Friday, 24 October 2014

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY - Hallowed Be Thy Charms

All Hallows Eve is now better known as Hallowe'en night, and is widely held to the spookiest night of the year, a time for ghosts and goblins and witchery! As many of you will know, it is said that we celebrate the eerie and frightening at this time as our ancestors believed that on this night the veil between worlds was thin, allowing spectres and faeries and witches to draw near to us. Hence we ward away their incursions by making jack o'lanterns and bonfires to frighten them away.

Now how historically accurate all of that is we are investigating in my next podcast - Hypnogoria 004 - The Origins of Hallowe'en, but looking through my tomes of ancient customs and folios of folklore, it is definitely true that out forebears considered Hallowe'en night to be one of the times of the year that were very appropriate for carrying out all manner of charms and rites and spells.

Some of these folk customs and bits of hedge magic were, in different regions and different times, performed on other days our ancestors deemed magically significant. For example, we most associate the ancient tradition of wassailing with Christmas and New Year, but the Western Isles of Scotland on  All Hallow's Eve fishermen would gather on the beach for s round of sea wassailing. They would sing traditional songs to the waves, culminating in a toast with a brimming cup of ale to the god of the seas to ensure fruitful catches and safe voyages over the coming year.

And despite Halloween reputation as the eeriest night of the year, a good many of the folk charms carried out in ages past were surprisingly in the cause of romance! In Scotland it was said that if you scattered hemp seeds over your left shoulder on Halloween and intoned the following rhyme "Hemp-seed, I saw thee; and him (or her) that is to be my true love, come after me", if you looked over your left shoulder there would appears your destined true love. In other parts of the British Isles it was said a similar prophetic vision of your lover to be could be invoked by eating an apple by candle-light in front of a mirror in Halloween night.

And many areas held that a similar charm could be performed with apples. In this variant those seeking to discover their soul mate would peel and an apple and throw the peel over their left shoulder. And the shape the peel landed it was supposed to form the initials of your true love.

A somewhat squishier alternative for some amorous divination on Halloween comes from Shropshire. There is was said that if you catch a snail on Halloween and place it on a box or in the ashes of your hearth on Halloween night, in the morning you'll find the initials of your true love to be spelled out in the snail's slimy trail!

Similarly there are a good number of spells that could employed on Halloween night to discover who was secretly in love with you. For example, in Derbyshire young ladies would inscribe on chestnuts the names of boys who they suspected holding a torch for them. The chestnuts were then placed upon the hearth, sometime among the embers of the fire, on All Hallows Eve and it was said which ever chestnut popped out of the fire nearest the young lady revealed the name of her secret lover.

But there were more serious charms you practice upon a Halloween night. In Herefordshire, there was a more morbid form of divination - each member of the family would pick an ivy leaf and label it as their own. The ivy leaves were then left in a bowl of water over Halloween night. In the morning any member of the family who was fated to die in the coming year would find their leaf marked with a coffin shape. In other regions, egg whites were dropped into water to serve a similar purpose and again if the whites formed into the shape of coffin you would not live to see the next Halloween...

However the most sspooky of all Halloween customs, and the one closest to its modern day incarnation of a time for ghosts and ghouls and phantoms, is the practice of church porching. This custom was very common in the British Isles, and aside from being practiced on All Hallows Eve, St Mark's Day, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve were favoured in some areas. But as All Hallows was the day in the medieval Christian calendar when prayers were said for the dead, All Hallows Eve was the most appropriate date for this eerie custom.

This folk rite was an overnight vigil - folk would gather in the church porch or in some areas at the lych gate before midnight and quietly observe. For it was said that upon this night, an eerie procession of spirits could be seen entering the nighted church. However this was no solemn parade of the dead, for this eerie train of spectres was composed of those who would to die in the coming year. It was said the shades of those who were to die appeared dressed in winding sheets and shrouds and a ghostly service would be held in the church. Afterwards the spectres would file out and go their separate ways in the churchyard and the scrape of coffin lids and the rattle of grave soil be heard as they vanished!

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

MICROGORIA 05 - Fun To Know About Ghosts

Mr Jim Moon once more finds a childhood favourite lurking on the shelves in the Great Library of Dreams - a tome by one Sean Richards who turned out to be none other than legendary editor and anthologist  Peter Haining. Flipping through this vintage paperback from Armada, we indeed find much fun in knowing all about ghosts!

DIRECT DOWNLOAD - Microgoria 05: Fun To Know About Ghosts

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   HYPNOGORIA is hosted by GeekPlanetOnline and is part of the ROGUE TWO Podcasting network.

WITLESS FOR THE DEFENCE Case 16: The People Vs Bayformers

Welcome to Witless For The Defence resided over by Judge Chris Johnson, Jim (Hang’em) Moon SSC BSC and Elton McManus QVC. It in this two part epic Mr Mark Berryman defending.....
1) Transformers 1986
2) Michael Bay's Transformers
3) Transformers Revenge Of The Fallen
4) Transformers Dark Of The Moon
5) Michael Bay's Work
6) The Transformers Mythos

CASE 16 Part 1 - Direct Download
CASE 16 Part 2 - Direct Download



Monday, 20 October 2014


Mr Jim Moon joins the SFFaudio Podcast to discuss F Paul Wilson's classic novel of Nazis, vampires and Lovecraftian lore, The Keep 

SFFaudio Podcast - The Keep (direct download) 


Sunday, 19 October 2014


Mr Jim Moon take a look at the microbudget anthology horror The Perfect House

Friday, 17 October 2014

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY - The Rampages of Robin Redcap

Up and down the borders of England and Scotland, legend tells of a particularly nasty species of faerie, sometimes called powries or dunters but most infamously, the Redcaps. Short, wizened and extremely vicious, sporting sharp teeth and eagle like talons, these twisted little horrors wore iron boots and were armed with heavy pikes, and were said to infest castles and keeps in the borderlands, lying in wait to ambush travelers. Their preferred gambit was to roll or hurl boulders at their passing victims and then drink the blood fresh from the mangled corpses. And their name comes from their custom of dipping their hats in the spilled blood. Furthermore it was said that should that blood ever dry completely, the Redcap would die.

Despite their iron footwear, Redcaps were terrible fast - few of the victims could outrun them. However they could not abide the sound of holy words, and so on hearing the recitation of passages from the Bible, the Redcaps would flee at great speed, leaving behind one of their teeth.

The most famous of these bloodthirsty sprites was Robin Redcap. In the 1300s, Hermitage Castle in Roxburghshire was home to Sir William de Soulis, a cruel and evil man who according legend practiced the black arts and gained a familiar spirit, a Redcap named Robin whose bloodthirstiness encouraged de Soulis to greater evils. Hermitage Castle was so filled with murder, torture and rape that it was said the very weight of such great sins were pushing the castle into the very earth, as if the stones were trying to hide from the sight of God.

Eventually the locals could stand no more and rose up against their cruel tyrant. However Robin Redcap had conferred upon de Soulis a curious power - thanks to the goblin, and at the price of his soul, de Soulis could not be harmed by "lance and arrow, sword and knife" nor would ropes bind him. However siding with the locals, the King of Scotland's army took arms against de Soulis and despite his magickal invulnerabilities, de Soulis was still captured - from despite Robin's powers preventing the King's men from binding him, they instead rolled him up in a sheet lead. The King decreed he was to be put to death, so de Soulis was taken to a circle of standing stones, Ninestane Rigg, just outside Hermitage Castle.  A huge cauldron was set inside the ring of ancient stones and a great fire was lit beneath it. And thus when the flames grew hot enough  "They plunged him into the cauldron red/And melted him, body, lead, bones and all."

When his master perished Robin Redcap disappeared, however it is said the devilish goblin had amassed a treasure hoard which lies hidden to this day in Hermitage Castle, and the terrible sprite has been seen several times over the years, presumably still watching over his hoard...

Illustration - a mummified Robin made by Mr Jacob Petersson

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY - Do Cross the Streams!

It has always been a great consolation to know that despite their considerable supernatural talents, the powers of darkness often have a weakness, an Achilles heel us poor mortals can use to repel the forces of evil and thwart the machinations of the denizens of the night. For example, we know vampires cannot abide garlic, werewolves are adverse to silver, and salt is good against all manner of evil beings. 

However there is one such weakness that is shared by a great many of the powers of darkness; indeed it is said to be good against vampires, witches, demons, malign faeries and all manner of ghosts and spectres. For folklore from down the ages, and indeed across the world, tends to agree that should you encounter beings from the night side of creation, your best bet is flee and cross running water.

But despite it being so remarkably efficacious, this method of escaping the clutches of the dark powers is also perhaps one of the most mysterious and the most puzzling. While most of such aversions and protections we may rationalize as being down to the biological allergy inbuilt into some monsters or by being symbols or channels for powers opposing them (for example the cross repelling vampires), the whole crossing running water is highly baffling, at least to the modern mind, and raises all manner of curious questions such as would a garden hose work to create a witch-proof barrier? Can you really kill a vampire with in your shower as seen in Dracula AD 1972

Well, despite the marvelous monster-thwarting potential seemingly offered by bathroom fittings, garden equipment and water pistols, I regret to inform you all that probably only running water found in a naturally occurring geographical feature, such as a river, stream or sea will work.  

Now many theories have been advanced to explain why the water features of a landscape provide such excellent protection against the forces of evil. Some have speculated it is because water is so essential to all living creatures, it is a symbol of life itself and hence repels things such as vampires and ghosts which rightly belong in the realms of the dead. Others postulate a link with water's reflective powers - mirrors were believed to have the power to trap souls and hence running water had similar properties and furthermore could perhaps wash away a restless spirit. 

For example, in the case of vampires, it is theorized that the flowing water would separate the evil entity reanimating the corpse. Furthermore in the excellent Vampires, Burial and Death, Paul Barber speculates that the superstition of vampires being unable to cross running waters may have arisen from corpses being disinterred from shallow graves by flooding and washing up miles away downstream leaving confused folk assuming that the dead must have been walking and only thwarted when blundering into a waterway.

However as entertaining as these theories are, the widespread belief in crossing running water providing a protection from evil beings is more likely rooted in a very different world view. In pre-modern times, communities were far more isolated, government was far more local, and travel was difficult and dangerous. Hence it was very common for people never to venture very far out of their local area, for in many eras to do so would mean literally leaving civilization and entering a wilderness where you were at the mercy of the weather, wild beasts and outlaws. Therefore the boundaries of a town or village were very important in the minds of the populace, and to cross these boundaries meant going from one realm to another. 

Now all communities need a water supply and hence were very much defined by the water features of the local landscape, with their boundaries often being marked by rivers and streams and coastlines. Faeries, witches, vampires and the like were seen to be forces of Outside, part of the threats that waited beyond the same safe, civilized area of your village or town. And folklorists have found that commonly local legends occur in these borderlands, what are technically termed liminal areas. It is the on the roads and lanes just out of town, the places just over the parish boundaries or county lines that the monsters dwell, where the ghosts haunt and the witches gather. 

And hence in earlier eras when the world you lived in was small, local and strictly defined and your life and livelihood tied to a very specific area,  it was assumed that naturally the denizens of the supernatural world were similar bound by place. Therefore crossing a stream  or river would see you crossing from one realm to another, hopefully passing out of the sphere of influence where the monsters held sway and back into the small circle of light and life of that was home. 

A word of caution however - depending on the local legend and lore crossing running water by a bridge did not always confer the same protection. For example in Robert Burns' Tam O'Shanter, our Highland hero makes good his escape by crossing a bridge, however in other tales the bridge is where the monster waits - most famously in the form of the troll in the Norwegian legend we now know as the Tale of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. For a bridge was a point where the worlds meet and overlapped, a liminal area within a liminal area  if you will. And therefore rather providing protection, a bridge could be a point where the horrors could get you!