Making a Pet of Your Monster

WARNING: Contains spoilers for The Babadook The monster in the Australian horror movie The Babadook is a metaphor for grief. Essie, the main character, is overwhelmed by her grief for her husband, although it's been nearly seven years. He died in an accident while driving her to the hospital to give birth to their son Sam. In his entire life, Sam has never had a party on his birthday. His mother can't handle it. Instead, he shares birthday parties with his cousin, who was born only a week or so before. For their seventh, though, his cousin wants her own party, a princess party, and Essie must figure out how to cope with that. More than that, though, she can barely stand to hear her husband mentioned, going brittle and changing the subject as fast as possible. Sam, meanwhile, deals with the uncertainty, fear, and pervasive grief in his life by believing strongly in monsters... and believing that he must protect others from them. He's become quite ingenious about it, building shoulder-mounted catapults and dart-firing crossbows. Unfortunately, he takes these to school, where they consider him disturbed and want to take him out of classes, threatening to isolate him even further than his life already does. Rather than allow this, Essie takes Sam out of school entirely. Then Sam finds a pop-up book in the house, called Mister Babadook, and wants her to read it to him at bedtime. It is deeply creepy, of course. If it's in a word or it's in a look You can't get rid of the Babadook If you're a really clever one And you know what it is to see Then you can make friends With a special one, A friend of you and me. His name is Mister Babadook And this is his book. A rumbling sound then 3 sharp knocks ba BA-ba DOOK! DOOK! DOOK! That's when you'll know that he's around You'll see him if you look This is what he wears on top He's funny, don't you think? See him in your room at night And you won't sleep a wink. I'll soon take off my funny disguise (Take heed of what you've read...) And once you see what's underneath... You're going to wish you were DEAD. Much of the plot that follows is standard, although very well done, horror fare. The Babadook is haunting them. The boy believes, but the mother doesn't, giving the Babadook more power. The mother, somewhat unusually, goes to the police... but sees the shadow of the Babadook in the station as well. Her relationships crumble, isolating them both in the house with the monster. And then it takes her over. And then the twist ending. They don't get rid of the Babadook. They can't, as per the book. Instead, they get him into the basement... and keep him there, as a pet, feeding him wriggling things from under the earth, as befits an essentially chthonic monster. Essie comes to terms with her great grief, and is no longer consumed by it, but finds a way to live with it. As a witch, I feel like this metaphor monster has fantastic potential for certain kinds of work. A way to externalize and come to terms with, even befriend and make a pet of, whatever it is that's eating you up. I want to get a wooden doll's wardrobe and make a little place for my own Mister Babadook to hide, paint him inside it and staining the whole thing dark. Tease out the spirit of what haunts me, name it, trap it, feed it carefully, make an ally of it. Powerful work. Maybe someday I'll even do it. For now, I'm not haunted strongly enough by something I can name. I have other ways of dealing with depression and mania, which are the biggest things that have dogged me. Fear holds me back sometimes, and maybe that's what I'll eventually do. Or maybe it will be grief that eats at me. We'll see. But it's a technique to have in my pocket if I need it. Really, though, I'm so tempted to have a pet Babadook that I almost want to summon up some outside spirit that fits the bill and name that Babadook. That's not really my style, though. I don't want to bind spirits that way....

Linkspam from Beyond the Grave

I used to do occasional linkspam posts. I think I'll take it up again. Maybe I'll start posting them Fridays, as weekend reading suggestions. Where There's a Will, There's a Ghost on Strange Company Animism at the Dinner Table from Sarah Anne Lawless Feeling Grief + Dreaming Another World at Woolgathering & Wildcrafting 8 ways white witches can support #BlackLivesMatter on Little Red Tarot 51 of the most important things you've ever fought about at Autostraddle Death & the Maidens at, well, Death and the Maiden, writing on a topic I'm also working on a piece about. Here's a waulking song Beth from Little Red Tarot shared. Waulking is a (sadly dying, if not already dead) traditional way of fulling newly woven cloth. The tweed or plaid would be taken off the loom, and all the women of the village would gather to help. Warm stale urine (wash) would be poured over the cloth as a way of scouring out any dirt, oils or foreign matter (this was before soap was readily available in the quantities needed), the cloth would be placed on a long table or board, and thumped against it rhythmically. The women would sing to keep time and amuse themselves. A waulking song with no waulking, no matter how lovely (and it is lovely) being done just doesn't seem right to me. At least put some nice thumpy thuddy percussion in. A video of waulking the tweed whilst singing a waulking song, which I think shows the need for that percussion, and some explanation of waulking: Although it's not stretching the cloth, it's fulling it. And finally, on a personal note, after nearly twenty years of threatening to shave my head in the summer, I've now mostly done it. Inspired by Holtzman in the new Ghostbusters movie, I've shaved the back and sides, leaving only the hair on my crown long. It's cool and comfortable, the clipped part is all velvety and nice to touch, and it looks fuckin' awesome! So here's an incredibly rare pic of me, just minutes after it was finished. ETA: Note to self: Going to give shorn hair to Hermes and Athena. Hermes, asked if I should hang it from a tree for birds, told me to wait before doing anything. Athena turned down a Woolly God image of her stuffed with it, but accepted jewelry made from it....