A Collection of Curiosities: Part III

Stuff! Being the third collection of curiosities, oddities, and wonders discovered online — I’ve got some new stuff for you. I tend to aggregate a bunch of weird and wonderful saved links as I’m researching and I often have nowhere to put them beyond my bookmarks, where they’re eventually forgotten. I figured some time ago that it might be best if I put them to use, sharing the interesting and bizarre stuff I come across from my collection of writing inspiration.

If it gives me an idea, I make it into something: that’s the methodology behind this effort. Other times, I end up with a bunch of pretty photographs that are fun to look at but don’t really serve my work. They do, however, feed my muse, and if your muse is half as morbidly fascinated as mine, then feel free to treat these posts like a big mac.

The first two posts in this series are here and here — the latter being Victorian in theme.

Today, we’re taking a trip to a couple of cemeteries, checking out some stuff from the middle ages, and talking about Shirley Jackson.

A Collection of Curiosities: Part III

Bats and Vampiric Lore in Père Lachaise Cemetery

Bat at Pere Lachaise Cemetery, photography by Allison Meier
Bat at Pere Lachaise Cemetery, photography by  Allison Meier

“The symbolism of cemeteries can be rather ominous, with skulls and flying souls and the refrain of memento mori — remember that you will die. By the 19th century, however, most cemeteries in Western Europe and the United States had moved to a gentler Victorian iconography, focusing on eternal life with inverted flames still burning in the dark, and weeping angels with their beautiful carved faces demurely turned to the ground. Yet in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, opened in 1804, a curious dark symbol repeats itself: the bat.”

Bats and Vampiric Lore in Père Lachaise Cemetery

 

Difference between ‘cemetery’ and ‘graveyard’ in English

Part of the graveyard of the Old Church Penallt, from WikipediaPart of the graveyard of the Old Church Penallt, from Wikimedia Commons

“Some people think graveyard and cemetery mean the same, but, if we want to be a little nitpicky, we should say that graveyard is a type of cemetery, but a cemetery is usually not a graveyard. To understand the difference, we need a little bit of history.”

Difference between ‘cemetery’ and ‘graveyard’ in English

 

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson – a house of ordinary horror

Grand inheritance … but who put the arsenic in the sugar bowl? Photograph by Glyn Thomas / Rex FeaturesGrand inheritance … but who put the arsenic in the sugar bowl? Photograph by Glyn Thomas / Rex Features

“If I could give you one gift this Christmas, it would be a box of silver dollars, buried by the creek. Or perhaps a book nailed to a tree. Maybe a sugar bowl, brimming with arsenic. Perhaps I’d give you a game to play, under your breath, as you negotiated the chessboard of the high street under the accusing glares of the townsfolk.

Or I could give you all these things in one neat package, wrapped in disquiet and tied with unease. I could give you Shirley Jackson’s astonishing final novel, We Have Always Lived in the Castle.”

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson – a house of ordinary horror

 

Death Crowns: Macabre Omens of Death Found in the Pillows of the Sick

Vintage death crown in a bell jar with post-mortem photo and funeral card. Photo by Lori Kimball.Vintage death crown in a bell jar with post-mortem photo and funeral card. Photo by Lori Kimball.

“Feather pillows are about as rare the Loch Ness Monster, but once upon a time they were as common as could be.

Long ago, the people of Appalachia began to notice a peculiar phenomenon: odd crownlike masses in the pillows of the seriously ill or recently deceased.

These objects became known as Death Crowns (or less-commonly, angel crowns). Death Crowns are usually elaborate, interlocking designs that resemble a disc or crown. The quills always point inward, and though rare, are only found in the feather pillows of the seriously ill or recently deceased.”

Death Crowns: Macabre Omens of Death Found in the Pillows of the Sick

 

Witch Marks, Curses, and Magic in the Neglected History of Medieval Graffiti

Compass-drawn Hexfoil or “Daisy Wheel” designs from English medieval churches. Photograph courtesy Matthew Champion and Ebury Press.

Compass-drawn Hexfoil or “Daisy Wheel” designs from English medieval churches. Photograph courtesy Matthew Champion and Ebury Press.

The ornamentation of medieval churches is often associated with the elite: stained glass windows, ornately carved pews, and memorial monuments to lords and knights. However, carved right into the structure of the building, in the dark corners and beneath the whitewash on the walls, are less visible traces of the lower and middle class: graffiti. Since 2010, historian and archaeologist Matt Champion has led the Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey (NMGS) to discover these carvings in England, findings which he recently published in Medieval Graffiti: The Lost Voices of England’s Churches from Ebury Press.”

Witch Marks, Curses, and Magic in the Neglected History of Medieval Graffiti

 

Caitlin Green: The monstrous landscape of medieval Lincolnshire

Theodor Kittelsen's 1904 drawing of a nøkk, the Norwegian equivalent of the English nicer. Photograph from Wikimedia Commons.Theodor Kittelsen’s 1904 drawing of a nøkk, the Norwegian equivalent of the English nicor. Photograph from Wikimedia Commons.

“The following brief post lists a number of field and other local minor names from Lindsey that make reference to folkloric and monstrous creatures inhabiting northern Lincolnshire, based on the collection made by I. M. Bowers in 1940 for her Place-Names of Lindsey (PhD thesis, University of Leeds). The majority of these names derive from medieval and early modern sources and suggest the existence of local folklore and tales, long since lost, focused on the pits, mires, fields, pools and mounds of the pre-Modern Lincolnshire landscape.”

Caitlin Green: The monstrous landscape of medieval Lincolnshire

 

Enjoy, guys! Until next time!

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