"HALLOWEEN CAN BE QUITE WHOLESOME AND TRADITIONAL WHEN LOOKED AT FROM THE RIGHT ANGLE..."
REACTIONARY THEMES IN HALLOWEEN AND HORROR, AND THE OCCULT IN NATIONALISM: SCARING THE SHIT-LIBS!
PUBLISHED: 22nd October, 2018 | By MATT MARSHALL
Happy October dear readers!
I will be busier around Halloween so I decided to make my column earlier. Halloween is not something that is generally associated with right wing politics. It is chock-full of crass commercialism, smuttiness, and historically; petty vandalism. The horror genre that Halloween is intertwined with is also critiqued by some conservative moralists as chock full of meaningless violence and sex, as well as being historically a genre that was used by liberal filmmakers, writers and artists to test social norms. This is somewhat of an unfair characterization of both horror and Halloween however.
First of all, Halloween is an implicitly Western European holiday. Originating with the Celtic pagan festival of Samhain, some of its traditions were brought into the Catholic celebration of All Saints Day/All Hallows Eve when the British Isles were Christianized. The festival survived the Reformation and was also practiced by Protestants. English, Irish and Scottish settlers brought these traditions to North America and throughout the British Empire. Even today some Christians celebrate Halloween as a religious holiday, while contemporary neo-Pagans look to Samhain for observance. Halloween is very much an Anglo-Celtic tradition and is indeed looked on with perplexity and sometimes hostility by other ethno-cultural groups like Mesoamericans. The fixation on pumpkins and sometimes scarecrows emphasizes agriculture and the rural life. It is also one of the few community building festivals left in North America. Children going door to door to “trick-or-treat” are an expression of trust with one’s neighbours and a way to meet the rest of the neighbourhood. The uptick in house parties and school dances also are tribute to a holiday that forces people from their alienation into situations where they might build social trust.
Simply put the actual festival of Halloween can be quite wholesome and traditional when looked at from the right angle. But what about the horror genre that so much of the modern practice of Halloween revolves around? How can terror, nudity, and walking corpses be seen as traditional? I am going to argue that many of the different themes of horror subtly reinforce reactionary themes. Let us look at the older horror novels of the 19th Century and the early movies of the 20th. While having some Rousseau sentimentalism, the book Frankenstein: Or the Modern Prometheus (1823) and the various films are a warning about the dangers of “playing God” and a conservative critique of “progress” that was not checked by religion or tradition. The Invisible Man (1897) and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) have very similar themes. The latter shares themes with the lore of werewolves that even good men can become utter monsters and that we are indeed fallen creatures. The most famous horror novel Dracula (1897) depicts the titular villain as a charming seducer who corrupts innocent women and flees from symbols of God and life. As you can see, there is much here that would reinforce the views of a Christian conservative. Much of these stories also focus on Victorian social norms, ancient castles, medieval architecture, and other traditionalist themes. Some early horror films dealing with Voodoo and black magic were straight up pro-colonial in outlook.
Any horror fan worth his salt also knows the works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937), who pioneered a new style of horror fiction in the 1920s. What many of them don’t know is that Lovecraft was also a devotee of Oswald Spengler, an admirer of Robert E. Lee, a racialist and a stalwart nativist. His stories of dangerous foreign cults and hidden horrors just beyond the mortal vale are supposed to evoke despair, but also evoke the dangers of foreign threats to home and hearth. Lovecraft makes the point a bit subtler than the various alien invasion books and films over the years, started off by The War of the Worlds (1898). The 1962 card series Mars Attacks is a perfect example of a tyrannical and inexcusably evil invader resisted and thwarted by brave patriotic resistance. The Finnish soldiers in the 1940 Winter War would very much relate to this grim fantasy.
Moving into more modern times, horror movies in particular have been criticized as formulaic and boring. This common formula is interesting from a political stance though, with sexual activity and drug use often resulting in the horrific death of those involved. Indeed usually the only character left alive when the monster/madman/demon is vanquished is either a pure and kind woman or a strong heroic man. The message that it takes individuals of only the finest character and will to defeat evil fits well into ideas of Pagan warrior culture or “muscular Christianity”. In many earlier horror films, the heroes were priests or scholarly elders aided by martial action heroes. The zombie sub genre is often an exercise in nihilism but some of it features survivors rebuilding society after a flesh-eating apocalypse. Basically horror often shows that when ordinary life is interrupted by danger and nightmare, only the best, most moral, and courageous individuals can rise against it.
While there are many right-wing themes in horror that favour the heroes who fight monsters, the “Dark Side” has always had some fans in nationalist circles as well. While I am a traditional Catholic, I have some experiences with nationalist Pagans and occultists as well. The concept of dualism, and that one must embrace elements of both light and dark in order to achieve greatness is a belief I can understand, even if it runs contrary to my own beliefs. Julius Evola, Rene Guenon, and Anthony Ludovici all embraced the occult in their pursuit of traditional philosophy that rejected Christianity. Late 19th century Germany had the Volkish movement that were as entranced with occultism as they were with Norse/Germanic Paganism. One of their ideological descendants was the Thule-Gesellschaft that would birth the National Socialist German Workers Party. Moving into odder territory with the Temple of Set, whose founder Thomas Aquino compared Satanism and National Socialism. Indeed, there are some who suggest hardline fascist and ultranationalist themes in both Laveyan and theistic Satanism. The cult of the superman, the individual who triumphs through will alone is big in all forms of Satanism and some compare these with the dynamism and force of personality with fascist figures. Some select Norse Pagans have a similar view and tend towards “Dark Heathenism”, which may involve the worship of beings that “predate” the Aesir and Vanir. As stated above, Set-worship and theistic Satanism also tends towards far-right aesthetics. On the less serious side, metal and Goth subculture is a place where far-right iconography is quite common.
Nothing in the above paragraph is an endorsement of Satanism or black magic in nationalist politics. As far as I’m concerned, Planned Parenthood is a Moloch-worshipping cult and the Devil might as well lay at much of the evil in contemporary politics. I see a great difference between that and Paganism. Odin, Zeus, Dagda, and Perun are fairly benevolent deities. That said I see the desire for some Pagans to turn to Loki, Hecate, the Morrigan, and even Set in times of crisis. It is necessary to hate evil, and sometimes one must embrace a lesser darkness to fight a greater one. Therefore it makes sense why some nationalists would embrace horror and symbols that frighten and terrify their opponents. Whether it is snarling red-eyed wolves, screeching ravens, screaming banshees or grinning devils; terrifying imagery is a useful tool. Commandos and irregular forces throughout history have deliberately crafted supernatural reputations around themselves to increase their effectiveness. In this case, the warrior is much like the Mummy of popular horror fiction. He is woken by the desecration of that which is holy to him and pursues the violators as a terrible figure of vengeance. This might be getting too esoteric though, so I am going to stop here.
The broader purpose of this column is to remind rightists that popular culture need not be the exclusive province of the left. Halloween is a long-standing Anglo-Celtic holiday that is important for the traditions and spirituality of the people of the British Isles. There are many themes throughout the horror genre that reinforce social conservatism, while right-wing occultists have embraced genuine dark iconography in order to terrify their opponents. It is time for the true right, the nationalist/reactionary/traditional right; to embrace its creative side. There is much in this holiday that we can use to our advantage, and I say we bring back the vampire-hunting priests, alien-fighting soldiers, and the snarling fascist werewolf. The left should fear the right and it is time to make that fear more visceral. We already won the meme war. Time to move onto wars of symbols, totems, cultural norms, and spiritual warfare. Whether you are a traditional Christian or heroic Pagan conquering the dark evil, or an occultist who is summoning a darkness to combat a greater leftist darkness; we all have a part to play in this socio-political opera. Happy Halloween everyone.
Reminder to check out Augustus Invictus’ book Set The World On Fire
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