Monday, April 24, 2017

Mirage

One of the inspirations for Occultus was a news item I happened to see in 2011.  The story was about what appeared to be a magical city that had appeared out of nowhere in China.  Witnessed and photographed by many people the city that materialised seemed to have buildings, temples and trees.  The city appeared and vanished quickly.  

This stunning mirage that appeared above the skyline after heavy rain on the Xin'an River in East China, seemed to rise from nowhere.  Many who saw the glittering mirage believed some sort of vortex had opened revealing a hidden city.  

The scientific explanation for this spectacular phenomen was that it occurs when moisture in the air becomes warmer than the temperature of the water below.  When sun rays cross the colder air into the warmer air the rays refract or bend.  This refraction creates a reflection in the air.  

Many felt that the so called mirage appeared to be reflecting something that didn't exist, hence the notion it was infact some unknown city appearing.

I found this entire story and the resultant images enchanting and infact it served to inspire the opening paragraphs of Occultus.  

 
 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Occultus

Occultus, my next book scheduled for release after The Lighthouse Keeper, was inspired by a conversation that I had with a friend of mine who is a magician in New York.  Although I happily enter into that unspoken deal with practitioners of magic whereby I convince myself that their sleight of hand is infact magic, I do like to think there is real magic. I believe supernatural elements are only a mystery because we have not found fully convincing ways of measuring them to satisfy the general populace.  My magician friend told me I should read and look into the history of two ancient texts.  One is called the Malleus Maleficarum and the other is The Discoverie of  Witchcraft.

The Malleus Maleficarum, which literally translates into the title Hammer of Witches, was written by Catholic clergyman Heinrich Kramer and for two hundred years the book was only second in popularity to the Bible.  Kramer, a German, was born in Selestat, Alsace and joined the Dominican Order at an early age.  In 1484 Kramer made his first attempts at prosecuting alleged witches in the Tyrol Region.  His endeavours so angered the local Bishop Kramer was expelled from the city of Innsbruck.  In an attempt at self justification Kramer contacted  Pope Innocent VIII for a papal bull.  A public decree issued by the Pope, a papal bull is named after the leaden seal, or bulla that is attached to the bottom of the decree to authenticate it.  Impressed by Kramer's eloquence and tireless work the papal bull Summis Desiderantes was published in 1484 by Pope Innocent VIII.  The bull acknowledges the existences of witches and sorcerers and was incorporated into Kramer's book Malleus Maleficarum.  

Endorsing the extermination of witches, the Malleus Maleficarum developed a detailed theological and legal structure for dealing with witches and sorcerers.  By elevating witchcraft to the level of heresay, the book gave a step by step set of instructions of inquisitional practices for secular courts. Torture to extract confessions as well as witches being burnt at the stake were encouraged practices.  In his book Kramer details three distinct elements necessary for witchcraft.  The accused witch should have evil intent, the help of the devil and permission from God. Due to the popularity of the book, that was facilitated by the innovation of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the middle of the fifteenth century, Kramer was invited to conduct public lectures which proved to be very popular.  

The Malleus Maleficarum became a handbook for secular courts throughout renaissance Europe.  With widespread belief in witchcraft, and with the details in Kramer's publication vigorous persecution took place between 1560 and 1630, only beginning to end around 1780. It is estimated that tens of thousands of people throughout Europe and the colonies were tortured and executed after being accused of witchcraft.  

Reginald Scot, an Englishman and Member of Parliament believed that the persecution of those accused of witchcraft was unChristian and irrational.  He believed that the Catholic Church was responsible for the widespread murders and deaths of those accused of witchcraft.  He also felt that most of those accused of witchcraft were poor, aged, simple or women.  Scot, who had studied superstitions surrounding witchcraft, wanted to reveal witchcraft as simple illusions.  In his book the Discoverie of Witchcraft, published in 1584, he discusses how the public are easily fooled by charlatans.  Deemed the first textbook on conjuring, the book included descriptions and diagrams of how some illusions were achieved.  Sadly is it believed that all actual copies of the Discoverie of Witches were destroyed by James I when he ascended the throne in 1603.

In light of these two texts I started to think about hidden worlds and the way that those with real magic may move back and forward between the real and hidden worlds.  I imagined the ways in which they created the hidden places and what they created.  Through these beautiful contemplations Occultus began.