"I'm not entirely convinced scientists have their latest developments under control. You know genetic engineering, nuclear weaponry and computers. Whatever trouble we fall into you can be sure of one thing: it'll be of our own making..." Terry Nation quoted in the Radio Times in 1977. We can all feel grateful it is so different now and scientists are definitely not developing technologies that may grow out of control!
The late Terry Nation was a Welsh television writer and novelist, working on many of the most popular British TV series of the 1960s and 1970s. He made a significant contribution to Doctor Who from its outset, creating the villainous Daleks, and was also the creator of two series for the BBC: Survivors and the cult Blake's 7.
And "yes" we all wore those strange scarf/cravat things in the early 1970s.
Those of us of a certain age who still follow the Old Ways or are Northern (in my case both) will know that tonight 4th November – not Halloween nor Bonfire Night – is the most important night in the mid-autumn folklore season.
Why? Because tonight in Mischief Night, aka Miggy Night or Punkie Night.
It was like Halloween trick-or-treating but without any treats and with tricks verging on minor acts of vandalism and anti-social behaviour as we school kids peddled forth on our bicycles to inflict a reign of terror on the Good Citizens of my home town of Scarborough. You know... dropping lighted fireworks through letterboxes, ringing doorbells and running away before they were opened (known as Knock, Knock Ginger), lifting garden gates off their hinges, and ordering taxis to call at the homes of hated schoolteachers.
And, it wasn’t just in Scarborough, as Mischief Night was celebrated across all the Northern counties of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cheshire, Derbyshire and as far south as Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire. One suggestion is the 4th of November was the night Guy Fawkes got up to his mischief in the undercroft beneath the parliament building in Westminster. But, given the strong Viking heritage of these counties – all part of Danelaw from the mid 8th to mid 10th centuries – is there also a connection with Loki, the Norse trickster god, at work here?
The 4th November was also the night we lit our lanterns. Called Punkie lanterns, they were carved out of turnips or swedes rather than pumpkins and lighting them was accompanied by reciting the rhyme:
Give me a candle
Give me a light
If you don’t
You’ll get a fright
And yes the local hospitals A&E department was full of boys who'd cut, stabbed or sliced themselves with carving knives and potato peelers trying to carve out rock hard turnips.
Mischief Night was already in decline by the 1970s – about the same time as local authorities started gentrifying Bonfire Night by encouraging organised, communal fireworks displays, rather than allowing everyone to do their own thing (explosives, petrol, and fire – what could possibly go wrong) – and was subsequently swept away by the retail shopping festival that is Halloween.
A reminder of my mis-spent youth... saw John Mayall and his band – the current lineup is Greg Rzab on bass and Jay Davenport on drums (but they no longer use the Bluesbreakers tag) – play the Theatre Royal in Norwich last night (25 October) as part of their 35-date Livin' & Lovin' the Blues 2017 UK tour. They call Mayall "the Godfather of British Blues" and he still is... Fast approaching his 84th birthday, he knows how to boogie and can still deliver a 90-minute action packed show. The show's finale is Congo Square from his 1980 album A Sense of Place. I last saw him at Leeds Uni in about 1970 and before that at a club in Scarborough. Where did the years go?
As we slip into the long weekend in the UK, here's a video of some psychedelic pop by Nirvana. That's the original 1960s Brit band (here seen in a later 1970s manifestation) not the later Kurt Cobain band.
The White Castle by Yuri Shwedoff, a Russian artist with a knack for combining fantasy and science fiction in paintings to show a sense of loss: the greatest civilizations all become relics. https://yurishwedoff.deviantart.com/gallery/
The image brings to mind these lines from the poet Shelley writing 200 years previously...
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
The Weird Starts Here
Urban Fantasist is here to inform and entertain you with tales of pop culture, folklore, history and the weird. It's curated by barrister and Reuters correspondent turned blogger, podcaster, radio DJ, award-winning tech journalist and sometime werewolf hunter Charles Christian. The site also has links to Charles Christian's books including fiction, nonfiction and latest reviews, as well as his Weird Tales and Smart Radio shows.
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In Episode 60 of the Weird Tales Radio Show podcast we have part #1 of our interview with Naomi of Inanna’s Magical Gifts in Norwich and learn how her dreams and study of witchcraft became a personal quest resulting in the creation of unique shop full of esoteric, magic and bookish delights – and in the process helped spread the word of paganism and witchcraft.
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