Possum Review

POSSUM (2018.)

Directed by Matthew Holness.

Starring Sean Harris and Alun Armstrong.

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I didn’t by any stretch of the imagination have a miserable childhood. I didn’t live in poverty or in a run down house on the edge of some industrial area that not so long ago was a rural and beautiful place. Wallpaper wasn’t peeling off the walls. Everything wasn’t a dull yellow and the garden wasn’t overgrown and hiding the ruins of some long forgotten out building. I didn’t have any of that but Possum made me think I did.

Without revealing too much plot, Possum is the story of Phillip (Sean Harris) returning to his childhood home and having to live with his demons. It is unclear what he has done to make him return home. His stepfather lingers in the corners of the house seemingly tormenting him. In the background a story develops about a missing person and Philip seems to have some baggage that he needs to get rid of. You need not know anymore as you enter into this fever dream of your life in the United Kingdom of the bleak 1980s. As I watched Possum I felt like I was watching a public information film. It was like a memory of sitting in a classroom watching a huge box television that had been wheeled in by the janitor. I was expecting to be warned about the dangers of railroad crossings. The video suffering from the neglect of nobody adjusting the contrast on the television for at least ten years and the audio suffering from a build up of static and the wear of repeated viewings. Instead of the dangers of railroads or a lesson in science or geography you have instead been heavily dosed with LSD. As it sets in a long suppressed memory comes to the fore and plays out on screen. The demons are set loose and become a horrendous reminder of a life you aren’t sure if you did or didn’t live. That is what Possum was to me.

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Visually and audio wise Possum is a masterpiece. Think Scarfolk Council and you are there. Remove all humour and insert forgotten trauma instead. The music is haunting and used along with sound effects to great effect. Drifting in and out like that worn out VCR copy you probably watched a hundred times in your time at school. The story is disturbing and even though slow captivates you and keeps you engaged. It builds and builds in tension throughout and it never lets you truly understand what is happening. For a lot of people today that sounds poor, but to me it was brilliant. Why does the missing person story keep appearing? Is it relevant? What is the significance of his step dad? Is that really there? And so on and so on.

The only issue I had with it was a poorly executed ending. It sure is disturbing but it ultimately fell flat for me. But then again I feel that is what the horror genre suffers from most of all. It is hard to wrap up such subjects, especially ones as bleak as this. Ultimately you should watch it and let those suppressed memories come flooding back.

Reviewed by Paul Beech

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THE WICK – A disturbing tale of deceit and persecution two years on.

THE WICK – A disturbing tale of deceit and persecution two years on.

Two years ago I reported on an exciting new Folk Horror film that was in its early pre-production stages trying to raise funds to help move the project on. A Crowd funder page was set up and through the generous support of people from around the globe – including Folk Horror Revival – enough money was raised to move the film closer to becoming a real thing. FHR caught up with Michelle Coverley (writer and producer of `THE WICK’ and the films herbal healing protagonist) for an update.

Folk Horror Revival: Can you briefly remind us what the film is about and in particular what you feel makes it a work of Folk Horror?

Michelle Coverley: `THE WICK’ is a dark, period drama, set in the early 1800’s in rural England, seventy-three years after witch trials were banned. It’s a disturbing tale of deceit and persecution of a woman who fights for justice against a lawless witch hunter.

`THE WICK’ definitely channels Folk Horror. The village that Esther, our female protagonist lives in, is extremely superstitious to the point of horrifying. What these villagers are led to believe, without much proof and the lengths that some of them go to, to ‘fix’ things is quite shocking. The deception and ignorance is quite barbaric, with folklore and religion being at the heart of it.

FHR: What inspired you to embark on this journey and dedicate so much of your life for the last few years to `THE WICK’?

MC: I decided to take a step from acting into writing and producing as I found there is a lack of female protagonists in film, as well as a lack of presence of women in the film industry. I realised that doing this would bring me more control over my career and give me the satisfaction that by telling my stories, women have a voice.

I wanted to make short film on a small budget with a strong female lead. I thought about potential locations that looked interesting on screen but were cheap or free to film at. I decided a forest would be a great idea, then went to bed and the next morning, awoke with the idea about witchcraft. Who knows where it came from? I really have no idea? But I searched for historical British witch trials that morning on line and came across a few about how some of these women fought back, this really caught my eye. From there, I heavily researched the subject and then began to write the script. Although period drama can be pretty difficult and expensive to make, I felt so strongly about the subject matter, I just went with it.

FHR: So what stage in the production are you at now?

MC: We are in post-production at the moment. We finished shooting at the end of June, then went straight into the editing room. We are now trying out and tweaking different versions of the edit and experimenting with music composition. After this, it will be the colour grade, then onto promotion and pushing it round domestic and international film festivals.

FHR: Has much changed about the story during the filming and if so was it born of necessity or was it an organic change that occurred once the actors started inhabiting the characters?

MC: The story didn’t change during the filming process as that could be tricky and problematic, but the script had gone through changes after the postponement of the shoot last year. We had to postpone because of budget limitations and then I realised that the story had to be more focused on just a couple of themes and characters instead of skimming over the surface of many. It was a blessing in disguise and I’m so happy that I waited till this year to shoot.

FHR: What has been the biggest challenge so far and what has been the biggest/ best moment(s)?

MC: The forced postponement last year was one of the biggest challenges that I endured and I was totally not expecting it. It was a massive shock to the system and as I was the writer, producer and lead actor, I had so much invested in this project and had to single-handedly sort it out. Although I got through it and didn’t lose too much of the budget, I found it hard at first, to pick the project up again. Finding the right director was also a challenge. Not only do you have to share a similar vision, you also need to have the same way of working too. I feel that finding the right people to collaborate with is one of the most important things to get right as a filmmaker.

One of the best moments for me was turning up on set with my actor’s hat on and feeling so confident and content that I could trust every single crew member to do their job. Those first few moments kind of blew my mind actually. I arrived on set with the other actors, crew were running around, setting up their equipment, placing last minute props and the extras were all in costume. It was pretty emotional seeing it all coming together. I couldn’t actually believe it was happening at last and we were finally about to do the first take. I’ll never forget that moment. The other amazing moment was on the last day and wrapping the last scene. Holding the clapperboard and getting a group photo was so special too.

Also, having quite a well-known actor, Ian Reddington on set was a fantastic experience. He was such a great laugh and really relaxed and easy going. Acting alongside a pro was amazing. I was buzzing, knowing that he genuinely wanted to be a part of my short film and that he took time out of his busy schedule to do it. It was a privilege and I am very thankful to him for that.

FHR: So what is next – for the film and for you?

MC: I can’t wait to finish post-production, to then start the fun process of promotion and the film festival circuit so people can actually watch what we’ve all created. I’m also itching to start my next short film script too. With THE WICK, I didn’t want to direct it, as I was wearing too many hats already. But I’m very keen to direct this next script. It’s a supernatural thriller.

THE WICK Website:( http://www.michellecoverley.com/the-wick-short-film)
THE WICK Facebook:( https://www.facebook.com/TheWickShortFilm)
THE WICK Instagram:( https://www.instagram.com/thewickshortfilm/)

Folklore Thursday: Vasilisa the Brave

VASILISA

One of the most popular characters of Russian folk characters is a heroine named Vasilisa (or Vasilissa) who appears in several Russian fairy tales collected by the folklorist Alexander Afanasyev. Known variously as Vasilisa the Wise, Vasilisa the Brave and Vasilisa the Beautiful, her virtues are held in esteem.
In a trope familiar to fairytales the world over, Vasilisa’s mother died whilst Vasilisa was still a child and her father remarries another woman who proves to be an unkindly stepmother to her. Furthermore her stepsisters were none too kindly either. When her father had reason to travel away for a while, the family moved into a cabin deep within a huge forest.
Vasilisa was given a heavy workload of chores by her new family, but she had in her possession a magic doll that was her mother’s final gift to her and which assisted her with her work. Also the stepmother would send Vasilisa out into the forest to collect sticks or mushrooms, but really in the hope that the girl would become fatally lost.
Whilst living in that remote cabin within the woods, the girls were instructed always to have a single candle kept alight from which other fires could be lit. It so happened one day that one of the elder stepsisters let the candle go out, so the young Vasilisa was ordered to gather fire from their nearest neighbour, who was none other than the witch Baba Yaga. So Vasilisa made the considerable trek beneath the darkness of trees to the macabre chicken-legged hut of Baba Yaga. On the way she is passed in turn by three horsemen. Each of which is clad in a single colour which also corresponds to their mount; first a white rider, then a red then finally a black rider whom nightfall followed soon after. Reaching the abode of the old witch, Vasilisa is petrified by the skulls on the fenceposts, whose eye-sockets burn with an eerie glow. Upon finding the girl, Baba Yaga instructs her that in order to retrieve fire Vasilisa must undertake certain tasks.
However should she fail in these chores or attempt to leave without performing them, then she was informed that she would be cooked and eaten.
The duties allocated to her were to clean Baba Yaga’s hut, to separate bad kernels of grain from the good and to separate poppy seeds from soil. Baba Yaga left the girl to her business but Vasilisa was distraught and already exhausted from her long walk through the woods. However the magic doll again assisted her in her tasks and the girl slept.
In the morning, Vasilisa looked out and saw the white rider pass by, later on the red rider passed and finally the black rider, followed both by darkness and the return of Baba Yaga. Seeing the chores beset Vasilisa completed, the witch proceeded to invoke several pairs of invisible hands to wring juice from the separated grains. She asked Vasilisa if she had any questions. The girl enquired about the horsemen and was informed that the white rider was the break of dawn, the red rider was the midday sun and the black one was the fall of night. Vasilisa was then about to enquire about the disembodied hands that worked for the old woman, but sensing this the magic doll in her apron pocket shook as if to warn her to hold her tongue. Vasilisa understood this and asked not of the mysterious hands.
Instead Baba Yaga asked How Vasilisa had managed to complete the difficult chores she had beset her. Vasilisa replied not too revealingly but not untruthfully that she had managed through her mother’s blessing.
The old witch wanted to hear of no blessing in her abode so cast Vasilisa out into the dark, but did not renege her promise and gave the girl a skull upon a stick. The fire in the dead eyes would both illuminate her path home and relight the fires within the cabin.
Upon returning there however, her stepmother and stepsisters became transfixed by the smoldering eyes of the skull and were reduced to nought but ashes. Vasilisa buried the skull.
Different tales follow the further life of Vasilisa, in one she is seen to weave threads of flax into gold or the finest silk. So impressed is the Tsar himself upon seeing the cloth, that he bids Vasilisa to meet him. Upon seeing her he is smitten with her beauty and takes her for his wife. In another variation Vasilisa is named as the girl whose kiss transformed a frog into a prince, who was then to become her husband. Whatever the tale of Vasilisa’s later life, there seems to be a common agreement that she and her father spent it in greater wealth and happiness than before.

From the book Black Earth: A Field Guide to the Slavic Otherworld. Written and Illustrated by Andy Paciorek

BABA YAGA

Samhain Greetings and Book Discount

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🎃 Happy Samhain – All Hallows – Día de Muertos – Failte na Marbh – Halloween to All Revivalists … 🎃
A little early but to mark the thinning of the veils treat your ghoulfriend or boofriend or yourself or anybody to 20% off Folk Horror Revival / Wyrd Harvest Press Books !!!

Use Code: TWENTY18
at checkout at -* http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/andypaciorek

*All Sales profits of books bought through our online store ^ are donated quarterly to The Wildlife Trusts

Using the Discount Code here, does not affect the sum donated to charity, so help a damn fine charity by buying great books at a bargain price !!
Offer ends 1 November at 11:59 PM 🍂☀️

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The Wyrd Kalendar – Wyrd Artists Mix

Join the Kalendar Host as we prepare for the launch of the Wyrd Kalendar album. This will be released on January 1st the beginning of the next Wyrd year.

Artists from the England, Scotland, Ireland and Portugal were each given a month of the year and a story from the book (Wyrd Kalendar) as a starting point from which to create a vastly eclectic and evocative mix of genres that sweep from the worlds of Folk to Electronica via Psychedelic licks and lost Horror Soundtracks.

Explore the work of these artists and find out more about the music they have created in this special mix. Listen to The Hare and the Moon (lead by Grey Malkin who has created the Song for January with his new group Widow’s Weeds), Keith Seatman, Emily Jones, Crystal Jacqueline, Beautify Junkyards, Alison O’Donnell, Concretism, Icarus Peel, Tir na nOg, Wyrdstone, The Soulless Party, The Rowan Amber Mill and The Mortlake Bookclub.

You can preorder the album here: https://megadodo.bandcamp.com/album/wyrd-kalendar

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Wyrd Kalendar by Mega Dodo, releases 01 January 2019 1. Widow’s Weeds – A Song for January 2. Keith Seatman – Three Day Girl 3. Emily Jones – Waiting for Spring 4. Crystal Jaqueline – Chasing the Gowk 5. Beautify Junkyards – May Day Eve 6. Alison O’Donnell – Deadly Nest 7. Concretism – The Fair by the Sea 8. Icarus Peel – The Weeping Will Walk 9.

The ancient streets too dead for dreaming….. (a book review)

The ancient streets too dead for dreaming – interview and review by Jim Peters

`It was the morning a scarecrow ran across the field and got tangled up in the fence that I realised the game was really up.’

Any book of tales that includes one that starts with these opening lines and claims to have been collected by the author from the residents of Low Scaraby has surely got to be worth picking up and investigating? How right you are…….

“Too Dead For Dreaming is a collection of 23 stories of weirdness, wonder and woe. Most are stand-alone but in several there is the setting of Low Scaraby. It’s a village that’s hidden in the gently rolling Wolds of Lincolnshire. Most people will not have heard of it and that’s pretty much how the villagers like it. I know a few people there and have been able to pick up on some of the stories of the place. A lot of people say there’s something in the soil in those parts. It’s true.”

Read on and find out more about the author and about this marvellously intriguing and refreshing collection of 23 stories from the pen of Richard Daniels – in the shops from November 9th from Plastic Brain Press.

Richard Daniels is a difficult writer to describe or fully understand. His stories seem more like dreams being recounted half-remembered and still full of possibility – snatches of brilliant ideas that many people would dismiss as `just ideas’ but in his hands they become fascinating and decidedly dark vignettes. In the same way that some of Bob Dylan’s best narrative songs seem to start half way through and end leaving you with 100 questions (think `All Along the Watchtower’, ` Frankie Lee & Judas Priest’ or `Lily Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts’) Richard’s stories use a similar technique to draw you in and have you investing in his tales. Folk Horror Revival managed to get a few words with Richard about his craft and in particular `Too Dead for Dreaming’ and as his responses show his unconventional approach to writing extends to interview responses too…..

“I’m not sure how I ended up writing. It was something that I always did one way or another. The killer blow came when I started to take it seriously. I think Freddie Mercury put it best when he spoke about Flash Gordon and I would apply the same standard. I’m just a man, with a man’s courage. Of course I haven’t saved the Earth yet.

I like reading Guy N Smith, particularly when I’m in bed and you can hear the wind howling outside but I draw inspiration from anything, from the metallic prism of an old sweet wrapper to the homely traditions of dated Christmas cards with pictures of churchyards in the snow.”

This eclectic mix of inspirations manifests itself in the stories in Richard’s latest book with tales that cover James Dean (on wheels), the death of a rock star, ghosts in machines as well as the lost city of Atlantis. What makes this spectrum of stories so intriguing is that tiny hints and links will peep out at you as you read which suggest that they are all part of a bigger story yet to be told.

There is some real darkness in them there tales which opens up with a nihilistic rant that wouldn’t sound out of place on the lips of Frankie Boyle and ends with a nod to `The Never Ending Story’ but running throughout the book is a feeling of unsettling rural oddness which carries more than just a hint of Folk Horror. Does the author agree with this description though?

“I think aspects of it certainly do. Taken as a whole I think it creates a mood which can be unsettling in some way. A lot of life is unsettling and the mind is a natural narrative creating machine, so it’s got to do something with all the chaos and weirdness that just doesn’t fit. The 23 stories in Too Dead for Dreaming are just an aspect of that.

My earliest memory is walking to school and clutching hold of my mother’s hand very tightly when we went through the graveyard. It is forever Autumnal and thick with the smell of rotting leaves. I would close my eyes until we were through it. Things like that swirled around and mixed with TV shows I couldn’t make head nor tale of – like Sapphire & Steel or Chocky. For me Folk Horror is often a balanced mix between comfort and discomfort and the thrusting of signs and symbols onto your psyche which you know are telling you something but which can never quite be fathomed and perhaps it is for the best.”

It’s very on trend currently to be working within the Folk Horror genre but this collection of stories doesn’t feel like it is trying to do that – it feels like folk horror’s presence in the pages of `Too Dead for Dreaming’ is not just a nod to the genre but a wider reflection on the influences that Richard draws on.

“I recently went out on a night walk with my friend Tom. It was one of those late night expeditions where the darkness seemed made to be explored in the same way a dream you have is made to be explored. We had our torches – an essential folk horror piece of kit. Down a deserted country track we came upon a hooded figure on a bench with a beast keeping guard. Our hearts started racing and had we been out walking alone without each other for company I’m sure we would have turned back. The figure paid us no mind – nor did his beast. We ended up on the winding roads of an industrial park. Sure it could just have been a dog walker but I think it more likely to have been something more eerie and spectral.

I think the best way to work up ideas is to take a long walk. I’m lucky where I live – I can be out on a track with nothing but fields within a few minutes. That’s often when I turn ideas over and poke at them. Usually by the time I return I have found one or two juicy worms I can bring home and keep in a jar. The only real ritual I have is to have a cup of coffee on the go and in the winter a blanket or two wrapped about me at my desk….”

Some of this publication’s best `worms’ are the stories that deal with the possibly diabolical careers of a movie director and a rock star. By the time you have read them you will want to track down the film `Hexagasm’ and Chip Chatterton’s “hypnotic solo’ album `Lost behind the Rainbow’ so it is with a real sense of annoyance that you have to remind yourself that Richard has made all this up….I even e-mailed Plastic Brain Press for details on how to access the film `Hexagasm’ – I won’t spoil the fun by telling you what their response was. These two stories aside the subject matter covered in `Too Dead for Dreaming’ is so wide reaching that most readers will find a story that has that familiar feel for them whilst still having a fresh spin on it as part of the whole. I have read and re-read and still it feels like there are clues that I have missed which will help explain why Low Scaraby is a source of such marvellous tales – maybe Richard’s future plans will help answer these questions….so Mr D. what is next?

“Next it’s back to the compost heap. I have a few ideas for a longer examination of Low Scaraby’s topography. I’m also going to be helping to edit a collection of poems by Melody Clark who designed the cover for Too Dead for Dreaming. From what I’ve seen so far the poems are dark, devilish and fun.”

I thoroughly recommend `Too Dead for Dreaming’ and thank Richard for not only providing a preview of his work but also for answering my questions. Before we sign off though I had one last question….

  • Do you have any particular book recommendations (not necessarily Folk Horror)?

    “If you’re a Folk Horror fan and haven’t already read A Year in the Country by Stephen Prince I think you would really enjoy it.
    I’ve recently read Graveyard Love by Scott Adlerberg which was great and set around obsession in a wintry graveyard.
    Everyone should definitely read GBH by Ted Lewis. He wrote Get Carter and seems to be much underrated and mostly forgotten in this country. GBH was his last novel. It’s set in Lincolnshire and is utterly brilliant.”

    `Too Dead For Dreaming’ by Richard Daniels is out on 9th November and is published by Plastic Brain Press.

Folklore Thursday: Samhain and the Celtic Vampires

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In Ireland, the Failte na Marbh (Festival of the Dead) was held annually on the 31st October. (also known as Samhain. All Souls and most commonly Halloween).  At this time, the dead would pay a short visit to their living relatives and, after a year in the grave, they were obviously thirsty and famished. It was then the duty of the living kin to provide them with food and drink. If sufficient victuals were not offered, the dead would then feed from the veins of the living. These creatures were known as Marbh Bheo – the Night-walking Dead. On the Scottish Isle of Skye pure vengeance was often thought to be the prime mover for the Biasd Bheulach. These Vampire-like creatures would not only spare their revenge for the specific individuals who had done them wrong in life, or had sent them to the grave, but would exact grim penance upon any living soul that fell within their grasp. In England the dead thought most likely to rise again were suicides & executed criminals, and Northumbria in particular was said to have suffered several Vampire plagues. Prevalent also in both Irish and Scottish lore were Vampires that had no discernible human heritage, and instead seemed to be of a malevolent Fay stock. Such a shadowy creature was the Irish Dearg-Due or Dearg-Diulai – the Red Bloodsucker. Frequently the Dearg-Diulai appeared as beautiful, pale females cloaked in a sanguine-red capes. Attracting warm-blooded males with their feminine charm, seduction soon turned to slaughter.

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The Baobhan Sith, or Spirit Women, are a strange breed of Scottish Vampiric entities. They most frequently manifest as small groups of beguiling women, dressed in flowing green cloaks that almost conceal the fact that their legs are of a form more befitting Deer. They may also at times take the forms of Hooded Crows. Highland tales relate how they may entrance men with their dancing before sinking their fangs into them. The Baobhan Sith display a fear of cold iron.

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The Glaistig are green-clad Fay women of fair beauty despite their lower bodies which are actually those of Goats. They are solitary creatures of converse character, for whilst they at times may greatly assist children, old people and cattle-farmers, should they chance upon lone male travellers or shepherds then their temperament changes entirely. They will first engage their victim in a seductive dance, before murdering and feasting upon them. In addition to fresh man’s blood the Glaistigs also have a taste for fresh cow’s milk.
Abridged text and amended images from Strange Lands: A Field Guide to the Celtic Otherworld – © Andy Paciorek


‘On Halloween Strange Sights Are Seen’ – About a Short film by Tea & Morphine

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On 31st October, this Halloween, ‘Tea & Morphine’ will take us on an unusually eerie walk through a small Hertfordshire allotment. In this seven minute video short the viewer is taken on a surreal journey that transforms an everyday allotment into a world of mystery and intrigue as we are introduced to the many weird and wonderfully handcrafted characters who reside among the plots there.

Along the way we encounter sinister sunflowers, pumpkin laden tables and a whole host of quirky scarecrows and oddly imagined effigies, set to the atmospherically whimsical music of The Parlour Trick, the film takes the traditionally English pastime and spins a darkly twisted tale of the unseen going’s on when the inhabitants are left alone to their own devices. With no rigid plot or narrative it is left to the viewer to imagine the storyline as the procession moves dreamily through this surreal landscape.

‘Tricksters and Threats’. Also known as: Scarecrows, Wurzels, Tatter-Men, Mommets, Bugbears ~ Tatty-Bogles cannot help but frighten, as they shamble down country roads with their arms outstretched as if crucified – yet inspiring terror may not be their prime motive, as they simply want to stretch their legs after a long day of solitude standing. The fear generated in human observers may be either amusing or regrettable to them, or it may even go unregistered. It is by their very name and nature to frighten, for they are the Scarecrows erected in fields by farmers to try and protect their crops from the hungry beaks of birds.

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The reasons for their nocturnal animation is somewhat of a mystery, for perhaps not all will rise and leave their plot, but some seem more inclined to come to life at night. Perhaps this is of their own volition or maybe there is some external enchantment at work. It could be that the magic of Witches or perhaps Fay beings animate these rag-bag effigies in order to cause mischief or perform other tasks. Otherwise a Scarecrow could provide an ideal host for a wandering spirit or Demon that possesses no true form of its own. Such strange and shapeless souls are the Brollochan. These uncanny wanderers may visibly consist of at best a mouth and pair of eyes but they can grant mobility to any inanimate object they enter. Should a Tatty-Bogle be thus possessed by a Brollochan, this would be revealed as “Thyself” and “Myself” are said to be the only words it can utter.

Extract on the folklore of scarecrows from – ‘Strange Lands ~ Supernatural Creatures of the Celtic Otherworld’ by Andrew L. Paciorek.

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http://theparlourtrick.com
Music is by The Parlour Trick; a song chosen from ‘A Blessed Unrest’ known “The Halloween album of the year” ~ Douglas Wolk (Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, TIME) Meredith Yayanos; Voice, strings, theremin, percussion & Dan Cantrell; Accordion, bass accordion, pump organ, celeste, glockenspiel, percussion.
https://theparlourtrick.bandcamp.com

‘On Halloween Strange Sights Are Seen’ is being shown Wednesday 31st October 2018 on the Tea & Morphine Facebook Page

https://www.facebook.com/teaandmorphine/
Images © 2018 Tea & Morphine

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Folklore Thursday ~ Night Hags and Demon Lovers

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Night Hags: Also known as: Night-Mares, Mara, Mera, Mares, Crushers, Drudes, Mare-Demons, Hagges, Haints, Entities, Mallt y Nos, Night-Fiends, Cauchemar, Night-Elves.
Sometimes people who suffered from wasting diseases such as Tuberculosis Consumption were said to look ‘Haggard’ or ‘Hag-Ridden’. This refers to the belief that, as they slept, a Night-Hag had entered their bedchambers and either sat upon their chests crushing them (but not to the point of fatality) and perhaps sucked away at their breath, or their vitality, or alternatively had actually ridden their victims entirely into the air and sometimes over distance. Either way, their human victims were left exhausted and often diseased. The alternative name of Mara and its similar derivatives is said to have meant Crusher in Old-English, and it is from this word that the term Night-Mare originated – initially meaning not a bad dream but an actual external terror. The term Hag-Riding has also been applied when horses who had been left resting have been found to be exhausted and covered in sweat in the morning. Again it was considered that the Night-Hags had been riding the horses around in circles to the point of collapse during the hours of darkness. In some locations it was thought that these fiends on horseback delivered bad dreams to households, thus giving an additional meaning to Night-Mare. An alternatively used term to Hag-Riding is to be Owl-Blasted, which refers to the belief that Night-hags would sometimes take the form of these nocturnal birds.

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Demon Lovers: An Incubus is a male spirit that seeks to indulge a mortal woman in carnal activity, whilst a Succubus is a female spirit that likewise preys on the passions of mortal men. However it has been suggested that both spirits are one and the same, and that the Incubi / Succubi adopts only a specific gender in relationship to its particular victim. The nature of these nocturnal paramours preyed heavily upon the minds of the Medieval Church, possibly because many of the alleged victims were members of their own ministry who had prescribed to a life of chastity. (Merlin, the great sage of Arthurian legend was thought to be the offspring of an Incubus and a Nun). The Church scholars deliberated on whether the phenomenon was mere hallucination borne out of celibate frustration, or sinful fantasies made flesh, but this held their own people to blame almost as much as the other considered option that such claims were in fact a cover-up for actual corporeal liaisons with human partners. Frequently, though, those who claimed an encounter with an Incubus / Succubus seemed not to have been pleasured by such a visit but to have been genuinely shocked and frightened. Therefore further attention was concentrated on seeking out an external, supernatural culprit. They questioned whether these night-visitors were perhaps a salacious breed of Faerie, or maybe vengeful Ghosts, but as all were considered agents of the Devil anyway then it was simple enough to label them Demon-Lovers.

Images and Text © Andy Paciorek
Adapted from the book Strange Lands: A Field Guide to the Celtic Otherworld

The Wyrd Kalendar – The Autumn Mix

Join the Kalendar Host this Autumn for a delicious collection of harvest treats. Words from Wyrd Kalendar, Darren Charles and Howard Ingham mingle with music from the likes of Matt Berry, Moon Wiring Club, Nick Drake, Ivor Cutler, Heslington Primary School, John Barry, Beth Orton, Bridget St. John, Emil Richards, Tricky, Bobby Darin, Mark Barnes, Francoise Hardy, The Dandy Warhols, The Vines, Jon Hopkins, Strawbs, Pulp, Jeff Buckley, Gene Moore, Hi Tension, Pink Floyd, Nat King Cole, Lee Hazelwood, Lonesome Wyatt & the Holy Spooks, Pacific, New Model Army, The Overlanders, Barbara Streisand, The Kinks, XTC, Moondog, Cleaners from Venus, Donna Summer, Kirsty MacColl, God is an Astronaut, Allah Las, Airhead, Forest, Frontier Ruckus, Small Faces, The Spotnicks, Reverend & the Makers, David Cain and Autumn.

Buy the Wyrd Kalendar book: http://www.lulu.com/shop/http://www.lulu.com/shop/chris-lambert/wyrd-kalendar/paperback/product-23371751.html

The Wyrd Kalendar album is coming soon…