Monday, October 03, 2005

Rosaleen & Witchcraft

Sydney suburb Kings Cross has long been associated with bohemian and artistic lifestyles. One eccentric character, Rosaleen Norton (1917-1979), was known as the Witch of Kings Cross. She lived a controversial and often public life, in which her attraction to witchcraft and the occult arts became a source of media frenzy, particularly during the 50s, at the height of her infamy.

She was artistically talented and she applied herself to depicting visions from her unsavoury interests. Her art and drawings contain black magic elements suffused with erotic symbolism -- hermaphroditic sexual demonics and bestiality features -- but always with a hallucinatory edge to them. These are not sedate depictions but I would not describe them as explicitly pornographic in the traditional sense. When she took part in an exhibition in the 40s, she was arrested and charged with obscenity as the pictures could have caused unhealthy sexual apetites in those who observed them.

A limited edition leather bound work, The Art of Rosaleen Norton was released in 1952 accompanied by a friend's poems. Another court case ensued, with the publisher ultimately fined and a judgment order that they had to remove a few drawings from the remaining unsold copies of the book.

I don't suggest clicking on any links if depiction of black magic and erotic drawings might disturb. Also, if anyone is worried about the logging of strange looking URLs, then discretion is advised.

The full drawing from which the small image above is a cropped detail, is displayed as part of The Sydney University Library Rare Book Collection's Witchcraft, Demonology and the Inquisition . They have a strong collection and sample scans from a wide variety of material issued around the world in the last few hundred years has been uploaded, alhough sadly without high resolution pictures available.

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