Saturday, December 11, 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sister of the Blood Countess

One night, when the Comtesse was preparing herself to go to bed, she discovered a strange brownish spot somewhere on her belly. She ordered her servants to scrub it off, first with cold water, then with hot water. But no matter how hard they tried, the spot could not be removed. The next morning, much to the Comtesse's annoyance, the ugly spot was still there. If anything, it looked as if it had grown a little larger. A medical man was summoned to come to the castle. He examined the Comtesse and had a good long look at the spot. He shook his head, cleared his throat, and solemnly declared that the lady was suffering from leprosy. On hearing this unwelcome news, the Comtesse grabbed the doctor's arm and hissed in his ear that she would order her servants to skin him alive if he would fail to find a cure for her disease.

Perhaps it was this threat that inspired the desperate physician to suggest the following remedy. There was only one thing, the doctor said, that could cure the Comtesse from her terrible infliction. One way only to get rid of her leprosy. She had to bathe herself in fresh human blood. And so she did...

This is not the legend of Elizabeth Bathory, the notorious Hungarian who bathed in human blood (which we've already talked about here). It's a 12th century legend from France, recounted by an author named Annette Lauras-Pourrat, which I found on this page of a website called Shroudeater.

Shroudeater is a collection of vampire folktales from all over the world, along with their sources and helpful information to study further. I recommend it. It's not about sexy, romantic vampires. It's about the stuff that scared medieval peasants for generations. Or as the site says:

Our main interest is in the old traditional undead corpse of the European mainland. Unlike fictional vampires like Dracula or Lestat, there is nothing glamorous or romantic about these vampires. Our kind of vampire is indeed a corpse. In most cases - according to the descriptions - it is reasonably well preserved, considering the fact that it has been dead for some time.

This corpse then is suspected and accused of draining the blood, health, or vital energy from the living. Its victims usually are friends or relatives that were known to the vampire during its life. In the end it is tracked down to its grave where its existence is ended by impalement or cremation.

The site's creators hope to stimulate more research, more writing, and more general interest in this kind of vampire. I couldn't agree with them more. (Note: Illustration is "The Vampire" by Edvard Munch)

Please Help Me Decipher This Occult Language

I received an "artifact" with this printed on it. I will not be able to describe the artifact -- it would be dangerous in some way to the giver if the information leaked out. But I am trying to figure out what these symbols mean. A friend of mine who has some expertise in languages told me she does not believe it is an actual spoken language. More likely it is a system of symbols, like Enochian. But I can not find it.

Does anyone know what it is? Autographed copies of my two books go to the first person who can figure this out.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Soylent Blitzen: What Goes On In The Workshop

I'm not going to use my name. I fear reprisals. Many of you might recognize me, or think you do. All I ask is that you don't speculate about my identity. I am taking a risk by telling you what goes on in the workshop. But the truth must come out.

You know my boss as a cheery, jolly old man with rosy cheeks who loves all the children of the world. What you don't know is that he has hired the same law firm that represented Blackwater/Xe, and they have successfully argued that the North Pole is free from the laws of any government. Management has turned this place into a kind of legal limbo, where the company can do anything it likes to us without restriction. Occasionally Amnesty sends a delegation of observers, but they're a bunch of punk college kids. The big guy shines them on, gives them some cocoa, and everyone goes away happy.

You know how you make toys for all the children of the world at cut-rate prices? Same way the Chinese government does it: You keep people in unventilated sweatshops, work them 15 hours a day, and shoot anyone who complains. The lighting is sparse, and the floors are slippery with oil and eggnog. Industrial accidents are brutally frequent and unreported. We're forced to practice elaborate choreographed musical numbers. Most of us are so exhausted from the hours and sick from the plastic fumes that we simply don't have strength to resist.

And we're fed reindeer. Yes. Those reindeer. You probably thought they had magically-long lives, or that they were fed special food to keep the same team of eight plus one in business all these years. No. A third of the team is culled every year, and the new ones take the old names. They give us the meat to save money, and it's contaminated with all the anabolics they use to make them fly. Elves as young as seven are growing breasts, for chrissakes. You have no idea what it's like to bite into a piece of food, and find a chunk of slightly glowing red snout.

The boss knows what's happening, but he doesn't care. The fat bastard spends all day in his office watching Glenn Beck and downloading swimsuit pictures of Sarah Palin. Sometimes he gets drunk and issues bizarre threats over the intercom system, telling us he's going to get rid of us all and import Oompa Loompas who have smaller fingers, so fewer of them get caught in the Stitcher.

I may be punished for saying these things. But I don't care anymore. I'm not afraid to die. Because in Christmastown, every one of us is already dead.

Monsters in the Woods

The forests of old European fairy tales are dark and terrifying places. Sometimes the monsters who lurk there have human faces. A group of artists called Rafani have produced Czech Forest, a series of illustrations that links this mythic terror to a time of evil that was very real.

At the end of the Second World War, Czech inhabitants of the now-liberated Sudetenland turned on neighbouring Germans, whose families in some cases had inhabited the forest region for over a century, and drove them out with vengeful ferocity. The slogans reproduced in Rafani’s iconic images (from the ‘Unofficial Decalogue of Czech Soldiers in the Borderland’, a propaganda handbook published at the time) demonstrate starkly enough how this triumphalist convulsion relayed the horrors suffered under occupation, revisiting them once more upon the innocent. But the ‘Czech forest’ of the title also conducts a deeper current: the Forest, as fairy-tale locus of darkness, where children get lost, monsters lurk, and, at dusk, branch and leaf become menacingly animate. By subtly adapting the folk-art-inspired woodcuts that often illustrate such tales, Rafani’s work connects the transmutation of the rage of the oppressed into xenophobic hatred, with the mythopoetic roots of fear, thus transforming the story from national history into psychogeographical fable of horror: it becomes a reminder of what lurks beneath the comfort of homeliness, and of the horror of the internal other.

I think the most disturbing elements of this series are the creature on page 6 (of the pdf document) and the beetle-like things with the Nazi flag on page 8, above a message inciting violence against women and children.

The italicized description above is from the introduction to a philosophical journal called Collapse, edited by Robin Mackay. Their fourth volume (read the whole thing here) explores the philosophy of horror. It features a number of ugly and delicious treats. I will be posting more on this.

(The photo is from the US National Archives by way of Wikimedia. The caption reads: German civilians are forced to walk past bodies of 30 Jewish women starved to death by German SS troops in a 300 mile march across Czechoslovakia. Buried in shallow graves in Volary, Czechoslovakia, the bodies were exhumed by Gernan civilians working under direction of Medics of 5th Infantry Division, U.S. Third Army. Bodies will be placed in coffins and reburied in cemetery in Volary. 5thMed. Bn.)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

St. Nicholas: Homicide Investigator

This is a folk tale about three kids who get lost in the woods, chopped into pieces by a murderous butcher, and then brought back to life by St. Nicholas. I do not speak French, so I can't give you the line-by-line translation. But over at the blog Belgian Waffle, they tell the tale:

The butcher lures them in, feeds them and puts them to bed, then... chops them up into little pieces and places them in a barrel of salt.
Seven years later, St Nicolas is mooching around the forest, as third century Greek bishops are liable to do, and decides to knock on the butcher's door. The butcher offers him dinner, and St Nicolas says "No, give me some 'petits salés'", which is a sort of pork dish, but also means "little salty things." The butcher brings him some pork, and St Nicolas says "no, I want some of the petit salés you made SEVEN YEARS AGO" with a special, significant, saintly look (I made that bit up).

Then St. Nick saves the kid's. And in one version of the tale, the butcher becomes a dark assistant to Santa. Probably the one who handles naughty kids who need killin'. And if you want to see a version of the story in English formatted for what looks like the worst child's coloring book ever, just check it out here.

I think that just about ruins Christmas. My work here is done.

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