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The story of Keith Haring’s courageous Berlin Wall mural (which is now lost to history)
08.11.2017
10:23 am
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What is the most politically effective thing that a street artist has ever painted on a wall? Was Banksy the person who did it? Did it read “ROMANI ITE DOMUM” (or “ROMANES EUNT DOMUS” for that matter)?

Of street artists to whom we can apply a specific name, you could certainly argue that Keith Haring was the one who takes the prize, for his hundred or so meters of familiar Haring-esque figures that he painted on the Berlin Wall in October of 1986. It was a big enough deal to make the New York Times the next day.

To review: The East German government put up the Berlin Wall in a surprise move in 1961 to keep its citizens from defecting to the West. The Berlin Wall was a very serious business; more than 100 East Germans were killed over the years attempting to escape the dictatorship.

One of the best-known gates through which to pass from East Berlin to West Berlin and vice versa (with the proper documentation, of course) was Checkpoint C, which quickly became known as Checkpoint Charlie, as it became something of a tourist attraction for Westerners to take photographs of the ominous barrier.

The entirety of the Wall lay a couple of meters inside East German territory, which meant that the many West Germans who eventually decorated the Wall with provocative art were technically violating East German sovereignty and in theory were fair game to be shot by the many vigilant East German guards on patrol.

In the mid-1980s, the director of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, a man named Rainer Hildebrandt, extended an invitation to Keith Haring to come to Berlin and use the Wall for his canvas. When Haring received word of the invitation, he was touring Europe and was eager to exercise his agitprop instincts in a world-historical manner by attempting to “destroy the wall by painting it,” which in a way was exactly what ended up happening, not to overstate Haring’s importance to that process.
 

 
In order to prepare for Haring’s visit, employees of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum painted a hundred-meter stretch of the wall yellow according to Haring’s instructions. The next day, October 23, 1986, Haring “completed the mural in somewhere between four and six hours,” which is pretty remarkable when you think about it, even though Haring’s ability to work quickly was surely honed by his years defacing the walls in the New York subway system in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

According to Haring, “I decided on a subject, which is a continuous interlocking chain of human figures, who are connected at their hands and their feet—the chain obviously representing the unity of people as against the idea of the wall. I paint this in the colors of the German flag—black, red and yellow.” Haring called the provocation a “humanistic gesture” as well as ‘‘a political and subversive act—an attempt to psychologically destroy the wall by painting it.’’ As the New York Times reported the next day,
 

Since the first six feet of land on the Western side belong to the East, the artist was not just defacing property of the East German Government—he was entering that country without a visa. A West Berlin policeman used a megaphone to warn him of the fact. But Mr. Haring continued, sporadically leaping back onto Western soil when East German border guards looked as if they were about to arrest him.

 
As soon as East German guards ascertained that Haring was not “defaming” East Germany, they left him alone to proceed with his art, even though he had technically entered East Germany without official authorization.

Haring was asked whether the mural was just a publicity stunt, and he replied, ‘‘The main objective here is that it is not an insignificant act that goes unnoticed. The entire world should know that it happened, reinforcing its political significance.’‘

Hilariously, the New York Times quoted a young citizen of Berlin who scorned Haring’s contribution to the Cold War art, saying ‘‘This is Valium, there’s no provocation in it. In every third toilet in Kreuzberg you can see the same graffiti.’‘

Haring’s mural did not last long at all. According to Jennifer Mundy of the Tate Museum in London,
 

That night or early the next day, however, someone painted large sections of the mural grey, perhaps in political protest against the upbeat message of the American’s work. Quickly, other artists and graffitists painted on the hundred-metre section that Haring had used. Within months there was very little left to see. Paradoxically, it was not censorship by the East German authorities that Haring needed to have feared but other artists.

 
Here is how Haring’s contributions looked just a short while later:
 

 
On February 16, 1990, Haring died of AIDS-related complications, so he was still alive when the Wall finally fell on November 9, 1989. Remarkably, just eleven months earlier, Erich Honecker, the longtime leader of East Germany, who would crucially no longer be in power by the end of October, predicted that the Wall would stand for at least 50 more years. He was only off by about 49 years.
 

 
More after the jump…...
 

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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08.11.2017
10:23 am
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Spectropia, the popular 19th-century method of conjuring demons and ghosts
08.08.2017
10:13 am
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The world is ever divided into the superstitious and the enlightened, and while the enlightened have shown the clear trend of being on the rise, it doesn’t always seem so. Ghosts and horoscopes and good-luck charms abound, and poindexterish explanations of why they are all poppycock merely tend to make one an un-adored party pooper—even though this is certainly the correct view.

There’s a tendency to consign all of pre-modernity to the superstitious (one might say “religious”) camp, but that really isn’t the case. Mathematicians and scientists have existed for the entirety of recorded history, which must be the case since language and writing technologies are products of the experimental mindset. The Enlightenment was a turning point, as rationality was increasingly given a central place in the arrangement of social affairs, and even if irreligious skeptics were (and are) outnumbered, you could still always count on finding someone in the vicinity willing to scoff at the hocus-pocus of superstition.

In the 19th century, some scholars were able to use interest in the paranormal to undermine its premises entirely. One such person was J.H. Brown, who published a book in New York City under the title Spectropia; or, Surprising spectral illusions showing ghosts everywhere and of any colour in 1864. The book was popular enough to merit a print run in London in 1865 and a Dutch edition in 1866.

Here is the cover of the U.S. edition:
 

 
To produce his popular occult-adjacent book, Brown relied on the optical phenomenon of “cone fatigue,” whereby prolonged exposure to an image of a specific color produces an afterimage (with reversed colors) in the eye for a few seconds after the initial image is replaced with a white field. A common example is an inverted image of the U.S. flag, which produces a more or less color-accurate version in the eye afterward.
 

 
Brown didn’t use the flag—he used pictures of demons and angels and skeletons. In the book Brown stated that his goal was
 

the extinction of the superstitious belief that apparitions are actual spirits, by showing some of the many ways in which our senses may be deceived, and that, in fact, no so-called ghost has ever appeared, without its being referable either to mental or physiological deception, or, in those instances where several persons have seen a spectre at the same time, to natural objects

 
Here are Brown’s instructions on how to see the “spectres”:
 
To see the spectres, it is only necessary to look steadily at the dot, or asterisk, which is to be found on each of the plates, for about a quarter of a minute, or while counting about twenty, the plate being well illuminated by either artificial or day light. Then turning the eyes to the ceiling, the wall, the sky, or better still to a white sheet hung on the wall of a darkened room (not totally dark), and looking rather steadily at any one point, the spectre will soon begin to make its appearance, increasing in intensity, and then gradually vanishing, to reappear and again vanish ; it will continue to do so several times in succession, each reappearance being fainter than the one preceding. Winking the eyes, or passing a finger rapidly to and fro before them, will frequently hasten the appearance of the spectre, especially if the plate has been strongly illuminated.
 
Here’s an amusing item from the New York Daily Tribune of September 13, 1864, in which the publisher introduces to the public “the new ghost marvel” that can produce “without apparatus, machine, or expense” all manner of demons and ghosts “upon the wall, the doors, the curtains, or any white surface whatever!!”
 

 
I figure this was sort of the Magic Eye of its day. Below are some of the images from Spectropia, but you can see the whole book at Public Domain Review.
 

 
More spectral demons and skeletons after the jump…....
 

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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08.08.2017
10:13 am
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Three centuries ago, that garden gnome in your yard would have been an actual human being


 
Ever wonder why anyone thought it made sense to have a weird little ceramic homunculus taking up real estate in your front yard? Who came up with that, anyway? Garden gnomes are a fun part of homeownership for some, and they surface in popular culture in unexpected places with some frequency, such as the globe-trotting gnome in Amélie or (my favorite) the Gnome Chomsky garden gnome

The trope of the hermit, on the other hand, seems a bit more distant from our concerns. I recently finished a brief trip to the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean, and while I was there I had the opportunity to visit a hermitage on an extended hike (I opted to do something else). Right this minute I’m in the Austrian countryside, and I can hike for less than an hour up into the woods and encounter a hermitage there as well. The man who is currently occupying the position of local hermit is (somewhat paradoxically) quite welcoming to visitors.

One appearance of a hermit in popular culture that I can think of was courtesy of Monty Python, who inserted a sketch about gossipy hermits into episode 8 of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, right before a certain unforgettable two-hander about a dead parrot. Anyone who has seen Tom Stoppard’s outstanding play Arcadia will surely recall the salience of “the hermit of Sidley Park” to that narrative.

Americans don’t really have hermits—we have crackpots, cranks and crazed loners—but there is a phantom relationship between the hermit and the garden gnome. Because the garden gnome really started out as a hermit—a hermit who was encouraged to live on an individual’s private estate. The term for the such a person was “garden hermit” or “ornamental hermit,” and their heyday was Europe and England of the 18th century.

One of the earliest hermits of this type, according to Wikipedia, was St. Francis of Paola, who lived in a cave on his own father’s estate in the Italy of the early 15th century. It’s a little unclear how this phenomenon went big, but sometime around 1700 some tipping point of excess wealth among the gentry led to the popularization of ornamental hermits, who were hired on to spend years at a time in hermitages, grottoes, or rockeries on the estates of wealthy landowners.
 

 
Abby Norman found a wonderful example of a want ad for an ornamental hermit that dates from the early 1700s that was placed by Charles Hamilton, 6th Earl of Haddington, who was renowned for his innovations in park layout and topiary and suchlike. Hamilton’s hermit would…
 

be provided with a Bible, optical glasses, a mat for his feet, a hassock for his pillow, an hourglass for timepiece, water for his beverage, and food from the house. He must wear a camlet robe, and never, under any circumstances, must he cut his hair, beard, or nails, stray beyond the limits of Mr. Hamilton’s grounds, or exchange one word with the servant.

 
An ostensible reason for bringing a hermit onto one’s estate would be to forge some connection to nature, representing a return to authenticity that today’s enthusiasts of artisanal macaroons might also understand. But that explanation is somewhat undermined by the fact that some of the ornamental hermits were replaced by, um, robots. As Karl Shaw writes in Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know: The Extraordinary Exploits of the British and European Aristocracy:
 

In the 1830 a Lord Hill installed a human hermit in the grounds of his home at Hawkstone in Shropshire. The bare-footed “Father Francis” was required to sit in a cave with an hourglass in his hand and exchange bon mots with passing visitors. He was eventually replaced by an automaton that would nod its head whenever someone came by, but according to regulars, the effect was disappointing.

 
I’ll bet.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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08.07.2017
10:02 am
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Sweet Apple’s new video, filmed in a haunted train car
07.26.2017
08:52 am
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In Steuben County NY on August 30, 1943, the Lackawanna Limited passenger train drove at 70 miles per hour into a freight engine that hadn’t cleared the track. The wreckage was brutal; published estimates vary, but around 110 people were injured and 28 died. But most gruesome was their manner of death—only one passenger, one Frank Meincke, was crushed in wreckage. The rest were trapped in a coach that landed atop the freight engine, which emptied itself of steam into the coach. The victims were basically cooked alive. From The Troopers Are Coming: New York State Troopers, 1917-1943:

The Lackawanna Limited struck the left side of a freight engine, tearing up three hundred feet of track and leaving a twisted mass of wreckage scattered along the right of way. A steam jacket torn from the freight engine allowed escaping steam to enter some of the passenger coaches, causing agony and death. Twenty-eight passengers and crewmembers were killed and 117 passengers were injured.

 

 

Images via the Painted Hills Genealogy Society

But though it entombed over two dozen people, the passenger car itself was unharmed, and this grim piece of transportation history remains not just intact, but restored in the disused B&O roundhouse that now serves as a museum and restoration workplace for the Midwest Railway Preservation Society. Due to that key event in the car’s past, it’s acquired a reputation as a haunting site, and is referred to as “The Death Car.” According to Seeks Ghosts, a web site for paranormal enthusiasts,

While this old passenger car was at this yard being renovated many people connected to this society began to believe it was haunted. In fact, the volunteers at this yard dubbed this car—the ”Death Car.”

One volunteer, Charlie Sedgley who works for the society restoring cars believes he encountered at least 17 separate ghosts in the 1943 wrecked passenger car.

The society gives tours of the old train cars they restore. A trustee of the society, Steve Karpos was leading one of these tours when he led his group into the Death Car.

As he spoke a female member of his tour group interrupted him to ask why he didn’t let the other man behind him speak. Karpos didn’t know what she was talking about. She then asked about the “man dressed in the funny suit.”

Karpos recalls that, “Everyone else was saying there was a ghost in the car.” When the tour exited the Death Car several members saw, “a ghost sitting on the roof with his feet hanging over.”


That article goes on to say that the MRPS no longer owns the car, but it is indeed still there, and Sweet Apple have used it as the setting for “World I’m Gonna Leave You,” the first of four videos from their new LP Sing the Night in Sorrow. Sweet Apple is made up of members of Dinosaur Jr, Witch, and Cobra Verde, and the song includes vocal contributions from Mark Lanegan and Bob Pollard. The video is far cheekier than the train car’s grim history would suggest—the band’s namesake bassist Dave Sweetapple enters the haunted car and is bedeviled by—well, the Devil played by singer John Petkovic in a cheap mask. Drummer J Mascis and guitarist Tim Parnin also appear, as do eleven other passengers and, evidently, at least 17 separate ghosts.
 
Watch after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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07.26.2017
08:52 am
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Amusing vintage photos of people posing with their TV sets
07.24.2017
08:55 am
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Evolution: Fire, fireplace, radio, television, computer, smartphone.

Once upon a time, families gathered in front of the fireplace to have their photographs taken. The flickering flames, the giver of warmth, the focus of a family at rest was quickly and dramatically usurped by technology—first the wireless then television from the 1950s onward. Now kith and kin gathered together to pose in front of the flickering cathode ray. Next time some know-it-all from the last century tut-tuts your obsessive use of a smartphone or numerous hours spent clicking “like” on Facebook, just remind them that once upon a time they too did the very same when they sat and supped from the glass teat of television.

Though television has been around in one form or another since the 1920s, it wasn’t until the fifties that TV became the first choice for family entertainment. America pioneered the way, producing a golden age of dramas and serials and films. For most people, TV sets were expensive, very expensive. They were considered valuable assets, signifiers of a family’s wealth and status. To own a color TV in the 1950s was to be part of a much-hyped affluent jet set (and presumably a big Perry Como fan as his show was just about the one thing to watch in color during that decade). Up until the late 1960s color TV sets were still pretty much a rarity.

I was a wireless kid. My parents first rented a TV sometime in the late sixties-early seventies. Even then, a new TV was way too expensive for many British families to buy outright, so most people rented their TV sets from companies like Granada or Radio Rentals. “Great service you get/Renting your color set/From Granada” went one of the cheesy ads for TV rentals in 1977. TV sets came in ornate boxes sometimes with doors on the front to disguise the set as some kind of tasteful item of furniture—a drinks cabinet maybe or a redwood sideboard credenza. And don’t be fooled, most TV pictures were pitiful when compared to today’s 4K sets as TV signals were atrocious. The public spent most evenings fiddling about the TV aerial trying to find a better picture. Applying a ball of tinfoil was the sole option to improve the signal, decidedly low tech “hack” that was a common enough sight.

Yet, TV was everything. And that’s why people posed for photographs in front of their expensive, valuable, and trusted friend the electronic eye.

For the past decade or so, artist Oliver Wasow has been collecting found images on the Internet and organizing them into some kind of order. Pictures of families celebrating birthdays, or blurred images, or teen titans working out, or people holding cameras, or children holding guns, or just couples arm-in-arm or dressed for a night out. One set that particularly attracted my attention consisted of people standing beside TV sets looking proud and happy as if introducing a new family member to the camera: “Here’s our new grandchild,” or “Here’s my new husband.” These images brought back memories of how TV sets were once such very potent symbols of status. And how people once considered the TV set as being a part of the family—a companion—strange though that may seem today. Just look at the joy some of the following people show on their faces while in proximity to their little box of delights.
 
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More found photos of people posing with their TV sets, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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07.24.2017
08:55 am
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Girl gangs: Portraits of Chicano girl culture from the 1990s

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Artist Guadalupe Rosales established and curates Veteranas and Rucas an Instagram account dedicated to documenting Chicano youth culture of Southern California in the 1990s. What started out in 2015 as a way to reconnect with lost friends and half-remembered acquaintances from her own teenage days soon developed into a richer, broader, far more important history of the lives of women (and men) raised in SoCal and beyond.

Veteranas and Rucas serves as a digital archive where strangers, close friends and family share a virtual space that speaks a language many of us can relate to….The attention that the Instagram has received has resurrected a part of history that hasn’t been talked about or well documented—yet so many people were excited to see it come back. Working on Veteranas and Rucas made me realize how important this subculture is.”

Rosales who grew up in LA asks people to submit their own photographs of life in SoCal during this period. Her site takes its name from the words “Veterana” which means “someone who has put in work or time in the gang culture,” and “‘ruca’ [which] is what you call your chick.” Anyone who knows these words, Rosales adds, will be able to connect with her and Chicano culture.

Photographs carry complex messages. They make solid a person, a moment, a feeling, or some shared event of deeply personal significance. They also capture the space within which these fleeting moments take place. Rosales documents many of these neighborhoods which have been lost with the rise of the behemoth urban gentrification devouring and repopulating these once mainly ethnic and working class areas.

In 2000, Rosales quit LA—just a few years after a cousin was killed in Boyle Heights. She moved to New York where she witnessed another kind of gentrification taking place in the city. This led Rosales to gradually reconnect with the friends and people with whom she had grown-up. The connections she renewed inspired Rosales to start her archive of ‘90s Chicano youth.

“What I’m interested in posting is women that look like strong women….They look tough, and I like showing photographs like that because I want to say that women can be attractive when they’re strong women.”

See more from Rosales Veterana and Rucas here.
 
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More Veteranas and Rucas, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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07.21.2017
09:36 am
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Gorgeous color Autochromes of American women from over 100 years ago
07.18.2017
08:50 am
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‘Woman’s face’ (circa 1915).
 
A clairvoyant once told me I’d soon be working on a very big book. Her words sounded good. I considered their promise. I was a would-be middleweight tyro hoping to type out my magnum opus by twenty-one. A month or two later, there I was, just as she had said, working on a very big book in a university library but not the one I had imagined. This was a big book of last wills and testaments. My job was to work through this massive tome, transcribing the details by hand and then typing them up into a computer file.

The work was repetitive, dull, and mind-numbingly boring. The only respite was smoking weed with a workmate every lunchtime to loosen up the old synapses into some creative daydreams. There weren’t even the luxury of pictures to make the work just a wee bit more interesting. I’d spend the afternoons imagining faces of the people named in the book. Names like:

Ada Derwent, spinster, 79, born 1798, died intestate July 18th, 1876.
Robert MacFarlane, lamplighter, 46, born 1823, died intestate August 1st, 1869.

Who were these people? What did they look like? Where did they live? What were their lives like? That kinda thing. Nothing too original, or too taxing—just giving long-forgotten names substance. Up popped Cruickshank illustrations, scratchy-nibbed sketches that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Dickens’ novel or b&w photographs of grimy-faced Victorian laborers.

I worked my way through two or three of these thousand page books before quitting. I was none the wiser to what all these people looked like or discovering more about the lives they lived other than the written facts of birth, death and what they left behind.

If there had been pictures, my understanding may have been better. By which meander, I come to these beautiful color Autochromes of women from over a hundred years ago. We can see their faces, their clothes, their surroundings, and glean a sense of their lifestyle. Photographic portraits can tell us more about the subject than a listing of the facts as we tend to look at pictures in a far more positive way than we do at words. We look for connections that tell us about who we are, what we feel, and what we think.
 
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‘Dancer wearing Egyptian-look costume with wings reaching to the floor’ (ca. 1915).
 
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‘Woman posed as sphinx’ (ca. 1910).
 
More century-old color Autochromes, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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07.18.2017
08:50 am
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When a glimpse of stocking was something shocking: Vintage erotic postcards of 1920’s flappers
07.17.2017
09:24 am
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Before the First World War, postcards were the Twitter of the day. They were used to share personal news, arrange appointments, or pass on messages of love—though thankfully, there was very little of the trolling we all have to endure today. There was also a small but highly profitable cottage industry for erotic postcards which increased dramatically during the War years. This was one way by which governments and generals thought they could keep the boys on the frontline happy by giving them some reason for fighting—saving the sexy young maidens of France from the hairy, uncouth hands of the Hun, and so forth. Millions of such cards were produced by the French during the War, which led to the moniker “French postcards” being applied to all erotic postcards whether they were made in France or not.

After the War, these naughty French postcard were still popular. This popularity offered some young women some independence and an easy way to make a quick franc or three. There is a genuine innocence about these photographs of young women flashing a white thigh above stocking top, or posing nude like a Greek goddesses, or playacting as a saucy French maid, which make them far more erotic than the bare-all, gynecological pictures of today’s cynical world of porn.
 
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More dirty French postcards, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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07.17.2017
09:24 am
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Doctor Faust’s handy guide to conjuring up demons

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The story of Doctor Johann Georg Faust is better known through literature and legend than by the few existing facts which document his life. Even his birth date is an estimate ranging from 1466 to 1480, which covers two broken mirrors’ worth of supposition. Anyway, what little is known can be roughly put down thus:

Faust was a scholar and a Doctor of Philosophy. He was an itinerant alchemist, astrologer, magician, and occultist. He performed magic tricks in shows and wrote horoscopes on commission. During his life, he was variously described as a trickster, a fraud, and a con man—-mainly due to customers dissatisfied with their horoscopes. He was denounced by the Church as being “in league with the Devil,” a necromancer, a practitioner of Black Magic, and a “sodomite” who corrupted and abused his students. This latter accusation almost led to his arrest and imprisonment.

He wrote several grimoires and chapbooks, including the chapbook featured here Praxis Magia Faustiana (1527) in which he described how to conjure up demons like “Mephistopheles.” This was the very first time the name “Mephistopheles” was ever documented. According to legend, Mephistopheles was the demon to whom Faust sold his soul in return for unlimited knowledge and wealth. We don’t what exactly happened when Faust “conjured” up this demon, we do, however, have Faust’s description of him as one of the Seven Great Princes of Hell who:

...stands under the planet Jupiter, his regent is named Zadikel, an enthroned angel of holy Jehovah…his form is firstly that of a fiery bear, the other and fairer appearance is as of a little man with a black cape and a bald head.

Doesn’t sound so terribly demonic, does it?

Faust did have some fans—including one bishop who considered his astrological work very convincing and some academics who praised his medical knowledge. But generally, he was greatly feared and was banished from Ingolstadt in 1528. Faust died in an explosion during an alchemical experiment circa 1541. His body was hideously scarred. This gave rise to the legend he had died during a conjuring rite and the Devil had sent his emissary Mephistopheles to bring Faust’s soul to Hell.

Faust’s chapbooks provided the source material for Christopher Marlowe‘s play The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus (circa 1588), in particular the following volume that first detailed Faust’s dealing with the tricky Mephisopheles.

The text opens with a long list of the names of angels and demons before invoking the “Spirit by the power and virtue of the letters which I have inscribed - do I command thee to give me a sign of thy arrival.”

Then more names:

Larabay + Belion + Sonor + Soraman + Bliar + Sonor + Arotan + Niza + Raphael + Alazaman + Eman + Nazaman + Tedoyl + Teabicabal + Ruos, Acluaar + Iambala + Cochim

Zebaman + Sehemath + Egibut + Philomel + Gazaman + Delet + Azatan + Uriel + Facal + Alazamant + Nisia + By the most sacred and holy mercy of God + Zeyhomann + Acluaas + Niza + Tachal + Neciel + Amatemach + Her somini +

By this I compel thee to appear unto me before this circle and to do what I command thee…

Before finishing:

Now do I conjure and command thee O Evil Spirit by the powers of Heaven and by the words of life…Mephistophilis and by the power off the words +Tetragram + Agla + Adonay + Amin

~Snip!~

Now I conjure thee to come from thy abode even from the farthest parts by these great and mighty names - Tetragrammaton - Adonai - Agla - and to appear before me receiving and executing my demands truly and without falsehood I command thee O Spirit Rumoar -, even by t[h]y great sovereign Lucifer.

A full transcript can be read here.
 
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More of Faust’s conjuring tricks, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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07.14.2017
10:39 am
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Beautiful vintage portraits of the last of the traditionally tattooed Māori women
07.12.2017
10:57 am
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Moko is the name for a Māori permanent body marking. It was originally carved with bones creating a scarring on the skin rather than a tattoo made with a needle and ink. Each moko is unique to the wearer. It depicts the story of the wearer’s family, their ancestral tribe, and their position within that group. The moko is created by the Tohunga tā moko. Māori men have moko on their faces, backs, buttocks, and thighs. Women mostly have a moko kauae on their lips, chins, and necks, and occasionally on their foreheads.

In Māori culture:

A moko on the face is the ultimate statement of one’s identity as a Māori. The head is believed to be the most sacred part of the body. To wear the moko on the face is to bear an undeniable declaration of who you are.

After the Brits colonized New Zealand, ta moko declined as a cultural form. This was partly due to the Tohunga Suppression Act of 1907, which outlawed Māori medical practices. As these were closely linked to Māori spiritual and cultural traditions, the Māoris lost much of their culture and became what was termed as a “lost race.” The Act was eventually repealed in 1962.

These photographs of Māori women were taken circa 1900-1910. These were among some of the last women to wear the traditional moko kauae before its resurgence in recent decades.
 
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More beautiful portraits of Māori women, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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07.12.2017
10:57 am
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