Between History and Dreams
Historical insight into Prague’s mysticism and foundation legends, exploration of magical places, and a search for alchemy symbols often hidden in plain sight.
|Delivery||On campus / in city|
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Prague is one of the last great European cities where – as Rainier Maria Rilke once said – “things are aware of us”. Its cobble-stoned streets, narrow alleys and alchemical symbols often act as a time-machine transporting us to another era. This course intends to take participants on a journey to uncover Prague’s magic and mysteries, spirits and sprites, history and dreams.
The course is fully experiential, with classes held in Prague, visiting actual places. Relevant literature and readings will be provided to all participants in advance.
The first session begins at the ancient site of Vyšehrad, where professor Jonssonova will explain the concept of foundation myths and their significance, followed by a visit to the cemetery of the Czech greats.
The second class will show the ritual of the initiation journey started by Charles IV (1316-1378) before his coronation in 1347. It begins in the East at the Royal Gate (Powder Tower), goes towards the St. Vitus Cathedral (Liber lucis -book of light), and pays respects to the Golden Angel, Black Madonna, White Peacock, Black Sun, etc. Later the alchemists of Rudolph II (1576 –1612) worked with its legacy. The surrealists of the 20th century used these signs, as do psychotherapists when they guide us on our transformation from coal to gold, from sunrise to sunset.
A great part of Prague history is connected with the Jewish community, its scholars and writers, which will be discussed in the third session. We will visit the wish machine, the tomb of Rabbi Loew, the legendary creator of the first artificial human being. Franz Kafka will be mentioned and his museum will be visited.
The last session is about discussing the current spirituality of the Czechs, the Virgin Mary column at Old Town Square, and some popular religions of the East.
- Find out about the prehistory of Prague, its foundation myths and legends
- Understand the secret alchemical symbols used on the Royal Route and see the connection between the ancient and the new
- Learn how the Jewish community enriched Czech culture and how they are intertwined
- Learn about Czech spirituality past and present
Academic course led by a professor of AAU who will provide insights from her hands-on experience and research. All four walks will visit places connected with myths, legends, and genius loci. Participants are encouraged to prepare for the topics with provided readings.
Schedule and Course Content
For a detailed course schedule and content, please download the Course Outline.
Foundation myths and the cemetery of the greats (3 hours)
During Romanticism, all European countries tried to answer the philosophical question “where do we come from” by writing down their foundation myths. The Italians have Romulus and Remus, British king Arthur, Germans the Nibelung Rings etc. We will take a look at the Czech foundation myths. Walking around Vyšehrad, we will visit the Pantheon with art nouveau statues of Myslbek and ponder on the visions of Libuše, the archetype of wisdom and love. We will pay homage to the many Czech greats at the cemetery.
- Alois Jirásek. Old Czech Legends.
- Petr Demetz. Libussa, or Versions of Origin
Alchemical Symbols on the Royal Route & Connecting the ancient and contemporary interpretation of the door signs (3 hours)
We will meet at the Powder Tower and walk the Royal Route, discussing the deeper meanings of the Golden Angel, Black Madonna, White Peacock, Unicorn, and many others on the way
- Václav Cílek. Spirit of the City
- Angelo Maria Ripellino. Magic Prague
- Ivan Klíma. Spirit of the City
Old Jewish cemetery, Rabbi Loew & Franz Kafka (3 hours)
We will visit the Old Jewish cemetery and speak about the historical figure of Rabbi Loew, who later became a source of many legends, first of all as the creator of the first man-made creature, the Golem. At his tomb, people from all around the world make their wishes. The holocaust museum there is very impressive. Then we will walk around remembering Franz Kafka at his statue and birth house.
- Franz Kafka. “The Description of a Struggle.”
Please pick up any collection of Franz Kafka at AAU library.
Contemporary spirituality: Hare Krishna ritual harinam, yoga, the argument concerning the Virgin Mary column on Old Town square (3 hours)
Czechs are known as the nation of atheists. However, they have taken to various religions, like Hare Krishna, they practice yoga as a part of new age beliefs. Yet, the Virgin Mary column on Old Town Square has opened the door to new interpretations of Catholicism.
- Zuzana Jurková. Prague Soundscapes. chapter on Harinam
AAU Academy Instructor, LovePrague Courses
AAU Senior Lecturer
Pavla Jonssonová specializes in contemporary culture and subcultures. Her publications include three monographs Women, Music, Creativity: from Hildegard to Cosey Fanni Tutti in English, Devět z české hudební alternativy osmdesátých let (Czech Music Alternative of the 1980s) (English version pending) and Růžové vrány. Muzikantky 21. Století (Interviews with twenty Czech women musicians), numerous articles, interviews, poetry, and translations. Since 1980 she has performed in various rock bands e.g. Plyn, Dybbuk, Zuby nehty, who produced numerous albums and a film for television. Currently, she plays the bass for Malé zuby. She is a member of a civic association Puppets in Hospitals who perform for sick children.
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