Show Notes Episode 108
This movie and how it played out was VERY familiar. It basically played like the type of thing I would have written back in the day, only with a pagan, not evangelical, spin. It had all the earmarks of a skit that would have won teen talent at nationals. My stuff went to state three times. :-)
It is very underdeveloped with very in-your-face messaging about everything that’s wrong with the world and a message of uncomfortable absolutism about how to solve its problems. This movie could just as easily have been about how badly we need Jesus, but instead it’s about how badly we need the gods and a return to pagan thought and ideology in a world gone mad. The characters are very two-dimensional and we are never given the chance to really get to know any of them.
The overlying theme of this movie is that modern life has corrupted humanity and a return to simpler ways that are rooted and built up on the actions and interactions of the gods is necessary to restore order to your life. This mirrors the evangelical concepts of our lives being unmanageable and miserable without Jesus and the imperative need for personal faith and practice. Same message, different divine intervention.
Over and over again we hear the people in this movie talk about “change.” They need to make a “change.” It’s a nebulous concept that the movie never really expands on, only frames the lives of the main characters as “empty” and without good direction. That direction comes in the form of embracing the “old ways” and the “old gods.”
Esther - a corporate underling who is fed up with the corporate world and the shallow people that make it up. She is passive and compliant and strives to be the best at what she does, which revolves mainly around pleasing her employer, her clients, and anyone who asks anything of her. She clearly has social anxiety and doesn’t like being around a lot of people, but she also has an empathic sensitivity toward people that we will see as the events unfold.
Annie - Annie is framed as an out-of-control promiscuous drug addict who takes solace in the arms of men she doesn’t love and in the pills that “help her feel better when [she] feels ill.” She has estranged herself from her brother who is a priest who has his own baggage to carry, mostly in the form of doubt about his own religion.
George - George is an anti-war activist whose brother is active military so there is the constant clash between his own convictions and what his brother does. At the start of the movie, George’s brother is off on another tour and leaves the house fuming telling George that they’re going to have a little chat when he gets home.
Lots and lots of nature shots
“The land is changing...”
Now, you say the land belongs to you, split it with artificial boundaries… fiercely protecting your little piece from those you SHOULD call your brothers.
(at this point we see Stonehenge… through a chain-link fence)
An owl doesn’t know borders, a fox doesn’t know when it has crossed from England into Wales, from Surrey into Sussex, from one garden to another…
Right, and there are no foxes on city planning boards and no hospitals built by owls. If the worlds existed without borders or government, there would be no infrastructure. All you would have is your mountains, your valleys, and a bunch of people living to the ripe old age of 29.
Every day, millions of people wake up in the morning and with bleary eyes make their breakfast. Some will turn on the television. Others will climb in their cars and switch on the radio. Even more will get onto a train or bus and open the paper.
and what is the first thing they see everyday?
inane stories of so-called celebrities
And slowly, inch by inch, the world becomes a grayer, sadder place.
That’s very cynical. The world isn’t an awful place by definition just because time and technology have changed the way we live.
There is hope... the old ones have not abandoned you
Listen… There are stories to be found within the landscape
Listen… You will hear the voices of the fae as they watch you move through the trees or sit beside the stream.
Listen, listen listen....
This is how they used to prepare us for guided meditation. Well, one of the ways.
“The truth is held in a tale”
Arthur sleeps now ready to return
The gods are real, basically is the whole message here and he sings about several of them.
Then we get to hear about the Morris dancers
“The seasons blessed are not by chance...” - but they are determined by science, not whether or not someone does a dance.
And what about us? The old gods, created by man in his own image. Where are we now, now that you need us more than ever? Still watching, still here…
And if the...
Doubt (Annie's brother)
become too much to bear
Call to us and we will find you.
It just doesn’t get more evangelistic than that!
But at that point in my life, the messaging worked. It tod me that there were gods out there who had compassion, who were actually like me, who weren’t the god of the Bible with his rampant narcissism and anger management issues. Some of the pagan gods have those qualities, but at least they’re honest about it. Just the notion there were legit benevolent gods out there looking out for me was comforting. Any notion of religion is comforting, especially if you’re watching something like this and thinking that your life could use a bit of a remodel.
We meet each of the main characters and get an idea of their plight. It’s here that we learn all the things I mentioned earlier.
The running thread here is that, at some point, they all murmur for help and all of a sudden, they're all being escorted into this wood by people who were basically strangers. I mean, it's normal AF to follow strangers into the woods on Halloween What could possibly go wrong, right?
Esther speaks repeatedly about how “beautiful” the place is where they’ve all been led. Of course, we get to see none of it and Annie, being the voice of reason comments, “It’s a wood. And it’s fucking freezing!” Yeah, it’s October 31st in England and no one is dressed like it.
Now it's time for the “everyone say your name” part. I saw this (and did this SO many times… VN, other group ministry projects, youth classes, bible camp…)
Now we get to meet “Rob” who seems to be the MC for these goings-on. (This is Robin Goodfellow, BTW for any Shakespeare buffs out there - decidedly NOT a god, but we’ll allow it)
Annie equates the goings on to a lot of self-help hippie bollocks and turns to leave. Ester beckons her back. She’s REALLY into this…
And in far too little time these people basically become The Breakfast Club with random adults shadowing the teeners and Arianrhod lurking in the shadows…
Annie tells about her day. Her job revolves around testing drugs on animals and her life appears to revolve around pills and sex.
George says he got hit in the head... at a peace rally
Now we're going to interview Esther about how she came to be a part of this little pow-wow.
Work Halloween party - Esther seems to have a bit of social anxiety but her usually demanding boss is now trying to get her to put her work down and join the party. THEN, the client she's working on this “case” (for lack of a better description) for shows up, asks if she can chat with Esther then IMMEDIATELY changes her tune and says she'll come talk to her tomorrow.
Then, out of nowhere, someone she doesn’t know is just sort of standing there. “Where's your costume?”
You can call me.. Kerri.
“Everyone's just always wearing a mask…” - so people are basically all fake and going about their lives of quiet desperation.
“What mask are YOU wearing? You're not happy, are you?” - Here it is again. Clearly Esther isn’t living her best life and is withholden about her real feelings.
Esther: You know nothing about me...
Kerri (Cerridwen): Tell me...
Then Cerridwen gives her a magic poke and she starts spilling the beans about how fake people are. These little zingers will happen repeatedly and I can only equate them to ET healing an ouch.
Then we get to hear about Samhain… the REAL Halloween.
Now Cerridwen starts singing... the song is Samhain eve. And it's like the Pied Piper of Hamlin. Esther just follows her, looking like she has no fucking clue what to make of this person. They slooooooooooowly make their way out of the building.
“The hunter of souls we will see...” - Oh, that would make me wanna follow you sweetie...
Wait! Wait! Esther apparently knows this song too cuz she's taking a verse...
We look out the window, at night, into a sunny glen where the Morrigan is standing in the rain and singing, too!
Cerridwen convinces Esther to follow her and for some reason they're out in the country, far away from corporate hell. Cerridwen is showing Esther all this olde-tyme pagany stuff. A world unpolluted with corporate greed and modern conveniences and pollution...
Next is Annie's story. She sneaks out after her “date” and aimlessly takes the walk of shame to a local breakfast nook and orders coffee... JUST coffee
All of a sudden, a very good-looking stranger asks if he can sit down. Well, he's a step up from last night, I'll give him that. He has a very airy, almost Jesusy quality about him, but this ain't Jesus. He's more of a Satanic Jesus. Devilish look with a lot of messianic posturing.
And my is this dude JUDGY. He sits there and basically goes on a diatribe about everything that is wrong with Annie’s life. “Most people go back to their own beds at night...”
More zappy zappy
“Your life... so empty...”
And now... heeeeeere's Annie's brother and Annie is just done. Clearly he’s not the one creating distance.
Now they're all sitting around... there's some tension, a possible estrangement situation...
Now Tall, Dark, and Handsome is following them into the parking garage. At the diner. Some things about this movie make no sense.
Annie drops her purse and some orange tic-tacs fall out. I mean, that's what these “pills” looked like.
The mysterious stranger appears out of nowhere and grabs the pills. The brother accuses him of selling them to her.
“You never met me before and yet you judge me on sight. Some things never change…”
Now those of us in the know realize who this is: he’s the Horned God appearing in human form.
“I'm used to it.”
The Horned god appears to have a bit of a persecution complex, not that it isn’t warranted from this point of view…
If you really want to find peace you have to look beyond the modern world and become re-attuned with nature is his basic message.
“Feel the divine in nature…”
(like any of this is going to improve her mental health, elevate her self-image, and help her confront her addiction)
“Land Sky and Sea”
“Cynical thoughts and lies that distort all that is true
They disappear when I feel that you're near
When I'm with you....”
This song decries fakery in paganism like charlatan card readers, etc.
They could have used a few more takes with the songs. None of these people are great singers....
But this song got me back in the day. A lot. I do wish that this was all true. It jibed well with me. It really was a beautiful, idyllic way of seeing life.
Now George's story. He's at the casualty dept. with some kind of head trauma and his friends are pleading with a very salty nurse to help him. And they are NOT polite.
“Don't shout at me, I have a clipboard!”
So basically he went after a dude with a brick. I'm not sure how him throwing a brick at a dude got HIS head injured...
Another mysterious stranger appears... more zippy-zappy. She wants to look at the wound but she's not a doctor... “I think you're coming with me...”
More grandstanding about the arrogance of war
“Pipes of Pan” - another song about how the world is going wrong and how it needs to return to its pagan roots
This song is about the dangers of secularization and a lack of ability to see and feel the divine
They ask Rob what brought him here - “I've been here ages”
You've been given the chance to stop and take a look at your lives... make a change.
“Outside this place, everything is the same” – these people saw The Breakfast Club
“It's Only Human” - our priorities are way out of whack
“People don't change. They just change what's around them to suit themselves.”
There's been way too little development for this level of emotion. All of these people are committed to “making a change.” It's such a nebulous thing. This is a huge issue with religion.
The priest shows up and the gods get a little... defensive. They all break from their purely human characters and become the... what? Mighty-morphin Celtic Rangers? It's all very superhero, anime-tastic and has Saban written all over it. It's a little lackluster but they didn't have the budget for luster so... we get what we get.
So now we know who the mysterious strangers are:
Herne the Hunter!
And.... your host with the most: Rrrrrrobin Goodfellow!
Annie's brother is aghast. They've brainwashed you... they're Satanists!
Then Robin gives a very frank description of Catholic communion.
instrument of torture
representations of blood and flesh
Everything that doesn't conform to your worldview is evil
Something led him there... he doesn't have a guide but he's kind of a latecomer to the party. And then we get to hear about his crisis of faith. And that is precisely it. We're told he has a crisis of faith and that's it. No reason why, just that's where he's at.
You're not the only one who's ever doubts...
Green and Grey - “sympathy for the devil”
This song was very liberating for me at the time because it's where I stopped believing in a literal satan.
More about how natural and how real and how “not weird” this whole situation is...
Annie gives up her pills. Throws them in the fire. This TINY fire that has been burning with no help for an hour...
...but not before we get a ham-handed description of Robin's real nature... he chides her to take the pills. “Take one... maybe two!” No development or explanation here either and nobody reacts. Maybe the point is that only she can hear him?
What do we actually do?
The wiccan rede makes an appearance
Why us? george wants to know
“The Cauldron Born”
“The dark of your soul” vs. “This darkened hall”
“You will dance in the eye of the storm, you're Cerridwen's children, the cauldron born...”
“Your life's a construction one day you will see through the illusion and into the dream”
More about how to be a good pagan
Ceridwen's cauldron – it's a metaphor
The green man's nature
Morrigan's job... George is about to find some shit out...
“Someone's gotta clean up your mess” Robin
Death is just a part of life – being born but the other way 'round
The rainbow analogy
“I deal with the dead, they're not great conversationalists, meanwhile....
Robin breaks it gently to George that he's dead. He died at the hospital.
Things just got all Sixth Sense up in here. She “Guides George on,” as we hear another song...
“I have washed the blood away and each will take their turn, another life given to me when will you ever learn....”
The will of man lies heavy on the land
until we change our plan... “I'll be ready”
So basically, the Morrigan doesn't like her job much. This is, in my opinoin, a weak treatment of this mythology... the Morrigan is exponentially more badass.
“Is this the world you want?”
But of course there's a happy ending to all of this... George is reunited with his brother.
Another way to live your life
The gods are not above nature.
Now we get a better look at Arianrhod...
Lady Of the Silver Wheel – The rain falls on the just and the unjust
What the hell is this thing? It literally looks like what would happen if ET's ship and old Bob from The Black Hole had a love child. I can only imagine this is the silver wheel in question but it's just weird. Weirdest part of this whole thing.
“I give you chances, you heave them away...”
“Woe to those who see her face...” and yet....
And then the whole thing just abruptly ends. Annie and Eshter wake up in the morning still in the clearing and sort of wander off as the gods look on.
Last scene… It's some time in the near future and these people who didn't know each other a week ago are all at George's funeral.
“They have their faith and that will help them through”
Closer to whatever it is... Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha....
Annie and her brother seem to be getting along better...
Thinking about that night – what do you think happened?
Crazy dream / finally woken up – Paganism=happiness
Annie has quit her job but somehow this has improved her life.
Esther confirms that not much has changed. She can’t just pack it in. “Nice idea, but you have to face reality…”
You are all connected, all part of the great wheel
Nothing to be scared of
Let go... look at what has always been there
Being one with nature fixes everything
Open your hearts and your minds and listen
“The Spirit of Albion”
The music still had an effect on me... I mean I know where it really comes from now but still... I didn't expect to have the emotional response to some of these songs that I did. Music is POWERFUL and the vibe of some of these songs has the same effect as any high-energy praise and worship song.
watching our world turned to dust
Humans move on from the age of belief and so much stays the same
War, love, pain, hope... these things never change
we watch and wait
Destiny is not controlled by the amn in the silver box or the rules you invent to govern nature
Death is a part of life
Ending is another word for beginning
Turn back to your grey lives of order and reason and electronic chaos... something inside will remember
You'll hear us call you once more before this life ends and your true journey really begins…
God, where to begin with all of this…
As a Wiccan, it was made crystal clear to us that ours was not an evangelistic religion, that if people didn’t find their own path it would mean nothing to them. But this movie conveys the opposite sentiment. Clearly you live in a world that has made your path impossible to find so here we are to direct you to it.
Now, there is nothing wrong with appreciating nature. There is, however, a problem with venerating nature and acting like there are forces around us that we can feel and interact with on a spiritual level. We live in a physical world, nature is governed by physics, and there are no gods out there living and interacting with humans in tandem with nature. Giving up your car, your phone, your TV… all that will do is make it harder to live in the world we occupy. It’s not about a return to pagan ways and remembering the old gods. It’s about not letting these distractions keep us from noticing what’s going on around us.
That’s one thing I DO agree with in all of this. Sometimes you have to stop and smell the roses. But then it’s time to get to work. Or pick up the kids from soccer practice. Or record your podcast. Take Ferris Bueller’s advice: Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. Emphasis on “once in a while.” Even if these people went full dive into Paganism, they would still need to pay their rent. We need to appreciate everything about our lives, not vilify the parts that time and progress have made necessities.
At the end of the day, the only one who made a real change was Annie. She quit her job torturing bunnies. Not sure how she’s getting by, but she seems more focused and a lot happier. Esther seems about the same, and Annie’s unnamed brother has, at least, expanded his view of things a little. He at least feels better about being ensnared in his religion. Pity he never bothered to question why Jesus wasn’t part of the party…
In the end, my sentiments parrot Esther’s. The notion of paganism, wicca, any religion that is rooted in mysticism, yes, even Christianity all have one thing in common. They’re nice ideas… but you have to face reality. And the reality is that we live in the world we live in. We arrived here when we did by random chance and now it’s time to make our way. Experience things (including nature) and build on those experiences.
I admit feeling a tug at my heartstrings as I watched this movie again and especially hearing this music again. These songs have been in my head for days now. And I do get a little choked up remembering how it all made me feel… but that’s just it: emotionalism and sensationalism with no real substance. I miss that part of my life more than I will ever miss ANYTHING about evangelicalism, but I know that it’s nothing but fool’s gold.
And sometimes I do mourn the part of me that was capable of believing. It’s not easy to admit that we’re on our own in this universe, but I still choose the truth over literal fairy tales because if I have to choose between uncomfortable truths and comforting lies (and I do), I choose truth. Because it’s the truth that sets you free, or as I like to put it, it’s the thing that ultimately leads to getting and staying unbound.