Wednesday 28 July 2010

The influence of Calmet

Apparently Gilles Banderier, known for his edition of Ildefonse Cathelinot's comments on Calmet's Traité, spoke on De saint Benoît à Dom Calmet : permanences de la culture bénédictine last Saturday July 24 at Senones, and was accompanied by Aurélie Gérard who spoke on Les bibliothèques - Senones milieu littéraire au XVIIIe siècle. It was a part of the Festival des Abbayes en Lorraine.

Gerard is the author of a forthcoming book on Calmet and his influence on his contemporaries: Dom Augustin Calmet et l'abbaye de Senones (Vosges): Un milieu littéraire. It is published in October, and more information can be found here:

'Les milieux littéraires fleurissent au siècle des Lumières sous la forme de cafés, de clubs, de salons, ou de façon plus institutionnalisée avec les académies et les sociétés savantes dont le nombre ne cesse de croître, tandis que les célèbres Congrégations de Saint-Vanne et de Saint-Maur exhortent leurs religieux à poursuivre l’oeuvre des illustres académies monastiques mises en place au siècle précédent. Cette dernière mission tient tout particulièrement à coeur à Dom Augustin Calmet, bénédictin lorrain connu dans toute l’Europe pour son oeuvre littéraire monumentale qui aborde à la fois l’exégèse, l’histoire et les curiosités, et pour les dignités qu’il a occupées au sein de la Congrégation de Saint-Vanne.

Son élection à l’abbatiat de la riche et influente abbaye de Senones, dans les Vosges, le 9 juillet 1728, lui permet de concrétiser toutes ses ambitions. Le monastère, déjà ouvert sur le monde des Lettres par ses prédécesseurs, notamment Dom Mathieu Petitdidier, accueille l’érudit qui va développer dans ce foyer de spiritualité toutes les activités propres à un milieu littéraire : écriture, copie de textes, échange et commerce de livres, gestion de la bibliothèque, critique littéraire, liens avec l’édition. Qui mieux est, ces activités littéraires participent à l’ouverture de l’abbaye sur le monde qui l’entoure déjà favorisée par sa situation géographique et politique. Les correspondances de Dom Calmet et de son neveu et coadjuteur, Dom Fangé, témoignent du rayonnement de l’abbé de Senones auprès de ses contemporains religieux ou laïques, en Lorraine, en France et en Europe, et de ses relations avec les Grands et avec les académies. L’influence de Dom Calmet sur les philosophes des Lumières, notamment Voltaire, et son intérêt porté aux principales controverses de son siècle sur la Bible, le surnaturel et l’histoire, transforment ce milieu « littéraire » en un milieu éclairé digne de son temps.'

Tuesday 27 July 2010

Enchanted Europe

This recently published study looks like an interesting book: Enchanted Europe. Superstition, Reason, and Religion, 1250-1750 by Euan Cameron, member of the departments of Religion and History at Columbia University and author of The European Reformation. According to the publisher, Oxford University Press, this new book 'charts the rise and fall of superstition in European history - from magical healing, spells, and divination, to the widespread belief in fairies and demons', 'explores the debate over folklore from medieval times, through to the Renaissance, Reformation, and the Enlightenment', and 'sets shifting nature of 'superstition' in historical context - from threat to 'true religion' to 'harmless' ethnic heritage':

'Since the dawn of history people have used charms and spells to try to control their environment, and forms of divination to try to foresee the otherwise unpredictable chances of life. Many of these techniques were called "superstitious" by educated elites.

For centuries religious believers used "superstition" as a term of abuse to denounce another religion that they thought inferior, or to criticize their fellow-believers for practising their faith "wrongly." From the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment, scholars argued over what 'superstition' was, how to identify it, and how to persuade people to avoid it. Learned believers in demons and witchcraft, in their treatises and sermons, tried to make 'rational' sense of popular superstitions by blaming them on the deceptive tricks of seductive demons.

Every major movement in Christian thought, from rival schools of medieval theology through to the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment, added new twists to the debates over superstition. Protestants saw Catholics as superstitious, and vice versa. Enlightened philosophers mocked traditional cults as superstitions. Eventually, the learned lost their worry about popular belief, and turned instead to chronicling and preserving 'superstitious' customs as folklore and ethnic heritage.

Enchanted Europe offers the first comprehensive, integrated account of western Europe's long, complex dialogue with its own folklore and popular beliefs. Drawing on many little-known and rarely used texts, Euan Cameron constructs a compelling narrative of the rise, diversification, and decline of popular 'superstition' in the European mind.'

I found a review of the book which sums up her reading of it this way:

'The picture that emerges from his analysis is not as simple as one might believe. Although many think of the journey towards Enlightenment as one of, literally, ‘disenchantment’ – a slow erosion of faith in magic in favour of scientific rationalism - Cameron shows how clerics and religious thinkers on both sides of the Catholic/Protestant divide long maintained a belief in the supernatural. However, whereas clerics of all denominations were determined to divide the universe into sharply polarised realms of good or evil according to their own particular dogma, the lay population inhabited a far more morally ambivalent world based upon more practical needs. As Cameron explains, ‘ordinary poor people [...] feared the loss of health or property and sought whatever remedies might work’ – whether approved by ecclesiastical authority or derived from forbidden folk remedies and rituals.

Although this is hardly an anecdotal work, some interesting stories emerge along the way. In the earliest days of Christianity, St Augustine mounted a vigorous offensive against the fading Roman pantheon by literally ‘demonising’ the gods. The original meaning of the Greek word daimon (daemon), in terms of a tutelary spirit, was gradually overlaid with negative connotations, reaching its zenith in medieval hysteria relating to demonic possession. (Interestingly, the original definition of the word was only to be widely rediscovered and rehabilitated in our own age via the novels of Philip Pullman).

Perhaps the overall lesson of Cameron’s book is that any attempt to impose a rigid external order on human culture and imagination will have only limited success. As he points out in the final chapter, by the 18th century, Europe’s intellectuals had ‘lost their fear’ of witchcraft, demons and superstitions and therefore expended much less energy in keeping them at bay. In the centuries that followed, post-Enlightenment thinkers actually began to embrace what they had previously sought to explain away and acknowledged the power of superstitious belief as part of a rich cultural tapestry of ethnic heritage. He suggests that the Romantic era, renewed Victorian interest in spiritualism and occultism and more recent New Age thinking have much in common in this regard, aided and abetted by nation states’ lack of interest in enforcing religious discipline on their subjects, at least in the West.'

Monday 26 July 2010

Debunking the Dracula myth

I noticed this AFP news story on the exhibition in Bucharest:

'An exhibition opened Friday in Bucharest that aims to debunk the myths surrounding Walachian prince Vlad Tepes (the Impaler), who inspired Bram Stoker's bloodsucking character Dracula.

"The exhibition is based on historical studies showing that the legends related to Vlad Dracula were aimed at presenting eastern Europe as a primitive land and a source of evil," Austrian curator Margot Rauch told AFP.

Entitled "Dracula - Voivode and Vampire", the exhibit for the first time puts on display in Romania portraits of Vlad Tepes (who reigned twice, between 1456-1462 and then in 1476) borrowed from the Kunsthistoriches Museum in Vienna and the Schloss Ambras museum in Innsbruck.

Manuscripts and engravings depicting him as a "blood-thirsty tyrant" are also on display.

"Vlad Dracula was doubtlessly cruel, but not more so than other princes of his time," Rauch said.

"In fact he was a victim of bad propaganda" from his western European peers.

One of the engravings, dating back to 1500, shows Tepes having a meal under the eyes of a dozen empaled men, while others have their limbs chopped and their heads boiled in cauldrons.

A large part of the exhibition is devoted to vampirism, several alleged cases of which were reported in the early 18th century, especially in southeastern Europe.

Several treaties on this "phenomenon" as well as essays on whether "vampires are active during daytime" are also exhibited, such as an edict issued in 1755 by empress Maria Theresa "banning superstitions".

Rauch however stressed that Vlad Tepes owes his reputation as a vampire to Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula", published in 1897.

The character has since been a source of inspiration for many movies, but Rauch said: "It's time to see Vlad Dracula in another light than that given by Hollywood."'

Sunday 25 July 2010

Dracula in Bucharest!

Surfing the internet for some information, I was surprised to find a news story on this Spanish vampire web site on a Dracula exhibition at The National Museum of Art of Romania in Bucharest!

As far as I gather, also from the information available in Romanian, this should be the Austrian exhibition that I wrote about in an earlier post which makes it very interesting news - and tempting to go on a trip to Bucharest!

The exhibition is on until October 10, so there is still a chance to see it if you are able to go there.

Thursday 22 July 2010

Are the dead happier than the living?

I have recently added a list of noteworthy texts on the right hand side of the blog. Most are books from the 17th and 18th centuries and most are in German, French or Latin. The majority are digitally scanned editions from various libraries and other providers, as these are most reliable (although the scans supplied by Google Books unfortunately often vary in quality from readable to unreadable). Also, most of the titles have been mentioned on this blog over the years, but I would like to draw attention to one exception: De miraculis mortuorum by Heinrich Kornmann published in 1610.

Beginning with the blood of Abel and other stories from the Old Testament, Kornmann collects a great number of tales and examples from the Bible and other literature on death, as well as beliefs and customs surrounding death. He also poses a few questions like e.g. 'Mortui an viventes feliciores?' in part 8, chapter 52): whether the dead are happier than the living?

Christian Friedrich Garmann who in 1670 published a book with the same title, accused Kornmann of indulging in nonsense ('quod varia admiscet exotica & incongrua, in recensendis fabulis & miraculis ab otiosis & nugacibus monachis excogitatis luxuriat nimiopere'). Still Garmann himself refers to Kornmann in his own writings on the masticating dead, as Kornmann e.g. writes about a woman who in death ate herself (De muliere mortua seipsam devorante, part 7, chapter 64).

Although Garmann was more sceptical than Kornmann, the verdict on Garmann himself was hard. Here according to Philippe Ariès in The Hour of Our Death:

(Garmann's ambigious approach to the question of the sensibility of the dead body) 'explains why Garmann was dismissed by the authors of medical biographies of the late eighteenth century - men almost modern in their thinking - as a credulous writer who believed the most absurd stories. It is true that he hesitates, not daring to make up his mind. Belief in the sensibility of the cadaver has the support of the people, and what we would call folklore, but scientists distrust the popular penchant for superstition. Garmann notes that there are a great many reliable observations in favor of this opinion, but he is cautious. When he tells an extraordinary story, he immediately adds a skeptical and rational commentary, but his reservations do not prevent him from giving all the details. This kind of prudence was a standard device for advancing controversial ideas while taking a minimum of risks.' (p. 356)

Back to Kornmann: He was, apparently, fascinated by miracula, so he also wrote a book about the wonders of the living: De miraculis vivorum, published in 1614 in Frankfurt. This book is fortunately also available online, if anyone should be interested. Here are lycanthropes, giants and various mythical beasts as well as many other wonders from the Bible and various other books.

Having Kornmann's collection of miracles of the dead at hand makes it easier to follow the thread to Garmann, Rohr, Ranft and so forth.

Monday 19 July 2010

Anything is possible

There is nothing new about introducing vampires and other monsters into a historical or a fictional setting, but there has been an interesting trend over the last couple of years with, I think, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies as the most popular one. It will probably not surprise you that I have read none of these books, but I have enjoyed some of the book trailers, like the one with sea monsters and the vampire hunting Lincoln. I only recently noticed that the latter book also has been promoted by this documentary, which is another example that in the realm of fictional vampires anything is possible:

Sunday 18 July 2010

Rohr and De Virunculis Metallicis

Apropos of the copy of Philipp Rohr's De masticatione mortuorum - apparently from the collection of Montague Summers himself - that is on sale, here is what Summers had to say about Rohr in The Vampire in Europe (p. 178) when introducing his translation of the 1679 book:

'Philip Rohr in his day stood in fair repute for his scholarship and he was also known as an occult investigator. His work on the Kobolts who haunt mines is held in esteem. It may be remarked, however, that the subject had previously been treated by Georg Landmann, the famous metallurgist, in his De Animantibus subterraneis, which with other of his treatises was published at Bale, folio, 1657.'

Despite Summers's numerous footnotes, it is hard to see if the characterization of Rohr is based in fact or in the fantasy of Summers. In any case, thanks to the Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek and the Münchener DigitalisieringsZentrum you can now take a look at an online copy of the Dissertatio pneumatica de Spiritibus in fodinis apparentibus, sive, de virunculis metallicis presented by Johann Heinrich Rumpel on April 24 1672 with Rohr as respondent. So the dissertation according to the title is about the spirits and dwarves (literally: small men) appearing in mines: Berg-Männlein and Wichtelein as mentioned in some quotes in German.

The reference to De Animantibus subterraneis is to George Agricola, and it was published approximately one hundred years before the date mentioned by Summers. Looking at the list near the end of Agricola's book, you will see that, although he mentions: 'Demon subeterraneus truculentus: bergteufel mitis: bergmennel/kobel/guttel', Agricola is actually concerned with animals: Serpents, birds etc.

De Masticatione Mortuorum for sale!

You can now get hold of a very special copy of a very special and rare book - but it will cost you $21.375!

Zubal Books is selling a copy of Philipp Rohr's 1679 De Masticatione Mortuorum, and you should check it out on their web site to see the images of the book. You can also find it on Abebooks:

'first edition; leaves slightly shorter than 20 cm., [24] unnumbered pages beginning with title, A1; later paper covered boards darkened and rubbed at leather spine and tips, general age toning but entirely readable and not at all fragile, C3 has five block letters penciled in margins, overall a very good copy for this very infrequently seen item; Montague Summers' copy with his book plate by Eric Gill, "Alphoinvs Montagve Svmmers Liber svvs ." with a wood engraving featuring Saint Jerome and lion; usually translated as ?On the Chewing Dead? Rohr's work explores the strange and terrible legends of the dead reanimated through demonic possession devouring their own shrouds and moving on to gnaw on nearby corpses in a sort of unholy manduction, this of course has a relevance to the vampire mythos that certainly would have been appreciated by Summers; rare '

Calmet anno 1976

In 1976, Merlin Verlag published an edition of Calmet's Dissertation, Des Hochwürdigen Herrn Augustini Calmet gelehrte Verhandlung von denen sogenannten Vampiren oder zurückkommenden Verstorbenen as the fourth volume in the series Merlin's Bibliothek der geheimen Wissenschaften und magischen Künste (Merlin's library of the secret sciences and magical arts). In fact, it was only of a modernization of the original German translation of volume II of Calmet's second edition from 1751, i.e. the part that deals with vampires.

Apart from a number of illustrations, the book contains an essay by Dipl.-Psych. Wolfgang Bauer on the early literature on vampires and revenants: Von denen Traktaten. Die historischen Vampirschriften und ihre Verfasser. The essay relies on Ranft, Harenberg and Summers in particular, and seems pretty dated now, not least because Bauer's psychological background clearly leads him to psychoanalyze the vampire, of course quoting from Freud's Totem und Tabu: 'Denn deutet man eine Reihe von abergläubischen Vorstellungen um den Vampir in Zusammenhang näher aus, so ergibt sich, daß diese im Gesamtkonzept eine ausgepr]agte Mutterleibsphantasie konstitueren.' And so forth.

Nowadays, we have the 'ungekürzte Ausgabe' edited by Abraham & Irina Silberschmidt which was published in 2006 by Edition Roter Drache.

More information on Merlin's Bibliothek der geheimen Wissenschaften und magischen Künste can be found in this part of the history of the publisher, Merlin Verlag, and here.

Monday 12 July 2010

Death In Legend & Tradition

Even vampires are invited to contribute to this conference:

'Death In Legend & Tradition

This two-day conference at Brompton Cemetery, London SW10, will be held on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th September 2010 as the fifth Legendary Weekend of the Folklore Society. We'd like to hear from anyone who can attend and present a paper – folklorists, undertakers, storytellers, clergy, singers, mediums, anthropologists, vampires and historians. In the silent city of the dead we will be celebrating the fascination, fantasies and fears that surround the one experience we must all share. Cultural responses to the Grim Reaper take a thousand forms, from the dignity of funerary monuments to the carnival Day of the Dead, from the shame of gibbeting to the glories of wonder-working relics. Our maps go beyond this world to Brig o’ Dread, Mount Purgatory and the Summerlands. Banshees and sin-eaters, omens and tombstones, grave humour and near-death experiences are all part of the lore with which we face those sightless eyes, weaving our maidens’ garlands and forging our mourning rings. Death may kill us off as individuals, but through the endless transmission of song and story we make death live.

Presentations, which should be 20 minutes long, can take the form of talks, performances, or DVD. The main event will take place on Saturday with additional material including a cemetery tour on Sunday.

If you would like to attend or to present a paper or performance, please contact:
Jeremy Harte
Bourne Hall
Spring Street
Surrey KT17 1UF
020 8394 1734'

An old-fashioned sense for vampires

Here you can listen to President of the Folklore Society, Jacqueline Simpson, being asked about the modern kind of vampire and answering:

'I'm rather old-fashioned in the kind of vampire I go for. I like the early medieval sort, the really gruesome undead corpse that is all stinky and nasty, and spreading plague wherever it goes.'

Sunday 11 July 2010

Arnold Paul on TV

'Arnold Paul' turns up in this recent British documentary, Vampires: Why They Bite, which was broadcast in February on BBC Three, and hosted by historian Lisa Hilton. Unfortunately, it is not accurate, neither concerning 'Arnold Paul' nor a few other subjects, and as usual the focus tends to be on the sexual aspects. Still, I think this is the only documentary in English that actually traces the vampire back to Serbia.

There are a couple of reviews of it online, like the one from Times Higher Education, which not uncorrectly describes it as 'music video masquerading as documentary'.

Vampire: Von damals bis(s) heute

While looking at magazines at the main railway station in Copenhagen the other day, I happened to notice the words: 'Die widerkehrenden Toten: DAS VAMPIR-SPECIAL' on the cover a magazine called Dark Spy which I think is aimed at people interesting in Goth styles. The 'vampire special' is actually just a three page article on vampires, but as it is accompanied by reproductions of the covers of the 1734 edition of Ranft's Tractat von dem Kauen und Schmatzen and the Curieuse und sehr wunderbare Relation, von denen sich neuer Dingen in Servien erzeigenden Blut-Saugern oder Vampyrs by W.S.G.E., I took at closer look, and found that it is written by Nicolaus Equiamicus, known from his books and blog.

Visiting his blog for the first time in a while, I notice that he has announced the publication of the book on vampires that he has been working on for some time, and it will be out later this year:

'Auf das Erscheinen meines nächsten Buches "Vampire - von damals bis(s) heute" (voraussichtlich im November 2010) freue ich mich schon sehr, steckt doch sprichwörtlich viel "Herzblut" in dieser Essenz meiner jahrelangen Beschäftigung mit der hoch interessanten Vampirthematik. Ich hoffe, dass ich mein Ziel, einen umfassenden lehrreichen, aber auch unterhaltsame Überblick über den Vampir in Geschichte und Gegenwart zu verfassen, erreicht habe. Auf Wunsch des Verlages habe ich nachträglich auch noch einige Kapitel zur Entwicklung der Vampirliteratur und des Vampirfilms hinzugefügt, die hoffentlich eine Bereicherung und Abrundung darstellen :-)'

Saturday 10 July 2010

A vampire in the mail

I am not used to receiving letters or parcels addressed to 'Magia posthuma', but it happened the other day when I received a copy of Florian Kührer's new book Vampire: Monster - Mythos - Medienstar published by Butzon & Bercker (paperback, 297 pages, €17.90). I thank the author for the copy which I intend to read in the near future.

Kührer kindly mentions this blog in the bibliography under 'Textsammlungen':

'Der wahrscheinlich umfassendste und aktuellste Blog zum Thema, der laufend vom Betreiber, einem versierten Laien, aktualisiert wird. An diesem Blog geht kaum eine einschlägige Publikation aus dem deutschen, englischen und französischen Sprachraum vorbei. Die einführenden Kommentare sind kompetent und in gut lesbarem Englisch verfasst.'

In the introduction, the author says that he aims at critically following the development of the vampire from village monster to pop star:

'Das Thema Vampir, sein Wesen, sein Motiv, ist alles andere als trivial. Seine fast unbegrenzte Kapazität als Projektionsfläche macht ihn selbst zum Spiegel unserer Ängste und Wünsche. Er ist Teenie-Schwarm und Werbeträger, Antisemit und Massenmörder - "allen ist er alles geworden". Läuft der Vampir Gefahr, sich durch seine ausufernde Präsenz selbst zu trivialisieren? Dieses Buch entwirrt mit kritischem Blick die Motivstränge des Vampir-Mythos und erzählt dabei die Geschichte vom Aufstieg eines Dorfmonsters zum Popstar der Moderne.'

The book contains three parts: An initial part on the vampire in folk beliefs ('ein Monster aus der Mitte der Gemeinschaft'), followed by one that the traces the vampire from the Middle Ages over the 18th century vampires to Dracula and modern vampire fiction. The final part, titled 'Globaler Code und blutige Realität - ein Mythos zwischen den Extremen', seems to deal with a number of themes, including e.g. the modern extension of the vampire term to serial killers and other actual, living people.

Well, I am looking forward to reading it.
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