Friday, October 31, 2014

Vampire Grave Found in Bulgaria

Here's a story from earlier this month that seems tailor-made for Halloween. In Eastern Europe, belief in vampirism was common in the middle ages. Individuals who died under the right set of circumstances were thought to rise from the grave and prey upon the living. Archaeologists recently discovered one such "vampire grave" in Bulgaria. A metal stake was driven through the chest, and one of the legs was removed and placed next to the body.

Archeologists in Bulgaria haved uncovered a 13th century staked "vampire" at Perperikon, an ancient Thracian site in the south of the country, Archaeology reports. The remains once belonged to a man who was likely in his 40s. An iron rod had been hammered through his chest "to keep the corpse from rising from the dead and disturbing the living," Archaeology continues, and his left leg had also been removed and placed beside the corpse.

Clearly, this man's neighbors did not trust his remains to stay put. As Nikolai Ovcharov, the archeologist in charge of the dig, told the Telegraph: "We have no doubts that once again we’re seeing an anti-vampire ritual being carried out." At the time of the man's death, vampires were perceived as a real threat in many Eastern European communities. People who died unusually—from suicide, for example—were sometimes staked to prevent them from coming back from the dead, the Telegraph writes.

Many experts think that vampirism outbreaks in the middle ages were linked to a disease with which the modern world is familiar - "consumption" or tuberculosis. As the bacteria damage the lungs, victims slowly lose the ability to breathe and seemingly fade away, as if the life energy were being sucked out of them. At the same time, coughing brings up blood which congeals around the lips as if it were being drained in some fashion.

There's no evidence that corpses ever rose from the dead during the middle ages, though maybe that's because people took special precautions like this to prevent them from doing so. From their supposed powers, I'm inclined to think that if vampires really exist they are more like ghosts, "rising" in spectral form as the dark of the year grows closer and the veil between this world and the next reaches its thinnest point.

Like tonight.

Happy Halloween, everybody! Have a great spooky weekend!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pat Robertson Can Raise the Dead!

Or so he claims, at any rate. On The 700 Club he recently explained that he and others possessed the power to resurrect the dead, but complained that this vital skill was being withheld from the world. It seems to me there's a pretty simple solution to that particular problem - he needs to stop talking about it and start using it!

Or is that too obvious?

Today on “The 700 Club,” Pat Robertson insisted that he and others have the power to raise the dead, but lamented that people these days are withholding this special skill.

Robertson, who has previously discussed dead-raising abilities, told a viewer, Margaret, that people can raise the dead when they receive and submit to the power of the Holy Spirit.

“That power is there, we just aren’t using it,” Robertson grieved.

If Pat Robertson really could raise the dead he certainly would have done so by now under controlled conditions. It would cement his standing as the greatest Christian leader in modern times, and shut up idiots like Ken Ham who attack Robertson's form of creationism for denying the (deeply silly) Ussher chronology. I swear, the man makes enough ridiculous statements that he deserves his own tag here on Augoeides.

But then again, maybe Pat really has been busy, and that's where all the ebola zombies are coming from. You never know.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Alien Contactees Can't Find Jesus

Remember the Raelians? For those who need a refresher, Raelism is a contactee religion founded in 1974 that claims extraterrestrials called the Elohim created life on earth. The Raelians were in the news back in 2002 when a company associated with the movement claimed to have achieved human cloning, which was never verified by scientists outside the group and regarded as dubious by most mainstream biologists.

The latest Raelist project is a lot less ambitious. Using DNA analysis, a group of Raelians have proved that consecrated communion wafers do not contain any of Jesus' DNA. They claim that this proves "Holy Communion is a fraud," even though all it does is put them in agreement with all Protestant and Anglican denominations - which, by the way, still practice Holy Communion.

The Raelian researchers collected consecrated hosts from five different Catholic churches in the United States and Canada, and then tested the samples for human DNA. “But DNA analysis performed on five different hosts collected after the Catholic ritual of consecration showed no DNA change whatsoever in them,” Boisselier explained. “The wheat DNA remained wheat DNA, with no human DNA present other than that resulting from contamination caused by human handling of the hosts. This study clearly falsifies the claim that a religious ritual performed by a priest can actually change the substance of a bread wafer into the substance of a human body.”

The only reason this is an issue at all is because of the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, which is not shared by non-Catholics. And, in fact, as I recall tests were done in the 1970's that showed communion wafers did not physically transform. There was no DNA testing back then, but researchers did find that no experimental test could distinguish consecrated wafers from unconsecrated ones. So the Raelians already had a pretty good idea of what they would find, making this more a publicity stunt than a real test.

Had the Raelians actually found human DNA in the wafers, I expect that they would instead be announcing a new initiative to clone Jesus. That's just how they think. They can argue all they want about religious dogma misleading people, but then they start gushing about messages from space aliens. Is that any more believable than transubstantiation? I'll grant that intelligent aliens probably exist somewhere in the universe, but ufologists have never been able to come up with verifiable evidence that they've contacted us - and it's not for lack of trying.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Church of the Latter-Day Dude

I like to cover strange religions here on Augoeides, and recently this one was brought to my attention - The Church of the Latter-Day Dude. That's right, it's a religion based on the Coen brothers film The Big Lebowski. It's certainly weird, but no more so than the Tiger Woods church or the Twilight church, both of which I've covered in the past.

It's also a lot more tongue-in-cheek. I'm still hoping that the Twilight church was a joke, because they sounded serious about believing that the fictional characters in the Twilight universe were real people. The Big Lebowski is also a work of fiction, but there's nothing like that going on here. As far as their beliefs go, anyone familiar with the film will be able to guess the central tenet of Dudism, which is to "abide." You know, just like The Dude.

Show the world that you’ve got what it takes to take it easy. As an ordained Dudeist Priest, you can minister over religious ceremonies in most U.S. States (laws vary, so check with your local County Clerk first), and assorted other countries. Preside over a wedding, funeral, or any kind of celebration with pride and authority.Or just kick back and enjoy the knowledge that you’re an ordained minister at one of the most easygoing religions in the world. There are currently over 220,000 Dudeist Priests world-wide. Help spread the Dude word!

The emphasis on ordination here reveals one of the reasons that "churches" like this exist. In the United States, only an ordained minister or government official can officiate at events like weddings. The Universal Life Church was the first group to offer ordination over the Internet for this purpose, and others have now gotten in on the game.

As an aside, I got myself ordained through ULC to officiate at a friend's wedding this summer. When people question me about it being a fly-by-night organization I make sure to point out that they've reformed - they don't ordain cats any more! On the application form, it now specifies that you must be human, whereas it didn't back in the late 1990's.

It's time that we separated civil and religious marriage. Make civil marriages civil only, and then churches can perform whatever rite they or the families want in accordance with their policies. Not only would this resolve the issues surrounding same-sex marriage, but it would be more in accordance with the constitutional separation of church and state.

With marriages set up that way, if you wanted a friend to officiate your ceremony they could do so as long as the legal paperwork for the marriage itself got filed properly. He or she wouldn't need to find someplace online to obtain ordination - though the Church of the Latter-Day Dude is amusing enough that some might do so anyway.

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.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pat Robertson Versus Halloween

Fundamentalist Christians hate Halloween. This is pretty old news, of course, and just like clockwork Pat Robertson is at it again as the date approaches. On his television program, Robertson advised a viewer not to allow her child to attend a Halloween party thrown by a relative because it celebrated "demonic spirits," even though the viewer provided no evidence whatsoever that the party was anything other than a secular get-together.

Thursday on "The 700 Club," Robertson deemed the holiday "a festival of demonic spirits" in response to a viewer's question about whether or not she should let her children attend their aunt's Halloween party. "All this business about goblins and jack-o'-lanterns all comes out of demonic rituals of the Druids and the people who lived in England at that particular time," Robertson said on the show.

He then suggested shifting the holiday toward a more Christian focus. "I think churches can have Halloween parties," Robertson said. "You can bob for apples ... and turn it into a Christian festival, and that’s what we ought to do. We need to redeem these days, but that day was given over to Satanic things.”

This is the same thing Robertson says every year, so maybe it's not quite newsworthy. Still, I never cease to find his point of view bizarre, since as an occultist I think that the mainstream celebration of Halloween is a bunch of commercialized nonsense that has nothing to do with spirits or rituals or anything magical. There's a huge difference between carving up a pumpkin and carving up a pumpkin with a particular magical or spiritual intent. Does Robertson really think that the vast majority of people who carve jack-o'-lanterns are in the latter category?

At least Robertson isn't advocating those stupid "hell houses" that were something of a fad years ago. While I think a well-done "hell house" - like a haunted house built around the journey through Hell depicted in Dante's Inferno - could be awesome, the fundamentalist version is rather tiresome. The "sins" they focus on are abortion, sexuality, drug use, and "occultism," which they distort into "Satanic Ritual Abuse."

The FBI concluded back in the 1990's that organized "Satanic Ritual Abuse" is not a real thing. While psychopaths occasionally use occult trappings in the course of abusing victims, abuse cases involving religious trappings are much more common. Drug use is not even named as a sin in the Bible, and it's pretty hard to argue that the main issue Jesus cared about was sexuality. How about a "hell house" that deals with Jesus' real top issues, like exploitation of the poor and commodification of religion?

Yeah, that would probably be terrible too. But at least it would be authentic to the text that fundamentalists claim to hold above all else, even if it cut into their revenue. A better idea would be to just let people celebrate what for most has become a completely secular holiday as they see fit.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Chemtrails Conspiracy a Hoax

Who would have thought it? The chemtrails conspiracy - the idea that the condensation trails left by airplanes in the upper atmosphere consist of nefarious chemicals sprayed into the atmosphere to facilitate either (A) weather manipulation, (B) large-scale mine control, or (C) both A and B - has been revealed as a hoax.

I know, the answer to "who would have thought it" is "anyone who knows anything about chemistry and physics, plus anyone else with reasonable critical thinking skills." Still, there are a lot of people out there who apparently fall into neither group who are quite upset with the hoaxer, a British man named Chris Bovey.

The growth of this particular form of mass misinformation, and conspiracy theories in general, has expanded along with the growth of the Internet. That’s what makes a certain social experiment by a fellow from the U.K. so interesting. From VICE:

"On October 1, Chris Bovey—a 41-year-old from Devon, England—thought he’d troll the chemtrails camp. During a flight from Buenos Aires to the UK, his plane had to make an emergency landing in São Paulo and dumped excess fuel to lighten the load. Since he had a window seat, Chris decided to film all the liquid being sprayed out of the wing next to him.

Touching down, he uploaded the video with a caption that suggested it could be evidence of chemtrails, hoping to mess with a couple of friends who he knew might fall for it. The video now has 1.1 million views, nearly 20,000 shares, and dozens of comments telling viewers to 'wake the F up,' or accusing naysayers of being 'stupid paid shills.'"

Adding fuel to the fire, Bovey then made up a story about how he’d been detained at Heathrow Airport and was interrogated by authorities who confiscated his cellphone. Soon after, the conspiracy site ran his story as evidence for chemtrails.

The old rule holds true now more than ever. If you see something on the Internet, check it out before you accept it as fact. Then check it again to make sure. The sheer ease with which information can be made up and disseminated online means that there's a whole lot of nonsense floating around out there.

While I realize that the same could be said for Bovey's current claims, keep in mind that many chemtrail enthusiasts also think that shape-shifting lizard people secretly control the world. There's also the inconvenient fact that we don't currently possess chemicals that can control peoples' minds or manipulate the weather in any predictable fashion.

Maybe the idea is that the lizard people made them.

Monday, October 13, 2014

What is "Dark Fluff?"

One of the Facebook commenters on last week's "Dark Fluffers" article asked for a definition of "Dark Fluff." When I was writing up the article I did a search, but as the term has mostly been thrown around magical discussion groups and nobody seems to have posted a specific article on it I was unable to find a usable link that didn't include a lot of other stuff not relevant to the definition. So let me be the first to post one.

A common criticism of popular books on occultism is that they are "fluffy." That is, the authors pull a bunch of stuff together in a manner that is not intellectually rigorous and combine it with material that they simply make up. For a long time most of the worst offenders were authors who tried to sanitize occultism in some fashion, and make it all "sweetness and light." This approach apparently sells book, but whether it teaches effective spiritual technology is anyone's guess.

Recently, though, the opposite approach has also become popular. Instead of distorting occultism into something nice and safe, the authors instead distort it into something that is intended to sound dark and scary. The Enochian magical system was an early victim of this treatment, which I believe is why many people consider it an especially dangerous form of magick (when, as far as I can tell, it is not).

I find the desire to make magick extra-dark profoundly confusing. I suppose there are people out there who are drawn to things precisely because they're dangerous, but I've never been one of them. I at least understand why someone might want to present magick as bright and happy, because that makes it sound accessible and fun. But as darker than it already is? No thank you.

What these dark authors seem to be trading on is the mistaken assumption that if something sounds dark and scary, it must be deep and serious. But dark stuff can consist of made-up, unworkable nonsense just as easily.

Friday, October 10, 2014

New Study of Near-Death Experiences

A large new study has confirmed life after death - sort of. Researchers found that a significant subset of cardiac patients retained some form of conscious awareness up to three minutes after they were declared clinically dead. This finding is not that surprising given how many patients report classic near-death experiences, but it does refute the contention that such experiences are merely hallucinations.

A team based in the UK has spent the last four years seeking out cardiac arrest patients to analyse their experiences, and found that almost 40 per cent of survivors described having some form of “awareness” at a time when they were declared clinically dead.

Experts currently believe that the brain shuts down within 20 to 30 seconds of the heart stopping beating – and that it is not possible to be aware of anything at all once that has happened. But scientists in the new study said they heard compelling evidence that patients experienced real events for up to three minutes after this had happened – and could recall them accurately once they had been resuscitated.

Dr Sam Parnia, an assistant professor at the State University of New York and a former research fellow at the University of Southampton who led the research, said that he previously thought patients who described near-death experiences were only relating hallucinatory events. One man, however, gave a “very credible” account of what was going on while doctors and nurses tried to bring him back to life – and says that he felt he was observing his resuscitation from the corner of the room.

Researchers still haven't come up with results that imply consciousness actually leaves the body. To do that, some sort of scenario would need to be set up to test whether patients can accurately recall information that they could not possibly perceive with their regular senses. A few doctors here and there have placed pictures on top of cabinets and so forth where they could only be seen by someone floating near the ceiling, but as far as I know it's never been done on a large scale.

So this latest study is interesting from the standpoint of consciousness and its relation to brain states, but it doesn't reveal anything truly paranormal. Rather, it shows that many peoples' minds are much more resilient than previously thought.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

"Dark Fluffers" Charged With Murder

Is this where the ongoing epidemic of "dark fluff" has led us? A North Carolina couple has been charged with murder after skeletal remains were discovered buried in their yard. The "dark fluff" connection is that the man goes by the name Pazuzu, the demon featured in "The Exorcist," and was described by an ex-girlfriend as a "worshipper of 'evil gods.'" In Babylonian and Assyrian mythology Pazuzu was the demon king of the southwest wind that brought famine, but from his appearance I doubt this guy ever looked any deeper than the pop culture version.

Pazuzu Illah Algarad, 35, and Amber Nicole Burch, 24, were both arrested Sunday after police executed a search warrant and found the remains, according to WXII. It's currently unclear why Forsyth County police executed a search warrant on the home, but this isn't the first time Algarad has been involved in a murder case. In 2010, Algarad was convicted on a charge of accessory after the fact in the shooting death of 30-year-old Joseph Chandler. Chandler's body was found near a river by police after his mother reported him missing that morning. According to state records, Algarad was released on probation.

Bianca Heath claimed she lived with Algarad for a month in 2005, and that he had spoken of the bones in his back yard. "Paz told everyone," Heath told The Huffington Post. "But I never believed him. I'm sure no one else believed him either. He laughed about the skeletal remains when telling the story on why he did what he did." Heath said Algarad told her he picked up two prostitutes at two separate locations before he killed and ate them, burning the remains in a fire pit before burying the rest.

Frankly, there's a good reason nobody believed Algarad. Generally speaking, people who make themselves up like freaks and go on and on about darkness and evil are so stupid they can barely tie their own shoes, let alone plan and carry out a murder. Humans are survivors, and killing someone is a lot harder than it looks on television. Getting away with it is even more difficult, as I expect Algarad and Burch will find out at trial.

Maybe the deal here is that Burch is the smart one. From her picture she looks pretty normal, even cute. That's how you should look if you want to be able to lure and manipulate victims, or for that matter do something as simple as hold down a job. I have no doubts that Algarad is a psychopath of some sort, but he also strikes me as far too delusional to be that dangerous on his own.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Dalai Lama Will Reincarnate, No Matter What

Chinese efforts to regulate Tibetan reincarnation have reached a new low. Last month, the 14th Dalai Lama issued a statement that it was possible he might not reincarnate, and Chinese government officials were not amused. They issued their own statement to the effect that the Dalai Lama would reincarnate whether he liked it or not, and that his next incarnation would be chosen by them.

In an interview on Sunday, the 14th Dalai Lama (born Tenzin Gyatso) was quoted by the German paper Die Welt as saying that perhaps it's best for the Dalai Lama to go out with a bang rather than a whimper. “We had a Dalai Lama for almost five centuries. The 14th Dalai Lama now is very popular. Let us then finish with a popular Dalai Lama." This quote was quickly picked up by papers around the world (though it's worth noting the Dalai Lama's camp says his quote was taken out of context).

For China, which invaded Tibet in 1951 and beat back a political uprising by Tibetans in 1958, the idea that there would be no more Dalai Lamas was a bridge too far. China has long viewed the current Dalai Lama as a dangerous political separatist, calling him at one point "a wolf in monk's clothing."

A political tussle over reincarnation may bring a smirk to the faces of some, but for Tibetans inside China and living in exile it's serious business. The title of Dalai Lama stretches back to 1391 and is believed by Tibetan Buddhists to be an unbroken line of reincarnations of the saint of compassion Avalokiteśvara. Since the 17th century until 1962, the Dalai Lama also controlled the Tibetan government, and 14th Dalai Lama remained the head of state for the Central Tibetan Administration, made up of Tibetans in exile, until formally resigning from the role in March of 2011.

It sounds ridiculous, but China has done it before. When the last Panchen Lama died, the Chinese announced that they had identified his successor as Gyaincain Norbu, while the current Dalai Lama and other Tibetan authorities instead recognized Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. Nyima went missing at the age of six, while Norbu went on to assume the office of the Panchen Lama in an official capacity in China, even though he is considered illegitimate by many Tibetans.

The Dalai Lama later clarified his statement by adding that he planned on leaving whether he would reincarnate or not up to the Tibetan people, but needless to say the Chinese were not satisfied with that either. It seems that no matter what happens or what the Tibetan people want, the Chinese will be naming their own Dalai Lama when the current one passes away, and the selection will most likely be quite controversial.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Reptilians Are Among Us!

Could the conspiracy theorists be right? Back in May, a woman in Indonesia gave birth to a gecko lizard. The story went viral on the Internet, and now a panel of experts has been called in to debunk the story. What's suspicious, though, is all the attention being paid by officials to what they describe as a nonsensical event that could never have happened. What could they be trying to hide?

Debi Nubatonis, 31, gave birth to the gecko following an eight-month pregnancy, according to India Today. Though scientists say it is impossible that a woman was pregnant with a lizard, officials are sending in a team of experts to get to the bottom of the mystery.

May in the remote Oenunto village where a midwife "delivered" the lizard. The news of the lizard birth led to the woman and her family receiving threats and being accused of witchcraft. The debate quickly became viral on the internet as well.

"It is clearly nonsense to suggest that the woman gave birth to a lizard," said Dr. Messe Ataupa, chief medical officer of nearby Kupang, according to India Today. "There has never been a proven case of a living organism from one species giving birth to a different species, it just doesn't happen."

Sure, that's what Ataupa and his team want us to think. The fact is that if Reptilians have been combining their own DNA with that of humans, it's totally possible that instead of a baby you might wind up with a gecko. Such an event would be proof of the vast Reptilian conspiracy, and as such the aliens trying to dominate human evolution will clearly do anything in their power to stop the birth from being confirmed.

I'm hereby calling on the investigators in Indonesia to locate the gecko and test its DNA. If partial human sequences are found, the secret will be out. Of course they're not going to do it, but that just demonstrates they're involved in the cover-up.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

When Poor Oppressed Christians Get Elected

The scariest thing about Poor Oppressed Christians is that some of them manage to get elected to public office. Last week Charles Perry, a recently elected state senator from West Texas, gave an inaugural speech that compared the (non-existent) Christian oppression in America with the Holocaust. Because, apparently, someone saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" is the moral equivalent of an execution.

In his inaugural speech, Perry said a recent trip to a concentration camp in Germany made him draw a comparison between what he believes are efforts by the government to pass laws against religion and the killing of Jews during the Holocaust.

“There were 10,000 people that were paraded into a medical office [at the concentration camp in Germany] under the guise of a physical. As they stood with their back against the wall, they were executed with a bullet through the throat. Before they left, 10,000 people met their fate that way,” Perry said.

“Is it not the same than when our government continues to perpetuate laws that lead citizens away from God? The only difference is that the fraud of the Germans was more immediate and whereas the fraud of today’s government will not be exposed until the final days and will have eternal-lasting effects.”

The answer to that question is a loud and resounding "No." A law that says you can't bash gay people, for example, is pretty much the exact opposite. Likewise, Christian political supremacy would imply discrimination against Jews, just like the antisemitism that fed the Holocaust. I seriously want to know why anyone thinks it's a good idea to have someone whose thinking is this muddled in public office. Where do they find these jackasses?

Friday, October 3, 2014

NASCAR Sorcery?

This year NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick has had more than his share of bad luck. Despite having ostensibly solid, fast cars and driving well, he has won fewer races than he should because little things keep going wrong. According to this article from Sporting News, last week a fan of rival driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was spotted casting some sort of spell involving a monkey skull on Harvick's car, which encountered technical problems that cost him the race. So maybe the problem really is that he's being cursed.

“Last week, we had a Dale Jr. fan with a monkey skull with some sort of witchcraft standing behind our car,” Harvick said. “There’s some weird things happening. The skull had a 2 and a 4 on it so I guess that was meant for myself and (Brad) Keselowski.

“So I guess she got us last week at Dover. I don’t know that she will be able to show up for every race.”

Harvick isn't convinced that the bad luck will necessarily go away. All he knows is that he had a great car at Dover only to have a lugnut fall onto a valve stem and snap it on a pit stop, causing a flat tire that ruined his chances.

It was just another instance where Harvick saw a chance to win slip away. Harvick, who has just two wins this year despite leading 96 more laps and 247 more miles than any other driver, knows that circumstances need to go right as he enters the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup this weekend at Kansas Speedway.

This is exactly how curses work in the real world. They don't produce tons of special effects like in the movies, but rather they slant the odds against their target. And when you're under an effective curse, if something weird is even remotely likely to go wrong, it will. Harvick may have been cursed during other races as well, since many such spells don't require direct contact or even line-of-sight.

I don't personally know any curses off the top of my head that involve monkey skulls, but the most basic rule of magick is that if it works, it works. I'm thinking that if Harvick wants to turn his luck around, he should probably find his own sorcerer to cast counter-spells on his behalf.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Purity on a Plane

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt is best known for popularizing Moral Foundations Theory, a model of moral decision-making based on six distinct foundations or heuristics. One of these foundations, the so-called "Purity" axis, came into play on a recent transatlantic flight. A group of ultra-orthodox Jewish men flying from New York to Israel to celebrate the Jewish New Year refused to be seated next to women, causing chaos that delayed the flight and created problems once the plane was in the air.

In ultra-orthodox Judaism men are not allowed to touch women who are not spouses or close relatives. The official reasoning behind this is that according to Jewish law, menstruating women are ritually unclean and "not to be touched." As there is no way to determine whether a stranger might be menstruating, these sects ban all contact. But on a transatlantic flight this is simply ridiculous, especially with how closely packed the seats on planes have become.

The El Al flight from New York, with non-orthodox and secular Jews also on board, eventually arrived at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport before dawn on Wednesday in time to celebrate the Jewish new year, according to news website Ynet.

One female passenger described her trip as: “an 11-hour-long nightmare”. As people boarded the flight, ultra-orthodox men began asking women to change seats so they did not have to sit next to them, some even offering them money to do so, witnesses told Ynet.

When some women refused, including one woman, Galit, who was sitting with her husband, the men stood in the aisles, delaying the flight’s departure. The men eventually sat down, allowing the plane to take off, but then many got up and blocked the aisles.

So this is a prime example of how the Purity axis is poorly suited to the modern world. It evolved under circumstances with far poorer sanitation than what we see today in developed nations, and in which conditions like food poisoning were far more deadly without modern medicines. Likewise, without treatments for venereal diseases sexual behavior was potentially quite dangerous. But in the context of air travel, refusing to sit down during a flight is where the actual danger lies.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Christian Wrestling?

Some of you probably remember my old joke about Christian music, "What do you call Christian music that's good? Music." Can the same be said for professional wrestling? As part of their quest to create their own inferior-but-less-tainted version of every regular consumer product and form of entertainment, evangelical Christians now have their own professional wrestling league. And according to this article from Salon, it's just as weird as you might expect.

Christian wrestling’s mission is to reach kids who don’t go to church but enjoy professional wrestling, so they will come to matches and meet Christ. Typically, at every wrestling show, 10% of the crowd will make a move to give their life to Christ.

Sounds like a game of holy-roller smoke-and-mirrors, delivered with a mighty piledriver, where fans can take in their vision of a lovable Jesus opening a big can of whoop-ass.

Checking out Christian wrestling videos on YouTube, it’s the ultimate battle of good vs. evil (in terms of the ongoing clash with Satan). Southern wrestling alone is weird. Throwing in the element of Jesus brings it to a whole new surreal level.

A girthy wrestler flies off the ropes and delivers a crushing Hangman’s Neckbreaker to his unfortunate opponent. THUD! Like a plague of locusts, or a fatal kiss from Judas, the champ then falls victim to the best finishing move in wrestling—the Guillotine. Adding insult to injury, the hero is handcuffed to the ropes by a pair of rogue thugs then stomped, chocked, and kicked. Clearly, this wrestler is getting crucified. Moments later it gets gravely serious.

“Hold on, we got a little more,” says announcer.

The hero points to the handcuff still locked around his wrist; “As I’m looking at this chain wrapped around my wrist, handcuffed, as I was handcuffed to this, I’m reminded of a message I want to share with you: the only purpose we are here is to serve God!”

Given the simplistic good-versus-evil storylines of regular professional wrestling, a Christian version isn't that much of a stretch. But the ham-handedness here is typical of many "Christian" products. Instead of making it clear that, say, one wrestler represents the side of Jesus and the other the side of the Devil (although the Archangel Michael and Lucifer might be more authentic) and then just having them wrestle, they can't keep themselves from engaging in superfluous evangelizing.

This is a problem with Christian music, too. It's not enough to write a song about dealing with some aspect of life from a Christian perspective; you have to make sure that every single song is about nothing but how cool and awesome Jesus is, full stop. In fact, one of the differences between the good Christian music that just gets called "music" is that it does address other aspects of life while remaining grounded in Christian principles.

Maybe the limited dramatic format of professional wrestling doesn't make its Christian principles very clear without a lot of earnest exposition, but it still seems pretty strange to me. It's kind of like a bait-and-switch - you show up for a wrestling match, but have to sit through a sermon.