Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Witch Craze" Seminar in Australia

Here's an event that makes me wish I lived a little closer to Queensland, Australia than, you know, halfway around the world. Next week the University of Queensland will be hosting an academic seminar at its St. Lucia campus on the "witch craze" that went on in Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The seminar will feature Professor Philip Almond from the Centre for the History of European Discourses, who has published several recent books on the subject.

During the period there were many demonic acts reported. On one occasion, a Lancashire Assizes court was told by one young female witness of the involvement of her grandmother and aunt in a sordid tale of murder, cannibalism and sexual misdemeanour.

During the lecture, Professor Almond will provide answers to many of the questions most commonly asked about the period.

Discussion points include Satanic cults, the persecutions of witches, witchcraft and the role and actions of demonologists during the period.

His most recent books in witchcraft and demonology include Demonic Possession and Exorcism in Early modern England (2007), The Witches of Warboys (2008), and England's First Demonologist: Reginald Scot and the Discovery of Witchcraft (2011).

His latest book The Lancashire Witches: Politics, Persecution and Murder in Early Modern England will be published in 2012 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Lancashire witch trials.

So far I haven't had a chance to read up on Almond's work, but from the titles listed it sounds like they cover a lot of interesting material. Most academics who study these persecutions focus on the social forces that led community outsiders to be accused of witchcraft, and there are many countries in the world today where similar forces are still at work and causing a lot of harm. As a magician, I'm also interested in whether or not the accused may have been engaged in esoteric practices that met with disapproval from community and religious leaders - and how well those practices really worked.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Taking the "Wizard" Out Of "Triwizard"

Back in April I commented on the inexplicable phenomenon of Muggle Quidditch, in which players run around a field with brooms that can't actually fly clutched tightly between their legs. At the time, it seemed to me that this was a case of Harry Potter mania gone too far. The whole idea is ridiculous. I mean, what's the point of trying to fly on a non-flying broom? Recently a similar idea showed up at Valdosta State University in Georgia - a "Triwizard Tournament" that involved no wizardry whatsoever.

Reade Hall is divided into four sub-hallways, two for each gender. This year, the Resident Assistants of Reade have adopted a Harry Potter theme for the entire residence hall. Each smaller hallway within Reade is decorated to reflect one of the four Hogwarts Houses: Gryffindor for the upstairs girls’ hall, Ravenclaw for the upstairs boys, Hufflepuff for the downstairs boys, and Slytherin for the downstairs girls.

As an icebreaker activity to start the school year, the Reade RA’s put together a competitive event this past Sunday which they nicknamed the “Triwizard Tournament.” Though the name is not necessarily accurate, the residents of Reade undertook a series of field-day style events, competing for points toward their respective Houses. These events included a broomstick race, an orange-passing relay, and a game of Dragon Tag among other games.

“My favorite game was ‘Gorilla, Man, Gun’,” said sophomore Engineering major Sarah McGrew, “-because I won serious House Points for Slytherin!”

Wow, that all sounds so magical - NOT. It sounds more like elementary school physical education. Now I do know that real magical contests, like trying to see who can produce the best evocation manifestation, or shift a quantum diode the most, or most effectively divine some unknown piece of information using the Tarot probably seem pretty boring to kids used to fantasy-novel spellcasting. Nonetheless, I keep holding out hope that one of these days a Harry Potter-inspired event will come along that involves something other than silliness.

So far that's turned out to be a real recipe for disappointment.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Another Thwarted Necromancer

More from the Magick Using Dead Things file! German customs officials in Potsdam have confiscated a collection of ape body parts from an African-born man returning from the Congo. Officals believe that the body parts were destined for use in magical rituals, since in traditional African folk magick body parts from apes are believed to strengthen the effects of many ritual methods. And despite the man's claims, none of the parts seized sound particularly appetizing.

The haul - which included chimp heads, hands, internal organs and several penises - were discovered in the suitcase of African-born David Bueno, 41, who claimed he planned to eat them.

But contraband expert believe the parts were to be used in witchcraft and voodoo rituals where animal body parts are said to bring strength and power to believers.

A customs spokesman said: "This is increasingly common, sadly. These body parts are used in religious rites or medicine."

Bueno - who was on his way back from the Congo - is facing charges of trafficking endangered species.

It's interesting to see how deep the urge to deny involvement in magical practices goes with cases like this. The trafficking of endangered species is just as illegal whether you plan to eat them or cast spells with them, but Bueno nonetheless insists that his motive was the former. Of course, the fact that in Africa magical practitioners often wind up being killed by angry mobs is a pretty strong incentive not to identify yourself as a sorcerer or necromancer if you ever plan on returning to the continent.

Some African witch doctors go so far as to use body parts from human albinos in their rituals, so it's at least somewhat reassuring that Bueno appears to limit himself to apes. Still, with how close to extinction some of these ape species are African magicians should probably be busy researching alternatives if they want their school of magick to survive in the long term.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy Update

Back in April I announced that my manuscript Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy had been accepted for publication by Pendraig Publishing. Since then we've completed the editing process and the manuscript has now moved on to layout. I still don't have a publication date, but the book is coming along nicely and I hope to see it available for purchase within the next couple of months.

Once it's in print Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy will be one of the few available titles on working practical magick with the Heptarchia Mystica, John Dee's grimoire that contains the conjurations and powers for the Kings and Princes attributed to the seven days of the week. This is the grimoire that may have helped to defeat the Spanish Armada in an epic battle that shaped the course of the British Empire for centuries, and the only portion of the Enochian magical system that Dee himself assembled into a grimoire structure. Based on the workings my magical group has done with the Heptarchia, it contains an extremely powerful and relatively unexplored system of magick.

Some of the information that will appear in the book consists of updated versions of material that was first posted here on Augoeides:
  • My thoughts on Angelic pronunciation based on Dee's original phonetic notations.
  • An overview of my Operant Field method of working with pentagram and hexagram rituals.
  • The AOEVEAE Enochian pentagram ritual and the MADRIAX Enochian hexagram ritual.
  • Creating magical fields with these two Enochian rituals.
  • The NAZ OLPIRT Enochian energy work exercise.
  • A completely updated version of my Heptarchial Ritual Template that has been reworked along technical writing lines to accomodate both modern and traditional grimoire practitioners.
In many ways this new version of the template is the section that I'm most excited about. Rather writing the book exclusively for either modern or traditional grimoire magicians, I have indicated where all the modern forms go if you want to use them, but also have included Dee's opening prayers for those who would rather use the grimoire as written and skip the pentagram rituals and so forth. Along with the template I include my own hand-drawn talisman designs that I use for the Kings and Princes, Dee's conjurations, modified versions of the original Christian prayers that are appropriate for Thelemic practitioners, and a number of other tweaks to the system that I have found to be very effective over the years.

I'm looking forward to the release of the book and I hope that many of you will be interested in checking it out. I'll post another update with a link as soon as it becomes available.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Inflatable Sacred Space

Anyone who's been a member of a magical group knows that finding temple space can represent a serious challenge. Often you wind up stuck meeting in somebody's basement or garage, which leads to the problem of your group becoming too dependent on the one member who owns the space. That situation hardly ever ends well, and can produce some pretty serious douchebaggery. But Polish missionary priest Krzysztof Kowal has found a unique solution to the problem of providing a space for his Russian congregation to meet - an inflatable church!

Father Krzysztof, a Roman Catholic missionary from Poland, has had trouble gaining permission - and cash - to build a permanent place of worship in the Kamchatka peninsula - a 1,250-kilometre stretch located in far eastern Russia.

But long-time friend Robert Wojcik, who builds inflatable toys for children in Kolobrzeg, Poland, stepped in to help by offering to build a temporary church for the isolated congregation.

Money-raising efforts helped to pay for the alternative structure, which will remain open even in extreme conditions. During winter time, temperatures can drop to minus 40 degrees in the Kamchatka region.

There's no reason that an inflatable magical lodge couldn't be constructed along the same lines. You could build something custom with a bunch of Egyptian-looking features, or just go with one of the standard designs.

Now, there's still that whole issue of bouncing around during the circumambulations, but hey, that's what self-discipline is for - to keep everyone from laughing uncontrollably.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Real Witches Versus True Blood

Why is it that whenever a fictional portrayal of magick becomes popular real practitioners seem to come out of the woodwork complaining that said portrayal is unrealistic? To my way of thinking people who get upset that fiction is fictional have way too much free time. While I will explain to beginning students that real magick is not like what you see in Harry Potter, that's mostly so they won't obsess about things like pronouncing words exactly correctly. I certainly have no problem with J. K. Rowling's books or their popularity - they're fantasy novels, and there are very few such novels that present magick with anything resembling realism.

The latest incarnation of this phenomenon surrounds the HBO television series True Blood, which this season features a coven of Wiccans opposing the vampires. Naturally, real witches are complaining about how unrealistically the witches on the show are portrayed - as opposed to, I suppose, the other denizens of the True Blood universe such as vampires, shapeshifters, fairies, werewolves, werepanthers, maenads, and so forth. As fan of campy horror films I do enjoy the show, but part of me keeps waiting for Djinni or Wendigos or who knows what else to show up that has nothing whatsoever to do with vampire folklore.

The series' fourth season has focused on Marnie Stonebrook (Fiona Shaw), a seemingly harmless medium and leader of a Wiccan group who becomes the physical conduit for Antonia, a long dead witch who is hellbent on vengeance against vampires who persecuted and burned her at the stake.

Marnie winds up as the mouthpiece for Antonia's spell to drive the bloodsuckers of fictional "True Blood" town Bon Temps into the daylight. And that sort of deadly revenge, say some modern-day witches, is what gives witchcraft a bad name.

"I'm absolutely disappointed with the portrayal of Marnie," said one witch -- and professor of biology at a college in New England -- who goes by the magickal name Taarna RavenHawk.

"When Marnie gives up her 'power within,' which is a witch's ability to practice the craft without harming others, it allows possession by Antonia who becomes the controlling entity. Marnie lets it happen. It's unconscionable a witch would act this way."

Because witches don't cast spells for revenge? Really? Based on the e-mail correspondence I receive from this site I would guess that money spells and love spells are probably more popular, but curses are up there too. Anybody who's lived in a town that's endured a "witch war" will tell you that witches most certainly do cast curses.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Careful What You Pray For...

As I've mentioned on numerous occasions, the difference between prayer and magick is mostly one of terminology. While there are some technical distinctions as well, such as the more complex forms employed by ritual magicians versus the intuitive approach that most systems of prayer tend to take, the basic idea is the same - the mobilization of spiritual forces to produce change in the world. Prayer does generally call upon a deity, but any school of magick that incorporates theurgy into its rites does the same thing, just in a more systematic way.

Back in April, Texas Governor Rick Perry declared a "weekend of prayer" for rain that would ease the ongoing drought in his state. The results of that weekend were not encouraging, though to be fair as a decent weather worker I can say with some confidence that the situation in Texas has been pretty dire all summer in terms of weather patterns for precipitation. If there's no moisture in the air you can't conjure rain, even if you can manage to slide atmospheric fronts around with impunity.

The thing is, that when all the elements are present it's important to be careful. It's all too easy to start something way more powerful and potentially destructive than you intend, and once a big storm gets going it's usually hard to stop until it runs its course. This last weekend at the Roman Catholic Church's world youth festival in Madrid, Spain stifling heat led the event organizers to pray for rain. The results were a lot more impressive than those in Texas - a freak thunderstorm forced the Pope to cut short his speech amidst the rain and lightning.

During the day, firefighters atop fire trucks had sprayed the crowds with water from hoses as pilgrims sought shade from umbrellas, trees, tarps and tents in a bid to stave off the near 40°C heat.

As night fell, a flash downpour drenched the crowd: With lightning in the night sky, the 84-year-old Pope was forced to skip the bulk of his speech and merely deliver brief greetings in a half-dozen languages.

Organisers told the crowd that they had asked for more water during the day when it was so hot and their prayers were answered. "With this rain, the Lord sends us many blessings," Pope Benedict quipped when he resumed his truncated remarks.

However, the storm proved much intense than the organizers likely intended, causing some damage to the venue along with a few injuries in addition to driving the Pope off the stage.

Six people were slightly injured when a tent collapsed. Some makeshift chapels set up on the field's perimeter were also damaged, forcing organisers to announce over loudspeakers that not everyone would be able to receive Communion during the main World Youth Day Mass.

Clearly there's still some magick in the rites of the Roman Catholic Church, but in the future it sounds like they need to be a little more careful how they wield it. Either that, or God's just less than happy with the current leadership and wanted to send them a message.

Monday, August 22, 2011

West Memphis Three Released

Not all occultists remember the case of the West Memphis Three, but we should. When three young boys were found murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas in 1993 police investigators became caught up in what turned out to be one the last gasps of the "Satanic Ritual Abuse" panic. They identified three teenagers who had previously been in trouble with the law based on a rumor that one of the three had an interest in the occult, then obtained a confession from another after twelve hours of interrogation. The teen who gave the confession immediately recanted, claiming that he was coerced and threatened. Out of the twelve hours of questioning only the 46 incriminating minutes were recorded.

Prosecutors went to trial with what any reasonable person would consider a very weak case. They had no physical evidence linking the three teens to the murders, no murder weapon, and the only motive they proposed was "Satanic ritual," even though no evidence of anything occult was found at the scene. They managed to find a woman who claimed one of the teens had admitted killing the boys at a Wiccan meeting, but she could not remember anyone else who had been present or even where the meeting had taken place. Years later she would allege that police had threatened to have her child taken away unless she told them what they wanted to hear, and admit that she had made up the whole story. Despite all this, the teens were convicted of the murders.

After years of fruitless appeals and legal challenges the three were finally able to work out a deal with prosecutors that resulted in their release from prison after more than eighteen years. They changed their original pleas from "not guilty" to "no contest" in return for a sentence reduction to the eighteen years they had already served. Prosecutors likely took the deal because a new trial would require them to deal with more recent evidence, such as their witness recanting her testimony and new testing that shows none of the DNA evidence gathered at the scene match any of the three defendants, and the three likely took it because it meant getting out of prison right away instead of spending another year or more that a new trial could take.

The prosecuting attorney, Scott Ellington, said in an interview that the state still considered the men guilty and that, new DNA findings notwithstanding, he knew of no current suspects.

“We don’t think that there is anybody else,” Mr. Ellington said, declaring the case closed.

Asked how he could free murderers if he believed they were guilty, he acknowledged that the three would likely be acquitted if a new trial were held, given the prominent lawyers now representing them, the fact that evidence has decayed or disappeared over time and the death or change of heart of several witnesses. He also expressed concern that if the men were exonerated at trial, they could sue the state, possibly for millions.

So is this finally the end of the "Satanic panic?" Let's all hope so, especially those of us who study occultism and are open to the public about it. These days one would like to think that a case like the one prosecutors brought in the West Memphis Three murders would never result in a conviction, but the fact is that many people still see the occult as something scary and criminal even if all you are interested in doing is reading books on esoteric subjects. And some of those same people can wind up on juries.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Dude, You're Totally Not a Vampire

Vampires in media and literature tend to follow a sort of cycle in which they become extremely popular for awhile, then fall out of favor, and then after a time start gaining popularity again. There was an upswing in the 1980's with Anne Rice, a hiatus through much of the 1990's, and then another upswing with the rise of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy went off the air in 2003, but at the same time the vampire mythos was being picked up in the novels of Charlaine Harris and a couple of years later Stephanie Meyer. Harris' novels were adapted into the HBO television series True Blood, capping a decade of the vampire's ascent.

We're finally getting to the point in the cycle where the vampire is set to decline once more. How do I know? Well, for starters, this. A 19-year-old Texas man has been arrested for breaking into a woman's home and trying to drink her blood, apparently convinced that he is a 500-year-old vampire.

Whether pop culture played a role in the attack remains to be seen, as 19-year-old Lyle Monroe Bensley awaits a psychiatric evaluation in jail on burglary charges in Galveston, Texas, southeast of Houston.

Found growling and hissing in a parking lot and wearing only boxer shorts, the pierced and tattooed Bensley claimed he was a 500-year-old vampire who needed to "feed," Galveston Police Capt. Jeff Heyse said.

Vampires have been a focal point of literature since Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, "Dracula". But fascination, particularly among young people, has peaked in recent years with the popularity of the "Twilight" books about teenage vampires and the HBO series, "True Blood."

"I think the vampire is a metaphor for the outsider and the predator in all of us," said author Anne Rice, whose Vampire Chronicles series has captured the imaginations of horror fans since the 1970s.

"We're all conscious at times of being alone, of being alienated, of being a secret self that fears exposure to the judgments of others. So we feel like vampires," she told Reuters.

Bensley is now being held in the Galveston County Jail on a $40,000 bond for home burglary with intent to commit a felony.

The woman, who lived about two miles from Bensley and did not know him, escaped the attack unharmed, Heyse said.

I guess if this guy was so easy to catch those super-special vampire powers must not have been working for him. Shouldn't he have been able to glamor the cops, or use super-speed to escape them, or just turn into a bat? Or is this guy some low-budget version of what we've all come to expect from the undead? The fact is that dangerous delusions about vampires tend to emerge when the archetype is at its peak, and this guy is totally not a vampire. It should be pretty easy to prove one way or another - just toss him into the sunlight and see if he explodes. Or, I suppose, sparkles, if you buy that Twilight nonsense.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Werewolf Cathedral

As you'll recall back in July I got into a bit of a feud with Mercury that resulted in fewer posts than I had originally planned. Among the stories that I intended to to cover was this remarkable bit of silliness from Salon. It seems that somebody has taken it upon themselves to create a werewolf religion, with a website called "The Werewolf Cathedral."

No, I'm not making this up - see for yourself!

Really, I suppose it was inevitable. After all, there's a Jedi church, a Twilight church, a Flying Spaghetti Monster church, and there even used to be a Tiger Woods church. So that a wererewolf church would come along seems almost pedestrian in the overall scheme of things. The Salon article spells it out pretty well:

Being a werewolf means that you can throw out all those boring societal notions of "good," "evil," "right" and "wrong," since the members "do not concern ourselves with labels meant to control or limit our behavior." You also get to discard all of your "egalitarianism and judeo-christian values," though by joining the Cathedral you have to promise not to engage in any criminal activity and "behave in a responsible and adult manner within society." So being a werewolf means living in strict accordance to a civic structure that goes against your own religious beliefs? Sounds ... not fun.

Of course not! That's why all the folklore calls lycanthropy a curse. Seriously, though, it kind of makes one wonder what the point of declaring yourself a fictional character really is if you have to act all adult and responsible anyway.

That's not even the biggest drawback to joining the Werewolf Cathedral, though. According to the website's home page, true werewolves can't actually turn into wolves. Like, at all:

"The Werewolf Cathedral considers anyone that believes in transformation of a man into a Long Chaney Jr style wolfman, with hairy face and fangs, to be a pseudo Werewolf. Being a Werewolf is a mentality and an ideology. Lycanthropic Transformation is about union of intellect with instinct."

Thanks, but I'll just be sticking with my religion of "Team Jacob" for now.

So here's the super-confusing thing. If you're in touch with your human instincts it means you're a wolf? How does that make any sense? I suppose in the end making sense is too much to ask for from people who claim to be werewolves because they can't transform in wolves. Critical thinking is clearly not these folks' strong suit. I can't turn into a wolf - does that make me a werewolf? I don't drink blood - does that make me a vampire? You can see where I'm going here.

But then, just when I was getting ready to go off on how moronic anyone would have to be to believe this, let alone assemble an organization around it, I get to the bottom of the page and see "Founded by a Member of the Church of Satan." That raises the possibility that whole thing is a big joke, Anton LaVey-style. Whether or not it's intentional, there's no denying that the whole concept is pretty damn funny.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Republican Satanists?

In response to my recent post on the ridiculous accusation that the Democratic Party is controlled by demonic forces, reader Undercrypt posted a link to a video discussing an odd change made to the Republican Party's logo in 2000. I had never noticed before, but at that time the logo was slightly modified so that the three stars were rendered inverted rather than upright. The image above shows the pre-2000 and post-2000 logos side by side. This change has led some conspiracy theorists to suggest that in 2000 the Republicans secretly were signalling their allegiance to Satanic forces, perhaps due to George W. Bush's membership in Yale's secretive Skull and Bones Society, which a surprising number of people believe is some sort of evil occult order rather than the frat-on-steroids for rich people that actual investigations have found.

In magick, the upright pentagram represents the dominion of spirit over matter, while the inverse pentagram represents the descent of spirit into matter. For example, one interpretation of Aleister Crowley's Liber V vel Reguli is that the inverse pentagram is used to represent the fortification of the magician's material form with the spiritual forces of the four classical elements. Satanists tend to view the inverse pentagram as the opposite of the upright, representing the dominion of matter over spirit, which is why they use it as one of their symbols. Either way, it certainly can be argued that the Republican party under Bush's "tax-cut-and-spend" administration tilted more strongly in favor of the materially wealthy, and even from a spiritual standpoint the last decade has seen the rise of "green gospel" theology among members of the pro-Republican religious right. But is it really a conspiracy? Can a logo do all that? Could the Republican Party be under the control of some secret Satanic cabal?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Deadly Curse Guards Temple Treasure

Last month I covered the story of a vast temple treasure recently discovered in India. Five of the temple's six vaults have now been opened, revealing a fortune in gold, gems, and other valuables. However, the dig ran into a hitch opening the last vault, referred to as Vault B by the archaological team. A group of priests has determined that the vault is guarded by a deadly curse, based on an etching of a snake found on the door and additional astrological investigation.

A group of priests who conducted an astrological examination or 'devaprasnam' at the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple here has concluded that family members of those who open its yet untouched vault B would die, said an expert on Thursday. They also warned against videography of the treasure discovered so far.

Speaking to reporters late night after the conclusion of the four-day 'devaprasnam', lead priest K. Padmanabha Sharma said that no videography of the temple's unearthed treasure trove should take place.

"Of the treasure troves that are in the temple, vault B should not be opened and of the remaining five vaults, there should be no valuation done, besides there should be no exhibition of the treasure that has been found," said Sharma.

The temple, among the richest in the world, has six vaults. Five of these were opened on the orders of the Supreme Court and a treasure trove estimated to be more than Rs.1 lakh crore was discovered.

Vault B was not touched by a committee that was appointed by the court for stock taking of the temple's treasures last month.

The astrological examination that began at the temple on Monday involved discussions among the members of the team headed by Mathur Narayanan Renga Bhatt, an expert in conducting rituals.

The discussions, held in the open, concluded that it would be best that vault B was left unopened because it was believed that it could only be opened by "God".

The experts concluded that if anyone opened the vault, one of his family members may die either due to a snake bite or consumption of poison.

Egypt is most famous for its tomb curses that were set to protect the wealth that was buried with its pharaohs, but clearly this tradition was not limited to the Middle East. It remains to be seen if the vault will ever be opened, what is stored inside that was important enough to merit a curse, and if the vault is finally opened whether or not anyone actually dies as a result.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Last week I wrote about Texas Governor Rick Perry's big prayer event that happened to coincide with our formal banquet at the National Ordo Templi Orientis Convention. Perry announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination on Saturday, and most political analysts believe that his prayer event, called "The Response," was an attempt to establish him as an acceptible candidate in the eyes of religious conservatives. Presidential candidates give a lot of lip service to the idea of transcending hostility and partisanship in Washington, which as the Obama administration found is much easier said than done. But Alice Patterson, one of the organizers for Perry's prayer rally, sure isn't helping. Last year she published a book in which she claims that the Democratic Party is controlled by demonic forces.

In fact, Patterson wrote a whole book about it which I have just finished reading called "Bridging the Racial and Political Divide: How Godly Politics Can Transform a Nation" in which mentions how she went to hear Chuck Pierce speak in Louisiana where he preached on "Saul Structures" at which points she realized that the Democratic Party is "an invisible network of evil comprising an unholy structure" that is, quite literally, controlled by demonic forces:

As Chuck described Saul Structures, my thoughts raced to politics. "Oh my God, Chuck is describing the Democratic Party!" This was the first time I'd ever considered that an evil structure could be connected to and empowered by a political party ... One strong fallen angel cannot wreak havoc on an entire nation by himself. He needs a network of wicked forces to restrain the Church and to deceive the masses. Unlike the Holy Spirit, who is everywhere at once and can speak to millions of people simultaneously, the devil can only be in one place at a time. By himself Satan would be totally ineffective, but in cooperation with other powers of darkness he erects structures to deceive and manipulate entire nations ... At the time I was listening to Chuck Pierce in Louisiana, I hadn't given any thought at all to strongholds in political parties. If I had ever thought about it, of course, it would have made sense, but it was new information. As Chuck's words began to sink in, I asked the "Lord, Father, what is the demonic structure behind the Democratic Party?"

Patterson goes on to explain that "the demonic structure behind the Democratic Party" is in fact "the Jezebel structure" which is rooted in long-ago Democratic support for slavery and which remains today because of the party's support for reproductive and gay rights.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Not Magick After All

Back in May I commented on a story regarding what appeared to be a platform of skulls discovered at an archaeological dig in India's Dharwad region. When the skulls were initially found experts suggested that they may have been assembled for some sort of magical ritual, and as I noted in my previous article casting a spell while standing on top of a platform of skulls would look seriously awesome. Alas, further investigation suggests that the skulls were not part of a magical ritual at all, but rather those of famine and epidemic victims who died during the so-called "Skull Famine" of 1789-92, a natural disaster that is estimated to have killed approximately eleven million people over four years.

The huge number of skulls — about 600 — makes this the largest single human burial in India or elsewhere, said the team, which started excavation works on January 12. Quoting experts’ opinion, sources told Express: “It is the rarest of the burials executed for the victims of a natural calamity. It was a community burial. All other theories, like large-scale massacre of traitors, slaughter of prisoners of war and religious homicide, cannot be validated.”

The experts also dispelled the theory that it was a collection of remains made by occult practitioners of Vamachara (witchcraft). The experts said one ghastly natural calamity that happened in the Deccan in particular, and south India in general — and well-recorded in the history of the region — was the severe famine of 1789-92. This famine is remembered even now in folklore as ‘bones lay unburied, whitening roads and fields. The ground was covered with skulls of the unburied’.

So rather than the skulls being related to some magical purpose, it would appear that the mass burial was a response to the concurrent deaths of many people who needed to be buried quickly. That's a lot less over-the-top than the image of an evil sorcerer standing atop the heads of enemies conjuring the malevolent powers of the universe, but in the end probably much more believable.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Education and Religion

Last week I commented on a study which seemed to show that both Christians who consider themselves "born-again" and unbelievers suffer from greater degrees of atrophy in the hippocampus, an area of the brain crucial for processing memories, in old age. Several hypotheses to explain these findings have been suggested by the researchers themselves and also by various commenters. Without more information it's hard to say what might be the mechanism behind this difference between the affected groups and members of more mainstream churches, but another study posted today by CNN may help shed a little more light on some of the factors involved.

This latest study links education level and religious belief. The reason that this link is important in the context of the previous study is that there is a great deal of research showing that higher levels of education tend to help counteract various forms of cognitive decline. These findings on the protective effects of education line up prettty well with basic common sense - the more you develop the connections in your brain the longer they take to start falling apart are you age. Educated people also tend to have a greater understanding of methods that have been found to stave off cognitive decline to some degree such as working with puzzles and brain teasers.

So if it turns out that better-educated people are more religious in some particular way that is not shared by "born-agains," it may be that the additional brain connections cultivated by education and mental exercise are the real key rather than characteristics of particular spiritual beliefs. Furthermore, if more educated people gravitate toward mainstream churches the same mechanism could be in play. This means that the findings of this latest study are quite important in terms of understanding the results of the previous one.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

When "Warlock" Means "Douchebag"

As anyone with access to TMZ should be aware of by now, a campaign is currently underway to rehabilitate the word "warlock" as a positive and acceptible term for a magician, spellcaster, or witch. This campaign is being led by certain eyeliner-abusing Salem witch who is far too well-known around these parts, and probably everywhere else as well. The term also gained media prominence back in February when Charlie Sheen claimed on national television that in firing him from "Two and a Half Men" over his bizarre comments and behavior the network had "picked a fight with a warlock."

In many television series "warlock" has been used to mean "male witch," while the Wiccan community has insisted for years that the word is not gendered and instead derives from a term meaning "oathbreaker." In a previous thread it was suggested that another possible derivation was from a Norse word meaning "spirit-caller," which could properly be applied to practitioners of many magical paths. However, the wikipedia article on the word's history and usage references the Oxford English Dictionary, which does not accept the latter etymology.

The commonly accepted etymology derives warlock from the Old English wǣrloga meaning "oathbreaker" or "deceiver." A derivation from the Old Norse varð-lokkur, "caller of spirits," has also been suggested; however, the Oxford English Dictionary considers this etymology inadmissible.

The Oxford English Dictionary also provides the following meanings of the word: Warlock v1 Obs. (ex. dial.) rare, also warloke: To secure (a horse) as with a fetterlock. Warlock v2: To bar against hostile invasion.

While the idea of rehabilitating the term may have an appeal to some, it strikes me as a pointless distraction. There are so many better and more effective things that magicians could be doing besides waging public relations campaigns over the meaning of a single word that the mind boggles. Furthermore, it should be obvious that if you're pretty much the only person out there calling yourself a "warlock" and you go around acting like a douchebag, that's the association people are going to remember.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Prayer - You're Doing It Wrong

So I'm back from NOTOCON VIII. The convention was great as usual, with lots of fascinating presentations and awesome folks from all around the country. Saturday was our formal banquet, and on that same evening it so happened that Texas Governor Rick Perry was holding a big stadium event in Houston inviting Christians to "pray for the economy."

"Pray for our economy!" says Doug Stringer of Turning Point Ministries. "Pray for our country! Pray for our businesses, for jobs!"

His sermon reverberates from the stage into the seats and bleachers of Reliant Stadium. Thousands of Christians—many of the 30,000 who've made it inside—get up and take his advice. They break into small huddles and start praying about the economy. Walking past them, I hear incredibly specific words like "investments" and "9.2 percent unemployment" and "downgrade." I see people tearing up, dabbing their eyes, praying even more. They have to finish quickly, before the next round of songs and prayers. They've already sat through three hours of them; there are four hours left to go.

The irony of this event going on in Houston at the same time that I was busy celebrating with my fellow accused "Crowley cultists" in Detroit strikes me as rather amusing, though I'll freely admit it's unlikely that the Order is even on Rick Perry's radar.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


This weekend I'll be attending the National Ordo Templi Orientis Convention, also known as NOTOCON, in Detroit, Michigan. This the eighth biannual conference in a series that started in 1997, and I'm one of a small group of initiates who have attended all of them. I still remember back in the late 1990's when the idea of having a conference was being discussed, and apparently at the time there were some who worried that if initiates from all over the country ever got together for a big event afterwards half of them would resign and never be seen again.

This possibility was apparently discussed seriously at the time, though given the ongoing success of the national conferences it seems laughable now. In fact, most of the order members who attend the conferences are pretty cool people despite the contentious reputation that Thelema has acquired over the years and I always come away having enjoyed my weekend immensely. In general I'm not that fond of traveling, but for NOTOCON I'm always willing to make an exception.

One of the things I really appreciate about these conferences is the excellent overall quality of the various presentations and rituals. Two years ago the one that impressed me the most was Colin Campbell's presentation on John Dee's Sigillum Dei Aemeth, in which he laid out a pretty convincing case that Dee made a couple of errors in constructing his Sigillum to the Enochian angels' specifications. Normally when people make "discoveries" like that about the Enochian system they wind up being a matter of interpretation and conjecture, but Campbell's presentation was particularly solid. His whole argument was published in The Magic Seal of Dr. John Dee which was unfortunately a limited edition that is now out of print. I picked up a copy as soon as I got back from the last conference, but for the sake of Enochian studies in general I hope that at some point a mass market version becomes available. It's really good stuff.

I'm leaving tonight after work and will be back home late Sunday evening. Next week I plan on picking up a few of the stories I missed during the Mercury afflictions of last month. Have a great weekend, and if any of you are going to be attending NOTOCON I suppose I'll see you out there.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What to Make of This?

One of the advantages of living in the modern era is that we have access to scientific techniques far beyond those available even a few decades ago. This is particularly true as far as brain research goes, in that neuroscience has exploded over the last twenty years. Breakthroughs in brain science have been facilitated by more advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning techniques which have revolutionized the field. Back when I was in college the best functional scanning you could do used positron emission tomography (PET) which was a fantastic method of monitoring brain activity for about 45 seconds and then you were done.

This recent study came out back in May, and to a spiritual practitioner like myself raises more questions than it answers.

According to the study, people who said they were a "born-again" Protestant or Catholic, or conversely, those who had no religious affiliation, had more hippocampal shrinkage (or "atrophy") compared to people who identified themselves as Protestants, but not born-again.

As people age, a certain amount of brain atrophy is expected. Shrinkage of the hippocampus is also associated with depression, dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

In the study, researchers asked 268 people aged 58 to 84 about their religious affiliation, spiritual practices and life-changing religious experiences. Over the course of two to eight years, changes to the hippocampus were monitored using MRI scans.

On the surface it would seem like the two groups associated with greater hippocampal shrinkage have little in common, and in fact are often genuinely hostile to each other. But apparently they experience some similar outcomes in old age at the neurological level.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Rate Your Priest!

It seems like you can find a site on the Internet that will let you rate just about anything. Thanks to a new web site in Germany, priests can now be added to that list. The site allows parishioners to rate their priests according to various factors and makes those ratings available to the public.

"Pastoral work should be qualitative," Andreas Hahn, one of the founders said of the original idea behind the site, adding they hoped "to stimulate dialogue to improve pastoral work."

Also, "many parishes work well but their performance doesn't become public," Hahn said of the platform's function.

He hoped the site could also contribute to some kind of an early alert system, so that potential problems might be recognised before they become actual problems.

Launched in April, the site has been well received by users. "We are overwhelmed by our own success," Hahn said. With 25,000 parishes and some 8,000 priests registered so far and the option to add more, the site's reach is growing.

One might think that churches would welcome such feedback, and the number of priests signing up for the site certainly seems to bear this out. However, the response to the site shows a real split between Catholic and Protestant authorities.

But while the site has proven a hit with users, reaction from the Roman Catholic church, which has been rocked by abuse allegations in the past year and witnessed a record number of parishioners leaving the church, has been more muted.

Neither the archbishopric in Berlin nor the German conference of bishops wanted to comment on the website.

The protestant church said that it found the rising interest in public feedback as embodied by the hirtenbarometer concept a "positive development," according to a recent press release.

From the standpoint of the hacker ethic information wants to be free, and these sorts of ratings constitute a great tool for anyone looking around for a congregation to join. There are real differences between individual priests in terms of attitude, outlook, competence, and spiritual realization, and all of those factors contribute to the experiences of individual congregants. Not only does the rating system provide some insights into particular churches without anyone having to walk in the door, it also seems likely to inspire those members of the priesthood who choose to participate to strive for greater excellence in their vocations.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mercury in July

You probably have noticed that the number of articles posted here declined dramatically in July. This was partially due to my being away for Convergence over the weekend of the 4th, but mostly because Mercury essentially unloaded on me over the course of the last couple of weeks. Now, problems related to Mercury do manifest from time to time, but I found it odd that so many of them seemed to hit at once.

  1. My PC died. This turned out to be pretty easy to fix - the problem was the CPU fan went out and the machine was overheating.
  2. I took my car in to a mechanic because it was making a noise that I thought was from something in the exhaust. It turned out that the problem was inside the engine and would cost substantially more to fix than the car is worth. I decided I would be better off buying another car with a lot fewer miles, since in my experience replacing or rebuilding an engine isn't worth it unless you can do the labor yourself.
  3. My Internet router died. Replacing it wound up being a serious pain. The first one I got was nice but I couldn't get it to connect to my ISP for some reason that tech support couldn't help me with. I returned that one and picked up the recommended model, which worked at first but died the next day. I exchanged that one for another of the same model and that one appears to be working.
  4. The one issue I'm still having is that my phone, which is on a VOIP router, is still down. For some reason it seems like the VOIP router can't connect properly to the new Internet router. I'm still in the process of getting that fixed, but at least I have Internet back.
I would say that some of this was related to the record hot weather here in Minnesota, and maybe that had something to do with the car. But the thing is, my home is air conditioned and there's no reason to think that the heat would have affected the various electronics. Even during the big heat wave the temperature stayed the same inside my house.

I took a look at the astrology and my best guess is that Mercury was in sextile with both Saturn and Mars, the major and minor malefic. Sextiles are not normally considered negative aspects, but one of the things I realized is that as I replaced these various failing components I found that I liked the replacements a lot better. The old CPU fan that came with my PC was rather loud when it ran on full and the new one is whisper-quiet. The car I bought, a Chrysler Sebring (I'm a convertible enthusiast), is much nicer than the Sunfire convertible it replaced. The router seems to be working about the same, but we'll see how that goes over the next couple of months.

So the normal interpretation of a sextile, as an opportunity for positive action, seems to fit my situation pretty well. I just wish it hadn't been quite so expensive to take advantage of it.