Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Voodoo on the Cover of Weird Tales

I have covered zombies on the cover of Weird Tales. Now I'll cover Voodoo and the magic and sorcery of the Caribbean, Central America, and the American South. I have five covers here, but only three are obviously about Voodoo. The first may be related to Voodoo, while the last may not be related at all.

There are still more zombie topics on the way.

Weird Tales, December 1924. Cover story: "Death-Waters" by Frank Belknap Long. Cover art by Andrew Brosnatch. "Death-Waters" is not explicitly a tale of Voodoo, and there are no zombies, but the black man in the story is, evidently, a kind of sorcerer with power to call forth masses of snakes. The man's power may be related to the concept of Li Grand Zombi, the serpent spirit of Voodoo folklore in Louisiana. By the way, "Death-Waters" takes place in Central America, possibly in Honduras, and not in Africa.

A few weeks ago, a reader commented on this story. I read it so that I might understand better what's going on in the illustration. I can tell you that the story and its characters are complicated. The reader was right: the man in the middle is the least sympathetic character. (He may also be a more subtle racial stereotype than appears: named Byrne, he is stubborn and quick to anger, matching what many people thought--or think--of Irishmen.) The man in the rear is more or less inarticulate. Though loyal, he's kind of a numbskull. The man in front is not what I would call sympathetic exactly (the narrator--the man in the rear--sees or believes that he sees in the black man horrible things). However, he gets into a battle of wills with Byrne and is made to heel. The snakes come to avenge his humiliation. As you can tell, this is not a simple story and definitely not a simple case of racism or racialism against black people.

Weird Tales, August 1925. Cover story: "Black Medicine" by Arthur J. Burks. Cover art by Andrew Brosnatch. I haven't read this story yet, but I assume that it's about Haiti and that the figure in front is a Haitian magician or sorcerer. That would suggest that the figure in the rear is a zombie. I hope to read this story soon, so I'll let you know.

Weird Tales, March 1930. Cover story: "Drums of Damballah" by Seabury Quinn. Cover art by C.C. Senf. Damballah is a god of Voodoo and may be synonymous with Li Grande Zombi. (I can't say as I don't know much about Voodoo.) The connection to snakes is evident in the illustration. Speaking of connections, I wonder if there is any etymological connection between Damballah and Allah.

Weird Tales, May 1941. Cover story: "There Are Such Things" by Seabury Quinn [?]. Cover art by Hannes Bok. According to Jaffery and Cook's index of Weird Tales, there is no cover story for this issue, but the illustration and the story named on the cover seem to go together.

Weird Tales, July 1951. Cover story: "Flame Birds of Angala" by E. Everett Evans. Cover art by Charles A. Kennedy. I don't know that this is a story of Voodoo. Published in 1951, it actually seems kind of late for the Voodoo/zombie craze of the 1930s and early '40s. But I'm putting it here until I know something different.

Text and captions copyright 2017 Terence E. Hanley

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