Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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Thirteen Surprising Facts About 'The Wicker Man' (with Just a Wee Bit of Snarkiness from the Blogger)

Yes folks, it's time for your annual appointment with...the Wicker Man.

(No, not the one with Nicholas Cage!)


The role of Sergeant Howie was originally offered to actor Michael York. He turned it down.*

American composer Paul Giovanni, who wrote the film's strikingly memorable score, was the boyfriend of director Anthony Shaffer's brother Paul at the time. That's how Shaffer knew him.

Though set at Beltane, the film was actually filmed in mid-October. Between takes of the bonfire-leaping scene, the naked schoolgirls had to be bundled up in blankets to warm them up.

Because of the cold temperatures, while shooting many of the outdoor scenes, the actors had to hold ice cubes in their mouths so that their breath wouldn't smoke.

The blooming apple trees are all artificial. Because the budget was so tight, they had to keep moving the few trees that they had for the sweep shots of the orchards.

The phallic topiary, however, was all real. It was filmed at Hush House Manor in Kent, home of actor David Kennings (who had also been offered the role of Howie and turned it down).

Rowan and Howie's escape through the caves was shot at Wookey Hole caves in Somerset, home of the famous Witch of Wookey.

Edward Woodward (Howie) actually broke a toe on a rock while being dragged to the Wicker Man. (Technically, this injury should have disqualified him as a sacrifice, but of course—as their pastiche paganism suggests—these are neo-pagans we're talking about.)

Two Wicker Men were made for the filming: one large (27 feet), for close-ups, and one small (8 feet), for distance shots. There was also a separate head made for the final, sunset scene.

The Wicker Man was originally intended to have huge eyes made of daisies. In the end, they decided against the eyes because they made the Wicker Man look too friendly.

During the burning scene, that isn't all sweat that you see on Howie's brow. The goats in the compartment directly above him kept peeing on him during the filming.

A cherry-picker crane stood behind the Wicker Man during filming. Howie's stunt double was attached to it with a Kirby wire; this enabled him to stay in the burning Wicker Man for as long as possible before being swung out to safety. (He got out safely, with no burns at all.)

Despite rumors that ran rampant among local pub-goers that the livestock (all of it locally sourced) would be burned with the Wicker Man, none actually was.


45 years and still going strong: The Wicker Man is a lot more than just a cult classic. In fact—as academics never tire of pointing out—the film has left its mark on contemporary Pagan liturgy.

Next year on Summerisle!


*Which is probably just as well. A beautiful Howie would have made the character too appealing.


Allan Brown (2000), Inside the Wicker Man: How Not to Make a Cult Classic. Polygon.






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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


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