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We’re going to revisit the Halloween classic: Modest Mussorgsky’s Night on the Bald Mountain.

For years, Mussorgsky had been considering several large scale projects based on spooky Russian folklore. He looked at creating an opera based on Gogol’s St. John’s Eve. The Gogol short story is a part of Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka. The collection is worth reading and is free on Google Books.

St. John’s Eve is a Faustian “deal with the devil.” Peter is in love but he’s too poor. He goes to do some day-drinking at the tavern and bumps into the Devil. The action of the story involves what appears to be a hallucinogenic fern, the decapitation of a six-year-old, and a witch drinking the blood from the child’s neck after the head is removed.

If there were a Russian Horror Story it would be oh-so-much darker than American Horror Story.

Next, Mussorgsky thought about creating an opera based on his friend’s play The Witches. It is from this lost play that the witches’ sabbath comes. The witches’ sabbath is the foundation of Night on the Bald Mountain.

Mussorgsky details what the witches’ sabbath was in the play.

“So far as my memory doesn't deceive me, the witches used to gather on this mountain, ... gossip, play tricks and await their chief — Satan. On his arrival they, i.e. the witches, formed a circle round the throne on which he sat, in the form of a kid, and sang his praise. When Satan was worked up into a sufficient passion by the witches' praises, he gave the command for the sabbath, in which he chose for himself the witches who caught his fancy.”

Everywhere I’ve looked, writers have quoted this passage and then moved on with the story of the composition and the orchestration by Rimsky-Korsakov, et cetera. We need to sit here and let this sink in.

The witches have a kid, a young goat, on a throne. The goat is possessed by Satan. The witches form a circle and start singing his praises. Satan works up a “sufficient passion.” Some of the witches have “caught his fancy.”

That’s sex with a goat. For some reason, the sex with a goat part didn’t make it into Disney’s Fantasia.

I’ve got to admit that this unapologetic paganism is something I find appealing. These witches weren’t distracted by the idea of a Satanism app. They also weren’t posting in forums on a website. These ladies stirred up a witches brew and had sex with a goat on top of a mountain to the glory of Satan.

Kids today, they just don’t get it.

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