Liber Fausti

Astrophotography Skills Progession

Astrophotography is one of my favorite pastimes when I am able to do it. Where I live, the weather is very fickle, and the sky is not always accommodating. But when I am out in the field I have the opportunity to spend quality time in solitude, contemplation, and deep focus. Usually my failures, often brought on by careless mistakes, outnumber my successes.
I’m currently experimenting in new astrophotography techniques. This is a hobby that can take away all your money and time when you let it. I have put thousands of dollars into hardware and software trying to push my skills to the limit. Over time, my skills have grown and my knowledge of sky photography has deepened. Despite my recent improvements, I still take on a beginner’s mindset when learning new techniques.
Below is the result of my most recent imaging session, right from my front yard, followed by a display of how my skills have continued over the years.

M42 Orion Nebula – 02.02.21 – ~45 minutes exposure @ F/6 on an alt-az mount. 250 dark frames
The dramatic difference between afocal and prime focus imaging.
Started by taking pics by attaching my phone to a telescope. In 2017 I made LRGB composites using stacked frames from video captures
From a phone on a tripod, to a camera on an alt-az mount, to a polar aligned long exposure in 2020

19th Century Spirit Kettles

These highly sculptural 19th century alcohol burning kettle/warmers are of Russian Imperial origin. Made of wood, bronze and copper, these two specimens feature fantastical medievalized basilisks holding a teapot over an alcohol burner. The grip and other functional points are stylized with floral motifs and grotesques. The large curly tail holds up the burner.

This specimen found at the Museum of Samovars & Bouillottes, Grumant, Russia

VICE on El Culto del Angelito Negro

A relatively new syncretic religion in Mexico has been growing as an off-shoot of the cult of La Santa Muerte. In their practice, those devotees of the angel (i.e. the Devil) can approach his worship in a less aggressive way, and more openly. In Pachuca at the cathedral of La Santa Muerte, worshippers of El Angelito Negro can offer devotions, make deals and ask help of the Devil. Some may ask for healing, others for blessing, and others for cursing. His favors may come with the cost of their own blood. 

The Sorceress, Jan van de Velde, 1626

Quantum malorum clausa nullo limite Cogit libido, quamque dulci carmine Purissimas mortalium mentes rapit Furias in omnes, sed cito quam fallimur. Vitam brevem breve gaudium Mors occupat momentulum quod ridet, aeternum dolet. 

“How many evils does Lust command, in the small secluded margins; who with enchanting spell the pure minds of mortals does subdue, and in everyone induces rage, but quickly each is deceived. Death, seizes fleeing Life and brief joy. He laughs for a moment, and forever despairs. “

This engraving by Jan van de Velde depicts a witch as thought of during the height of witchcraft hysteria in Europe. The bare-breasted wild woman stands proudly in her Circle of Art, while demons surrounding her wait to do her bidding to summon some misfortune. All around her are the tools of her craft: the grimoire, the diviner’s cards, flasks of potions, a horn of herbs and a wand, and the goat which she undoubtedly flew in on.

The witch at her cauldron, sets upon some foul brew with the aid of her demon familiars.

Adriaen Collaert’s Four Elements

Flemish artist Adriaen Collaert (1560-1619) produced the engravings, pictured here, which depict personifications of Aristotle’s classical elements: Earth, Water, Air & Fire, printed in a wunderbuch in the collection of Jean de Poligny. Now located at the Rijksmuseum.
Prior to modern atomic theory, these elements were postulated to be the prima materia whose infinite combinations were the physical composites of all things in the Universe. Each engraving was modeled on paintings by the Flemish master de Vos the Elder. 

Air, perhaps Aeolus himself, conducts the creatures of the air in their activities. Birds, insects and the angels of the wind are at his command.
Earth, personified as wild nature in Cybele, holds the works of nature and man in her hands. Her head wizened and her breasts sagging from their labor. New life and death are seated at her feet. Creatures of the land walk over the vast hillside.
Fire! Divine Helios sits in the wheel of the Sun encircled with brilliant flames. The phoenix and the salamander (fire elementals) come to him. The world below is cast alight.
Water, as seafoam-born Venus, who is surrounded by the hidden bounty of the mighty sea. She holds the tools of human navigation in her benediction. Her throne of seashells is carried by the Moon, which in its turning controls the tides.

Sacred & Profane Signs, The Magic Powers of the Saints

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Between 1999 and 2003, an archaeological excavation of the Sainte-Catherine river produced a remarkable collection of medieval pilgrim badges. Between C. XII and C. XV, Christian pilgrims would display these inexpensive badges as charms bought at shrines to the saints.

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Some pilgrim badges would display a mundane concern to which the pilgrimage was dedicated (healing, expiation for sins committed, special blessing, travel concerns, etc.) while others were fashioned through verisimilitude to have the same protective powers as the sacred relics they represented. 

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These badges, or signs, not only represented the experiences of the pilgrimage, but also presented the wearer’s status as a pilgrim as well as what pilgrimage they were set upon. These would also function as a visual language between pilgrims who did not speak a common tongue. The wide popularity, mobility and cheap easy production has resulted in a high number of found examples. Besides their apotropaic qualities, to the medieval pilgrim, the badge also served as a visual memory of their encounter with the sacred relic–a souvenir.

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In the image above, a variety of examples from Canterbury Cathedral depict the head relic of St. Thomas à Becket. The head was removed from public veneration and the Cult of Becket was outlawed during the English Reformation.  

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Bibliography
Blick, Sarah, ‘
Comparing Pilgrim Souvenirs and Trinity Chapel Windows at Canterbury Cathedral: An Exploration of Context, Copying, and the Recovery of Lost Stained Glass’, Mirator (2001), 1-27
Lee, Jennifer, ‘Beyond the Locus Sanctus: The Independent Iconography of Pilgrims’ Souvenirs’, Visual Resources 21 (2005), 363-381
TIXADOR A. Enseignes sacrées et profanes médiévales découvertes à Valenciennes, Service archéologique de Valenciennes / Illustria-Librairie des Musées, 2004.