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Vintage photographs of women posing with their pagan fertility symbols
12.23.2016
08:13 am

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Amusing
Belief

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Every Fall I keep my eyes peeled for the appearance of the first Christmas tree. They seem to come earlier every year. The earliest I’ve ever seen one was at the end of September last year when a bright glittering aluminum tree appeared high in a tenement window in the north of the city.

By December windows all across town are glowing bright with colored lights like so many opened windows on an Advent calendar. The earlier the tree, the more likely it is to be aluminum—or “artificial” as we call it in the UK—for obvious reasons.

My parents always had a fake tree, which was taken down from the attic during the second week of December then covered with baubles, tinsel, candy canes and lights. The usual kinda stuff. There was always a great pleasure taken in decorating the tree—a childish excitement at the fast approaching holidays.

Which brings me to these fine vintage photographs from the 1950s and 1960s of women proudly sitting or standing beside their Christmas trees—looking all happy and proud. Though these are quite wonderfully festive pictures they kinda overlook the original history of such seasonal trees as giant phallic symbols that have a pagan history going way back to ancient times.

Depending on who you read the Christmas tree became fashionable with northern Europeans around the mid-fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Estonia and Latvia still bicker over who put up the first Christmas tree—the Estonian’s claim they did in 1441—while the Latvians point out they have documentary evidence to the first decorated Christmas tree displayed in Riga in 1510.

Thereafter, the use of trees to celebrate Christmas spreads to northern Germany where the first printed reference of such festive firs appears in 1531. These trees were later decorated with cake, candles and even glass baubles.

This tradition spread to England where in 1800 Queen Charlotte the German wife of George III, “set up the first known English tree at Queen’s Lodge, Windsor, in December, 1800.” It would take until during the 1840s when—after their promotion by Prince Albert (the German husband of Queen Victoria) and through Charles Dickens’s popular festive tales—decorated Christmas trees became a seasonal “thing” in people’s houses, rather than town squares or churches. The Christmas tree was seen as a symbol of renewal and hope—which kinda takes it back to its pagan history.

Long, long before Victorians popularized the Xmas tree—the ancient Greeks considered pine trees as sacred to Attis the god of flora and Cybele the Earth goddess. The Greeks were said to decorate their trees with small silver trinkets as a symbol of rebirth and renewal—which was similar to how the ancient Egyptians viewed their palm trees, using palm leaves to decorate their homes as as “sign of resurrection.”

Then there were the Romans who associated evergreens with the return of the sun during their festivities for Saturnalia during December—a period of gift giving, feasting and human sacrifice. The Romans decorated their “trees with bits of metal and replicas of their god, Bacchus [a fertility god]. They also placed 12 candles on the tree in honor of their sun god.”

The evergreen fir tree was seen as a highly potent phallic symbol for continuing fertility during the winter solstice—symbolizing the soon approaching Spring and the birth of new life.
 
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Just waitin’ for Santa.
 
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Santa knows if you’ve been naughty or nice.
 
More festive women and their Xmas trees, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Weird monsters of Japanese folklore
12.09.2016
12:14 pm

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Art
Belief
Books
Occult

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Yōkai

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Ubagabi—the ghost of an old woman that appears as fireball.
 
There’s an ancient Japanese legend of the one hundred yōkai—monsters, ghosts, apparitions and demons—who parade through the streets on hot summer nights. If anyone is unfortunate to see these creatures—or to be caught up in it—then they will perish away or worse be taken captive for the twisted pleasure.

If you’ve ever watched the enjoyable trilogy of movies Yokai MonstersOne Hundred Monsters (1968), Spook Warfare (1968), and Along With Ghosts (1969)—then you’ll have a good idea what these demons look like—ogres, goblins, ghosts, sprites, spooky umbrellas and dangerous women with ever-extending serpentine necks.

All of these incredible monsters have long been a part of Japanese folklore. They were first codified in the supernatural bestiary—Gazu Hyakki Yagyō (The Illustrated Night Parade of a Hundred Demons) by artist and scholar Toriyama Sekien in 1776. It’s a kind of fabulously illustrated Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them but far, far more beautiful and eerie.

In 1881, artist Nabeta Gyokuei updated this incredible volume when he produced a picture book or e-hon of Sekien’s 100 demons. The Kaibutsu Ehon or Illustrated Book of Monsters features beautiful woodblock prints of each of the yōkai and its special powers.

The whole book can be viewed here.
 
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Kasha—a fiery yōkai—or phantom-in this case a cat that steals or devours corpses.
 
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Aoi no Ue—fictional female character from ‘The Tale of Genji’ who is possessed by demons.
 
More fabulous monsters, demons and ghosts, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Dead at 17: ‘The Fatal Consequences of Masturbation’—a handy guide from 1830
12.06.2016
09:52 am

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Amusing
Belief
Books
Science/Tech

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‘He was young and handsome…his mother’s hope.’
 
He was young and handsome, his mother’s pride and joy—but he died in torment, blind, sick and paralyzed—at the age of seventeen. If only he’d known the perils of masturbation, then he might have lived a better life.

This, in a nutshell, was the warning to young French men as published in Le livre sans titre (“The Book With No Title”) in 1830. At that time, masturbation was considered by moralists and physicians as a malady which lead to early death.

In 1716, Dr. Balthazar Bekker published a pamphlet on this “heinous sin” of “self-pollution” entitled Onania, which cautioned the reader self-abuse would lead to:

Disturbances of the stomach and digestion, loss of appetite or ravenous hunger, vomiting, nausea, weakening of the organs of breathing, coughing, hoarseness, paralysis, weakening of the organ of generation to the point of impotence, lack of libido, back pain, disorders of the eye and ear, total diminution of bodily powers, paleness, thinness, pimples on the face, decline of intellectual powers, loss of memory, attacks of rage, madness, idiocy, epilepsy, fever and finally suicide.

Yeah, but still…

Then in A Medicinal Dictionary of 1745, Dr. Robert James stated that onanism was responsible for “the most deplorable and generally incurable disorders.”

Another medical book L’Onanisme by physician Samuel-Auguste Tissot claimed semen was an essential body oil—which when wasted through masturbation caused:

....a perceptible reduction of strength, of memory and even of reason; blurred vision, all the nervous disorders, all types of gout and rheumatism, weakening of the organs of generation, blood in the urine, disturbance of the appetite, headaches and a great number of other disorders.

These men weren’t quacks, either—they were highly eminent and respectable scientists working in the Age of Enlightenment. It is hardly surprising that these seemingly informed and scientific views should become so ubiquitous in the 19th century that they could end up as the cautionary tale of Le livre sans titre.

This edition of the book was the find of Jim Edmondson who scanned the pages and posted them on his blog.
 
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‘He became corrupted! Soon his crime makes him old before his time. His back becomes hunched.’
 
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‘A devouring fire burns up his entrails; he suffers from horrible stomach pains.’
 
More cautionary tales of jerkin’ the gherkin, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Stunning images of pagan costumes worn at winter celebrations around the world
12.05.2016
10:18 am

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Art
Belief

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‘Lucifer and little devils,’ Tauplitz, Austria. Photograph by Charles Fréger.
 
In a recent interview, French photographer Charles Fréger revealed that he has always been fascinated by European tribal traditions. This fascination inspired the well-known artist to travel all around Europe to capture images of people dressed in ritualistic costumes honoring the arrival of winter another other seasonal celebrations.

Fréger began his journey in Austria and to date has photographed stunning costumes and rituals from 21 countries around the world. According to Fréger there are many celebrations that mark the arrival of winter that take place in the Czech Republic and, say, Italy that are quite similar when it comes to the materials that are used to create the costumes. Such as the incorporation of animal pelts, branches from trees, horns and bells into the costumes. Though they may share similar appearances, the story behind each living piece of folklore varies from country and location. Here’s more from Fréger about why so many of these celebrations often involve a human masquerading as an animal:

It is not about being possessed by a spirit but it is about jumping voluntarily in the skin of an animal. You decide to become something else. You chose to become an animal, which is more exciting than being possessed by a demon.

Following his exhaustive tours of Europe, Fréger headed to Japan to photograph both winter and spring celebrations in Japan which showcase the country’s “theatrical” take on their celebratory costumes that have remained intact over the course of many centuries. The images from his travels to Japan reveal mythological “monsters” such as ogres and demons menacingly blending into landscapes, fields and the water or wielding machetes . Fréger’s exploits with international folkloric entities are the subject of two gorgeous books, Wilder Mann: The Image of the Savage, and Yokainoshima: Island of Monsters. I’ve included many images of Fréger’s scary monsters and mythical entities taken in Italy, Czechoslovakia, Finland and Japan as well as other destinations that celebrate the coming of winter and other seasonal changes with characters way more interesting than Santa. Enjoy!
 

Slovenia.
 

Portugal.
 

Switzerland.
 

Croatia.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Sweet Jesus: There’s a ‘hipster’ nativity scene you can buy
11.21.2016
08:24 am

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Amusing
Belief
Pop Culture

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At first I was like “meh” when I heard about a “hipster” nativity scene for the holidays. That was, until I actually saw it. I have to admit I laughed out loud. It’s pretty darn clever. I mean, the three wise men on Segways bearing gifts from Amazon!? Too perfect. One of these generic “individuals” even has a waxed mustache. Nice detail.

And Mary. Mary holding a cup of Starbucks next to baby Jesus while making a pursed-lip duck face for their selfie. Now I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but Mary looks like she’s on some type of opiate as well. Just look at her blissfully beatific expression! She clearly needs that frappuccino just to keep her eyes open.

Lastly, I giggled at the knitted sweater on the sheep. Because sheep in sweaters is actually a thing. And it’s dumb. And it’s so very, very 2016.

The hipster nativity scene can be purchased here for $129.99.


 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The unhappiest place on Earth: Grisly images from Thailand’s ‘Hell Garden’
10.24.2016
09:30 am

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Art
Belief

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Statues in the ‘Wang Saen Suk Hell Garden’ in Thailand. Photo by Darmon Richter.
 
Located about 60 miles outside of Bangkok there is a massive “garden” full of statues engaged in grisly situations that would make Hieronymus Bosch blush. The scenes are meant to depict the consequences of straying from the path of Buddhism—such as abusing alcohol or drugs and having loose morals. The bottom line is that at the end of your life (as a Buddhist) if your “bad deeds” outnumber your “good deeds” you’re fucking screwed. And in the case of some of the depictions in the Wang Saen Suk “Hell Garden” getting “screwed” could be quite literally what happens to you in the afterlife. Yikes.

In Buddhism “Hell” goes by the name “Naraka” however it’s not a place where poorly behaved Buddhists end up spending eternity cavorting with the devil, but a place where the deceased must reside until all of their illicit actions (or “negative karma”) has been exhausted. In some cases inhabitants of Naraka must swap out their human bodies for those of animals that have been selected depending on the nature of your crime or bad behavior. So if you’re a criminal that is prone to starting bar fights, then you’ll turn into a duck. The offence of “corruption” will earn you the honor of sporting a rabid pig’s head instead of your own human one. But these Incredible Mr. Limpet sounding punishments pale in comparison to the true horrors that are depicted within the confines of Wang Saen Suk and its stoic misanthropes.

The Buddhist vision of Hell includes over a hundred different “levels” that are both “hot” and “cold.” And those unfortunate enough to find themselves within one or the other are tortured in specific fashions such as being impaled, frozen, burnt by scalding liquids or roasted in ovens. Throughout the Wang Saen Suk these types of gruesome scenarios are on display along with explanations as to why the sinner must pay the specified price for their misdeeds. Despite its appropriate name, the words “Hell Garden” barely seem scratch to the surface when it comes to graphic scenes scattered through the garden of genital mutilation, disembowelment and worse.

My heart is about as black as they come, but the photos you are about to see even pushed yours truly a bit over the edge. That said nearly every image in this post is positively NSFW (and then some).
 

Photo by Darmon Richer.
 

Photo by Darmon Richer.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
The Gorbals Vampire: The child-eating monster that terrorized Glasgow in the 1950s
10.20.2016
12:37 pm

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Amusing
Belief
History
Hysteria

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For three nights the children came to the “City of the Dead.” They carried knives, clubs and stakes—even a crucifix. Two hundred or more children came to the Gorbals Necropolis—a large cemetery situated in the south of the city of Glasgow. They were aged between four and fourteen. A few were just toddlers accompanying older brothers on this terrifying hunt. There was a sense of excitement. A sense of danger. Some thought it thrilling. Others were terrified. Most set with a grim determination of what had to be done. They said they were ready—they knew they were ready.  Ready to hunt and kill a vampire.

In September of 1954 the children from the Gorbals district of Glasgow were terrorized by tales of a hideous vampire. A ghoulish beast, he was supposedly seven feet tall with blood red eyes and sharp iron teeth. The children called this creature the Gorbals Vampire. They said it had already killed two young boys—drinking their blood and feasting on their flesh. The police refused to comment but when pressed claimed they had no knowledge of these missing children or the vampire who had eaten them. But the children thought they knew better…

Tales and half-truths spread word-of-mouth: Wee Jimmy had heard it from Rab; and Rab heard it from Billy; and Billy should know ‘cause his cousin’s a policeman.

On September 23rd, police constable Alex Deeprose was called to a disturbance at the Gorbals “City of the Dead”—the Southern Necropolis. PC Deeprose was shocked on arrival to find up to 200 kids roaming the graves looking for signs of a vampire. At first, he thought the children were joking—but when they begged him to help find the vampire and drive a stake through its heart, he realized that this was no joke.

Tam Smith was a seven-year-old schoolboy at the time. He recalled the scene in a newspaper interview:

“The walls were lined with people. We ventured through the gatehouse and there were loads of kids in there, some wandering around, some sitting on the walls. There were a lot of dogs too, and mums and dads with kids.

“We found a place to stand out of the way because there were so many people there. I think the whole of the Gorbals was in that graveyard. It’s hard to put an estimate on the number of people.”

But what had caused so many people to believe there was a vampire in their midst? Ronnie Sanderson was an eight-year-old from the Gorbals when the vampire story first spread through the city:

“It all started in the playground - the word was there was a vampire and everyone was going to head out there after school. At three o’clock the school emptied and everyone made a beeline for it. We sat there for ages on the wall waiting and waiting. I wouldn’t go in because it was a bit scary for me.”

“I think somebody saw someone wandering about and the cry went up: ‘There’s the vampire!’ That was it - that was the word to get off that wall quick and get away from it.”

“I just remember scampering home to my mother: ‘What’s the matter with you?’ ‘I’ve seen a vampire!’ and I got a clout round the ear for my trouble. I didn’t really know what a vampire was.”

 
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The vampire hunt and the story of the two missing children spread panic across the city. Still, the police had no report of any missing children. At the local school the headmaster denounced the story as nonsense and warned children against believing such a ridiculous tale, but the following night and the night after that the Gorbals children came out in force looking to kill a vampire.

The press picked up on the story. “AMAZING SCENE AS HUNDREDS OF CHILDREN RUSH CEMETERY” ran one headline. The Gorbals Vampire was dismissed as an urban myth—an example of mass hysteria. The press began to investigate how this fiction of the murderous bloodsucking monster came about. They claimed American comic books like Tales From The Crypt and The Vault of Horror were responsible. These comics with their graphic tales and gruesome imagery were the cause of the mass panic. Yet some academics disagreed stating they had found no reference to any iron toothed vampire in either comic. Instead they claimed there was “a monster with iron teeth in the Bible (Daniel 7.7) and one in a poem taught in local schools.”

Then another story spread about a woman—most probably a witch—who was said to be in league with the Gorbals Vampire:

“There was an old lady who used to carry two cats in a basket. She would go to the graveyard to get peace away from the kids and let her cats have a wander. But she was in there the night we went looking for it and people were involving the ‘cat woman’ with the iron man. It was a shame when you think about it, she was an eccentric with wiry hair, but we called her Tin Lizzie. She was the iron man’s ‘burd’.”

In fact, the press were half right. The story of an iron-tooth vampire had been inspired by an American comic—but not Tales from the Crypt or Vault of Horror—rather Dark Mysteries.

In issue the December 1953 issue of Dark Mysteries #15 there was a story entitled: “The Vampire with the Iron Teeth.” This was the apparent source of the panic over the Gorbals Vampire.
 
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The suggestion that “nasty” American comic books were corrupting young children led to an unholy alliance between teachers, Communists and religious leaders to demand a ban on sales of comics like Tales from the Crypt and the Vault of Horror to children.

Yet our two eyewitnesses to the events of September 1954 have said they had never seen a horror movie or read a horror comic.
 
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On September 26th, 1954, the Sunday Mail newspaper ran the following story:

VAMPIRE WITH IRON TEETH IS “DEAD”

Read on after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Live animals are known to be devoured’: Brion Gysin and Paul Bowles’ Sufi recordings
10.20.2016
09:08 am

Topics:
Belief
Dance
Literature
Music

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Part of Ira Cohen’s layout for the Jilala sleeve (via Granary Books)
 
Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka was not the first album of Moroccan music inspired by the kif-smoking literary expats in Tangier. In 1964, Brion Gysin and Paul Bowles taped the Jilala brotherhood, a Sufi order whose ritual dance and music were supposed to exorcise evil spirits and heal the sick. The LP Jilala, released a year or two later by Ira Cohen, brought these recordings into limited circulation and preserved them for posterity.

Poet, musician, traveler, author of The Hashish Cookbook, and director of The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda, Cohen was another Olympian of the arts who had joined Burroughs, Gysin, and the Bowleses in Tangier in 1961. (My old employer Arthur Magazine brought out Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda on DVD ten years ago, with new scores by Acid Mothers Temple and Sunburned Hand of the Man supplementing the original soundtrack by founding Velvet Underground drummer Angus MacLise.) Years before his psychedelic photo experiments with Mylar, Cohen edited the literary magazine Gnaoua, named after a form of North African religious music that’s related to but distinct from the Jilala’s. 

It’s not entirely clear how Jilala is connected to another Paul Bowles recording project involving the same collaborators, time, and place. Bowles wrote Cohen in 1966 about donating the profits from something called the “Hypnotic Music record” to the Timothy Leary Defense Fund. In a footnote, the editor of Bowles’ letters says this refers to a compilation of Hamatcha, Jilala, Gnaoua, and Aissaoua trance music that was put together from tapes made separately by Bowles, Gysin, and Cohen and released by Cohen. However, the Independent reports that the Hypnotic Music record was an unrealized project, so perhaps Bowles’ editor has conflated it with Jilala, which Discogs lists as the sole release on Cohen’s Trance Records.

I would be delighted to be proven wrong about this. Does anyone have a copy of the Hypnotic Music record?
 

The cover of the original issue of Jilala
 
Before putting Jilala in your gym playlist, you should probably read Cohen’s liner notes (reprinted in full at Big Bridge and Discogs) so you know what you’re getting yourself into. The Jilala knew how to pitch a wang dang doodle with their flutes and drums. The bath salts of their day, these religious tunes have been known to make listeners eat live animals, slash themselves with knives, and drink boiling water straight from the kettle, as Cohen tells it…

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘A Message from the Temple’: First peek at upcoming documentary on Genesis P-Orridge cult looks GOOD
10.11.2016
04:08 pm

Topics:
Belief
Movies
Music
Occult
Pop Culture

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As there is just 23 days—ahem—left of their already half-funded Kickstarter campaign, I wanted to call your attention to a new film, already in production titled A Message from the Temple.

As a close observer/fellow traveler—I was never myself a member or direct participant, I’ve never been much of a joiner—of Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth in the 1980s, I was pleased to hear that a feature length documentary was being planned on Genesis P-Orridge’s fanclub/cult and really impressed by their excellent trailer. The truly inside story of a cult is seldom an easy one to tell, but when it’s done right—like Jodi Wille and Maria Demopoulos 2012 “cult classic” The Source—it can be the very most fascinating sort of documentary. Sure, films about crazed loners are good too, I’ll grant you that, but there’s something about a group of outcasts deciding to do something oddball or unorthodox together that’s just too interesting, cinematically speaking, in my opinion. The groupthink, the leaders, philosophies, the motivations, jealousies, schisms, etc, etc., are so richly dramatic in a situation like that.

Adding harassment by the authorities—often the case for outlaw communities—only tends to heighten that drama.


Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth has been convened in order to act as a catalyst and focus for the Individual development of all those who wish to reach inwards and strike out. Maybe you are already one of these, already feeling different, dissatisfied, separate from the mass around you, instinctive and alert? You are already one of us. The fact that you have this message is a start in itself.

Conceived in the aftermath of the punk and industrial countercultures, Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth (TOPY) was an “anti-cult” that drew on the tenets of provocation, transgression, and the DIY ethos to form an internationally reaching network bound together by an esoteric sensibility.

With experimental pop group Psychic TV serving as the public’s access to Temple doctrine (shattering a Guinness World Record for musical output in the process), the decade long spiritual, intellectual, and sexual revolution that TOPY would instigate, for tens of thousands of members worldwide, represented an unprecedented model for radical communion.

TOPY strove to transcend the normative constructs of culture, sexuality, order, and reason, examine and undermine systems of power, and reach ecstatic states of being. In doing so its members often hurdled past the outer limits of propriety, arousing the moral wrath of “Satanic Panic” era British authorities and causing the subsequent Scotland Yard raid and political exile of the group’s central figurehead, artist and provocateur Genesis P-Orridge.

A Message from the Temple is the first authorized documentary about Thee Temple Of Psychick Youth (years 1981-1991), tracing its influences and inception to its dramatic downfall and enduring legacy.

Told with unprecedented access through the eyes of its members, collaborators, and persecutors via contemporary interviews, personal archives, and historical accounts from the mainstream media, A Message from the Temple will provide an intimate portrait of the artists, occultists, and rock stars that surrounded Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth.

It is our belief as filmmakers that stories such as this must be told if human history is to survive, progress, or have any meaning whatsoever.

 

 
This weekend in Brooklyn, the film’s producer’s Unclean Pictures will mount a benefit for the documentary. “Ritual Cuttings” is a symposium of Temple related videos and a discussion with Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and other participants in TOPY. Tickets available here.
 
Watch the excellent trailer for ‘A Message from the Temple’ after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Move over Jesus: Face of Charles Darwin spotted in patient’s eye scan
09.20.2016
08:50 am

Topics:
Amusing
Belief

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Tired of all those Jesus sightings in things like Cheetos, rusty drainpipes or even a dog’s butt? Well here’s an apparition for the other side: Charles Darwin was found in a patient’s eye scan. Clearly it’s him. It’s him!

Christopher McCleary noticed the shape of the father of evolution when carrying out a scan at Aintree Hospital .

“Given the number of religious figures who feature in media reports of pareidolia, we thought that it was very appropriate that our high-tech scanning equipment found one of history’s most important scientists.”

The Father of Evolution spotted in an eye scan. Take that, you nonbelievers!


 

 
via Echo and h/t Nerdcore

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
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