Saturday, 4 July 2015

United States of the Supernatural

On the 4th July is a good day to celebrate just a few of the Americans who've contributed works of enduring merit to this crazy old genre. We begin, of course, with the man in black...

I suppose it's only appropriate, given Poe's predilections, that he didn't stay buried in the same place for long. Poe didn't write conventional ghost stories and much of his work doesn't qualify as horror fiction at all. But a minority of his works have an enduring power that lesser writers can only envy. 'The Masque of the Red Death', 'The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar', 'The Fall of the House of Usher', 'The Black Cat', 'MS Found in a Bottle' - those are my personal favourites, along with his Dupin stories, but I'm sure fans could name half a dozen more. Without Poe things would be very different in supernatural fiction, detective fiction, science fiction...

Good show, Edgar, you madcap fellow.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Girls Wielding Steel

I should have included this in the last post, to show you what the actual dance is like. Silly me. 

Rappers Delight

The third film in the series that started with The Wicker Man has just been launched as a crowd-funded project. There's already a Brit Ekland-ish ingredient, it seems...
The film has already cast Halla Williams, an Icelandic model who also hosted her country’s version of The X Factor.
Well, good luck with that. You never know. But I wonder if there'll be rappers in this new movie?

The original film is replete with images (and songs) taken from British folklore, though it has to be said that Summerisle, while off the coast of Scotland, seems awfully English in many ways. This is especially true of the sword or rapper dancers who feature in a number of scenes.

I happen to come from a part of England where sword dancing of the rapper (possibly a corruption of 'rapier') kind has been practised for many years. It seems to have been common among miners but is now a subculture of Morris dancing, which is obviously resembles. Anyway, historical pictures of rapper teams are rather interesting, and make an interesting contrast with the May Day folk pictured in an earlier post.

'Who's the tosser in the titfer?'

Yeats on Fairies

W.B. Yeats was arguably the greatest poet to write in English since Shakespeare. His influence was immense, and he's become synonymous with the revival of Irish cultural life (often called the Celtic Twilight) that took place in the decades before the Great War. He was made a senator when the Irish won their independence and had a huge influence on the cultural life of the new Free State. And he believed in fairies.

The Irish Times has reprinted an article that appeared in a London magazine in 1890, in which Yeats - then an up-and-coming poet rather than a cultural titan - is quite explicit about his belief in supernatural entities. It makes for fascinating reading, especially when you realise that, as a convinced Spiritualist, Yeats was also keen on contacting legendary figures from Irish history and folklore.

Here's a brief extract.

Sligo is, indeed, a great place for fairy pillaging of this kind. In the side of Ben Bulben is a white square in the limestone. It is said to be the door of fairyland. There is no more inaccessible place in existence than this white square door; no human foot has ever gone near it, not even the mountain goats can browse the saxifrage beside its mysterious whiteness. Tradition says that it swings open at nightfall and lets pour through an unearthly troop of hurrying spirits. To those gifted to hear their voices the air will be full at such a moment with a sound like whistling. Many have been carried away out of the neighbouring villages by this troop of riders.