In 1891, Kennard Novelty Company, makers of the first commercial talking board, needed a name for their product, so they asked the board to name itself. Smithsonian's Linda Rodriguez McRobbie looks at "The Strange and Mysterious History of the Ouija Board." Above, my favorite Ouija Board moment in film. From Smithsonian:
Contrary to popular belief, “Ouija” is not a combination of the French for “yes,” oui, and the German ja. (Ouija historian Robert) Murch says, based on his research, it was (Kennard Novelty Company co-founder) Elijah Bond’s sister-in-law, Helen Peters (who was, Bond said, a “strong medium”), who supplied the now instantly recognizable handle. Sitting around the table, they asked the board what they should call it; the name “Ouija” came through and, when they asked what that meant, the board replied, “Good luck.” Eerie and cryptic—but for the fact that Peters acknowledged that she was wearing a locket bearing the picture of a woman, the name “Ouija” above her head. That’s the story that emerged from the Ouija founders’ letters; it’s very possible that the woman in the locket was famous author and popular women’s rights activist Ouida, whom Peters admired, and that “Ouija” was just a misreading of that.
The Strange and Mysterious History of the Ouija Board"
Scans of a wonderful 19th century book (with 18th-century origins) about witches are making the internet rounds anew. Above and below, 20 pages from 'The Witches Frolic' by Thomas Ingoldsby, with illustrations by Ernest M. Jessop.
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D'Morte, the Arch-Druid of Tinver Moor, created this Disney Major Arcana, "based on Golden Age Disney works from Snow White through to the Rescuers." Messr D'Morte notes that he was "influenced by the Marseilles deck, while adding a Jungian interpretation to many of the images."
These are inspired. Click through for The Hanged Man, which all but skewered me on its brilliance (though The Fool, above, is a close second).
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Now you can listen to wax cylinder recordings of Aleister Crowley (The Great Beast!) that were first transferred to 78s and now reissued on an LP from Suitable records. Enjoy such great moments as The Coll Of The Second Aethyr (in Enochian, aka angel language!) and "Hymn To The American People."
Aleister Crowley: Original Wax Recordings
(More info here.)
Kenneth Anger is a legendary underground filmmaker, actor, chronicler of 1960s Hollywood scandals, and devoted follower of occultist Aleister Crowley. He's perhaps best known for his book Hollywood Babylon (1965) and the Magick Lantern Cycle of films, including the above Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954), Scorpio Rising (1963), and Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969). In the 50s, 60s, and 70s, he palled around with then-marginal characters like Alfred Kinsey, Tennessee Williams, Jimmy Page, Marianne Faithful, and Keith Richards. Esquire UK's Mick Brown recently spent two days in Los Angeles with Anger, now 86 years old.
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BB contributor Mitch Horowitz, author of the excellent Occult America, has a new book due out shortly that traces the fascinating cultural history of the New Age and self-help movement, titled One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life. The roots and impact of "Positive Thinking," from its 19th century occult core all the way to Dale Carnegie's confidence building books and Nike's "Just Do It" campaign, will surprise you. In the video above, Mitch gives a concise summary of One Simple Idea. And over at Time, Mitch wrote a guide to the "The 10 Best Self-Help Books You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of." Mitch writes, "Critics generally view positive thinking as namby-pamby nonsense. But the philosophy has produced ideas that are deeply useful, even profound. You probably believe some of them already." Here are a couple of his selections:
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Pam "Phantasmaphile" Grossman and artist Jesse Bransford have organized The Occult Humanities Conference
taking place October 18-20, 2013 at New York University. Focused on the intersection of art and the occult, the lineup features some of my favorite writers on esoteric matters and high weirdness including Mark Pilkington, Mitch Horowitz, Gary Lachman, and dozens more. I hope some of these presentation are documented for posterity online!
Back in 2012, I reviewed the first collected edition of Witch Doctor, a delightfully demented comic about a metaphysician who fights incipient Cthulhuism with a cadre of weird assistants and an arsenal of amazing magical artifacts.
The second collection, Mal Practice, was published earlier this month, and is the epitome of following strength with strength. The second volume has everything I loved about book one -- witty dialog, ghastly creeps from the netherhells, grotesque fight-scenes, and the monster-as-hero thing I've loved since I was a kid -- but more, more, more!
Witch Doctor is a kind of Doctor Who for daemonism and the occult. Its creators are clearly just getting started on the possibilities of the setup, and I'm happy to follow them wherever they go. If you're looking for a new, light, spooky comic to spend the summer with, look no further.
Witch Doctor, Vol. 2: Mal Practice
In the latest episode of The Midnight Archive, Pam Grossman of Phantasmaphile and the fantastic Abraxas International Journal of Esoteric Studies talks about the intersection of art and the occult.
Robert Ansell is the Director of Fulgur Press, which has published the work of esoteric artists for 20 years.
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Guido Mina di Sospiro and Joscelyn Godwin, authors of The Forbidden Book, wrote about five novels and their occult inspirations for Boing Boing:
How do you find works of occult fiction that are not just fantasies? We have just published one of them: The Forbidden Book, released as an e-book by The Disinformation Company. It is a murder mystery, a romance, a political conundrum, but above all an account of magick in action. We think of it as belonging to a rare strain of fiction by authors who actually know occult traditions and the philosophies behind them. That way the reader is not just playing "let's pretend" but learning some insights into reality that are potentially life-changing. See below for more about The Forbidden Book.
Here are some other novels that we admire:
Zanoni, by Bulwer Lytton, is the premier occult novel of the nineteenth century. Lytton was a novelist and playwright, a dandy, a politician, and eventually a Baron. He is supposed to have been initiated into a German Rosicrucian order, and to have been in the Orphic Circle, a London group that used child clairvoyants. Dickens and Disraeli were his friends, but they didn't follow his arcane interests. For instance, they weren't with him when French occult author and ceremonial magus Eliphas Levi, in Lytton's presence, evoked the spirit of the Greek Neopythagorean philosopher Apollonius of Tyana on a London rooftop. Zanoni is a description of initiations by one who has evidently passed through them. It is famous for introducing the themes of the "Dweller on the Threshold" who tries to block the aspirant's path, and the "augoeides" or luminous self. The novel tells about two men who have gained the secret of eternal life. One of them is content to rest on the accumulated wisdom of his 5,000 years, but Zanoni voluntarily gives up his immortality. He finds that human love is more precious still, even though death is its inexorable price.
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The government of Romania has updated labor laws to officially recognize witchcraft as a profession
, part of a "drive to crack down on widespread tax evasion in a country that is in recession."
But some Romanian witches who will now have to pay taxes on income they earn for spellcrafting are not amused.
The Washington Post reports that "On Saturday, a witch called Bratara told Realitate.net, the website of a top TV station, that she plans to cast a spell using black pepper and yeast to create discord in the government." (Ed. note: As an aside, that url won't load for me).
That's Bratara Buzea, above (thumbnail via Yahoo News). The 63-year-old woman was imprisoned for witchcraft under communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's repressive regime.
This AP article, via MSNBC, says she is expanding her planned anti-government spell recipe to include cat excrement and dead dog. Oh yes she did. Shit just got real.
And President Traian Basescu isn't laughing it off. In a country where superstition is mainstream, the president and his aides wear purple on Thursdays, allegedly to ward off evil spirits.
More at AP
Witches from Romania's eastern and western regions will descend to the southern plains and the Danube River Thursday to threaten the government with spells and spirits. Mauve has a high vibration, it makes the wearer superior and wards off evil attacks, according to the esoteric group Violet Flame -- which practices on Thursdays. A dozen witches will head to the Danube to put a hex on the government and hurl mandrake into the river "so evil will befall them," said a witch named Alisia. She identified herself with one name, as is customary among witches.
"This law is foolish. What is there to tax, when we hardly earn anything?" she said by telephone on Wednesday. "The lawmakers don't look at themselves, at how much they make, their tricks; they steal and they come to us asking us to put spells on their enemies."