Category Archives: Hedge Member’s Blog

Insidious- A Witch’s Thoughts

by White Bryony

I saw this recently and thought it was actually very interesting from the perspective of someone who practises witchcraft and sprirtwork so I thought I would review and share it.

Spoiler warning: I do try to refrain from giving too heavy spoilers, and any bad ones will have a nice warning so that you can skip it if you like. I also swear a bit.

Insidious is the story of family whose kid who falls into a coma and then kinky shit starts happening. This is the kind of stuff that makes you relieved to hell and back that these kinds of spirits are seriously goddamn rare. Here’s a link to the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1YbOMDI59k

I’ll first get the technical non-witchy stuff out of way:

  • James Wan, your calling is to make/direct ghost stories. I know that you are extremely unlikely to ever read this, but dude, you are awesome at it.
  • The script is excellent as well. Great pacing, good dialogue- I cannot compliment the guys who made this thing enough. We need more of you in the (horror) film industry today.
  • The choice to have minimal soundtrack in the first act was a very good one
  •  I also applaud the sparse use of jump scares and how well those that were used were built up and designed to further the plot. Thank you guys for putting in effort.
  •  Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne were fantastic as the parents. Patrick Wilson: I will try to stop seeing you as your character in Hard Candy (though you were pretty good in that too)

 

Now for the not so good stuff:

  •  I’ve seen The Phantom Menace. If you have too then the big bad demon might be a bit difficult to take seriously. Alternatively this might be a good thing. Nightmare retardant can be so nice.
  • There was one moment with horribly conspicuous CGI. The rest of the film had been so good about CGI use that I was a little disappointed for those few seconds.
  • One of the problems in the film probably could have been solved with a decently performed exorcism in the dad’s childhood. More on that later.

Ok, now that’s all done onto why I think a review of this is relevant to this site (SPOILER): ultimately the main plot is otherworld travel. I’m pretty sure that’s what a lot of people here do.

Quite honestly, it could have uses as a warning thing for people who are being an idiots with their path. Watching this can really give a powerful message of don’t cut corners or bad shit will start happening. Sure, it might not be to this extent but sweet Mother it’ll scare you into pausing to think for a moment first. For a pgan the moral of the film could almost be “If you don’t protect yourself demons will crowd around you/start feeding off you/send you into a fucking coma.”

I would almost be enough of an asshole to say to a newbie who doesn’t seem to quite get what the otherworld can potentially entail “Ok look, fine you want to learn this stuff? Awesome. Watch this first. It’s not exactly realistic but it’ll really make you want to use protection. A lot of protection. And maybe a night light.”

If you’re not new to the crooked paths it’s a great watch too. The parts with the otherworld travel were incredibly well executed and you can have a lot of fun (and get scared) at how completely insane everything gets. At one point they call in a spiritworker of some kind whose methodology is certainly interesting and probably a good choice given her line of work… though some it might give you a laugh.

It does surprise me a little bit that I didn’t see this film get more popular among pagans who walk the crooked paths, especially given that astral travel is a huge part of the film. Ok, fine some won’t like horror but it’s so good that I would have thought I’d hear a lot more favourable word of mouth (I heard some people say good things about Paranormal Activity, after all). Is it too close to home? Are you not able to suspend your disbelief? Whatever the reason I”m going to throw a reccomendation out there if you don’t mind watching something creepy.

Now to the fear side of things. This film is very clever with its scares. In the beginning it held back where it needed to, and once shit gets real it still holds back just enough that you don’t quite know what you’re looking at. It is a very creepy film.  Insidious only needed one shot to really freak me out. It involves a creepy smiling doll. Holding a shotgun. Somehow this is a horrible combination (I was thinking of trying to find a screenshot of that but it would require me looking at it again for a prolonged period of time. I really don’t want to.) It really cleverly builds suspense and tension so the climax actually ends up being a bit of a relief. The spirits in this are terrifying at times. (Don’t like creepy smiles? There’s a whole family here to freak you out!) but their motivations are pretty believable. Some of them are pretty much just wanting a go in the empty body, a couple are just being assholes.

Ok, there is one problem I mentioned earlier and feel the need to discuss. If you don’t want a pretty major spoiler then skip this paragraph…  Why on earth did they not exorcise the dad when he was a kid? Why? Part way through the film we’re told that when he was a child he had a spirit/demon attach itself to him like a parasite because he’s been projecting himself without realising and therefore without protecting himself. They stop him projecting, fine, but they don’t kick the spirit completely off. WHY? You can’t just leave it and hope it will go away- you can see it sneaking closer to him in photos. It is clearly waiting for the chance to do something nasty. His mother goes and speak to a decent spiritworker of some kind so why didn’t they get rid of the damn thing? If anyone else has seen this did they mention why they didn’t? That’s the only major issue I have with this film.

So if anyone wants to get scared one evening watch Insidious. Sure, you might not want to do anything remotely connected to astral travel for a while (Ah. I think I might have answered a few of my questions from earlier….) but it is a really good creepy film.

 

 

I almost changed my mind and stuck a picture of the doll here. You can thank me later.

 

Hedge-riding

I thought people might be interested to read this blog post I wrote some time ago about my own experiences of the (both literal and metaphorical) hedge.

 

As I was meditating, knitting and listening to music last night, working my way through the insomnia brought on by discontinuation syndrome from the last lot of failed seizure meds, the term hedgerider came to me as a description for myself. (And I found, upon researching all this, that other witches – mostly those with an English magic or Heathen background – are using the term for themselves.)

I was immediately reminded of friends and colleagues who describe their magical practice and their lives as edgewalking – a term which I’ve felt some identification with but which has never sat comfortably enough for me to claim it for myself. Because of my body and my history and my brain and my inclinations our culture places me in many liminal spaces, some of which I do not identify with and some of which I feel very deeply as mine. In a trance early in my magical practice, perhaps fifteen years ago, I learned that I am meant to be “a go-between”, a role I have embodied in many ways over the years. But even though I may live in or move in and out of or between liminal spaces, that image of edgewalking never felt like my own.

Perhaps it has something to do with one of my disabilities. Being deaf/HoH, I have balance problems. I can’t reliably walk in a straight line down the street. I could never walk on balance beams in Gym at school. To walk the knife’s edge…that’s not a metaphor I can feel in my bones. I don’t know what that feels like, to walk straight on that shining edge.

Riding, though: that I can do. I was put on ponies from the time I was a toddler, grew up riding. Riding the night, the storm, with the hunt: ancient images that speak to my soul.

And I grew up in a land of hedgerows, many of them 700 year old remnants of medieval field patterns. There have been hedgerows in my land since the Neolithic, and they have come and gone since: ancient hedges uprooted for the manorial field system, then returning the coming of the Enclosure Acts only to vanish again in the face of modern agriculture with its vast open fields. Ours were ancient: hawthorn, blackthorn, dog rose; holly and elder and the guelder rose that marks truly old hedges, grown through with straggles of brambles. They marked the turning year: the first hazy spring green of the edible bread-and-cheese hawthorn buds, foaming white with may blossom in the early summer, drooping with blackberries come autumn, and in winter bare dark bones between the faded fields.

I used to watch the hedging, learned the ancient words: the snedding, pleachers, brush and heatherings of true South of England style hedgelaying. I always wanted to learn it myself, though now I’ve moved to this hedgeless land I suppose I never will. That is the kind of work I could do happily with my hands, like the coppicing and clearing work I did over the summers, midge-stung and sunburned and rained upon.

And hedgerows aren’t simply a substitute for a fence; they are, as the UK Government advisors on nature conservation, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, point out: “the most significant wildlife habitat over large stretches of lowland UK and are an essential refuge for a great many woodland and farmland plants and animals.” The English Hedgerow Trust tells us that,

Hedgerows are the principal habitat for around 50 existing species of conservation concern in the UK, including 13 globally threatened or rapidly declining species (more than for most other key habitats). They are particularly important for butterflies and moths, farmland birds, bats and dormice… Over 600 plant species, 1500 insects, 65 birds and 20 mammals have been recorded at some time living or feeding in hedgerows. Over 100 species of invertebrates can be found in a typical 20-metre section of hedgerow… Hedgerows also act as wildlife corridors for many species, including reptiles and amphibians, allowing movement between other habitats.”<

They are communities, pathways, focii of the land. And they are boundaries: my field from yours, farmland from lanes, the domestic from the wild. The root of the word means enclosure; the hedge is the boundary between the known and the unknown. Like the hedgerow itself, natural growth shaped by human hands, it is a meeting of nature and culture, self and other: a marker of the line between this world and another. And unlike a wall, the hedge is not absolute: it is a permeable membrane through which things both animal and otherworldly pass.

Since at least the 16th century CE it has been associated with the outcast, the poor, the mean, the unwanted. And, of course, it has been associated with witches. Our word hag comes from an Old English term that has been argued to mean “hedge-rider”. (And I found, upon researching all this, that other witches – mostly those with an English magic or Heathen background – are using the term for themselves.) Associated with witches and ghosts, we may note as well in the perhaps-related Norwegian word tysja (fairy, crippled woman) a perceived link between the otherworldy and another class of being relegated by mainstream culture to the realm of the mean and vile: those of us who are disabled.

Like the bent pleachers of the hedge, meanings knot and twist together, grow into a living, thriving thing of many parts. And if we have the knowledge, we can straddle it with one foot in this world and one foot in that, ride it through the twilight in the smell of hawthorn and wet leaves. It’s not a comfortable ride. The twilight is not necessarily a comfortable place, and the hedge is knotted with thorns, with nettles, with the briar of the rose. But for those who have learned to be a part of the tangled community of the place between, it’s home, and it is beautiful. Unlike the knife’s sharp edge, it may prickle and sting but it will not cut your feet; those of us who cannot walk with balance may still ride, moving together with something growing, changing, and perpetually alive.