Fightng the Devil

Just so we’re clear on the religious iconography and stance on witches in old Europe, they are generally a force outside the polarizing fight between the Christian Heaven and the Christian Hell.  Witches, despite their bad rap with the church, worked in mysterious ways.  Maybe they didn’t take anyone’s side because no one was on their side.

Jacob Binck, early 16th century.

Jacob Binck, 1528..

The hero witch drives off the Devil using her own special powers and a fierce looking wand.  Here, he looks a bit like the Green Man who is often associated with OR is an incarnation of Cernunnos who may or may not be Baphomet who may be an incarnation of Pan who may actually be a version of the Egyptian Ba Nebdjedt and so on and so on.

Happy Halloween, because the more you know…  By the way, I love her shoes.  I need a pair like that.

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Black Sabbath

No, not the band.  I’m talking about a prevalent ritual in pagan European culture.

Happy Halloween!

Again with the Goya! This one is ca. 1798.  This strangely familiar pastoral myth turned into a scary holy day.

Again with the Goya! This one is ca. 1798. This strangely familiar pastoral myth turned into a scary holy day.

I think Goya, in this image, is hearkening back to a more benevolent Cernunnos or Celtic nature deity.  The mother with the healthy child seems to venerate him just as the other mother offers up her sickly, starving infant for help.  Another sick (or deceased) child lies on the ground while an older woman sits by with a staff of doll-like idols.  There was still plenty of the “old religion” deeply rooted in the cultures of Europe prior to the Industrial Era.  Fear, and particularly the fear of death, is the driving force behind belief in a higher power.

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Falero: Witches Sabbath

Continuing to trickle feed the Halloween art theme, here are a couple by 19th century modern fantasy painter Luis Falero.

Sabbath departure

Luis Ricardo Falero, 1878.

I love Falero’s paintings but something like this reminds me a a 1970s heavy metal album cover for some reason (but way better)  An awesome composition, expressive faces, and lots of creepy factor here.  Perfect for Halloween (Samhain).  As far as I know, it’s Falero who really associated the bat with witches and Halloween.

The belated witch, by Luis Ricardo Falero

The belated witch, by Luis Ricardo Falero.

I guess she had to get the kids tucked in before she flies off with her friends to the black sabbath.  Another liberated woman (a.k.a. witch).

Classic images of witches in western culture are so prevalent, it was difficult to pick what to show here, but more to come.

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Witches Flight

Again, Happy Samhain (a.k.a. Halloween)!  Don’t think I’m such a work skiver I sit around all day making up fun, off-topic posts!  No indeed.  WordPress lets you set up posts way in advance and schedule them to trickle-feed the web-world.  That’s what you have here.  Now onward.

“Flying” witches.


Hans Baldung Grien 1514 flying witches.

Without a doubt, there is something going on here.  As mentioned in a previous post, when we talk about flying witches, we are talking about drugs and probably ritualized trances.  This bizarre scene surely shows something a bit out of the ordinary going on.  While Grien, a student of Dürer, stuck to the classic biblical themes for his bread and butter, it seems he took a few tangents when it came to witches.  I try to keep things family-friendly here (but I’ve learned we all have different thresholds) so I’m not including some of his weirder depictions.  These can easily be found in an image search.

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Francisco de Goya: Witches Sabbath

goya flight

Francisco Goya, “Witches Flight” (1797-1798).

Goya is great.  A real ground-breaker in the painting world, but for today, we should stick to his depictions of witches and their own special Sabbath.  We know that witchcraft and pagan ritual in western Europe has a close connection to herbalism and drug use.  A “flying ointment” made from deadly nightshade, mandrake, wolfsbane, henbane, and hemlock, in a base of animal grease is reportedly smeared on the body prior to flight or attending a sabbath.  Experiments with this concoction have been described as exciting, frightening, and hallucinogenic:

“Each part of my body seemed to be going off on its own, and I was seized with the fear that I was falling apart. At the same time I experienced an intoxicating sensation of flying. […] I soared where my hallucinations — the clouds, the lowering sky, herds of beasts, falling leaves […] billowing streamers of steam and rivers of molten metal — were swirling along.”  Gustav Schenk, 1966.

I think Goya knew what he was depicting when he showed his witches in flight.  More of an after-party flashback than a documentation of an event.

goya sabbath

Francisco Goya, “Witches’ Sabbath (The Great He-Goat)” (1821-1823).

And of course, the Baphomet figure presiding over a secret meeting of women is a well known theme; in this case, not the sensuous beauties depicted by other artists, but real village women in a half-terrified conclave.  For a good catholic boy, Goya sure knew a lot about pagans and witches.

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Albrecht Dürer: on Witches

Albrecht Dürer, "The Four Witches" (1497).

Albrecht Dürer, “The Four Witches” (1497).

I think the subtle fear of conspiracy pervades the myth and reality of witches.  Believe in secret societies and hidden meetings really scares us.  The spinster with secret knowledge of herbs, medicines, and possibly old and outlandish secrets was an object of fear and derision.  These ladies are clearly up to no good, right?  Look at the bones!


By the way, this appears to be my 666th post on this blog.  Coincidence?  (insert spooky laugh here).

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Luis Ricardo Falero, “The Witches’ Sabbath” (1880), oil on canvas (via Wikimedia).

I think artists have loved the witch as a subject in art to let their wild side out.  Naked, flying, wild women who break all the rules of convention.

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Have a good one!


Albert Joseph Pénot, “Départ pour le Sabbat” (1910) (via Wikimedia).

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Don’t Burn Coal! The Future is Here


Advertisement from 1903, New York.  Found at

Saves Gas Bills, Saves Trouble, Saves Patience, Saves Time!  And it burns any kind of oil.  I think we would market this as multi-fuel off-grid survival stove these days.

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Liquid Fuel Stoves and the Caravan Camper

A look at the origins and evolution of our favorite stove…

This post was going to be a few words about the Primus stoves we all love and some images I’ve collected from around the web.  As usual, I found myself rambling all over the topic without a clear direction. 

Primus advertisement 1899. Image found on the Classic Camp Stove Forum.

Outdoor cooking has become something of a lost art for those of us raised in the industrial world, but not too long ago, what we think of as camp cooking was just plain cooking.   Several major advances made in the 19th and early 20th centuries resonate in our lives without a second thought from most of us.  Most of our great-grandparents cooked with solid fuel (mostly wood, peat, manure, or charcoal) and their grandparents may have been fortunate enough to cook indoors in bad weather.

In the 19th century, the Caravan Craze, global expansionism, and campaign warfare sent massive numbers of otherwise civilized people back to the outdoors; often with high expectations about the board-of-fare.  Although we, as a species, have cooked over campfires for many thousands of years, this is not always convenient or desirable; whether for speed, lack of fuel, or need for a low profile in the hedgerows.  An early response to this need was the brazier or hibachi-type grill reinvented on numerous occasions in various parts of the world.  These  stoves can use small wood or charcoal but are heavy, smoky, and need large volumes of solid fuel for sustained use.  Not a good option for the traveller.  When coal oil and kerosene became common, liquid fuel appeared to be the answer.


Supper at the Caravan

Although common now, liquid fuel stoves have not always been a good or safe choice for cooking on the road.  Early portable stoves used a wick and some variation of coal oil for fuel.  The flame created with a wick is relatively low-temperature, causing incomplete combustion.  Wick stoves exude fumes and soot, like a low-quality oil lamp.  These were not a bad option for the 1850s, but nothing as good as what would come in the next generation.


Soyer stove.

The advancements of Alexis Soyer - The contraption above is one of the many inventions given to us by Alexis Soyer, celebrity chef and cooking guru of mid-19th century Britain.  Many of his cookbooks are still referenced and can be found for free on the web.  He was, by the way, born a Frenchman but we can forgive him this mistake for his many contributions to the world.  Not only did Mssr. Soyer invent several useful contraptions for cooking, but he is credited with organizing the first  Soup Kitchen to help the starving Irish during the Famine.  And as a further claim to fame, the larger unit stove he developed for the British army during the Crimean War was such and excellent design it was still regular issue 120 years later, but I digress from our theme.Soyer_StoveSeen in use above, this little stove was revolutionary but left much to be desired, especially for cooking indoors.  I don’t believe you’d catch a sane cook using something of this sort on an actual tablecloth unless it was made from asbestos.  In the 19th century, both camp and home cookery were beginning to change drastically; up to this time the two were not very different.  Along with improvements in stoves, better cooking pots, and roasting pans, other kitchen gadgets were being developed to help make cooking better and easier.  A humble and often overlooked kitchen appliance was invented in this period…


Soyer’s Alarum.

The wind-up cooking timer - This little beauty is something that all modern cooks take for granted.  It seems obvious now, but Soyer realized that mothers, chefs, and camp cooks have many things to attend to at once.  Maybe a dinging timer could take some of the strain away and make for better prepared meals.

The coming of the pressurized stove - The Crimean war, the Raj in India, and other colonial ventures undertaken during Queen Victoria’s reign spurred on great advances in campaign living and long-term camping.  The East India Company and the regular military encouraged officers to bring the comforts of home as whole careers were spent thousands of miles from home creating and running an empire.  From this period, the Brits gave us great folding furniture, camp bedding, portable furnishings, and the Gypsy caravan.  But it took a Swede to take us to the next level, and camp technology has never looked back.


Image 1914.

From the Wikipedia Entry as of October 2014:

The Primus stove, the first pressurized-burner kerosene (paraffin) stove, was developed in 1892 by Frans Wilhelm Lindqvist, a factory mechanic in Stockholm, Sweden. The stove was based on the design of the hand-held blowtorch;

From this...

The origins of the camp stove!

Lindqvist’s patent covered the burner, which was turned upward on the stove instead of outward as on the blowtorch.


Improvements and variations came quickly after their introduction.

…The Primus No. 1 stove, made of brass, consists of a fuel tank at the base, above which is a “rising tube” and the burner assembly. A steel top ring on which to set a pot is held above the burner by three support legs. Other Primus-style stoves may be larger or smaller, but have the same basic design. The No. 1 stove weighs about 2½ pounds, and measures about 8½ inches high with an overall diameter of just under 7 inches. The tank, about 3½ inches high, holds a little over two pints of kerosene and will burn for about four hours on a full tank.


We think of this type stove as a camp stove but they were marketed far and wide for household use as well.

…Prior to the introduction of the Primus, kerosene stoves were constructed in the same manner as oil lamps, which use a wick to draw fuel from the tank to the burner and which produce a great deal of soot due to incomplete combustion.

The Primus stove’s design, which uses pressure and heat to vapourize the kerosene before ignition, results in a hotter, more efficient stove that does not soot.  Because it did not use a wick and did not produce soot, the Primus stove was advertised as the first “sootless” and “wickless” stove.

sverige270These stoves are still celebrated worldwide and are in use on every corner of the planet.

The Second World War saw the widespread introduction of the gasoline stove for military use.  Unlike kerosene, gasoline (or purified “white gas”) is truly explosive, not just flammable.  Placed under high pressure, these are potentially bombs.  However, gasoline or derivatives can be found almost anywhere on earth with the spread of the internal combustion engine, making this a fuel of choice for international travelers.  As per usual with us humans, we chose practicality and convenience over safety.

The iconic early stove of this design is the Svea 123 as it it is a beautiful combination of design features including simplicity of construction, easy field repair, and heating power.


Classic Svea 123 and a close cousin.

Variations on the theme are endless, from the Svea 123 (gasoline) to the Ultra-Primus double burner home range (kerosene).  The various designs proved themselves in kitchens, on river trips, mountain tops, and in virtually every modern backpacker’s gear in one form or another.  For much of the world, this style stove is still the centerpiece of kitchen cooking.

A different spin on the basic Svea design.  The main feature of the 71 is it's convenient packaging.

A different spin on the basic Svea design. The main feature of the 71 is it’s convenient packaging for the traveller.


A pretty great endorsement.

As a side note to history, the design was so successful that many other companies copied the essential design.  Here are just a few ads for the Optimus line of stoves and lamps, another spin-off, from their own website showing a wide range of related products over the last century.

The modern era - In my lifetime, liquid fuel backpacking stoves have undergone some serious refinements but overall, the system for liquid fuel stoves is essentially the same.  Safety has been a big issue, of course, but size (decrease) and fuel capacity (increase) are probably the biggest changes.  Many stoves use canister fuel (butane or propane), alcohol, or solid fuel pellets; but won’t get into those here.


A new era; the MSR XGK multi-fuel stove.

The final round of changes came from Mountain Safety Research and it’s later competitors.  The big innovation was to separate the fuel tank from the burner assembly and add a pressurizing system to the tank.  Small but efficient details were added like the self lighting sparker, self cleaning tube, and the inclusion of a lightweight wind screen.

Links and Further Information - This post is inadequate in many ways but meant as a quick overview of the pressurized liquid fuel stove we all love so much.  Here are some links to some great information on the web.

The Base Camp is a specialist equipment internet retailer based in Littlehampton, Southern England since 1986.  They stock classic stoves and have an excellent selection of obsolete parts.

A H Packstoves Supplies and Parts – is an online seller through ebay.  He always has good stuff and some hard to find parts.


The Fettle Box is a good source for pieces and parts for your classic stove. I have had good luck with them.

Finally, the Classic Camp Stoves Forum.  Information about virtually every kind of stove available.  History, art, repairs, tutorials, and reprints are all available here.

Click here for the mother load of information about Classic Stoves.

Click here for the mother load of information about Classic Stoves.

More to come…

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