Baron Klaus Wulfenbach: All right, I reckon we can start – Herr Jimmy Branagh is a recurring speaker at the Aether Salon, with fascinating topics of discussion and methods of presentation. He is a long-time resident of the Steamlands, but especially here in the city. Herr Jimmy, if you would?
Jimmy Branagh: Tehnks Herr Baron! Welcome everyone an’ thenks faw comin’!
Jimmy Branagh clears his throat and drops his normal dialect.
Jimmy Branagh: There is a lot of material available on this subject, far more than could be covered in the allotted time. I hope today to give an overview of the beliefs and antics of those caught in this most peculiar fad.
Jimmy Branagh: I’ll begin with a comment from the barrister in John Mortimer’s “Rumpole and the Dear Departed” –
“What I can’t accept about spiritualism is the idea of millions of dead people kept hanging about just waiting to be sent for by some old girl with a Ouija board in a Brighton boarding house, or a couple of table-tappers in Tring, for the sake of some inane conversation about the Blueness of the Infinite. I mean at least when you’re dead you’ll surely be spared such tedious social occasions.”
Jimmy Branagh: Spiritualism is a metaphysical belief that the world is made up of at least two fundamental substances, matter and spirit. This very broad metaphysical distinction is further developed into many and various forms by the inclusion of details about what spiritual entities exist such as a soul, the afterlife, spirits of the dead, deities and mediums; as well as details about the nature of the relationship between spirit and matter. It may also refer to the philosophy, doctrine, or religion pertaining to a spiritual aspect of existence.
Jimmy Branagh: It is also a term commonly used for various psychic or paranormal practices and beliefs recorded throughout humanity’s history and in a variety of cultures.
Jimmy Branagh: Spiritualistic traditions appear deeply rooted in shamanism and perhaps are one of the oldest forms of religion. Mediumship is a modern form of shamanism and such ideas are very much like those developed by Edward Burnett Tylor in his theory of animism, in which there are other parallel worlds to our own, though invisible to us and not accessible to us in our state. A psychic is to be one of the connecting links between these worlds. A psychic is defined as someone endowed with exceptional sensitivity to the occult dimension, who experiences visions and revelations. Some authors have stated only few individuals are said to have this capacity.
Jimmy Branagh: Spiritualism developed and reached its peak growth in membership from the 1840s to the 1920s, especially in English-speaking countries. By 1897, spiritualism was said to have more than eight million followers in the United States and Europe, mostly drawn from the middle and upper classes.
Jimmy Branagh: It became a fad throughout America and Europe during the 1850s. Spiritualism, which owes its beginnings to Emmanuel Swedenborg’s writings on the spirit world, received additional stimulus from Anton Mesmer’s experiments in what he called “animal magnetism” (hypnotism) that he believed involved the influence of celestial bodies upon terrestrial. Many Victorians, particularly those who had begun to abandon conventional religion, fervently believed in spiritualism, Elizabeth Barrett Browning among them, much to the dismay of her husband.
Jimmy Branagh: Although the Victorian era is often associated with scientific and technological progress, many Victorians were prone to the paranormal, supernatural and occult, of which the most popular forms in the late Victorian period included mesmerism, clairvoyance, electro-biology, crystal-gazing, thought-reading, and above all, Spiritualism. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, like many late Victorians, was fascinated by the possibility of communication with the departed souls.
Jimmy Branagh: It is generally agreed that the modern Spiritualist movement began on April 1, 1848, in the village of Hydesville, New York, when two teenaged sisters, Margaret and Kate Fox, claimed that they had communicated with the ghost of a man murdered at the house years before their family moved in. Reports of this event first appeared in the New York Tribune and subsequently in other newspapers in America and Europe.
Jimmy Branagh: The core belief of Spiritualism was that the living could communicate with the dead through the help of a medium endowed with a supernatural gift during mysterious and entertaining séance phenomena. Within the late Victorian counterculture of Spiritualism, a number of women and men gained renown and authority as skilled mediums.
Jimmy Branagh: Modern Spiritualism, a ‘strange and fascinating American import’, emerged in Britain in 1852, when the American Maria B. Hayden (1826-1883) visited London and offered her services as a medium. She conducted séances of table rappings and spirit messages for a guinea per head (five guineas for ten). In short time similar séances were offered by a host of local mediums.
Jimmy Branagh: Fascination with Spiritualism and psychic phenomena reached a high point in Great Britain in the late nineteenth century. A rich diversity of people during that period shared the fascination, formed organizations to pursue the subject systematically, and patronized a spiritualist press that served to publicize the activities of spiritualist circles around the country.
Jimmy Branagh: In the late Victorian era, a great number of people admitted to have communication with ghosts. Victorian Spiritualism, also known as the Spiritualism movement, emerged in the late nineteenth century and attracted people from different social classes, including Queen Victoria.
Jimmy Branagh: It should be noted that Victorian Spiritualism was particularly attractive to women because they were regarded as more spiritual than men. A female medium was often considered a better communicator than a male medium because she had allegedly a better predisposition to spiritual perfectability. Interestingly, spiritualists were concerned with the Woman Question and called for the recognition of women’s rights.
Jimmy Branagh: And it is no accident that Spiritualism, a movement which privileged women and took them seriously, attracted so many female believers during a period of gender disjunction and disparity between aspiration and reality. Spiritualist culture held possibilities for attention, opportunity, and status denied elsewhere.
Jimmy Branagh: In certain circumstances, it could also provide a means of circumventing rigid nineteenth-century class and gender norms. More importantly, it did so without mounting a direct attack on the status quo. Spiritualism had the potential, not always consciously realised, for subversion.
Jimmy Branagh: Queen Victoria and Prince Albert participated in Spiritualist séances as early as 1846. On July 15 that year, the clairvoyant Georgiana Eagle demonstrated her powers before the Queen at Osborne House, on the Isle of Wight.
Jimmy Branagh: In 1861, the year when Prince Albert died of typhoid, a thirteen-year-old boy living in Leicester, Robert James Lees, who took part in a family séance, passed a message from Albert to the Queen in which he called her by the pet name known only to her and her late husband.
Jimmy Branagh: Lees was invited to give séances at Windsor Castle during which Albert was called. After her death Queen Victoria was reported to send messages to her last surviving daughter, Princess Louise, through the medium Lesley Flint.
Jimmy Branagh: In the 1860s, Spiritualism became part of Victorian subculture with its mediums, specialist newspapers, pamphlets, treatises, societies, private and public séances which included table rapping, table tipping, automatic writing, levitation, and other communications with spirits.
Jimmy Branagh: In 1863, James Burns established the Progressive Library and Spiritualist Institution in Southampton Row in Holborn, London. The Spiritualist press in the late Victorian era included the British Spiritualist Telegraph, the Spiritualist, Human Nature, Medium and Daybreak, Two Worlds, and Light.
Jimmy Branagh: Together with the emergence of the Spiritualist press, a number of Spiritualist societies were established in Great Britain, such as The Spiritualist Association of Great Britain (1872), The British National Association of Spiritualists (1873), The National Spiritualists’ Federation (1890), and The Spiritualists’ National Union (1901).
Jimmy Branagh: London had the greatest number of Spiritualist societies: Charing Cross Spirit-Power Circle (1857), Christian Spiritual Enquirers in Clerkenwell, the East London Association of Spiritualists, the Marylebone Spiritualist Association, and others.
Jimmy Branagh: One of the most famous Victorian mediums was Florence Cook (1856-1904), who materialised during her séances Katie King, the spirit-world daughter of a spirit called John King, who was in life a seventeenth-century buccaneer.
Jimmy Branagh: Cook was effective at table turning, automatic writing and levitation. Once when she was in a trance, she was levitated above the heads of the sitters and her clothes fell off down on the floor, which provided additional thrill to the audience. As Katie King, she also flirted with her sitters, touched and kissed them. She was invited to many respectable Victorian drawing rooms. Her séances were reported in detail in Spiritualists journals.
Jimmy Branagh: The Victorians were haunted by the supernatural. They delighted in ghost stories and fairy tales, and in legends of strange gods, demons and spirits; in pantomimes and extravaganzas full of supernatural machinery; in gothic yarns of reanimated corpses and vampires.
Jimmy Branagh: Even avowedly realist novels were full of dreams, premonitions and second sight. It was not simply a matter of stories and storytelling, though, for the material world they inhabited often seemed somehow supernatural. Disembodied voices over the telephone, the superhuman speed of the railway, near instantaneous communication through telegraph wires: the collapsing of time and distance by modern technologies that were transforming daily life was often felt to be uncanny.
Jimmy Branagh turns the page.
Jimmy Branagh: A number of eminent Victorians believed in the possibility of communication with the world of spirits. Robert Owen (1771-1858), an industrialist and social reformer, became a devout spiritualist in 1853 after having witnessed a series of séances with the American medium Maria Hayden.
Jimmy Branagh: In 1871, another medium Emma Hardinge Britten (1823-1899) claimed that she had received The ‘Seven Principles of Spiritualism’ from the departed Robert Owen. They were adopted as guidelines by the British National Association of Spiritualists, established in 1873.
Jimmy Branagh: Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873), a prolific writer, had a lifelong interest in the occult and Spiritualism. His novels, Godolphin (1833), Zanoni (1842), The Haunted and the Haunters (1859), A Strange Story (1862), and The Coming Race (1871) contain references to occult and supernatural phenomena.
Jimmy Branagh: Some Victorians, like Florence Marryat (1833-1899), the author of There Is No Death (1891), The Clairvoyance of Bessie Williams (1893), and The Spirit World (1894), saw Spiritualism as a religion, whereas others, like Arthur Conan Doyle, considered it a science.
Jimmy Branagh: As Helen Sword writes, William Makepeace Thackeray, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning, Christina Rossetti, John Ruskin, Lewis Carroll, Laurence Oliphant, Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, Andrew Lang, all participated in spiritualist practices at one time or another (5)
Jimmy Branagh: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who was attracted to Swedenborg’s idea of the resurrection of the spiritual body, was a keen participant in Spiritualist séances. Sir William Crookes, (1832-1919), one of the most important scientists of the late 19th century, the discoverer of thallium (1861) and the inventor of the radiometer (1875), was convinced about the reality of spiritual phenomena.
Jimmy Branagh: Likewise, Sir Oliver Lodge (1851-1940), a physicist involved in the development of wireless telegraphy, studied psychical phenomena (telepathy) in the late 1880s, and was a member of the famous Ghost Club. In his most controversial book, Raymond or Life and Death (1916), dedicated to his son, who was killed in World War One, Lodge claimed to have heard from mediums that afterlife is not much different from this life.
Jimmy Branagh: Another outstanding Victorian intellectual, Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913), a co-discoverer of the theory of evolution, described his experiences of the spirit world in his book, Miracles and Modern Spiritualism (1896).
Jimmy Branagh: Notable opponents of Spiritualist practices included Charles Dickens, who disdained spirit mediumship, but published many articles on the subject in the Household Words. Robert Browning attended Spiritualist séances with his wife Elizabeth Barrett Browning, but was skeptical about the supernatural phenomena.
Jimmy Branagh: George Eliot dismissed Spiritualism as “the most painful form of the lowest charlatanerie.” Alfred Tennyson said: “I am convinced that God and the ghosts of men would choose something other than mere table-legs through which to speak to the heart of man.”
Jimmy Branagh: Likewise, Anthony Trollope wrote: “But when tables rap, and boards write, and dead young women come and tickle my knee under a big table, I find the manifestations to be unworthy of the previous grand ceremony of death.”
Jimmy Branagh: Michael Faraday (1791-1867), a physicist and chemist, who discovered electromagnetic induction, believed that Spiritualism was a hokum. In a letter to the Times in 1853, Faraday argued that table-tilting could be effected rather by involuntary muscle movement rather than unseen spirits. However, as Georgina Byrne observes, “After Faraday had died, his ‘spirit’ returned to a séance to admit that he was wrong in life and that claims of spiritualism were valid.”
Jimmy Branagh: Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895), the famous biologist, wrote: “The only good that I can see in the demonstration of the truth of ‘Spiritualism’ is to furnish an additional argument against suicide. Better to live a crossing-sweeper than to die and be made to talk twaddle by a ‘medium’ hired at a guinea a seance.”
Jimmy Branagh: It should be noted that several books were published as automatic transcripts of messages allegedly dictated by the ghosts of deceased authors. After his death Charles Dickens, of all Victorian authors, was the most frequent target of medium communications in séance rooms. As is known, Dickens did not finish his last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. In 1873, Thomas James, an American printer, completed it, claiming that Dickens’s spirit had dictated it to him.
Jimmy Branagh: William Thomas Stead (1849-1912), a noted journalist and social reformer, announced that he had received spirit communications from the departed Julia Ames, an American temperance reformer and journalist, which he published in the book After Death or Letters from Julia (1892). In 1926, Mrs. Hester Travers Smith (1868-1949), the daughter of a distinguished Shakespearian scholar, Professor Edward Dowden, and the wife of the prominent Dublin physician, claimed that she had received a message from the spirit of Oscar Wilde and published in the book, Psychic Messages from Oscar Wilde.
Jimmy Branagh: Let’s return to Sir Arthur for a few moments. After all, he was at one time both a founder and highly-esteemed resident of New Babbage!
Jimmy Branagh: Arthur Conan Doyle became interested in Spiritualism as early as 1886. He read a book written by the US High Courts Judge John Worth Edmonds (1816-1874), one of the most influential early American Spiritualists, who claimed that after the death of his wife he had been able to communicate with her. Edmonds also met with the Fox sisters, known as the “Rochester knockers” and Doyle appreciated his account of the girls’ communication with spirits. When Doyle practised as a physician at Southsea, he participated in table turning sittings at the home of one of his patients, General Drayson, a teacher at the Greenwich Naval College. In his Memoirs and Adventures, he wrote:
Jimmy Branagh: “I was so impressed that I wrote an account of it to Light, the psychic weekly paper, and so in the year I actually put myself on the public record as a student of these matters.”
Jimmy Branagh: In 1893, Conan Doyle joined the British Society for Psychical Research, a society formed in Cambridge one year earlier in order to investigate scientifically the claims of Spiritualism and other paranormal phenomena. Other members of the Society included the future Prime Minister Arthur Balfour, philosopher William James, naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace, scientists Williams Crookes and Oliver Lodge, and philosopher and economist Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900) and poet and philologist F. W. H. Meyers (1843-1901).
Jimmy Branagh: After carrying out a series of experiments, Conan Doyle became convinced that telepathy, or ‘thought transference’, does exist. In 1917, Conan Doyle gave his first public lecture on Spiritualism. Later he wrote books, articles and made public appearances in Britain, Australia and America to promote his beliefs. He held numerous séances together with his second wife Jean to communicate with members of their family killed in World War One and other spirits.
Jimmy Branagh: On the summit of his literary fame caused by the Sherlock Holmes stories, Conan Doyle, decided to abandon writing fiction and devoted himself almost entirely to the study of paranormal. Doyle was convinced that intelligence could exist apart from the body, and that the dead could communicate with the living.
Jimmy Branagh: Conan Doyle first met the famous American illusionist Harry Houdini in 1920, during the magician’s tour of England, and they soon became friends. He believed that Houdini possessed supernatural powers. However, each of them had a different view about Spiritualism. Houdini was a fervent opponent of the Spiritualist movement in the 1920s. In 1922, he agreed to participate in a séance arranged by Conan Doyle and his wife as a medium who claimed that she had contacted his dead mother. Lady Doyle, in a hypnotic trance, wrote automatically a long message in English from Mrs. Weiss, Houdini’s mother. Houdini understood that it was trickery because his late mother barely knew English. He announced publicly that Spiritualism is a fraud and thus he ended his friendship with Doyle.
Jimmy Branagh: Twenty of Sir Arthur’s over sixty books are about Spiritualism. They include: The New Revelation (1918), Life After Death (1918), The Vital Message (1919), Spiritualism and Rationalism (1920), The Wanderings of a Spiritualist (1921), The Coming of the Fairies (1922), The Case for Spirit Photography (1922), Our American Adventure (1923), Our Second American Adventure (1924), Spiritualist’s Reader (1924), Memories and Adventures (1924), The Early Christian Church and Modern Spiritualism (1925), The Land of Mist (1926, fiction), The History of Spiritualism, in two volumes (1926), Pheneas Speaks. Direct Spirit Communication in the Family Circle (1927), Our African Winter (1929), The Edge of the Unknown (1930).
Jimmy Branagh: In 1917, two teenage girls in Yorkshire, Elsie Wright (age 16) and her cousin Frances Griffiths (age 10), produced two photographs of fairies which they had taken in their garden. One of the photos showed Frances in the garden with a waterfall with four fairies dancing upon the bush. Three of them had wings and one was playing a long flute-like instrument.
Jimmy Branagh: Conan Doyle accepted the photos as genuine evidence for fairies and wrote two pamphlets and a book, The Coming of the Fairies (1922), in which he publicly announced that fairies truly existed. The book was widely ridiculed in the press and many people realised that Conan Doyle had lost his grip on reality.
Jimmy Branagh: Conan Doyle’s most important book on Spiritualism is the two-volume set, The History of Spiritualism (1924), which discusses a wide range of issues and personalities linked with modern Spiritualism, both in America and the United Kingdom. The book made him one of the leading Spiritualists of his time.
Jimmy Branagh: Conan Doyle promoted the ideas of Spiritualism all over the world, drawing big crowds wherever he went. He began his Spiritualist travels in 1918, with visits to major cities of Great Britain. Then, during 1920 and 1921, he made voyages to Australia and New Zealand.
Jimmy Branagh: In 1922 and 1923, he toured the United States with lectures on Spiritualism. Early in 1928, he visited South Africa, and in the autumn, he toured several European countries. In 1925, he was nominated Honorary President at the International Spiritualist Congress in Paris.
Jimmy Branagh: After Sir Arthur’s death, news spread that he and his wife had previously arranged test communications in the event of the passing of either. Many claims were set forth, but whether satisfactory communication was established remains a question. Five days after Conan Doyle’s death on July 7th, 1930, an overflow crowd at the Royal Albert Hall witnessed the medium Estelle Roberts contact him.
Jimmy Branagh: She asserted that she had clairvoyantly seen Conan Doyle sitting in the empty chair. She conveyed a message from Sir Arthur, though apparently only his wife in the front row heard it, everyone else being overmatched by a burst from an enthusiastic organist. (New York Times Obituary, July 8, 1930)
Jimmy Branagh: Conan Doyle was an indefatigable exponent of Spiritualism, who vigorously championed the cause of life-after-death. His faith in the possibility of communication with departed souls was strong and he cared little whether others agreed with it or not.
Jimmy Branagh: Sir Arthur claimed to have had conversations with the spirits of many great men, including Cecil Rhodes, Joseph Conrad, and others. In his later years he often expressed a wish that he should be remembered for his psychic work rather than for his novels.
Jimmy Branagh: How could Sir Arthur, a medical man and the creator of a super-rational detective, have come out as a committed spiritualist? This question is hard to answer. Paradoxically, Victorian Spiritualism was the natural child of rationalism and loss of religious faith; a strange hybrid of science and evolutionary metaphysics which attracted the minds of many people at the turn of the nineteenth century. It was a counterculture movement within Victorian and Edwardian society and its legacy is visible in later time.
Jimmy Branagh: Victorian Spiritualism exerted an indirect influence on the emergence of the esoteric movements of modern Theosophy and New Age. It also had an impact on psychoanalysis (the notion of the subconscious), and last but not least, the modernist artists and writers, such as William Butler Yeats, James Joyce (the concept of epiphany), Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot.
Jimmy Branagh turns the page …
Jimmy Branagh: Here are some interesting tidbits of the Spiritualist fad –
Jimmy Branagh: *The Classic Seance Model Was Created – The classic seance consists of a spiritualist or psychic, several of her cohorts, a wooden table, perhaps a tablecloth and crystal ball, and the loved ones who were trying to contact the Great Beyond. The spirits showed themselves by rapping on the table, knocking it over, and of course, by speaking through the psychic.
Jimmy Branagh: This seance model was created during the Victorian Era, thanks to a pair of sisters named Margaret and Kate Fox. In 1848, they claimed that they could speak with the ghost of a man who was murdered in their Hydesville, NY home. He would knock on a table in order to communicate. Their story hit the newspapers and quickly spread around the country. Similar “spiritualists” took note and started holding seances. Of course, in all cases, the knocking and table movements were simple trickery on the parts of the spiritualist and his or her helpers, not the work of ghosts.
Jimmy Branagh: *One Spiritualist Claimed To Travel To Saturn – Astral projection was a “practice” used by spiritualists to remove their consciousness from their bodies and move about the astral plane. Basically, it was an out-of-body experience. They convinced themselves and others that they could have these experiences on purpose at any time.
Jimmy Branagh: Annie Horniman, a British actress and leading spiritualist, was a practitioner of astral projection. She claimed that she could astrally project herself wherever she wanted and whenever she wanted, including to other planets. Horniman said that she visited Saturn and spoke with the people living there on a regular basis.
Jimmy Branagh: *Seances Were Held In The White House – Not one, but two, First Ladies of the United States invited spiritualists into the White House in order to contact the dead. Abraham Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, was well-known for her spiritualist beliefs, and held many seances at the White House, particularly after the death of her son Willie. The President himself was present during at least one of these seances, which were conducted by famous mediums like Cranston Laurie.
Jimmy Branagh: However, Jane Pierce, wife of President Franklin Pierce, was the first First Lady to bring in spiritualists. The couple’s son, Bennie, died in train accident shortly before his father took office in 1853. In order to reach him and deal with her grief, she asked the Fox sisters, Margaret and Kate, to come to the White House and hold a seance.
Jimmy Branagh: *People Took Pictures Of “Spirits” – William H. Mumler is one of the 19th century photographers credited with starting the trend of spirit photography. He accidentally produced a double exposure photo that showed what looked like a transparent ghost lurking behind a living person. Soon, he began doctoring photos for grief-stricken families mourning those they had lost in the U.S. Civil War.
Jimmy Branagh: With the death photography trend in full swing (which consisted of actual pictures of dead loved ones), it seemed inevitable that people would want pictures of deceased loved ones’ ghosts as well. Spirit photography used double exposures, odd mists of light, and anything deemed “otherworldly” to show that ghosts were present and surrounding their still living friends and family members.
Jimmy Branagh: *Ghost Hunting Became Popular – Today’s ghost hunters use high-tech gadgets to pick up on weird bursts of energy and voices supposedly echoing from beyond the grave. Back in the Victorian Era, where the concept of ghost hunting began, they didn’t have those tools. Instead, they relied on candles (their flames burned blue in the presence of a spirit), dousing rods (usually used to detect water), and even pieces of glass and mirrors (in which the spirits would show themselves). Ectoplasm was one sign that a ghost was present. If a spirit hunter vomited up this substance, then obviously a ghost was nearby.
Jimmy Branagh: If the ghost was dangerous, they wanted to get rid of it, so the experts created witch bowls – ceramic bowls filled with hair, saliva, and other things from the bodies of the people living in the house. Placing one near the entrance to the home would repel the spirits. Most of the time though, the Victorians just wanted to ensure that their loved ones were still peacefully haunting them.
Jimmy Branagh: *The Ouija Board Was Invented – The idea for the Ouija board had been around for quite some time before the Victorians picked up on it. The earlier versions consisted of paper and pen, or even a blank board on which people would write the “words” given to them by spirits from another plane of existence.
Mavromichali Szondi: The actual rights to the Ouija board is currently owned by Hasbro
Jimmy Branagh: The Ouija board as most people know it was created by a toy company in 1891, towards the end of the Victorian Era. Advertisements for the new board claimed that it could answer questions about the past with accuracy and provided a link between the living world and the one inhabited by the dead. Even though a toy company created the Ouija board, adults were the first ones to purchase this new spiritualist tool.
Jimmy Branagh: *Sarah Winchester Built A House To Appease Spirits – The Winchester Mystery House is proof that Victorian spiritualism can sometimes go too far. A very popular myth that most believe to be fact, is that Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune, built the house – and kept on building it – when a spiritualist informed her that she had to do so in order to appease the ghosts of people killed by her family’s guns.
Jimmy Branagh: The San Jose, CA house wound up with seven floors, staircases to nowhere, 40 bedrooms, and 47 fireplaces. Winchester herself died in 1922. The house is now an historic landmark and museum.
Jimmy Branagh: *Tarot Cards Became Increasingly Popular – Tarot cards have been around for centuries. Records of them have popped up in 1400s Turkey and 1500s Italy, where they were called “Mamluk game cards” and “tarocchi appropriati,” respectively. These cards were used to tell the future, determine one’s fate, and even connect with the spiritual realm.
Jimmy Branagh: Victorians made tarot cards incredibly popular. Tarot card parties were held, people went to have their fortunes told, and spiritualists brought them with them to seances. The Rider-Waite tarot deck, which is still produced today, was created during the Victorian Era. It contains such cards as the Page of Cups, the Empress, the Fool, and of course, Death. The Rider-Waite deck was the brainstorm of spiritualist and mystic A.E. Waite and publisher William Rider. Patricia Coleman Smith famously drew the illustrations that informed people of their future.
Jimmy Branagh: *An Entire Town Of Spiritualists Was Founded In New York – The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a Great Britain-based organization dedicated to the occult, started in 1887. Although it didn’t last very far into the 20th century, for a time, it served as a school for adults interested in learning more about alchemy, the qabalah, and other mysteries of the universe. There were “orders” that people could achieve, similar to those set in place and followed by the Freemasons. The word “hermetic” in the title of the organization had nothing to do with hermits. Instead, it referred to a series of occult texts written by Hermes Trismegistus in ancient Greece.
Jimmy Branagh: Some famous people who joined the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn include famed occultist Aleister Crowley, the poet W.B. Yeats, Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the co-creator of the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck, Pamela Coleman Smith.
Jimmy Branagh: That’s concludes today’s presentation. Even in our modern, enlightened people still enjoy seances and Ouija boards.
Baron Klaus Wulfenbach: Any questions from the audience?
Casdetra: Was there a reason to use the dark clothes, other than the abillity to hide objects in dark?
Baron Klaus Wulfenbach: I reckon that the dark clothes were funerary weeds.
Zaida Gearbox: is it true if you through a Ouija board into fire it will scream?
Jimmy Branagh: Ouija boards cost money. Why throw it into a fire?
Zaida Gearbox: to see if it will scream
Zaida Gearbox: ramoo always told me not to even touch one – so i never have
Ephemeria: Isn’t there a small revival of the practises of the golden dawn movement?
Jimmy Branagh: Is there? I haven’t caught that as yet.
Cornelius Cogsworth: The are hermetic orders around, and the guides of their practices still exist
Zaida Gearbox: and ramoo used to read playing cards like tarot
Tamlorn Carterhaugh Wood: One note, many in the tarot readers world now call the deck you mentioned the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. Rider was the publisher (who cares) Waite had the ideas and Pixie Smith did the work. She died poor and in obscurity because as a woman artist, much like Beatrix Potter, she was under appreciated. We appreciate her now.
Mavromichali Szondi: vun of de Aces means death in Vietnamese culture – de American troops had packs ov dem dot they threw aroundt de jungle undt villages
Zaida Gearbox: beatrix potter got rich offa her books
Zaida Gearbox: but she was a fascinating woman apart from her books
Cornelius Cogsworth: i have received some precisely accurate readings from one particular card reader….
Tamlorn Carterhaugh Wood: indeed, she also helped establish the National Trust.
Mavromichali Szondi: great sheep breeder