Friday, April 18, 2014

Nessie Spotted By Satellite?

For some time now I've been putting forth the hypothesis that if the Loch Ness Monster exists it most likely is a very large sturgeon. Recently an anomaly was spotted in the loch by amateur monster hunters using satellite photos. It's hard to say, though, whether the image is some sort of photographic artifact or an actual picture of a creature swimming just below the surface.

The location was just south of Dores, were beamed from Apple's satellite map app and could only be viewed on some iPads and iPhones.

The hunters Peter Thain from Northumberland and Andy Dixon County Durham, were amazed by their find.

Mr Dixon said yesterday: 'It was purely by accident that I came across the image. I was trawling through satellite transmissions of different parts of the country and I thought I would try Loch Ness.

'I could see something big under the water and I saved it to my phone. My first thought was that it was the monster and I contacted Gary Campbell of the Official Loch Ness Monster Club.

I was a believer in Nessie even before this but I had never been. Now I am so excited, I can't wait to get up north and pay a visit - with a camera of course.

'Unfortunately I have not seen anything since but I will keep looking.'

The outline of the object in the loch does closely resemble a sturgeon viewed from above. However, the one problem with that hypothesis is that the object is about fifty feet long. The largest sturgeon ever caught was about half that size. There is only one known fish species that is thought to grow that large, the whale shark, which is a filter-feeder native to tropical oceans. Such a fish could not survive in the cold fresh water of Loch Ness, even though it would have a similar outline.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Poveglia Island For Sale

If you happen to have millions of dollars just sitting around and are in the market for your own private reputedly haunted island, today is your lucky day. The Italian government recently announced that Poveglia, a small island in the Venetian lagoon, is up for sale. According to local folklore, the island is said to be one of the world's most haunted places, and thus this is the perfect setup for a new horror film. Think about it - a developer buys the island and puts up luxury condominiums. Once the new tenants move in, the angry spirits of the island take their revenge and kill every last one of them in imaginative ways except for the main protagonist, who narrowly escapes at the very end. It's a perfect blockbuster!

The trouble started back in the late 19th century when Poveglia served as a checkpoint for ships going to Venice. After a pair of ships carrying plague victims arrived in 1793, the island was sealed off and turned into a quarantine zone for people with infectious diseases, a role it served for over a century. It goes without saying that many of these people died on the island during this time, leading to the widespread belief that Poveglia is haunted. It didn't help when the place was converted into a hospital for the mentally ill in 1922. Rumor has it, the hospital was home to a number of crude lobotomies, performed by a doctor who'd been driven mad by the ghosts. He later flung himself off the bell tower.

These days, Poveglia's pretty quiet. Still owned by the Italian government, it's been abandoned for the past 50 years, though ghost hunters like to make the pilgrimage whenever they can. One American TV presenter even says he was briefly possessed while visiting the island. The Italian government is now offering a 99-year lease to whomever's brave enough to take it over. No price information is available yet—but they think it would make a great destination hotel.

I'll never forget the unintentionally hilarious episode of "Ghost Adventures" that was shot on the island. I'm sure that the poor family they brought over there was pretty frightened at the end of the night, but the whole thing was so over the top - to the point that the host of the show had to remind them that "laughter is not appropriate" when one of them giggled at his initial histrionics about how terrible the place was. The thing is, his tirade was so hokey that I was laughing too. I don't recall the family encountering much in the way of paranormal activity either, they just managed to repeatedly scare themselves bumbling around the place in the dark. So are there any real ghosts there? As usual, it's hard to say. But if the island gets developed many more people will likely have an opportunity to find out.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The New Age BS Generator

Have you ever wondered where manufacturers of New Age products come up with the gibberish that passes for deep and meaningful statements to members of their target audience? If so, look no further. This webpage cleverly automates the process of generating New Age copy, and the results don't appear to differ much from the real thing. It's not a Markov chain; as far as I can tell the underlying logic is more like a set of Mad Libs mixed with randomly selected sentence fragments. So it holds together just like real promo text does, and it can be adapted to any product or service with a few small modifications.

As an example, let's say that I was looking to convince New Agers that they needed to buy my books on Enochian magick. That would be pretty smart of me if I could pull it off, because as far as I can tell Enochian magicians number in perhaps the thousands but New Agers are legion. And hey, I do talk about working with angels. New Agers love angels! Here's the text that the generator came up with, modified a little to refer to my Enochian books. The bold text is what I inserted, the rest is automatically generated.

The goal of electromagnetic resonance is to plant the seeds of synchronicity rather than discontinuity.

This is the path of Enochian Magick revealed by Angels.

This life is nothing short of a condensing quantum leap of interstellar presence. We exist as ultra-sentient particles. Consciousness consists of molecular structures of quantum energy. “Quantum” means an evolving of the non-dual.

We are at a crossroads of growth and turbulence. We are in the midst of an endless unfolding of potentiality that will align us with the solar system itself. Our conversations with other entities have led to a deepening of pseudo-self-aware consciousness.

Traveller, look within and awaken yourself. If you have never experienced this ozmosis devoid of self, it can be difficult to self-actualize. It can be difficult to know where to begin.

The Mastering Enochian Magick series will show you the way.

Flow is a constant. Divinity is the healing of intuition, and of us. Nothing is impossible. As you heal, you will enter into infinite health that transcends understanding. Without growth, one cannot grow. You must take a stand against illusion. Pain is born in the gap where empathy has been excluded.

Delusion is the antithesis of truth. We can no longer afford to live with pain. You may be ruled by materialism without realizing it. Do not let it confront the growth of your path.

Buy the Mastering Enochian Magick series by Scott Michael Stenwick today!

Pretty good, right? Clearly, I'll be a New Age success in no time flat! I expect my sales will go stratospheric any moment now...

A suggestion for enhancing the generator might be to automate this process further by accepting the name of a product or company up front and then integrating it into the text, like I did with the subject and title of my book. It shouldn't be that hard to program, as it seems like most of the work should already be done and the name could just be inserted into certain of the "noun" positions. Better still, set it up so the information can be passed as parameters in the URL and return the text, so it can be seamlessly added into any web page.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blood Moon Apocalypse

It seems that the doomers are at it again. Last night's lunar eclipse was the first of a series of four, called a tetrad, that will be happening at six month intervals. Texas pastor John Hagee wasted no time declaring the eclipses to be a sign of the end of the world. It remains a mystery why this particular set of eclipses has been singled out, though, as they're not particularly rare and nine sets of them will occur during the 21st century.

The controversial 73-year-old founder of Texas' Cornerstone Church says he has been preparing for this tetrad for years. The preparation includes a book — Blood Moons: Something is About to Change and an online TV special Tuesday. "What is the prophetic significance (of the four blood moons)? Is this the end of the age?" Hagee asked his congregation during a sermon shortly after his book was released, Christian Today reports.

He cites Acts 2:19-20 as a sign: "And I will show wonders in Heaven above and signs in the Earth beneath, the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord." In extensive remarks available online on his interpretation of the Blood Moons, Hagee says, "I believe that the heavens are God's billboard, that He has been sending signals to planet Earth, and we just haven't been picking them up."

He adds: "God is literally screaming at the world: 'I'm coming soon.'"

A spokesperson for Hagee later claimed that he "has not associated the blood moons with the end of days." However, it's pretty hard to interpret his comments any other way. The return of the Lord is pretty unambiguously the apocalypse, after all. But after the whole Harold Camping debacle it makes sense for Hagee to walk back his claims, even if he is trying to sell a book based on them. People do slowly seem to be starting to wise up and realize that a literal physical apocalypse is not going to happen, and that perhaps the prophecies of the Book of Revelation need to be interpreted another way.

UPDATE: It seems that Answers in Genesis - you know, the "Jesus rode a dinosaur" organization - disagrees with Hagee and some other guy named Mark Blitz, who are both predicting that apocalyptic events will accompany the lunar eclipses. Their response actually sounds totally reasonable, surprising though that may be given some of their other beliefs.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Debunking "The Castle Project"

Generally speaking, I try to post longer original pieces on magick and magical techniques on Mondays. This article isn't precisely one of those, but it does have some important implications for any sort of skeptical investigation of magick and other paranormal phenomena. That's why I'm posting it today. There are two kinds of skeptics out there in the world - those who genuinely approach mysterious phenomena with an open mind and those who simply seek to debunk anything out of the ordinary regardless of the evidence presented. The article I'm commenting on here is a good example of the latter, and it should be no surprise that it was written by a member of the James Randi Educational Foundation, one of the world's most well-known debunking organizations.

Over the weekend I got a chance to watch "The Castle Project," a documentary about the renovation of a reputedly haunted mansion in Denver, Colorado into a bed and breakfast. While searching for more information about the property, I also came upon this article from the James Randi Educational Foundation written by Dr. Karen Stollznow debunking the film. While I agree with Stollznow's conclusion that the documentary does not show any substantial evidence of paranormal activity, the way in which the article was written reminds me of much that bothers me about Randi-style skepticism. Instead of addressing the facts in an objective manner, such reports include assumptions of bad faith, innuendo, and sometimes outright misrepresentation to support the foregone conclusion that no evidence of the paranormal can ever be convincing because the paranormal simply does not exist.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Shape-Shifting Crocodile Wizards Plague Zambia

When David Icke writes about shape-shifting lizards ruling the world, I don't think that this the sort of thing he's talking about. Still, in the African nation of Zambia a rash of crocodile attacks is being blamed on shape-shifting wizards who transform themselves into the creatures in order to stalk victims. According to local folklore, the wizards then remove organs from their kills and use them for charms and other magical operations.

While ecologists and conservationists are attributing the escalation in the crocodile attacks to human-induced disturbance of the eco balance, the locals believe that the assailants are actually human beings who turn into crocodiles using witchcraft to kill others for ritual purposes. The Ng’umbo people believe that the assailants and their sponsors remove some organs from the victims, which are used in charms for boosting business. The remains of the victims are usually recovered in a horrifying, mutilated state with some members missing.

This is giving Chifunabuli member of Parliament (MP) Mutaba Mwali sleepless nights. Dr Mwali, who is Deputy Minister of Lands, says traditional leaders are living in fear of people who want the Witchcraft Act amended to give them leeway to attack suspected witches and wizards. He said villagers are accusing the chiefs and headmen of failing to identify and punish people they suspect of turning into crocodiles.

To me, transforming into a crocodile seems like an awful lot of trouble to go to just to get your hands on some body parts. Gangs in Tanzania have been known to kill victims and sell their body parts with no shape-shifting involved whatsoever. Furthermore, it's not like transforming is going to help an enterprising wizard get away with it, as they're suspected every time a crocodile attack happens. It probably would work better for a wizard to transform into a completely different person to commit a murder, which if you think about it has to be a lot easier than turning into a crocodile.

But really, what's going on here is superstition run amok. There's no way for an accused wizard to prove that he or she can't transform into a crocodile, after all, and thus they become a convenient target for the inevitable local grief and anger that follow an attack. Zambian leaders need to stand up to the populace and keep the laws prohibiting witchcraft persecutions in place. Vigilante witch killings will only make the situation worse.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Office of the Readings for 2014

Happy Thelemic New Year, everyone! It's that time again, for the Office of the Readings.

The Thelemic dates that you may see written online are arrived at by counting the number of 22-year cycles since 1904 to obtain the upper case Roman numeral, and then counting the years of the current cycle to get the lower case one. Within each 22-year cycle, many Thelemites ascribe the Major Arcana trumps of the Tarot to the years in order starting with The Fool and ending with The Universe. So the year that we're about to enter into is V:0 and is thus attributed to the Fool card.

This post will remain the top article here for the duration of the Thelemic High Holy Days, from March 20th to April 10th. The Rite of the Office of the Readings is performed for all of the readings beginning on March 20th. It may also be used with The Prologue of the Unborn on March 19th at your own discretion. We've done it both ways over the years.

This year, instead of doing our own Invocation of Horus, we'll be attending the ritual at Leaping Laughter Lodge on Saturday. So Saturday's rite will be performed in the afternoon rather than evening so it does not conflict.

Rituals

The Invocation of Horus
The Rite of the Office of the Readings

Readings

March 19th - The Prologue of the Unborn
March 20th - Saturn/Earth, The Universe
March 21st - Fire/Spirit, The Aeon
March 22nd - Sol, The Sun
March 23rd - Pisces, The Moon
March 24th - Aries, The Emperor
March 25th - Mars, The Tower
March 26th - Capricornus, The Devil
March 27th - Sagittarius, Art
March 28th - Scorpio, Death
March 29th - Water, The Hanged Man
March 30th - Libra, Adjustment
March 31st - Jupiter, Fortune
April 1st - Virgo, The Hermit
April 2nd - Leo, Lust
April 3rd - Cancer, The Chariot
April 4th - Gemini, The Lovers
April 5th - Taurus, The Hierophant
April 6th - Aquarius, The Star
April 7th - Venus, The Empress
April 8th - Luna, The Priestess
April 9th - Mercury, The Magus
April 10th - Air, The Fool

If you would like to perform this series and have questions, feel free to e-mail me here.

All Office of the Readings posts may also be viewed here. Our Office of the Readings series is based on this ritual by the Companions of Monsalvat.