Phantasms of the Floating World: Tales of Ghostly Japan

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‘Frolic in Brine: Goblins Be Thine.’

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The 1964 movie Kwaidan (Ghost Stories), directed by Masaki Kobayashi, as well as being a beautiful and atmospheric piece of cinema, is curious in the sense that it is a Japanese movie based on an English book of short stories translating Japanese folk tales. The translator of these tales was Lafcadio Hearn, a man of travel and words.

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Born of Irish and Greek parentage in the Ionian Islands in 1850, Hearn grew up in Ireland under the care of his great-aunt following the tumultuous breakup of his parent’s marriage. The re-stationing of his surgeon-major father to Suez (where he died of malaria) and the internment of his mother in an insane asylum in Corfu meant that young Lafcadio never really knew his parents. His great-aunt, however, was intent that the child should have good schooling and also learning from an interesting life. So time was spent between her Irish home and another residence in Wales. His great-aunt was a devout Catholic and keen that Lafcadio’s education led him on a theological path, yet tales of mythology inspired the boy more than the Bible. He was enrolled at a Catholic state school in France and then at the Catholic College at Ushaw in County Durham, England. It was there that Hearn suffered an eye injury in a sporting accident. Partially blinded and mildly disfigured, Hearn became very self-conscious of his eye and preferred to be photographed in profile so that it could not be seen.

Via London, Hearn moved to the USA and became a journalist in Cincinatti, concentrating mainly on murder reports but also whenever possible outlining the plight of the poor. In 1874 Hearn married Alethea Foley, a young woman of African-American descent. This was not only contrary to much of the racial attitudes commonly held at the time but also shamefully illegal at the time. So the marriage was cited as the reason for his dismissal from the newspaper, but it has been suggested that they were irked by Hearn’s tone on matters regarding social and religious issues (he had grown estranged from his Catholic education). He did find work with another press, but his marriage lasted only three years.

Hearn then moved to New Orleans, where he lived and worked as a journalist for several years. It is at this time that his mind turned again to nuances of culture and folklore and as such created several books on Creole culture and cuisine. Following that, he lived in the West Indies, writing a book there about the life of a slave.

In 1890 he moved to Japan, a place that more than any other sealed his place in literary history. Working there as a teacher, Japan carved a place deep in his heart. He converted to Buddhism, became known locally as Koizumi Yakumo and married Koizumi Setsu, the daughter of a Samurai family, who in turn bore him four children. Furthermore, he wrote numerous books on Japanese culture and folklore, including Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan (1894), Japanese Fairy Tales (1898), In Ghostly Japan (1899), Shadowings (1900) and, most famously, Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (1903). Lafcadio Hearn died aged 54 of heart failure and was buried in Tokyo in 1904; his legacy lives on, however, with his writings, because through his work old tales of ghostly Japan were brought to the West. Through the media of film, Japanese Horror would continue to weave a strange web.

Notably, the 1964 movie Kwaidan bears the strongest association to Hearn. The movie is divided into four parts: ‘The Woman of the Snow’ and ‘Hoichi the Earless’ are both featured in the book Kwaidan: Stories and Strange Things (a beautiful and peculiar collection that diverts from folklore into studies of insects for its final part), but the other cinematic episodes of Kwaidan, ‘The Black Hair’ and ‘In a Cup of Tea’ are taken from Hearn’s Shadowings and Kottō: Being Japanese Curios, With Sundry Cobwebs (1902), respectively.

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‘The Woman of the Snow’ tells the folk tale of a father and son who take refuge from a wild winter storm only to be visited in the night by Yuki-onna, a beautiful but deadly female personification of winter. In ‘Hoichi the Earless’, a blind musician is called before a strange court to play ballads of ancient sea battles. It is feared, however, that his audience may be more than they seem, and in order to protect himself from any maleficence they may cast towards him, he is tattooed head to foot with a protective Buddhist sutra. ‘The Black Hair’ relates the tale of a swordsman who abandons his wife in favour of another but returns home years later to find his first wife forgiving and welcoming of him, or so he thinks. The final tale in the film, ‘In a Cup of Tea’, is the strange story of a writer who keeps seeing faces in, as the title reveals, a cup of tea.

Kwaidan was not the only movie to share the ghost tales (kaidan) of the Heian, Edo and Meiji periods of Japanese history. Historical horrors of Japan have a visual heritage in the Hell Scrolls of the Heian period (8th to 12th century) and in the more phantasmagorical examples of Ukiyo-e (‘pictures of the floating world’), the vibrant woodblock prints and paintings of the 17th to 19th centuries. Ghost stories would feature in illustrated books called kusazoshi (‘grass tales’). Masters such as Utagawa Hiroshige, Katsushika Hokusai, Utagawa Kunisada and Tsukioka Yoshitoshi all created works of a spectral narrative, but perhaps the grand master of floating world horror was the visionary artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi, whose oeuvre was as prolific as it was fantastic.

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In film, such horrors of the Japanese landscape and imagination were also presented in movies such as Kenzi Mizoguchi’s 1954 classic Ugetsu Monogatari (Tales of Moonlight and Rain), based on Ueda Akinari’s 1776 book collection of folk tales of the same name, and Kaneto Shindo’s Onibaba (1964) and Kuroneko (1968). Onibaba (Demon Hag) is a strange and sinister folk horror tale of two women (one old and the other young) who live in a remote hut during the 14th century civil war and eke out an existence by stealing the possessions of dead and dying soldiers. If it is their own actions that cause the soldier to be in such a state, then so be it. However, the lives of the women are thrown into turmoil when a samurai wearing a hannya (demon mask) appears in a local swamp.

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Shindo’s later film Yabu no Naka no Kuroneko (A Black Cat in a Bamboo Grove)—often shortened to Kuroneko—is a tale of revenge as two women who are raped and killed by samurai return to claim vengeance. Mizoguchi’s and Shindo’s movies are beautifully shot as well as being creepily atmospheric historical dramas.

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Perhaps lesser known but certainly worthy of a wider audience is Masahiro Sinoda’s 1975 Sakura no Mori no Mankai no Shita (Under the Blossoming Cherry Trees). This bizarre movie is based on a short story by Ango Sakaguchi. It is not an ancient folk tale but certainly has the feeling of such, as it is a rural murder ballad of a mountain man who rids himself of numerous wives but becomes besotted and slave to the demands of his eighth wife, who may be even more bloodthirsty than he.

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Also popular in this Japanese subgenre of historical folk horror are various cinematic adaptations of Yotsuya Kaidan, a kabuki play written in 1825 by Tsuruya Nanboku IV. Although there are variations on the tale as seen through the eyes of different directors, the basic storyline relates to a young woman, Oiwa, whose husband, Iemon, is coveted by another woman, Oume. Oume sends Oiwa a face cream that is actually a poison, causing her to become disfigured. Horrified by his wife’s appearance, the shallow Iemon arranges for his wife to be raped, so that he can claim a divorce on the grounds of her ‘unfaithfulness’. The would-be rapist, however, takes pity on her and does not rape her. However, he alerts Oiwa to her facial deformity, of which she has been unaware. In her hysteria Oiwa accidentally kills herself with a sword. The death, therefore, gives Iemon opportunity to marry Oume. But just because Oiwa is dead is no reason to assume that she will let the marriage continue peacefully. Movies based on this tale include Nobuo Nakagawa’s 1959 Tôkaidô Yotsuya Kaidan (The Ghost of Yotsuya) and Tai Kato’s 1961 Kaidan Oiwa no Borei (Ghost Story of Oiwa’s Spirit).

Although eclipsed often by Japan’s kaiju eiga (‘monster films’, a popular science fiction / horror sub-genre that has continued from the 1930s to recent years, many of which feature daikaiju—giant abominations such as Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidora), demons and ghosts have never wandered too far from Japanese expressions of the imagination. In Japanese mythology and folklore yōkai are entities whose general name comes from the words for ‘weird’ and ‘otherworldly’. There are, however, many strange and wonderful forms of yōkai that range from ghosts of the dead to devils and include such peculiar abominations as the flesh-eating kappas who are turtle-like humanoids that live in lakes and have a hollow basin on the crowns of their heads; tanuki, which are racoon-dogs with colossal testicles; karakasa, which are sentient old parasols; and tengu, which are bird-headed goblin men. Oni are demons that often try to seize the souls of dying people or corrupt them during their lives. They can vary quite considerably in appearance and have been depicted in various forms in manga and anime, the popular Japanese comic books and animations, as well as in Saiyūki, a great television series of the late 1970s based on the 16th-century Chinese novel, A Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en. Saiyūki is much better known in the West by the name of its main character, Monkey.

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Of all the yōkai, perhaps it is the yurei who have had the longest-lasting influence on Japanese horror both at home and abroad. yurei are the ghosts of people who have died a sudden violent death or in a state of considerable negative emotion such as hatred, sorrow or a lust for revenge or who have been denied proper funerary rites, thus binding them to this world, or at least until the cause of their haunting is properly negated. There are numerous types of yurei, such as zakishi-warashi, which are the mischievous ghosts of children; funayurei, which are the souls of those who died out at sea; and jikininki, which are ghosts that feed on the corpses of the recently deceased. Of all the yurei, it is the onryō, the vengeful ghosts, which are most familiar to fans of horror films—and not only Japanese horror films, as some of the films have been remade by Hollywood.

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Onryō walk the Earth to seek retribution for wrongs that were committed to them in life, and in cinema at least their hunger for revenge may be so strong that it is inflicted upon anyone unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, rather than just the person or persons directly responsible for causing them suffering. However, the dynamic of the storytelling is changed from the spirit being a sorrowful victim lashing out in emotional pain from beyond the grave to an indiscriminate monster if being revived for the sake of sequels. There is a tradition of describing onryō as predominantly female, dressed in a white kimono or robe (the colour of the dead), long black hanging hair (in old Japanese tradition, women would wear their pinned up, but it would be loosened following death) and generally floating above the ground or at least having their feet unseen.

Oiwa was an onryō, a particularly recognisable one due to her disfigured eye, as was the wife of the swordsman in ‘The Black Hair’ and the two women of Kuroneko. Though Yukki-onna fits the physical description of an onryō, the story of her earthly demise is not known though some consider that she is the spirit of one who died in the snow. Other theories place her more as an embodiment of wild winter or possibly a snow goddess.

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The cinematic representation of Yuki-onna certainly draws some comparison to the onryō that were to follow. Of these in recent times none have had a greater impact than Sadako Yamamura. Sadako first appeared in Ringu, the first book of Koji Suzuki’s Ringu trilogy and in the subsequent 1995 television adaptation and the more famous 1998 cinematic film directed by Hideo Nakata.

Unlike the onryō films of previous generations, Ringu is set in contemporary times and has the subplot of a curse that is spread like a virus with the watching of a mysterious videotape. Following viewing the tape, the victim has seven days to live unless they copy the tape and show it to someone else, thus transferring the curse. It is discovered that the curse originated with the death of a well-known psychic, Shizuko, who committed suicide after a claim that she had faked her powers. It becomes evident that her daughter Sadako has no need for fraudulence and is feared and loathed by her father. However, in seeking a cure for the curse, it is discovered that Sadako vanished whilst still little more than a child.

An excellent creepy character of horror fiction, Sadako (like Count Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster before her) has alas been watered down by numerous sequels, American remakes (Sadako now renamed Samara Morgan—Samara actually being a nice name for its similarity to samsara, a word used in Buddhism and other Eastern religions in reference to the cycles of death and rebirth and sometimes used to indicate earthly suffering, although I don’t know whether the similarity is intentional or not) and a large host of other onryō movies to follow in its wake such as Ju-on: the Grudge and Muoi: The Legend of a Portrait. Some of these other onryō films are not bad, but few come close to the cold eeriness of Ringu, which resurrected the Japanese horror film industry for a new generation.

Other films utilising the vengeful ghost theme created not only in Japan but also in other Asian countries such as South Korea and Thailand as well as American remakes of Asian horrors vary in quality. That is not to say onryō films are the only recent examples of a Japanese resurgence in horror, for there are diverse examples of tales of terror that shine brightly from the Land of the Rising Sun. These include the cyberpunk body-horror Tetsuo (Tetsuo: The Iron Man, 1989); Odishon (Audition, 1999), a powerful, unsettling tale of a man seeking a new wife; the pre-Hunger Games story of schoolchildren pitched against each other and forced to become merciless killers, Batoru Rowaiaru (Battle Royale, 2000); the surreal horror Uzamaki (Spiral, 2000); and Imprint (2006), an episode of the television anthology series Masters of Horror in whch a search for a missing young woman turns into a grotesque nightmare. However, it is probably through the modern revisiting of the past folk tale theme of vengeful ghosts explored in Ringu, that horror again was given was given a new lease of life in ghostly Japan.

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Essay by Andy Paciorek.
From the book
Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies (second edition)
Available now from – http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/andypaciorek

Sources.
Specters, Ghosts and Sorcerors in Ukiyo-e

Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art 

The Toho Studios Story: A History and Complete Filmography

By Stuart Galbraith IV. Scarecrow Press, 2008

Ghosts and the Japanese: Cultural Experiences in Japanese Death Legends

By Michiko Iwasaka & Barre Toelken. Utah State University Press, 1994

Wandering Ghost: The Odyssey of Lafcadio Hearn

By Jonathan Cott. Kodansha International, 1992

Lafcadio Hearn and the Vision of Japan

by Carl Dawson. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992

Horror!: 301 Films to See Before a Zombie Sucks Out Your Eyeballs!

By Marriott James & Kim Newman. Carlton Books, 2010

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#Folklore Thursday: Folk Magic – Horse Whisperers

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Horse-Whisperers were far more common in the times when horses were more widely utilised for transportation, agriculture and industry. Some horses more than others are loath to be ridden and strongly resist being tamed. It is in these circumstances that Horse-Whisperers would come into their own. They were so named because they were believed able to calm and train wild horses by whispering into their ears (the Horseman’s Word). There have been suggestions that concoctions of certain aromatic herbs may have also been utilised in the soothing of equine temper and nervousness. Whatever their true methods, it could not be disputed that the Horse-Whisperers generally had an excellent and impressive record of breaking beasts. Onlookers and clients would often conclude that supernatural powers were afoot, a supposition that Horse Whisperers did little to dispel and may even have encouraged. Not just anyone could become a Horse-Whisperer however, for they guarded their prowess with the utmost secrecy. Elaborate Masonic-style initiation was the only way into the ranks in Scotland, and women were never made privy to the Horseman’s Word. Rumours spread that the introductory rites and the deliverance of knowledge involved the presence of the Devil himself. The form of Horse-Whisperers known as Toad-Men heightened this sinister notion further. Their name was derived from their habit of carrying the skeleton of a Toad around in a pouch, apparently as a magical device.

Image and text. © Andy Paciorek. Adapted from the book Strange Lands: A Field Guide to the Celtic Otherworld

View Strange Lands by Andrew L. Paciorek

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

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


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

#FolkloreThursday ~ The Banshee, Bean-Nighe & the Gwrach-y-Rhibyn

Presenting for Folklore Thursday a collection of strange entities from the Paciorek bestiary …
164 banshees+

The Banshee

Also known as: Beansidhe, Bean-Si, Benshee, Fairy Woman, Woman of the Hills, Bachuntas, Badbh-Chaointes, Cointeach, Wailers, The Keener, The One Who Keens, Mna-Sige, Mna-Sidhe, Cyhiraeth, Cyraeth, Cyoerrath, Cyhyraeth, The White Lady of Sorrows, The Weeper, The Skree, Caoineag, Caointeach, Fear-Sidh, Seinn-Bais, Death Music, Tolaeth, Ghost Sounds, Bocanachs, Bowa.

The wail of the Banshee (known as the Keening) is said to be heard either by the person whose death is imminent, or by someone closely associated to them. People with a strong Celtic bloodline are considered more likely to encounter a Banshee, and some old families may hold a peculiarly strong bond with one of these creatures. This is sometimes thought to indicate a distant Fay strain within their genes but others have suggested an earthier, more sinister reasons for the connection. The finger points at certain reputedly Banshee-ridden families with the accusation that one of their ancestors murdered a young lady, possibly a pregnant mistress or other similar unfortunate, and so it is believed that their descendants must carry a reminder of this shame for evermore. The shadow of this sin falls at the approach of their darkest hours and may be specifically regarded as being a Hateful Banshee. To those who have not heard the Banshee’s cries (and count themselves lucky for this), it is often imagined that this must be a loud, dreadful noise and sometimes it has been reported as such (usually in the cases of Hateful Banshees), but not always. Sometimes her Keening was described as being oddly melodic and strangely comforting, especially if heard by someone who was old and failing , had endured a long, discomforting illness or was of a family favoured by the Faeries.

165 bean-nighe+

The Bean-Nighe

Also known as: Night Women, Washer Women, Caoineag, Ban Nighechain, Nigheag-Na-H’ath, Washing Women, Little Washers by the Ford, Washers by the Banks, Washers of the Shroud, Washers of the Night, Night Washers, Cannerd Noz, Konnerez Noz.

The Bean-Nighe are generally encountered either sitting beside, or sometimes paddling in, remote streams and the shallows of rivers. Here they attend to their laundry, yet they are not conventional mortal women tending bucolic washing chores. A single glance at their hideous visage and the grim cloth they wring betwixt their fingers is more than enough to determine their anomalous character. The clothing that the Bean-Nighe is seen to wash is either the blood-drenched clothing of the observer, or the burial shroud that will consequently wrap their lifeless body. These creatures are said to be the souls of women who died whilst giving birth, doomed to remain on this earth either until Judgement Day or, as it is more frequently thought, until the day that they would otherwise have died. As a grim consequence of their fate, they are also aware of all the other people that will soon be visited by death and are sometimes reported as crooning a mournful dirge to themselves that recounts the names of all the ill fated.

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The Gwrach-y-Rhibyn

Also known as the Hag of the Dribble, Hag of the Mist and also sometimes as y Cyhiraeth.

This Welsh portent of death may suddenly leap out of a water channel, but otherwise she will invisibly stalk her victims until they pass a crossroads or stream. Here she will become all too visible and audible, for in both instances her cries, like those of the Banshees and Cyraeths, are harrowing. If the person thus doomed to die (either the observer or someone they know) is a man the Gwrach-y-Rhibyn will holler “Fy ngwr! Fy ngwr!” (“My Husband! My Husband!”) but if a youth is to succumb, then she will cry “Fy mlentyn! Fy mlentyn bach!” (“My child! My little child!”) She is a hideous sight to behold, with her crooked back, hooked nose, long filthy hair and manic eyes. She is pinched and scrawny, yet her superficial mass likely betrays her true strength and vigour. The most frightfully inhuman of all her features, however, are her long thin arms, for not only do they end in dreadful talon-like hands, but black scaly wings also hang from these extremities. These bat-like appendages are thought capable of flight. Her negligible clothing is black and ragged.

All Text and Imagery © Andy Paciorek
For more on these subjects and many many others see the book
Strange Lands: A Field Guide to the Celtic Otherworld

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Available to purchase from – http://www.blurb.co.uk/user/andypaciorek

Art of The Beautiful~Grotesque

Andy Paciorek

NOW AVAILABLE from Andy Paciorek (Founder of the Folk Horror Revival project)
(With a Hung, Drawn and Quarter off cover price for one day only – hurry hurry to make a great saving 🙂 )

~ Art of the Beautiful~Grotesque ~
Over 300 Andy Paciorek drawings from various projects. Some old favourites and some previously unpublished.

Peripheral Visions – a collection of sketches from my rough books will follow in near future. 🙂

Buy today and save 25% off cover price* – use code BKSTRMADNESS at checkout at http://www.blurb.co.uk/…/8751446-the-art-of-the-beautiful-g…

More books by Andy Paciorek ( which can also be added to Discount offer)  can be found here ~ http://www.blurb.co.uk/user/andypaciorek

*Offer valid through May 30, 2018 (11:59 p.m. local time). A 25% discount is applied toward your product total with no minimum or maximum order amount. This offer is good for five uses, and cannot be used for digital purchases or combined with volume discounts, custom orders, other promotional codes, gift cards or used for adjustments on previous orders.

Extra Sensory Productions

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ESP is a creative channel via YouTube & Twitch that takes concepts of the unknown, the paranormal, and Forteana and translates them into the solid realm of artistic renderings.

Created by a team of artists forged from the need to express the paranormal into art. ESP is a project that unites artists from various platforms to discuss the unknown and to create art along the way

ESP is brought to you by John Chadwick and Melissa Martell.

Come on our show. Discuss your topic of expertise (degree or not!) and we will parlay your thoughts into creative drawings as we will discuss and present counter ideas while you inform us of your knowledge.  We also encourage, no, WE LOVE, poets, musicians, seamstresses, esoteric studies, film artists and more to participate with us in our live show!

John Chadwick is an illustrator, animation filmmaker, writer and educator. His art ranges from the written and spoken word to book covers and model making. His work has been exhibited, printed and performed in various forms since his 1995 film “Spiritual Love” was nominated for Young Narrative Filmmaker of The Year at the 1996 British Short Film Festival. In 2010 he was awarded the Writer/Illustrators bursary from the Feiweles Trust at The Yorkshire Sculpture Park. In 2014 his animated short film, The Brain, was selected by Serge Bromberg to appear in a showcase of animation inspired by Charlie Chaplin at HAFF (Holland Animated Film Festival).  John is currently an administrator of, the popular Facebook group, Folk Horror Revival where he facilitates the Young Artist of The Month Award.

Melissa Martell is a graphic designer, artist, and writer from Vancouver Island, Canada.  She has her degree in Advanced Media & Interactive Design, with a particular passion for typography, identity branding, and layout design.  She has featured her graphic design works in several art exhibits, including the NIC Art Exhibit in 2013 and 2014.  Her interactive digital sculpture piece, In Orbit, was featured in the exhibit

Curiosity + Process = Discovery at The Comox Valley Art Gallery in 2015.  Melissa also enjoys painting with oils and is excited to get the time to focus on art on the ESP live channel. She works as a freelance graphic designer and you can view her portfolio, not only on this website but on her two linked sites below.

In 2016 Melissa co-founded the podcast The Folklore Podcast with folklorist and actor Mark Norman of Circle Of Spears Production.  She served as art director, graphic designer, social media marketer and web designer until 2018, when she left to embark and grow creatively on this current production of ESP.   In 2015/2016 she also helped co-found The Curious Fortean FB group and online blog and wrote regularly on Fortean, paranormal and esoteric subjects (you can find some of those writings on her own personal blog at https://www.scarlettart.rocks/scarlett-blog ).

For more information visit – https://www.espirit.tv/about-esp

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The show launched on Monday, March 5th. There are some fantastic guests lined up  and  fascinating topics which ESP are excited to share with everyone! Next Saturday (March 7th 2018) they plan to start live streaming some shows, so keep an eye on the Facebook page  and website for more news.

The goal is to have a new show each week, with fascinating topics.

Remember to subscribe to our YouTube and Twitch channels and share our content as it’s released to help us grow and get our guests noticed as well!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5WVPm76CADJf_nyGbVWMgQ…

https://www.twitch.tv/extrasensoryproduction

For more info visit –
https://www.espirit.tv/ 

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John Chadwick is an illustrator, animation filmmaker, writer and educator. His art ranges from the written and spoken word to book covers and model making. His work has been exhibited, printed and performed in various forms since his 1995 film “Spiritual Love” was nominated for Young Narrative Filmmaker of The Year at the 1996 British Short Film Festival. In 2010 he was awarded the Writer/Illustrators bursary from the Feiweles Trust at The Yorkshire Sculpture Park. In 2014 his animated short film, The Brain, was selected by Serge Bromberg to appear in a showcase of animation inspired by Charlie Chaplin at HAFF (Holland Animated Film Festival).  John is currently an administrator of, the popular Facebook group, Folk Horror Revival where he facilitates the Young Artist of The Month Award.

Book review: Magical Folk: British & Irish Fairies 500 AD to the Present

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Fairies have become a much maligned species in recent centuries. Mention the word to most people and the mental image that springs to mind will most frequently be a diminutive sparkling being reminiscent of Disney’s rendition of J.M. Barrie’s Tinkerbell from Peter Pan. The idea that Fairies are twee, little wish granters perhaps does them a great disservice. That is not to say that fairies do not look like that. They can, if a human mind is faced with something otherworldly, something they have never encountered before, regardless of whether it has a natural or supernatural quality, it will frequently seek a pattern in its memory and recognition facility. If they expect a fairy to look that way, then perhaps they will see it that way. In my own experience, art and contemplation I have a preference for the term Faerie, which although may donate a place or state of consciousness perhaps, rather than an individual race of spirit or being (the naming of which has always been a moot and sometimes dangerous issue, as explained within this book), divorces my mind at least from the sugar plum sentimentality of the subject. The mawkish is however probably as important as the mysterious, for in studying or commenting upon folklore, the cultural set and the individual mindset is very important in the mapping of human experience and interpretation of experience. Simon Young’s exploration of these issues, of which Magical folk is a part, is a very important and intriguing aspect of 21st Century studies of folklore both in a historical and contemporary setting . But now to the book.

Magical Folk edited by Simon Young & Ceri Houlbrook, which features numerous impressive essays by various writers, follows the path trodden by notable folklorist Katherine Briggs, in looking at what fairies reported at different times and different places have in common as well as traits and quirks that tie them to a particular location or moment. It is clear that many of the reported fairies do not have much in common at all with Tinkerbell. My own personal fascination and feeling of fairies leans towards the most odd; the capricious even the sinister.

Chapters are themed according to locality, for the most part different regions of the British Isles, but also there are intriguing accounts from North America. I was aware of the lore of some fay British and Irish entities reputedly flitting west with immigrants to the new worlds of Canada and America and also of the tales of the first nations about their own similar beings, but there is material in here new to me which is a pleasure to read.

Also featured several times in discussion is one of my personal favourite Faerie tales; that of the faerie midwife. If you don’t know it already, then I will leave it for you to read in the book. Needless to say, it is a tale that reveals the capriciousness of the faerie kind and also relates to the concept of Glamour – basically the premise that things may not initially be what they seem.

Joining Simon and Ceri on this enjoyable excursion beyond the mist gates are the current Queen of British folklorists, Jacqueline Simpson and a worthy entourage comprised of Pollyanna Jones, Mark Norman. Jo Hickey-Hall, Richard Sugg, Jeremy Harte, Jenny Butler, Laura Coulson, Richard Suggett, Francesca Bihet, Stephen Miller, Ronald M. James, Peter Muise and Chris Woodyard.

Magical Folk is a pleasure in its own right, but also needs to be seen in the wider context of Simon Young’s work. As well as being the Faerie Correspondent of Fortean Times; he is the resurrection man behind the reprise of the Fairy Investigation Society. In bringing the work of Quentin C.A. Craufurd, bernard Sleigh and especially Marjorie Johnson of the original Fairy Investigation Society to present day attention, he has set the foundations for present and future investigation of the phenomenon – whatever its rhyme or reason. This is an important step, for as the results of Simon’s Fairy Census show, fairy encounters are not a mere thing of nursery tales nor, as the closet minded faction of sceptical thinkers may have it, simply a thing of new age rainbows and glitter self-help books, but a fascinating and important aspect of anthropology, cultural study and investigation into both liminal states and potentials of quantum reality consideration.

But again, Magical Folk is simply a pleasure to read in its own right. 

Magical Folk: British & Irish Fairies 500 AD to the Present

edited by Simon Young & Ceri Houlbrook

Gibson Square, £16.99

Available from
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Magical-Folk-British-Fairies-Present/dp/1783341017 and other online and actual bookshops.

 

Winter Ghosts: What is This? What is Coming? 3

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On the weekend of 15th and 16th December 2017, a strange mist will fall upon the coastal town of Whitby. From the sea fret will come haunting sounds and tales and more besides. Here over the coming days we shall in turn usher in the ghosts of winter …

To see full line-up and buy tickets visit here

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We are happy to announce that speaking at the Met on Saturday 17th December, will be George Cromack delivering a wave of Coastal Terrors.

George Cromack is a writer, tutor/lecturer in H.E and Adult Education whose core subject areas are creative fiction, specifically Scriptwriting for film & T.V, and Film Studies. In 2013 George devised and scripted Cold Calling a ghost story turned chiller for Calavera Cafe Productions which premiered at Whitby’s own Bram Stoker International Film Festival. For almost ten years George taught on a number of programmes at the University of Hull’s Scarborough Campus – including modules on their Creative Writing Degree. It was during this time he developed his interest in what has become widely known as the Folk Horror genre, the subject of his film based PhD thesis. A keen writer of fiction, George’s work has appeared in several small short story anthologies.

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Also speaking at Winter Ghosts is Dr Elaine Edmunds who has been a major force in bringing Folk Horror Revival to Whitby.

After a long career as a senior practitioner in NHS mental health Elaine relocated to Whitby at the end of 2010 to focus on developing arts practice.

Her interest in themes relating to Folk Horror started in early life with a happy childhood experience of Hammer House of Horror, Pan and Fontana books, and Tales of Mystery and Imagination.

Her enlightened parents also allowed her to read Man Myth and Magic as a comic. As a social psychiatrist she has always been interested in social anthropology and comparative folklore.

Decadent Drawing was started by Elaine and  husband Laurence Mitchell in 2013. This started suitably at La Rosa as a loose community arts group exploring themes outside the mainstream, challenging boundaries and allowing for art mischief. Many of our sessions have specifically referred to Folk Horror, The Tell Tale Art was the title of their Poe exploration with vignettes from his stories being staged for people to draw or interpret any way they wished. They have also featured Dadd, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, the Dybbuk, Victorian Spiritualism. The court of King Rudolph II with Alchemy and of course Krampus.

More recently they put on art events including Dark Arts Exhibition at the Bram Stoker International Film Festival and various fundraisers. They have recently successfully launched the 3rd Whitby Krampus Run.

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Visit us at Winter Ghosts

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