Pagan Media News, Samhain Edition! (Part One)

There’s plenty of interesting and exciting media news this Samhain season. Perhaps most interesting is that Samhain itself, or Hallowe’en, is not being covered quite so fervishly in the news as it has been in recent years. Why? Are we finally become part of the culture and no longer “special”? Was our brief tournee as media darlings enough to make us boring? Or is there something sinister afoot? Hmmm.

But despite that, I have seen a few interesting news stories, like this one from the New York Times, on death and thoughts of dead loved ones on Hallowe’en. I’ve also been seeing a number of articles on Christians who struggle with celebrating Hallowe’en because of its pagan origins. Of course, trick or treat is not pagan at all (despite Christine O’Donnell’s claim that it dates back to “the Druids, who used to go door to door looking for a human sacrifice”), but an American custom from the mid 20th century.

There are some spooky new TV shows in the works, in case The Walking Dead, American Horror Story and True Blood weren’t enough for ya. I did tune in to 666 Park Avenue briefly; it has a few good actors (like Terry O’Quinn from Lost), but it’s silly: in a building much like The Dakota (referred to as ‘The Branford” in 1968’s Rosemary’s Baby, which this series borrows shamelessly from), young attractive couples seem to have sold their souls in exchange for fancy stuff and sexy decadent lifestyles. Ho hum.  CW is bringing a new mystery drama called Cult. The title is loaded, we’ll see what it has in store.

And speaking of cults (don’t you just love that word?), The Following on Fox looks like it might be fun. It stars Kevin Bacon as a detective on the hunt for a serial killer (James Purefoy); said killer has amassed a huge cult following. It’s produced by Kevin Williamson, who also created Dawson’s Creek, The Vampire Diaries and The Secret Circle. This one doesn’t look like it’s aimed at the kiddies, though…maybe the move from CW to Fox will be a good one for Williamson.

In DVD news, I’m excited that the Paradise Lost trilogy will be available as a complete boxed set on November 6th! If you have never seen these stunning documentary films in their entirety, this is a must-have set. Certainly it’s a wonderful gift for anyone in your life who has followed the West Memphis Three story over the years. (Another great gift idea: Life After Death, the newly-published memoir by Damien Echols; Damien’s website lists his forthcoming book tour dates) The three free men are living life large these days, having been out of prison for a year and two months. The new documentary film West of Memphis, produced by Peter Jackson and directed by Amy Berg, has been receiving rave reviews at festivals and will be released this December nationwide. (This piece from the Hollywood Reporter website gives some details and links for the trilogy box set and Berg’s film) I will be seeing West of Memphis next week and hope to be interviewing Damien Echols and Lorri Davis as part of the publicity tour for the film.

Documentary filmmaker (and Paradise Lost co-director, with Bruce Sinofsky) Joe Berlinger is co-producing a new series for Fox called Paradise Falls, based on his career. It follows a filmmaker working for a crime reality series who travels to a small town in Pennsylvania to investigate a murder, and finds things are not what they seem. Sound familiar? Congratulations, Joe, on what sounds like a fascinating new project.

That’s enough for today. I’ll have more links for you tomorrow. Blessed and Happy Samhain to you all. It’s good to be back.

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  • I would have said that trick-or-treat has its origins in the English custom of guising, which is where people dress up as something scary and wander round the village scaring any lurking evil spirits away. The disguises that they wore were supposedly to confuse the spirits.

    In reality, as anyone who has read Ronald Hutton’s Stations of the Sun will know, all of these old folk customs involved people going from door to door to collect money. They wore costumes and disguises in the hope that the people they were begging from didn’t recognise them from the last time they came around. In the days before social security, begging customs like guising, penny for the guy, dancing, Plough Monday and all the rest were the only way to get a bit of extra money.