FFB: The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

dark-is-risingAlthough a classic I’d not read this novel before, but stumbling across it at the Oxfam Bookshop this winter, I found the combination of the title and the folk horror revival vibe in Michael Heslop’s cover irresistible. Will is the seventh son of a seventh son, which he did not know as one of his brothers died very young. He’s been born to a special task, uniting the forces of light against the darkness:

‘It is a burden,’ Merriman said. ‘Make no mistake about that. Any great gift of power or talent is a burden, and this more than any, and you will often long to be free of it.’

It’s full of history, pagan symbols and eternal struggles. The struggle of dark against light is rather simplistic as many myths are. The contempt for women is striking within the narrative: ‘typical females’ are silly. There are maiden, mother and crone for symbolic purposes, but the maiden has to be rescued by Will, the mother falls and sprains her ankle to provide emotional ammunition and the crone has to be brought back by Will as well. Not that any of the characters are especially well drawn: they’re just pegs to carry the narrative forward, and it moves at a good clip.

This sounds more negative than it is in sum. The vivid scenes of magic and myth really leap off the page. The mysterious mask, the snow that falls for days, the almost sentient fire Will discovers in the past all offer a thrill. Her poetry sings:

Fire on the mountain shall find the harp of gold
Played to wake the Sleepers, oldest of the old;
Power from the green witch, lost beneath the sea;
All shall find the light at last, silver on the tree.

The Wild Hunt at the end that awakens Herne is truly magnificent. We all need inspiration to fight the dark that is rising now. There’s much to inspire here.

See all the overlooked gems at Patti’s blog  make that Todd’s blog.

#FolkloreThursday Freebie: Hard-Boiled Witch 2


Click the picture: today only, get Hard-Boiled Witch 2: Toil and Trouble for free — then pick up the others for just 99¢/99p each. Celebrate #FolkloreThursday by following the hashtag on Twitter or dropping by their Facebook page.

Hecate Sidlaw finds herself caught between a wannabe witch and one of the oldest hereditary powers in the land. When she and her familiar Henry end up as seconds in a magical duel, will anyone be left standing at the end of the shootout? Enter the dark streets and weird magic of HARD-BOILED WITCH and your life will never be quite the same. This is the second episode in the short story series.

Revisiting Anglo-Saxon Magic: #FolkloreThursday

medieval cuckoo
The days are just packed! So forgive me if I offer a little repeat: my first two posts for Witches & Pagans as ‘History Witch’ dealt with Anglo-Saxon traditions of magic and healing. Just the thing for the #FolkloreThursday madness.

Introduction to Anglo-Saxon Magic, Part 1

Introduction to Anglo-Saxon Magic, Part 2

Check out all my posts at W&P to find out about magical history. Or you could just buy Rook Chant (click image):

Lammas

From Leechdom, Wortcunning and Starcraft of Early England, a compendium of wonderful folk knowledge of early Anglo-Saxon England, a charm using bread [hláf] hallowed on August 1st [hláfmæsse-dæg] the traditional grain harvest day:

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 09.34.34

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 09.34.47

Summer’s last hurrah this month: in sunny Dundee the flowers still bloom:

But the rowan berries have come too, and they spell my doom:

2016-07-28 12.57.55

Getting Girly with MLP

What I Learned from Cult TV:
Friendship is Magic

Cult TV show My Little Pony

This is about my My Little Pony epiphany. I have sighed my way through a lot of bad entertainment consumption with the Executive Princess, much of it day-glo and glittery. I think the bottom of the barrel might be Barbie’s Life in the Dream House but it could also apply to the endless package openings on YouTube where that woman with the grating voice goes into orgasmic raptures in that sing-song way over every product that she’s paid to drool over.

If you do not know her, be grateful.

So I expected no less of MLP, which originally kicked off in the 80s with a film promoting a toy line (the horror of that 80s animation! If you have seen that travesty, you know of what I speak: believe me, anything that Madeline Kahn cannot rescue is irredeemable). Sure, I had heard of Bronies and other cutesy appropriations as every pony knows, but considering the unearned fanaticism that makes some folks fawn over that saccharine Speilbergian horror, Goonies, I didn’t pay much attention. I figured it was another ‘I love it because I grew up with it’ phenomenon (I grew up with war pictures and Westerns: I do not generally love either). I really didn’t think MLP would be any different from, say, those interminable Strawberry Shortcake episodes (scarring, I assure you).

I certainly never expected to fight off tears watching MLP’s Rainbow Rocks.

Somehow a bunch of things collided in my head last summer while I first got immersed in Ponyville. I was also reading some Megan Abbott (Fever and then later The End of Everything) and also noticing stories like the Slenderman stabbing. They stirred up a lot of the best and worst of girlhood. There’s a darkness in it that no one much likes to admit; it can be a very claustrophobic world.

Girls lives are circumscribed by society. Much as we like to think we are free and liberal (all current evidence to the contrary), the truth remains that girls lives are tightly bound. At the far end of the spectrum, they’re literally locked away until handed over to a husband or some other patriarchal organisation; at the more lenient end, they’re hemmed in by social constructions that breed fear into their very skin. They’re both disparaged and protected. They don’t have a choice. So what happens?

Girls expand to fill the spaces allowed them…

[Click here to read the rest over at Fox Spirit]

John Dee in London

2016-06-20 14.58.32Last Monday I headed down to London to catch a few exhibits. My first stop after dropping things at my hotel was to drop by the Royal College of Physicians to see John Dee’s Library. The RCP gave me strong sense of dejá vu for my Harvard Med years, where the rich and powerful men sat around dark paneled rooms making rules and plans. This is the Censors Room where decisions were made about who was allowed to practice medicine.

2016-06-20 15.00.59

It was difficult to take much in the way of pictures, what with the low light and no flash allowed. Most of the cases were covered my light-obscuring cloths to protect the books. It was interesting to see what Dee had collected, but mostly how he had annotated the volumes with his own thoughts (click to embiggen). Familiar items from the British Museum were there, too, including his scrying mirror and its case.

 

I had to have a tag to identify me as a visitor. They had several conferences going on at the same time. I didn’t quite manage to slip into the tea and cakes that were out for one of them.

2016-06-20 15.10.41

There’s a wonderful series of gardens, too. They had a Shakespeare theme going on in the foliage, highlighting plants that appeared in the plays (oddly enough the Bard became a theme for my week).

More to come of course —

#FolkloreThursday Freebie: Rook Chant

Click the picture above to get a free ebook copy of my magical miscellany Rook Chant. What a lovely cover S. L. Johnson created from one of my fortuitous photos in Galway. I miss the rooks. Don’t hesitate — the offer’s good today only.

Be sure to catch up with all the fun lore at Folklore Thursday. Follow #folklorethursday on Twitter.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 10.37.44