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Tony Grist

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Lovecraft And Priestcraft [May. 30th, 2006|09:32 am]
Tony Grist
A friend of a friend is frightened of demons. He puts it down to being a fan of Lovecraft's. And he puts the Lovecraft thing down to his good, old-fashioned Catholic education.

I can't be doing with Lovecraft. I find him completely over the top. He doesn't frighten me because I  don't believe in his mythos.

Maybe you need to have been brought up as a certain kind of Christian- traditional Catholic or hell-fire Protestant- to find Lovecraft frightening.

I was brought up as an Anglican with an elusive God who "moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform" and so the spook stuff that ruffles my feathers is the hinty, blink-and-you'll-miss-it English ghost story, as purveyed by the likes of M.R. James and Robert Aickman.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2006-05-30 11:33 am (UTC)
When I was young I was afraid of the demonic, not because of my Episcopalian background but because my young and paranoid husband not only believed in them, he was determined, via some spell or other, to raise one! He wasn't planning to do this at our own little cottage, thank Heaven, but with some of his "friends."

During the time he was brooding and planning this project, we began to have cockroaches invade our house, and he did some research and came home with sulphur candles that he'd bought at the drugstore, so he said. He lit them all over the house, and they exuded the most hellish stench. Our cottage seemed (I expound the obvious here) to be overtaken demonically, what with my husband coming his hair down into a point over his forehead and reading The Golden Dawn and talking about his plans, while the house reeked of sulphur.

I began to be terrified and jumpy, unsure if my husband was overtaken already by a demon or whether the babies and I would be--he looked so odd with his pointy hair...

He told me he would be driving down to Atlanta and joining his friends to raise a demon in October. Naturally. I dreaded being alone in the house, with the closets still smelling (and they probably still do) of sulphur...

Close to Halloween, he told me that the plans to cast their spell were off. He didn't explain. I believed everything he said in those days, and I was utterly relieved, because I thought he really could have done it, and maybe brought something unholy home with him.

Now I know that he'd probably made up the entire story.

God, those were dark days. The cockroaches were with us until we moved, and the house still carried its sulphurous odor in deep closets.

I took the children and left him soon afterwards, leaving him and his Golden Dawn books behind in Florida, in a cottage infested with palmetto bugs, which are cockroaches that can fly.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-05-30 12:33 pm (UTC)
I believe in magic- up to a point. It's my experience that strongly held beliefs can shape one's experience of reality. When I was in Wicca I found that weird, serendipitous and "magical" things were happening all the time. Since I withdrew things have returned to "normal".

Your husband's Golden Dawnery was a pose (all magicians are bullshitters) but not only a pose. He probably did manage to attract those cockroaches to himself.

The strongest countercharm to any spell is to laugh at it. Fanatics of every stripe hate humour because it has the power to blow their "reality" to bits.

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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2006-05-30 12:49 pm (UTC)
My husband had no sense of humor at all. If he told jokes, they were usually tasteless and shocking, which was his intent.

If there are demons, does that mean there is "good" versus "evil"? (Perhaps that is too simplistic.) If so, I hope the good side protects my sad, crazy ex-husband from himself.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-05-30 04:58 pm (UTC)
I think there are non-human, discarnate entities out there. I reckon they mainly ignore us provided we ignore them.

Some of them may not be terribly kindly disposed towards us, but I doubt that they're "evil" in the full Miltonic sense of the word.




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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2006-05-30 05:06 pm (UTC)
I reckon they mainly ignore us provided we ignore them.


Which brings up a point, the personal god, the god who "walks with me and talks with me while the dew is still on the roses."

I wonder sometimes What I am praying to, because I do pray, often, but I am long past God as a male hovering over my head with a hand to His ear, waiting for my requests (my letters to Santa).

I feel I have wrecked my religious life, in that I think of God now in terms of quantum physics and Jung's acausal events, and I don't have a clue what I'm doing anymore.

I sing in the choir and don't think about it, but when (as now, when my sister-in-law is very ill with ovarian cancer) things get rough, I want a "skin face" to tell me not to worry, so I seek out the Something that's waitinf for me in the garden by the rose bushes. Sometimes I almost believe Something's there and caring about me, and then I think, cynically: oh, really?

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-05-31 08:29 am (UTC)
I don't have a personal God any more. But I hold on to the belief that the universe is basically kindly and wishes us well. If I'm anything, I think I'm probably a spiritualist.

I'm confident that there's a life after death. And if there isn't, well, I won't know anything about it, will I?

But these days I don't worry about theology. It's too much like chasing one's own tail. All one ever gets from it are bafflement and frustration.


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From: ex_kharin447
2006-05-30 12:24 pm (UTC)
As a genre, horror is not well known for the calibre of its writers. Its works tend to succeed in spite of, rather than because, of their authors. In the case of Lovecraft, the author triumphantly managed to drag his work down with him though...
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-05-30 12:37 pm (UTC)
I must admit I haven't read much horror- and only enough Lovecraft to know that I hate him. The genre just doesn't attract me.

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[User Picture]From: forestdweller
2006-05-30 01:15 pm (UTC)
I didn't grow up christian, but oddly enough I have a serious fear of demonic possesion. I can't even watch movies concerning the subject.

Ancestral memory perhaps? Haven't the Irish/Scots been Catholic for many many generations now?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-05-31 08:31 am (UTC)
Ireland is a catholic nation with a protestant minority and Scotland is a protestant country with a catholic minority. Religion matters in Ireland and Scotland much more than it does in England.
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[User Picture]From: armoire_man
2006-05-30 03:19 pm (UTC)
After about age fifteen I began to find Lovecraft a comforting old eccentric, not the least bit "horrifying". He's America's genteel poverty-stricken old peculiar for most of his fans, I think.

But before fifteen I couldn't read him at all. Too scary.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-05-31 08:32 am (UTC)
I should perhaps try sampling him again.
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[User Picture]From: cataptromancer
2006-05-30 03:44 pm (UTC)
As a young kid reading lovecraft, I found the atmosphere of his stories pleasantly creepy without being directly scary at all, and I was fascinated by his sense of history and learning -- his fascinating (to me) discussions of the textual history of the necronomicon, for example, probably have something to do with why I eventually went into academia.

And now I find lovecraft comforting -- even his most intentionally horrific stories read more like fantasy for me, like tolkein or something. Innsmouth and Arkham are as romantic and strange for me as Lothlorien.
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[User Picture]From: cataptromancer
2006-05-30 03:47 pm (UTC)
Also, on the issue of Lovecraft and god, I've always thought of him as much more of an atheist horror writer -- his sense of man's unimportance in the face of an uncaring universe populated by vast forces beyond his control seems like the dark side of early 20th century scientific optimism.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-05-31 08:34 am (UTC)
Interesting.

There's another friend of the same friend (see above) who reckons Lovecraft is one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.

I'm beginning to feel I ought to tryhim again...
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2006-05-30 05:17 pm (UTC)
I thought Lovecraft's Rats in the Wall wonderful until I figured out the premise, which wasn't nearly as creepy as a real ghost story.

When they broke out into the underground vista, it was thrilling!

Most ghost stories of that time (I'm thinking now of Blackwood and of a new favorite, M.R. James) tend to set up a wonderful idea and then chew it to death in long conversations...James in particular jumps over plot points as irrelevant when the transition could have been fun, and also has mysterious references that are never mentioned again, most frustrating: in one I read last week, a grave was surrounded by a high hedge so that no one could go through, but he never explained why.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2006-05-31 08:37 am (UTC)
I imagine James does it on purpose. It's scarier not to know.

The BBC did a series of film adaptions of M.R. James short stories. They're worth seeking out. The best of them is probably O Whistle and I'll Come to You.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2006-05-31 10:16 am (UTC)
Thanks! I'll see what Netflix offers.
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