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:

 

 

The Occult & Popular Social Movements

Today I’ll be in Glasgow to attend a day-long workshop on a topic of interest for several things I’m working on at present including the serial. You can see the full program here. It’s been coordinated by Popular Occulture in Britain, 1875-1947. I expect I will write about it afterward, as usual.

If you need entertainment in the mean time, check out my latest History Witch column.

Charms Conference #FolkloreThursday

Sneaking into the last few hours of #FolkloreThursday and finally sharing a bit about the Charms Conference I went to last month at Harvard. It was great: even better, there’s a proposed proceedings volume in the works so you may be able to share some of the exciting things I heard and saw that weekend. It doesn’t include a CD alas, so you won’t hear me singing a medieval charm* but I will write about the process involved. More pix going on the ‘book.

*Given the enthusiastic response, I am working on recording some medieval charms in a variety of ways. More to come —

Out Now: Tarot in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Mythlore36.2My essay “The Unlikely Milliner & The Magician of Threadneedle-Street” has been published in Mythlore: A Journal of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature. Click the 1st link to read a free PDF; click the 2nd to find information on ordering the issue (you can get it through your library, too).

There’s a whole special section on tarot edited by Emily Auger (whom tarot folk likely know well), as well as pieces on Tolkien, Lovecraft, Le Guin and Sayers.

Here’s the abstract for the essay which may intrigue your interest:

Susanna Clarke uses the tarot in her novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell much as she uses history: twisting it to open up spaces for magic and playfulness. She offers modifications on the traditional Tarot de Marseille that accurately predict the narrative events, yet deftly obscures the outcomes by leading the readers (and the characters) to jump to the wrong conclusions.

With another conference paper proposed on the novel, I guess I’m going to have to admit to maybe writing a book about this book…

On the Road Again

It’s Easter so the pop culture scholars gather at PCA: this year it’s in Indianapolis so my big plan is to finally see the Vonnegut Library. I’m rooming with gal pal Miss Wendy and we’ve already caught up with some friends the first night. Busy busy, busy, as Bokononists say.

Spreading the word of my wandering women as I go, of course! I’m giving a paper on Elisabeth Sanxay Holding’s The Blank Wall and the 2001 adaptation The Deep End.

My Blakean Muse

Rouze up, O Young Men of the New Age! set your foreheads against the ignorant Hirelings! For we have Hirelings in the Camp, the Court & the University, who would, if they could, for ever depress Mental & prolong Corporeal War.

William Blake, Preface to Milton

I have had some insight into a revision I need to make to my novel Hire Idiots. I’ve neglected to make clear the important role played by quislings.

quisling

Quislings are the reason the neoliberal effort succeeds. The hard-line zealots would get nowhere without them. They help normalise, apologise and internalise the reframing of education as assessment. Their efforts to ‘not make waves’ allow the system to drown in mediocrity. It’s always easier to ‘go with the flow’ in the short term, but the long term effects are deadly.

I’ve had more insight in recent years about my inability to conform to neurotypical conventions. Despite accusations, it’s not a pugnacious desire to ‘think outside the box’; it’s a kind of blindness. I can’t see the box.

william_blake_-_john_bunyan_plate_20_the_christian_fights_apollyon

William Blake: Apollyon Attacks Christian, Pilgrim’s Progress

See Emily Play

2017-10-27 11.27.31The last event for me in October was NEPCA at UMass-Amherst where I gave a presentation on Elisabeth Sanxay Holding’s The Blank Wall; at PCA National this spring I’ll be talking about the film adaptations, too. I also finally visited Emily Dickinson’s house. Despite living in New England for many years, I had not managed to get there.

2017-10-28 12.02.42

It was magic, as you might imagine. I didn’t know this enigmatic middle child had auburn hair. It was odd to see furniture that was like the vintage stuff Robert has bought for our house which is about the same age as the Dickinson house. Her actual bed is there, reproductions of some of her letters and the many scraps of odd paper on which she wrote in flashes of imagination before revising over and over.


Down a well-worn path next door her brother and sister-in-law lived in The Evergreens with a mad swirl of activity. Unlike the increasingly retiring poet, they hosted soirees and had a bowl full of visiting cards. They also stuffed the house with art, many from the Hudson River Valley school as well as landscapes and ‘orientalist’ works. Our lively guide Keeley not only filled in the history about various objects and rooms but quoted from the poems often. The words rang vividly in the places the poet had lived and loved. Make the time to visit. I plan to go back when I can do so more leisurely.

2017-10-28 12.03.00