‘Holy Ghost People’: Snake-handling, faith-healing, speaking in tongues
04.16.2015
06:21 am

Topics:
Belief

Tags:
faith healing
Pentecostalism
speaking in tongues
snake-handlers


 
Filmmaker Peter Adair is best known for his seminal queer classic, Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives, a 1977 collaboratively directed documentary featuring 26 gay men and lesbians. The film, created with his lesbian sister Nancy, showed a truly diverse array of subjects speaking plainly about their lives and experiences. (The interviews were also later compiled and edited into a fascinating book by Nancy and the siblings’ lesbian mother, Casey.) Adair’s impulse for treating his subjects with sympathy wasn’t totally personal though. Ten years before Word is Out, he made Holy Ghost People, an intense but humane document of a Pentecostal church in Scrabble Creek, West Virginia.

With unembellished, almost flat narration, Adair describes the practices of Scrabble Creek Pentecostals. (Note that minimalist composer Steve Reich was one of the audio recordists on the film.) Adair interviews attendants and records their four to six hour long services, where they sing and play music, pray for divine healing and “speak in tongues.” They jerk, shudder and drop to the ground in religious ecstasy, some of them “paralyzed” by the experience, and of course, there is the most infamous of Pentecostal traditions—snake-handling. Adair even records a non-lethal bite.

As someone with some exposure to Pentecostal churches and environments, it’s worth noting that denominations like this are often considered marginal by the more mainstream flocks, perhaps more so as rural Appalachian enclaves continue to change and (sort of) modernize. At the services I attended, “catching the spirit” (the shaking and convulsing) wasn’t particularly common (possibly because the spectacle interrupted the music). Speaking in tongues was even rarer, and generally gossiped about later in skeptical murmurs. Praying collectively for a “brother” or “sister”‘s health was common, but actual faith healing was done at special services or events, rather than during regular sermons. And I only saw snake-handling a few times at tent revivals—children weren’t allowed to participate, or even witness, but there were snakes, so (obviously) we found a way.
 

 
It was also generally accepted that a lot of snake-handling was vaudeville flash, with little risk of actual death. The snakes used were considered “docile,” and it was always rumored they had been defanged, or at least “milked” beforehand to exhaust them of most of their poison.  Supposedly, you could make a pretty penny from popping a snake’s fangs through a bit of cheesecloth stretched taut with a rubber band over a mason jar. Many parishioners said that nearby hospitals would purchase the subsequently expelled venom to produce antivenom, adding to skepticism surrounding the “spirituality” of snake-handling. That being said, Pentecostals do sometimes die from snake bites, though when word of a death—or even near-death—reached to our church, it was rare enough to elicit little more than an exasperated head shake—no one ever thought it wasn’t dangerous, most thought it was idiotic.

There are moments of Holy Ghost People though, that will ring pretty familiar with any former Pentecostal. A woman recounts an experience following a series of surgeries where a mysterious child brings sweetened milk to her deathbed for a few days; by the grace of God, she was healed, her recovery the result of her trust in the Lord, an act of God here on earth. These deathbed stories are incredibly common. The poverty and geography of Appalachia fosters a desperate, insular kind of faith, and in the common context of poor health, the spiritual and corporeal congeal into a complex delusion of “miracles” and inexplicable, supernatural forces. While more recent portrayals of Pentecostals tend to resort to smug sensationalism, Holy Ghost People manages a dignified, compassionate look at an all too frequently spurned community.
 

 
Part 2

Via Internet Archive

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
The macabre occult photography of White Zombie’s Sean Yseult
04.16.2015
06:04 am

Topics:
A girl's best friend is her guitar
Art
Music

Tags:
White Zombie
Sean Yseult


 
Those who know Sean Yseult are most likely to remember her as the woman who brought some seriously HUGE ROCK BASS to the transformative ‘80s/‘90s groove-metal band White Zombie. Since the end of that band in 1998, she’s played in other, less all-consuming outfits, and has returned to her originally intended trajectory as a designer and photographer. Like many, many memorable bands, White Zombie formed at an art school, specifically Parsons, where Yseult studied photography and graphics. Even as a full-time recording and touring musician, Yseult continued to shoot. Her documents of those years are collected in the book I’m In the Band, and since then she’s attracted praise for purveying gauzy, nostalgically-charged photos that express influences from Bellocq, Weimar erotica, the antiqued surfaces and grim moods of Joel-Peter Witkin, and the decadent, occultic history of her adopted hometown of New Orleans. By all means, have a look at it on her web site.

Recently, her work has taken an unexpected turn. Abandoning the dreamy atmospherics, Yseult has produced a visually livid and unsparing series that’s interesting for what it reveals rather than what it implies. These are huge prints, starkly lit and sharp as can be, an array of mystic still-lifes and elaborately staged tableaux vivants depicting the lavish gathering of a 19th Century secret society. A show of the work, Soirée D’Evolution, will open Saturday at the Scott Edwards Gallery in NOLA. The large size is understandable—one could return to these photos repeatedly and still keep finding new things stashed away in them, and there was just so much to unpack from the things that we decided it was best to just ask Yseult to walk us through a few of them.
 

 

My sister and I were in the Louvre, in the Dutch Masters wing. We got almost lost in there for about two hours, and at some point, she said to me “you know, for your next show, you have such an odd collection of things in your house, so many antiques and human skulls and strange things, you should just create a bunch of still lifes.” That was my original inspiration for the show, looking at these enormous paintings with all these garish things going on, and that was what I decided I should do, photo-realism but with actual photos [laughs]. I’d never done such detailed color photography before, nor had I ever gone so large. The thing that stays similar to the past work is thematically I’m always kind of obsessed with history and the macabre.

 

 

I started off with one still-life based on a kind of a Catholic reliquary and votive holder, decorated with human skulls, antique musical instruments, and candles. That was the first photo I took, it’s called “Opening Ceremony.” I ended up doing a lot of research on New Orleans and secret societies and the Krewes, these very high society people who created Mardi Gras and the parades here, around the 1850s. I ended up basing the whole show around 1873, because there’s an antique store around the corner from me where I bought this French banner dated 1873. It has musical instruments on it, and some information, which when I looked it up it led me to a story about the Wild Girl of Champagne, France. That was a feral girl found in the region of France where the flag was from, she’d been living alone in the woods for ten years. She’d escaped a ship that was raided by pirates, and when she was found, she’d been living off of killing animals and sucking their blood for nourishment, or sometimes catching fish and just eating them raw. So that was the second photo, a tableaux vivant of that. That’s her holding the club, and the guy on the other side represents the abbey in that town—when she was captured she was held in a castle next to that abbey.

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Traci Lords’ new Women in Prison-cum-Sharksploitation flick: ‘Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre’
04.16.2015
06:02 am

Topics:
Movies
They hate us for our freedom

Tags:
sharks
Traci Lords
women in prison

 

 
Former underage porn actress, Traci Lords, stars in the new Jim Wynorski blockbuster, Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre. Wynorski is responsible for the best ‘80s murderous shopping-mall robot movie, Chopping Mall, 1988’s Not of This Earth (also starring Lords), Pirañaconda, and more than 40 other “quality” titles. Judging solely by the trailer, Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre promises to deliver the same standard of excellence we’ve come to expect from the prolific director. The film also stars Dominique Swain (Fall Down Dead, Nazis at the Center of the Earth).

This is the synopsis we have:

When a fracking mishap accidentally rips apart the earth’s crust, the resulting hole opens up a gaping underground waterway to a vast and mysterious ocean somewhere deep below. Instantly, giant prehistoric sharks begin wending their way upward toward a murky bog in the heart of the Arkansas Bayou. Unfortunately for a group of female prisoners on a work detail in the swamp, the deadly sharks attack without warning – pinning a hapless group of intended victims in a small deserted cabin in the heart of the wetlands. Death may be the only means of escape!

These sharks don’t just swim through the bayous—they also burrow through the ground Bugs Bunny style! Landsharks with a craving for female convict blood! The back-end for CGI sharks must be really cheap these days, as the Sharksploitation genre is in its golden age with titles such as Sharknado, Sharktopus, Ghost Shark, Snow Shark, Psycho Shark, Sand Sharks, and Raiders Of The Lost Shark. Sure, we’ve seen sharks in the swamp before in 2011’s Swamp Shark, but Wynorski had the vision to add female prisoners and Traci Lords!
 

 

Just put the words “Traci Lords,” “women in prison,” “fracking mishap,” and “landsharks” together and I’m instantly asking “where do I send my money?” I asked Jim Wynorski himself and he is remaining tight-lipped for the time being, stating only that the film will be “ready for release in mid-May.” It seems the film is still looking for a home. Wynorski wouldn’t comment on a DVD release, but indicated that SyFy would be taking a look at the picture upon completion.

Here’s the trailer for what promises to be the most important film of 2015:
 

 

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Kryst the Conqueror: When The Misfits went all Christian metal
04.16.2015
05:59 am

Topics:
American-style (Republican) Christianity
Amusing
Music
Punk

Tags:
Misfits
Christian metal


 
Like Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis before them, two members of Lodi, New Jersey’s Misfits changed their tune and got right with Jesus. In the late 80s, exchanging devilocks for golden curls and “Mommy, Can I Go Out And Kill Tonight?” for “In God We Trust,” they renounced sin and turned to praise metal.

Immediately after the Misfits’ breakup, Glenn Danzig fucked off to form Samhain with Lyle Preslar and Brian Baker of Minor Threat. Punk stardom, and the royalties from posthumous Misfits releases, were his; metal stardom would soon follow. But it was “oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again” for Misfits bassist Jerry Only (né Gerard Caiafa) and his brother, guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein (né Paul Caiafa), who found themselves in a less enviable position. Only had financed the Misfits’ seven-year career by working at the Caiafa family machine shop, and this perhaps took on the appearance of a shit deal during the lean years after the breakup.
 

The cassette cover of Kryst the Conqueror’s Deliver Us from Evil EP
 
Now wise to Satan’s snares, the brothers vowed nevermore to be the devil’s plaything and evermore to be his scourge. To that end, they formed a Christian metal band c. 1987 called Kryst the Conqueror, recruiting Yngwie Malmsteen’s singer, Jeff Scott Soto, and a drummer credited as “The Murp” on Kryst’s lone release. Soto, who was Journey’s lead singer from 2006 to 2007, once looked like this:
 

 
The biography This Music Leaves Stains: The Complete Story of the Misfits gets up close and personal with Kryst:

Rechristening himself Mocavius Kryst (“Mo the Great” for short), Jerry Only spearheaded a viking-themed heavy metal act with Doyle called Kryst the Conqueror. Joined by fellow Lodian Jim Murray on drums, Kryst the Conqueror embraced a galloping power metal sound a la Helloween or Manowar. The overt Christian themes were difficult to ignore, however, not only in the band’s name but on their singular release, 1990’s self-pressed Deliver Us from Evil EP, which boasts songs such as “In God We Trust” and “Trial of the Soul.” There were also “Mo the Great’s” various fan club writings at the time. To wit: “In the final days of the second millennium, I, Mocavius Kryst, and my men now swear this pact with God. For it is by His command that I now open the gates, unleashing the fury of His vengeance… behold the power of truth for it burns its light up the sword of my brother.” “We don’t want people to come out and say, ‘They were great, but they’re into that devil shit,’” Only explained to Yeszista. “That’s not it, all of our songs are about going out and chasing the son of a bitch. That’s what it’s all about… if I made Kryst with a ‘C,’ people are gonna say, ‘He’s making fun of God.’ We’ve come in His name to do the job.”

Former cohorts would question the validity of the Caiafas’ sudden conversion to ultrapiousness (“They’re about as born again as Anton LaVey,” Bobby Steele snorted to MRR in 1992). Further doubts surrounded Jerry’s proclamation that Kryst the Conqueror was on par with Led Zeppelin and that the band’s music would sustain for a minimum of three decades. When push came to shove, “unleashing the fury” ultimately proved somewhat tricky for Kryst: The band never managed to employ a full-time singer as Jeff Scott Soto, the vocalist who sang on Deliver Us from Evil, was under contract to Swedish guitar sensation Yngwie Malmsteen at the time and could not commit fully to another project. In fact, Soto couldn’t even legally be credited in Deliver Us from Evil‘s liner notes—the vocalist listed on the sleeve is, in fact, Kryst the Conqueror.

Kryst the Conqueror has not been heard from since Jerry “Mocavius” Only won the right to the Misfits’ name in 1995. The new Misfits promptly hit the road, introducing the world to Republican singer Michale Graves, who is best remembered today as a vocal supporter of President George W. Bush. Hail Satan?
 
Kryst the Conqueror’s entire unreleased album:

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment