Sunday, June 28, 2009

Wewelsburg: Himmler's Occult Castle

Wewelsburg is a Renaissance castle located in the northeast of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, in the village of Wewelsburg which is a quarter of the city B├╝ren, Westphalia, in district of Paderborn in the Alme Valley. The castle has the outline of a triangle. After 1934 it was used by the SS under Heinrich Himmler and was to be expanded to the central SS-cult-site. After 1941 plans were developed to enlarge it to the so-called "Center of the World".

The castle crew consisted of members of both SS branches, the "General SS" ("Allgemeine SS") and the "Armed SS" ("Waffen SS"). Also working at the castle were proponents of a kind of SS esotericism consisting of Germanic mysticism, an ancestor cult, worship of runes, and racial doctrines: Himmler, for example, adapted the idea of the Grail to create a heathen mystery for the SS.

Meetings of SS-Group Leaders at "spring conferences" were planned since 1939. Probably some talks took place at Wewelsburg Castle; the only documented meeting was in June 1941. Another source mentions three or four ceremonies a year of SS-leaders which took place at the castle.

In 1938 Himmler ordered the return of all Death's head rings of dead SS-men and officers. They were to be stored in a chest in the castle. This was to symbolize the ongoing membership of the decedent in the SS-Order. The whereabouts of the approximately 11,500 rings after the Second World War is unclear.

Where primary a cistern was a vault after the model of Mycenaean domed tombs was hewn into the rock which possibly was to serve for some kind of commemoration of the dead. The room is unfinished. The floor was lowered 4.80 meters. The fundament of the tower was firmed with concrete. In the middle of the vault probably a bowl with an eternal flame was planned. In the middle of the floor a gas pipe is embedded. Around the presumed place for the eternal flame at the wall twelve pedestals are placed. Their meaning is unknown. Above the pedestals wall niches existed. In the zenith of the vault a swastika (which ends run out in an ornamental way) is walled in. The swastika (Hakenkreuz) was understood as "the symbol of the creating, acting life" (das Symbol des schaffenden, wirkenden Lebens) and as "race emblem of Germanism" (Rasseabzeichen des Germanentums). The vault has special acoustics and illumination.

The axis of the sun wheel consisted of a circular plate of pure gold, which was to symbolize the center of the castle and thus the entire "Germanic world empire".

n 1938, Siegfried Taubert was in charge of developing the castle, when Himmler inquired about the cost of installing a planetarium[citation needed]. To round off the subjects taught at the Wewelsburg SS school a teacher was sought who should draw cross connections between astronomy and history and the folklife of the ancestors so that the historical and ideological schooling was to be enhanced and deepened by the "cosmic view" (kosmische Schau).

Footnotes at bottom.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It's A Good Life: Jerome Bixby & the Twilight Zone

"It's a Good Life" is a short story by Jerome Bixby, written in 1953. In 1970 it was voted by the Science Fiction Writers of America as one of the 20 finest science fiction stories ever written. The story was first published in Star Science Fiction Stories No.2.

This is among the most popular Twilight Zone episodes.
It Contains the longest opening narration of the series.
"Tonight's story on The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognize, is a map of the United States, and there's a little town there called Peaksville. On a given morning not too long ago, the rest of the world disappeared and Peaksville was left all alone. Its inhabitants were never sure whether the world was destroyed and only Peaksville left untouched or whether the village had somehow been taken away. They were, on the other hand, sure of one thing: the cause. A monster had arrived in the village. Just by using his mind, he took away the automobiles, the electricity, the machines - because they displeased him - and he moved an entire community back into the dark ages - just by using his mind. Now I'd like to introduce you to some of the people in Peaksville, Ohio. This is Mr. Fremont. It's in his farmhouse that the monster resides. This is Mrs. Fremont. And this is Aunt Amy, who probably had more control over the monster in the beginning than almost anyone. But one day she forgot. She began to sing aloud. Now, the monster doesn't like singing, so his mind snapped at her, turned her into the smiling, vacant thing you're looking at now. She sings no more. And you'll note that the people in Peaksville, Ohio, have to smile. They have to think happy thoughts and say happy things because once displeased, the monster can wish them into a cornfield or change them into a grotesque, walking horror. This particular monster can read minds, you see. He knows every thought, he can feel every emotion. Oh yes, I did forget something, didn't I? I forgot to introduce you to the monster. This is the monster. His name is Anthony Fremont. He's six years old, with a cute little-boy face and blue, guileless eyes. But when those eyes look at you, you'd better start thinking happy thoughts, because the mind behind them is absolutely in charge. This is the Twilight Zone."

Six-year-old Anthony Fremont looks like any other little boy, but looks are deceiving. He is a monster, a mutant with godlike mental powers. Early on, he isolated the small hamlet of Peaksville, Ohio. In fact, the handful of inhabitants do not even know if he destroyed the rest of the world or if it still exists. Anthony has also eliminated electricity, automobiles, and television signals. He controls the weather and what supplies can be found in the grocery store. Anthony creates and destroys as he pleases, and controls when the residents can watch the TV and what they can watch on it.

The adults tiptoe nervously around him, constantly telling him how everything he does is "good", since displeasing him can get them wished away "to the cornfield", where they are presumably met by a less-than-happy ending. Finally, at Dan Hollis' birthday party, Dan, slightly drunk, can no longer stand the strain and confronts the boy, calling him a monster and a murderer; while Anthony's anger grows, Dan begs the other adults to kill Anthony from behind - "Somebody end this, now!" - but everyone else is too afraid to act. Before Dan is killed, he is shown, indirectly by his shadow, transformed into a jack-in-the-box, causing his widow to break down.

Because he is angry at what has happened, Anthony causes snow to begin falling outside. His father observes that the snow will kill off at least half the crops and that they may not have enough food to make it through the winter and people may starve to death. But as the adults look on, worried smiles on their faces, his father smiles and tells Anthony "...but it's a real good thing you did. A real good thing."

Here is the story in its entirety. "It's a Good Life" by Jerome Bixby

You can also view the episode in three segments through Youtube. (at least for now)
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Plague Doctor

The most famous image of a plague doctor is Paul Furst's 1656 engraving, "Doktor Shnabel von Rom", the doctor beak of Rome.

A plague doctor's duties were often limited to visiting victims to verify whether they had been afflicted or not. Surviving records of contracts drawn up between cities and plague doctors often gave the plague doctor enormous latitude and heavy financial compensation, given the risk of death involved for the plague doctor himself. Most plague doctors were essentially volunteers, as qualified doctors had (usually) already fled, knowing they could do nothing for those affected.

Considered an early form of hazmat suit, a plague doctor's clothing consisted of:

A wide-brimmed black hat worn close to the head. At the time, a wide-brimmed black hat would have been identified a person as a doctor, much the same as how nowadays a hat may identify chefs, soldiers, and workers. The wide-brimmed hat may have also been used as partial shielding from infection.

A primitive gas mask in the shape of a bird's beak. A common belief at the time was that the plague was spread by birds. There may have been a belief that by dressing in a bird-like mask, the wearer could draw the plague away from the patient and onto the garment the plague doctor wore. The mask also included red glass eyepieces, which were thought to make the wearer impervious to evil. The beak of the mask was often filled with strongly aromatic herbs and spices to overpower the miasmas or "bad air" which was also thought to carry the plague. At the very least, it may have served a dual purpose of dulling the smell of unburied corpses, sputum, and ruptured bouboules in plague victims.

A long, black overcoat. The overcoat worn by the plague doctor was tucked in behind the beak mask at the neckline to minimize skin exposure. It extended to the feet, and was often coated head to toe in suet or wax. A coating of suet may have been used with the thought that the plague could be drawn away from the flesh of the infected victim and either trapped by the suet, or repelled by the wax. The coating of wax likely served as protection against respiratory droplet contamination, but it was not known at the time if coughing carried the plague. It was likely that the overcoat was waxed to simply prevent sputum or other bodily fluids from clinging to it.

A wooden cane. The cane was used to both direct family members to move the patient, other individuals nearby, and possibly to examine the patient with directly.

Leather breeches. Similar to waders worn by fishermen, leather breeches were worn beneath the cloak to protect the legs and groin from infection. Since the plague often tended to manifest itself first in the lymph nodes, particular attention was paid to protecting the armpits, neck, and groin. It is not known how often or widespread plague doctors were, or how effective they were in treatment of the disease. It's likely that while offering some protection to the wearer, they may have actually contributed more to the spreading of the disease than its treatment, in that the plague doctor unknowingly served as a vector for infected fleas to move from host to host.

masks in picture designed by Lyndie Write.

There is quite a bit of interest today in plague masks for costume wear. Variations of the mask are traditionally worn during Venetian Carnivale.

MaskWerks sells a faithfully designed mask on their website. The mask sells for $150 and is very popular.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Earl Cunningham: His Atlantic Coast

1893-1977. "Cunnigham was a self-taught artist who painted mostly landscapes of the coasts of Maine, Nova Scotia, Georgia and Florida. He used vivid colors, flat perspective, and a few recurrent themes. He added incongruous details, such as flamingos in Maine and Viking ships in Florida, to his work."

"Largely considered a folk artist, Cunningham painted the American landscape of the Atlantic coast and its intercoastal ecosystem with dock workers, fishermen, farmers, wildlife and even American Indian tribes. As he traveled up and down the coast he painted his reflections of the surroundings. He depicted accurately detailed shoreline features in the tradition of memory painting. He painted over 400 landscapes, of which a large number reside at the Mennello Museum of American Arts in Orlando, FL."

"Cunningham moved to Saint Augustine, Florida in 1949 and opened an art gallery and curio shop. In 1961 he sent a painting titled "The Everglades" to Jacqueline Kennedy that is on display at John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston. In 1969, his work began to attract serious notice, and in 1970 was exhibited at the then Loch Haven Art Center in Orlando. He reputation continued to grow, and a large number of his paintings were shown at the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach, Florida in August 1974. Cunningham took his own life on December 29, 1977. He was 84. "

Amy Crawford. Smithsonian
American folk art museum
Earl Cunningham: "Painting an American Eden". Publishers Weekly