Interview With Ian Pidgeon On How The Occult Is Portrayed In Horror Films

“The whole and sole object of all true magical and mystical training is to become free from every kind of limitation.” – Aleister Crowley

I was recently thinking about the Occult and how it’s portrayed in horror films, and so I decided to ask Magician/Tarot Card Reader Ian Pidgeon what it’s really like. How much do they stretch the truth in films?

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PopHorror: Thanks so much for doing this interview with me, Ian! I really appreciate it. Let’s get the show on the road! What, exactly, is the Occult?

Ian Pidgeon: Well, the Occult is the idea that there’s a secret knowledge of the supernatural, mystical or magical beliefs, practices, or phenomena. I prefer to use the term Esotericism, because the Occult tends to have more of a darker layer attached to it. People usually think it’s more sinister than it actually is. Western Esotericism is an academic term that is a combination of Alchemy, Hermeticism, and Kabbalah. 

PopHorror: How did you become interested in the Occult?

Ian Pidgeon: My interest grew, I think, because I grew up in the ’80s, and every children’s cartoon from the ’80s to the early ’90s was magic based… shows like He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, The Secret of  Nimh (1982), Heavy Metal (1981), and The Dark Crystal (1982). There was just so much mysticism going on in that time. I’d have to say that and a combination of fate. I loved magic like magic tricks, then jumped to Tarot and then to comparative religious studies.

“…if you create a love spell for someone and then interact with that person, I think a love spell could work because it’s changing your behavior.” – Ian Pidgeon

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PopHorror: In horror films like Hereditary (2018 – read our review here), The Witch (2015 – read our review here), or The Wicker Man (1973), to name a few, the Occult is portrayed as something to be scared of. Should people be afraid?

Ian Pidgeon: That’s a good question. Any belief you give power to is going to have unintended consequences. For example, if someone believes a demon is after them, then you’ll have a hard time convincing them otherwise, because they are diving into a different part of their psyche, which can also be a bit unnerving and scary. So I would say yes, but only in the way that learning something new is frightening. No experience is without risk. 

PopHorror: In the movie The Craft (1996 – read our retro review here), Sarah cast a love spell and the person becomes obsessed to a dangerous point. Can you cast a love spell, and is this a proper depiction of a love spell? 

Ian Pidgeon:  There are two communities that exist: there is the Magic Community and then there is the Magick Community with a k. The Magic Community would say no, it’s not possible to cast a love spell. Then, you’d have people from the Magick Community say, “Absolutely, it’s possible.” I don’t necessarily believe you can break the rules of physical existence, but I also think that action from a distance is possible because words are more powerful than we realize. We create our reality. How we describe something defines the experience. For example, if you create a love spell for someone and then interact with that person, I think a love spell could work because it’s changing your behavior. 

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PopHorror: Why is it spelled Magick with a k instead of just magic?

Ian Pidgeon: That was Aleister Crowley. He thought that it was a cool idea to distinguish the Occult from performance magic. It is definitely more of a modern term, used in about the last 100 years or so. Crowley defined Magick as, “The science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will.”

PopHorror: In Stephen King’s Thinner (1996), Billy, the main character, is cursed. Are curses real and how dangerous can they be?

Ian Pidgeon: The answer would be yes and no, because think about it. What is a curse? It’s a symbolic action. Words are symbols. They are things that ramble out of our mouths that we attach meaning to. For example, let’s say you write something and someone says, “That’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard.” In that precise moment while you’re reveling in your excitement, the person reinforces your emotions. It then becomes a memory that means something to you and may lead you to continue on that path.

It’s the same thing as having a bad day, and someone says something rude to you in the right tone at the right time. It could follow you for the rest of your life. Does a curse exist? Yes, but not in the way that people like to imagine it, like someone sitting in their basement burning pictures of the person they want to curse. However, there are some people who believe that if you have a picture of someone and you do something to that photo, it would affect the person in the photo. 

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PopHorror: In horror films such as Ouija: Origin Of Evil (2016), The Exorcist (1973), Veronica (2017), and Paranormal Activity (2007), Ouija boards are portrayed as evil. Are they really evil? Can just anyone use it?

Ian Pidgeon: Yes and no. I’m not personally worried about contacting something from another realm, and because I’m not worried, it will ensure that it doesn’t happen. However, if a person who strongly believes they could connect with some sort of being in a different dimension and something bad could happen, then it could be possible, but you’ll never really have proof of it. Yes, a Ouija board could be dangerous, but not the way the movies depict it. The more you look into another world, the more it will look back. I believe that playing with a Ouija board can definitely cause you to see things and feel things, but it may not necessarily be otherworldly.

I’d have to say yes, anyone could use it. However, you have to be careful, because if you are engaging with it in a way that brings it to life, then you better have some rules. Picture it as if the Ouija board is a stick of dynamite and your mind is the fire. If you don’t light the stick with the fire, then nothing will happen.

PopHorror: My last question for you is, what is your favorite horror movie that depicts the Occult and why?

Ian Pidgeon: Hmmm… let me think about that for a minute… I’d have to say The Exorcist (1973). There are so many things that make that movie great, but I’d have to say it’s my favorite, because, to this day, it still gives me the creeps. 

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Thank you so much, Ian, for doing the interview and helping us to shine some light on what the Occult is really like. Follow him on Instagram or shoot him an email at [email protected]

About Jazmine Hiller

Just a Canadian girl who loves horror movies and old music. I grew up watching horror with older siblings, and cousins but I really fell in love when I watched Wes Craven's A Nightmare On Elm Street, and I've been in love ever since.

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