Archive for October, 2013

As Halloween approaches, I wished to continue my theme from last week.

For Italian Witches, or those who follow the spiritual path of Stregheria, the pagan holiday of Samhain is known as, Shadowfest. ( La Festa dell’ Ombra). On October 31st, the deceased return to the world of the living for three days until they depart again on the second of November.

As hosting a Dumb Supper is traditional for some witches, it is customary for Sicilians to gather at the graves of loved ones and leave them food. One of the most traditional foods to be served is fava bean soup. Since the days of the Roman Empire, the bean has been associated with the dead due to a single black mark on the white petal. Bowls of the soup are left outside at the witching hour for the spirits to enjoy, and then buried when the sunrises.

Today in Italy, it is common to eat fave dei morte sweets shaped as skeletons. While modern Sicilians also partake in sugary figures shaped from legendary heroes.*

This practice of honoring the spirits of the dead for multiple days can also be found in Mexico’s, Día de Muertos which also lasts from October 31st through November second. Skulls made of sugar, marigolds, and favorite foods are brought to the graves of loved ones. November first, Día de los Angelitos, is set aside to honor children, while the second day of the month, Día de los Muertos, is to remember the adults beyond the veil.

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* information from Raven Grimassi’s, Hereditary Witchcraft

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Doorbells ringing.
Impatient knocking.
“Trick or treat.” Cute little ghosts and goblins and witches standing at your threshold, holding out bags to be filled with sweets.
While this is the image most conjure in their minds regarding All Hallows Eve, October 31st holds a very different, very sacred meaning to the hearts of many others.
Amongst other names…
Samhain (sow-en) to the ancient Celts and many modern Pagans
Shadowfest to the Strega

As the veil between the living and the dead lies at its most fragile, it is the opportune time for seances, scrying, and magic.
It is time to honor the God and Goddess.
But most of all, it is time to remember our ancestors.
We walk upon their bones every day. Their blood flows within us.
It was they who reaped and sowed, toiled in fields, built shelters, dared to dream and travel to new lands, survived and fought against slaveries and holocausts, and every day injustices.
Halloween is a night to say, “Thank you.”

And one does not have to be of any particular religion or spiritual practice to do so.
One of the most lovely traditions is to host a Dumb Supper. This may be done solo, or with friends and family in attendance.
If one wishes to host one, there are no rules. One may wish to call upon a few specific loved ones who have passed away, or their whole lineage. A general guidelines one may wish to follow would be to remember that the supper is for those who have gone before. Therefore, you may wish to cook your grandmother’s favorite meal, or dishes belonging to their ethnic background. Prayers belonging to the religion they practiced might be recited. Their favorite flowers bought. Their favorite pieces of music played.
The meal is served backwards….yes, dessert before the main course! Some even set the table in opposite fashion. In any event, once the food is served, the supper is enjoyed in silence, hence the name.

Once everyone is done, the remaining food is left overnight for the spirits to partake of their essence.
Afterwards, enjoy a night of magic filled with family, love, and remembrance.

Samhain

Black Sabbath - I tre volti della paura 1963-MSS-JF-049

There are  films you see as a child, which although the name of it is long forgotten to you, fragments of scenes, the way it crawled under your skin, remain intact.   And years later, you are flicking the channels when you come across that seem bony hand, those same drops of water.   “This was that movie,” you say.

Directed by the sublime Mario Bava (Black Sunday, Kill Baby Kill), Black Sabbath was a  1963 Italian horror trilogy.  Its original title, I tre volte della paura ( The three Faces of Fear) consists of one,  “The Telephone” in which a woman named Rosy, beset by terrifying phone calls, fears the ex-pimp she helped put away, is out now,  seeking revenge.  Second, “The Wurdalak”, in which a woman loses her child to a vampire.   This story set in 19th century Russia is exceptionally haunting and beautifully filmed.   Yet it is perhaps the third one, that remains most memorable to any who saw it:

“A Drop of Water”

Everyone knows not to steal from the dead.   Except, evidently,  Victorian Nurse Helen Chester.  While dressing the body of a deceased patient, she slips a saphire ring off the corpse’s finger.  The deed done,  she knocks over a glass of water, its contents spilling onto the floor.   A fly attacks her face.

Pulling herself together, she continues her work.

Once finished with the assignment, she returns home to her apartment.  Ready to rewind and relax for the evening, her plans are hindered by the buzzing of flies, and the tip-tapping of water.   And then there is that face.  That face.  And those hands. . .

From youtube, in the Original Italian:  (don’t worry, you don’t need to speak the language to understand what is happening)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5URt0IDd84   (part one)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7WYuBHz2Jg    (part two)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHotHCMSEdc    (part three)

original title:  La noche de Walpurgis (1971)

Werewolf Versus Vampire Woman- ad

With a title such as, Werewolf Versus the Vampire Woman, how could a lady such as I resist?   The sound of it alone brought me back to the little kid watching Creature Double Feature on Saturday afternoons.   Not to mention the slew of John Sinclair horror pulp novellas  which reside in this apartment.

Is this a great piece of filmmaking?  A masterpiece of cinematic technique?  Hardly.  It is unabashadly a B- film from the cheap sets,  silly dialogue, acting that seesaws between stilted and melodramtic, and heaving bosoms.  Don’t watch expecting a Psycho, Exorcist, Black Sunday, Suspiria, The Haunting, or anything of that ilk.   That said, I don’t judge any film or book in comparion to others.   One of my main tenants in critique is, did it do what it set out to do?

If director Leon Klimovsky and script writers, Paul Naschy and Hans Munkel, wished to entertain me, they succeeded.

Starring Naschy as Waldemar Daninsky and Gaby Fuchs as Elvira, this is a fun romp from the moment Elvira (with gal pal, Genevieve in tow) goes off to research the legend of a Countess Wandessa, rumored to have been a Hungarian vampire in the eleventh century.   As a writer of the occult, Elvira can hardly resist the story of a woman who practiced all methods of dark magic.  Of how members of the Inquisition tried to arrest her, but all who opposed her ended up dead.  Of a woman who preserved her beauty by drinking the blood of virgins.  Of how she was finally killed by her own lover who stabbed her in the chest.

the-werewolf-vs-the-vampire-woman

Naturally, fate sees it that the women get lost, while also running low on gasoline.  The droll Genevieve (Barbara Capell), jokes maybe Count Dracula will appear, and surely he will invite them to spend the night at his castle.    Elvira jocularly tells her to shut up.  However, her humor disipates when they do reach a run down castle where a Count Waldemar does indeed invite them to stay, as long as they wish.  From the start, she is suspicious of the oddness of the man, and his surroundings.   “This man has been lying to us all this time.  Have you noticed how the table was set?  Only a woman has that eye for attention.”

After listing all the weird things she’s noticed, Genevieve retorts by granting them all rational explanations.    Again she jokes of the undead.  “No vampire is going to suck your blood.”

Oh, dear.  Then you shouldn’t disturb graves of reputed Vampirin.

Perhaps it is this interest in vampires, that incites the risen Countess  to lure the woman into her coven.

wolfman vs vamp woman

When the turned Genevieve tries to seduce Elvira into joining them, “I’m so happy.  It’s beautiful,”- Elvira is left to try to rescue her friend, as well as help the hairy Count destroy the vampiric witch once again.

wolfman vs vampire woman 3