Angels in the Trenches
Spiritualism, Superstition and the Supernatural during the First World War
By Leo Ruickbie
The mechanised slaughter of the First World War brought a sudden and concentrated interest in life after death. This book explores the role of spiritualism, superstition and the supernatural during and after that war.
After a miraculous escape from the German military juggernaut in the small Belgian town of Mons in 1914, the first major battle that the British Expeditionary Force would face in the First World War, the British really believed that they were on the side of the angels. Indeed, after 1916, the number of spiritualist societies in the United Kingdom almost doubled, from 158 to 309. As Arthur Conan Doyle explained, 'The deaths occurring in almost every family in the land brought a sudden and concentrated interest in the life after death. People not only asked the question, "If a man die, shall he live again?" but they eagerly sought to know if communication was possible with the dear ones they had lost.' From the Angel of Mons to the popular boom in spiritualism as the horrors of industrialised warfare reaped their terrible harvest, the paranormal - and its use in propaganda - was one of the key aspects of the First World War.
Angels in the Trenches takes us from defining moments, such as the Angel of Mons on the Front Line, to spirit communication on the Home Front, often involving the great and the good of the period, such as aristocrat Dame Edith Lyttelton, founder of the War Refugees Committee, and the physicist Sir Oliver Lodge, Principal of Birmingham University. We see here people at every level of society struggling to come to terms with the ferocity and terror of the war, and their own losses: soldiers looking for miracles on the battlefield; parents searching for lost sons in the séance room. It is a human story of people forced to look beyond the apparent certainties of the everyday - and this book follows them on that journey.
Dr LEO RUICKBIE has been investigating, writing about and sometimes experiencing the darker side of life - from haunted houses to Black Masses - for most of his professional career. What began as a philosophical discussion on re-enchantment (MA with distinction, Lancaster University) led to his being awarded a PhD from King's College, London, for his research into contemporary witchcraft and magic. In recognition of his studies he is also an Associate of King's College and the winner of the 1st Tinniswood Prize.
He is the author of Witchcraft Out of the Shadows (2004, 2011), Faustus: The Life and Times of a Renaissance Magician (2009), and A Brief Guide to the Supernatural (2012). He is also a contributor to Fortean Times and Paranormal magazine among others, as well as academic journals with such articles as 'Child Witches: From Imaginary Cannibalism to Ritual Abuse' published in Paranthropology, 3.3 (July 2012). Recent contributions to academic volumes include a chapter on the role of spirit communication in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn for The Spiritualist Movement: Speaking with the Dead in America and Around the World, ed. Christopher M. Moreman (Praeger, forthcoming), eighteenth century medical knowledge in relation to reports of vampirism for The Universal Vampire: Origins and Evolution of a Legend, ed. Barbara Brodman and Jim Doan (Rowman and Littlefield, forthcoming), the German Humanist Trithemius's innovation in cryptology that sealed his reputation as a black magician for Alchemy, Medicine, Science and the Occult in European Thought, ed. By Angela Catalina Ghionea (Cambridge Scholars Press, forthcoming) and the religious reactions to JK Rowling's Harry Potter series for The Sociology of Harry Potter, ed. Jenn Sims (Zossima, 2012).
His work has been mentioned in the media from the Guardian to Radio Jamaica, and his expertise has been sought by numerous film and media companies, as well as by the International Society for Human Rights. He is a member of Societas Magica, the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism, the Society for Psychical Research, and the Ghost Club. He can be found on the web at www.ruickbie.com and www.witchology.com. He is the author of A Brief Guide to Ghost Hunting.
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- Publication date:
08 Nov 2018
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