22.10.14

Hermetic Mysteries

Joseph P. Farrell. Thrice Great Hermetica and the Janus Age: Hermetic Cosmology, Finance, Politics and Culture in the Middle Ages Through the Late Renaissance. Adventures Unlimited Press (30 Oct 2014)

What do the Fourth Crusade, the exploration of the New World, secret excavations of the Holy Land and the pontificate of Innocent the Third all have in common? Answer: Venice and the Templars. What do they have in common with Jesus, Gottfried Leibniz, Sir Isaac Newton, Rene Descartes and the Earl of Oxford? Answer: Egypt and a body of doctrine known as Hermeticism.

In this book, noted author and researcher, Joseph P. Farrell, takes the reader on a journey through the hidden history of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and early Enlightenment, connecting the dots between Venice, international banking, the Templars and hidden knowledge, drawing out the connections between the notorious Venetian Council of Ten, little known Venetian voyages to the New World and the sacking of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade. That hidden role of Venice and Hermeticism reached far and wide, into the plays of Shakespeare (a.k.a. Edward DeVere), Earl of Oxford, into the quest of the three great mathematicians of the Early Enlightenment for a lost form of analysis and back into the end of the classical era, to little known Egyptian influences at work during the time of Jesus.


20.10.14

Symbols and Beliefs

Micah Issitt and Carlyn Main. Hidden Religion: The Greatest Mysteries and Symbols of the World’s Religious Beliefs. ABC-CLIO (October)

Covering secret societies, mysterious ancient traditions, and the often-mistaken history of the world's religious symbols, this book takes readers on a tour through the fascinating world of religious symbolism and reveals the most mysterious and misunderstood facets of religion.

Hidden Religion: The Greatest Mysteries and Symbols of the World’s Religious Beliefs not only explores the history and origins of widely recognizable symbols, like the Christian cross and the Star of David, but also introduces readers to more obscure symbols from religious traditions around the world—even defunct ones like those of the ancient Aztec and Mayan societies. In addition, the book discusses the "religious secrets" found in the major religions, including secret societies of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism.

Containing more than 170 entries, the encyclopedia is organized by religious category, such as Abrahamic, East Asian, and African Diasporic religions, then alphabetically within each category. Each entry is prefaced with a short introduction that explains where and when the religious tradition originated and describes the religion today. This information is followed by an analysis of the historical development and use of symbols along with an explanation of connections between symbols used by different religions, such as shared astrological symbolism in the form of moon, sun, or star motifs.


17.10.14

Rethinking Conspiracies

Are conspiracy theories good for us? This book seems to suggest the possibility:

Chris Fleming, Emma A. Jane. Modern Conspiracy: The Importance of Being Paranoid. Bloomsbury Academic (23 Oct 2014)

While conspiracy theory is often characterized in terms of the collapse of objectivity and Enlightenment reason, Modern Conspiracy traces the important role of conspiracy in the formation of the modern world: the scientific revolution, social contract theory, political sovereignty, religious paranoia and mass communication media.

Rather than seeing the imminent death of Enlightenment reason and a regression to a new Dark Age in conspiratorial thinking, Modern Conspiracy suggests that many characteristic features of conspiracies tap very deeply into the history of the Enlightenment: its vociferous critique of established authorities and a conception of political sovereignty fuelled by fear of counter-plots, for example. Perhaps, ultimately, conspiracy theory affords us a renewed opportunity to reflect on our very relationship to the truth itself.


15.10.14

Up North

An anthology of folklore and memorates, collected long before current interest in 'forteanism', 'cryptozoology' and 'contemporary legend'.

Michael Edmonds. Blue Men and River Monsters: Folklore of the North. Wisconsin Historical Society Press (14 Oct 2014)

The north is a treasure trove of folklore. From magical creatures of the old country to legends of the mysterious and macabre, this lore is a record of the stories people held on to and the customs, foods, and cures that filled their lives. Collected in the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers' Program, a Depression-era works project, these are the stories of Norwegian and Swiss immigrants, Native American medicine men and storytellers, and pioneers with memories of the earliest days of settlement in the Old Northwest.

In search of stories, legends, songs, and other scraps of traditional knowledge, researchers fanned out across Wisconsin and other states. The resulting handwritten notes, thousands of pages in length, capture history as people remembered it. Blue Men and River Monsters collects the most interesting and noteworthy of these tales, placing them alongside stunning artwork collected by the Federal Art Project in Wisconsin. Peruse these pages and discover a new history of the people and places of the old north.


Literature and Science

Examining the philosophical and scientific revolution in England at the time of the first Elizabeth.

Mary Thomas Crane. Losing Touch with Nature: Literature and the New Science in Sixteenth-Century England. Johns Hopkins University Press (16 Oct 2014)

During the scientific revolution, the dominant Aristotelian picture of nature, which cohered closely with common sense and ordinary perceptual experience, was completely overthrown. Although we now take for granted the ideas that the earth revolves around the sun and that seemingly solid matter is composed of tiny particles, these concepts seemed equally counterintuitive, anxiety provoking, and at odds with our ancestors’ embodied experience of the world. In Losing Touch with Nature, Mary Thomas Crane examines the complex way that the new science’s threat to intuitive Aristotelian notions of the natural world was treated and reflected in the work of Edmund Spenser, Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare, and other early modern writers.

Crane breaks new ground by arguing that sixteenth-century ideas about the universe were actually much more sophisticated, rational, and observation-based than many literary critics have assumed. The earliest stages of the scientific revolution in England were most powerfully experienced as a divergence of intuitive science from official science, causing a schism between embodied human experience of the world and learned explanations of how the world works. This fascinating book traces the growing awareness of that epistemological gap through textbooks and natural philosophy treatises to canonical poetry and plays, presciently registering and exploring the magnitude of the human loss that accompanied the beginnings of modern science.



7.10.14

Scottish Scares

A companion volume to History Press's excellent London Urban Legends.

Sheena Blackhall. Scottish Urban Myths and Ancient Legends (Urban Legends). The History Press (6 Oct 2014)

Monsters, lunatics, vampires, werewolves, evil dolls, and suicide dogs, stones entombing bodies, faces appearing in walls, curses, and meetings with the devil—all this and more are contained within this book of Scottish urban legends. Now, for the first time, folklorists and storytellers Grace Banks and Sheena Blackhall explore these intriguing tales. Folklore embeds itself into a local community, often to the extent that some people believe all manner of mysteries and take them as fact. Whether they’re stories passed around the school playground, through the internet, or 'round a flickering campfire, urban legends are everywhere. Scottish Urban Legends is a quirky and downright spooky ride into the heart of Celtic folklore.


Essex Girls

A look at the historical heartland of the English witch-hunters.

Peter C. Brown. Essex Witches. The History Press (1 Oct 2014)

Medieval folk had long suspected that the Devil was carrying out his work on earth with the help of his minions. In 1484 Pope Innocent VIII declared this to be true, which resulted in witch-hunts across Europe which lasted for nearly 200 years. In 1645, England (notably Essex) was in the grip of witch fever. Between 1560 and 1680 in Essex alone 317 women and 23 men were tried for witchcraft, and over 100 were hanged.

Essex Witches recounts many of the local common folk who were tried in the courts for their beliefs and practice in herbal remedies and potions, and for causing, often by their familiars, the deaths of neighbours and even family members, and had meted out the harshest penalties for their sorcery and demonic ways.