Greg Stafford and the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis

First published in Tales of the Reaching Moon issue #6
Copyright © 1991 by Michael O'Brien

In what is my proudest moment in Gloranthan scholarship, I delve into the origins of one of Greg and Sandy's creations and come up with some surprising answers...

Glorantha is essentially Greg Stafford's creation. His inspiration comes from a variety of sources, including the Norse Sagas. Some of his inspiration is less exalted however. Take the Cult of the Black Sun in Troll Gods (co-author Sandy Petersen). This religion has a beautifully detailed rationale, yet the main activity of the worshippers consists of capturing all manner of beings, chopping them up and cooking them in a great stew of mixed organs, then devouring it. To devotees of bad films, the derivation from the works of Herschell Gordon Lewis is obvious.

Lewis, also known as the "Grandfather of Gore", produced such appalling gruesome films as Blood Feast (1963) and Two Thousand Maniacs whose plots are not unlike what the Black Sun worshippers get up to. Is it a coincidence then, that one of the Black Sun divine magic spells is called "Blood Feast", and the spirits who serve the priests of the cult are called "The Two Thousand Maniacs"?

Another parallel may be found with the 1964 Herschell Gordon Lewis film The Wizard of Gore and the Black Sun spirit magic spell, "False Healing". In the Wizard of Gore, an evil magician performs magic tricks on people (such as cutting a woman open with a chainsaw) but they leave the stage unhurt. Sometimes later though, all the damage inflicted on them suddenly appears, causing them to die horribly. The Black sun spell "False Healing" produces a similar effect: the target is apparently healed, but when the spell expires, the damage reappears. Priests of the associated cult Blood Sun are known as "The Wizards of Gore"

For more information see The Golden Turkey Awards by Harry & Michael Medved, in which you will find Lewis in such company as Ray Dennis "The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies" Steckler, Russ "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" Meyer and the legendary Edward D Wood Jr of "Plan Nine from Outer Space" fame. Lewis earns a nomination for Worst Director of All Time.

In Tales #7, Greg and Sandy responded to my article:

"As for the Cult of the Black Sun, I wrote up some material about the cult in general, modelling it somewhat on an Aztec model of the universe which totally reverses the meaning of shamanic inner initiation to be a death cult. Sandy is a great fan of grade-Z horror films. I can only conclude your research is correct."

"With regard to your baseless accusation that I have seen any of the films of Mr Lewis. My official response is that mythic roots are best determined by the reader, not the writer. My unofficial response is that if you are indeed a bad film fan, I recommend Lewis's movies most highly, particularly "The Wizard of Gore", which is not only an el-shlocko exploitation film, but manages to be pretentious at the same time! Lewis deserves more fame than he possesses - he is the originator of the slasher movie, which has gone on to such success, and also originated many of the genre's cliches (such as killing women who have or want to have sex). Some of his movies have such interesting bits that they verge on being good: Two Thousand Maniacs being a case in point.

"Greg's comment (above) means simply this - in many shamanic initiations (including some Gloranthan ones), at some point a spirit being (the Bad Man or the Horned God) tears the shaman to pieces. The shaman then puts himself back together. This symbolizes his rebirth as a new man. Also, an extra bit is often found amongst his pieces - an extra bone, or section of quartz intestines, things like that. This extra bit can be thought of as a "fetch organ". The Black Sun worshippers materialistically saw death in this act, not transformation or rebirth."

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