Unknown Photographer, Portrait of three Women, 19 Century.
From The Unseen Eye, the photography collection of W.M. Hunt — Thanks, @mlleghoul
How can you call this “The Sunday Spectra?” it’s THURSDAY.
It’s Sunday on Easter Island. It’s always Sunday on Easter Island.
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INSIDE THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS
In 1692, the Massachusetts Bay Colony executed fourteen women, five men, and two dogs for witchcraft. The sorcery materialized in January. The first hanging took place in June, the last in September; a stark, stunned silence followed. Although we will never know the exact number of those formally charged with having “wickedly, maliciously, and feloniously” engaged in sorcery, somewhere between a hundred and forty-four and a hundred and eighty-five witches and wizards were named in twenty-five villages and towns. The youngest was five; the eldest nearly eighty. Husbands implicated wives; nephews their aunts; daughters their mothers; siblings each other. One minister discovered that he was related to no fewer than twenty witches.
The population of New England at that time would fit into Yankee Stadium today. Nearly to a person, they were Puritans. Having suffered for their faith, they had sailed to North America to worship “with more purity and less peril than they could do in the country where they were,” as a clergyman at the center of the crisis later explained. On a providential mission, they hoped to begin history anew; they had the advantage of building a civilization from scratch. Like any oppressed people, they defined themselves by what offended them, which would give New England its gritty flavor and, it has been argued, America its independence…
Meticulously researched and dynamically presented with the precision of a laser, Stacy Schiff’s article is a must-read. Click and enjoy. Your responses will be graded.
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PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES (full movie)
Ridley Scott’s ALIEN would arrive 14 years after this creeper by the great Mario Bava, and Scott swears up and down that he never ever ever EVER saw Planet of the Vampires. Okay, that may very well be; Ridley’s a strange chap, after all. He might take two months to shoot a fifteen second battle scene and neglect to call his mother or brush his teeth for the duration of the shoot. (Total hearsay, by the way. The Creep swears he heard this story from the cousin of a friend he met in a detoxification unit for nitroglycerin withdrawal.) But hey, man, just look at what’s onscreen: somebody in the ALIEN camp saw POTV, Giger or the screenwriters or somebody, because the coincidences aren’t just visual riffs, they’re plot details, too, details that would resurface in 2012’s PROMETHEUS. Whatever the origin, there’s something lurking in the shadows. If you’re never seen PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES this is your lucky night. Because this film is so much more than a curious forerunner in the ALIEN mee-thös, it’s so original and filled with real dread. The landscape is one of the best purgatories ever exposed to film. And everybody is passable in semi skin-tight black leather.
PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES is mandatory viewing and yes your comments will be graded.
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Vögguvísa, a commissioned work of art by Becky Munich
Many years ago, when my sister and I were very young, my mother would sing us bedtime songs as she tucked us in for the evening. Well, my sister really. The little lullabye wasn’t for meant me, but I listened from the twin bed on my side of the room and was comforted by it anyway.
As my younger sibling lay sleepily, clutching a faded pink crocheted afghan in one small hand and a red wooden rooster named “Wolf” in the other, my mother crooned to her in soft, low tones:
“Well, a-hee hee hee and a-ha ha ha, and a couple of ho ho hos…”
Not much of a lullaby really. Who knows what it meant? Harmless nonsense that she made up to send a fussy child off to dreams, most likely.
Older now, and having a lifetime of observing my mother (and yet still not really knowing the woman at all), I found myself growing vaguely uneasy the other evening, wondering what exactly she might have been thinking about as a young single mother – and a very troubled woman -singing her children to sleep on a moonless night in the suburbs.
This came about, I suppose, due to some late night reading of an article about the somewhat horrifying nature of Icelandic lullabies.
Bíum, bíum, bambaló, Bambaló og dillidillidó. Vini mínum vagga ég í ró, en úti bídur andlit á glugga.
“Beeum, beeum, bambalow, Bambalow and dillidillidow. I rock my friend to sleep, but outside there’s a face in the window.”
Mlleghoul has outdone herself with this remarkable and compelling post. Inconstant reader, you are urged to to explore the full fathom of this piece here. Your responses will account for 1/3 of your final grade.
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I remember the first time a piece of fiction left me haunted. It was one of the stories in William Hope Hodgson’s collection Carnacki the Ghost-Finder. I won’t say which story, so as not to spoil it for you, and you should read the entire, wonderful book. All the stories have as their protagonist Thomas Carnacki, a Sherlock Holmesian detective who investigates supernatural manifestations. If you think your manor house is haunted, you can hire Carnacki to investigate and, if there’s a ghost, to try to get rid of it.
Sometimes the haunting turns out to be real, and Carnacki battles the supernatural entity from his “Electric Pentacle.” Other times, he discovers and reveals that it’s a hoax. The stories in the former category are vivid and scary, and the ones in the latter category are intriguing mystery yarns. But there is another, more powerful category…
In one story, Carnacki investigates what seems to be a haunted house, and he proves that it’s a scam by debunking and explaining all the supposedly supernatural events—except for one. It’s in keeping with the rest of the manifestations, but it’s not part of the hoax. So what is it?
Carnacki doesn’t know. It remains a mystery.
When I first read that book as a kid, some of the stories scared me while I read them, but afterward I was unscathed. But that story, with one mystery left unsolved, wouldn’t leave me alone, especially after the lights were switched off at night. There was the relief of knowing that there wasn’t really a ghost… but, if there was no ghost, what could have been the cause of that one thing?
An outstanding essay by one of the greatest contemporary Masters of the Dark. This is a pop quiz.
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To celebrate the October 13th release of my forthcoming debut novel, King of Shards, I will be featuring one new blog entry a day about a different Judaic myth for 36 days. Today’s entry is on Lilith, Adam’s first wife. — MK
“Lady Lilith” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
(The author has graciously allowed HEXES to repost his LILITH post in toto.)
Lilith was Adam’s first wife. As you can guess, it wasn’t a long marriage. They argued a lot. Adam desired Lilith to lie beneath him, but Lilith refused and said, “No, Adam, you shall lie beneath me!” They argued and fought for a long while, until one day Lilith had had enough. She uttered God’s Name, which has great powers, and she flew off into the air. Adam grew upset and cried out to God, “Lord, the woman you gave me has just fled! What gives?” God, hearing Adam’s cry, called upon three angels, Senoy, Sansenoy, and Semangelof, and told them to bring Lilith back, whether by her own free will or by force.
Lilith meanwhile had been living in a cave by the Red Sea, the same sea where Pharaoh’s army would drown centuries later. The angels found her and demanded she come back to Adam. “God commands you to go back to him! If you come with us, all will be swell. If not, we’ll drown a hundred of your demon offspring every day.”
And Lilith replied, “Do what you will. Did you know I already slept with the Great Demon, Samael? Also, don’t you know I was created to strangle newborn infants in the crib, boys before their eighth day and girls before their twentieth?” She made a pact with the angels: if in the future she ever saw the angels’ names on an amulet, she would have no power over the person near where the amulet hangs. The angels tried to bargain with her further, but this was the best they were going to get from her. And so they agreed, but with one addendum: one hundred of her demon children would have to perish every day. Lilith said, “No sweat!”
This is why one hundred of Lilith’s demon children die every day and why the names of the three angels, Senoy, Sansenoy, and Semangelof, written on an amulet, protect people from her evil influence.
The Myth’s Origins
In the book of Genesis 1:27 it says, “Male and female, He created them.” But to the ancient rabbis who interpreted this text, this passage seemed to contradict the sequential creation story of Adam and Eve later in Genesis 2:21-22. So in order to rectify this contradiction of two creations, the myth of Lilith arose. The name “Lilith” itself originates in Isaiah 34:14, where the passage reads, “Yea, Lilith shall repose there.” Lilith here is generally understood to be a reference to ancient and pre-existing Babylonian demons. The Babylonians feared “Lilitu,” a succubus who seduced men in their sleep. They also feared a demon called “Lamashtu” who slew newborns in their cradles. These singular demons in turn came from the myth of the “lilû,” a class of demons who were hungry for victims because they themselves were the spirits of young men and women who had died young. These demons snuck into people’s homes looking for victims to take the place of husbands and wives they never had. It’s also interesting to note that originally these “lilith” demons came in both male and female forms, and only later does “Lilith” become singular and female. It is likely that the demons Lilitu and Lamashtu were blurred together into one being, and the demon references in Isaiah and later in the rabbinical commentary came from these existing Babylonian sources.
However, another possible source of the myth comes from the first century text, The Testament of Solomon. The text recounts how King Solomon uses a magic ring to call demons before him in a quest to get them to aid on his construction of the ancient temple in Jerusalem. One of the demons is called Obyzouth. She is a strangler of children, but she can be thwarted by the angel Raphael and by women who write her name on an amulet.
Scholars surmise that Lilith became such a large mythic figure that she absorbed the roles of many of these lesser-known demons. A full history of Lilith was eventually written out in the ninth-century text, Alpha Beta de-Ben.
Lilith was said to have long red hair, a face white and pink. In some depictions, she has wings. She adorns herself in all manner of decorations. Six pendants from Egypt hang from her ears, her neck is circled with all the ornaments of the East. Her words are smooth and seductive, causing a man to let down his guard. Only then will she reveal her true self, a fierce warrior, her garments flaming, her eyes burning and horrible. She slays men and casts them down into the lowest hell.
People feared Lilith so much that men were advised not to sleep alone in a house, lest her spirit seize him. It is said she dangles her long hair in a man’s face, causing him to have lustful dreams. While asleep, she will steal his seed and use it to make cambion children (half demon, half human) who will be outcasts from both the human and demon worlds for being neither fully human nor fully demon.
The Spell to Banish Lilith
The following text is found inside amulets or inscribed on their surface and then placed near pregnant mothers or newborns to protect them from Lilith’s influence.
“Out Lilith! I adjure you in the Name of God, and in the names of the three angels sent after you, Senoy, Sansenoy, and Samengelof, to remember the vow you made that when you find their names you will cause no harm, neither you nor your cohorts; and in their names and in the names of the seals set down here, I adjure you, Queen of Demons, and all your multitudes, to cause no harm to a woman while she carries a child nor when she gives birth, nor to the children born to her, neither during the day nor during the night, neither through their food nor through their drink, neither in their heads nor in their hearts. By the strength of these names and seals I so adjure you, Lilith, and all your offspring, to obey this command.”
An amulet to protect mothers from Lilith
Lilith and Feminism
Beginning in the 1960s with the rise of the feminist movement, women began to recognize Lilith as a model of a strong and independent woman. Lilith would not submit to Adam’s request for the missionary position and instead demanded Adam lie beneath her. When he refused, she said, “Pshaw! I don’t need you.” And she flew off, making a home by herself, sleeping with whomever she wanted, where she was perfectly happy to dwell without Adam or the patriarchal God. She didn’t need a man to complete her. Women recast Lilith not as a killer of children and night demoness, but as a symbol of feminine power and independence.
In 1972, in the feminist magazine Ms., Lilly Rivlin published an article aiming to reclaim Lilith as a symbol for modern women, and the idea quickly spread. In a 1998 book, Whose Lilith?, Lilly Rivlin said, “In the late twentieth century, self-sufficient women, inspired by the women’s movement, have adopted the Lilith myth as their own. They have transformed her into a female symbol for autonomy, sexual choice, and control of one’s own destiny.”
Lilith continues to be a powerful symbol of feminism and the independent woman today, spreading far outside of her ancient Jewish origins.
While Lilith continues to be a powerful symbol among feminists as a strong, independent female figure, among many ultra-Orthodox communities around the world, amulets protecting newborn children from evil Lilith are considered essential. The habit of tying a red ribbon around a child’s bed is also connected to the Lilith myth. One can, in certain sections of Jerusalem, purchase protective amulets against Lilith.
While one part of the globe fears her influence, another embraces her power. Her mythology is rich and long and diverse, and all because of one extra sentence in the bible!
What an ambitious, original, and IRRESISTIBLE project! Hats off to the Kressel dude! Matt’s currently up to Day 23, The Seven Shepherds of Sukkot. It is our passionate hope that all of these entries will be assembled in book form. We’d buy it, and you would, too! Otherwise you would receive a big fat EFF MINUS LOVE DRAX on your final grade.
Matt’s novel KING OF SHARDS pubs on October 13!
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Gates is a new mixtape series from Om Unit. While drawing on elements familiar to Om Units regular fans and listeners, the series focuses on sonic architecture and listener experience.
There will be seven “Gates”, each exploring a unique and concisely expressed theme and containing music and sounds chosen without the constraints of genre or style.
Gate #1 is “Sleep/Surrender”
Listen & Enjoy… and this is OPTIONAL. Who says we’re mean and evil teachers?
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There are mashup videos, and there are mashup videos. And then there’s the Nobel Prize worthy HELL’S CLUB.
This is your final test. SKIP IT AT YOUR PERIL, PUNY HUMANS.
— breathes a sigh of relief that’s been a month in coming —