From decadent diabolist to Roman Catholic demonologist: Some biographical curiosities from Montague Summers’ Black Folio

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Abstract

The history and practice of black magic, witchcraft, and Satanism have longheld a deep fascination in British—and indeed international—popular culture. Beginning with the gothic literature of the eighteenth century,through to the nineteenth century occult revival and Victorian “penny dreadful,” and then into twentieth century pulp fiction, tales of the supernatural involving maleficent magic have been authored some of Britain’s most popular—if not always critically acclaimed—writers including, among others M. R. James, Arthur Machen, William Somerset Maugham, Agatha Christie, Charles Williams, and Dennis Wheatley. These writers, as well as various other short story writers, novelists, and journalists,have all played an important role in shaping, recording, and reflecting popular beliefs about these topics. Indeed, not a few occult practitioners,most notably Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune, Gerald Gardner, and Doreen Valiente, even turned their hands to writing popular occult fiction. Despite this, the frequent blurring of the often porous boundary between actual occult practices and groups, and the imagined worlds of the purveyors of popular and literary fiction, has been seldom explored outside of highly specialised academic literature dedicated to the history of gothic or weird fiction and the burgeoning study of what has come to be called Western Esotericism. 1
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)1-37
Number of pages37
JournalLiterature and Aesthetics
Volume30
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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