The supernatural world is rich in symbolism. Think of Halloween with its skulls and cobwebs, black cats and grinning pumpkins. Colors have symbolic significance for many beliefs, much of it based on associations with natural phenomena. Thus red is associated with blood, orange with fire, green with fertility, yellow with sunlight, silver with lunar forces.
Writing is a kind of occult, shamanistic activity in the way it enhances the reality of symbols. The writer-as-shaman uses words to conjure up new realities for readers. Thus, writers of supernatural horror fiction serve up two occult experiences: generating symbolism through mere storytelling (e.g., the witch’s gingerbread house in Hansel and Gretel symbolizing the evil that lurks under the surface of goodness) as well as taking full advantage of ready-made horror symbols, like crypts and dungeons, ghosts, gravestones, and howling wolves.
FOR FURTHER REFLECTION
Good and evil can be readily captured through conventional, universally recognized symbols like haloes, serpents, glowing red eyes, devil’s horns, and such. Writers can also cook up their own symbols that can be made to represent good or evil or something ambiguous—a locket, a jewel, an artifact, a bone . . .
1. Make a list of objects (lamps, old photographs, trophies, clocks) that might carry symbolic value in an occult story.
2. Work up a horror story that includes conventional symbols of good and evil along with symbols of one or the other or both that you have invented.