Sing along to this peppy little ditty about the fundamentals of Alchemical processes

In some weird alternate fantasy universe, this song would to taught to school children so that they could memorize their Hermetic fundamentals.

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Floria Sigismondi spends 72 hours filming legendary outre filmmaker, Kenneth Anger, at the Chateau Marmont

If your idea of a good time is watching a Gucci glammed up Kenneth Anger lounging around all over the Chateau Marmont hotel, check out this five minute mini-doc done by the fabulous Floria Sigismondi (one of my faves). Sigismondi was commissioned by System magazine to do the shot as part of Fashion Film Festival Milano. The film ended up winning two awards at the 2019 festival, Best Fashion Film and Best Editing.

[H/t Rodney Orpheus]

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New video from "dark forest folk" band Hexvessel features scenes from Cocteau's "Blood of a Poet"

I loved last year's All Tree from former Black Metalist Kvohst (aka Mat McNerney) and his folkier project, Hexvessel. The band has been described as "dark folk," "psychedelic forest folk," and "occult folk." Think of them as a somewhat more melodic and accessible Current 93.

On "Demian," the first single and video from their forthcoming record, Kindred (coming in April), they build the video around clips from Jean Cocteau's groundbreaking 1930 surrealist film, Blood of a Poet.

Bonus track: The hauntingly beautiful "Old Tree" from the band's 2019 release, All Tree.

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The weird history of magical ways to protect your home

Last month, I posted about "witch bottles" -- containers of curious items like human teeth, fish hooks, glass shards, and undetermined liquid -- sometimes found in chimneys or inside walls of old buildings where they were placed to ward off evil spells, spirits, and curses. Turns out that there's a new book -- "Magical House Protection: the Archaeology of Counter-Witchcraft" by Brian Hoggard -- all about the strange history of witch bottles and other kinds of occult home protection! From John Rimmer's post about the text over at Magonia Review of Books:

We are all familiar with the practice of hanging up horse-shoes as a ‘good-luck’ token, although there is some disagreement as to whether the points of the shoe should be pointing up or down. My grandmother insisted that if the points were turned down, “the luck would all run out”.

Lots of people hang up a horseshoe, but maybe we would be less inclined to bury a dead cat under our threshold, or place a bottle full of urine and nail clippings up our chimney, or nail horses skulls underneath the floorboards? These are just some of the objects which have been used for centuries to offer some sort of ‘magical protection’ to houses and other properties.

In the past magic and witchcraft was not a topic for discussion between believers and sceptics, it was just an ordinary part of everyday life, and taking precautions to divert its power was seen as no more remarkable than taking an umbrella with you on a wet day to protect you from the rain.

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Inside Alan Moore's Head

With The Watchmen now on teevee, I hope that many more people will dive into the magickal brilliance of Alan Moore who co-created the original comic in 1987 along with other seminal works like V for Vendetta and Batman: The Killing Joke. Over at the Daily Grail, Greg points us to a fantastic web video series of 5-minute mind grenades with Moore. Below are two of my favorite segments in the 8-part series, titled "Inside Alan Moore's Head." You can also view them on YouTube.

image: Fimb (CC BY 2.0) Read the rest

Weird "witch bottle" found in former pub's chimney

In Watford, England, construction workers doing demolition at a former pub and inn found a weird bottle inside the chimney. Containing human teeth, fish hooks, glass shards, and liquid, the container was apparently a 19th century "witch bottle" meant to protect against evil spells. Above, examples of such bottles. From Smithsonian:

The newly discovered bottle is one of more than 100 recovered from old buildings, churchyards and riverbanks across Great Britain to date. Most specimens trace their origins to the 1600s, when continental Europe was in the grips of a major witch panic. Common contents found in witch bottles include pins, nails, thorns, urine, fingernail clippings and hair.

According to BBC News, the Watford property—now a private residence but formerly known as the Star and Garter inn—is best known as the birthplace of Angeline Tubbs, a woman later nicknamed the Witch of Saratoga...

The home’s current owner does not plan on displaying the bottle. Instead, the anonymous individual says they “will probably hide it away again for someone to find in another 100 years or so.” So, how exactly did witch bottles work? Per JSTOR Daily’s Allison C. Meier, practitioners filled the vessels with an assortment of items, but most commonly urine and bent pins. The urine was believed to lure witches traveling through a supernatural “otherworld” into the bottle, where they would then be trapped on the pins’ sharp points. Would-be witchcraft victims often embedded the protective bottles under hearths or near chimneys; as anthropologist Christopher C.

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The mystical Kabbalah roots of natural language processing

With Siri and Alexa, the computer science of natural language processing (NLP) is finally ready for prime time. In IEEE Spectrum, Oscar Schwartz wrote a fascinating essay linking NLP, "linguistic interactions between humans and machines," with 13th century Jewish mysticism. I've always enjoyed smart writing that pulls threads between technology and occult practices, and Schwartz's short piece is a fine example of that. From IEEE Spectrum:

In the late 1200s, a Jewish mystic by the name of Abraham Abulafia sat down at a table in his small house in Barcelona, picked up a quill, dipped it in ink, and began combining the letters of the Hebrew alphabet in strange and seemingly random ways. Aleph with Bet, Bet with Gimmel, Gimmel with Aleph and Bet, and so on.

Abulafia called this practice “the science of the combination of letters.” He wasn’t actually combining letters at random; instead he was carefully following a secret set of rules that he had devised while studying an ancient Kabbalistic text called the Sefer Yetsirah. This book describes how God created “all that is formed and all that is spoken” by combining Hebrew letters according to sacred formulas. In one section, God exhausts all possible two-letter combinations of the 22 Hebrew letters.

By studying the Sefer Yetsirah, Abulafia gained the insight that linguistic symbols can be manipulated with formal rules in order to create new, interesting, insightful sentences. To this end, he spent months generating thousands of combinations of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet and eventually emerged with a series of books that he claimed were endowed with prophetic wisdom.

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Fear and Soldering, an excerpt from Peter Bebergal's Strange Frequencies

I posted some pre-release interviews with Peter Bebergal about his latest book, Strange Frequencies: The Extraordinary Story of the Technological Quest for the Supernatural. The book examines the frequent use of science and technology in pursuit of the otherworldly.

In Strange Frequencies, Peter gets up close and hands on with such tinfoil fun stuff as ghost boxes, spirit radios, EVP recordings, spirit photography, brain toys, and more. In the following excerpt, reprinted from Strange Frequencies and used with permission from TarcherPerigree/Penguin, Random House, Peter delves into the history of the "ghost box" and sets out to try and build one of his own.

Fear and Soldering

In 1995, the October issue of Popular Electronics offered the article “Ghost Voices: Exploring the Mysteries of Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP),” and laid out a few methods for modifying radios to be able to answer whether “the dead are trying to break through the veil between the worlds.” Various techniques are presented: a simple tape recorder with a microphone in a quiet room might record answers to questions that can be heard on playback (tried it, no luck); a circuit to build a small radio much like the Tesla radio I built; tuning a radio between stations and recording the static; and a white noise generator schematic to use instead of a radio to be sure stray transmissions are not being picked up. The tone of the piece is playful but not skeptical. The author takes no position, but Popular Electronics was written for the amateur hobbyist, and if any audience would be interested in such an article, it would certainly be this magazine’s readers.

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Author Peter Bebergal discusses his latest book, Strange Frequencies: The Extraordinary Story of the Technological Quest for the Supernatural

Boing Boing pal, Peter Bebergal, has a new book coming out later this month called Strange Frequencies: The Extraordinary Story of the Technological Quest for the Supernatural. In 2015's Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock n' Roll, Peter explored what he identified as the "occult imagination" and how it had provided critical inspiration to many ground-breaking rock artists of the 60s and 70s (and beyond). In Strange Frequencies, Peter takes a hands-on look at how technology has always gone hand-in-hand with explorations of the otherworldy. He experiments with building a spirit radio, EVP (electronic voice phenomena) recordings, a brain machine, and an automaton, and examines the legend of the Golem (arguably the "programmable robot" of Jewish mysticism), spirit photography, and the relationship between stage magic and magic of the supernatural.

To give you a taste of some of what's in Strange Frequencies, Peter recently appeared on Ryan Peverly's Occulture podcast. Peverly says that Strange Frequencies is the coolest book you will read all year.

And Haute Macabre has just published an interview with Peter conducted by the poet, Janaka Stucky.

JS: I’m glad you brought up divination because that relates to something else that was revelatory to me throughout the book, namely: that the ‘technology’ in the “technological quest for the supernatural” of the title isn’t just cameras, or televisions, or other mechanical devices, but also that crystals or sigils and other more fundamental tools external to our bodies are a kind of technology we use.

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Pam Grossman talks "waking the witch," empowerment, and the magic of art on Ultraculture

My favorite witch, Pamela Grossman (who runs the art/occult blog, Phantasmaphile, the podcast, The Witch Wave, and is the author of What is a Witch) recently sat down with Jason Louv of Ultraculture to talk all things witchy.

On the podcast they discuss (among other things):

What being an “out” magician was like growing up and in the working world, and what the reaction has been like How the archetype of the witch can help empower us, evolve us and move us forward as a culture The resurgence of the toxic right How hope for the future is shining through, even in our dark present moment

For those of us interested in such things, it's a smart, far-ranging, and fascinating conversation. You can read more about Pam and listen to the podcast here.

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Rosemary's Baby and the era of Satanic panic

Inspired by the 50th anniversary this month of the release of Rosemary's Baby, my friend Peg Kay Aloi has written a piece on Crooked Marque on how the iconic occult horror film helped set the stage for the Satanic panic that was to follow.

And therein lies an unusual irony: The clear message of Rosemary’s Baby was that the devil-worshiping witches live right next door, on the other side of the wall of your charming flat on Central Park West. They’re like family: They act as surrogate parents by giving you healthy herbal drinks and silver pendants to protect you, but they’re actually planning to consecrate your baby to the devil. Even your doctor is in on it; heck, your own husband signed his firstborn over to Beelzebub so he could get a juicy part on Broadway! You try to convince people of the plot you’ve uncovered, but they just cluck their tongues (poor thing, you’re just exhausted) and tranquilize you. Even when you’re proven right, that they were there all along, the witches next door who contrived to make you give birth to Satan’s spawn, no one helps you.

Despite overwhelming evidence that most acts of violence against children are perpetrated by family members, the tendency is to look beyond the home, to suspect a shadowy outsider, someone with a taste for heavy metal music and black T-shirts, or a penchant for goddess worship and tarot cards. Rosemary’s Baby masterfully other-ized the evil that lies within (and without), making us hide our children away from any and all possible dangers, including public schools, the internet, the outdoors.

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Touch Me Not, a surreal 18th century manual on how to raise the Devil, and then send him treasure hunting

Last year, the UK occult arts publisher, Fulgur Limited , celebrated its 25th anniversary. Initially focused on the work of the early 20th century British occult artist, Austin Spare, over the years, the imprint has published some of the most beautiful and significant books at the confluence of art and magic and has been the leader in the modern so-called talismanic publishing scene. What the Devil is talismanic publishing? It's an approach to publishing that incorporates magical practice into the act of publishing itself.

The concept originated with occultist Aleister Crowley in the late 19th century. He sought to treat his small press published books on magic and poetry as talismanic objects. Where any book nerd might argue that a finely designed, high-quality printed and bound book is already a magical object, talismanic publishing takes this to another level, with the selection of papers, inks, colors, fonts, and dates and times of publishing often being chosen with magical intent and a special level of consideration being given to the "out of box" experience and initial opening of the book. I have had talismanic books arrive with hand-calligraphied addresses, special perfumed paper wrappings, wax-seals, hand-drawn sigils, and more. Some may roll their eyes at all of this as woo-woo marketing gimmickry, but when this treatment is done well, it lends itself to a unique and elevated experience for anyone who loves bewitching books.

A great case in point is Fulgur's gorgeous new tome, Touch Me Not, their full-color facsimile of the infamous late 18th century grimoire, A Most Rare Compendium of the Whole Magical Art. Read the rest

Erik Davis talks Jack Parsons and "Babalon Rising"

In light of the forthcoming Ridley Scott-produced miniseries on the life of U.S. rocketry pioneer, JPL co-founder, and occultist, Jack Parsons, it's wonderful to see this brilliant discussion of Parsons, at least the occult dimensions of his work, making the rounds.

On this Occulture podcast, host Ryan Peverly welcomes Boing Boing pal Erik Davis to discuss two significant academic papers that Erik has recently published about Parsons, "Babalon Launching" [PDF], exploring the odd interplay of techno-science and occultism in Parsons' work, and "Babalon Rising," which examines Parsons' relationship with the divine feminine and the form of witchcraft he was developing before his untimely death in 1952 in a home lab explosion. It is fascinating to speculate how modern witchcraft might have been different if Parsons' (and wife Cameron's) witchcraft had come to fruition in the early 1950s alongside Gerald Gardner's brand of Wicca. Erik and Ryan are joined in the discussion by Miguel Conner (host of Aeon Byte/Gnostic Radio) and Jeff Wolfe (Secret Transmissions).

If you are unfamiliar with Parsons, he's an extremely important figure in both the development of American/California aerospace and modern occultism. The best book on Parsons, the one the miniseries is based on, is George Pendle's Strange Angel. The book Sex & Rockets, by the pseudonymous John Carter, delves more deeply into the occult and hedonistic aspects of Parsons' life. Read the rest

Occult manuscripts to be digitized and posted online

The announcement is more than a year old, but Dan Brown, of The Da Vinci Code fame, is paying €300,000 to have Amsterdam's Ritman Library digitize thousands of books about "alchemy, astrology, magic and theosophy."

One particularly important text that will be digitized is the first English translation of the works of Jakob Böhme, a 17th-century German mystic. Says Esther Ritman, the library’s director and librarian, “When I show this book in the library, it’s like traveling in an entire new world.” Once the work is available online, she says, “We can take everyone along the journey of this book digitally.”

The last update was a while back, though, with no updates.

Previously: New documentary is a magic portal into a weird and wonderful library Read the rest

Steve Bannon digs the occult

When occult historian Mitch Horowitz's excellent 2009 book Occult America was published, he received a phone call from an admiring fan: Stephen K. Bannon. Over at Salon, Mitch writes about the right wing's weird connection to New Age mysticism:

(Bannon) professed deep interest in the book’s themes, and encouraged me in my next work, “One Simple Idea,” an exploration of positive-mind metaphysics in American life....

Although the media have characterized Bannon as the Disraeli of the dark side following his rise to power in the Trump administration, I knew him, and still do, as a deeply read and erudite observer of the American religious scene, with a keen appetite for mystical thought.

Ronald Reagan, a hero of his, was not dissimilar. As I’ve written in the Washington Post and elsewhere, Reagan, from the start of his political career in the 1950s up through the first term of his presidency, adopted phrasing and ideas from the writings of a Los Angeles-based occult scholar named Manly P. Hall (1901-1990), whose 1928 encyclopedia arcana “The Secret Teachings of All Ages” is among the most influential underground books in American culture.

President Trump himself has admiringly recalled his lessons in the mystic art of “positive thinking” from the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, the Trump family’s longtime pastor, who popularized metaphysical mind-power themes in his 1952 mega-seller “The Power of Positive Thinking.”

What in the cosmos is going on? New Age and alternative spirituality are supposed to be the domain of patchouli-scented aisles of health food stores and bookshops that sell candles and pendulums, right?

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Twin Peaks tarot cards

Last year, Benjamin Mackey designed an inspired collection of digital Twin Peaks Tarot cards. Now, Mackey is making the deck real through an Indiegogo campaign! From the project description:

The Magician Longs to See Tarot is a complete 78-card deck with 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana in full color. The deck combines the mystical world of Twin Peaks with visual evocations of Pamela Colman Smith's iconic tarot illustrations. The Major Arcana have manifested as some of the primary movers and shakers in Twin Peaks, while the Minor Arcana tend towards depicting infamous scenes and moments in the series. My goal is to strike a delicate balance between accurately representing the respective characters while still maintaining readability as a deck.

"The Magician Longs to See Tarot" (via Daily Grail)

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Kenneth Anger and Brian Butler occult theatrical extravaganza in L.A. on Sunday

On Sunday, pioneering underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger and occultist/artist/musician Brian Butler are staging their performance piece Technicolor Skull at The Regent in Los Angeles. From the event announcement:

Unleashing a 60,000 watt sound system and several tons of equipment for this special hometown performance, the duo are at the pinnacle of their powers and look forward to reestablishing dominion over these and other united states.

Artistic contemporaries and longtime friends, Kenneth Anger and Brian Butler work in a wide variety of mediums, though none perhaps more visibly than light and sound. The Regent is proud to host these two visionary artists in person to perform the newest installment of their radical project Kenneth Anger & Brian Butler’s Technicolor Skull. Both artists are continually pushing the limits of their aesthetic and creative capacities towards exceeding characteristically human capabilities. To witness this in a live setting is to experience one of the most important discoveries of the twentieth century.

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