Details of Totentanz – XVI C. Germany (Artist Unknown)

Sacristy painting commissioned by the Observant Franciscans. The catalogue description did not give many details, but I would guess by the costumes that this was made somewhere between 1560’s to 1580’s. The theme of the Dance of Death was hugely popular throughout multiple periods of European history, and saw a particular revival after the 1538 series by Master Holbein the Younger, whose works were widely distributed with the advent of the printing press.





Credit: The dance of death. Oil painting.. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

Il Trionfo della Morte – Francesco Traini, C. XIV

Facsimile of a fresco by Traini, exposed to nature for centuries but severely damaged in WWII,  located in Camposanto, Pisa.

“A scroll warns that ‘no shield of wisdom or riches, nobility or prowess’ can protect them from the blows of the Approaching One. ‘They have taken more pleasure in the world than in things of God.’ In a heap of corpses nearby lie crowned rulers, a Pope in tiara, a knight, tumbled together with the bodies of the poor, while angels and devils in the sky contend for the miniature naked figures that represent their souls.”
-Barbara Tuckman, The Black Plague

Artist Spotlight – Scurvy Drunkard

Shyarn Koenitz, aka Scurvy Drunkard, is an up-and-coming multimedia artist based in Australia. She first attracted my attention with the paintings she makes with her own blood. Everything she produces is deeply disturbing, and I absolutely love it! Her work touches on themes of fear, body horror, consumption, magic, Eros, and so much else. Who knows what twisted and depraved ideas will come pouring out of her mind at any moment?! See more on her Instagram.

Some of my favorite work of hers, featured below.


A Vision of Satan, A Night of Magic

Sunday, November 11th MMXVIII. Waxing Moon in Capricorn.

Our group has a powerful tradition of nocturnal witchcraft. When we determine the times and seasons are correct, we go out hiking deep into the wilderness where we have free reign to wander the woods under the cover of darkness. This is a mixed group of experienced psychonaut-witches and others new to our craft. This night was S’s initiation into our Mystery. After hiking a few hours, we arrived at our gathering place: a small clearing at the foot of a dense cypress dome. By sunset, our camp was set up, the sacred fire lit, and the tall pines stood watch as they were beautifully silhouetted against the twilight sky. As the slender crescent moon loomed low over the horizon, it was time again to take the mushroom potion I had so diligently prepared months ago.
We each bring our own different intentions to the rites. Some were there for guidance, others for healing or communicating with nature. My specific intention was to grow in magical knowledge and personal power. The group dynamic was just right, so I felt brave enough to take a very large dose. As we sat around the fire waiting for the arrival of the Mushroom Spirit, that old familiar indelible sensation of a subtle unveiling passed over us, wave after wave after wave. By the time we were each in a fully altered state, a strong wind passed us and we came to attention. Almost in unison we rose to walk. As we traveled silently in the darkness, the world became new again. Our sense of separation from nature was replaced by profound harmony. We slowly and carefully crossed a patch of swampland and into a scrub field. By this point, we had all been babbling to each other in endless streams of consciousness, roaring with raucous laughter and profound joy. When I peered through the darkness towards T and C (the other two experienced witches), we had been visibly transformed. T with his wavy golden locks, and wearing a cloak of stars became to me like the god Apollo! C with her bright blue hair and wearing a cape with a dark, colorful mandala, became like Gaia. I looked at myself and had become like Hades.
We decided to lay down and rest together a moment (the Mushroom always creates an alternating need to move and then to stop moving). I told the group it was time to be silent and listen to the world. The sudden quiet covered us like a blanket. After a moment (or maybe an hour? Time was becoming so difficult!), I went up to “Apollo” and asked him to walk with me alone. A short distance later we were shocked and surprised to find a crossroads in our path. This was the sign I needed! In many western traditions, a lonely crossroads is a particularly powerful place, and one especially where Satan is known to present himself.
Remembering my original intentions, I asked “Apollo” to guard my body. I did not know what I should do. By this point I was at the peak of altered consciousness. I stood at the edge of the crossroads and whispered into the darkness ahead of me, “Please, show me what to do.” Again the wind picked up and seemed this time to carry on it the whisper of a voice. I sensed the presence of a mighty and dread spirit. “Satan,” I said, “Here am I. If you would grant me the fantastic powers I’ve heard about, which you are known by men to offer those of us who call on you, I would freely give you whatever price you would ask of me!”
Then by an impulse I dropped to my knees, my arms spread out and my eyes looked up to the vast cosmos. Suddenly the sky itself rippled open into a terrible vortex! It was a swirling kaleidoscopic tunnel reaching into infinity from some other dimension. Fangs, bones, flames of Hellfire, glowing texts in an unknown language that revealed secrets unfathomable, hideous demonic faces with burning eyes staring through me, all rotating and ever changing before my dumbfounded self. I felt waves of new power crashing down on me, penetrating deep into my bones! My chest heavy with this power, I felt like I could become anything, do anything! A burning orange light rose out of me like a red-hot ball of iron. I knew this was my soul ascending towards the vortex. Out of the whirlwind appeared a terrible black claw with a singular reptilian eye. It was slowly coming down to snatch up my soul like the prize in an arcade claw machine. Then to my complete disappointment, the trance was broken with the sound of my name, which clashed and roared like thunder! “Gaia” appeared behind me, radiantly, standing next to our Apollo, to intervene and save my soul from being taken away.
The empty silence of the woods surrounded me again, and the vortex was gone, leaving only the countless stars sparkling down on us. I was equally grateful for their concern as I was desperate to go back into that trance. I appreciate my friends’ intervention, I know they meant well. But who knows what could have become of me had I not been interrupted.  Twenty-four hours later I can still feel that power dwelling in me, so perhaps something was given to me after all?
The night continued, the trip was the most visually intense experience I have ever had. We eventually returned to our camp to rest by the fire, but the visions just would not stop. The group’s mad ravings and fits of laughter and wailing continued through the whole night. Ever restless, we broke into smaller groups here and there to explore the more familiar parts of our woods, rapidly exchanging our disjointed thoughts, sharing our visionary experiences, and gazing out at constellations and wishing on shooting stars. Sleep would not come to us till just before the dawn.
Was my encounter with Satan real? On a psychological level I may rationalize the experience in terms of brain chemistry and the power of suggestion. But on a spiritual level, I know my soul was touched that night, and had that infernal transaction been completed, I can’t say what would have happened to me. The experiences that night were real enough that we will be forever changed.

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