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Posts Tagged ‘Halloween

“I think if human beings had genuine courage, they’d wear their costumes every day of the year, not just on Halloween”*…

 

ghosts

 

With an eye to Thursday’s festivities, a collection of photos, circa 1897-1918, of children (from the Bronx) dressed as ghosts: “Costume.”

* Douglas Coupland

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As we give face to our fears, we might recall that it was on this date in 1966 that CBS premiered It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  it was the third Peanuts special (and second holiday-themed special, following A Charlie Brown Christmas) to be produced and animated by Bill Melendez.  It was also the first Peanuts special to use the titular pattern of a short phrase, followed by “Charlie Brown”, a pattern which would remain the norm for almost all subsequent Peanuts specials.  And it was one of 17 Peanuts specials (plus a feature film) to feature the music of Vince Guaraldi.

250px-Great_pumpkin_charlie_brown_title_card source

 

Written by LW

October 27, 2019 at 1:01 am

“A Witch is born out of the true hungers of her time”*…

 

Witch

In 1488 during the reign of Henry VII, one year after the Dominican Heinrich Kramer wrote his notorious witch-finding manual Malleus Maleficarum, an adolescent girl named Agatha Soothtell gave birth in a cave among the dales and moors of Yorkshire to her daughter Ursula, supposedly conceived by the Devil himself. Ironically it was there in “God’s Own Country” that young Agatha would raise her demonic charge, both of them forced to live in the cave where Ursula was born. The site that would be visited by pilgrims for centuries afterwards, making it arguably England’s first tourist attraction, was known as much for the strange calcifying waters of its subterranean whirlpool as for its medieval Satanic nativity.

Most sources claimed that Ursula died during the rule of Elizabeth I in 1561, but with eight decades separating her supposed death and the first appearance of her name in print, it’s fair to assume a degree of invention in her biography. Despite her legendary ugliness (Ursula’s seventeenth-century biographer described her as “a thing so strange in an infant, that no age can parallel”) at the age of twenty-four she married a carpenter named Toby Shipton, and it is to posterity that she would come to be known as “Mother Shipton”. A less appropriate surname, because as “Smith” and “Taylor” indicate profession, so too did “Soothtell”. Mother Shipton would become the most famed of soothe tellers in English history, renowned for her prophecies and used as a symbolic familiar in the art of divination for generations, the very constructed personage of the seer, a work of poetry unto herself. As scholar Darren Oldridge writes, “Unlike other ‘ancient prophets’ who were known by their words alone, Shipton emerged as a personality in her own right”…

Mother Shipton was Yorkshire’s answer to Nostradamus. Ed Simon looks into how, regardless of whether this prophetess witch actually existed or not, the legend of Mother Shipton has wielded great power for centuries— from the turmoil of Tudor courts, through the frictions of civil war, to the specter of Victorian apocalypse: “Divining the Witch of York: Propaganda and Prophecy.”

See also “Woodcuts and Witches,” an explanation of how the rise of the mass-produced woodcut in early modern Europe helped forge the archetype of the broom-riding crone.

Then watch Häxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages, an extraordinary 1922 Scandinavian film by Benjamin Christensen. As you’ll see, it’s a curious (and groundbreaking) mix of documentary and silent horror cinema. Most films of the period were literary adaptations; but Christensen’s take was unique, based on non-fiction works, mainly a 15th-century treatise on witchcraft that he found in a Berlin bookshop.

* Ray Bradbury, Long After Midnight

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As we search for our eye of newt, we might note that today is All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween.  Many Halloween traditions originated from ancient pagan Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival of Samhain, which was Christianized as Halloween in the eighth century, by Pope Gregory III.

The original reason for disguise on Samhain was to prevent lonely spirits recognizing and snatching one away to their between-the-worlds home; it was an additional bonus that the costumes allowed you to lead a mini-riot without being recognized.  The custom of trick-or-treating seems to date to the 19th century in England, when people went house-to-house in costume at Halloween, reciting verses in exchange for food, and sometimes warning of misfortune if they were not welcomed.  It seems to have taken off in the U.S in the 1920s.  The custom of making jack-o’-lanterns began in Ireland in the 19th century; “turnips or mangel wurzels, hollowed out to act as lanterns and often carved with grotesque faces,” were used at Halloween in parts of Ireland and the Scottish Highlands.

Special Halloween bonus: Jacques Collin de Plancy’s Dictionnaire infernal, a monumental compendium of all things diabolical, was first published in 1818 to much success; but it was the fabulously-illustrated final edition of 1863 that secured the book as a landmark in the study and representation of demons.  Read “Defining the Demonic,” then page through the 1863 edition at The Internet Archive (whence every item in this post).

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Written by LW

October 31, 2018 at 1:01 am

“This need for excitement of the will manifests itself very specially in the discovery and support of card-playing, which is quite peculiarly the expression of the miserable side of humanity”*…

 

The con game and the theatre seem to have so much in common that it is tempting to mistake one for the other; in fact the long anti-theatrical prejudice against actors has much to do with the perception that actors and conmen both disguise their “true” characters and attempt to fool their audiences. Because both the actor and the conman present “lies like truth,” it is not that easy to distinguish between theatre and monte. Some might say the distinction lies in the convention that the theatre audience knows that they are seeing a performance. But if we want to continue to categorize as theatre such enterprises as Augosto Boal’s Invisible Theatre, where the audience never knows that they’ve been part of a theatre experience, then we must abandon that distinction. The con game is different from true theatre in that the con game always sells the promise of profit for the spectator, with no intention of fulfilling that promise. The theatre on the other hand, sells the spectator the promise of entertainment and/or enlightenment, which promise may or may not be fulfilled. Though the con game draws many techniques and structures from the theatre, the con game remains an essentially criminal enterprise. The performance of monte demands of the spectator not willing suspension of disbelief, but unwilling suspension of cash.

Jack Shalom recaps the 1200-year history of Three-Card Monte, and explores the con’s resonance with theater at: “Finding The Red Card: The Performance Of Three-Card Monte.”

(See also “School for Scoundrels ‘Notes on Three-Card Monte’,” from whence the photo above.)

* Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, Vol 1

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As we prepare for a different kind of trick (or treat), we might pause to remember that today is All Saints Eve, or All Hallows Eve… or, as we more commonly know it, Halloween.  Many Halloween traditions originated from ancient pagan Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival of Samhain, which was Christianized as Halloween in the eighth century, by Pope Gregory III.

The original reason for disguise on Samhain was to prevent lonely spirits recognizing and snatching one away to their between-the-worlds home; it was an additional bonus that the costumes allowed you to lead a mini-riot without being recognized.  The custom of trick-or-treating seems to date to the 19th century in England, when people went house-to-house in costume at Halloween, reciting verses in exchange for food, and sometimes warning of misfortune if they were not welcomed.  It seems to have taken off in the U.S in the 1920s.  The custom of making jack-o’-lanterns began in Ireland in the 19th century; “turnips or mangel wurzels, hollowed out to act as lanterns and often carved with grotesque faces,” were used at Halloween in parts of Ireland and the Scottish Highlands.

Special Halloween bonus: Jacques Collin de Plancy’s Dictionnaire infernal, a monumental compendium of all things diabolical, was first published in 1818 to much success; but it was the fabulously-illustrated final edition of 1863 that secured the book as a landmark in the study and representation of demons.  Read “Defining the Demonic,” then page through the 1863 edition at The Internet Archive.

 source

 

Written by LW

October 31, 2017 at 1:01 am

Fright Night…

 

Halloween is about a week away– what’s a poor reader to wear?

Mark Rober and his company Digital Dudz offer a line of shirts and corresponding smartphone apps that create animated Halloween costumes…

This year, Mark is back with a new animation for his collection that displays a hand punching through your back and ripping your guts out. The gruesome animation is triggered by a smartphone’s internal motion sensor. When a friend pretends to punch his hand through your back and you arch your back, the gut ripping animation begins. [In the video below] Mark and his undead friend demonstrate how it works. The Digital Dudz apps (Apple and Android) and custom clothes are available to purchase online.

email readers click here for video

Via the ever-informative Laughing Squid.

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As we don our gay apparel, we might send terrifying birthday greetings to John Michael Crichton; he was born on this date in 1942.  An author, physician, producer, director, and screenwriter, he’s best known as a purveyor of techno-thrillers in the science fiction, medical fiction, and occasionally political thriller genres. The creator of  The Andromeda StrainJurassic ParkCongoSphereRising SunDisclosureThe Lost WorldTimelinePrey, and State off Fear, among many others, his books have sold over 200 million copies worldwide, with many adapted into films.  In 1994 Crichton became the only creative artist ever to have works simultaneously charting at No. 1 in television, film, and book sales (with ERJurassic Park, and Disclosure, respectively).

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Written by LW

October 23, 2013 at 1:01 am

Special Halloween Edition: Horror for all!…

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By way of helping readers ready themselves for this evening’s frightful festivities, a stroll down memory lane…

These and other terrifying trailers (along with lots of other fascinating film fodder) at The Ebert Club; inexpensive annual membership required– and more than worth it.

And for advanced students: “The Top 10 Zombie Movies You’ve Never Seen.”

SPECIAL HORROR-GEEK UPDATE: “‘Why won’t you die?!’ The art of the jump scare.”

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As we steel ourselves against breaking prematurely into the candy, we might note that it was on this date in 2004 that the 14th Baron of Prestoungrange pardoned the 81 “East Lothian Witches” who had been put to death 400 years earlier (often, for crimes as innocuous as owning a black cat and living on their own).

The Baron acted on the authority of Scotland’s ancient baronial courts– and not a moment too soon, as the courts were abolished the following month.

 source

Written by LW

October 31, 2012 at 1:01 am

Boo! (It’s that time again…)

…from the always-amusing xkcd.  (The last panel? The Banach-Tarski Paradox:  explained here; illustrated here.  The “Axiom of Choice”– of which the the B-T Paradox is a case– is explained here.)

As we gird ourselves for the season of horrors, we might recall that it was on this date in 1483 that Tomás de Torquemada was appointed Inquisitor General of Spain (at the behest of Queen Isabella, whose confessor he had been).  Called “the hammer of heretics, the light of Spain, the saviour of his country, the honor of his order” by Spanish chronicler Sebastián de Olmedo, Torquemada was a key advocate for the Alhambra Decree (Ferdinand’s and Isabella’s expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492) and a zealous prosecutor of “crypto-Jews” and “crypto-Muslims.”  While the precise number of deaths on his watch is a matter of debate, there is a general agreement that, between 1480 and 1530, about 2000 people burned in the autos-de-fé of the Spanish Inquisition.

Torquemada

 

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