Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Remembering Angela Lansbury

 The magnificent Angela Lansbury, star of some of the most magical films, has died at the grand old age of 96. Although best known nowadays for her long running role as Jessica Fletcher, the crime busting novelist in Murder She Wrote, she gave some other literally enchanting performances.

As Apprentice Witch, Eglantine Pryce in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, in the company of three evacuee children and a charlatan professor, she raised the ancient warriors of Old England in defiance of the invading Germans. Surely as children we all tried our hand at some amateur witchery by reciting “Treguna… Mekoides… Trecorum Satis Dee!”, didn't we? Well, I know I did! 

She was the voice of Mrs Potts in Disney's 1991 release Beauty and the Beast. Here we have behind the scenes footage of the recording session on June 8, 1990, of Walt Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Also seen is Jerry Orbach singing as a Maurice Chevalier-like candlestick named LumiĆ©re. 

But my absolute favourite must be her performance as Granny in The Company of Wolves, Neil Jordan's film version of Angela Carter's dark interpretation of the Red Riding Hood story. This nightmarish folktelling is no Disney bowdlerisation conjuring as it does nightmarish fears and dire warnings.
Granny: "They say that priests' bastards often turn into wolves as they grow older! If the child is born on Christmas Day, if he's born feet first he'll be the one, if he's born feet first and his eyebrows meet in the middle! Oh yes, very bad! One day he'll meet the Devil in the wood". 
Rosaleen: "That's a horrid story! I didn't like it at all".
Granny: "It's not a story, child, but God's own truth. So if you should spy on a naked man in the wood, run as if the Devil himself were after you! Never stray from the path, never eat a windfall apple and never trust a man whose eyebrows meet!"

Here Mark Kermode Reviews the 'boldly pyscho-sexual reworking' of the story from Angela Carter's Fairytale anthology The Bloody Chamber. As Kermode says, "if you like your fairytales to have teeth, then this is the film for you."

 What a bewitching legacy for a grand talent - farewell Dame Angela Lansbury and thank you for the magic.

As an FYI The Company of Wolves is currently availalble to watch free on ITV Hub. 

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Sunflowers, war and ancient magic


A Ukrainian woman has gone viral on social media after she confronted a heavily armed Russian soldier and offered him sunflower seeds – so that flowers would grow if he died there on Ukraine’s soil. Some are suggesting she was offering a lovely flower with which she hoped to bring peace, not war. In fact her message was one of properly chilling malediction – a curse – with a powerful message.

So what did she actually say?

Who are you?

We have exercises here. Please go this way.

What kind of exercises? Are you Russian?


So what the f*** are you doing here?

Right now our discussions will lead to nothing.

You’re occupants. You’re fascists! What the f*** are you doing on our land with all these guns? Take these seeds and put them in your pockets, so at least sunflowers will grow when you all lie down here.

Let’s not escalate this situation. Please.

What situation? Guys, guys, put the sunflower seeds in your pockets please. You will lie down here with the seeds. You came to my land. Do you understand? You are occupiers, you are enemies. You are cursed. I’m telling you. And from this moment you are cursed.

Now listen to me –

I’ve heard you.

Let’s not escalate this situation. Please go this way.

How can it be further escalated? You f***ing came here uninvited. Pieces of sh**.

The symbolism

The national flower of Ukraine is the glorious yellow sunflower. Although sunflowers are New World natives they found their way to Ukraine during the 17th century where this oil-rich seed formerly unknown to the Church, was able to skirt the prohibitions against butter, fats and oils during Lent.

The potential for this region of sunflowers to become a major oil crop especially during lean times of Lent led to its proliferation.

Final of the 62nd edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2017 in Kiev, on May 13, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Genya SAVILOV

The vinok, is a traditional Ukrainian flower crown. These glorious flowered headpieces may bring to mind hippy-style at festivals but in Ukraine, the vinok isn’t merely a pretty accessory. Various flowers are used symbolically in the headdresses, notably the sunflower which is the national symbol of Ukraine. 

The meaning of the wreaths traces back to Ukraine’s early history, when they were associated with virginity, marriage, and womanhood, fertility and connection to the land.

Professor Slavic Literature, Alexander Mihailovic, says, “Ukraine has preserved the original Greek and Byzantine tradition of wedding head wreaths. However, in Ukraine there is yet another tradition, of young unmarried women wearing the wreaths during the spring, which, I suspect, explains why female dancers in Ukrainian folk dances wear floral crowns, whereas their Russian counterparts generally do not.

So what did our lady of the seeds mean by it?

In full Slavic pagan folkloric tradition, she cursed them in defence of her land, protecting it by damning the invaders to an ignominious death which would merely fertilise her soil.

Well said, my lady!

Monday, February 14, 2022

Stock Photography

Photo Servian Stock Images

This post is just a place to note down stock photography sources that seem to offer a useful selection of historical or magical subjects which I might at some point want to include in a book cover or for social media. At this point I'm not recommending any of them - just noting their existence.|