Demonologist

They’re having some big thing up in Kentucky which I am neglecting to link to because I closed the tab and cannot figure out how to get it back, though it seems like it should just be in my history, and… I don’t know. Clearly I’m fucking it up somehow. It’s there, I just don’t know how to get it.

Anyway, if you go to this think in Kentucky, you’ll get to meet the guys from Ghost Adventures, which is, hands down, the best ghost hunting show on in America right now. I mean, if by “best” you mean most hilariously ridiculous.  Every show they yell at ghosts and someone gets possessed and things that should scare the shit out of folks fail to while noises that are clearly just the noises the world makes are cause for screaming.

But anyway, at this Kentucky thing, you can also meet a demonologist. I really love that word. Demonologist.

I think it’s the three different ways the “o” goes–uhn, awl, oh. It’s just nice.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what I want to write about at Feministe and I’d like to talk some about tarot card reading, I think. I don’t know what I want to say, exactly, but I’ve been thinking about this post I saw over at Mary K. Greer’s, showing some Harry Hermon Roseland pictures of tarot readers.  And seeing them all together is really cool, I think.  You get a real sense of the kind of intimacy that develops in a reading, just a a first look, these women all leaning in and touching each other.

But if you look more closely, I think you can see the reason that Roseland’s images are unsettling. Though the reader has a lot of power–she has a kind of literacy that the women she’s reading for don’t have–there’s a lot in each photo that gives you an indication of just how precarious a position she’s in.  Clearly, she’s much poorer than the women she reads for. In every image, the reader seems to have been interrupted while knitting.  Look at how she has balls of yarn at her feet in each picture, like she has to put down her work to attend to these wealthier white women.  And look at how many of the women being read for leave their hats on, as if they have some sense of themselves as being in a public space, where just anyone might come.  And how they all have umbrellas, most of which are pointed sharply at the readers’ legs, as if to provide a kind of weaponized barrier between them.

I don’t know. I started off someplace and have ended up here.

My mom has poison ivy, too, and I have had to hear about it for two nights in a row. Which is fine, I just find it funny that my dad will call me and tell me something and then the next night Mom will call and say the same thing.

I am covered in calamine lotion and it smells like summer.

I don’t know that I’ve made any progress towards having goals, but I guess I have one goal–to have goals. And that’s something.

5 thoughts on “Demonologist

  1. Those are parasols, not umbrellas. They are protecting the sitters (or whatever one calls the person for whom the reading is done), who are all white, from becoming unwhite. And they are protecting them from the reader, who is black and therefore dangerous. And from the powerful forces the reader is in touch with. In most of Europe, readers traditionally are (or claim to be) gypsies. It’s always the outsiders who have the powers of the exotic places where they (or their ancestors) originated. Not us clean in thought, word, and deed folks here.

  2. Ooo, excellent point about the parasols and the literal and figurative protection from “un-white.”

    I think it’s interesting, too, how in most of the pictures, at least one white woman is wearing a hat that makes her taller than the reader, as if to again reassert that though the reader has a limited particular power in this situation, the white woman is really the one who has it overall.

    And notice that, in the one image where this is not the case, the white woman is in a solid chair with feet firmly on the ground, while the reader is tipped forward in a rocking chair.

  3. In the face and body language, the readers all look like people I’ve seen. They look real.

    The customers are all idealized. Their faces are impossibly placid and sweet. Their posture is unbelievably just-so, even when leaning. I can’t help but think that in real life they would have looked more intense, whether caught up in the moment to the point of slumping a bit over the cards and letting their faces slacken some, or getting a bitchy “the cards can’t be right” or “who do you think you are” expression.

  4. I was going to go into this on the World Fix This Crap thread, but didn’t because I wasn’t sure it fit. I think it might fit here.

    Because look at the world we live in where they forcibly pretend that healing arts–for centuries a practice dominated by women in most cultures–is a male thing.

    As a big believer in the feminine divine, the feminine in the healing arts and the presence of the divine in healing ceremonies I get really ripped at the way modern post-burning culture views those things as quaint, backward and fantastical.

    Granted, I’ve got two unfinished novels which are unfinished in large part because of my following rabbit trails of research all over the world so I’m over-read on the topic, but I swear the whole “mysticism is a party game” attitude drives me batshit. Especially when it’s the descendents of the people who did the burning looking to patronise those who in other times would have been burned.

    If Christianity (my faith) had not done its level best to separate itself from the feminine divine and the healing arts we would not be in this mess. Those pictures say to me that even in our sanitised partitions we seek that link to the feminine divine and that seeking transcends socioeconomic boundaries.

  5. Kat, for sure. But look at how difficult it is made, and how the feminine divine is othered.

    As for the sweet faces, posture, and the hats, some of that is what Gibson Girls were supposed to look like (the idealization that loonytick notices), and some of that is social cues and markers (especially when one takes the hat off or doesn’t) that I can’t quite catch because it’s so much not my period. But I think that the women who could afford those clothes would have been taught to stand and sit much straighter at all times than we are today. The clothing may even have demanded it; it corseting isn’t as extreme as it had been 30 years earlier, but it’s still gotta hurt to bend at the waist in those outfits.

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