Archive for January, 2015

The Golem of Prague

Posted in Blood Libel, golem, Golem of Prague, Gothic Poetry, Jewish folklore, Joachim Neugroschel, Paul Wegener, Rabbi Loew with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2015 by Manuel Paul Arenas

“Great Tales of Jewish Occult and Fantasy” by Joachim Neugroschel (1991, Wings Books)

Back in the 90’s I picked up a collection called Great Tales of Jewish Occult and Fantasy: The Dybbuk and 30 Other Classic Stories (1991), by Joachim Neugroschel, which featured themes of mysticism and the supernatural. This was the first time I had heard of a Dybbuk and it is also where I read the original account of the Golem of Prague. I was so inspired by the Golem story, that I wrote a narrative prose poem about it, coming from the point of view of the creature, which I initially entitled “Thoughts of a Soul-less Savior”. Over the years, I have read it at poetry readings and shared it with some of my Jewish friends who appreciate the acknowledgement of their people’s lore from a gentile. My old band, the Dark Young, even made a performance piece out of it which we have finally recorded in a studio, after 20 plus years, and we shall be releasing as part of our long overdue follow-up to our 1994 debut album–but that’s a tale for another blog entry.

The tale deals with the story of the Rabbi Loew, or Levi, depending on the source, who must defend his people against the “Blood Libel”. The Jews of 16th century Prague ghettos were the victims of anti-Semitic attacks and were being accused of kidnapping and sacrificing Christian children in blood rituals (never mind that this soooo un-kosher the very idea is ludicrous). The rabbi made a homunculus, called a golem, out of clay and brought it to life using rituals and incantations. The creature protected the rabbi’s people until an oversight allowed it to run amok and wreak havoc, so he had to put it down.

The Rabbi Loew and his golem.

The Rabbi Loew and his golem.

An excellent film adaptation of this was done in 1920 by director Paul Wegener, called “Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam” (“The Golem: How He Came into the World”), the creation scene of which should be used as the visual for the Dark Young piece if it is ever made into a music video, as it follows the ritual I describe verbatim.

The beginning of the end for the Golem is when he falls in love. [

The beginning of the end for the Golem is when he falls in love. [“Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam”, 1920]

In recent years, I decided to make the subject of the poem a little easier to recognize by renaming it as “The Golem of Prague”, and it shall be one of the 13 poems in my upcoming collection “Black Hymeneal: the Black Light Verse and Gothic Vignettes of Manuel Paul Arenas”, which I am presently putting together and which shall be illustrated by Arizona artist Michele Bledsoe co-author and illustrator of the children’s book “The Secret Kingdom”.

“The Secret Kingdom” a children’s book of poetry and paintings by Richard and Michele Bledsoe.

Michele’s husband, Richard Bledsoe, who also contributed to “The Secret Kingdom”, gave me a painting he did of a golem which ties in beautifully with my poem, which is now hanging on the wall of my living room.

“Golem” by Richard Bledsoe.

I’ve mentioned it a lot on here, but I do not recall ever having posted the poem itself, so without further ado, here is my poem “The Golem of Prague” as it stands today (a note to the reader “circumferring” is a word I created to fit the piece, basically the word is used here imply that the “air sign” is carrying the Torah around the circumference, or perimeter of the golem) :

I am Joseph, the mute beadle of the Maharal; conceived of in a dream, I am the answer to his prayers. God is not my creator, although it is through His mercy that I exist. A child of the elements am I, and of them men which from them are derived.

Seven times did the fire sign encircle my form and I began to glow with a fire in my frame.

Seven times did the water sign encircle my form, and the fire was quenched.

Seven times did the air sign encircle my form, circumferring the sacred scrolls of the Torah and reciting the cabalistic incantations which would set my being into motion. Then, simultaneously, they uttered the Holy Verse of Creation, and I lived!

But I shall only be suffered to do so until my people are free of the dark cloud of the Blood Libel; then I shall lay myself down and my fathers shall reverse, thus undoing, the rituals which bind me to this world.

And I shall return, as they themselves must eventually do, to the lifeless clay from which I was fashioned.

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TV, Monsters and Me

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on January 16, 2015 by Manuel Paul Arenas
Ad for Shock!

Ad for Shock!

In 1957, Universal Studios gave leave to allow their films to be shown on national television stations distributed in their Shock! package which included sixty odd films from their archives, including such classics as Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, et al. as well as their respective sequels. Thus began the monster craze of the 60’s, which has never died out completely ever since.

The Chiller Theater opening segment. The hand would rise from the pool of blood and drop the letters spelling "Chiller".

The Chiller Theater opening segment. The hand would rise from the pool of blood and drop the letters spelling “Chiller”.

When I grew up in the 70’s, I lived for monsters. I didn’t care about sports athletes or super heroes, I lived and breathed monsters. My cousin Jason and I would watch shows like Chiller Theater and Creature Feature, which featured movies from the aforementioned Shock package along with some other monster movies like the Toho Kaijū films (i.e., “Godzilla” and “Mothra”) from Japan, but I always preferred the Gothics. Creature Feature was hosted by Dr Paul Bearer, who started my interest in Horror Hosts and whose bad puns and macabre humor can be found in my current stage persona.

Dr Paul Bearer host of Creature Feature on WTOG St Petersburg, Florida from 1973-1995.

Dr Paul Bearer host of Creature Feature on WTOG St Petersburg, Florida from 1973-1995.

My cousin was obsessed with Dracula and I, Frankenstein. We ate Count Chocula and Frankenberry cereal, watched Scooby Doo and the Groovie Ghoulies and collected anything and everything monster related, especially if it featured one of our two favorite monsters.

Monster trading card from the You'll Die Laughing series featuring Lon Chaney Sr in the Phantom of the Opera (1925). Notice that Mary Philbin's face has been replaced witn an unknown. I have read that this was done for copyright reasons, but it only seems to be on this run of cards from the 70's, as the later versions did not seem to do this.

Monster trading card from the You’ll Die Laughing series featuring Lon Chaney Sr in the Phantom of the Opera (1925). Notice that Mary Philbin’s face has been replaced with that of an unknown. I have read that this was done for copyright reasons, but it only seems to be on this run of cards from the 70’s, as the later versions did not seem to do this.

When I rediscovered “Dark Shadows” in the 90’s, my mother informed me that I used to watch the original show with her back in the day and even had a thing for a witch, whom I can only assume must have been the character Angelique, played by the lovely Lara Parker.

The lovely and mysterious Angelique, as portrayed by Lara Parker on the original Dark Shadows series.

The lovely and mysterious Angelique, as portrayed by Lara Parker on the original Dark Shadows series.

One crush I do recall, however is Morticia Addams, as portrayed by the exquisite Carolyn Jones. Even before I knew what sex was, I found her mesmerizing. Morticia Addams paved the way for my infatuations for Vampira, and Elvira, and, to this day, I hold her directly responsible for my fixation with Goth Girls.

Carolyn Jones as Morticia Addams, circa 1964.

Carolyn Jones as Morticia Addams, circa 1964.

Aside from my obsession with it’s matriarch, the “Addams Family” show was also a lot of fun, better than the broader comedy of “The Munsters”, which I also liked to some extent, and I really took to heart the Addams Family message of acceptance; it was okay to be eccentric and to walk on the dark side without being outright evil. Herman Munster always tried to get his family to fit in with their neighbors, whereas the Addams Family embraced their weirdness.

Along with my dark interests and fetishes, I can trace my entire creative persona to one children’s show. On my return visit to my beloved Boston in 2010 to record the vocal tracks for the long overdue sequel to the debut album by my old band, the Dark Young, our drummer, my good friend Geoff Chase, showed me a video of a Canadian children’s show called “The Hilarious House of Frightenstein”. The main premise was that the Count, a vampire, and his trusty servant, Igor, had been banished from Transylvania, and could only return when the Count revived Bruce, a Frankenstein monster. Every show they would try, to no avail, and every show I would pray that they would.

What is significant about the show are two featured segments. Now anyone who knows what I do, or more importantly, what I’ve done, is aware that since the late 1980’s I have been creating what I call, my Black Light Verse; essentially, light verse on dark topics and have honed my craft as a performer, mostly during my tenure with the Dark Young, doling out these dark ditties with servings of dry humor and droll anecdotes. During my stint with the Dark Young, I created an onstage persona, a sort of Gothic Alistair Cooke, with my long hair spilling out over my velvet burgundy smoking jacket, sporting a cravat and a pentacle, I would sit in a chair with a cloth-bound tome, the Grimorium Iuvenis Oscurum (the Grimoire of the Dark Young), from which I would read my poetry and tell my stories.

Me onstage with the Dark Young, circa 1994.

Me onstage with the Dark Young, circa 1994.

Well, as I watched the show, I was surprised to find that I was already familiar with it. Memories of watching it as a child flooded back very quickly. Then came shocker number one, when Vincent Price came on (his spot was a regular feature on the show) and recited a bunch of spooky poems in his usual witty and urbane manner, the possible progenitor to my Black Light Verse, then came shock number two, when “the Librarian” came on.

Billy Van as the Librarian from the show "The Hilarious House of Frightenstein".

Billy Van as the Librarian from the show “The Hilarious House of Frightenstein”.

Played by Billy Van, who also played the Count as well as various other characters on the show, the Librarian was an old man with a shock of long white hair, and a mustache, who wore a suit and sat in a chair to read cute little nursery rhymes and fables in a dreadful tone. The joke being that he found them terrifying, and couldn’t understand why no one else was moved by them. So there on this children’s show, which I had all but forgotten, was the template for my adult stage persona; it was alternately a blow for my ego and a piece of the puzzle put in pace.

Over the years, I have continued in my love for monsters, graduating from the iconic Universal Monsters to the Hammer Gothic exploitation films of the 60’s and 70’s, but it wasn’t all monsters and femmes fatales for me. For instance, Monty Python’s Flying Circus is mostly responsible for my love of wordplay and mixing high brow culture and low brow humor. Even so, if it weren’t for television in general, I might not have become the black bard that you all know and loathe today.

Ad for show

On January 16th, 2015, I read this entry to an audience at the First Studio in downtown Phoenix. It was for an event called “Don’t Touch That Dial”, which tied in with the art exhibit “Under Television Skies”. Host Richard Bledsoe and several local poets and performers read works and performed pieces which celebrated the early days of Television.  Below is a picture taken by Mr Bledsoe during my set, and next is a photo of me helping out with artist Trish Justrish.

Me, stressing a point.

Me, stressing a point.

Trish Justrish and Me

Trish Justrish and Me