I've been thinking about death a lot. And not in an existential way or in a 'oh man she needs professional help' kinda way. I've been thinking about the culture of death and how I'd like my own death to be handled. To that end, I chose a few titles which I'm convinced has skewed the way my co-workers view me. (lol but really) The first is Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty. (I'll be discussing her second book at a later date.) This is the autobiographical story of how Caitlin came to work in a crematory and the path that it led her down to discover the 'good death'. It's an exceptionally frank discussion of death but more specifically death culture (or lack thereof) in the United States. Here in America it's a taboo subject. Many people choose to remain ignorant of the reality of death because of a fear of their own (and their loved one's) mortality. Caitlin talks about the current death practices of burial, embalming, cremation, green burials (many different kinds), and donation to science. It reminded me that I should really draw up a will with the specifics of what I want and then discuss it with those who will most likely be honoring my wishes. (And you'd better do what I say or I'll haunt you! hahaha but really)
The truth is we are all going to die one day. Wouldn't it be better to see this as natural and be prepared for it? Having open discussions with those who will be charged with taking care of you after you have died makes the process less fraught with uncertainties and fear. Centuries ago, death was embraced because it was necessary to confront it head-on. There were no mortuaries like we know them today. The family was the one who cleaned, wrapped, and sometimes buried the bodies. The grieving process wasn't rushed but was allowed to progress naturally. (Think about the last funeral you attended and how the viewing was timed. Nowadays, you have to leave the cemetery before the casket is even lowered into the earth. Everything is orchestrated and sterile.) I don't think it's morbid to plan ahead and to try to make it as simple and straightforward as possible so that in the end it's about the life that I led and not the stress and confusion of what to do with me once I'm dead. 8/10
What's Up Next: The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers edited by Hollis Robbins and Henry Louis Gates
What I'm Currently Reading: Fly on the Wall: How One Girl Saw Everything by E. Lockhart
The story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf tells the delightful account of a young bull named Ferdinand. With the story taking place sometime in Spain, the reader might assume that Ferdinand is destined to be a matador. However, young Ferdinand is unique. While his peers run, fight, and play, "Ferdinand likes to sit under his tree just so and smell the flowers" (Leaf). The simple illustrations by Newberry award winning illustrator, Robert Lawson, might seem plain - but but do not be deceived! Hidden gems and details beg the reader to revise the text. I would love to use this book to study Spanish culture. One of the more interesting ideas I found to accompany this text is a study on cork, which can be found here: https://www.weareteachers.com/8-fun-activities-celebrate-story-ferdinand/
Guided Reading - K
Lexile - AD760L
DRA - 18
AR - 3.7
This is one of my favorite books from this series so far. I was a little annoyed at first because there was so much refreshing of the previous books but the story was very good. I really like the historical aspects and how they connected with the present.
Annie is moving things in the attic to make room for a handyman to install new lighting. She decides to move the dressmakers manikin to another room. When she moved it she was surprised to find that it had been standing on a hand-painted hat box. The was curious what was on the manikin so she carefully unpinned and removed the sheet covering it. She was shocked to find a beautiful antique wedding dress with crochet accents. When she opened the box she found a matching veil and gloves. She doesn´t remember seeing the dress when she was younger and she knew it wasn´t her grandmother´s dress. She´d seen picture of her grandmother´s dress and this one seemed to be from an older generation. Annie told her friend about the dress when she attended the weekly Hook & Needle club meeting and they all had questions. Someone mentioned it could have been left by the original owner, a sea Captain named Grey. Ann learned that her home, Grey Gables, which she inherited from her grandmother had been named after him. Now she wants to learn more about this man and the wedding dress.
by Carl Abrahamsson
One of the first things I noticed with this book is that the chapter headings have notes below the titles that say each of them was first given at a lecture or printed as an article someplace, so it soon became clear that this is a collection of several years' writings collected by the author into book form for presentation to a new audience. The subject matter is sufficiently different in each to create a nicely balanced volume on occult influence in society and particularly in art.
This is not a book for learning to do magic(k), but is more about modern cultural influences and symbols that enter mainstream consciousness through various mediums of artistic expression. In the Forword written by Gary Lachman, he explains the term 'occulture', occult + culture, coined by Genesis-P-Orridge, a cult figure in certain circles of modern day magicians, then goes on to point out connections between art and the occult and the significance of interpreting one through the other.
The lectures and articles cover a fascinating variety of loosely related topics. They include commentaries on alternative lifestyles and the rise of occult culture through significant periods like the 1960s and 1980s and the British and German groups and personalities who shaped much of modern occult culture.
The reader gets the benefit of a perspective by someone who 'was there' and understands the significance of a variety of cultural influences that still affect the culture today. He speaks of Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth as well as about Aleister Crowley and Anton LaVey and what he feels were the relevant contributions by controversial groups and personalities.
The perspective is very much about the intellectual side of the occult. No new age or airy-fairy crystal hugging comes into it. As occult history goes, this is an excellent reflection of the later twentieth century developments that built on the legacy of earlier magical Orders and traditions and the effects of an expanding cultural awareness that would shake the foundations of pre-twentieth century European occult study.
The significance of art and creativity is emphasised as is the freedom of social mores from the staid, limiting celibacy of groups like the early Golden Dawn and the cautions required by Medieval magicians to avoid any sniff of scandal that might lead to charges of heresy.
The history of Nazi involvement in the occult is detailed in one of the lectures and makes for interesting reading from a historical perspective as well. That lecture somehow moves from this to beatniks in California, which gives the reader an idea of the broad scope of some of the topics discussed.
This book would be of interest to anyone interested in occult history or in cultural development and the influence of art. It fills in the recent gaps in documented history for those of us who are too young to have been there for the changes in the 1980s and before as these periods are often not addressed in earlier books on the subject.
It also goes into everything from philosophy to conspiracy theories in recent decades and even Pokemon Go! I found all of the articles interesting for different reasons. A real treasure for anyone with interest in magick or the occult.