Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas from Krampus

Growing up with the Macy's Department Store idea of Santa Claus, here in the United States many of us have no idea of the variety of folk traditions that were both synthesized and sanitized to create the ubiquitous American icon.

For example, in Austria one of these is the story of Krampus. See, in the old Austrian tradition Saint Nicholas still delivers gifts to good children during the Christmas season, but he is accompanied by the demon-like Krampus who delivers far worse punishments to bad children than a lump of coal in the stocking.

In some towns gangs of young men will dress up as Krampus and roam the streets hitting people with birch branches. Just imagine doing that in an American department store!

Happy holidays, everyone, and don't let Krampus get you!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Poltergeist Haunts Former Police Station

The word "poltergeist" means "noisy spirit" in German, but there is a common belief among paranormal researchers that most poltergeists are not spirits at all, but rather the result of latent psychic powers. As evidence, researchers point out that a disproportionate number of these cases involve teenagers who are under some sort of extreme stress and that the activity seems to center on those particular individuals. In such cases once the stress drops down to a more normal level the activity usually ends.

This latest report from Pemberton Wigan, just outside Manchester in the United Kingdom, seems to have the right sort of activity to be classified as a poltergeist, but is atypical in that no troubled teen is present and the activity seems centered on a building rather than a person.

Terrified mother Holly Taylor is calling in an exorcist after fearing she is sharing her home with a poltergeist.

The 22-year-old student midwife and her two-year-old daughter, Willow, refuse to sleep at their home after a series of spooky happenings.

Plates have flown off shelves and smashed on the floor, ornaments have moved while they are out, the flat’s lights have been switched on after they have gone to bed and the front door has been opened despite Holly having the only key.

At 22, Taylor is too old to fit the usual pattern, and at 2, her daughter is far too young. Furthermore, the activity does not seem to have followed the two to any other location. The fact is that I've always been a little suspicious of the "psychic powers" explanation. If those powers are so easy to access that they can be used in an uncontrolled manner without any volition at all, why is it that so few trained magicians can do anything even similar? The explanation may simply be that spirits can haunt people as well as places, and that environmental stress may act as a catalyst for this sort of haunting.

According to the history surrounding Taylor's home, built on the site of a former police station, there is some reason to think that a spirit may have haunted the place for years, starting long before the private residence was built there. Some officers who worked at the station also reported paranormal activity.

An officer who used to work there today confirmed the station was notorious for unexplained footsteps and doors banging, and that the culprit was believed to be the ghost of an inspector who hanged himself in a cell.

Remodeling a structure is thought by paranormal investigators to stir up and intensify activity, and it makes sense to think that if a spirit were to survive the demolition of the building that it inhabits the result could be similar to what Taylor has experienced. Hopefully the exorcism will succeed in driving out the spirit, but if it fails maybe a magician should have a go at it.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

EMF Trial Update #3

The holidays have been busy this year so I haven't posted anything in the last two weeks, but our EMF research is slowly continuing.

Over the last month and a half my ritual working group has done two more evocations in which we attempted to detect the presence of an evoked spirit with the EMF detector. Using the .4 threshold for detection the results have been one success and one failure, and in addition some patterns seem to be emerging from this work that provide insights into how EMF works in the context of an evocation.

As I mentioned in the update to the previous EMF article, I am now using a unique sequential numbering system for these trials, so that I can refer back to them more efficiently when I finally compile the results into something resembling a scientific study. I also will be numbering these update articles going forward for easy reference to the specific postings.

Trial 4

This trial was performed by five magicians, all experienced. Baseline EMF was .18 and peak EMF rose to .4, setting off the detector and making this trial a success. The EMF spiked to .4 twice during this trial, once as the operant field opened and again in the presence of the evoked spirit.

Trial 5

This trial was performed by 6 magicians, the same five as Trial 4 plus a visitor who is experienced with magical practice but less familiar with the ceremonial style of ritual that our group performs. Baseline EMF was .08 and peak EMF rose to .25, making this trial a failure in reference to the .4 threshold. This was the first trial in which a tangible cold spot seemed to appear over the altar without the EMF rising above the .4 mark.


One of the things that I have noticed with these trials is both times that the .4 threshold was not reached the baseline EMF for the temple was particularly low. Also, the EMF did increase during the conjuration for those trials as well, just not enough to reach the threshold. So at this point it seems to me that the most reasonable hypothesis is that the presence of the spirit adds a little more than .2 to the overall EMF present.

With Trial 5, a tangible cold spot was felt over the altar even though the EMF only rose to the .25 level. This seems to contradict my earlier hypothesis that the cold spots correlate to EMF around or above the .4 threshold, and suggests that these phenomena may be more independent from each othat than I previously thought. This would be where using some sort of a thermometer would probably be appropriate to see if the degree shift is relatively predictable in its own right.

One of the members of my magical working group is putting together a form for logging magical journal entries in a more standard form for easier comparison between operators. On the basis of these and the previous trials I will be suggesting that Baseline EMF and Peak EMF should be logged whenever possible, so that over time we can see physical measurements of what is going on. Once we've logged a large enough sample of EMF trials the next step will be to do probability testing on a series of practical rituals and see if the probability shift corresponds in any way to the EMF level.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Roman Catholic Church Seeks Exorcists

In response to a growing demand, over this last weekend the Roman Catholic Church held a special workshop in Baltimore - to train exorcists!

The church has signed up 56 bishops and 66 priests for the two-day workshop that began on Friday, seeking to boost the small group of just five or six American exorcists that the church currently has on its books.

"There's this small group of priests who say they get requests from all over the continental U.S.," Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, was quoted as saying.

"Actually, each diocese should have its own" exorcist, he added.

Paprocki did not say why there was increased demand for exorcisms, which he noted were rarely performed.

Let's hope that this increased demand is unrelated to the recent popularity of grimoire magick. After all, if more people are working with demons these days the odds are that more idiots are probably doing so as well. But exorcism has also become more common in popular culture over the last five years or so, inspiring movies such as The Exorcism of Emily Rose and television series such as Supernatural, so that might explain the increased interest in the practice as well. It might be worth examining if a similar increase occurred in the early 1970's following films such as Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist, both extremely popular at the time.

While solemnly regarded by the Catholic Church, exorcism is a staple of Hollywood fright films -- most notably the 1973 film "The Exorcist" -- and regarded by many as superstition that lends a chill frisson to festivals like Halloween.

Catholic Church law stipulates that only properly trained priests can perform the rite -- and then only with the permission of their bishops.

Possible signs of demonic possession include scratching, cutting, biting of the skin; profound displays of strength; and a strong or violent reaction to holy water.

The trouble has always been that these can be signs of mental illness as well, and exorcists need to be extremely careful when examining cases, probably more careful than a weekend training session really allows for. While I'm not willing to completely discount the possibility of demonic possession, the fact is that it is extremely rare and mental illness is quite common - about one person in four according to some psychological studies.

That being said, I would love to get the opportunity to scientifically investigate a case that the Church considers genuine and see how well the traditional exorcism ritual works compared with modern ceremonial methods. I would also like to observe the sorts of paranormal activity that are said to accompany real possession and see if there is any sort of objective method of measuring them.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Review: The Angelical Language, Volume I by Aaron Leitch

Enochian magick used to have a relatively small but devoted following. As a student of the system myself, I commonly joked back in the day that if I were to release a book on Enochian it would sell a thousand the first day as every Enochian magician in the world bought their copies the minute they were available and after that I would never sell another one. In the last few years this seems to have changed, as more people are becoming interested in the system.

Enochian even makes an appearance on the popular television program Supernatural as the language spoken by angels to produce various magical effects. Sadly, the show's producers adopted the ridiculous pronunciation method proposed by Wynn Wescott during the Golden Dawn days - drawing out the words by pronouncing each letter as its own syllable. Even though I've worked with the system for years it took me a while to figure out whether the angels were speaking real Angelic or some nonsense language made up by the writers that they were just calling "Enochian." Of course, I also make use of the Angelic language in my novel Arcana as I discuss here.

This last year has also seen a number of new non-fiction books released on Enochian magick. Aaron Leitch, author of Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires, has put out what seems to be the most ambitious of them, a two-volume hardcover set issued by (believe it or not) Llewellyn, which as a publisher seems to be drifting away from its previous stance of targeting every book released at 12-14 year old girls. So far I have only read volume I of the set, titled The Angelical Language, Volume I: The Complete History and Mythos of the Tongue of Angels. Generally speaking the book is quite good, especially as a complement to Geoffrey James' Enochian Evocation, which covers some of the same material. However, there are also a few caveats that I think anyone interested in practicing Enochian magick as Leitch proposes need to be made aware of.

The best thing about the book is that Leitch makes a good case for using the Angelic Calls with the leaves of Liber Loagaeth and is the first author I've seen who outlines a workable system for doing so. I highly commend him for putting all this material together. I know how difficult a task it is firsthand, as I worked on something like it for myself years ago but found it too frustrating and difficult to assemble in a satisfactory manner. There are some quibbles that I have with his formulations, but the overall idea is great.

Among those quibbles is his attributions for the Calls, in which he attempts to classify Calls 4-7 as a grouping when I think most reasonable readings of the first 18 Calls classify the first two as a group followed by 4 groups of 4, making the first grouping 3-6, the second 7-10, the third 11-14, and the fourth 15-18. This isn't necessarily that big a deal - as Leitch outlines the system the leaves and Calls correspond so that even if you decide to attribute the Calls differently you don't need to mess with the system itself.

A much bigger problem is that Leitch assumes that since he believes the Calls to be related to Liber Loagaeth they must therefore NOT be related to the quadrants of the Great Table. In my opinion this constitutes sloppy, either/or thinking. Especially since Leitch includes decent textual support for the idea that the Loagaeth operation is essentially mystical and not practical in nature, it seems much more logical to me to suggest that Loagaeth would represent the mystical side of the system while the Great Table represents the practical magical side - and both use the Calls, which serve as a sort of "bridge" between the two aspects of the system. This is supported by Dee's explicit linkage of the last 30 Calls with the Parts of the Earth via the Aires, which Leitch acknowledges once but then essentially dismisses.

The book also includes his pronunciation key for the Calls, which is the same as the one he published on his web site. I already critiqued that article here. Interestingly, in the introduction to The Angelical Language Leitch thanks a number of people who were working with Dee's pronunciation notes back in the late 1990's - you know, the ones who "passed over Dee's pronunciation notes in silence" according to his web article. So he must be familiar with their work, and I find it rather confusing that he would characterize it as he did. The statement in question is not repeated in the book, so perhaps Leitch has revised his stance since the publication of the web article.

Beyond this the book gives a decent overview of Dee and Kelly's operations with more textual support than I've seen elsewhere, even in Lon DuQuette's Enochian Vision Magick which is probably the best book on Enochian magick that I have ever read. I would be glad to have it in my library for no other reason than its outline of the Loagaeth operation. But you need to take its interpretations with a grain of salt - as with Donald Tyson, a lot of Leitch's conclusions from the material are much shakier than he makes them out to be.

Want to buy your own copy of The Angelical Language, Volume I by Aaron Leitch? Order from my Books and Media page and you can help support Augoeides.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The True Meaning of Halloween

As usual, America's Finest News Source nails it. Costumes and candy may be fun, but we should never lose sight of the reason for the season - appeasing demons and evil spirits to ward off sickness and ensure a bountiful harvest.

Happy Halloween, everybody!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

New Study of Paranormal Activity in Britain

Especially around Halloween, spirits and ghosts are usually considered frightening or at least disturbing. Similarly, most hauntings get investigated because the people living with those paranormal manifestations are concerned that they may be dangerous. But a new study of paranormal activity in the United Kingdom has also found that some paranormal entities are of a much more benevolent nature.

The report into 'angelic paranormal activity in the UK' found that in the past 25 years there have been a staggering 755 official reports to cops and councils in the UK.

Hotspots of 'good' paranormal activity include the historic village of Croston in Lancashire, where there have been 44 official reports of fairies living in the nearby woods.

A spokesman for the report said the fairy is known to locals as 'Shrewfoot' and that on one occasion it appeared by the side of the road to warn a hitchhiker to get off the road before a convoy of trucks sped through the village.

The report, commissioned by TV show Supernatural, states: 'There have been 44 official reports of fairies and the woods in Croston, Lancashire.

44 reports over 25 years is still only a sighting or two per year, but of course investigators don't call these things "paranormal" because they are common. The overall number of positive sightings, 755, breaks down to about thirty a year total, so the odds of any individual encountering such a paranormal entity are very low.

The extensive research, conducted by the UK's leading authority on the unexplained, Lionel Fanthorpe, included studying multiple archives, police reports, published reports and interviews with a number of ex police officers.

The report notes that there have been 755 documented incidents in the past 25 years, ranging from healing and helpful entities, to visions of angels and animal spirits.

Another hotspot is St Martin's Church in Westmeston in Sussex where there are dozens of reports of a friendly phantom drifting across the churchyard.

Another 'friendly entity' has been reported at St Botolph's Priory in Colchester in Essex - where the ghost smiles at people who have been recently bereaved A total of 104 cases of 'angelic visions' have been reported with Sutton Wood in Derbyshire getting the most hits as walkers see a monk wearing a large gold cross as they walk though the woodland.

According to the report witnesses say that the entity is 'very holy' and has 'an aura of goodness that makes them glad that they have seen it'.

The report reveals that there have been 99 reported cases of 'helpful entities' in the UK, which phantoms helping save the lives of people who come across them.

One of the most documented is at the Manor House in Cold Ashton in Gloucestershire, where lost motorists regularly arrive at and knock for help with directions.

According to the report a 'friendly butler' answers the door and points them in the right direction - even though the Manor House has been derelict for decades.

All of these incidents, though documented, are still essentially anecdotal. But since the sample covers the whole of the UK it probably is large enough to draw some conclusions from the data, and it may be that the general percentages here can be applied elsewhere in the world.

The report states that in the past 25 years there have been a total of 755 official reports of angelic activity, including; 192 sighting of benign entities - ghosts which just appear and vanish without scaring viewers - 127 friendly entities, which smile or wave at people, 104 angelic visions, 99 helpful entities which actively help people who see them, 69 animal spirits, 44 sightings of fairies, 41 visions of saints, 32 of white witches, 24 guardian angels and 23 healing entities.

Last month it was revealed in a study by the same organisation that there had been 227 'evil' paranormal reports in the past 12 months in the UK.

To even out the sample periods, we multiply 227 by 25 to get a total of 5675 estimated negative sightings for the same period. Add the totals together and we then get 6450 estimated sightings for a 25-year period. The bad news is that the positive sightings only constitute 8.5 percent of the total, so if you have a paranormal experience about 9 times in 10 it is going to appear scary or threatening. The good news is that at only an estimated 258 sightings per year against the UK population of about 62 million, the odds of encountering any sort of paranormal entity are ridiculously low - unless, I suppose, you're a magician and do rituals to summon them.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

More EMF Experiments

Over the last several weeks I've done two more experiments using the EMF detector in conjunction with zodiacal evocations. Even though one trial was a failure, the other was a success and it seems like the first trial wasn't just a fluke. Obviously a lot more research needs to be done before any firm conclusions can be drawn, but we're off to what looks like a decent start.

Trial 2

This trial was performed by myself and two other magicians, one very experienced and one beginner.

Baseline EMF in the temple was very low when we started this one, around .05. The room's baseline is usually between .1 and .2 so for whatever reason there wasn't much background radiation for this trial. It was in the evening, whereas the others we've done have been in the afternoon, so that might have had something to do with it. I was surprised enough by this lower reading that I may do a study at some point to try and establish the baseline fluctuations in the temple for different days and times.

The detector jumped highest as we were doing the conjuration, but only up to around a .18. Checking after the ritual I found that it had dropped back down to around the original .05 reading. Even though this is a large percentage increase in the field, given that .18 is within the normal baseline range I am nonetheless considering this trial a failure as far as detecting an entity goes. I also noticed that the cold I usually feel over the altar when the spirits manifest was reduced for this trial.

Trial 3

This trial was also performed by myself and two other magicians, but this time both of the other magicians involved were very experienced.

Baseline EMF when we started this one was about .12, within the normal range that usually find when doing random sweeps with the detector. This ritual was performed late in the afternoon and ran into early evening.

For this trial the detector did jump above .4 as we were doing the conjuration, setting off the detector. It did not jump as high as the first EMF trial that my group conducted, topping out at around .41. Still, since .4 is the threshold that I'm aiming for this trial qualifies as a success. The sense of cold for this trial was substantially stronger than for the previous trial. After we closed down the ritual, I checked the temple again and got the same .12 reading that I had gotten before.


So far it seems as though in all of these cases there has been elevated EMF when the entity summoned is supposed to manifest. In two of the three experiments so far this elevation has reached the threshold for success, .4, selected because (1) it is twice the usual background reading and (2) it is the alarm threshold for the detector in high-sensitivity mode. The second point is important because when we're doing the conjuration we don't want to be constantly looking at the detector - we just want the alarm if the EMF is high enough.

The "cold spot" effect so far seems to correlate with the level of EMF. Whether this is because I'm sensing the EMF and my nervous system is interpreting it as cold or because the entity produces both cold and EMF is hard to say. Some sort of thermometer would probably be useful here to measure if the cold is physical or not, but the challenge there would be to work out some way to incorporate it into the altar arrangement without disrupting other ritual actions. Ghost hunters use digital thermometers, but I've read some criticism of using them to detect cold spots suggesting that they only work well to detect temperature on surfaces.

With a sample size of only three trials I have a long way to go before I have enough data to demonstrate that this method will work reliably as a physical test for the success of an evocation. But so far the trials seem to be going well.

UPDATE: In the interest of consistency in reporting these trials I have decided to give each of them a unique sequence number rather than numbering them within each article. So the trials here are now numbered 2 and 3 rather than 1 and 2, since the initial trial took place before these did.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Russian Satanists Convicted

About a month ago V.V.F. posted an article critiquing attitudes toward nudity and sexuality in the Pagan community as expressed in its artwork. She further explained her experiences in the comments section of Robert's article on the same topic.

In the experience I had with the local community, the conflict between traditional sexual mores and Lord Summerisle's idea of a good time was even more contracted, because while no one was actually boinking, there was this strange pressure to pretend as if we were the sort of people who had orgies. The over-enthusiasm displayed in regard to nudity was a big part of this.

My immediate thought was that I'm glad I was never part of such a community, because if I'm going to bother at all I want to be hanging out with the kind of folks who really do have orgies, not a bunch of poseurs.

However, I recently came across this story from Russia that has me rethinking my position, or at least refining it. Apparently this Satanic order did in fact indulge in orgies, but in just about the most distasteful way I can imagine. The leader of the sect and his second-in-command were arrested back in February and put on trial for various illegal activities related to their involvement in the group.

Two young people are being tried in Russia for organizing a Satan-worshiping sect. Their adepts were subjected to abuse during gatherings, while some girls, including those below the age of consent, were molested.

The sect named “Nobilis Ordo Diaboli” – or the “Noble Order of the Devil” – was engaged in the secret worshiping of Satan in the republic of Mordovia in central Russia since 2003. It was organized by medical student Aleksandr Kazakov, 24, and had up to 75 adepts over the years, investigators say.

Kazakov, who is the prime suspect in the trial, used his charisma to lure young people from well-to-do families into the “Order”. New adepts were recruited from mysticism-loving friends of sect members and through satanic websites and internet message boards. Every initiate had to sign “a contract”, which gave the “high priest” ownership of his or her soul as part of the initiation rituals.

Under Kazakov’s guidance, members gathered in secrecy, dressed in black robes and performed “unholy rites”. They also indulged in orgies and drinking sessions that could last for days. For girls, sex with the man and his closest “apprentices” was a requirement, and those unwilling could be raped. The Satanists also didn’t hesitate to involve minors, say the investigators.

The second man on trial, Denis Danshin, 23, was Kazakov’s second-in-command and was responsible for suppressing dissent and doubt among the flock, sometimes through violence.

The trial of Kazakov and Danshin concluded in July, with the sect leader receiving a 20-month prison term and his lieutenant a year-and-a-half suspended sentence.

The leader of a satanic sect that practiced orgies as part of the initiation of adepts has received a 20-month prison term.

Aleksandr Kazakov, 25, was found guilty of creating an organization that violated human and civil rights, and of indecent actions directed at a minor. His right-hand man, Denis Danshin, 23, received a year-and-half suspended term, reports Interfax news agency.

The two men organized the so-called “Noble Order of the Devil” or “Nobilis Ordo Diaboli.” Adepts, who were mostly high school or university students recruited via Internet, gathered in secrecy to perform death-themed rituals and indulge in promiscuity.

Prosecutors also accused Kazakov of rapes and beatings of dissident members, but failed to gather evidence.

The lack of evidence may mean that some of the allegations were false, as I find is often the case with crimes that are tied to the occult. Remember the "bad magick" case that I covered in 2008 and 2009? It wrapped up almost a year ago but finding that out took some dedicated searching since the local news organization that had been following the story didn't even print an article on the trial's outcome. The result of all that hysteria was two misdemeaner pleas that led to no prison time for either defendant, a far cry from the lurid allegations originally put forth by prosecutors.

Be that as it may, though, the activities of the "Noble Order of the Devil" strike me as cultish, ridiculous, and not particularly magically efficacious, even if some of their crimes were exaggerated. The idea of being a "devil-worshipper" as described in works of church propaganda from the Middle Ages makes no sense to me as a serious magical practitioner. There's no evidence that most of the activity those works describe ever happened, and from a magick theory perspective it's unclear to me how most of it was even supposed to function, aside from providing the celibate priests who compiled these supposed lists of depraved practices with a rich fantasy life.

To put it bluntly, accepting the entire Christian cosmology and then deliberately choosing the losing side is just dumb. Most people who call themselves Satanists in the United States are either LaVey Satanists, who reject Christian cosmology in favor of some form of humanism, or Setians and Luciferians who have their own metaphysical cosmologies that vastly differ from conventional Christian beliefs. I would hope that the "Noble Order of the Devil" is not representative of Satanists in Russia, because if that turns out to be the case my opinion of Russian occultists will almost certainly drop a few notches, but given the small membership quoted in the article I find it unlikely that this was anything other than an isolated group practicing their own brand of mysticism or lack thereof.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Jesus Versus Santa?

So does this mean South Park was on to something all along? A group of Roman Catholics in Germany have launched a campaign to ban Santa Claus in an effort against the commercialization of Christmas.

The church aid organisation Bonifatiuswerk of German Catholics has dismissed Father Christmas as an invention by the advertising industry who has little relation to the historical St Nicholas.

As such, they want to replace the image of Santa as a jolly old man in a red suit with one of a more traditional, charitable St Nicholas, who focuses on kindness and helping others rather than material possessions.

On the group's website, they describe St Nicholas as "a helper in need who reminds us to be kind, to think of our neighbours, and to give the gift of happiness."

The campaign has already garnered support from a number of well-known German celebrities.

As far as real history goes Bonifatiuswerk is right on. The modern form of "Santa" is fundamentally a commercial icon with little spiritual significance, though whether or not this fact makes him a problematic symbol of Christmas is open to debate.

The red-suited, white-bearded Santa Claus who most people are familiar with was first depicted by American author Washington Irving, who drew an image of a jolly Dutchman. This was then modified by a German immigrant called Thomas Nast, who drew a plump Santa with red clothing for Harper's Weekly.

Haddon Sundblom popularised the image when he drew Santa as a grandfather-style figure for Coca-Cola's Christmas advert.

Jesus as usual could not be reached for comment. He was last sighted in a cancer patient's MRI scan.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Haunted Tram

There's an old superstition that buildings should never be constructed with a thirteenth floor, on the grounds that the number 13 is unlucky. In Croatia, this logic or lack thereof apparently can also be applied to streetcars. Local residents of the town of Zagreb are demanding that officials renumber the #13 tram, citing an unusually high rate of accidents over the years.

Dozens of people have been hurt on the service in Zagreb over the decades, leading locals to become convinced it is cursed.

"We may have to renumber the route," an official said.

Halloween 1954 saw the worst accident involving the tram.

On October 31, it jumped off its track at 80 kilometres per hour, rolled over four times and knocked down a number of trees before finally slamming into a pole.

After the accident, in which 19 people died, the driver was found to be at fault but the tram was abolished.

The No.13 tram came back "on track" 42 years later, however, and was involved in four accidents in just a month of its 1996 existence.

Despite being out of service for over 40 years, it became the tram with the greatest number of accidents ever within 12 months.

In another accident in 2008, which happened at 13.00 in the afternoon, 13 people were injured.

The latest in the tram's spooky string of accidents took place last week, when several people were hurt after it was hit by the No.3 tram as it stood at the station.

This certainly represents a series of unusual coincidences so something paranormal might be going on here, but if so I doubt that slapping a new number on a streetcar is going to make much difference. As a magician the first thing I would check is the streetcar itself. If it's cursed or haunted there's no way a new number is going to change anything so long as the same physical tram is in use. Magical effects are anchored to objects, not numbers, and the same is true of ghosts.

Still, I'm assuming from the article that during the 40 years that this streetcar was out of service another one was still running its route. If not, the route should be examined before assuming that anything paranormal is associated with it. That particular track may simply be more dangerous than others under some conditions and that could explain the additional accidents right there.

In either case, all officials may wind up doing by renumbering is creating another unlucky number. But let's hope not.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram

This article is a rough transcript of the presentation Michele Monstserrat and I wrote and presented at Twin Cities Pagan Pride 2010 this last Saturday. The presentation was well-received and I hope that those who attended now have a deeper understanding of this basic ceremonial ritual.

Various forms of the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram have been used for more than a century by Western magicians. The LRP in its current form was most likely written by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, the original Chief Adept of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. This magical order and its teachings have had a profound effect on the entire Western Mystery Tradition thanks to the publication of certain of its rituals, first by Aleister Crowley in The Equinox and later by Israel Regardie in The Golden Dawn.

It most likely found its way into Wicca and Neopaganism by way of Gerald Gardner, who in addition to founding Gardnerian Wicca was also an initiate of Aleister Crowley's Ordo Templi Orientis and who carried on an extensive correspondence with Crowley in the 1940's when he was putting together the original Gardnerian Book of Shadows.

Today this ritual is found in most introductory books on Western ceremonial magick and is taught in the various Golden Dawn and Thelemic magical orders. The banishing form of this ritual is generally used to initiate ceremonial rituals and as part of circle casting for Wiccan and Neopagan rites.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Parting the Red Sea

One of the points that I make all the time is that when magical spells influence the physical world they generally act through some sort of physical medium. In other words, you can usually look at the set of circumstances leading up to the manifestation of a particular magical goal and identify what the physical mechanism was. Those circumstances often prove to be collections of unlikely occurrences that surround the goals of the spell, but they nonetheless generally conform to accepted laws of physical reality. This is true of miracles as well - after all, a miracle is simply a magical operation that results in some sort of dramatic success.

One of the most famous miracles in Biblical history is the parting of the Red Sea, said to have been performed by Moses during the exodus from Egypt. I've noted elsewhere that one of the dangers of relying on Biblical history is that the Torah was most likely only written down around 538 BCE following the Babylonian Captivity, and thus had to summarize nearly a thousand years of oral tradition. The accuracy of such a summary is always going to be hit or miss - for example, historical evidence suggests that the Jews were never slaves in Egypt. And while there is a brief notation in the written Egyptian histories referring to a group of people who left to settle in the lands further east around the time given for the exodus, there is no mention of pursuit by Pharaoh's armies or any significant unrest that accompanied this group's departure. Still, it's not much of a stretch to imagine that an event as dramatic as the parting of a sea might have seemed so incredible that it would be hard to forget.

Scientists have now worked out a model that offers a possible mechanism for the crossing detailed in the book of Exodus. It relies, first of all, on correcting a simple translation error in the story. The Hebrew that is rendered into English as "Red Sea" in some translations of the Bible in fact means "sea of reeds," and most experts believe that it refers to an area further north toward the Mediterranean Sea that includes part of the Nile delta. This is a region of marshy lakes and lagoons much shallower than the Red Sea proper. The mechanism is a phenomenon called wind setdown, that has been proposed as a possible explanation since the nineteenth century. This fits the text well - the description in Exodus claims that the water was driven back by a "mighty east wind" that blew throughout the night.

Computer simulations, part of a larger study on how winds affect water, show wind could push water back at a point where a river bent to merge with a coastal lagoon, the team at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of Colorado at Boulder said.

"The simulations match fairly closely with the account in Exodus," Carl Drews of NCAR, who led the study, said in a statement.

"The parting of the waters can be understood through fluid dynamics. The wind moves the water in a way that's in accordance with physical laws, creating a safe passage with water on two sides and then abruptly allowing the water to rush back in."

Religious texts differ a little in the tale, but all describe Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt ahead of a pharaoh's armies around 3,000 years ago. The Red Sea parts to let Moses and his followers pass safely, then crashes back onto the pursuers, drowning them.

Drews and colleagues are studying how Pacific Ocean typhoons can drive storm surges and other effects of strong and sustained winds on deep water.

His team pinpointed a possible site south of the Mediterranean Sea for the legendary crossing, and modeled different land formations that could have existed then and perhaps led to the accounts of the sea appearing to part.

The model requires a U-shaped formation of the Nile River and a shallow lagoon along the shoreline. It shows that a wind of 63 miles per hour, blowing steadily for 12 hours, could have pushed back waters 6 feet deep.

"This land bridge is 3-4 km (2 to 2.5 miles) long and 5 km (3 miles) wide, and it remains open for 4 hours," they wrote in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE.

"People have always been fascinated by this Exodus story, wondering if it comes from historical facts," Drews said. "What this study shows is that the description of the waters parting indeed has a basis in physical laws."

And, I would point out, a basis in magick theory, since the land bridge formed at the precise moment that it was needed. This implies that Moses may very well have been a weather worker who conjured the wind in order to make the crossing. 63 miles per hour is indeed a mighty east wind, and summoning it out of a clear sky still would have been just about impossible. But there's an additional key point in the story:

And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness [to them], but it gave light by night [to these]: so that the one came not near the other all the night. And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go [back] by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry [land], and the waters were divided.

That "pillar of cloud" sounds just like a thunderstorm, and I can tell you from my own experience that summoning a high wind out of a thunderstorm is well within the power of a decent weather worker - like, say, me. And it wouldn't surprise me to find that a number of people reading this blog could do it as well. You read that right - one of the most famous miracles in history might very well be something that a decent percentage of skilled magicians could accomplish.

I guess now I need to get started on raising the dead.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Review: She Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror edited by Tim Lieder

Even though I write fiction, these days I read a lot less of it than I used to. But this story collection caught my attention (really, how could it not with a title like that?) and I was willing to make an exception. I found my time well-spent and I think that this collection represents just the sort of fiction readers of this blog will enjoy.

This particular anthology is a collection of horror stories based on stories found in the Bible, and it's as entertaining as it sounds. You don't need to know the stories on which they are based to enjoy these tales, but if you're someone like me who has read the Bible cover-to-cover it's even more fun to look at the original stories and in most cases see just how few modifications were required to make them fit soundly into the horror genre.

It begins with the story of Ruth told from the point of view of a vengeful demon and ends with a Jesus-as-vampire tale, an idea that I honestly thought had been completely done to death (so to speak) until I encountered the author's fresh and original take on it. In between you will find Daniel cast as a prophet for a modern multinational corporation, a retelling of the story of Jonah inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and much more.

All in all, this is a great anthology for those interested in the esoteric and horror fans alike.

Want to buy your own copy of She Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror edited by Tim Lieder? Order from my Books and Media page and you can help support Augoeides.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Devil in the Bathroom

Normally people report the face of Jesus showing up in odd places - chicken feathers, drainpipes, and even Google maps - but the latest mysterious image, found in a bathroom in Budapest, proved much more sinister. It appeared to be the face of the Devil!

Husband Laszlo, 52, had renovated the room at great expense, fitting it with a heavenly new bath, shower and tiles – but it’s made life hell.

Forty-seven-year-old Mrs Csrefko spotted the terrifying horned image after her first shower.

She told The Sun: "I was naked coming out of the shower and I could suddenly see his eyes staring into me. I just screamed and ran."

Well, I suppose it is a part of the conventional folklore that the Devil makes women run around naked. Seriously, though, the image strikes me as a classic mosaic situation. Once the brain notices a specific pattern in a random field of shapes and colors it will seem to suddenly appear out of nowhere.

Laszlo added: "We can't clean it off and it wasn't there when we put the tiles up. It just appeared overnight and nothing can move it.

"The room is always ice cold no matter how high we turn the heating up and we've just stopped using it because it's too spooky.

"We wash in the sink downstairs now."

It is possible that if the room wasn't extra cold before the renovation and also if the cold is not due to all the walls being tiled - which does happen even in the absence of paranormal forces - the Csrefko family might have something going on besides hysterical overreaction. In one of the few Goetic evocations that I've done I will say that I saw something kind of similar. The thing is, I highly doubt what I saw could have been photographed because there was clearly some sort of psychological and/or spiritual component involved.

We had the triangle hung on a wall covered in textured plaster, and I swear that when we finished the conjurations a vague image kind of like a face seemed to form inside it. The face lasted throughout the ritual and then disappeared when we closed down the temple. Skeptic that I generally am about such things (believe it or not) I spent awhile afterwards playing around with the triangle and lighting to see if I could get the face to appear again, but was unable to reproduce it no matter what I did.

It looks like getting rid of the image is a job too big for Flash – the Hungarian couple are summoning an exorcist to flush the evil spirits from their lavatory tiling.

What I would find extremely interesting about this case is whether or not the "face" can still be photographed after the exorcism. If it actually disappears I will grant that something paranormal is going on here - though I highly doubt the real Devil would bother haunting some poor couple's bathroom. It's more likely that this is a spirit bothered by the renovation trying to scare them, and even more likely that the image is nothing paranormal at all.

UPDATE: Not only does the Devil also appear in fire, as one might expect, but mysteriously he also looks exactly like Disco Stu from "The Simpsons!" Aren't mosaics fun?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Family Ghost Hunting

As a parent of two young children my first reaction to anything described as a "family activity" is that it will likely bore me out of my skull. Not only do children find things that are simple and repetitive a lot more interesting than adults do, but it also seems like a lot of entertainment for children suffers from a distinct lack of quality control. It's as though some performers figure that since kids aren't that discerning they don't necessarily even need to put on a decent show.

However, one family in England gives me hope that things won't always be this way. They and their teen daughter have taken up a hobby that's right up my alley - ghost hunting!

While most opt for a day trip to the countryside or beach, parents Wendy and Gary and teenage daughter Nikki prefer to explore the tunnels of a Victorian coastal fort.

"We have never been down there and not heard something," said hairdresser Mrs. Canham.

"It’s everything from tapping, cold spots and strange light orbs, which we’re told are spirits."

Armed with a torch and digital cameras, the family from Stanford-le-Hope in Essex have taken shots they say show spirits floating around their head and torchlights inexplicably bending. The Canhams caught the bug two years ago when 16-year-old Nikki’s parents were invited to Coalhouse Fort in Tilbury with her school drama class for Halloween.

"While we were there, I heard a lot of strange noises," said Mrs. Canham, 37. "I heard dragging, scraping and tapping and my hands kept going cold for no reason."

Unfortunately for the Canhams the photo accompanying the article that they claim shows "orbs" is nothing paranormal. It's either the camera flash or a flashlight reflecting off the door in front of them onto dirty spots on the lens or possibly dust - but I still give them points for trying. There are only a handful of ghost photos out there that look like they might be anything paranormal, and even very active groups like TAPS (of Ghost Hunters fame) rarely capture anything resembling an entity or even a genuine orb on film or video.

Since then, they have spent about £2,000 on entrance and guide fees.

So it is expensive, but it sure beats sitting around watching puppets, cartoons, or dorks dressed up as animals or fictional characters.

Nikki admitted friends think her hobby is a little weird but she cannot wait to turn 18 so she can go to more haunted buildings.

"I’d love to go hunting somewhere like Hampton Court," said Nikki. "I want to find the most haunted place and spend the night there."

That sounds like a lot of fun to me too. My oldest daughter is still young enough that she finds the Ghost Hunters TV series a little scary, but I expect she'll grow out of that in a couple of years. Maybe once that happens we can organize our own paranormal family excursions.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Oklahoma Satanists to Exorcise God

Most people think of Oklahoma as part of the Bible Belt, but on October 21st a Satanic church plans to hold an "exorcism of God" at the Oklahoma City Civic Center. No, really!

The Church of the IV Majesties is inviting members and the public to view the ritual, in hopes of erasing a lot of the unfounded fears many have about Satanism.

"We don't kill animals, we don't kill children," James Hale, the church's Lord High Master, told

"We just decided that being right here in the middle of the Bible Belt, it wasn't a good idea to keep the secrecy you see in the traditional Satanist churches," he said. "Because secrecy breeds fear. And we're not looking to scare anyone."

In my opinion running around and calling yourself a "Satanist" when you're a LaVey Satanist and thus pretty much an atheist who likes being spooky doesn't serve much of a function aside from shocking people. So if you then turn around and say you're not trying to scare anyone that seems pretty self-defeating.

Citing concerns for privacy and safety, Hale declined to say how many members the church has besides the seven members who are named on the church's state listing as a tax exempt religious organization, a designation they were awarded this spring.

Those seven members will take the stage Oct. 21 for the ritual, which Hale described as an exorcism to extract the gods of what he called the "right handed path" or traditional religions, such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

"It's a parody of the Catholic rite of exorcism. It's just a blasphemy ritual," Hale said.

As an occultist you would never see me getting involved with an event like this. If the ritual is really just a big parody, why bother? I have plenty of other things to do with my life besides joke rituals. I suppose this could make sense as a piece of performance art, which may be what they are going for, but I've never seen the point of such things. I want my rituals to work, not just make people laugh, and they do. I'm left wondering if someone who sees magical rituals as nothing more than performance art has any magical power at all.

Hale, who co-wrote the exorcism and has attended similar private ceremonies, said he's welcoming of anyone who wants to watch, as long as they aren't there to stir up trouble based on their own misconceptions.

"We get a lot of sacrifice garbage," he said of the public's perception. "Satanism is not, does not and has not involved sacrifice."

Hale, the son of an all-faith Christian minister, has been a practicing Satanist for more than 30 years. Though there are varying threads in Satansim, including some who believe in spirits, all modern Satanists believe in one god -- themselves, he said.

"Satanism is pretty much your own god. I am my own god," Hale said. "We don't worship anyone but ourselves."

Is it just me, or is it totally cliche that Hale is a minister's kid? Unlike a lot of occultists, I never had any bad experiences with Christianity growing up aside from thinking that for me a lot of their theology didn't make much sense. But it seems like there's this whole subset of occultists who seem to get interested in magick because they want to shock their parents or people in general who follow their parents' faith.

Now, if Hale has really come up with a ritual form that can exorcise gods I'd be very interested in checking it out to see how it works - but I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, August 30, 2010

EMF and Evocation

A while back I wrote about doing some research on magical fields with an EMF detector, a device that measures electromagnetic fields. So far I've gotten a lot less done on that project than I would have liked over the course of the summer, but I did do some testing with it this last weekend and got some pretty interesting results.

Up until then I had done tests on particular tools and objects and walked through a couple of houses without finding anything all that unusual from a scientific perspective. Magical tools do not seem to produce any sort of EMF unless they incorporate something like a magnet that would normally do so, and the sensation I get when picking up a magically charged object does not seem to be electromagnetic in nature. Checking out houses has likewise produced nothing unexpected - there have been a few high readings from doorbell transformers and ceiling fans, but nothing that would qualify as paranormal.

This last weekend I finally got around to testing the detector in conjunction with an evocation. My magical working group has been going through a series of rituals evoking the archangels associated with the signs of the Zodiac, and as this month is Virgo I figured that some scientific analysis would be very appropriate to the nature of the sign. I also had noticed in previous evocations in this series that it felt as if the area over the center of the altar felt colder once the archangel was present, and I wondered if this effect might have anything in common with cold spots supposedly produced during hauntings. Those cold spots often correspond to a high electromagnetic field.

The overall baseline EMF reading for the temple is about .2, which is fairly typical for a normal room inside a house that has electrical service. For the experiment I placed the probe from the detector in the center of the altar on top of the Virgo flashing color tablet that we would be evoking the archangel into. The reading remained steady, around .2, as the ritual commenced, persisting through the opening of the magical field by LBRP, LIRH, and GIRH - Virgo. It remained at .2 through the preliminary conjuration of Raziel. However, as soon as I finished off the specific conjuration for Hamaliel, the archangel of Virgo, the detector shot up to a little over .4 and started beeping. .4 the point at which it goes off in high sensitivity mode.

Now, so far I only have the one test case so the effect will need to be replicated enough times to produce a reasonable confidence interval, but the result proved quite encouraging. It's always possible that it could have been random environmental interference or some sort of household power surge, but the detector was on through the entire opening of the ritual and went off within a couple seconds of finishing the conjuration - that is, at the moment in which the archangel was expected to appear. As usual, I also was able to feel the cold spot forming in its usual location at the same time, which would suggest that there is indeed a connection between the cold, the EMF, and the manifestation of the spirit.

If this effect can be replicated it could give magicians a great new tool for determining the presence of a spirit during an evocation. We would no longer have to rely on subjective feelings of "energy" or whatnot, and we also would not be stuck expending the power of the spirit on stupid tests like poltergeist phenomena, which I'm convinced only detract from the effectiveness of the overall working. If any other magicians out there are interested in this sort of research I highly encourage you to pick up your own EMF detector and try it out. If you do, I would love to hear about your experimental results and I hope that you will feel free to post them here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The 2011 Apocalypse

With all the nonsense about 2012 being thrown around by folks who didn't even bother to check with any of the real Mayans who still live in Central America and find out what their calendar cycles mean (hint: not the end of the world or anything related to it), the mainstream media has completely ignored the works of Christian visionary Harold Camping. Who is Harold Camping, you ask? Why, he's the man who has predicted the true date of the apocalypse - May 21, 2011!

On the plus side, that's three days after my birthday so at least I'll get presents before everything hits the fan.

Some realize that God knows how and when the end of the world will come, so they wonder if He tells us. Rather than turning to the Bible as the source of all truth for these answers, they turn to the churches and religious leaders. They may be told that the end will not come until Antichrist rises as a political leader who will make them take the "mark of the beast." Many are told that God will rapture His people before a 7 year Great Tribulation after which Christ will set up a 1000 year reign from an earthly throne in Jerusalem. Others are told that Christ will come to rapture believers the same day he destroys the world. While just about every church has a different idea as to what the Bible teaches concerning the end, they all seem to agree on one thing; no man can know the day or the hour of Christ's return because the scriptures say that He is coming as a thief in the night. But are they correct? Can We Know?

This web site serves as an introduction and portal to four faithful ministries which are teaching that WE CAN KNOW from the Bible alone that the date of the rapture of believers will take place on May 21, 2011 and that God will destroy this world on October 21, 2011. Please take your time and browse through the teachings of Harold Camping, President of Family Radio.

To Camping's credit the first paragraph is largely accurate. Many current ideas about the "endtimes" are not biblical but are instead derived from the interpolation of particular passages. Often these interpretations take the quotes in question completely out of context to arrive at predetermined conclusions favored by particular Christian leaders vying for followers and their donations. However, by jumping on the rapture bandwagon Camping is doing pretty much the same thing. The whole "left behind" worldview is itself a modern interpretation that only goes back as far as the dispensationalists of the nineteenth century, and if there were any Millerites left you could ask them how well that 1844 second coming worked out for them.

Let me predict the real future for you. I'll be following the story, which means that on May 22nd of 2011 I'll put up a link back to this article and ask why nobody has disappeared. Then, on October 22nd of 2011 I'll put up another article pointing out that the world is still here. How do I know, you ask? No paranormal powers are required this time. Call it intuition, or maybe just plain common sense.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bored Teens Discover Brain Machine

I've been busy this month promoting and getting ready for last weekend's book signing event at Magus Books, which went pretty well, and I apologize for the recent lack of posts. I'll be setting up more such events soon, so watch the feed from my author web site over on the right hand panel for details.

I've written in the past about the brain machine, which is a device that uses flashing lights and binaural sounds to stimulate particular brain wave frequencies. The machine that I have is a Nova Pro 100, which is one of the nicer models available, and I've found it to be particularly helpful for getting me into the right frame of mind for scrying. Without the brain machine I'm not very good at it, but if I run the alpha/theta brainwave program for about ten minutes before giving it a try I get much better results.

The Nova Pro comes with software that you can use to put together your own light and sound programs. You select the brainwave frequency you want to target and how long you want that portion of the program to target and the machine does the rest. I haven't gotten as much of a chance to play around with this as I might like, but it seems to me that it has a lot of potential for magical work. My basic hypothesis is that in a magical ritual brainwave frequencies start low, around the alpha/theta range, increase as the ritual approaches its climax, and then drops back down to the alpha/theta range as the generated thoughtform is released, and at some point I plan on putting together a custom program that follows this pattern and testing to see if it increases the probability shift that I can generate.

Some enterprising individual on the Internet has gotten a completely different idea and is using various custom programs to make money by marketing them as "JUST LIKE TAKING DRUGS!!!" You do a little research to see what brainwave frequencies are generally present when taking a particular drug, whip up a program on the Nova Pro or similar machine, and then record the audio output from the machine as an MP3. Teens can then download the MP3's, play them with their eyes closed or covered, and convince themselves that they're getting high. The phenomenon has been dubbed "i-dosing," and it's really not a lot different than what I did at that age, which was sit in the dark with headphones and blast Pink Floyd albums.

I-dosing hit the mainstream media a couple of weeks back with the predictable moral panic nonsense that these MP3 clips could become addictive, or by some mysterious "gateway drug" mechanism could get teens hooked on real drugs.

But there has been such alarm in the U.S. that the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs has issued a warning to children not to do it.

‘Kids are going to flock to these sites just to see what it is about and it can lead them to other places, spokesman Mark Woodward said.

He added that parental awareness is key to preventing future problems, since I-dosing could indicate a willingness to experiment with drugs.

‘So that's why we want parents to be aware of what sites their kids are visiting and not just dismiss this as something harmless on the computer.

‘If you want to reach these kids, save these kids and keep these kids safe, parents have to be aware. They've got to take action.’

The "gateway drug" hypothesis was debunked by the La Guardia Committee all the way back in 1944 based on research involving real drugs, but nonetheless prohibitionists still throw it around like it was actual science. Here are a few facts about binaural sounds - first off, they're nothing like dumping outside chemicals into your brain because there are no outside chemicals involved. Second of all, my understanding is that most of the research that went into the development of the brain machine showed that it was primarily the flashing lights that produced specific brainwave frequencies and the binaural tones produced a secondary effect at best. Since you need special glasses with diodes in them to experience the light effects you can't just sell the light tracks - but most teens these days have MP3 players.

To tell the truth, this is a brilliant snake oil marketing scheme and I wish I had thought of it. I've had my machine and the programming software for years, and I could have spent those years cranking out the tracks and pulling in big money. It's a well-known fact that the placebo effect means a lot of people will get results if they believe they are going to get them, so even if my MP3's weren't made on a brain machine and just sounded weird I would most likely have tons of testimonials about how awesome they were in no time. A "for entertainment only" clause would free me from any lawsuits and nobody would get hurt because all I was selling them would be a bunch of strange droning sounds that do little besides waste peoples' time and get reporters all worked up.

The fact is that even if binaural beats produce specific brainwave patterns in some people there is no way that anyone could become addicted to them like real psychoactives. The main mechanism by which drug addiction works is that extra psychoactive chemicals mess with the homeostats in the brain that regulate neurotransmitters and/or other chemicals such as endorphins. The brain's regulatory system thinks too much of the chemical is floating around and down-regulates it, so in order to keep feeling good you need to keep taking more of the drug. This results in drug tolerance and produces withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the drug. That's pharmacology 101.

Proponents of "behavioral addictions" or "psychological addictions" (food, sex, or just about anything else that people really enjoy) at worst confuse addiction with having a good time and at best confuse it with compulsion, which is a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD can manifest as any particular behavior or set of behaviors pretty much at random. Some individuals wash their hands over and over, some flip a light switch a certain number of times when leaving a room, and some overeat or act out sexually. What the "behavioral addiction" folks fail to understand is that the presence of food, sexually explict material, sinks, or light switches have nothing to do with the behavior in conjunction with which OCD will manifest.

OCD results from a chemical imbalance in the sections of the brain that control conditioning loops and is best treated with drug therapy. "12-Step" methods adapted from chemical dependency treatment do nothing for OCD, and in fact some neuropsychologists contend that they do a lot less for real drug addictions than their proponents claim. Without pharmacological intervention even if you can manage to stop one compulsive behavior completely another is going to take its place. It's not impossible that somewhere you could find a kid with OCD that manifests as a compulsion to play lots of binaural MP3's. But even that wouldn't mean the clips are addictive, it would just mean that there's a kid out there with untreated OCD.

In fact, thinking about it I wonder if a "reverse-gateway drug" mechanism could be at work here. If teens believe that a binaural MP3 is just like taking a drug and then find the experience boring or unpleasant it seems to me that they might decide taking real drugs is a bad idea, or at least not nearly as interesting as the prohibitionists make it sound. That sounds like a win all around, even if the clips themselves do absolutely nothing but line the pockets of some clever brain machine programmer who knows how to market.

My advice to anyone who tries out these clips and finds them interesting is to get your own brain machine and see how much better it works. The Nova Pro is kind of expensive but there are many models available that are quite a bit cheaper. The sound programs are much more effective with the lights and with the machine you can run your own programs instead of having to buy someone else's.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Catholic Church Down on Saunas

Apparently Vienna's archdiocese has a problem with saunas - at least if they are made from secondhand confessionals.

Bidding on eBay on a confessional at a church undergoing renovation – described on the site as ideal for conversion into a one-person sauna or a small bar or a children's playhouse – was stopped when the archdiocese stepped in.

Spokesman Erich Leitenberger said that auctioning 'objects that were used for dispensing the sacraments is not acceptable.'

Confessionals 'should not be converted into saunas or bars,' he was quoted Tuesday as saying.

It strikes me as kind of silly to impose these sorts of restrictions especially at a time when the Church could use the money. What are they supposed to do with old sacramental items? Dump them? Burn them? Warehouse them somewhere to rot until the end of time? None of that seems particularly respectful.

I mean, Jesus didn't say one single bad word about sitting in a box full of steam or drinking. In fact, given the nature of the eucharist it seems to me that he must have been a fan of good wine.

Here's some advice from a magician - the clergy should perform a ritual to remove any lingering spiritual power that has accumulated in the object. Then they can do whatever they like with it, including selling it raise needed funds.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Octopus Beats Vulture Brains

With the World Cup over, it looks like the vulture brains were completely unnecessary. As it turned out all that gamblers really needed to do was listen to Paul, Germany's psychic octopus.

The eight-legged oracle has become a FIFA World Cup sensation by correctly forecasting all seven Germany games in South Africa and he finished the tournament in style by predicting a Spanish victory in the Soccer City sign-off.

As Paul foretold last week, Spain won their first world title after Andres Iniesta's 116th-minute strike broke the Netherlands' hearts. The tentacled tipster also correctly predicted Germany would beat Uruguay in Saturday's third place play-off.

In the now familiar routine, two boxes were lowered into his tank last week, each containing a mussel and the flags of the two opposing teams. Paul went straight to the correct box both times, wrenched open the lid and gobbled the tasty morsel.

So how does he do it? Luck or paranormal powers? Octopi are highly intelligent, so I don't find it impossible that one could have some sort of low-level psychic ability. When I first heard about this I wondered if it had something to do with the colors on the flags of the various countries since octopi also have highly developed color vision, but what are the odds that in every match the team with the flag that looked most aesthetically pleasing to an octopus would win?

It could just be chance, remarkable as that may seem. In fact, it sounds like a lot of folks were using animals to predict the World Cup and if there are enough of them out there at least one was bound to guess all the matches correctly. For example, a man in Singapore claimed that his psychic parakeet had also racked up an impressive record of predictions and picked the Netherlands to win the final, whereas Paul picked Spain. Paul proved right, but no matter what the outcome was one of the two was going to be correct.

Some fans seemed to believe that the octopus was influencing the games in some way.

But the art of football predicting has become a dangerous job for the English-born clairvoyant. He fell offside with bitter German fans who threatened to turn him into sushi after he predicted a semi-final defeat for the Mannschaft against Spain.

Paul's home, an aquarium in western Germany, has received death-threat emails saying "we want Paul for the pan," said entertainment supervisor Daniel Fey. No less an authority than Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luiz Rodriguez Zapatero has called for octopus bodyguards. Spanish Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian has called for the creature to be given an "immediate" free transfer to Spain to "ensure his protection."

Stung by Paul's "treachery" at picking Spain over Germany in last Wednesday's semi-final, some sections of the 350,000-strong crowd watching the game on giant screens in Berlin sang anti-octopus songs.

While I doubt the cephalopod is sitting in its tank casting spells, fans might have a point. Professional sports is played by athletes who are so good that there's barely any difference in ability between them. In that world an elite player is only a tiny fraction of a percent better than a mediocre one. With the amount of media attention Paul got as his predictions proved correct there's no way that the players wouldn't have heard of his picks. If that undermined the confidence of the team picked to lose by even a minuscule amount it may have been enough to change the outcome of at least some of the matches.

A better method for testing the octopus' psychic powers would have been to set up some sort of double-blind test where the prediction was made but not announced until after the match was played. But unfortunately with the short lifespan of an octopus Paul won't get that chance, at least not at next year's World Cup.

His prediction of a Spanish victory is expected to be the last for Paul, who in octopus terms is a pensioner, at the grand old age of two-and-a-half. Octopuses generally live three years at the latest.

Maybe next year scientists could try testing that parakeet from Singapore. Birds live a lot longer.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Zimbabwe Goblin Attacks

In the comments on the Colorado leprechaun incident reader Giania brought this article to my attention. It seems that rural Zimbabwe has been hit by a rash of goblin attacks!

Villagers said the goblins attacks came at a time when nurses were busy with a malaria programme aimed at reducing malaria related deaths, which are prevalent in the area.

Villager Edmore Mukapa of Kadziro area said, "we were not expecting goblins to attack nurses who are trying hard to reduce malaria outbreak here. It’s unfortunate for us."

A teacher at Makande primary school said school children were also causalities of attacks daily.

This seems to be a valid question - why would goblins bother attacking nurses working to reduce malaria? Is it because there's some connection between the two? Maybe the goblin eat mosquitoes and don't want their numbers reduced or something. The villagers seem to believe that the attacks are part of some sort of complicated extortion scam.

"Attacking nurses with goblins leave us vulnerable. Goblins owners do not accept payments to their demands. You can not force them to accept the payments because of the Witch-craft Suppression Act. It’s a complicated issue," said a teacher who refused to be named for fear of victimisation.

Currently the Witchcraft Suppression Act makes it criminal to label anyone a witch or wizard.

What the article fails to mention is anything about the demands of the "goblin owners." Apparently they don't want money if they aren't accepting payments, or they want more than the villagers are willing to offer. Whatever their demands are, Chief Musampakara has reportedly hired his own magicians (tsikumatandas) to drive out the goblins.

Villagers hailed the move to hire tsikamutandas to "clean up witchcraft" although Chief Musampakaruma was not available for comment.

Nyaminyami council chief executive officer Isaac Mackenzie confirmed that traditional leaders hired tsikamutandas following complaints by victims of the attacks.

Although tsikamutandas are accused of sowing divisions among families and villagers, in Makande rural their presence is a reprieve.

"The attacks on nurses was unwarranted. Nurses are the last line of duty to combat malaria which is common here. Traditional leaders believe hiring of tsikamutandas will clean the area." said Mackenzie.

Maybe this is the scam right here. If a tsikamutanda happens to own some goblins, he can set them loose and then offer to come in for a fee and exorcise them. It's kind of like the protection rackets run by organized crime, but using obnoxious fortean creatures rather than big guys with baseball bats.

Let me suggest a better business model - sell the goblins! Can they be shipped overseas? I know that I'd be interested in ordering some and I'll bet I could find plenty of other magicians who would love to assemble their own infernal legions of the night. Since Zimbabwe's economy is such a train wreck at this point I know that American currency is especially valuable, probably much more so than anything that could be extorted from a village clinic.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

First Vampires, Now Leprechauns?

Something funny is going on in the state of Colorado. Only days after the roadway vampire incident police are looking for a leprechaun that was spotted harassing customers outside a supermarket in Boulder.

Either Colorado is now home to a crack in the universe that amplifies paranormal phenomena or there's a guy out there with more than one costume.

Police in Colorado are looking for a man dressed as a leprechaun who was seen jumping around a car park pretending to shoot people with his fingers.

Police in the city of Boulder were called after the man was spotted in the parking lot of a local supermarket, jumping out from behind cars, doing gun-fingers at shoppers, and reportedly making obscene gestures.

Sergeant Fred Gerhardt of the Boulder police told local newspaper the Daily Camera: 'I think that's why they called us. He was acting bizarre.'

Well, that, and it's not every day you see a leprechaun in a parking lot, making obscene gestures or not. True to form, though, the creature vanished before law enforcement could arrive and steal its pot of gold.

Officers who arrived on the scene were, unfortunately, unable to locate the leprechaun, who remains at large.

According to Gerhardt, this is the first time Boulder police have had to deal with a complaint about a leprechaun.

So far there is no word on whether or not alcohol or drugs were involved this time around. In related news, a photographer in Finland has finally succeeded in finding the end of the rainbow. Perhaps this discovery prompted the leprechaun's appearance, though why it showed up in Colorado instead of Finland remains a mystery.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Colorado's Roadway Vampire

Could the undead be on the prowl in Colorado? At least one woman thinks so.

She claims to have been startled by a vampire standing in the center of the road, prompting her to drive her SUV into a canal.

The woman said that she was driving her SUV along a dirt road in Colorado's Grand Valley region on Sunday night when she saw a vampire standing in the middle of the track.

Startled by the appearance of the undead fiend, the immediately put the SUV into reverse, with the result that she drove straight into the canal.

Oddly enough the vampire did not feed upon the poor woman, which makes one wonder what the point of standing in the middle of the road really was. All things considered standing in the road is a pretty good strategy to make motorists stop or crash, especially if you happen to be undead and don't run the risk of normal injuries should someone decide that they would rather just hit you. But running off as soon as you've disabled someone's car kind of defeats the vampire's usual purpose of hunting for fresh mortal blood.

The woman was not injured in the accident, or subsequently ravaged by the vampire, and her husband arrived to take her home.

There were no other witnesses who reported seeing the alleged bloodsucker. Troopers who arrived at the scene found the woman's vehicle in the canal, but were unable to track down the vampire.

One thing I will say is that of all the claims made in the article this one is the hardest for me to believe:

Police say they do not believe drugs or alcohol played any part in the vampire incident.

So far the Vampyre Nation has released no comment regarding the accident.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Anubis in Denver

Anubis has come to Denver. As part of the traveling exhibit of the treasures of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun at the Denver Art Museum an enormous statue of the Egyptian god has been erected at the Denver International Airport.

While the statue is impressive, some controversy has erupted over whether or not the airport really needs a likeness of the god responsible for carrying souls into the afterlife, especially given that many people hate flying because they are afraid of the sort of air disasters that might require Anubis' involvement. Others are of the opinion that to have a god associated with death and funerals welcoming visitors to the city is simply in poor taste.

The Egyptian god Anubis was constructed earlier this month at the airport to welcome the new King Tut Exhibit, which opens June 29 at the Denver Art Museum.

In early Egyptian history, Anubis was a god of the dead and a god of funerals.

This has created controversy among some residents and has a few of them, like Millie Lieberman of Denver, asking why this would be the piece that welcomes people to the city.

"The black on it represents the decaying body. To me it's a very sick and poor representation of what we're all about here in Denver," Lieberman said.

My guess is that Anubis was selected when the exhibit was first put together because the treasures of the Pharaoh were intended to follow him into the afterlife, making the psychopomp Anubis a pretty good choice as herald of the exhibit in terms of Egyptian theology. Anubis did not cause people to die, but when they did his job was to conduct their souls into the next world. But modern people see "god of death" and fail to understand the nuances of the Egyptian pantheon - or just ignore it altogether.

The Denver Art Museum stands behind its piece and says that is not what it is supposed to represent.

"There's absolutely a literal interpretation of what that figure represented in ancient Egypt. It's definitely not what its intended representation is in 2010. It's just a piece of art to celebrate the King Tut Exhibit to the museum," said Andrea Folton, director of communication at the Denver Art Museum, said.

One wonders what Anubis thinks about being referred to as "just a piece of art." As a magician I know that spiritual beings have an existence above and beyond the aesthetics of any particular culture, and while the naysayers do not understand what Anubis really represents his supporters should be careful not to dismiss the thousands of years of tradition and belief surrounding the Egyptian faith.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

God's Been Busy

Lightning has been associated with the Almighty from time immemorial. The flow of Mezla down the Tree of Life from Kether to Malkuth is called the lightning flash. Some anthropologists believe that the deity from which the Judeo-Christian God evolved was originally some sort of storm god. And it seems likely to me that the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel was probably created to explain the common-sense observation that if you build a tower in the middle of a desert it will be struck by lightning as soon as the next storm rolls in. Given all that, it may very well be that humanity's greatest invention in terms of thwarting God's will was in fact the lightning rod.

Over the last two weeks God seems to have been throwing his thunderbolts around more than usual. The first casualty was a young Tennessee woman who was tragically killed by lightning as her boyfriend was about to propose to her.

A young Tennessee woman was struck and killed by lightning on one of her favorite North Carolina mountain trails only moments before her boyfriend was about to propose to her, the Asheville Citizen-Times reports.

Richard Butler, 30, said he and Bethany Lott, 25, both from Knoxville, had ignored the rain and kept heading up Max Patch Bald, a spot that Bethany had longed to show him.

In his pocket, he had his own surprise -- an engagement ring.

There seems to be no reasonable explanation for her death, unless one subscribes to the Gnostic idea of the Demiurge - a God who simply is not that fond of human beings. I mean, I don't find the contention that had they married these two would have spawned the Antichrist or something even marginally credible. In fact, taken along with the next two stories one is left to wonder what the Lord's intentions might really be.

God's next target was a BP oil tanker in the Gulf of Mexico that was in the process of siphoning oil from the leaking Deepwater Horizon well.

A drill ship resumed siphoning off oil gushing from a blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday after a bolt of lightning struck the vessel and ignited a fire that halted containment efforts, the company said.

BP PLC spokesman Bill Salvin told The Associated Press that the drill ship called the Discoverer Enterprise resumed processing oil Tuesday afternoon, about five hours after the fire caused an emergency shutdown. Engineers on the ship have been siphoning about 630,000 gallons of oil a day through a cap on top of the well.

He said there was no damage reported to the containment cap, and the Coast Guard approved BP restarting the system.

While God's anger with BP over the catastrophic spill is understandable, couldn't he have picked a better target for his anger than one of the ships working to prevent further damage to the Gulf? Like, say, the BP or MSS executives who approved cutting corners on safety equipment that might have prevented the disaster in the first place? Maybe they were too well-protected by lightning rods, but it still seems counterproductive to halt the cleanup effort if God is indeed angered by the spill.

God's final target seems the least explicable, at least on the surface - a 62-foot statue of Jesus in Ohio.

Lightning and a subsequent fireball Monday night destroyed a 62-foot-tall "King of Kings" statue of Jesus with arms stretched toward the skies, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

The only thing visible this morning is the charred frame of the plastic foam and fiberglass statue, the newspaper says, citing police in Monroe, Ohio.

"It burned to the ground. The whole statue is gone," said Kim Peace, a police dispatcher.

It could be that this is simply a case of God enforcing the real Second Commandment - the one most Christian denominations pretend doesn't exist by splitting "Thou Shalt Not Covet" into two separate commandments. That commandment prohibits the making of graven images of anything in Heaven or on earth, and the Ohio statue probably qualifies.

Maybe the lesson here for anyone wanting to build a sculpture of Jesus is to use better materials than fiberglass. I'm guessing that the enormous statue of Jesus that overlooks Rio de Janeiro in Brazil is struck by lighting all the time, but since it's made of stone and concrete it has survived for almost a century.

Granted, this is probably all a big coincidence. Natural disasters happen, and I don't really believe that God - especially the Christian God - is behind all of them. Nevertheless, three strikes in two weeks is pretty unusual and might imply that some sort of spiritual or magical process could be influencing the odds in some way.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Smoking Vulture Brains?

The World Cup means it's time for more soccer magick.

I've heard stories about people taking various drugs in order to access psychic powers, but this is the oddest one yet. World Cup gamblers in South Africa have taken to smoking vulture brains, which they believe give them the power to see into the future.

Gamblers seeking to beat the bookies are smoking dried vulture brains, believing it will give them the power to predict match results, it has been claimed.

As the brains in question are those of the endangered cape vulture, conservationists are alarmed rather than amused by the rise of this practice.

Conservationists believe the growth of ‘muti’ magic in South Africa ahead of the World Cup has seen a surge in poaching of Cape vultures, already at risk from lack of food and poisoning.

‘The harvesting of the bird’s heads by followers of muti magic is an additional threat these birds can’t endure,’ said Mark Anderson, of BirdLife South Africa.

Steve McKean, from KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, who has been studying the decline of vultures due to muti magic, said: 'Our research suggests that killing of vultures for so-called "traditional" use could render the Cape vulture extinct in some parts of South Africa within half a century.

I'm thinking that this would be pretty easy to test if one had access to enough vulture brains to go around. All you really need to do is compare the betting results of "smokers" versus "non-smokers" and see if there's any statistical difference. Unfortunately gamblers tend to be a superstitious lot, and if a practice seems to work for them once they will usually repeat it regardless of the overall effect on the odds.

Much of muti magic seems to be based on the scarcity of the materials used. Albino body parts seem to be prized by unscrupulous practitioners simply because albinism is a rare condition and few such parts are available. Similarly, the cape vulture is endangered and as a result its brains are going be hard to come by. One wonders how much of the muti tradition is rooted in the "just world" assumption that anything hard to find is intrinsically more valuable and how much of it is based on empirical testing and observation by practitioners over many generations.