The Pocong, Indonesia’s Response to Modern Pandemic

Featured Horror Mystery and Lore Lifestyle

So you don’t want to stay inside?
Neither did the residents of the village of Kepuh on Java Island.

Horror culture in Indonesia seems to be sparking interest around the world these days–with nothing but news about the global pandemic, they gave us an interesting view into a culturally relevant practice that they’ve started. The village of Kepuh on Java Island in Indonesia has been using a figure in their horror culture to scare people into adhering to social distancing guidelines. The pocong have been appearing randomly, as volunteers have been taking to the streets dressed in a burial shroud in an effort to encourage people to go home after evening prayers.

First of all, we want to be different. Secondly, to create a deterrent effect because ‘pocong’ is spooky and scary.”

Anjar Pacaningtyas, Head of the Youth Volunteer Group

Since Indonesia has been experiencing a rise in the number of confirmed cases and virus-related deaths, they began to try something new; due to the fear that the true scale of infection country-wide is much worse than statistics show, the started talking through fear. So we were fascinated when we found out that the locals were forming volunteer groups dressed as the trapped souls of the dead. The head of Kepuh village decided, with the hope that it would help to keep people indoors, safe, and healthy.

Residents still lack awareness about how to curb the spread of Covid-19 disease. They want to live like normal so it is very difficult for them to follow the instruction to stay at home.

Priyadi, Kepuh Village Head

Unexpectedly, it initially had the opposite effect, saying that people would venture out in search of the pocong, but by deploying these troops at more random times that things have improved–parents and children have been staying at home. There has been success not just due to the horror factor, but because it has reminded residents of the potentially deadly outcome of contracting the disease.

Using Horror to Flatten the Curve

Pocong refers to a fabric shroud that is used to wrap a corpse before it’s ready to be buried; in Muslim burials, the body is tied just above its head, around the neck, and under its feet. According to local legends, the soul of the deceased would continue on in the realm of the living for forty days and that at the end of this forty-day period, the body must be untied so that the soul could be set free. If the body is not untied and the soul does not get released, the corpse would become a pocong, taking on the form of a ghost. Since the pocong is tied at its feet, it can’t walk or run in a typical fashion, so instead, it rolls or hops along the roads looking for someone to set it free. While this may seem like a silly way to move around, it’s said to be able to leap fifty meters (approximately 164 feet) at a time.

So is the pocong the answer to a lack of social distancing? Perhaps–but there is folklore to suggest that if you’re brave enough to hug a pocong and then untie its shroud you can release the soul of the pocong, causing a really grateful spirit to kindly grant you with wealth.


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Featured Lifestyle

In 1992 a fighting game, centred around the titular Mortal Kombat tournament shattered screens worldwide and changed the way the genre was viewed forever. After ten direct sequels and a horde of spin offs the series is still painting our screens with blood and viscera to this day, most notably with its latest instalment, MK11 (2019), where the grisly Fatalities and Brutalities (that contributed to the founding of the ESRB) are as ever prominent. It was almost reactionary in hindsight, taking the idea of a fighting game from martial arts action to a far more demonic, low-brow and downright nasty horror dimension. 

The idea seems to have been born from some nightmarish dream combining Enter The Dragon (1973) with the savagery of grindhouse cinema. As a child it felt like a forbidden series (MK:Trilogy (1996) being the first I played), one that allowed the inflicting of violence and hatred that I never thought possible at such a young age. They were only sprites, tiny pictures of people, though the brutality between them genuinely shocked me. 

Mortal combat enter the dragon screenshot

We weren’t just fighting here, we were looking to decimate one another, and the idea of finding new and even more complex and disgusting methods of doing so was enough to glue me to the series to this day. Over the top, execution-style fatalities seemed more like torture than fighting and the unnecessary overkill factor had a merciless feel rendering it authentically scary. Using meathooks, machetes and more, the characters of Mortal Kombat pull off such imaginative slaughter that the influence from such slashers as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Friday 13th (1980) are impossible to ignore. 

Taking place in an alternate dimension of gruesome savagery and merciless, unparalleled punishment, the series invokes horrors similar to a lot of real-world mythologies. Reflecting this is a roster of characters ranging from sinister warriors protecting hellish realms, gods that crush craniums with their minds, a spectral ninja with a flaming skull, and a reptilian henchman wearing a disguise of human skin. Properly considered, every pore of the franchise seeps horror. It could even be said that MK deals more and more in cosmic horror with its inclusion of ‘Elder Gods’ and a rather Lovecraftian universal origin story involving ‘The One Being’. 

Mortal Combat scary tongue image

Mortal Kombat has always been a theatre of hideous monsters. Classic characters such as Baraka and Mileena, with their unreasonably large fangs, are born of inbreeding between demons and the citizens of Outworld; while more recent abominations include the insectile D’vorah, who spews swarms of insects and has a penchant for impaling opponents with her terrifying arachnid arms.

Mk’s horror influences are not entirely limited to slasher and monster movies either; Dark magic permeates the universe, with many fighters demonstrating occult practices. Quan Chi favours necromancy to meet his nefarious needs, while Ermac and Shang Tsung depend on tortured souls to fuel their power. These along with demons, terrifying warrior emperors and brutal multi-dimensional assassins mean the depth and depravity of Mortal Kombat’s character lore knows no limit.

Of course, a roster of savage fighters would be nothing without suitably horrifying places to fight. A good amount of MK’s arenas commonly involve floating spectral skulls, hanging corpses, unsettling faces watching from within sinister trees and lingering darknesses. Mortal Kombat’s arenas are some of the best in fighting game history, and the inclusion of interactive environments has arguably made them all the stronger. From Shang Tsung’s famous courtyard to The Pit, a precarious bridge over a dizzying drop into spike pits below, no fighter is safe from these death traps. Arguably the most gruesome of these is the Dead Pool, an underground dungeon of pure nightmares involving a reservoir of acid ready to consume the next unfortunate loser. 

Mortal Kombat knows exactly what it is, knows its audience and knows why it has had such a widespread appeal over the years. In this knowledge it has taken no effort in distancing itself from the horror scene, involving many of our favorite horror icons as playable characters such as Leatherface, the Xenomorph, Predator, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Kreuger. It seems that characters must spill a considerable amount of blood before they can get into the kombat klub. Mortal Kombat is as close as we’re bound to get to an actual horror-themed fighting game and in this kombatant’s humble opinion, it’ll do nicely. 

Article originally posted on Beyond the Veil



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The Sounds of Nightmares: The Best Horror Soundtracks

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Horror films rely on a number of factors to deliver scares, attacking as many of a viewer’s senses as possible with a carefully concocted cacophony of sight and sound. On-screen efforts are restricted to targeting our eyes and ears, though let’s be honest, if Tobe Hooper could’ve made us smell the Sawyer family home, he would. This limitation on horror’s sensory maelstrom means that sound is just as, if not more important than the visual nightmares on display. Music is as intrinsic and essential to horror as it is to a musical; each grumbling synth drone and eerie pluck of a harp can conjure dread, unease, tension and suspense from the most unlikely places. More often than not they can punctuate violence and psychological torture to the abject degree, enhancing some of the greatest standout moments in horror cinema history. Look to the stabbing staccato strings in the infamous shower scene in Psycho (1960) or the equally sudden and unnerving strings of Jaws (1975). The best horror soundtracks have inspired these new sounds for decades.

While respect must be paid to the classics, we are indeed living in a golden age of horror cinema and, as a result, an exciting and experimental time for original horror soundtracks. Recently we have seen experimental artists like Jóhann Jóhannsson and Mica Levi growing into Oscar-nominated star composers, musicians like Thom Yorke shifting into the world of movie soundtracks and even indie game composer Disasterpeace taking on the duty of decorating the brilliant It Follows (2014) with his unsettling, synth-led dreamscapes.

Without further ado, here are some of the best horror soundtracks from throughout the ages.

The Thing (1982) – Ennio Morricone

The Thing Album cover vinyl.

Kicking things off with a personal favourite of 80’s sci-fi horror, John Carpenter’s frostbitten opus The Thing stars Kurt Russel as a helicopter pilot in Antarctica, battling a shape-shifting extraterrestrial being. By this time in his career Carpenter had written original scores for every picture he released, ironically enough what is now widely known as his strongest film was actually the first to feature another composer’s music. Ennio Morricone, known for spaghetti westerns like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) and his Oscar-winning music for The Hateful Eight (2015) (which included music he’d originally written for The Thing), took the helm after long conversations with Carpenter in which the director said he wanted the sound “really simple, synth-driven, effective”. The end result is just that, a sparse and minimal synth score which echoes the endless frozen desert surrounding the research base and its inhabitants’ horrific struggle. Not bad considering Morricone was shown an incomplete version of the film with little to no context on what the director wanted.

Suspiria (1977) – Goblin

Suspiria (1977) Goblin Album cover vinyl record.

For our next sonic endeavour we head to Italy for giallo/gore maestro Dario Argento’s most notable grandiose horror-mystery, Suspiria. The film follows Suzy, a ballet student who travels to Germany to attend a prestigious ballet school. Her time at the academy isn’t easy, from strange noises in the night to unexplained illnesses, but when people begin to die around her Suzy starts to uncover the terrifying history of the place.

The tinkling music-box chimes of the main theme in Suspiria are as recognisable to horror buffs as John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) theme and Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells combined. Claudio Simonetti and Goblin had collaborated with Dario Argento two years earlier, having scored his film Deep Red (1975) after Argento wanted someone in the vein of Deep Purple or Pink Floyd, and had Goblin suggested to him by his producer. After the success of Deep Red (a soundtrack which sold 4 million copies) both Argento and Goblin were free to experiment with Suspiria, meaning a truly unique pairing of aural and visual stimuli was created. Whatever your tastes, it can’t be argued that Suspiria and it’s accompanying music changed the way a lot of people thought about horror, and pioneered a style all of their own.

Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010) – Sinoia Caves

Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010) - Sinoia Caves

Panos Cosmatos’ 2010 sci-fi/horror debut is bleak, sparse, minimal, and in a lot of senses, slow. It is an ethereal dreamscape in which a heavily sedated woman with extrasensory perception tries to escape from a commune which has her held captive. The plot is thin and, it could be argued, merely an excuse for the aural and visual feast which it amounts to. It has been joked that Cosmatos’ work is best enjoyed under the influence of psychedelics, and for his second release as Sinoia Caves, Black Mountain’s Jeremy Schmidt seemed to have taken this sentiment in stride. With sly nods to John Carpenter, Goblin, Jan Hammer and Jon McCallum, Schmidt created not a specifically referential piece of nostalgia but one that reinforces the films 80s aesthetic and contextual themes without appearing intrusive. Cosmatos creates his pieces from an almost naive love of the genre, while also retaining an originality in his art that would equally work without the inspirational ancestry to pay reference to. Thankfully, he seems to pick composers who do the same.

Mandy (2018) – Jóhann Jóhannsson

Mandy (2018) - Jóhann Jóhannsson Album cover vinly

If Mandy was Panos Cosmatos’ love letter to grindhouse and the 80’s, Jóhannson’s sonic counterpart was the perfect accompaniment. A visceral and fierce arrangement, of melancholic synths, earth-rattling guitars, somber strings and erratic percussion takes viewers through as emotional a rollercoaster as the film does. In a tragic turn, one made even more significant by the emotional depth of the composition he had just released, Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson died at age 48, shortly after the film’s release. Several vinyl issues have been released of the heavy metal fever dream which includes Seattle-based experimental metal band Sunn O))) providing the moody, overdriven guitar work. In an interview, Cosmatos spoke of his planning the score with Jóhannsson: “I said, ‘I want it to feel like you’re 11 years old, and you’re in the backseat of your big brother’s Trans Am, and he’s smoking weed, and you can smell the vanilla air freshener, and the leather,” the director said. “It’s kind of scary, but it’s also exhilarating at the same time.” Cosmatos recalled that Jóhannsson paused before replying: “I know exactly what you mean.”

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – Tobe Hooper and Wayne Bell

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) - Tobe Hooper and Wayne Bell album cover

Tobe Hooper’s 1974 debut classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre shocked audiences around the world in a single reverberative gasp with its unabashed and unfiltered violence, grimy aesthetic and wacky cast of insidious antagonists. The picture was helped along massively in its cumulative effect by Hooper and sound expert Wayne Bell’s nightmarish soundscapes which blur the same line between music and noise that many modern industrial and underground pop artists frequently emulate, as well as the French abstract ‘musique concrète’ movement. All focus was given to the scene, whether it be one of building tension, horrific release or a mix of both in something like a chase scene, all sound was specifically engineered to enhance the initial idea. Because of the strange and unique pairings of instruments used in each piece, the overall effect is one of just just as unsettling a nature as the horrific visual brutality on display.

Psycho (1960) – Bernard Herrmann

Psycho (1960) - Bernard Herrmann Album Cover

Alfred Hitchcock is a household name in the world of horror, known best for his terrifying and suspenseful The Birds (1963), Rear Window (1954) and, of course, Psycho. Similarly, composer Bernard Herrman’s career spanned from work with Orson Welles in the Mercury Theatre writing the music for The War of the Worlds and Citizen Kane, on dozens of television programs including The Twilight Zone, and later films such as Taxi Driver (1976), whereupon shortly after he died. His work on what is perhaps Hitchcock’s best loved film has come to be one of the best known original scores in horror, particularly the staccato string attack which stabs along with our faceless killer in the infamous ‘shower scene’. Much of the score features a 7th chord that contains both major and minor intervals that film professor Royal Brown calls the ‘Hitchcock chord’. The chord is seen as allowing the films to play out a very ordinary opening scene with its major intervals, while also having the minor intervals to hint at the darkness beyond.

The Lighthouse (2019) – Mark Korven

The Lighthouse (2019) - Mark Korven album cover vinyl record

For his 2019 slow-burning, mythology-laden period chiller The Lighthouse, director Robert Eggers reunited with composer Mark Korven, the man who scored cult sci-fi/horror hit Cube (1997) and Egger’s previous horror breakout The Witch (2015). In an age awash with samey, uninspired horror soundtracks that frequently borrow heavily from Bernard Herrmann’s earlier efforts, a pairing such as Eggers and Korven is a rare and unique treat. For The Witch, Korven took a minimalist approach, utilising his own creation ‘The Apprehension Machine’, a contraption of metal rulers and bows which has been described by some as the most terrifying instrument around. While this fit with the themes and aesthetic explored in The Witch, for The Lighthouse a different approach had to be taken. Heavy use of booming brass permeates the score, echoing the raging sea which surrounds the characters, along with glassy string sections that almost seem to pour from the mysterious light itself. The score acts almost as a third character, diving into the madness the other two end up gleefully embracing.

Under The Skin (2014) – Mica Levi

Under The Skin (2014) album cover

To accompany the alien, otherworldly, uncanny feeling of Jonathan Glazer‘s sci-fi/horror Under The Skin, composer Mica Levi took a rather elemental approach to her score. The lead character in Under The Skin, played by Scarlett Johansson, is a blank-eyed extraterrestrial predator with apparently no human emotion or relatability. Of course Levi would look to György Ligeti’s strikingly impersonal and unsettling work on The Shining (1980) for inspiration. The soundtrack for Under The Skin plays out much like a thought process from something far from human, as if trying to emulate other music the way Johansson’s character tries to emulate other people. “We were looking at the natural sound of an instrument to try and find something identifiably human in it, then slowing things down or changing the pitch of it to make it feel uncomfortable,” Levi said in an interview. Sounds range from swarming dry tremolo strings, insectile digital whirring and buzzing and pitch-shifted drones that seep under the skin in a truly addictive way.

Hellraiser (1987) – Christopher Young

Hellraiser soundtrack album cover (1987) - Christopher Young. Featuring Horror Icon Pinhead

Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, based on his novella The Hellbound Heart, shocked audiences in 1987 with a new blend of gothic, torturous horror. Featuring a mostly amoral cast of characters being tormented by the insidious Cenobites, Barker’s gleefully cruel outlook was a lot for audiences to stomach at first. So much so that production company New World Pictures decided against the avante garde synth soundtrack that John Balance and Peter Christopherson of the underground British electronica group ‘Coil’ were creating, opting instead for a more traditional approach. Thankfully this decision was backed up by the idea to use Chistopher Young (A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985), Invaders from Mars (1986), Sinister (2012)) and arguably one of the greatest traditional horror soundtracks was realized. Predominantly orchestral and with some synth textures added for good measure, the score weaves its way through a myriad of melodies, harmonies and interesting and emotional instrumentation to match Barker’s pitch-black, dissonant romanticism, treading the line between pain and pleasure.

The Beyond (1981) – Fabio Frizzi

The Beyond (1981) - Fabio Frizzi album cover featuring a rotting corpse

Often referred to as the ‘Godfather of Gore’, Lucio Fulci is known for a string of gruesome giallo flicks from Zombie (1979) to The New York Ripper (1982) and A Cat in the Brain (1990). His films range from grounded murder mystery to psychedelic nightmare, all retaining a healthy splattering of his signature excessive style of blood and guts. One of the most off-the-wall endeavors the Italian director ever undertook was 1981’s The Beyond, a truly wacky horror about an old hotel in Louisiana that contains an entrance to Hell. Fabio Frizzi’s score focuses on variations on a few central themes in a tasteful combination of traditional orchestration and electric progressive rock. While tailoring pieces to fit the building of tension, dreamy atmospheres and striking intensity that run throughout, Frizzi’s score provides more bass-driven funk than one might expect to hear over a scene of tarantulas eating someone’s face.

The Devil’s Candy (2017) – Michael Yezerski

The Devil’s Candy (2017) - Michael Yezerski soundtrack cover image with bloody guitar

Sean Byrne’s second offering of violent, visceral horror after his 2009 shocker The Loved Ones features a metalhead artist who becomes obsessed with a demonic painting seemingly created by his subconscious, as well as a disturbed giant of a man whose existence threatens the family’s very lives. Featuring an almost perfect arrangement of existing metal music, from the earth-rattling soundscapes of Sunn 0))) to the groove laden riffing of Machine Head, the film also features an original score by Michael Yezerski. This is truly the heavy metal horror film of the 2010s, in fact any time there isn’t an actual metal band playing viewers are treated to Yezerski’s semi-industrial blend of brutal guitar shredding, atonal clangings and screechings and gut-wobbling drones. Subtlety isn’t the intent of either aural or visual elements here, rather a heart stopping face-slap from start to finish.

Halloween (1978) – John Carpenter

Halloween Soundtrack cover (1978) - John Carpenter featuring a pumpkin and knife

When John Carpenter made the legendary and timeless Halloween he was thirty years old, yet still running things like a college student. Everything he could possibly do himself, he would, including the chillingly minimal and infinitely recognizable score that would help propel his low-budget slasher to worldwide stardom. Drawing on Goblin’s sinister Suspiria score along with Bernard Herrman’s masterfully suspenseful music for Psycho, Carpenter (who recognizes himself as having zero chops as a musician) wrote a simple 5/4 piano rhythm that would end up being one of the most recognized pieces of music in horror. Like the theme from Jaws, the sparse and basic nature of the tune helps build suspense without being intrusive, allowing just enough space between notes for the horrors on screen to set in. The score features many simple, descending piano lines creating an acute sense of foreboding before the sharp, “cattle prod” keyboard stabs have viewers jumping from their seats. Proof that true art is born from limitations, Carpenter’s Halloween theme has been adopted by Pop and Hip-Hop artists alike, and remains to this day one of the most influential horror scores in existence.




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The Strangest Horror Movies of All Time

Lifestyle Scary Movies and Series

Which Horror Movies are the Weirdest?

The horror movie industry has brought us some seriously twisted creations. It is very clear, however, that some of these movies invented a whole new kind of strange. In fact, many of the newer movies have very effectively pushed back the threshold for the grotesque and bizarre. From abortion babies that survived to come back on a deformed vengeful kill-fest, to animal bones in human furniture littering the Sawyer house, there are some pretty outrageous scenes out there! So, which of these very many bizarre terrors makes the list of the strangest horror movies of all time? The latest Horror Enthusiast survey reveals the weirdest horror movies ever to grace the screen!

List of the Most Bizarre and Strangest Horror Movies

This is a list of the most bizarre and strangest horror movies ever made.  They are ranked in order of weirdness!

The Human Centipede (2009)

The Human Centipede brings a whole new level of “sick and twisted” to horror.  The antagonist, a crazy scientist, collects tourists to mutilate and rearrange them into a single being: a human centipede, connected by the oral and anal orifices. The movie is so gross, it is honestly a little sickening even typing about it! Body Horror at it’s worst.

Red Christmas (2016)

Ever wonder if a baby could survive an abortion? What would happen if it did and came back deformed and in a rage many years down the road with a serious chip on his shoulder?  Red Christmas is about a terrifying plot for revenge that absolutely shatters one family’s holiday season!

Society (1989)

Society is a cult-favorite and all-around weird.  It is part dark comedy, despite most people seeing mostly just the horror.  The plot centers around a teenaged boy who finds out his parents are a part of a bizarre second life full of sadistic orgies.  Society is one of the weirdest horror movies out there, though quite graphic.

Teeth (2007)

A girl who is practicing abstinence has a biological evolution and her vagina grows teeth (dantata).  These teeth become a sexual nightmare for many a men who she encounters.  Ultimately, this is one of the weirdest horror movies out there.

House (1986)

House is about a Vietnam veteran-turned-writer who spends some time in his aunt’s house after she passes, trying to cope with the past and the loss of his son.  He winds up believing his son is still alive and that “the house” has got him.  And this haunted house literally comes to life in the weirdest, most bizarre ways!

The Village (2004)

The Village is seriously strange. The entire plot surrounds omnious, weird events that transpire in a secret and isolated village.  While the village countryside may seem peaceful and serene, what happens there is…well, not so chill. The Village definitely makes the list of the strangest horror movies of all time.

Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

This movie is a twisted story from hell…a true nightmare that the protagonist seemingly cannot wake up from.  In terms of weirdness, there is always something happening which has the audience left befuddled and wide-eyed. The plot is absolutely filled with “strange” and “confusing,” so try to keep up

The Wickerman (1973)

The Wickerman is about a detective’s search for a missing girl on a remote island.  He finds the people that live there to have some pretty strange practices and the entire movie is a mental work out.  The movie was remade in 2006 with Nicholas Cage, however, many people consider the remake much worse than the original (sorry Cage). To be clear here: it isn’t weird because it’s Pagan-related, it’s weird because it’s weird!

The People Under The Stairs (1991)

The People Under The Stairs is a pretty strange idea.  A wealthy, affluent couple decide to try and find the perfect son by kidnapping kids, adopting them, and cutting out their tongues when they are bad.  These mutilated kids are stored under the stairs, in the basement, where it is dark and filthy. The victims are kept so malnourished that they are scary as hell to encounter!

texas chainsaw massacre is weirdThe Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre may seem slightly out of place on the list, just because it has had so many sequels that no one considers it weird anymore, however, making furniture out of dead people IS WEIRD!  Littering animal bones all over the floors of a house IS STRANGE.  And making masks and dinner out of the victims is TRULY BIZARRE; And thus Texas Chainsaw Massacre rightfully deserves a place on this list, no matter how weird things have gotten!

A Few Final Notes…

Remember, horror movie preference (and all preference in general) is both relative and subject to change. This means that what one person considers strange or bizarre, may seem quite normal to another. It also means that a horror movie we once considered weird may eventually warm up to our taste with time. This type of evolution is very common when it comes to the horror movie industry, as society as a whole tends to become more jaded as time moves forward. This is due to the fact that newer horror movies always feel the need to out-gore and out-scare their predecessors. Thus (for example) a 60-year-old man looking back at the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and admit to himself “You know, I used to think this movie was super graphic back in the day when it was originally released, but now it seems a little tame.” In fact it doesn’t even make the list of horror villains with the most kills. When it comes to bizarre and strange, taste and tolerance will most certainly very between horror fans and overtime.



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The Utterly Wicked Truths About “Dark” Magic

Featured Horror Mystery and Lore Lifestyle

The occult, by definition, boils down to an involvement in the supernatural, mystical, or magical beliefs, practices, phenomena. In the sixteenth century, the term occult sciences was used to refer to astrology, alchemy, and natural magic. In the nineteenth century, occultism emerged in France and began to be associated with various esoteric groups therein connected to Éliphas Lévi and Papus, then in 1875, it was introduced into the English language by esotericist, Helena Blavatsky. During the twentieth century, the term was used to describe a wide range of different authors and their particular eccentricities—finally, during the twenty-first century, it is commonly used to describe a certain esotericism and the several different categories that it encompasses, including but not limited to spiritualism, theosophy, anthroposophy, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and New Age practices. Then again, to be fair, the occult has been used since the twentieth century to also reference a more broad category of supernatural, including the beliefs in vampires, fairies, UFOs, and parapsychology.

When it comes down to it though, what is most often thought of when the occult is considered? The occult is this unknowable magical thing that is mostly considered to have a nasty nature about it—but that’s not always the case, while the occult in the broadest sense it can be more than just witchcraft and esoteric cults; far be it for this witch to say what every other practitioner of the esoteric arts does in their own craft, I can only speak from my own experience.

What is Dark Magic?

There is a misconception about dark magic–even those that practice magic may believe that dark magic, some people refer to it as “black” magic, is always a malevolent thing–this isn’t even remotely true, although there are two sides to that coin. There are many practitioners of dark magic who don’t even appreciate the connotation that what they practice is inherently negative or malevolent at all. Here we refer to it as dark magic because it is the most recognizable way to refer to this type of magical practice, so what we really mean when we are discussing dark magic is any type of magic that is not regarding the free will, emotional, mental, or physical state of the recipient. Now you might be thinking that those parameters automatically make this magic negative or malevolent, but love spells, legal justice spells, and so much more fall under this umbrella, as it benefits the caster, but not necessarily the target. Curses, hexes, jinxes, and other negative forms of magic may also be–as an example, cursing an addict to no longer be able to stand the thought of drug use–that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, now is it? In this writer’s opinion, dark magic can be anything that the practitioner casts that they use an excess of emotion–something that mentally, emotionally, and physically drains them of any existing energy that they may possess.

This is especially true of curses, hexes, and other unsavory forms of magic … It has … to do with the emotion that fuels them: that raw, untamed emotion goes way beyond peel-me-off-the-ceiling anger and can only be termed as livid pissed. And livid pissed is exactly what we are by the time we get around to even consider such things. The old adage of adding fat to the fire doesn’t even begin to cover it when fueling magic with this sort of emotion. In fact, it’s more like adding a hefty dose of jet fuel to a hearth fire. There’s going to be more than a minor flare-up. There’s going to be an explosion to end all explosions. And anyone who thinks that a simple [magical] shield is going to deflect that sort of energy definitely has another thing coming.

Dorothy Morrison, Utterly Wicked: Hexes, Curses, and Other Unsavory Notions

Fallacies of Dark Magic

Dark Magic Practices
Photography by Eduardo Cano

Dark Magic, or as it is more often (and inappropriately) referred to as “black magic,” is not at all what it seems to be. There is an argument that there is no “color” in magic, but even within the practice, there are references to different colors of magic–black, grey, white, green, etc. ad nauseam. To be honest, if you’ve been a part of the witchcraft community for almost two decades, you’d find the use of color within magic as a tad bit pretentious. Those who practice the darker aspects of magic tend to refer to it as baneful magic–it’s honest and unpretentious and it says exactly what it means.

Whatever you’ve experienced, be cautious before you utter: someone cursed me! I cannot honestly tell you how many times I have heard this uttered from someone who was down on their luck–to be completely honest it is the most unlikely reason for someone having bad luck, sometimes bad things just happen. While it may be possible that a witch is pissed off enough to have cursed you, more often than not the best curse is someone’s conscience–that’s not a curse, it’s just your own ethical code telling you to take a look at what you’re doing to other people or, more likely, yourself.

Recount the related problems you’ve experienced to the present, and try to pinpoint the time they began … Then look for any semblance of reason for their occurrence … give some serious thought to what led you to … the conclusion that a hex had been tossed your way … look for reasonable explanations … Because if you can find plausible reasons for any of the … trials and tribulations connected to the time period, it could be that a curse may not be the culprit at all … It’s quite possible that you, yourself, are at fault.

Dorothy Morrison, Utterly Wicked: Hexes, Curses, and Other Unsavory Notions

Are you sure that I haven’t been cursed? Yes, we’re pretty sure, and mostly because this author has personally cursed someone before–cursing, crossing, or hexing someone is definitely not as easy as it seems. It takes energy that is derived from our personal emotional, mental, and physical reserves. Most of the time, even if we’re really angry at someone, we realize that the nasty person that we’re angry at isn’t worth the time and energy it takes to do any dark work. If you’re an awful person though, we might take the time and sacrifice the energy, but that’s a personal choice.

… Cursing someone takes an inordinate amount of energy. Your energy. Energy that you’ve stored for other things, like the simple business of everyday living. And cursing someone effectively is going to wipe out all your reserves. But even if that weren’t the case, it’s important to remember that you’re going to be transferring that energy to the person on the other end of your magic. So, there’s a good chance that you’re inadvertently going to pick up some of that person’s energy along the way too. Do you really want that nasty stuff on you? Probably not.

Dorothy Morrison, Utterly Wicked: Hexes, Curses, and Other Unsavory Notions

Another thing I have heard in my time of practicing witchcraft is that blood magic is evil magic. That is absolutely not true–blood magic is just more powerful and potent magic. If a witch is practicing blood magic that usually means they know what they’re doing. If we’re using our own blood it means it is going to affect us personally, if we’re using someone else’s blood it means that they are going to be personally affected.

You Can’t Get Cursed if You Don’t Believe is probably the most laughable thing I have ever heard in my life–because if it were true there wouldn’t be any instances of curses at all. If you found out that someone was cursing you and you decided that you just didn’t believe, it would be quite ineffective, right? Truly, if you don’t believe it curses, it actually is more effective to let the person know in some way that they have been cursed. There is nothing more effective than using someone’s imagination against them.

Dark Magic Among the Different Practices

There are so many different religions and secular occult practices that have darker leanings–while not all of the practitioners utilize the darker aspects of these religions or occult practices, they are still there and they are still very legitimate practices.

Voodoo, Hoodoo, Rootwork, Conjure, Appalachian Folk Magic, & Santeria

These are four different titles for some very similar practices–Voodoo, is perhaps the exception among the bunch, as it is based within a religious practice and the occult practices that are utilized are done so within the context of that religion. Hoodoo, rootwork, and folk magic are unique in the fact that they are not necessarily tied into a religion but can be practiced by anyone and everyone–so long as they have the proper knowledge to utilize the techniques that are a learned aspect of these decades-old traditions that are typically passed down through familial lines. While many of these occult practices exist solely in the southern United States, such as Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, etc.–there are also the folk magic practices that are known as Appalachian folk magic which occur throughout the Appalachian Mountains.

Voodoo, Vodou, and Vodun are the variations upon the spelling of the same practice–it really just depends upon where the religion is practiced. It’s a religion that practices a sort of folk magic, but differing from other types of folk magic, it is entirely tied into the Christian or Catholic faiths. Voodoo also ties in African folk magic, however, by adding in the veneration of spirits or loa. If you’re looking for a movie that most accurately depicts voodoo, even if it is a bit campy and over-the-top, take a moment to watch The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988). You’ll get the feel of voodoo without having to delve too deeply into it. If you’re looking to get revenge on someone, while we certainly don’t recommend jumping into something as complex as Voodoo and getting in over your head, crossing is what you’re after when it comes to the Voodoo religion. It usually utilizes personal objects or bodily fluids–that’s an entirely different topic on its own.

If you’re looking to make someone bend completely to your will, you’re probably thinking of Haitian zombification. Zombies are some of the darker aspects of the Voodoo religion–as a whole, the religion doesn’t typically approve of zombification, you can learn more about the practice in one of our older articles.

Voodoo Dolls and Doll Babies are always portrayed in a negative light in Voodoo, but that’s not entirely undeserved, it’s definitely not as alluring to think about making a voodoo doll out of love for someone. When we think of voodoo dolls we immediately think of that idealization of acting out your anger and frustrations out on your target. We definitely believe that they are worth investigating more thoroughly before anyone might utilize such a technique for revenge.

Within Hoodoo, Conjure, Rootwork, & Appalachian Folk Magic you’ll find a lot of diversity, but a surprising amount of similarities considering the different terms to refer to this type of practice. This practice is generally considered separate from any religious practice, but isn’t exempt from including it either. Hoodoo, conjure, and rootwork are primarily practiced in the Southern United States, as well as the Caribbean and some other regions. Appalachian Folk Magic is quite similar to the hoodoo, conjure, and rootwork practices, but this particular folk magic practice only naturally occurs in the Appalachian Mountains.

The religion of Santeria is quite complex–the beliefs are more difficult to follow because a lot of the details of the practice are hidden to those who are not inducted into the religion. It has a poor reputation due to the newspaper articles that deteriorate the image of Santeria as a whole.

Satanism and Daemonolatry

Satanism is one of the most misunderstood occult practices, but it is also an umbrella term that encompasses quite a few different practices and religions. The witchcraft that follows along with the different practices of Satanism are not at all like what they show in the movies, in fact, the practices are generally a surprisingly vanilla expression of magical practice.

Daemonolatry is more of a practice that is considered separate from satanic practices–it is a less religious practice and can be compared to hoodoo the same way that satanism can be compared to voodoo.

Witch giving sacrifice
Photography by Halanna Halila

Traditional Witchcraft

You don’t have to be any of the above mentioned practitioners in order to practice baneful magic–you can be of pretty much any magical background (except for, possibly, Wicca) and practice magic that is aimed to harm another person.

If you’re looking for more information on stuff like this, leave us a comment and let us know!



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