Saturday, 10 April 2010

Ancient Sorceries

One undeniable virtue of BBC 7 is that you know something you'd like to hear again will inevitably turn up. Thus I can again enjoy Philip Madoc, brilliant and underrated Welsh actor, reading Blackwood's 'Ancient Sorceries'.

It's a story worth seeking out, though it's not especially horrific or even particularly settling. I may be confusing Algernon Blackwood's armour with its chink, but he was essentially a pantheist who regarded all Nature as a living entity - powerful, sometimes dangerous, but not inherently malign. So when he tried to depict the 'true' mediaeval witch cult (i.e. the fantasies of the witch persecutors that come in so handy for creators of fiction) Blackwood pulled his punches. The town whose inhabitants are oddly feline comes across as a seductive place, as it should, but the actual Sabbat is not full-on Dennis Wheatley horrorshow. No human sacrifice, just a lot of sensuality. The horned god is, I think, not a credible Satan, but maybe Pan/Faunus.

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