A Woman to Match A Mountain: Neal Forsling and Crimson Dawn.
Film review by Sid Reger, Ed. D.
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.
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:
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.