Month: September 2015

Wicked Little Things

I am finding myself falling into a pattern of wanting to watch and rewatch movies I’ve already seen for comfort. I’ve already watched Sleepy Hollow five times since they put it on Netflix. I watched it this afternoon.

Coupled with issues with my joints making typing less than comfortable I haven’t been really been in the mood to want to sit down and blog.

But I have been spending time finding new blogs to put on the blog roll for when the weather turns (which I’m expecting it to do, like, tomorrow) and thinking a lot about folklore and the nature of modern folkloric thought versus the traditional (Holly voiced an opinion that long time readers of mine will recognize, that modern ‘followers’ of fae lore wouldn’t know what to do with a fae if it bit them, because they confuse Victoriana with faerie lore).

I put on Wicked Little Things as one of my fall back, comfort horror movies. I have seen this movie probably a dozen times since it hit cable and Netflix style viewing close to a decade ago now. On this viewing though I can tell you that I think that there is an element that I haven’t really paid attention to before-this could easily be a fairy (or faerie tale).

Karen moves her daughters Sarah and Emma into the woods on the mountain after her husband dies and leaves her the family homestead. She has no choice, the medical bills were too high for any other decision. Her new neighbors are spooked when they find out that she has moved her children into the woods and there is a continual warning to stay inside after dark. She is unsettled by her neighbors and their behavior, which begins to border on magical thinking.

Karen begins to find hints of a darker history in the community, one that’s linked to children and the mines further up the mountain. Her youngest daughter begins to talk about a child named Mary, and Sarah comes home with stories of dead children that straddle the line between zombies and ghosts. After a series of freakish nocturnal events, Karen begins to realize that her daughters have stumbled into something that she is forced to confront, violently.

Not a true faerie tale film, there is a heavy undercurrent of folkloric thought. It is not a stretch to make the band of children wandering the woods looking for the offspring of their captor the slaugh or an American Wild Hunt. The move into the cabin in the woods feels a lot like Vasilisa going deeper into the forest looking for Baba Yaga. The blood that’s used as the boundary between the living and the dead, that’s straight out of Celtic fae lore-amongst other world mythos. Is this all deliberate? Probably not, but having it on the forefront of my mind while rewatching this movie takes this film in a whole new direction on what is probably my 12th watch through since the movie came out in 2006.

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Art and the Folkloric Mind

tumblr_nrajfwneSl1qkevp7o1_500I choose my Facebook cover art by what calls to me-the image has to instill some sort of intense, almost knee jerk intense, reaction.

I change the art roughly around the sabbats, though there’s no religious or spiritual angle to that. It takes me a couple of months to get tired enough of a picture to want to change it.

My current cover is the drawing above- Skull Crowned with Snakes by Henry Weston Keene. It is an illustration dating to 1930 for a novel by John Webster.

There is something about this image that makes me feel that this is the best fit for the period between Mabon and Samhain. Not for the obvious death/skull connection to the season, though it seems like everyone and their stock lists have thrown themselves into a frenzy over the sugar skull craze (a craze I’m of two minds about-I would love to find Samhain merchandise so I’m all for the extension beyond the secular Halloween, but on the other hand…I doubt Walgreens cares much for religious exposure. They do care about profit, though).

We have been watching Hell on Wheels (…and I might have already watched Depp’s Sleepy Hollow three times in the next week) and I have a weird personal theory that deliberately or not the show is telling Norse mythologies. That’s the type of mind set I’m in right now-I’m planning October’s blog theme in my head and while I want to do my normal ‘scary’ folklore I keep finding myself on what is sometimes called the Shadow path-where it’s not so much as scary as dark, and the dark is only scary because we’re trained to see it as such. The Shadow is actually a Jungian concept and its presence in our lives is actually an extension of our selves.

There’s definitely darkness to this piece, and admittedly something slightly overblown and overly ripe. But it’s also regal in a way, like if Death held Himself iron rod straight because He knows that regardless of how we play, He’s always going to win that hand. Snake is a personal symbol of mine, and Snake for me stands for awareness of self. I know I’m projecting, but art for me is about the personal as much as it is the intended symbolism. This is the Shadow for me.

I’m tempted to use the Hermit card as my blog image for next month. Let’s light these shadows, and see what the next spoke brings.

 

Instant Muddy Tiger Chai Powder

muddy tiger powder

A dirty chai is a chai with a shot of espresso.

A white or black tiger is a chai with white or dark chocolate added.

If you add the two together, as far as I’m concerned you get a muddy chai.

You also get a drink that rings it at over $5 at Starbucks. Choke.

This is, admittedly, the fast and dirty way of getting to the same place. You do have some leeway here though. You could brew chai normally and add chocolate and a brewed espresso shot. Use homemade powders. Use just plain baking chocolate.

I found everything to make this for the same cost of the one drink, and the powder is transportable.

Muddy Tiger Chai Powder

Espresso powder (I bought a box of 6 tubes of shots)

Chai powder (I used Oregon Chai)

2 packets hot cocoa mix

In a large bowl, mix all powders.

Store in an airtight jar.

To use-mix about 2 tablespoons powder to 8 ounces of hot water, or to taste.

Checking In

Stuff

I use a bribe system to get myself to exercise. I’m not a fitness person; I do not enjoy exercising. I don’t get the exercise high and it hurts my joints. But I know that my anxiety and over all mental health is better when I do it, and my back doesn’t hurt as much (decade old back injury here-but it’s keeping my back loose that’s the bigger issue than weight loss. It hurts regardless of what weight I’m at).

I’ve bribed myself down 15 pounds and counting. It’s a weird sensation. I’m just toeing the line of ‘do I make a weight goal for myself?’ I have a weird history with stuff like this. I might just keep up the bribing and see where the Universe takes me.

Making

It’s charity knitting time. I might actually finish something this time. I’ve been knitting pretty consistently, or spinning, all summer, but I have a horrible case of startitis-I don’t seem to actually want to finish anything. I get about halfway through and am content with that.

But we’re running a blanket drive to end in the beginning of November, so I sort of have to have something off of the needles by then. I’m just using the 10 stitch blanket pattern-it’s insanely simple but that’s the appeal of the thing right now. I like being able to do my s.w.ag.bucks stuff and work the pattern. The fact that it’s a brainless travel pattern helps too.

The weather is starting to cooperate too. We’re having a very bizarre September. The beginning of the month was blazing, horribly hot-toeing 100 degrees F. That’s weird. I don’t think it hit 55 degrees F on Sunday. That’s weird too. I think we’re going to even out to a warmer than normal month, but it’s not going to be a consistent heat.

Cooking

September is normally Harvest Month, where I cook and post a lot of produce heavy recipes to use up what’s coming from the growing regions. And I -am- actually cooking. But I’m working through a rotation of favorites, so while there’s a lot of stuff coming out of my kitchen, none of it is really blog worthy unless I post a ton of revisits and reposts.

Going

We’ve been actually doing something every week, or every two weeks,  and it feels good. Mid is getting a ton of overtime so we’ve been able to relax at least slightly and we’ve been taking cautiously taking advantage of the income to do things we normally wouldn’t. We went to Carnival of Parahorror at the Central Terminal, and I actually just got back from Queen City Conquest. Conquest is my new favorite gaming convention; the crowd is older than most of the gaming cons I’ve been to so I don’t feel like I’m standing out.

Photos

Expect a photo dump soon. Just feeling a little too overloaded right now to mess around with the downloading/uploading.

Fun Size Horror: Volume 1

Themed anthologies are one of the big things in horror right now, and I can honestly say that I can give them a better endorsement than I can give found footage.

Last fall there was a project announced across several of the major (trust me, I’m not a major) horror review blogs where different film makers released a short somehow relating to horror or Halloween (or in some cases both) to be posted between October 27th and Halloween. There were 31 of these shorts released all together.

The project was called Fun Sized Horror, and the shorts were eventually collected into a single anthology film. There is rarely a connecting them between them (other than the overarching horror/Halloween theme) and subject ranges from a particularly violent reality show, the monster under the bed, to a particularly bizarre birthday party. There are a few cases where the shorts feel a lot like other shorts in other anthologies such as the ABCs of Death and V/H/S. However, these shorts are much, much shorter (sort of the film equivilent of flash fiction) and I almost think that this is a benefit to the advantage of some of the producers. The hit comes much faster and the absurdity is kept to an effective minimum.

This was actually an enjoyable collection and with the combined release being titled ‘Volume 1’ I am hoping that there will be future collections released in the series (which is more than I can say for V/H/S).

The Black Volga

To say that I am posting this to prove a point is a little more aggressive than what I mean (or is relevant, since it’s not as though anyone actually challenged me on it).

There is a habit throughout folklore and urban legend for ideas, themes, and motifs to keep repeating, with the only major shift being the images used in the story slowly updating and changing to match era and location. That way you end up with stories being similar, with similar structures, but an occasional change of image and potential message (the spiders in the up-do is an evolution of a story told in earlier centuries about spiders in the wigs of women too vain to show up at church on time if it meant giving up primping [I’m not the first person to say that, but I’m forgetting the original source. If you have it, let me know and I’ll cite them.])

This story is basically the death coach set in Eastern Europe. It’s probably not originating out of the same root legend, but the roots probably run parallel (and it is possible that it’s rooted in a Slavic tradition of faerie lore, since there were similar patterns to what went on in Celtic lore. Or not. The Slavs didn’t actually write anything down, so it’s really hard to tell).

The Black Volga is a story that was at its height of popularity in the 1960s and the 1970s. The story goes that there was a black car (normally a Volga) that would drive through neighborhoods and slow down when it spotted a child. The driver (who varied, but was always a member of a group distrusted in the area of Eastern Europe the story was being told in, up to and including the Pope and the Devil) would call the child over. There were some variations in what happened next-the child would always end up dead but at various times in the interaction and with different motives. Some of the motives reflected social or political stances of the time, including a heavy Othering of Americans (the children were killed to cure them, for example).

There’s a weird dynamic in that it’s not just that the Volga was an expensive car being driven by an American or other out-group, the Volga was actually a governmental car. More modern variations just make the car ‘upper class’, but the Volga had a very specific implication: the KGB or similar was doing this. This was the ultimate boogeyman: the group hated within the culture was acting for the motives of the groups hated without the culture.

Belief, Authenticity, and Other Potentially “Assertive” Topics

myth and meme month
I’ve been making my rounds through the blog world the way that I do on Sundays and it seems like one of the running themes over the past couple months is the question of authenticity and ‘reality’ of belief, especially when those ideas intersect with the Pagan mindset.

To break down an (apparently wide spread) discussion the question of the late summer is this: does it actually matter if something was made up, say, 15 years ago-just to pull a random date out of the air-versus 1,500 years ago if there is a potential for what happened 15 years ago to have happened 1,500 years ago?

To really give you a shorthand: what do we do with the implication that it’s all made up anyway?

I’m going to ramble a little and give you one of my all time favorite Pratchett quotes, as a practitioner of a minority faith trained in sociology:

“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

“So we can believe the big ones?”

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

“They’re not the same at all!”

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

MY POINT EXACTLY.”
Terry Pratchett, Hogfather

The voice of Death in Pratchett’s novels is always presented in all caps.

For me, the simplest answer is this: it doesn’t matter if the myths, the superstitions, the folklore, the whatever name you want to give it, are ‘real’. That’s not the point. The real question is, what role is this belief playing in your life, and is that role a healthy one? Are you finding comfort out of this? Is this your excuse to lash out at people and establish your sense of social superiority?

The (potentially) uncomfortable reality is that if we know that some of the ideas that are floating around Pagan thought right now are current to say the last 100 years or so, there’s no reason to think that a lot of what is just accepted as part of various mythos were just made up as well. There’s really no reason to assume that some folklore and myths weren’t the period’s version of the Charlie Charlie Challenge that just seemed to be popular enough to make it through to now. But that’s not really the point, because the social function of any religious type thought really isn’t the what stories the thought is telling, it’s what role and support it’s playing in the social thought and structure of the believer.

I’m not trying to discount the role of authenticity entirely. There are times when it’s completely valid (I sort of dance around it in a lot of my discussions of fae lore-that whole issue of ‘why are you thinking that fae are small and beautiful and gentle? Because they kind of aren’t, according to the people who interacted with them in a religious sense’). There are times when it’s not even valid, it’s necessary, in relation to the development of social thought and social history. The point I’m trying to make, in terms of the social functioning of mythology, is that -all- myth and/or religious thought was ‘brand new’ at some point, it didn’t drop out of the sky fully formed, and there were liberties taken with the modification of stories and myth telling.

I do not use liberties here to imply something dirty or a deliberate muddying of a myth, just that even with texts that we see, symbolically, as fully formed, there was a point where the mythology was still being developed with the story being dependent on who was doing the telling.

Example: The P and J versions of the Garden of Eden story presented within Genesis.

So maybe the question isn’t ‘is it authentic?’, the question is ‘is it authentic to the era under discussion?’ with a dash of ‘what is the structural function of the myth in the lives of the people claiming to be believers?’