Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Namibians Face Dog-Headed Pig Monster

Here's another gem out of Africa. Northern Namibia is apparently being plagued by what locals describe as a "Dog-headed Pig Monster." So far the creature has not been captured, but people in the area are sure of one thing - it must be the result of evil magick.

“This must be the work of black magic,” an official in the Oshana region of northern Namibia told the Informante newspaper.

Regional Councilor Andreas Mundjindi said residents have spotted the beast chasing dogs and goats, and a young man said it tried to attack him as he walked home.

Several residents said they are now too scared to walk alone. One theory has it that the beast may have come from the home of a local elderly man.

“Everyone believes it is his beast and even he knows that we think so,” an unnamed resident told Informante.

I'm hoping that these accusations don't lead to anything like mob violence. Odds are that this man has just made some enemies in his community who would be perfectly happy to have an excuse to drive him out or worse. On the other hand, if anyone out there knows how I could summon up a dog-headed pig monster feel free to share the spell. It would be quite the hit at parties.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Dog Sacrifices in Pennsylvania?

Last week animal protective services searched a home in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and discovered the bones of several dogs, along with a dog's head stored in a freezer. Police have put forth the theory that the house may have been the scene of ritual sacrifices, as a handful of occult books were found during the search. Whether or not this is the case remains to be seen. It appears that whoever lived in the home was in the process of covering over one of the skulls with gold-leaf, so perhaps this is more a case of twisted arts and crafts rather than anything occult. Still, the head in the freezer suggests that this individual may have killed at least one of the dogs, and as far as animal protective services is concerned it doesn't matter whether the goal was an art project or some sort of ceremony.

Rich Britton, a spokesman for the Chester County SPCA, said his agency was contacted by police yesterday and executed a search warrant at a home in the 2400 block of Wayne Avenue in Caln Township.

Britton said he and two animal protective-services officers entered the home's living room, where a gold-leafed animal skull was displayed on a coffee table, and a 10-inch animal vertebrae sat on a fireplace mantel. Also in plain view was a necklace that appeared to be made of canine teeth and four or five knives and machetes, Britton said.

Two more skulls that appeared to be canine were in the kitchen, along with a drawer of animal bones, four occult books, and a workbench with gold-leafing materials, he said. Investigators found the dog's head in the freezer, Britton said.

"I've never seen anything like this in my life," said Britton, describing the findings as "macabre and Dahmeresque" in a "nice, typical suburban" neighborhood.

Back when I covered that werewolf-BDSM case I noted that it was unlikely the woman in question was a real occultist because she only owned a handful of occult books. Some readers called me on that, pointing out that information could have been on her computer since so much stuff is out on the Internet these days. I stand by my assessment, though, because aside from a single title there wasn't anything that would be of much use in performing actual rituals. In this case, police found only four books on "witchcraft and the occult" and the article doesn't list the titles. That's a shame, because those titles would probably tell us something about whether or not the folks suspected of ritual sacrifices were performing them or not. If the books are, say, by Silver Ravenwolf, I'd say no. On the other hand, if they're on Palo Mayombe or some other system that incorporates animal sacrifice the likelihood of those charges being true rises substantially.

I'm really hoping that I never get accused of anything like this, because if the police were to search my home I can only imagine what they would make of hundreds of occult titles and collectible grimoires, not to mention my entire temple full of furniture, implements, and tools. They'd probably conclude that I was guilty on the spot, regardless of how ridiculous the charges were.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Google+ Integration

In theory I now have linked Augoeides into my Google+ profile so my posts will be distributed automatically to Google+ as well as Facebook, where they've been distributed for some time via NetworkedBlogs. Since Google+ doesn't allow aliases I believe it means that my posts and comments will now come up as Scott Stenwick rather than Ananael Qaa, but hopefully that won't cause much confusion around here since my real name is already prominently displayed on my book covers over on the right hand side of the page.

Since the main thing I use social networking for is distributing my blog posts this means that Google+ will now be a lot more useful to me than it previously has been, and hopefully it also means that I can expand my audience a bit. So for those of you who are on Google+ but not on Facebook, you should now be able to see my posts as I write them.

Enjoy!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Murder of Crows

Are crows drawn to magical or spiritual power? I have no idea whether or not that particular bit of folklore is true, but I sure have a lot of them living in my neighborhood. This video includes various shots of our local super-flock taken around Powderhorn Park in South Minneapolis, where I live. My house is about two blocks from the Midtown tower that appears briefly in the video.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Praying Otters

There's nothing paranormal going on here aside from extreme cuteness, but try telling that to all of the religious folks getting in touch with photographer Marac Andrev Kolodzinski after he took this remarkable picture of two otters seemingly engaged in prayer.

The 49-year-old from Herefordshire, who spent two hours waiting in the freezing cold observing the otter and his friends before he caught the divine moment on camera, has been fending off calls ever since.

'I've had lots of religious people call me up, saying that I was a tool doing the Lord's work,' he added to the Daily Mail.

'There was a guy from a religious cult that called me once. He wanted me to come out to Switzerland and preach to all these people about how I felt, and what I experienced at the time.'

The Lord may work in mysterious ways, but in fact Kolodzinski has been trying to explain to everyone that the otters weren't praying, but rather playing with a stone. If you look closely you can see it between the paws of the otter on the right. On the other hand, how would we really know? Otter spirituality is one of those mysteries that we're not about to unravel any time soon.

It sure is cute, though.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Introducing the Heptarchia Mystica Forum

Ever since Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy was released readers have asked me where they could find a forum in which to discuss its contents. I've finally gotten around to creating one. You can find it here, or access it from the links in the upper left corner of the page.

What I've set up is pretty much just a standard Blogger page with comments. I'll be checking that page on a regular basis and answering questions as they arise in the comments section. Feel free to ask - I'm always happy to discuss my work and share perspectives with other workers of magick.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Longer Than You Think

Like the last one I came across, this latest ghost photograph out of England appears to be a normal person. In fact, looking at the picture it's hard to tell that there's anything unusual about it - just a man dressed in what looks like a maroon shirt and a blue cap standing on a pier. The only thing that is strange about the picture is how it was taken by photography student Matthew Hales.

Mr Hales used a time lapse technique to take a picture every 30 seconds over a 15-minute period and did not leave the camera during this time.

'When I went through the pictures I was surprised to see the figure of a man standing on the pier - it was almost like he was looking straight at me,' said the 17-year-old, from Yale, near Bristol.

'The technique I was using captures everything which happens for 30 seconds, so he must have been stood there for at least that long to appear in the picture.

'However, when I checked the frames before and after there was no sign of him or of the figure walking to or away from the location where I saw him.'

Fishermen, who are allowed on the pier 24 hours a day, seven days a week, have also reported seeing a ghostly figure.

The story sounds a little odd, but unfortunately for those of us who are into the paranormal skeptics would have a field day with this one. Maybe Hales didn't leave his camera, but it was early in the morning and I know that I can zone out or be easily distracted at that time. And thirty seconds is actually longer than you think. It's more than enough time for someone to, say, emerge from the building in the photograph, take a good look at the stranger with the camera taking pictures, and then go back inside.

My guess is that a solid investigation will turn up the man in the picture, and that he'll be found quite alive.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Vatican Power Struggle?

Letters recently leaked from the Vatican suggest that a power struggle may be going among the various members of the College of Cardinals. The Roman Catholic Church has not disputed the contents of the letters, but claims that the media has vastly overstated their importance. The College of Cardinals is a secretive organization, and it may very well be that this sort of thing goes on all the time but is not usually reported to the public. Nonetheless, the documents contain some allegations that sound more serious than general, day-to-day operations.

The first missives to be published date from last spring. In them, Archbishop Carlo Maria ViganĂ², at the time the deputy governor of Vatican City, fretted that he would be ousted after making enemies in his effort to combat overspending and cronyism in the awarding of contracts. He pleaded with his boss, the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and the pope to let him stay on. Instead, Archbishop ViganĂ² was named the papal nuncio, or ambassador, to the United States.

Letters and documents by other Vatican officials followed, including some that suggested that the Vatican was not adequately complying with international legislation to prevent money laundering.

One anonymous document published in a national newspaper last week cited reports that a Sicilian cardinal had spoken vaguely about a plot to kill Pope Benedict XVI before the end of 2012.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, called the reports “delirious and incomprehensible.”

One of the biggest problems with religious and spiritual groups, especially large ones, is that whenever a group of people get together you get politics. And politics are bad for spiritual realization. They detract from the group's true purpose and cultivate animosities that can lead to infighting. Aleister Crowley may gone a little too far in putting together his guidelines for A.'.A.'. when he stipulated that each initiate could only know one other person in the order, but there's certainly some merit to the general idea. As Crowley commented in Magick Without Tears, "I am afraid you have still got the idea that the Great Work is a tea-party. Contact with other students only means that you criticize their hats, and then their morals; and I am not going to encourage this. Your work is not anybody else's; and undirected chatter is the worst poisonous element in human society."

Wise words, those.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Georgia's Luck Revisited

According to my article awhile back on mapping the luck plane, Georgia is not a particularly lucky state. In fact, when the data points originally compiled by Men's Health magazine are placed on a map, the entire southeast fares rather poorly. In one respect, though, Georgia has the other states in the nation beat - the prevalence of individuals who have won multiple lottery jackpots.

"Georgia is a very lucky state," Georgia Lottery spokeswoman Tandi Reddick tells Yahoo News. "There have been quite a few repeat Georgia Lottery winners who have Lady Luck on their side. It's fantastic for our players and very exciting for us."

Even more amazing, Reddick provided Yahoo News with no less than 15 examples of repeat Georgia lottery winners.

The most recent two-time winner is CNN producer Jennifer Hauser, 29, of Atlanta. Playing the instant scratch off game 50X The Money, Hauser took home a check for $1 million. Incredibly, Hauser's win came less than three months after she took home a $100,000 prize on another state lotto game, Georgia Lottery Black.

From this it would seem that there's some sort of problem in the Men's Health data in terms of mapping out general areas. One obvious issue is that data was only collected for one city in the entire state, Atlanta, and these winners might very well have lived in other areas. There may also be other problems depending on the exact methodology used in the study, which was not disclosed by the magazine. For example, Reno and Las Vegas came out high in part on the strength of high gambling winnings, but I have no idea if any attempt was made to account for the number of winners versus the number of gambling transactions - and if you don't do that, cities where gambling is big business come out ahead of other metropolitan areas even if the number of winners is proportionally the same.

The reality is that such flaws in the data set may render it useless for any sort of meaningful statistical analysis, which is a shame. At first it looked quite promising.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Man-Sheep Born in Nigeria?

For the purposes of this blog I love the African news media. Where else can you read about mermaids, shapeshifting prostitutes, or goblin attacks? Certainly not here in the states. It's not that weird stuff doesn't happen over here, you understand, but to quote the iconic film Spinal Tap, "it's just not widely reported." Here's another one - back in January a supposed "half man, half sheep" was born in Nigeria.

The scene which took place at Fakon Idi Veterinary Clinic, drew thousands of onlookers that trooped out from different parts of the metropolis to catch a glance of the strange being.

It took the intervention of men of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NCDSC) in the state to disperse the huge crowd who were demanding that the owner of the animal should come out to explain what led to the mystery birth even as they insisted that the owner must be probed and possibly executed.

Some of the onlookers who spoke with Daily Sun queried the occurrence that led to the discovery of the monster-like lamb, with many arguing that a man might have copulated with the animal.

Garba Aminu, a commercial motorcycle rider, averred: “This is an abomination in our land. To see a sheep give birth to a half human being is a mystery and that shows how terrible some people are. It is unimaginable that some people will be having intercourse with animals.”

The lamb does look pretty strange, but veterinarians had a more prosaic answer than a sheep-human hybrid. They explained that the lamb's mother was overdue and that there had been complications during the pregnancy that explains its appearance. This explanation failed to convince members of the crowd, who remained convinced that something unnatural had to be afoot.

Of course, what may have been overlooked in this case is intervention by space aliens. After all, it would take some pretty advanced biotechnology to merge human DNA with that of a sheep - especially while it was still in the womb. Does anybody know if the Grays routinely go around mutilating sheep, or do they just stick to cattle? Clearly, inquiring minds want to know.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Better Late Than Never, I Suppose

In 1627 Katharina Henoth was convicted of witchcraft and burned at the stake in the German city of Cologne. Now, almost four hundred years later, a retired priest is bringing her case before the authorities once more. He hopes that she will be acquitted of the charges and her name exonerated.

She was accused, among other things, of causing the illness and death of several people, but it is thought the charges brought against her may have been politically motivated.

Hartmut Hegeler, a 65-year-old retired priest, is bringing the case to the same city authority that convicted Henoth four centuries ago, where he hopes she will be acquitted.

He told the newspaper that the city's appeals committee had an "historic opportunity" to clear Henoth's name and take "a symbolic stand against a violation of human dignity."

Hegeler hopes that Katharina's case will be the first of many. He is seeking acquittals for all of the women executed for witchcraft in Cologne during the European witch craze. I applaud him for being willing to shed light on the injustices carried out during those times in the name of stopping witchcraft, though of course at the end of the day with or without an acquittal the victims are still just as dead.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mermaids in Zimbabwe

Normally one thinks of mermaids as living in the ocean, but in the inland African nation of Zimbabwe Water Resources Minister Samuel Sipepa Nkomo has stated that the aquatic creatures are impeding the installation of water pumps at two dam sites. This is an interesting case because it sounds like what's going on is not just superstitious dread, but actual encounters with something at the two sites.

Nkomo said officers from his ministry had refused to return to a dam in Gokwe where they were installing water pumps after allegedly being harassed by the mermaids.

"All the officers I have sent have vowed not to go back there and I am now appealing to the chiefs to do what is necessary to correct the problem," he said.

A similar problem had also been experienced at Osborne Dam near Mutare where white contractors had been forced to abandon the site.

"We even hired whites thinking that our boys did not want to work but they also returned saying they would not return to work there again," he said.

He urged traditional leaders in the respective areas to brew traditional beer and organise ceremonies to appease restive spirits who are believed to be responsible for the problems.

These sound like great locations for paranormal research - that is, if I were willing to travel to Zimbabwe. I'm not, simply because the country is a dangerous place for magical practitioners and if my reputation happened to precede me I could be in a lot of trouble. But I wonder if any of the folks working on the dam have videos of the alleged mermaid menace. That would really be something to see.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sparkly Vampires are Still Evil

Or, I suppose, to those of us who are fans of traditional vampire tales, especially evil. Because vampires don't sparkle, dammit! Evangelist Pat Robertson agrees, though to be fair Robertson has accused just about everything in the modern world of being evil at one time or another - not just the usual targets like gays and pagans, but also non-Christians, foreign leaders, hate crime laws, feminists, and the list goes on. Stephanie Meyer's frosting of sparkly goodness on the age-old myth of the vampire was not enough to fool this devout holy man. No, Robertson recently shook his disapproving finger at the Twilight franchise, claiming that its fans were inviting demonic possession.

Responding a a viewer question about whether the series promotes witchcraft, Robertson recounted a story of demon possession told to him by a friend. According to Robertson, the demon in question “had permission” to possess a young girl because she had been enticed by the timeless love story of Edward Cullen and Bella Swan. “It opened the door to demonic power. Yes, I think those vampire movies are evil,” said Robertson. “There are no vampires. The whole thing is demonic.”

At least I'll say he's consistent. Fluffy Wicca gets the same treatment. I do think it's kind of interesting to juxtapose (A) there are no vampires with (B) the whole thing is demonic. I guess what I can take away from those two statements is that Robertson has moved beyond condemning real things and moved on to imaginary ones. One wonders whether anyone could be an honest member of his congregation and manage to avoid all the things he condemns. Not only do you have to be Christian, straight, chauvinistic, and jingoistic, but you can't have an imagination either.

Then again, maybe he's just trying to save the world from Cullenism. That, at least, strikes me as a worthy goal.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Singing Zombie

There's a famous story from Haiti in which a man believed to be dead returned to his family, claiming that he had been turned into a zombie and forced to work on a plantation for years. Family members were at first skeptical, but eventually came to accept that the man was who he said he was. He seemed to have some sort of cognitive impairment, but given his ordeal that wasn't seen as surprising. As it turned out, though, evidence finally came to light showing that the man was not who he claimed to be, but rather a different individual who had assumed the identity of the deceased. This discovery cast doubt on the man's entire story, which included a number of outlandish elements that conformed to zombie folklore but were supported by no hard evidence.

One would think that this sort of confidence game would not work if the person being impersonated was a famous celebrity, but as it turns out someone is trying to do just that in South Africa. A man turned up last week claiming to be well-known folk singer Khulekani "Mgqumeni" Khumalo, who died in 2009. At a public appearance, he recounted a bizarre tale reminiscent of the one told in Haiti years earlier.

"I am Mgqumeni. And I know that some of you might not believe, but yes, it's true – it is me," the man told his audience. He said he had been a victim of witchcraft and that the zombies had forced him to sing and eat mud during his ordeal. He claimed to have woken up in a field in Johannesburg last week before finally making his way back home.

"I have been suffering a lot at the place where I was kept with zombies. It was hell there and I am so grateful that I was able to free myself and return to my family and you, my supporters," he said. Police reportedly resorted to using water cannon in an attempt to contain the crowds vying to catch a glimpse of the man.

So could it be true? Could South Africa be the home of mud-eating zombies dredged forth from the grave? As it turns out, South Africa is a much more modern nation than Haiti was back when the original story was being spun, and evidence of the man's duplicity was much more forthcoming.

But a police spokesman, Colonel Jay Naicker, said fingerprint samples had proven the man's claims to be false. The suspect was due to appear before Nquthu magistrates' court yesterday.

So there you have it. No South African mud-eating zombies in sight. On the other hand, given Mgqumeni's fame it's pretty amazing that anyone would have the nerve to try and pull something like this off. Not only that, but as you can see in the photographs above the man bears only a passing resemblance to the deceased singer. The real Mgqumeni is shown on the left, while the imposter is shown on the right.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Of Science and Magick

As should be clear to regular readers of this blog, I am deeply interested in the intersection of traditional science and magick. In the comments on yesterday's article a reader noted that it seemed I was trying to treat magick as some sort of hard or established science. I've been told that before, but still disagree strongly with the assertion. Part of the point of yesterday's article, in fact, was to draw attention to the simple truth that one of the things we lack in magical studies is a set of tools for measuring consciousness. I talk a lot in this space about probability shifts and hard measurements, but that's not because I'm a materialist or think that things such as brain science are all that matter. Rather, at this time, they're all that we have the capacity to measure in an objective fashion.

If a tool existed to measure spiritual realization, you can bet I would be posting a lot more about theurgy. Neuroscientist James Austin, in Zen and the Brain, noted that the closest thing that had been found as of 1999 was that advanced meditators seemed to have a heightened level of tonic theta-range brainwaves during waking consciousness, but the sample sizes involved in those studies were very small and all involved practitioners of either Hindu or Buddhist meditation methods. Does this relate back to magick as well? It might, and my working hypothesis would be that it should, but without more studies of Western mystics along the same lines there's no way to know for sure. Then the next question is whether or not heightened tonic theta brainwaves relate to what we normal think of as a "realized individual."

The trouble with relying on subjective measures is that, as the early psychologists discovered, introspection is unreliable and varies too much from one individual to the other. Structuralism, one of the early schools of psychology, was based on trying to correlate various introspective accounts in order to develop some sort of model of the mind's internal structure, but it eventually fell by the wayside because there was no objective way to reconcile the various interpretations of internal experiences. This, in my opinion, is about where the occult community is now with magick. Look at the varying models proposed by different individuals, all experienced occultists, and how their accounts differ. You can approach magick using any of them and seemingly get results, but the explanations of how those results happen depend upon the model employed.

As I see it the approach I'm trying to take is more akin to that of behaviorist B.F. Skinner in the 1960's. Skinner is sometimes unfairly accused of dismissing the cognitive side of psychology as irrelevant, a characterization that actually describes his predecessor John B. Watson more accurately. Skinner in fact focused his work on behavior because at the time he was working it was all that psychology could measure objectively. He would have been blown away by modern neuroscience if he had lived long enough to see it, and would have been fascinated by tools such as the functional MRI. In recent years we have in fact built many of the instruments that Skinner would have needed to probe more deeply into the inner workings of the brain and nervous system.

Skinner is generally credited as the most significant researcher in field of operant behavioral conditioning, and it is no coincidence that I use the term "operant" to describe my vision of practical magick and its workings. It's not that I think the subjective side of magical practice is irrelevant, but rather that we still lack the tools to explore it by any means other than introspection. If and when such tools become available, you can be sure that I'll do everything I can to take advantage of them in order to develop a more complete theoretical model of magical practice.

Monday, February 6, 2012

More Thoughts on Consciousness

Last week's article on reality selection and this recent discussion over at Magick of Thought both hinge on a fully developed understanding of how consciousness works. The problem, though, from a scientific perspective is that nobody really knows for sure. Neuroscience has made great strides over the course of the last twenty years as far as understanding the brain goes, and we can say with some certainty that there's a relationship between the brain and consciousness, but what that relationship is remains an open question. Even brain scanning only gets us so far, since nobody has ever figured out a way to measure consciousness as a thing-in-itself.

This recent article from CNN by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, author of the new book Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain, explains the problem of conflating what we experience as consciousness with sensory representation mapping and/or the functions of memory. Simply, it is a phenomenon that is more than the sum of its parts.

But while mapped representations are a necessity for consciousness, as far as I can imagine, they are not sufficient for consciousness to occur. For example, several orders of computers aboard a Boeing 747 represent with great fidelity many parts of the airplane body — moving parts of the wings, undercarriage, rudder — not to mention outside temperature, wind speeds, levels of fuel, and so forth. And yet we do not expect even the most integrated computer among the 747's computer family to be "conscious" of what goes on in the plane, except in a metaphorical sense. That top computer knows a lot about the plane's behavior but it does not "know," in the sense that the reader and I know, at this very moment, that we are alive and puzzling over the mysteries of consciousness.

What is different about us? Plenty, I would say. Beginning at the top of the scale of differences, the 747 lacks a self in the sense that you and I have one. I have proposed that selves are built from, but not limited to, myriad, integrated representations of the structure and operations of our bodies, and of the sum total of memories of what has happened to our own body in its history. The 747 does not have the equivalent of that part of a self for the very good reason that it does not need one to comply with the demands of its captain. But we do.

Somehow quantifying that fundamental difference is the real key to understanding magick from a scientific perspective. If we could measure state of consciousness X and resulting probability shift Y, and then build some sort of correlation between them, we would be able to establish a replicable model of how magick works that would stand up to laboratory testing. From there, we could then move on to optimization of mechanics and further testing in order to establish once and for all what the best and most efficient methods are for achieving particular outcomes.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Groundhog-mancy

Divination by groundhog has been a tradition in Pennsylvania for more than 120 years. Every year on February 2nd, Groundhog Day, handlers in the little town of Punxsutawney consult the world's most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil. The legend goes that if the groundhog sees his shadow on that particular day there will be six more weeks of winter. This year the weather forecasting website StormFax posted a roundup of more than a century of Groundhog Day predictions from the various rodents who over the years have served as Punxsutawney Phil (which, as you can imagine given 122 years of predictions, is more like an office than a single individual). What can we learn from the list? First of all, Phil usually sees his shadow, and second of all, he's right only 39% of the time.

When German settlers arrived in the 1700s, they brought a tradition known as Candlemas Day, which has an early origin in the pagan celebration of Imbolc. It came at the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Superstition held that if the weather was fair, the second half of Winter would be stormy and cold. For the early Christians in Europe, it was the custom on Candlemas Day for clergy to bless candles and distribute them to the people in the dark of Winter. A lighted candle was placed in each window of the home. The day's weather continued to be important. If the sun came out February 2, halfway between Winter and Spring, it meant six more weeks of wintry weather.

The earliest American reference to Groundhog Day can be found at the Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center at Franklin and Marshall College:

February 4, 1841 - from Morgantown, Berks County (Pennsylvania) storekeeper James Morris' diary..."Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate."

One of the problems with traditions is that they sometimes do not adapt to changing conditions. It would seem that the European weather on which the tradition was based is not similar enough to North American weather, which is both harsher and more unpredictable due to more of North America being situated far from any oceans along with its location on on the cold side of the Atlantic conveyor current that makes Europe substantially warmer than its latitude would otherwise suggest.

As far as this year goes, in Minnesota we've barely had a winter. There's hardly any snow left and the temperature has been above freezing for at least the last week. But the groundhog saw his shadow as usual. I'm guessing from what I've seen so far that this will be one more year he gets it wrong.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Head Sizes and Reality Selection

Over the course of the last month there has been some discussion in the magical blogosphere of Lon Milo DuQuette's maxim, "It's all in your head, you just have no idea how big your head really is" along with other statements of his to the effect that all a magician changes is him or herself. Articles related to this topic have been posted by Jason Miller, Patrick Dunn, Rufus Opus, Frater Barrabbas, and a number of others. On the surface, DuQuette's statements would imply a psychological approach to magick, but at the same time he has written about various magical operations he performed that certainly seem to have produced results in the material sphere. As a result, speculation on the true meaning of "how big your head really is" abounds.

As it turns out, I'm in a good position to help resolve some of the ambiguity, as Lon DuQuette lectured on this very topic at the last National OTO Convention. Based on his comments, I can say with some certainty that DuQuette does believe that practical magick in which the material world is directly affected is for real, and that what he is proposing is essentially a discrete model of magick that fundamentally differs from those generally discussed in the magical blogosphere. To recap for new readers, those models may be summarized as follows:
  • Psychological Model: According to this model, the function of magick is changing states of consciousness at will, limited to the individual mind of the practitioner. This model does not explain the success of most forms of practical magical work.
  • Energy Model: According to this model, magick is accomplished by directing some form of subtle energy with the mind. This model works well for "energy work" systems such as Qigong, but has the problem that the supposed "energy" is hard to define and has some, but not all, properties in common with "energy" as used in physics.
  • Spirit Model: According to this model, the changes related to magical operations are accomplished by spirits external to the magical practitioner. This model explains some systems such as grimoire evocation extremely well, but is less effective at explaining operations in which no external spirits are called upon.
  • Information Model: According to this model, the changes related to magical operations are produced by an exchange of information in which magick is treated as a form of communication. The primary weakness of this model is that it does not explain the experiences of "energy work" practitioners.