Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A New Homeopathic Remedy?

Sometimes it seems like fake magicians - that is, con artists who claim magical powers for profit - are everywhere. This story comes from Germany, where a self-proclaimed "witch doctor" offered to restore a blind man's sight for a fee and now finds himself facing a criminal trial.

Jobless hairdresser Patrick Baecker, 35, posed as a mystic healer and told Axel Pfeffer he would make him see for £20,000.

The court in Fehmarn, Germany, heard how the former motorcyclist had tried everything to restore his sight after losing it in a crash.

Baecker's magical remedy of choice? Pickles laced with LSD! No word yet on whether or not gherkins constitute an effective drug delivery system.

But instead Baecker fed him pickles laced with powerful mind-bending hallucinogenic drugs to induce visions.

The court was not impressed with Baecker's defense.

‘You are a hairdresser, not a shaman,’ Judge Markus Faerber told Baecker in court.

In all fairness, there's no reason that a hairdresser couldn't also be a shaman, but I think it's safe to say that this guy is anything but the genuine article. He sounds like somebody who read an account of South American practitioners using ayahuasca and thought "hey, shamans use hallucinogens - I can do that too!" and then decided that he might as well start charging exhorbitant amounts for his magic pickles.

Let's hope this story gets enough exposure that nobody else decides to try out this ridiculous scam.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Opossum Resurrection Fails, Alcohol Involved

Here's one from the "where the hell do you find these people?" file. A Pennsylvania man was arrested and charged with public drunkenness after witnesses claimed that he attempted to resurrect a dead opossum along the side of a highway.

State police Trooper Jamie Levier says several witnesses saw 55-year-old Donald Wolfe, of Brookville, near the animal Thursday along Route 36 in Oliver Township, about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

It's hard to determine the exact magical method employed because the witness descriptions lack some key details, but regardless of technique drunken magick is almost always a bad idea. This case is no exception.

The trooper says one person saw Wolfe kneeling before the animal and gesturing as though he were conducting a seance. He says another saw Wolfe attempting to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

So it might be some sort of energy work, though I don't know of any energy work technique offhand that involves mouth-to-mouth with the dead. That can result in some nasty diseases, especially given the condition of this particular animal.

Levier says the animal already had been dead a while.

So is there any chance that this could have worked, maybe with a more recently deceased opossum? As medical science has found the line between life and death is not necessarily as absolute as people once thought. Nevertheless, I would really like to know in what twisted alternate universe performing CPR on roadkill is a good idea, with or without arcane gestures - and I expect I'll be waiting awhile for an answer.

Drunken magick - just don't do it, especially in front of witnesses. And especially if it involves dead things.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mexican Drug War Goes Magical

Since late 2006, when Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared war on his country's drug trafficking cartels, violence between police and cartel forces has accelerated at an alarming pace.

The pre-dawn discovery of two bodies cut into pieces and shoved into two black bags brought a tragic end Monday to a search for two missing police officers in the southern state of Guerrero.

Law enforcement officials say the bagged body parts were found at 3:15 a.m. outside police headquarters in Guerrero's capital city, Chipancingo.


On Sunday, gunmen killed a bodyguard and wounded three other people during the attempted assassination of a police chief in northeast Mexico, state authorities said.

The bodyguard of Rene Castillo Sanchez, head of security in the city of Santa Catarina, was killed during the attack and three other people were wounded, said a spokesman for the Nuevo Leon state investigative agency.

In this dangerous environment, it is perhaps no surprise that Mexican police officers have turned to magical practices intended to keep them safe from harm.

In secret meetings that draw on elements of Haitian Voodoo, Cuban Santeria and Mexican witchcraft, priests are slaughtering chickens on full moon nights on beaches, smearing police with the blood and using prayers to evoke spirits to guard them as drug cartels battle over smuggling routes into California.

Other police in the city of Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, tattoo their bodies with Voodoo symbols, believing they can repel bullets.

"Sometimes a man needs another type of faith," said former Tijuana policeman Marcos, who left the city force a year ago after surviving a drug gang attack. "I was saved when they killed two of my mates. I know why I didn't die."

Perhaps this individual's survival was just coincidence, but when you get right down to it either magick works or it doesn't. Obviously a tattoo won't literally repel a bullet, but I've heard of enough cases of guns jamming and inexplicitly missing their targets in the face of magical influence that I wouldn't be surprised if such practices offered these officers some degree of protection.

As one might expect, it's not just police officers who are making use of spells. The drug cartels are apparently using magick as well, to curse the authorities and presumably evade detection and arrest. This creates a sort of magical arms race in which each side seeks to neutralize the paranormal influences employed by the other.

Many police see a need to shield themselves from witchcraft used by drug gangs who mix Caribbean black magic and occultism from southern Mexico using things like human bones, dead bats and snake fangs to curse enemies and unleash evil spirits.

Skeptics generally cite mass hysteria as the root of situations such as these, and clearly it plays a role - if you think your enemies are using effective magick against you, whether or not they are, you'll probably be motivated to look for the best possible counterspells. However, in my years of magical practice I've seen enough effective magick that I know skilled practitioners can get tangible results, so I would expect those police officers who employ magick might actually be more likely to survive the conflict.

I would love to have a data set like that to analyze for possible patterns, but given the chaotic nature of the conflict I'm guessing that it will unfortunately never be available in any useful form.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Satan in the Vatican

The Devil can be mighty elusive. He can shapeshift, vanish at will, and then suddenly appear just about anywhere to tempt us into sin. Or at least that's what the Roman Catholic Church teaches us about Lucifer and his demonic minions. But last week Rome's chief exorcist announced that in light of the latest wave of sexual abuse scandals in Europe the Devil has been located - he's living in the Vatican!

Child sex scandals rocking the Catholic Church are proof of the Devil living in the Vatican, the Pope's chief exorcist claims.

Father Gabriel Amorth, 84, who has carried out more than 70,000 exorcisms in 50 years, said that Pope Benedict "fully agreed" with him in "casting out evil".

"The Devil lives in the Vatican. Naturally it's difficult to find proof but the true consequences are visible.

"We have cardinals who don't believe in Christ, bishops connected with demons.

"Then we have these stories of paedophilia. You can see the rot when we speak of Satan's smoke in the holy rooms of the Vatican."

So far no word has yet emerged as to whether or not Satan has his own furnished apartments in Vatican City.

As far as Amorth's other statements go, I'm left wondering how anyone who didn't believe in Christ could possibly become a Cardinal. Over the many years of service that anyone would have to put it as a priest before being elevated to that position shouldn't somebody in authority have noticed? But as far as bishops connected with demons go, it is generally known in the occult community that Vatican library has quite a nice collection of grimoires seized over the centuries. Could some of those volumes of forbidden lore have been dusted off and put to use by unscrupulous members of the clergy? Now that would be a revelation!

Amorth went on to bash the Harry Potter books, claiming that they hid "the signature of the king of the darkness."

Jesus, meanwhile, could not be reached for comment, but some sources claim that he's been seen hanging out on this guy's frying pan. It's a strange world.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Auctioning Ghosts for Fun and Profit

Here's an odd story from New Zealand. A woman who was troubled by two ghosts came up with the clever idea of selling them in an online auction - and wound up with a winning bid of over £1300!

They were sold in two glass vials, plugged with stoppers and dipped in holy water, which Woodbury says 'dulls the spirits' energy.'

The two departed souls sold for 2,830 New Zealand dollars (£1,320) in an auction on the Trade Me site.

She said they were the spirits of an old man called Les Graham who lived in the house during the 1920s, and a powerful, disruptive little girl who turned up after a session with a spirit-calling Ouija board. Since an exorcism at the property last July led to their capture, there has been no further spooky activity in the house, she said.

So once you have received the bottles containing the ghosts, what would you do with them?

'To revive the spirit, i have been told that you pour into a little dish and let it evaporate into your house,' the auction description helpfully suggested.

Personally I've always wanted a ghost butler who could bring me drinks from the kitchen and help to clean up around the house, but I would want some serious proof that these ghosts were capable of moving physical objects before I would pay that kind of money, even for two of them.

The winning bidder is believed to be a New Zealand company that manufactures electronic cigarettes. It's unclear exactly why they want some ghosts.

I have a hard time believing that this company could do much with a couple of ghosts without a magician on staff to control them. But I suppose stranger things have happened, and maybe they are just looking for a ghostly janitor or something to clean up around the plant. After all, a ghost wouldn't draw a salary and would be immune to any dangers posed by hazardous materials.

The auction has proved to be an inspiration for a number of other savvy entrepreneurs.

Since the auction attracted media attention, several more ghost-related auctions have sprung up on the site, including one offering 'a once in a lifetime opportunity for one lucky soul to own an EVIL GHOST', and another offering several vials of coloured water that, the seller explains, definitely don't contain ghosts.

I wonder if any of these bidders would pay extra for vials containing demons? That might be a future business opportunity right there.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Hexing the Forestry Service?

Using magick to try and influence politics is common in some parts of Africa, and apparently in Uganda some enterprising magician decided at some point to cast a spell on the headquarters of the country's National Forestry Authority. Various items related to the spell were recently discovered in a plastic bag hidden in the ceiling of a senior manager's office.

The juju, as the stuff is locally known, was stacked in a plastic bag in the ceiling. The offices house the acting director of finance and administration, Hajati Aidat Nandutu.

It was not clear who hid the fetishes in the ceiling and for how long they had been there.


According to the acting executive director, Hudson Andrua, the items were discovered by a carpenter who was on routine office maintenance.

On close scrutiny, the plastic bag contained mysterious herbs, coffee beans wrapped in dry banana leaves, brown powder, dead fireflies and bats.

Here's a helpful tip when placing talismans or other magical items that this magician seems to have been well aware of - drop ceilings are great for concealing just about any sort of magical item. People seldom give much thought to the ceiling, so usually your item or items will remain undiscovered until the area above the drop needs work or maintenance.

The intention of this particular spell is hard for me to divine without a better understanding of African folk magick and the symbolism of bats, fireflies, and so forth in that particular magical system. Bats are associated with Saturn in the Western system which might suggest some sort of curse, but it's very possible that in African magick the meaning could be different. And why the Forestry Service? Did this particular magician hope to obtain some sort of concession for logging?

The Ugandan Forestry Authority has ben embroiled in scandals recently, so perhaps the spell was indeed a curse. Seeing as it's hard to say how long the items had been in the ceiling it might even be an old curse that is working well beyond its original objective.

Controversy hit the forestry body recently leading to the suspension of three senior managers. They are Damian Akankwasa, the executive director, Paul Drici, the director of plantations and Ernest Kaddu, who heads finance and administration.

Akankwasa was suspended by President Yoweri Museveni to pave way for investigation into the source of the sh900m which he said had been stolen from his bedroom. Drici was embroiled in a bribery scandal while Kaddu was suspended indefinitely over allegations of “improper financial management”.

The office in which the fetishes were discovered was occupied by Kaddu.

The forestry watchdog has also been accused of irregular allocation of concessions in forest reserves in Katugo in Nakasongola, Lendu, Mwenge and Nakawa, where the agency’s headquarters are located.

If the spell turns out to be recent it might be worth taking a look at who benefited the most from those irregular forest reserve concessions and see if any of them hired a sorcerer leading up to the concessions being awarded. Personally I can't think of any other reason someone might want to hex the Forestry Service, unless this was related to some personal issue with the particular manager whose office was targeted.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Exposing a "Satanic" Fraud

Conservative Christians have a real weakness for conversion stories, the more lurid the better. Since the 1970's a number of individuals have come forth claiming to be former Satanist or Wiccan leaders who were "born again" and now preach the Gospel. They then write supposed accounts of the shocking practices they and their followers once indulged in and how anyone following their former path must be brought to Jesus in order to be saved. One of the most famous of these individuals is Mike Warnke, who published a book entitled The Satan Seller in 1973. It chronicled Warnke's introduction into Satanism, the depravity that followed, and his eventual conversion to Christianity.

Further detailed is Warnke's participation in sexual orgies, alcoholism, and drug dealing; his rise in the ranks of Satanism to the level of "high priest"; presiding over Satanic rituals including magical spells, summoning demons, ritual sex including a ritual kidnap and rape; the attempt on his life — a heroin overdose — that left him angry and disillusioned; his heroism in Vietnam; and how he found Jesus and came home as an evangelist. The story ends with Warnke living happily in California with wife Sue Studer. In fewer than three months after the release, The Satan Seller had become a religious best-seller.

The only problem with this over-the-top tale is that Warnke was a fraud. He was brought down by fellow Christians in the pages of Cornerstone magazine, which in 1992 published a series of articles exposing numerous episodes detailed by Warnke that could never have occurred. The authors of the series spoke to friends and acquaintences from the time he claimed to have been involved in Satanic occult practices and none of them could confirm his stories. It still makes me wonder, though, what really did go on that prompted Warnke to publish his account? Was it all made up in pursuit of a bestselling book or was there some truth behind the exaggerated tales? If only a real occultist could have been there to offer some commentary and perspective.

A similar case is that of Bill Schnoebelen, the author of Wicca: Satan's Little White Lie which was published in 1990 by Chick Publications - the folks who make those little comic-style tracts. In it Schnoebelen makes claims that are in many cases more extravagant than Warnke's - that he was the leader of several covens involving hundreds of people while simultaneously serving as a Satanic High Priest and high-degree Freemason. All this despite the fact that the Church of Satan was never particularly organized into any sort of network like the one Schnoebelen describes - all you had to do to become a member for life was to send Anton LaVey a hundred bucks - and that the "High-Grade" Masonic degrees he claimed to have been initiated into were invented by hoaxster Leo Taxil.

As it turns out, I do know a real occultist who was a member of Schnoebelen's coven in the mid-1970's - the blogosphere's own Frater Barrabbas, who has recently published a series of articles talking about his time in the group and what Bill Schnoebelen was actually up to during the time in which he claimed to be a great and powerful Wiccan/Satanist/Freemason. I highly recommend that you check it out. It's a very informative series, and gives some real insight into the mind of a man who seems to have wanted to become a cult leader, but just wasn't very good at it and finally decided to persecute his former religion instead.

Stories like these are good lessons for anyone seeking spiritual authority. Even small amounts of power and adoration can cause an inflated sense of one's own importance, and this is a sense that can profoundly mislead those who mistake it for license to engage in manipulative or outright abusive practices and behaviors.