[The following is a guest review written by fellow CoG Member and good friend, Link. He is a Gardnerian Witch and accomplished writer. Link's most current work is the popular GBG "Year and a Day Calendar" which he's been producing since 2010. Link's bio is attached below. ]
“It is time to keep your appointment with the Wicker Man.” -Lord Summerisle (1973)
Four decades later, movie fans are still keeping their own appointments with the original 1973 version of the film classic,The Wicker Man.
Based on David Pinner’s 1967 novel entitled Ritual, The Wicker Man conveys much more than a mere Police investigation on a remote British isle; the film shows what happens when two very different cultures meet, one magickal and the other mundane. Like most films, The Wicker Man is a true product of its times, as the late sixties and early seventies were ripe with cultural clashes between liberal ideas and well-entrenched conservatism.
Unlike their mainstream neighbors on the mainland, the people of Summerisle stuck close to their pre-Christian pagan roots, tending the harvest that supported their small agrarian community. On Summerisle, it was more games than shames, more kilt than guilt… An example of this can be seen when the up-tight police Sgt. Howie complained about people dancing naked. Lord Summerisle’s reply crystallized the conflicts between the two cultures. “It’s much too dangerous to jump through fire with their clothes on!” To Howie, their free-spirited frolic seemed out of place, while to Lord Summerisle it must have seemed equally out of place for Howie to question it. What else would Pagans do on Beltane?
Perhaps one moral of the story is to be tolerant of cultural differences. Today’s world (both mundane and magickal) is more interactive than at any other point in human history. With interaction comes exposure to ideas that differ from your own, so remember that not every culture is as conservative (or as liberal) as yours.
Even the Wicker names of Wicker characters are meaningful. Willow, Rowan, Alder, Ash and Holly are not unlike names today found in our own Pagan village. What was Summerisle’s crop? Apples. Why not wheat or grain? Perhaps apples suggest the paradigm shift from the Eden mythology, where humans first learned shame and covered their natural beauty with fig leaves, something the Summerislanders never had to learn!
The film includes bits of British lore such as curing ills with toads and dancing the May Pole. The May Pole’s song in the film is especially meaningful to me, as it shows how all things link together. “And on that tree there was a limb, and on that limb there was a branch, and on that branch there was a nest, and in that nest there was an egg, and in that egg there was a bird, and from that bird a feather came, and of that feather was bed, and on that bed there was a girl, and on that girl there was a man…”and so on, until we get to that man’s grave. “And from that grave there grew — a tree!”
A simple song for light-hearted May Day merriment, or are the lyrics a deeper lesson in the cycles of nature?
While the story is set at Beltane, filming actually took place in Scotland’s much colder months of October and November. For some scenes, cast members held ice cubes in their mouthes to prevent their breath from steaming as they spoke their lines. Additional Wicker Trivia tells that the seductive nude dance scene done by Britt “The Landlord’s Daughter” Ekland actually used a body-double’s behind, allegedly belonging to a Glasgow stripper found on short notice. (What better way to find someone with the proper assets for the role?) Britt, who was pregnant during filming, refused to be filmed from the rear because she thought her bumm was too big!
Lord Summerisle, played by the legendary Christopher Lee, described Ekland’s character as “the Goddess Aphrodite incarnate” explaining how she truly was the Goddess and he was merely Her acolyte. While some would see this simple comment merely as charming chatter, it conveys yet another uniquely Pagan concept; within each of us is the spark of imminent divinity.
As actor Edward Woodward, who played Sgt. Howie, was inside the wooden Wicker Man set, one of the goats penned up above him urinated upon Woodward (luckily not enough to put out the flames). Howie’s final speech was read from giant cue cards placed along the hillside, and was based upon Sir Walter Raleigh’s final words before being beheaded. (Raleigh was a British aristocrat who pioneered the business of smoking tobacco, perhaps another analogy to someone being burned alive.)
The film also proves that reincarnation exists, as multiple versions of The Wicker Man have periodically been reborn under various titles such as Director’s Cut, Final Cut, etc. Perhaps as an antidote to the dismal 2006 re-make starring Nicholas cage, the original Wicker Man was re-re-re-released on Blu-Ray DVD in 2013. Forty (a magickal number indeed) years later, the film still remains relevant both in and out of the Pagan community.
Christopher Lee stated that Lord Summerisle was his very favorite of the 250 roles he had ever played. It was scripted especially for him. Lee liked it so much that he starred in the film for free! Swashbuckling through more sword fights than any other actor on film, Lee was knighted by the British crown the eve before Halloween in 2009. Lee, who coincidentally shares the same birthday as Vincent Price, is rumored to own a large private collection of over 20,000 occult books, to which Lee retorts “its more like four or five.” He also played Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy and several more mystical characters, including roles in both Lord of the Rings and Star Wars sequels.
Now I am known to every generation, from ages 6 to 106,” says Lee, noting his own legacy in film folklore.
That same legacy can be said about The Wicker Man, which is also known to many generations of Pagan community’s own family tree. And on that tree, there was a limb, and on that limb there was a branch…
More about the writer:
Living in Miami Beach, Link is a member of CoG, and is the US National Coordinator for the Pagan Federation International. He is a member of Florida’s growing Gardnerian community. Link is an honorary member of the Doreen Valiente Foundation, and a member of The Friends of the Museum of Witchcraft in England. With a Bachelors degree in Communications, and a Masters in Business, Link has written for Pagan publications around the world since 1993, including LLewellyn, Green Egg and Circle Magazine. According to Link, “the most important Book we could ever find is written deep within ourselves, and within nature — and every day we turn a new page!”
Day #1: Oz: The Great and Powerful
Day #2: Haxan
Day #3: The Princess and the Frog
Day #4: City of the Dead
Day #5: Beautiful Creatures
Day #6: The Witches
Day #7: Wicked
Day #8: Bell Book & Candle
Day #9: American Horror Story: Coven
Day #10: Black Death (Guest Reviewer: John W. Morehead)
Day #11: Witches of East End
Day #12: Nightmare Before Christmas
Day #13: Scooby Doo: The Witch’s Ghost
Day #14: Hocus Pocus
Day #15: The Wiz
Day #16: Monty Python and the Holy Grail