Tag Archives: folklore

The Memory Theater

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Memory Theater [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Karin Tidbeck.

Tidbeck The Memory Theater

This novel rewrites and massively expands author Tidbeck’s prior (2009) short story “Augusta Prima” concerning inhabitants of the Gardens, a rather small and artificial fairyland whose chief inhabitants have fallen into a sybaritic cruelty in their never-ending festivities. Augusta herself, a Lady of the Gardens, is the villain of the story, and she expresses a strangely innocent and nevertheless repulsive sort of evil. The heroes of The Memory Theater are Thistle, a “servant” (i.e. slave) who had been abducted from Earth to the Gardens as a child, and his adoptive sister Dora, an enigmatic magical offspring of one Lord of the Gardens. A non-human sorceress named Ghorbi assumes a tutelary role for these two.

Despite my original inferences from the title, The Memory Theater really has nothing to do with Renaissance memory arts or the mental theater of Giulio Camillo (ca. 1480–1544). Instead, the title refers to a small collective enterprise with larger metaphysical consequences: a set of performers enacting memories in order to dignify vanished cultures and values. It is the polar opposite of the Gardens. In the Gardens, time is suppressed, suffering is taken for comic entertainment, and Lords and Ladies are expert at forgetting.

Tidbeck’s prose in this book is lean and efficient. It reads quickly, and some of the descriptors in the original story (e.g. the servants of the Gardens as “changelings,” Ghorbi as a “djinneya”) have been dropped. One effect of this change is to open up a little sfnal ambivalence: the “traffic controllers” of the inter-world crossroads have an air of extraterrestrial exoticism for instance. The relevant Earth history is set in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, largely in Sweden.

From jacket copy and other short descriptions, I expected this book to have a feel like works I had read from Susanna Clarke, but it didn’t. The constellation of central characters and the worlds-transiting magic involved reminded me more than a little of Paul Park’s Roumania books. Still, the flavor was really its own, and I enjoyed it as a distinctive instance of the micro-genre of “fairy weird.”

It was a snake, cold of eye, its tongue flickering, its fangs dripping with poison. It hissed, and a drop of poison from its mouth dripped onto Loki’s face, making his eyes burn. Loki screamed and contorted, writhing and twisting in pain. He tried to get out of the way, to move his head from beneath the poison. The bonds that had once been the entrails of his own son held him tightly.

Neil Gaiman, Norse Mythology [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library]

Hermetic quote Gaiman Norse Mythology snake cold eye tongue fangs dripping poison Loki burn screamed contorted writing twisting pain bonds entrails son held tightly

Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales

Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales by Marie-Louise von Franz, a C G Jung Foundation book, a 1995 revised edition paperback from Shambhala Publications, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Marie-Louise von Franz Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales from Shambhala Publications

“Fairy tales seem to be innocent stories, yet they contain profound lessons for those who would dive deep into their waters of meaning. In this book, Marie-Louise von Franz uncovers some of the important lessons concealed in tales from around the world, drawing on the wealth of her knowledge of folklore, her experience as a psychoanalyst and a collaborator with Jung, and her great personal wisdom. Among the many topics discussed in relation to the dark side of life and human psychology, both individual and collective, are:
· How different aspects of the “shadow”—all the affects and attitudes that are unconscious to the ego personality—are personified in the giants and monsters, ghosts, and demons, evil kings and wicked witches of fairy tales
· How problems of the shadow manifest differently in men and women
· What fairy tales say about the kinds of behavior and attitudes that invite evil
· How Jung’s technique of Active imagination can be used to overcome overwhelming negative emotions
· How ghost stories and superstitions reflect the psychology of grieving
· What fairy tales advise us about whether to struggle against evil or turn the other cheek ” — back cover


Aradia

Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches by Charles Godfrey Leland, newly translated by Mario Pazzaglini and Dina Pazzaglini, with additional material from Chas S Clifton, Robert Mathiesen, and Robert E Chartowich, with foreword by Stewart Farrar, a 1999 paperback from Phoenix Publishing, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Charles G Leland et al Aradia from Phoenix press

“When Charles Godfrey Leland published Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches at the end of the nineteenth century as the crowning product of his Italian researches of the 1880s and 1890s, he believed he was preserving what remained of an ancient but dying tradition before it was too late. he could not have known that in so doing he was providing one of the key source-books which would inspire a vigorous revival of that tradition half a century after his death. Had he been able to foresee it, he would have been astonished, probably amused, and almost certainly gratified; for in spite of the occasional Victorian caution with which he expressed himself, his research was clearly a labor of love.

This expanded edition features contributions by several eminent authorities:

Mario Pazzaglini, PhD, whose family origins on both sides are deeply rooted in the area where Aradia originated, has spent 25 years working on this new translation. He gives line-by-line transcription showing where Leland made his original errors as a result of his lack of comprehension of the dialect of the area. The new translation is then presented in the same format as the original edition (which is included here as well), Mario’s research notes are also included.

Chas Clifton has been studying witchcraft and the occult for over 25 years. He teaches at the University of Colorado and has a long list of published books to his name, including: Iron Mountain: A Journal of Magical Religion, The Modern Rites of Passage, Witchcraft and Shamanism, and Sacred Mask, Sacred Dance. He discusses the significance of Aradia on the revival of modern witchcraft.

Robert Mathieson [sic], PhD, has been a member of the faculty of Brown University for over 30 years. During the last decade most of his research has been on the historical development of magical theories and practices from the Middle Ages to the present. He writes on the origins of Aradia, including the culture and religion of the area, as well as the difficulties involved in retranslating the book.

Stewart Farrar is a professional journalist and author of many books on the occult including The Witches’ Goddess, The Pagan Path, Spells and How They Work and The Witches’ Way. He regularly appears on television and radio and has been featured in a film on witchcraft.” — back cover


Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe

Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe: Early Scandinavian and Celtic Religions by H R Ellis Davidson, the 1988 paperback from Syracuse University Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

H R Ellis Davidson Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe from Syracuse University Press

“Most people know of Valhalla, the World-Tree and the gods of Norse mythology, or the strange hunts and voyages of the ancient Irish tales. Yet few people realise the significance of the similarities and contrasts between the religions of the pre-Christian people of north-western Europe.

The Celts and Germans and Scandinavians has much the in common in their religious practices and beliefs, and this is the first serious attempt that has been made to compare them. There are striking resemblances in their ideas about battle-goddesses and protective spirits, holy places, sacrificial rituals, divination and ideas about the Other World; and Myths and symbols in pagan Europe poses questions like: do such parallels go back to early times or are they owning to late Viking contact?

Hilda Ellis Davidson has worked for many years on pre-Christian Scandinavian and Germanic religion and now compares them with the Celts from the background of previous studies, using evidence from archaeology, iconography, later literature and folklore, in a search for basic patterns which will add to our knowledge of the early peoples in Europe.

Aimed at teachers and libraries but also accessible to students of history, religion and Celtic, Norse and German languages and cultures.” — back cover


Approaches to Greek Myth

Approaches to Greek Myth, edited and introduced by Lowell Edmunds, a 1991 paperback from Johns Hopkins, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Lowell Edmunds Approaches to Greek Myth from Johns Hopkins

“There was no simple agreement on the subject of ‘myth’ in classical antiquity, and there remains none today. In Approaches to Greek Myth, Lowell Edmunds brings together practitioners of eight of the most important contemporary approaches to the subject. Whether exploring myth from a historical, comparative, or theoretical perspective, each lucidly describes a particular approach, applies it to one or more myths, and reflects on what the approach yields that other do not.

Contributors are H. S. Versnel, on the intersections of myth and ritual; Carlo Brillante, on the history of Greek myth and history in Greek myth; Robert Mondi, on the Near Eastern contexts , and Joseph Falaky Nagy, on the Indo-European structures in Greek myth; William F. Hansen, on myth and folklore; Claude Calame, on the Greimasian approach; Richard Caldwell, on psychoanalytic interpretations; and Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood, on the iconography of vase painting of Theseus and Medea—and on a methodology for ‘reading’ such visual sources. In his introduction, Edmunds confronts Marcel Detienne’s recent deconstruction of the notion of Greek mythology and reconstructs a meaning for myth among the ancient Greeks.” — back cover


Fifth International Conference of the ASE on Jun 19-22nd, 2014 at Colgate University

The Fifth International Conference of the Association for the Study of Esotericism on June 19th–22nd, 2014 at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. The conference schedule has recently been posted and you will find quite a few presenters and presentations of interest including a couple by Hermetic library fellows:

· Mark Stavish, Israel Regardie and the Theory and Practice of the Middle Pillar Exercise
· Joscelyn Godwin, Esotericism in a Murky Mirror: Strange Practices in Central New York.

Do check out the whole schedule, but a selection of the other presentations, that catch my eye, includes:

· John L Crow (Thelema Coast to Coast), The Theosophical Shift to the Visual: Graphical Representations of the Human Body in the Literature of Second and Third Generation Leadership in the Theosophical Society
· Simon Magus, The fin de siècle magical aesthetic of Austin Osman Spare: Siderealism, Atavism, Automatism, Occultism
· David Pecotic, Building Subtle Bodies — Gurdjieff’s esoteric practice of conditional immortality in the light of Poortman’s concept of hylic pluralism in the history of religions
· Richard Kaczynski, Inventing Tradition: The Construction of History, Lineage and Authority in Secret Societies
· Wouter Hanegraaff, The Transformation of Desire in Machen’s & Waite’s House of the Hidden Light
· Sarah Veale, Disenchantment of the Vampire: Balkan Folklore’s Deadly Encounter with Modernity
· Gordan Djurdjevic, “In Poison there is Physic”: On Poisons and Cures in Some Strands of Esoteric Theory and Practice.

From Ritual to Romance

From Ritual to Romance by Jessie L Weston, part of the Mythos / Bollingen series, a 1993 paperback from Princeton University Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Jessie L Weston From Ritual to Romance from Princeton University Press

“Acknowledged by T.S. Eliot as crucial to understanding ‘The Waste Land,’ Jessie Weston’s book has continued to attract readers interested in ancient religion, myth, and especially Arthurian legend. Here she reinterprets the saga of the Grail by exploring the legend’s Gnostic roots.

Drawing from J.G. Frazer, who studied ancient nature cults that associated the physical condition of the king with the productivity of the land, Weston considers how the legend of the Grail related to fertility rites—with the lance and the cup serving as a sexual symbols. She traces its origins to a Gnostic text that served as a link between ancient vegetation cults and the Celts and Christians who elaborated on the story. Conceiving of the grail saga as a literary outgrowth of ancient ritual, she seeks a Gnostic Christian interpretation that unites the quest for fertility with the striving for mystical oneness with God.” — back cover


Paul: Saint or Rascal?

Paul: Saint or Rascal? by Walter C Cambra, a monograph, has arrived at the Reading Room courtesy of the author.

Walter C Cambra Paul: Saint or Rascal?

“It is a familiar cliche of Christian folklore that the Christian Church and its main advocates were persecuted by the Caesars of Rome. It also is a cornerstone of Christian lore that the Christian Church and the Roman Empire were hostile and mutual adversaries each seeking to exclusive loyalty of men’s minds.

However, what is well established in the minds of men throughout numerous generations may have no independent corroborative basis in actual fact! I wish to examine the institutional notions mentioned in the opening paragraph with a litmus test that actually confirms the first sentence of this second paragraph.”