Friday, July 01, 2005

"Witchcraft" by Arthur Machen

The old woman may be odd but innocent... and then again maybe she's not. Mist from the moors pervades this small story of magic most black--or at least a convincing shade of gray. Read by Gerrit Lansing.

If Arthur Machen were alive today, he might be considered "transgressive," even censorable for his boldly sexual themes and unhealthy interest in paganism. In the post-Wildean world of fin-de-siecle England, he was considered dangerously decadent--and was therefore enormously popular, so much so that even today The Friends of Arthur Machen society is a going concern. "The Great God Pan," a tale of a woman who flirts a bit too openly with the goat-heeled god and produces his diabolic offspring, is only one of Machen's most famous works dealing with the occult and the lurid. (Aubrey Beardsley illustrated “Pan,” by the way.) An original member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (most famous for spawning Aleister Crowley), Machen probably knew what he was talking about. One might even say that H. P. Lovecroft--don't worry, we'll get to him!--could not have existed if Machen hadn't come along first. Nor could have cult movie The Wicker Man. Why wait til Hallowe'en? On the next dark and stormy night we're going to settle down with Machen's novella “The White People” or novel The Hill of Dreams. And so should you!

Gerrit Lansing wins the Preakness of the "Stories to Go" derby, since this is his third contribution to our humble pages. Although he's primarily a poet of some decades' standing, Mr. Lansing enjoys arcane literature of all sorts and in fact once owned and operated Abraxas Books, a shop in Gloucester, Massachusetts that specialized in "magickal" texts of many sorts. As you read this he is probably working on poems both new and undergoing revision, possibly for a new edition of his renowned collection, Heavenly Tree/Soluble Forest.

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