
  • The Evolution of the Contemporary Blackening

    Young, S.
    Folklore, vol. 128, no. 3, pp. 244-270
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • The Role of Costuming in Two Pre-wedding Ritual for Women in Northern Scotland

    Young, S.
    Cultural Analysis, vol. 15 , no. 2, pp. 29-57
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • The Eternal Ascent: An Exploratory Treatise on Mountain Route Names

    Young, S.
    The Journal of Scottish Name Studies, vol. 10, pp. 137-205
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Lochnagar Route Names

    Young, S.
    Scottish Mountaineering Club Journal, vol. 201, pp. 76-85
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Oil and Gas Field Names in the Central and Northern Sectors of the North Sea: Their Provenance, Cultural Influence, Longevity and Onshore Migration

    Young, S.
    Nomina, vol. 32, pp. 75-112
    Contributions to Journals: Articles


Books and Reports

Contributions to Conferences

Contributions to Journals