You may remember when I wrote about “Human Tribe” I suggested that perhaps it’s my nosy nature but I’m always curious about people. Let me add that I’m particularly interested in the lives of historic magical practitioners, which is why when offered the chance to read “Witches and Wizards: The Real-life Stories Behind the Occult’s Greatest Legends” by Lucy Cavendish I jumped at the chance.
Let me start with, any of the subjects in “Witches and Wizards” is worthy of a whole book unto themselves. Many of them do have whole books dedicated to them! However something about the mix of types and eras makes for an interesting “big picture” look at magical practitioners that shaped our world. Inside you’ll read about Merlin, Aleister Crowley, Doreen Valiente, John Dee, the witches (or not witches) of Salem, Massachusetts and of course more.
I hate to sound like a total book nerd, but I also love the physical format of the book too. It’s small, hardcover with no slip cover, just a cover with beautiful cover art on it. This book is going to last, and better still it says, “The Supernatural Series Book One” at the top. This hopefully means I can look forward to a shelf full of these attractive and interesting books.
You can learn more about “Witches and Wizards” here.
“Fairies, Pookas, and Changelings: A Complete Guide to the Wild and Wicked Enchanted Realm” is Ventura’s latest. This book is fantastic. The author’s enthusiasm for the subject matter is obvious as she relates assorted tales from folklore. I always love how she unearths the more obscure creatures for these books. In this one you’ll find fairies, pookas, and changelings (of course). You’ll also read about bonga, trolls, coblyns, brownies, and even Rumpelstiltskin! There’s even a section on methods for entering the fairy realm, an action the author does not advice taking lightly.
As always Ventura pulls no punches, letting the darkness around the edges of the fay be on full display. There will be no Disney fairies found in this book. However if you’re looking for an interesting guide to all the creatures the Wild has to offer, “Fairies, Pookas, and Changelings” is the book for you.
Well, the New Year is off to a great start, and I hope everyone is working hard on recording dreams and learning how to interpret them. In fact, last month’s posting was about just that: We explored short and long-term benefits of keeping a dream journal. Since it’s February and the month so many of us associate with passion, this month we are going to explore abduction imagery in dreams. Of course, I know anyone reading this right now just said to themselves, “What the heck does abduction have to do with passion?” I hope you’ll stick with me, as soon all will be made clear!
Defining the term
At first, the sheer word “abduction” is likely to make a person cringe. The term “abduction” can stir up anxiety and evoke emotions like fear, helplessness, and even anger. In the most general and commonly understood sense, “abduction” means to take something or someone away from a situation or location, typically against the individual’s will. According to The Free Dictionary Online, the word “abduction” originates from the Latin abdūcere, a term that breaks down into ab– meaning “away” and dūcere meaning” to lead.” There is a really seedy element to abduction as well in that such an act can involve someone young, innocent, inexperienced, and perhaps trusting; in this case, the individual might not even be initially aware of the abduction taking place until it is too late: For example, in the event a parent abducts a child. Alternatively, the use of the term “abduction” in a physiological sense means to move away or draw away from the midline of the body or to move one limb away from the other.
With the above-mentioned definitions of abduction in mind, let’s dig deeper into what this kind of imagery might mean in dreams. When thinking about the most common meaning of abduction, you need to consider what role one played in the dream to gain greater understanding into what the dream means. You will either be a perpetrator, victim or witness to an abduction in the dream. Each assumed role will illicit different dream symbolism.
Perpetrator: As the perpetrator of abduction, you should consider the give and take elements of your relationships in waking hours. Good questions to ask one’s self include, “Am I taking more than I’m giving,” or “Am I taking someone for granted and perhaps stealing away with their valuable time?” “Is there an uneven level of give in take in any relationships?”
Victim: If you are the victim of abduction in your dream scenario, your dream may be trying to reveal subconscious fears you may not be addressing. It’s time to ask yourself if you have unaddressed anxiety issues, if you are feeling out of control and helpless, or if you are faced with a situation in your waking hours you might not really want to have to deal with or perhaps you are completely ill equipped to handle.
Witness: If you are witnessing abduction, you’re reaction to the scene can reveal much. Are you terrified, worried, anxious, or scared? It’s a dream so anything goes and maybe you were happy about it. Think about the dream imagery in this context. If upset, do you fear unexpected change or feel like the hand of fate is sweeping in and taking over your life? If you were happy, do you wish something would happen so you can get out of a situation that is less than positive?
Physiological sense: If we consider the definition of abduction meaning moving away from the midline of the body or the separation of one limb from the other, abduction imagery takes on different connotations. If moving away from your body, perhaps you are exposing yourself to emotional hurt or you are moving away from your core values. The separation of limbs suggests a part of pairings: this separation may be positive or negative, depending upon the situation in question.
Myth is abundant with stories of abduction; two examples right off the top of my head include the story of Helen and Troy or the story of Persephone and Hades from the Greek pantheon. In brief, Hades, so desirous of the young maiden Persephone, gets permission from his brother Zeus to steal away with his daughter. Hades abducts Persephone while she is picking flowers in the field and takes her to the Underworld. Demeter, Persephone’s mother, finds out about what happens and grieves the loss of her daughter, so much so, she refused to let anything grow on the earth. Eventually, Zeus relents and allows Persephone to leave the realm of the Underworld, provided she did not consume anything before she left. Zeus sends Hermes to guide Persephone back to the world of the living, but on her way out of the Underworld, she consumes a pomegranate. The consumption of the fruit eventually results in her having to spend a third part of the year in the Underworld with Hades and the remaining months on earth with her mother Demeter. The later story is often referred to as the Rape of Persephone or The Rape of Proserpina (Roman pantheon).
Now, at this point you probably think I’ve strayed extremely far away from my attempt to connect dream imagery of abduction with passion. However, some scholars suggest the myth of Persephone and Hades has some clearly identifiable elements of passion. First, Hades is so desirous of Persephone; he abducts her and takes her away from her mother and the world of the living. While this may seem terrible for Persephone, Jean Shinoda Bolen M.D. in “Goddesses in Everywoman: A New Psychology of Women,” asserts “Persephone is the Underworld aspect of Aphrodite: the Goddess of Love… and both goddesses share the pomegranate as a symbol.” Bolen also explains her belief that once Persephone accepted the pomegranate for consumption, she was volunteering to return to Hades every year. In fact, some scholars suggest the pomegranate represents the woman’s womb and the seeds within. Thus, a relationship that started out with abduction ultimately resulted in a lasting relationship with two willing participants: Hades and Persephone. The story of Hades and Persephone is one representing undesirable, abrupt change, birthing into something new and unexpected. It is also a story representing the transition from innocence to experience. Ironically, the pomegranate is a symbol of abundance, the seeds inside the fruit represent unity, and the fruit is a symbol of unbreakable bonds.
Myth turned into dream interpretation
If you feel the story of Hades and Persephone resonates with you, particularly because you have dreamt about abduction, you should consider the role fate is playing in your life. Just as Persephone had no control over Zeus, who gave permission to Hades to abduct her, it seemed fate was influencing the events in her life. The role of fate might not be negative and perhaps in your waking life you are about to enter into a situation or relationship that you are fated to encounter. The story is symbolic of seasonal changes, cyclical events, spring, and new beginnings followed by a period of chaos. The myth is also a metaphor for the loss of innocence, sexual initiation, and uncontrollable passions.
About Dayna Winters: Dayna Winters is a solitary Witch, author, and artist. She is the co-author of three books written with Patricia Gardner and Angela Kaufman including, “Wicca: What’s The Real Deal? Breaking Through the Misconceptions,” “Sacred Objects, Sacred Space: Everyday Tools for The Modern Day Witch,” and “The Esoteric Dream Book: Mastering the Magickal Symbolism of the Subconscious Mind”, all of which are published by Schiffer Publishing. You can find out more about Dayna and her work at her blog: http://daynawinters.blogspot.com/.
If you’re looking for a resource for information about goddesses why not go straight to the best, Patricia Monaghan? Monaghan published the first encyclopedia of divine females in 1979, and that book has stayed in print in one form or another right up to today with “Encyclopedia of Goddesses & Heroines”. The latest is newly expanded and features more than 1,000 heroines and goddesses from folklore, literature, and religion from around the world. The amount of information is dizzying.
The “Encyclopedia” is broken up by region and country; South America and the Caribbean, Mesoamerica, North America, South Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Rome, Greece, Celtic World, Pacific Island and Australia, Japan, Southeast Asia and Indonesia, India, Circumpolar North, China and Korea, Eastern Mediterranean, and Africa, and I’m sure I missed some!
Do you know who Uti Hiata is? How about Ececheira? What about Pidari? They’re all pretty cool. I bet you’d find them interesting. You know a good way to learn about them? Yep. “Encyclopedia of Goddesses & Heroines”.
The “Encyclopedia of Goddesses & Heroines” is an invaluable resource, written by an undeniable expert in the field.
As most of you know, I’m a generalist. A jack of all trades and a master of none. Generally the books I read reflect this. I have a grand collection of “Complete Idiot’s Guides” and many “Encyclopedias of” or “Guides to”. However when given the chance to read “Path of the Sacred Pipe: Journey of Love, Power, and Healing” by Jay Cleve, PhD I took it despite its narrow focus. It wasn’t long before I realized there was a whole world around which the pipe is centered.
I was amazed to learn how the whole earth is represented in the Native American’s sacred pipe. By learning about the parts of the pipe, Cleve shares the history, mythology, and modern day beliefs of primarily the Lakota, but also other Native American tribes as well. Not only do you learn about the spiritual, but you learn about the actual nuts and bolts of owning and using a pipe. As you might guess, one doesn’t just stuff any old stuff in there, light it up and go. Cleve discusses what gets used, care and maintenance, and the role the pipe plays in different rituals.
I had never imagined that a book about the Native American sacred pipe would give me a look at the Sun Dance ritual, or an overview of the Medicine Wheel, or stories of White Buffalo Calf Maiden. Cleve truly shows how the sacred pipe is fully woven into the fabric of the Native American culture, and because it is, “Path of the Sacred Pipe” ends up being a surprisingly thoughtful and entertaining read.
Now you kids know I’m a gal that loves me some Christopher Penczak. I’m a lady that adores me some Deborah Blake. Yet there is but one writer that elicits a fan girl squeal the way Ol’ Blue Eyes would from the ladies back in the day, and that’s Claude Lecouteux. Yes folks, he’s back, and this time he brought jewelry. Lecouteux…..with jewelry people! Claude Lecouteux’s latest is “A Lapidary of Sacred Stones: Their Magical and Medicinal Powers Based on the Earliest Sources.”
At this point in most of our lives we’ve all thumbed through, or own, at least one book about the properties and/or powers of certain minerals and gemstones. Many of you probably already have a favorite. However with each book it’s about what they choose to include and how they choose to organize the information. Those who know and love Lecouteux know that this book is going to be special, and Lecouteux does not disappoint.
From right in the “Introduction”, “How the Dictionary is Organized”:
I have left the names of stones in classical or Medieval Latin as entries, when they exist, because they do not always correspond to the names of modern mineralogy and many stones remain unidentified, and I am going by the medieval nomenclatures. For stones without specific names, I have created entries of the type “stone + virtue” or “stone + location.”
So to find my birth stone, Emerald, I look under “Emerald” and I’m told to “See Smaragdus”. Once there I find 5 pages of diverse information. For instance the stone was one of the 12 stones found on the high priest Aaron’s breastplate in Exodus 28:15-30. Or, the emerald is used in hydromancy or divination. He mentions the emerald’s appearance in “The Romance of Alexander” and the “Letter of Alexander to Aristotle”.
Hopefully this has given you a little idea as to what to expect inside Claude Lecouteux’s “A Lapidary of Sacred Stones”. A lapidary is an old book on the lore of gems, someone who cuts, polishes or engraves precious stones, or a collector or dealer of gems. Lecouteux has certainly wrote this generation’s lapidary with “A Lapidary of Sacred Stones”. Whether you’re looking for Carniz, Magnet of Fish, or Sun Stone, this book is a keeper!
Next we’ll be examining “Crystals, Jewels, Stones: Magic & Science” by Isidore Kozminsky, that just happens to have “Crystals and the New Age” by Stuart Weinberg along for the ride.
I have to say, I think the masterful Mr. Claude Lecouteux himself would be impressed with the amount of work Lisa Hunt put into “Ghosts & Spirits Tarot” because what you have here is a tarot deck where each card depicts a different spirit, ghost, or liaison between the earthly and spiritual realms from folklore and legend. So yes Lecouteux fans, all the subjects of his books that have been reviewed here on The Buffet are represented in this deck: The Wild Hunt (The Chariot), Vampire (The Hanged Man), Revenants (Six of Cups), and yes party people, even the Poltergeists from the last review (Ace of Swords).
I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I tell you that I would gasp with surprise and glee with each page turn of the booklet as a treasure trove of creatures and characters were revealed. La Llorona! The Flying Dutchman! Headless Horseman! White Ladies! Each entry has a brief description and bit of context along with a divinatory meaning.
The artwork is perfectly suited to the subject matter and despite the obvious darkness implied, Hunt brings beauty to most of the cards despite the specter of death the hangs around ghosts and spirits. I’m a fan of the Day of the Dead and I became quite smitten with Hunt’s rendering of it for the Ten of Cups.
And I was swept up by The High Priestess, who in the “Ghosts & Spirits Tarot” is an Enchantress/Sibyl. Hunt’s text brings perfect understanding to what we see in the card.
The most famous oracle of Greek/Roman legend, the Sibyl of Cumae (Italy) guided Aeneus through the land of the dead and enabled him to return to the living. The Sibyl interweaves the energies of past lives and future events. She illuminates the scene where dream-like specters mingle with relics of the past. A pathway provides a passage to clarity and higher understanding. The sparkles indicate a divine presence.
1. For my readers who may not be familiar with it, can you tell them about “The Further Adventures of Cupid & Eros”?
THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF CUPID AND EROS is a fantasy romantic comedy about two love gods (the titular Cupid and Eros) trying to set the world and their own love lives right.
While it’s commonly believed that Cupid and Eros are two names for the same god, in our world they are in fact colleagues, each the god of love in their respective pantheon. They still match up mortals and do their best to stem the tide of infidelity and divorce, but besides their common mission they are as different as night and Day. Cupid is the original “nice guy”; sweet, charming, but constantly in the “friend zone”. Eros on the other hand is sexy as hell, and irresistible to anything with a pulse—Mortal, God, or anything in between. He’s the ultimate romantic, she’s the ultimate personification of passion and unbridled sensuality.
When we first meet Cupid he’s still depressed from being dumped by his girlfriend Psyche. Eros has just about had it with his moping and her plans to help him recapture his confidence are what kicks the story off in our first season.
2. Where did the idea of Cupid and Eros doing their job in our modern times come from?
I’m a big nerd. Well OK, that’s not the entire answer, but it’s a big part of it. Ever since I was little, myths (not just Greek, but myths and legends from all cultures) were some of my favorite stories… right next to episodes of The Twilight Zone and just about any comic book I could get my hands on. I guess all that stuff kind of swirled around in my head and I found myself constantly intrigued by the idea of what these mythic figures would be like if they were walking around today.
The thing that set me off towards what would eventually become C&E was actually a panel from a SANDMAN comic by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman presented this banquet with representatives from different pantheons and folklores. I loved that idea of these different mythologies interacting directly… and I thought ‘OK, so Gaiman puts them in a palace, at a banquet… I’m going to put them in a gymnasium at what amounts to an awkward high-school reunion’ That idea, which would eventually become the Inter-Pantheon Mixer we see in episodes 5 and 6, was the beginning of Cupid & Eros.
As for why I chose focus on Cupid… At first it was simply because I thought it’d be funny to show a Cupid who can’t get a date himself… from there… well, lets just say I can relate (perhaps a bit too well) to his plight.
3. In future episodes can we look forward to them coming across competition from other love based deities like Aphrodite, Ishtar, Venus, or Qetesh?
I wouldn’t call it competition exactly, but I do want to feature a lot of those gods you mentioned. Aphrodite and Venus figure prominently in our heroes’ stories… If you go back and read some of those myths (not the least of which is Cupid & Psyche) you realize Cupid’s relationship with his mother was about as neurotic as they come.
And because in our world the different pantheons co-exist, I see different gods of the same thing as being like cops from another precinct… there’s some competition but there’s also the need for cooperation. I have a story I want to tell where Cupid ends up having to work with Kama (or Kamadeva, the hindu god of love). Kama is also an archer so there’s no way the two wouldn’t have a bit of a professional rivalry.
4. In the first episode it’s revealed that Psyche left Cupid for a dermatologist. How did you decide that out of all the occupations that would be the one of Psyche’s love interest?
Well, Psyche’s beauty is so central to her myth, but I figure if your boyfriend’s mom is Venus… after a while wouldn’t you start to worry that you might not live up? And wouldn’t you constantly look for ways to preserve that beauty both in the godly realms and on the mortal plane?
Also I lived in in NYC up until 2006 and there’s a dermatologist whose subway ads are legendary… in my mind that’s who Psyche is currently shacking up with 🙂
5. I’m a big fan of the deity Quan Yin (Kwan Yin). I think she’d be an excellent “straight man” in a comedy setting, any chance I could see her in a future episode?
Believe it or not, a version of her is actually present at the Inter-Pantheon Mixer! If you look very closely at the name tag on the young goddess who Cupid mistakenly believes is smiling at him, you’ll see it actually reads “Guan Yin,” one of the alternate spellings for Quan Yin. I liked the idea that a goddess of mercy would unintentionally shoot down our hero… and I figured she’d be the kind of goddess Cupid would be drawn to. Plus there’s a real treasure trove of legends about her and ways in which she’s been presented. I think you’re right she would be a great addition to the cast.
In fact, almost every single extra at the mixer is actually tied to a real deity that we wanted to potentially bring in to the show in the future… but we did take care to be a bit vague about it so that we would have some flexibility down the road.
6. Are there any particular deities you’re fond of that might make an appearance in future episodes?
Oh man, there are so many. As mentioned, Venus, Aphrodite and Kama all figure into stories I want to tell. And Neikea, our villain at the end of season 1, has a whole family (not least of which is her mother, the goddess of discord Eris) who aren’t too fond of love gods.
I love the Egyptian and African pantheons and would love to bring them in. As much as I love putting modern spins on the Greek/Roman pantheons part of the fun of the show is calling attention deities that most westerners really don’t think about.
7. You’re the creator, writer, and director of “Cupid & Eros”. Can you describe the process of taking your ideas and ending up with an episode?
Things changed a bit episode to episode, but the basic plan of attack remained the same.
I started by writing our scripts. In all but one case I knew who my actors would be so I could write with them in mind. It’s one of the perks of having so many insanely talented friends. What’s more, my key crew – Director of Photography Jefferson Loftfield, Production Designer Vicky Chan, Gaffer Edwin Kim and Costume Designer Tera Struck – had all come on board as I was writing our first few episodes. Because they were with me from the beginning, I knew that we were all on the same page even before we shot our first frame of footage.
I wrote all of season one in 3 episode story arcs, so after I had a draft of each arc I would send it to my co-producer Andy Wells. Andy would then look at the draft, and in addition to making any story suggestions, he would identify areas that might have been problematic for our budget. One of Andy’s strengths, and one of the reasons why I was so fortunate to have him at my side, is his ability to figure out ways to stretch every dollar to the max. He was the definition of the creative producer.
Once our scripts were locked Andy would handle most of the details organizing the shoot so I could concentrate on working with my cast and crew on the creative side of things. One of the great things about working on something episodic like a web series is that we all grew with the show as the shoot progressed.
Yes I always had final say, but I knew that my colleagues understood the show, its world and its characters just as I did. A director is only ever as good as his crew and I truly believe I worked with some of the best.
Once production wrapped I moved to the editing room. I’m fortunate to have a phenomenal editor, Matthew Smith (who also edits The Guild, a web series created by Felica Day that is largely considered the mark by which other web series are measured). I would do a first cut of each episode and then Matt would come in and take my ideas and polish them, often suggesting even better ways to structure a scene or pace an episode.
While we did our best to stay ahead of the curve, we often found ourselves working right up until the night before an episode was due to go live. All in all we were actively in production and post production from roughly February of 2010 to February of 2011.
8. Where can our readers go to see episodes of “Further Adventures of Cupid & Eros”?
Our home base is at www.cupidanderos.com There you can watch all of our first season, learn more about the show and the people behind it, and get updates on screenings, new content, etc. This month you’ll also be able to go there to buy our Season 1 DVD which is going to be filled with not just our 9 episode first season, but all our additional content, photos, and audio commentaries.
9. Do you have other projects our readers can look forward to? Can readers look forward to more episodes of “Cupid & Eros”?
I hope we get to do more “Cupid & Eros” but at present we’re on a bit of a break. Our first season was completely self-funded and the stark reality at the moment is that I don’t have the resources to do that again… not without either dropping the quality of the show or asking my cast and crew to work for free, both of which I’m simply not willing to do.
We’re using what we have to build our audience (which is why I’m so thankful for chances like this) and hopefully we’ll soon get to a point where we can move forward with season 2. I’ve got a lot of stories left to tell and the next two seasons are already plotted out, so it’s just a question of finances (as it often is with independent filmmaking).
To that end, if people dig what we’re doing they can help by spreading the word far and wide. Following us on twitter/liking us on Facebook. Subscribing to our channel on YouTube or Blip.tv. If people wish, they can also donate directly to the show via our website. But the most important thing people can do to help is just watch and encouraging others to do the same.
In the meantime, I do have other work out there. My other web series The Silver Lake Badminton and Adventurers Club ( – co-created and directed by my C&E Editor Matthew Smith) has it’s first episode out and can be seen at www.slbaac.com. Some of my short films are available online and can be seen at my website www.highway9pictures.com or on my Youtube page, youtube.com/user/aglijansky
10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question!
You already mentioned your affinity for Quan Yin, what other gods or goddesses would you like to see re-envisioned for 2012? I promise to give you credit if we steal… I mean, borrow your idea 🙂
Oh geez, don’t ask Mom to pick a favorite! Of course here on the website I’ve gotten to discuss a lot of my favorites already, that’s the joy of having your own site! We already mentioned Kuan Yin. I haven’t gotten to her on the site yet, but I have an affection for Kali. I tend to have a soft for figures who have been misunderstood or who have gotten a bad rap, so I list Set, Pandora, and Haephaetus amongst my favorites. I love Pele because in my opinion, what woman doesn’t? And I could go on, and on. But a real favorite of mine was technically an actual woman, but in my mind she is as legendary of a figure as an mythological character of her era, and that is Phryne, the courtesan of ancient Greece who lived a life larger than perhaps the Gods themselves.
About Avi Glijansky: Avi Glijansky is an independent filmmaker living in Los Angeles, CA. He is the Writer and Director of several short films including OCEAN CITY (Haig Manoogian Post Production Award, NYU; Opening Night Film, Cape May NJ State Film Festival; Nominee Best Student Short, Ashland Independent Film Festival, First Glance Philadelphia Film Festival, Rehobooth Beach Film Festival; Nominee Best Dramatic Short, Ohio Independent Film Festival). In 2005, a draft of his feature film screenplay, 30TH STREET, took 2nd place in the “25 and Under” category of the annual Set in Philadelphia Screenplay Competition organized by the Philadelphia Film Office. In 2006, Avi and his producing partner, Adam Spielberg (Ramin Bahrani’s PLASTIC BAG), were among the final 15 filmmakers considered by Jonathan Lethem when he held a contest to give away the option to his novel YOU DON’T LOVE ME YET. Avi also adapted the novel MESSIAH, by Gore Vidal, for producers Mark Petracca (WILDWOOD DAYS) and Michael Butler (HAIR). From January 2007 through January 2009, Avi was a Production and Development Executive at Los Angeles-based Upload Films. During his time at Upload, Avi was intimately involved in all of the company’s projects including SHOTGUN STORIES, THE BABYSITTERS, PRINT, and DROOL. Avi is the Writer/Director/Co-Producer of THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF CUPID AND EROS, an original web series about the love god Cupid and his terrible love life. Season 1, which features guest appearances by Bradford Anderson (GENERAL HOSPITAL) Jeff Cannata (THE TOTALLY RAD SHOW) and Taryn O’Neill (COMPULSIONS), had its finale on Feb 28th 2011. The show was one of six winners of NYU’s Inaugural Web Series Showcase and has received great reviews from Tubefilter, Eguiders, ThoseVideoGuys, Indie Intertube PopCultureMonster and tVadio. Most recently, Avi, co-created, co-wrote and produced THE SILVERLAKE BADMINTON AND ADVENTURERS CLUB which won the judges prize at the Celebrate the Web 4: Raising the Bar Web Pilot Festival.
Hey Folks! Rebecca here. I told Avi that I was going to embed the first episode, “I’m Fine”, of “The Further Adventures of Cupid and Eros” here at the end of the interview. I told him that after my readers saw the first 5 minute episode they wouldn’t be able to resist watching the rest of the series. So go ahead, give it a try. We’ll talk in the comments after you watched the rest of the series. 🙂
Most readers know that I’m a pretty big fan of author Claude Lecouteux, and that his latest book, “Phantom Armies of the Night: The Wild Hunt and the Ghostly Processions of the Undead” may very well be my favorite. In fact, it was one of my favorite things of 2011! However, in a book full of interesting history, legends, and folktales, there was one particular section that really stuck with me since I read it; “The Good Women Who Roam the Night”.
Lecouteux’s writing is dense, rich with the fruits of exhaustive research. I couldn’t hope to do a summary that would even come close to doing justice to the man’s work. Instead, let me ditch the scholarship and attempt to explain why after reading “Phantom Armies of the Night” I decided this holiday season to leave food and drink out for The Feast of the Ladies of the Night.
I’m guessing it’s an idea not exclusive to the Middle Ages, nor to the German speaking countries of the era, but there had been a belief that there were a troop of women who would roam the night. Specifically they would travel during the holy nights between the birth of Jesus and the night of Epiphany. Led by Dame Abundia and Satia, or Fraw Percht or Perchtum, these ladies would visit homes. If the households had chosen to leave out food and drink for the ladies to feast on (being sure to have all containers open), the homes would be blessed with prosperity and abundance for the next year. Needless to say, the Church wasn’t a fan of such customs. At best they considered the practice a misguided superstition, at their most assertive the Church worked to recast these Good Women as minions of Satan, eaters of babies and corrupters of households.
I’m no stranger to mythologies, religions, or folktales, but for some reason the plight of these Good Women touched my heart. Not only had they been forgotten by so many, but to potentially be remembered as something so perverted from your true nature? It seemed like not such a big deal to set out a little something and take a moment to remember them as they were intended.
A little note here from me (Rebecca). Claude Lecouteux, in my opinion, is a certified bad ass. His book “The Return of the Dead: Ghosts, Ancestors, and the Transparent Veil of the Pagan Mind” became an all-time favorite of mine as soon as I read it. In the two years since of doing book reviews “The Return of the Dead” is still one of my favorites to recommend. Lecouteux’s latest book, “Phantom Armies of the Night: The Wild Hunt and Ghostly Processions of the Undead” is simply amazing. I’d say go buy it now but I want you to stick around because it was my extremely giddy honor to get to interview Claude Lecouteux and I want everyone to read that. Seriously, like every single person ever, because I got to interview Claude Lecouteux!
Crap, what did I actually set out here to say? Oh yeah. Claude Lecouteux is French and as such English is not his native language so some of the phrasing and use of language may seem “off”. Since the only French I know comes from the song “Lady Marmalade”, I was impressed at how good his answers came across.
1. With previous books such as “Witches, Werewolves, and Fairies” and “The Return of the Dead” it seems like much of your work has now culminated in your new book “The Wild Hunt and Ghostly Processions of the Undead”. Is that the case?
It is not the case. The field of my research is so large that I was constrained to go step by step. “The Return of the Dead” showed me the different facets of the believes connected with the death and the dead. This book was a first approach, the basis of my other investigations: I could not say and explain all the ramifications of the subject just in one book.
In “Witches, Werewolves, and Fairies” I found the answer to a question that bored me: what returns? A shape? A corpse? A soul in human form? The answer was the alter ego, the root of the believe in an external soul.
The “Phantom Armies of the Night” explores the return of troops of dead and tries to show that we are confronted with a blend of different legends which roots are the believe in a life after the life, the dangers for the livings to meet such troops, what often involves an obligation, and a warning: don’t have an unsocial behaviour, don’t transgress the moral codex of the community.
2. For readers unfamiliar with the term, could you describe what The Wild Hunt is?
The Wild Hunt is a band of the dead whose passage over the earth at certain times of the year is accompanied by diverse phenomena. The leader of that Hunt is a giant or a devil or a warning rider. Unfortunately the Wild Hunt was confused with the legend of the Wild Hunter.
3. How does The Wild Hunt differ from other troops of the dead or phantom armies that show up in folklore and mythology?
The Wild Hunt differs from the other troops through its highly Christian character and through its message: be careful in all you act! A bad life involves the damnation, the members of the Hunt are sinners.
4. With so many versions of The Wild Hunt and associated processions of the undead how did you go about sorting through all of it to find the definitive stories?
I search first the common points, then the sources of the differences, I compare all the testimonies I have found and analyze the part the Medieval church plays in the variations. A myth is the result of all its variations.
5. One of things I find fascinating in your books is how you show the role Christianity has played in shaping and/or distorting Pagan folklore. While researching your books do you find this an interesting puzzle to work out or just a frustrating obstacle in getting to the heart of a particular legend?
I found it an interesting enigma. I am like a detective investigating for traces. One of the aims of my studies is to raise the veil of the Christian distortions.
6. You kick off “Phantom Armies of the Night” discussing “The Good Women Who Roam the Night”. Although later in the book they are sometimes associated with leading unbaptized children who have died (obviously an unpleasant thought), and of course there is the mandatory demonization by Christianity, at the heart they seem like perhaps the only group discussed that doesn’t do harm or act as a harbinger of bad things to come. Is that correct, because I may opt to see if they’ll eat at my house this year.
You are right! The good woman leading a troop of dead children is not a harbinger of bad things to come. And if the good women, three in number, visit your home and if you have done what they expected, you’ll be happy and lucky.
7. My readers may not be aware, but you are French and live in Paris. Your latest book, “Phantom Armies”, was actually published in French in 1999 under the title “Chasses fantastiques et cohorts de la nuit au moyen age”. Do you get nervous about having your work translated into other languages?
I am not nervous if I can read the translation before publication. But it’s not always the case. My books were translated in 12 languages – Chinese, Czech, etc. – so that I have no control. I just understand the west and north European languages.
8. Since your work is published in France and then America, what are some upcoming projects that my readers can look forward to in either country, or both?
Jon Graham will translate two other books of mine: my analysis of the poltergeists and my Dictionary of the magical and medicinal stones and gems.
In France the next book is entitled “The poisonous maiden”, an anthology of legends and fairy tales of the Middle Ages; this is a part of my corpus of research, like my other anthologies on Werewolves, Dwarfs, Vampires and other selections I published.
The translation of Franz Obert’s “Tales of Transylvania” (collected 1856) I made with my wife will appear soon.
My last project I began 1995 is a Dictionary of the magical words and formulas; to day 1000 entries!
9. You conclude “Phantom Armies of the Night” by saying, “As you will have guessed, an investigation such as ours here is an attempt at discovery. We cannot reach a conclusion, and to reach one would be presumptuous, as long as so many texts remain to be exhumed, so many testimonies remain to be pulled from unpublished archives that are piled on library shelves.” With the book already being 12 years-old, does this mean perhaps we can look forward to an updated edition in the future?
It depends not from me but from the editors!
Karin Ueltschi, a friend of mine, wrote her PhD on the subject; I was in the jury and I can say her book (published in 2008) can be considered as the updated edition of my study.
10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.
Hi! It’s Rebecca again. I think the kind of joke of asking me a question got lost in translation, so I’ll use this space to share a few final thoughts.
1. Buy “Phantom Armies of the Night”.
2. Please Inner Traditions, hurry and publish an English version of “The Poisonous Maiden”!
3. When you do publish it (soon), for goodness sake keep the title “The Poisonous Maiden”! What a great title!
4. I get a review copy of that, right?
About Claude Lecouteux: Claude Lecouteux is a former professor of medieval literature and civilization at the Sorbonne. He is the author of numerous books on medieval and pagan afterlife beliefs, including “The Return of the Dead”, “The Secret History of Vampires”, and “Witches, Werewolves, and Fairies”. He lives in Paris.