VAMPIRES

The full moon emerges from behind profuse clouds, revealing a traditional GOTHIC CEMETARY. The mist flows over the GRAVES. Granite GRAVE MARKERS, in the shape of crosses, ANGELS, and animals, appear as secure landmarks between our world and the next. With an opening like this, we know we are in for a frightfully good time, be it in a book, a movie, or a television show! The EERIE atmosphere of dark and lonely places, where we might lose control – belong to the LEGENDS of VAMPIRES, SHAPE SHIFTERS, WEREWOLVES, MONSTERS, and other CREATURES OF THE NIGHT. BELA LUGOSI, in 1931, starred as DRACULA for UNITED ARTISTS – becoming the quintessential LORD OF THE NIGHT. His portrayal of DRACULA brought power and sophistication to the UNDEAD. The 1936 movie, “DRACULA’S DAUGHTER,” EMPOWERED VAMPIRE WOMEN with the same sophistication and strength, with GLORIA HOLDEN portraying COUNTESS ZALESKA, as the tragic, yet SPELLBINDING VILLAINESS. HAMMER HORROR FILMS further developed the character of FEMALE VAMPIRES. These VAMPS were SULTRY, beautiful, and brought more SEX into the world of HORROR. These women were not weak, sniveling victims like MINA that BRAM STOKER wrote about in his 1897 novel DRACULA. HAMMER HORROR FILMS used CREEPY atmospheric scenes, with FLAMBOYANT, even KINKY COSTUMES. These women were PROVOCATIVE and dominant- even if they didn’t instigate their change from living to dead; they definitely took control of their situation with prowess. Great actors like CHRISTOPHER LEE, PETER CUSHING, FRANCIS LEDERER, LON CHANEY JR., BORIS KARLOFF, ADELINE REYNOLDS, LOUISE ALLBRITTON, BARBARA STEELE, VINCENT PRICE, JOHN CARRADINE, J. CARROL NASH, GLEN STRANGE, LIONEL ATWILL, and my personal favorite, MARIA OUSPENSKAYA, developed our images of vampires and other MACABRE and SHADOWY legends. The vampire HORROR LEGACY is safe in our modern world with writers like: ANNE RICE (THE VAMPIRE LESTAT), STEVEN KING (SALEM’S LOT), and RAY BRADBURY (short story – HOMECOMING).


                                                                                                            MERMAIDS

WATER NYMPHS and MERMAIDS have been part of our genetic memory for thousands of years. Almost every culture has their MERFOLK. Some are thought to live in fresh water (NAIADS) or salt water (OCEANIDS) - but wherever they live we know a few things about them. Mermaids are strong, sexy, alluring and sensual. Many are thought to be descendants of the GORGON sisters, whose father was the SEA GOD, PHORCYS. You remember the only mortal sister – MEDUSA – talk about power – she could turn men into stone with her bad hair day! RAY HARRYHAUSEN did a wonderful job with his stop action MEDUSA in the movie, “CLASH OF THE TITANS.” She might have been bad – but she looked good doing it! And, of course, we got PEGASUS from her death. Germany has their legend of a SIREN – LORELEI – she hypnotized sailors with her beauty and singing – causing their ships to wreck, drowning the unfortunate men. Mermaids have the power to control the MONSTERS of the deep. They can communicate with SHARKS, SEA SERPENTS, even PLESIOUSAURS. These CREATURES are used to guard JEWELS, SUNKEN TREASURES and other SECRETS OF THE DEEP. Maybe NESSIE has a NAIAD or two as her companions in LOCH NESS. Many films have been made with mermaids in their story line. “MR. PEABODY AND THE MERMAID”, was produced in 1948. ANN BLYTH starred as the mermaid. She was portrayed as mute and, shall we say, bland. But she was beautiful. The movie, “CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON”, really didn’t have a MERMAN or even a SELKIE as its title character, but it qualifies in many ways. The CREATURE lived underwater, had fins, gills, power and attitude! The opposite extreme is the movie, “SPLASH”, with TOM HANKS and DARRYL HANNAH. The movie was cute and heartwarming – who doesn’t love Tom Hanks, but the mermaid was again, bland and even passive. HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN wrote a fairy tale entitled “THE LITTLE MERMAID.” This mermaid story had a sad ending but leave it to WALT DISNEY studios to bring it to a happier conclusion. The movie, “DAGON” was based very loosely on an H.P. LOVECRAFT story called “THE SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH.” Again the mermaid connection is very slight – just a dream sequence with a lovely mermaid in it, luring a man to an island. Of course, she isn’t lovely or a mermaid – she is a really creepy half octopus (hey, didn’t they use that idea for the DISNEY movie?) part woman, worshiping the great god, CTHULHU. In the book, GOBLET OF FIRE, HARRY POTTER interacts with EERIE Mermaids. PETER PAN, in his beloved NEVERLAND, almost lost WENDY to jealous mermaids. These MYTHICAL CREATURES can be SLITHERING, GOTHIC, and DARK with societies fearing them or beautiful and HAUNTING with MYSTICAL POWERS. Either way who wouldn’t want to enter their world?

                                                                                                                     FAIRIES

The belief in FAERIES touches a nearly forgotten link in our genetic code. It is remembrance of our connection to nature – a time when everything we used came from nature and depended on our being in sync with nature. Fairies have had many names in the past such as: FEY, FAE, FAY, FAERIE, WEE FOLK, GOOD FOLK, THE PEOPLE OF PEACE, NATURE SPIRITS; even GOBLINS, GNOMES, BANSHEES, BROWNIES, SPRITES, TROLLS, ELVES, GHOSTS, SYLPHS and finally DEMOTED ELVES- all have been used in many societies to name these beings. They are most remembered in CELTIC FOLKFLORE. Fairies have MAGICAL POWERS. They can CAST SPELLS, FLY, and cause mischief. No less a person than SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE (remembered for the world’s most famous DETECTIVE, SHERLOCK HOLMES) believed in fairies and wrote about them. He was an ardent believer in the photographs taken in 1917, by two cousins – FRANCES GRIFFITH and ELSIE WRIGHT. These photos reported to be the girls with their friends, the fairies. These photos are seen now days as blatant forgeries. But, during the harsh times of WORLD WAR I, they were a form of escape into the tranquil natural world of TINY, beautiful beings. Today, we are more familiar with TINKERBELL. She was PETER PAN’S arrogant little companion in the stories by J.M. BARRIE. Tinkerbell embodies many of the classical traits seen in fairies. She can fly; she has magical powers and is mischievious. She is also demanding and jealous – more of the old Celtic view of the FEY. DISNEY again enters our new memories with PINOCCHIO (original story by CARLO COLLODI) being given the gift of real life. The movie, LABYRINTH, using the legendary JIM HENSON’S creative magic, featured fairies as did an early TOM CRUISE, TIM CURRY, and BILLY BARTY movie, LEGEND, directed by RIDLEY SCOTT. C.S. LEWIS wrote the NARNIA books with DRYADS, FAUNS, GIANTS, and other SUPERNATURAL beings often equated with FAIRIES. STEPHEN GROO, CULT FILM ARTIST, used fairies/elves in his movies: UNEXPECTED RACE – I, II, III. GARY STADLER, recording artist has had many popular recordings, using music inspired by FAIRIE LEGENDS. The television show, “FAIRLY ODD PARENTS” is a cute and funny version of the GOOD FOLK. We let fairies into our house with the fairly new (pun intended) tooth fairy. She harkens to the old ways – she exchanges things. In this case, she exchanges teeth for money – and aren’t children glad! We are all looking for a FAIRY GODMOTHER to grant us wishes. And some of us have been lucky enough to act for her. This is seen in the wonderful “MAKE A WISH FOUNDATION”. We grew up with GRIMM’S FAIRY TALES by the BROTHERS’ GRIM. Their wonderful, if somewhat dark tales have embellished our perception of the HIDDEN PEOPLE. WENDY PINI AND RICHARD PINI are keeping fairies and elves alive with the ELFQUEST series. There isn’t a place on this planet that doesn’t include NATURE SPIRITS, or fairies in their FOLK LORE. To paraphrase SHAKESPEARE from ROMEO AND JULIET:

She is the fairies’ midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone. . .
Her wagon-spokes made of long spinners’ legs
The cover, of the wings of grasshoppers;
 The traces, of the smallest spider’s web,
The collars, of the moonshine’s watery beams;
Her whip, of cricket’s bone; the lash, of film. . .

                                                                                                      WOOD NYMPHS

The forests of our ancestors were dark and deep. Massive trees crowded together, blocking out day light in these ancient woods. An inexperienced person could get lost just a few steps away from a familiar path. Children, especially, were warned to stay on the path or a CREATURE would get them. I don’t doubt that these ancient forests were home to more than just BIGFOOT or SASQUATCH. The dense, untrod terrain concealed all kinds of wildlife. FOLKLORE from GERMANY, SCANDINAVIA, and the SLAVIC regions, all tell of WOOD NYMPHS. These diminutive NYMPHS were said to live under and around the roots of ancient oak trees. They guarded their forests and all the creatures that lived therein. Their clothing was made from LEAVES, COBWEBS, MOSS and SEEDS. ACORNS were ground to make their miniscule bread. These WILD FOLK or WOOD SPIRITS were to be respected. If a tree was needed, the woodsman asked permission. He might even leave an offering of food or MEADE before cutting down the tree. In return, the FOREST FOLK kept the trees healthy. WOOD FOLK were so connected to nature, that all animals were their companions. If an animal had an injury or was ill, the wood nymphs could heal it. HEALING POTIONS were made using the natural resources of the forest. Eventually, these potions were shared with a few chosen humans. Most human tribes had women that were known for their potions – women that were in-tune with nature and observed the old ways.

“Move along these shades
In gentleness of heart; with gentle hand
Touch- for there is a spirit in the woods.”
William Wordsworth


                                                                                                               WITCHES

The history of WITCHCRAFT is a cultural memory, honoring men and women who understood nature and were in harmony with it. HEALERS were an important part of every tribe. In today’s world, WICCANS, WARLOCKS, WITCHES, and HEALERS are still part of our tribe. The tools of THE CRAFT can be CANDLES, INCENSE, OILS, POWDERS, HERBS, CRYSTALS and RITUALS. These items help manipulate energy to bring desired results. WITCHCRAFT concentrates power that is already within us. It allows us to tap into the forces, remember – “LUKE! USE THE FORCE!” J.K. ROWLING in her HARRY POTTER books – uses the world of HARRY POTTER to demonstrate MAGIC .being used for good as well as evil. The old television show, “BEWITCHED” used SAMANTHA STEVENS (a WITCH) as a vehicle for comedy and because the premise was MAGICAL, it gave the writers leeway for anything to happen. This series was at best, amusing, at worst, frustrating. “BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” was a TV series that had Buffy’s best friend WILLOW becoming a powerful witch. This series showed the “COMING OF AGE” and EMPOWERMENT of young women. The series, “CHARMED,” illustrated the importance of family and friends – especially while fighting off evildoers. “SABRINA – THE TEENAGE WITCH,” is one of my favorite programs. Of course, SABRINA is cute and sincere and her Aunts and friends, delightful. But what really made the show for me are the acceptance of human frailties and the loyalty of her family. Television and movies are adding to the legacy of witches. Both ends of the spectrum are displayed – witches as evil – using their POWERS to bring about destruction, and conversely, witches as good – using their powers to save humanity. A perfect example of this dichotomy in movies is seen in THE WIZARD OF OZ, between GLENDA THE GOOD WITCH and THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST. I guess there is a third kind of witch being portrayed in TV and movies too, the one in the middle – just trying to get through the day, not hurting anyone and still learning about herself. After all, that is what history first told us of witches – wise people (usually women) who used their wisdom and knowledge to nurture and to heal.
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