Victorian society was open to the occult and secret societies flourished. The Steampunk universe has not remained in the sidelines of this influence and it can be tracked in emblematic works such as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the comic book series written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Kevin O’Neill, publication of which began in 1999) or the movie ‘Sherlock Holmes’ (2009) with the appearance of the fictional Temple of the Four Orders, featuring the layered symbolism of imagery such as sphinxes, alchemical symbols, pentagrams, crosses…
4.1.- Occult Science
19th century was a period of renewed interest in magic, considering it the art of producing a desired effect or result through the use of techniques that presumably assure human control of supernatural entities or the forces of nature. European colonialism put Westerners in contact with India and Egypt, re-introducing exotic beliefs and renewing interest in exotic spiritualities (Hindu and Egyptian mythology frequently feature in 19th century magical texts).
Photo and editing: Rebeca Saray | Models: Rachel Kleines and Anneke Necro | MUA: Sofía Sicilia Gómez & Alassie | Wardrobe: El Costurero Real | Atrezzo: Félix Googles and La Cámara del Alquimista | Fine jewelry: Decimononic | Assistants: Juanma Zoombie & Carlos Galant
Steampunk was born as literary genre, with precursors such as Jules Verne and H. G. Wells among its main influencers. In any case, may the works of additional coetaneous authors become inspirational? Gothic novel, Romantic movement, early science fiction?
Are you among our regular readers? Then you will probably remember this blog post entitled ‘Amoelbarroco, Decimononic and… fortune telling?’ we published in July. Due to the success of this photo session featuring Viveka Goyane’s couture and Decimononic’s Seampunk luxury jewelry, we cannot help but bring you this video.
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.