Thursday, November 26, 2009

Slapping Down "Prayer Warriors"

Rufus Opus has an article up today with some great suggestions on spirits to summon in order to work against "Prayer Warriors" - that is, Christian extremist magicians. If you haven't read it yet, you should check it out. It's a follow-up to this article in which Rufus discusses the "Prayer Warriors" who are likely working on behalf of evangelical politicians who support the dominionist movement.

I've blogged about this issue in the past as well. In the course of discussing that article I was accused by a couple of readers of discounting the power of this sort of magick simply because I believe that magicians of most esoteric traditions are on average individually more effective because we have a better idea of how our magick works and as a result are more able to optimize our techniques. The thing to keep in mind, though, is that these "Prayer Warriors" usually work in much larger groups than ritual magicians generally do, and as a result are still a force to be reckoned with. Preferably with spells.

To Rufus' list of spirits for workings of this sort I would add the Enochian Seniors. The Golden Dawn attributed the Seniors to the planets, but if you go back to the original Dee material their function is to govern "knowledge and judgment in human affairs." I've had a fair amount of success influencing the political landscape with those particular entities and highly recommend their use. Even if you work Golden Dawn-style Enochian rather than Dee-style like I do, I would expect that the Seniors should nonetheless be able to act effectively in fulfilling their original offices.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Gap Promotes Witchcraft?

Here I always thought that The Gap was nothing more than a retailer of dull conventional clothes. Imagine my surprise to hear that they've been accused of promoting evil witchcraft! Now I'd love to support a clothing chain that genuinely promoted magick and the occult, so this might be enough to prompt me to shop there, you know, if there were any truth to it.

In yet another case from the "Not Christian Enough" file, a group called the American Family Association (AFA) has decided that a Gap holiday ad that dares to mention "Solstice" as a winter holiday along with Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza apparently goes too far and justifies a boycott of the store. I would certainly characterize the lyrics from the commercial as insipid, but finding them truly offensive on any other grounds strikes me as over-the-top:

Two, Four, Six, Eight, now’s the time to liberate
Go Christmas, Go Hanukkah, Go Kwanza, Go Solstice.
Go classic tree, go plastic tree, go plant a tree, go add a tree,
You 86 the rules, you do what feels just right.
Happy do whatever you wanukkah, and to all a cheery night.
Go Christmas, Go Hanukkah, go whatever holiday you wanukkah.

"Wanukkah?" Really?

While the copywriter responsible for this abuse of both the English and Hebrew languages should probably be chastised on the grounds of simple illiteracy, I don't understand why it's such a big deal to acknowledge that Christianity isn't the only religious tradition that celebrates a winter holiday. That is, unless one happens to be a histrionic idiot. From AFA's action alert:

Did you notice it? Gap compares Christmas to the pagan holiday called “Solstice.” Solstice is celebrated by Wiccans who practice witchcraft!

The horror! And yes, the bolded text is as it appears in AFA's original article.

In addition to objecting to the lyrics because OMG WITCHCRAFT!!!, apparently AFA has also decided that noting multiple holidays happen around the same time of year is identical to comparing those holidays with one another. This is just plain silly. If I were state that Passover and Easter are both celebrated in the spring, do you really think that any reasonable person would accuse me of comparing the two holidays? I've said nothing about either aside from noting the season during which they are celebrated.

Kind of like the Bible burners, whoever is running AFA seems to have gotten it into their heads that anything deviating from their very strict interpretation of the Christian religion has to be stamped out or at least boycotted on the grounds of... well... actually I have no idea what they're hoping to accomplish. Fortunately most Christians are not this ridiculous and don't find the very existence of non-Christian holidays to be some sort of affront to their beliefs.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Albino Killings Return

Here's some terrible news out of the African nations of Tanzania and Burundi. Last June Tanzanian authorities arrested a gang that was engaged in the murder of albinos in order to sell their body parts to unscrupulous witch doctors for use in magical ceremonies. The gang members went on to be convicted and were recently executed.

At the time of the arrests I expressed my hope that with the killers brought to justice this wave of murders would be over, and indeed, the killings did stop over the summer. Unfortunately, this fall they seem to have started back up again.

"It has been a crisis for over two years, 56 albinos have lost their lives as a result of killings done by hunters," Matthias Schmale, IFRC Under Secretary General for Development, told journalists at the report launch.

"The report demonstrates ... that thousands of albino lives in these two countries ... are literally put on hold."

There are 7,000 registered albinos in Tanzania and 1,000 in Burundi, although officials believe actual numbers are higher. According to the IFRC, these albinos are unable to live normal lives due to the threat of murder.

The attacks kicked off in 2007, and quickly spread across Tanzania - where the majority of the murders have occurred - and into Burundi.

A lull this summer led to hopes that the attacks were over, but in late October, hunters beheaded 10-year-old albino boy Gasper Elikana in front of his family in Tanzania, then made off with his leg.

It seems that the market for albino body parts is lucrative enough that a new batch of criminals has stepped up to take the place of the previous gang.

Tanzanian police estimate that a complete set of albino body parts - including all four limbs, genitals, ears, nose and tongue - are worth as much as 75 thousand dollars to witch doctors, who use them to concoct potions believed to bring wealth and good luck.

According to Isaac Mwaura, national coordinator for the albinism society in neighbouring Kenya, a combination of globalization-induced greed and old African superstitions is to blame for the killings, which he believes are well-planned and organized.

"Witch doctors commission people to look for these body parts," he said. "The gangs were organized, had certain targets and certain motivation."

I'm still trying to figure out why body parts lacking melanin are so valuable to practitioners of this particular school of traditional magick. It sounds to me like one of those superstitions based on scarcity that is widely believed despite never having been subjected to sufficient empirical tests.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Twilight Cult?

Disclaimer: I found this discussion over on LiveJournal without any external links documenting the existence of a "Twilight Cult." However, the whole idea is so ridiculous that even if it's all made up it's still amusing.

I'm seriously hoping that this is a joke. Because if it isn't, "Cullenism" has to be just about the stupidest thing ever. It's one thing to be a fan of a particular author's work, but another to go completely nuts and decide that the works of an author you admire are TOTALLY REAL. That sort of delusion can lead to some seriously messed up situations in no time flat. Just ask Mercedes Lackey. On the other hand, if it is a joke, it's pretty darn funny.

I've had little trouble avoiding the Twilight books because my oldest daughter is still too young to be interested in teen fiction, but I did wind up seeing the first movie because one of my neighbors has a teenaged daughter who's a fan of the series. I liked the cinematography of the film, which did a wonderful job of capturing the atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest, but otherwise found the characters totally flat and the story lacking where it wasn't cliche. The only real innovation to the vampire genre that Stephanie Meyer seems to have managed to make is that her vampires sparkle in the daylight rather than burst into flames or die in some other manner - and honestly that just strikes me as dumb.

Anyway, according this LiveJournal article there are now Twilight fans who have started their own cult, Cullenism, in which they offer prayers to both Meyer and her fictional vampire, Edward Cullen.

The people who make up prayers to Edward Cullen, the ones who basically worship the whole God-damn series and Meyer herself. Some may be joking, but I am convinced that there is a sizable portion who takes worship of the series pretty seriously. Now, I'm not knowledgable of the Mormon church and their beliefs, etc...but I am aware that Meyer is a fairly strict Mormon. Is anyone in her church concerned that she has basically spawned a cult? Does anyone in her church care that there are people who turn prayers to God into prayers to Edward and Meyer?

Well, Mormonism does teach that:

as God's children, mankind may, through the merits and mercy accorded all through the Atonement of Christ, become like God the Father. As Paul taught the Romans, "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together."[7] Eternity will be spent in a process of eternal progression becoming more like the Father (God).

One could perhaps argue that prayers offered up to Stephanie Meyer are all part of her personal process of deification, but I'm nonetheless pretty sure that such practices bear no resemblance to what any of the Mormon church fathers intended.

Some chaos magicians insist that you can make magick work by invoking fictional entities like the deities of H.P. Lovecraft's C'thulhu mythos, or, I suppose, Stephanie Meyer's characters, but in my own work I've found that there is a big difference between fictional entities and the spirits of the Western Esoteric Tradition. If you're working with your own internal magical power it is true that you can use just about any vaguely archetypal character to shape it, but when I work with spirits from the tradition the probability shift that my rituals produce is usually significantly higher. That suggests to me that the spirits of the tradition have some sort of external reality to them that fictional entities do not.

Meanwhile, I'm snickering to myself imagining what sort of practices following the teachings of Cullenism would entail. Would it be something like a fluffy-bunny version of the system laid out in The Psychic Vampire Codex where you drain psychic energy to increase your powers but only from animals (because, for those lucky enough to have avoided the whole thing so far, in the Twilight series the "good" vampires only drink the blood of animals)? Maybe you would sparkle when your psychic energy level gets high enough and that would give you cool sparkly-vampire powers that mysteriously resemble the effects of glitter makeup. Or something equally ridiculous.

Friday, November 13, 2009

God Slaps Down Bible Burning

This is way too funny.

Remember the North Carolina church that planned a book burning at which they would burn copies of Bible translations deemed "Satanic?" It turns out that when the day finally came God had other ideas.

To be sure, they planned to burn heavy metal music and smutty movies. But they also had country, gospel, and Christian contemporary music and videos about Jesus in their crosshairs. Most shockingly, they said that they would burn all non-King James versions of the Bible -- aka "Satan's bibles."

They also announced a long list of "Satan's popular books written by heretics" which would be burned. And to top it all off, they offered "fried chicken, and all the sides."

But when the big day came around, a combination of rain, protesters, and a state law against burning paper all conspired against them.

Sure, part of the problem was a state law banning the burning of paper. Sure, part of the problem was that more protesters showed up than the church's entire congregation of 14 people. But the bottom line is that even if neither of those things had been a factor you still can't hold a book burning when it's raining. Maybe the church should have realized from the start that Christians shouldn't be burning Bibles. I mean, it seems obvious to me, but I suppose in their eyes I'm an evil devil worshipper so my opinion doesn't count.

Nonetheless, the church released a statement desperately spinning the outcome of the event.

We wanted to say that the Book Burning was a great success[.] We wanted to thank all the Bible doubters who prayed for rain with us. All the protestors and media got wet; we were inside where it was nice and dry[.] We are not glad people got wet, we are glad that His Word was honored. Some have written praising God that he intervened and stopped the Book Burning because of the rain, protestors, and state laws about burning paper.

Wow, it's not just me...

Nothing was stopped. Our goal was to destroy garbage as noted below, and we did just that. We didn't care how it was destroyed; only that it was destroyed. These same people must have never heard about "Paper, Rock, & Scissors." Scissors cut paper, and paper tears real easy. We destroyed everything as planned. Praise God! God answered every prayer that everyone prayed, but they don't like the answer.

Translation: we didn't get to burn anything, so our book burning was a great success. You've got to love the cognitive dissonance.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

November News Roundup

When I signed the contract for Arcana I had no idea that the plan was to release the book so soon. This month I've been busier than expected working on a promotional plan and making sure the folks at Pendraig have everything they need. As a result I haven't have much time for blogging, so here's a paranormal news roundup for the first half of November featuring stories from all over the world.

This first one is not necessarily paranormal, but it's an interesting historical tidbit nonetheless. The remains of a Persian army of 50,000 that disappeared in 525 BC may have been found in the western Egyptian desert.

Bronze weapons, a silver bracelet, an earring and hundreds of human bones found in the vast desolate wilderness of the Sahara desert have raised hopes of finally finding the lost army of Persian King Cambyses II. The 50,000 warriors were said to be buried by a cataclysmic sandstorm in 525 B.C.

The disappearance of the army was reported by the Greek historian Herodotus, and this discovery represents the first piece of archaeological evidence that has been found supporting his account.

According to Herodotus (484-425 B.C.), Cambyses, the son of Cyrus the Great, sent 50,000 soldiers from Thebes to attack the Oasis of Siwa and destroy the oracle at the Temple of Amun after the priests there refused to legitimize his claim to Egypt.

After walking for seven days in the desert, the army got to an "oasis," which historians believe was El-Kharga. After they left, they were never seen again.

"A wind arose from the south, strong and deadly, bringing with it vast columns of whirling sand, which entirely covered up the troops and caused them wholly to disappear," wrote Herodotus.

From the story I'm left wondering if this army was destroyed by magick. The Egyptian priesthood was feared in ancient times for its purported magical powers, so much so that those powers even make an appearance in the Book of Exodus. I've never lived in any place where summoning a sandstorm was practical, but I can call up thunderstorms when the season is right. I'm thinking that if I lived in Egypt a sandstorm wouldn't be much more difficult.

News out of India suggests that the Hindu deity Lord Jagannath may have returned to earth - as a sea turtle.

The turtle is protected in India and anyone found keeping one without permission can be jailed for a year or more and fined.

But adamant villagers have refused to give up the reptile, saying the turtle bears holy symbols on its back and is an incarnation of Lord Jagannath, a popular Hindu deity.

"Lord Jagannath has visited our village in the form of a turtle. We will not allow anybody to take the turtle away," said Ramesh Mishra, a priest of the temple.

Jesus, on the other hand, appears content to stick with a truck belonging to Jim Stevens of Johnson City, Tennessee.

Stevens, of Jonesborough, said nearly every morning, an image that looks to him like the face of Jesus Christ has appeared in the condensation on the driver's side window of his Isuzu truck. A Johnson City Press photo of the truck showed a facial image.

Stevens said when he first saw the image, he figured it would evaporate and not return. But it kept reappearing for two weeks now.

Is it just me, or is it simply ridiculous to tell authorities that God told you to steal a car? A Dodge Charger, no less.

Police said a 36-year-old man was collared by a security guard at Freedom Dodge before he could get inside the showroom. WLEX-TV reported the man told the guard that God wanted him to steal a Dodge Charger.

When police arrived, the suspect initially told them his name was "Seven."

Bad news for Bolivian Catholics - the church has banned the use of human skulls during special Mass celebrations.

The Bolivian Episcopal Conference on Friday asked the overwhelmingly Catholic nation to cast aside the "growing" trend of seeking protection from bad luck by making offerings of coca, cigars or drinks to human crania.

As much of the world celebrates Halloween and Mexico prepares for its Day of the Dead, Bolivian bishops had another festival on their minds, the Day of Skulls, which falls on November 8.

Known locally as Natitas, the festival, which is believed to be pre-Colombian, sees families adorn skulls, sometimes those of relatives, with flowers, hats, candles and other decoration.

A British student has received a scholarship for studying paranormal phenomena. Personally I think this is a great idea. Paranormal research has never been taken very seriously and it's nice to see a parapsychology foundation funding the education of researchers.

Callum Cooper, 21, of Northampton University, was given £1,800 from New York's Parapsychology Foundation to investigate phenomena like haunted sites, and even text messages from the dead.

He won out over international competition for the Eileen J. Garrett prize, which is intended to help students find possible scientific proof for uncanny happenings.

Finally, the soccer magick continues. It's getting to the point where it's practically commonplace.

Zolani Mkiva, chairman of the Makhonya Royal Trust, a grouping responsible for co-ordinating cultural activities, said the tournament, the first to be held in Africa, needed to be blessed in true "African style."

"We must have a cultural ceremony of some sort, where we are going to slaughter a beast (cow)," said Mkiva.

"We sacrifice the cow for this great achievement and we call on our ancestors to bless, to grace, to ensure that all goes well. It's all about calling for the divinity to prevail for a fantastic atmosphere."

South Africa is set to host the World Cup -- the world's most watched sports spectacle -- in less than eight months, with the tournament expected to attract about 500,000 foreign tourists.

Mkiva said the Trust has sent letters to the chief executive and chairman of the World Cup Local Organizing Committee (LOC), proposing traditional ceremonies to be performed at each of the 10 stadiums that are going to be used for the event.

That's all for now and I hope everyone is having a great month. There's still no exact release date for Arcana, but once I have one you'll be the first to know.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Arcana Release Date

My novel Arcana has been announced for November 2009. That's right, this month!

As we're already almost one week into November I'm guessing it will be toward the end of the month or possibly early December, but that still means the book should be out before the holidays. I wrote the first version of this particular novel twenty years ago as a sophomore in college and I'm very happy and excited to finally see it in print. Despite the delay, I'm also glad that the version being published now is the most recent rewrite rather than the original, because the current version is vastly improved in just about every possible way.

In addition to announcing the release date, I would also like to thank the folks at Pendraig Publishing for being so prompt and responsive regarding my work. I once submitted a book to Red Wheel/Weiser and they basically sat on it for two and a half years before finally rejecting it. Needless to say, I was not amused and I'll think twice about submitting anything to them ever again. On the other hand, I submitted Arcana to Pendraig in August, got the contract at the beginning of October, and the book is almost ready to go to the printers a little over a month later.

So if you're looking for gifts this holiday season and have a friend who enjoys occult fiction, please consider picking up a copy of Arcana. I'll be posting a link to the book once it can be ordered online.