MYSTICISM, MYTHOLOGY AND MAGIC IN THE ART WORLD
In spite of religion being the ruling subject matter of art for many centuries, magic and mysticism have long been interwoven in a dark curtain that hangs over a large segment of the art world. The whole world is alive and filled with soul, whether light or dark. “Each material form may be thought of as attracting an appropriate soul, as firewood treated with sulphur draws flame.” While there is no historical or scientific evidence for the legitimacy of séances, magic or communication with the deceased, in D.H. Rawcliffe’s book Occult and Supernatural Phenomena, he reminds us of the importance of hallucinations and other fantastical ...view middle of the document...
Magical incantations by the shamans began to take on a more ceremonial form, including the recording of art: on walls, in pottery, in weavings, jewelry. Many of these were a way to show obedience to their gods, which included dark, angry gods who required daily appeasement. Other rituals were practiced in hopes of successful hunting and fertility. Those that performed these rituals were known as the Wicca, or the Wise Ones. Ancient symbols and motifs used in these times were later adopted by the Christian church to take on different meanings, but their origin did not change.
The Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason, was a philosophical movement during the 18th century that emphasized logic and the scientific method, rather than tradition and faith. This movement prompted many followers of the Christian tradition to abandon it in the pursuit of philosophy, liberal arts and sciences. This new culture that was less dependent upon old customs and ideas not only instigated philosophical and scientific changes, but also inspired some people to embrace customs and ideas that could be considered bizarre, inimical or in some cases, evil.
The term ‘Spiritualism’ refers to the belief in communication with spirits of the deceased. The modern movement of Spiritualism began either in Switzerland by scientist and medium Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) who had visions of a spirit visitor that inspired him to write about the spiritual meaning behind the bible in the year 1744. Others say the movement began with sisters Leah (1814–1890), Margaret (1833–1893) and Catherine Fox (1837–1892) in Hydesville, New York in 1848. They claimed to be able to communicate with spirits and performed private and public séances. Later in life they admitted it was all a big hoax. Regardless of who started it or whether it was staged or authentic, it still effectively captivated and even convinced many people of its potential uses.
Because of people’s curiosity and perhaps devotion to the Spiritualist cause, they began to deceive themselves in the pursuit of communication with spirits in the afterlife. French photographer Édouard Isidore Buguet (1840-1901) used props like dolls or lay figures to act as a ghost or spirit, which some people swore were actually photographs of their late loved ones. In his photograph titled Fluidic Effect (Figure 1, 1875), it appears the artist is using telekinesis to levitate a chair. The photograph was of course a hoax, which led to him being arrested.
The Mythology of Shakespeare Explored in 19th Century Paintings
It is no secret that William Shakespeare liked to create his own mythologies. He would borrow figures and ideas from different legends, combining them together to form a world all his own. The three witch sisters from Macbeth are the obvious first example that comes to mind, however magical and mythical characters appear in many of his works, like Much Ado About Nothing and The Tempest. Shakespeare was not afraid to write about...