Always with his eye keenly trained to make a quick buck, Salvador Dali noted the sixties zeitgeist for all things astrological and produced a limited edition portfolio of 250 lithographs on woven paper depicting the signs of the zodiac. Though Dali claimed to be interested in science and its investigations into the atom—he was well-known to be superstitious to the point of paranoia. As a young man he kept a talisman to ward off evil spirits; he also had a phobia about showing his feet, which made buying new shoes difficult; plus he believed he was the “reincarnation” of his dead older brother—which was most probably caused by his having to wear his dead sibling’s clothes.
Dali claimed in an interview with Mike Wallace that the Spanish were a superstitious nation which explained his own personal superstitions. His one-time friend and film collaborator Luis Buñuel agreed with Dali about the Spanish, claiming in his autobiography My Last Breath that religious indoctrination had caused many Spaniards to live their lives under the terrible fear of retribution. It has been claimed that towards the end of Dali’s life he became even more superstitious—only agreeing to meet visitors in a darkened room or communicating with people through a closed door.
Dali would return to the zodiac as a money-making source in the late 1960s and again in the 1970s. These works are primarily simple, direct and illustrative—other than a Dalinian lobster replacing a crab for sign of Cancer—though there is little doubt over the skill and talent of the artist who produced them.
The last two days have brought us two absolute must-reads on the idiocy of the typical Trump voter—articles that also clarify why they may be unusually difficult to divert away from their current white knight in shining armor. The first is yesterday’s terrific account by Dave Weigel of the Washington Post of a Frank Luntz focus group gone horribly wrong, in which all the efforts to tear down the candidate that usually prove so effective in this case had the horrifying effect of increasing the group’s adherence to Trump. Among other things you’ll learn that Obama wasn’t born in the United States and took his oath of office on a Koran, while Hillary Clinton has, for sure, “committed crimes.”
Oh yeah, and also, Trump would be a shoo-in if he were the GOP nominee against Hillary.
Today we have Olivia Nuzzi’s essential bit of reportage in The Daily Beast into the Trump voter’s mindset, in which she called up 100 of Trump’s donors to see what was on their mind. Not too surprisingly, as a group they detest Muslims (which is one reason why Trump’s call to ban Muslim immigration into the United States hasn’t hurt him yet), but maybe more surprisingly, there’s a strong strain of 9/11 truther-ism in the mix (logically, if you think that Dick Cheney perpetrated 9/11, you would think that this would make you more tolerant of Muslims, but it doesn’t seem to work that way).
Amusingly, they also wanted to know if Nuzzi herself was a Muslim.
The most unusual of the Trump donors was a fellow from Oregon named John Captain, who claimed to have sent money to the billionaire candidate because he wanted Trump to “look into” the death of his girlfriend, as he suspects she was a Project Monarch mind control sex slave who was assassinated by “her family, part of the Illuminati and the New World Order.”
It’s worth quoting this passage in full:
John Captain, of Portland Tub and Tan, home of “Portland’s premier hot tubbing and tanning specialists with exclusive outdoor hot tubs year round,” was glad that I called because he wanted to talk about his girlfriend, who he believes was a monarch [sic] mind control slave who was murdered by her family, part of the Illuminati and the New World Order.
Captain talks a mile a minute in run-on sentences that jump from one topic to another—an effect of his ADHD, he said. He explained, in record time, that he had been on Trump’s website, trying to contact him to ask for help in his fight against the Illuminati, when he decided to send him $1,000. (He donated in the past to Ross Perot.)
He had recordings to prove that his girlfriend was a robot, he said. He’d been sent tapes of her sessions with a therapist who told her to, “follow the yellow brick road,” but said he would let me ask about Trump before he explained all of that.
Captain liked Trump, he said, “because our government’s out of control in terms of spending and unaccountability and I have no belief in the government that’s currently in power.” Being a small business owner, Captain said, has made him wary of “anybody who gets a check from the government: federal, city, county, state, people who collect leaves. Anything they do is wrong.”
Captain thinks, he said, “on my own,” but he said he agreed with Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. “What I would say is anybody that’s a concurrent threat to our country should be stopped.” Why would we let people in, he said, who are “statistically” more likely “to hate us”?
“If, consistently, we’re having an issue with Muslims that hate Americans…” he trailed off.
“A part of me hoped that Donald Trump would take over and maybe he would help look into my case,” Captain said, his pace slowing down. “I don’t know what to do, you know? I’m at a loss because not only is this over my head, the facts surrounding her murder, but America is ruined as a whole.”
I don’t suppose this is exactly typical of Trump’s voters, but it is suggestive…....
In 1576, Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II chose Prague to be his home. More than any other person, Rudolf made Prague a hotbed of alchemical interest. Rudolf lived in the Prague Castle, where he welcomed not only astrologers and magicians but also scientists, musicians, and artists. In addition to noted alchemists Edward Kelley and John Dee, Prague was also home to the astronomers Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, the painter Arcimboldo, the poet Elizabeth Jane Weston, among others. Rudolf arguably spawned the most intense period of occult activity in history.
Celebrating this alchemical contributions of Rudolf II is the Museum of Alchemists and Magicians of Old Prague, located at Jansky Vrsek 8 on the western side of the Vltava. The museum consists of two levels of displays and tableaux that document Rudolf’s alchemists in Prague, especially Kelley. (There is a sister museum called the Speculum Alchemiae Museum, but that’s on the other side of the river, at Hastalska 1.)
The main floor has displays and replica artifacts of the trade alongside such fantastical scenes as a failed magician being stolen up into the ceiling by the Devil while cackling sorcerers huddle around the glowing runes beneath. The second floor, which claims to be the actual tower where the real Kelley performed his esoteric experiments if decked out like an alchemists lab, all aged scrolls and stacked grimoires, complete with a half-completed homunculus, the ultimate alchemical achievement.
The museum is more than a little sensational in its presentation, but to be fair these alchemists were likely more than a little bit showmen themselves. What better way to remember and learn about their arcane history than with a little bit of magical realism?
Here’s a peek at some of the treasures within. The first six pictures here come from Altas Obscura; all of the others (including the picture at the top of the post) come from TripAdvisor users. The mechanical model of the solar system is known as an “orrery.” Strictly speaking, you didn’t need to know that, but if you know the word orrery and along comes a reason to use it, you’re damn well going to use it!
In the eBay listing for this spendy Anton LaVey ventriloquist dummy, the seller, “haunt-master” makes the creepy claim that the dummy’s eyes have the ability to “move on their own” as if they were “haunted.” Because, of course they can.
In addition to the eye movement (as if this thing isn’t off-putting enough) the Satanic dummy can also crack a smile thanks to a pull string in the back of his head. Each Anton LaVey ventriloquist dummy is made-to-order, stands about 30 inches tall and comes dressed in black with a large silver pentagram necklace. Sadly, the skull pictured with lil’ LaVey is not included although I’m sure if you’ve read this far you probably leave at least one decorative skull out all year round. The bespoke LaVey toy is currently up for auction for $509.99 (which if you flip the nines around you get “666”) and ships from, you guessed it, Hell on Earth, Las Vegas.
I also included images of a few other notable dummies in the haunt-master’s shop that follow (the run from $300 - $550 bucks), such as “Regan” from The Exorcist, one of the disfigured doctors from the 1960 Twilight Zone pisode, “Eye of the Beholder,” the uber villain “Jigsaw” from the horror film franchise Saw and, a disturbing Michael Jackson that comes with straight or curly hair. Yikes.
Regan MacNeil (from the 1973 film The Exorcist)
Wait until you see the creepy Michael Jackson ventriloquist dummy, after the jump…
Little Baphomet and this cutie Cthulhu are both 7.5 inches high and will run you $19.99 (which if you flip the nines around is $16.66, nice one Middle of Beyond). There are also a few other notable and refreshingly evil Christmas ornaments in MOB’s shop such as a variety of Krampus designs and a glass-blown homage to Room 237, the mythical room at the Overlook Hotel in Stanely Kubrick’s The Shining that gave the fascinating 2012 documentary film, Room 237 its title.
The headline above came straight from the press release because it made me laugh. Can’t think of what to buy your favorite magus for Christmas? [Or Noel Fielding, wait, he’s already got one.] Yes that’s right, Kenneth Anger, avant garde underground filmmaker is now in the fashion business. Back in September Kenneth Anger “signature” tees went on sale, and now you can keep warm this winter with an “official” Lucifer Rising baseball jacket available only at his website.
Hollywood, CA November 23, 2015 – The story behind Kenneth Anger’s undisputed masterpiece, Lucifer Rising, is as exciting and bizarre as the film itself. Featuring such pop icons as Jimmy Page, Marianne Faithfull, Donald Cammell (co-director of the film Performance) and Bobby Beausoleil (member of the Charles Manson family and convicted murderer), the production was plagued with bizarre coincidences and sinister backlashes. After thirteen years of filming Kenneth Anger was determined to complete the film despite the almost surreal obstacles that materialized every step of the way.
A recognized master of avant garde film, Kenneth Anger’s influence can be seen in filmmakers as diverse as Martin Scorsese (who calls him “without a doubt, one of our greatest artists”), Roger Corman, George Lucas, Gus Van Sant, Guy Maddin, and David Lynch, not to mention the pop art of Andy Warhol, and almost every music video. He also gained notoriety as the author of the bestseller, Hollywood Babylon, a tell-all book revealing scandals and controversies in Hollywood among the rich and famous. The interest in Anger’s work shows no sign of abating in 21st century. The objects seen in his films, such as Anger’s custom made ‘Lucifer’ and Scorpio Rising jackets have now become cult icons in themselves.
I’ve been told that the Lucifer Rising jackets are already selling like the proverbial hotcakes and they aren’t planning a second run of these puppies, so if you want one you might not want to hesitate. The production run was described to me as “just a handful.”
In addition, there’s a second newly listed Lucifer Rising item for sale on kennethanger.org, a signed reproduction of “The Magick Lantern Cycle” poster, as originally painted by Page Wood.
Each poster will be signed in the area with the negative space by Kenneth Anger personally. Can an official Scorpio Rising motorcycle jacket be far behind?
Below, a clip from Brian Butler’s Raising Lucifer documentary:
“I predicted terrorism because I can feel it,” Donald Trump announced this week (exacting publicity and self-praise—who would have predicted that—from the massacre in Paris). “I can feel it like I feel a good location,” he continued, tastefully contrasting mass murder with picking a winning spot for a casino-hotel complex. “I really believe I have an instinct for this kind of thing.”
“Ha ha ha”, said everybody about Trump’s “superpower” of sniffing out terrorism (at least on the rational side of the American electoral brain). But not this writer! On the contrary, when Trump made this declaration, I was in the midst of writing an essay (about two thirds of which follows), on the very subject matter of the Republican front runner’s uncanny, alarmingly accurate instinct.
No shit, I’d even used the word “instinct” seven times (the very seven times that proceed) without having heard Trump use it once himself.
Instinct, then, is an interesting, mysterious quality, and one possessed by most of history’s biggest players. By “biggest players,” I mean those that took advantage of circumstances to seize radical power (as opposed to boring old figurehead-of-the-establishment-type power): the likes of Napoleon, Julius Caesar, Adolf Hitler. Typically, such figures consider themselves possessed of some sort of second sight, a phantom patron (or perhaps “daemon” is the word I’m looking for?) that whispers in their ear (and theirs alone). Hitler, for instance, once told a journalist about how as he stood having a smoke one day behind the trenches during WWI, he heard a voice telling him to move: he did so, and then, having taken a couple of steps, a shell landed right where he’d been standing.
Many of Hitler’s associates remarked upon his incessant monologuing. Indeed, Hitler referred to himself as the “messenger from nothingness.” Neither did Hitler ever write his speeches down—he was winging it, ever loyal to his instincts, which led him from being considered a national laughing stock with shit hair to a position of absolute power.
“I go on my way,” he declared, en route to turning the world inside out, “with the ease of a somnambulist.”
When Trump first lashed out at Megyn Kelly, recall that his chief adviser Roger Stone instantly resigned in dismay, because the billionaire wouldn’t listen to “reason.” And indeed, who doubted that, with his misogynistic and absurd smear against a Fox New personality, Trump hadn’t pitched his campaign off a cliff? Trump’s instinct, however, whispered something else in his ear: that he could get his revenge on Kelly (no small matter to such a tumescent ego) without risking his popularity. This flew in the face of all received wisdom – and yet once again, Trump was absolutely on the money.
It’s happened time and time again.
Trump’s pious regard for his instincts is further evidenced in his approach to speeches. He improvises (just like Hitler did in his speeches, the ones Trump’s ex-wife said he liked to keep near the bed). When he attacked Carson last week, at the tail end of a ninety-minute unscripted speech, Trump clearly hadn’t given it any more forethought than a note written in ink on the palm of his hand to “remember to attack Carson.” In the immediate wake of the speech, commentators—slow to learn—were quick to call it the “beginning of the end” for TRUMP 2016. The latest polls show him now pulling well clear of his nearest Republican rival, the soft spoken, befuddled brain surgeon.
What else is improvisation but the purest possible adherence to instinct? “You don’t want a scripted president!” Trump told an Iowa audience a few months back. “Look at all the cameras blazing there. This is live, all over the place. We’re on Fox, CNN,” he went on, before brandishing an invisible script. “Look, there’s nothing” (Another messenger from nothingness?)
There is, I would suggest, a kind of theology at the heart of all this, that of any improviser—from Lenny Bruce to Charlie Parker to Adolf Hitler—the belief that the best decisions are made in the moment. Excessive premeditation, or consultation, these only blunt the cutting edge of genius, which expresses itself (in certain select souls) via instinct and cunning.
Yes, a vote for Trump is a vote for divination – for this is precisely what he is alluding to what he spoke of “good locations” and having a “feel” for the timing of significant global events. Here is a man convinced of the magical acumen of his intuition. It has after all already made him billions upon billions of dollars, and it is this intuition—this abnormal winning faculty, as he would have it—that Trump offers in lieu of policy, political affiliation, character, or any of the other usual ingredients that go into a presidential pie. He might be out of his depth, sure, but he’s got his instincts!
When Trump holds his invisible script, he is mocking the existing political alternative—everyone else—a Washington made up of lobbyists, focus groups, special advisors, academics, public relations… a kind of collective antithesis of instinct: premeditation, forethought, rationalization, logic. In dominating the Republican race as he has, furthermore (doing so, indeed, at minimal expense to himself), Trump is explicitly offering the voter an example of his ability to make successful moves which are invisible to everyone but him.
What’s for good for Trump, of course, is by no means what’s good for the rest of us, but the thing is, his instincts really are impressive, and you don’t have to think he would make (as he might put it) the winningest president ev-er, to concede as much.
Yes, Trump is doing a disconcertingly effective job—thus far—of improvising his way from being considered a laughing stock with appalling hair to the most powerful man in the world.
From Mein Kampf to The Art of the Deal? Such a phenomenon would not be entirely without precedent. It’s just like Karl Marx predicted “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”
A few lessons in French maybe required if you want to seriously study the Dictionnaire Infernal (Infernal Dictionary)—an A-Z on demonology and the occult—though Google translate may offer an easier option to access the histories of such demonic figures as the Azazel, Bael or Zabulon. Written and compiled by French occultist, demonologist and author Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy, the Dictionnaire Infernal was first published in 1818 to considerable success, and was reprinted several times before its most incarnation in 1863 in an edition that contained 69 illustrations by artist Louis Le Breton.
Breton’s illustrations became the main source for nearly all future representations of demons, monsters and fantastical beasts. De Plancy filled his dictionary with detailed histories of the hierarchy of demons—-from lowly pot boilers (Ukobach) to the Seven Princes of Hell, the Demon Regent Asmodeus, Astaroth and Lucifer. He also included historical figures associated with the occult or free thought—from various kings and queens to Napoleon and Nostradamus and even the renowned author Sir Walter Scott. A title page from the 1826 edition described the book thus:
Infernal Dictionary, or, a Universal Library on the beings, characters, books, deeds, and causes which pertain to the manifestations and magic of trafficking with Hell; divinations, occult sciences, grimoires, marvels, errors, prejudices, traditions, folktales, the various superstitions, and generally all manner of marvellous, surprising, mysterious, and supernatural beliefs.
Though originally a free thinker—he had been greatly influenced by Voltaire in his youth—De Plancy eventually became a Roman Catholic and parts of the Infernal Dictionary show his vacillation from skeptic to devout believer. Unsurprisingly therefore, later editions were edited to fit in with Catholic theology. However, the Infernal Dictionary is still a highly important compendium of demonology and the occult—in particular the 1863 edition with its fabulous illustrations by Le Breton.
An edition of the Infernal Dictionnaire has been scanned by the Internet Archive and can be viewed here.
One of the Seven Princes of Hell: The demon Bael with his three heads.
In October 1893, members of the Chit Chat Society gathered in rooms at the University of Cambridge to share and discuss academic papers. But this particular evening, towards Halloween, the society had gathered to hear fellow and Dean of King’s College, M.R. James present something very different from the traditional academic fare—the first reading of his ghost stories.
Montague Rhodes James was a respected academic whose reputation would now be forgotten if it were not for his ghost stories. James’s chilling tales set the template for the genre which other writers have since studiously followed. Inspired by the success of his reading, James organized a small gathering every Christmas Eve in order to read his latest ghostly tales to a small group of friends.
James was following a tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas that harked back to pagan times when people believed the dead and the living communed during the long, dark nights of the winter in the lead up to the winter solstice—the shortest day of the year. It was a literary tradition set as far back as Shakespeare, and recently by Washington Irving (The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.) and Charles Dickens—whose A Christmas Carol contained many of the genre’s dearest tropes.
M. R. James and the classic volume of his supernatural tales.
However, unlike Dickens, M.R. James had no truck with benign spirits sent to do good—his ghost stories were filled with “malevolence and terror”:
...the glare of evil faces, ‘the stony grin of unearthly malice’, pursuing forms in darkness, and ‘long-drawn, distant screams’....
His stories were set in realistic and seemingly ordinary worlds where central characters are suddenly thrust into the most extraordinary of situations—a seaside holiday brings forth an evil wraith; a rose garden hides a brutal past; a hotel is host to a grim haunting.
James believed his ghost stories should…
...put the reader into the position of saying to himself, ‘If I’m not very careful, something of this kind may happen to me!’
Most of James’ tales follow a simple formula: reticent hero, usually a scholar, arrives at strange yet alluring location where he discovers some cursed ancient artifact that damages his life. His message—those who fail to learn from their history are doomed and will be punished for their ignorance. Such chilling warnings are wrapped in beautifully written tales of terror.
Mark Gatiss (League of Gentlemen, Sherlock, etc.) is a splendid host in this documentary M.R. James: Ghost Writer, in which he examines the clues in the life of the author of some of the greatest tales of terror. Beginning with James reading to the Chit Chat Society, he examines the influences that inspired the ghost stories, including one particular incident during his childhood when James saw a monstrous apparition—an event he later recorded in his tale “A Vignette.” If you enjoy supernatural tales and ghost stories, then this little documentary is for you.
Apparently, this Halloween while you’re out trick or treating, TPing houses or getting diabetes from all that free candy, Satan will be chowing down on all the freshly prepared “Christian meat” served up by his faithful acolytes on Earth. Which, let’s be honest, is certainly some feat considering the number of his alleged followers in the USA alone. I mean, Old Nick’s waistline must be XXXXL and his cholesterol thru the roof if all he does is feast on those freshly grilled human patties and barbecued spare ribs—no wonder he only dines out once a year.
Thankfully, not all so very long ago, a Christian church in Chicago decided to help Satan with his dietary issues by warning off unsuspecting Christians from ending up in a well-roasted burger bun in Hades from celebrating Halloween. Through a character called Sam Hain (boy that’s original…) the ad was supposed to shock young, innocent (feeble-minded?) boys and girls about the hidden dangers of Halloween—that this was not a time of fun and games but the Devil’s party night, when he comes a-looking for “Christian meat.”
As any fule no, Samhain is the Gaelic festival marking the end of summer and the start of the “dark half” of the year, when harvest was finished and yon cattle brought down from pasture to shelter from the long, cold winter. What this has to with a kooky Christian anti-Halloween advertisement, I’m not quite sure, but let’s not let the facts get in the way of good giggle at the devil’s expense…