It is well known that the heroes of the seventeenth-century scientific revolution were themselves by no means free of the occultist modes of thought from which they were supposed to be rescuing the human mind. Far less attention has been paid to occult tendencies in the philosophy of the time. Since there was no sharp distinction between philosopher and scientist in the seventeenth-century, it would be most surprising if the savant wearing his philosophical thinking-cap were somehow immune from occult influences to which he was prone as a scientist. The main purpose of this article will be to suggest a few such influences. A secondary purpose will be to draw some more general conclusions about the definability of occultism, and its demarcation from philosophy and science.
Following most spiritualist sources, the first discovery of a spirit’s attempt to communicate with the living took place in Hydesville, a small town in the state of New York. During the first months of 1848, the Fox family, living in a house that had a reputation of being haunted, was unsettled by the mysterious noises by which the spirit of a dead contacted the two younger daughters, Kate Fox and Margaret Fox, who were just nine and twelve years old at that time. According to this narrative, a kind of founding myth for the spiritualist movement, the Fox sisters are thus the first spiritual mediums of history. Although ghost stories and spirit messages are surely much older than this, during the following decade’s spiritualism became a widespread and relatively cohesive movement, with a myriad of circles, journals, associations and mediums, in the United States of America and abroad.
Although the term Gothic has generally been understood as destructively alien and grotesque, still it bears the gist of a novelty for it that often creates a cynical perception concerning popular culture. Since the individual can evolve only through the creation of an antithesis of the culture he associates himself with, the need for Gothic will not come to an end: new and revolutionary forms and trends will be put forward to generate the difference for the purpose of evolving, and the new will always be labeled as Gothic. For an ever-changing society and individual, Gothic has become the means of questioning and revising the “established” ethics and morals through a deconstructive philosophical-ideological assertion.
That the trial of the Lancashire witches is so well known is largely because we have unusually good evidence for it, in the form of Thomas Potts’ 1613 book ‘The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster’. The three chapters in this first section re-examine the events of 1612, which have been often summarised but rarely analysed. They all combine a close reading of Thomas Potts’ text with evidence from other areas to place it in a particular context: the politics of witch-hunting and royal patronage; the literary genre of witchcraft stories and their relationship with actual trials; and the network of relationships and motivations among the accusers and accused in the Pendle area. In doing so they shed light not only on how the trials were constructed but also on how the evidence itself came into being.
If one looks up the word “grotesque” in some of our most frequently used dictionaries, such as the The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English, the The Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English and Merriam-Webster’s, one will undoubtedly become confused.
Zombie is a word with powerful and abiding spiritual, social, and pop-cultural significance and connotations in contemporary America. The concept and term first entered the American consciousness in the South, having migrated from Haiti. The zombie is, in fact, a figure borrowed from the Voodoo traditions of Haiti, and ultimately has its roots in West African folklore; indeed, the term itself has clear West African antecedents in such Kikongo words as nzambi, “god” or “a spirit of a dead person,” and zumbi, “fetish.”
Edward J. Ingebretsen (2001) writes: “Monstrous bodies are the remarkable presences that appear as signs of civic omen, or trauma, and which demand interpretation: they offer a bit of each, apocalypse as well as utopia.” Indeed, the etymological roots of the term “monstrous” may be arguably traced to their Latin roots, monere (to warn) and monstrare (to point to), though monsters, as former portents of the divine, have a more complex genealogy than such an etymology can capture. Nevertheless, it is important to track the most gripping and recurrent visualizations of the “monstrous” in the media and film in order to lay bare the tensions that underlie the contemporary construction of the monstrous, which ranges in the twilight realm where divisions separating fact, fiction, and myth are porous. It is important to note the tensions of this narrative: the “monster” or contemporary “fallen angel” is simultaneously a figure of horror and repulsion, as it is of fascination and charisma; both subhuman and superhuman; and remarkably similar to the “normal” and strikingly deviant at the same time.
The very existence of such aberrations, despite the passage of time over the centuries and the supposed evolution of our societies, suggests that some of the most basic instincts inherent to humanity may fundamentally relate to its proclivity for violence. Far from being manifestations of the modern era, serial violent crimes bear an uncanny resemblance to a number of ancient mythological creatures. These similarities raise suggestions that such creatures may have been attempts by ancient cultures to account for the abhorrent crimes. A series of seemingly unrelated brutal murders featuring the excessive mutilation of victims, with indications of body parts having been consumed and/or blood having been drunk, provided inspiration for folklore creatures such as werewolves or vampires. Similarly, the demonic spirits known as incubi that would rape women may be the ancient world seeking to account for serial rapists. Moving beyond these mythological examples, identifiable vignettes of serial violent crimes can be found in history, such as the Roman emperor Nero, who is well chronicled for his madness and delight in starting fires.
Stained glass is arguably one of the most important aspects of Gothic cathedrals. As its popularity rose, mainly during the mid-twelfth-century, the increased presence of stained glass presented major changes to the way the general populace was learning about religion. The windows became illuminated visual sermons of biblical stories, which may have had an even greater impact than the spoken word of the priest. In this article, I will be primarily focusing on the stained glass windows and architectural styles employed in gothic buildings in France, each having their own unique and notable attributes pertaining to the development of stained glass windows. By looking at the architectural advancements shown in these structures built during the gothic time frame, we are able to see the impact that the widespread desire for increased height and light within these types of buildings had on the gothic cathedral.
In Germany, torture instruments have been displayed in regional history museums over the last two centuries, because they have been understood to be a part of regional history and representing past local traditions. They are particularly common in museums in counties where the witch-hunting period was more manifested. From the 1980s, however, some museums were created throughout Europe with the exclusive purpose of telling the history of penal systems and the use of torture during the Middle Ages. In the same period, the abuses perpetrated by the military dictatorship in Latin America gained repercussion worldwide and became the focus of a rising transnational activism whose main voice was Amnesty International.