Review: A Modern Mythmaker in Wyoming

A Woman to Match A Mountain: Neal Forsling and Crimson Dawn.

Film review by Sid Reger, Ed. D.

Neal Forsling

Are myths and legends only available from ancient sources?  This charming biographical film proves that it’s possible for a modern woman to single-handedly build a myth tradition that continues to thrive in Wyoming 80 years after its creation.  Neal Forsling was herself the stuff of legend, a young woman who divorced in the 1920s and moved with her two girls to homestead on a mountaintop in the rugged land near Casper.  There she not only defied convention as a writer and artist, but in 1930, at her Summer Solstice party, she started a living myth tradition: the Witches of Crimson Dawn.

Witches and lanterns, N. Forsling

Through telling and enacting stories for the children of the mountain, Neal and her friends created an ongoing celebration of fairies, witches, and other mythic characters.  She maintained that the Crimson Witch approached her when she moved to the land, and told her to protect the beautiful mountain and pass its stories on to willing visitors. As the Bohemian group of artists in Casper grew, so did the energy for creating the stories of the witches, (benevolent spirits) elves, and woodcutters.

Her writings came to the attention of H. L. Mencken, who published her stories about life on the mountain.  An avid environmentalist, Forsling founded one of the first environmental organizations to preserve natural springs.  She left her homestead to the county in order establish a park at Crimson Dawn.  One stipulation of her gift is that the Midsummer Eve storytelling ritual be maintained.  Today, hundreds of people gather for the event.  New characters are constantly added to the stories, as the children have grown over generations to become storytellers themselves.

In her later years, Forsling visited her daughter, a Navy officer who was stationed overseas.  Neal painted colorful, energetic representations of the land and nature wherever she went.  Here is her grandson’s gallery of her landscapes and fantastical paintings:

http://home.comcast.net/~bjorkman4/forsling/webforsling.html

This documentary was a labor of love for filmmaker Karen Snyder, and her attention to the details is apparent.  The film blends Forsling’s art, poetry and journal entries with interviews with friends and relatives.  And always in view is the beauty of Casper Mountain.  The film attests to the magic that can be made between person and place, when imagination encounters natural wonder.  This would be a worthwhile film to include in classes on women’s studies, ecofeminism, artists of the West–even women and religion.

A Woman to Match A Mountain: Neal Forsling and Crimson Dawn, a documentary by Karen Snyder (2008).  The DVD and other information about Neal Forsling and Crimson Dawn Park are available at the Association’s web site:  www.crimsondawnpark.org.

Read about film and filmmaker in article from the Casper Journal.

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6 comments on “Review: A Modern Mythmaker in Wyoming
  1. Snowfire says:

    Greetings:

    My name is Marilee Rake and I am a member of the Crimson Dawn Association in Casper, WY. My latest project has been creating a new website for Crimson Dawn Park & Museum (www.crimsondawnpark.org) and facebook page (www.facebook.com/CrimsonDawnPark). They are not completed at this point but official launch will be very soon. Please have a look and contact me with any suggestions or comments.

    The DVD you mention is available through the website as well as at the museum during the open season. The books are also available to purchase through the site.

    I would like to request permission to link to your blog if approved by the web team. Feel free to link our info to yours if you would like. Thank you for posting this wonderful page.

    Many Blessings,

    Marilee Rake
    Website Administrator
    Crimson Dawn Park & Museum
    http://www.crimsondawnpark.org

  2. Linda Forsling says:

    Neal Forsling was my great-aunt by marriage. Her stories and visits to her cabin on Casper Mountain were a highlight of my childhood…it is wonderful to know that she lives on in the ether!

  3. Sue Massek says:

    I also was blessed to have spent time with Neal when I worked at the Girl Scout camp on Casper Mountain. We used to go visit her on horseback. She’d invite us in and tell us stories and touched my life very deeply. My favorite painting was called “The Sky Will Fall Down on You”, no one else seems to have any recollection of it. How can I get a copy of this film? What is the cost?

    Thank you for doing this.

    • gscholars says:

      Hi Sue,
      As far as I know the best way to get the film is to contact the filmmaker through the mail: Karen Snyder & Crimson Dawn Association, 1645 Westridge Drive, Casper, WY 82604. If you find a web link, please let me know.
      Sid for ASWM

  4. Kenneth Schneider says:

    I new neal when I was a young boy. my Grand Mother took me to visit her
    a few times and then I would visit her on my own. I never talked to her about her stories except when we talke of them insiring one of her Paintings.
    I felt her painings to be magical. I have a cabin a few miles from hers and a painting of the view of muddy mountain hangs in my house in town.

  5. christina says:

    I just finished watching this amazing and entertaining documentary on TV. I was so intrigued that I was Googling Neal Forsling while watching the documentary! We need to hear more stories like this…our young women deserve it.