Halloweening in the 21st Century

Roll on Halloween!

But whatever happened to Mischievous Night?
Who would imagine today that Halloween’d ever had any religious significance? But back in the 8th century, the 31st October was assigned as the eve of ‘All Saints’ on November 1st and ‘All Souls’ on November 2nd, recognised as far back as 1000AD as a time to pray for the dead.
all souls  all souls 2
But however did they cope without Haribo?
I have to say, when I was a kid growing up in Leeds, Halloween wasn’t that big a deal. We did carve hideous faces into innocent root vegetables and flicker the odd candle inside them, but humbly, with the benefit of the poor man’s pumpkin – a turnip. Back in the 1970s, pumpkins were a mysterious foreign delicacy only glimpsed in Charlie Brown cartoons or as the precursor to Cinderella’s carriage. And as for the lighting: with no such things as tea-lights to work with, we’re talking authentic, bulky wax candles balanced in the base of the turnip-head; an ensemble which must all seem fairly primitive by today’s standards.
halloween turnip
And the downside was, if your mother went and paid good money for a turnip, you would then be charged with eating the surplus swede, usually as a mash-up with Sunday dinner. No way was that sweetly repellent anti-delicacy going in the bin, or even in the dog.
Nowadays, to look at the UK’s streets on the 31st of October, you’d never guess that it’s only in the last couple of decades that the ‘Trick-or-Treat’ style of Halloweening has really taken off. In fact, many of the older generation still feel ill at ease with it. Most anti-TOTs would agree with the writer who voiced her gripe in the New York Times article, ‘Trick or Treat, For Many Britons The Reply Is Neither:
“All they want is sweets,” said Ms. Boyd, a 57-year-old writer, sounding genuinely surprised. “They’re not scaring you, or singing to you, or charming you — they’re just grabbing it and going to the next house and then going home to be sick.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/31/world/europe/31halloween.html?_r=0

Trick or treat

So, timewise, once Halloween is over, according to most current UK calendars, the next big thing to look forward to should be Bonfire Night on November the 5th, when England’s children throw together a makeshift ‘Guy’, with which, first, to cadge ‘a penny’ but then ultimately to burn atop a huge bonfire; the same young onlookers of which, by-and-large, will be blissfully unaware that Guy Fawkes was an actual real man who was hung, drawn and quartered by the state for attempting to blow up the Houses of Parliament.
penny for the guy 1  penny for the guy 2
Those were the days, begging money from passing strangers with a facefull of good-honest muck.
But even while ‘A Penny for the Guy’ was going on, the night we were all waiting, anticipating and preparing for was the night just before Bonfire Night: Mischief Night, or Mischievous Night as it was commonly known in Yorkshire in the 1970s. The night of November 4th (though it’s believed that in previous centuries a ‘Mischief Night’ may also have happened in April, prior to another ‘children’s day’, May-Day).
Mischief Night was the night on which, according to the Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore: “children across the northern counties thought they had the right to cause havoc with tricks and other misbehaviour.”
Misbehaviour such as egging windows and cars, knocking on doors and running away, sometimes after propping vessels of flour or water over the doorframes, tying door knobs together (sometimes a whole terrace, complete with synchronised knocking), smearing lard and treacle around door handles, setting fire to a bag with a dog-turd in it – in the hope that the person whose doorstep it was placed on would open the door and foolishly attempt to stamp it out – and, at the naughtier end, stealing people’s gates and loose fencing, usually as ballast for the next evening’s bonfires.
mischief night 2
If there’d been such a thing as mobile phones, this would’ve been the most-filmed prank.
Nicking off with gates and fences was as bad as it should have got, but Mischievous Night really started to get a bad name when some psycho jokers started pulling dumb stunts like posting firecrackers through letterboxes, smashing up bus-stops and generally causing actual criminal damage to their neighbours’ properties.
But before it all turned sour and ultimately faded out for the most part, Mischievous Night was fun, and was generally accepted by parents and neighbours alike, if not always in good spirit at least grudgingly. Otherwise, where would we have got all the groceries from? Eggs, flour and treacle don’t grow on trees, unlike toilet rolls on Mischief Night.
mischief 3
And we didn’t always come out the victors. There was the one time me and a friend used up most of our lard supply smearing it into the handle of the local phone-box – this was the red phone-box with the brass eyelid style handle – only to end up our own victims the next day when my friend’s home-phone was out of order and she desperately needed to make a phonecall; and yes, she was the first since our evil deed to slide her fingers into that cold, gucky handle.
Then there was the weird neighbour who sat patiently on a wooden stool in his greenhouse all evening, just waiting, no doubt with a nasty little giggle simmering away in his belly, until half the kids in our street, eggs and flour at the ready, tiptoed around into his back garden, at which point he flicked on the torch positioned directly beneath his grimacing face. The cool tenacity of that man amazes me to this day. Sometimes, on dark, cold, lonely nights, I can still hear the screams.
torch face
Not him, but you get my drift.
Well, Mischief Night, or Mischievous Night, may have slipped from the calendar and the consciousness that it was firmly a part of throughout 19th and 20th century Britain, but it hasn’t entirely been forgotten. Penny Woolcock’s brilliant 2005 Yorkshire-based film, Mischief Night, although highlighting issues far bigger than the event itself, does give tribute to that very naughty, yet somehow innocent, celebration of childhood.

Mischief Night
So tell me, readers, what is your favourite Halloween memory?

halloween funny pic
OUT ON RELEASE December 11th 2014 – MELT, a horror novel:
‘Desecrating an ancient graveyard can unearth enough trouble to shake up the world.’
spooky church 5
Follow me at: https://twitter.com/wood_melt
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Book website: http://janinewood2012.wix.com/melt—horror-novel

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Vigilantes in the 21st Century

Part 4: Enter The Ladies, plus a new take on Legal-Aid

Had Robin Hood not been glorified in status through ages of storytelling, he’d likely be remembered as plain old Robin-Git, if indeed he was remembered at all; but as with the ballad of Jesse James, the original story has been sweetened up to render it palatable for those with moral sensibilities, and, of course, to package it as solid-gold saleable. For instance, did you know that there’s more evidence to say that the James brothers held up a train wearing Klu-Klux-Klan headgear, than there is to show that they divvied up a single penny of their booty with the poor?
Robin Hood

Not sure how you feel about these guys? Ask yourself, would you let them babysit your kids?

Not sure how you feel about these guys? Ask yourself, would you let them babysit your kids?

But it all goes to show that when it comes to stories of old, we like our heroes to be heroes, even if they’re killing people, meaning we’re okay with anti-heroes, just not out-and-out thugs.
Yes, vigilantes go back a long way, having a firm root in legend and mythology, though only later becoming firm figures of justice, the kind of men who stand up to corrupt, oppressive authorities, and in doing so benefit the common man in some way, be it in the form of a renewed sense of security, a plump pheasant leg or a wad of cold hard cash.
But enough talk about men; when did the women kick in?
Well you can read all about ‘Vigilante Women in Contemporary American Fiction’ in an in-depth study by Alison Graham-Bertolini.
Vigilante women book
As this spot is for the ladies, we’ll come back to the Dirty Harry films a little later, but I will mention here the fourth film in the series, Sudden Impact, 1983, which contains a scene that opens something like this: it’s a bright sunny day, a man sits peacefully reading his newspaper in a deck-chair on the beach; enter an angelic looking blonde, artist Jennifer Spencer, who raises a gun and shoots the fellow right in the nuts. He’s allowed enough time for the pain to register and to raise his aghast face to look the lady in the eye before her second shot cracks through his forehead.
Sondra Locke
We later learn that the artist, who’s restoring the pier’s Carousel, was gang-raped at that spot ten years earlier, along with a sister who lives out her existence in a catatonic state. This guy was the first; she’s only just begun.
Since the turn of the new millennium we’ve witnessed a rise in female justice figures. One prime example in film-form came in the shape of The Brave One, 2007, starring Jodie Foster.
The brave one the brave 1 2
This action movie harks back to the Death-Wish series mentioned in chapter 3, in that it’s a Joe Average (Josephine in this case) who loads up the bullets to shoot her way through a tirade of revenge killings following the violent death of her fiancé.
But the rise of kick-ass ladies is not confined to fiction, game and film, but is escalating around the world where real crime affects the lives of real women.
Here are some examples of how vigilantism takes shape in real life situations:
Power in Numbers
For a glimpse at a 400,000 strong vigilante army of women read about India’s Gulabi Gang, a force to be reckoned with:
Gulabi Gang
(And please don’t let the pink fool you. These women, fighting for the right to not be raped and beaten, mean business.)
http://www.gulabigang.in/
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7068875.stm
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/02/gulabi-gang-indias-women-warrriors-201422610320612382.html
Mexico is witnessing a similar rise in female justice groups. Read about the mysterious ‘La Bonita’ (the pretty one) who’s Remington R-15 rifle can kill a man at 300 paces, and probably has, in a vigilante war on drugs cartels.
http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/456089/Female-vigilantes-fight-back-in-the-Mexican-war-on-drug-cartels
Other cases of real life vigilantism and how it can go horribly wrong, can be viewed at:
http://listverse.com/2014/01/30/10-controversial-cases-of-vigilantism/

Onto the law, and those acting within it, or without it, if necessity dictates.
So, back to the movies. The Fourth Amendment to the USA Constitution provides that:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
A law brought in effectively to protect innocent suspects from overzealous and potentially corrupt policing. The obvious downside is that a little incompetence in dealing with a suspect can result in that suspect getting off scot-free. In the 1970s, US film studios jumped on this aspect of the legal system with exaggerated vigour.

Dirty Harry
Dirty Harry (1971), aka Inspector Harry Callaghan, played by Clint Eastwood (also the drifter cowboy of episode 1), who’s catchphrase “Go ahead, make my day, punk” sets the tone for his particular brand of ruthless Justice. No pen-pushing, red-tape sticking police captain was telling him to take it easy, not where lives were at stake, or when he was just plain pissed off with the bad guys.
More comedic versions of the vigilante cop followed in the 1980s with Eddie Murphy and Bruce Willis; tough cops acting outside their own jurisdictions, to force justice where, by their standards, the local law enforcement failed to come up to scratch.
Beverly Hills cop Die_hard
But it’s not only policemen that get exasperated with the system. In The Star Chamber, 1983 (a title taken from a notoriously ruthless 17th century English court), Michael Douglas plays a judge who winds up sitting on a panel of legal professionals who, behind the scenes, release a hit-man on those they deem to’ve escaped justice.
star chamber
And although the film didn’t achieve rave reviews, the idea remains an original one; and at least this storyline does highlight the potential for disaster and injustice where do-it-yourself law is concerned.
I’ll end the vigilante series with this handsome horror:
Dexter
http://www.imdb.com/list/ls003456861/
Rated number 1 on IBM’s top 10 vigilantes, Dexter is the unique character of the same-named US hit TV show. The first series, 2006, was based on the novel ‘Darkly Dreaming Dexter’ by Jeff Lindsay. From there the ensuing scripts were originally crafted by screenwriter James Manos Jr; and well-crafted at that.
After witnessing the death of his mother at a young age, Dexter harbours homicidal urges. With the help of his adoptive cop father, he cultivates a mask of humanity, charm and an air of social responsibility, classic hallmarks of a psychopath. In his job as a ‘Blood Splatter Analyst’ with the Miami police department, Dexter gains access to criminals who have slipped through the justice system, and it is with these miscreants he sets up his stall. No mobster, human trafficker, paedophile or rapist will escape his scalpel. Needless to say, he knows all too well how to cover his tracks.

But imagine a vigilante so powerful that he, or rather it, has no fear of being caught, whose ruthless methods only serve as a calling-card for a police force impotent to delay, let alone stop their progress.
OUT ON RELEASE December 11th 2014 – MELT, a horror novel:
‘Desecrating an ancient graveyard can unearth enough trouble to shake up the world.’

angel free 3
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Vigilantes in the 21st Century

Part 2 – When Your Average Joe turns Vigilante.

Following in the wake of the Savillegate and Rotherham child-sex-abuse scandals in the UK, it’s transpired that some police forces, with mass scandals like those to deal with, have “almost given up” on investigating certain lesser crimes, such as theft from cars and criminal damage, and are asking the victims – ordinary citizens – to pick up the burden of such investigations themselves. See:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-29058472
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/11073394/Crime-victims-forced-to-turn-into-DIY-detectives.html
This has led the Telegraph to coin the phrase “DIY detectives”.
smashing car

Don't ask what that is.

Don’t ask what that is.

All well and good – funding is tight and we should, as citizens, take some responsibility for maybe not leaving valuables in our cars, particularly if the car’s not alarmed, and for keeping an eye out for anything suspect in our own neighbourhoods. But neighbourhood watch schemes are nothing new, and writing off a whole section of crimes immediately begs the question, what kind of message exactly is this sending to criminals? To those who’d sooner nick your stereo than say ‘Hello matey’.
Having worked in prisons for many years, I can offer the reassurance that most criminals do not want to hurt you; yes, there’s all that bravado, but the majority have grown up with very little materially and generally speaking they just want an easy life like the rest of us, which always comes down to money. Like your average law abiding citizen, some criminals are happy with just enough to live on, while others, like your average law-abiding financier (or have you seen The Wolf of Wall-Street?), want a big phat car, class dames and designer drugs.
snorting coke
And criminals are actually very innovative when it comes to getting what they want, for instance adapting to cyber-crime at an almost parallel speed with legal technological advances.
identity theft
But one thing all criminals have in common is that they are opportunists. If the message is ‘the law is no longer bothering to police theft from cars and criminal damage’ then one thing we are guaranteed is that theft from cars and criminal damage will rise. And this isn’t just about certain offenses being shoved to the bottom of the crime pile, it’s about those offenses slipping from the police consciousness to the extent that they are actually deemed as decriminalised.
And with a sense of lawlessness comes the additional risk from that small minority of criminals who do want to hurt people, who take pleasure in it, and will take advantage of any level of lawlessness in their own nasty ways. Many serial rapists, for instance, are known to have started off as burglars.
A global recession has no doubt contributed to the current climate of fear and vulnerability. I started to write Melt, a vigilante horror novel, at the height of the recession, tapping into the public consciousness and ‘climate of fear’ that is exacerbated by funding cuts to essential services; particularly highlighting the outrage that people feel at being left to the mob. Thus, the novel is set on a troubled council estate where gang-rule, drugs and the prostitution of victims is what the protagonists have to deal with day-to-day. Acquired supernatural powers bring both a blessing and a curse to them.
dark angel
So how would you deal with society’s problems, if you had the power? If you could write a book or make a film reflecting the current climate creatively, what would your protagonist be? A two headed beast with a taste for the blood of miscreants? Or just your ordinary Joe or Josephine on the streets?
In the last episode we looked at mysterious strangers and superheroes acting as vigilantes, tackling lawlessness and tyranny to different degrees and with varying levels of brutality.
Vigilantes of film and game are definitely getting tougher and more merciless in their dealings with the bad guy. In the 2009 Law Abiding Citizen, Gerard Butler’s character breaks out of prison on multiple occasions to carry on his vendetta, not only against those who wronged his family, but the corrupt criminal justice system that let them go.
Law abiding citizen
This is the difference between an avenger and a vigilante – with your Average Joe vigilante, it’s personal.
We have to go back to the 20th century, most prominently to the 1970s, to see where this genre really took root.
In 1972 Bruce Lee as Cheng, a manual worker in an ice factory, avenges his ever diminishing family by wiping out the drugs gang using the factory as cover for their operations. The film was Big Boss. And yes, you’re right; he wasn’t so big by the end. The film, of course, launched Lee to stardom.
Bruce lee
But perhaps one of the most convincing portrayals of a vigilante came shortly afterwards in 1974 in the film Death Wish. Any ‘top 10 vigilante movie’ lists will have this and its sequels close to or at the top. See: http://www.imdb.com/list/ls003456861/
death wish
Loosely based on the book Death Wish by Brian Garfield, the story is of an Average Joe, Paul Kelsey who, distraught after the murder of his wife and sexual assault of his daughter, turns anti-hero, cleaning up the streets with several rounds of sharp shooting (and yes, Bronson, traditionally as rugged and expressionless as a mug-shot, does pull it off). The film achieves what a good vigilante movie should, in that, by the time this fellow gets going, it’s the bad guy you begin to fear for.
Next:
“You lookin’ at me?” is the much-mimicked and unforgettable line from a timeless classic by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro. Taxi Driver might have been released in 1976 but the dark and at times uncomfortably weird character of Travis Bickle reminds us of the potential for carnage in all of us. This one breaks the mold because it’s not about the death of a character’s family, but a kind of war on sleaze by a lonely impotent man. Globally acknowledged as one of the greatest films of all time, if you haven’t seen it, put it on your bucket list now.
Taxi driver
I’ll end part 2 with Dead Man’s Shoes. Here we’re back in the 21st century with the producer Shane Meadows, one of Britain’s finest in the last two decades, co-written and starring Paddy Considine as the cold and calculating soldier home on leave, to avenge the sexual assault of his mentally disabled young brother.
dead man's shoes
The 2004 film embraces the vigilante theme wholeheartedly, but with an added twist. Another must-see.
Sorry if I’ve missed your favourite, but there’s more to come. Next time we’ll meet the ladies with a bone to pick – cover your nuts boys – and what happens when the law itself, or elements within it, turn vigilante.
angel free 3
COMING SOON – MELT, the novel: ‘Desecrating an ancient graveyard can unearth enough trouble to shake up the world.’
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Part 1 of 2

What’s a Vigilante anyway?

As with the Spanish term ‘Vigilare’ – to keep watch – a vigil is a period of watchfulness, a commitment to be aware, often while others get to sleep in peace as a result. Likewise, a vigilante will often be up and about their business while his or her township sleeps, and while the darker forces they seek to challenge, or indeed eliminate, are at large.

vigilante 3

A vigilante, by definition in the Oxford Dictionary is A member of a self-appointed group of citizens who undertake law enforcement in their community without legal authority, typically because the legal agencies are thought to be inadequate.

An interesting phenomena in the 21st Century when technically we are more protected by laws than ever before, but which, nevertheless, is on the increase, and not just in films and comic strips, but on our streets.

In August 2014, the Daily Mail reported that in Detroit, one of America’s most violent cities, self-defence killings, or ‘justifiable homicides’, showed a 79% increase. Citizen ‘patrols’ have been set up by retired police officers tired of a lack of official policing in their neighbourhoods. This trend, of course, ties in with slashes to police budgets. Similarly, as police response times plummet, private security businesses are doing very well, thank you.

private security

In the UK, a BBC documentary: Welcome to Vigilante Britain, highlighted one of the greatest concerns of the authorities as being the rise in ‘paedophile hunting’ groups. In recent years, a kind of national rage has built up against those who predate on children and the lenient sentences doled out to offenders, sometimes with tragic consequences, for example, the gang-style execution of a lonely misfit, wrongly accused of sexual crimes.

But by African standards, the Western World’s style of Neighbourhood Watch is pretty tame. In Nigeria, for instance, you could be lynched for committing a robbery, while your executioners get a pat on the back from the police for “complimenting their efforts”.

Read:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8021468.stm

So, when did a watcher become a doer?

Certainly, there are a mass of influences that can be cited on the back of this trend. But vigilantes are nothing new; some of them go back decades, even centuries.

Akira Kurasawa’s Seven Samurai, a Japanese masterpiece, offers one of the finest examples of what vigilantism is all about (later, The Magnificent Seven, USA). A group of like-minded individuals combating lawlessness in defence of poor defenceless citizens.

7 samuri  7 samuri 2

Typical of the vigilante, they are fearless, ruthless, prepared to kill and ultimately to die in the name of justice.

This Parallel can be found in any number of vigilante based movies dating back to Shane, 1953, and the 1960s and 70s Spaghetti Westerns featuring Clint Eastwood as a lone blonde cowboy who, though narcissistic in many ways, steps up to form a shield between the little man and the tyrant.

Shane movie  clint eastwood

Here we see the vigilante is a loner, a drifter, a character perfected in the 1970s series Kung-Fu, starring David Carradine. The genius of this series is that, while sticking with the theme of a cowboy loner, it harks back to greats like Seven Samurai by delivering martial arts style kicks in every episode.

kung fu

As with the rise of vigilantism in society, so we see a rise in the more ruthless style of avenger, apparent in the ever darker Batman movies, also notably in recent years in landmark films like Kickass. It’s fair to say that the violence in this and other movies, such as Ghost Rider, reflects the viewer’s growing intolerance towards sparing the baddy.

kickass  ghost rider

This takes us over to the comic-strip vigilante, a super hero who may or may not have super powers. So who is your favourite?

batman and co  x men

Have a look at Marvel and DC’s top ten and post a comment with who, in your opinion, is the number one superhero:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DuUXDh-M5w

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-T2UJBpiOcg&src_vid=4DuUXDh-M5w&feature=iv&annotation_id=annotation_2345008995

And music, The Hip Hop / Rap artist Vigilante, set to strom the UK, reflects public rage at gang violence with hard-hitting lyrics:

vigilante rap 2

My fascination with vigilantes and superheroes, angels and demons, all come together in Melt, where I explore the scenario of a dark, super-powered avenger set loose on modern day society.

Watch this blog and my website for the autumn 2014 release date.

So, a question for you: if you were a vigilante, what superpower would you choose in order to right the wrongs of the world? Flight, a light-sabre or super strength? Or, like Kickass, would you just wing in as a simple human, do the best you could with what you’ve got?

Next post: Joe Average turns vigilante.

 

angel free 3

COMING SOON – MELT, the novel:  ‘Desecrating an ancient graveyard can unearth enough trouble to shake up the world.’

Follow me at: https://twitter.com/wood_melt

Friend me at: https://www.facebook.com/janinelangley.wood

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Book website: http://janinewood2012.wix.com/melt—horror-novel

Vigilantes in the 21st Century, part 1 of 2

Aside

Angels and Demons in the 21st Century

Part 4 – Angels and Demons in popular culture.

This final episode, a snapshot of angels and demons in popular culture, closes the series for now. We’ve looked at the good and the bad, so it’s only fair to give a mention to the hideously ugly. In popular culture, demons especially, tend to be presented in this way. They crop up in various forms, from creepy dolls to out-and-out gargoyle faces, as with The Exorcist’s Pazuzu, a demon originating from way back in Assyrian and Babylonian mythology. So to be fair, he always was ugly. Interestingly, though, compared to earlier bronzes of him, Pazuzu, typical of an ego-centric male, seems to have acquired a penis enlargement for the film role.

220px-PazuzuDemonAssyria1stMilleniumBCE Pazuzu 3

Pazuzu – The Exorcist (1973)

The Conjuring

The Conjuring (2013) – Annabelle

Scary dolls, or inanimate objects occupied by demons, have soared in popularity since the rise of the Chucky franchise. Although some would argue that the clown doll in Spielberg’s Poltergeist was the real inspiration. If you’re a fan, check out this facebook group: Creepy Dolls & Paranormal Experience

https://www.facebook.com/groups/255635077782406/?fref=ts

But demon dolls are nothing new. Demonic ventriloquist dummies hog the limelight in films dating back to the 1940s. In 1962 The Twilight Zone featured an episode entitled “The Dummy”, followed in 1964 by “Caesar and Me”, and then, of course, sandwiched delectably between them came the biggest star of all, Talky Tina.

talky tina

For the ten scariest demon dolls in film, see; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUhrZtoxJhI

The Devil himself, however, seems to have come a long way since the bad old scaly-faced, minotaur-horned depictions of old; images which never quite fitted Biblical descriptions of Lucifer anyway (Lucifer meaning “bringing light”). In Ezekiel, for instance, several verses relate to Satan’s beauty and perfection before iniquity was found in him.

In the last few decades especially, Satan is brushing up quite well, not beautiful exactly, more your uber-cool businessman, far more likely to be carrying a briefcase than a pitchfork. Some of my favourite Satanic characterisations are those by Robert De Niro in Angel Heart and Al Pacino in Devil’s Advocate.

devilAngel HeartAl Pacino devils advct

Both roles were played with a level of vanity and arrogance befitting the Satan of the old scriptures.

So, that’s the dark side, but what about the good angels? How are they coming across in the media? The Prophesy (1995), starring Christopher Walken, has the Angel Gabriel pay a visit to earth in order to settle a dispute in heaven. If you dropped into this film mid-play, however, you might not realise that. You might in fact think you were watching another depiction of the Devil exhibiting his power on earth. But if we go back to part 2 of this series and recall the angels at Sodom and Gomorrah and what duties fell to them, The Prophesy just reminds us that, though angels may ultimately be on the side of good, they can be pretty forceful in how they pursue the course of righteousness.

the prophesy

In fact, more and more angel-based films, contrary to their nicer counterparts, such as the saviour of It’s a Wonderful Life and Brad Pitt’s sweetly depicted Joe Black, are becoming increasingly darker, dealing with the more apocalyptic issues of the day, as with the 2007 film Gabriel, an Australian horror film set in Purgatory, and Legion (2010) enacting the Holy War as predicted in Revelation. Gaming has become similarly obsessed with battles at the gates of Hell.

On a lighter note, the selling media like to portray angels as being of the female gender, for example falling for a Lynx saturated male; clearly a good sense of smell not being one of the things they’re blessed with.

lynx-fallenangelswarming

So, what of the female gender? Are we ever angels? Well, of course, as with everything historical, we are underrepresented or associated, where there’s an element of power or sexuality, with evil. Female angels are just not there in the Biblical scriptures. Angels are invariably written as men. Passages in Isaiah, however, referring to Lilith, or Lilit, the so-called night monster, also sometimes interpreted as the Screech Owl or night bird, have captured the modern imagination. Her definition may shift through Hebrew translations, but the mythology of this glorious creature, also said in Hebrew Creation stories to be the first wife of Adam, has become an inspiration to modern day artists and crops up in a range of popular TV and film, for instance as the white-eyed demon in Lucifer Rising. She most likely originated in Assyrian mythology as Lilita, a sexually powerful demonic queen.

Lilith 2Lilith 3

Lilita                                                Lucifer Rising.

I play with these ideas in Melt, presenting its protagonist with the dilemma of something apparently angelic, but that also possesses the dangerous combination of beauty and power.

So, here’s a question: who’s winning, in terms of our continued fascination with angels and demons? Are you religious person or a member of one of the growing swathes of Satanic followers? Do you paint your angels bright white or deepest black?

Are you a gospel singer, or a member or follower of death metal or dark Gothic band?

gospel singers   Generechrist

I’ll close with a quote from Voltaire, who, on his deathbed, was prompted by a priest to renounce Satan.

His response went like this: “Now, now my good man, this is no time to be making enemies.

Join me for the next post, which will be looking at historical vigilantes and their growing trend in popular culture.

COMING SOON – MELT, the novel:  ‘Desecrating an ancient graveyard can unearth enough trouble to shake up the world.’

angel free 3

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Angels and Demons in the 21st Century – part 3

Part 3. The Angels That Fell

 

Let’s skip back a few chapters to the first holocaust described in Genesis and ask, how would you react if someone started soap-boxing about an imminent flood? Probably the same as Noah’s contemporaries, which doubting Thomases, according to Genesis, were all wiped out by the ensuing waters. Only Noah, his wife, their three sons and their sons’ wives survived to reboot the human race. So where did it all go so wrong?

cute noahs ark      noah's ark 2 scale of noah's ark

(The cute little ark in the first pic is how we tell it to the kids, whereas the other two offer a truer visual scale of the ark, as detailed cubit by cubit in Genesis. Think – a 100 storey apartment block, then lay it on its side and add some)

Going back to the last question, well, something that might well have royally pissed off the man upstairs is depicted in this passage from Genesis:

Genesis 6:2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.

In the bible, angels are often described as “the sons of God”, whereas human beings are described as “the sons of men”. Okay, now we’ve got that one straight, it’s fair to say that there were some real shenanigans afoot. Another biblical term used quite frequently is “came in unto” or “went in unto”, a term used to describe sexual relations between men and women, as used in this next related passage:

Genesis 6:4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

Nephilim-1Nephilim 2

(All very romantically portrayed, don’t you think?)

The Hebrew word for these giants was Nephilim. Now does it ring a bell? Many Bible versions have since reverted to this word, and in doing so have captured the modern imagination.

Yet, if the Nephilim were wiped out with the flood, why are there so many later stories, e.g. Goliath, and references, like this one:

Numbers 13:33 And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”

So did the Nephilim gene slip through the net of the flood, perhaps in one of Noah’s daughters-in-law, or did the angels just come on down once the flood had passed and do the nasty all over again? Depictions of giants come way beyond the flood, like this one of a Babylonian king holding a lion like his toy teddy bear.

king with lion

Trey Smith, in his You Tube video, claims that there is evidence of Nephilim having existed in a big way throughout history and creates a narrative around strange sub-human remains:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zz8_MxcnzY

He also uses the term “Fallen ones” to describe Nephilim: Fallen angels.

Smith’s film is 2 hours long, but there are plenty of more concise narratives on the Nephilim, as in this search result:

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=nephilim

Personally, I’m not presenting any of this as fact, only reiterating that many ancient Biblical ideas of angels and demons have survived to spark off our 21st Century imaginations. Many of my own short stories and both my upcoming novels incorporate such ideas, although I’d never claim they are based on fact.

So, what of these fallen angels, these alluring creatures who had their pick of earthly women. What was their fate?

Jude 1:6 – And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.

But these fallen angels are just the support act. The star of the show mounted the stage in the very first act, at least in chapter 3:

Genesis 3:2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Angel Heartdevil v jes 2devil v jesus

Yes, the meanest, baddest angel of them all: Satan. However, though religious sects tend to stick by their guns on Satan, many modern scholars are dismissing the idea that The Devil broke off and became independent and an enemy of God, arguing that Satan is an agent of God just like the best of them, that his acts of temptation are actual tasks, if not set by the man in charge, brought to God’s attention, as with this passage from Job:

Job 1:7  And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.

Job 1:8 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

Job 1:9 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?

 What follows is the testing of Job, with God’s permission, and it’s not pretty.

But why, if Satan is not trusted – and this is way after the serpent incident – is he allowed into the presence of God at all, and to hold council?

To me, in the Job chapter and going back to Eve’s encounter with the serpent in Genesis, the Devil is like one bitch of a mystery shopper, only rather than testing out the service in shops, he’s testing out the faith of humankind, then reporting back to God. And can’t you just hear the conversation up there: “Right, well, you know you said I could never get that Eve to eat the bad apples? Well, you’ll never guess what…”

And his arms slip into a fold, his head into a nod and his lips into a sardonic little smile as he revels in telling the tale. After all, he is vain.

Join me for Part 4, when I’ll be looking at Angels and Demons as portrayed in popular and modern culture, and who’s winning, the religious or the satanic?

dark angel free wallpaper

COMING SOON – MELT, the novel:  ‘Desecrating an ancient graveyard can unearth enough trouble to shake up the world.’

 

Follow me at: https://twitter.com/wood_melt

Friend me at: https://www.facebook.com/janinelangley.wood

Author website at: http://janinewood2012.wix.com/janine-langleywood

Melt Novel website: http://janinewood2012.wix.com/melt—horror-novel

 

 

 

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Angels & Demons in the 21st Century – part 2

Part 2 – Are All Angels Good?

 

It depends on what your idea of ‘good’ is. Are we talking pure, beyond corruption? Isn’t that what angels are supposed to be? Well, it ain’t always so. But whatever form they take, it’s clear that each one has a job to do.

All around the world there’s talk of fallen angels actually being among us.

This one claims outright not to be a “Blue Beam project” but a real fallen angel, along with the caption (Truth Lives).

 

Then there are Dark Angels, those we associate with that other place we’d rather not end up in. Their sinister duties were depicted well in the 1990 film, Ghost: basically dragging baddies off to Hell.

dark angels in Ghost

This film on You Tube is confirmation that the idea, at least, of dark angels still persists.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgmTK22KeDs

 

Still, we generally tend to associate angels, like Gabriel, with good tidings. We celebrate Christmas, hanging cute little angels on trees. But historically most angels are far from cherubs. There are numerous accounts of angel / human interaction in Genesis: the first visitation (not counting a certain snake, who we’ll come back to later) being to Hagar, a servant carrying Abraham’s illegitimate son; The Lord’s agent basically told to knuckle down and make the best of it, after all, Abraham’s wife Sarah, who’d asked for this child to happen, was barren. The visiting angel also told Hagar that her son would be, in short, a hostile donkey of a man. And then, behold, the Lord went and gave Sarah a son anyway, so Hagar was sent packing, blessed with being the future mother of nations, but still… packing.

hagar-and-the-angel-of-the-lord

Another case of angel-intervention, begins at Genesis 19:1And there came two angels to Sodom at even [evening]; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground…’

bricktestament

http://www.thebricktestament.com

 

Lot was a God-fearing man closely related to Abraham, the man-of-God whose line would lead right up to Jesus. Lot and his family had ended up in a bad place, the doomed city of Sodom, where all sorts of mischief ran riot day and night. Why the God-fearing Lot chose to be there, or if indeed he had no choice, is a mystery, but I suppose, in today’s terms, it would be like dropping the Arch-Bishop of Canterbury in amongst the ‘Scallies of Manchester’ ( see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMcjoP670so ) and seeing how he gets along.

So, this is exactly the kind of situation that calls for angel intervention.

And so it goes on:

Genesis 19:29And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain [Sodom & Gomorrah], that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt.’

So Lot, a man who didn’t doubt the presence of angels, was spared, unlike his two sons-in-law who went down in flames with the two above-mentioned cities, in which, incidentally, despite the pleas of Abraham, not one soul, man, woman, dog or unborn baby was spared. Every depiction of this event shows something on the scale of a nuclear holocaust.

Then there was Lot’s wife – remember her? She made a real booboo. Most depictions of the flea from Sodom, as led by the angels of God, show Lot’s wife starting to lag behind a bit.

angels at sodom 2

You might have heard what happened next. She was warned, you might say. A bit harsh though, in front of the kids and all, getting turned into a pillar of salt for a quick peek back over the shoulder.

lott's wife at sodom

Picture it – that’s enough salt to keep a branch of MacDonald’s going for a whole couple of hours. Needless to say, Lot would never go short on his fries from that day on.

 

But these aren’t the really bad angels. Join me next time, when I’ll be talking about The Angels That Fell. Oh goodness me.

dark angel free wallpaper

COMING SOON – MELT, the novel:  ‘Desecrating an ancient graveyard can unearth enough trouble to shake up the world.’

Follow me at: https://twitter.com/wood_melt

Friend me at: https://www.facebook.com/janinelangley.wood

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