Friday, April 29, 2011

New Pages Implemented

Back when I was a partner at a local Internet Service Provider I set up the original Augoeides as a Scoop site running on a dedicated server. Scoop at the time was the software that was running much larger sites like Daily Kos, and for awhile there had been a Thelemic Scoop site online called Beast Bay that had gone down about a year previously. The red color scheme that I used for Augoeides was based on the one from Beast Bay that I particularly liked, and I hoped that in time the site would grow into a large venue for discussing not just Thelema, but all forms of magical practice. The site never wound up getting that big, and when we decided to close the ISP I could no longer host the server for free. So I decided to set up the site on one of the available free blogging platforms.

I picked Blogger mostly by accident. It happened to be the first platform that I came across and I just went ahead and ported the site over. However, if I were going to set it up today I probably would use Wordpress instead. That's what I did with my author web site, for two reasons. First off, the themes for Wordpress in my opinion just look more professional. If you haven't done so already take a look at the latest incarnation of Rune Soup which runs on Wordpress - it looks great, more like a real news site than a blog, and I don't think there's a way to do anything similar with Blogger themes. Second of all, Wordpress supports pages, which behave like standalone web pages rather than blog posts. This is a great feature, and one I've missed on Blogger for quite a long time.

Now, none of this means that Augoeides is moving to Wordpress. I already moved it over once and it was a real pain, and there's no way to switch platforms easily with the amount of content this site has amassed. I was pleased to discover a couple of months back that Blogger now has rudimentary page functionality, albeit not nearly as sophisticated as the Wordpress implementation that supports an unlimited number of them and multiple layers of nesting and ordering. Still, the Blogger implementation is better than nothing, and about a month ago I added an About Augoeides page replacing the old FAQ that was buried in the posts.

This week I've been setting up an Amazon Associate page entitled Books and Media so that there's at least a possibility that I could make a small amount of money from the site when people order books based on my reviews. My Google ads have pretty much been a complete bust, making almost nothing, and perhaps the Amazon links will turn out to be similar - I really have no idea at this point. It's not so much that I need the site to make money, but as I see it whether you order a book from my page or from Amazon makes no difference in terms of how much you wind up paying and if you order from me I get a small cut that would otherwise just go towards making Jeff Bezos even richer. Whenever I post a review from now on I'll add the book or product reviewed to the page.

In the future I'm thinking about putting together another page that would serve as a resource for ritual magicians, with links to a collection of my serious magical articles all in one place. That would make the material easier to find, since you would no longer have to sift through book reviews, weird news articles, and whatever else I've commented on over the years in order to find my more technical articles on working magick. At the moment that remains a work in progress, but I'll add it to the list of pages in the upper left corner when it's complete.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Review: The Big Little Book of Magick by D.J. Conway

I was sent a copy of this book to review back in March. Looking around the blogosphere, I'm thinking that the publisher must be plugged into our informal magick blogging circle because fellow blogger Rob was sent a copy to review as well. I recommend that you take a look at Rob's review in addition to mine, as he makes some good points about the book's weaknesses from the perspective of an experienced magical practitioner. He wound up not recommending the book, and while I agree with a number of his criticisms my impression is more positive so long as its target audience is taken into account.

Let me be clear - this is not a book that I would buy for two reasons. First of all, I am not nor have I ever been a Wiccan, and there are a number of assumptions in the book coming directly from that worldview which I disagree with, in some cases quite strongly. Second of all, I doubt that even an intermediate magical practitioner is going to find anything new or useful in it. Nonetheless, that's not who the book is aimed at. This is the sort of book that is intended to sit on a shelf at a bookstore and attract the attention of seekers who know nothing about magick or Wicca and want to learn about it from a very basic perspective. I don't know that many readers of this blog fall into that category, and the book is certainly not targeted at those of you who come here to read my articles on theoretical models of magick or advanced spellwork techniques.

What I like best about the book is that even if you know absolutely nothing it contains enough information to get you started practicing right away. The techniques that it covers are limited, but one of the things that bothers me about a lot of beginning books on magick is that in too many cases there isn't much "magick" you can really do with them aside from bits of psychological trickery here and there. You don't learn how to do effective magick by reading and studying, you learn how to do it by practicing. The four sections of the book - Altar Magick, Candle Magick, Pendulum Magick, and Healing Magick - give you techniques that are simple but which at the same time can be used to do some genuine magical work. Altar Magick tells you how to set up a basic ritual space, Candle Magick covers some very basic sorcery, Pendulum Magick explains a simple method of divination, and Healing Magick touches on introductory energy work.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Could That Welsh "Rift" Be Real?

In the BBC television series Torchwood one of the ongoing plot points is that there's a rift in the universe running under the Welsh city of Cardiff through which all manner of extradimensional and extraterrestrial creatures can occasionally pass. On the show the Torchwood team's job is to clean up after these unwelcome visitors and minimize the damage they cause once they arrive.

According to documents recently released under Britain's Freedom of Information Act there may indeed be some sort of rift running along the Welsh countryside, but passing through Powys county rather than Cardiff. Police there report an unusual number of weird and paranormal sightings there over the last several years, including ghosts, witches, vampires, zombies, and UFO's.

Dyfed Powys Police have been asked to investigate 26 ghosts, 20 UFOs, 11 witches and even two vampires in recent years, while officers were also called out to two 'zombie spottings'.

One if the sightings turned out to be a character from a horror movie being filmed nearby.

With all this going on it sounds like putting Captain Jack Harkness and his team on the job could do some good. We'll have to keep an eye on the area and see if the weirdness continues at its current rate. If so we might just have a genuine rift on our hands.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Nigeria-Born Albino Fights Deportation

Over the years I've covered a number of cases related to the African trade in albino body parts. In traditional African folk magick it is believed that the body parts of a person afflicted with albinism have special magical powers that unscrupulous sorcerers can exploit in order to strengthen their spells. Albinism is rare and the demand is apparently quite high, leading some criminal gangs to resort to murder and dismemberment in order to obtain parts that can be sold for a huge profit.

Franklin Ibeabuchi is a Florida resident who emigrated to the United States from Nigeria with his parents at the age of 10. He is also an albino, and is fighting deportation on the grounds that if he returns to Africa his life may be in danger.

Ibeabuchi is like a lot of Americans: He graduated from high school (Wolfson High School in Jacksonville), earned an associates degree from what is now Florida State College at Jacksonville, married, had three children and worked for Staples for a decade, reports The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville.

He also has a condition called albinism.

His pale skin, his reddish blonde hair and his light blue eyes make him a moving target in Nigeria where witchcraft is common. People like him in sub-Saharan Africa risk death because superstitious folks there believe his body parts possess special powers -- and they'll pay an arm and a leg for one of his limbs.

Now he faces being deported to Nigeria because of a 2003 battery charge, which was later dropped.

An immigration right's clinic has stepped in to help him by pursuing a unique claim: Ibeabuchi's albinism makes him part of a persecuted social class.

That we live in a world where such a defense is necessary is a sad realization, but the fact is that albinos are threatened in much of Africa by the stupidity surrounding this superstition. On those grounds I hope that Ibeabuchi's defense succeeds, because whether or not the belief itself is imaginary the hazard it poses to people like him certainly is not.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Real Fire-Breathing Preacher

Jonathan Edwards is considered by most historians to have performed one of the earliest examples of "fire and brimstone" preaching. His famous sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," took the whole concept of Christian love and forgiveness and turned it upside-down, inspiring generations of intolerant fundamentalists who endure to this day. While a survey of Edwards' life shows him to have been a more nuanced, moderate, and Enlightenment-minded theologian than his most famous work would suggest, its shocking imagery has generally rendered him a mere caricature to both modern critics and supporters of the Christian faith.

Reverend Andy Salmon, a vicar from Manchester UK, represents a completely different sort of fire-breathing preacher. He literally breathes fire!

The fire-breathing Rev Andy Salmon will be one of the star attractions at a ‘new age’ festival to be held in Manchester Cathedral on May 2.

Traditionalists have raised eyebrows but the 50-year-old Salford vicar, who has used his skills during sermons, said Christians should be open-minded: 'I guess there are some people within the church and outside it who think it should be predictable and safe. But I think the church needs to be searching and asking questions. As Christians we do have beliefs, but we should also be open to exploring human spirituality.'

The event - the Spirit Of Life Festival - will also feature tarot cards, crystal healing and dream interpretation.

Describing his flaming-impressive skills, the dad-of-three added: 'I pull it out of the bag every now and then. Normally, it's for the children's parties but I have used it during sermons when I want to make a point.'

Clearly in performing at such a festival Reverend Salmon marks himself as anything but a traditionalist who might sympathize with Edwards' violent words. But I will say that a well-timed burst of flame in the middle of a church service is guaranteed to make quite an impression!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

April 2011 Site Update

At this point I've decided that I'm relatively happy with the three-column theme, but I'm still trying to work out how to get the screen a little bit wider. I'm thinking 990px rather than the current 900px, which would give me another 10% or so and still fit fine on 1024 x 768 screens. But that's kind of hard to do given that for this theme the frame backdrop is made up of images that are fixed width. I'm wondering now how easy it would be to set up the two sidebars and the body have backdrops and borders of the appropriate colors, which would eliminate the need for the background images.

Yesterday I was able to work out how to get Related Post links added to my articles. Up until now I had seen the feature on Wordpress but not on Blogger. The version I'm using still doesn't include thumbnails like with the Wordpress widget, but I'm hoping that it will nonetheless help keep some of my older posts more relevant and viewed. I've posted almost 500 articles on here at this point, and if I don't say so myself there's a lot of good stuff that you can find if you venture deeper into the site. Related Posts is a convenient way to do just that. I'm also in the process of refining the article tags to make this feature more targeted and useful.

Another new feature that Blogger has added is the ability to put breaks into articles, so that just the first portion is displayed on the main page along with a "Read More" link to access all of the text. I've added it to a couple of my longer posts so far, and my plan is to start using it a lot more aggressively. That way I don't have to display the entirety of articles like Planetary Magick, a sixteen-page presentation, on the main screen, and I can set the displayed portion of articles to something resembling a standard width.

I've so far been able to keep up my accelerated posting schedule that I started in March, and the traffic to the site has been increasing. That's great, and I hope I can continue to maintain my current pace for the foreseeable future. Just out of curiosity, is it still Saint Patricks Day or something? Because looking at the stats, over the last couple of weeks my First Vampires, Now Leprechauns? post has been getting a whole bunch of pageviews. As of this writing it's number five on the popular posts list and at this rate it may move up to number four shortly. It's a one-off, weird news article so I'm kind of surprised, especially since looking at the traffic sources I can't identify any one place that all the pageviews are coming from.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ram Sacrifices in Kyrgyzstan

In many parts of the world magick and politics engage in sometimes uneasy alliances. From hexing the forestry service in Uganda to the purple flame venerated by Romania's Social Democrats to prayer offensives in Australia the goal is always the same - to manipulate political structures, situations, and offices using paranormal forces. One hopes that anyone working such magick would be doing so in the interests of the common good, but like any other technology it is the intent of the practitioner rather than the methodology being used that generally determines the ethical status of the work.

The nation of Kyrgyzstan is a former Soviet republic in central Asia that usually stays off the radar of our mainstream media. However, it was only a year ago that protests and riots rocked the country much like those currently going on in North Africa. These led to the collapse of an administration condemned by many around the world as authoritarian and corrupt. New elections were held in October and a new parliament was elected, establishing the first democratically elected government in the region. However, within the new legislature turmoil and disputes continued.

Kyrgyzstan elected a new legislature in October in a bid to build the first parliamentary democracy in former Soviet Central Asia, a region otherwise run by authoritarian presidents.

But the fragile governing coalition has come under threat after weeks of bitter recriminations and disputes in parliament, leading a senior government member to resign temporarily.

Kyrgyzstan, which lies on a drug trafficking route out of Afghanistan and hosts both Russian and U.S. military air bases, saw its president toppled by a violent revolt last April. More than 400 people were killed in ethnic riots in June.

Yesterday a group of lawmakers decided to turn to magick in order to rein in these disruptions, sacrificing seven rams on the lawn of parliament in hopes of banishing the "evil spirits" that they believed to be creating chaos within the government.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Milton Keynes Fertility Chair

Any serious spiritual practitioner will confirm the assertion that magick is all around us. The realm of spirit is not cut off and separate from material existence, as in Cartesian analysis, but rather consists of a presence that infuses and spans the whole universe. We magicians know this firsthand, as we manipulate the forces that arise from this dynamic ground of creation in order to bring our desires into being. Sometimes, though, these forces can be set in motion seemingly on their own, perhaps driven by a disembodied consciousness such as a natural spirit or even manifesting spontaneously in some manner out of the structured randomness that forms our world.

As an example, consider the "fertility chair" that currently resides at a Best Western hotel in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire UK. According to employees of the hotel, the chair seems to possess the power to make women pregnant.

Couples looking to conceive should maybe look at taking a trip to a hotel in Milton Keynes, where a blue swivel chair is purportedly causing staff members to fall pregnant.

A grand total of seven workers at the Best Western Moore Place Hotel have conceived in the past two years after using the seat in reception.

Four of them - Elaine Ledster, Kim Gidley, Laura Burchill and Gina Ripley - have already given birth, all having boys.

It's not necessarily that unusual for women around the same age to become pregnant at the same time, but it sounds like if there's indeed nothing magical about the chair it is a serious statistical outlier. I'm not sure what the full staff of the hotel is, but having seven women pregnant at the same time probably represents a decent percentage of the establishment's workforce.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wait, There's Really a Quidditch Team?


In last month's article about the potential renaming of Witchcraft Heights Elementary School in Salem, Massachusetts, I had some fun at the expense of a Salem school board member whose comments suggested he was worried that with "witchcraft" in the name people might confuse the school with something out of Harry Potter.

Wait a minute. Is this guy serious? Because it sounds like what he's saying here is that with "witchcraft" in the name people are going to get the school confused with Harry Potter's Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and show up looking to try out for the Quidditch team or asking how to get to the Gryffindor common room.

Well, according to this article from Salon, the joke is on me. Because people really do play Quidditch, even though I doubt Witchcraft Heights has a team. Seriously, they run around chasing "snitches" and "bludgers" with brooms held between their legs!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Cycle of the Zodiac

Last month my magical working group concluded its year-long series of Zodiacal pathworkings and invocations. Over the course of this series we performed two workings per sign. The first was a pathworking-style ritual in which we traveled in the spirit vision into the realm of the sign's ruling angel, and the second was an elixir rite in which the ruling angel was called upon to empower a chalice of wine which was then consumed by the participants. This latter ritual used a structure similar to the Jupiter Elixir rite that I presented at Paganicon 2011, except that it called upon the angel corresponding to to the sign with which we were working.


The most generally significant realization that I experienced during this series of operations is the way in which the twelve signs of the Zodiac work together in a cycle that can be applied to just about any sort of project, process, or undertaking. Many of these associations are traditional, but prior to this ritual series I had never considered the ramifications of how the various attributions of the signs fit into a larger overall pattern. This sequence has a number of practical applications, the most obvious being that if a project of whatever sort seems to be bogged down at a particular point the best magical solution to the problem can likely be found by working with the sign corresponding to that particular step or phase. Here are brief summaries of the signs as explained to me during this course of workings. It is my hope that other magicians will find these descriptions and associations as potentially useful as I already have.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ghost Forces Witchcraft Confession

The trope of an angry spirit tormenting the living in response to a wrongful death is a staple of Hollywood horror films. To some extent the idea is so ubiquitous because it aligns well with basic common sense. Generally speaking, if I were murdered and had the ability to return as a ghost and avenge the killing I certainly would, and I think most people would do the same.

According to a story from Sierra Leone, something similar may actually have happened there recently. A local widow has claimed that her husband's ghost tormented her into confessing that she killed him and two other family members with witchcraft.

Alpha Koroma, who died in 2010, supernaturally tormented his wife, Mummy Koroma, making her confess that she caused his death.

With celebrated words, “I killed my husband and I also killed my father. My husband has been appearing to me, compelling me to confess that I am a witch and caused his death.” Mummy has had her name chewed, discussed and debated at corners, homes and streets of Upper Tengbeh Town and Wilberforce Community respectively.

She was first ushered into a church at the Upper Tengbeh community where she told some men of God that her dead husband has asked her come to the church and acknowledge that she is a witch and bears hand to his death.

It's definitely a strange story, and it seems unlikely that anyone would willingly confess to being a witch in parts of Africa like Sierra Leone where accused witches are sometimes killed by angry mobs on little evidence, let alone a confession.

Friday, April 15, 2011

China Bans Everything Interesting From TV

When people ask me why I write science fiction and fantasy the answer, to me anyway, is obvious. Stories about ordinary people doing ordinary things are just boring, and I've never understood how even the best-written of them can go on to become big bestsellers. The same is true of the few television shows I actually watch, all of which fall under the science fiction, fantasy, or horror genres. It's a good thing I don't live in China, because the most recent guidelines for Chinese television effectively ban all of them.

The CNN article focuses on the guidelines banning time travel stories, but they are in fact far more sweeping, encompassing all sorts of other things including magick and the paranormal.

New guidelines issued on March 31 discourage plot lines that contain elements of "fantasy, time-travel, random compilations of mythical stories, bizarre plots, absurd techniques, even propagating feudal superstitions, fatalism and reincarnation, ambiguous moral lessons, and a lack of positive thinking."

“The government says … TV dramas shouldn’t have characters that travel back in time and rewrite history. They say this goes against Chinese heritage,” reports CNN’s Eunice Yoon. “They also say that myth, superstitions and reincarnation are all questionable.”

Take all those away and what's left? Ordinary people doing ordinary things. Boring.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Jordanian Lead Codices Probably Fakes

Two weeks ago several media sources covered the story of a collection of metal codices supposedly discovered in a cave in Jordan five years ago. Some speculated that this discovery could be as important as that of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and that the codices might be the work of early Christians writing in the years following the death and resurrection of Jesus.

This ancient collection of 70 tiny books, their lead pages bound with wire, could unlock some of the secrets of the earliest days of Christianity. Academics are divided as to their authenticity but say that if verified, they could prove as pivotal as the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947.

On pages not much bigger than a credit card, are images, symbols and words that appear to refer to the Messiah and, possibly even, to the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Adding to the intrigue, many of the books are sealed, prompting academics to speculate they are actually the lost collection of codices mentioned in the Bible’s Book Of Revelation.

Several of my fellow bloggers picked up on the story as well. Gordon at Rune Soup mentioned the discovery in his notes for the week, while David at Occult View issued a warning regarding their possible association with the Book of Revelation.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

To Support Warlocks, Boycott This Awful Film

The serial eyeliner abuse chronicles continue!

Fresh off of getting a bunch of press for cursing Charlie Sheen, Salem's own warlock-wannabe, psychic-for-hire, and skull fetishist Christian Day is on TMZ today calling for all warlock supporters to boycott the new film Your Highness on the grounds that it, yes, defames warlocks.

Salem-based spellcaster Christian Day -- who even runs his own little witchcraft shop called HEX -- is pissed at Hollywood for its constant negative portrayals of warlocks in movies ... and now, he's calling for an all-out boycott of "Your Highness" for its anti-warlock messages.

Christian calls the movie an "assault on taste" for casting a warlock "who hopes to deflower helpless virgins and rule the world" -- telling TMZ, "Hollywood continues to cast Witches and Warlocks as negative roles when we're the good guys and gals!"

Christian adds, "I hope people boycott this movie and movies like it so that Hollywood is inspired to release more positive films about Witches and Warlocks."

Apparently Day hasn't gotten the message that really, the last thing the magical community needs is its own Bill Donohue-esque sanctimonious blowhard.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Bad Time to be a Creationist

As a student of both esoteric spirituality and science the whole concept of being a young earth creationist strikes me as particularly ridiculous. It's not that I find the idea of an intelligent organizing principle underlying the creation of the universe in some manner entirely implausible, but rather the idea that scriptural interpretation can trump hard scientific evidence. And make no mistake, young earth creationism is an interpretation of scripture - it is not the inevitable conclusion of scriptural literalism that most of its supporters make it out to be. It's not clear from the text of Genesis that the word normally translated "day" means a 24-hour day, especially in light of several other passages which imply that either the creation account is referring to "days" as arbitrarily long periods of time or phases of a process that took place outside of linear time altogether.

The main problem with young earth creationism is reflected in the sheer number of gyrations and assumptions that believers must adhere to in order to keep their worldview marginally coherent with the ever-increasing scientific evidence that our planet is billions of years old. "The measurements aren't accurate because the laws of physics worked differently a few thousand years ago." "Archaeological evidence of the world's vast age was planted by Satan to trick humanity." And apparently dinosaurs only went extinct because they were all killed in a worldwide flood less than ten thousand years ago for which no hard evidence can be found, at least in terms of a catastrophe that affected the entire world all at once.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Office of the Readings for 2011

It's that time of year again! 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 following The Invocation of Horus 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.

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.

My Film Debut

If you recall, back in February I mentioned that I would be appearing in an underground film playing an evil magician. Here is the version of the film that was put together for Z Fest back in March. For the festival films had to be around 7 minutes in length, and as it turned out the script as written was too long. That's why it ends kind of abruptly, and why some of the editing in the interview portion feels tighter than it needs to be. But it's still fun to watch, especially for those of you wondering what it might look like to see me walking around the Minneapolis skyway system death-spelling random people.



The film wound up being taken out of competition at the festival because of an issue with one of the actors, but we're planning on shooting the rest of the script and re-editing for the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival in December. As you watch, keep in mind that I didn't write the script and most of my pronouncements about magick in the interview portion are basically nonsense. There are a couple of particularly good shots in that section, though, and the room that it was shot in is not a set. It's my actual temple, and it really does look like that.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Ritual Abuse and Recovered Memories

In a a throwback to the early 1990's, a lawsuit alleging Satanic ritual abuse by a Catholic priest was recently appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court. For those who don't remember, the Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) scare was a moral panic supported by fundamentalist Christians and disreputable therapists who claimed to be able to "recover" memories of traumatic abuse.

These "memories" always seemed to include the same elements of abuse at the hands of Satanic cults that generally included family members, friends, and authority figures such as priests and police officers, even though if that were the case Satanism would have to have nearly as large a membership as Christianity in the United States. Furthermore, many of the young women coming forward with these allegations claimed that they had given birth to babies that were then sacrificed in horrific rituals even though medical examinations showed that none of them had ever even been pregnant.

A comprehensive investigation of more than 12,000 cases published in 1993 turned up no evidence of Satanic cult activity, and today most reasonable people are highly skeptical regarding accusations of this nature. The Ohio Supreme Court proved no different, refusing to hear the case on appeal and effectively throwing it out of the court system. The allegations themselves were based on supposedly recovered memories and repeat a pattern that is disturbingly familiar to anyone who was paying attention to the media accounts back when the original panic was running its course.

Survivor Doe, 47, said she was subjected to abuse by people dressed as nuns. Her alleged tormentors included her mother, an older brother, Gerald Mazuchowski, a Toledo teacher and active Catholic who died in March, and the Rev. Gerald Robinson, who was convicted in 2005 of killing a nun in 1980.

"I'm disappointed in the way the law treats victims, but I'm not really upset that they turned it down. I'll get my day in court -- when I stand before God," Doe told the Blade.

In her lawsuit, Doe said she repressed all memory of the abuse until she saw Robinson on television following his arrest.

I don't necessarily think that Doe was never subjected to any sort of abuse, but the problem with memories is that they cannot accurately be "recovered."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wrapping Up the "Hexagram Controversy"

I'm an old computer hacker from way back. These days the term usually refers to individuals who work at breaking into digital security systems, but it used to mean anyone who was really into fiddling around with computer programs and seeing what they could make the machine do. I started learning programming at 8 years old, spent my teen years socializing on computer bulletin boards in the 1980's, and even wrote my own BBS software when I was in high school and ran a system based on it for about a year. I suspect that I'm good at my job to this day because my brain developed from an early age around programming concepts, and as a result I can sometimes intuitively see ways of solving problems that other developers will miss.

This mindset extends to my work with magical forms. To an old-style hacker there's a big difference between making something work and making it work optimally. I routinely experiment with variations on magical forms just to see what will happen, and occasionally I wind up making a useful discovery. To date, one of the most significant of these is the operant field, which is the root of what Frater Barrabbas has termed the "hexagram controversy." So far Barrabbas has posted this and this on the subject, and Donald Michael Kraig has weighed in on his blog as well. As Barrabbas notes, to anyone who doesn't use the Golden Dawn forms the crux of this debate is largely irrelevant. When all is said and done what we're quibbling over is whether you trace your hexagrams clockwise or counter-clockwise when performing the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram. Seriously, what could be more insignificant? Believe me, if I hadn't tested this out for myself I wouldn't have believed it could possibly make that much difference either. The thing is, at least for me, it does - and I'm also not the only magician working with Golden Dawn-style forms for whom that appears to be the case.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

New Findings on Meditation and Pain Management

Meditation for pain and stress management has been studied for decades. It is fairly well established that meditators can decrease their sensitivity to pain and reduce their stress levels, but a new study suggests that these benefits can be obtained without weeks of initial training. It also employs brain scans to identify some of the key areas activated by the practice and shed some light on how the pain management effect works on a physiological level.

In the study, researchers mildly burned 15 men and women in a lab on two separate occasions, before and after the volunteers attended four 20-minute meditation training sessions over the course of four days. During the second go-round, when the participants were instructed to meditate, they rated the exact same pain stimulus -- a 120-degree heat on their calves -- as being 57 percent less unpleasant and 40 percent less intense, on average.

"That's pretty dramatic," says Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The reduction in pain ratings was substantially greater than those seen in similar studies involving placebo pills, hypnosis, and even morphine and other painkilling drugs, he adds.

It's pretty remarkable to see that meditation was able to achieve greater levels of pain reduction than clinically effective drugs like morphine. There has been a lot of debate lately in the medical research community surrounding the placebo effect and how it might work, and my guess is that these meditators may be tapping into the same mechanism. It would be interesting to take a look at some brain scans of subjects who report strong therapeutic effects in drug trials even though they are part of the placebo control group and see how similar they are to those of Zeidan's meditators.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy

Let me tell you all a story. In the mid-1990's I started work on a book on Enochian magick that was tentatively titled The Enochian Universe. At that point I had worked with the Enochian system for many years with great success, and considered myself to be something of an expert on it. I had gone so far at the time as to develop my own personal variation on the system that eschewed many of the Golden Dawn associations and worked with the Enochian angels in a manner based on Renaissance grimoire methods.

My plan for the book was very ambitious. I would cover the language, the history, the various controversies over conflicting versions of the system, and so forth. I would fully expostulate the various temple implements and explain their function in the same sort of detail as you would find in an engineering textbook. I would explain the Golden Dawn system, Aleister Crowley's later revisions, and my own experimental discoveries based on testing hypotheses derived from years of studying John Dee's diaries. Finally, I would include my own new set of Enochian rituals for creating operant fields (though I wasn't using that particular terminology at the time) and raising energy in the manner of the Middle Pillar or Elevenfold Seal. I imagined that it would become the definitive work on Enochian magick and remain so for years to come.

But then my software development career really started to take off. I got derailed on the project, and the manuscript sat languishing on my computer. It wasn't just a matter of having less time to write, but rather the problem was also that with the dramatic scope of the book I kept running into problems reconciling the different versions of the system and different renderings of some of the source texts, as the British museum scans weren't online back then. What I realize now is that the project was just too big - I should have simply written a book on my own synthesis of the system rather than trying to cover all the variations that had arisen during the prior century.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Jupiter Elixir Ritual

In addition to my presentation on Planetary Magick at Paganicon 2011, I also presenting the following ritual Saturday evening demonstrating some of the techniques covered in my presentation. On Friday Donald Michael Kraig posted a response on his blog to my criticism of his presentation of the LBRP/LBRH in Modern Magick. I'll be addressing that in more detail later in the week, but from his response it seemed like he had gotten the impression that the way I do rituals was just to perform the LBRP/LIRH and jump into the conjuration. The following ritual provides a more accurate example of how I work with the Golden Dawn forms for anyone else who may have found my comments on the LBRP/LIRH in the presentation confusing. It also is a nice ritual in its own right, and let's face it - don't we all need a little more Jupiter in our lives?

The following ritual is based on the elixir rite that our magical working group used during our most recent series of planetary operations. It was originally inspired by the elixir ritual found in Melita Denning and Osborne Phillips’ Planetary Magick, and those of you who are familiar with that work may recognize a few statements and gestures during the elixir charging portion of the rite. For those of you who are not, I highly recommend picking up a copy if you are at all interested in further work with the planets. Even though our ritual has evolved substantially over the course of our work Denning and Phillips’ rituals are quite effective as published, and while Planetary Magick has been out of print for awhile and only available on the used market I was informed at Paganicon that a new edition is in the works and should be available soon.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Roman Catholic Church to De-Emphasize Jesus

In a stunning change of policy rivaled perhaps only by the Vatican II reforms of the 1960's, Pope Benedict XVI has announced that from this point forward the Roman Catholic Church will no longer emphasize Jesus in its sermons or public statements.

Though he reassured followers that he was still the head of the 1.1 billion–member Roman Catholic Church and an unwavering believer in the divinity of Christ, the pope suggested he might have an easier time communicating with people if he wasn't up in everyone's face about Jesus all the time.

"I just want to rein it in a smidge," Benedict said. "While I alone among men have been chosen to represent the Son of God upon this earth, I've found that if you have a big chip on your shoulder about something like that, it can be pretty alienating to people."

"I'd like to think I can be an infallible ecclesiastical authority without ramming it down people's throats," the pope said. "I'm starting to realize what a huge turn-off that is."

In accordance with this new policy, the church plans on taking a more relaxed approach to doctrines that in some cases have endured since the middle ages.