Friday, December 24, 2010

Guido Von List "The Folkish Journalist"

The Folkish Journalist (1877-1887)

This rather comfortable, if self-divided, period in List's life came to an end after his father died in 1877, when List was twenty-nine years old. Neither he nor his mother appear to have had the elder List's keen sense of business, and as economic times became difficult List quit the business to devout himself fulltime to his writing. At this time his writing continued to be of a journalistic kind. Deprived of his ability to travel and wander as he had before, he wrote articles for many newspapers. which dealt with his earlier travels and mystical reflections on these Loci. Many of these pieces were anthologized in 1891 in his famous German Mythological Landscapes. It was also during this period, in 1878, that he married his first wife, Helene Foster-Peters. However, the marriage was not to last through the difficult years of this period.

Given the Pan-German nationalism of the various groups and papers with which List had been associated throughout his career, it seems certain that from a political standpoint he was firmly in their camp.

However, the nature of his mysticism at this time seems to have been somewhat more original. Before any influence from later Theosophical notions could have been present, he was continuing on the path of mystical Germanic revivalism. Besides his own intuition - which, given his results, must have been his chief source - he must have been familiar with a variety of non-scientific, neo-romantic works on Germanic mythology and religion popular at the time, and was perhaps also aware of at least a portion of the scientific studies. In any event, many of the uniquely Listian notions seem to have been already solidifying in this early period.

Through these years, List was also working on his first book-length (two-volume) effort, Carnuntum, a historical novel based on his vision of the war between the Germanic and Roman worlds centered at that location around the year 375 C.E.

Guido Von List "The Mystical Wanderer"

The Mystical Wanderer (1870-1877)

The many trips that List was obliged to make for business purposes afforded him the opportunity to indulge himself in his passion for hiking and mountaineering. This activity seems to have provided a matrix for his early mysticism.

Although descriptions of List's early pilgrimages into nature exist, it is unclear what underlying mystical tradition he was familiar with at the time. Two things are obvious, however: he was possessed of the idea of the sacredness of his native land, and he has an "All-Mother." The interest in his native soil was probably spurred by his early passion for Germanic myth and lore.
At one point, one of his mountain adventures almost claimed List's life. As he was climbing a mountain on 8 May 1871 , a mass of ice gave way under his feet and he fell some distance. He was apparently saved only by the fact that he had landed on a soft surface covered by a recent snowfall. In memory of his good luck List had a track equipped with a chain put up. This was opened on 21 June 1871 and was named after him: the Guido-List-Steig.

Apparently List recorded his mystical wanderings in nature in verbal descriptions as well as in sketches. In 1871, his writing talents were given vent as he became a correspondent of the New German Alpine Newspaper, later called the Salonblatt. He also began to edit the yearbook of the (Austrian Alpine Association, whose secretary he had become that year.

List often went in the company of others on his journeys into the mountains, which were taken on foot, by wagon, horse, or rowboat; but he would usually strike out on his own at some point to seek the solitude of nature.

Besides gaining general mystical impressions in these outings, List also engaged in active celebratory ritual work. He would perform various rituals that sometimes seemed quite impromptu. The most famous depiction of such an event is his celebration of the summer solstice on 24 June 1875 at the ruins of the Roman City of Carnuntum. For this - as for so much else - we are dependent on List's own somewhat fictionalized account, first published in Vienna in 1881. Basically, the ritual elements of this outing included the arduous task of gaining access to the so-called "Heathen Gate") of the city (which List mystically identified as the gate from which a German army set out to conquer Rome in 375 C.E.), the drinking of ritual toasts to the memory of the local spirit ( genius loci ) and the heroes of the past, the lighting of a solstice fire, and the laying of eight wine bottles in the shape of the "fyrfos" (Swastika) in the glowing embers of the fire. List and his company then awaited the dawn.

These early experiences were sometimes later more completely fictionalized, as, for example, in his visionary tale A Night of Magic. In this account, the persona (List) succeeds in invoking from the great mound a divine seeress ( Hechsa ) who reveals to him that he is not to be the liberator of the Germans - but that despite this "the German folk has need of the skald."

Guido Von List Runemaster

Early Years (1848-1869)

Guido Karl Anton List was born in Vienna on 5 October 1848 to Karl August and Maria List (nee Killian). His father was a fairly prosperous dealer in leather goods, and we can assume that Guido's early life was lived in comfortable and nurturing surroundings. The List family was Catholic, and we also presume that Guido was trained in that confession.

From the start of adolescence we have evidence of some of his propensities in life. He was fascinated by the landscape of his native Lower Austria and by the cityscape of his native city, Vienna . His sketchbook - which has drawings from as far back as 1863 (when he would have been fifteen years old) - demonstrates his interest in such sites. Some of these sketches were later used to illustrate the Deutsch-German Mythological Landscape Scenes, published 1891.. In conjunction with the romanticizing of his environment, young Guido, by his own account, also had developed a strong mysto-magical bent of no orthodox variety.

'It was in the year 1862 - I was then in my fourteenth year of life - when I, after much asking, received permission from my father to accompany him and his party who were planning to visit the catacombs [under St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna] which were at that time still in their original condition. We climbed down, and everything I saw and felt excited me with a kind of power that today I am no longer able to experience. Then we came - it was, if I remember correctly, in the third or fourth level - to a ruined altar. The guide said that we were now situated beneath the old post office (today the Wohlzeile House No. 8). At that point my excitement was raised to fever pitch, and before this altar I proclaimed out loud this ceremonial vow: "Whenever I get big, I will build a Temple to Wotan!" I was, of course, laughed at, as a few members of the party said that a child did not belong in such a place… I knew nothing more about Wuotan than that which I had read about him in Vollmer's Woterbuch der Mythologie. '

Despite these artistic and mystical leanings, Guido was expected,

as the eldest child, to follow in his father's footsteps as a

businessman. He appears to have fulfilled his responsibilities in 

a dutiful manner, but he took any and all opportunities to 

develop his more intense interests.