Thursday 31 July 2008

Obsah - contents

There wasn't much information about the contents of Giuseppe Maiello's book on vampirism in European cultural history in my entry on that book, so I'll just try to correct that error by showing you the table of contents. There is an appendix containing four texts (Phlegon of Tralles, Tournefort, van Swieten and Maria Theresa). Click on the image to better see what it looks like.

Blogging: The living, the dead, and the undead

I notice that this and a couple of other blogs have inspired 'an amateur vampirologist' to start a blog: Diary of an Amateur Vampirologist. The other blogs included two of a 'vampiric' nature, focusing mainly on vampire fiction, and I can't remember having visited them before. One of the bloggers is bored by Walerian Borowcyk's fictional take on the Bathory myth, which reminds me that I myself was pretty bored by it as well...

Anyway, let's see what kind of adventures the amateur vampirologist will write about in his diary!

Speaking of blogging, a blog called Blogs that died too young has devoted a post to the incredible amount of 'dead' blogs that are either called something with the word 'blonde' or the word 'vampire'.

Vampyrismus v kulturních dejinách Evropy

Giuseppe Maiello, whom I mentioned in a recent post, published a book in 2004 called Vampyrismus v kulturních dejinách Evropy (Vampirism in the cultural history of Europe). As it's written in the Czech language, I can only look at names, references and more or less guess at parts of the text, which is certainly useful for me, but isn't quite enough to really estimate the qualities of the book as a whole. It does, however, look like a really nice book, and fortunately Maiello is much more focused on the historical aspects of vampirism, i.e. e.g. the 18th century debates, than the usual mixture of Stoker, Vlad Tepes, Bathory etc. found in so many books. So I will be carefully studying the text and literature list, in particular for material concerning Moravian magia posthuma.

Wednesday 30 July 2008

Exhibiting Valvasor

Years ago a friend and I wrote to the Royal Library in Copenhagen suggesting that they arranged an exhibition of books relating to vampires. Well, we got a polite no, but I still think it is a promising idea. One of the books in the collections of the library that should be included in an exhibition like this one is the magnificent book Die Ehre des Hertzogthums Crain by Johann Weichard Valvasor published in 1689.

In an earlier post I have reprinted a small portion from this book while discussing the shepherd of Blov, but a digitalized edition of the whole book is available here. The link goes directly to the page where you will find the excerpt that I reprinted from my old photocopy in my post.

Reading a digital book on the internet certainly isn't like holding the book in your hands, but the digital edition of Valvasor does allow you to study all the nice engravings that are included in this large format book, and you can do so 24/7 all around the globe, so I'm not complaining. But the book would be ideal in an exhibition of vampire books!

The Royal Library in co-operation with libraries in a number of EU countries is offering eBooks on demand (EOD), which means that the first one to order a book pays a fee to have the digital book made, whereas future users can use the eBook for free! As the fee is pretty low, it is hopefully a very handy way of getting books digitized for the benefit of everyone interested in old books!

Physic anno 1700

Speaking of the history of medicine and physicians, it is well-known that Gerard van Swieten was not only heavily influenced by the learnings of Hermann Boerhaave, but a champion of Boerhaave's work. In The Cambridge History of Science Volume 3: Early Modern Science (2006), Harold J. Cook uses Boerhaave as an example when summing up the state of physic at the beginning of the 18th century:

By the end of the seventeenth century, what had been for Avicenna a less than precise bodily "matter" expressing itself through flows of urine, feces, blood and phlegm had become materialized with precision. The fine structures of the body had been distinguished and their movements, growth, and changes were being charted. At the same time, the causal analyses that Avicenna had used had been fundamentally challenged. In the process, much had changed: Humors had disappeared, whereas bodily fluids, even lymph, had grabbed attention; it no longer mattered whether someone's temperament was sanguine or choleric, for her physiology was the same as her neighbor's. Not only had the basic principles of physic been undermined, opening new questions to study, but certainty had come to rest on knowledge of material detail. What might truly be called a research tradition had grown up in the medical ranks. Moreover, the hope that a new understanding of nature rooted in details might lead to the betterment of the human condition had clearly come to take pride of place in medicine.

The famous
Institutiones Medicae (Medical Institutions, orig. ed. 1706) of Hermann Boerhaave (1668-1738) illustrates nicely how certainty now lay in material things rather than causal first principles. At Leiden, Boerhaave, taught a new generation of clinically and chemically oriented medical professors and physicians from all over Europe and Britain. He held that the truths of physic could be discovered only by observation supplemented with reason. This meant that all true physical knowledge was built on sense experience. Physic therefore could account only for those things "which are purely material in the human Body, with mechanical and physical Experiments." First causes "are neither possible, useful, or necessary to be investigated by a Physician." Looking back to his hero Hippocrates, Boerhaave explained that "the art of Physic was anciently established by a faithful Collection of Facts observed, whose Effects were afterwards explained, and their Causes assigned by the Assistance of Reason; the first carried Conviction along with it, and is indisputable; nothing being more certain than Demonstration from Experience, but the latter is more dubious and uncertain."

Boerhaave's contemporary, Baglivi, agreed entirely: Certainty in the knowledge of physic remained the end, "For the Art is made up of such things as are fully Survey'd, and plainly Understood, and of such perceptions as are not under the control of Opinion. It gives certain Reasons which are plac'd in due Order, and chalks out certain Paths, to keep its Sons from going astray. Now what is more uncertain than the Hypotheses?" As long as "Observation is the Thread to which Reason must point," all will be well. But "'tis manifest, that not only the Original of Medicine, but whatever solid Knowledge 'tis entituled to, is chiefly deriv'd from Experience." That certainty now resided in observation and experience of things was also clearly expresed by Boerhaave's and Baglivi's English contemporary Hans Sloane (1660-1753), who would later become President of both the Royal Society of London and the London College of Physicians. Sloane, too, wrote about how knowledge was no longer established on first principles but on physical observation:

"Knowledge based on Observations of Matters of Fact, is more certain than most Others, and in my slender Opinion, less subject to Mistakes than Reasonings, Hypotheses, and Deductions are ... These are things we are sure of, so far as our Senses are not fallible; and which, in probability, have been ever since the Creation, and will remain to the End of the World, in the same Condition we now find them." (p. 432-3)

Tuesday 29 July 2008

Foucault on grave robbing and dissection

Constantin Rauer devotes a very long foot note to Michel Foucault's views on the construction of a myth regarding grave robbing in the 18th Century for medical research. Unfortunately, I only own Foucault's book on the birth of the clinic in a Danish translation, so I am unable to quote from an English translation, but in a chapter on 'opening cadavers' to paraphrase the Danish translation he contends the conception of 18th Century physicians having to secretly and illegally dig up corpses to dissect them. Actually, when you consider the report on Arnod Paole, Flückinger's Visum et Repertum, it should be obvious that even Catholic field surgeons were allowed to exhume and examine corpses in the 1730'ies.

In an earlier post I have quoted from Foucault's book on punishment and prison. Like Philippe Aries in his famous essays on death, Foucault is always interesting for new ways of understanding concepts and institutions.

Post Scriptum: I found an interactive web site about The Birth of the Clinic, which also has a section devoted to the chapter Open up a few corpses.

Monday 28 July 2008

From the enlightenment of vampirism to the vampirism of enlightenment

The June 2008 issue of Ethic@, an International Journal for Moral Philosophy, contains an interesting paper by Constantin Rauer: Von der Aufklärung des Vampirismus zum Vampirismus der Aufklärung: Eine West-Östliche Debatte zwischen Einst und Heute (From the enlightenment of vampirism to the vampirism of enlightenment: A West-East debate between then and now).

The paper is in German, but Rauer has supplied an abstract in English:

In the first part of this essay, I shall sketch the debate about vampirism during the age of Enlightenment historically, while in the second part, I will interpret this debate philosophically. The historical reconstruction mainly relies on Gábor Klaniczay’s brilliant essay The Decline of Witches and the Rise of Vampires in the Eighteenth-Century Habsburg Monarchy. My purpose, however, is different from that of Klaniczay. While he is interested in the connection between the decline of witches and the rise of vampires in the Eighteenth-Century Habsburg monarchy, I am interested in the relationship between the performances of vampirism in Eastern European countries, and their theoretical responses in Western Europe. In the second, philosophical part of this essay, I shall read this whole phenomenon of vampirism, both in the Western European theoretical debate and in Eastern European performances, as a symptom, behind which I see an entirely different discourse at work: the power struggle between the old faculty of theology, and the new faculty of medicine. I argue here that Western European Enlightenment vampirism transforms into medical Enlightenment vampirism, and that the Eastern European peoples criticized precisely this through their actual performances of vampirism. Thus, the debate about vampirism actually conceals the dialectics of the Enlightenment. Looking back from the present, we are surprised to find that perhaps Western European scholars with their allegedly enlightened knowledge were not the ones who had the final say, but, on the contrary, the Eastern European peoples with their popular beliefs.

Rauer relies heavily on Gabor Klaniczay's seminal paper on vampires (the most recent and up to date version can be found in Bertschik and Tuczay's anthology Poetische Wiedergänger) and quotes copiously from it. As he says in the abstract, his aim differs from Klaniczay's, but I need to read the second part of his paper to really understand and evaluate his conclusions. So although there are some inaccuracies, some of which probably originate from Klaniczay, I will refrain from commenting on the paper before I have read the second part.

As Rauer should have easy access to Hamberger's anthology as well as other important German books on the subject, I am a bit worried by the fact that Rauer doesn't mention the Commercii litterarii which played an important role in the medical debate on vampires in 1732. I agree on the importance of Klaniczay's paper, but in my opinion it is necessary to study source material like that reprinted in Hamberger's Mortuus non mordet to fully understand the nature of the 18th Century vampire debate.

A reality no one doubted

The ever industrious Sorbonne professor Claude Lecouteux has compiled an anthology on lycanthropy in collaboration with a few other people that was published earlier this year, Elle courait le garou : Lycanthropes, hommes-ours, hommes-tigres (José Corti Editions). The book is a companion volume to a similar anthology on revenants published in 2006, Elle mangeait son linceul : Fantômes, revenants, vampires et esprits frappeurs Une anthologie.

'En appendice, des actes de procès des XVIe et XVIIe siècles apportent la preuve que le loup-garou fut autrefois une réalité que nul ne mettait en doute.' I.e. in the appendix the acts of the processes of the 16th and 17th Centuries prove that the werewolf was once a reality that no one doubted.

Living on top of the past

Living in a Danish town that has existed for centuries and next to a cemetery can lead to some curious finds when digging in the garden. Today these bones were found along with a stick of iron. The bones we find are usually from animals like dogs or perhaps even garbage from a butcher's shop. These bones, however, are pretty large...

Sunday 27 July 2008

Grenze Troops

In an earlier post I quoted from a standard work on the Austrian army, but a number of other books are dedicated to this subject, e.g. a few of the books in the well-known series Men-at-arms published by Osprey. Shown above is the cover of number 413 on troops serving on the frontier zone between the Habsburg Empire and the Turks. On the right is a pandur from the Karlstadt Generalcy:

'Already active in the Turkish wars, which had concluded in 1739 with the Peace of Belgrade, these bands of local troops first appear in variations of local civilian costume. The headgear was usually a red Mütze (small round cap), recorded among the Warasdin troops in 1741, or a taller felt/sheepskin tubular hat, the Klobuk. This also often appeared outside the existing Districts as the Czakelhaube, which had a plain or sometimes decorated tail. The men wore white or blue shirts, pulled together by a wide natural leather belt, which supported pistols and knives, usually of local manufacture, and a black leather cartridge box. On top they wore a simple brown or black Gunjac jacket; sometimes sleeveless and with just a low collar, this garment was secured by cords linking the buttons on each side. The trousers, again usually white or blue, were loose-fitting in the thigh although often tight below the knee. Most preferred the local Opanken leather footwear (similar to moccasins). These reached just above the ankle, with long leather thongs securing them around the calves over thick white socks usually decorated in various colours. The more affluent wore the Hungarian Tschismen calf-length boots. Few men wore beards, but most sported a wide, thin moustache and often plaited sidelocks. Armed with Turkish muskets and long Balkan knives and, from about 1742, universally attired in the famous red cloak (the Abba-Mantel), they struck fear into European armies and civilian populations alike.'

The other two soldiers are a Hussar from the Karlstadt regiment (on the left), and a corporal from the Siebenburgen regiment, i.e. from Transylvania (in the middle).

Els casos de vampirisme citats per Calmet

I just noticed that Jordi Ardanuy published a paper in the Spanish magazine L'Upir number 15 earlier this year on the vampire cases mentioned by Calmet. Unfortunately, the paper is in Catalan, so I am unable to read it, but it contains e.g. a tabular overview of cases, and I can see that there are a couple of references to this blog. The paper is available as a 39 page pdf file download.

The systematical approach to Calmet's work is most welcome, but it's a shame that it isn't available in e.g. English, consequently prohibiting a larger audience from benefiting from the paper.

Saturday 26 July 2008

Support the Vampire Rights Amendment

I find it hard not to be amused by this recent development in vampire fiction. It is an incredible fact that a few reports on the exhumation of dead people suspected of haunting the living in villages in 18th Century Serbia over the past 300 years have turned into the vampires of modern culture. For further examples go to Blood Copy.

The Devil deceives the people

Having recently mentioned Luther's comments about the mastication of the dead, I will show you the cover of Thomas Schürmann's book Nachzehrerglauben in Mitteleuropa, which adresses the topic of masticating dead and other revenants. On the cover is a reprint of some of Luther's comments on recognizing the deceiving Devil. It's the first paragraph that is printed in Sturm and Völker's Von den Vampiren oder Menschensaugern.


While browsing some old newspaper articles, I found one from spring 1994 concerning a 25-30 year old female who was buried in the Dresden suburb Cotta about 7.500 years ago. Called DD-04 Cotta-find 277 or simply Rebekka by the archaeologists, her corpse had been beheaded post mortem, and a stone had been placed in front of her genitals. The archaeologists led by Rengert Elburg believed that the stone may have been placed there to prevent her unborn child from returning as a revenant. Elburg, in fact, believed that Rebekka had haunted people, and consequently had been excavated and beheaded. Furthermore, she was buried face down! Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find more information about Rebekka on the internet.

A quartering from the Wickiana

This has nothing to do with magia posthuma, but is a sort of late post scriptum to an earlier post, in which I mentioned the method of quartering for torturing and executing a man. Some time ago, while browsing a collection of excerpts from the Wickiana, Die Wickiana (Raggi Verlag Küsnacht-Zürich, 1975), I noticed the illustration below, which vividly depicts a quartering, and I thought I would share it with those of you who are interested in - to paraphrase the title of Equiamicus's blog - the darker aspects of cultural history.

Friday 25 July 2008

Sturm und Völker 40th Anniversary

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the first edition of Dieter Sturm and Klaus Völker's classic anthology, Von denen Vampiren oder Menschensaugern: Dichtungen und Dokumenten, originally published by Carl Hanser Verlag. It has been reprinted and published in new editions several times, including paperbacks that only contain certain parts of the original book, making it perhaps the most bestselling anthology of vampire fact and fiction!

Certainly, Sturm and Völker's book must have been a very important book for many who have become fascinated by this curious subject. This was the book that first introduced me to the text of Flückinger's Visum et Repertum, as well as to e.g. Luther talking about the mastication of the dead in his Tischreden. I can recall struggling with reading and understanding the old German texts back in my youth, and studying the extensive bibliography. This was indeed a ground breaking and inspirational work, and the continued reprinting is a testament to the quality and scope of the work. In the light of what has been printed later on, e.g. Hamberger's anthology, Von denen Vampiren is no longer up to date, but it is still a good starting point for anyone with an interest in vampires who can read German.

Both Klaus Völker and Dieter Sturm are around 70 now and have no doubt been active in various areas during the past 40 years, but for some of us 'Sturm und Völker' is simply another way of referring to their 1968 anthology Von denen Vampiren oder Menschensaugern!

Die Geisterwelt

Nicolaus Equiamicus has kindly recommended both this blog and Rob Brautigam's Shroudeater web site. Another book edited by Equiamicus has just been published, Die Geisterwelt. Apparently, a book originally published around the middle of the 18th Century, it deals with witches, werewolves, vampires, fairies and much more. More information is available at the blog of Equiamicus.

Handling a suicide

The above illustration is from the 16th Century Schilling-Kronik from Luzern in Schwitzerland and illustrates a practice used to prevent the corpses of suicides to return and haunt the living, either as a revenant or as the cause of bad weather and other calamities: The corpse - in this case that of a monk - is put in a cask and thrown into the river. The practice is known from medieval times as well as the early modern period. Unfortunately, I only have the illustration in black and white.

Thursday 24 July 2008

New Annotated Dracula

As those of you who read this blog as a feed probably aren't aware of comments left by other readers, I would like to mention that the editor of a new annotated edition of Stoker's Dracula left a comment here.

The silly season

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about a poll concerning the superstitions of modern day Danes. Now, a few days ago I concluded that 'the silly season' has begun, because another newspaper published yet another poll on the same subject. The above newspaper front page says: Is there anyone out there?, and claims that 1 out of 4 Danes believe in ghosts, and that no less than 1 out of 6 have had an experience with a ghost!

Well, personally I find the text below more interesting. It's a scan of a 1732 letter mentioning the Medvedja vampire case!

Stoker's notes

As I keep saying: this blog is not about Dracula, however, I think a lot of people will be pleased to know that McFarland will be publishing a facsimile edition of Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula this fall or winter. Annotated and transcribed by Robert Eighteen-Bisang and Elizabeth Miller, this will be first time that the complete notes will be published, finally enabling every scholar or Dracula buff to study these notes for a better understanding of the genesis of the novel Dracula.

Wednesday 23 July 2008

Dark cultural history

The person who uses the pseudonyms Nicolaus Equiamicus and Abraham Silberschmidt as editor and translator of recent editions of Ranft, Calmet, and other 18th Century authors of books on vampires, has launched a web site and blog, both titled Dunkle Kulturgeschichte, Dark cultural history, focusing on what's true, false and strange about witches, vampires, demonology and more!

Speaking of blogs and the darker sides of cultural history, some of you may find the engravings concerning the Ars moriendi on this blog interesting.

The Complete Book of Vampires

I recently acquired Leonard R. N. Ashley's The Complete Book of Vampires. Ashley is a Professor Emeritus and the author of several books, including a series of complete books on 'occult' themes. The vampire book is a mixed bag of all sorts of information gathered from a vast number of other books, all presented in a very entertaining manner. In the preface Ashley says that 'the book attempts, as do all the other books in my series, to bring scholarly research to all readers in a user-friendly sort of way and to entertain as it educates.' I honestly find that it is more entertainment than a scholarly book, as he doesn't really try to establish any genuine context for understanding e.g. the portion from Van Swieten's commentaries on vampires that he translates. So this is in short an ertaining introduction that will no doubt delight the casual reader, but is of very little use, if any, for the study of the historical aspects of magia posthuma.

International Vampire

So what could this blogger be doing? Well, it would probably be too boring to mention all that has kept me busy lately, but currently I'm going through a lot of my books and papers to try and clear out what I might do without so I can get a little more room for, say, new and interesting books on the subject of posthumous magic :-) Anyway, this business has also led to a few discoveries of interesting stuff. I am particularly amazed at how many magazines (fanzines?) on vampires I have lying around, mostly from the Eighties and Nineties. And as I had come to believe that it was an error on my part to think that I had a couple of issues of International Vampire, it was very nice to find three issues. This was a magazine published by Rob Brautigam, the webmaster of the Shroudeater web site. The final issue, no 20, is shown on top of the other issues in the photo below, and was published in May 1996. I notice that my name is mentioned in that issue :-)

A few other magazines or fanzines were mentioned in a post that I wrote one year ago.

Sunday 13 July 2008

Czech magia posthuma

Incredibly, almost a month has passed since my last post. I hope to be more active in the future.

Anyway, I happened to switch to the History Channel last weekend and found myself watching Michael Bell in a documentary about vampires. Unfortunately, I haven't identified the title of this documentary, but it's from 2007, and the major part concerns vampires and magia posthuma in the Czech republic, featuring anthtropologist Giuseppe Maiello and archaeologist Jaroslav Spacek. You can read about both and listen to an interview in English with Maiello here.

The documentary is a bit inaccurate on the sources for the interest in vampires in 18th Century Europe, but otherwise it contains some interesting insights into the Czech archaeological evidence of magia posthuma.
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