Ancient Sorceries by Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror February 5, 2013
“Because of sleep and because of cats.” What an odd turn of phrase. Got you puzzled? There is a deep mystery in these words in Blackwood’s short story Ancient Sorceries. If a passenger on a train said these words to you while stopped at a small town in France, would you think it was a warning or a riddle?
Blackwood, a masterful writer of the supernatural, was a psychical researcher who believed secret powers lie in everyone. So it seems fitting to trust him to mesmerize us totally with his imagination. In Ancient Sorceries, he writes a seamless prose that moves along with a plot of witches, felines, demons, and reincarnation.
The psychiatrist, John Silence, is a doctor of the mind but also of the soul, a psychic physician with great spiritual sympathies for his patient, Arthur Vezin. Vezin, a timid and sensitive man, recounts an experience to the doctor that is so bizarre, that Vezin barely survives to speak of it—or at least Vezin thinks he survives.
Vezin is travelling to London by rail but exits the train at an unknown sleepy hill town in France. He is attracted to this little town and stays at a rambling ancient inn because it was so warm and still, making him want to “purr.” But he quickly discovers that there are secrets in this town and the people he sees. Enchanted with these secrets, Vezin likens this experience to a “softly-coloured dream which he did not even realize to be a dream.”
What a very weird place to be.
He meets a woman with “red lips” and “laughing white teeth.” He falls in love. His intense longing for her versus his intense dread for her propels the story with great suspense. This woman’s dark magic ensnares him. Can he resist the adventure or does he succumb to the Dance that never dies?
Blackwood does not disappoint his readers with this “sweet and fearful fantasy of evil.” Ancient Sorceries will certainly leave you spellbound. Perhaps Blackwood is right that there is a force secretly hidden in all of us.
Read it here:
Stop back next Tuesday for another Tale of Terror.