Thrice toss these oaken ashes

You ever read a book and then set it down to sleep and think right away, immediately, holy shit I need to talk about this with someone? Wylding Hall is that book for me right now. It’s the kind of book that makes me wish I was part of a book club just so I can talk to other passionate readers about it.

For me it hits all the right notes.  Growing up I had several kind of short story collections, and one of them had Machen’s The White People in it as well as Jackson’s The Lottery, and I wasn’t that old but they hit me hard and knocked me out and I wrote stories like them over and over again for years on end. Even doing the whole epistolary thing. Then not much older I discovered my library had the complete Man, Myth & Magic and I would sneak read them because I was too young and yet they were so fascinating. I ended up owning them later later. These books were done in the 70’s, originally in England, and even though it had some Myth and stuff in it, it was mostly about magic. Rural magic. Witchcraft. Wiccanism. The return of the old religion, etc, that was happening a lot back then…

And then I even found another book at the library that was all rural English superstition, rituals, folk dances, etc. Later and later I found Wickerman and loved it and all these things are kind connected somehow. Like Jimmy Page dabbling in the occult. Like the creepy folk music in The Wickerman. Yes, yes all of that. And later still, reading The Course of the Heart, with it’s gnostic ritual magic…there is something, something to all of this…to all of these stories, these things…

And then I read about Wylding Hall and I have to buy it, right then, because it sounds like all of this. I thought it might be more Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle with some cool folk music and that would be it and that would still be awesome.

And then came all the Wickerman references. Holy shit. And then all sorts of great rural folk things. Even A Troy Town! And…the symbols, the birds, the folk music, the scene, everything all of it…

I loved every bit, and the writing! Such poetry. Such fire. It engulfs you as you read it, and you are there. Every bit of you, there in that point in time, existing. Experiencing these things. It was creepy, it was wild, and I didn’t want it to end. There are scenes that made me think of the girl on the stones on the beach in Let’s Scare Jessica to Death. There is such a heavy gothic air. Everything felt alive, full of this occult feeling, everything was more than one thing. Heavy, symbolic. And then the characters- they bring you in. They sell you on this whole thing and when I was done…it felt real somehow in only the way a really good story feels real.

At night while I read it all in one sitting the sky was thunderfull sky and I heard tapping on my windows, and outside there were fireflies tapping against the window, wanting to come in and survive the night. And that made me think of those rows and rows of corn fields not too far from here, and the woods long and haunted behind my house. For a moment this book was a reality, in the way all things exist, as a symbol. As an echo. As a mirror.


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