Thursday, January 17, 2019

Dinosaurs Were Too on the Ark!

Over the years I've made quite a bit of fun of the silly beliefs of Ken Ham and his Answers in Genesis creationist crowd. Back in the 1970's the widespread creationist belief was that dinosaurs went extinct because they died in the great flood. That (sort of) explained why their bones were found in various strata and the like. The short timeframes supported by the "young Earth" crowd didn't really allow for fossilization or a real understanding geography or anything like that, but it was at least consistent. The problem for Ken Ham was apparently that when he set out to build the Creation Museum he wanted to show stuff like people riding dinosaurs. Because the only thing cooler than Jesus is Jesus riding a dinosaur. Right?

So Answers in Genesis decided that dinosaurs WERE on Noah's Ark, and their Ark Encounter attraction suggests just that. What makes Ham and his crew so easy to make fun of is that they insist there's absolutely no ambiguity. Either you believe dinosaurs were on the Ark, or you're not a real Christian. Same with the Ussher Chronology, which they insist is the absolutely only possible correct Biblical timeline, even though they claim to be literalists and Ussher is an interpretation-heavy other-than-literal exposition that predicted the world would end in the year 2000. It didn't, which to my way of thinking disproves the whole thing.

As with occultists, the easiest ones to mock are the ones who insist their own contrived interpretations completely infallible and kick anyone who says otherwise out of their churches or Facebook groups or whatever. But I digress a little. In a recent interview, Answers in Genesis "geologist" Andrew Snelling (and yes, a Young Earth Creationist geologist deserves those quotes) doubled down on the whole dinosaurs-on-the-Ark thing by insisting that old stories like Beowulf that mention dragons are actually talking about literal dinosaurs.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Living in the Wrong Neighborhood?

Here's an odd one from across the pond. According to this article from Metro, West Yorkshire police were called with a report of public indecency that sounds like a Witchcraft or Pagan ritual. Either that or it was some sort of kinky group doing a good impression of one. Whichever it was, the group seems to have chosen a location that turned out to be less secure and remote than they perhaps realized at first. They were practically stumbled upon by a local dog walker.

The dog walker, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: ‘I let the dog off for a run and he went to the top of the wood, near a field where kids play and people walk. ‘He disappeared and I heard what I thought was shouting so I went to get him, as he’s a big softy, but I thought he had scared someone. ‘It sounded like someone shouting in a different language, but then I saw a lady in her late 30s laid on a white plastic sheet.’ She said she thought the woman ‘was dead’ at first, but when she went closer to try and find her dog, she saw a man. The man then used his finger to take blood from a dead bird and ‘put it on the woman’s face’ before they had sex, she claimed.

She added: ‘I dragged the dog away, and my friend, and I walked away. Then, about 10 minutes later, I walked back that way and my friend said she saw at least five other women clothed around them [the couple] and we realised they were chanting. ‘We decided to go and ring the police as it seemed odd, because they knew people were there and just carried on. ‘We checked back later, to see if they’d gone and they were dressed in tunics and walking away as if nothing happened and had the sheet folded over their arms. ‘It was completely bizarre.’

I especially appreciate how practical it is to bring a plastic sheet for this sort of thing. Obviously members of this group had prior experience with navigating grass and twigs in the buff. I have to say, never in my life have I come across anything even remotely similar on a random walk in the woods or across any of the local parks or whatever. So I have to ask - am I living in the wrong neighborhood?

To be clear, I'm a lot less interested in living near a forest where people go to have sex (which can be found in a lot of places) and a lot more interested in living near a forest where people go to practice magical rituals. I do live on Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis, which has been the site of the gigantic May Day festival since the mid-seventies. Also, over a years a lot of local groups have held Wiccan and Pagan rituals there.

So I guess I'm about as close to that as I'm likely to be living in the city - and I grew up in the suburbs and hated it, so that's not an option. The countryside has its own problems. But at any rate, if these people were engaged in a magical operation I wish them all the success in the world. Otherwise, I at least hope that they had a good time.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Via Solis Capricorn Elixir Rite - Year Two

Today's Magick Monday post is a full script for the Capricorn Elixir Rite that we will be performing tomorrow, Tuesday January 15th, at Leaping Laughter Oasis, our local Twin Cities body of Ordo Templi Orientis. Going forward, we will continue to perform one of these per month, once for each of the twelve signs, in a ritual series called Via Solis (the way or path of the Sun). I will be posting the full scripts here on the preceding Mondays so people can take a look at them if they want to attend. Also, if you are in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota) and would like to attend, let me or someone at the lodge know. This is a public ritual and all are welcome.

0. The Temple

The ritual space is set up with an altar table in the center. The bell chime, banishing dagger, and invoking wand are placed on the altar. In the center of the altar is placed a cup of wine for creating the elixir, within the Table of Art corresponding to Capricorn.

The sign Capricorn is attributed to the powers of "The Witches' Sabbath so-called, the Evil Eye." The latter is a general form of cursing cast by line of sight, but keep in mind that as Capricorn rules the Evil Eye, this sign can be employed both to cast such curses and protect you from them. Seeing as the "Witches' Sabbath" is not a real magical operation, but rather an invention of Medieval witch hunters (as the "so-called" likely acknowledges) the latter requires some explanation.

According to the imagination of witch hunters, the Witches' Sabbath was a ritual in which witches copulated with the Devil in order to obtain magical powers. So in the context of real magical operations we are talking about sex magick in various forms, whether symbolic or actual. Liber A'ash vel Capricorni Pneumatici, for example, is attributed to this sign and describes in (only slightly) veiled symbolic language a sex magick technique similar to Spare's well-known sigilization method. The Great Rite in the Wiccan tradition would be another example.

In addition, one of the magical weapons attributed to Capricorn is "the secret force" which is a reference to internal energies such as kundalini, whether employed in sex magick operations or otherwise. So another application for Capricorn would be to develop and/or strengthen those energies by magical means. It is important to keep in mind that "sex magick" such does not necessarily involve having sex, but rather working with the union of energetic polarities - which can be accomplished by many different means.

This ritual may be performed with one, two, or three officers, who may alternate taking the Officiant role and divide up the reading from Liber 963.

I. Opening

All stand surrounding the altar. Officiant inhales fully, placing the banishing dagger at his or her lips. The air is then expelled as the dagger is swept backwards.

Officiant: Bahlasti! Ompehda!

Officiant then performs the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. All rotate accordingly.

Officiant: We take refuge in Nuit, the blue-lidded daughter of sunset, the naked brilliance of the voluptuous night sky, as we issue the call to the awakened nature of all beings, for every man and every woman is a star.


Officiant: We take refuge in Hadit, the secret flame that burns in every heart of man and in the core of every star, as we issue the call to our own awakened natures, arousing the coiled serpent about to spring.


Officiant: We take refuge in Heru-Ra-Ha, who wields the wand of double power, the wand of the force of Coph Nia, but whose left hand is empty for he has crushed an universe and naught remains, as we unite our awakened natures with those of all beings everywhere and everywhen, dissolving all obstacles and healing all suffering.


Officiant: For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.

All: All is pure and present are and has always been so, for existence is pure joy; all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass and done; but there is that which remains. To this realization we commit ourselves – pure and total presence. So mote it be.

Bell chime.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Magicians Do Magick

There has been a steady slew of articles over the last year about how witchcraft has been going more mainstream and becoming more popular. You would think that would be a good thing for occultism and it probably will be in the long run, but it also has led to the rise of witchcraft as a fashion statement rather than a system of magical practice. I'm not going to link to one article in particular, as it shouldn't be too hard to Google up a long list. I am firmly of the opinion that if your "magick" is little more than a fashion statement, you shouldn't call yourself a magician.

There have always been people whose idea of being a "witch" consists of wearing lots of black Renaissance fair garb and running around with crystals and maybe a Tarot deck, neither of which they have any idea how to use effectively. But the mainstreaming of witchcraft seems to have brought them out in force. As I don't really think of myself as a witch I will leave it to practitioners who do to comment more directly. I will say that as I see it if you don't do magick you're not a magician, regardless of what you call yourself.

To be clear, I don't mean that you have to follow my philosophy of using practical magick for everything, all the time, for your work to qualify. I think that works of illumination designed to expand and enlighten your consciousness count too, though with operations of this sort there's a fine line between magick proper and mysticism. Basically I don't really have a problem describing a mystic as a magician, since in the Thelemic system ceremonial magick and mysticism work hand in hand and our definition of magick is broad enough to include both microcosmic and macrocosmic change in conformity with will.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Salem Encephalitis?

BBC has an interesting article up today discussing the possibility that an autoimmune illness, anti-NMDAR encephalitis, may have been responsible for some of the symptoms of "witchcraft" that fueled the Salem Witch Trials. Since the 1970's, the hypothesis that the witch craze in Salem might have been fueled by ergot poisoning - which can cause vivid hallucinations - has been reported in a number of places. However, as the article points out, no other symptoms of ergot poisoning were reported during the Salem trials.

Capital-S Skeptics like to run to their favorite explanation for the symptoms seen in Salem, "mass hysteria." As I've mentioned here before, this is basically the Skeptic version of "paranormal powers." We don't understand how it works, we can't predict situations in which it will happen, and we don't understand what triggers it. When a Skeptic describes something as "mass hysteria" he or she really means "I can't explain any of it, but what I do know is that anybody who calls it paranormal is deluded." In fact, whatever this phenomenon is, it is rare enough that it might as well be considered paranormal just like psychic abilities.

While I do understand that the witch trials and other events like them have a psychological component, I also know that they usually start with something, not nothing, and that something is usually inexplicable. That's why the ergotism hypothesis seems so appealing. It's fairly obvious that religious fundamentalists like the Puritans would interpret hallucinations as some sort of spiritual force, and interpret them as evil if they were threatening and scary - as hallucinations out of the blue often are.

But with no other symptoms consistent with ergotism the contention remains weak. That's why, according to an article published in the Journal of Neurology by Michael Zandi and Johnny Tam from University College in London, anti-NMDAR encephalitis could be a better candidate, especially in the case of the two cousins who started the whole thing up.

Here’s the story of a typical patient. She initially develops a flu-like illness. Within weeks, she becomes obsessed by god or the devil, consumed by paranoia and racked with insomnia. Now, she repeats the same words, then is struck mute. Next: seizures, writhing and contorted limbs, odd repetitive movements of the mouth and tongue. Her pulse races or slows, her blood pressure rises and falls. She sweats, drools, grunts and grimaces. She becomes catatonic and then comatose.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Is the White Horse Back?

For years I've enjoyed poking fun at Mitt Romney, better known to his detractors as Mittens. Romney's general awkwardness probably cost him the presidency in 2012, and on top of all that it's pretty easy to poke fun at anybody who owns a car elevator. One thing that I will say, though, is that Romney has been a consistent critic of President Donald Trump. Romney was elected Utah's Junior Senator in November, replacing the retiring Orrin Hatch, and his return to politics did not disappoint.

Romney penned an op-ed for the Washington Post that was highly critical of the president, prompting predictable angry tweets. Despite how amusing I find these occasional exchanges between prominent Republicans and the president are, Amanda Marcotte at Salon points out that up until now Republican criticism of Trump has been little more than sound and fury signifying nothing. Criticism may be rare, but actual votes against the president's agenda are pretty much non-existent.

The one noteworthy case I can think of is the late Senator John McCain who voted for cloture on the ACA repeal and then turned around and voted against the bill, killing it on the Senate floor. For the most part even the president's critics rapidly become his enablers and fall in line with their party when a vote is called, and Senator Romney will probably be no different. Already, comments like these do not sound encouraging.

But the (very) small chance that he might be even a little different is where this post drifts from politics in Augoeides territory. For years, rumors have circulated regarding "The White Horse Prophecy," an old piece of Mormon folklore - and possibly more. From Wikipedia:

The White Horse Prophecy is the popular name given an influential but disputed version given by Edwin Rushton, in about 1900, of statements supposedly made in 1843 by Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, on the future of the Latter Day Saints (popularly called Mormons) and the United States.

The Latter Day Saints, according to Rushton's version, would "go to the Rocky Mountains and... be a great and mighty people," associated in the prophecy's figurative language, with one of the biblical four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the Book of Revelation. Smith's supposed original statement predicts that the US Constitution will one day "hang like a thread" but be saved by Latter-day Saints. The embellished version portrays it to be "by the efforts of the White Horse."

On the basis of either Rushton's version, which is widely known as "the White Horse Prophecy," or Smith's original statement, both some critics of Mormonism and some Mormon folk doctrine enthusiasts hold that Mormons should or actually expect that the US will eventually become a theocracy dominated by the LDS Church. However, some observers interpret the Mormon cultural artifact more blandly.

The idea that members of the LDS Church will someday or at various times take action to save an imperiled US Constitution has been referenced by numerous LDS Church leaders, but as to the Rushton version of the Prophecy, the LDS Church has stated that "the so-called 'White Horse Prophecy'... is not embraced as Church doctrine; while numerous Mormon fundamentalists continue to preach the doctrine."

Monday, December 31, 2018

Of Magical Personas and Cartesian Dualism

Whither Magick Mondays. I know that the last few months have been pretty erratic, with the magick posts showing up in the middle of the week about half the time and occasionally not at all. I'm hoping to get better at that in the New Year. It's not a "resolution" because I think those are dumb, but rather the observation that I should be less distracted going forward than I have been during the latter part of this year. I have several projects that are wrapping up soon, and once they do I should be able to do a better job of keeping up with things here.

At any rate, earlier this month Frater Barrabbas put up a new post covering what he sees as the necessary components for getting a good start as a magician. It is a long and very informative article that I recommend any beginning magician should read it its entirety. I agree with the vast majority of it. What I'm going to talk about here, though, is one key point on which my operant magical system differs from Barrabbas' work.

To be clear, Barrabbas and I are friends and many of his ideas have informed my practice over the years. The difference that I want to highlight here is not a case of me being critical or thinking that his perspective is somehow objectively wrong. The operant system, though, does have a slightly different emphasis that works better for me, and if you are wondering which way you should go I invite you to try out both approaches and see which one works best for you. As always, my first rule is that if it works it works. Here are the points in question, with my comments.

The first objective is to elevate the self-image so a person is able to establish the credible belief and confidence that he or she can perform magical rituals that produce effective results. In this fashion a person assumes and becomes the persona of a magician with all of its associated practices and expectations. This means that the individual undergoes some kind of change or basic transformation that allows for paranormal phenomenon to occur, and it colors the way that he or she perceives themselves and the world around them. Self development of a particular kind, such as meditation practices, yoga and breath-control can help to build a foundation; but at some point the erstwhile magician must adopt the persona of a practicing magician.

Now I wouldn't say this first paragraph is that different from what I do if what we are talking about is the beginning magician developing confidence in his or her ability to produce paranormal change. It also is not that different if what we are talking about is dispelling doubt - remember, as per the operant equation magick is not powered by belief, but rather inhibited by doubt. I do this by pushing people into working practical magick as soon as they know the basic forms, because the best way to become confident in your ability to make things happen is to make things happen.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Read Your Bible!

I've mentioned a number of times here how my opinion of any Christian always goes way down when I realize that I know the Bible better than they do. I'm a Thelemite. I did grow up Christian, but liberal ELCA Lutheran rather than literalist Evangelical. That being said, I attribute much of the disparity between my knowledge of the Bible and that of conservative Evangelicals on the fact that I've read the whole thing. Twice, as a matter of fact. The implication there is obvious - for all their claims to follow the literal Word of God, they usually haven't read very much of the text that they consider holy.

I don't necessarily think that's a blanket statement, as I have met conservative Christians who are extremely knowledgeable about the Bible, its history, its context, and so forth. But one of the things I have observed about these folks is that they generally don't want anything to do with the modern "Religious Right." As I see it, the problem is pretty simple - organizations like Focus on the Family and the Christian Coalition of America are not driven by the values of Christianity as found in the Bible, but rather by the agenda of the Republican Party.

Don't take my word for it, though (which will be a recurring theme throughout this post). Check out this article from Vox by former Tea Party activist Cindy Mallette who voted Democratic for the first time ever this last November. What changed her mind, you ask, in this age of extreme partisanship? She sat down and read the Bible.

Like many Christians, I looked to the Bible for moral guidance. But I wasn’t relying on my own reading of the Scriptures. I was relying on the interpretations of pastors and evangelical leaders like James Dobson, whose readings happened to line up nicely with the Republican Party platform. This is not a coincidence; these same individuals have been politically active in the GOP for decades, going back to the 1970s, and their understanding of scripture informs the Republican Party platform.

My experience with the Bible was on par with the majority of American evangelicals: We have this perception that we know a lot about the Bible, but we hardly read it. In 2015, I decided to read the entire Bible on my own. I read from Genesis to Revelation in one year. I was astounded that so much of what the experts emphasized as good, godly living was not at all what God had in mind.