It all started with The Twilight Zone...
Uhm, sorry, Wrong genre, wrong century!
It all started with, Mary Shelley (1797-1851), Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) and H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937)...
Ok, you're right.
It has always been here.
Mythology and supernatural tells have been there since humans have populated this wonderful planet.
it doesn't matter, in which religion or part of the world you look, tells of mystical beings are everywhere.
And I'm not talking about the series below, but about the supernatural in general.
So, let's compare this term to the other: Paranormal.
Paranormal relates to everything that has been reported by popular culture, folk, and other non-scientific groups. Paranormal concerns everything that lies beyond normal experience or scientific explanation.
In the other hand, the question that supernatural addresses is about everything that has been claimed to exist, but can't be proved as it can't be explained by the laws of nature.
So, the difference is subtle.
But, I'd claim, everything that has to do with magic and mystical beings is supernatural.
Why do so much people, thrive and dive into the world of supernatural?
Especially in the past 20 years.
Why people seem to devour The Twilight Saga, or Harry Potter, and countless other books and series which all are about werewolves, vampires, magicians, witches, and so on?
When you research about "paranormal and supernatural books" on Amazon, you'll get over 100.000 results.
As a comparison, if you enter the keyword "classics" (for all time!) in the book section, you'll get over 90.000 results.
Same for films and series.
I don't know how many films and series have been made in the genre in the past few years, but it seems to always follow a similar pattern:
Lonely heroin/hero or outsider finds out, that she/he has a special gift - mostly she/he gains magical powers, or become a mystical creature - and at the same time, discovers her/his worst enemy or an intimidating mission of some kind.
Looking for new interesting stuff produced or bought by Netflix, I stumbled on a horror series.
I thought "Oh, cool! I don't write about the horror genre that often!"
So, I had a look at The Order. A copycat among copy cats, about a freshman who's initiated to a secret sorcerer society after having been admitted to an elite university.
The guy also happens to become - SPOILER - a werewolf!
If you don't know how to rewrite, how a young hero with superpowers is going to face evil, just mixe it all up, for the gazillion time.
It was AGAIN about witches and magicians, werewolves and a secret society at an imaginary elite university.
But what this series shows one more time, is, that film and series depict supernatural stories that almost always focus on three stars: The vampires, the werewolves and the witches.
Despite other numerous magical beings described in various paganist cultures, mythologies, and religions.
It's not easy to retrace the origin of the vampire's legend, but there are sources from the antiquity which already describe similar mystical creatures.
In the Middle East, the Lilith was described as a night spirit who would brought epidemics to mankind, devour or suck the blood out of humans.
In the Greek and Latin folklore, Empusas were young attractive women who would seduce men and suck the blood out of their veins once they would go to sleep.
Yes, women have always been made guilty of everything in this world. But you already new that.
And, the misogyny doesn't stop there:
Empusas are considered the ancestors of the succubus. Also, female demons who seduce men in their dreams and deteriorate their mental health little by little, or even kill them.
Also comparable are Ghouls in the Arabic world.
Same with the child-eating monster, Lamia, or Strix, female demons, half bird, half human, in the ancient mythology.
And the list goes on.
The concept of folk tradition vampires relates more to the concept of the undead - a zombie - than a flying demon.
But the vampires we all have in mind established itself through romanticism literature in the 19th and is greatly inspired by Slavic traditions.
A milestone in the propagation of the vampire popularity was the novel by Bram Stroker published in 1897: Dracula.
Nosferatu by Murnau in 1922 is an important piece of cinema history that anchored the vampire stereotype as we know it even further.
As for vampires, the werewolves' legend goes back to the antiquity and probably further as well.
In Greek mythology, there are already references of men being transformed as wolves by Gods as a punishment.
King Lycaon of Arcadia, who wanted to test Zeus' all-knowing faculties by serving him the flesh of his own son, was transformed into a wolf.
The concept of werewolves as we know it was greatly influenced by Germanic paganism, but also Slavic tradition.
it persisted longer in the Scandinavian culture during the Viking Age (793–1066).
The references to werewolves in Middle Europe were repressed after Christianisation. However, in the 16th century, Martin Luther referred to beerwolf as a law-breaker and opponent of morality.
During the 16th century in France, there were several reported trials of people accused of transforming into wolves and/or having a special bound to them.
The Beast of Gévaudan published by French author Élie Berthet in 1858 describes a creature near to what we have in mind today: Wolf-like, resistant to any injuries, except for silver bullets.
Back to women...
Also, witches have a long history.
Witches are also identified as baby-eating Strix in ancient mythology,
Circe, the enchantress of Greek mythology, was able to transform her enemies into swine.
Derives from the rules of the Old Testament, witchcraft is mostly associated with Evil and the Devil worship. Even if some of the understanding is more associated with a positive concept of witchcraft: Healing.
The most memorable historical period regarding witches was the witch hunt from approximately 1450 to 1750 that resulted in an estimated 35,000 to 100,000 executions.
Unbelievably (or not), witch hunts still arereported in some parts of the world today.
More generally, like the diverse female demons that have been imagined in human history, the concept of a witchkraft has been a convenient argument for oppressing women.
By the way, calling a woman "Hexe" - witch in German - still is an insult today.
Of course, there are legends about warlocks and wizards as well, but their reputation is far better.
Except for some legendary male antagonists described in books of authors like Tolkien and J.K. Rowling...
I'd like to keep George Martin out of it for now, since the concept of good or bad is less palpable in The Song of Ice and Fire aka Game of Thrones.
Why supernatural books, series, and films, seem to have ongoing popularity despite the fact, that "we" idolize facts and science?
We've had - at least in the Western World - the influence of Cartesianism. Cartesianism is based on the thinking of the French philosopher, René Descartes (1696-1650), who emphasize the use of rationalism.
So, how can such a fascination still is ongoing in the 21st century?
Because religion has lost significant meaning in the Western World, people are seeking something else.
The decline of religions in the Western World has also been accompanied by a search for meaning and spirituality.
It can endorse every kind of form, like looking for spirituality in other civilizations, or following positive psychology principles, or whatever can help people finding purpose.
And the growing influence of mystical and magical beings in film and literature in the past years is no coincidence either.
That's probably why...
And it will stay like this for a while.
Harry Potter, Vampire Diaries, Twilight, True Blood, Being Human, Supernatural, True Blood, Penny Dreadful, and more recent series like the remake of Sabrina, or The Order, and many others, will still find their ways to our bookshelves, televisions (as long as television will exist) and streaming platforms for a long time to come.
The quality ranges from outstanding to unwatchable, but all point to the same evidence:
Not only supernatural storytelling has regained a huge space in our culture today, but it's also
an indicator for the yearning we have that something behind "the explainable and rational" exists.
What's your opinion on this? Please feel free to leave a comment below.
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