Pagan film critic/professor Peg Aloi looks at 2022’s offerings and concludes,”This year was a veritable sparkly cornucopia of weird, witchy, wonderful films and TV steeped in occult and pagan imagery and storylines.”
This was number one:
You Won’t Be Alone (2022, dir. Goran Stolevski) This gorgeous film (a Sundance 2022 premiere) set in Eastern Europe in the 19th century is a stunning debut by Australian/Macedonian filmmaker Goran Stolevski. It follows a young woman raised by a witch (drawn from a folklore legend) and the ways she learns about nature and humanity by inhabiting the bodies of different people. It’s a gorgeous exploration of empathy and the possibilities and limits of human existence. With a fine international cast (including Lamb’s Noomi Rapace and Beautiful Creatures’ Alice Englert), lyrical cinematography and a beguiling soundtrack, this was my favorite film of the year. (Full review in The Arts Fuse) (streaming/rental on Prime, AppleTV, Vudu, etc.)
In 2012, Greg Newkirk received an email from a man calling himself David Christie, who claimed that he and his family were being terrorized by unearthly creatures by night. After exchanging emails, David disappeared. For the next five years, the case only got stranger, as more connections and mysterious emails came in. Then, in 2017, Greg and a team of researchers traveled to rural Kentucky, not knowing what they would uncover, or how deep they would discover the case might go.
The story was compelling. (I thought Season 2 lagged a bit in the middle, but it finished strong.) The videography and editing were better than a lot of what you see on ghost-hunting or Bigfoot-hunting TV shows. And it was released in 2020 just before people can to be forced indoors — meaning they could live vicariously through the investigators’ travels in eastern Kentucky. You can stream or download it or get it on Blu-Ray at the site.
Joe and Jessi: Stalking through the woods, investigating ruins, utilizing audio and visual recorders, and utilizing visible and infrared ligjhts at night.
Greg and Dana: Investigations of haunted places and ghost experiences, utiilizing psychic impressions, amplified by technology such as the Estes Method and the God Helmet. Occasional ritual.
Greg and Dana: Professional-level video.
Jessi and Joe: DIY level, but getting better all the time. Jessi is their editor.
What I Wish They Would Do
Get expert advice.
In the first season of Hellier, I remember talking the screen as the participants fumbled around seeking some information, “Why don’t you go to the local library and talk to the local history librarian? Even small libraries often have one, and they want to share!”
Later in Season 2 they do just that when researching a vanished restaurant in Kentucky and are amazed that the local library has photos of it. Libaries! Who knew?
Jessi and Joe spend a lot of time with boots on the ground, but I with they could balance that with more research instead, of, for instance, just wandering around old federal government buildings in the Land Between the Lakes and asking, “What was this for? Was it fortified against Dogman?”
Granted, federal agencies often do a poor job of preserving their own institutional history — as a Forest Service brat, I know this.
Also, an experienced hunter or wildlife biologist could offer alternative explanations to “How did these deer bones get here?” or “What made those scratches on the tree?”
Yet even though I sometimes say to the screen, “I bet a black bear did that,” there are times when I have no easy naturalistic explanation for what they encounter — and that is what keeps me coming back.
Cracow Monsters is a Netflix series about “a young woman haunted by her past [who] joins a mysterious professor and his group of gifted students who investigate paranormal activity — and fight demons.”
Comes nowhttps://grammar-ttlms.blogspot.com/2007/07/comes-now.htmlAndrzej Szyjewski, professor of religious studies at Jagiellonian University, which has been doing business in Cracow/Kraków since 1364, as they calculate it, back when demonology was an academic discipline.
The viewers are subjected to a whole series of disgusting and terrifying characters of various origins. It quickly becomes obvious that even Trentowski’s inventive vocabulary and imagination is not sufficient enough to describe the mix of entities gathered under the banner of supposedly Slavic mythology. The screenplay incorporates ideas from other, more contemporary Native Slavic faith believers (Rodnovery) and New Age workshops. For instance, in episode four, Chworz summons a creature called Spas. He is, in essence, a personification of certain holidays, described by Ukrainian Rodnovery volkhv (wisewoman) Halina Lozko, which the series depicts as something similar to Ded Moroz, who in turn can be likened to Santa Claus. Over the course of the series, Spas, carrying a staff decorated with hanging dolls, busies himself with freezing and then hanging people who failed to give him a present. The ‘Slavic Grinch’ meets his end when Alex electrocutes him with a high voltage wire. It therefore seems that the screenwriter didn’t bother to carry out at least a minimum amount of research when it came to the most key aspect of the show. She didn’t know that the name ‘Spas’, coming from the word spasitel, which means ‘saviour’ and denotes Christ, is unsuitable for a pre-Christian demon. . . .
Even when the screenwriter bases the story around concepts introduced by [19th-century writer Bronislaw] Trentowski, she seems not to understand them and misrepresent them, either knowingly or unknowingly. The best example of this is using the neologism bo?yca, which Trentowski means as ‘knowledge of gods and religion’, to signify a kind of protective spirit, a radiant entity guarding the main protagonist. She also calls it an Aitvara, which indeed denoted a guardian spirit, but one that watched over homesteads, not individuals. Aitvaras were reptilian in shape, brought wealth and prosperity, and were absolutely not exclusive to high priests and priestesses.
One of the series’ strongest points could be its setting: Kraków, a city famous for its rich legendary and historical symbolism. Unfortunately, Kraków also becomes a fantastical amalgamation of real and fictitious places (such as Wanda Mound). Judging from the places visited by the protagonists during their chase after the zapadliska, they can magically jump from one side of the Vistula to the other every few seconds. The viewers will also get the impression that all classes at the Jagiellonian University are conducted solely in Collegium Novum, the administrative centre of the University. Because of this, the eponymous Kraków becomes a simulacrum just as much as the ‘Slavic beliefs’. The most convincing idea related to Kraków in the series is the issue of the curse: the city is unable to develop properly, trapped in a hollow, drowned in smog and ravaged by extreme weather. In the series, Kraków becomes something akin to London, either shrouded in fog or beaten by rain. In this regard, the screenplay rises to the challenge.
I probably could not last through all two seasons, but now that I have Starlink and can stream easily to my isolated forest hideout, I am tempted to give it a look all the same, bearing Prof. Szyjewski’s cautions in mind.
(Thanks for the link to my co-editor in Equinox Publishing’s Pagan book series, Scott Simpson, who also teaches at Jagiellonian University and is the reason why I know anything at all about it. Trust me, he is “more than just a teacher.”)
But whether any of these dolls are truly haunted seems beside the point. As I scroll through pages of smudged cheeks and wonky eyes, pausing on “ ‘Gracelyn’ (not vampire)” and “Bethany, Sad, Lonely Spirit” and “MECA VERY OLD POWERFUL SOUL,” I feel smug that even a sprawling corporation like eBay, with all its accompanying blandness-inducing powers, can’t suppress the batty and outright bizarre. In their unapologetic weirdness and scrappy prose, haunted-doll listings offer a reprieve from the Internet age’s slick, ironic posturing and its distancing effects.