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Lyssa
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PostSubject: Horror Tue Jun 21, 2016 6:40 pm

Quote :
Horror:

"Old French horror (12c., Modern French horreur) and directly from Latin horror "dread, veneration, religious awe," a figurative use, literally "a shaking, trembling (as with cold or fear), shudder, chill," from horrere "to bristle with fear, shudder," from PIE root *ghers- "to bristle" (source also of Sanskrit harsate "bristles," Avestan zarshayamna- "ruffling one's feathers," Latin eris (genitive) "hedgehog," Welsh garw "rough").

Also formerly in English "a shivering," especially as a symptom of disease or in reaction to a sour or bitter taste (1530s); "erection of the hairs on the skin" (1650s); "a ruffling as of water surface" (1630s). As a genre in film, 1934."


Quote :
Ab-hor:

"mid-15c., from Latin abhorrere "shrink back from, have an aversion for, shudder at," from ab- "away" + horrere "tremble at, shudder," literally "to bristle, be shaggy," from PIE *ghers- "start out, stand out, rise to a point, bristle"."

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"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Horror Tue Jun 21, 2016 6:42 pm

Quote :
"Phrike is the spirit of horror in Greek mythology. Her name literally means "tremor, shivering" (i. e. from fear, horror), and has the same stem as the verb φρίττω (phrittō) "to tremble". The term "Phrike" (personified or not) is widely used in tragedy.

Her Latin equivalent was Horror."

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*


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PostSubject: Re: Horror Tue Jun 21, 2016 6:42 pm

Douglas Cairns wrote:
"Phrikê can be the name of an emotion, but its primary significance lies in its reference to a physical symptom that is common to a range of emotional and non-emotional events, namely the phenomenon of piloerection (‘goose pimples’), shivering, or shuddering.

Phrikê is an experience of an animal, but what the application of the term pinpoints is the visible aspect of that experience in the eyes of others. When this term is applied to an emotional experience, what we are dealing with is (in the strict sense) the phenomenology of emotion, i.e. the shared, third-person perspective that we all have (notwithstanding the standard philosophical puzzles about the communicability of qualia) of what it is like to experience the emotion in the first person. To be sure, phrikê is a subjective experience, but it is a subjective experience with an external, visible aspect, and it is this external, visible aspect that allows us to relate that person’s visible shudder, via the implicit theory of mind that we develop from infancy, to our own subjective experience of shuddering and of the emotions of which shuddering is a symptom.

Phrikê thus belongs, in its primary sense, to the basic somatic level of emotion. Sources such as the Hippocratic corpus, other medical writings, and the collections of Problemata attributed to Aristotle and Alexander of Aphrodisias all give ample evidence of its basic somatic aspect. These sources are well-nigh unanimous in relating phrikê and its cognates to bodily temperature: we shiver when we are cold, and when we shudder or shiver in other circumstances (e.g. when we are afraid, when we are suffering from various physical ailments, when we sneeze, when we urinate, after eating, etc.) variations in bodily temperature are normally also implicated. The link between shuddering/shivering and piloerection is frequently noted, and this can in turn provide a cue for comment on the occurrence of phrikê also in non-human animals, both in circumstances which we should describe as emotional and in other, non-emotional scenarios. Phrikê, therefore, is an involuntary bodily movement, one that is part of human beings’ pre-human inheritance and rooted in basic systems of bodily regulation that respond to changes in the temperature of the organism and of the environment.

As a physical symptom, the phenomenon that phrikê names is an undeniable fact of human and non-human physiology and symptomology. As a symptom of emotion, and especially of fear-like emotions, it is a member of a set of related symptoms that are also recognized in our own folk models (‘I shudder to think’, ‘it gives me the shivers’, ‘he was in a cold sweat’, ‘she’s got cold feet’, ‘it was a chilling/hair-raising experience’), and confirmed by empirical investigation. The fact that phrikê is a symptom of fear and similar emotions in Greek is an important one, for the same symptom remains an important sign of such emotions and an important aspect of the concept of those emotions in English and other modern languages. This simple point is often minimized by those who would write the history of emotion: there are substantial aspects of emotional experience that depend on the biological heritage of our species and are deeply rooted in basic mechanisms of bodily regulation that human beings share with other animals. Where such aspects are prominent in cultures’ concepts of emotion we cannot expect the history of those concepts or the history of emotion itself to be one of unconstrained conceptual and cultural variation; change, development, or transformation will be, at least to some extent, constrained by physical embodiment.

Attention to emotions’ physical symptoms is typically stigmatized as reductionist and condemned for underestimating the crucial role in the conceptualization of emotion of the evaluative, linguistic, social, and cultural aspects of emotional experience and concepts. But this is a false antithesis. In the language of emotion, it is typical for the physical symptom to be used as a metonym for the emotion with which it is associated.

A large number of passages illustrate this with reference to phrikê in Greek, but the phenomenon is at its clearest when the verb phrissein, ‘to shudder’, governs a direct object in the same way as would a verb meaning ‘to fear’. Thus, in a famous passage, Helen contrasts the kindness of Hector with the horror that she occasions in the other Trojans (Iliad 24. 774-5):

Quote :
"For I no longer have anyone else in broad Troy who is gentle or kind – all the others shudder at me."

The fact that the verb phrissein in such locutions stands for a verb of fearing is particularly clear in Euripides’ Hippolytus (415-18), where Phaedra expresses her incredulity that an adulteress should be able to conceal her guilty conscience from her husband:

Quote :
"How, oh Cyprian [sc. Aphrodite], mistress of the deep, can they look their husbands in the face and not shudder at the darkness, their partner in crime, or at the timbers of the house, lest they at some stage speak?"

The fact that the verb phrissein is followed not only by a direct object, but also by a noun clause of the sort that regularly specifies the propositional content of a verb of fearing indicates that ‘shudder’ here is a simple metonymy for ‘fear’; shudders as such have no propositional content.

In addition, the experiential network in which phrikê belongs (in which phrikê-type emotions are typified by the lowered body temperature, shivering, and piloerection that are their physical symptoms) encompasses a range of other terms which express complementary aspects of the same imagery. Thus Helen, before whom the Trojans phrissein at Iliad 24.775 is described as ‘chilling’ (rhigedanê) at 19.325: the metonymy naturally encompasses both patient and object – Helen is ‘chilling’ and she makes the Trojans ‘shiver’. The verbs rhigein and rhigoun (cognate with Latin frigus), when they are not used literally of physical temperature, participate in this network mainly in the description of emotional symptoms, although rhigein is regularly used as a metonym for the emotion itself. The comparative adjective rhigion appears to be almost exclusively metaphorical, used of unpleasant eventualities and states of affairs that occasion fear and similar emotions in those who encounter or contemplate them; the superlative rhigistos and other derivative adjectives can also be used in a similar sense. Also part of the same nexus of meaning are the adjectives kryoeis and okryoeis (cold), which likewise have a metaphorical application to the objects of fear and similar emotions – hence Helen is not only rhigedanê at Iliad 19.325 but also okryoessa at 6.344.

The importance of emotional symptoms in the construction of emotional concepts underlines the fundamental importance of physical embodiment in the concept of emotion itself. In the case of phrikê, the symptom is one that has its roots in basic somatic mechanisms of temperature regulation, that is manifested in a range of non-emotional contexts, and that is shared with other animals. From these materials, universal in humans and extending beyond the human species, is constructed a concept of (a kind of) fear in which physical symptoms are intimately related to cognitive appraisals and evaluations. The mechanism by which this occurs is the universal one of metonymy, by which the name of the symptom comes to function as a name of the emotion. This metonym is then enmeshed in the wider network of emotional metaphor that is, again, a feature of the conceptualization of emotion in all cultures and languages known to me. At all these levels, the concept of phrikê is typical in locating the language and thought of emotion in embodied physical experience. There is nothing in any way surprising or unfamiliar about this – the point is precisely that ancient Greek emotional concepts are, to large extent, built up out of the same materials as our own, materials that draw on our experience as physically embodied beings interacting with our physical and social environments. What needs to be emphasized, however, is that this experiential, embodied nature of emotion is not just an aspect of a shared biological substratum; it is a feature also of language and of thought. It is not that embodiment is relevant only in terms of emotions’ physical changes, symptoms, and expressions and is left behind when emotional concepts take root in language, thought, and culture. There is no disjunction, but rather a fundamental continuity between emotions as physical experiences and emotional concepts as linguistic and cultural categories. In terms of the development of emotional concepts, there is no wedge to be driven between the body, on the one hand, and language and culture on the other.

In general, most of the more specific associations of phrikê derive from its fundamental nature as an instinctive, automatic, and physical response, especially to sudden visual and auditory stimuli. Though many of the relevant passages include a reference to the ominous connotations or negative import of the sights or sounds in question, it is also clear that in many cases the adjective highlights the capacity of the stimulus in itself to elicit an instinctive emotional response. Plutarch, for example, refers to the deep and horrific roar, the low and terrible tone, a mixture of bestial roaring and the clap of thunder, produced by the Parthians’ percussion instruments as they face the Romans in battle, commenting that the Parthians have clearly understood the impact of such sounds on the emotions and morale of their opponents (Crassus 23. 8-9).

One is religion, where phrikê appears as an instinctive response to sights and sounds of a numinous or supernatural nature. This makes it an especially appropriate response to epiphany, presumed epiphany, quasi-epiphany, or other presumed signs of divine presence. These associations, for example, are key to a passage in Plutarch’s Life of Aratus (32.1-2). The Aetolians have attacked and overcome the Achaean city of Pellene, but in the very moment of their victory Aratus, the Achaean general, attacks, the tide turns, and the Aetolians themselves are routed. According to one tradition narrated by Plutarch, a crucial factor in these events was the appearance of a female Achaean captive, the daughter of Epigethes, on the city walls. Captured by an Aetolian officer, she had been placed in the sanctuary of Artemis, the victor’s helmet on her head for ease of identification. ‘Conspicuous for her beauty and physical stature’ as the woman was (32.1), she is regarded by the Achaeans as ‘a sight of more than human majesty’ (32.2), but taken by the Aetolian enemy to be a divine epiphany, so that they are overcome by phrikê and wonder (or amazement, thambos), and unable to defend themselves (32.2).

Thambos is a term that designates an emotion as such, and this in itself helps indicate that in this passage the label phrikê likewise functions as the name of an emotion rather than merely of an emotion symptom. Its use is not primarily intended to draw attention to the bodily changes experienced by the Aetolians in reaction to the sudden appearance of Epigethes’ daughter; if physical shuddering is relevant at all, it is not as such, i.e. as a simple, visible, bodily reaction, but as a sign of a more inclusive emotional experience, one that involves perception, an evaluation of that perception, cultural norms (in this case, specific concepts of divinity and of the possible modes of interaction between human and divine), and a characteristic pattern of behaviour. Phrikê refers not to one very limited aspect of that experience, the physical shudder that is a symptom of fear or something like it, but to the total experience. In this religious application, we see the importance of the term’s fundamental association with immediate sensory stimuli: it is an object of sight that excites the Aetolians’ phrikê (τοῖς πολεμίοις φάσμα θεῖον ὁρᾶν δοκοῦσι φρίκην ἐνέβαλε καὶ θάμβος, ‘she caused φρίκη and θάμβος in the enemy, who imagined they were seeing a divine epiphany’, Aratus 32.2).

The other main area in which I should emphasize phrikê’s cultural specificity in that of aesthetics. Aristotle uses the term only once in the Poetics, but this in itself is significant (Poetics 14, 1453b3-7):

Quote :
"The plot ought to be so composed that, even without seeing a performance, one who merely hears what happens will shudder (phrissein) and feel pity as a result of the events – as indeed one would on hearing the plot of the Oedipus."

The regular association between phrikê and the visual suggests that Aristotle choses the verb phrissein over, say, the regular but less colourful verb, ‘to be afraid’ (phobeisthai) precisely because the topic is the relative power of spectacle. It is uncontroversial that spectacle can produce phrikê, but Aristotle wants to insist that even this quintessentially instinctive response is better produced by means of the plot, for which performance is unnecessary.

Aristotle was not the first to give phrikê a role in poetics. Part of the case advanced by the fifth-century sophist, Gorgias, for the proposition that Helen of Troy is innocent of any blame involves the argument that persuasive speech is irresistible (Helen 8-14), and the prime example of such speech is poetry (9). Like Aristotle, Gorgias is concerned with an audience’s emotional engagement with the changing fortunes of others; his core emotional responses are Aristotle’s pity and fear; and he emphasizes the power of these emotions with reference to physical symptoms and expressions (tears and phrikê). In the wider context, Gorgias does emphasize the compulsive emotional power of spectacle (Helen 15-19), but phrikê in §9 is an experience of auditors, not spectators, and its cause is speech, not spectacle.

Both Gorgias and Aristotle are drawing on the implicit poetics of earlier, pre-dramatic poetry, on phenomena that become theorized in terms of phantasia (‘imagination’, i.e. the formation of mental images) and enargeia (‘vividness’, a key term of ancient literary and rhetorical criticism, a prized quality of narratives of various sorts, and thus an aspiration of wordsmiths throughout antiquity). Phrikê thus recurs as a response of internal audiences in both dramatic scripts and non-dramatic narratives from fifth-century tragedy to Roman Imperial biography and historiography. Though typically a symptom of fear, horror, or revulsion, it can be an expression of that link between these emotions and the shared sense of vulnerability that gives rise to pity. Its nature as an involuntary, instinctive response especially to immediate sensory stimuli, together with its fundamentally somatic character, helps us to put some phenomenological flesh on the bare bones of ‘pity and fear’ as the typical ‘tragic’ emotions. Its immediacy, in turn, and especially its association with the visual, can serve to illustrate the premium placed on vividness and visuality by authors, consumers, and theorists of ancient Greek narratives, and thus illustrate the continuity between narrative and dramatic genres as objects of ancient literary theory.

The phenomenon that the Greeks called phrikê is clearly not a wholly culture-specific one; its roots, as an involuntary movement, antedate the origin of the human species; as a symptom of emotion, it belongs with basic responses that are rooted in the physiology of our and other species; and the name of the symptom becomes a name for a particular kind of emotional attitude by means of a mechanism, namely metonymy, that is ubiquitous in the formation of human concepts, especially emotional concepts. Even as a metonymy, however, phrikê retains many of its fundamental connotations as an automatic, involuntary, instinctive reaction – indeed it is precisely in order to retain connotations of that sort, to conjure up something of the experience of emotion rather than merely labelling it, that one would choose to say phrissô, I shudder, rather than phoboumai, I am afraid. That being so, phrikê the emotion emerges as a particular kind of fear – immediate, instinctive, and much more regularly occurrent than dispositional.

The particular kind of fear that it is makes its use especially appropriate in specific sorts of scenario. In many cases, the specifics of these scenarios depend in turn on the nature and development of Greek norms and values, especially where humans’ relations with the divine are concerned, but also in connexion with (e.g.) the norms and conditions of pity and with the nature of audiences’ responses to poetry, drama, historiography, and biography. This is not just a matter of a single and simple emotion having a range of different elicitors; the specific history of phrikê as a concept has to take account both of the ways that it is deeply enmeshed in elaborate ritual processes, such as mystic initiation, and of the particular associations of the term that make it especially appropriate both for vivid literary representation and as an element in the aesthetics of literary appreciation."

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Horror Tue Aug 02, 2016 2:16 am

Eugene Thacker is a post-Xt. Dis-anthrope, trying to re-call the original horror of a meaningless universe before the world turned into a for-human world.
While Metanthrope could be again mistaken for a transhumanism and cybernetics, Dis-anthropy is more closer to the idea of his Horror that is not that of vampires or zombies, but of the sheer magnitude of the unknown, of the black vastness amidst which we live, "the subharmonic murmur of black tentacular voids", that drapes and seeps through us, and us in partial oblivion of this dis/ease, an un/ease pushed back but never eliminated.

Cinematically, I think his idea of Horror, is best captured in the 1968 film 'Solaris'.




Thacker wrote:
"The horror of philosophy: the isolation of those moments in which philosophy reveals its own limitations and constraints, moments in which thinking enigmatically confronts the horizon of its own possibility – the thought of the unthinkable that philosophy cannot pronounce but via a non-philosophical language. The genre of supernatural horror is a privileged site in which this paradoxical thought of the unthinkable takes place. What an earlier era would have described through the language of darkness mysticism or negative theology, our contemporary era thinks of in terms of supernatural horror.

What is more important is how all of these interpretive lenses – mythological, theological, existential – have as their most basic presupposition a view of the world as a human-centric world, as a world “for us” as human beings, living in human cultures, governed by human values. While classical Greece does, of course, acknowledge that the world is not totally within human control, it nevertheless tends to personify the non-human world in its pantheon of humanoid creatures and its all-too-human gods, themselves ruled by jealously, greed, and lust. The same can be said of the Christian framework, which, while also personifying the supernatural (angels and demons; a paternal God by turns loving and abusive), re-casts the order of the world within a moral-economic framework of sin, debt, and redemption in a life after life. And the modern existential framework, with its ethical imperative of choice, freedom, and will, in the face of both scientific and religious determinisms, ultimately constricts the entire world into a solipsistic, angstridden vortex of the individual human subject. In short, when the non-human world manifests itself to us in these ambivalent ways, more often than not our response is to recuperate that non-human world into whatever the dominant, human-centric worldview is at the time.

However, one of the greatest lessons of the ongoing discussion on global climate change is that these approaches are no longer adequate. We can, instead, offer a new terminology for thinking about this problem of the non-human world. Let us call the world in which we live the world-for-us. This is the world that we, as human beings, interpret and give meaning to, the world that we relate to or feel alienated from, the world that we are at once a part of and that is also separate from the human. But this world-for-us is not, of course, totally within the ambit of human wants and desires; the world often “bites back,” resists, or ignores our attempts to mold it into the world-for-us. Let us call this the world-in-itself. This is the world in some inaccessible, already-given state, which we then turn into the world-for-us. The world-in-itself is a paradoxical concept; the moment we think it and attempt to act on it, it ceases to be the world-in-itself and becomes the world-for-us. A significant part of this paradoxical world-in-itself is grounded by scientific inquiry – both the production of scientific knowledge of the world and the technical means of acting on and intervening in the world.

Even though there is something out there that is not the world-for-us, and even though we can name it the world-in-itself, this latter constitutes a horizon for thought, always receding just beyond the bounds of intelligibility. Tragically, we are most reminded of the world-in-itself when the world-initself is manifest in the form of natural disasters. The discussions on the long-term impact of climate change also evoke this reminder of the world-in-itself, as the specter of extinction furtively looms over such discussions. Using advanced predictive models, we have even imagined what would happen to the world if we as human beings were to become extinct. So, while we can never experience the world-in-itself, we seem to be almost fatalistically drawn to it, perhaps as a limit that defines who we are as human beings.

Let us call this spectral and speculative world the world-without-us. In a sense, the world-withoutus allows us to think the world-in-itself, without getting caught up in a vicious circle of logical paradox. The world-in-itself may co-exist with the world-for-us – indeed the human being is defined by its impressive capacity for not recognizing this distinction. By contrast, the world-without-us cannot co-exist with the human world-for-us; the world-without-us is the subtraction of the human from the world. To say that the world-without-us is antagonistic to the human is to attempt to put things in human terms, in the terms of the world-for-us. To say that the world-without-us is neutral with respect to the human, is to attempt to put things in the terms of the world-in-itself. The worldwithout- us lies somewhere in between, in a nebulous zone that is at once impersonal and horrific. The world-without-us is as much a cultural concept as it is a scientific one, and, as this book attempts to show, it is in the genres of supernatural horror and science fiction that we most frequently find attempts to think about, and to confront the difficult thought of, the world-without-us.

In a sense, the real challenge today is not finding a new or improved version of the world-for-us, and it is not relentlessly pursuing the phantom objectivity of the world-in-itself. The real challenge lies in confronting this enigmatic concept of the world-without-us, and understanding why this worldwithout- us continues to persist in the shadows of the world-for-us and the world-in-itself. We can even abbreviate these three concepts further: the world-for-us is simply the World, the world-in-itself is simply the Earth, and the world-without-us is simply the Planet. The terms “world” and “worlding” are frequently used in phenomenology to describe the way in which we as human subjects exist in the world, at the same time as the world is revealed to us. By contrast, we understand the “Earth” as encompassing all the knowledge of the world as an object, via geology, archaeology, paleontology, the life sciences, the atmospheric sciences (meteorology, climatology), and so on.

What then is the “Planet”? The World (the world-for-us) not only implies a human-centric mode of being, but it also points to the fuzzy domain of the not-human, or that which is not for-us. We may understand this in a general sense as that which we cannot control or predict, or we may understand it in more concrete terms as the ozone, carbon footprints, and so on. Thus the World implicitly opens onto the Earth. But even “the Earth” is simply a designation that we’ve given to something that has revealed itself or made itself available to the gathering of samples, the generating of data, the production of models, and the disputes over policy. By necessity there are other characteristics that are not accounted for, that are not measured, and that remain hidden and occulted. Anything that reveals itself does not reveal itself in total. This remainder, perhaps, is the “Planet.” In a literal sense the Planet moves beyond the subjective World, but it also recedes behind the objective Earth. The Planet is a planet, it is one planet among other planets, moving the scale of things out from the terrestrial into the cosmological framework. Whether the Planet is yet another subjective, idealist construct or whether it can have objectivity and be accounted for as such, is an irresolvable dilemma. What is important in the concept of the Planet is that it remains a negative concept, simply that which remains “after” the human. The Planet can thus be described as impersonal and anonymous.

In the context of philosophy, the central question today is whether thought is always determined within the framework of the human point of view. What other alternatives lay open to us? One approach is to cease searching for some imaginary locus of the non-human “out there” in the world, and to refuse the well-worn dichotomy between self and world, subject and object. This is, of course, much easier said than done. In addition to the interpretive frameworks of the mythological (classical-Greek), the theological (Medieval-Christian), and the existential (modern-European), would it be possible to shift our framework to something we can only call cosmological? Could such a cosmological view be understood not simply as the view from inter-stellar space, but as the view of the world-without-us, the Planetary view?

Scientists estimate that approximate ninety percent of the cells in the human body belong to nonhuman organisms (bacteria, fungi, and a whole bestiary of other organisms). Why shouldn’t this also be the case for human thought as well? In a sense, this book is an exploration of this idea – that thought is not human. In a sense, the world-without-us is not to be found in a “great beyond” that is exterior to the World (the world-for-us) or the Earth (the world-in-itself); rather, it is in the very fissures, lapses, or lacunae in the World and the Earth. The Planet (the world-without-us) is, in the words of darkness mysticism, the “dark intelligible abyss” that is paradoxically manifest as the World and the Earth.

The term “horror” does not exclusively mean cultural productions of horror (or “art horror”), be it in fiction, film, comics, or video games. While the horror genre is an important part of culture, and while scholarly studies of the horror genre do help us to understand how a book or film obtains the effects it does, genre horror deserves to be considered as more than the sum of its formal properties. Also, by “horror” I do not mean the human emotion of fear, be it manifest in a fiction film, a news report, or a personal experience. Certainly this type of horror is an important part of the human condition, and it can be leveraged in different ways – ethically, politically, religiously – for the gain of different ends. This also deserves to be studied, especially for the ways in which reality and fiction increasingly overlap in our reality-TV culture. But “horror” in this sense remains strongly inscribed within the scope of human interests and the world-for-us.

Against these two common assumptions, I would propose that horror be understood not as dealing with human fear in a human world (the world-for-us), but that horror be understood as being about the limits of the human as it confronts a world that is not just a World, and not just the Earth, but also a Planet (the world-without-us). This also means that horror is not simply about fear, but instead about the enigmatic thought of the unknown. As H.P. Lovecraft famously noted, “the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is the fear of the unknown.” Horror is about the paradoxical thought of the unthinkable. In so far as it deals with this limit of thought, encapsulated in the phrase of the world-without-us, horror is “philosophical.” But in so far as it evokes the world-without-us as a limit, it is a “negative philosophy” (akin to negative theology, but in the absence of God).

"Horror” is a non-philosophical attempt to think about the world-without-us philosophically. Here culture is the terrain on which we find attempts to confront an impersonal and indifferent world-without-us, an irresolvable gulf between the world-forus and the world-in-itself, with a void called the Planet that is poised between the World and the Earth. It is for this reason that this book treats genre horror as a mode of philosophy (or, perhaps, as “non-philosophy”1). Certainly a short story about an amorphous, quasi-sentient, mass of crude oil taking over the planet will not contain the type of logical rigor that one finds in the philosophy of Aristotle or Kant. But in a different way, what genre horror does do is it takes aim at the presuppositions of philosophical inquiry – that the world is always the world-for-us – and makes of those blind spots its central concern, expressing them not in abstract concepts but in a whole bestiary of impossible life forms – mists, ooze, blobs, slime, clouds, and muck. Or, as Plato once put it, “hair, mud, and dirt.”" [In the dust of this planet]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*


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PostSubject: Re: Horror Tue Aug 02, 2016 2:16 am

Thacker akins his idea to the nigerospheric minimalist music of Keiji Haino in redefining the idea of the Daimonic:

"So, Black Is Myself. Wisdom that bless I, who live in the spiral joy born at the utter end of a black prayer.”

Thacker wrote:
"In contrast to what Schopenhauer calls a privative nothing (the nihil privativum; dark as the absence of light, death as the absence of life) there is a negative nothing (the nihil negativum; nothingness without any positive value). The opaque last words of The World as Will and Representation encapsulate this paradoxical affirmation of nothing:
…what remains after the complete abolition of the Will is, for all who are full of the Will, assuredly nothing (Nichts). But also conversely, to those in whom the Will has turned and denied itself, this very real world of ours with all its suns and galaxies, is – nothing. Schopenhauer is unparalleled in this sort of metaphysical misanthropy, this type of cosmic pessimism.

Even a thinker such as Nietzsche, who otherwise lauds Schopenhauer as one of his “educators” and great anti-philosophers, chooses to recuperate Schopenhauer’s pessimism into a more vigorous, vitalistic, “Will-to-Power.” Schopenhauer’s pessimism is less about a human pessimism (e.g. the alltoo-human despair of an identity crisis or a lapse in faith), and more about the way in which thought in itself always devolves upon its own limits, the hinge through which positive knowledge turns into negative knowledge. To find an equal to Schopenhauer, one would have to look not to philosophy but to writers of supernatural horror such as H.P. Lovecraft, whose stories evoke a sense of what he termed “cosmic outsideness”:

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.
In summary, then, another meaning of the word “black” – not Satanism with its opposition/inversion and dark technics, not paganism with its exclusion/alterity and dark magic, but a Cosmic Pessimism, with its dark metaphysics of negation, nothingness, and the non-human.

What do these different conceptual aspects of “black” mean in relation to black metal culture? On the surface, it would seem that black metal bands would fall into one of these three meanings of the word “black.” For instance, old school Norwegian black metal would seem to fit the Satanic meaning of black, as evidenced by albums such as Darkthrone’s Transylvanian Hunger, Emperor’s Wrath of the Tyrant, Gorgoroth’s Pentagram, and Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Likewise, it would seem that other black metal bands might fit the pagan meaning of black, as exhibited by Ulver’s Nattens Madrigal, Ildjarn’s Forest Poetry, Striborg’s Mysterious Semblance, and Wolves in the Throne Room’s Diadem of Twelve Stars. One could even suggest that some of the formal experiments in black metal, from the minimalism of Sunn O’s Grimmrobe Demos to the wall-of-noise in Wold’s Stratification might offer musical equivalents of the Cosmic Pessimism meaning of the word black. I would suggest, however, that this third kind of “black,” that of Cosmic Pessimism, is actually implicit in all of the above examples, though in differing degrees.

In this sense, the most striking example of Cosmic Pessimism comes from outside of the metal genre altogether. It is by the Japanese multi-instrumentalist, poet, and mystic Keiji Haino. Haino’s album So, Black is Myself employs a subtractive minimalism that is beyond that of Sunn O))) or dark ambient artists such as Lustmord. Haino’s approach is eclectic, borrowing techniques from everything from Noh theater to Troubadour singing. Clocking in at just under 70 minutes, So, Black is Myself uses only a tone generator and voice. Its sole lyric is the title of the piece itself: “Wisdom that will bless I, who live in the spiral joy born at the utter end of a black prayer.” The piece is brooding, rumbling, deeply sonorous, and meditative. Sometimes the tone generator and Haino’s voice merge into one, while at other times they diverge and become dissonant. Haino’s voice itself spans the tonal spectrum, from nearly subharmonic chant to an uncanny falsetto perhaps produced only by starving banshees. Haino’s performance is an example of the radically unhuman aspect of Cosmic Pessimism, the impersonal affect of dread described by Kierkegaard as “antipathic sympathy and sympathetic antipathy.” So, Black is Myself also manages to be mystical at the same time that the individual performer is dissolved into a meshwork of tones – voice, space, and instrument variously existing in consonance and dissonance with each other. So, Black is Myself is a reminder of the metaphysical negation that is also at the core of black metal, as if Schopenhauer’s nihil negativum were rendered as musical form, ultimately negating even itself in a kind of musical antiform.

One way of understanding the non-human aspect of the demon is to understand the demon less in a strictly theological sense, in which the demon is an intermediary creature between the supernatural and natural, and to understand it in its ontological function as a way of thinking about the relation of the human to that which is non-human. This vague, latter term – the non-human – can, of course, have a wide range of meanings, from the rock or the chair to the black depths of the cosmos itself. And we as human beings certainly have a panoply of ways of relating to the non-human, be it via science, technology, politics, or religion. But the non-human remains, by definition, a limit; it designates both that which we stand in relation to and that which remains forever inaccessible to us. This limit is the unknown, and the unknown, as genre horror reminds us, is often a source of fear or dread." [In the Dust of the Planet]

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PostSubject: Re: Horror Tue Aug 02, 2016 2:17 am

Cosmic Pessimism: The need for a Demontology.

Thacker wrote:
"If the demon is taken in this anthropological sense as the relation of the human to the non-human (however this non-human is understood), then we can see how the demon historically passes through various phases: there is the classical demon, which is elemental, and at once a help and a hindrance (“the demon beside me…”); there is the Medieval demon, a supernatural and intermediary being that is a tempter (“demons surround me…”); a modern demon, rendered both natural and scientific through psychoanalysis, and internalized within the machinations of the unconscious (“I am a demon to myself…”); and finally a contemporary demon, in which the social and political aspects of antagonism are variously attributed to the Other in relationships of enmity (“demons are other people”).

in contrast to the anthropological interpretation of the demon, we can consider another one that is mythological. By this term we imply more than the human understanding of the human, and instead move outwards to the human understanding of the world. The mythological interpretation of the demon takes place less by the use of metaphor, and more by the use of allegory, in which the very story of our ability or inability to comprehend the world is encapsulated in the ritual acts of invasion, possession, metamorphosis, and exorcism.

This comes through more clearly in one of the classic Biblical accounts of demonic possession, that of the so-called Gerasene demon. Slightly different accounts are given in Mark 5 and Luke 8, but the basics of the parable are the same: Jesus, with his followers, travels from Galilee to the Gerasene region (in northern current-day Jordan). There Jesus is met by the local villagers, who appeal to him to heal an old man possessed by demons. The possessed man, it is said, roams about the tombs without clothing or shelter. When the villagers shackle him, he enters into a frenzy and breaks free. At night he screams aloud and cuts himself with stones. Jesus confronts the possessed man, who likewise appeals to Jesus to cure him. As part of the exorcism, Jesus commands the name of the demon possessing the old man: “Then Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘My name is Legion,’ he replied, ‘for we are many.’”

The name “Legion” (λεγων) is tricky, for it is not clear from the passage whether it is a single demon speaking in many voices, or if it is a multitude of demons speaking in a single voice. Indeed, the very name “Legion” appears to devolve upon itself, the name of the Many naming itself as One. Jesus then casts the demons out of the body of the old man, and into a herd of swine in a nearby hill. The herd of swine, now possessed, are driven into a state of frenzy and rush over the side of a cliff into the sea below to their death. After this rather dramatic episode, something interesting happens: the villagers, witnessing the entire spectacle, become fearful of Jesus and his healing powers. With some urgency they politely ask Jesus and his followers to leave the village. In this parable the demons manifest themselves in three ways, each an example of the limits of the human to comprehend the non-human. First, within the possessed man are a multitude of demons.

Demonic possession itself transgresses the normal relationship between the One and the Many (one person = one body). It is also an affront to and parody of the Trinity, in which a single One is incarnated in Three. God as Creator creates many creatures. As creatures they are linked to God through the act of creation. Yet, as creatures, they are also separated from God in their being mortal and rooted in the changes associated with temporality. The multitude of demons in the parable above occupy the individual human creature – that highest of creatures – and turn him into a mere animallike thing. The iconography of the passage is striking – the true nature of the demons, we presume, is revealed by the choice of their receptacle in a herd of lowly beasts. But throughout the parable, the only real indication we have of this multitude of demons is this enigmatic resounding of the word “Legion.” In a philosophical sense, that the demons choose to present themselves via voice and sound – at once present and absent – is noteworthy.

These two manifestations of the demon – the demons in the old man and the herd of animals – lead to a third type, which is the word-of-mouth among the people, which itself spreads like a disease. Jesus’ demonstration of his sovereign and medical powers instills a certain horror in the people, resulting in his effectively being deported. We might take a decidedly modern view of this scene and suggest that the threat posed by the demons is not simply a topological one having to do with the proper relation between the One and the Many, and neither is it to do with the proper relation between Creator and creature. There is another element here, which is the way in which the demonic also challenges divine sovereignty. The demonic challenges the divine in its refusal to be organized at all. We do not know how many demons there are, nor even if it is more than one voice that speaks “Legion.” We only know that it is more than one, and that it may be something other than “Many,” the latter term still denoting a potentially countable entity. The demons are, in a sense, more than Many, but never One.

Examples of demonic activity occur throughout the New Testament, though in it demons are by no means represented in the same way. For example, the famous scene of the apocalypse in Revelations not only features a battle between angels and demons, but it also portrays avenging angels that tend to look a lot like demons. These supernatural creatures are anthropomorphized, and they even have their own technology: trumpets, tempests, and “bowls of plague” come forth in the apocalyptic upsurge. In these scenes the demons/angels have as their sole function a religious-juridical relation to the human (either to damn or to save them). The various symbolic devices, from scales and seals to bowls, are technologies for the end of the world. Here the demons are a form of mediated presence.

By contrast, the exorcism scene from the Gospels portrays a demon that is unmediated and yet only embodied – the demons called “Legion” are never present in themselves, but only via some form of earthly embodiment (the old man, the herd of pigs, the wind, the sea). In a sense, they are strangely pantheistic, announcing themselves only indirectly. Hence their embodiment is also a disembodiment, in the sense that they are wandering spirits – their movement happens more by demonic contagion than by divine inspiration. Demons are here a form of immediate absence.

While the anthropological meaning of the demon remains ensconced within its human-centric, therapeutic solipsism (e.g. “why do we do the things we do?”), the mythological meaning focuses on the limits of the human ability to know the non-human. At its limit is the idea of the absolutely “dark” demon – the demon that remains absolutely unknowable to use as human beings, but which nevertheless seems to act upon us, perhaps through a malevolence we can only call “bad luck” or “misfortune.”

If the anthropological demon is an attempt to reveal the nature of the human to the human, then we can say that the mythological demon is an attempt to reveal the non-human to the human. Both, however, come across certain limitations, due to the human point-of-view. The human is always relating either to itself or to the world. And these two types of relations overlap with each other: the human can only understand the human by transforming it into an object to relate to (psychology, sociology), while the human can only relate to the objective world itself by transforming the world into something familiar, accessible, or intuited in human terms (biology, geology, cosmology).

This leaves one avenue open, which is the perspective of the non-human itself. As thinking, embodied beings unable to fully detach ourselves from the subject-object relations that constitute us, this is undoubtedly a paradoxical move. In fact, it is doomed from the start. Nevertheless it deserves to be stated, even if beyond it there can only be silence. In the parable of the Gerasene demons, the demons named “Legion” were, in themselves, defined by several properties: they were neither One nor Many but somewhere in between; they were fully immanent with the world (almost pantheistically); and, most importantly, they in themselves were never present, never a discrete thing that one could point to – the demons named “Legion” were really, in themselves, “nothing.”

Perhaps there is a meaning of the demonic that has little to do with the human at all – and this indifference is what constitutes its demonic character. If the anthropological demon (the human relating to itself) functioned via metaphor, and if the mythological demon (the human relating to the non-human) functioned via allegory, then perhaps there is a third demon, which is more ontological, or really “meontological” (having to do with non-being rather than being). As the 6th century mystic Dionysius the Areopagite notes, commenting on the paradoxical existence of demons, “evil is not a being; for if it were, it would not be totally evil…evil has no place among being.”

Given that, for us as human beings, there is no simple “going over” to the side of the non-human, it would seem that the mode best suited to this third type of demon is something like metonymy (with the demon as a stand-in for the abstract, indifferent, non-being of the world). The demon is, then, a way of talking about the perspective of the non-human, with all the contradictions this implies. For the meontological demon, affirmation is negation, and thinking about its being is the same as thinking about its non-being.

This is brought forward with great subtlety in Dante’s Inferno, one of the classic depictions of the demonic. However, there is not simply one type of demon in the Inferno; indeed, the central drama of the Inferno is not good vs. evil, but in the tensions within the Inferno itself. For instance, one can identify at least three types of demons in the Inferno. First there is, at the center and lowest point of the underworld, the figure of Lucifer, the arch-demon. This takes place in the final scene of the Inferno, where Dante (who is both author and character in the story) is led by his guide Virgil to the center of the underworld. Dante (the author) uses the word Dis in the poem, an alternate name for Pluto, the god of the classical underworld, to refer to the giant, grotesque, brooding arch-emperor (“emperor of all these realms of gloom”).

In a dramatic passage, Dante (the character) is lead by his guide Virgil to a precipice where, for the first time in the narrative, he encounters the strange and dark atmosphere of the demonic:
To this place the lustful have been sent, all “those who make reason slave to appetite.”

The mass of bodies, blown back and forth by the wind, prompt a comparison to the swarming of birds:
We soon learn that this tempestuous scene is not the backdrop for some new genre of demons, but that the wind, the rain, and the storm itself is the demon. This “black wind” (aura nera) is at once invisible and yet dramatically manifest, coursing through the swarming bodies of the damned. One of the images from Doré’s illustrations depicts the well-known scene in which two of the spirits – Paolo and Francesca – emerge from the swarm of bodies to tell their tale of tragic love.

Dante the character, moved by the scene and their story, is overcome and faints next to Virgil, who is by his side. But what is equally interesting in the image is the way that Doré visually depicts the bodies of Paolo and Francesca: they barely stand out from the amorphous background of swarming spirits, which seem to recede back into infinity. Indeed, in certain areas the bodies appear to merge into the backdrop of the storm itself.

In this scene there is neither a fixed and majestic counter-sovereign, nor a roving gang of Faustian demons. There is only the strange, immanent, and fully distributed “life-force” of this black wind. The spirits of the Lustful in this circle dissolve into the elemental swarming of the storm and the wind. It is paradoxically the most manifest form of life (indeed, Dante the character faints before its force), and yet it is also the most empty (the demonic storm is not a discrete thing, much less a discrete body; it is everywhere but nowhere). Arguably, this last scene puts forth the most difficult view of the demon – not a transcendent, governing cause, and not an emanating, radiating flow – but a concept of the demonic that is fully immanent, and yet never fully present. This kind of demon is at once pure force and flow, but, not being a discrete thing in itself, it is also pure nothingness.

Generally speaking, the Inferno is of interest not simply due to the panoply of monsters that inhabit its pages, but because of the way in which it carefully stratifies different types of demonic being and non-being. Within the paths, rivers, caverns, and fortresses of the Inferno all boundaries collapse:

there are human bodies melting into dead trees, rivers flowing with blood, and entire cities populated with the living dead. The motif of possession in the Inferno demonstrates this: demonic possession is not just the possession of living beings, but includes the possession of the non-living as well. Demons possess not only humans and animals, but also the very landscape, the very terrain of the underworld. Demonic possession in the Inferno is not just teratological, but also geological and even climatological." [In the Dust of the Planet]

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PostSubject: Re: Horror Tue Aug 02, 2016 2:18 am

Geomantic shifts in the nature of thought.


Thacker wrote:
"Let us introduce a new terminology to talk about the ways in which the magic site – as opposed to the magic circle – creeps forth. The magic site manifests the hidden world revealed in two forms: as mists and ooze. Mists evoke many things – drizzling rain, a dense fog, or surreal clouds in the overcast sky. Natural formations like clouds or rain are, certainly, entities inscribed within the scientific study of atmospheric conditions. But the term “mists” may also refer to any inanimate entity that lies somewhere between the air and the ground. For instance, nephrology, the scientific study of clouds, considers clouds not only on the Earth but on any planet where conditions are conducive to cloud formation – indeed in interstellar space, where gravity fields may attract cosmic dust into nebulae. The ethereal nature of mists means that while they may appear solid and to have distinct forms, they are also immaterial, and can readily become formless.

The same applies to ooze. Again, the term “ooze” evokes more that which oozes than a discrete, static thing. What oozes can be slime, mud, oil, or pus. Ooze can ooze on the body, in the ground, in the sea or space. Slime, for instance, can be understood in a scientific scene (for instance in plant microbiology or prokaryotic biology), but slime is also something between a liquid and a solid. Ooze may also be metamorphic and shape-shifting, as with the organisms classed as myxomycota, which, during their life cycle, may alternately behave like plants, fungi, or amoeboid organisms. Despite their differences, mists and ooze are two examples of the ways in which the “hidden” world reveals itself, and often with strange and weird effects.
Mists and ooze populate many of our speculative fantasies about the end of the world.

Clearly there are no easy answers here. The “hiddenness of the world” is another name for the supernatural, exterior to its assimilation by either science or religion – that is, exterior to the worldfor-us. But these days we like to think that we are much too cynical, much too smart to buy into this – the supernatural no longer exists, is no longer possible…or at least not in the same way. In a sense, it is hard to escape the sense of living in a world that is not just a human world, but also a planet, a globe, a climate, an infosphere, an atmosphere, a weather pattern…a rift, a tectonic shift, a storm, a cataclysm. If the supernatural in a conventional sense is no longer possible, what remains after the “death of God” is an occulted, hidden world. Philosophically speaking, the enigma we face is how to confront this world, without immediately presuming that it is identical to the world-for-us (the world of science and religion), and without simply disparaging it as an irretrievable and inaccessible world-in-itself.

Thus the problem of non-Being is not simply that of a fear of nothingness or the vacuum. Rather, it is the quite gothic fear of a something whose thingness is under question. “This impersonal, anonymous, yet indistinguishable ‘consummation’ of being, which murmurs in the depths of nothingness itself we shall designate by the term there is…The rustling of the there is…is horror.”

The pinnacle of this type of horror – really a kind of concept-horror – is the evisceration of all noological interiority:
“horror turns the subjectivity of the subject, his particularity qua entity, inside out.”
What is the “there is” of Life? Is the concept of Life already a “there is,” and therefore already enveloped in the gothic horror of absolute otherness and anonymity? If “Life,” as opposed to “the living,” is always receding into the anonymous “there is,” does this then mean that Life is really Lifewithout- Being?

Granted, there is a certain absurdity in asking about the non-being of Life; one might as well inquire into non-existent creatures…which is, of course, precisely what the domain of supernatural horror does. Horror film is replete with examples of the horror of the “there is…” The titles of such films are telling: The Being, The Creature, The Entity, It’s Alive!, It Lives Again, Monster Zero, The Stuff, Them!, The Thing, and so on. Such films imagine the monster in a decidedly different way from the classical creature-feature films (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf-Man, The Mummy). In these films, the site of horror is not simply that of a physically threatening monster, for at least these can be given names (Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, Wolf-Man), and thereby included within the sphere of moral and theological law. This also means they can be destroyed. But what of the creature that cannot be named, or that is named in its unnamability? The unnamable creature is also the unthinkable creature.

This would be the B-horror version of Beckett’s L’innomable (The Unnameable). In some cases the unnamable creature is without form, the intrusion of a raging, inverted hylomorphism. Cold War films such as The Blob and Caltiki the Immortal Monster exist in a state of oozing, abject, borderlessness. In other cases the unnamable creature is without matter, existing as pure (demonic) spirit, an inverted theophany. In Fiend Without A Face, human beings are besieged by immaterial, brainstem-like entities, suggesting telepathy as a form of contagion.

The anthropological category of man, the psychological category of mind, and a general biology of the organism all presume a Being of Life. Where Heidegger leaves off, however, is at the question of whether Life is a species of Being, or whether the ontology of Life in effect transforms Life into Being. His last words on the topic are at once suggestive and opaque: “Life has its own kind of being, but it is essentially accessible only in Dasein.”

The infamous question “What is Life?” appears to always be eclipsed by the question of “What is Being?” And yet the very idea of Life-without-Being would seem to be an absurdity for philosophy…though, as we’ve seen, not for horror.

On the one hand we as human beings are the problem; on the other hand at the planetary level of the Earth’s deep time, nothing could be more insignificant than the human.

This is where mysticism again becomes relevant. But the differences between this contemporary mysticism and historical mysticism are all-important. If mysticism historically speaking aims for a total union of the division between self and world, then mysticism today would have to devolve upon the radical disjunction and indifference of self and world. If historical mysticism still had as its aim the subject’s experience, and as its highest principle that of God, then mysticism today – after the death of God – would be about the impossibility of experience, it would be about that which in shadows withdraws from any possible experience, and yet still makes its presence felt, through the periodic upheavals of weather, land, and matter. If historical mysticism is, in the last instance, theological, then mysticism today, a mysticism of the unhuman, would have to be, in the last instance, climatological. It is a kind of mysticism that can only be expressed in the dust of this planet." [In the Dust of this Planet]

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PostSubject: Re: Horror Wed Aug 03, 2016 6:19 am

"I Spite, therefore I Am."


Cioran wrote:
"Indefinite Horror

It is not the outbreak of a specific evil which reminds us of our fragility: there are vaguer but more troublesome warnings to signify our imminent excommunication from the temporal. The approach of disgust, of that sensation which physiologically separates us from the world, shows how destructible is the solidity of our instincts or the consistency of our attachments. In health, our flesh echoes the universal pulsation and our blood reproduces its cadence; in disgust, which lies in wait for us like a potential hell in order to suddenly seize upon us afterwards, we are as isolated in the whole as a monster imagined by some teratology of solitude.

The critical point of our vitality is not disease—which is struggle—but that indefinite horror which rejects everything and strips our desires of the power to procreate new mistakes. The senses lose their sap, the veins dry up, and the organs no longer perceive anything but the interval separating them from their own functions. Everything turns insipid: provender and dreams. No more aroma in matter and no more enigma in meditation; gastronomy and metaphysics both become victims of our want of appetite. We spend hours waiting for other hours, waiting for the moments which no longer flee time, the faithful moments which reinstate us in the mediocrity of health . . . and the amnesia of its dangers. Greed for space, unconscious covetousness of the future, health shows us how superficial the level of life is as such, and how incompatible organic equilibrium is with inner depth. The mind, in its range, proceeds from our compromised functions: it takes wing insofar as the void dilates within our organs. We are healthy only insofar as we are not specifically ourselves: it is our disgusts which individualize us; our melancholies which grant us a name; our losses which make us possessors of our . . . self. We are ourselves only by the sum of our failures." [A Short History of Decay]

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PostSubject: Re: Horror Thu Aug 04, 2016 2:48 am

Associated with Horror is the colour black, the colour of the unknown…

[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] gives a fabulous lecture on the forgotten history behind the colour…


Michael Pastoureau wrote:
"In the beginning was the night, the vast originary night, and it was by emerging from darkness that life took form. Greek mythology, for example, made Nyx, goddess of the night, the daughter of Chaos, the primordial void, and the mother of Uranus and Gaia, the sky and earth. Her dwelling place was a cave located far in the west; she withdrew there during the day before crossing the sky, clothed in black and mounted on a chariot drawn by four horses of the same color. In certain traditions the horses had black wings; in others Nyx’s dark appearance was so frightening she scared Zeus himself. In the archaic period, throughout Greece, entirely black ewes or female lambs were sacrificed to her. Beyond heaven and earth, Nyx, a chthonic divinity, gave birth to numerous entities, the list varying according to the source, but all of whom were more or less closely associated with the color black: sleep, dreams, anguish, secrets, discord, distress, old age, misfortune, and death. Some authors even present the Furies and the Fates, those mistresses of human destiny, as daughters of the night, as well as the strange Nemesis, a complex personification of divine vengeance, responsible for punishing crimes and all that could disrupt the orderly world. Her principal sanctuary was found in Rhamnonte, a small city in Attica where a giant statue of the goddess stood, carved in the fifth century B.C. by the great Phidias from a block of black marble.

The picture hardly changes if divine creation is replaced with the big bang and if it is moved from the theological to the astrophysical plane. Here as well darkness precedes light and a kind of “dark matter” passes for having been the first site of the expansion of the universe.2 At least that is true in a simplified version of the big-bang theory, which holds that the big bang was the explosion of an atom or a primitive mass. Of course now, after hardly having its hour of glory, that idea has been abandoned by most physicists; undoubtedly there never was a first moment. However, even if we admit that history has no beginning and that the universe is eternal and infinite, a primal image of a world made of darkness asserts itself nonetheless—that is to say, a world made of a material that absorbs all the electromagnetic energy it could receive: a world perfectly black, matrix on the one hand, terrifying on the other. A dual symbolism will accompany the color black throughout its history.

This originary black is also found in other mythologies, not only in Europe but also in Asia and Africa. It is often fertile and fecund, as the Egyptian black that symbolizes the silt deposited by the waters of the Nile, with its beneficial floods that are anticipated hopefully each year; it is the opposite of the sterile red of the desert sand. Elsewhere, fertile black is simply represented by big dark clouds, heavy with rain, ready to fall upon the earth to make it fruitful. In still other places it either graces the statuettes of the protohistorical mother-goddesses or adorns certain divinities associated with fertility (Cybele, Demeter, Ceres, Hecate, Isis, Kali); they may have dark skin, hold or receive black objects, and demand that animals of that color be sacrificed to them.

Fertile black leaves its marks until the middle of the Christian Middle Ages by means of the symbolic color system associated with the four elements. This system itself constitutes one of the most durable of legacies: fire is red, water is green, air is white, and earth is black. Endorsed by Aristotle in the fourth century B.C., this symbolic system was readopted by the great Latin encyclopedists of the thirteenth century, notably Bartholomew the Englishman.4 It was still appearing in books of emblems and iconology treatises printed at the end of the sixteenth century.5 This earthly black is a fertile black; it is often associated with the vital power of red, which can be either fire or blood. Neither color is negative or destructive in this case. On the contrary, these two colors constitute the sources of life, and their combination sometimes increases their value exponentially.

The fertile nature of primordial black also leaves its mark in the tripartite organization of many ancient and medieval societies: white is generally the color of priests; red the color of warriors; black the color of artisans. In early Rome the association of these three colors with the three social classes was particularly pronounced.6 But we also encounter it in many Greek works describing the ideal city.7 Later, at the height of the Middle Ages during the feudal period, it appears in chronicles and literary texts, sometimes in images: white for those who pray (oratores); red for those who fight (bellatores); black for those who work (laboratores).8 Clothing, furs, emblems, and attributes testify to this division, although obviously not systematically.9 Certain scholars have identified the social function of this color triad as Indo-European in origin.10 That seems credible, but simply considering black as it relates to production and fertility we may certainly go back even further.

Over the long term originary fecund black has consistently been associated with the symbolism of certain places, such as caves and all natural sites seemingly in contact with the bowels of the earth: caverns, grottos, chasms, underground passageways. Even though they are deprived of light, these are fertile crucibles, places of birth or metamorphosis, receptacles of energy and, by the same token, sacred spaces that must certainly have constituted the oldest sites for human worship. From the Paleolithic to the historical periods they sheltered nearly all religious and magic ceremonies. Subsequently, grottos and caves became the favorite birthplaces for gods and heroes, then places of refuge or metamorphosis; one went there to hide, to be restored, to perform some rite of passage. Later, perhaps under the influence of Nordic mythologies, forests took over the role of caves, but continued the tradition of making dark or private spaces sacred ground.

Nevertheless, as is always true with mythology and religion, the symbolism of such spaces is ambivalent and includes a powerful negative dimension. All obscure matrices are also places of suffering and misfortune, inhabited by monsters, confining prisoners, harboring all sorts of dangers, increasingly disturbing the darker they are. The most famous passage from Plato’s Republic—one of the great foundational texts of Western culture—presents such a cave, a place of pain and punishment where human souls are locked up and chained by the gods. On one wall they perceive a display of shadows symbolizing the deceptive world of appearances; they must break their chains and leave the cave to contemplate the true world, the world of Ideas, but they cannot do so. Far from being the source of life and energy, here darkness makes the cave into a prison, a place of punishment and torture, a sepulcher or veritable hell. Here black is deathly.

Since antiquity, the poets, in the image of Orpheus, have sung night’s praises, “mother of gods and of men, origin of all creation,” but ordinary mortals have long feared it. They have feared darkness and its dangers, creatures who live and lurk there, animals with dark fur or feathers, and night itself, the source of nightmares and perdition. There is no need to be an expert on archetypes to understand that these fears come from far, very far back—from periods when humans had not yet mastered fire or, in part, light.

We will never know what essential turning point the mastery of fire constituted in human history, approximately five hundred thousand years ago. It was the control of fire by Homo erectus that definitively distinguished human beings from animals. Subdued, domesticated, produced at will, fire not only allowed humans to warm themselves, to cook their food, and build their first altars, but also and most importantly to produce light. The immense fear of darkness began to retreat and with it the terror of night and dark or underground places. Blackness was no longer totally black.

Later, beginning in the Upper Paleolithic, when the uses of fire diversified, it even became possible to make artificial pigments by burning to a cinder plants or minerals. The oldest of these pigments was probably carbon black, obtained by the controlled combustion of various woods, barks, roots, shells, or pits.

For the blacks, manganese oxide tended to replace or supplement plant carbons. It was used abundantly, for example, at Lascaux (some fifteen thousand years ago) to paint most of the animals in the splendid and prolific bestiary, the star of which is the famous black bull. But carbon blacks did not disappear. Consider the excellently preserved cave paintings from a few millennia later in the Niaux (Ariège) grotto in the famous “black salon” located more than seven hundred meters from the entrance.

Over the course of the millennia, the palette of colors and number of pigments never stopped growing. Egyptian civilization produced a great number of them, and many were new. With regard to blacks, however, manganese oxide and especially the carbon blacks continued to occupy the primary position. Even ink, a recent invention, used a solution of carbon black or lampblack in water, with the addition of animal glue or gum arabic. The grays, practically unknown until then, made their appearance in Egypt, where they played an important part in funerary painting. They were obtained through mixing plant carbon and white lead.

Technology was less advanced with regard to dyes. Even though they appeared quite early, they did not generate actual activity until the Neolithic, when human populations became sedentary and developed textile production on a large scale. Dyeing required specialized expertise. The colorant materials derived from plants and animals were never usable as such. It was necessary to isolate them, remove their impurities, and make them react chemically. Then they had to penetrate the cloth fibers and be permanently fixed there. All these operations were long and complex. It was in the range of reds (madder, kermes, murex) that dyers were most successful early on, and that remained the case for many millennia. Dyeing in black, on the other hand, long remained an extremely difficult exercise, at least in the West.

Plant dyes held up poorly to the effects of the sun and washing or even to prolonged use. In some regions dyers learned early on to combine them with mud or silt rich in iron salts, which worked as a mordant. But that was not possible everywhere. In other places some dyers resorted to oak apple, a very expensive colorant material, extracted from a small spherical growth found on the leaves of certain oaks. Various insects lay their eggs on these leaves; after the eggs are laid, the sap of the tree exudes a material that gradually surrounds the larva and encloses it in a kind of shell; that is the oak gall, or oak apple. They had to be collected before summer, when the larva had not yet hatched, and then dried slowly. Thus they were rich in tannins and possessed remarkable colorant qualities in the black range. But their high price limited their use.

All these difficulties explain why for a very long time in Europe, from earliest antiquity to the late Middle Ages, the blacks produced by dyers were rarely beautiful, true blacks. Often more brown than black, indeed even gray or dark blue, they covered the fabric unevenly, were poorly fixed, and gave cloth and clothing a soiled, drab, displeasing look. Little prized, these black clothes were reserved for the lowest social classes, for dirty or degrading tasks, and for certain specific circumstances like mourning or penitence. Only the black of animal furs was valued, especially the sable fur, the most beautiful black to come from the animal kingdom." [Black: The History of a Colour]

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PostSubject: Re: Horror Thu Aug 04, 2016 2:50 am

Pastoureau wrote:
"In all domains, there was not one black, but many blacks. The struggle against darkness, the fear of night, and the quest for light gradually led prehistoric and then ancient peoples to distinguish degrees and qualities of dark, and having done so, to construct for themselves a relatively wide range of blacks. Painting provides early evidence of this. Beginning in the Paleolithic era, artists used many pigments to produce this color, and their number would increase over the course of the millennia. The result was an already well-diversified palette of black in the Roman period: matte blacks and glossy blacks, light blacks and dark blacks, intense blacks and delicate blacks, blacks tending toward gray, brown, and even blue. Painters, unlike dyers, knew how to employ them in subtle ways according to the materials involved, the techniques used, and the coloring effects desired.

But for black, as for all other colors except perhaps red, that vocabulary is unstable, imprecise, and elusive. It seems more closely related to the properties of materials and the value of coloring effects than to coloration itself. Emphasis is given first to the texture, density, brilliance, or luminosity of the color, and only afterward to its tonality. Moreover, the same term can serve to name several colors: for example, blue and black (kuanos in Greek; caeruleus in Latin) or even green and black (viridis in Latin); conversely, many words can be used to express the same nuance.

Latin clearly distinguishes two large groups: matte black (ater) and glossy black (niger). Therein lies black’s essential characteristic; while red (ruber) and green (viridis) are expressed by a single base term, as opposed to blue and yellow, which have no such term and are named through recourse to an uncertain, changing vocabulary—proof of the Romans’ lack of interest in these two colors?—black and white each benefit from two commonly used words, two terms with a solid base and semantic field rich enough to cover the whole chromatic and symbolic palette of these two colors: ater and niger for black; albus and candidus for white.

Ater, perhaps of Etruscan origin, long remained the most frequently used word for black in Latin. Relatively neutral at first, it became progressively specialized as the matte or dull shade of the color, and then, about the second century B.C., took on a negative connotation. It became the bad black, ugly, dirty, sad, even “atrocious” (this adjective has lost its chromatic meaning, retaining the affective meaning only). On the other hand, niger, its etymology unknown, was less commonly used than ater for a long time and at first possessed only the single meaning of “glossy black.” Subsequently it was used to characterize all blacks taken as a whole, notably the beautiful blacks in nature. At the beginning of the imperial period it had already become more common than ater and spawned a whole family of frequently used words: perniger (very black), subniger (blackish, purple), nigritia (blackness), denigrare (to blacken, to denigrate), and so on.

A similar duality for both black and white is found in the lexicon of ancient Germanic languages. It underlines the importance of these two colors for “barbarian” peoples and, as was true for the Romans, seems to affirm their preeminence (with red) over all other colors. Old High German distinguishes swarz (dull black) from blach (“luminous” black), and wiz (matte white) from blank (glossy white). Likewise, Old and Middle English oppose swart (dull black) to blaek (“luminous” black) and wite (matte white) to blank (glossy white). Over the course of the centuries the lexicon was reduced to a single word for each of the two colors: schwarz and weiss in German, black and white in English. This occurred slowly, following different rhythms depending upon the language. Luther, for example, knew only a single common word for black (schwarz), whereas a few decades later Shakespeare still used two words to name that color: black and swart. In the eighteenth century, swart, although an old term, was still used in certain counties in the north and west of England.

The lexicon of ancient Germanic languages teaches us not only that two terms existed for naming “black” and for naming “white,” but also that two of the four words used, one meaning black and one meaning white (blaek and blank), have a shared etymology found in a verb belonging to Proto-Germanic: *blik-an (to shine). Thus these two words express especially the brilliant aspect of the color, whether it is black or white. By the same token, they confirm what the vocabulary of other ancient languages (Hebrew, Greek, and even Latin) has already taught us: to name the color, the parameter of luminosity is more important than that of coloration. The lexicon seeks above all to say if the color is matte or glossy, light or dark, dense or thin, and only then to determine if it belongs to the range of whites, blacks, reds, greens, yellows, or blues. That is a phenomenon of language and sensibility of considerable importance, which the historian must constantly keep in mind when studying not only texts but also images and works of art left to us by antiquity. In the domain of colors the relationship to light takes precedence over everything else. That is why, even though black is the color of darkness, “luminous” blacks exist, that is to say, blacks that brighten before darkening, blacks that are more light than dark.

Over the centuries this awareness of light, so important to ancient European peoples, diminished, and with it the lexical palette of blacks and whites became impoverished. The languages that possessed two basic terms to name each of these colors retained only one of them. Old French, for example, abandoned the Latin word ater (although it was still attested in medieval Latin) and used only the single word in common use: noir (neir), from the Latin niger. By the same token, the word became extremely rich and took on the whole symbolic range of the color (sad, grievous, ugly, hideous, cruel, evil, diabolic, and so on). But to express the nuances of chromatic quality or intensity (matte, glossy, dense, saturated, and so on) it was necessary to resort to comparisons: black as pitch, black as blackberry, black as a crow, black as ink. Modern French does the same thing but to a lesser degree, because modern sensibilities are less attentive to the various shades of black. It is as if the fact of no longer being considered a true color, beginning from the fifteenth or sixteenth century, had deprived black of a portion of its nuances.

As of the earth and the underground world, black is also the color of death. From the Neolithic, black stones were associated with funeral rites, sometimes accompanied with statuettes and objects very dark in color. The same is true in the historical periods throughout the Near East and in pharaonic Egypt. Yet this chthonic black is neither diabolical nor harmful. On the contrary, it is linked to the fertile aspect of the earth; for the dead, whose passage to the beyond it ensures, it is a beneficial black, the sign or promise of rebirth. That is why among the Egyptians the divinities related to death were nearly always painted black, like Anubis, the jackal-god who accompanies the dead to the tomb; Anubis is the embalmer-god and his flesh is black. Similarly, the deified kings and queens, ancestors of the pharaoh, were generally represented with black skin, a color that was not the least bit depreciatory. In Egypt the negative, suspect color was red rather than black: not the admirable red of the solar disc as it rose or set, but the red of the forces of evil and the god Seth, murderer of his son Osiris and a great destructive force.

In the underground world everything is black and frozen. The Greek Hades is nearly archetypal, at least for the Hellenistic period. Located in the depths of the earth, near the realm of Night, it is a multifaceted place where all souls find themselves after death. Many rivers separate it from the world of the living, notably the Acheron with its black, muddy waters. For an obol, Charon, a very ugly old man dressed in rags and wearing a round hat, helps souls across it in his funeral boat. But on the other side awaits Cerberus, a monstrous dog endowed with three heads branching from a neck bristling with serpents. He is the guardian of hell, a terrifying guardian with dark fur, sharp teeth, and venomous saliva. Behind the enormous door sits the tribunal before which the souls appear one by one. According to the life that each has led on earth, the souls are sent to the right, toward the luminous dwelling place of the just, or to the left, toward the dark world of the condemned, where punishments depend upon the gravity of the offenses. The most serious ones lead to Tartarus, the deepest, darkest region of hell, riddled with sulfur lakes and burning pitch. It is the prison of the deposed divinities (the Giants, the Titans) and criminals condemned to eternal punishment (Tantalus, Sisyphus, the Danaids). At the center, behind a triple wall, is the palace of Hades, god of the underworld, seated on an ebony throne. Brother of Zeus, his attribute is a serpent, emblem of the underground world that he never leaves. His wife Persephone, on the other hand, lives with him only half the year, spending the other half on earth and in the heavens.

This representation of the Greek hell unfolded gradually. The oldest authors gave it a different topography. Homer, for example, located hell at the ends of the earth, beyond the river Oceanus, where night and fog reign permanently. Hesiod placed it halfway between the celestial dome and Tartarus, in a dark, ill-defined zone beyond the land of the Cimmerians where the sun never appears. Still others made it the underground country of shadows, where earth and sea thrust their roots; a triple wall surrounds this place of darkness, realm of Erebus, son of Chaos and brother of Night. All insist on the color black for the dwelling place of the dead.

The Roman hell hardly differs from the Greek one, and black remains the color of death. From the beginning of the Republic, black was present in various forms (objects, offerings, paintings) in Roman funeral rites. Then, beginning in the second century B.C., the magistrates participating in funerals began to wear it: a dark-colored toga praetexta (praetextam pullam). This was the beginning of mourning clothes in Europe—clearly a limited beginning, but it marked the start of a custom that would continue to expand socially and geographically until the modern period. Already under the empire, Roman high society imitated the magistrates, and relatives of the deceased appeared in black clothing, not only at the funerals but also for a more or less extended length of time afterward. The period of mourning ended with a banquet at which the participants no longer dressed in black but in white.

In actuality, Roman mourning clothes were more dark than black; for textiles, the adjective pullus, used to characterize them, generally refers to a dark, drab wool, its color somewhere between gray and brown. A few authors have sometimes made it synonymous with ater, but the toga pulla of funerals was probably closer to an ash gray than to a true black. Nevertheless, true black remained the symbolic color most often associated with death, which was itself sometimes evoked in poetry by the figurative expression hora nigra, the black hour.

In imperial Rome, the color black thus seems to have lost the beneficial aspect (fertility, fecundity, divinity) that it possessed in the East and the Middle East, in Egypt, and even in archaic Greece. The two adjectives that designate it, ater and niger, are laden with many pejorative figurative meanings: dirty, sad, gloomy, malevolent, deceitful, cruel, harmful, deathly. In the past it had been possible to take only ater in a bad sense; henceforth, that was equally true for niger. Many authors go so far as to relate niger to the large family of the verb nocere, to harm. Like night (nox), black (niger) is harmful (noxius): admirable proof provided by the words themselves, which the authors of the Christian Middle Ages would use again to evoke sin and construct a negative symbolism for the color." [Black]


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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*


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PostSubject: Re: Horror Thu Aug 04, 2016 2:54 am

Pastoureau wrote:
"Like the Greco-Roman pantheon, the German and Scandinavian one includes a divinity of the night: Nott, daughter of the giant Norvi. Dressed in black, she crosses the sky in a chariot drawn by a horse of the same color, the swift but capricious Hrimfaxi. Neither of them is consistently evil, unlike the formidable Hel, goddess of the realm of the dead, daughter of Loki, the evil god, and sister of the wolf Fenrir and the serpent Midgardr. Her appearance is ghastly—not only are her features hideous and her hair a disheveled tangle, but her skin is two-tone: black on one side, “pallid” (blass) on the other. This makes her more disturbing than if she were entirely black or even black and white, which would be a simple sign of ambivalence. No, this is a matter of a far more sinister combination. Black is coupled with the pallor so feared by the Germans; it precedes the fog, accompanies ghosts, and shrouds evil spirits. Bearing the color of darkness on one side and phantoms on the other, Hel seems doubly associated with death. Her brother, the monstrous wolf Fenrir, who will mortally wound Odin and play a decisive role in the demise of the gods, is almost less frightening because he generally appears all gray.

For the Germans black is not the worst of the colors. What is more, there is black and then there is black, as the vocabulary mentioned earlier makes clear. One is matte and dull, always disturbing, often deathly (swart); the other is intense and fertile, so brilliant that it seems to light the darkness and allow one to see in the night (blaek). This “luminous” black, a tool of knowledge, finds its most striking manifestation in the plumage of a bird that observes the world and knows the destiny of men, a bird that knows all: the crow.

In antiquity, for all the peoples of the Northern Hemisphere, the crow was the blackest living creature that could be encountered. Like black itself, it could be taken for good or for evil. Among the Germans it was entirely positive; this bird was simultaneously divine, warlike, and omniscient. Odin, the principal divinity of the Nordic pantheon, is old and one-eyed, but his two crows, Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory), travel the world in his place, observing and listening then reporting to him what they have seen and heard. Thanks to them, Odin knows everything, controls the future, and decides the fate of mortals. He is quick to change into crows those who have displeased him or even to take on the appearance of a crow  himself to torment them or put them to death.

God of knowledge and magic, master of life and death, Odin is also the god of war. That is why German warriors sought to win his favor by bearing the image of his principal attribute into battle: a black crow believed to have protective powers. The bird appeared on helmets, belt buckles, ensigns and banners, sometimes assuming the role of a personal insignia, sometime of a group emblem. Archaeology provides various proofs of this, and the sagas highlight the confidence placed in that tutelary bird by recounting how the imitation of its cry constituted the war cry itself for Scandinavian warriors.

In times of peace it was an immaculate white, but in times of war a black crow appeared on it, flapping its wings and shifting its feet, pecking and letting out appalling cries.

Anthroponymy also attests to this worship of crows among the Germans. Nevertheless, more significant than names were rituals performed by pagan warriors in the Saxon or Thuringian forests that frightened the Christian missionaries: animal sacrifices, worship of animal idols, the custom of placing animal bones in tombs to accompany the dead on their last journey, and, especially, before leaving for battle, ritual banquets that consisted of drinking the blood of wild animals and eating their flesh in order to take on their powers and be assured of their protection. It was most often a matter of the bear and the wild boar. But sometimes it was also the crow—the raven was a formidable warrior—and this left the missionaries perplexed. For the Bible and the church fathers, the crow was an impure bird because it ate carrion and was diabolical because it was covered with entirely black plumage; its flesh was not to be consumed, much less its blood. But early on some missionaries understood that it was impossible, at least at first, to deny everything to pagan peoples only recently or not yet converted to Christianity. In addition to forbidding the worship of trees, springs, and rocks, was it also necessary to impose upon them food restrictions? And, if so, which ones? As early as 751, Saint Boniface, archbishop of Mainz, “apostle” of Germany and then of Friesland, wrote to Pope Zachary on this matter. He offered him a list of wild animals not eaten by Christians but which the Germans were accustomed to consuming, devouring the flesh after the animal was ritually sacrificed. The list was long; all of them could not be forbidden. That was why Boniface asked the pope which animals it was most important to ban. Zachary answered him that it was necessary to ban first the crows, the ravens, the storks, the wild horses, and the hares. The crow, sacred bird of the Germans, pagan animal par excellence, was cited first; it had to be absolutely forbidden, and the raven, its cousin, with it. A Christian did not eat black birds.

Nevertheless, if the church fathers and the evangelist prelates assigned the crow to the devil’s bestiary, it was not only because of its natural plumage, the color of death. They also looked to the Bible, which nearly always presents the crow in a bad light. That begins very early, as early as Genesis, with the account of the Flood. After forty days on the water, Noah asked the crow to leave the ark to go see if the floods were receding. The bird flew off, saw that the waters were receding, but instead of reporting the information to Noah it lingered to eat cadavers.41 Not seeing it return, Noah cursed it and let the dove take its place; the dove returned to the ark twice, carrying in its beak an olive branch, a sign of the retreating waters.42 Thus, from the beginning of humanity, the crow—the first bird named in the Bible, and the second animal after the serpent—appeared as a negative creature, a carrion eater, an enemy of God. It would remain thus throughout the Old Testament, living in the ruins, devouring cadavers and pecking out the eyes of sinners.43 The dove, on the other hand, is obedient and peaceful. Each of the two birds transmits to its color the symbolism it possesses in the story of the ark: white is pure and virtuous, the sign of life and hope; black is dirty and corrupt, the sign of sin and death. Just a few verses after the account of Creation, which opposes light to darkness, the symbolism of white and black is thus found to be fully confirmed. That will not change, either for the Bible or for early Christianity: white is positive and black is negative.

Here we witness a clear departure from most other ancient cultures with regard to the symbolism of these two colors. Not only is the opposition between black and white not always so well defined—this has nothing to do with an archetype, as some would like to believe—but, as we have seen, each of these two colors can be regarded in a good or bad light.44 The crow itself is regarded with ambivalence among the Greeks and Romans and very positively among the Celts and Germans.  

Greek mythology relates how Apollo's favourite bird, the raven, was originally as white as the goose or swan, but an ill-advised denouncement led to its ruin and made the bird black. Apollo, in fact, was in love with the beautiful Coronis, a mortal with whom he conceived Asclepius. One day before leaving for Delphi, the god charged the raven to keep watch over the young maiden in his absence. The bird saw her going to a beach to meet her lover, the handsome Ischys. Despite entreaties from the crow, who advised it wisely to say nothing, the raven hurried off to report everything to Apollo. Furious, the god killed Coronis. Then, repenting of having listened to the informer raven, he cursed it and decided to exclude it from the family of white birds; henceforth and for eternity its feathers would be black.

Christians had another reason for considering the crow a diabolical bird: its leading role in divinatory practices. Nearly all ancient peoples observed the flight of crows, studied their speed, direction, wing beats, determined the exact color of their feathers, examined their movement on the ground, listened to, counted, and evaluated their cries in order to learn the will of the gods.46 Of course ancient divination appealed to other birds as well, but the crow took precedence over all others, especially among the Romans and Germans, who saw it as the most intelligent of all birds. Pliny even maintained that it was the only one that understood the meaning of the omens it bore. Its black color did not at all compromise its discernment—quite the contrary. Moreover, the crow’s intelligence, noted by all the Greek and Roman authors, is confirmed by today’s knowledge. Many experiments done in recent years have confirmed that the raven (and also the crow) is not only the most intelligent of all birds but undoubtedly also the most intelligent of all animals. In many areas their intellectual capacities are comparable to those of the big apes.

Perhaps the crow, admired by the Romans, revered by the Germans—the living, positive image of the color black—was too clairvoyant for medieval Christianity?

For early Christian theology white and black formed a pair of opposites and often represented the colored expression of Good and Evil. Such an opposition relied on Genesis (light/darkness), but also on sensibilities aligned with nature (day/night, for example). The church fathers and their successors provided commentary and developed it further. In practice, however, exceptions did exist. Not that the symbolic code could actually be reversed—Christianity had no notion of a negative white—but black, considered alone, could be seen positively in certain cases and could express some virtue. Monastic dress provides an old and enduring example. From the late Carolingian period the black scorned by the first Christians tended to become the standard color for monks living according to the Rule of Saint Benedict—which nevertheless recommended disinterest in the color of one’s habit. This Benedictine black, destined for a long future, was neither demeaning nor diabolical. On the contrary, it was a sign of humility and temperance, two essential monastic virtues.

It was more common, however, for black to be a sign of affliction or penitence, for example, in the case of the liturgy. In earliest Christian times, the officiant celebrated the worship service in his ordinary clothes, which resulted in a certain uniformity throughout Christendom, and also a predominance of white or undyed clothing. Then, gradually, white seemed to become reserved for Easter and the most solemn holidays in the liturgical calendar. Saint Jerome, Gregory the Great, and other church fathers agreed upon making white the color endowed with the greatest dignity.

This system can be summarized thusly: white, the symbol of purity, was used for all celebrations of Christ as well as for those of the angels, virgins, and confessors; red, which recalls the blood spilled by and for Christ, was used for celebrations of the apostles and the martyrs, the cross, and the Holy Spirit, notably Pentecost; as for black, it was used for times of waiting and penitence (Advent, Lent), as well as for the masses for the dead and for Holy Friday.

In literary texts, where remarks on color are otherwise rare, the presence of white, red, and black is even more pronounced. They often serve to distinguish three individuals—for example, three brothers—recalling the three-tier system mentioned earlier: the priestly class (white), the warrior class (red), the artisan class (black).54 In tales and fables, this same triad governs the color system, though responding to different stakes. Let us consider the example of Little Red Riding Hood, the oldest written version of which was attested in the area of Liège at the beginning of the eleventh century, though it was no doubt preceded by a long oral tradition.

“Why red?” many readers of the tale have wondered. A little girl dressed in red carries a white object (the jar of butter) and encounters a black wolf. Again we find our color triad, as we may find it in other tales and many old fables.56 In The Crow and the Fox, for example, a black bird drops a white cheese, which is seized by a red fox. The arrangement of colors is different, but the story unfolds around the same three chromatic poles: white, red, black

Thus during the high Middle Ages two systems seem to have coexisted for constructing the symbolic color base: a white/black axis, inherited from the Bible and earliest Christian times; and a white-red-black triad, coming from other older or more distant sources. That triad can itself be broken down into three axes: white/black, white/red, and red/black, and thus adapted more easily to the objects or areas in question. The history of the game of chess is a relevant example.


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Originating in northern India, probably in the early sixth century A.D., the game spread in two directions: toward Persia and toward China. It was in Persia that it definitively acquired the principal characteristics it still possesses today. When the Arabs took over Iran in the seventh century they discovered the game, delighted in it, and exported it to the West. It found its way to Europe in about the year 1000, by the Mediterranean route (Spain, Sicily) as well as the northern one: Viking merchants trading in the North Sea introduced it early to northern Europe. But to spread throughout Christendom the game had to undergo a certain number of transformations. The first of them concerned colors. We should pause to consider this change.

In the original Indian game, and then in the Arabic-Muslim version, black pieces and red pieces opposed each other on the chessboard—as is still the case today in the East. These two colors formed a pair of opposites in Asia from time immemorial. But in Christian Europe that black/red opposition, so striking in India and Islamic lands, had little significance. The European symbolic color system was totally oblivious to it. Thus, over the course of the eleventh century the color of one set of pieces changed to provide an opposition conforming more to Western values, and white pieces faced red pieces on the chessboard. In fact, for the secular world in the feudal period white and red represented a more powerful contrast than white and black, more significant in the religious domain. For two or three centuries white and red pieces thus appeared on European chessboards, the squares of which themselves were these two colors. Then another change occurred beginning in the mid- thirteenth century; slowly, first for the chessboard and then for the pieces, the black/red opposition changed to a white/black opposition, which has lasted until the present day.

Thus, in the West, in about the year 1000, black and white did not always represent a pair of contrasting colors. In the cultural world white possessed a second opposite, red, which was sometimes more powerful than black in this role. And in the natural world combinations or contrasts of black and white were rare. Only a few animals and plants combined these colors, in the image of the magpie, an ambiguous bird presented in the aviaries and bestiaries as gossip and thief, the symbol of lying and deception. It shared this role with the swan, supposedly hiding black flesh under its white plumage. At the height of the Middle Ages it was not good to be black and white.

At the beginning of the thirteenth century, when the system of the seven deadly sins became firmly established, each began to be associated with a special color: pride and lust with red, envy with yellow, gluttony with green, sloth with white, and anger and avarice with black." [Black]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*


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PostSubject: Re: Horror Thu Aug 04, 2016 2:54 am

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Pastoureau wrote:
"In Ancient Greek 'devil' characterized any individual who inspired hatred, confusion, or jealousy and, by extension, a deceiver or slanderer. Moreover, it is from Greek iconography of the satyr (a kind of rustic spirit, companion to Dionysus, with hairy ears, a faun’s horns, the hooves and tail of a goat) that Christian art borrowed the first features of the devil, before granting him a pair of wings (he was a fallen angel, after all) and then exaggerating his animal characteristics.

There is a long list of animals Satan liked to be incarnated as or that served as his attributes or constituted his court. It included real animals like the bear, goat, wild boar, wolf, cat, crow, and owl, among many others, but also hybrid or imaginary animals like the asp, basilisk, dragon, and bat (in medieval zoology the bat is both rat and bird), or again, half- human monsters like satyrs, centaurs, and sirens. They were all in one way or another animals scorned or condemned by medieval culture. Moreover, we can observe that this abundant bestiary was dominated by animals with dark coats or plumage or by nocturnal animals; in both cases these were creatures that maintained privileged relationships with the color black. They were diabolical because their hair or feathers were black or because they lived in the darkness.

Venerated by the Celts and Germans, the wild boar became a diabolical animal for medieval Christianity. Its dark coat, raised bristles, hornlike tusks, and frothing rage made it an infernal creature. Treatises on hunting happily set forth ten properties of the wild boar that were similar to the ten commandments of the devil.
This animal’s courage, praised by the Roman poets, became a kind of blind, destructive violence. Its nocturnal habits, its dark or black fur, its eyes and tusks that seemed to shoot sparks made it a creature emerging directly from the depths of hell to defy God and torment men. The wild boar was ugly, it drooled, it smelled bad, it was noisy, its hair stood on end, its bristles were striped, and it had “horns in its mouth.” Clearly it was in every detail an incarnation of Satan.

Artists paid particular attention to the treatment of bodily surfaces. Whoever takes the trouble to look closely will discover their meticulous efforts to express the flaws, diseases, and disturbing qualities of the skin, fur, feathers, and scales on Satan and his companions. To do this artists played with the contrasts between the uniform and the striped, the flecked and the spotted, the different structures of frames or partitioning. The smooth and uniform were relatively rare and appeared in contrast to all the worked surfaces. The stripe was the usual contrast to the uniform; it always connoted something improper, dubious, or dangerous. A related case is the one of partitioned structures (checks, diamonds, spindles, or scales); they established a rhythm and, reinforced by the play of colors, succeeded in creating more or less disagreeable impressions. Typical in this regard was the method of rendering the idea of the viscous, so common in the world of dragons and serpents. Viscosity was conveyed by undulating lines, delineating partitions arranged into scales, and various shades of green were applied, especially desaturated greens, as wetness was always closely related to the lack of density or opacity for the medieval eye. Desaturating a color, notably green or black, was a way of making it wetter. The case of the spotted was different; it expressed an idea of disorder, irregularity, and impurity. In the diabolical universe it served to render the idea of pilosity (with irregular tufts) and, better still, pustules or skin disease. Whatever was spotted was related to scrofula, leprosy, the bubonic plague. In a society where skin diseases were both more common and more serious, as well as more feared, spots represented absolute degeneration, banishment from the social order, and death’s door, especially when the spots were red, brown, or black.

Medieval treatises on hunting distinguish the “red” beasts (stag, fallow deer, roe deer) from the “black” beasts (wild boar, wolf, bear, fox). More than the color of their fur, it was their habits that earned them these epithets. The first were gentle, nonaggressive herbivores, the second fierce, “foul-smelling,” diabolical carnivores.

The cat was less prominent, but it was not yet the domestic animal that by the end of the Middle Ages would come home to curl up by the fire. It was a cunning, mysterious creature, treacherous and unpredictable; it prowled around the house or monastery, was nocturnal, and often had black or striped fur. It prompted fear, especially when it was totally wild, as did the wolf, fox, and owl, other nocturnal creatures, and attributes of the devil. For catching rats or mice in the feudal period, the weasel, which had been more or less domesticated since Roman times, was preferred to the cat and would remain so until the fourteenth century." [Black]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*


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PostSubject: Re: Horror Thu Aug 04, 2016 2:56 am

Pastoureau wrote:
"The Black Mantle of the Virgin

Mary was not always dressed in blue. In images, until the twelfth century, the palette for her clothing was relatively varied but almost always dark, because she wore mourning for her son: black, gray, brown, purple, dark blue. In Spain, black dominated, and in the Gothic period, blue was slower to triumph there than elsewhere.

For Bernard color was material before being light. Thus the problem was not so much one of coloration (moreover, when he speaks of color, Bernard only rarely uses terms of coloration: red, yellow, green . . . ) as one of density and opacity. Not only was color too rich, not only was it impure, not only did it constitute a vanity (vanitas), but it was related to thickness and obscurity. In this regard Bernard’s vocabulary is particularly instructive. The word color was not associated with ideas of clarity and brightness there; rather, color was sometimes characterized as “cloudy” (turbidus), “saturated” (spissus), and even “muffled"

(surdus). It did not brighten but obscured; it was suffocating, diabolical. Thus the beautiful, the bright, the divine, all three emerging beyond opacity, had to be diverted from color and, more importantly, from colors.

Bernard actually felt a true aversion for polychromy. If the Cistercian monks sometimes tolerated a certain monochromatic harmony, perhaps built around one color, Saint Bernard himself rejected everything related to the “variety of colors” (varietas colorum), like multicolored stained glass, polychromatic illumination, silver and gold works, and glistening gems. He detested all that sparkled or shone, in particular gold, which was an abomination to him. For Bernard—and in this he differed from most men of the Middle Ages—light was not brilliant. This resulted in his very idiosyncratic way of apprehending the various properties of color, as compared to his contemporaries. It also resulted in his unusual (and modern from certain perspectives) association of lightness with desaturation, indeed even with transparency. For him color was always thick and dark. So much so that, far from admiring black, he shunned it and condemned it as the worst of colors. His quarrel over monastic habits with Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny, lasted for years and gave him the opportunity to declare his hatred for black.

Over time, however, monks became more and more closely associated with the color black. Beginning in the ninth century that color—the color of humility and penitence—became the monastic color par excellence. Even if in everyday reality the actual fabric was never truly black, and perhaps sometimes even blue, brown, or gray (easier to obtain in dyeing) or dyed a so-called natural color (color nativus), the texts spoke more and more frequently of “monks’ black” (monachi nigri). That custom was definitively established in the tenth and eleventh centuries during the expansion of the Cluniac empire, when the number of monks living under the Rule of Saint Benedict grew considerably. Negative proof is provided, moreover, by all the movements with hermetic tendencies that developed in the eleventh century; as an ideological reaction against the luxury of Cluny these movements sought to readopt original dress, poverty, and simplicity. In terms of color that translated into a sustained quest for coarse wool fabric; it might be left with its own suint and natural color, it might be mixed with goat hair (Carthusians), or it might be simply bleached in the fields by the morning dew (Camaldoles).

The display of this desire to return to the austerity of the first anchorites also involved a turning away from color, useless artifice that the monk had to forgo. It may also have involved a desire to shock; the boundary separating wool from animality was permeable. In fact, in the eleventh century, these separatist monastic movements for the most part bordered on heresy, which, in the Middle Ages, was often expressed through dress. Many of them rejected black and white because they claimed John the Baptist as their inspiration, often represented as a wild man simply dressed in a bit of poor cloth made of a mixture of goat and camel hair.

The Cistercian order grew out of this chromophobic trend. Founded at the very end of the eleventh century, this new order soon reacted against Cluniac black and sought to return to the sources of early monastic life. In matters of dyes and color, it also wanted to reclaim the essential principles of the Rule of Saint Benedict: to use only common, inexpensive cloth made of undyed wool, spun and woven by the monks themselves within the monastery. Now undyed wool meant a color tending toward gray. Like others, the first Cistercian monks were thus characterized as “gray monks” (monachi grisaei).

When and how did they pass from gray to white, that is, from the absence of color to a true color? It is impossible to know because the gaps in documentation are so great. It may have been as early as the abbacy of Saint Albéric (1099–1109), or perhaps at the beginning of the time of Étienne Harding (1109–33), perhaps even at Clairvaux (founded in 1115) before Cîteaux. For what reasons? To distinguish the choir monks from the simple lay monks? Academic honesty requires us to acknowledge that we know nothing. It is certain, on the other hand, that the violent controversy opposing the Cluniacs to the Cistercians for two decades (1124–46) with regard to the luxury of churches and the color of habits contributed to definitively making the Cistercians the white monks. It is worth pausing to examine this controversy because it constitutes an important time not only for monastic history but also for the history of colors.

It was Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny, who first opened hostilities beginning in 1124. In a famous letter addressed to Bernard, abbot of Clairvaux, he publicly questioned him, characterizing him ironically as the “white monk” (o albe monache . . . ) and reproaching him for the excessive pride this choice of color represented: “White is the color for holidays, the glory and the resurrection,” whereas the traditional black of monks living according to the Benedictine rule “is the color of humility and renouncement.” How could the Cistercians be so proud as to display themselves in white, even in “gleaming” white (monachi candidi), while all the other monks humbly wore black? Such pride! Such indecency! Such scorn for traditions! Saint Bernard responded to him just as violently. He reminded him that black was the color of the devil and hell, the color “of death and sin,” whereas white was the color “of purity, innocence, and all the virtues.” The quarrel was rekindled many times and turned into a veritable dogmatic and chromatic confrontation between black monks and white monks, with each letter exchanged constituting a veritable treatise on what the true monastic life ought to be. Despite many attempts at appeasement, the controversy lasted until 1145–46.

Thus, in just two decades, just as the Cluniacs were long symbolized by black, so the Cistercians would find themselves— permanently—symbolized by white. Subsequently, that color would give rise to various legends retroactively explaining its miraculous origins. One of the longest standing explanations, but documented only beginning in the fifteenth century (possibly earlier), recounts how the Virgin, appearing to Saint Albéric in the 1100s, charged him to adopt the white habit, the virginal color, as a symbol of the purity of the order. Actually, it is likely that, as for Cluniac black, the white of the Cistercian robe remained for a long time a symbolic ideal rather than a material reality. Until the eighteenth century, producing a true white was a difficult exercise. It was only just possible for linen and even then involved a complex operation. For wool, one often had to be content with shades naturally bleached in the fields through the combination of the oxygenated water of the morning dew and sun. But the process was slow and long, required much space, and was impossible in winter. Moreover, the white obtained in that way did not remain white but turned grayish brown, yellow, or ecru over time. By the same token medieval societies did not know how to bleach with chlorine. It was unusual to be dressed in an absolutely white white. The tinctorial use of certain plants (saponins), washes with an ash base, or even clays and minerals (magnesium, chalk, ceruse) gave grayish, greenish, or bluish highlights to various whites, reducing in part their brightness.

That was not the essential thing, however. The most remarkable aspect of the epistolary conflict between Peter the Venerable and Saint Bernard in the first half of the twelfth century resides in this new symbolization of monks by color and by habit. Henceforth each monastic order had its own color and proclaimed itself the champion of the color it wore. The history of Cluny versus Cîteaux was the history of black versus white, a relatively obscure pair of opposites until then—in many areas, as we have seen, the true opposite of white was red, not black—but which would now assert itself. Henceforth colors took on an emblematic dimension that they hardly possessed until that time, at least in clothing. Heraldry was no longer very far off; it developed two decades later and began to alter all the color systems profoundly." [Black]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*


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PostSubject: Re: Horror Thu Aug 04, 2016 2:56 am

Pastoureau wrote:
"Unlike the figures, for which the repertoire was open, colors only existed in a limited number (six in regular use in the Middle Ages) and were called by specific names in the language of French heraldry: or (yellow), argent (white), gueules (red), azur (blue), sable (black), and sinople (green). We should note that the colors represented here have remained the six basic colors of Western culture since the Middle Ages.

These heraldic colors were absolute, abstract, and nearly immaterial; their shades had no significance. For example, gueules could be light, dark, matte, or glossy and could tend toward pink or orange. None of that mattered; what counted was the idea of red and not the chromatic, material representation of that color. The same was true for azur, sable, and sinople, and even for or and argent, which could be conveyed by yellow and white (as was most often the case) or by gold and silver. In the coats of arms of the king of France, for example, azur semé de fleurs de lis d’or, the azur could be sky blue, medium blue, or ultramarine, and the fleurs de lis d’or could be lemon yellow, orange yellow, or gilded; that had no importance or meaning. The artist was free to convey that azur and or as he understood them, according to the media in which he worked, the techniques he used, and the aesthetic concerns that occupied him. Over the course of time the same coat of arms could thus be represented in very different shades.

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But there was more. Heraldry did not, in fact, use these six colors without restriction. It divided them into two groups: in the first group it placed white and yellow; in the second group, red, black, blue, and green. The fundamental rule of color use forbade juxtaposing or superimposing (except with regard to small details) two colors that belonged to the same group. Let us take the case of a shield for which the figure was a lion. If the field of this shield was black (de sable), the lion could be white (d’argent) or yellow (d’or), but it could not be blue (d’azur), red (de gueules), or green (de sinople) because blue, red, and green belonged to the same group as black. Conversely, if the field of the shield was white, the lion could be black, blue, red, or green, but not yellow. This fundamental rule existed from the beginning of heraldry and was always respected everywhere (the infractions rarely exceed 1 percent of examples in a given group of coats of arms). It may have been borrowed from vexillary banners and ensigns—which had considerable influence on the first coats of arms—and initially may have been linked to questions of visibility. The first coats of arms, all bicolored, were actually visual signs made to be seen from a distance. But these questions of visibility are not enough to explain the deeper reasons for the rule, no earlier trace of which can be found. Probably it was also related to the rich color symbolism of the feudal period, a symbolic system then undergoing massive change. To a new society—the one establishing itself in the West just following the year 1000—corresponded a new order of color: white, red, and black were no longer the three basic colors, as they had been throughout antiquity and the high Middle Ages. Henceforth, blue, green, and yellow were promoted to their ranks, in social life and in all the social codes related to it.

The emperor of the Holy Germanic Roman Empire displayed a huge, entirely black eagle (d’or à l’aigle de sable), first on his banner and then on his coats of arms from the middle of the twelfth century on. For a long time this eagle had only one head, before becoming two-headed at the beginning of the fifteenth century. The black of the imperial eagle not only had nothing diabolical or evil about it, but it also conferred upon the king of birds a power and incomparable potency that neither the white eagle of the Polish kings nor the red eagle of the Brandenburg margraves and Tyrolean counts, nor even the two-headed golden eagle of the Byzantium emperors possessed

Beautiful black textiles began to be called sobelins or sabelins as early as the 1200s; but the heraldic use of the word sable in place of the word noir (black) had to wait for the second half of the century.

In this area of heraldic literature, a narrative motif recurring in many Arthurian romances from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, in verse as in prose, proves to be particularly instructive for the symbolism of color: during the course of the story, the sudden appearance of an unknown knight bearing a monochromatic coat of arms—plaines in Old French. In general, this knight appears on the occasion of a tournament, or else he rises up in the path of the hero, challenges him, and leads him to new adventures. This episode was often a delaying device; by means of the color he assigned to the unknown knight the author could suggest to readers what the knight was about to do and let them guess what would happen next. The color code was recurrent and meaningful. A black knight was almost always a character of primary importance (Tristan, Lancelot, Gawain) who wanted to hide his identity; he was generally motivated by good intentions and prepared to demonstrate his valor, especially by jousting or tournament. A red knight, on the other hand, was often hostile to the hero; this was a perfidious or evil knight, sometimes the devil’s envoy or a mysterious being from the Other World. Less prominent, a white knight was generally viewed as good; this was an older figure, a friend or protector of the hero, to whom he gave wise council. Conversely, a green knight was a young knight, recently dubbed, whose audacious or insolent behavior was going to cause great disorder; he could be good or bad. Finally, yellow or gold knights were rare and blue knights nonexistent.

What is striking in this literary chromatic code, aside from the total absence of blue knights, is the abundance of black knights. These were heroes of primary importance who, for one reason or another, and for greater or lesser lengths of time, were anxious to hide their identities. Their helmets rendered them unrecognizable, and instead of displaying their usual coats of arms, which would have immediately identified them, they bore shields of sable plain, that is, uniform black. Moreover, often it was not just the shield that was black, but also the banner and the horse’s cover; from head to foot, the hero and his mount were entirely covered in this color. Black was no longer the color of death, paganism, or hell, as was systematically the case in the chansons de geste; it was the color of the incognito.

Thus in thirteenth-century chivalric romances, black became the color of the secret. It would remain so for a long time; six centuries later, in 1819, in his famous Ivanhoe, an exemplary chivalric tale and one of the greatest bookstore successes of all times, Walter Scott presented a mysterious black knight who during a tournament aids the hero and helps his side achieve victory. Everyone wonders about his identity, but he keeps it secret by hiding it under entirely black armor and equipment. Later in the novel the reader will learn that it is King Richard the Lionhearted, returned from the Crusades and captivity; he returns to England after an absence of nearly four years. The black constitutes a necessary disguise, an obligatory transition between his captive state (he has just spent fifteen months in Austrian and then German prisons) and his recovered status as free man and sovereign of England. Black here is neither negative nor positive; it marks a period of in-between." [Black]

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"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*


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PostSubject: Re: Horror Thu Aug 04, 2016 2:57 am

Pastoureau wrote:
"Expressions to emphasize black’s negative connotations: black “as a crow,” black “as coal,” black “as hot tar,” and even black “as pepper sauce”! These expressions recurred so frequently that the most common adjective for describing this skin color— mor, maure—finally turned into a noun and became the term for designating this ethnic group; the Saracens became the Moors. The term applied not only to North Africans, as was sometimes the case in Classical Latin (mauri), but to all Muslims from Spain to the Middle East.

In chivalric romances the colors of the body do not distinguish Christians from Muslims, but, rather, nobility from commoners, and more importantly, knights from villains. Knights won over ladies (and readers) no longer so much with their physical strength as the epic heroes did, but with the elegance of their clothing, their courteous manners, and their physical beauty. Physical beauty was no longer based on impressive muscles and athletic prowess, but on a good complexion, white skin, and blond hair. The knight was a being of light; he contrasted with the villain, who had dark hair and skin. Here is how as early as the 1170s in Chrétien de Troyes’s romance Le Chevalier au lion, the valiant knight Calogrenant describes to King Arthur’s court a peasant herdsman whom he encountered in the course of his wandering and whom he had wrongly identified as a human being, “A peasant who resembled a Moor, ugly and hideous in the extreme—such an ugly creature that he cannot be described in words.” A few years later, at the beginning of his Conte du Graal, this same Chrétien de Troyes described the knights that the young Perceval encounters.

In their magnificent clothing and equipment these are creatures sparkling with light and color, to the point that the naïve young man takes them for angels:

But when he caught sight of them
coming out of the woods,
he saw the glittering hauberks
and the bright, shining helmets,
the lances and the shields—
which he had never seen before—
and when he beheld the green and vermilion
glistening in the sunshine
and the gold, the blue and silver,
he was captivated and astonished, and said:
“Lord God, I give You thanks!
These are angels I see before me.”

Green, red, yellow, blue, white: all these colors are named by the author to describe these beings of light—all but black. Not only is dark skin hardly human, much less noble skin, but black is also an ignoble color that knights in their bright garb refrain from wearing. Two or three decades later that would no longer be the case.

What was true for men was even more true for women. In this type of literature women too were often beings of light; their beauty was expressed by brightness, freshness, fairness, and grace. Conversely, dark skin and hair were signs of ugliness. In the same Conte du Graal, Chrétien de Troyes thus depicts the most hideous damsel ever seen:

"Her neck and hands were blacker than the blackest of metals; her eyes were simple hollows, as small as the eyes of rats; her nose resembled both a monkey’s nose and a cat’s nose; her ears, those of a donkey and a cow; her teeth were the color of egg yolk and her chin displayed a beard like that of a goat; from her chest arose a hump, the sister of the one which was found on her back"

This appalling description is instructive on several accounts. It gives this “hideous damsel” an animal-like appearance and confirms that in the Middle Ages the animal nature of the human body was considered an abomination.  

Criminals of all kinds, adulterous spouses, rebellious sons, disloyal brothers, usurping uncles, even individuals practicing immoral trades or occupations relegating them to the margins of society: executioners (especially the executioners of Christ and the saints), prostitutes, usurers, witches, counterfeiters, and even lepers, beggars, or cripples… [t]hey all lack light skin, the characteristic of well-born, honest men, and good Christians.

Beginning from the late thirteenth century, artists sometimes gave the Queen of Sheba dark skin, notably on cartographic documents. This new attribute, for which there is only a single example from the preceding century, emphasized not dark skin’s negative aspect, but its exoticism.

Certain colors were forbidden to this or that social category not because of their immodest or garish tones, but because they were obtained by means of too costly materials, reserved for use in the wardrobes of individuals of high birth, fortune, or standing. Thus, in Italy the famous “Venetian scarlets,” red fabrics dyed with a particularly expensive variety of kermes, were destined for the princes and great dignitaries. Throughout Europe colors that were too rich or showy were forbidden to all those who had to present a dignified, reserved appearance: clerics, of course, but also widows, magistrates, and all the long-robed professions. In a general way, polychromy, too violent contrasts, striped, checked, or rainbow-colored clothes were prohibited. They were considered unworthy of a good Christian." [Black]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Horror Thu Aug 04, 2016 2:59 am

Pastoreau wrote:
"With the printed book, henceforth the reader’s eyes beheld very black ink fixed on very white paper. That was a revolutionary change that would lead to profound transformations in the domain of color sensibility. Moreover it did not involve only books, but also and most importantly, images.

The opponents of color did not lack arguments. They considered color to be less noble than drawing because unlike the latter it was not a creation of the mind but only the product of pigments and material. Drawing was the extension of an idea; it addressed the intellect. As for color, it addressed only the senses; it did not aim at informing but only at seducing. In doing so it sometimes obstructed the gaze and kept the viewer from discerning contours or identifying figures. Its seductiveness was reprehensible because it was a diversion from the true and the good. In short, it was only makeup, falsity, deceit, and treason— all ideas already developed by Saint Bernard in the twelfth century, adopted again by the great Protestant reformers, and then, between 1550 and 1700, evoked by the partisans of disegno over colorito. To these old reproaches was sometimes added the idea that color was dangerous because it was uncontrollable; it rejected language—to name colors and their shades was a dubious exercise—and escaped all generalization, if not all analysis. It was a rebel, to be avoided whenever possible.

On the other side, the partisans of color pointed to all that drawing alone, deprived of color, failed to truly convey: not only the emotional dimensions of the painting, but also and more basically the distinction between areas and planes, the hierarchy of figures, the play of echoes and correspondences. Color was not only sensual or musical, it also performed a classifying function indispensable to the teaching of certain sciences (zoology, botany, cartography, medicine). Nevertheless, for most painters, color’s true superiority lay elsewhere: color alone gave life to beings of flesh and blood; color alone constituted painting because only paintings of living beings were worthy of the name—a powerful idea current throughout the Enlightenment and taken up again by Hegel, who considered it at length in his works on aesthetics.6 The model, then, was not Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo but the Venetian masters—especially Titian—because they were the ones who excelled in rendering flesh tones and flesh.

In the second half of the eighteenth century, for the first time in the West, the idea of nature was no longer systematically associated with the four elements (air, water, earth, fire), as it had been almost ever since Aristotle, but with vegetation. Henceforth nature was made up of fields and woods, trees and forests, leaves and branches. It became a place of repose and meditation and even took on metaphysical value. In the country the Creator seemed to be more present than in the city and to manifest himself there differently, both more directly and more peaceably. Certainly such ideas were not really new, but in about the years 1760–80, they took on enough importance to begin to alter sensibilities, especially with regard to color. Green, neglected or disliked until then by the poets, became the favorite color of nature lovers, those “solitary walkers” whose praises Jean-Jacques Rousseau sang. Not only was green a favorite, but so was blue, as these strollers lost themselves in their dreams and aspired to inaccessible worlds. The mysterious “blue flower” introduced by Novalis (1772–1801) in his unfinished novel, Heinrich von Ofterdingen, is perhaps the most perfect symbol of these impossible quests. But it constitutes an end, not a point of departure. The fashion of Romantic blue began a generation earlier, probably in 1774, when Goethe published his epistolary novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, and gave his hero a blue coat combined with yellow breeches.

Early in the next century, which marked nearly the end of Romantic or Pre-Romantic blue and green, black began to take over. Following the joys of communing with nature, the dreams of beauty and infinity, came ideas that were distinctly darker and that would dominate the artistic and literary scene for almost three generations. Rejecting the sovereignty of reason, proclaiming the reign of emotion, dissolving in tears and being consumed with self-pity were no longer enough; the Romantic hero had become an unstable, anguished individual who not only claimed “the ineffable happiness of being sad” (Victor Hugo) but believed himself marked by fate and felt an attraction for death. The English gothic novels had launched a trend in the macabre as early as the 1760s, with The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, published in 1764. This trend continued into the turn of the century—The Mysteries of Udolfo by Ann Radcliffe (1794), The Monk by Matthew G. Lewis (1795)—and with it, black made its great comeback. This was the triumph of night and death, witches and cemeteries, the strange and fantastic. Satan himself reappeared and became the hero of many poems and stories—in Germany, those of Hoffman; in France, those of Charles Nodier, Théophile Gautier, and Villiers de L’Isle-Adam. Similarly, Goethe’s Faust exerted considerable influence, especially the first part, published in 1808. Inspired by a historical figure—a small-time magician who lived in the sixteenth century and quickly became a figure of legend—Goethe’s hero makes a pact with Mephistopheles (one of the names for the devil, “one who does not love light”): in exchange for his soul the devil promises to restore Faust’s lost youth and with it all the pleasure that could satisfy his senses. The story unfolds in a particularly black atmosphere. Nothing is missing: night, prison, cemetery, castle ruins, dungeon, forest, cavern, witches and sabbat, Walpurgis Night, on the heights of Blocksberg, in the mountains of Harz. The time of Werther seemed like the distant past and under Goethe’s pen his blue suit was replaced by a darker palette. With romanticism the night took on a temporality all its own: the poets sang of how it was both gentle and ghastly, a place of refuge and nightmares, of fantasies and obscure travels. The Hymnen an die Nacht (1800) by Novalis and Musset’s Nuits (1835–37) echoed back to Night Thoughts by Edward Young, published many decades earlier (1742–45). These meditations, in which the idea of death dominated, were translated into all European languages and then engraved in a hallucinatory style by William Blake in 1797. In his Nuits de décembre, Musset is haunted by a mysterious figure who assumes a series of different appearances (a poor child, an orphan, a stranger) but who is always “dressed in black” and resembles the poet “like a brother.” Chopin did the same thing in many of his Nocturnes (1827–46) by translating into music this theme of the appearance of the double in the night. Everywhere the sense of melancholy triumphed; that century’s ill, which was for the Middle Ages a true illness—etymologically, an excess of black bile—became for the Romantic poets a required condition, almost a virtue. All poets had to be melancholic, to die young (Novalis, Keats, Shelley, Byron), or to retreat into everlasting mourning.


Gérard de Nerval did this better than anyone, at the beginning of his sonnet El Desdichado (1853), in the most famous quatrain of all French poetry:

I am the shadowed—the bereaved—the unconsoled, The Aquitainian prince of the stricken tower:
My one star’s dead, and my constellated lute
Bears the Black Sun of Melancholia.

This black sun, which reappeared many times in Nerval’s work and which undoubtedly had its pictorial origin in a fourteenth-century miniature, replaced Novalis’s blue flower.29 It constituted the symbol of a whole generation that delighted in morbid states, and it prefigured the frightening verse in the haunting voice of Baudelaire a few years later: “Oh Satan take pity on my pain.” Faust’s pact with the devil remained more than ever a matter of current events.

Moreover, a current of the “fantastic” ran through the nineteenth century. Even if this adjective did not become a noun in French until 1821, what it designated predated it.31 It no longer had anything to do at all with the magical supernatural of early romanticism, but was of a much darker nature, bringing together the strange, occult, frenetic, and even the satanic. Esotericism and spiritualism were the fashion; some poets met in cemeteries, others attempted to practice black magic, still others belonged to secret societies or enjoyed taking part in funeral banquets and drinking alcohol from empty skulls.

A similar taste for death and mourning appeared in the theater by the 1820s; there was no longer any hesitation about showing scenes of violence and crime. The late eighteenth century had rediscovered Shakespeare; romanticism would go further and appropriate many of his characters, making tutelary figures out of them. Hamlet, especially, became a Romantic hero, and his famous black costume, a veritable uniform, was more in keeping with the sensibility and style of the era than Werther’s too sensible blue suit, henceforth totally obsolete.

Society was not to be outdone, making black the dominant color for men’s clothing and for the duration. The phenomenon began in the last years of the eighteenth century, grew during the French Revolution—an honest citizen had to wear a black suit then—triumphed in the Romantic period, lasted throughout the nineteenth century, and only exhausted itself in the 1920s. It involved elegant clothing as well, the dress of dandies and worldly gentlemen, made fashionable in England by Brummel about 1810, and also the limited wardrobes of men of modest means, who believed (naively?) they had found in black a color upon which the increasing filth and pollution seemed to have less impact.

Rural peasants, working outdoors in the sun, had a bronzed tone and ruddy skin, sometimes flecked with dark freckles: hideous! In literary works a peasant was often a red-faced individual, and an old wealthy farmer could not hide his origins because of the indelible color of his skin. Being well-born thus meant having “blue blood,” that is to say, having skin so pale and translucent that it let the veins show through. It was as if the palette of vivid colors perfectly authorized by the chemistry of colorants was forbidden by the Protestant moral code." [Black]

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*
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PostSubject: Re: Horror Thu Dec 08, 2016 5:37 am

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

*Become clean, my friends.*
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