Lulu Eightball. Published 2005 by Atomic Book Company. ISBN 078-0978656904
Lulu Eightball, Volume 2. Published 2009 by Atomic Book Company. ISBN 978-0-9786569-5-9

Atomic Book Company: https://atomicbooks.com

Readers of the New Yorker, connoisseurs of the comics section, will recognise the work of Emily Flake. It is oddball comedy, gently digging the ribs, squeezing the squeaky balloon, of contemporary attitudes and practices.

http://www.emilyflake.com

Well, these volumes of Lulu Eightball are the ones the papers never saw: these are comics and cartoons of a distinctly other order.
Her format tends to be a page size square that contains four cartoons, not always part of a sequence, but that connect by subject: four takes, if you like. They can be four stand along cartoons, or two sequences, or… you get the idea.

Oh, but is the work of a sharp and witty observer/liver of the modern comedy of Western life!
And she is gender-fair: her women can be as monstrous as her men, and men gentler than her women.
This in itself is quite a feat in the toxic world she is working in: women cartoonists fight long and hard for the breaks that males take for granted.

This is the American world from a woman’s perspective. Not always successful, not always ‘with it’, not always clued-in; Lulu Eightball is a  loveable ogre.

The emotional range is set within limits: dipsy, cutesy-sharp, smart, to downright snarling. Is this the ‘nasty’ girl of Trump (you can just imagine him using this technique with his ‘conquests’, with his daughter, even. It has that sort of trued-and-tested wear to it)? No, that is far too creepy.
Lulu Eightball has moments of frustrated, almost despairing crankiness – something conveyed for all readers to recognise, and own.
But she never goes into psycho-land, from where there is no return.

In her more recent work, say, Mama Tried: Dispatches from the Seamy Underbelly of Modern Parenting (2015) she explores the female world od parenting more thoroughly.
This is a book for all new parents: there are sooo many parenting books, but this one pulls no punches, applies no tippex, and yet makes you feel recognised, on safe ground.

*

Sometimes something catches you, and you read on.
For me it was The Heartbreak of Fireflies, from Volume Two. The first cartoon has two bugs making snarky comments as a firefly walks by: Hey sparkle bottom. My cigarette’s gone out. Then she takes it further, with a note how the firefly is trying desperately not to let his light blink.
And the next cartoon in the frame has a firefly encounter fairy lights. Why would anyone put up strings of false women? Is – is it some kind of joke?

Dracula TV Series

Posted: January 11, 2020 in Chat
Tags: , , , ,

The new 3 episode TV series has recently finished.
So now you start to wonder, remember and laugh, and remember and look puzzled, and all the other responses it calls from you.

Was it as good as you hoped?
I’m undead; I’m not unreasonable.‘ was a good start: sharp, snappy, and yet… and yet, in that part of the action he was, yes, very unreasonable, as he sat back allowing his wolves to slaughter all of the nuns. Not for his ‘hunger’, note, but for the wolves.

‘The Dracula effect’ gets its impact, its punch, from transgression. That is its dynamic: something, an evil from long, long ago, bowling into the modern, sophisticated world, and wreaking havoc.
There were moments in this series: released from his Hannibal Lector/Skyfall cell, by his lawyer, and all London open to him…. But no, he did not go on the rampage.
It was as though the writers were ticking boxes on the required-modern-attitudes scale, as well as layering with cultural references. There was even a Dark Lord in there i.e. Voldemort.

Each work sets out the parameters it is constructed, and is to work, within. The older versions of the tale have very clearly demarcated moral and ethical borders and boundaries. Transgression was guaranteed.
In this new series the parameters were open, its was a broad field of equality and diversity. Where were the borders? Where could the energy come from?
Even his cold-bloodedness: the baby to feed on, the killing of the nuns, the apparently conscienceless killing of ship companions, blatant betrayals, and gratuitous self-serving, are all too well known from our recent wars and their attendant war-crimes, recent political regimes, experiences of survivors still very much alive. And in the case of refugee camps, still being perpetrated as we speak/write
It says much in Claes Bang’s favour that he could smoulder and threaten with more than enough contained violence to carry off the larger-than-life character he was portraying.
And yet also a worthiness kept creeping in. And clunkiness: instantly picking up on modern technologies, as well as displaying an expertise? I still have trouble working Skype, but he did it first try – from someone else’s blood-memories, was it? Everyone knows the hand book approach, but the fiddly bits around the functions are something else.
And constant, dependable, broadband?

Which brings us to the most important question: what is the present-day sensibility? What, of what we are doing, will be found to be worthwhile in years to come?
What will survive of us – and not in some comedy channel’s You Will Not Believe This! type formula.

Because these are the questions the series deals with, ultimately.
Here was someone from 15thCentury Central Europe: what did he find, here? And what else did he bring through time with him?
Something that we could recognise, use, applaud?

His vampire parameters: sunlight, silver, crosses… all acquired dependencies? Believing his own, created, myths? Very contemporary.

Chain

Posted: January 3, 2020 in Chat
Tags: , , , ,

Each day’s like a chain that hangs from its cloud.
Tuesday was clumsy, loose, not reaching ground;
today is fine-spun, hall-marked, many linked –
each link frames a dimension of life.

Broken chains are dangerous, lash out
whenever air stirs, clouds mass, trees bend,
and no storm breaks. How many died, do you think,
their lost days clashing overhead?

These chains connect us, we would not be
without them. They themselves could be
the finest spun, glinting, and delicate.

But they are not.

Every time you turned the street turned with you:
the languages, distractions, sales, and somewhere
a street band. You turned and the current flowed
around you, through you; kept moving. The window display
was there for you. Streets of bodies eddying, surged.

You still felt their tug in a doorway. Turned, and
lifted away; it fell from you. You rose
quickly and above it all; shop lights far below.
Rose past cornices, pigeon spikes, to colder air;
the smells of fast food, music, muting.

A sudden panic; the city lights indistinguishable –
you were rising faster, ‘How will I breathe?’
Higher, higher to break through to sudden
openness, emptiness,
and strung there
were huge chains of lives, channelled
across darkness — people connected, singly,
as far as sight was possible.

A policemen next to you, his difficult face;
the barrista who snubbed you, the shop assistant
who had seemed distant,  all there together,
connecting.  And listening revealed
high tones, metallic, different timbres. The planets,
ringing in the openness.

Linked lines of lives stretched from planet
to planet and the sun’s radiance. All connected,
attuned  to a vast, opening sense
of awareness, completion.

 

And so world leaders clap as England skips off into political oblivion behind Bojo the Clown.
Like the Pied Piper, maybe, but without his skill or art.

What happened at the UK election?
Did Brexit seal everyone’s fate, both Remain and Leave  supporters?
Did Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the only viable opposition, consign everyone to disaster?
(The Green Party conspicuous by their absence.)

Tell me, the much vaunted soundbite of being sick and tired of the Brexit rigmarole, was that the reason so many voted against their long held beliefs?

And so, Jeremy Corbyn et al wander back into the 1970s, which he never really left – his Manifesto was pure 1970s – with period PLO affiliations having morphed into unambiguous anti-Semitism. And to leave the vulnerable of society, and huge new abundance of impoverished, to further foodbanks, malnutrition, to a NHS that’s on the point of having to charge for admission to A and E, for general medical care (these last divulged  to us by a desperate NHS worker). And how many more Austerity-related deaths?
Thanks for that.

In the middle of our Austerity, when everyone was jumpy and panicky, our then PM David Cameron pulled out a bill from the European Union saying the UK owed £billions. ‘Look at this!, he said
He did not mention it was he who had withheld the yearly payments, so that the debt built up… and ‘Look at this!’
The result was the Brexit mess.

         Timing is all, of course; and politics is theatre. Here was proof of that.

There is a cartoon in the UK satirical magazine Private Eye, showing Boris Johnson with a mop – the caption: Only we can clean up the mess that we have made.
Which captures it all rather nicely.
Many populist politicians create a chaos to upset everyone, and then to solve, saying, See how good I am!
Needlessly upsetting everyone; just for their own poll ratings.

I wrote of the UK, but isn’t it really just England? And hasn’t it been just England for quite some time now?
I first became disgusted with the main political parties at the last Scottish Independence referendum – their attitude to Scotland, and patronising manner, was so open at last. And ever since, virtually everything that has come out of Scotland has been openly ignored.
Take this example: Glasgow has had a very successful programme for dealing with knife crime. Why not adopt it in England?
No, said Javid.
Consign everyone to further deaths and injury, out of sheer arrogance.

The Irish border – and deeper behind that let’s look, for example there, at the criminal proceedings for prosecution for the Bloody Sunday massacre: 13 unarmed killed, by British troops. And the English court Now will allow only 1 prosecution. How generous, how understanding – this crumb of regard from the great English table.

And, so, Wales – the heartland holds firm but the traditionally Englished areas of the south west, the borders (Monmouth, Radnor etc), fall-in with the big and more powerful English. Anglesey, though,  so dependent on finance from England….

Get Brexit Done – and let us get back to how we were.
Ah, no, sorry; none of that from now on.

Will vacuity be the new norm: heads-in-the-sand, fingers in ears, eyes tight shut?
‘What brave new world….’

Of course it suits President Trump mightily to have the UK split from Europe: weak, dependent, and no longer a player on the world markets.

The Je-Ne-Sais-Quoi in Early Modern Europe, by Richard Scholar, Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN 9780199274406

Richard Scholar is Fellow and Tutor in French, at Oriel College, Oxford.

The Je-Ne-Sais-Quoi in Early Modern Europe : Richard ...

In the realm of Philosophy ours has been called the age of the method. That is, method as the chosen vehicle with which we locate and explore our understanding of our position in the world.

What is the je ne sais quois? It is the inexpressible, the ‘I do not know what’ of a situation, event, and even, as Richard Scholar shows with Montaigne, of a relationship. Or, if you prefer, it is the ‘I know not what.’ In English there is the phrase he uses as subtitle of the book: a certain something – The Je-Ne-Sais-Quoi – Encounters with a Certain Something. This phrase pales against the French, though.

How can we know the je ne sais quoi? We can hunt out its provenance… this, after all, is accepted method. The phrase can be traced back to origins in the Cicero’s example of his use of the expression nescio quid: I do not know what. Richard Scholar qualifies, however: It owns its literary prestige partly to its Latin ancestor and its Romance cousins, but, unlike them, it goes on to establish itself as a vogue-word and an organising topic. (Page 25)

And there we have the tone and tenor of the book. We can trace the literary prestige of the phrase more easily than the vernacular usage. How prevalent was the phrase in ordinary/everyday usage? We would need to see how and if it was used in each and every instance in context, time, speech, manuscript, and print. And so he restricts his search to early modern Europe, examining its use in Montaigne, Corneille, Moliere, Descartes, Pascal, even Shakespeare.

Take those Englishings, above: the ‘I do not know what…’, and the ‘I know not what.’ The second is more succinct, comfortable; is more self-contained-seeming through its use of form. To our ears it has a sound-bite quality to it. The first seems more exploratory, more open, questing. The first expresses a vulnerability towards knowledge, self-knowledge – therefore a vulnerability before a greater, omniscient knowledge. In this way can we extrapolate therefore, a more theistic quality to it, whereas the latter has a more renaissance quality: more au-fait with classical rhetorical forms?
For me this gets to the heart of the question. I use the phrase ‘sound-bite’ etc – it is a contemporary journalistic phrase. Hopefully it will not be known in ten year’s time, as it was not say, twenty years’ ago. It limits. My worry is: do we limit our thinking to what we can only express in words, language? That would be a grievous error. I posit thought as experienced event, full of multiplying connections, and not as ordered and expressible formulation of the event.

Read the excerpt I gave above again; take, for instance, the need of the super-defining Latin writers of the phrase, nescio quid. Something even escapes their forensic practice. In fact, quite a lot did, And this is the fate of so much of our, Europe’s, early heritage, circumscribed by Latin thought, expression, and the vicissitudes of transmission.

In the sixteenth century France, Richard Scholar comments, the phrase became vogue; as with the later vogue for conversatione (see Peter Burke, The Art of Conversation, Cornell University paperbacks,1993:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Art-Conversation-Peter-Burke/)
it spread throughout Western Europe. It changed costume, definition, commercial value, as it crossed cultures.

David M Possner, Chicago University: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/212681, writes: The first part of the book presents itself as a word history: using Starobinski’s notion of the tripartite life cycle of a word — from its emergence as a lexical entity, through a period of currency, to its demise in what Merleau-Ponty calls sedimentation….

And so we have the burgeoning of the great dictionaries at the turn of the seventeenth century. The phrase cannot be so restricted, we find: it retains its ability to disturb, disrupt, by remaining indefinable. And so ‘society’ fights back. We have what is called a parlour game of polite conversation, where the new philosophical writing becomes a polite topic. The game is of nescioquiddity, of applying the phrase to ‘cultured’ phenomena, the world of gentility.

The move from ‘I know not what’, to ‘a certain something’ is a very definite, provocative one. Kant and the Age of Reason are taken wholesale, you might say, and produce their own particular paradigms for conceptualising the essence of the relationship of self and the world.

The phrase throws into relief our relationship with knowledge of the world, of self knowledge, and the relationship between: our basic epistemology.

With this book, and his next, Montaigne and the Art of Free-Thinking (Past in the Present): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Montaigne-Art-Free-Thinking-Past-Present/
Scholar enrolled himself in the realm of histoire des mentalites, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_mentalities
of cultural history’s  investigations.

Cafe/Coffee Poems

Posted: November 24, 2019 in Chat
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CAFE

The city is bored; he sits by the door
of a main street café, twitching with espresso;
mind glazed by incessant passing,
dulls to dissatisfaction too extended
to sustain its edge. He convolutes the image:
he is a silent tongue in the street’s mouth,
continually attempting to
articulate its existence, and failing.

The café plays a muted loop,
an orchestration of Alanis Morrisette,
an unresolving melody
that is always on the point of developing
but does not. Now he connects:
a violinist with the Halle,  recognises this,
it was his holiday money;
a television commercial paid for school fees.

The year has been good,
but he is worn, fighting to remain
where he has fought to be.

COFFEE

This is part of the magic of the coffee cup:
to pour milk, not even cream, to leave it
concerned with toast, a pastry,
to turn to it and catch the point where

a perfect spiral, perfectly balanced,
holds for a moment, then dissolves again,
breaks down into ellipses, warping
into tangents and parentheses –
white hands framing a troubled face.

Someone who did not quite make it.
I know him well.
I live my life amongst ellipses.

 

WHAT IS HAPPINESS/ Wat Is Geluk?

Because happiness is a memory
it exists because at the same time
the reverse is also true
……………………………………………………………

 ………………… I mean this: happiness
must exist somewhere at some time because
 we remember it and it reminds us. 

Rutger Kopland (Until It Lets Us Go, 1997)

Full text:
https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/what-is-happiness-14/

1

A circling argument, circular reasoning; he is attempting to capture here the processes of actual experience. It is a meld between learnt things ie the particular blends that give the sense of well-being, and the sense of already existing well-being within the person.

And notice that it is one long sentence. Is it a sentence? It’s more properly described as a gestalt, a knot of argument.

Maybe we have a harking back here to something like R D Laing’s collections of problems in his book Knots:

They are playing a game. They are playing at not
playing a game. If I show them I see they are, I
shall break the rules and they will punish me.
I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game.

But this seems to be a different order, similar, but different. Unless, the difference is in the ambience that translation gives. James Brockway’s translation of the poem here is more a kind of, what he called, a collaboration: both writer and translator find the most appropriate new terms with which to convey the original poem.

What Kopland is doing here is expressing the thinking processes of emotion. That is, emotion in a broad sense.

2

There have been times in my own life I have forgotten what various things look like. One of them has been happiness. Many of us know this – if you haven’t you most probably will. Wait, especially until some loved one dies.

What was it Brecht said? The Happy man has not heard the bad news yet.
I quoted that to a colleague once and they asked in all seriousness what the bad news was.  What can you say!

To forget happiness. We all assume it is our right as a human being. That we are entitled to it, and to go to extraordinary lengths to gain, retain, or find it.
And yet it can be lost.

That last stanza in particular of the poem makes perfect sense: we have a capacity for it, or have developed one, therefore it is something we must need.
And let’s admit a life without happiness is not much of a life.
But is this just because we feel we are no longer getting our usual quota, whether it is necessary for us or not? Can we live a full life without  it?
To have ring-fenced what is necessary for a life; how narrow is that space? Or how over-large?

And then if we look back to, say, St Augustine, and his Confessions, we come across… someone overfond of describing themselves, of wallowing in their own specialness. But we also come across Chapter Ten.
What is Chapter ten? It is where he contemplates Memory.

Subsection 8 of chapter 10 begins: So I must also go beyond this natural faculty of mine… The next stage is memory, which is like a great field or a spacious palace, a storehouse for countless images of all kinds….

And if that isn’t a description of a memory system, then I don’t know what is! Those of us familiar with Patrick Jane from The Mentalist, will recognise the reference to the ‘memory palace’ in this, that he constantly goes on about.

Memory contains, says Augustine, amongst everything else we know, what we know as happiness. The chapter description reads –  Since all men long for happiness, they must know in some way what it is…

Even the phrasing seems to be echoed in the Kopland poem. Augustine’s reasoning in the chapter, subsection 20, runs:
Am I to seek it in memory, as though I had forgotten it but still remembered that I had forgotten it?

It seems what is being considered in all this is whether happiness is a constant presence in our psyches, or a memory of, say, well-being, that we had once, and constantly refer to when we mean ‘happiness’.

This last bit reminds me of so many things we value, that in actuality were singular and temporary, limited occurances.

We constantly hark back to happier times in our lives, which we then project onto our environment, society, history, culture. These were probably a few days/months/at most a few years when certain pleasure chemicals took precedence in our lives, and we were able to live almost blissfully.

I’ve heard people in the UK recall the 1950’s as ‘good times’, yet when we look at those times they were pitifully bad in most respects.

A general loss of energy and with it the capacity to take on the multiplicity of thought and experience, leaves a simplified, narrowed and shallow picture: a ring-fenced concept .

3

I am interested in moving forward, or, as a ‘forward’ probably doesn’t exist, opening up the present more and more.

Against this is a constant reference to what are thought to be past glories; someone’s glory is someone else’s defeat. But also there is the meld between the victor and the defeated, what is then incorporated of the defeated’s self-sense into the victor’s sense of self.

I still maintain that what Kopland was investigating, especially in his later work, was a Phenomenological stance.
Phenomenology kind of grew out of early European existentialism, the work of Husserl, then Merleu-Ponty et al.

You find with modern Phenomenolgy this constant vacillating between one’s sense of one’s body in the world, that we get from sensory feedback from the world, and a sense of  self’s existence, that is maybe generated from sheer sense of the brain itself functioning.
This can lead to a looped vacillation; but there is this extra ingredient, and that is our being’s sense of… curiosity, for want of a better term. It is this keeps us going on.

One thing that seems to move us on better than most, is a sense of fun, play.

Bring on the fun!

Also see:
https://poezie-log.blogspot.com/2015/12/rutger-kopland-wat-is-geluk-omdat-het.html

Ebook: The Spider and the Spies: The Secret Files of Stasi & Co, by Karen Margolis
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Spider-Spies-secret-files-Stasi-ebook/dp/B0758145MD/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1515355645&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Spider+and+the+Spies%3A+The+Secret+Files+of+Stasi+%26+Co%2C+by+Karen+Margolis

Karen Margolis gives here first-hand testimony of her experience of the GDR, and the Stasi State.
Some years ago, after much deliberating, she decided to apply to read her Stasi files. Their filing system was hermetic, to say the least.

It was not an easy decision.

What do you hope to find, and what do you dread?
There are always surprises, unwelcome or not. The husband of a close friend, himself close, had a quiet word: You may well find my name there.
She could not say anything to her friend, his wife.
And so the game of confidences, secrets, continues, just as it did under the system.
The stomach-churning knowledge, that blights relationships, friendships, even marriages.

And what of the ‘outing’ that was endemic for a period? To whose advantage was that? Hardened agents, with years of training and experience in emotional blackmail and manipulation, could still come out of it relatively unstuck. Transferable skills. The old tricks. And they were useful in the new Germany.
Miriam, in Anna Funder’s book, Stasiland,
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stasiland-Stories-Behind-Berlin-Wall/dp/1847083358/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1515355920&sr=1-1&keywords=stasiland
found herself working under an ex-Stasi officer on a radio station, using the same tactics to manipulate people, this time the staff, as he had back then.
Also, see: The Disclosures of Respect: The Public Exposure of Stasi Informers after the German Reunification, by Juan Espindola
http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.896.3940&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Anna Funder’s book is based on her research for a radio programme. She advertised for interviews. She focussed particularly on the role of the Secret Police, the Stasi.
One of the names that came up, was a Herr Von Schnitzler. He was popularly known as Herr Von Schni, because that is how far the announcer got before being turned off. He ran a regular TV programme, The Black Channel. His programme followed airing of programmes from the West, and he sat there afterwards onscreen and pulled the programme to pieces. Many named him the most hated man on TV. You can imagine his hectoring, bigoted sneer.
How to deal with such a character in an interview. To Anna Funder’s credit she did it, she got in under his radar:
‘There was a serious attempt to build a socialist state, and we should examine why, at the end, that state no longer exists. It’s important.
He replied:
‘I noticed relatively early… that we would not be able to survive economically.’

This is important. She cites figures in the book, on East German production, and particularly on the biggest employers (‘There is no unemployment… you are seeking work’). The retreating Soviets had dismantled and shipped back what plant machinery they could, at the end of the War.
And it turns out the biggest employer in the whole of East Germany was… The Stasi.

I am not talking about the tens of thousands of informers: their remuneration was pitiful, but the managerial ranks: it was based on military lines, so the Colonels and upper and immediately lower ranks.
The biggest employer.
And their GDP?
0.
They ‘produced’, in turn, nothing.

In fact, a good case can be made for them undermining the survival and productivity of the State.
They demoralised, victimised, ruined, lives, destroyed families, lied outright, falsified… murdered. But actually produced nothing. Unless you think an atmosphere of paranoia and continual fear a product.

The people separated the Stasi from the State: they supported the State, and hated the Stasi. They were in reality one.
When the end came it was the Stasi took the brunt, and the State officials in wealthy dachas and country houses were un-reproached. That was, after all, ‘normal.’
Peter Schneider, in The Wall Jumper,
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wall-Jumper-Penguin-Modern-Classics/dp/0141187980/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1515355862&sr=1-1&keywords=the+wall+jumper
cites many examples of Easterners supporting the Eastern system, its social security, its low prices.

So when you come to the impact of this on people, it is The Stasi you think of first.
Their presence was everywhere.

Don’t let them through your door! Someone says.
– In the 1970s the response was a grim resentment, an entrenched attitude.
The 1970s were grim everywhere.
– The 1980 generation’s attitude was Ignore them. Have fun. Enjoy.
But if you didn’t let them in, they would summon you. If you didn’t go, they would pick you up at work, school, on the street.

Give them nothing.
They had meticulous details about your personal life, so much so that the notion of a private life would seem a mockery. And they had ways of manipulating you into quiescence, through shaming, robbing you of choice, free will, revealing that what you thought was basic humanity, was a construct, and so, manipulable.

Where did this information about you come from?
Ask yourself: could you bear to know? Would your life be easier, happier, not knowing? To not know is not necessarily to speculate What? and Who? but also perhaps to wonder What if not?
Peter Schneider’s character, Robert, would say that way of thinking was naive, Western. For him the State controlled every time you moved your hand to drink coffee, which coffee you drank, when you drank it, and why.

Where does the truth meet reality?
In testimony, like Karen Margolis gives here.
This is a valuable book. We still need to understand those difficult times.

Reblog: Magic

Posted: October 25, 2019 in Chat
Tags: , ,

With it being Halloweeny time, I thought, Why no reblog that Magic piece again? And so, here it is:

A book I’ve had hanging around for ages: there it was again, so this time I read it:
Ancient Philosophy, Mystery and Magic – Empedocles and the Pythagorean Tradition, by Peter Kingsley.
It was published by Clarendon Press/ Oxford University Press, 1995.

Then there was a free FutureLearn course: Magic in the Middle Ages, run by Barcelona University. Lovely people, by the way.

But, back to that book, first.
Empedocles is the one who coined the four basic elements, building blocks of all things: earth, air, fire and water. Each was also connected with a god/goddess.
The hierarchy was:
Air – Zeus. It was aether intitially, a rarefied form of air.
Earth – Hera
Water – Nestis. She was a localised goddess, native to Sicily.
Fire – Hades.

Empedocles was a native of Sicily. It was to Sicily that Pythagoras came from Samos, Greece. This was all in the 4th centuryBCE.
Sicily, of course, has always been volcanic. Not just the presence of Etna, but Empedocles’ birth town was based on hot springs: the island is full of volcanic-related geography. Then there are the Liparan Islands off the north coast, connecting to Vesuvius.
Is it any wonder the Pythagorians had Fire as the centre of the universe? This was not just ordinary fire but the fire of Tartarus, where the Titans and rebellious gods were confined.
The Underworld, next, ‘as far above Hades as the Earth was above the Underworld’; it was envisioned as a place of rivers of water, and of fire. Nestis was a localised name for Persephone, and she was partnered with Hades, as Hera was with Zeus. We see differences in nature and purpose of each couple in this.
Some initiates took all this later to Egypt. It found a home there, met eastern cults, and became interested in Alchemy (another fire-based ideology).
This was all big-concept stuff – compare it with the Eleusian Mysteries, with closely related Orphism, the mystery cults. They are all surrounded by ritual, initiation, even rebirth scenarios.

The online course was based on documented sources: Papal edicts, religious records, even Inquisition records.
Magic was either earth magic: herbology, charms and amulets, even star reading – and the other: necromancy, prophecy etc. The first were accepted; the latter were considered to be due to demonic agencies.Then they all became classed as the latter kind: who gave you knowledge of these things? Why, demons, of course.
We touched on the Kabbalah: the course leader ruefully commented that this was only intended for those who had studied the Torah and The Old Testament, for at least 40 years. No one went straight into it, that would be seen as utterly stupid, pointless.

So, magic was either big-concept theory with rituals, orgies and bachanalian revels, or it was table-rapping, charms, astrology, and what we now know as spiritualism, automatic writing, dream visions etc.
That was about it.

There are no records outside of the Bible of the dead actually being raised, reinvigorated. Within the book, we have the Witch of Endor who cured Saul/St Paul’s heaven-caused blindness. But there are no extant records anywhere of witches, say, throwing fire balls, of actually being seen riding broomsticks; or of spells compelling living people to do things supernatural. No great wizards with staffs; no actual records of demons raised, djinns released, or even angels on earth.
Simon Magus? You tell me.
The Three Wise Men? Reputation and mystique. Persia was a whole other matter, though.

Curses and charms depend so much on coincidence and interpretation: you need narrow horizons and desperate lives to see the patterns, so to speak.

Everything else had been recorded; you can bet such weirdy stuff would certainly have been recorded too.

*

I have been wondering for some time about, you know, Satan.
Surely he must have begun as a kind of god of the Underworld, like Hades, Pluto.
His penchant for evil. sin, and corruption, are they his because of his role in the cosmos, to rule over all that is antithetical to life?
A fallen angel? You can see the problematical shiftings of old myths in this description: how to accommodate new influences, new characters, from maybe further east, tinges of half-known/remembered Egyptian, Sumerian, Akkadian, Sumerian, Babylonian, Persian cultures.
Evil, sin etc, are so human in nature. It is near impossible to find anything there that goes beyond human capability. Unfortunately.
So, there are no excuses, kids.

*

This bit you didn’t hear from me. OK?
Visions and vision quests.

In each case the person has to put their self in mortal danger.
This is always played down, and tactfully forgotten.
– The quester fasts and purges to the physical limit;
– the hallucinogenic user purposely imbibes toxic material.
– The sun-dancer puts his body through life-threatening torments.

The aim in all cases is to get the body to react to the ultimate threat.
That is not to react consciously, but on a purely physiological level, way below awareness: the body pumps in its danger and panic chemicals, its point-of-death chemicals, that enhance the hallucinations, the visions.
– It has been noted by some clinicians that the brain experiences a burst of activity immediately before death.

The whole vision procedure is a literal life-and-death one.
The result is a glimpse of the death-life relationship, and where, if anywhere, the self fits in.
The problem is, you have to survive, and you have to come back intact (or more or less: even Odin lost an eye!).

Don Not Try This At Home!