Sunday, 22 August 2021

easy-bake coven

Via the Awesomer, we learn that the gag children’s book cover parody has been expanded into a whole series of retro-inspired educational texts for precocious young witches and warlocks and other delinquents—see also. Be sure to Steven Rhodes’ complete Sinister Seventies line and My Little Occult Book Club collection at the links above.

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

555-2368

The single released by session guitarist and song writer Ray Parker Jr as theme to the eponymous film (see previously) on this day in 1984 climbed to the top of the US charts and held that place for three weeks. In the UK, it reached the number two spot in mid-September, staying there for the same amount of time. The Oscar-nominated song lost to Stevie Wonder’s Best Original Song, the ballad for The Woman in Red “I Just Called to Say I Love You” (see also) and was the subject of a lawsuit—settled the following year out of court, Parker accused of having plagiarised the melody of Huey Lewis and the News’ “I Want a New Drug” by the band.

Monday, 1 March 2021

your daily demon: abraxas

An aspect of Christian godhood of Gnostic traditions, we have encountered this sixty-ninth spirit beforehand, who also goes by the name Decarabia, and was thought to govern three-hundred sixty-five skies with as many virtues. In demonology, Abraxas (ฮ‘ฮ’ฮกฮ‘ฮžฮ‘ฮฃ and the related incantation abracadabra) is an infernal marquis who controls thirty legions and rules from today through the fifth of March and is considered, according to some sources including our sometimes illustrator Jacques-Albin-Simon Collin de Plancy, responsible for the figure of Jesus Christ, dispatching Him to Earth as a benevolent ghost and is described as an anguipede deity, that is a chimera with snakes for feet and the head of a king. Abraxas is opposed by the angel Rochel and has power over birds and herbs.

Sunday, 21 February 2021

ferฤlia

Marking the end of a nine-day festival honouring familial ancestors called Parentalia (dies parentales, ancestral days), as historian and poet Ovid records in his book on Fasti, Romans across the Empire were prohibited in worship of the gods and instead were to visit the tombs of their departed and lay wreaths and leave offers of violets, salt and wine-soaked bread. More elaborate votives were permitted but this was sufficient to appease the spirits and the practice was strictly enforced, lest Rome return to a time when Ferฤlia was neglected and restless ghosts haunted the streets. As with most Roman holidays, observance was mostly a domestic, private affair and what public rites were held are an obscured and confused accounting, the only surviving description involving a drunk woman holding seven black beans (see also) in her mouth and lighting incense over the grave of a mouse, and sewing shut the mouth of a fish—then proclaiming, “Hostiles linguas inimicaque uinximus ora,” I have gagged spiteful tongues and muzzled unfriendly mouths.

Thursday, 28 January 2021

the wise wife of keith

Garrotted and burned at the stake for witchcraft on this day in 1591 on the order of James VI and said to haunt the halls of Holyrood as a naked ghost, Agnes Sampson was a healer and midwife and one of the more notable defendants of the well documented North Berwick witch trails.

The Scottish king inspired by his experience in the court of Denmark-Norway, visiting his in-laws on the occasion of marrying Anne of Denmark, and accounts of witch-hunting and practicing the dark arts—convinced during a fraught return voyage that a curse was responsible for the stormy passage. Subsequent arrests and interrogations conducted by the king himself in a specially convened tribunal was covered by a contemporary pamphleteer in the Newes from Scotland, which contained proceedings and quoted Sampson’s litany of confessions, implicating others and admitting with a seemingly taunting air that she had tried to drown the newly-weds and another had fashioned a charm out of a toad to make the king impotent. Reportedly James had been willing to declare Sampson innocent until her final confession which detailed the nuptial night of the James and Anne in Oslo with accuracy only one in communion with the devil could know. The writer with the by-line, James Carmichael, of the reportage later advised James on his other famous book (besides his patronage for the Bible), Dรฆmonologie.

Friday, 1 January 2021

muddlemore manor

The seventeenth and final episode airing on this day in 1972 that brought arc of narrative of this last iterative trope of a trio of teens (one, the brainy ginger, portrayed by Micky Dolenz of the Monkees) solving para-paranormal (most had a non-supernatural explanation) mysteries with the help of a sidekick and readily mobile back to its original premise, “Ghost Grabbers,” taking our friendly spirit, the titular Funky Phantom, an colonial rebel from the US Revolutionary War called Johnathan Wellington “Mudsy” Muddlemore and voiced by Daws Butler, repurposing his affectations developed for the character Snagglepuss (which is perfectly acceptable because we didn’t get enough Snagglepuss, also the talent behind Yogi Bear, Cap’t Crunch, Fred Flagstone, Quisp, Chilly Willy, Wally Gator and Huckleberry Hound).
Seeing two British Redcoats infiltrating the premises, Mudsy and his now ghost cat named Boo, hide in the housing of a large grandfather clock but are trapped inside, eventually expiring. The pair are released in the first episode when the teens happen on the estate on a dark and stormy night and reset the hands of the clock to the correct time, thus releasing their spirits. On suspicion that the Redcoats were hiding looted treasure, two recurring schemers disguise themselves as ghosts of the British soldiers to try and scare information out of Mudsy.

Friday, 25 December 2020

the stone tape theory

Adapted for television and first broadcast as a Christmas ghost story back in 1972, the eponymous play directed by Peter Sasdy and written by Thomas Nigel Kneale innovatively tempered horror with elements of scientific plausibility by a research and development team of an electronics firm that have occupied a recently renovated a reportedly haunted Victorian mansion as their new facility and begin collaborating on a new project in computer programming and finding a new format for recording digital media.
Once mysterious events begin happening including the death of one colleague, they conduct some research and interview locals to discover that an unsuccessful exorcism had taken place in the house in 1890. The chief researcher theorises that the apparition that frightened his colleague to death was not a ghost in the traditional sense but that the room, the exposed stone walls somehow psychically recorded that botched casting out spirits and tries to tease out the secret of triggering the playback mechanism and harness it for data storage, only to realise that successive tragedies record over one another. Since the broadcast, the hypothesis of residual hauntings and the “stone tape theory” have been adopted by parapsychological investigators.

Sunday, 18 October 2020

this is what happens when streams are crossed

We previously enjoyed the musical mashups The Grey Album and the Beastles (full compilations at the link below) and so appreciated making the acquaintance with the broader repertoire of cross-over classics with Kraftwerk and here with Ray Parker Jr’s Ghostbusters vs Intergalactic (see also).

Saturday, 23 May 2020

i'll just set my bourbon and advocaat down right here

Premiering in theatres in the US on this day in 1980, the Stanley Kubrick adaptation of the Steven King novel of three years prior presents a certain corollary to and correspondence with the present Zeitgeist of wintering, hibernation and generally being not taxed mentally or physically with its foil of an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic and domestic abuser hoping to take full advantage of this generous sabbatical for self-improvement but woefully unable to.
What do you think? That much of the milieu is quite resonant, even if the plot and search and insistence for meaning is receding—just like we are focusing on inconsistencies, ambiguities and attributed symbolism as curative guideposts to navigate ourselves through this time when for many of us, we just have one job to do. Isolation is not only prone to the compromised credibility of an unreliable narrator but also can cause us to doubt and question our credentials as dependable observers—and whether we’re haunted by real ghosts or the hypochondria cabin-fever.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

lemuralia

Celebrated discontinuously on today, the eleventh and the thirteenth, the Roman performed annual rites into order to exercise malevolent spirits of the dead that had taken up residence in their house during the previous year whom might be lured away with offerings of beans.
The Vestal priestesses whose chief patronage was for hearth and home, cultivating a sacred fire that symbolically burned for all and was never to be extinguished, baked all the mola salsa used throughout the year, salted flour cakes that were much like communion wafers and were burnt offerings themselves as well as given to sacrificial animals—for the whole city and for Lemuralia made a special batch made with the first ears of grain of the season to help appease the restive dead. According to contemporary scholarship by Ovid, the observance was derived from an older ritual called Remuria instituted by the founder of Rome himself to atone for the death of his brother, Remus.
Incantations included the head of the household (paterfamilias) rising at midnight and pattering around the chambers barefooted and tossing black beans over his or her shoulder, favomancy—see above, and repeating Haec ego mitto—his redimo meque meosque fabis (These I dispatch; with these beans I redeem me and mine) with the rest of the family and domestics banging pots and pans. Though All Saints and All Souls Day for Western Christianity has been advanced toward the end of October and beginning of November (Halloween right now? Yes please), for the Eastern Catholic and Oriental Orthodox church, they are celebrated on the Friday following Easter as perhaps a syncretism of this Roman custom. Because of the vacating of noxious ghosts, the month was considered an inauspicious time to wed, and hence the proverb: Mense Maio malae nubunt—Bad girls get married in May.

Saturday, 18 April 2020

le livre des esprits

With the 1857 publication on this day of Allan Kardec’s (nom de plume of Hippolyte Lรฉon Denizard Rivail, *1804 – †1869) seminal, gospel work The Spirits Book, the Spiritist movement (not to be confused with a parallel interest called spiritualism, which concerned itself with the ability and inclination of the dead to communicate to the living) is considered arrived and complete with this final codification that attempts to address the hard, existential questions.
The main tenants of the governing philosophy hold that all corporeal living beings are manifestations of essential and discrete immortal souls which need to become incarnate at increasingly higher states to attain intellectual and moral perfection. The major schism between the former and the later was Spiritism’s belief in the reincarnation, transmigration of the soul into other physical containers and dead relatives being unavailable for consultation through a medium and thus never took hold in the United States and United Kingdom (though those objections seemed to have lapsed in the meantime) as it did in other parts of Europe, South America and Asia. Another aspect that established religions took grave exception to was Spirtism’s theist nature—evolution-affirming in its acknowledgement that a supreme and ambivalent god set things in motion but then stepped away.  After Kardec’s death, his wife and co-founder Amรฉlie Boudet became the movement’s leading authority. There are upwards of twenty-million adherents world-wide, with the majority in Brazil and Vietnam.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

the ghost of pinterest future

Akin to sรฉance through automatic writing or speaking in tongues albeit much more refined and practised, we appreciated the primer in “mediumistic art” through one of the more prepossessing partakers, Maude Ethel (nรฉe Eades) Gill of East Ham, known as Madge to her friends (*1882 – †1961) whom after recovery from an illness in 1920 was suddenly taken with drawing—prolific and guided by a spirit she called “Myrninerest”—that is, my inner rest, having never demonstrated a talent beforehand.
Despite her claim of mediumship, later scholars of her body of work detect a biographical narrative across her portfolio and count Gill among the self-taught outsider artists (see previously here, here and here) regardless of what supernatural help she might have been the recipient of. Rarely exhibiting and never selling her work out of fear of angering Myrninerest, no one had any idea of the extent of her nearly four decades of sketching. Learn more about Art Brut and Madge Gill at Messy Nessy Chic at the link up top.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

the ghost of a flea

Sadly unrecognised during his lifetime, poet, painter and free love advocate, William Blake (*1757 - †1827, see also here and here) produced a large and diverse body of work under the ethos that to exercise the human imagination and push its limits was itself next to godliness. Misunderstood and dismissed as mad, Blake’s single showing while still on this plane was disastrous, one critic calling him an ‘unfortunate lunatic whose personal inoffensiveness secures him from confinement.’
The retrospective exhibition currently at London‘s Tate Gallery (see also from friend of the blog, Nag on the Lake) is certainly a belated vilification and underscores the resonance of his vision.  Perhaps most well known for his illustration of The Book of Job and Dante’s Divine Comedy, like the pictured vignette of Capaneus the Blasphemer, a besieger of Thebes whom Zeus struck down with a lightning bolt for his arrogance, and is confined to the Seventh Circle of Hell with the other souls whom have committed violence against God, though the form of his extinction make him impervious to the torture of the flames and as a pagan he addresses the deity as Jove and still curses him. The titular episode refers to a miniature panel inspired by a vision that came to his friend and collaborator John Varley during a sรฉance and evokes comparison to Henry Fuseli’s 1781 The Nightmare.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

perfect play or macky, micky, mucky, mocky

As an experiment to explore how norms and ethics might be introduced to artificial intelligence in a broad and general fashion, researchers, as Slashdot reports, have trained implicitly one such programme to play Pac-Man and win without gobbling up the ghosts.
The training was a balance between the programme’s drive for optimisation tempered with lessons from human players that avoided the ghosts, even at their most vulnerable, and eventually netted more ethically informed play. It’s not quite the level of trust that I would want in a moment of pursuit but I suppose it does illustrate the potential to build in moral false-safe measures.