The Faust legend still looms large in our modern consciousness, and is widely understood to embody a pact involving the sacrifice of the soul for personal gain. It first appeared in Germany in the 16th century, and resurfaced subsequently in many forms.
Christopher Marlowe, the Elizabethan playwright, adapted the original German legend for the stage in the late 16th century. The role and influence of occult practices was at this time highly relevant with Dr John Dee being at the height of his influence on Elizabeth I. Marlowe himself died young in mysterious circumstances that have never been fully explained. He was allegedly a government spy which involved him in acts of duplicity and soul selling. A Faustian pact of his own for which he paid the eventual price perhaps?
The legend is also famously embodied by the blues legend Robert Johnson, who allegedly travelled to the crossroads of Highways 49 and 61 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Here the devil retuned his instrument and bestowed extraordinary talent on the guitarist in exchange for his soul. After a short period of meteoric fame and song writing he died at the age of 27, the first of many notable musicians who passed away at this spooked age. Here he is playing Crossroads.
It is well worth investing the time to watch F.W. Murnau's silent Expressionist cinematic interpretation of Faust from 1926. Murnau is best known for Nosferato but his version of the relatively neglected Faust contain's equally striking imagary, including that of the devil spreading the plague from above the village where the alchemist lives..
The design on the tea towel shows the frontispiece of a 1616 edition of the play. The Doctor Faustus alchemist character is shown in the middle of his occult circle,book of spells in hand, invoking the devil.