As well as Beltane, the time of late April and early May was also the date for another important holiday involving magick and witchcraft. May Eve is the night of Walpurgisnacht in Germany, when witches held their Sabbaths and the dead were believed to walk. A kind of Teutonic Halloween, it is the eve of Saint Walpurgis Day, the night when the devil was conjured and evil spirits were said to be afoot. According to some of my research Walpurgis herself may have been an ancient Germanic Goddess who was incorporated into the church, as was the tradition and I suspect that May Eve was a night of pagan celebration later vilified by the church. At any rate, the great "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence in Fantasia is actually set on Walpurgisnacht, not Halloween, as is usually assumed. Growing up in rural West Virginia, I was raised to be polite and kind to everyone. Thus, over the years, I've developed something of a reputation in the small press for being a fairly nice guy to deal with. So when I came upon a response to one of my letters like the one I received the other day, I'm a little shocked. Recently, I submitted artwork to a Mr. Thomas Deja, who edits an online magazine known as Underworld. What I got back was easily one of the rudest and snottiest replies I've ever received. Now understand, Dear Reader, I've been submitting my artwork to the small press zines for a good two decades and the editors are usually pretty nice, even when rejecting my work. Understand too, that it's not that my work was sent back. No siree, Bob! It was the nasty response in bold print that pissed me off! You wanna know what? Avoid Thomas Deja's Underworld like it was a big ol' batch of clap as well. A couple of really important recommendations this time out. You know, I don't know why I didn't recommend this book sooner, but here goes nothing. Easily one of the very best books I've ever read in my life has to be Camille Paglia's groundbreaking The Sexual Personae (Vintage Books, a division of Random House) which will knock the socks off any open minded reader. Totally radical and very controversial, this book looks at sex and decadence in art and film like no other. It is especially of interest to any scholar of horror in the media. Understand, I don't agree with all of Paglia's views, but every paragraph has some very intelligent and thought-provoking idea. I mean every one of them.
Also recommended is David Skal's The Monster Show (Faber and Faber) another example of guerilla scholarship as well. The Monster Show examines the horror media at the very beginning of the 20th Century and takes us up to the present. Everything in horror is looked at and examined closely. Obviously, horror is the most mainstream of fantasy genres, with most homes in America having at least one Bible and one Stephen King novel in the bedroom.
From cereal boxes depicting vampires to the enormous popularity of Halloween, the horror genre seems to grow and grow. And let's face it, as Skal frequently point out, the horror genre, by its very nature is somewhat conservative in its view of the human condition. (Horror always has a renaissance when we have a conservative in the White House. Case in point is the Reagan era with its incredible popularity in slasher films.) Both books are very highly recommended reading for those interested in horror or related topics.