Monday, August 23, 2010

Memeplex: Incubus

"One of the most notorious historical instances of a woman tutored by her incubus was that of Magdalena de la Cruz, of the convent of Santa Isabel de los Angeles, of Cordova, which she entered when seventeen years old, in 1504. For thirty-nine years she successfully exhibited a series of phenomena, trances, visions, prophecies, which deluded well-nigh all of Spain, and caused her to be regarded with the utmost veneration by the highest and the lowest in the land. Some, however, were not deceived. St. Ignatius Loyola entirely distrusted these exterior marvels, and rebuked one of her followers with great severity. Blessed Juan de Avila, one of the directors of St. Teresa, and a profound master of the mystical life, refused to believe in the heavenly origin of these ecstasies and soothsayings. In 1543 Magdalena fell dangerously ill, and was given over by the physicians. Believing that she lay on her death-bed, the sick woman, with floods of tears, made a full and ample confession of her imposture, and acknowledged that almost from the first she had acted under the influence and by the help of two evil spirits, Balban and Patorrio. These incubi were not only her paramours, but had taught her all kinds of juggling sleights and instructed her in seeming prophecies and visions of future events. The tale was a long and terrible one. Magdalena recovered, and the ecclesiastical authorities began an examination into these extraordinary happenings. A vast number of witnesses were heard, so that the process did not conclude until 2 May, 1546, when judgement was pronounced. [...] Thus Baxter, in his Historical Discourse of Apparitions and Witches, 1691, p 224, speaks of 'the Witch Magdalen Crucia, who got the Reputation of a Saint...and confessed how from twelve years old the Devil had lain with her thirty years.'"
-Montague Summers, Witchcraft and Black Magic

So, filled with longing and unease,
Tamara would sit long and gaze
Engrossed in lonely meditation
All day, and sigh with expectation
Beside her window, staring out....
That he would come she had no doubt,
Why else then were her dreams so clear?
Why else then used he to appear
With eyes so infinitely sad
And speech so marvellously tender?
For many days on end she had
Been strangely moved - she knew not why....
She called the good saints to defend her
But in her heart she called on him;
And always, when the day grew dim,
Weary with staring she would lie
Down on her bed and try to sleep:
The pillow burnt her flaming cheek
Fear stifled her, she gasped for breath,
Then, from her pallet she would leap
With heaving shoulders, fevered breast
Trembling, a mist before her sight,
Her arms outstretched to clasp the night,
The kisses melting on her lips...


 I am he to whom you barkened
In the stillness of the night,
He whose thought your mind has darkened,
He whose sadness you have felt,
Whose image haunts your waking sight,
Whose name the end of hope has spelt
To every soul with whom I treat.
I am he no man may love,
A scourge to all my mortal slaves,
The ill in nature. Enemy
To Heaven and all the powers above.
Lord of knowledge, liberty.
And, as you see, I'm at your feet.

-Mikhail Lermontov, "The Demon."

["Night Visit," by Mark Ryden; "Dreamtime for Toby," by Gary Baseman; "Demon and Tamara," by Mikhail Vrubel]

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Spare at the Cuming Museum

For you folks across the pond, London's Cuming Museum will be having an exhibition of Austin Spare's work this September. For those of you with disposable income, this illustrated monograph is being released to accompany the event.

(All right, I've gotta say it: "Cockney Visionary?" Really? Isn't that kind of like saying "Southie Guru?")

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Moonlight Densetsu

I'm sure some of you are sick of this particular obsession of mine - the Sailor Moon obsession, that is - but until Faust figures out Wordpress some more, I'm stuck here twiddling my thumbs and listening to Japanese pop music from 1992. I have serious topics up my sleeve, I promise!

Some of you may remember my first post on "magical girls." Having had Sailor Moon on the mind recently, I realized that the most basic premise of the show is this: a girl is visited by black cat, who speaks to her, and grants her powers and magical objects. Gee, that sounds awfully...familiar. (See what I did there?)

Then I happened to come across some of the original openings for the show, which I had never seen in the English adaptations. The first thing I was struck by was that every opening began with a night sky, and the sound of a clock tower. It strikes three.

I don't think most of this stuff is intentional. But judging by these sequences, it shouldn't be surprising that witchcraft motifs should show up in a series that is basically about teenage battle-mages. And look: her boyfriend - who begins as a mysterious "man in black" at the beginning of the series - rides across the night sky on a flying horse.

Bit of a stretch? Maybe. But you can take it further. Notice how Sailor Moon raises her wand to the sky, draws power into it, and takes on the aspect of the Moon Princess. (That is a plot point, not my own interpretation.) Conscious references to Greek mythology (especially the zodiac) are present in the show - such as the magical cats being named Luna, Artemis and Diana, and Sailor Moon's love interest being Endymion himself, essentially.

I kept trying to talk myself out of this, but the more I watched, the more intrigued I became. Like with this next opening: watch Sailor Moon descend into darkness, surrounded by clocks. Very "Alice," right? Then the central emblem from the Wheel of Fortune card keeps appearing. I don't believe there's any context for that in the show.

Usagi flies naked through the air around the symbol, and is shown once again as the Moon Princess. Notice how the bow of her dress is clearly reminiscent of fairy wings. The Wheel of Fortune appears a second time at the end after her consort approaches her.

And here's the one where they ascend from some Classical ruin and fly into the air towards the moon. Sailor Moon rises naked from a magical golden cup. (Yes, it's supposed to be the Holy Grail.) Then a procession of sparkling butterflies (Sailor Moon among them, as a fairy) arcs across the sky. By now, with all wand waving, the flying, the Wheel of Fortun(a), the fairy wings and the Grail, she's starting to look more and more like Diana of the Witches. (If that doesn't make sense, well...I'll have to write another entry about that, then.)

Not enough for you? Then how about this one, where, as we peer through bracken and thorns, the clock chimes and the girls all follow after a magic horse into the air - all of them naked. Oh, and then we see Sailor Moon's boyfriend flying across the moon in his tux like he's motherfucking Dracula.

And have you been noticing the little girl with the pink hair in these openings? That's Sailor Moon's daughter, Sailor Chibi Moon. (She's from the future. It's complicated.) I could probably devote a whole page just to her and her magical tools. Like the Key of Space and Time, or the floating cat-head-ball that can change into any shape at her command, and the bell she uses to call upon her helpful spirit - the aforementioned magic horse. In this season, Chibi Moon is visited by this spirit, who helps her become more powerful and gives her tools (such as the bell) and even aids in her magical battles. Not only that, but he's a sort of "celestial husband" to her as well; he appears later as a handsome young prince named Helios, and he even kisses her twice by the end of the season. (I know what you're thinking. But the first one was a magic kiss, and for the second one, he was a horse.'s okay.)

So, there we are. The Sailor Senshi: A coven of witches in futuristic school uniforms.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fighting evil by moonlight.

So I doodled this in inauguration of my brand new digital tablet last night...

...and then my buddy P. Sufenas informed me that today is Natalis Dianae, the feast day of Diana. On top of it being Friday the 13th. Damn, I'd better do something witchy tonight. Can't let opportunities like this go to waste.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I'm too lazy to do accent marks today.

Just today I discovered a fantastic and well-informed article on Lugh and Lughnasadh that goes over the relevant myths much more comprehensively than I did in my last post.

I will point out that while they mention that Fomorian monsters were occasionally possessed of only one eye, one arm and one leg, the author fails to mention that this is a motif that occurs repeatedly in Irish myth. Lugh himself strikes a posture in which he stands on one leg, with one arm behind his back, and covering one eye with the other hand, as he speaks his curse against the Fomorians:

Havoc its strain of battles shared death there. In this a battle after foreigners broke (our) shared settlement by destruction of it. They will be defeated by hosts. O Fairy-hosts, land of men on guard, birds of prey rain down (on them), men without choice. Be hindered (the) foreigners. Another (the other) company fears, another company listens, they are very terribly in torment, dark (sad) men (are they). Roaring brightly ninefold are we! Hurrah and Woe! Leftward! O you my beautiful ones! Sacred will be the sustenance after cloud and flowers through its powerful skills of wizards. My battle will not dwindle until (its) end. Not cowardly my request with (their) encountering me with a land of rushes laid waste by fire death's form established, death on us given birth. Before (the presence of) the Sídhe with each of them, before Ogma I satisfy, before the sky and the earth and the sea, before the sun and the moon and the stars. O Band of warriors my band here to you. My hosts here of great hosts sea-full (of) mighty sea-spray (boiling) smelted golden powerful, conceived, may it be sought upon the field of battle. Joint death its strain. Havoc its strain.

-a translation by Seán Ó Tuathail in The Excellence of Ancient Word.. Badass, right? Or as Donna would say, "Real wizard."

I was also intrigued by this remark from the author: "In modern times, he has been known to take an interest in computing and the internet." This is the only bit of "Unverified Personal Gnosis" mentioned in the piece, but it's something I happen to have observed myself. It's nice to be reassured of one's sanity.

Remember, technically there's four more days of Lughnasadh left. Play some sports. Or, if you're a nerd, play some online chess. Lugh will be pleased either way!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

So I fibbed.

A couple of entries ago I promised artwork within 48 hours. We know how that turned out!

But I have this one thing I've been working on.

Am I just like Aubrey Beardsley yet? (The answer is no, because I fucked up on the leftside cheekbone.)

That's Antinous of Bythnia, the lover of Emporer Hadrian. Apotheosized. Red lotuses were his flower. Your typical puer aeternus, but gay-friendly. Drawn for my friend, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus.

I try not to be one of those artists who never has anything to show for their supposed talent. Yes, I have obstacles like neurosis and empty pockets to deal with, but these really aren't excuses. I should be doing a lot more with what I have.

In that spirit, you can find the poet Julia Balbilla after the jump.