The Boggart – a Study in Shadows: a Zoom talk by Dr Simon Young

The boggart was a much-feared, little-studied supernatural being from the north of England. Against the odds, it survives today, whether in place-names or in works of fantasy literature – not least the Harry Potter books.

Dr Simon Young’s research into this mercurial and mysterious figure pioneers two methods for collecting folklore: first, the use of hundreds of thousands of words on the boggart from digitised ephemera; second, about 1,100 contemporary boggart memories that derive from social media surveys and personal interviews relating to the interwar and postwar years.

Through a radical combination of this new information and an interdisciplinary approach – involving dialectology, folklore, Victorian history, supernatural history, oral history, place-name studies, sociology and more – it is possible to reconstruct boggart beliefs, experiences and tales.

The boggart was not, as we have been led to believe, a ‘goblin’. Rather, this was a much more general term encompassing all solitary, and often ambivalent, supernatural beings, from killer mermaids to headless phantoms to shape-changing ghouls. In the same period that boggart beliefs were dying, folklorists continuously misrepresented the boggart and the modern fantasy version was born of these misunderstandings.

Dr Simon Young is a British folklore historian based in Italy. He has written extensively on the nineteenth-century supernatural. His book The Boggart (from Exeter University Press) and The Nail in the Skull and Other Victorian Urban Legends (from Mississippi University Press) are both due out in 2022. He is the editor of Exeter New Approaches to Legends, Folklore and Popular Legends and teaches history at University of Virginia’s Siena Campus (CET). Over the years he has run courses on the History of Christianity, Italian Food History, Italian Media History, Contemporary Italian History, the Second World War in Italy and Italian Renaissance History.

Your host for this event will be the writer Edward Parnell, author of Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country. Edward lives in Norfolk and has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. He is the recipient of an Escalator Award from the National Centre for Writing and a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship. Ghostland (William Collins, 2019), a work of narrative non-fiction, is a moving exploration of what has haunted our writers and artists – as well as the author’s own haunted past; it was shortlisted for the PEN Ackerley 2020 prize, an award given to a literary autobiography of excellence. Edward’s first novel The Listeners (2014), won the Rethink New Novels Prize.

For further info see: https://edwardparnell.com

 

The Recognition of H. P. Lovecraft – a Zoom lecture by S. T. Joshi

When H. P. Lovecraft died in 1937, it seemed as if his work was headed toward oblivion. No book of his stories had appeared in his lifetime, and his tales were embalmed in the crumbling pages of Weird Tales and other pulp magazines. Yet, over the past 85 years, Lovecraft the man and writer has become an icon in popular culture, and his work has been disseminated worldwide in countless editions; it has also been adapted into film, television, comic books, video games, and other media.

How did Howard Phillips Lovecraft achieve this posthumous worldwide fame? S. T. Joshi, one of the world’s leading scholars on Lovecraft, will trace the history of Lovecaft’s publications – beginning in the amateur press, moving on to the world of the pulps, and then to the rescue of his work shortly after his death by his friends and colleagues. Over the ensuing decades Lovecraft’s work began appearing in more than 30 languages, and criticism of his work also flourished, both in popular venues and in the academic community. Joshi will touch upon the high points of this remarkable development – one that is unique in the annals of literature.

S. T. Joshi has been involved in the study of H. P. Lovecraft for decades. He has prepared corrected editions of Lovecraft’s collected fiction, essays, poetry, and letters, and has written the definitive biography, I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft (2010), along with many other critical and biographies studies of Lovecraft and other writers of weird fiction. For further info see: http://stjoshi.org

Your host for this event will be the writer Edward Parnell, author of Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country, who in his early teens became a fan of Lovecraft’s weird fiction. Edward lives in Norfolk and has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. He is the recipient of an Escalator Award from the National Centre for Writing and a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship. Ghostland (William Collins, 2019), a work of narrative non-fiction, is a moving exploration of what has haunted our writers and artists – as well as the author’s own haunted past; it was shortlisted for the PEN Ackerley 2020 prize, an award given to a literary autobiography of excellence. Edward’s first novel The Listeners (2014), won the Rethink New Novels Prize. For further info see: https://edwardparnell.com

 

Giovanna Parmigiani: The Spider Dance. Tradition, Time and Healing in Southern Italy

Based on ethnographic research among contemporary Pagan communities in Southern Italy (Salento, Apulia), The Spider Dance challenges ideas of time, healing, and place-making among persons engaged in reviving, continuing, or re-creating traditional Pagan practices. The Spider Dance looks at a specific Pagan group, the Sisters of the Cerchio (circle), and their ritual practice and interpretation of the traditional dance and music called pizzica. The Spider Dance makes some key practical and theoretical contributions to the study of contemporary religions, temporality, and debates around “well-being”– in Italy and abroad.

Bio:

Giovanna Parmigiani is Harvard Divinity School’s Lecturer on Religion and Cultural Anthropology and a Research Associate at Harvard’s Center for the Study of World Religions. She is an anthropologist of religion and a scholar of Contemporary Paganisms. Her work is firmly grounded in ethnographic and auto-ethnographic practices, and her primary interests are the relationships between religion, politics, and gender. Her first monograph, Feminism, Violence and Representation in Modern Italy: “We Are Witnesses, Not Victims” (Indiana University Press, 2019) dealt with violence against women, and her second, The Spider Dance: Tradition, Time, and Healing in Southern Italy (Equinox Publishing, forthcoming) with contemporary Pagan women and healing. At HDS, Dr. Parmigiani teaches courses on Contemporary Paganisms, Earth-Based Religions, New Age Spiritualities, the Anthropology of Magic, Conspirituality, and Religion and Healing.

Hosted by

Dr. Amy Hale is an Atlanta-based anthropologist and folklorist writing about esoteric history, art, culture, women and Cornwall in various combinations. Her biography of Ithell Colquhoun, Genius of the Fern Loved Gully, is available from Strange Attractor Press, and she is also the editor of the forthcoming collection Essays on Women in Western Esotericism: Beyond Seeresses and Sea Priestesses from Palgrave Macmillan. Other writings can be found at her Medium site https://medium.com/@amyhale93 and her website www.amyhale.me.

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Dark Mother of Mexico: An Introduction to La Santa Muerte – Tomás Prower

A guided exploration and explanation into Mexico’s growing devotion to La Santa Muerte. As the unofficial patron saint of outcasts, criminals, self-empowered women, and the queer community, this death deity’s reputation has often been slandered and sensationalized in the media, but come join Latinx author and Santa Muerte devotee Tomás Prower to go beyond the “outsider” stereotypes and assumptions and explore why Mexico’s most maligned find refuge in Death.

An in-depth explanation into the appeal of this feminine grim reaper for her cult of devotion to become the fastest growing spiritual movement of modern Mexico, spreading internationally to the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the rest of Latin America. How do millions find comfort and solace in such a stark figure of death and such an obvious reminder of our own mortality? Come explore in the darkness and see how such fears are setting people free.

Bio

Tomás Prower is a graduate of the University of California: Santa Barbara with degrees in Global Socioeconomics and Latin American Studies. With fluency in English, French, and Spanish, he has worked for the French Government as a cultural liaison throughout South America with extended assignments in Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, and the Amazon jungle. Since then, he has been the External Relations Director for the American Red Cross of Nevada, LGBT+ Programs Director for entertainment productions in Los Angeles, and a licensed mortuary professional in California and Nevada. Currently, Tomás resides in Palm Springs, California, as the Director of Communications for the LGBTQ+ Center of the Coachella Valley.

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The Modern History of Sex Magic – Dr. Manon Hedenborg White

What if there was a secret key that could make you rich, prolong your life, and set you on the fast track to spiritual attainment? This was the view of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century esotericist teachers of sexual magic. During the Victorian period, human sexuality was the subject of intense debate, scrutiny, classification, and pathologisation — simultaneously seen as the bedrock of a healthy population and a source of pollution and social decline. This cultural obsession was mirrored in a growing body of magical literature on the use of sexual energy to attain any material or spiritual aim. In this talk, based on extensive research on both historical and contemporary esoteric currents, Dr Manon Hedenborg White will delve into the modern history of sexual magic from the fin-de-siècle until today. She will discuss how pioneers such as the women’s rights advocate Ida Craddock, abolitionist and physician Paschal Beverly Randolph, and occultist and poet Aleister Crowley laid the foundations for esoteric sexual magic and modern understandings of sacred sex. This talk will also explore innovations in sexual magic during the late-twentieth and twenty-first centuries, such as the increase in sex magical writings by women as well as feminist and queer approaches and contemporary understandings of sacred kink and sex work.

Bio

Manon Hedenborg White is Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at Malmö University (Sweden). She is the author of ”The Eloquent Blood: The Goddess Babalon and the Construction of Femininities in Western Esotericism” (Oxford University Press, 2020).

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An introduction to Arthur Machen – a Zoom talk by James Machin

Arthur Machen (1863–1947) was an author, journalist, occultist, and thespian. He grew up among the ancient woods and ‘wild-domed hills’ of south Wales before moving to London to establish himself in literature.

After initial literary success – in particular with the long short story ‘The Great God Pan’ (1894) – Machen fell out of favour along with other ‘decadents’ in the wake of the Oscar Wilde trial. After a spell as a strolling player in the Benson Shakespeare company, he settled begrudgingly into a decades-long career on Fleet Street. Machen’s re-emergence into the popular consciousness came towards the end of 1914, with his story ‘The Bowmen’ becoming his own piece of unintentional Great War myth-making.

Despite being considered as an obscure and peripheral figure, Machen’s work has enjoyed consistent attention, and his influence on H. P. Lovecraft in particular has led to him being regarded as a major figure in horror. Machen’s reputation is built on such contradictions: he was the quintessential starving artist of the fin de siècle, shivering in a New Grub Street garret, who also imported wine from his own vineyard in the Touraine. He is a ‘lost’ writer whose work is perhaps more widely available than ever, under respectable Penguin Classics and Oxford World Classics imprints. He is the Golden Dawn member and formative influence on countercultural psychogeography who was also a sceptic and a High Tory. In this talk, James will explore these and other puzzles about Machen’s life, writing, and times.

James Machin is co-editor of Faunus, the journal of the Friends of Arthur Machen. His book Weird Fiction in Britain: 1880–1939 was published by Palgrave in 2018. Other recent publications include Of Mud and Flame: A Penda’s Fen Sourcebook (Strange Attractor, 2019) and British Weird: Selected Short Fiction, 1893-1937 (Handheld Press, 2020). He teaches at the Royal College of Art and the University of Bedfordshire, and is Honorary Research Fellow at Birkbeck, University of London.

Your host for this event will be the writer Edward Parnell, author of Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country. Edward Parnell lives in Norfolk and has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. He is the recipient of an Escalator Award from the National Centre for Writing and a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship. Ghostland (William Collins, 2019), a work of narrative non-fiction, is a moving exploration of what has haunted our writers and artists – as well as the author’s own haunted past; it was shortlisted for the PEN Ackerley 2020 prize, an award given to a literary autobiography of excellence. Edward’s first novel The Listeners (2014), won the Rethink New Novels Prize. For further info see: https://edwardparnell.com

 

Queering St Ives – Dr Ian Massey

Exploring the themes in Queer St Ives and Other Stories, the talk will focus on the previously unexplored queer history of St Ives. While referring to a wider historical context, it will concentrate on the period from the early 1950s to the mid-1970s, a pivotal era in the development of St Ives modernism and in changing social attitudes to homosexuality and the politics of liberation. Drawing on material gleaned from original interviews, and from correspondence and diaries in private archives, the talk will describe this queer history in detail.

Central to the talk is the sculptor John Milne (1931-1978). Originally from a working class background in the northwest of England, Milne travelled to St Ives in 1952 to work as an assistant to Barbara Hepworth, and remained in the town for the rest of his life. Over two decades Milne’s house ‘Trewyn’ was a meeting point for many queer visitors, among them artists Francis Bacon, Mark Tobey and Keith Vaughan, Whitechapel Gallery director Bryan Robertson, and the potters Janet Leach and Byron Temple. Taking in issues not only of sexuality but also of class, the talk will question established narratives about the St Ives artistic community, and in doing shine a new light on the history of this fabled Cornish art colony.

Bio:

Dr Ian Massey is an independent art historian, writer and curator based in the UK.His publications include the monograph biography Patrick Procktor: Art and Life (Unicorn Press, 2010), and the co-authored Keith Vaughan: The Mature Oils (Sansom & Company, 2012). Among curatorial projects are Patrick Procktor retrospectives at Huddersfield Art Gallery (2012) and Arts University Bournemouth (2016), and the group show Pure Romance at The Redfern Gallery, London (2016). He is currently working on a curatorial project centred on the work of Keith Vaughan. Ian’s most recent book is Queer St Ives and Other Stories (Ridinghouse, 2022).

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Negotiating the Apocalypse with Leonora Carrington’s The Hearing Trumpet by K A Laity

While she’s best known as the genius of surreal painting, Carrington’s fiction is lively, wild and full of mythic and magical resonances. She wrote The Hearing Trumpet when still quite young though her heroine Marian Leatherby is a 92-year-old woman with bad hearing and a small beard. In a bizarre retirement home Marian discovers a centuries-long plot to free the Holy Grail and return it to the goddess — just as the apocalypse is about to be unleashed.

From bees to werewolves each turn in the narrative is impossible to predict, but Carrington writes with mordant wit, effortlessly weaving together magic, myth, and lore from the Irish tales of her childhood, Robert Graves’ The White Goddess, her adopted Mexican home, and so much more. This too-often overlooked classic offers insight on ecological disaster, spiritual pursuits (as well as spiritual charlatans) and the timeless appeal of a really good stew. In contrast to many power fantasies of a post-apocalyptic world, Carrington suggests that the real strength comes from community — one that includes all creatures.

Bio

K. A. Laity is an award-winning author, scholar, filmmaker, critic, editor, and arcane artist. Her film A Fire Ritual for the Heart was featured in the Silent Fire exhibition co-curated by the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and Nasty Women Connecticut. Her fiction includes Chastity Flame, The Mangrove Legacy, Lush Situation, Love is a Grift, Satan’s Sorority, How to Be Dull, White Rabbit, Dream Book, A Cut-Throat Business, Owl Stretching, and Pelzmantel. She has edited My Wandering Uterus, Respectable Horror, Weird Noir, Noir Carnival and Drag Noir, plus written many short stories, scholarly essays, songs, and more. Laity has served as History Witch for Witches & Pagans. Her 2011-2 Fulbright Fellowship at the National University of Ireland, Galway, focused on Digital Humanities. Her work has been translated into Italian, Polish, Slovene, German, and Portuguese. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. Her podcast Is It Funny? can be found here. Her radio programme Surreal Noir can be found here.

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Motherhood, Mastication & Monstrosity: The Modern Female Cinematic Vampire – Rebecca Gibson

Motherhood, Mastication, and Monstrosity: The Modern Female Cinematic Vampire – Rebecca Gibson

The first cinematic vampire was not female—Nosferatu, drawing heavy inspiration from Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, gave an androgynous look to the vampiric presence, but that androgyny leaned more heavily toward male appearance than female. In the century since the lurking, swooping, creepy presence first dominated the silent screen, we have seen most vampire movies trend male as well, from multiple interpretations and reinterpretations of Dracula, to the adaptations of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. Due to the pressures of Hollywood and the overt misogyny of the film industry, among other reasons, even films where the lead role is ostensibly female (and the movie is not a spoof or a comedy) often end up focusing on the male characters. However, two recent films are heavily female focused, with vampiric power, emotional and physical strength, and rationality all seated in the main female characters. Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, an Iranian-American, British born writer/director, and starring Sheila Vand (an Iranian-American of Persian descent), the movie A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) held the tagline “The first Iranian Vampire Western.” The Girl has a distinct personality, but she’s no femme fatale; she is, instead, the personification of a fatal female.

Contrast The Girl, with the gentle care expressed by the female vampire, Eve, from the 2013 joint Germany/UK film Only Lovers Left Alive. While The Girl is dark bloody vengeance, Eve is motherly, fun-loving, and happy. This film has Tilda Swinton’s Eve in the main role, played against her lover Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and while Adam is morose, broody, suicidal, and short-tempered, Eve demonstrates foresight, an even temper, planning skills, and optimism in the face of multiple crises. While strong, rational, and deadly, both characters are undeniably feminine in their own ways, and occupy the liminal space between day and night, light and darkness, and life and death, epitomizing vampiric power as coded female. This presentation will examine ideas about motherhood, mastication, and monstrosity in these modern female vampire movies.

Bio:

Rebecca Gibson’s published works include “Desire in the Age of Robots and AI: An Investigation in Science Fiction and Fact” (Palgrave Macmillan 2019), “The Corseted Skeleton: A Bioarchaeology of Binding” (Palgrave Macmillan 2020), and “Gender, Supernatural Beings, and the Liminality of Death: Monstrous Males/Fatal Females” (Lexington Books 2021). She holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from American University, and when not writing or teaching can be found reading mystery novels amidst a pile of stuffed animals.

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The Dress Macabre: Corsets, Skeletons, and Death in St. Bride’s Parish – Rebecca Gibson

The modern interpretation of corseting labels the corset a killer. When actresses talk about stints in corsets for movies or TV shows, they often highlight how uncomfortable the garment is, how they are unable to eat, bend, breathe, or sit in their corsets, and how they cannot imagine what women went through when the corset was an everyday part of their lives. Yet, corseting as a practice lasted around 400 years. What, then, is the “truth” of the corset? Did it kill/maim/harm/traumatize those who wore it?

This presentation will look at historical documentation from women who corseted, men who had opinions about it, and doctors who examined corseted bodies. I have examined over a hundred skeletons from the St. Bride’s Parish, Fleet St., London, as well as sifting through thousands of burial records looking for evidence of death by corseting, and the results will shock you…

Bio:

Rebecca Gibson’s published works include “Desire in the Age of Robots and AI: An Investigation in Science Fiction and Fact” (Palgrave Macmillan 2019), “The Corseted Skeleton: A Bioarchaeology of Binding” (Palgrave Macmillan 2020), and “Gender, Supernatural Beings, and the Liminality of Death: Monstrous Males/Fatal Females” (Lexington Books 2021). She holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from American University, and when not writing or teaching can be found reading mystery novels amidst a pile of stuffed animals.

don’t worry if you miss it – we will send you a recording valid for two weeks the next day