We are all well acquainted with spirits—spirits of the past, spirits of what could have been, spirits of place. Home, where we put down roots and began to bloom. The road, flowing like thought and blood and memory. And so many other, far stranger vistas that are the framework for our development and identity.
Spirits of Place, edited by John Reppion, is an anthology that uses story, history, and personal connection, all mixed in with elements of the occult and philosophy, in an attempt to define our relationship with place, and how what has gone before influences the present and the future.
In the beginning, the organization of the anthology seemed to be stumbling trying to find its legs and balance, as a couple of early entries seemed to meander a bit. This hurdle was soon bypassed, however, and the true magic of the book began to glow forth. And with boasting submissions from authors such as Warren Ellis, Iain Sinclair, and Alan Moore, it’s easy to see why.
I’ll be the first to admit I was drawn to purchasing the book because of its theme, along with Moore and Ellis being included in the author roster. But when it came to pieces I enjoyed most, none of them were by any of those authors, and I was pleasantly surprised by this. More specifically, I found “The Palace Built Over a Hellmouth” by Maria J. Pérez Cuervo, “The Great Mongoose” by Vajra Chandrasekera, “Death Imitating Art At Castle an Dinas” by Joanne Parker, “Malleus Speculis” by Mark Pesce, “Becoming Elf—Becoming Witch” by Bryndís Björgvinsdóttir, “City of Palaces, City of Ghosts” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and “Stealing the Light to Write By” by Damien Patrick Williams to all be equally enchanting and absolutely deserving of their own in-depth evaluations. (Which I do not have the time for, sadly.)
Cuvero shows her talent for storytelling passion for the darker side of history and the occult, while Chandrasekera provides a compelling, thoughtful narrative on the impact of colonialism and its influence on trying to quantify experiences and spiritual beliefs associated with a specific place. The strength of Björgvinsdóttir and Parker’s approaches were the focus on being a more straightforward historical/folkloric account and on the more academic side of town, while Pesce’s account seamlessly interwove his roles as both futurist and educator. Moreno-Garcia’s work effectively reads as that of the familiar outsider—someone who has been touched by that place, but has had to leave for one reason or another. Finally, Williams’ own work inspired me to point at my book and say “YES, THIS!” more than once while I was reading it.
(On a more personal note, I would also love to be friends with each and every single one of these authors. Everything about Spirits of Place connected with me on a personal level.)
All of these authors provided unique perspectives on what spirits of place mean to them, and what they can mean to us, with each piece just as haunting as the spirits they connect us to.
After all, we cannot lay to rest that which enchants us endlessly.
Overall, this is the kind of book for those of us who are naturally drawn to the occult, the darker side of history, philosophy, and examining things from a different perspective. Given a chance, Spirits of Place will inspire you to take stock of where you spend your time, how you feel there, and how it colors your own personal narrative.
Despite a jolting beginning, I give Spirits of Place 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Note: I purchased this book independently.