Tag Archives: Religion

In The Heart Of God’s Country An Evil Lurks

Released in the UK around a year ago, “She Who Must Burn” is a drama horror film from director Larry Kent (“The Hamster Cage”, “The Slavers”). Kent also co-wrote the movie with one of its lead actors Shane Twerdun.

James Wilson

The film opens with a scene where a doctor is shot dead in his practice by an anti-abortion protester Abraham Baarker (James Wilson – “Sweet Amerika”, “Waydowntown”) who promptly falls to his knees and begins to sing “Amazing Grace”.

Sarah Smyth

We then get to gradually meet the main characters for the rest of the film. Central to events is Angela (Sarah Smyth – “White Raven”, “50/50”). Angela works as a counsellor who has just discovered that the state funding to her workplace has been cut off. Together with her husband, policeman Mac (Andrew Moxham – “Black Mountainside”, “Assault On Wall Street”), Angela decides against leaving their small rural town, believing that there are people in the town that still need her help, and sets up a clinic in their home.

Andrew Moxham

Abraham’s son, local preacher Jeremiah Baarker (Shane Twerdun – “White Raven”, “Black Mountainside”), takes a very old-fashioned view to the place of his wife Margaret (Jewel Staite – “The Killing”, “Stargate : Atlantis”) in the home, imposing his will on her with ruthlessness.

Shane Twerdun

When Margaret turns to Angela for help, and Angela arranges for her to flee from her abusive husband it’s not long before Jeremiah comes calling at the clinic, along with a number of other anti-abortion protesters including his sister Rebecca (Missy Cross – “Exley”, “White Raven” and her downtrodden husband Caleb (Andrew Dunbar – “Bad City”, “Leprechaun : Origins”).

Jewel Staite

Mac’s boss, the town Sheriff (Jim Francis – “We Don’t Live Here Anymore”, “Exley”), meanwhile, is clearly reluctant to go up against the religious fundamentalists, even when they go beyond the law.

Missy Cross

Events take a turn for the worse when the Baarkers misunderstand – deliberately or otherwise – the reason for a town resident crossing state lines with her teenage daughter and take matters into their own hands. Very soon Angela finds herself very much the subject of their attentions…

Andrew Dunbar

There is also a sub-plot about infant mortality as a result of the water supply being contaminated by the town mining business, and this is interpreted as divine judgement by the Baarker clan and followers.

Jim Francis

At heart, though, this is a simple enough and rather effective tale – sometimes brutally so – about the dangers of religious fundamentalism and extremism. Granted some of the characters are somewhat stereotypical but they are no less effective for that, particularly those portrayed by Cross and Twerdun.

Some Of The Baarkers’ Fellow Protesters

The final act is perhaps a bit of a let down and at odds with the realism on display for the rest of the film, but does show an element of poetic justice perhaps?

Terrible deeds being done in the name of religion isn’t exactly new, in fact I’d say it’s as old as religion itself, but with the troubles in the Middle East and the rise of the right around the globe the themes here are as relevant – and horrifically real – as ever. A well acted and shot low-budget film that’s definitely disturbing but also well worth a viewing…

The Oak…

Oak Tree
Oak Tree

So, as I begin this journey, it seems appropriate to begin with an explanation for the title “In The Shadow Of The Oak”…

About a decade or so ago, my parents moved away from city life to a much more rural location in Devon. On a trip to visit them there, I can recall having a conversation with my Mum, during which she asked me if I could ever see myself living somewhere like that. My reply was a definite no. As far as I was concerned the countryside was quiet, dull, and lacking in facilities and entertainment.

Well, fast forward a few years, and I find myself making the concious decision to move away from city life, both personally and professionally, relocating our home to the Forest of Dean, and now living in a lovely rural area in a very old cottage.

Forest of Dean
Forest of Dean

In addition I have been further developing my interest in the natural world, history and pre-Christian religions. It is these things, together with the area in which we live that have inspired that title of this site.

The oak tree is the national tree of England, and has been important throughout history, not least with regard to religion.

It is generally accepted that England as we know it first started to take shape during Anglo-Saxon times. At that point in history, the population was made up of a mixture of indigenous Romano-Britons and Germanic tribes who had migrated from Continental Europe.

Prior to the Christianisation of England in the 7th century, the Anglo-Saxons were pagans with a polytheistic faith, worshipping many deities.

The most popular god appears to have been Woden, counterpart of the Norse god Odin. Woden was said to have been the leader of the Wild Hunt, as well as a healer.

The second most widespread god was Thunor, whose Norse counterpart is Thor, a hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning, storms, oak trees, strength and the protection of the common man.

Thunor
Thunor

In this period of history the oak tree was regarded as the Tree of Life, as it’s deep roots penetrate the Underworld and it’s branches reach high into the sky.

We also believe it is likely that the oak tree was sacred to the Druids, who have always been associated with sacred groves and particularly oak forests.

More specifically, the Forest of Dean is home to the largest stock of mature oak in the country. This is in part due to the English naval hero, Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson.

Vice Admiral Lord Nelson
Vice Admiral Lord Nelson

Lord Nelson visited the Forest in 1802 looking for shipbuilding timber and became concerned by the diminishing stocks of oak.

As a result, thirty million acorns were planted, although by the time they were sufficiently grown, shipbuilding had moved on to use iron and steel.

Our home lies surrounded in all directions by trees, and not far from here is the site of the Newland Oak.

Newland OakThis remarkable tree is known to have been in place for at least two hundred years, and was recorded as being 46ft in girth before the elements took their toll in the 1950s and 1960s. It is estimated that the tree was around one thousand years old, and has been succeeded by a new oak grown from a cutting of the original that was almost 23ft high and over 2ft in girth when measured in 2000.

It is, therefore, fitting that I offer my thoughts and musings from the idyllic setting that I have found in the Shadow of the Oak.