Monday, October 31, 2011

Prostitute or Donkey?

Longtime readers of Augoeides may recall the story of the shapeshifting Nigerian witch who attempted to escape a botched auto theft by transforming into a goat. According to this recent story, the art of shapeshifting is also apparently alive and well in Zimbabwe. A man there is claiming that a prostitute he spent the night with transformed into a donkey the following morning. How's that for a rude awakening!

A Zimbabwean man has told a court that he hired a prostitute who during the night transformed into a donkey, and that he is now "seriously in love" with the animal, state media said Wednesday.

"I think I am also a donkey. I do not know what happened when I left the bar, but I am seriously in love with (the) donkey," Sunday Moyo told the court, according to The Herald newspaper.

Moyo, 28, was arrested in the town of Zvishavane, about 300 kilometres (185 miles) south of the capital Harare on Sunday.

He said he had paid $25 for a prostitute, and was surprised Sunday morning when he heard people accusing him of having sex with a donkey.

Moyo has been charged with bestiality. The court has ordered him to undergo a mental examination, The Herald said.

What's not quite clear here is whether or not the woman in question was a witch who transformed herself into a donkey, or more alarmingly, a donkey with magical powers that transformed itself into a woman. The latter would imply that in Zimbabwe donkeys can be witches too. If so, this would be the first case I've ever encountered of an animal practicing the black arts on its own. It could also mean that the Nigerian witch might have been a goat all along who simply transformed into a human in order to drive off with a stolen car.

Either that, or this is just yet another case where too much alcohol was involved.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy is Out!

My new book, Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy, is now available at Amazon!

The listing just went up so they don't have a cover image posted yet, but once they do it will match the one shown here.

I'm really looking forward to getting some feedback on the book's contents, since it's my first non-fiction work on magical practices. The focus of it is the magick of John Dee's Heptarchia Mystica, but it also represents the first publication in print of various ideas that have appeared here on this blog, such as my operant field method and several original Enochian rituals.

Click here to order your copy now, and enjoy!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Zombie Apocalypse - The Graphic Novel

The Centers for Disease Control have managed to create a viral Internet sensation with their "zombie apocalypse" campaign. It turns out that reading about how to prepare for regular disasters is boring, but if you throw zombies into the mix all of a sudden people start finding the same material incredibly interesting. I guess werewolves were the new vampires and now zombies are the new werewolves. Or something like that. The CDC is continuing this highly successful campaign in a graphic novel that is now available on their website.

The comic book went live on the CDC's website on Friday, with no fanfare. It has already been a hit at New York's ComicCon, a gathering of fans and creators of comic books, graphic novels, games, and other media. There, Ali Khan, director of the CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, passed out copies and spoke on a panel titled "Zombie Summit: How to Survive the Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse."

"They went like hot cakes," David Daigle of the preparedness office says.

The comic begins with a couple, Todd and Julie, watching a news story about a strange virus that causes slow movement, slurred speech and violent tendencies. The newscaster says the CDC recommends the public avoid those with symptoms, gather emergency supplies and make an evacuation plan.

Todd checks the CDC's website where he finds information about the new zombie virus and a list of items he'll need for an emergency-preparedness kit. Just then, an infected zombie neighbor shows up at the door and tries to attack him.

The scene shifts to the CDC, where scientists are working around the clock to create a vaccine. In a cameo appearance, the CDC's Khan barks, "No, tell CNN I'll call them back later…" into a phone as a Dr. Greene calls the Strategic National Stockpile to prepare to release its supplies of medicine.

You can find the graphic novel here. I figure it's all a good thing, since disaster preparedness is useful whether or not zombies ever show up at your door and the information presented by the CDC is stuff that everyone should be familiar with. Let's just hope it's not being disseminated in advance of a real zombie invasion of which the rest of us are as yet unaware.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

More Clown Shoes from Salem

Last spring I put up several posts making fun of Salem, Massachusetts' push for witchcraft-themed tourist dollars, a situation profoundly ironic because in fact Salem has no history of real witches, but rather baseless accusations that got a bunch of innocent people killed in 1692. In light of this and the ridiculous commercialism that surrounds the place, back then I went ahead and dubbed Salem "the clown shoes of magick." Things died down for awhile over the summer, but let's face it, now it's almost Halloween. The clown shoes are back, at least for the next week.

Ghouls representing two downtown Halloween attractions, the Nightmare Factory and the Witch Mansion, have been confronting each other on the pedestrian mall that separates them.

In the latest incident, a demonic representative of the Witch Mansion was accused of "bumping" the zombies from the Nightmare Factory who were strolling on the mall walkway to lure customers into the store.

That followed an accusation by the Witch Mansion that zombies from the Nightmare Factory were shouting, "Witch Mansion sucks," during the city's annual Zombie Walk on the "Night of the Living Dead" commemoration.

Police were called to the scene but an employee of the Nightmare Factory told officers they were merely mouthing "White Sox," suggesting zombies from Chicago had invaded Salem.

To understand the conflict, you need to know businesses in Salem are fiercely competitive during the Halloween season, when thousands of tourists visit the haunted houses, witch museums and costume stores.

I guess you also have to understand that in Salem the ratio of idiots to smart people is apparently almost paranormally high, at least among those loud and stupid enough to make the news. It's a wonder that the whole place hasn't imploded yet from the sheer gravitational mass of epic fail contained within its borders.

Now, keep in mind that I'm not slagging on the town itself or everyone who happens to live there. Plenty of Salem residents are fighting the good fight, trying to emphasize the city's nautical history and genuinely amazing architecture instead of all this dimestore witch crap. I can't help but respect anyone with the fortitude to keep that up, especially during the silly season, and I wish all of them the best.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Alchemy - You're Doing it Wrong

Here's another one of those "what was he thinking?" stories. It seems that a man in Northern Ireland decided that the best way he could possibly spend his day was attempting to transform excrement into gold by mixing it with fertilizer and putting it on top of a heater. Because alchemy, really! The result of his experiment? He started a fire that consumed his apartment and threatened those of his neighbors. Because that shit burns!

Recently, Paul Moran from Northern Ireland attempted to put a twist on the old lead-into-gold trick by turning feces into gold. No word on whether this modification to the recipe was out of necessity or a indomitable sense of adventure.

Either way, the process involved leaving feces, along with fertilizer, on top of a heater. While this process did not manage to transmute the feces into gold, it did manage to transmute his entire apartment into a blazing inferno.

Upon his arrest, Moran admitted to arson and endangering the life of fellow residents in the building by starting the fire, which is estimated to have caused £3,000 worth of damage. Judge McFarland who presided over the case commented that Moran’s endeavors were an “interesting experiment” but that they were obviously doomed to fail. He then proceeded to transmute the next three months of Moran’s life into jail time.

Here's what probably happened. Moran at some point sat down and watched Alejandro Jodorowsky's film The Holy Mountain, in which an alchemist does in fact transform feces into gold in a process that appears to involve a lot of heat and some additional chemical reagents. Knowing that Jodorowsky is revered by many as a genuine mystic, he figured that the film must have revealed the True Secret of Alchemy (TM) and went about trying to replicate the process with the materials he had at hand. As Paul Moran unfortunately found out, just because you see it in a movie doesn't mean that it's real.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Still Here!

So, seriously, did anybody really think the world was going to end?

Now I'll ask the question - isn't it time the Christians of the world gave up on Dispensationalism? William Miller has been dead for more that 150 years, and false apocalyptic prophets like Harold Camping have been gnawing on the bones of his failed hypothesis ever since. It's just not happening, folks. Miller was wrong. I will grant that the Thelemic interpretation of the apocalypse differs radically from that espoused by Camping and his ilk, but at least for us it actually happened.

Since nobody outside the magical blogosphere pays much attention to what I write here, though, I'll make a prediction that I know will come true - we'll be going through all this again in 2012, and that apocalypse will fail as well. You can quote me on it and everything!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Today is the Day... Take 2!

So this is it, folks. The end of the world. Today. No, really!

You see, that whole thing about the Rapture that never happened was all just a misunderstanding. Harold Camping didn't mean to imply that the world was going to end back in May, just that all the devout Christians everywhere would mysteriously vanish and there would be earthquakes and other natural disasters all over the place. And when neither of those predictions came to pass, that was just because God was being merciful and decided not to let them happen after all. He's apparently just not merciful enough to let people wake up tomorrow morning.

Except, of course, that I have this nagging suspicion the world isn't going anywhere, and once Camping's last remaining followers recognize that my guess is he'll be left praising the mercy of the Lord once more. What do you people want, anyway? God moves in mysterious ways! Which, I suppose, is why somebody like Harold Camping should be able to predict his every move and exploit those predictions to raise millions of dollars. Yeah, that's the ticket! There's a distinct "but God wants you to buy me a house in the Bahamas!" vibe to the whole thing, like back when all those other televangelist financial scandals hit years ago.

So just in case the world ends today, it's been great knowing all of you. Otherwise, we'll be adding one more confused end-times prophet to that ever-growing list. Will they never learn?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Just in Time for JesusWeen!

I suppose I really should have held off on this one until next week, but seeing as the world is supposed to end tomorrow I wanted to make sure that everyone had a chance to get a good laugh out of it. A group of Christians has decided that since Halloween is too damn evil to accept, it is their sovereign duty to reclaim the day by calling it "JesusWeen." This has to be one of the dumbest marketing campaigns that I've ever seen. Reasonable Christians understand that to most Americans Halloween is essentially a secular holiday that has little to do with the devil or witchcraft aside from the plastic crap that shows up at drugstores every year. Witches do celebrate the date as a holiday, but the idea that Wiccans and Pagans, even taken together, constitute anything but a tiny religious minority reflects ridiculous paranoia on the part of those who belong to the largest religious denomination in the United States by far.

JesusWeen is a non profit organization also known as JesusWin. We are focused on helping people live better lives through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. JesusWeen is a God-given vision which was born as an answer to the cry of many every October 31st. The dictionary meaning of Ween is to expect, believe or think. We therefore see October 31st as a day to expect a gift of salvation and re-think receiving Jesus.

Every year, the world and its system have a day set aside (October 31st) to celebrate ungodly images and evil characters while Christians all over the world participate, hide or just stay quiet on Halloween day. Being a day that is widely acceptable to solicit and knock on doors, God inspired us to encourage Christians to use this day as an opportunity to spread the gospel. The days of hiding are over and we choose to take a stand for Jesus. “Evil prevails when good people do nothing”. JesusWeen is expected to become the most effective Christian outreach day ever and that is why we also call it” World Evangelism Day”.

It seems to me that this sort of thing has been going on for a very long time, certainly before anyone coined the ludicrous name. I remember that when I was a kid there were a few families who would give out Jack Chick tracts along with candy on Halloween, and I never really thought much of it. If anything, my brother and I would read through the awful comics giggling the whole time, so hopefully this group has better literature at the very least. While I find the web site's alarmist propaganda quite silly, I can't say that I think there's anything wrong with handing out religious materials as long as these folks can refrain from being jerks about their beliefs. In fact, it makes me think that I should find a good source for inexpensive tract copies of The Book of the Law so I could hand them out to trick-or-treaters myself - you know, assuming the world survives that long.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An App for the Priesthood

The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has come up with a novel solution to its growing shortage of priests - an iPhone App intended to guide young people toward vocations within the church. The App includes information on the dioceses of Ireland, frequently asked questions about joining the priesthood, and connections to social media outlets associated with the church.

The new 'Vocations' app was designed by Father Paddy Rushe and developed by the company Magic Time Apps, based in Dublin. It is available to download for free from the Apple iPhone App Store, said the church.

Some of the features of the app, according to the church, are: Connection to Twitter and Facebook; Social networking at the service of vocations; Contact details and statistics on the 26 dioceses of Ireland; Frequently asked questions to assist a person to discern his vocation; News feed running from the national vocations website; Novel and cursory 'tests' to enable the user to reflect on vocation potential.

"Future updates will include a "prayer counter" to allow people pledge a period of prayer for vocations and a picture gallery which will include some images from the life of a seminarian," the church statement said.

This reminds me a bit of an April Fools prank from back in 1994, which claimed that Microsoft planned to merge with the Roman Catholic Church in order to "bring the services of Catholicism to the desktop." The church now appears to be moving toward such a future on its own, at least as far as smartphones are concerned. iConfession is apparently already a reality, and one wonders if iConversion or iCommunion might be on the way.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Magick in the Middle East

I suppose it's no surprise to see this article discussing the widespread belief in magick throughout the Middle East. After all, Saudi Arabia is the only country I know of that has its own anti-witchcraft squad and witchcraft persecutions are common in the region. What I was not quite aware of, though, is the degree to which accepting the existence of magick is an integral part of Islamic belief. In Christianity and Judaism there seems to be a lot more flexibility on the issue, especially in Western nations. Whether or not that's a good thing is open to interpretation - I work magick so I know that it exists, but at the same time there's a lot to be said for living in a country where I'm not going to be hounded out of my home, assaulted, or even killed because of my practices. If I were living in Saudi Arabia, for example, I would need to keep my practices secret for fear of attracting attention from both my neighbors and the authorities.

Belief in black magic runs deep in Saudi society. The issue was raised last month when the quasi-legislative body Shoura Council granted permission for Moroccan women to work as maids in Saudi households. Hundreds of Saudi women complained to the Council that granting Moroccan maids permission to work was tantamount to allowing the use of black magic in their homes to steal their husbands. Saudi wives complained the issue was not lacking trust in their husbands, but their men were powerless to ward off spells.

While greeted with skepticism in western societies, Saudis would no more question the existence of black magic than they would Islam. Two surahs (chapters) in the Qur’an under Al Mi’wadhatyan address black magic and are often recited during or after prayer. Simply, part of being a Muslim is believing in the existence of magic.

In April of this year, members of the Saudi Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice underwent special training in the Eastern Province to investigate black magic crimes.

Although also found in Christianity and Judaism, casting spells is particularly common in Oman, Sudan, Yemen, Morocco and Indonesia. Turkey is a secular Muslim country, but protection against evil eye is deeply rooted in virtually all aspects of daily life. Tools of witchcraft include using lizards, dead birds, photographs, hair, thread, dirt, blood and red ink. Hiding places to place the “spell” may be in bedrooms and under beds. Written spells generally contain the intended victim’s name and one or two words to state the intention to do harm.

This article also answers a question I asked in the original anti-witchcraft squad article - if magick is officially forbidden in Islam, how does the anti-witchcraft squad go about breaking spells? The answer is that there are particular passages from the Qur’an that are believed to counter spells, so these passages are "read with reflection" in order to mitigate or remove the effects of negative magical influences. Which I would refer to as magick in its own right, of course, but as in many other religious traditions Muslims draw a line between magical operations that are sanctioned and those that are not.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Let's Try That Apocalypse Again...

Here we go again, folks. Remember Harold Camping, who predicted the Rapture back in May? We held a party to wish the world farewell, but then at the appointed hour absolutely nothing came to pass. Not that I really expected it to, you understand, since dispensationalism is basically a bunch of nonsense, but still, you never know. Camping's claim was that the Rapture, the completely non-Biblical series of events in which devout Christians get levitated out of their cars and stuff, would happen on May 21st and then the world would end five months later, on October 21st. That's this Friday. Camping is insisting that his end-of-the-world prediction will still come to pass, even though his Rapture was a complete bust.

He has now claimed Judgement Day did happen as he predicted and that the earthquakes he had warned of actually referred to people being shaken by fear at the thought of the world ending.

Mr Camping added God had chosen who to save on May 21 and that his decisions will become clear when the judgement period ends next week.

And he had some bad news for those people who had not already saved their souls.

'We can be sure that the whole world, with the exception of those who are presently saved (the elect), are under the judgment of God, and will be annihilated together with the whole physical world on October 21, 2011,' the preacher wrote on his Family Radio blog.

'On that day the true believers (the elect) will be raptured. We must remember that only God knows who His elect are that He saved prior to May 21.'

In lead-up to his predicted Rapture, Camping's ministry spent an enormous amount of money advertising his prediction. Once it was shown to be incorrect, he announced that he would not be doing the same for the October date and so far has kept to his word. At the time I noted that Camping had probably decided that he would rather keep all further donations coming in for himself rather than spending them to alert the world, which means that this whole apocalypse thing might just be a big con conducted for the benefit of Camping and his Family Radio Network. Only time will tell, I suppose, and by time I mean the next five days.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Luckiest City in America

One of the most basic premises regarding magick is that it operates in the material world through the manipulation of probabilities. In other words, most successful magical operations essentially involve increasing the caster's luck in some particular situation. Various magical traditions have proposed ideas such as "power spots" and "ley lines," places where this sort of manipulation can more easily be accomplished. English folklore has long maintained that the magical lines of force that run through Great Britain can be traced by drawing lines between various megalithic sites, but here in the United States that's much harder to do. Native Americans may have used a similar system at one time, but with so much of their culture wiped out by European colonization it's hard to determine what that system might have been.

The solution, it seems to me, is that we should make use of our modern understanding of mathematics and statistics to create our own maps outlining places where lucky events happen on a more regular basis. If done properly, this should correspond to areas in which magical operations work better if we assume a normal distribution of high magical aptitude throughout the American population. While I have yet to see a full map of their data, as it turns out Men's Health magazine did just that. The results? San Diego is apparently the luckiest city in America. Baltimore, Phoenix, Wilmington, and Richmond also were high on the list, which might be one reason Rufus Opus has so many more blog followers than I do.

"Luck is basically our modern world's magic," said David Zinczenko, editor in chief of the magazine. "People need to believe in luck because it allows them to give a name to the randomness of life, and when you name something, you have more power over it."

To determine the most charmed towns the magazine analyzed data about cities with the most lottery and sweepstake winners, the most hole-in-ones on the golf course, the fewest lighting strikes, the least deaths from falling objects, and the lowest debt due to playing the lottery and race betting.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Future of Masonry

As a past master of Braden Lodge #168 here in Minnesota, I'm proud to see our lodge featured prominently in this article from the Wall Street Journal on the future of Freemasonry, and the role that the Internet is playing in attracting new members to the fraternity. I would also like to congratulate our own Brother Matt Gallagher on doing a great job representing Masonry to the general public. While many Masonic bodies are still declining, over the last five years Braden has experienced healthy growth thanks to an influx of younger members.

Secrecy gives Masonry its mystique. Yet the Masons have lately realized that they'd be lost in oblivion if it weren't for the Web.

"I looked for pictures," Matt Gallagher was saying of his Internet search for a Masonic lodge worth joining. "I really wanted to avoid a bunch of 80-year-olds."

It was Thursday evening, almost time for fellowship night at the "very young" lodge he finally did join: Braden No. 168, housed on a shady street in a columned temple the Masons built in 1910.

Mr. Gallagher is 32 years old and between jobs. He was initiated by Braden in 2009, rose to Master Mason and now is lodge education officer.

It's a post that didn't exist for 290 years after Masonry came out of its historical shadows, in 1717, as a London club for enlightened gentlemen. Mr. Gallagher's Masonic tag, if his digital function had one, might be Worshipful Webmaster.

"I started a blog, Facebook, Flickr," he said, descending a narrow stairway to a faded meeting room with its old pool tables and portrait of brother George Washington. "I want video essays on our site," he added. "People need to know what they're getting into."

It's also worth noting that I'm not the only member of Braden who is also involved in the local body of Ordo Templi Orientis, and that there are quite a few additional members who are interested in ritual and esotericism of various sorts rather than simply treating the lodge as a sort of glorified social club. Besides a strong Internet presence and a younger membership, as I see it this serious approach to Masonic ritual and philosophy is part of what makes our lodge special.

The Braden Lodge web site is currently in the process of being revised and updated, but the new version should be available soon. You can find it here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Psychic Theft

While there are sincere people in the world who manage to make a living employing psychic abilities, stories like this one give a lot of credence to the notion that a significant percentage of those who claim such powers are little more than hucksters looking for a quick buck. A psychic working in Palmdale, California has been arrested and charged with convincing a 12-year-old girl to steal $10,000 worth of jewelry for her in exchange for lifting a curse that the psychic claimed had been placed on the girl's family.

Jackeline Lopez is accused of convincing the girl that horrible things would happen to her -- and her family -- if the so-called curse was not removed, Los Angeles County sheriff's officials said. Lopez told the girl that she could remove the spell for a monetary price, officials added.

Over the course of a month, Lopez encouraged the girl to bring jewelry from her parents' home in order to perform a ritual, officials said, adding that Lopez continually claimed the amount provided was not enough to remove the curse.

"Lopez allegedly conducted these psychic readings in her home's garage which she had decorated with numerous candles, chalk outlines, black caldrons, replicated human skulls, beads, dolls, and other similar items consistent with psychic readings," sheriff's officials said in a news release.

Eventually, the girl's parents noticed the missing jewelry and confronted her about it.

Lopez was arrested on charges of extortion and booked on $35,000 bail.

There are two big red flags here, which is probably why the victim of this scam is only twelve years old. First of all, there's no evidence whatsoever that prior to the diagnosis of the "curse" the girl and her family encountered any sort of unusual misfortune. Second of all, if a twelve-year-old girl came to me terrified that a curse had been placed on her I might just go ahead and perform a ritual to counter it for free, or at most charge an hourly rate similar to what I charge my IT consulting customers. It certainly would come to a lot less than $10,000.

After all, it's not like the spirits need the money. But apparently this confidence artist did.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Witch Fight

Witchcraft accusations are common throughout much of the world, but I don't generally don't expect to see them taken very seriously by most people raised in Western nations. So this report out of England is surprising, to say the least. I also think this accuser is a little confused about the meaning of the term "white witch," in that she seems to think it involves casting curses.

Imogen Hope, 37, was given a conditional discharge today after being found guilty by a court in Halifax, northern England, of assaulting Samantha Pilling and branding her a "white witch", The Yorkshire Post said.

A drunken and shouting Hope banged on Ms Pilling's door after returning home with new husband Keith from their wedding reception in the early hours of July 19, according to the Halifax Courier, then launched her attack.

Police were called by Ms Pilling's husband - who also grappled with Keith Hope - and arrested the new bride. They asked if she wanted to change out of her bloodstained wedding dress before being taken into custody, but she chose to wear the gown to the cell where she spent her wedding night, while her crestfallen husband stayed with his parents.

Hope, a nursery assistant who weighs just 50kg, had drunk lager and spirits before the altercation and told the court she could not remember landing three blows on mother-of-three Ms Pilling, leaving her with facial bruising and scratches.

The women's families have a long-running feud and Hope had accused Ms Pilling, a practicing pagan and student nurse, of putting a curse on her father-in-law - who lives in a house between the two women and their husbands and was recently diagnosed with cancer.

The difference between this happening in England versus certain other parts of the world? It ended with the accuser's arrest rather than an angry mob burning down the victim's home. Also, from the police report it sounds like a lot more alcohol was involved than is usually required in places where belief in malefic witchcraft is more of an accepted cultural belief. Granted, I don't think it's impossible that a curse could have been cast on Hope's father-in-law, but I do think it's unlikely. This strikes me more as a situation in which Hope found out Pilling was a pagan and decided that had to mean she was up to no good.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Amish Beard Wars

Here's one of those stories that you just don't expect to see. The Amish, whose religion is normally based on humility and non-violence, are in the middle of a conflict that has already claimed the beards and hair of far too many. Apparently within the Amish community a bishop has arisen who fancies himself some sort of cult leader and has been ordering his followers to attack their fellows, returning with cut hair as proof that they carried out the attacks as instructed.

The attacks are meant to be degrading because Amish women do not typically cut their hair and married men usually grow beards as part of their religion, which traditionally shuns many modern amenities. The feud is believed to be the result of unspecified "spiritual differences," according to the Tribune-Chronicle.

The local sheriff, Frank Abdalla, explained to the paper just how serious the attacks are: "One Amish man told me he’d rather be dead than have his beard cut off."

Local police say that several of the victims have suffered minor injuries, although no charges have been filed, largely because of their reluctance to file police complaints. Community members have, however, reached out to the local sheriff in a bid to end the violence, and investigators intend to file charges of assault and burglary, according to the AP.

According to the Tribune, the group allegedly behind the violence is led by bishop Sam Mullet, who requires his follower to bring back clippings of hair as "proof" that the attacks are carried out. Attackers are both male and female, and in at least one instance have been sent to the homes of close relatives within the main Amish community.

So this guy is commanding his followers to go out and cut hair, and his name is actually Mullet. That's priceless. Still, it just goes to show that even a strict religious system like that of the Amish has its share of crazies. Now that charges are being pressed, hopefully Mullet will wind up in jail before he can harm anyone else.

UPDATE: Ohio police are moving quickly and have started making arrests related to these attacks. It sounds like Mullet himself, though, remains at large.

Friday, October 7, 2011

My New Book Cover

I guess it's just the season or something. A few days ago Jason Miller posted the cover of his new financial sorcery book, and then last night Pendraig sent me mine for Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy. So here it is.

I still don't have a firm date as to when it will become available for purchase, but it's on its way to the printers so it should be pretty soon now. I'll post another link as soon as it's out, so watch this space for more details.

UPDATE: I just checked out RO's place and he has a new eBook available as well. 'Tis the season indeed!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

An Exhibition of Amulets and Talismans

If you happen to find yourself in London between now and February 26th of next year, here's an interesting exhibition that's going on at the Wellcome Collection. It's called "Miracles and Charms" and includes various amulets and talismans collected around a century ago.

Once carried around in the pockets of Londoners, the 400 quirky objects were amassed about a century ago by an Edwardian banker and amateur folklorist, who collected curious objects from sailors, costermongers (fruit sellers), and "mudlarks", children who once scavenged along the muddy banks of the River Thames.

"The objects themselves look ordinary but are actually extraordinary when you look at them carefully. They are a slice of life and there is something wonderful about them," head of public programmes at the Wellcome Collection, Ken Arnold, said.

I wish I could make it there myself, as I would enjoy having an opportunity to check and see how much magick is still present in the various objects after so many years. I've often wondered how much difference various materials make in terms of how long such a charm will last, and a collection like this provides a decent sample set.

In addition to four-leaf clovers and horseshoes for luck, the collection includes some more peculiar charms, inspired by folklore, ancient belief systems and a fear of witchcraft.

Mole feet would prevent cramps, a shrunken sheep's heart pierced with nails would protect cattle from witchcraft, and delicately carved hands from coral and shell were believed to avert the gaze of the evil eye.

The other question, of course, is the degree to which these objects work as advertised. Living traditions generally do a fairly good job of passing on effective lore, but at the same time a little scientific investigation couldn't hurt.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Neuroscience on Evil

Slate has a piece up today discussing the current neuroscientific perspective on the problem of evil. I have a degree in experimental psychology, so I generally find myself in agreement with neuroscientists with one key exception. The vast majority of neuroscientists tend to view consciousness as an epiphenomenon of neural activity - that is, simply what we experience as the result of having a whole bunch of neural firing going on in our heads. From this perspective, will or consciousness does not initiate activity but rather reflects whatever activity happens to be going on in the brain. It's a subtle distinction, but an important one. It implies that we are essentially slaves to our brains, with no ability to change, evolve, or improve ourselves. As a magician, I find this to be a worldview vastly at odds with both my philosophy and my own direct experience.

Of course, people still commit innumerable bad actions, but the idea that people make conscious decisions to hurt or harm is no longer sustainable, say the new brain scientists. For one thing, there is no such thing as "free will" with which to decide to commit evil. (Like evil, free will is an antiquated concept for most.) Autonomous, conscious decision-making itself may well be an illusion. And thus intentional evil is impossible.

Have the new neuroscientists brandishing their fMRIs, the ghostly illuminated etchings of the interior structures of the skull, succeeded where their forebears from disciplines ranging from phrenology to psychoanalysis have failed? Have they pinpointed the hidden anomalies in the amygdala, the dysfunctions in the prefrontal lobes, the electrochemical source of impulses that lead a Jared Loughner, or an Anders Breivik, to commit their murderous acts?

And in reducing evil to a purely neurological glitch or malformation in the wiring of the physical brain, in eliminating the element of freely willed conscious choice, have neuroscientists eliminated as well "moral agency," personal responsibility? Does this "neuromitigation" excuse—"my brain made me do it," as critics of the tendency have called it—mean that no human being really wants to do ill to another? That we are all innocent, Rousseauian beings, some afflicted with defects—"brain bugs" as one new pop-neuroscience book calls them—that cause the behavior formerly known as evil?