The Old Gods of Appalachia: Welcome to the Family

by Gwen Steele

The Old Gods of Appalachia is a podcast introduced by my friend as “Lovecraft narrated by your estranged uncle from Kentucky”. If you’re acquainted with either of these things, you’ll find the description to be accurate upon listening. The Old Gods of Appalachia (TOGA) is a piece of horror anthology staged in what the writers, Steve Shell and Cam Collins, call an “alternate Appalachia”; one where the oldest mountains in the world were never meant to be inhabited. It follows a fiery girl dubbed “The Witch Queen”, who must endure the crossfire of eldritch meddling, and gather up the broken pieces of her past to escape. In the rise of podcasts, TOGA stands in unique contrast to the rest with its chilling sound production, voice acting, and terror filled story.  

At surface level TOGA does not seem traditionally Southern (or Lovecraftian for that matter). The podcast follows queer protagonists, such as The Witch Queen and her mothers, and has a distinct theme of anti-capitalist industrialization. Eldritch horrors manifest from the greed of rich white men, and in contrast, the unheard voices of the poor who perished due to their neglect. The only thing close to heroes in this story are The Witch Queen and the bitter narrator of her tale, both of whom are kept afloat by respective family bonds. However, as we’ve read throughout this semester, the South is filled with criticism, for the system failing to cater to their diverse needs, or the outside world refusing to acknowledge its attempts at change. TOGA is distinctly Southern in this aspect. It combats the uneducated Appalachia stereotype with the witty and resourceful Witch Queen, who when approached by an eldritch deity bitterly called it a “smart ass”. TOGA also brings to light diverse groups in Appalachia ignored by the rest of the South through haunting prose of revenge and sorrow.

The Old Gods of Appalachia is a Southern twist on the traditional eldritch horror genre, reclaiming it from its homophobic and racist origins with long standing Southern criticisms upon industrialization and harmful stereotypes pushed by outsiders. Not to mention the distinctly Appalachian themes, such as coal mining crises, combating poverty, and the importance of family. 

The Old Gods of Appalachia became one of my favorite podcasts over quarantine, and I highly recommend it if you’re looking to try different genres of media. It’s available on Spotify and The Old Gods of Appalachia website in the link here. As the narrator fondly ends each episode, “come and join the family.”

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