The Making of Delevan House #15

Converging Paths BrazenFolkHorror I share many old and new stories at home. As a family, we love to read aloud together. A habit I’ve shared and …

The Making of Delevan House #15

Incesticide: Collected Horror

NEW RELEASE

Incesticide: Collected Horror has almost emerged! Due to some interruptions within the industry and the panic rumour mills spinning, I decided to get things placed early to ensure the print edition launched in time with the digital. Well, this strike was swift, and the print editions are now (quietly) available ahead of the official release of December 14th.

The collection features nine unique short stories, each followed by a few words on how they came to be.

I painted the artwork for the book. Taking loose inspiration from the book’s namesake – Nirvana’s Incesticide cover art by Kurdt Cobain. I was delighted with how the painting turned out, and have created some exclusive products featuring the print available on my Etsy store.
Thank you to everyone who had preordered. I hope you enjoy my little morsels of horror.

If you fancy a listening to me reading a story from the book, Fuckin’ Maggots is featured on my Youtube.

The Making of Delevan House #12

Going Rogue #BeBrazen The earliest use of the term is regarding elephants. There are “elephants” in any room, group, gathering, or social structure. …

The Making of Delevan House #12

Remember, Remember, the 5th of November

—Guy Fawkes/Bonfire Night.

It’s been little to do with politics for a long time.

When it once celebrated the failed gunpowder plot — where Catholic Englishman Guido Fawkes was found guarding the explosives intended to assassinate King James VI (and I) and members of the House of Lords on 5th November 1605.

This is the socially acceptable night to light fires and set off explosions into the sky! As effigies of Guy Fawkes are set upon bonfires and burned in commemoration.

As a child of the 20th Century, I simply didn’t get it. Kids knocking on doors collecting for ‘The Guy’. While it’s cited that the commemoration is for the failure of the Gunpowder Plot. I’m not sure that that’s entirely true everywhere, given the general feelings towards the English parliament (extending far beyond the 17th century) and King James VI (and I) — who was in many ways a tyrant.

This acknowledgement in either regard is simply an excuse for a night of careless mayhem. Where folks can legally purchase and let off explosives without direct repercussions. Well, I say that, but the emergency services are always under heavy strain during these pointless and reckless (even when ‘organised’ festivities).

In a world of hypocrisy and contradiction, it’s a time I can’t abide. I do not involve my children in the ‘fun’. Not when innocent wildlife are burned alive, as they seek refuge or places to hibernate safely for winter within the pyres. Not when we have heart attacks and panic in nests from the booms, the lights, the smoke — the terror! Not when domestic animals straying or lost fall victim to maniacs who think it’s funny to stick rockets inside of them are tie explosives to their tails. Not when those at home are cowering from what feels like a war raging just outside their homes.

A nation of animal lovers?

Are we ahead of the game in caring for the environment?

Minimising our environmental impact and emissions?

I fucking well think not!

Witch on Trend

One of the most prolific characterisations called upon in the writing of horror fiction is that of the Witch. The incarnations cross genres, not exclusive to horror. The notions of the Witch rouse deep interest that peaks at no other season as high as it does around Halloween. From the green-painted faces of cloaked children playing the hag, practicing cackles for trick-or-treating shenanigans to the overwhelming number of book and movie releases parading their Witch down the street, through blood-thirsty crowds for all to fear and jeer. It seems that our curiosity, bedazzlement and fear of her are insatiable.

The public hanging of witches in Scotland, with a witchfinder (right) being paid, seen in an engraving from 1678. Photograph: The Granger Collection/Alamy

Our Witch has been the macabre crowd-pleaser since the hysteria that rippled through the world with the support, encouragement and rise of Christianity in organised religious dominance. The mania began in Europe in the fourteenth century, and such infamous texts as the ‘Malleus Maleficarum’ by Heinrich Kramer, published in 1486, propelled the hysteria and resulting brutality of the executions peaking several times between 1560-1630. Leaning heavily on the support of the church, the author of the text included Pope Innocent VIII’s 1484 Papal Bull, Summis Desedirantes, as the opening to the ‘Malleus Maleficarum’.

In this article, the pronouns she and her are favoured when referencing the Witch. While this is not uncommon, it must be acknowledged that from a true historical context, those trialled, persecuted and executed were predominantly female. There were men among them too. And, of course, in fiction, and real-life practitioners of the craft or occult arts, Witch can be of any gender. The dominance of prosecution and the use of the word as a slanderous term is weighted heavily towards women, hence the conscious choice of those pronouns here. Evidence suggests that 85% of the accused (in Scotland) were women. Fuelled by the desire for religious and political dominance, the Witch persecutions were also profoundly misogynistic. Hundreds of years on, these are issues which still impact society today.

The earliest printed reference of the noun ‘Witch’ was c950-c1010, Early Middle English, (Ælfric Homily (Corpus Cambr. 178) in J. C. Pope Homilies of Ælfric (1968) II. 792 Nu segð se wyrdwritere þæt seo wicce sceolde aræran þa of deaþe þone Drihtnes witegan Samuhel gehaten.) The heavily linked noun ‘Witchcraft’ was also first printed in the Early Middle English period, c1000, (Ælfric Lives of Saints (Julius) (1881) I. 182 Animað hraðe þa reðan wiccan, seo þe ðus awent þurh wiccecræft manna mod.) Although it may appear, at times, like a trend has taken hold in books or film — the Witch-craze has never really left us. Our Witch has held claim as a steadfast trend of constancy throughout history, one to love or hate but never to be indifferent to. This fascination or, perhaps more, obsession has endured. The Witch continues to thrive, though in a far more acceptable way than during such times as the six Witchcraft Acts, which presided through British history, criminalising those deemed to be Witchcraft practitioners, punishable by death. Scotland had a particular thirst for Witch hunts, murdering five times more people for crimes of Witchcraft than anywhere else in Europe.

In the 21st century, such Acts as these no longer have any place in European legal systems. Committed to a shameful part of human history, where many are working to recognise those murdered and have their criminal status pardoned. These women and men brutally murdered under the laws of the time were innocent of their charges. During the periods of Witch-mania, many (if not all) of those accused, trialled and executed were not done so fairly. Sensationalised witness reports that commonly claimed diabolism, shape-shifting and dancing with the Devil himself became a death sentence. Logic and facts had no place to play in these judicial procedures; macabre entertainment for the masses writhing in fear and fantasy that they themselves created. The control of organised religion reigning at its finest. Documents from these cases are often sketchy, and some are entirely nonexistent. Many cases escalated to local churches, and communities taking the law into their blood-thirsty hands. If anyone was dancing with the Devil, was it really those persecuted as Witches?

Considering this grisly past that spawned in Europe and spread rapidly around the globe, we must remember that there are countries where accusations of Witchcraft stillresult in severe and brutal physical punishments (and death) today. While here in Scotland, the Witchcraft Act was repealed in 1736, and the last documented legal execution took place in 1727, almost 300 years ago, religious and spiritual persecution is still alive and comes in many guises.

In modern Europe, the historic Witch-persecutions are crisscrossed with a romanticism of a deadly, dark past, and fictional notions embraced to stroke these romantic ideas of magical ancestry. She is symbolic of both innate feminine strength and endurance as well as female oppression by a predominantly patriarchal society. When considering the data available from cases of the Witch trials and applying something missing from these cases—logic—one thing is clear, many of those trialled and executed were not Witches; they were not pagan in the contexts of today. Many of the accused and found guilty were victims of flimsy, vague laws, hearsay, panic and hate.

There are groups still fighting to seek justice for these heinous acts, such as Witches of Scotland, ‘–a campaign for justice; for a legal pardon, an apology and national monument for the thousands of people – mostly women – that were convicted of Witchcraft and executed between 1563 and 1736 in Scotland.’

While work is still ongoing to achieve the legal pardon of some 4,000 people killed under the Acts, a formal apology was granted by the First Minister of Scotland on 8th March 2022, “on International Women’s Day, as First Minister on behalf of the Scottish Government, I am choosing to acknowledge that egregious historic injustice and extend a formal, posthumous apology to all those accused, convicted, vilified or executed under the Witchcraft Act 1563.” Read the full statement here.

While it is, perhaps, admirable to fight for the status of the victims of the laws of that horrific time, and it’s important to acknowledge the gross misconducts of governments, kings, religion—misconducts that were regarded as just at the time. Their greed for ultimate control and thirst for blood and brandishing ‘authority’, the acknowledgments, memorials, and apologies of descendants will never give the victims their lives back. We cannot undo the horror of their torture—starved, pricked, stripped, poured with tar, thrown in barrels and rolled through the streets, strangled, drowned, burned, all under the eyes of the law, ‘God’, their communities and families. There’s no making up to the victims labelled as Witches. And there’s no romance in their trials. What we must do is step forward; don’t stand fearful among the crowd breeding hate. Learn from the past. Step forward. Speak up for injustices, no matter how small they may appear. History and present day horrors show us how easily pandemonium can take hold, by then it’s too late. Say nothing, do nothing, and one may as well be lighting the pyre.

To my fellow creative fiction writers: If you find yourself allured by the Witch trend, design her without feigning research—reaching for a few easy-to-find titles, selected based on the copy intended to sell you that specific content, the cover, or recommendations from non-practitioners is not research. This is the microwaveable noodle of cooking. This approach will never bring you proper knowledge and depth to create authentic flavour.

Design her with the authenticity of a true creative; think outside those boxes. That is the way of a Witch—pay homage to that in your creative endeavours. If you desire true historical context or true spiritual context, you’ll have to dive much deeper than any off-the-rack ‘spell book’. These books are often born from limited research themselves to base one’s research on, then you’d be in a sorry state to claim to know anythings but anecdotal drivel. Research on these subjects is a dedicated, lifelong business. Not a flurry of ticking boxes. Spiritually, there is reason many who walk occult or pagan paths refer to life and work within these arts as an ongoing ‘practice’. The trials and persecution of accused Witches is entirely separate to practitioners of any one of many pagan pathways—real Witches. As a practitioner of 20+ years, my clan’s Witch, I am still a mere amateur. Arrogance has no place in these arts, if it does in any at all.

The month of Samhain 2022

Witches’ New Year approaches. With that, I’m Autumn cleaning, creatively speaking, at least. Washing away the dust of the summer fires, sweeping this germ-ridden circle clogged with ash. I say this with every positive intention, which in the current climate of my sick house, it’s not so simple. Some things are outwith control, but I try flow with, around, through it. (I may have recited ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ a few too many times).
Starting with the writing. I’ve taken part in only a few invite-only opportunities. This year, it has been difficult to say no, but something I’ve had to learn to do fast. It’s been challenging; each opportunity offered has been for a great project, and I am profoundly grateful to be asked. Short fiction writing has been on the back burner, which was always this year’s plan to invest in my degree studies and researching/writing longer works. Moving on, a quick recap of my own books released and scheduled to tie up 2023:

Asylum Daughter
Novella
5th May 2022

Incesticide: Collected Horror
Short Fiction Collection
14th December 2022

Clan Witch: Found Shadows
Poetry and Drabble Collection
31st December 2022

There has been lots of work going on in Brazen Folk Horror, which I launched with Ruthann Jagge this year. Here we share regular updates on ‘The Making of Delevan House’. We have many plans to execute, so it’s a great space to follow. You are cordially invited! We expect you to put in some effort—get tight-lacing, break out the good cloak, your best finery, and you better buy an extravagant hat while you’re at it. It’ll be one hell of a ride! You will want to be watching for that pre-order date as soon as we announce it. In the meantime, come enjoy the brazen tease and seduction.

Well, it’s been tumultuous and stable on the homestead with no middle ground— a seesaw over starving shark-infested waters more than a rollercoaster. The pendulum never stops. My kids and I have been struggling with fresh ongoing health issues since the start of the year when we contracted that virus. It then came in for a second hit in July, which haven’t recovered from. Between chronic coughs requiring prescription medications, chronic fatigue and opportunistic germs that keep jumping on board because of compromised immune systems, it’s been a royal shitshow. With medical support services (the NHS) being abysmal. My family (I) also suffered another pregnancy loss. During the second bout of that virus, my baby’s heart stopped beating, and I gave birth four weeks later. We were (are) devastated.

Grief so intimate is a profound journey we carry with us throughout our time on the rock. Lives that were given a second chance coincided with the loss of my last baby, Averey. My family adopted a small flock of ex-commercial layers (Hens) from The British Hen Welfare Trust. I have shared little updates on their settling-in and shenanigans on social media. The ladies (our little Queens, as we call them. On account of naming them after Drag Queens: Jinkx Monsoon, Bimini bon boulash, Raja and Ginger Minj) are so very full of stories and have settled in as though they’ve always been part of the family. They are part of the clan. Some things are meant to be, and these Queens were never meant for slaughter.

Something about coming from 2021 into 2022 held promise and a thirst for change. More than a thirst, it was a drouth of dry agony. So many I know felt it—a need for rewiring, redirection, reinvention, or simply getting back on track. The year hasn’t quite lived up to the promise. Instead, it’s been more like treading water. Trying to stay afloat, and more, fighting to survive. I guess that’s life for the most part. An ongoing battle, with Jack-in-the-box obstacles springing forth at any given moment. Damn clowns. Tomorrow will be better.

The veil is thinning as the gears continue to cycle. There’s much reflection as we dare to lift the veil and step through the shadows, opening locked doors to visit with ghosts. This season welcomes the shadows, where the light and dark dance. It’s almost Samhain. Listen… whose voice can you hear calling from the ether?

Sweep the circle, burn the candles, lay out the feast, and set out coveted photographs and letters from the dead. They’ll be here soon. )O(

Co-conspirators

The thing about finding a partner to share the intricate and often messy process of life and or creation with is that there has to be a level of mutuality that bends and blends with something that could be conflicting but ultimately becomes complimentary to the other’s process. We come together to share and intertwine ideas to make new colours in life and in art. Colours that would never be without the other. The coalition becomes a new entity separate from the singular. And it thrums to its own drum, which exists inside each of us. Sending electrical impulses of ideas that invade our dreams as we (attempt to) rest and seize our minds at the most unexpected moments. We have much work to do, and the muse grows each day.

I’ve always been fiercely private when I’m ‘creating’. Yes, I was that child in nursery who would hunch quietly behind the easel with one arm hiding my recycled, crunchy foolscap paper. I didn’t want or be copied, ridiculed or questioned. What if they saw something through paint strokes that I don’t want to share? What if someone took a piece I wasn’t ready or willing to give up?

I’m not original. We’re all just unconscious copies, in a way. I know many of us have that feeling I had back then and carry it somewhat into adulthood, especially if we continue on or rediscover a creative path—a fear of being unpicked and someone else discovering something or disappointment of there being nothing. Exposure or emptiness?

With my BFH sister, Ruthann Jagge, I have found that I’m no longer anxious and scared of either of these things. I share my creative process with her as if we cohabit the same space. (I’m not embarrassed by the mess I make as we build.) Because of this, we are creatively bound for as long as that mutual muse whispers and screams—and oh, the muse certainly does that! Sometimes I can’t get the words down fast enough. Honestly, I never thought I could do that with anyone. It’s an intimacy that supersedes the distance—the sharing of minds, passions, drives, triggers, ideas, and art!

It’s still new, and it’s all so exciting! For updates on our first release and those that follow, tune in to Brazen Folk Horror.

Peace & Love—Natasha )O(

Delevan House, Ruthann Jagge & Natasha Sinclair