Occult Humanities Conference 2017


I headed down to the city on a day that started out dark but became rather lovely. I saw the lovely Katja and her kitties: she’s the hostess with the mostest. We had a lovely dinner at Veselka, too. I saw a couple of the Ai Weiwei installations too. There are always sights to see in NYC including the 777 exhibit by Jen DeNike & Damien Echols and of course there was the third Occult Humanities Conference, which proved most inspirational in all kinds of ways. More photos on the ‘book — I’m thinking of trying Instagram: pros or cons you care to offer?

Make note: next April the 100th anniversary celebration of Leonora Carrington in Mexico City. I may need to get to that. Road trip, anyone? I’ve not been there before. Only along the border.

I forgot to take pictures of the lovely exhibit by Tin Can Forest, but you can see a lot of their art online. They did the fabulous What is a Witch with conference co-host Pam Grossman.

Tomorrow I’m talking on medieval charms at ISATMA. Free and open, including the concerts honouring the late Pauline Oliveros.

Supernatural Scotland

Charles I Angel as charm

Angel of Charles I, the last minted for circulation © Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Friday’s voyage to Edinburgh was a delight. I attended the IASH workshop ‘The Supernatural in Early Modern Scotland’ (thanks to Cailleach’s Herbarium for the alert). It was a bit tricky finding the Institute due to both construction and its rather hidden corner, but I only missed the very beginning. I thought I might feel a bit of an interloper as a medievalist in their midst as well as a stranger but I must say people went out of their way to be welcoming all day.

The event kicked off with the esteemed Julian Goodare (if you don’t know him, you might know the database he helped create) who spoke about the emotional relationships between humans and spirit guides. The history of emotions is an emerging field so it was interesting ground to tread, looking at the ways people engaged with the spirits or fairies whether it was a patron/client relation or something more close (many reportedly had romantic relationships) and looking into their backgrounds for evidences of trauma.

Liv Helene Williumsen explored the tale of the ninety-nine dancers of Moaness in Orkney. The geographical location suggested a remoteness well within sight, while the number suggested that the whole village must have been there, but the influence of ‘stark aill’ (strong beer) was blamed for whatever did happen.

Lizanne Henderson opened up the topic of supernatural animals in the period as everything from familiars to spirit guides to shapeshifted humans (is a human who’s shifted to animal shape still human or animal?). She brought up a variety of strange stories of animals and the supernatural, including the pig put on trial for murder (I had to mention to her the Colin Firth film The Advocate/Hour of the Pig which portrays that story).

After lunch coordinator Martha McGill presented a lot of material on angels in folk culture, including the angel coins pictured above and worn as protective charms. She touched on the unfortunate effects of the Protestant Reformation in destroying so much of the art history of Scotland though angels had been as plentiful as ‘brambles’ despite the kirk’s disapproval.

Michael Riordan focused on ‘The Whole Prophesie’ of Thomas Rhymer which had a variety of uses in the early Modern period and linked up everything from Jacobites to Rosicrucians and Masons. If you’re familiar with Thomas the Rhymer who met the Queen of Elfland, it’s the same one. I was most inspired because I think this will play into my Raven King paper for next month, so now I’m reading up on this.

Domhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart looked at the cultural contexts of second sight in the islands and Highlands. As in the Icelandic medieval stories, this wasn’t about seeing ghosts but seeing the fetch of a living person and knowing what would happen down the line. It was interesting to hear that novice seers would have to defer to older and more experienced practitioners, perhaps to exercise a kind of community control over the nature of the experience.

Before the roundtable discussion Hamish Mathison spoke on the nature of the supernatural in Burns’ Tam o’Shanter. He argued that Burns offers a nuanced balance of the ‘wild’ and the ‘domesticated’ in the landscape of the ruined church, a mixture of the comic and the Gothic which makes for a certain discomfort. It was a great note to end on.

If you’re wishing you could have been there, it may comfort you to know that there is a forthcoming collection of essays with a few additional folk who were not able to be there. You’ll want to pick that up.

22075803496_9bc360b47e_o
Tam o’Shanter by Thomas Landseer

Charcoal Burners, Black Sails & Magic

Uskglass Charcoal Burner

Admittedly I’ve not left the house since I got here, but don’t let my indolence fool you! I am ready to rise to the opportunity and sure enough, I will be. Thanks to Cailleach’s Herbarium mentioning it on Facebook, I got on the waitlist and now have ticket in hand to attend ‘The Supernatural in Early Modern Scotland’ this Friday. A workshop at The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, it looks to be a fascinating day (see the whole list of speakers here).

So many interests colliding in useful ways! It’s great to have the feeling you’re in the right place at the right time.

And speaking of collisions: the above illustration is of course the lovely Charles Vess. It’s for the last story in Susanna Clarke’s collection The Ladies of Grace Adieu. In my usual way I had hoarded the last few stories last summer, thinking when I read them there would be no more of her writing to read as she has nothing else out at present (yes, that’s how my brain works). I didn’t know the interest I would develop in charcoal burners in the meantime! So it was the first thing I read when I got back here. A delightful tale with saints (including Brigit), Uskglass and of course the titular charcoal burner.

Total collision count: dissertation subjects, two forthcoming conference papers, and the new all-consuming medieval project, Rauf Coilyear. I’m teaching Rauf in the upper division medieval class this fall. I love it when a plan comes together.

Meanwhile I am playing dolls with Miss C and catching up on Black Sails with my sweetie. Life is good.

Film for a Friday: Sweet Charity

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.45.58.png

I just needed some Fosse to get me motivated on finishing grading. Some great stuff but no time to enjoy it all — but I have some really sharp students (of course!). Once all this is done and graduation over, I’ll be updating more frequently. And having a little fun, laughs, and good times.

Occult Art & the Language of Birds

Yes, I am going to write up the Occult Humanities conference when I get a moment, but apparently today is not that day. So here are some of the paintings in the Language of Birds exhibit at NYU’s 80WSE gallery that really knocked me out. There was so much more!

carrington nigromante.jpg

Leonora Carrington’s El Nigromante [The Necromancer]

16_leonor_fini_le_carrefour_d_hecate

Leonor Fini’s Le Carrefour d’hecate

02_alison_blickle_new_keys

Alison Blickle’s New Keys

17_juanita_guccione_three_women_and_three_owls

Juanita Guccione’s Three Women and Three Owls

See a bunch of the artworks here.

Transmission Will Resume

It’s the inevitable ‘catch up after a conference’ hereabouts. MUCH to share, much to mull over, much to write of course, mad plans and ideas popping. And really, if you can get to it go to the exhibit. Here’s a photo teaser from the weekend that seems apropos.

occupied

The Great Grey Beast

thiefusp3‘The great grey beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive. Here he was, buried in the belly of that smothering month, wondering if he would ever find his way out through the cold coils that lay between here and Easter. He didn’t think much of his chances…’

It’s rare that those words do not pop into my mind when February begins. Clive Barker’s hero in The Thief of Always is bored in school and desperately longs for excitement. I’m rather the opposite at present. I’ve been so busy I long for boredom and quiet but it’s not on the horizon.

This weekend I got two complicated grant applications done; one sent off, the other will be today once I look it over again. I’m contemplating a third. Next weekend I’m off down to the city for a fab conference with an amazing art exhibition attached to it — and staying with a friend so excitement abounds.

I’m trying hard to remember my Happy No Year declaration as exciting calls for stories and papers come my way. So many opportunities! But I must remember I have neither the time nor the funds for all the shiny shiny things. No, you can say it, Kate. No.

I’m glad to see February in a way. September and January both seem like the longest cruelest months. Transitions between my two lands, return to teaching, meetings, forms, etc. all add up to a hectic time which makes the month seem even longer. So hello February, hail Brigit. Have you put away your Yuletide decorations?

CEREMONY UPON CANDLEMAS EVE

by Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

DOWN with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and misletoe ;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
Wherewith ye dress’d the Christmas Hall :
That so the superstitious find
No one least branch there left behind :
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected, there (maids, trust to me)
So many goblins you shall see.

2015-09-12 07.06.08