biweekly links 8-16-2017

Major archaeological finds at Greenwich uncover lost Royal palace: archaeologists have found part of Greenwich Palace, where Elizabeth I, her sister “Bloody” Mary I and her dad Henry VIII were born. All they found were the kitchens, but in its time Greenwich was comparable to Hampton Court Palace in size and splendor.

August 7, 1620 in crime history: Katharina Kepler Arrested for Witchcraft in Germany: not a typo, that is astronomer Johannes Kepler’s mom. He defended her himself and did get her released, but this is a stark example of the way superstition persisted in the early years of what we think of as modern science.

Two Massive ‘Sea Serpent’ Oarfish Wash Up on Beaches: if you’re squeamish about the sight of filleted raw fish don’t look, but… take a look at these things! Huge and silver and serpent-like, I find it entirely believable that oarfish are mistaken for sea serpents from time to time.

old fashioned engraving of a sea serpent reared up and blowing water out its mouth like a fountain
The Great Sea Serpent (according to Hans Egede. Courtesy the New York Public Library.

How America Lost Its Mind: from The Atlantic, no less. Much to unpack here: did unfettered intellectual freedom lead to the current climate of subjective feelings trumping measurable fact? And is this relativism run amok a peculiarly American thing?

a fistful of linkage

Because I’m utterly stumped for a topic this week:

England’s new psychedelic renaissance: not a third Summer of Love (yes, there was a second [YouTube]), but less with the (pure) hedonism and more with the science.

Everyday Life and Fatal Hazard in Sixteenth-Century England is exactly what it sounds like: a painstaking examination of extant coroners’ reports reveal many, many dangers of everyday Elizabethan life. Maybe I’m morbid but I look forward to checking out their podcasts and bibliography.

The Racism Behind Alien Mummy Hoaxes: the whole “ancient aliens” thing doesn’t sit well for me and this article explains why better than I ever could. Insisting that aliens must have made [insert marvel of the world here] grossly discounts the tenacity and ingenuity of ancient and/or indigenous peoples. The possibility that hoaxers alter real mummies also runs into issues of desecration of indigenous burials and corruption of archaeological finds.

Photo of incredulous Agent Scully. Text: I'm not saying it was aliens...because it wasn't.
Courtesy Imgflip

biweekly links 7-26-2017

Notorious look at 16th century: check this out! An amateur (!) builder spent 10 years (!) researching and building a replica of a Portuguese caravel. This is the kind of insanely dedicated experiential archaeology I lurve. To my eternal regret I can’t find a website or blog chronicling the building process, but the ship’s Wikipedia page has some information. To find out where it docks next check out its Twitter and Facebook page.

Photo of ship Susan Constant at sunset
Reproduction of the “Susan Constant” at the Jamestown Settlement, no less impressive though it wasn’t made by a single man in his backyard. Author’s own.

A $70 ‘Worry Stone’ and Other Bizarre Spiritual Products You Can Buy Online: I used to have a worry stone – can’t imagine where it got off to but it’s nice to know I can replace it from the comfort of my keyboard. For serious high rollers you can get an “orgon [sic] accumulator” starting at $2000.

What’s Fact and What’s Fiction in Dunkirk: One of many articles about the movie, but I think covers history vs. fiction the best. As a former stickler for historical accuracy at all costs, writing The Book has humbled me to the real difficulties of hammering historical events into a compelling narrative. Nolan’s aim was to “put you on that beach” and I think he did so admirably, while sticking astonishingly close to the facts. Not included: why Germany stopped their attack or the fate of those left behind.

Will: 5 ways ‘The Two Gentlemen’ twists history: from painstaking historical accuracy we go to flamboyant liberty with the facts, or at least the image. I’ve not seen “Will” (yet?) but I can’t hammer it’s “punk rock Elizabethan” aesthetic too hard – I love artful anachronisms – but opinions differ.

biweekly links 7-12-2017

Hitler Used Werewolves, Vampires, and Astrology to Brainwash Germany: despite the tabloid-esque title, this is a sobering article about a forthcoming Yale U Press book on Nazi exploitation of pre-existing supernatural beliefs to further their ideology. To quote the article, “…in times of crisis, supernatural and faith-based thinking masquerading as “scientific” solutions to real problems helps facilitate the worst kind of political and social outcomes.” Indeed.

The Occult Roots of Modernism: Nineteenth century French artist-author-guru Joséphin Péladan is the subject of a new exhibition on the “mystical symbolism” of the artists of his Salon de Rose + Croix. Péladan was part of a wider occult milieu in Belle Epoque Paris that embraced everything from Theosophy to Rosicrucianism to neo-Catharism. If you’re in New York City between now and October 4, you might want to check it out.

Witchcraft and dueling are now legal in Canada: I’m sure they don’t mean together, because combining these could be dangerous…or awesome:

Dueling scene between Snape and Lockhart from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
CanAms will look very different next year. Courtesy Tumblr

The extended weird section

Sometime back I asked if y’all had any interest in a link dump of esoteric/occult/paranormal-oriented publishers and bookstores. The response was a resounding “yes”, so I’ve scoured my bookmarks for you!

How I look browsing in a used bookstore: photo of average guy looking through mundane stack of books. How I feel: picture of Gandalf perusing ancient manuscripts
Via Tumblr.

Some disclaimers:

I’ve not shopped with all of of these, so I can’t vouch for quality of customer service or wares in all cases. Additionally, given the controversial and strange subject matter I can’t vouch for the credibility of all content either. Use your critical thinking.

And as ever, feel free to include your own favorites in the comments!

Publishers:

Llewellyn Worldwide: Publishes Steven Skinner’s large format of John Dee’s Spiritual Diaries and the Key to the Latin of same. In addition to the usual new age standards (tarot decks, divination, spiritual/relationships) they have a blog with related content, most recently a post about the American Gods tv series.

Salamander and Sons: “esoteric, occult, and arcane book publishers”; their Modern Magistery imprint focuses on modern practices and their Unearthed Arcana revolves around historical practitioners and facsimilies of old manuscripts.

Teitan Press: publisher of scholarly works primarily focused on Aliester Crowley and Frederick Hockley.

Nephilim Press: “a trade publication that specializes in the rare and unique subject areas of the occult and arcane, that many major publishing companies consider too controversial to print”. Apparent focus on grimoires contemporary and historic.

Scarlet Imprint: founded in 2007 to publish a “progressive catalogue of books on the Western magical tradition, witchcraft, the African Diaspora religions, esoteric poetry, drama & occulture”. Their online journal is up to date and includes a post with videos from last year’s Trans-States conference, featuring keynote speaker Alan Moore.

Feral House: “innovative and celebrated non-fiction books since 1989”. A very mixed bag; the front page alone features a Muhammed Ali coloring book, a canning and fermenting guide, and a history of the Process Church of the Final Judgment. These plus their categories of “realpolitik”, “kulture”, “crime”, “sex”, and “death” suggests an eye-opening browsing experience if nothing else.

Steamshovel Press: zine founded by veteran conspiracy theorist Kenn Thomas in 1992, they boast “All conspiracy. No theory”. Go here for a plate of UFOs and JFK with sides of lesser-known rabbit holes.

Darklore: “journal of exceptional observations, hidden history, the paranormal and esoteric science”. Based on the URL I think they’re associated with the Daily Grail website. Hat tip GeeCee.

Paraview Press “publishes unique and original books by well-known authors and researchers in the paranormal, spiritual, UFO, and conspiracy-theory field”. I’m mostly familiar with them for publishing much of Nick Redfern’s prodigious output.

Rubedo Press “publishes works of scholarship, philosophy, æsthetics, and esotericism, as well as critical translations of source texts previously unavailable in English”. For what it’s worth, “For explicitly scholarly projects, Rubedo Press offers a strict double-blind peer-review process, drawing on an international panel of interdisciplinary authorities.”

Correspondences: “online journal for the academic study of Western esotericism”; comes out once a year.

Richard Dolan Press (formerly Keyhole Publishing): originally founded to publish Dolan’s “UFOs and the National Security State” duology (Vol 1 1941-1973; Vol 2 1973-1991) its catalog is growing.

Vendors/Stores:

InnerTraditions: online only shop with the usual new age fare.

Discount New Age Books: similar, at lower prices.

Atlantis Bookshop: self-proclaimed “London’s oldest independent occult bookshop”, they have a limited online presence but have long been London’s esoteric hub, hosting Gerald Gardner‘s coven among others.

Seven Stars: Cambridge MA; limited web presence but highly recommended on Yelp. Also carries crystals and other new age paraphernalia. Hat tip Michael Grasso.

Crystal Blue: this shop has been in Atlanta since I was a little quasi-goth wandering around Little Five Points. Crystals, books, and more.

Hledající knihy: online esoteric bookseller out of Prague. Most offerings in Czech; I include for completion’s sake.

Book Reviews:

Magonia Review of Books: formerly a magazine and now an extensive book review site, I’ve found it a valuable resource to find the wheat in this chaff-heavy field. Based out of England, they host regular Magonians In the Pub meetups so check them out if you’re in the neighborhood.

And bonus:

Esoteric Book Conference: Seattle-based conference, the latest information is from last year. No word yet on 2017 though given that it goes back to 2009, I’m hopeful.

biweekly links 6-21-2017

Crazy busy this week preparing for the Historical Novel Society conference in Portland OR (I am in transit as you read). Here’s a link dump of various curiosities from AwesomeCon this past weekend:

Legendary Comics Announces New Series “Cursed” from John Barrowman, Carole Barrowman, and Erika Lewis: yes, that John Barrowman, of Torchwood and Dr. Who fame. Didn’t know he wrote, or that he had a sister to write with, but this Celtic mythology-infused comic about Bonnie Prince Charlie’s cursed descendant sounds very promising.

ReDistricted: Atypical Stories about Washington D.C.: It’s a webcomic about off-the-beaten-path DC history. It’s free, and every story has footnotes! What’s not to love? I’m shamefully unaware of the huge scope and quality of non-fiction history comics out there; it’s time that changed.

Connections Wargaming Conference: Advancing and Preserving the Art, Science, and Application of Wargaming: lest you get a mental image of weekend D&D campaigns or MMPORGs, wargaming is a serious simulation tool for scenarios military, economic, and academic. Much of the panel on this went over my head, but then I’m not even a recreational gamer. I’m pleased someone does this kind of work.

biweekly links 6-7-2017

Witchcraft with a dash of art, and some things which may or may not be:

The hocus pocus of witchcraft: this post from the UK National Archives blog covers the basics but links over to their publication Accused: British Witches Throughout History, a nonfiction book about exactly what it says. Do check out their “We think you may also like” section if you’re into this sort of thing.

A radical new look at the greatest of Elizabethan artists: Two paintings have been newly confirmed as Elizabethan miniaturist Nicholas Hilliard‘s, based on the wood on which they were painted. They’re part of the Power and Portraiture: painting at the court of Elizabeth I exhibit that just opened at Waddesdon Manor. Looks like a good one to check out should you be in Buckinghamshire between now and October 29.

Portrait of Elizabethan man with beard and mustache, wearing a cap and ruff
Hilliard’s portrait of Elizabeth I’s alleged squeeze Robert Dudley, 1576. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
The spy who hoodwinked the Nazis with sorcery: file under “interesting if true”. As opposed to “Operation” Cone of Power in which British witches actually tried to repel the Nazis, Operation Mistletoe was just propaganda. Allegedly orchestrated by spy and occultist Cecil Williams, this article suggests it’s uncertain whether this fake ritual happened at all. (Tangentially, a whip ’round Google for “Napoleonic magical ritual” nets nothing about the alleged witchcraft used to repel Napoleon mentioned in the article. Still, possible inspiration for Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell?)

bonus linkage!

Because I’m short of time this week:

How ‘The White Princess’ Went Against the Norm and Featured People of Color in Tudor England: “Because when you’re making a show about people who have been excluded from history-as women have-it would be entirely hypocritical to exclude other groups of people who have also been excluded from history.” Indeed. Related: People of Color in European Art History Tumblr; “Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe” exhibition catalog.

Mantel to give Reith Lectures on historical fiction: Given Mantel’s controversial statements about the tension between history and fiction I’ll be interested to listen to these once they’re available online. I’m thoroughly impressed by both of her Thomas Cromwell novels, so I admit personal bias.

After 500 Years, Dürer’s Art Still Engraved on Mathematicians’ Minds: And here I was thinking he was “just” an artist. The medieval mind associated the melancholic personality with creativity and intelligence (see this blog’s title); here’s a breakdown of the symbolism in Melencholia I.

Engraving of Melancholy sitting among mathematical and scientific instruments. For symbolic breakdown, see the second link!
Dürer’s Melencholia I, 1515, via Tumblr

biweekly links 5-17-2017

A 17th-century alleged witch inspired Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ – not just “witches” in general but a specific one, who might have been Atwood’s ancestor.

Séance Through Science: Edison’s Ghost Machine – didn’t know this hard-headed inventor was into “that kind of thing”. Mind, it might have been a hoax. Still, something smells strange in Menlo Park.

Build The Spirit Radio That Creeped Out Tesla Himself – Tesla embraced the weird and now you can too!

A statue of Nikola Tesla in Silicon Valley radiates free Wi-Fi in memory of Tesla, who wanted free power for the world.
This is true – I checked it out. Photo via Tumblr.

biweekly links 5-3-2017

Steve Bannon and the occult: The right wing’s long, strange love affair with New Age mysticism: old news, but it seems everyone pulled from this article. Lest you think “New Age alternative spirituality is solely the domain of lefty hippies” indeed. See also: Peter Levenda’s “Sinister Forces” Trilogy (too many links to choose from; you know how to Google).

scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark in which Nazis are incinerated by the Ark of the Covenant. The movie's been out over 25 years, this is not a spoiler.
Mind, the last time alt-righties seriously got into weird stuff it didn’t go well for them. Via FerdyOnFilms.com

Weird Norfolk: The Witch’s Heart of Kings Lynn: a modern reminder of an old crime.

From yob to nabob: the astonishing rise of the Tudor merchant adventurer: Stephen Alford tackles international trade in Tudor London. Alford’s “The Watchers” on Elizabethan espionage was a key and enjoyable research resource for The Book so I have faith he can make this seemingly dry topic just as riveting.