Popular Occulture Write-Up

tirgearr smashwords sale

The sale goes on all month!

HBW 6 At Sixes and Sevens

It was great to get to Glasgow and see Jay! And of course to attend the Popular Occulture in Britain, 1875-1967 workshop, which touched upon many of my interests and current projects. See the full schedule with bios of the presenters here. This is just some quick notes on things that I want to remember: if you want me to expand, just ask.

“Eco-Feminism and the Neo-Pagan Movement”
Dennis Denisoff (University of Tulsa)

This gave me so much to seek out. Well aware of Moina Mathers, but new to me William Sharpe‘s pseudonym Fiona McLeod and Vernon Lee/Violet Paget. I really need to investigate Lee’s essays.

“Lucifer the Liberator: Satanism as a Feminist Strategy in Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Lolly Willowes (1926)”
Per Faxneld (Södertörn University)

Lolly Willowes shows up in the latest Hard-Boiled Witch (out next Friday!) because I read the book for the first time last summer and knew I needed to do more with her. Faxneld made a convincing argument for Warner’s renovation of Satan as an asexual figure and satanism for Lolly as the language of resistance and a kind of queer liberation (not doing justice to the presentation: I hope it’s published soon).

“Occultists’ Engagement with the First World War: Theosophy, Thought Power, and War Tactics”
Owen Davies (University of Hertfordshire)

Naturally Davies would be of interest to me: if you’ve not picked up his comprehensive book on Grimoires, you need to do so. This was a dense and detailed talk and I can’t possibly do it justice, but the distance between assumptions and actual evidence of people use and attitudes toward the supernatural during the war are very different from what one might expect.

“Aleister Crowley and Political Propaganda”
Henrik Bogdan (University of Gothenburg)

Not being a big fan of Crowley (though I swiped and anagramised his name for HBW5 too), I had no idea about his war time shenanigans in the US working for a German propaganda magazine. He thought he was using them (especially their literary mag) to get his occult theories out there but it required him being a collaborationist or as the post-war assessment of his activities had it, ‘a small time traitor.’

“Deceitful Media and Deceitful Mediums”
Simone Natale (Loughborough University)

If you’ve read White Rabbit you know how this topic interests me. Fascinating to see how controversy got manipulated both by the exposers and the exposees, from the famed Italian medium Eusapia Palladino to the debunker Hugo Münsterberg, who even wrote on films as manipulative. As your electronic PA if they believe in ghosts (“Siri, do you believe…’)

“From ‘Word Magic’ to Basic English: Language Reform and Magical Thinking in the Interwar Period”
Leigh Wilson (University of Westminster)

I’m still mulling this one over but it was fascinating. I’ve avoided Finnegans Wake in the way I used to avoid Beowulf, yet I’m beginning to wonder if that too has been a mistake:

For if the lingo gasped between kicksheets, however basically English, were to be preached from the mouths of wickerchurchwardens and metaphysicians in the row and advokaatoes, allvoyous, demivoyelles, languoaths, lesbiels, dentelles, gutterhowls and furtz, where would their practice be…


Visit to the Alchemical and Occult Collections at the University of Glasgow Special Collections: worth the price of admission (okay, it was free but –) so here’s the book porn you’ve been waiting for:



PCA in Indy with Miss Wendy

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I know I’ve been a bit remiss in sharing my travel adventures for your vicarious pleasure but I confess I am overwhelmed, exhausted and looking forward to escaping back to Scotland. This summer the plan remains no conference presentations. Temptations arise, but I have beat them back like St Anthony.

Having grown up in the (northern) Midwest there was not the thrill of ‘vacation’-like travel that places like New Orleans or San Diego offer: our search for tasty food was mostly frustrated. The conference itself was good. I caught a few different panels in addition to our own and of course hanging out with Miss Wendy is always a treat.

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Hey, I’m in this book!

One thing that made the sojourn a success was stopping by the Vonnegut Library. It was great to wander through all the memorabilia and feel as if you were dropping by the man’s house to poke through his library. There’s the letter his dad sent to him that he finally got after the war (WWII) was over and never opened, passing it on to his son Mark with the admonition that he never open it. He in turn gave it to the library with the same instructions. Take a squint at it if you’re there and wonder what’s inside.

The whole set of photos are on FB here.

My Schedule @Worldcon75

header-1200x200WorldCon in Helsinki is coming up shockingly soon. Hope to see you there. I’m unlikely to have much time to post while I’m there, but I’m sure to be tweeting. I hope to meet up with a lot of friends I’ve not seen in a while (relatives, too!). My schedule is conveniently grouped for single day attendance (though I’m arriving Wednesday night):

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For the academic track I will be talking once again about Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (yes, when I get obsessed, I stay obsessed to adapt John Irving’s words). The title of my presentation is ‘Lollard Magician: Jonathan Strange & the Reform of English Magic’ so you can get a sense of where it’s going (assuming you know who Wycliffe is).

But I better get back to finishing it —

Back from Leeds

2016-07-05 12.43.18I am back and will be catching up with more London posts, but in the meantime you can see a bunch of photos from Leeds here. Thanks to Another Damned Medievalist for making me be more social than I was inclined to be without prodding; great to finally meet Dorothy Kim (yes, living an hour or so apart in New York, we finally meet up in Leeds). Met lots of folks, some I’ve been following online some completely new to me, but all terrific encounters.

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Digital Britain & Harvard Art

2016-03-26 08.57.10.jpgI ran off to Cambridge over the weekend to attend the Digital Britain conference and happened to run off from that to wander through some art at the Harvard Art Museums. I put some photos up on a Facebook album because that’s the easiest thing to do (it’s public so you don’t have to belong to Facebook). It was a good weekend. A lot of great ideas, some good conversations, terrific art and reacquainting myself with the city where I lived for some years.

Much has changed: the Harvard Book Store is still there, but few others. Chain stores fill a lot of space in the Square, but it’s still a mad rush of people on a Saturday night. I enjoyed strolling through the campus that used to be so familiar. I even thought I saw an Easter bunny scamper under a hedge but looking closer of course I saw it was only a rat.

I’ll write up the conference itself a bit more for the Digital Humanities Initiative when I get the time. I loved this candelabra because I am immersed in Hannibal at present; there was a sculpture in the same vein which you can see in the album.

Albacon 2016 This Weekend

2016-01-13 14.33.21I will be making an appearance at Albacon this weekend, the local speculative fiction conference. Say hello if you’re around. I can’t promise dragons but I have two panels on Friday at 2 and at 3:

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and one on Sunday at 11:

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See the complete schedule here.

I’ll finally get to hang around with Debi whom I haven’t seen since World Fantasy because we’re both so busy. I do believe she’s planned a high tea. I’ll try to remember to bring some books. I’ve got the last few ‘I’m Pledging Sigma Tau Nu’ badges for Satan’s Sorority, so grab one if you can.

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!

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Leonora Carrington’s El Nigromante [The Necromancer]


Leonor Fini’s Le Carrefour d’hecate


Alison Blickle’s New Keys


Juanita Guccione’s Three Women and Three Owls

See a bunch of the artworks here.