Friday, June 29, 2012

Ghost or Earthquake?

A Texas store may have captured a ghost in action - or maybe just a freak earthquake. When employees arrived in the morning to open the shop they discovered that several blankets had fallen off their shelves. They consulted the security footage from the night before, and were surprised to see a clear shot of the blankets falling seemingly on their own. Assuming that the shelves were perhaps just unstable, the employees then tried to duplicate what they saw on the recording by shaking the shelves up and down, but to no avail. The remaining blankets sat firmly in place.

The footage was filmed while the store was locked, and no one came in or out during that time. However, it may be that this unusual happening had nothing to do with spirits. The town in which the store is located experienced a small earthquake over the weekend, which is the first thing I would look into if I were investigating this case. The video report does not mention whether or not the falling blankets happened at the same time as the earthquake - and if they did, that's probably the answer right there. As for the blankets remaining on the shelves when shaken up and down, it should be noted that the shaking produced by many earthquakes is from side-to-side and might be difficult to duplicate in the manner demonstrated in the video.

So this one probably is not a ghost. The footage, though, is particularly good because the blankets in question fell right in front of one of the store's cameras, and I can easily see how individuals unused to earthquakes might assume that this was the work of a disembodied spirit.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Topless Protester Accosts Psychic Pig

Admit it - you clicked on this one just for the headline.

In the tradition of Paul the Psychic Octopus, who showed a remarkable ability to pick winning teams during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, various animals have been enlisted to help predict the winning teams for this year's Euro 2012 Tournament. One of these animals is Funtik, a Ukrainian pig who predicts the outcomes of matches by eating out of a bowl bearing the winning team's flag. Last Friday, as preparations were being made to feed Funtik so that he could predict the result of a match between Portugal and the Czech Republic, a protester burst into his pen. She proceeded to remove her shirt and began shouting slogans denouncing the tournament.

Funtik is given two bowls daily to eat from, each marked with the national flag of two teams playing each other at the finals. Those who have faith in his psychic powers say the bowl he eats from first will prove to be the winner on the night.

But even before a fan zone steward could bring in his food - a bowlful each for Portugal and the Czech Republic - an activist from feminist group Femen barged into the pen. Olexandra Nemchinova, 31, threw off her blouse to reveal the words "F... Euro 2012" on her torso and began shouting slogans denouncing the tournament, being co-hosted by Ukraine and Poland. Stewards led Ms Nemchinova out of the pen and handed her over to the local police.

The group carries out topless protests to highlight the growth of the sex industry in Ukraine and has targeted the championship - which it says feeds sex tourism - and UEFA president Michel Platini.

Funtik seemed unmoved by the protest, and the display apparently did nothing to blunt his psychic powers. He ate from the bowl representing Portugal, and Portugal did indeed go on to win the match. It remains to be seen whether or not his predictions remain accurate throughout the tournament, topless protesters notwithstanding.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Giving Us All a Bad Name

One thing I have said in the past, and will continue to say about the Skeptic movement, is that its members perform a valuable service by exposing fraudulent psychics. While my opinion on paranormal phenomena differs markedly from theirs, it's also true that there are far too many confidence artists out there claiming powers that they don't have in order to profit off the gullible. As this story out of Wales shows, not only do these confidence artists profit by exploiting their clients; a handful of them are outright predatory.

Karl Lang, 49, was convicted of 12 counts of causing women to engage in sexual activity without consent at Newport Crown Court. Lang, of Newport, targeted two women in their 20s who sought him out in the belief he could contact dead relatives. The judge said jail was inevitable. Lang, who denied the charges, will be sentenced at a later date.

The court heard that both women were encouraged to perform sex acts in front of him and pressed to act more and more outrageously as his influence increased. One woman told the trial she was conned into acting like a "porn star" in the belief that it would boost her own spiritual powers.

The court was told that Lang generally sat watching, fully clothed, but would occasionally take his clothes off and join in. His manipulative behaviour lasted nearly four years and covered a period from November 2005 until September 2009, the court heard. A jury found him guilty of all 12 charges, dismissing claims that he was an innocent spiritualist instructor. All 12 counts were majority verdicts.

One would like to think that this verdict might serve as a deterrent to others seeking to set up a similar scam, but in reality most people who commit crimes do so imagining that they won't get caught and deterrence is rarely a factor that has any real effect. However, since Lang is headed for jail, at least there will be one less of these criminals roaming the streets. With stories like this one it's no wonder that the paranormal has a bad reputation in some quarters - charlatans like Lang give us all a bad name.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Direct Action Gets the Goods

There's an old saying among union organizers that "direct action gets the goods." An up-and-coming trade union in South Africa may have decided to take this statement literally, enlisting paranormal assistance to increase their membership. The country's largest established mineworkers union, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), has accused a rival union, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), of using magick to boost recruiting.

"One of the tools which is used strongly is 'muti'," NUM General Secretary Frans Baleni told journalists on Thursday night, referring to traditional medicines that can be made from a range of ingredients including animal or human body parts. Baleni said NUM's members believed that AMCU had a "very strong 'sangoma'," or witch doctor. "One of the myths is that if you don't toe the line, especially if you are a man, if you defy them you might have bedroom problems at home," he said.

Sangomas are widely respected by South Africans of all walks of life, including business leaders and politicians. Baleni later told Reuters it was an issue that was not being taken lightly because many workers believed in such things."We are taking it seriously as part of the tactics of this union as our members are telling us about the use of sangomas and muti," Baleni said.

AMCU officials said they were not using witchcraft."There is no one among us who is using muti or sangomas. It is rubbish that he is saying. We uphold Christian principles, we don't use sangomas," said AMCU General Secretary Jeff Mphahlehle.

On the one hand, it seems to me that since everyone else in Africa seems to make use of magick whenever it's convenient for them, there's no reason that trade unions should not get in on the action. On the other hand, given Africa's history of baseless witchcraft accusations, it may be that the NUM is simply trying to smear the competition in order to maintain their membership and status. I suppose we'll just have to wait and see how the story develops.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Measuring Consciousness?

Recently a number of articles have been posted on the magical blogosphere regarding the intersection of scientific and magical methods. My position has always been that since we as magicians are operating under the assumption that magick involves states of consciousness that produce particular effects in the environment, the tool that really is necessary to turn magick into a hard science is a reliable device for measuring the activity of consciousness itself. This poses a serious problem, as many scientists believe that what we experience as consciousness is related to the behavior of structures in the brain so small that they interact with matter on a quantum scale.

The mere act of measuring the states of these structures results in changes to their energy levels according to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which is quite difficult to surmount. I say "difficult" rather than "impossible" because, as this article published a few weeks back in Wired explains, scientists may finally have worked out a possible method for measuring the energy function of a particle without causing the wavefunction collapse that prevents accurate direct measurements. This method is based on properties found in a class of materials called "metamaterials" that are currently used to manipulate the behavior of light and other forms of energy.

Mathematicians now suspect quirks in energy-cloaking metamaterials could be exploited to create powerful quantum probes called “Schrödinger’s hats.” Although not yet built or proven in the real world, such hats — their name a nod at Erwin Schrödinger’s famous cat-boxing thought experiment — might record extremely subtle signals that would otherwise be scrambled by any attempt to measure them. Should the theoretical work pan out in the laboratory, Schrödinger’s hats could be a boon to nanotechnology, where the simple act of observing a nano-scale object can confound a measurement.

“Conceptually, a Schrödinger’s hat is like an invisible battery. It captures a tiny bit of energy without fiddling with the [energy] waves so you can later get a measurement,” said Allan Greenleaf, a mathematician at the University of Rochester. Greenleaf co-authored a study of the Schrödinger’s hats published May 29 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “If you’re trying to image something at the nanoscale, say a computer chip or nanodevice, you might get very close to it without disturbing it,” continued Greenleaf.

This might very well be the first step towards developing a device that could meaningfully measure consciousness at the quantum level. Obviously, the simple "quantum probe" idea would have to be expanded into a device that can scan vast fields of particles and integrate the data, sort of like how a functional MRI uses magnetic fields to map brain activity, and that in itself poses significant engineering challenges even if the individual probes can be built as Greenleaf envisions. But what this new approach means is that at some point in the future building a consciousness measure might not be impossible - and that's a good first step.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Not That Kind of Mushroom

Recently a group of workers excavating a well in the Chinese town of Liucunbu made an amazing discovery. The object in question, found 80 meters down, was identified as a rare lingzhi mushroom, said to grant immortality to those who ingest it. Unfortunately for those who hoped to extend their lives, though, the magical mushroom was not a mushroom at all, but rather a discarded sex toy. How it wound up 80 meters underground remains a mystery.

When villagers drilling a well shaft found the object, they called a local TV station, which sent over a reporter to cover the discovery. They thought they had discovered a rare fungus. "It has an eye and a nose, but we don’t know what it is,” one of the villagers tells the Chinese reporter, according to an English translation from ABC.

But this was no miraculous mushroom. Several viewers pointed out the mysterious object was actually an artificial vagina -- a sex toy -- The Mirror notes. "Ignorance is horrible. How can the reporter mistake a sex toy for fungus?" one viewer commented on his Weibo microblog, according to the Mirror.

I suppose nothing confers immortality like gnawing on a hunk of silicone. Or rubber. Or whatever this thing happens to made of. The Chinese television network issued a rather pitiful apology, claiming that it was the reporter's fault for being "young and unfamiliar with worldly affairs," but come on. The network has plenty of producers and higher-ups who apparently didn't see the "mushroom" for what it was either.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bad Hypnotist

No, not bad as in "naughty" or "evil," bad as in "inept." An inexperienced hypnotist conducting a demonstration of mass hypnosis at a Quebec school somehow managed to leave a group of students in a trance after concluding the demonstration. In order to undo the effect, a more experienced hypnotist finally had to be called in after one of the students remained under for five hours.

Maxime Nadeau was forced to call on his mentor for assistance after the hypnotist could not reverse the condition of several 12 and 13-year-old girls at the Collège du Sacré-Coeur private school in Quebec. One of the girls was reportedly left in a trance for five hours. "Being in a trance is a state of well-being," Nadeau told the CBC's French-language service. "I wasn't stressed. I knew they would get out of it." Still, Nadeau eventually called in his mentor and trainer Richard Whitbread to reverse the effects.

"There were a couple of students who had their heads lying on the table and there were [others] who, you could tell, were in trance," Whitbread said. "The eyes were open and there was nobody home." In order to reverse the effect, Whitbread says he convinced the girls he was "re-hypnotizing" them and them brought them out of the trance "using a stern voice."

Now, one reason I classify this as inept is that I learned to hypnotize people while I was still in high school, and bringing people out of a trance is easy. I've never had any problem with it. The fact that Nadeau couldn't do it says volumes about his lack of skill, and it seems to me that somebody like him should not be demonstrating hypnosis to a bunch of kids. I'm sure that girls who remained under were good subjects, but that should cut both ways - a good hypnotic subject is more suggestible than a normal person, which means that they go both into and out of trances more readily.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Bones of John the Baptist?

During the Middle Ages there was a thriving trade in phony relics of the early Christian martyrs. In fact, I used to joke that there were enough "splinters of the True Cross" floating around Medieval Europe that if you gathered them all together you would have enough wood to build a full-size replica of Noah's Ark. Recently a group of researchers from Oxford University performed a series of tests on a set of knucklebones found buried in a marble sarcophagus beneath a chuch on the Bulgarian island of Sveti Ivan. They were surprised to find that the carbon dating and genetic analysis showed that the bones belonged to a man of middle eastern descent who died during the first century AD. Furthermore, according to local history bones from the right hand of John the Baptist were said to have been kept at a church in the Turkish city of Antioch until the tenth century, after which they may have been transported to the island.

When first excavating the site two years ago, Bulgarian researchers discovered alongside the sarcophagus another small box made from volcanic ash and bearing an ancient Greek inscription referencing John and his feast day as well as a personal prayer asking God to "help your servant Thomas."

Researchers believe Thomas may have been the person assigned to transport the relic to the island. They believe the box came from Cappadocia, a region of modern day Turkey. Bulgarian scientists believe the bones themselves may have come from the ancient city of Antioch, where a relic of John's right hand is believed to have been kept until the tenth century.

There is some historical evidence, researchers say, to support a theory that John's bones were removed from Jerusalem and brought to Constantinople, called Istanbul today, then the capital of the Roman Empire in a box resembling the sarcophagus found on Sveti Ivan.

The researchers noted that while the tests on the bones check out, it's impossible to determine for sure whether or not these were the bones of John. They could be those of another man from the same part of the world who lived at the same time. Still, with so many fake relics out there it's intriguing to come across one that could very well be genuine. The identification of more such relics could help to shed some light on the murky history of the early Christian church. I always thought it was too bad that Jesus ascended into Heaven, since if he really was the son of God it would be interesting to get a look at his DNA. But John is said to have performed miracles as well, so scanning his might be the next best thing. I figure that religious figures like John must have been powerful magicians, so if we could gather a big enough sample from such indivituals we might be able to identify some of the particular genes that correlate with high magical and mystical aptitude.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Naked Witchcraft Menace Strikes Zimbabwe

If I had come up with activities that most disturb the peace in African countries, witchcraft and nakedness would probably be at the top of the list. The taboos surrounding nudity do vary quite a bit by country, but witchcraft is pretty much universally condemned however it is (or, in the case of those falsely accused, is not) practiced. Western schools of witchcraft such as Wicca are famous for conducting "skyclad" rituals in the nude, but apparently nakedness is also part of certain African traditions as well. Recently two naked women were apprehended in Zimbabwe. They reportedly confessed that they were witches seeking human flesh, apparently for use in some sort of ritual.

Mashonaland West provincial police spokesperson Inspector Clemence Mabgweazara identified the suspects as Rosemary Kamanga (48) and Esnath Maodza (56), both of Shackleton compound about 20km from Chinhoyi. Police said the informant, Eneresi Mufunga (55), of Shackleton, was awakened around 4am by strange noises that resembled fighting dogs. When she went outside to investigate, she found two naked women and quizzed them on their mission.

Mabgweazara said the pair allegedly told Mufunga that they had fallen off a winnowing basket (rusero) on their way from a nearby compound in Alaska. They further told the woman that they wanted flesh from her. Mufunga raised alarm and alerted her neighbours who rushed to the scene baying for the duo’s blood. According to eyewitnesses, the incident ignited a frenzy in the usually sleepy former mine compound. Ironically, the suspects’ husbands were among the crowd and upon seeing their naked wives, they whisked them to safety before taking them home where they were later clothed.

A report was made at Murereka Police Post leading to their arrest. Mabgweazara said when interviewed by police, the women confessed to practicing withcraft. “They confessed to be witches and indicated they were coming from Alaska in a rusero and decided to get some human flesh at the informant’s house,” Mabgweazara said.

The story really make me wonder, since it amazes me that anyone would behave in the manner reported by this informant. Let's think about it - if I were a witch and in the process of breaking into someone's compound in order to obtain human flesh for a magical working, what would my explanation be if I were discovered by a resident? It certainly wouldn't be "Oh, hi there. I'm a witch. Can I have some of your flesh? Please?" In the United States that translates to "Call the police right now" and in Africa it pretty much means "Please kill me. In fact, call all of your neighbors to help." I mean, wouldn't anybody with half a brain make up something else?

Given that Africa has a such a long and extensive history of witchcraft persecution, it seems to me that this informant should be investigated as well. Perhaps she has some sort of grudge against the accused and just managed to catch them in an embarrassing situation.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tonight is the Night!

This evening at 8 PM Eastern Standard Time (7 PM Central) I will be appearing on Deeper Down the Rabbit Hole on the Para-X Radio Network. I'll be discussing Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy, my ongoing Enochian magical practice, and my work with ceremonial ritual forms. I've never appeared on one of these shows before, so I'm not really sure what to expect - but you can be there for my first radio appearance ever!

Here's the Facebook event page for my appearance so you can RSVP if you plan on listening, and I hope you'll join us for what should be a fun and enlightening discussion.

UPDATE: You can listen to the podcast of my appearance here. Enjoy!

Monday, June 11, 2012

China Bans Temple IPO's

In the wake of Facebook's disappointing initial public offering (IPO), the Chinese government is cracking down on temples and other religious organizations seeking to issue shares and trade them on China's stock exchange. Some of these temples are highly profitable, bringing in a lot of money thanks to tourism, and have sought to set up publicly traded corporations to capitalize on this revenue stream. According to China's Administration of Religious Affairs, though, such schemes are wrong and will not be allowed to proceed.

The listing of companies linked to world famous Chinese heritage sites is not new in the country's three-decade-old capital markets, but attempts to list at least one religious site have apparently crossed a line.

Schemes to promote tourism via temples, or even for temples to band together and go public to raise funds, were wrong, Xinhua news agency quoted Liu Wei, an official with the State Administration of Religious Affairs, on Wednesday as saying.

Such plans "violate the legitimate rights of religious circles, damage the image of religion and hurt the feelings of the majority of religious people", he said in remarks at a conference on the management of religious sites.

Reports about the Shaolin Temple, famous for its kung-fu monks, planning a listing sparked a public outcry three years ago when they surfaced. Many Chinese are concerned that the Shaolin Temple, which has become a high-profile commercial entity in recent years, is becoming overly money-minded.

For all that China is officially a communist country, it's interesting to note that the idea of a church selling shares of stock simply would never happen in the otherwise more capitalist United States. The separation of church and state means that if a church wants to maintain its tax-free status it cannot operate like a regular for-profit corporation, and also means that the very idea of an "Administration of Religious Affairs" would violate the constitution. American religious groups in favor of eliminating the separation of church and state should keep in mind that the constitution currently keeps the government out of their business, and if the separation principle were ever overturned that all could change very quickly.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Venus Elixir Ritual

With Tuesday evening's transit of Venus I decided to break out the planetary magick and perform a trimmed-down version of my Venus elixir ritual. A while back I published the elixir ritual for Jupiter, and this one follows the same structure with the proper names, colors, and figures inserted for the planet Venus. I used a small cup of absinthe for the elixir itself, and began the rite during the hour of the Moon while Venus was still making its transit of the Sun. From a subjective standpoint the elixir felt highly charged and the ritual seemed to go well, though I'll want to see some tangible results before I conclude it was a success. Subjective impressions can arise from all sorts of circumstances, whereas measurable results are a much more reliable benchmark.

The ritual script follows. Since I was performing it myself rather than in a group I truncated some of the sections, but the structure I used was essentially the same as this more elaborate version. The script presented here can either be used by either a group or an individual, depending upon the preference of the operator or operators. The statement of intent that appears here is also quite generic, and can be customized as you see fit to anything that would properly fall within Venus' sphere of influence.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Hazards of Snake Handling

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the main hazard of handling venomous snakes is, well, the venomous snakes. Pentecostal Christians interpret Mark 16:17-18, "And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover," to mean that the faithful should literally be able to handle snakes without being harmed. However, it doesn't always work out that way. Recently a Pentecostal minister was bitten by a rattlesnake during one of these snake-handling services and killed. Oddly enough, his father, also a Pentecostal pastor, died the same way years prior.

Pentecostal pastor Mark Wolford, 44, hosted an outdoor service at the Panther Wildlife Management Area in West Virginia Sunday, which he touted on his Facebook page prior to the event. "I am looking for a great time this Sunday," Wolford wrote May 22, according to the Washington Post. "It is going to be a homecoming like the old days. Good 'ole raised in the holler or mountain ridge running, Holy Ghost-filled speaking-in-tongues sign believers."

Robin Vanover, Wolford's sister, told the Washington Post that 30 minutes into the outdoor service, Wolford passed around a poisonous timber rattlesnake, which eventually bit him."He laid it on the ground," Vanover said in the interview, "and he sat down next to the snake, and it bit him on the thigh." Vanover said Wolford was then transported to a family member's home in Bluefield about 80 miles away to recover. But as the situation worsened, he was taken to a hospital where he later died.

One of my first vajrayana teachers liked to warn his students, "Don't concretize!" By taking this piece of scripture and reading it as literally true this is exactly what pastors like Wolford are doing. It seems to me that the quote can be interpreted more metaphorically, meaning that those who have faith will remain uncorrupted by elements of the society around them and generally be blessings to those in their presence who are suffering. It also could be implying that the faithful need not worry about exposure to any person or object deemed ritually unclean, akin to Matthew 15:11, "What goes into a man's mouth does not make him unclean, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him unclean" and Acts 10:14-15, "'Surely not, Lord!' Peter replied. 'I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.' The voice spoke to him a second time, 'Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.'"

But then, I'm not a Christian, just a Thelemite who happens to know his Bible pretty well. Maybe the Pentecostals do have it right and all the other Christians who don't play with rattlesnakes are missing out on an essential spiritual practice.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Oppressed Christians Versus Huffington Post

I've already posted a number of articles here about certain Christians who somehow feel oppressed despite belonging to the majority religion in the United States by an overwhelming margin. Today I came across this article, which shows just how much these particular Christians like to whine. In the article, titled "Huffington Post Promotes Witchcraft & New Age spirituality to Readers (in addition to its usual brand of anti-Catholicism)," you might think at first that the author is referring to some sort of widespread coverage of Pagan or New Age beliefs. However, once you read through it you will realize that what he's complaining about is one article! Not only that, but the article in question is simply a list of books about Paganism, not even an advocacy or opinion piece!

Perhaps even more disturbingly, the editors of the Huffington Post have published a story this morning, alongside their usual anti-Catholic cover-story, presenting a list of pagan New Age and witchcraft books for readers to explore. Written by Jahnabi Barooah, an assistant religious editor for the site, the story is called "27 Essential Pagan Books for Your Bookshelf (ADD YOUR OWN)," and it explains: "Recently HuffPost Religion put a call out to our community about books on Paganism that every Pagan and those interested in the varied strands of Paganism should read. The result is this great list of 27 books that range from introductory to scholarly in nature and cover the entire gamut of Pagan religions -- Witchcraft, Wicca, Shamanism, Asatru, Druidism, Egyptian and Hellenic."

As the article continues, the editors of the Huffington Post make clear that the point of publishing this list of books is not only academic - it's not just about studying such topics - but spiritual as well. In other words, readers are encouraged to use these witchcraft and New Age books for their personal, spiritual pursuits if that is something that they are interested in. The article explains: "HuffPost Religion hopes that this list will be equally valuable for those who identify as Pagans, as well as those who are interested in Paganism, both academically and as a spiritual pursuit."

The bottom line is that this Huffington Post article is not threatening to Christians in any way. Presumably devout Christians are not going to be interested in Paganism, so the quoted line clearly doesn't apply to them. Similarly, the mere existence of Pagans does not in any way undermine anyone's Christian faith. The author goes on to explain how supposedly "dangerous" Paganism is, hitting all the usual talking points, but I would submit that there are Christian denominations that can be characterized the same way. If you have any doubts about that statement all you have to do is watch the documentary Jesus Camp. What those kids are put through strikes me as way more psychologically damaging than any Pagan or Thelemic ritual I've ever attended.

I could sit down and count up the number of articles Huffington Post has published about Christianity, divide one by whatever that number happens to be, and see if percentage-wise it's greater or less than the percentage of the population that's actually Pagan. I won't, though, because with people like the author of this piece it would make no difference. As they see it, if they can't have the entire spotlight to themselves they must be under attack.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Now That's A Spell!

In the past I've mused on how possible it would be to summon a lighting bolt to strike a specific target, and commented on how something like that would probably be the closest a real magician could get to replicating fantasy-novel class magick. You need to have the right underlying condition, an ongoing thunderstorm, but circumstances in which lightning is going to strike somewhere nearby the required probability shift to make it strike where you want is a lot lower than what you might initially think - to the point that on a good day a good magician could probably make it happen. According to this story out of Congo, such a thing might have actually happened recently during a soccer match.

Accusations of witchcraft have been launched after a blast of lightning reportedly struck dead an entire football team in Congo, whilst their opponents were unharmed.

Daily Kinshasa newspaper L'Avenir explained: "Lightning killed at a stroke 11 young people aged between 20 and 35 years during a football match. The athletes from Basanga [the home team] curiously came out of this catastrophe unscathed."

According to the Congolese newspaper, 30 other people had received burns at the weekend fixture.

Suspicion of nefarious magic was aroused not just because one team was untouched but because the games was in the balance with a one-all scoreline.

Now this always could have been a coincidental freak accident, but it's a remarkable enough one that I know I would suspect a spell if I had been there and watched it happen. Soccer magick is quite common in Africa, as I've covered on this blog a number of times. If the score of the game was a factor it suggests that the spell was cast not long in advance of the strike, which makes it all the more impressive. Since weather magick relies on something akin to the butterfly effect of chaos theory to work, the more immediate the spell the more powerful the magician. I'll have to see if I can replicate a controlled lightning strike with my methods one of these days, though hopefully I can find a situation to test it on that won't involve the loss of life.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Ghost Hunting in Saudi Arabia

In part due to the success of the "Ghost Hunters" television franchise, paranormal investigation of haunted sites has become popular here in the United States and in Europe. These investigations are not just limited to Western nations, either - ghost hunting goes on all around the world, as this story out of Saudi Arabia demonstrates. The Saudis just have a rather different take on how to go about it. Last week a group of Saudi teenagers broke into an abandoned and reputedly haunted former hospital and essentially trashed the place under the guise of hunting ghosts - literally.

"Teenagers sent text messages calling for an operation against some of the jinn who live in the hospital, and they broke into the hospital and smashed its facilities and burned 60 percent of it," Okaz newspaper reported last week. The rampage prompted angry press complaints the authorities were allowing the building to fall into disrepair.

Several films have since been posted on YouTube showing grinning young men exploring the building's deserted rooms in search of evidence of spectral activity. One showed blazing palm trees that had been torched by the ghost hunters. Jinn fever reached the point where the Health Ministry issued a terse statement on Monday disclaiming responsibility for the decaying building, which it said was privately owned and too decrepit to be revived as a working hospital.

A columnist in the English-language Saudi Gazette daily on Tuesday recommended that authorities form "a committee for the jinn" to help the owners of possessed houses.

I suppose that fits right in with the mandate of the Anti-Witchcraft Squad, and it would give the group something else to do besides arranging executions for accused magicians. On the other hand, given the squad's history I can only imagine that they would find a way to twist even ghost hunting into something very very wrong. I would hate to see anyone winding up charged with witchcraft and killed, for example, just because they reported some weird paranormal activity in their home.