Sunday, 27 November 2016


Saturday's Cards, The Druid Craft Tarot, The Lovers and The Queen of Swords. 

The lovers card indicates a choice to be made. I sought further clarification and drew the Queen of Swords. According to the book this can mean denying oneself intellectual or career development. Makes a lot of sense. I have really neglected these aspects over the past couple of years. There is no time right now to pick up my PhD but pick it up I will. For now as the lovers card suggests I am going to surrender to what is left of the weekend and later to sleep as my body and mind need. 

Enough to know a path is there

Friday's Card, The Druid Craft Tarot, Three of Wands

The guidebook says that this card is about hard work bearing fruit. 

Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm write 'your ideas, energy and enthusiasm now begin to yield positive and definite results particularly in the fields of business, communications, writing and invention'. 

I suppose I can see some signs of green shoots in my learners assignments which came in this week. 

But like the man in the picture my focus is on my own learning journey now (my research and writing which has taken a back seat for two years now). I don't know where the path leads it is enough to know that there is a path. Put one foot in front of the other...

Onwards and upwards

Thursday's Card, The DruidCraft Tarot, Eight of Cups

On Thursday I asked a specific question - should I leave my job (I already knew the answer really) and here it is the eight of cups. The moving on card. The guidebook explains that one of the hardest wisdoms the heart acquires is knowing when to leave a situation - to let go. 

So many times in my life I have waited until things have become absolutely intolerable before letting go. I have been receiving (and ignoring) messages that this role isn't the right one for me for a long time. Last weekend I was metaphorically but almost literally on the floor. As the book suggests it is time to embrace something new. 

I am thankful that things have got so bad that I realise the only way is up and out. I am also thankful that I now know exactly what kind of work I don't want to do which will help me make better decisions about what I want to do next. in every crisis an opportunity...

The hermit says no

Wednesday's Card The DruidCraft Tarot, The Hermit

I asked a specific question on Wednesday about whether I should get involved in a work discussion in which there is disagreement. 

The Hermit accompanied by the wolf (symbolising self-constraint, inner wisdom and power) says no. There are times when it is important to withdraw from the distractions and dramas of the outer world and focus on the inner quest. The guidebook says that as we sleep at night we make a spiritual journey to the otherworld which is a source of renewal. Hence why insomnia (a result of too much distraction) is so harmful. 

The advice is to allow dramas and distractions to take care of themselves. More importantly to trust in the light of the Hermit even if the path ahead seems dark and lonely and know that my inner guide and animal spirit companion are there to counsel and protect me. Here goes! 


Tuesday's Card The DruidCraft Tarot, Ten of Wands

A heavy load. As the guidebook suggests I tend to accept work with an attitude of mature responsibility and without complaint. I have had to be self-reliant from an early age. As a child I learned not to ask for help as my parents couldn't provide it. Perhaps I am still trailing that now or perhaps there is a problem with my idea of leadership (never burden or trouble the team with my own problems). I don't even tell them when I pick up their work. 

This card does signal the dangers of overwork and burnout. The suggestion is to delegate but the last time I tried to do that it threw up a whole heap of conflict at work. What would happen I just dropped all the wands? 

withdraw, retreat, self care

Monday's card, The DruidCraft Tarot, Four of Swords. 

Like the guidebook suggests I have been through a period of intense work - 57% of my annual workload has been crammed into 15 weeks. The card also suggests there has been some conflict. There is someone at work who is trying to implicate me in an argument that I don't want to have. 

This card suggests the approach I have been taking and want to take is correct. This is a time for withdrawal and retreat. The card also suggests a need for respite. I have been to the docs and got medication for my insomnia to get me through the next few weeks. Long term I have decisions to make. 

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Hairway to Heaven

Daily Draw, Tarot de Marseilles, The Star

Every hair on a person's head was a heavenly creation so said a Lutheran pastor c1600. For this reason a 'proper' hairstyle praised God. In Reformation Europe, a time of religious tensions, the style of a man's hair or beard were easy ways of judging his religious affiliations. People's everyday performances of hair and their innovative usage of head, facial, body and animal hair mirrored fundamental religious and social changes at that time. 

According to Cambridge historian Stefan Hanss 'The Reformation turned hair into a highly contested issue...A community's religious purity was defined by its inhabitants' bodily, as well as social behaviour, so hairstyles were a way of demonstrating religious conformity.' 

Preachers encouraged their parishioners to adopt hairstyles appropriate to their age, gender and status. Women were were discouraged from displaying curly flowing tresses (like Miss Star here) in public. 

Deviance outraged God's honour. In 1582 a French noblewoman Charlotte Duples-Mornay scandalously wore curls to receive the eucharist. This act was considered sufficiently audacious to warrant an official investigation which resulted in the excommunication of her entire family.  

As good grooming equalled godliness ruining someone's hair was a popular way of discrediting them. Violent attacks such as pulling off wigs or tearing out beards were quite common. 

As hair was a marker of religious, cultural, personal and social status its loss was a serious matter. This association between hair and status can be observed in the way that the authorities sentenced certain criminals to forced shavings.

With hair being used express social, political and scholarly affiliations, hairstyling was to make identities and cultural hierarchies a material reality.  

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Horrible history

Draw: The Tarot de Marseille, The Tower

The more I read about medieval towers the more I understand why a blasted tower is such an archetypically terrifying image. In war time often the only thing that stood between a person and certain death was a secure garrison. 

The image above depicts an infamous episode during the first crusade - the Siege of Ma'arra (now the Syrian town of Ma'rrat al-Numan). The defenders of the city consisting mainly of an urban militia and citizens managed to hold off the attacks for about two weeks. 

During this time the crusaders constructed a siege tower enabling them to pour over the walls of the city, while at the same time a group of knights scaled the undefended walls on the other side of the city.

The crusaders occupied the walls on December 11. On the morning of December 12, the garrison negotiated with Bohemond who promised them safe conduct if they surrendered. The Muslims surrendered, but the crusaders immediately began to massacre the population. 
On January 13, 1099, under intense pressure from his followers, Raymond gathered his forces and continued the march to Jerusalem. Around this time an indeterminate number of soldiers reportedly ate from the flesh of enemy dead.
A chronicler, Radulph of Caen wrote nine years later that 
'Some people said that, constrained by the lack of food, they boiled pagan adults in cooking-pots, impaled children on spits and devoured them grilled'.
What the chroniclers stress is that the crusaders ate only Muslims - when there would have been, probably many dead Franks, and Syrian Christians. This suggests that the cannibalism had a meaning beyond the simple need to survive. 
Based on a review of the sources Jay Rubenstein argues that cannibalism was not confined to a single incident of famine and that it was not always a response to hunger. Rather than being an aberration from the ethos of holy war it was an integral aspect. 
In Peter Tudebode's chronicle the cannibalism is secret, anarchical and upon discovery by the crusade leaders immediately suppressed. Shocking though it is, it is explicable from a medieval perspective. Homegrown cannibalism was not unknown in famine and war riven eleventh century Europe. 
The events at Ma'arra were also chronicled by Fulcher of Chartres 
'I shudder to tell that many of our people, harassed by the madness of excessive hunger, cut pieces from the buttocks of the Saracens already dead there, which they cooked, but when it was not yet roasted enough by the fire, they devoured it with savage mouth' 
But crucially he disagrees with the chronology offered by the other Radulph. According to Fulcher the cannibalism occurs not in shame and secrecy in aftermath of the victory but openly in the midst of combat.  According to another eyewitness, Raymond of Aguilers, crusaders ate flesh in public squares, and they did so with gusto. The spectacle, he writes struck fear in the hearts of both ''our men and the foreigners.''

This was psychological warfare with religious justification. The city is a stewpot in which the enemies of God are cooked alive and consumed by his holy warriors. The Franks saw themselves as vessels of God's will and God’s wrath not in spite of brutalities such as cannibalism but because of them.

According to Rubenstein a plausible reconstruction is that cannibalism occurred in the Crusade's first experience of scarcity. However by the time the army reached Ma'arra some of the soldiers recognized its potential utility and, hoping to drive the defenders into a quick surrender, made a spectacle of the eating, making sure that Muslims were the only ones eaten. 

Towers of Strength

Tarot de Marseille, The Tower. 

The 12th century witnessed a huge building boom. Newly constructed cathedrals and church spires pushed cities ever upwards and closer to God. As with churches so with towers. Some were built as city defences whereas others were privately owned - the most tangible expression of a family's power. 

Sources suggest there were up to 361 towers along Rome's city walls. In Milan there were estimated to be 120 bell towers and city life was punctuated by bells ringing melodiously throughout the day. 

In order to enter or leave many cities people had to pass though gates which were often richly adorned with sculptures conveying religious messages. Gates could even prophetic. In Naples people believed that a magic spell had been placed on the city gate. If you entered on the right hand side good fortune would be yours - as indicated by the marble head laughing. On the left there was a weeping marble head - entering on this side might bring you bad luck. 

   A painting of Naples' Castel dell'Ovo c1472 attributed to Fransesco Rosselli. 

In 12th century Palermo a new royal palace (seat of the secretive kings of Sicily) erected - a bedazzling sight it's interior walls decorated in sumptuous gold and precious stones. Capella Palatina

Source for this post, BBC History Magazine December 2016 issue. 

Double Helpings

A week in cards Tarot de Marseille, The Tower (twice)

I drew the tower twice this week. But not a bad run. I have made approximately 270 daily draws and this week is the first time it has appeared. I was thinking the other day that ow I have started doing history posts the 'negative' cards - Tower, Death, Devil are quite good to draw because of better links with medieval history. So coming up later today are two historyish posts.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Force of argument

Daily Draw: Tarot de Marseille, Francois Chosson 1736 La Force

I went to a conference once where a female academic spoke of the hurt that is literally etched onto our bodies when our knowledge is rejected because of who we are. Outrageous I thought but surely an isolated case? University the apex of the school system so must be the best, people judged on the strength of their arguments right? Wrong. 

Female academics are routinely silenced by male academics especially if there is a whiff of feminism about their work. There can be nothing more threatening than challenging how space (aural and physical) is taken up. Intellectually able academics are silenced by the less well qualified (who have gone up the management rather than research route and probably shouldn't be in a university at all). 

There are so many ways to silence someone besides outright aggression or rudeness (when did a snigger count as serious academic critique?). You can give them so much teaching, so many students that there is no time to read a book chapter let alone write up an article. Keep them busy all through the summer on invented urgencies so as to isolate them from the wider academic community. Impose research priorities that suit yourself rather than building on people's actual skills and interests. Lend your support to other men regardless of (in spite of) the quality of their work. The list could go on and on. 

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Informal magic

Daily Draw: The Golden Tarot, The Visconti Sforza Deck, The Magician 

Today I have had time to indulge my love of history - magic in the informal sense of the word! Here is what I have learned. 

In late antiquity the boundaries between magic and religion were not clearly established. Romans engaged in a plethora of magical practices and these were often integral to or very similar to religious rituals. 

They divined the future by examining the entrails of animals, constructed formulas or amulets to attract good fortune, enchanted objects and cooked up potions. They meditated with hidden spiritual forces, made ointments and recited charms to heal, protect or harm other people. These practices were not so different from the sacrifices, ceremonies and prayers offered up to the Gods. 

By the fifth century BC the Greek word Mageia was being used to describe the practices of the Zoroastrian priest from Persia who were know as the magoi. 

The beliefs and practices attributed to the magoi were thought to be dark and dangerous because they were different to the Greek religion. Over time the word mageia was used pejoratively to refer to the practices of Greek and Roman peasants which deviated from the official religious practice of the Roman Empire. 

In Roman times the word mageia (magic) sedimented in the Latin language being used to denote deviant or different practices from the official code. During this time the word came to be used to refer to trickery or deceit. 

Loaded with this meaning the word magic was transmitted to the Latin rooted languages in the medieval period. The ancient idea of magic came to be conflated with the Christian concept of superstition. 

With the arrival of the monotheistic religions at the end of the Roman era attitudes towards magic were fundamentally changed. Believing only in one true God, Christians came to perceive a whole host of beliefs and practices as false or superstitious. Rituals performed by ancient peoples came to be seen as evil, related to demons thus in need of eradication. 

The new religious authorities wanted nothing less than the complete extirpation of allegedly superstitious beliefs. However magic was to occupy a central position in the medieval mindset with magical beliefs shared by medieval people at all levels of society. 

Source for today's post: Coursera: Introduction to Medieval Magic

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Subtle differences

Daily Draw, The Golden Tarot, The Visconti Sforza Deck

This fellow looks so young and cherub like to be real King. For comparison I had a look at the other kings in the deck. All young blond and cherub like, all on the same gold throne. At first sight...for some reason they bring to mind ancient medical theory of the four humors. 

Of all the kings HRH Swords head tilted down looks older, sadder, wiser, his eyes are sunken and his face more pinched - perhaps the result of too much emphasis on the life of the mind (melancholic - analytical, quiet, despondent). King Coins is the only one who smiles with his mouth open, a flushed and corpulent bon vivant - his jolly expression contrasts with the vice like grip he has on his coin (sanguine now but threaten his wealth and he could turn choleric)

HRH Cups is the only king who appears in profile. Like the King of Swords he has one foot off the plinth - perhaps the throne is not for him, perhaps he has no desire to 'win'. A peaceful person he offers rather than clings to his chalice (phlegmatic). The only King who looks truly calm and comfortable positioned on the throne is the King of Staves (perhaps all his humours are in balance). 

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Relation of material to symbolic power

Daily Draw, The Golden Tarot, The Visconti Sforza Deck, Nine of Coins

Material resources - money, property, investments, stocks shares etc. Symbolic resource or power - accumulated prestige and honour exemplified by qualifications, titles, honorary positions, books. 

Symbolic power also inherent in certain buildings, works of art etc and can be embodied - gender, height, body size and shape, clothing, gestures, posture, speech. 

Are material and symbolic power so different or does one lead to the other and vice versa? 

Male domination is so rooted in our collective unconscious that we no longer even see it. 

Pierre Bourdieu, 1930-2002

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Compare and Contrast

Daily Draw: The Golden Tarot, The Visconti Sforza Deck

Facing left and wearing white gloves (symbol of innocence) the Knave suggests good intentions in the face of malign forces. 

Mary Packard writes that according to renaissance symbolism the red stocking and the white stocking indicates a conflict between lust and purity. Or as Stuart Kaplan (US games system version of the Visconti-Sforza) suggests they may just relate to the colours on the armorial shields depicted on the Knight of Swords and Staves and the Ace of Coins. 

I'm reminded by this of bad scholarship - believing the first thing you read or that every thing that is written must be true. And of the importance of research and cross-referencing. 

I don't know which interpretation is true. Perhaps they both are. At least I am aware there is debate and that makes me doubt my immediate interpretation that innocence is about drop off a cliff. 

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. 

RenĂ© Descartes, 1596-1650. 

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Women of accomplishment

Daily Draw: The Golden Tarot, The Visconti Sforza Deck, Three of Cups

In RWS inspired decks this card depicts three women joyful dance. Celebration, Creativity, Community. 

First things first. Community - I have neglected my tiny (but lovely) following of fellow bloggers (and women of accomplishment) this week - busy with work and AWOL for a whole week. Sorry :(. 

Creativity - lots of exchange with colleagues and students this week which has been hugely productive. Feeling much more excited about work now - not least because we are embedding gender across all management learning materials - speaks to colleagues interests and is better engaging learners - Woohoo. All. Round. Result. 

Celebration - through dialogue I learnt about an exhibition Women in Print - which celebrates the work of 22 iconic women (reformers, writers, artists, scientists) who changed Manchester and in some cases changed the course of British history.  Follow the link and enjoy :) 

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Heaven is a construction site

Daily Draw, The Golden Tarot: The Visconti-Sforza Deck, The World

Two putti hold up a globe, a symbolic representation of heaven. Within the globe is a shining castle - a metaphor for the new Jerusalem. The putti on the right points to his heart - perhaps indicating that is where the kingdom of heaven is made. 

Writing in the twelth century Hildegard of Bingen depicted the return of the soul to heaven using architectural imagery. Humans construct their repentance and restoration as they participate in building the heavenly city. 

Hildegard was supervising the construction of Rupertsberg around 1150 and on her preaching tours she witnessed the passion for building in the Rhineland. It seems her personal life may also have influenced her interest in the imagery. In her autobiography Vita Hildegardis she writes that she dug a moat and constructed a wall around her sisters with the words of the scriptures, discipline and good habits in order to fortify them against evil. 

Throughout her Expositiones and other works and letters Hildegard repeatedly presents human efforts to achieve salvation using the construction metaphor. 

In a letter to Conrad, Bishop of Worms, Hildegard advises that one who follows God's commandments in doing good builds the heavenly Jerusalem whereas one who performs carnal deeds will fall from this edifice. She also says that one who renounces self-will decorates heavenly buildings with pearls, precious stones and the finest gold.  

Hildegard also conceives of heaven as constructed from living stones (people). She prays that Guibert of Gembloux continue in service so that he may become deserving of being a living stone in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In a letter to Bishop Gunther of Speyer she teaches that the foundations of the city consist of repentant sinners who have pressed down their sins through penance and form a kind of gravel bed for the city walls. 

By contrast the gem image is used to describe the radiant saints dwelling in the heavenly city. 

Hildegard never interiorizes the city as other contemporaries do. Constructing heaven does require the labour of the inner self but the imagery is not directed inward. Rather it is seen as an outward process reflecting the virtues' transport of stones up the ladder of salvation. 

Source for today's post: Mayne Keinzle, B. (2007) 'Constructing Heaven in Hildegard of Bingen's Expositiones Euangeliorum'  In Muessig, C. and Putter, A. (eds.) Envisaging Heaven in the Middle Ages,  Oxon: Routledge,  pp.34-43 

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The Chancer

Daily Draw: Etteilla Thoth Tarot, The Magician

One way to find out what was going on in the past is to look at suggestions for reform. It is not infallible - it seems that conduct books which advised young men not to spit in food to claim their share of a banquet were intended as humour. 

Still I read with interest Roger Bacon's 'Four general causes of human ignorance' which are: 

1. using weak and unreliable authority (sources)
2. custom and habit
3. prejudice (or following the crowd)
4. concealing one's own ignorance with an exhibition of apparent wisdom

The causes formed part of his broader proposal for the reform of the medieval universities. It would seem medieval scholars were by no means immune to academic fault (although we have to factor in Bacon's generally combative personality). 

Number four made me chuckle - if we banned that one the entire modern university system would collapse.

Being a chancer part of the job description - it is a matter of degree...

Monday, 10 October 2016


Daily Draw: The Book of Thoth Etteilla Tarot, Seven of Wands

Oh these naughtily insistent cards. I drew this at 9am couldn't think of an immediate history post so left it till tonight, shuffled and drew again - guess what same card :D

Pourparler - exchange of ideas. The more I read about medieval intellectuals the more I am impressed by their polymathy and productivity. Example - Roger Bacon who circa 1237-47 accepted an invitation to teach at the University of Paris and subsequently lectured on Latin Grammar, Aristotelian logic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy and Music. Who in our modern university system could do this now? 

In 1267 or 1268, Bacon sent the Pope his Opus Majus. This formed part of larger body of scholarly work of around a million words in about a year - an extraordinary example of academic productivity. 

Encompassing work on mathematics, optics, alchemy and astronomy the Opus was divided into seven sections  and was intended as a proposal for the reform of the university curriculum, the establishment of a library and the employment of experts to compose definitive texts on such topics as optics, astronomy (astrology) alchemy, agriculture (botany and zoology) medicine, experimental science - a philosophy of science to guide the others. 

And so the seeds were sown for the destruction of polymathy. Expertise, specialisation, being definitive. The emergence of a cadre of academics able to speak to only one subject (and within that probably only their own research tribe). 

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Astrology and faith in the middle ages

Daily Draw: The Book of Thoth Etteilla Tarot, Stars

In this deck stars signifies interests and ideas. My book chapter was thus chosen - intellectual life c13-c15. Here is what I found: 

Learned astrology flourished in the thirteenth century. The learned and semi-learned clerical milieu was suffused with interest in occult science which they accommodated within orthodox Christian beliefs. The Franciscan Roger Bacon was just one prominent figure representative of a larger group of clerical scientists. Each produced their own unique blend of faith and science. 

The apparent tensions between free scientific inquiry and faith did not not impede clerical contributions to science. Actually much investigation was driven by religious concerns. 

This was was the backdrop for the emergence of astrological images - talismans used for protection whose efficacy could be explained by natural (astrological) causes. 

The origins of natural magic can be found in works such as the anonymous Speculum astronomie, in which the author foresaw a method of making and using talismans that did not involve the invocation of other deities but derived power from purely physical (celestial) sources. Thus he managed to achieve a compromise between the demands of faith (or Christian monopoly over ritual and communications with God and his celestial agents) and the burgeoning scientific interests in natural philosophy including astrology and divination. 

Another example of a melding of theology, ecclesiastic career and astrological speculation with no sense of personal inconsistency can be seen in Pierre d'Ailly's work. Here astrology is presented as part of the rational world view of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The belief that heavenly bodies had some influence on earthly matters was just as widespread as the belief that God had a plan for the world. 

For d'Ailly astrology was not some dark art by which he could alter the the course of life on earth but a rational science by which he could observe and understand the broad patterns of earthly events. In other words he believed he was using science to produce knowledge. 

Source for today's post: Ziegler, J. (2009) 'Faith and the intellectuals' In Rubin, M. and Simons, W. (eds.) The Cambridge history of Christianity: Christianity in western Europe c. 1100 - c. 1500. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 372-393. 

Saturday, 8 October 2016

A man rides into town with an offer (of sorts) confess or die

Daily Draw (Thursday) The Book of Thoth Ettiella Tarot, Knight of Cups

The annalist of the city of Worms tells us that in 1231

'There came by divine permission a miserable plague and most harsh sentence. for indeed there came a certain friar called Conrad Dors, and he was completely illiterate...and he brought with him a certain secular man named John who was one-eyed and maimed, and in truth utterly vile. These two, beginning...firstly among the poor, said that they knew who were heretics; and they began to burn them, those who confessed their guilt and refused to leave the sect...And they condemned many who in the hour of their death, called out with all their heart to our Lord Jesus Christ, and even in the fire strongly cried out, begging for the help of the Mother of God and all the saints.'

These two were then joined by the eloquent priest Conrad of Marburg. Led by him and with papal backing they continued their work. According to chronicler all three inquisitors were imperfect judges and 'without mercy' apparently boasting 'we would burn a hundred innocent people amongst whom there is one guilty'. 

These events in the medieval German Archdiocese of Mainz could be the earliest example of inquisition into heresy in the middle ages. Other accounts of Conrad Marburg's actions tell us that virtually no one could escape his clutches as freedom could only be won by confessing and (especially) by implicating others. 

Such dramatic accounts fit well with a popular view of medieval church and society as entirely repressive. But it is important to inquire a little more closely into the events around Mainz. 

The chronicle was written by an anonymous cleric who was clearly horrified by Conrad's actions. Further, the archbishop of Mainz wrote to the pope with misgivings stating that he had cautioned Conrad 'to proceed in so great a matter with more moderation and discretion, but he refused'. 

Full of zeal, Conrad made the possibly fatal error of accusing a number of powerful noblemen of heresy. When the case was brought before a synod of bishops and nobles in 1233 all charges were dismissed. Three days later Conrad was murdered and similar fates befell Conrad Dors and John. 

At first the pope wrote of Conrad as a martyr but unlike later murdered inquisitors he was never canonised. At a church council a year after his death one Bishop exclaimed 'Master Conrad of Marburg deserves to be dug up and burnt as a heretic'. 

So while Conrad went about his activities with the blessing of the Pope this does not mean that the church as a whole approved of his actions. Not every ecclesiastic agreed with his views or methods and and nor did the secular powers in society support them. 

As a conclusion to these sorry events a papal nuncio on inquisition was issued which meant that in future indiscriminate persecution was to be replaced by the methodical application of the law. 

The image of the dark middle ages can still affect scholarship but the image itself has a particular history. It was forged in the aftermath of the reformation. Protestant historians from the sixteenth century onwards sought the roots for their reforms in heresies of earlier times. They associated their contemporary struggles with past persecution depicting an omnipotent repressive Catholic church. 

More recently historians have emphasised the heterogenous nature of the medical church and religious toleration in intellectual thought at that time. The activities of Conrad Marburg cannot be seen as representative of the whole church. 

Nevertheless Conrad's reign of terror did happen, people were killed for alleged transgressions against the faith and this was not the only occasion. 

By substituting canon law for zealotry and arbitrariness the papacy did not institute a new regime of religious pluralism and tolerance. Unbridled religious violence was simply replaced with with a more subtle and arguably more powerful form of violence through the framework of doctrinal policing. 

Source for post: Arnold, J. H. (2009) 'Repression and Power' In Rubin, M. and Simons, W. (eds.) The Cambridge history of christianity: christianity in western Europe c.1100- c.1500, pp.355-371New York: Cambridge University Press. 

Wednesday, 5 October 2016


Daily Draw: Book of Thoth Etteilla Tarot, Four of Cups

Ennui - a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement. Certainly I've been fully occupied today but perhaps the excitement levels are on the low side. 

I'm reminded by this that it is a long time since I have done a history post or one that connects with my doctorate. My plan - do one history post tomorrow. Readers hold me to it. 

There are no uninteresting things, only uninterested people.

G. K Chesterton, 1874-1936

Monday, 3 October 2016

A brief renaissance

Daily Draw: The Book of Thoth Etteilla Tarot, Ace of Wands

The word naissance (birth) on this card got me thinking of the renaissance and from there to my own current levels of artistic rebirthlyness. I'm planning to use Julia Cameron's work in my teaching on overcoming writers block and releasing creativity. Which made me think how long it is since I've done morning pages. 

Then I thought actually I AM doing them in this blog more regularly than ever before (even if sometimes they are more like evening pages). And I tidied my sock drawer yesterday (one of Cameron's recommendations) and had the most relaxing evening I have had in a long while. 

As I am teaching creativity I have the right to an 'artist's date' (I should walk the talk right?) and work-life harmonisation is the new buzz word. So actually it will be efficient to visit the city art gallery this week. I might not mention this to my rationalist manager tomorrow. I'm still anticipating his reaction to my exam stress mindfulness classes...

Writing is like breathing, it's possible to learn to do it well, but the point is to do it no matter what

Julia Cameron, 1948

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Practical matters

Daily Draw: Etteilla Tarot, Le Valet de Denier/Page of Pentacles

My first day with the Etteilla and I get the me card. Here he is as the Valet de Deniers. Historically a valet was a gentleman's servant performing such personal services as maintaining his employer's clothes, running his bath and other general grooming. 

Without this assistance I need to perform these services for myself and so I have done today. Five pairs of no need to iron work pants hanging in my wardrobe. Sorted out my sock drawer from 40 odd ones into 15 pairs. Thrown out all grey and tatty underwear - bad pants make for grumpy mornings. 

I have a lovely new pair of pyjamas which could pass for sportswear (handy when we run out of milk in the morning and I need to pop to the shop). I know a bit slummy but everyone else round here does it. All handbags emptied of trash and in their dust bags. Clothes-wise I feel pleasingly prepared for the busy weeks ahead. 

When a woman says, ‘I have nothing to wear!’, what she really means is, ‘There’s nothing here for who I’m supposed to be today.

Caitlin Moran, 1975 - 

Friday, 30 September 2016

Ghosts and memory

Daily Draw, Wizards Tarot, The Wheel of Fortune

This card with it's ghostly figures in the background triggered my theory brain (good thing it is still working). Whether or not you agree with Marx's politics he could turn a word or two. Twenty years on from my history degree I still have almost total recall for this memorable form of words. 

'Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. 

And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionising themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honoured disguise and borrowed language'. 

Karl Marx, 1818-1883 

Thursday, 29 September 2016

All things to all people

Daily Draw: The Wizards Tarot, The Hierophant

Neither horse nor man. Neither Fish nor Foul. Being all things to all people and no one to yourself. How many times do I have does life have to deliver this lesson before I learn it?

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Get over yourself

Daily Draw: Wizards Tarot, Eight of Wands

Have I set hearts aflame with the desire to learn or just fired off eight (600) broomsticks before their riders could saddle up? Don't know yet. Clouds around the academy indicate unsettled conditions but the moon reminds me it is the evening and while my thoughts are still on my learners they are probably not thinking of me right now. As a young person would say 'get over yourself'. 

In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.

Phil Collins, 1951-

Tuesday, 27 September 2016


Daily Draw, Wizards Tarot, The Dark Lord

Power and resistance, there's something of the devil in each. One method of resisting the power of managers in organisations is filibustering (a new word yippee). This refers to speaking at great length (often on irrelevant or obscure matters) in a meeting in order to prevent actions being agreed. 

Apparently there is a long history of the use of filibuster in the US Senate to delay or block legislation. Chris Murphy recently filibustered for a record breaking 15 hours on gun control. It happens in our Parliament too. Didn't know the word for it until now. Result. 

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Credibility debits and credits

Daily Draw: Wizard's Tarot, The Chariot

This is the professor of astral travel with her familiar Pharoah Hound. There is debate over whether this breed originated in ancient Egypt. The breed club says yes based on the results of an archeological dig. Wikipedia says no DNA link between this dog (now national dog of Malta) and Egypt. Who to believe? A search of dolichocephalic canines on Wiki throws up long haired whippet. Er no such thing. Credibility dip there. 

And then there's the standard line that greyhounds are ancient but whippets a bantamised version originating in the nineteenth century. Wrong. There is a fourteenth century painting of the birth of Jesus with whippet type dog in attendance in our city art gallery. Can't find an image of it. Credibility dip for me. 

Whippets often known as poor man's racehorse, forever associated with the miners who raced them on Sundays. Yet in Ford Maddox Brown's painting the little whippet in red coat and gold collar is positioned as wealthy vis a vis the shaggy dog on a rope. Some kind of reversal going on here. 

One minor gripe about the hound in this card. The back legs and feet aren't right. Too stumpy and when airborne should be fully extended. This is one reason why it is good to have interests - it helps us see things with a critical eye. I'm inclined to believe the PH breed club on the origins - these people are interested to the point of obsession which means they do their research. 

Anyway I'm happy to get my hound card after months of buying decks featuring these breeds and a PH is a good choice for an astral flight dog. Credibility credit. 

Saturday, 24 September 2016

As above so below

The draw of a new deck, Wizards Tarot, Page of Pentacles

It's so nice to receive gifts in the post (even if I have paid for them). The Wizards Tarot arrived today and it has me hooked. Usually I prefer painted cards to digital artwork but in this deck the images have been thoughtfully composed. The majors and the courts are bursting with symbolic detail (all explained in the book) without anything superfluous being added. 

The images are a little small they would have been better borderless like the Green Witch deck. Faces are a bit characterless but I have just been using the Tarot of the Hidden Realm which is at the opposite end of the spectrum in this regard. The courts are better especially the pentacles which are represented by gnomes. 

I love this description of the Page (the card that most closely resonates with me) 'The youngest member of the gnome family might not conform to our idealized standards of beauty but she is as her creator made her'. Happy with that. 

The guidebook (or mandrake academy manual) is one of the best I've ever read. For each of the major arcana there are lessons on symbols, practical exercises and new spreads. 

I did the magician's above and below spread. You place the four aces - wands, cups, swords, pentacles in a row and then place four cards above and four cards below. The top row depicts your spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical ideals and the bottom row will illustrate your realities. The aces are there to remind you which area of your life you are examining. This spread really spoke to me. 

In brief:

Spiritual development my ideal is magician and reality is page of pents (very much a learner)  - makes perfect sense. My spiritual journey only got underway this year!

Emotions: Ideal is the initiate, I long for emotional renewal and a return to innocence. The Knight of Pents reminds me I have come a long way, across difficult terrain a complete return to innocence may not be possible. I am where I am.

Intellectual: Ideal the Sun (professor of solar magic) or bright young star of the academy. Yes I'm an early career academic building a research profile. Reality Queen of Pents. I'm early career but I'm not young. I'm not hurrying and I don't feel the pressure to conform to 'mainstream' research. I'm planted firmly on my own theoretical 'throne' and that is where I will bloom. 

Physical: Ideal the six of wands. Yes I need to improve my public speaking by addressing the bodily as well as cognitive side of this. Reality Queen of Swords. I've been hurt before at conferences and in teaching. I'm sadder but wiser. I can spot trouble from a distance even when as Kenner says 'it's only a whisper on the breeze'. I'll need to use the sword to nip threats in the bud and as I've already learnt this week work behind the scenes (no open warfare).  

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

M is for manifest and P is for...well you know...

Daily Draw: Tarot of the Hidden Realm, The Magician

I am reminded by this card of the magic of writing technologies from stone tablets to quill and parchment to my iPad. This clever little thing that I was berating last night (having sucked it dry of energy) talks as if by magic to the speaker in my kitchen filling my life with rich sounds. I can move pictures from it to my Mac instantly via Airdop. Telepathy between devices - what I've always wanted. In the future maybe I'll be able to download brain thoughts without typing a thing. 

And then there is unmagic. My poor old laptop that I have so abused - copying and pasting from PDFs to Word, hammering out notes to meet a deadline for returning a library book, all kinds of silly trinkets inadvertently downloaded to the hard drive while downloading apps that turned out to be useless. 

My thesis graveyard. The thought of trying to resurrect it makes my shoulders slump. How to move thesis from the craptop to the Mac without introducing naughty pixies into the latter and killing that as well. It's a dilemma. Procrastination is beating manifestation. 

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic

Arthur C Clarke, 1917-2008