The good news is that I'm in the process of working out publishing deals for both Operant Magick, my textbook on ritual magick that I've mentioned here before, and Arcana, a fictional novel about magicians. Unfortunately that plus working full time means I have less time to update the blog that I would ideally like. I'm also working on getting the archive stories put together and posted, and hopefully I'll have time to get some of that done soon. In the meantime, here are some recent news stories that touch on religion, spirituality, and in one case just plain Fortean weirdness. Enjoy!
Nepal suffers a goat shortage just days before a major religious festival honoring the Hindi goddess Durga.
"Kathmandu city faces a shortage of goats during the festival, which always brings a high demand for goat meat," Bijaya Thapa, deputy general manager at the Nepal Food Corporation, told AFP.
"We are bringing goats in to ease the supply and to control dramatic price hikes."
Goats and other animals are traditionally slaughtered during the 15-day festival, which begins on September 19, to appease the Hindu goddess of power, Durga.
Officials have been tasked with persuading farmers to sell their livestock in rural areas, where the government has posted adverts calling on people to sell their goats.
Thapa said the price of the animals had risen by around 25 percent in the capital as the festival approached, and the government was hoping to bring in around 6,000 of them.
Here's a question for anyone who might happen to know - how do I go about starting my own banana sex cult?
A cult leader in Papua New Guinea fled naked into the jungle after being confronted by police over allegations that he'd forced followers to have sex in public, with the promise that it would boost the banana harvest.
The man, identified as Thomas Peli, told his followers that the banana harvest would increase every time they had sex in public, according to the Parpua New Guinea Post-Courier - and he reinforced his demands for public fornication with threats of violence.
Maybe this next story means there's somebody in Cameroon who can finally teach me how to cast a lightning bolt!
A lightning bolt that struck a school, killing five children has been blamed on witchcraft by a traditional ruler in northwest Cameroon.
State radio said that 58 other children went into shock after the lightning bolt hit the small village school on Tuesday. A teacher said the bolt hit at the beginning of the school day.
The Virgin Mary has apparently visited Samoa. Unfortunately for believers, it's very possible for normal weathering and thermal effects to create images that vaguely resemble the traditional representation of the Virgin Mary, but since no picture accompanies the story I'll reserve judgment for now.
The image caused by weathering on the outside of the six-storey office building in the capital Apia has been the focus of prayer vigils on Monday and Tuesday night.
Although the image has not been officially recognised by the South Pacific nation's Catholic Church, which especially reveres the mother of Jesus Christ, a church spokesman said it represented an important message.
"This is something people should look deeply into," said Father Spatz Silva, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archbishop.
Forteans want to know: what the hell is this thing?
A slimy, glob-like creature dubbed Gollum has terrified children after it slithered out of a lake and clambered over the rocks towards them.
The young teenagers were playing by the waterfront in a Panama lake near Cerro Azul when the bald beast emerged from a cave behind a waterfall. They started screaming as it shuffled out "as if to attack them".
Locals told Panama news the monster was like "Gollum from Lord of the Rings".
Experts believe that the strange animal could be some sort of sloth, but whether it's a bizarre mutation, a new species, or even the result of some sort of magical experimentation is hard to determine without further investigation.
Finally, Salon has an amusing write-up today listing many of the failed predictions regarding the time and date of the Apocalypse that have been made over the last several centuries. I had heard of most of these previously, such those made by the Millerites, but there are also a few more recent ones on the list that I wasn't aware of.
In a poll from earlier this decade, 17 percent said they expected the world to end in their lifetime. Perhaps that's why, even though Jesus may have admonished that no man knows the day and hour, so many people can't resist making a pseudo-educated guess about the day and hour.
One of the more popular theories making the rounds lately has centered on the Mayan calendar, which runs out in 2012. You get the drift -- don't make any plans for 2013. The New Agey claptrap is popular enough that it inspired Roland Emmerich's upcoming apocalypse-porn blockbuster "2012," due in multiplexes everywhere this November.
With a hat tip to the citizens of New Jersey, Roland Emmerich and the ancient Mayans, we present this honor roll of doomsday panics and false messiahs -- a whole lot of past predictions that didn't pan out, and a few more current revelations that are looking iffy. This is the way the world doesn't end. No bang, lots of whimpers.
I find linking 2012 with the end of the world especially silly. We have very little information about Mayan religion and magick and what we do have doesn't address why they drew out their calendar in such a way that it ends in that particular year. There are no Mayan prophecies, predictions, or anything else associated with 2012 - it just happens to be when their calendar runs out. We can probably blame much of the current hysteria on the Spanish conquistadors who decided that it would be a smart move to burn the vast majority of Mayan codices, some of which might have explained why the calendar was set up the way it was. In my opinion it is this very lack of information that fuels most of the New Age speculation about the Mayan calendar and civilization.
I suppose if the world really does end in 2012 I'll owe somebody an apology for my skepticism, but then if we're all dead I'm guessing the whole question will be academic.
UPDATE: There's this idea that the entire Mayan civilization disappeared, but that's not true. There are still plenty of Maya in parts of the Yucatan peninsula to this day, and according to them there's no apocalypse on its way. If that doesn't settle the question I don't know what will.