That kind of haunting of the landscape means that a narrative where the landscape is always haunted, by supernatural entities that transcend death, makes a lot of sense. Nor is it insignificant that World War One was a war in which people were heavily invested in the idea that those entities were present in battles.
The very famous instance of that was the idea of the Angels of Mons; really, that was based on a short story about Agincourt bowmen written by the fantasy writer Arthur Machen. But people took it for a real report. We foist the facts of the external narrative to match what we internally feel to be true, which is often nuanced, complicated and impossible to explain. So we find that the supernatural, in the form of a perpetual haunting, can be a cipher of emotion and trauma. In The Viking Way , Price also talks about female sorcery in this period and demystifies common misconceptions about practices of shamanism.
He talks about the feminization of sorcery and the extent to which sorcery effeminizes some of the shaman figures. I think all of us have a post-Victorian, romanticized view of sorcery. Part of the power of these figures of sorcery is their willingness to acknowledge the perpetual presence of the dead in the landscape. The dead still outnumber the living.
The dead outnumber us twenty to forty times.
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That, in a way, is what all of these books are about. What these writers are trying to do is encourage people to face truthfully the fact that mortality is still a problem the human race has not solved. Would you say then, reading over these books, the appropriate response ought to be something more like fear, or a measured awe or appreciation? Challenges like bereavement.
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That makes me think of you saying a few minutes ago that so many of those persecuted as witches in early modern England were elderly—were the people whose sons, children and fellow community members had to face or had trouble facing the fact that they were going to die. I think one of the reasons that we find elderly women so horrifying is that they are literally a kind of dead end. Girls at fifteen are having Botox before they even get any facial lines. On the other hand, you have to argue, what is it that terrifies us so much about the spectacle of age?
Nor is it insignificant that the witch trials begin at pretty much the same moment as the European Reformation in religion, which radically resets relations with the dead by deleting purgatory and the cult of the saints. Whereas previously you could be useful to the dead by praying for them.
Get the weekly Five Books newsletter. But the Reformation nixes both of those relations with the dead. And sometimes it makes things really, really violent and dramatic. My favorite story concerns the ossuary at St. In the middle of the night, this huge group of carts pulled up outside of the cathedral, and they took all the bones in the ossuary, loaded them into the carts, took them down to the local marsh, threw them into the marsh, and threw dung on top of them.
Absolutely that. How would you feel, if your relatives were buried in a graveyard, and you got up one morning and realized the graveyard had been turned into a theme park? And that all the bones had vanished from the cemetery and been replaced by swing sets? Most people would feel a very personal sense of violation.
The consequence was that in deleting good relations with the dead, people were inspired to a greater level of fear than before about the passing of time. Are those changes with the Reformation the reason why relations with the dead become so dark and seemingly threatening, leading people to accuse those around them of witchcraft?
Suddenly, because there are no benevolent ties to the dead, the dead then have to become a specter of evil? Additionally, one of the effects of the Reformation is that over time it tends to delete the grey areas of folklore. Everything is black or white. Similarly, every supernatural entity has to come from either heaven or hell. All those middling beings like fairies and ghosts also get dropped.
Anything that does bad stuff is, therefore, a demon. Some of the practices that witches describe in their confessions are very like the practices associated with such entities: the notable one is leaving out a bowl of cream or milk for them, which again is a trans-national custom. Scandinavians also do it for trolls and elves. There are a lot of descriptions of people doing it for their demon, and the demons often sound quite a lot like fairies or elves—bearing in mind that fairies and elves are hobs.
They can only either be delusions of strange old women or demons. In modern secular culture, there are rigid distinctions between satanic, demonic, ghostly, haunting and evil. But actually it sounds like these groups were much more porous. I think so. The Reformation really happens at different times in different places, and even happens differently to different individuals. If you look at the Lancashire witch trial of , the two older women in their nineties accused in that trial are, according to their own children, using charms that we would probably think of as Catholic prayers.
But alternatively, there are also all those people who believe stories of how their children were possessed by Satan after reading those books, which is the flipside of that, the other kind of crazy. This is where I should probably shut up, but I find the determinism of the sorting hat quite troubling.
The idea that you are a Slytherin, you are a Gryffindor. Adults, too. The absolutism of the categories does my head in. Next, we have Soul Hunters by Rane Willerslev. This is about a particular group of Siberian shamans. Of course it fails, which is the good news. The bad news is a lot of people die, but the good news is that it fails. The book is about the revival of Siberian shamanism since the fall of the Berlin wall and the way that these groups of tribes are coming back together and trying to rediscover the traditional practices of their forefathers.
Which is great. On the other hand, being a shaman is really, horrifyingly difficult. The closer you come to dying, the greater your power. Sounds a bit like method acting. People are their bodies. Nor can you really control every function of your body in the way you can maybe control electric lights. As you probably know if you read the papers, the environment in Siberia—just like the environment all around the poles—is changing much faster.
The further up you go, the more strongly climate change is happening noticeably. How can you manage totally non-traditional climatic events with traditional material? The answer would appear to be that only traditional material offers you the chance to give something back to the landscape. Shamanism is a violent religion. In order to induce the appropriate state of mind, self-harm is sometimes involved.
I get the tendency of the California shaman to want to resist some of those forces. Rather than insisting on making every single thing in our lives perfect for us, irrespective of other stuff. Now, you could call that violence. And the corporations and globalized entities with real power to do harm are the ones that would have a vested interest in calling it violence, and in making witches out of individuals.
And the responses to Greta Thunberg struck me as very much a callback to some of the kinds of rhetoric that we see associated with the young children caught up in the witch trials. Todos Rock Gospel Sertanejo Mais. Aplicativos e plugins. Mobile Android iPhone Windows Phone.
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