Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ten Commandments Monument Attacked

The saga of the Oklahoma City Ten Commandments monument keeps getting weirder. Yesterday a man was taken into custody after crashing his car into the controversial display. The monument, shown above, was knocked over and broken into several pieces. When questioned about the attack, the man explained that Satan told him to destroy it.

U.S. Secret Service Agents say it all started after a man walked into the Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City Friday morning making strange threats against the President and Federal Government.

Agents say he then admitted to them that he crashed his car into the Ten Commandments monument at the Capitol, then left his damaged car and walked to the Federal Building.

The Secret Service says the man told them that Satan made him crash his car into the statue. He also told agents that Satan told him to urinate on the statue.

According to investigators, the man says he is bipolar and had been off his medication for quite some time.

So this leaves Oklahoma lawmakers in an awkward position. With the controversy looming over the monument proposed by The Satanic Temple, the legislature recently passed a resolution that no new displays could be put up. But if they plan on putting up a new Ten Commandments monument that resolution will need to be overturned, which makes their legal footing a lot shakier.

On the other hand, if they keep the resolution in place the courthouse may revert to having no religious displays - but that's really what activist groups like The Satanic Temple have wanted all along.

Friday, October 24, 2014

RIP Peter Paddon

Yesterday I was shocked to learn of the passing of Peter Paddon. Peter was an author, podcaster, and traditional witchcraft practitioner. He was also the founder and owner of Pendraig Publishing, which released Arcana in 2009, Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy in 2011, and Mastering the Great Table earlier this year.

Peter's published works include A Grimoire for Modern Cunning Folk, Visceral Magick: Bridging the Gap Between Magic and Mundane, and Enchantment: The Witches' Art of Manipulation by Gesture, Gaze and Glamour. He was also editor of The Crooked Path Journal and host of the popular Crooked Path Pagan Podcast.

Even though Peter was my publisher I never got to know him very well. I live in Minnesota and he lived in California, and all of our business was conducted online. He was by all accounts a great guy and a good friend to many, and I had hoped that I would someday have the chance to meet him in person. But it seems that was not to be. I will always be grateful to him for taking an interest in my work, and for giving me a start as an author.

Unto Peter Paddon from whose eyes the veil of life hath fallen, may there be granted the accomplishment of his true Will; whether he will absorption in the Infinite, or to be united with his chosen and preferred, or to be in contemplation, or to be at peace, or to achieve the labour and heroism of incarnation on this planet or another, or in any Star, or aught else, unto him may there be granted the accomplishment of his will; yea, the accomplishment of his will.

My condolences go out to Peter's family and friends. He will be missed.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Vatican Library Going Online

For years rumors have been floating around the occult community that the Vatican Library houses all sorts of esoteric texts that are available nowhere else. According to the story I've heard, back in the middle ages the Roman Catholic Church seized all sorts of materials from those charged by the Inquisition, but instead of destroying the texts they sent them to Rome where they have sat in the archives ever since.

Few scholars have been given access to the collection, and as far as I know nobody with an interest in confirming or denying the rumors has been in a position to do so. But all of that may soon change. The Vatican started a project in 2013 to digitize all of the documents contained in its library, which should include any magical texts the church possesses.

The official library of the Holy See is undertaking a massive digitization project designed to upload hundred of thousands of books and images from its physical archives into an online database.

As Business Insider reports, nonprofit organization Digita Vaticana Oculus was founded in 2013 with the goal digitizing 80,000 manuscripts. That's just a little over half the approximately 180,000 manuscripts, 1.6 million books and 150,000 images that are housed in the library.

The process, as laid out by the project's website, is pretty basic. First, the manuscripts are selected and scanned by special devices designed to preserve the integrity of the original documents. Images are then saved in multiple locations to ensure long-term storage before being made available in the Vatican Library portal. Sounds simple — but imagine doing that for thousands of pages.

The project is currently underway and the first few texts are now online. The documents that have been digitized so far can be found here, with more on the way as they become available. The manual scanning process is slow and the library is vast, so the entire project is expected to take the next fifteen years. I haven't had a chance to go through all of it yet, but the samples look amazing.

I imagine that magical texts are probably low on the church's list of priorities, but as they're historically significant and interest in grimoires seems to be on the upswing I expect that they eventually will be available. Then we'll be able to see whether or not the rumors are true. I hope that they are, since we know that so many texts from medieval magical traditions have been lost over the centuries.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ten Commandments a Publicity Stunt?

With all the controversy surrounding the various Ten Commandments monuments around the country, many have dismissed non-Christian proposals by groups like The Satanic Temple as publicity stunts. The critics do have a point, in that Christianity is by far the majority religion in the United States and many of the groups themselves admit that their reasons for proposing monuments have more to do with bringing attention to the separation of church and state than the statues themselves.

Cracked, which has transitioned from a knock-off of Mad magazine to a site that produces humorous articles with some surprisingly good journalism, has an article up today that points out another side of the Ten Commandments dispute (see #5 on the list). It turns out that many of the monuments that Christians are working so hard to protect were themselves created as publicity for the 1955 film The Ten Commandments.

While Cecil B. DeMille was working on the movie, he learned that a judge from Minnesota had been working with a Christian fraternal organization to send framed copies of the Ten Commandments to schools and public buildings for display. Not in anticipation of a big epic movie coming out, but because he thought America needed reminding of God's laws before those filthy beatniks could corrupt the nation.

Eager for publicity, DeMille contacted the judge and suggested that they replace the framed certificates with bronze tablets, but the judge said no way. Moses' tablets were in granite, so bronze wouldn't do (apparently no one bothered pointing out that framed paper certificates were just fine for the judge before DeMille and Paramount got involved).

So, with DeMille's backing, around 150 granite tablets were made and distributed across the country, with Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner dedicating a few of them in person. Having Heston and Brynner on a faux religious tour was great publicity for the film, which grossed around $80 million. When the movie was out of theaters, the monuments stayed, and the group that helped the judge at the beginning of the story kept right on sending them out into the mid-'80s.

In the immortal words of Alan Rickman as the Metatron in Kevin Smith's Dogma, "Say you're the Metatron, people stare at you blankly. Mention something from a Charlton Heston movie and suddenly everyone's a theology scholar!" Or in this case, they're apparently Poor Oppressed Christians angry at the evil Satanists wanting to put up a devil statue next to their favorite movie prop. The horror!

So if you still thinks these promotional items are worthy of special protection, I'm sorry for you. Just because a publicity stunt dates back to 1955 doesn't mean it deserves special rights, and that light there's no real difference between a 60-year-old movie prop and a brand new statue of Baphomet. The law is clear - the government can either allow both on public property or allow neither. There is no in between, no matter how loud the Poor Oppressed crowd whines.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kirk Cameron on Halloween

On the heels of last weeks comments from Pat Robertson denouncing Halloween comes a reminder that in fact not all fundamentalist Christians hate the holiday. Actor Kirk Cameron, a prominent evangelical who starred in the first film adaptation of the Left Behind series of books and who has produced some silly videos promoting creationism, issued a statement that Christians should embrace Halloween because the Pagans stole the holiday from them.

Cameron observed that mocking President Barack Obama with a Halloween mask was similar to when “Christians would dress up in costumes as the devil, ghosts, goblins and witches precisely to make the point that those things were defeated and overthrown by the resurrected Jesus Christ.”

“The costumes poke fun at the fact that the devil and other evils were publicly humiliated by Christ at His resurrection,” he continued. “That’s what the Scriptures say, that He publicly humiliated the devil when He triumphed over power and principality and put them under his feet.” But according to Cameron, pagans had tried to claim the Christian holiday for themselves.

“Over time you get some pagans who want to go this is our day, high holy day of Satanic church, that this is all about death, but Christians have always known since the first century that death was defeated, that the grave was overwhelmed, that ghosts, goblins, devils are foolish has-beens who used to be in power but not anymore,” he insisted. “That’s the perspective Christians should have.”

Given that historians agree All Saints Day, the ancestor of Halloween, was created by the Christian church to co-opt the Pagan holiday of Samhain, the problem here may just be that Cameron is irredeemably stupid.

In one of his creationist videos he argued that because the banana fits in a human hand it must have been intelligently designed - which is true, except that the intelligent designers were human plant breeders. The image above is from an appearance on Fox News where he asked the burning question, "If evolution is true, where are all the crocoducks?"

Truly, the man has a dizzying intellect. But as I see it the advice stands despite the source. Whether you're a Christian or not, if you enjoy celebrating Halloween, just go for it.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ex-Gay Warlock Pastor Charged With Abuse

I think that headline may hit more buzzwords than any I've ever written. But that's because this story out of Eubank, Kentucky is so bizarre. It starts out as a sadly too routine story of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy, but goes downhill from there.

Not only is the accused a pastor, but he is also a member of the "ex-gay" movement and describes himself as a warlock. It's not that unusual to run across an "ex-gay" pastor in some fundamentalist churches, but I was under the impression that a warlock pastor was something of an oxymoron in those circles.

The victim, a 16-year-old boy, alleged sexual abuse by youth pastor Rex Murphy that took place over a six-month period, accompanied by threats of witchcraft and black magic. Murphy was recently arrested and charged, and apparently confessed to the allegations.

Eubank Chief of Police Colin Hatfield called the accusations “very graphic and to the point.”

“The victim stated that the suspect told him on numerous occasions that by brushing his skin or shaking his hand…he could tell his sins by the power he has. He comes from family of warlocks,” Hatfield explained to WKYT.

The police chief noted that Murphy had threatened the boy with witchcraft if he told his parents about the abuse. “He was very scared, because the suspect, in the victim’s eyes, had been threatening his life in the form of Wicca, witchcraft, black magic,” Hatfield pointed out to WLEX.

In an interview with police, Murphy asserted that he “thought he would be able to help the victim with his battle with homosexuality because he, too, had experimented with homosexuality,” Hatfield said. Murphy allegedly told the boy that he could see his sins by touching him.

This is one of the reasons that I think the idea of reclaiming the term "warlock" is fundamentally pointless. I know the etymology linking it to "oathbreaker" could very well be wrong, but so is using it to mean "male witch." In mainstream culture the image of a warlock is something akin to Julian Sands' portrayal in the 1989 horror film - an evil worker of magick who goes around hurting people just for the heck of it.

When people like Murphy who claim the title turn out to be abjectly horrible human beings it just confirms that image in peoples' minds. There are books and movies that feature good wizards, like Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, but warlocks are generally portrayed as not only evil, but unspeakably so. That sounds like a lost cause to me.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Night of the Living Dead Santa

While I'm generally a fan of low-budget horror films, I never have really gotten into the whole zombie thing. George Romero's Night of the Living Dead was an inventive piece of work that broke new ground and pretty much created the modern zombie myth, but much of what followed was simply derivative. It's rather telling that 28 Days Later was hailed as a brilliant innovation in zombie storytelling because it had zombies that moved fast instead of slow.

Now I'm not pointing that out to slam the latter film, which as I see it did its best to change up the old trope. There's just not a lot you can do with zombies - they're mindless, bloodthirsty, contagious monsters. In fact, that's kind of the whole point of Romero's original vision. But I guess I'm one of those viewers who likes my horror villains to have some personality. After all, if they do, they usually get all the best lines.

At any rate, here's one more reason that the zombie thing is a bad idea, and for me it's close to home. Over the weekend, a drunken zombie Santa showed up at a home in Saint Paul, frightening two teenagers before vomiting and passing out.

A 14-year-old boy was doing the dishes when the door opened. He turned to find a man "dressed like Santa," but with "a zombie head. The boy immediately ran out of the house to tell neighbors and call police, while his 16-year-old sister locked herself in the bathroom and phoned her parents, the Twin Cities Pioneer Press reported. When cops arrived, they found the jolly, undead old elf sleeping in his own vomit and booked him for trespassing.

Saint Paul is just across the river from where I live in Minneapolis, so obviously a Twin Cities zombie outbreak would be of great concern to me. The wayward zombie Santa didn't actually eat anyone in the house, though there's no report on whether or not the vomit contained fresh brain matter, and so far there's fortunately no sign of further contagion.

But is this where zombie hysteria leads? Do we really want a world in which the only presents Santa brings our children are fear and puke? I hereby call on the perpetrators of all this zombie nonsense to cut it the hell out before somebody gets infected and develops a taste for fresh brains.