Published Categorised as Books, Films No Comments on Midsom­mar

Last night, I saw Midsom­mar, a film I’ve had my eye on for a while. It’s received very mixed reviews in the press, but I loved it. I felt it was pretty much what you’d get if you got Alex­an­der Jodorowsky to direct the Wick­er Man. Lots of grue­some human sacri­fice and folk dancing, if you like that kind of thing. Plus the music of Haxan Cloak, which is always enjoy­able.

The produc­tion design was also very remin­is­cent of Kinfolk magazine, a glossy life­style magazine I’ve always found a little unset­tling. Lots of extremely whole­some people wear­ing pale clothes, and sitting at big sun dappled wooden tables of commun­al meals. The owners are Mormon, but the magazine is not expli­citly aimed at Mormons.

I grew up in Kent, which is pretty much Wick­er Man cent­ral, despite being right next to London. My home town is about 45 minutes on the train from London and is pretty indus­tri­al with the usual econom­ic woes of a town with a huge closed-down shipyard, yet every Mayday it has a three day long pagan fertil­ity fest­iv­al with morris dancers (the rough kind in rags with sticks), maypoles, and the ritu­al waking and slaughter of a Jack in the Green. (And a very large number of real ale stalls in the street). I have some photos from last year’s fest­iv­al that I still haven’t sorted out.

Grow­ing up this all seemed very normal, espe­cially as I lived on the edge of town near the Neolith­ic tomb where the ritu­al of waking Jack in the Green happened. It’s quite an eerie site even in the rest of the year. I real­ised how weird this all was when watch­ing the Wick­er Man at univer­sity with two friends who grew up in other parts of the coun­try, and it got to the scene where the school kids are doing maypole dancing, and I mentioned some­thing about also doing it for school PE, and my friends looked at me in aston­ish­ment, like I might also have had human sacri­fice as an after school activ­ity. (New age stuff was also big in the local area with multiple shops cater­ing for the need for tarot cards, crys­tals, etc).

If you want to read about the slaughter of ritu­al kings and symbol­ic marriages to trees and the like, the clas­sic anthro­po­logy and myth­o­logy book the Golden Bough is now out of copy­right and avail­able to read for free online here as a website, and as a pdf or ebook down­load here. (And remem­ber as my univer­sity tutor often reminded us- the Romans loved to accuse their enemies of human sacri­fice, because it was one of the few bad things they didn’t do them­selves). The Golden Bough also forms one of the major under­pin­nings of prob­ably my all-time favour­ite book: Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones. It’s an eerie coming of age tale set in 70s and 80s England, using the folk tale Tam Lin, TS Eliot’s Four Quar­tets, and The Golden Bough as inspir­a­tion.

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