Monday, November 16, 2009

Rest in Peace, Sergeant Howie

British actor Edward Woodward has passed away at the age of 79. He will be remembered fondly by many pagan film lovers for his excellent portrayal of Sergeant Howie in Robin Hardy's 1973 horror classic The Wicker Man.

My obituary of him appears here. Woodward was a consummate actor of stage, screen and television, as well as an accomplished singer. He wa salso well regarded for his roles in Breaker Morant and The Equalizer. He was also a lusty, powerful Ghost of Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott (pictured above). But he will always be Sergeant Neil Howie to many of us: repressed, arrogant, condescending, complex, vulnerable, naive, doomed.

It's difficult to estimate the influence of this strange and beautiful film on the contemporary pagan community. Some pagan viewers find it horrifying; some treat it as pure camp and fun. But for many of us, it represents a dreamlike vision of what is possible within a truly Utopian context, albeit an extreme and bloodthirsty one. But I feel sure many who have dreamed of founding pagan schools and pagan villages have had these images and words in their minds: Miss Rose's pedantic lectures on phallic symbols, the impresario Lord Summerisle's ritual orchestrations, the nightly lovemaking in the town green, the gathering of pregnant women in the blossoming orchards, the constant performance of music. I can think of worse models to emulate.

Farewell, Mr. Woodward, and thank you for sharing your gifts. They will be the stuff of many fond memories for many years to come.

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