Theodish Thoughts

Musings on Theodism, religion, mythology, history, and contemporary Heathenry

Category: Television

Review: “The Outsiders” television series

Foster Ferrell, would-be leader of the clan

So far I’ve seen two episodes of WGN’s new drama “The Outsiders” (playing on Tuesday at 9 PM, at least where I am). It may seem a bit odd to read a review of a television show about Kentucky hillbillies on a Heathen website, but I submit there’s a lot in this show for Heathens to like. In fact, I think of this show as a hillbilly version of The Wicker Man.

The show revolves around the Ferrell clan (I’m sure the homonym with “feral” is completely intentional), who live in their hundreds on a mountain in Kentucky that an evil coal mining company has gotten legal title to. The company wants the local authorities to kick the Ferrells off the mountain so they can strip-mine it to get the coal that lies beneath. Thus lay the chief conflict of the show, but it is by far not the only one.

A love triangle waiting to blow up

The performances are quite good, and there are enough layers of conflict to keep me interested. There are factions within the Ferrells (including a power struggle for control of the clan, love-triangle-induced strife between a “cousin” who had left the mountain and returned, and others), the coal company is obviously being two-faced in its dealings with the local sheriff as well as the townspeople, the chief deputy obviously has his own agenda going on, and there are the ever-present tensions between the townspeople and the Ferrells in general (certain to be exasperated by a burgeoning romance between a Ferrell and a black girl he happens to meet while raiding the town for goods). There are lots of room for conflict, and those conflicts are interwoven quite well.

Lady Ray, matriarch and magic-worker

But what really excites me about this show is the obvious everyday paganism of the Ferrells.

There are prophecies, and the Appalachian folk-magic is thickly spread around. There are “healers” who deal with poultices and herbs straight out of hoodoo, the titular leader of the clan, or “Bren’in”, Lady Ray (played by Phyllis Somerville) is deferred to and held to have magical powers that could have been seen in Veleda or Rosmerta, there is a sort of council of women and elders that have some undefined, and yet quite palpable, role in the administration of the clan, they hold what a modern Asatruar would call a folk-moot to decide issues of import, some of the townsfolk (including the aforementioned deputy) with some knowledge of the Ferrells make pronouncements such as “They know things the name of which we can’t even remember” (which I take to be a reference to land-spirits, elves, and the like), and the presumptive Bren’in, Foster Ferrell, even goes so far in the second episode as to mention “the gods” (with a most definite plural). It’s dripping with Heathenry, presented as un-self-conscious survivals. It’s just the way they do things, and it seems that the Enlightenment was “something that happened to other people”.

Little Foster, complete with elhaz tattoo (and others)

There is more than a little of the Wolves of Vinland to be found in the Bren’in clan, with their “pit fights” (jousts on ATV’s that seemed to me to be straight out of Knightriders) and a fierce independence combined with a love of family that is highlighted with the description of the wide world outside of the mountain: “That world down there is a prison—families don’t know how to look after each other.”

There’s more than a little Heathen mysticism going on in this show, and it goes way beyond Little Fosters runic tattoos. This is a society, nearly completely cut off from the modern world, that holds women in near-reverence for their mystical and prophetic powers, acknowledges and glorifies the natural masculinity of men, places faith in folk-magic remedies, resents intrusion from self-appointed authorities, and holds family and clan above all.

Tell me that doesn’t sound more than a little familiar.

(Photos courtesy WGN)

The Verse of the Sword

I was watching PBS’ Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, as is my wont, and they did an interview with Carla Power, author of If the Oceans Were Ink, which is apparently up for a National Book Award. I’ve not read the book, and this post isn’t about her book, but specifically about something she said on her PBS appearance (this quoted text starts at 1:38 on the video):

Narrator: She cited a verse from the Koran with the words “kill the idolater.”

Power: Its called “The Verse of the Sword,” and it’s… it was a favorite of [Osama] bin Ladin’s, it’s a favorite of jihadis who want to foment religious wars against non-Muslims. What often gets written out is the second part of the verse, which says “…but, if they repent, and do good, and give alms, and pray, then let them go on their way, because Allah is merciful.” 

Really? That makes it okay?

What about the millions of us who don’t want to “repent” because of our “idolatry”? For us Asatruar, and Wiccans, and Druids, and myriad other types of Heathens and Pagans, idolatry is a part of our religion, as is polytheism. My own house has dozens of Gods and Goddesses represented in statues and other forms of art, and I have two God-poles in a sacred space on my property, and I make sacrifices to them regularly. To say nothing of Christians with their crucifixes, Hindus with their thousands of Gods and Goddesses, and so on.

We have no interest in “repenting” of our idolatry. But you said, on national television, that folks don’t have anything to worry about the “Verse of the Sword” that Osama bin Ladin liked so much, because the next sentence says, “but if you convert to Islam, and give up the faith of your ancestors, you can live.”

Convert or die. That’s the meaning of the verse you’re defending, by your own words.

No thank you.

I love my Gods, and my faith, just as much as you do, and “your sheikh” does. Saying “Allah is merciful because his followers won’t kill you if you give up your religion” is bullshit. And you need to understand that there are many of us who won’t meekly surrender to your sheikh’s god and his sociopathic insistence on total obedience.

Your sheikh, and the god he loves so much, wants to exterminate me because I am an idolater, and proud of it. You’ll forgive me if I’m somewhat miffed at the prospect, and at you, who is carrying his water and trying to defend that genocidal verse.

Forged in Fire – New TV Show on History Channel

Next Monday, the History Channel will debut a new show, Forged in Fire. Each week, a group of master swordsmiths will have to produce a weapon in a very short amount of time, with one getting eliminated each week until there’s a champion. So it’s arranged sort of like those cooking contest shows on Food Network. This shot from the commercial did happen to catch my eye, though (click to embiggen):

That’s clearly a Thor’s Hammer he’s wearing. Anyone know who he is? The show’s website doesn’t list the names of the contestants.

Looks like an interesting show; I’ve already set my DVR.

Vikings Season 3 Preview

February cannot come fast enough.

“Vikings” Historical Drama Series to Debut April 2013

Medievalists.net has a great article on the upcoming “Vikings” historical drama series, to be produced and written by Michael Hirst, who gave us both The Tudors and The Borgias. I’m a huge fan of those series, and have very high hopes that Vikings will live up to its predecessors.

The series will center around Ragnar Lothbrok (known to us from the Ragnarssona þáttr and other sources), who raided France quite successfully but met his end in England at the hands of the Anglo-Saxon king Aella. He is probably most famous for dying in Aella’s snake pit, playing a song ona  harp with his feet (his hands were bound) before expiring. This led to his sons invading England with the Great Heathen Army, which is a tale in and of itself.

Some modern Heathens celebrate March 28th as his day of remembrance, as it is the anniversary of Ragnar’s sacking of Paris. Ah, good times. 

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