Friday, October 19, 2018

"Oh Lord" by In This Moment

The video for this song is more creepy than the music is, but it fits in with our "demons" theme. I've been pretty exhausted this week, hence not much writing. Between work, housewifing, and mom duties, I'm pretty wiped and I haven't been able to quiet my mind very effectively. Sometimes it's racing thoughts, but mostly, it's this niggling something at the back of my brain that I can't seem to stop thinking about. Demons come in many forms - I know this well. Let's explore.

Today, we think of demons as malevolent spirits, usually originating from Hell or whatever Underworld you believe in, that possess people to do bad(ish) things. But the original Greek daimon/daemon wasn't negative at all. It was a just a spirit or divine power that existed alongside humans. Much like a genius, daimons sometimes attached themselves to specific humans and motivated them to take certain actions. For geniuses, that was often to create; for daimons, it seems to be that they caused people to do things that they were otherwise too afraid to do (geniuses and daimons references often overlap, since the Romans borrowed most of their shit from the Greeks). Kind of like alcohol, but in spirit form. (That was a joke, if you didn't catch it.) Demons are able to be conjured and controlled for the conjurer's purposes. Want to be rich? Call a demon. Want to be beautiful? Demons can totally help with that. Need to be free of your wife/husband? Get Azazel on speed dial. Demons are super useful - everyone should keep a few in their cupboard.

This understanding of demons changed when Christianity became the dominant religion. While pagans understood that these spirits were largely neutral and unconcerned with the affairs of humans, Christians saw the raw natural power as something evil and, thus, could not be of God. In Christianity, demons are corrupt spirits that exist to do Satan's dirty work. Most commonly, demons are thought of as fallen angels, but they could also be the ghosts of evil people or Nephilim, the offspring of angels and humans who wish to have a body again. I find the idea of Nephilim most intriguing. Anne Rice's novel, "Memnoch the Devil" (which profoundly affected my religious beliefs), combined the mythology of the Nephilim with the concept that Satan is still the most honored servant of God, his mission is just seen as evil by us mere mortals. That concept is also the centerpiece of Yazidi beliefs, which is why some Muslims refer to them as "devil-worshippers." But even in the Bible, there's hints that this is, in fact, the case. In the story of Job, God literally makes a bet with Satan that he can't tempt Job to lose his faith in God and gives him permission to make Job's life miserable. Needless to say, God is kind of an asshole.

Oh Lord won't you teach me
Teach me how to see
Oh Lord tell me you love me
Am I Lilith or am I Eve?

Oh God have mercy on me
Oh God have mercy on me
Hold me down under holy water
I fear I been laying with the devil
I been laying with the devil (save my soul)

"Oh Lord" is about Maria Brink's struggle with the evolution of her religious beliefs. Just because of how things were when she was growing up around pagan beliefs - the Great Satanic Panic of the 80s and 90s - she felt very conflicted with her interests in the occult. As a result, she had a lot of guilt and fear for a long time. If you look at her current body of work and the influences that she's incorporated into her music, though, it seems she's gotten over those emotions. Time and wisdom does that for you. It's very common for pagans from Christian backgrounds to feel guilty about being interested in witchcraft and ghosts and such. I struggled with it a lot back when I was trying to be a good Catholic, which I gave up trying to be around the time I turned 18. When I hear people with similar backgrounds on pagan/witch podcasts talk about it, they describe their spiritual evolution as a calling. Like they knew what they believed, they were just afraid of embracing it because of the pressures of their families and society. I kind of feel like that, too, just looking back at my life. You can't force something that doesn't feel natural.

As I said, the video is kind of creepy. Maria Brink is somewhere in Appalachia, in a dilapidated cabin, being beautifully weird. The video is rife with religious symbolism, from the rosary she holds in her hand to the ritual on the hillside. And, honestly, the ritual with the five women and the glowing orbs seems to be the least disturbing part of the video. It could be just projection, but I think Brink intended it to be that way.

"Oh Lord" Video




Tuesday, October 16, 2018

"Gloomy Sunday" as sung by Sarah McLachlan

There's this urban legend I heard about in high school called the "Hungarian Suicide Song," thus named because it has been linked to a number of suicides. It was composed by a Hungarian pianist named Rezso Seress, but the lyrics that are known today were written by a poet named Laszlo Javor. The lyrics are about a man wanting to commit suicide after his lover's death. When I first heard about it in high school, I wrote a story inspired by the song that followed the same plot line with some minor changes. In my story, a young man commits suicide by jumping off a bridge. His lover, consumed by despair, listens to the Hungarian Suicide Song over and over, getting lost in its melancholy melody. Her friends eventually find her lifeless body in her apartment, the song still playing. Now that I think of it, the people in my stories often end up dead. There's probably a metaphor in there somewhere.

Anyway, newspaper articles from the 1930s associate as many as 19 suicides with the song in both the United States and Hungary. However, this was during the 1930s, which was a depressing time for most of the world, so it's hard to really substantiate that it was the song that did them in. More than likely, people were probably killing themselves because they were starving during the Great Depression or witnessing the increasing fascist influence of Nazi Germany in Eastern Europe (which included watching their friends and family disappear in the middle of the night). Still, Billie Holiday's moving rendition of the song was banned from playing on BBC and numerous versions of the song were banned from being played on the radio. Bad for morale, you know? Unfortunately, the song's composer, Seress, did eventually kill himself, but that was much, much later and was linked to his ongoing battles with depression and financial difficulties.

Sunday is gloomy,
My hours are slumberless
Dearest the shadows
I live with are numberless
Little white flowers
Will never awaken you
Not where the black coach of
Sorrow has taken you
Angels have no thought
Of ever returning you
Would they be angry
If I thought of joining you?

I can assure you - I have listened to this song many times and have yet to succeed in killing myself so it's probably safe to listen to, dear reader. The Sarah McLachlan version is quite beautiful, in a sad sort of way. But all her songs are like that. There's a reason they play "Angel" during ASPCA commercials - that woman's voice has a way of making people's heart break, even when they were perfectly happy only moments before. Seriously, if I see that commercial, I feel compelled to save all the poor, abused puppies and kittens (of all ages....I have a habit of calling all dogs "puppies" and all cats "kitties"). I will and then I'll be completely broke, which would suck because I still have a husband, a toddler, and five cats to support.

Just a note: The final verse in the Sarah McLachlan version was not part of the original. It was an attempt by the studio to cheer the song up a bit and distinguish it from other versions.

Another note: YouTube is being a bitch on my laptop right now. I'll add the video later.


Sunday, October 14, 2018

"Control" by Halsey

When I first heard this song, I thought it was about wishing to be perceived as powerful, no matter how fragile you may seem. It's a sentiment I very much identify with. There's one thing people should understand about me - I've been 5-feet-tall or shorter my whole life...I don't believe in fighting fair. Not anymore. I think everyone who feels underestimated would agree. I know I'm at a disadvantage so I have no incentive to hold back. I wish I had learned this lesson a long time ago. Maybe things would've been different but, for a long time, I didn't think I was worth fighting for. Still trying to learn it, honestly. Anyway, this song has a spooky beat and the lyrics are about containing a monster...of sorts.

If I had a superpower, I would definitely want telekinesis. For the worst reasons...I'd basically become a super villain, I'll admit it. The first reason is so I could cheat at roulette, craps, the wheel of fortune - basically any casino game where you can manipulate something physical. That's how I'd amass my fortune. Second, I'd use my powers to scare and intimidate people who pissed me off. Because a woman who can lift a table with her mind is nothing to be trifled with. There's a reason why Jean Grey is arguably the most powerful mutant in X-men and is so dangerous when she decides to go evil. If you do a pop culture analysis of characters with telekinetic and telepathic powers, though, it's always a small person (usually female) of some sort. Carrie. Charlie from "Firestarter." Raven. Willow Rosenburg. Eleven from "Stranger Things." Matilda. That has to be a TV trope of some kind - like writers don't want the character to be too overpowering, so they make them weak/disabled, physically tiny, or young. Or maybe it just makes sense that they would develop an ability that (over)compensates for their lack of physical power.

I'm well acquainted with villains that live in my head
They beg me to write them so they'll never die when I'm dead
And I've grown familiar with villains that live in my head
They beg me to write them so I'll never die when I'm dead

I'm bigger than my body
I'm colder than this home
I'm meaner than my demons
I'm bigger than these bones

This song is about Halsey's battle with bipolar disorder. About her feeling of being out of control, not being able to control her emotions. I can understand that, looking back at my eating disorder issues. It wasn't about being beautiful and thin - it never is. It was about being in control, especially when there was chaos all around me. And wanting to look like a skeleton was more about wanting to unveil the monster underneath, so others could see. I wasn't in control, though - I thought about it all the time. Doing the calculations in my head. How many calories could I eat for today? How many miles can I run before I feel like collapsing? Looking back on the worst of those days, most of them were powered by rage, the only thing that would keep me going when I could barely generate the energy to walk, when I wanted to fade away into nothingness. I couldn't take it out on everyone else, so I directed it inward. I like to think I'm better, sometimes, but the monster is still there, lurking. When I'm angry, I still feel bigger than my bones, I just focus on something else now.

For Samhain, I'm working my way through this book called "Dark Goddess Craft." While all the fluffy bunnies out there are working with Aphrodite, I'll be getting close to the Morrigan, Kali, and Persephone. A personal favorite of mine is Eris, Goddess of Chaos. She incited the Trojan War just because someone didn't invite her to a wedding. She's spiteful and dangerous, but unexpectedly helpful to mankind when she wants to be. According to the book, "honoring Eris is a lesson in embracing chaos." Some things are out of our control but that doesn't mean we're beaten. It just means we have to get creative.

"Control" Video

Saturday, October 13, 2018

"The Woods" by San Fermin

This song doesn't sound that scary but there's something about the lyrics that disturbs me. Two children - I picture a boy and a girl - go into the woods. And one of them ends up dead. The song is sung by the boy, the one who died. No one knows what happened to him. It reminds me of what happened to those poor boys in Robin Hood Hills. You may be familiar with the case. Three teens (now known collectively as the West Memphis Three) were wrongfully convicted because they were weird and listened to metal and one of them was vaguely interested in witchcraft. All because of people's preconceived notions. The West Memphis Three were recently released after entering Alford pleas, which allows them to assert their innocence even though the evidence presented was enough to persuade a jury/judge. The townspeople's narrow-minded prejudice stole nearly 20 years of those men's lives, and it's unlikely we'll ever find out who actually killed those three children. It makes a sad story even more tragic.

Another thing that this song reminds me of is the interview Gemma Gary did for "Down at the Crossroads," a pagan podcast I like to listen to. Gary wrote a book called "The Devil's Dozen: Thirteen Craft Rites of the Old One" and she was doing the rounds promoting it. Gary practices Traditional Witchcraft and specializes in the folktales and methods of Cornwall. In the interview, she lamented a lot of modern neo-pagan traditions (specifically Wicca) aversion to the Old One, which conforms to the Christian idea of the Devil. However, in traditional folk belief, the Devil merely represented the chaos inherent within nature. In the Catholic Church, though, anything that could not be controlled was bad. One of the more vivid parts of the interview that caught my imagination was Gary describing an old initiation rite for witches in the middle ages. A young woman would wander into the woods (or another secluded place) at night, disrobe, and lie down. She'd stay there for hours. Historically, this was an incitement for Satan to come and fuck her and, thus, imbue her with magical powers. But Gary offered an alternate explanation - in this state, you're at your most vulnerable. Lying naked on the grass, fear takes hold, but you stay there long enough to trust that whatever magical/divine force is out there will take care of you. You stay out there until you're no longer afraid, because you can't do magic if you have fear in your heart. From the research I've done, that seems to be a common theme throughout the mystical arts, regardless of the culture they evolved within.

I think the woods are scary for a lot of people. It's dark, wild, and things could be hiding in there. I'm not one of these people. I love the woods. I always wanted to live somewhere close to a forest, like where lived on Ft. Meade. Somewhere to hide that wasn't in my house. And I love trees, so having a whole bunch of trees in one place must be even more amazing.

We went, the two of us into
The woods behind the little school
Two went in and one came home
We didn't go in there alone
Your eyes were lovely as you danced
With centipedes and little ants
We built a fort of lover's teeth
And some of mother's sheets

I was a boy and I was good
But there are witches in these woods


I bought the book, if you're wondering. The hardcover version is very pretty - it's embossed with a depiction of the Old One in a bronze foil. Haven't tried any of the rites yet - I guess it was more of an academic interest. A lot of the "rites" have found their way into modern neo-pagan rituals - like Walking the Wheel, which is a common way to raise energy if you have a lot of people participating. It surprised me how beautiful Gemma Gary was. I had only heard her voice in the interview - she's very soft-spoken, with a slight Cornish accent, which I found more charming than the usual British accent. I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't the striking woman in the publicity pictures. Not that it matters, it's just something that surprised me. Regardless, the interview is fascinating, as is the book.

"The Woods" Video

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

"Seven Devils" by Florence + the Machine

My sister went to go see Florence in concert over the weekend, so she was on my mind. This song is one of her more disturbing songs. I think it has a lot to do with the discordant piano and the screechy violins in the background - the sound is jarring. I think it's positively witchy. We'll look deeper into the lyrics, because those are quite dark as well. In the 33 1/3 book I want to write for "Ceremonials," the setting for this song is New Orleans and I spend a week or so exploring the occult history of the city. I'd attend a Voudun ritual, participate in a Gnostic Mass with the local OTO chapter, hang out in St. Louis #1 with necromancers, then I'd probably get really drunk on Bourbon Street just for the hell of it. When am I going to do this? I don't know - I'm still trying to figure out the logistics between working full time and being a mom. But one day, I will.

The number seven is incredibly significant in numerology. It represents the search for Truth and Divine Perfection. Seven is particularly important in the Bible, especially in the Book of Revelation. There are seven churches, seven trumpets, seven seals, etc. If I remember catechism correctly, there were also seven sacraments that every good Catholic participated in - Baptism, Communion, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Marriage, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick (includes the Last Rites). And Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalene. I may be an apostate but I still remember most of what I learned in Sunday School. For some reason, seven is a spiritual number. There are 7 Deadly Sins, 7 primary chakras, 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, 7 dwarfs, 7 colors in the rainbow, 7 days of the week....it's weird. I don't know why humans are obsessed with the number 7, we just are.

Holy water cannot help you now
See I've had to burn your kingdom down
And no rivers and no lakes can put the fire out
I'm gonna raise the stakes, I'm gonna smoke you out

I looked up potential meanings for "Seven Devils," and only one of them made sense. Someone on the internet reckons that it's about a relationship that is going to end badly. Because he betrayed her (by lying or cheating or some combination thereof) and now Florence is going to destroy him. Because instead of just letting it end and casting her devils out, she wants to use them and leave him in as much pain as she feels. Florence says that she was dead when she woke up and she'll be dead when the day is over, but at least she's taking him down with her. Is it worth it in the end? Maybe not, but I suppose it makes you feel better in the moment.

This reminds me of countless Lifetime movies where a woman goes insane and burns down a guy's house after they break up. I almost think those movies are more scary than horror films....because that shit actually happens in real life. There's even a whole docu-series on it - "Deadly Women," hosted by former FBI Profiler, Candace DeLong (who I dreamed of being one day, when I was studying forensic psychology). For example, Katharine Knight stabbed her boyfriend and cooked him in a stew. And Kimberly Hricko set her husband on fire to hide a romantic affair. Or perhaps you remember the Jodi Arias trial a few years ago - she was an Arizona woman who killed her ex-boyfriend after he dumped her and started dating someone else. She stabbed him 29 times, then slit his throat and shot him in the head for good measure. It was a pretty big deal in Arizona, or at least it felt like it - my parents were big on watching Nancy Grace (ugh) at the time, so my memory may be a little distorted. I forgot where I was going with this but the point is.....women are fucking crazy. Scary crazy....you think you know but - trust me - you have no idea. That's probably why I preferred to hang out with guys and lesbians in my youth. Just walk away, ladies...The karma isn't worth it. Neither is prison.

"Seven Devils" Video




Monday, October 8, 2018

"Helena (So Long and Goodnight)" by My Chemical Romance

This weekend has been rough and I haven't really had a chance to write because I have family in town. I almost feel like phoning it in but...it's My Chemical Romance. And My Chemical Romance got me through some of my darkest days. I think I've said that before. I forgot how much I love their old stuff (i.e., the first three albums). I haven't really listened to their more recent music but I enjoyed Gerard Way's solo album. But, then again, I love Gerard Way so that was going to happen anyway.

MCR has a few songs from their first album that are vampire-esque and maybe I'll go back to them later in the month. "Helena" was probably the first song I heard by My Chemical Romance, but it was really the video that got me. Honestly, it was Gerard Way. I saw his long black hair, hazel green eyes, pallid skin and thought, "My God! He's magnificent!" I still think he's rather attractive. I should write a Netflix original - "To All the Goth Boys I've Loved Before."


Besides that, MCR had that aesthetic/sound I was yearning for as a teenage girl. Hopelessly romantic but desperately dark at the same time. Maybe those are the same things. Yep, you can probably see where I'm gonna go with the lyrics interpretation.

Can you hear me?
Are you near me?
Can we pretend to leave and then
We'll meet again
When both our cars collide

Gerard Way wrote "Helena" as a tribute to his and Mikey's late grandmother. After she died, he became very depressed and started drinking a lot. He had a lot a guilt about not being around for her when she was alive. The song is an open apology for everything he didn't do for a woman that was so special to him. "Helena" was also the first single from MCR's second album, "Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge." I consider "Three Cheers" as the halfway point of MCR's progression to a full concept album. The first album, "I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love," was pretty much a normal album with songs that weren't really related. "Three Cheers" hinted at a love story, the "Demolition Lovers," which was a re-imagining of the tragic tale of Bonnie & Clyde, but some songs didn't exactly fit into the narrative. Finally, "The Black Parade" was a full concept album, with all songs being sung from the perspective of "The Patient," a dying man examining his life before he succumbs to terminal cancer.

Now, for my interpretation of "Helena," it's a song that always reminded me of the Beautiful Sad Girl movie trope. In male-written indie films, there's always two kinds of girls that the narrator runs into - the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, the perfect girl that reminds the protagonist that he needs to experience life and take risks. And then, there's the Beautiful Sad Girl (and variants, the Fragile Flower or the Broken Bird) - the depressed girl who is so beautiful that it makes the protagonist feel like he must be really something special if he makes her smile. Both of these girls only exist so that the protagonist can reach self-actualization. Then, he can finally move on and leave her to her Fate. For the Beautiful Sad Girl, she almost always kills herself. Like Lux Lisbon in "The Virgin Suicides" - for one brief, shining moment, she thinks she's overcome the darkness when she falls in love with the most handsome boy in school, Trip Fontaine. Then he fucks her and leaves her alone on the football field, which is just the beginning of the end for poor Lux (and her sisters). I really like her name though - if I had a daughter, that's one of the names I would like to name her (unfortunately, The Husband thinks it's weird and if he knew the origin story, there's no way in Hell he'd allow it). Anyway, the first time I heard "Helena," that's who I thought she was. The singer's True Love, who took her life too soon, for unknown reasons. And he's sad because he cannot join her now but maybe in the next life.


Sorry for the ranting. I just got started and everything just flowed. It didn't even take that long to write, if I'm being honest. In retrospect, "Helena" isn't really a Halloween song, per say, but it is about death and the video is sufficiently dark and creepy that I think you'll allow it.

"Helena" Video

Friday, October 5, 2018

"The Love Letter" by Blaqk Audio

This song was in the trailer for "The Eye." It's a horror movie starring Jessica Alba. I'm pretty sure it's a remake of either a Japanese or Korean horror movie (both countries make fantastically fucked up horror films). Basically, a blind woman gets a cornea transplant and begins seeing ghosts. To find out why, she goes searching for her donor. It sounded like a cool idea but I never got around to seeing it. I'm not a big fan of Alba - she's kind of a shit actor. There's a reason you don't see her in big movies anymore.

"The Love Letter" is a good song to run to if you're doing interval training. You jog during the verses, which are pretty low tempo. Then, during the chorus, you run as fast as you can. The last part of the song, you're just running as fast as possible for as long as possible. I try. I'm more of an endurance runner but when I get up to speed, I can sprint pretty fast. Well, it feels pretty fast to me. My heart and lungs burn quite a bit when I stop, so I must be doing something right. In the past, they would do that to horses. Make them go as fast as possible for as long as possible, until the horse dropped dead. Then, they'd just find another horse. I feel like there's a metaphor for my life in there somewhere.

I'm tired and my brain isn't really in tune for lyrics interpretation, but I think it's about the things left unsaid. It's nice that people can't read your mind because they might not like what they find. But holding in things - emotions, secrets, thoughts - can be dangerous. As the song says, it turns into poison running through your veins and you're left cold as stone. Maybe that's what some people want. Would they even notice, though? One day, you're just a soulless shell but it doesn't matter, because you didn't exist to them anyway. People only see what they want to see.

Once it meant something to me.
I find it rather stunning.
I draped it in cold and clarity.
It's true, I find the look becoming.
Walk right through me, I'm not really there.

My daily tarot readings have been showing that I'm probably holding in my emotions. Weirdly enough, where I am in a lot of my spiritual books center around how important it is to express yourself in order to be the most authentic version of you. But that's just how I am - I play things close to the chest because I know how people are. Being honest with them just gives them ammunition to hurt you - and they will, even if they don't mean to. Then this morning, I got the seven of swords, the potential meanings for which are betrayal and deception. The question is - is someone betraying or deceiving me or am I deceiving/betraying myself? Probably me. That seems to be one of my favorite things to do. Lying to myself, telling myself (and everyone else) everything is "fine" when it isn't. Pretending things aren't there when they are. Kind of like in "The Eye" - the ghosts are there for everyone to see, it's just that most people aren't really looking.

Anyway, I convinced my friend/coworker to add this to his Halloween mix and he really liked it. He liked all my suggestions, actually. I don't know why but he seemed surprised that I had good taste. Probably because I don't share that sort of stuff at work. Or even with people I consider casual friends, apparently. My friend did some research and apparently the singer for Blaqk Audio is also the lead singer for AFI. No wonder I like it. Well, I'm in a dark mood and I feel like "The Love Letter" fits for tonight.

"The Love Letter" Video