This is the third book in Taschen’s “Library of Esoterica” series. These are art books that explore esoteric fields of study through art. While this volume was not as good as the first two—Tarot and Astrology—in my opinion, it was still an interesting read.
The book is a collection of essays, which augment the artwork presented in the book. Pam Grossman sums the text up nicely in her Foreword.
What follows is a kaleidoscopic, wide-lensed look at depictions of witches throughout history – both as we’ve imagined them and as they self-identify. The tome spans time and space, gender, and geography. You’ll find real rites and contemporary rituals in its pages alongside wild, unbridled visions by artists through the ages.
In the essay “Art is a Spell,” also written by Grossman, she establishes a parallel between artists and witches, which I found interesting.
Like a witch, the artist conjures, shapes reality, manifests. The practice of magick is sometimes referred to as “the arte magickal” or “the dark arts.” That there is a kinship between those who craft magick and those who conjure art is undeniable. And sometimes they may be one and the same, and the Venn diagram of artist and witch collapses and melts into its own magick circle.
And this succinctly sums up what the strength of this book is—a blending of art and magick that demonstrates how one influences the other. Because, there is no question that throughout history, art has inspired those on the spiritual path, and likewise, spirituality and mysticism have been an endless source of inspiration for artists across all mediums.
I think that’s all for this post. Going to keep it short. Thanks for stopping by, and have an inspired day.
This is the second book in Taschen’s “Library of Esoterica” series. These are art books that explore esoteric fields of study through art. So far, I have been thoroughly impressed with these texts.
In addition to the stunning illustrations, the book provides an historical overview of astrology’s development, as well as some information about the symbolism behind the signs and planets.
Of all the esoteric practices, astrology is perhaps the most ancient, developed by the peoples of the earliest known cultures: the Sumerians, the Babylonians, and the Egyptians. Long-ago civilizations throughout Africa, the Islamic lands, Asia, and South America, documented their study of the stars and planets and created a shared and interconnected mythology. Astrology, in some form, has been ritualized in nearly every ancestral tradition around the world.
It is not surprising that both astrology and astronomy developed along with calendar systems, which were important in agricultural societies.
For many, the advent of astrology – and astronomy – occurred alongside the development of calendar systems tied to agricultural seasons and their feasts. In ancient Egypt, for example, the annual flooding of the Nile created a discernable pattern of events: the star Sirius, the brightest in the sky, would appear in the east just before sunrise, heralding the arrival of the waters.
(pp. 18 – 20)
After Copernicus advanced the heliocentric model of our solar system, science distanced itself from astrology; but artists and writers continued to draw inspiration from the practice.
But all was not lost post-Copernicus. While astrology was cut loose from astronomy and science, its practices and lore spread to places where mystery was still permitted – literature, art, and psychology – where it animated and inspired the work of artists and thinkers including Goethe, Byron, Blake, and eventually, in the 20th century, Carl Jung.
One fact that I found particularly interesting was that “during World War II, both the Axis and Allied forces used astrologers, especially for propaganda purposes.” (p. 45) Having studied propaganda in school, I can envision how governments could employ astrology to bolster their “information.”
I personally feel that practices like astrology are more valuable as tools of self-exploration than as predictors of events. This method of using astrology is tied to the field of psychology.
The advent of psychology in the 19th century changed the practice of astrology from being mostly a predictive tool that looked toward the future to an interrogative tool for exploring the inner, rather than outer world.
To conclude, this is a beautiful book and a nice addition to any personal library. I suspect I will be returning to it again and again. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day.
I recently read a beautifully illustrated art book on the Tarot, which inspired me to order the Dali Tarot set. This is a gorgeous reproduction of the Tarot Universal Dali deck that Salvador Dali created. In addition to the cards, which are large and of high quality, the set also comes with an oversized book that describes the symbolism associated with each card. All of this is packaged in a rich purple velvet case. I have to say, it was well worth the money.
In the Preface to the book, Annette Kroger provides a nice introduction.
In the mid-1970s, Salvador Dali created the Tarot Universal Dali, which was originally published as a limited-edition signed artwork. Based on the age-old tradition of tarot, Dali created a new artistic version by drawing on nearly 78 masterpieces of Western civilization from antiquity to modernity, including some of his own.
Thus, at the age of 70, he became one of the many great names in art history to surrender to the magic of playing cards.
For me, Dali’s artwork seems to tap directly into the deep recesses of the unconscious mind. And what is so useful about the accompanying book is that it draws your attention to the subtle symbolism that Dali incorporates into the artwork on each card. I will site an excerpt from the description of the Wheel of Fortune card.
The disk in the middle is divided into two parts, indicating human consciousness and the unconscious mind. Both parts of the image complement each other, but differences are also apparent. The lower section is filled with symbols and signs, while the upper areas are empty. This might suggest that the messages of the unconscious are conveyed through symbols alone.
If you are fascinated by Salvador Dali’s artwork, then this is a worthwhile purchase, even if you are not a reader of tarot cards. The artwork itself makes it well worth the $60 investment. I do have one criticism, though. The Preface and Introduction in the book, while highly interesting and worth reading, are gold text on a deep purple background. This makes reading very difficult, even if you are not vision impaired. Thankfully, the majority of the book is black text on white background, but you would think that the publisher of an art book would take into consideration the design aspects of color contrast between text and background. But this is just a minor flaw in an otherwise great set.
This is the first in a series of books published by Taschen exploring metaphysics through art. I picked it up while perusing the shelves in a local indie bookstore. I only needed to skim a few pages to know I had to have this on my shelves.
This is, first and foremost, an art book. It is lavishly illustrated with stunning images of tarot cards from a myriad of decks, as well as images of artwork inspired by tarot and photographs of individuals who played prominent roles in the development of modern tarot. Additionally, there is some great information in the book, providing a history of tarot as well as explanations of the symbolism associated with the cards.
What I personally find fascinating about the tarot are the archetypes and how they can be used as a method of self-discovery. Penny Slinger, an artist who wrote the foreword section of the book, describes this nicely.
We all have archetypes within us, once we expand our limited sense of self. In this way, Tarot is transformational, allowing us to see the alchemy of ourselves. Tarot allows us to get past the barriers we put up that prevent us from seeing the path of least resistance. That is what the cards are meant to do. They are signposts along the way. The whole process of divination, in fact, is one that allows us to access the energy of who we are, without having ourselves get in the way. Tarot enables a direct connection to the spirit, to the divine, to whatever we want to call those forces that work both within and along with us. It is a practice that lets us listen to our inner voice, the intuitive self.
If you are even slightly interested in tarot, then I highly recommend this book. The information and artwork are both inspiring and educational. And it is just a beautiful book that will look nice on any shelf.
There are two more volumes so far in the series, and yes, I have already bought them too. I look forward to exploring those in the not-too-distant future. Cheers!
This is a “new” graphic horror magazine. I put “new” in quotations marks because actually, it used to beThe Creeps magazine, but it seems that there was some copyright infringement and they had to change the name. Anyway, this is the first issue and it adheres to the time-tested format of short, campy horror tales done in black-and-white. The writers, artists, and editors are all alumni from the early days of Warren publications, so there is definitely an authentic feel that fans of the old horror mags like Creepy and Eerie will appreciate.
The tales are curated by Old Aunt Shudder, who introduces herself on the inside of the front cover page.
Welcome! …to the first great collector’s edition of Shudder magazine! Your Old Aunt Shudder here, and I’ll be your host as you journey through these terror-filled pages! Inside, you will find all new work from the greatest horror comic artists and writers in the history of monster-dom! I’ve scoured the globe for the world’s top talent to bring you the kinds of terror tales that haven’t been seen for nearly fifty years! Presented in the classic style of the best black and white illustrated horror comic magazines of the 1960’s and 1970’s! Shudder is dedicated to preserving the style of horror comics that were being created at the height of the genre, when realism ruled and dark, moody illustrations brought the world of monsters, creatures and things that go bump in the night to “life!” Now! Enter my world… it’s guaranteed to make you… Shudder!
This is great stuff to read during the Halloween season, especially if, like me, you were raised on the classic horror magazines that Shudder emulates. I am definitely looking forward to future issues.
This book marks an expansion in my reading, being the first manga book that I have read. I had tried reading one some years back but had a difficult time following the flow. The left-to-right was one thing, but what confused me was the text within the panels. Anyway, I ended up not reading it and just never tried again. But my daughter came to visit and brought this book along for me to read. She said it was a favorite of hers and she thought I would enjoy it. So I had her give me some basics on reading manga, and took the plunge. Once I got comfortable with the format, it moved nicely.
For those of you who are not familiar with the genre, here is a little background.
Manga are comics or graphic novels originating from Japan. Most manga conform to a style developed in Japan in the late 19th century, though the art form has a long prehistory in earlier Japanese art. The term manga is used in Japan to refer to both comics and cartooning. Outside Japan, the word is typically used to refer to comics originally published in the country.
In Japan, people of all ages read manga. The medium includes works in a broad range of genres: action, adventure, business and commerce, comedy, detective, drama, historical, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction and fantasy, erotica (hentai), sports and games, and suspense, among others. Many manga are translated into other languages. Since the 1950s, manga has become an increasingly major part of the Japanese publishing industry.
This text falls into the horror sub-genre. It is the story of a coastal town in Japan contaminated with spirals. The spiral shapes that appear have bizarre effects upon physical reality within the town, as well as disturbing effects upon the collective and individual psyches of people within the town.
Early in the book, the spiral is identified as a mystical shape.
It fills me with a deep fascination…like nothing else in nature…no other shape…Mr. Goshima, I find the spiral to be very mystical.
As the effects of the spiral increase within the town, it is discovered that spiral whirlwinds can be generated by the slightest of movements, which is then linked to the Butterfly Effect which is part of Chaos Theory in modern physics.
That’s what’s happening in this town. “The flapping of a single butterfly’s wings can create a hurricane on the other side of the world. This is like the “Butterfly Effect”…
Finally, the spiral is revealed as a symbol of eternity and of cycles of creation, destruction, and rebirth, which both transcends and encapsulates time.
And with the spiral complete, a strange thing happened. Just as time sped up when we were on the outskirts, in the center of the spiral it stood still. So the curse was over the same moment it began, the endless frozen moment I spent in Shuichi’s arms. And it will be the same moment when it ends again…when the next Kurouzu-Cho is built amidst the ruins of the old one. When the eternal spiral awakes once more.
While this book seems formidable, weighing in at over 650 pages, it does not take a lot of commitment to read it, since the storyline is heavily driven through the use of graphic imagery. Which prompts me to say a few words about the artwork. In addition to writing this story, Mr. Ito also drew all the illustrations, which are stunning and intricate. To be gifted in either writing or the visual arts is a blessing, but to be gifted in both is highly unusual, and Junji Ito demonstrates that he is adept in both artistic fields.
I am grateful that my daughter brought this book along on her visit and encouraged me to read it. I really enjoyed it and feel that it expanded my reading horizons. I suspect I will be reading more manga in the future. If you have suggestions for other manga to read, I would love to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by, and keep broadening your horizons.
Catching up on my creepy collection of classic chilling tales of spine-tingling terror. This issue has six shocking stories of scintillating suspense, but I am going to only focus this post on one of the tales.
It seems that in every installment of this publication, they do a short illustrated version of a classic horror story, and in this issue they present a graphic version of The Other Lodgers by Ambrose Bierce. Basically, it is the story of a man who sleeps in a deserted hotel and encounters restless spirits, since at one time it was used as a hospital to treat soldiers in the Civil War, many of whom died there as a result of their injuries.
“Sir, if you’ll sit down, I’ll tell you of this place. It’s not a hotel… It used to be a hotel, and afterwards it was a hospital. Now it’s deserted and unoccupied. The room you slept in was the hospital’s dead-room where were always plenty of dead. The night-clerk you described used to check-in the hotel’s guests. Later he checked-in the hospital’s patients, but he died a few weeks ago!”
I have not read Bierce’s original short story, but I think I will. I enjoyed this graphic retelling, so I am sure I would like the original text.
While visiting my local comic store recently, I noticed this issue on the rack, and it is hard for a graphic horror fan to pass up a “spooktacular” issue.
The Creeps is a graphic horror magazine published by Warrant Publishing and revives the style and feel of graphic horror from the 1970s, and from what I read online, they employ writers and artists from that period to create an authentic experience. Issues are curated by The Old Creep, a character with a macabre sense of humor that adds a playful feel to the publication.
This compilation issue contains short tales from previous issues, and the cover claims that this is a collection of “fear fables and classic terror tales.” It is the phrase “fear fables” that stands out for me and which is important to discuss regarding this publication.
The magazine contains eleven tales, and what is consistent is that each of them have a kernel of morality woven into the storyline. Protagonists are confronted with an array of horrors, but these horrors are the result of actions that express a moral flaw. So those seeking revenge, those who mock people over disabilities, individuals acting out of greed, pedophiles, and so forth, all come to grisly ends as a result of their actions. Essentially, you could think of this as the morality of the macabre.
Growing up, I read horror magazines extensively: Creepy, Eerie, Tales from the Crypt, Vamiprella, and so forth. As a kid, I never gave much thought to the lessons of morality that were woven into the tales, but looking back, I sense that these early seeds of my reading habits were planted in my psyche, and as a result, I was much more open to accepting concepts of karma as I matured. There was never a question in my mind: if you do wicked deeds, then something wicked will your way come.
It is easy to point fingers at films, books, games, music, and so forth, and condemn them for corrupting young minds, but the truth is that we really don’t know how these art forms will manifest later on in a person’s life. We should not be so quick to judge. Sometimes, the seeds of wisdom are found in strange places.
I hope you enjoyed this post, and expect more “spooky” posts as October moans on.
Never those beauties in old prints vignetted,
Those shopworn products of an worthless age,
With slippered feet and fingers castanetted,
The thirst of hearts like my heart can assuage.
To Gavarni, the poet of chloroses,
I leave his troupe of beauties sick and wan;
I cannot find among those pale, pale roses
The red ideal mine eyes would gaze upon.
Lady Macbeth, a soul strong in crime,
Aeschylus’ dream born in a northern clime—
Ah, you could quench my dark heart’s deep desiring;
Or you, Michelangelo’s daughter, Night,
In a strange posture dreamily admiring
Your beauty fashioned for a giant’s delight!
(translation: F.P. Sturm)
This poem is Baudelaire’s critique of the artistic ideal of beauty. He asserts that beauty expressed through art is unrealistic, and the result is a “dark heart’s deep desiring” for something that does not exist.
In the second stanza, he contrasts “pale, pale roses” with the “red ideal mine eyes would gaze upon.” The roses here symbolize women, the red rose being an artistic representation of the idealized female form, and the pale rose being a real woman.
Baudelaire’s argument is still valid today. We still have an ideal of what beauty should be, and this ideal is something that no amount of plastic surgery can bestow upon a person. We all have flaws and imperfections, and I think what Baudelaire is asserting here is that it is our imperfections that convey our true beauty, those unique qualities that are specific to an individual.
As long as we lust after the ideal of beauty, we will always be disillusioned, unhappy, and burdened with the longing for something we will never attain.
I’ve been slowly working my way through The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, which is quite a long book, so I’ve been interspersing it with other books and poems. So far, Crowley spends a lot of time emphasizing his brilliance as a poet, going so far as to view himself as superior to Yeats (a fine example of hubris, in my humble opinion). But he did include a sonnet which he said was inspired by Auguste Rodin’s sculpture of Honoré de Balzac, the French writer (see image above). I felt the poem was worth talking about. Here is the text for reference:
Giant, with iron secrecies ennighted,
Cloaked, Balzac stands and sees. Immense disdain,
Egyptian silence, mastery of pain,
Gargantuan laughter, shake or still the ignited
Statue of the Master, vivid. Far, affrighted,
The stunned air shudders on the skin. In vain
The Master of La Comédie Humaine
Shadows the deep-set eyes, genius lighted.
Epithalamia, birth songs, epitaphs,
Are written in the mystery of his lips.
Sad wisdom, scornful shame, grand agony
In the coffin folds of the cloak, scarred mountains, lie,
And pity hides i’ th’ heart. Grim knowledge grips
The essential manhood. Balzac stands, and laughs.
Crowley explains that he wrote the poem in support of Rodin, who was being harshly criticized regarding the sculpture.
The sculpture was not received well by the critics; Rodin took the negativity as a personal attack. Many disliked the grotesque stature of the figure while others criticized the work to be very similar to that of the Italian impressionist Medardo Rosso. As well, reports surfaced before the unveiling of the sculpture regarding anticipated dismay over the final outcome of the artwork. The Société des Gens de Lettres decided to disregard the commission to Rodin and not accept the sculpture.
Personally, I love when artists find inspiration from artistic works of different mediums. So here we have a poem, written about a sculpture, which was inspired by the works of a novelist. To me, this exemplifies how all artistic forms are connected, that they all seek to elevate the human consciousness to loftier planes.
As I look at Rodin’s sculpture and consider Crowley’s words, I get the sense that Crowley’s admiration of this work stems from the cloak of mystery that seems to enshroud Balzac. From what I gather about Crowley, he would likely have related to the feeling of being cloaked, particularly from the ritualistic occult perspective. And even artistically. As I read more of his writings, I get the sense that he was attempting to create this myth about himself, wrapping himself in a woven tale to give him a mystique as a prophet and occultist.
While I don’t think that Crowley is as great of a poet as he claims he was, it is interesting to read his poems nonetheless, because if nothing else, poems provide a window into the writer’s psyche.