Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Witch Hunting? There's an App for That.

As part of the increasingly gadget-oriented hype ploys for Season of the Witch, now Android users can get a "Witch Hunt" application for their smart phones. I found this via the film's Facebook page which linked to the app's page on the AppBrain website.

The description begins "Witches walk all around us. They are responsible for great devastation, performing harrowing evils from the guises of the shadows." And it goes on from there. Apparently you point your phone at a group of people in your immediate vicinity, and take their photo. Then the "Witch Hunt" application identifies which ones are witches, and then it "burns" them for you! Oh, and check it out...it's FREE.

So, what do you think? Is this every bit as offensive as the "anti-gay" Android app "Bendroid" that was lurking around last year? Or is it just a bit of fun?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Book of English Magic

It's been a while since I saw a new book in the field of paganism, magic, witchcraft or the occult that has been unique or exciting. Recent offerings in occult books have mostly been retreading earlier materials, so in recent years I've been more likely to be drawn to some academic titles (like Douglas Cowan's Sacred Terror). But this new book by Philip Carr-Gomm and Richard Heygate is one of the most exciting new books I've seen in a while.

The Book of English Magic from Overlook Press is comprehensive, but not scholarly. It's well-written and engaging, well-organized, and not always completely objective. But for any reader interested in the historical basis of magic, witchcraft, paganism and other related topics, this book is as well-rounded and informative a volume as a serious reader could hope for.

The principle behind the book's purpose is simple: England is described as the country that is the home of more magicians, magical artifacts, magical legends and magical traditions than anywhere else in the world. Beginning with an intriguing description of England's magical landscape, from stone circles and monoliths like Stonehenge and Avebury, to the wells, trees and Tor of Arthurian Glastonbury, the book addresses the very foundation of England's magical heritage. Various figures important to England's ancient and contemporary magical status are also described in detail, from John Dee, Nicolas Culpeper, Aleister Crowley, and Annie Besant, to Patricia Crowther, Dion Fortune, and Ross Nichols. The book also includes many fascinating excerpted interviews from writers like David Conway (a somewhat reclusive author whose small number of books have had enduring popularity), Nigel Pennick, Caitlin Matthews and Patrick Harpur.

In addition to helpful historical information, the book occasionally offers practical advice on a wide range of topics, from herbal lore to alchemy to dowsing to ley lines to rune-casting to numerology to tarot. Although not in-depth enough to cover any of these topics sufficiently for the sincere seeker, each chapter also includes useful lists of resources for further inquiry. It's a valuable addition to any occult or magical library, and of equal use to the witch, Wiccan, druid, ceremonial magician, neo-pagan, healer, wizard, earth mysteries enthusiast, or anyone looking to become educated about the rich trove of material that comprises the English magical world. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Faeries of Blackheath Woods

From the website that brings you the best in cool stuff, The Awesomer, comes this short film, The Faeries of Blackheath Woods, written and directed by Ciaran Foy. Very well done and very unexpected.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Season of the Witch Interview

John Morehead of the excellent website Theofantastique interviewed me this week about Season of the Witch. Though obviously neither of us have seen the film yet, John asked me some intriguing questions about the film and the impact it may have on the pagan community and on audiences in general. My thanks for for his tireless and interesting work exploring the world of religion, fantasy and horror.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Rite: Exorcism becoming a trendy new topic?

After The Last Exorcism drew a respectable number of theatre-goers and some decent box office earlier this year (not bad for a first-time filmmaker), it would seem exorcism is again a hot topic, and this time on a bigger budget. Sir Anthony Hopkins stars in The Rite, helmed by Swedish director Mikal Hafstrom, whose previous work includes Derailed, Evil and the paranormal triller 1408.

Hopkins plays an American priest who travels to Italy to study at a school for exorcists. The cast also includes veteran Irish actor Ciaran Hinds (seen earlier this year in the romantic ghost story The Eclipse with Aidan Quinn) and Rutger Hauer, perhaps best known as the platinum blond replicant in Bladerunner. Two trailers available here indicate what begins as an intriguing story "inspired by true events" (and quoting this recent New York Times article) turns into a bonafide horror film. What's most intriguing to me about The Rite is the suggestion that the Vatican's decision to engender a renewed interest in exorcism and demonic possession is a story that has been hushed up in the news media, and this film purports to tell the untold story. But to do so within the trappings of a horror film may tend to undermine the story's brevity, whether intentionally or not.

In a similar way, The Last Exorcism started out grounded in absolute realism (hand held cinema verite, fake documentary style) and ended up a horror film, which, while entertaining, didn't work for me. A fake documentary purporting to contain "found footage" can't (or shouldn't) employ eerie music or spooky camera angles, as that spirits it into another genre entirely.

But The Rite has no such conflicts of form: it's a big budget thriller with some ambitious things to say about the the possibility that the devil just might be real. This road has already been well trod, of course, particularly in 1973's The Exorcist. We'll see what new light (or darkness) will be shed with this one.

(Image from horror-asylum.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

See Movies with Friends! Witchy Friends!

This award-winning ad for Orange was recognized by the British Television Advertising Awards, and recognized also by the Celluloid Junkie blog. It even has a Facebook page!

It's a sweet story of a girl who likes to see films with her friend, who also happens to be the Wicked Witch of the West.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sweep/Wicca series: soon to be a film?

I'll admit, I knew next to nothing about this series of books aimed at young adult readers. It's called Sweep in the U.S. (where the stories tale place), but is called Wicca in the Uk, Netherlands, Australia and Belgium, and White Magic in France and Italy. In Scandinavia, it's not called anything at all, because its publication there was cancelled due to worries over the "religious" content.

The story centers around a "blood witch" named Morgan Rowlands who becomes involved in Wicca when a handsome new male student named Cal comes to her school. After discovering she has a "knack" for Wicca, she learns who is a witch by blood (whatever that means) and, over the next fourteen volumes, various exciting events occur. The characters have names like "Sky Eventide" and "Killian MacEwan" and "Selene Belltower." There's an International Council of Witches. I'm not sure how supernatural the proceedings are, but I have a feeling the film version will have special effects a-plenty.

An introduction to the series through the eyes of three main characters appears on the author's blog. It does seem to have the kinds of ingredients young adult readers are going for these days: romance, intrigue, oh-so-wrong liaisons, and teenagers with mysterious powers. And here the author relays the news that the series is being developed for a feature film. The Variety article says Universal is producing.

So, is this series another Harry Potter or Twilight phenomenon? Hardly. This blog describes the Tiernan's process for writing the series, and it turns out she was approached by an editor to do it, rather than coming up with the idea herself. It more or less sounds like these books were written by committee. As the Fire Fairy blog states: "...17th Street came up with the concept, sold it to Penguin, and then found Tiernan. Each of the books in the fourteen-book series was developed from an outline, which all three signed off on. Tiernan then went ahead with a first draft, which in turns was edited by both the packagers and publishers and returned to the author for revisions. This rewriting sometimes went through four drafts or more until all concerned were satisfied with the result."

So, I'd be interested in hearing from any of you who have read these books. Do you think they'll make a good film?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lost Abbey Update: Making the World Safe for Beer

Perhaps you recall the Lost Abbey Brewery Brew-ha-ha? Maybe not. I'm not saying it was some earth-shattering event. But it did make the New York Times!

A group determined to continue pestering Lost Abbey until they change their "Witch's Wit" label to something less offensive formed on Facebook not long after the story started making the rounds on the pagan blogosphere.

I wonder if they'd heard the latest news?

The Lost Abbey Brewery posted today that they are discontinuing their "Saints and Sinners" club, a mail order venture that allowed them to sell beer directly to consumers. The club had been popular. But changes in state regulations have made it increasingly difficult for the brewery to continue offering the service. I do wonder if the indignant protestors had in mind when some of them encouraged "hexing" the brewery.

I joined the Facebook group and posted a few comments, but was very quickly blocked from expressing my opinion there. I should point out, I was never anything less than polite on that page (unlike the snark I unleash here sometimes, but hey, this is MY blog!), but was banned nonetheless. I guess a bit of healthy debate doesn't sit well with extremists.

Because, yes, I think it's going to the extreme to "boycott" a company (a small, family-owned company at that) you didn't ever buy anything from in the first place. A company you probably never were going to buy anything from, because, let's face it, you had never heard of them before, had you? And yet you put a good deal of energy into fantasizing that you could "hex" them and "bring down" their (small, independently-owned) company. Yes, hexing someone over a beer label. Way to embrace that "Harm none" principle.

I also think it's a waste of energy to protest something like this when there are dire social situations in the world that actually are in need of activists to promote awareness and raise funds. Some of those situations involve actual witch burnings and cases of injustice caused by satanic panic. But gosh, no, let's not help victims of genocide or those crippled by natural disasters when there's a logo design contest to be won!

Yes, let's use our time and talents making logos, Photoshopping the faces of the Lost Abbey Brewery owners into images that show them being burned, tied up, and tortured. That'll show 'em.

Image courtesy of Lost Abbey. You can buy this -shirt online.