Tuesday, October 28, 2014

VooDoo, Witchcraft, Familiars, and Poppet Dolls

Witchcraft and Voodoo are the two most misunderstood religions in the world, in my opinion. People tend to be misguided in their interpretations of these practices. Let me dispel some of these "dark age myths" for unenlightened souls. Voodoo originated in what was a French slave colony at the time, Haiti, in the 18th century, when African religious practice was suppressed and enslaved Africans were forced to convert to Christianity. Voodoo incorporates elements and symbolism from many African Tribes and European spirituality such as Roman Catholicism, European mysticism, and Freemasonry. The Voodoo faith holds that there is one deity, Bondye, the creator of the universe. Subordinate to this God are the Loas, lesser deities or saints who act as messengers between the Voodoo practitioner and God. Loas are necessary, because Bondye doesn't intercede in human affairs. Practitioners build relationships with the loa via offerings given to these spirits, the creation of personal altars and devotional objects, and participation in ceremonies of music and dance, which welcome spirit possession. You can compare Loas to God's angels or saints if you are a Christian or are informed with how Christianity works. Voodoo priests known as Houngans and priestesses called Mambos. Obeah is a type of Voodoo associated with both benign and malignant magic, charms, luck, and with mysticism. In some Caribbean nations, Obeah refers to folk religions of Africa. To some extent, elements of these folk religions survived by masking itself with Christian symbolism and practice introduced by European colonials and slave owners. Casual observation may conclude that Christian symbolism is incorporated into Obeah worship, but can represent clandestine worship and religious protest. During slavery, Obeah was directed against the European slave masters. After the Haitian Revolution many Haitians fled as refugees to New Orleans. Free and enslaved Haitians who moved to New Orleans brought their religious beliefs with them and reinvigorated the Voodoo practices that were already present in the city. Eventually, Voodoo in New Orleans became hidden and the magical components were left present in the public sphere. This led to what is called "Hoodoo" in parts of the Southern United States.
Hoodoo is accessible to people from any faith and grants access to supernatural forces to improve people's circumstances. Hoodoo helps people attain financial prosperity, love, revenge, health, and necromancy. As in many other spiritual and medical folk practices, extensive use is made of herbs, minerals, parts of animals' bodies, an individual's possessions and bodily fluids, especially menstrual blood,urine, saliva, and semen. Like voodoo, hoodoo shows evidence of being part of beliefs in West African spirituality. Contact with ancestors or other spirits of the dead is an important practice within the conjure tradition, and the recitation of Psalms from the Bible is also considered spiritually influential in hoodoo. Witchcraft is left over from a myriad of Pagan, Pre-Christian religions. It has nothing to do with Satanism or Devil worship. Wicca is the mostly commonly associated religion that pertains to the practice of "witchcraft" and is often referred to as "the craft". There holidays in Witchcraft, most of which have been taken over by Christianity. Many Pagan Gods have also became Christianized as saints. Wicca recognizes a God and Goddess as masters or rulers if you will over mankind and all living things, a divine masculine and feminine deity. There is no real organized structure to Witchcraft, but many Witches agree and/or believe that magic is used in the craft. "White Witches" do not work dark or black magic due to two basic laws, which most Witches accept. The first is "An it harm none, do what thou wilt." To a Witch this means you can work magic if nobody is hurt. The second reason is that witches don’t use dark magic because of a general belief in the "threefold law", which is similar to the concept of Karma, but occurs in this lifetime. Whatever you unleash magically is said to come back on you three-fold so witches generally take care in what they cast into the world with magic. Witchcraft respects and understands the duality of nature as it is technically a fertility religion, which is represented by the changing phases of the Moon and the seasons, Witchcraft is often mistaken and lumped in with Satanism, which is so far from true its not even funny. Witches don't even believe in the Devil. Pagans in ancient Rome often worshiped Pan, the adventurous and spirited fertility God, often depicted as a Piper. Early Christians began to depict the Devil as looking like Pan, who was a tailed, cloven-hooved being with horns, much like a goat-man. Long ago in the dark ages when everyone was persecuted, even Christians by one another, every witch was said to have a "familiar," an animal that had been given to her by Satan. The animal was said to serve as a beloved pet companion as well as a demon. They even dressed their familiars during times when it would suit them such as in a long, cold, New England Winter.
The witch protected her "occulty" cuddle bear fiercely. The familiar such as Maleficent's Raven, stole and sometimes committed murder for its respective witch. Witch's neighbors have even said the animals talked to the witch in human language. A familiar was also recognized by always being close to the witch, usually following her wherever she went.
The ultimate in Familiars is said to be the cat. After all, they are the master species. The Egyptians said so. Cats can see in the dark, inferior humans. During the Middle Ages people senselessly slaughtered cats without reason, because they believed they were demonic.
The word poppet is an older spelling of puppet from the Middle English popet, meaning a small child or doll. In folk-magic and witchcraft, a poppet or sometimes called moppets, mommets, or pippies is a doll made to represent a person, for casting spells on that person or to assist that person with magic. These dolls may be created from roots, branches, leaves or corn husks, fruit, paper, wax, potato, clay, branches, or cloth with the intent that actions performed upon the doll will be transferred to the subject for whom the doll was created. It was from these dolls that the myth of Voodoo dolls arose. Poppets are also used as kitchen witch figures.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Doing Interesting Things With Dead People

Grave Babies - Directly after the Civil War, a trend surfaced.  People began to mummify their dead babies in a way by placing parts of their bodies (bones) inside a wax doll shell.  They were put on display in their families homes as a reminder of their deceased little loved one.  There are almost none left, because most of them at this point, have decomposed, but Bitsie Bethie still exists.  Clearly, she was done well.
Bitsie Bethie is shown below.

This video highlights some of Bethie's history.  She's a real doll! 
This creeped me out, because at one point, people actually thought it was a good idea to partially mummify babies and keep them chillin' in their homes.  What is this a souvenir that you gave birth to remind you of one of the most awful and horrific events in your life?  God, two images are evoked in this instance and they are both movies, which you can totes watch, because I am going to link you.
This mummified baby head in a box , which is fake, but is quite good is for sale.  Its a baby head in a box.  Its pricy, but golly, is it realistic!
Beyond the Darkness (1979) - A wealthy young man, orphaned at some point, encounters the death of his beloved fiancee, who appears to have heart problems.  In actuality, his housekeeper slash caregiver used a voodoo doll to kill his gal, because she was so fatally jealous of her as the young man she cares for in the absence of his parents denies her romantically and sexually. He refuses to let his special and very dead gal go so he digs her up, taxidermies her, and puts her in a big, comfy bed inside  his sprawling estate.  He still has sexual desire in him.  After all, he's a young virile man so he experiments and disposes of a series of unworthy gals, but none seem to be an adequate replacement for his dead gal.  Of course housekeeper lady isn't pleased, but she still helps him get rid of the bodies as she is hopelessly devoted to her boy-crush slash surrogate adopted son person.
You can watch the full 1979 film in the player below!
Movie Macabre: Season 1, Episode 46 (1982) - Who (Whoever) Slew Auntie Roo? - Orphans regular visit the retired singer, "Auntie Roo", who loves children, and find that she is hiding a disturbing secret in her home.  I'll give you a clue.  Its not taxidermied, but it used to be her kid.  I suppose it still kinda is.  Its also sort of a Hansel and Gretel adaptation, loosely, anyway.
You have to watch it in parts, though.   It won't let me embed it either, effer!
This is one of the only things that scared the bejesus out of me as a child. 
Mummified Saints (Incorruptibility) - Incorruptibility is a Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox belief that Divine intervention allows some human bodies (specifically saints and beati) to avoid the normal process of decomposition after death as a sign of their holiness. Bodies that undergo little or no decomposition, or delayed decomposition, are sometimes referred to as incorrupt or incorruptible. These bodies typically retain a healthy, living skin tone and remain flexible rather than stiffening. Incorruptibility may occur even in the presence of factors which normally hasten decomposition, as in the cases of Saint Catherine of Genoa, Saint Julie Billiart, or Saint Francis Xavier. In Roman Catholicism, if a body remains incorruptible after death, this is generally seen as a sign that the individual is a saint. Not every saint, however, is expected to have an incorruptible corpse. Although incorruptibility is recognized as supernatural, it is no longer counted as a miracle in the recognition of a saint. Embalmed bodies were not recognized as incorruptibles. For example, although the body of Pope John XXIII remained in a remarkably intact state after its exhumation, Church officials remarked that the body had been embalmed and additionally there was a lack of oxygen in his sealed triple coffin. Incorruptibility is seen as distinct from the good preservation of a body, or from mummification. Incorruptible bodies are often said to have the odor of sanctity, exuding a sweet or floral, pleasant aroma. To the Eastern Orthodox Church, incorruptibility continues to be an important element for the process of glorification. An important distinction is made between natural mummification and what is believed to be supernatural incorruptibility. There are a great number of eastern Orthodox saints whose bodies have been found to be incorrupt and are in much veneration among the faithful. These include: The saints and other Christian holy men and women whose bodies are said to be or to have been incorrupt have been cataloged in "The Incorruptibles: A Study of the Incorruption of the Bodies of Various Catholic Saints and Beati", a 1977 book by Joan Carroll Cruz.
Ossuaries (Bone Churches) - An ossuary is a chest, box, building, well, or site made to serve as the final resting place of human skeletal remains. They are frequently used where burial space is scarce. A body is first buried in a temporary grave, then after some years the skeletal remains are removed and placed in an ossuary. The greatly reduced space taken up by an ossuary means that it is possible to store the remains of many more people in a single tomb than if the original coffins were left as is.
These relics are often found on holy grounds, particularly near or in churches and chapels, mostly Roman Catholic Churches, creepy!  I grew up Catholic, but never realized how creepy they were about remains.  Did you know, a bone of a Christian martyr is place in each and every (for the most part) altar in Roman Catholic Churches that are erected.  Altars aren't discarded after churches burn down, either.  They just move the stone thing with dead bones in it to another church that is erected for use. 
Dr. Von Cosel's Mummified Bride - A German immigrant, Karl Tanzler of Dresden, Germany, abandoned his wife and children in 1926 to relocate to Key West, Florida, where he changed his name to Carl Von Cosel and added "Count" as a nifty title. He claimed 19 different degrees, none of which were ever substantiated. Von Cosel worked for several years in a hospital that specialized in Tuberculosis, a then fatal and incurable affliction as a Radiologist.
In 1933, an attractive, 22 year-old Cuban-American girl, Elena Hoyos was admitted as a patient to the hospital by her mother with the hopelessly incurable disease, Tuberculosis, of course. She immediately caught the doctor's eye and he fell hopelessly in love. He showered the lovely girl with gifts of jewelry and clothing, and allegedly professed his love to her, but no evidence has surfaced to show that any of his affection was reciprocated by Hoyos. He did all he could to try to rescue her form her most grave condition, but as aggressive as his treatments were, he was unable to save her from her dire fate. They young, beautiful woman died. The Radiologist also paid for her funeral, and with the permission of her family Von Cosel got permission from her family to place Elena's body in a coffin that pumped constant doses of preserving formaldehyde to keep her tender flesh young ans beautiful for as long as humanly possible in a costly mausoleum so "the good doctor" might be able to gaze on her beauty for as long as time might allow. People definitely noticed his evening visits and that the doctor creepily spent most of his time with the slowly decaying corpse. Oddly, or maybe not so much so, Dr. Von Cosel stopped coming to visit the deceased girl. A private man, Von Cosel lived in a small house by the sea. He played his organ late into the night and came into the house often carrying large packages of perfumes and preservatives. Elena's sister grew suspicious and sought out Von Cosel when the cemetery reported that her coffin was missing. Confronting the doctor at his home, she demanded to see her sister's body. He led her to it in his very own bridal chamber in his home.  Karl had attached Elena's corpse's bones together with piano wire and fitted what was left of her face with glass eyes. As her skin decomposed, he replaced it with silk cloth soaked in wax and Plaster of Paris.  As the hair fell out of the disinterred corpse's scalp, the clever Radiologist fashioned a wig from Hoyos's own hair that had been collected by her mother and given to him prior to her burial in 1931.
He filled her corpse's abdominal and chest cavity with rags to keep its form, dressed her remains in stockings, jewelry, and gloves.  He used copious amounts of perfume, disinfectants, and preserving agents to mask the odor and counteract the effects of her corpse's decomposition.  He created a death mask in the likeness of her face as to preserve her beauty from beyond the grave.
During his childhood in Germany, and later while traveling briefly in Genoa, Italy, Tanzler claimed to have been visited by visions of a dead ancestor, Countess Anna Constantia Von Cosel, who revealed the face of his true love, an exotic dark-haired woman, to him.
Tanzler immediately recognized her as the beautiful dark-haired woman that had been revealed to him in his earlier "visions." He reportedly said that Elena's spirit would come to him when he would sit by her grave and serenade her corpse with a favorite Spanish song. He also said that she would often tell him to take her from the grave. After Von Cosel's confrontation with Elena's sister, who survived her, he was subsequently arrested and given a psychological evaluation by Florida's appropriate authorities. He was found sane. He was never prosecuted as the statute of limitations on abuse of a corpse was only two years. It had been seven years. Shortly after the corpse's discovery by authorities, Hoyos's body was examined by physicians and pathologists, and put on public display at the Dean-Lopez Funeral Home, where it was viewed by as many as 6,800 on-lookers. In 1972, it was made public that Von Cosel had stolen Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos' body and taken it home, where the whole debacle with her sister happened.  The dead girl's body was reburied and encased in cement in an undisclosed, unmarked grave where Von Cosel couldn't find her again. The death mask was put on display in a local museum when the case became local folklore. It was stolen some time later and turned up in 1952 on the floor of Von Cosel's home lying next to his dead body. Dr. DePoo and Dr. Foraker, who attended the 1940 autopsy of Hoyos's remains recalled in 1972 that a paper tube had been inserted in the vaginal area of the corpse that allowed for intercourse. Others contend that since no evidence of necrophilia was presented at the 1940 preliminary hearing, and because the physicians' "proof" surfaced in 1972, over 30 years after the case had been dismissed, the necrophilia allegation is questionable. In 1944, Tanzler wrote an autobiography that appeared in the Pulp publication, Fantastic Adventures, in 1947. His home was near his wife Doris, who apparently helped to support Tanzler in his later years. Separated from his hot young corpse, Dr. Karl used a death mask to create a life-sized effigy of Hoyos, and lived with it until his death on July 3, 1952.
He was 75 years of age when he met his maker in Pasco County, Florida. His obituary recounted: "a metal cylinder on a shelf above a table in it wrapped in silken cloth and a robe was a waxen image".  Several bands have released musical interpretations of the Tanzler story. The Black Dahlia Murder released a song titled Death-mask Divine which tells the story. The Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum in Key West, Florida, has an exhibit recreating Elena's body being cared for by Tanzler. Portions of the original memorial plaque that was commissioned by Tanzler and affixed to Elena Hoyos's mausoleum have been reassembled and are on display at the Martello Gallery-Key West Art and Historical Museum in Key West.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Oculus - Movie Review

Oculus – 104 Min – R

Horror movies seem to work out this way recently. They come up with a hook and make one good movie and they milk the hell out of it with 5 sequels. This film has lot of potential because it’s focusing on something new, the characters. Oculus highlights the people who are affected by the horror elements. The dedication to the classic horror format is a breath of fresh air. The building pressure and tension pays off in an enjoyable film. I give this a green light because it understands the suspenseful build up to horror. Now if you are looking for splatter porn or the jumps scares keep stepping. This horror is far more sinister. it manipulates your thoughts and your perceptions.

The story surrounds a woman’s desire to prove that she and her brother are not crazy. It has two time lines. In one of them, Kaylie (Karen Gillan) and her brother Tim (Brenton Thwaites) meet after Tim is released from a mental institute in today’s time. She works as an auctioneer and has been trying to find a mirror that she believes is alive and manipulating people into killing for its ghoulish pleasure. She finds it and tries to document the supernatural nature of the mirror before they destroy it.


The other story line is young Kaylie (Annalise Basso) and Tim (Garrett Ryan) move into a new house. Their mother, Marie (Katee Sackhoff), and father, Alan (Rory Cochrane) purchase the mirror to give the house some refinement. Alan starts to spend a lot of time with the mirror in his home office and Marie thinks that Alan is having an affair. The evil of the mirror works on the little voice in your head that focuses on your insecurities. It amplifies the bad things that the voice whispers about ourselves. Alan is taken over by the mirror and tries to kill his family. Tim kills his father and is locked up in a mental institute.

This film jumps back and forth, intermixing actions of today and the past. At times it can be a bit confusing and it takes a few seconds to calibrate what timeline you are watching. I think that might reflect the feeling of disorientation you get while being in the presence of the mirror. As a viewer I started to question my own sanity because I had no idea what was real and what was fake.

It’s incredible just how ultra-hideous the mirror is. I kind of think that anyone who makes the conscious choice of buying it almost deserves to die. Too dark? The mirror is very a creepy member of the cast. It embodies true evil. The mirror sneaks into your mind. It’s ever present, and it folds itself into reality and lies to you with the facts. The evil works its way into your mind seeping in around the edges until it permeates your thoughts. Not being able to trust your own perceptions and what you see makes you work harder to sort out what you are watching.

This movie started off as a short you can see it on Vimeo.

OCULUS Chapter 3: "The Man with the Plan" (Short) 2006 from Francis Craig on Vimeo.

It has the look and feel of a reality show documentary. This film is written and directed by Mike Flanagan who has a long list of television work. What I like about this is the concept of someone trying to document the supernatural. It would be something that I would do if I were faced with something of supernatural power. His next movie, Somnia, looks interesting; in an interview with Den of Geek he has this to say about it.

“Somnia is fragile and hopeful and kind of beautiful at the end of the day. We would pitch it as a beautiful horror. It was really hard to compare it to something else so it's a risky movie, because I don't know how it will go over.” 

 With his work on this film I am going to be interested in watching what he has coming up. He has an excellent perspective on the genera. But do me a favor and please don’t make any sequels just to make them. I had better not see Oculus 5: The refleckoning that is a movie that would be scary on a completely different level, and not a good level.

Follow Den of Geek (@denofgeek) Mike Flanagan (@flanaganfilm) on twitter. 
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