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SPELLBOUND: MAGIC, RITUAL & WITCHCRAFT
Ouch! This exhibition at The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford runs until January 6th, 2019. Explore the history of magic over eight centuries in this immersive and thought-provoking exhibition. The intriguing objects on display show how our ancestors used magical thinking to cope with the unpredictable world around them. They range from the fantastical and macabre (a unicorn’s horn, a human heart encased in lead), the beautiful and mysterious (exquisitely engraved rings to bind a lover and medieval books of ritual magic), to the deeply moving confessions of women accused of witchcraft. See a short video about it HERE. Or go directly to the Ashmolean website HERE
A Witches' Sabbat at the Full Moon. Circle of Friedrich Brentel (1580-1651 ). No story here, just a great image.
Among the many intriguing objects on display in the Egypt: Faith after the Pharaohs exhibition is an 18th-century copy of the Book of the Seven Climes (Kitāb al-aqālīm al-ṣab‘ah), on loan from the British Library. The book’s 13th-century author, Abū al-Qāsim al-‘Irāqī, believed it held ancient secrets coded in hieroglyphic texts. He was right, but not exactly as he imagined! Find out about it HERE
Walpurgis Night - The Other Halloween
Halloween isn't the only night when the supernatural rules. There's a penetrating chill in the wind. The bright moon rises behind the shivering, nearly naked trees. A profound sense of foreboding permeates the darkness. This is the night, after all, when witches ride their broomsticks through the sky, and the natural world is forced to confront the powers of the supernatural. More HERE in this article by Stephen Wagner.
At first, the library of the Warburg Institute, in London, seems and smells like any other university library....Only as the visitor begins to study the collections does the oddity of the place appear. In the range-finder plates mounted on the shelves, where in a normal library one would expect to see “Spanish Literature, Sixteenth Century” or “Biography, American: E663-664,” there are, instead, signs pointing toward “Magic Mirrors” and “Amulets” and “The Evil Eye.” Long shelves of original medieval astrology hug texts on modern astronomy. What's not to like. Read about it HERE.
The French government has stepped in to declare Marquis de Sade’s manuscript, 120 Days of Sodom, a national treasure as it was about to be sold at auction in Paris. Officials ordered that the 18th-century erotic masterpiece be withdrawn from the sale, along with André Breton’s Surrealist Manifestos, banning their export from France, the Aguttes auction house said. They were part of a vast sale of historic documents owned by French investment firm Aristophil, which was shut down in a scandal two years ago, taking $1bn (£746m) of its investors’ money with it. HERE you can read more about it.
Vodou is an official religion of Haiti, where more than 8 million people practice it. This Afro-Haitian religion is based on the belief that everything is a spirit and humans exist to serve the spirits through different devotional rites and prayers. During rituals, Vodouists often experience spirit possession and enter trance-like states, which can include eating and drinking, dancing, divination and performing special medical cures or physical fears. One traditional practice of Vodou is animal sacrifice, which is another way to make an offering to the spirits. Because respecting nature is an important tenant of the religion, the animals are often then butchered and consumed by the community. The photos shown HERE are absolutely stunning. You can see Les Stone's full website HERE.
The publishing revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries witnessed an explosion of printed material, democratizing information and pushing it into the hands and sight of more people than ever before. A large single sheet of cheap paper could be printed with a proclamation, adorned with a woodcut, and sent out among the masses. These broadsides were sold for a penny on street corners, pasted on ale-house walls, and stuck up on market posts. This revolution in publishing coincided with what has been termed “the European witch-craze”: a moral panic and collective psychosis that spread through Europe and Scandinavia during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Read more HERE.
In the Middle Ages, creating a book could take years. A scribe would bend over his copy table, illuminated only by natural light - candles were too big a risk to the books - and spend hours each day forming letters, by hand, careful never to make an error. To be a copyist, wrote one scribe, was painful: “It extinguishes the light from the eyes, it bends the back, it crushes the viscera and the ribs, it brings forth pain to the kidneys, and weariness to the whole body.” Given the extreme effort that went into creating books, scribes and book owners had a real incentive to protect their work. They used the only power they had: words. At the beginning or the end of books, scribes and book owners would write dramatic curses threatening thieves with pain and suffering if they were to steal or damage these treasures. Read more HERE.
From buffalo skull to antelope horn, desiccated cobra to bear skin, the healers, or fetish priests, in West Africa’s largest “Marché des Fetiches” have a world of decaying animals at their fingertips, ready to be ground up, burned, imbibed, or whatever else the gods may decry. But this market has one striking difference from the others dotted across Togo and its eastern neighbor, Benin, where leopard heads and dog skulls and secret herbs can be purchased to cure everyday maladies. At the Fetish Market in Togo’s capital, voodoo practitioners and tourists alike can, with the help of a fetish priest, consult the gods directly to discuss whatever is ailing them. Read more HERE.
Fabulous creatures can be found in the illustrations to the Compendium rarissimum totius Artis Magicae sistematisatae per celeberrimos Artis hujus Magistros, a rare book on the occult dating from 1775 which is held by the Wellcome Library. The volume is written in a mixture of German and Latin and contains 31 water-color illustrations of the Devil and his demonic servants together with three pages of magic and occult ritualistic symbols. The illustrations are a mix of Greco-Roman mythical monsters (chimeras such as Cerberus and Hydra), Phoenician gods (Astarte/Astaroth) and biblical devils. The folks at Fulgur Limited in the UK have recently published this book under the title of Touch Me Not. Article is HERE
The realm of the supernatural, of the unknown, where nefarious and shadowy characters roam has fascinated and terrified society for eons. Rewind to Paris in the 1920s and that same obsession with macabre and sinister was starting to gain mainstream appeal. It was during that era that several popular nightclubs mysteriously opened across the city. Demonic faces and gargoyles decorated the exteriors, whilst all manner of ghouls, zombies and even vampires lurked deep inside waiting to prey on their unsuspecting guests. Would you dare step inside and share a drink with the Devil? HERE is the door.
Jinns are intelligent beings in Islamic belief system which have free will just like human beings. Unlike humans however they are made of smokeless fire. Jinns are also supposed to have different religions just like humans e.g., Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism etc and even Atheism. Jinns are said to live in the unseen world which can be thought of as a parallel dimension co-existing with our own. At the link above you will find numerous depictions of Jinns in Islamic art over the course of centuries, and in every shape and size. This is a very good visual feast for all of those who know little or nothing about Jinns, and some very unusual and surprising imagery for those who know a lot. More Info HERE.
In 1940 and 1941 Andre Breton, widely considered the founder of Surrealism, and a group of like-minded individuals decided to design their own deck of tarot cards. The deck they finally came up with was executed in a remarkably pleasing, almost ligne claire style. In accordance with the mindfuckery inherent to Surrealism, the group rejected the courtly/medieval theme of the traditional deck and nominated their own heroes to represent the face cards, including Hegel, Freud, the Marquis de Sade, Baudelaire, and so on. Your cards are waiting HERE.
Rare book dealer Neil Pearson, who discovered the manuscript during a hunt for early gay literature says: “The verse is rather broken-backed, and vulgar where he is trying to be honest. But it was written at a time when he was feeling heartbroken and vulnerable and it does somehow humanize him – and God knows Aleister Crowley, more than most people, needs humanizing.” Charles Jerome Pollitt was a female impersonator who went by the stage name “Diane de Rougy.” The future Great Beast 666 was just 22 when they met in 1897. Get the whole story HERE.
Richard Balzer’s love affair began about 40 years ago, when he saw his first magic lantern — an early image projector invented in the 1600s. The experience would prove transformative. He began scouring for magic lanterns at flea markets across London and Paris, and soon expanded his collection as he learned more about early animation technology. Today, he has thousands of illustrations and machines at his Boston-area home, including phenakistoscopes, praxinoscopes, and zoetropes — all "optic toys" that were, in effect, the world’s first GIF-making machines. Click HERE to see them in action. You won't be sorry!
The performing arts collection at the Harry Ransom Center includes a remarkable set of theater backdrops, all in miniature. This collection of 112 backdrops, along with other free-standing scene elements, depicts grand symbolic imagery: Egyptian landscapes, biblical imagery, grand architecture, and even catacombs. These scenes were created to support the theatrical rituals, or degrees, of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. The model-sized drops were used by a salesman to market stage scenery to Masonic temples, and the small size allowed for ease of transportation. See them HERE.