Irene and I have known Viveka Goyanes for many years. She is an explorer of the intersections between fashion and art, and we spoke with her about her alter ego Amoelbarroco, Steampunk jewelry and many other topics in March (this interview is available here: ‘Steampunk jewelry tonight with… Viveka Goyanes’).
As we share common interests, we started to think about further collaboration possibilities and an idea popped-up: Victorian occultism and spiritism! So we decided to go ahead with a photo session, but covering this topic in one session only would be complicated; this is why we preferred to focus on fortune-telling, as this was a very popular discipline in the Victorian era.
1.- A brief intro: fortune-telling in XIX century
As Wikipedia goes about Fortune-telling:
Fortune-telling is the practice of predicting information about a person’s life. The scope of fortune-telling is in principle identical with the practice of divination. The difference is that divination is the term used for predictions considered part of a religious ritual, invoking deities or spirits, while the term fortune-telling implies a less serious or formal setting, even one of popular culture, where belief in occult workings behind the prediction is less prominent than the concept of suggestion, spiritual or practical advisory or affirmation.
Despite divination has been considered a sin in Islam, most Christian denominations and Judaism, it was a very common practice in the XIX century (normally linked to Gypsies). In fact, divination methods from non-Western cultures, such as the I Ching, were also adopted in western popular culture during this period.
2.- Fortune teller portrayal: attire by Amoelbarroco and fine jewelry by Decimononic
May this be Steampunk? May this be uchronic, anachronic, retrofuturistic? Honestly speaking we do not know. However, if there is anything we know for sure is that this is pure Amoelbarroco aesthetics with a pinch of Decimononic style; epic win, the way we see it. Judge for yourself.
Cartomancy is one of the oldest fortune-telling techniques in the Western world. Thus, it is relevant to point out that it probably has Eastern roots as playing cards were introduced into Europe in the XIV century. Cartomancy using standard playing cards was the most popular form of providing fortune-telling card readings in the XIX century and the most common method of cartomancy using a standard playing deck was referred to as the Wheel of Fortune.
However, we chose a tarot card deck due to its unquestionable charm. The original purpose of tarot cards was for playing games, but soon became associated with mysticism and magic. The earliest known use of tarot cards for divination was in Bologna, Italy, around 1750, and it was adopted by many occultists and secret societies until the XVIII and XIX centuries. Modern occult tarot begins in 1781, when Antoine Court de Gébelin, a Swiss clergyman and freemason, published Le Monde Primitif, a speculative study which included religious symbolism and its survivals in the modern world.
As Wikipedia states, Cleromancy is a form of divination using sortition, casting of lots, or casting bones or stones. The outcome is determined by means that normally would be considered random, such as the rolling of dice, but are sometimes believed to reveal the will of God.
Just to put some examples, this practice has been widely used in many Germanic tribes, Eastern cultures (I Ching in China or Omikuji in Japan) and even in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Tasseography (also known as tasseomancy or tassology) is a divination or fortune-telling method that interprets patterns in tea leaves, coffee grounds or wine sediments.
European medieval fortune tellers developed their readings from molten substances like wax. Tea was introduced to Europe in the XVII century and molten substances were quickly replaced by tea leaves. Beginning in the late XIX century and continuing to the present, English and American potteries have produced specially decorated cup and saucer sets for the use of tea-leaf readers.
Physiognomy, referred to as anthroposcopy sometimes, is the assessment of a person’s character or personality from his outer appearance (especially the face). Its popularity grew throughout the XVIII century and into the XIX century, and it was discussed seriously by academics. Besides, many novelists used physiognomy in the descriptions of their characters: Honoré de Balzac, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, Edgar Alan Poe and even Oscar Wilde (physiognomy is a central assumption underlying the plot of The Picture of Dorian Gray ), just to name a few.
Phrenology was considered a form of physiognomy too. It was developed by Franz Joseph Gall and Johann Spurzheim, and its distinguishing feature was the idea that the sizes of brain areas were meaningful and could be inferred by examining the skull of an individual. Although it had been mostly discredited as a scientific theory by the 1840s, phrenological thinking was influential in 19th-century psychiatry and modern neuroscience.
If you have curiosity about how we got to these results, you can have a good snoop around thanks to the photo session making-of. Have fun!
Modelling, make-up, stylling and scenery by Amoelbarroco | Jewelry, video and photography by Decimononic