Rudolf II supplementary materials

I was on a podcast!

I talked with Roejen and Lobo over at Project Archivist about one of Dee and Kelley’s great patrons, Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II.  He provided material support and political protection for alchemists, astrologers, scientists, and artists of all stripes. Perhaps not the most glittering court (he was a melancholic recluse who preferred the world to come to him), but he created a golden age of early modern science in Prague.

Here are some images of the Mad Emperor himself, some of the art he favored, and a disturbing family tree. All images Wikipedia Commons unless otherwise noted:

Portrait of Rudolf II
Rudolf II by Joseph Heinz the Elder, 1594, at the peak of his power as Holy Roman Emperor and art/science/occult studies patron.
Archduke Rudolf when he was about 15, by Spanish court painter Alonso Sánchez Coello, 1567. I’d love to know what’s up with the long red nails – some odd Spanish court fashion? Kids those days…
Habsburg family tree
An illustration of the Habsburg intermarriages and the end result. Anna of Austria was Rudolf II’s sister; they lived over 100 years before poor Charles II. From


Arcimboldo Librarian Stokholm
“The Librarian”, 1570 by Giuseppe Arcimboldo. His inventive portraits influenced Surrealist artists 400 years later.

Bartholomäus Springers Venus and Adonis
Bartholomäus Spranger’s “Venus and Adonis”, 1595-1597. An example of the mythological-themed art with bonus naked ladies of which Rudolf was so fond.
Selected Bibliography:

Evans, R. J. W. (1973). Rudolf II and His World: A Study in Intellectual History, 1576-1612. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fučíková, E. (1997). Rudolf II and Prague: The court and the city. Prague, New York, and London: Prague : Prague Castle Administration ; London ; New York : Thames and Hudson.

Marshall, P. (2006). The Magic Circle of Rudolf II: Alchemy and Astrology in Renaissance Prague. Walker & Company.

Nummedal, T. (2007). Alchemy and Authority in the Holy Roman Empire. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

biweekly links 5-18-2016

  • I lived in Georgia half my life so of course I’d never heard of Lake Lanier’s legends until I read about them on an Australian paranormal news site. Evidently its got a giant catfish and ghosts, the latter the paranormal result of leaving entire towns (and cemeteries?) intact beneath its muddy waters.
  • The Ghost Rockets Investigational Portal is a searchable database of Swedish military UFO reports. It’s also the starting point for a crowdsourcing effort to tag and translate the documents into English.
  • The original Globe Theater is long gone, but The Curtain has been found. It seems the archaeologists are rushing to outpace impending new construction over this Shakespearean theater, but there will be a visitors’ center for the dig once excavation is complete.
  • More London: “A series of talks on alchemy and magic” are planned for June 4th and 5th to support the restoration of Brompton Cemetery. Featuring all the hits: Dee, Faust, Paracelsus, and even a theremin concert. Ah, to be in Merrie Olde…
A theremin - a box on a pedestal with an antenna on one side, a metal loop on the other
A theremin – the instrument used to create creepy music associated with 1950s sci-fi films. Courtesy Wikipedia

why I do the weird stuff

No, not that weird stuff!

I mean my biweekly link dumps of witches, occultists, strange/obscure history, and academic papers. Why do I post these (apart from their vague relevance to the work in progress)?

Well, I was a strange child. And I had help.

I grew up on an irregular diet of “Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World” and the occasional surprise “In Search Of” when it aired at odd times on TBS. Also one side of my family nurtured an interest in UFOs, ghosts, cryptozoology, and other Forteana/paranormalia: I remember reading my grandmother’s back issues of Fate Magazine from around age 8, and books got passed around through the mail and at holiday get togethers.

I think the cryptozoology thing grew out of the usual childhood fascination with dinosaurs. My interest was intense enough that by elementary school I was making papier-mâché Loch Ness monsters and a faked plaster cast of a Bigfoot footprint for school projects.

I can’t remember my teachers’ reactions.

shelf of books with titles about UFOs, poltergeists, hidden animals, conspiracies
A “shelfie” of my weird collection. The old Fate mags have long since worn out and been thrown away.

Various family members expressed everything from skeptical interest to full on belief – dinner table conversation could go on for hours. As a child I was fairly uncritical about it all; as a teenager I became more skeptical but sought out anything that made my eyebrows jump – conspiracy theories, alien abduction, prank religions – for the sheer WTFery, if nothing else. I can’t remember how many times I checked High Weirdness by Mail out of the library (oh hey, now there’s an online version!).

And yes, in the 1990s I was a dedicated X-Phile. So many of the stories were already familiar, and the writers did a wonderful job with the source material!

As an adult I’m more detached but my interest remains, though I’ve grown so hard-headed it’s difficult to believe in anything I can’t hit with a hammer, so to speak. At the same time I recognize that subjective experience is relevant to the experiencer, objectively provable or not. In the end it’s not about aliens or ghosts or witches, but about people and how they integrate the unexplained into their lives.

Still, my inner curious child still aches to know: what really happened? What did they really see/experience/find? Through writing fiction I can speculate with the luxury of  not having to prove anything, and I have the freedom to make up answers.

I could (maybe I will) do a whole separate post about growing up as a history buff. Suffice it to say I’m not terribly surprised that two lifelong interests collided to have me writing about Elizabethan magicians ~30 years later.

What about you? Do you have any childhood obsessions that still inform your creative pursuits today? Tell me in the comments!



biweekly links 5-4-2016

mid-17th century leather shoe in poor condition
Shoe found in a cottage in Stockbridge, England. From the Deliberately Concealed Garments Project website.