Weekly Features

The Weekly Shaman

The Dragon myth can be found all over the world. They are often connected to the elements, including the season, the weather and all manners of natural phenomena. In the Balkans, dragons are also weather demons. In Celtic myth, dragons are harbingers of the Other World. In China, dragons are part of the earth and natural forces. Some areas of Europe are often named after a saint known for slaying dragons – Such as St. George or St. Michael (the Archangel). Many places associated with dragons are also associated with fairies. Dragons are also guardians of treasure hidden in caves.

Occasionally, fairies take the form of dragons. Fire drakes are fairies who appear as dragons. Described as having long dinosaur-like necks, bat wings, and massive jaws, they are commonly found in German and Celtic fairy lore. They are said to have poor vision, but a good sense of smell. They can be cunning and malicious, and often breathe fire from their mouths, which helps them guard treasures. Sometimes the devil is symbolized as a dragon-like monster with a few examples in the Bible, possibly a way to vilify the dragon’s connection to older pagan religions. 

Recently I read Stephen Jones’ exceptional anthology, The Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories (Skyhorse, 528 pages), and it was a good read. The past few years I have noticed that Jones has quit publishing his Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Stories, so this was the closest thing I could find. The Halloween -inspired stories were quite original and yet close to it holiday themes. Anytime Jones releases on his horror anthologies there is never a bad story in the mix. My own real grievance is that there was not a single story (or poem) by Ray Bradbury. (Bradbury’s classic “The Homecoming would have fit in quite nicely.) But there were so many excellent Halloween horror stories to make up for this oversight that I give the anthology my highest recommendation.

On the topic of my beloved Halloween, I finally got around to watching Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, which, I believe, was directed by Burton collaborator Henry Selick. As I get older, I’ve grown to love Burton’s more childlike films with their toy universes. I’ve grown seriously sick of zombies and extreme splatter. Some of Burton’s more mature films can be a bit violent, but even these are nowhere as disgusting as many of the so-called torture-porn films, like The Hostel. Of course, it depends on the level and nature of violence in the horror film. I admit that I enjoyed Evil Dead Two, but the violence is so cartoonish (with blood usually being a comic-book green), it lacks the cold-blooded sadism of the current crop of torture porn. Maybe I’m being a bit of a hypocrite, but the unflinchingly violent excesses of recent horror films are leaving me a bit cold. Maybe I’m just growing old and soft. Who can say? 

Happy Summer Earthlings.