Gary Parsons

British Witchcraft Documentaries of the 1970s and their Relation to Landscape and Culture.

During the late Sixties and early Seventies the resurgence of witchcraft in Britain became a major influence, not only on the underground culture but also mainstream cinema and publications. Without this revival, films such as The Wicker Man and Blood on Satan’s Claw and numerous ephemera of the period would not have existed. During this period a few documentaries were made, including Legend of the Witches (1970) and Secret Rites (1971) focusing mainly on ‘King of the Witches’ Alex Sanders and his rituals based on ancient deities. These films discuss the specific relationship behind these magical practices and deities and the British landscape in which many of the rituals are set. My talk will focus on the way landscape and ritual is intertwined on screen and the influence that the resurgence had within British culture in general. I shall look at how after a brief subsidence during the Nineties and early Two Thousand’s there is now a gaining of interest in themes and ideas presented in these films within the last few years. I shall also discuss how these ancient gods are intrinsically linked to the landscape and how the modern witchcraft revival still uses ideas of landscape and memory and ritual based around Sanders writings and rituals.  

Gary Parsons is currently studying for a PhD at the University of East London with the title ‘Tales from the Wicker Man: How Cinema and Television Reinvented the Mythical Landscape of Britain’. He holds an MA in Film from Goldsmiths College London. Gary is a film maker mainly focusing on short films dealing with esoteric subjects and has been a musical recording artist since 1986.   

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