Satanism and Magic in the Age of the Moulin Rouge: An Illustrated Live Zoom Lecture by Author Tara Isabella Burton
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From mysterious Black Masses held in underground crypts to occult bookstores frequented by the literary élite to mad monks and their possibly-insane lovers dominating literary salons, the time of the Moulin Rouge was also a time of magical exploration: where the possibility of new industrial technology gave rise to a firmly “anti-modern” obsession with the macabre.
And in the decadent world of 19th century Paris, few knew black magic as intimately as the novelist Joris-Karl Huysmans, whose odyssey (ostensibly for the purposes of literary research) into Paris’s underbelly of occultists, Satanists and practitioners of black magic — a group that essentially doubled as a Who’s Who of bohemian artists and poets of France’s Decadent movement — became legendary. Encountering such luminaries as the Abbé Boullan, a defrocked priest accused of human sacrifice; the morphine-addicted poet Edouard Dubus; and the sultry Berthe Courrière: Satanist, séance-hosted, and lover to half of Paris’s literary elite and a sizable proportion of its priests, Huysmans memorialized his journey into the underworld of Paris’s artistic demimonde in his 1891 novel Là-Bas.
A story about the early days of sex, drugs, duels to the death, and early celebrity journalism — op-eds alleging sorcery in political and literary opponents — this lecture explores the seedy world of black magic among Paris’s fin de siècle literati — blending scandalous historical anecdote with more general reflections on what made occultism so attractive to 19th century Parisians, and the way in which a burgeoning celebrity culture intensified these magical rivalries.
Tara Isabella Burton’s work on religion, culture and place—from 19th century Parisian occultism to Christian street preachers of Las Vegas to the last remaining Jews in Uzbekistan—has appeared at JSTOR Daily, National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and more. She is completing her DPhil in the theology of fin de siècle French decadence as a Clarendon Scholar at Trinity College, Oxford. She is also the author of the novel Social Creature (Doubleday 2018) and Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World (PublicAffairs 2020).Buy tickets/get more info now