Before I get into how dangerous magical beliefs and superstitions are today, I’d like to point out that they have been aspects of moral lessons and horror stories for a long time, and have their place in stories.
Actually, long before leprechaun Franchise Franchise Warwick Davis was running around punishing unfortunate people for taking his gold, you had George Méliès Devil’s Treasures (Also known as Les Tresor de Satan or Devil’s money bags). It’s hardly a horror movie (there’s no gore, no nude scenes, etc.), but some of the horror staples are still there, including the representation of a demonic figure wreaking havoc on others. This was the Age of Evil featuring horns, tails, and pointy hats, and Méliès uses magic to prevent bags of money from remaining in the hands of the greedy blonde man in the short.
Perhaps an early cinematic warning, sweet, tinged with charm, that money is like poison on the table; Whoever drinks it may enjoy its rewarding flavour, but everything turns black and the consequences are paid. It’s also a reminder that, often, more a story is told through action, including magical displays of strength and trickery.
Also, in those days, horror imagery probably had more weight, as people were more inclined to believe in demonic and supernatural things. Some nowadays are certainly still silly, and we’ll discuss that more below, but first let’s consider where some mythical creatures, myths, and stories of magical power come from.
Magic, superstition, and the motive of fear
In a forest at night, a werewolf in some reckless rage chops down an old gnarled tree trunk with its claws, splitting it down the middle. When you imagine this scenario, you don’t just think, “That poor tree stump!” the correct? Those halves of that kind of imaginary torso represent what this mighty beast can do for you! Chances are, even if you are not fully aware of it, this image is at least dancing in your subconscious mind.
Well, that’s part of what makes a werewolf story so captivating. Also, because a werewolf or “wolfman” has a human side, he becomes more associated with it as a potential threat; The beast could be one of us and have all the trappings of a normal life until…he looks around,
The moon appears to him, and through evil magic he transforms into a snarling, mythical beast that many of us fear, know, and love. However, creatures like werewolves and vampires haven’t always been just pop culture fodder, but things people really believe in!
Monster transformation is similar to human transformation
Horror fans have probably already heard of Peter Stumpp, the so-called “Werewolf of Bedburg” accused of witchcraft and serial killings of cannibals. Also, you may very well know how modern vampire legends relate to each other in today’s vampire figures (with Dracula’s boss, and possibly Count Orlok or Nosferatu in a close second). In addition to some popular ideas about Dracula being based on real-life historical figures (Vlad the Impaler and Liz Bathory being the most common), one interesting aspect of anti-vampire magic has a vague scientific basis, strongly suggesting people are genuine. I felt like the vampires were real.
The Carnegie Museum of Natural History website suggests that “garlic, specifically the chemical compound allicin found within garlic, is a powerful antibiotic. Some European beliefs about vampires stated that they were created by a blood disease, so a strong antibiotic would “kill” the vampire. “. We see? It’s definitely still pseudoscience and superstition, but there’s a hint of science after the pseudo-part, right (in this case with the garlic relish)?
When it comes to serial killers, there is a tendency to think of them as monsters, like Stumpp. To some extent, this is understandable. Part of what makes Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer so great is their ability to appear relatively normal while often doing such outrageous things out of the public eye (especially true of Bundy who was usually less socially awkward).
There is a strong temptation to believe that some supernatural explanation may be in place, such as maybe they had a demon. Anything to prevent us from deeming these violent tendencies humanoid, for that would mean we would likely end up just like them without magic, if our brains and life circumstances lead us down those dark paths… though such evil deeds may be illuminated by the moon in Sometimes, really?
The moon is waiting!
Have you ever heard the saying, “crazies go out in the night?” Or you hear serial killers called lunatics? Well, putting aside how some crazy people are often sufficiently active during the day (in real life and in movies), let’s think about why this idea persists. Much has to do with fears that the night and the moon will drive people crazy. This is where the word “crazy” comes from, as well as “from the moon” or “moonstroke”.
Scientific American notes, “The belief in the ‘lunar madness effect’ or the ‘Transylvania effect,’ as it is sometimes called, persisted in Europe through the Middle Ages when humans were widely reputed to have been turned into werewolves or vampires during the full moon.”
The implication is that a person may be normal enough in broad daylight, but the moon is passing through them and disrupting their brain circuits or chemistry. As the moon disappears, so does the werewolf. Of course, believers in religious magic will benefit from such superstitions, as many anti-vampirism measures can make us lean towards the Church (a cross can ward off a vampire, or perhaps words from a Bible, rosaries, holy water, etc. and that’s all True, without being too critical of religion.
The modern dangers of magic and superstitious thinking (!?)
Nowadays, unfortunately, some strange political belief systems have adopted some supernatural thinking and created deadly results. For example, a California QAnon believer killed his two children with a speargun, believing they had “Serpent DNA” (NBC News speculates that this is part of a magical anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that “reptilian aliens secretly run the world and have held important positions In government, banking and Hollywood”).
Another man’s magical and extremist beliefs inspired him to kill and injure family members, being a believer that the “deep state” was behind a “sex trafficking ring run by satanic cannibals”, putting his family on rampage for whatever reason.
So, what is the fit? Well, we know that people throughout history have been targeted by believers in magical evils; Accused of being witches, werewolves, vampires, etc. In fact, according to Nigeria’s Premium Times, people are still being killed for allegedly being vampires in Malawi.
Here’s a video from TIME magazine on the subject:
What about witches? Well, here’s Tennessee preacher Greg Locke telling his kids, “We got the first and last names of six witches in our church. And you know what’s weird, the three of you are in this room right now.” He obviously intends to strike some superstitious fear in his audience, right?
Apparently, Locke also said, “You cough wrongly, and I will show you before everyone under this tent, you speak stench, you worship Satan, you worship Satan,” and the word “pharmacia” is a Greek word linked to witchcraft (according to the Religion News Service), “he claimed. vaccine skeptics that pharmaceutical companies have been practicing magic by making vaccines, because it resonates with drugs”).
Vampires, witches, werewolves, etc. can all be fun ideas for horror movies and stories, but there is evidence that if we are not careful, such ideas can help us get off a proverbial cliff. The danger isn’t just the killer in the shadows or even some wayward “madman” who can make eye contact with you and send chills down your spine. Real life horrors sometimes come with a host of magical beliefs and they can be hard to disprove when it comes to true believers. Also, nowadays, these beliefs have more ways of intermingling and becoming more complex, perhaps even being refined in some way.
If a star glows mysteriously, it will always seem magical, but to a superstitious mind it may have some strange significance that gives it (the person, not the star) a flicker of madness. There is also some importance in being able to question superstition globally, not just wherever one lives because things like the Internet make all of these beliefs less local.
For example, we might look at witch doctors in Tanzania killing albinos for magical body parts with disbelief, but this is not necessarily stranger than any beliefs seen in the United States today. Many of these beliefs can end up being cross-pollinated, and we will if we are not careful and sometimes willing to expose dangerous ideas.
What are your thoughts on the dangers of magical beliefs, werewolves, and witches, and their historical and current implications? Let us know in the comments!