Being Held, Being Home: A Review and Analysis of Ari Aster’s Film “Midsommar”

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Warning: The following review and analysis of Ari Aster’s folk horror movie Midsommar contains extreme spoilers. If you have not yet seen Midsommar, but plan on seeing it, read this article afterwards.

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Separating the Layers

Before I can begin to give my analysis of Ari Aster’s masterpiece folk horror film Midsommar, I have to clear up something with my reading audience which is critical regarding their understanding of my approach. Ari Aster is an accomplished filmmaker and story-teller. Like all good works of film, and like all good stories, Midsommar is a complex work that operates on more than one level at the same time. When these different levels are presented in a finished form, they are all combined; this combination of the various layers, techniques, and messages is the movie as we see it on the screen.

But to perform an analysis of the film and to tease out its many messages and communications, we have to separate these distinctive levels. Midsommar is a horror movie, specifically a folk horror movie, which endears it to me (almost) automatically, for folk horror is my favorite genre of film. There is a certain level of Midsommar that is truly horrific- we can call it the “horror layer” if we want. And this layer is required for the movie to be what it was intended to be: a horror movie. Continue reading

Gratitude From the Depths: Shaping A Personal Devotional Practice

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A member of the Circle of the White Stag community asked an important question. What follows is the question, and my answer.

“Spirituality is a hard thing for me. It’s one of the primary drives for the changes I’m making in my life over the next year. Changes to simplify and realign the course the rest of my life will take. Exciting and daunting to be sure but well worth it at the end of the day, I believe. And it’s another reason I need to lean on this community and the advice and encouragement you all provide. To that end I’d like to discuss the oath (of belonging), if I may, and how to apply it to the business of living and to gain a better understanding of it in general. The first phrase calls upon us to put the Ancient White One and the White Queen first in our reverence. To me this means, among other things, devotion. Which is great as I need a focus for daily/weekly/regular spiritual activities. One question is how do offer devotion to “pillars of reality”? I know they don’t need such things so is it wise to make them a focus of regular devotional practise? If anyone is inclined to share how do you structure your reverence and apply this first phrase to your life?”

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“The most important thing I think I can say about this is regarding the idea of personal devotional structure. In some way, nothing helps as much as a good devotional practice, and nothing hurts as much as failing to keep a devotional practice up. And so, I always counsel people to go as easy on themselves as possible- to create an easy-to-maintain devotional schedule or structure, so that the possibility of “failing” at it is all but eliminated. You get more from something you can maintain for years with ease than you do from something that’s complex and impressive-seeming, but can’t be maintained for longer than a few weeks or months. Continue reading

A Fairy Common Confusion: Fairyism and Neopaganism in the Modern World

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“Fairies and the Peasant Girl” by Yuliya Litvinova

If Fairy folklorists agree on anything, it’s that the origins of the conception of the fairy draw upon many pre-Christian strands of cultural belief. In the fairy of folklore, we see the shadowy remnants of the human dead, of ancestors, of some old Pagan Gods, of some nature spirits, and so forth. There isn’t a single category or “species” of beings called fairies with their own unique origin, their own uniform appearance, fairy laws, fairy customs, fairy rulers, and fairy natures. You only get such ideas in very late, localized stories belonging to distinctive cultural regions, and only because of the creative needs (and cultural assumptions and limitations) of certain storytellers.

Anthropology and History, however, reveal a deeper perspective on the complex reality of fairies that we can’t ignore.

By the time you believe in Pagan Gods, Ancestors, and nature spirits and worship them (as most Neopagans do), you don’t need to add fairies to that mix because you already technically have them; you are already reaching out to the very beings and forces that fairies are later cultural descendants and memories of. Sticking “fairies” next to your Gods, Ancestors, and nature spirits is redundant. And blending Pagan and post-Pagan cultural lore, absent of historical context, is a recipe for disaster (or at the least metaphysical confusion.)

People in later times weren’t often consciously aware of the origins of the “fairies” they heard cultural tales about. Some places in Britain or Ireland storied the fairies one way; others storied them other ways. In some places, they are given a distinctive character: the fairies are X in appearance, X in character and temperament, and so forth. For those people, in those times and places, that’s what the fairies were. That’s what they believed.

But that’s not the whole story of “fairies”, and that can’t be taken as an authoritative pronouncement of what “fairies” are by us today. The folk tradition isn’t making theological pronouncements nor revealing a singular, orderly cosmology meant to be taken as fully-shaped and authoritative. That’s not what folk tradition does. Continue reading

Sometimes A Dark God

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Our civilization doesn’t work. No ones does.

None are sustainable, and all are laden with dark debts of immense weight.

All are sinking, all are marching towards their dissolution.

Mourning comes in many stages. Denial and Bargaining are two of those stages. It helps to conceptualize all of civilization- ever since the first civilizations- as a long, drawn out, and complicated process of bargaining which followed upon a foundational denial.

If you look at our political struggles as a form of bargaining against the inevitable, against Nature and reality itself, many things become clear to you. We were doomed, in a very real way, the first moment animals and forests began to perish wholesale because of our chosen human life-ways.

As the problem widened, as the waters, the ground, and the sky became tainted, and as the extinctions of our kin beings accelerated, the doom itself (already assured) just kept updating its arrival time. There was denial- and then there was more and more bargaining.

We crossed a line ages ago which has serious and inevitable consequences. Once it was crossed, there was no going back and no avoiding the debt it incurred. A sacred boundary was broken- and the world, Nature, the sacred- it has integrity. It has power. It can’t be broken and offended, then ignored or storied away.

Continue reading

Crossing the Hedge

jowanet5The image above is a work of silhouette art that I created last year. I call it Crossing the Hedge. Much visual symbolism comes together in this image to communicate the deeper reality of the vocation of Witchcraft.

The image shows a cosmological map of types. On one side is the human world, and a hedge separates it from the other-than-human world, the wilderness beyond. The hedge that protects the human space of habitation from the outside is breached, crossed, by a witched woman, a woman who is made capable of this extraordinary passage by her Familiar spirit, who sits on the hedge in the form of a cat. Continue reading