Myths, legends are, indeed, a universal human creation, devised in different eras and places – as explanations for the problems that man has had to contend with, and that transcend our ability to understand: the end of life, misfortune, success, cruelty, love that at times reaches beyond life, and hope for a better word.
The mythological richness suggests that its human source resides in the human psyche; the human psyche. There are non unambiguous statements. A personal unconscious and a collective unconscious coexist in every man, with the former being composed of the knowledge each one of us gains from experience, while the latter is the depositary of the inheritance of all mankind. So if the basic needs are the same, at times myths, legends and fables are themselves very similar, because they all have to provide a response to a single issue: the complexity of life.
When we first thought of producing a catalogue on magic, the idea of delving into black magic and the ambience that revolves around it did not cross our minds. And if our thoughts did venture there, we instinctively discarded it and limited ourselves to the philosophical content of esotericism, occultism and the magical sciences in general, dwelling in particular on magic as art, and above all on art as magic.
Our catalogue includes some artists - now deceased - who are authors of figurative solutions of great value. Though they feature suggestive settings at times, they always manage to convey messages that often have considerable social impact. Being artists, they do not explain the meaning of what they do. Symbols, metaphors, allegories and even acronyms or abbreviations are often only clear references to those who belong to, know or have some familiarity with the world of magical sciences, masonry, occultism and esotericism.
As magicians, artists must undergo an initiation which is not only technical, but also as it were religious, mystical and philosophical.
Originally occultism was dialectically related to scientificality, rather than opposed to it. For the great magicians of the XIX Century, magic was the noblest of sciences, so it is no mere coincidence that the definition “occult sciences” originated during this period.
Tommaso Lo Russo
Today there are very many secret societies, such as the Freemasons and the Order of Druids, whose philosophies are based on symbols and rituals, and they conceal their esoteric knowledge behind them. Anyone relying on the power of symbols believes that they are able to communicate a particular world, and can express a deep truth which is at times hidden in fairy tales, legends, gnostic parables, images, rituals and oneiric messages.
Symbols - which may be a sentence, a word or even a sign are linked to rituals. Even items of clothing, particular colours or objects take on their own meanings within the various societies: their connotations change depending on the system they belong to, so the interpretations which a mason, a Rosicrucian and a modern witch give to a triangle or a sun will not necessarily coincide.
Using symbols and rites does not, however, simply mean knowing the “rules of the game”: their power is a very “serious” theme in the world of magic, as it allows for real, tangible effects. Despite what is commonly thought, magical thought works in the same way as scientific thought: the problems to solve are abstracted from their context and then introduced into a symbolic system in which a solution can be found. What changes is the system, not the method.
The symbol is capable of revealing certain - indeed the deepest aspects of reality which elude any other means of knowledge. These are the symbols which speak directly to man, immediately showing their material guise. Through the use of simple words, symbols bring back to light the essential, otherwise hidden meaning of life and project man into the dimension of the sacred.
Returning to the catalogue, we hope that the array of works presented will be of some help in the mystery that is the life of the artist and the magic that accompanies it. As “Remo Palmirani” puts it, the works of these artists are fruit of the omnipotence of imagination.
The subject of magic was one of the many passions of Remo Palmirani, the great collector and lover of Ex Libris and art. As his daughters, we have been instilled with a passion for researching his archives by his enthusiasm and tireless scholarship and collecting. We do not have our father’s skills. However, we want to honour his memory with an anthology of works associated with some of the artists of Ex Libris he loved and which are included in a collection of no fewer than 44,000 items built up during over 25 years.
As far as we are concerned, we have always considered our father and Ex Libris as being deeply and intimately correlated. So for us approaching the world of Ex Libris and taking an interest in collecting has been an entirely natural process. So as not to limit the venture simply to Ex Libris from the Palmirani collection, we have conceived a joint operation with Summer Solstice, who have supplied other pieces which are reproduced in this catalogue.
We hope the catalogue will be welcomed by Remo Palmirani’s many friends, and will not be disliked either by those detractors who failed to speak out until after his passing. At the same time, we also hope that this volume will be appreciated by both “old” followers of Ex Libris and new enthusiasts who have decided to approach this fascinating, stimulating world.
Benedetta e Costanza Palmirani