Alas Poor Ghost
Gillian Bennett Utah State University Press, 1999 Library of Congress GR141.B55 1999 | Dewey Decimal 398.0941
In the rational modern world, belief in the supernatural seemingly has been consigned to the worlds of entertainment and fantasy. Yet belief in other worldly phenomena, from poltergeists to telepathy, remains strong, as Gillian Bennett's research shows. Especially common is belief in continuing contact with, or the continuing presence of, dead family members. Bennett interviewed women in Manchester, England, asking them questions about ghosts and other aspects of the supernatural. (Her discussion of how her research methods and interview techniques evolved is in itself valuable.) She first published the results of the study in the well-received Traditions of Belief: Women and the Supernatural, which has been widely used in folklore and women's studies courses. "Alas, Poor Ghost!" extensively revises and expands that work. In addition to a fuller presentation and analysis of the original field research and other added material, the author, assisted by Kate Bennett, a gerontological psychologist, presents and discusses new research with a group of women in Leicester, England.
Bennett is interested in more than measuring the extent of belief in other worldly manifestations. Her work explores the relationship between narrative and belief. She anticipated that her questions would elicit from her interviewees not just yes or no replies but stories about their experiences that confirmed or denied notions of the supernatural. The more controversial the subject matter, the more likely individuals were to tell stories, especially if their answers to questions of belief were positive. These were most commonly individualized narratives of personal experience, but they contained many of the traditional motifs and other content, including belief in the supernatural, of legends. Bennett calls them memorates and discusses the cultural processes, including ideas of what is a "proper" experience of the supernatural and a "proper" telling of the story, that make them communal as well as individual. These memorates provide direct and vivid examples of what the storytellers actually believe and disbelieve. In a final section, Bennett places her work in historical context through a discussion of case studies in the history of supernatural belief.
Among the most thoughtful students of the ancient world, Georg Luck has offered subtle and nuanced interpretations of a broad range of classical subjects. Ancient Pathways, Hidden Pursuits brings together the best of Georg Luck's many papers and articles on Graeco-Roman life and thought in the realm of religious beliefs, occult practices, psychology, and morals. The collection complements Luck's Arcana Mundi, an introduction to magic and the occult in antiquity, which has been published in several languages.
The present volume includes the author's thoughts on Greek and Roman religions, early Christianity, Greek and Roman psychology and morals, and magic and the occult. Luck's main findings explore generally neglected areas of ancient civilization, locating magic and philosophy with religion as vehicles for moral and psychological guidance. Throughout this study, one finds meaning in "superstitious" and conflicting patterns of behavior and learns much about the nature of the human soul. This collection will serve as a valuable reference for those interested in the driving motivations of ancient man.
"The topics of the individual articles in this volume are very central and of great humanistic appeal, and they indeed form a thematic unity concerning man and religion in Greek and Roman society." --Ludwig Koenen, Herbert C. Youtie Distinguished University Professor of Papyrology, University of Michigan
Georg Luck is Professor of Classics, emeritus, The Johns Hopkins University.
Most scholars dismiss research into the paranormal as pseudoscience, a frivolous pursuit for the paranoid or gullible. Even historians of religion, whose work naturally attends to events beyond the realm of empirical science, have shown scant interest in the subject. But the history of psychical phenomena, Jeffrey J. Kripal contends, is an untapped source of insight into the sacred and by tracing that history through the last two centuries of Western thought we can see its potential centrality to the critical study of religion.
Kripal grounds his study in the work of four major figures in the history of paranormal research: psychical researcher Frederic Myers; writer and humorist Charles Fort; astronomer, computer scientist, and ufologist Jacques Vallee; and philosopher and sociologist Bertrand Méheust. Through incisive analyses of these thinkers, Kripal ushers the reader into a beguiling world somewhere between fact, fiction, and fraud. The cultural history of telepathy, teleportation, and UFOs; a ghostly love story; the occult dimensions of science fiction; cold war psychic espionage; galactic colonialism; and the intimate relationship between consciousness and culture all come together in Authors of the Impossible, a dazzling and profound look at how the paranormal bridges the sacred and the scientific.
From the 1830s to the Civil War, Americans could be found putting each other into trances for fun and profit in parlors, on stage, and in medical consulting rooms. They were performing mesmerism. Surprisingly central to literature and culture of the period, mesmerism embraced a variety of phenomena, including mind control, spirit travel, and clairvoyance. Although it had been debunked by Benjamin Franklin in late eighteenth-century France, the practice nonetheless enjoyed a decades-long resurgence in the United States. Emily Ogden here offers the first comprehensive account of those boom years.
Credulity tells the fascinating story of mesmerism’s spread from the plantations of the French Antilles to the textile factory cities of 1830s New England. As it proliferated along the Eastern seaboard, this occult movement attracted attention from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s circle and ignited the nineteenth-century equivalent of flame wars in the major newspapers. But mesmerism was not simply the last gasp of magic in modern times. Far from being magicians themselves, mesmerists claimed to provide the first rational means of manipulating the credulous human tendencies that had underwritten past superstitions. Now, rather than propping up the powers of oracles and false gods, these tendencies served modern ends such as labor supervision, education, and mediated communication. Neither an atavistic throwback nor a radical alternative, mesmerism was part and parcel of the modern. Credulity offers us a new way of understanding the place of enchantment in secularizing America.
Advance your understanding of divination’s role in supporting or undermining imperial aspirations in the ancient Near East
This collection examines the ways that divinatory texts in the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East undermined and upheld the empires in which the texts were composed, edited, and read. Nine essays and an introduction engage biblical scholarship on the Prophets, Assyriology, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the critical study of Ancient Empires.
Interdisciplinary approaches include propaganda studies
Essays examine how biblical and other ancient Near Eastern texts were shaped by political and theological empires
In this ground-breaking book, D. Michael Quinn masterfully reconstructs an earlier age, finding ample evidence for folk magic in nineteenth-century New England, as he does in Mormon founder Joseph Smith’s upbringing. Quinn discovers that Smith’s world was inhabited by supernatural creatures whose existence could be both symbolic and real. He explains that the Smith family’s treasure digging was not unusual for the times and is vital to understanding how early Mormons interpreted developments in their history in ways that differ from modern perceptions. Quinn’s impressive research provides a much-needed background for the environment that produced Mormonism.
This thoroughly researched examination into occult traditions surrounding Smith, his family, and other founding Mormons cannot be understated. Among the practices no longer a part of Mormonism are the use of divining rods for revelation, astrology to determine the best times to conceive children and plant crops, the study of skull contours to understand personality traits, magic formula utilized to discover lost property, and the wearing of protective talismans. Ninety-four photographs and illustrations accompany the text.
A contemporary of Descartes and Newton, Athanasius Kircher, S. J. (1601/2–80), was one of Europe’s most inventive and versatile scholars in the baroque era. He published more than thirty works in fields as diverse as astronomy, magnetism, cryptology, numerology, geology, and music. But Kircher is most famous—or infamous—for his quixotic attempt to decipher the Egyptian hieroglyphs and reconstruct the ancient traditions they encoded. In 1655, after more than two decades of toil, Kircher published his solution to the hieroglyphs, Oedipus Aegyptiacus, a work that has been called “one of the most learned monstrosities of all times.” Here Daniel Stolzenberg presents a new interpretation of Kircher’s hieroglyphic studies, placing them in the context of seventeenth-century scholarship on paganism and Oriental languages.
Situating Kircher in the social world of baroque Rome, with its scholars, artists, patrons, and censors, Stolzenberg shows how Kircher’s study of ancient paganism depended on the circulation of texts, artifacts, and people between Christian and Islamic civilizations. Along with other participants in the rise of Oriental studies, Kircher aimed to revolutionize the study of the past by mastering Near Eastern languages and recovering ancient manuscripts hidden away in the legendary libraries of Cairo and Damascus. The spectacular flaws of his scholarship have fostered an image of Kircher as an eccentric anachronism, a throwback to the Renaissance hermetic tradition. Stolzenberg argues against this view, showing how Kircher embodied essential tensions of a pivotal phase in European intellectual history, when pre-Enlightenment scholars pioneered modern empirical methods of studying the past while still working within traditional frameworks, such as biblical history and beliefs about magic and esoteric wisdom.
It is a widespread prejudice of modern, scientific society that "magic" is merely a ludicrous amalgam of recipes and methods derived from primitive and erroneous notions about nature. Eros and Magic in the Renaissance challenges this view, providing an in-depth scholarly explanation of the workings of magic and showing that magic continues to exist in an altered form even today.
Renaissance magic, according to Ioan Couliano, was a scientifically plausible attempt to manipulate individuals and groups based on a knowledge of motivations, particularly erotic motivations. Its key principle was that everyone (and in a sense everything) could be influenced by appeal to sexual desire. In addition, the magician relied on a profound knowledge of the art of memory to manipulate the imaginations of his subjects. In these respects, Couliano suggests, magic is the precursor of the modern psychological and sociological sciences, and the magician is the distant ancestor of the psychoanalyst and the advertising and publicity agent.
In the course of his study, Couliano examines in detail the ideas of such writers as Giordano Bruno, Marsilio Ficino, and Pico della Mirandola and illuminates many aspects of Renaissance culture, including heresy, medicine, astrology, alchemy, courtly love, the influence of classical mythology, and even the role of fashion in clothing.
Just as science gives the present age its ruling myth, so magic gave a ruling myth to the Renaissance. Because magic relied upon the use of images, and images were repressed and banned in the Reformation and subsequent history, magic was replaced by exact science and modern technology and eventually forgotten. Couliano's remarkable scholarship helps us to recover much of its original significance and will interest a wide audience in the humanities and social sciences.
On May 21, 1991, University of Chicago professor Ioan Culianu was murdered execution-style on campus. The crime stunned the school, terrified students, and mystified the FBI. The case remains unsolved. In Eros, Magic, and the Murder of Professor Culianu, award-winning investigative reporter Ted Anton shows that the murder is what Culianu's friends suspected all along: the first political assassination of a professor on American soil.
A broadly interdisciplinary study of the pervasive secrecy in America cultural, political, and religious discourse.
The occult has traditionally been understood as the study of secrets of the practice of mysticism or magic. This book broadens our understanding of the occult by treating it as a rhetorical phenomenon tied to language and symbols and more central to American culture than is commonly assumed.
Joshua Gunn approaches the occult as an idiom, examining the ways in which acts of textual criticism and interpretation are occultic in nature, as evident in practices as diverse as academic scholarship, Freemasonry, and television production. Gunn probes, for instance, the ways in which jargon employed by various social and professional groups creates barriers and fosters secrecy. From the theory wars of cultural studies to the Satanic Panic that swept the national mass media in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Gunn shows how the paradox of a hidden, buried, or secret meaning that cannot be expressed in language appears time and time again in Western culture.
These recurrent patterns, Gunn argues, arise from a generalized, popular anxiety about language and its limitations. Ultimately, Modern Occult Rhetoric demonstrates the indissoluble relationship between language, secrecy, and publicity, and the centrality of suspicion in our daily lives.
In the period domoninated by the triumphs of scientific rationalism, how do we account for the extraordinary success of such occult movements as astrology or the revival of witchcraft? From his perspective as a historian of religions, the eminent scholar Mircea Eliade shows that such popular trends develop from archaic roots and periodically resurface in certain myths, symbols, and rituals. In six lucid essays collected for this volume, Eliade reveals the profound religious significance that lies at the heart of many contemporary cultural vogues.
Since all of the essays except the last were originally delivered as lectures, their introductory character and lively oral style make them particularly accessible to the intelligent nonspecialist. Rather than a popularization, Occultism, Witchcraft, and Cultural Fashions is the fulfillment of Eliade's conviction that the history of religions should be read by the widest possible audience.
By the end of the nineteenth century, Victorians were seeking rational explanations for the world in which they lived. The radical ideas of Charles Darwin had shaken traditional religious beliefs. Sigmund Freud was developing his innovative models of the conscious and unconscious mind. And anthropologist James George Frazer was subjecting magic, myth, and ritual to systematic inquiry. Why, then, in this quintessentially modern moment, did late-Victorian and Edwardian men and women become absorbed by metaphysical quests, heterodox spiritual encounters, and occult experimentation?
In answering this question for the first time, The Place of Enchantment breaks new ground in its consideration of the role of occultism in British culture prior to World War I. Rescuing occultism from its status as an "irrational indulgence" and situating it at the center of British intellectual life, Owen argues that an involvement with the occult was a leitmotif of the intellectual avant-garde. Carefully placing a serious engagement with esotericism squarely alongside revolutionary understandings of rationality and consciousness, Owen demonstrates how a newly psychologized magic operated in conjunction with the developing patterns of modern life. She details such fascinating examples of occult practice as the sex magic of Aleister Crowley, the pharmacological experimentation of W. B. Yeats, and complex forms of astral clairvoyance as taught in secret and hierarchical magical societies like the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
Through a remarkable blend of theoretical discussion and intellectual history, Owen has produced a work that moves far beyond a consideration of occultists and their world. Bearing directly on our understanding of modernity, her conclusions will force us to rethink the place of the irrational in modern culture.
“An intelligent, well-argued and richly detailed work of cultural history that offers a substantial contribution to our understanding of Britain.”—Nick Freeman, WashingtonTimes
Ryan J. Stark presents a spiritually sensitive, interdisciplinary, and original discussion of early modern English rhetoric. He shows specifically how experimental philosophers attempted to disenchant language
Over the course of his twenty-five-year career, Jeffrey J. Kripal’s study of religion has had two major areas of focus: the erotic expression of mystical experience and the rise of the paranormal in American culture. This book brings these two halves together in surprising ways through a blend of memoir, manifesto, and anthology, drawing new connections between these two realms of human experience and revealing Kripal’s body of work to be a dynamic whole that has the potential to renew and reshape the study of religion.
Kripal tells his story, biographically, historically and politically contextualizing each of the six books of his Chicago corpus, from Kali’s Child to Mutants and Mystics, all the while answering his censors and critics and exploring new implications of his thought. In the process, he begins to sketch out a speculative “new comparativism” in twenty theses. The result is a new vision for the study of religion, one that takes in the best of the past, engages with outside critiques from the sciences and the humanities, and begins to blaze a new positive path forward. A major work decades in the making, Secret Body will become a landmark in the study of religion.
What does it mean to have an emotional response to poetry and music? And, just as important but considered less often, what does it mean not to have such a response? What happens when lyric utterances—which should invite consolation, revelation, and connection—somehow fall short of the listener’s expectations?
As Seth Lerer shows in this pioneering book, Shakespeare’s late plays invite us to contemplate that very question, offering up lyric as a displaced and sometimes desperate antidote to situations of duress or powerlessness. Lerer argues that the theme of lyric misalignment running throughout The Tempest, The Winter’s Tale, Henry VIII, and Cymbeline serves a political purpose, a last-ditch effort at transformation for characters and audiences who had lived through witch-hunting, plague, regime change, political conspiracies, and public executions.
A deep dive into the relationship between aesthetics and politics, this book also explores what Shakespearean lyric is able to recuperate for these “victims of history” by virtue of its disjointed utterances. To this end, Lerer establishes the concept of mythic lyricism: an estranging use of songs and poetry that functions to recreate the past as present, to empower the mythic dead, and to restore a bit of magic to the commonplaces and commodities of Jacobean England. Reading against the devotion to form and prosody common in Shakespeare scholarship, Lerer’s account of lyric utterance’s vexed role in his late works offers new ways to understand generational distance and cultural change throughout the playwright’s oeuvre.
Signs, Cures, & Witchery provides a fascinating glimpse of some little-known Appalachian beliefs and practices among descendants of early German pioneers. Signs, Cures and Witchery opens a window into our ancient past, revealing the courage and resourcefulness of people whose survival depended on their ability to "read signs," cure their own ills, and find explanations for life's mysteries. Local community practices in West Virginia such as witch doctoring, "belsnickling," "shanghai," and folk healing are connected to their medieval counterparts in woodcuts and other works of art. In tracing immigration to remote mountain communities, we learn how expressions of folk art and folk belief survive. This work specifically examines aspects of Appalachian oral tradition and folklore that draw from German culture. Informative and entertaining, Signs, Cures, and Witchery is an invaluable aid to all who have an interest in religion, psychology, folklore, metaphysical, regional, gender, and ethnic studies.
Gerald C. Milnes is the folk arts coordinator of the Augusta Heritage Center at Davis and Elkins College. He is the editor of Granny Will Your Dog Bite and Other Mountain Rhymes and author of Play a Fiddle: Traditional Music, Dance, and Folklore in West Virginia.
The Vampire: A Casebook
Edited by Alan Dundes University of Wisconsin Press, 1998 Library of Congress GR830.V3V33 1998 | Dewey Decimal 398.21
Vampires are the most fearsome and fascinating of all creatures of folklore. For the first time, detailed accounts of the vampire and how its tradition developed in different cultures are gathered in one volume by eminent folklorist Alan Dundes. Eleven leading scholars from the fields of Slavic studies, history, anthropology, and psychiatry unearth the true nature of the vampire from its birth in graveyard lore to the modern-day psychiatric patient with a penchant for drinking blood. The Vampire: A Casebook takes this legend out of the realm of literature and film and back to its dark beginnings in folk traditions. The essays examine the history of the word “vampire;” Romanian vampires; Greek vampires; Serbian vampires; the physical attributes of vampires; the killing of vampires; and the possible psychoanalytic underpinnings of vampires. Much more than simply a scary creature of the human imagination, the vampire has been and continues to haunt the lives of all those who encounter it—in reality or in fiction.
Imagine a stage full of black cats emitting electrical sparks, a man catching bullets with his teeth, or an evangelist jumping on a transformer to shoot bolts of lightning through his fingertips. These and other wild schemes were part of the repertoire of showmen who traveled from city to city, making presentations that blended science with myth and magic.
In Wonder Shows, Fred Nadis offers a colorful history of these traveling magicians, inventors, popular science lecturers, and other presenters of “miracle science” who revealed science and technology to the public in awe-inspiring fashion. The book provides an innovative synthesis of the history of performance with a wider study of culture, science, and religion from the antebellum period to the present.
It features a lively cast of characters, including electrical “wizards” Nikola Tesla and Thomas Alva Edison, vaudeville performers such as Harry Houdini, mind readers, UFO cultists, and practitioners of New Age science. All of these performers developed strategies for invoking cultural authority to back their visions of science and progress. The pseudo-science in their wonder shows helped promote a romantic worldview that called into question the absolute authority of scientific materialism while reaffirming the importance of human spirituality. Nadis argues that the sensation that these entertainers provided became an antidote to the alienation and dehumanization that accompanied the rise of modern America.
Although most recent defenders of science are prone to reject wonder, considering it an ally of ignorance and superstition, Wonder Shows demonstrates that the public’s passion for magic and meaning is still very much alive. Today, sales continue to be made and allegiances won based on illusions that products are unique, singular, and at best, miraculous. Nadis establishes that contemporary showmen, corporate publicists, advertisers, and popular science lecturers are not that unlike the magicians and mesmerists of years ago.