Monday, December 31, 2012

Zodiacal and Elemental Hours

One of the most basic magical techniques is the tuning of one's working space to match the influence or spirit being conjured. As I discuss in Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy, modern magicians often accomplish this by relying on the Greater Rituals of the Pentagram and Hexagram or similar ceremonial forms, but during the Renaissance a system of hours was used that was believed to follow the natural flow of spiritual currents in the universe. As a modern magician my general practice is to use both, which seems to augment the effectiveness of my rites quite nicely.

The most well-known aspect of this system is that of the planetary days and hours based on the Chaldean Order, which breaks each 24-hour period from sunrise to sunrise into twelve day and twelve night hours. These hours vary in length depending on the season, with night hours longer during the winter and day hours longer during the summer. The system works quite well for planetary magick - the hour was generally considered to be more important than the day, so when timing an operation for a particular day the most auspicious time could be selected. However, it would be convenient to extend this system for work with the signs of the Zodiac and classical elements along authentic Renaissance grounds. From my introductory studies of traditional astrology I believe that I may have worked out just such a method.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Ancient Israelite Temple Discovered

Those who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible often fail to realize how long many of the stories it contains survived as oral tradition before being written down. The text of the Torah is believed to have been compiled following the Babylonian Captivity which ended in 538 BCE, but includes many accounts dated much earlier. These include the stories of David and Solomon, regarding which little hard evidence exists. Many experts have argued that at the very least the power and wealth of Israel during this "Golden Age" was exaggerated, as such a prominent nation should have left behind more traces of its influence.

Now a new archaeological discovery made in Israel may help to settle this debate. The site at Tel Motza, west of Jerusalem, was once home to a temple that dates back to what are believed to be the early years of King David's reign.

According to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the finds -- which include 2,750-year-old pottery figurines of men and horses -- provide rare evidence of a ritual cult at the beginning of the period of the monarchy.

“The ritual building at Tel Motza is an unusual and striking find, in light of the fact that there are hardly any remains of ritual buildings of the period in Judea at the time of the First Temple,” excavation directors Anna Eirikh, Hamoudi Khalaily and Shua Kisilevitz told The Times of Israel.

The Jerusalem Post noted the rarity of the find, given that "around the time of Hezekiah and Isaiah, Judaism abolished many ritual sites" so the Temple in Jerusalem could concentrate its symbolic power.

This consolidation of power may prove an absolute boon to researchers hoping to unearth details regarding Israelite religious practices that went on centuries before the Captivity. One of the problems with excavations in places such as Jerusalem is that the city is quite small and within it most sites have been built up and torn down multiple times over the course of the last three millennia. In comparison, the Tel Motza site was abandoned and as a result is better preserved. It will be interesting to see if the data that can be gleaned from it matches the Biblical accounts, or if it reflects something entirely different.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

God's Gender

When it comes to religion, people are willing to fight over the most ridiculous things. Today's story is from last Friday, just before the holidays. German Family Minister Kristina Schroeder has been criticized by members of her own political party over comments made in a magazine interview, stating that she thought it was "fine" to use the neuter "das" as the article for God. Like most European languages but unlike English, German associates genders with nouns. Based on those genders, the word "the" can be rendered three different ways - masculine (der), feminine (die), or neuter (das). Gott, the German word for God, is traditionally treated as masculine, much as "He" is the traditional pronoun for God in English.

Family Minister Kristina Schroeder made the comments when asked in an interview with German weekly Die Zeit how she explained to her young daughter the use of the masculine form for God. "The article is not important," she responded, adding that it was fine to use "das" instead of the traditional "der" when referring to God.

The remarks were immediately denounced by members of Schroeder's own Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). "This intellectualised nonsense leaves me speechless," Christine Haderthauer, Bavarian social minister, told top-selling daily Bild. Stefan Mueller, a CSU lawmaker, said he was "bewildered" by Schroeder's "inappropriate" comments.

Here's what I find bizarre about this whole dispute - the idea that a monotheistic God would have a fixed gender at all. Human sexes have to do with sexual reproduction, which is more effective than asexual reproduction at maintaining diversity across a gene pool. God as a spiritual being should have no genes and therefore no reason to engage in sexual reproduction. Furthermore, as monotheists believe in a single deity, even if one were to grant God the characteristic of gender, there would be no other deities with whom to reproduce. In fact, as I see it the entire point of a monotheism is a concept of divinity that should in theory encompass and transcend all genders, so if Schroeder wants to use "das" as her article for God I don't see anything wrong with it. She was simply stating her own preference in the interview, not insisting that everyone else follow suit.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Crisis-Free Maya Apocalypse Spreads Across the Globe

I've been wanting to use a variation on that headline ever since Yahoo News used it in the context of a "crisis-free millennium" all the way back in the year 2000. In a way, this post is pretty much just my excuse to do so, as it is now 12-21-2012 on the other side of the world and everything still exists. No galactic alignment or asteroid impact has wiped out life on Earth. There haven't even been any Mayan sky gods descending in vast battle cruisers intent on wiping out our species - you know, because the ancient Mayans had access to battle cruisers. What are you, clueless? That's how they built all those pyramids, with alien assistance!

Seriously, though, here we sit as yet another over-hyped but failed apocalypse unfolds. Seeing as nobody in his or her right mind wants the world to end, what are we to make of this? I know what I believe - doomers are stupid. Poor critical thinking skills combined with extreme ignorance is about all that can account for the hoopla these ridiculous "prophecies" keep generating. I use the scare quotes there because the "Maya Apocalypse" is not a prophecy at all; the Mayans never made it. Like many non-Western cultures, the concept of time in the Mayan religion is circular, cycles within cycles. There are no "end times" like those mentioned in Christianity, metaphorical or otherwise.

Tonight my magical working group celebrates the 2012 Winter Solstice, and here's wishing you all a happy one. Tomorrow we'll wake up and the world will still be around. How do I know? Because I understand statistics. You would think that more people would take a cue from the indisputable fact that every single doomsday prophecy has always fallen flat and realize that this means apocalyptic claims simply make no sense without some pretty extraordinary evidence. But too many of them still don't.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Meet the Thunderbird

One of the less well-known North American cryptids is the thunderbird, described as a bird larger than any currently known species strong enough to lift and possibly carry off a small child. Stories about thunderbirds attempting to lift children are generally regarded as tall tales, since as far as anyone knows none of these reported attempts have ever been successful and it's hard to imagine a known species of bird could be such a powerful flyer. Birds are built light, which is why they can fly in the first place.

Skeptics generally brush off reports of attempted abductions and note that it is easy to mistake the size of a flying bird in the air. They suggest that thunderbird sightings are simply sightings of large known raptor species that for whatever reason, possibly optical illusions, appear to be larger than their actual size. North America is home to a number of such large species such as several varieties of eagles and condors. In this case, it appears that the skeptics are right.

This video shows an actual "thunderbird attack" captured in Montreal that conforms to most reports, in which a large bird successfully lifts but is unable to carry off a child. Furthermore, the responsible bird can clearly be identified - it's a golden eagle, a common large North American raptor. While it seems remarkable that a bird weighing perhaps ten pounds could possibly be strong enough to lift a child, here it is. Golden eagles grow larger than the bird shown here as well, with potential wingspans of more than seven and a half feet.

The ability to lift prey heavier than their own body weight is a huge evolutionary advantage for eagles. Their normal hunting tactics consist of surveying prey from the air and then swooping down to grab it with their powerful talons. While a human child is larger than the bird's usual prey, clearly they're not above making an occasional attempt if the opportunity presents itself. So this is a classic case of a cryptid legend springing from the actions of a real animal - and a well-recognized one at that.

UPDATE: So it turns out that video is a fake, created by an animation studio in Montreal that has now taken credit for it. Still, I remain convinced that eagles are the best explanation for the stories behind thunderbird attacks, and that the event fabricated in the video is plausible as rendered. A child would be too heavy for an eagle to carry for much of a distance, but it's not impossible that one might decide to try.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christian Oppression Turns Deadly?

No, this is not an article about the real oppression Christians experience in some parts of the world where they are in the minority and discriminated against by members of another majority faith. This is an article about the imaginary oppression that certain Christians claim to experience right here in the United States, and how some of them believe that in response to said oppression God's only recourse is to act like an unbelievable asshole.

Meet Bryan Fischer. Fisher is a right-wing evangelist known for his firm embrace of the Poor Oppressed Christian mindset. In response to the recent Connecticut school shooting, he explained without a trace of irony that his Christian God decided to let a bunch of kids die because schools no longer hold public prayers that favor Christianity over all other religions. Fischer explains:

In 1962 we kicked prayer out of the schools. In 1963 we kicked God's word out of ours schools. In 1980 we kicked the Ten Commandments out of our schools. We've kicked God out of our public school system. And I think God would say to us, 'Hey, I'll be glad to protect your children, but you've got to invite me back into your world first. I'm not going to go where I'm not wanted. I am a gentlemen.

In other words, Poor Oppressed Christian Fischer apparently also follows a Poor Oppressed God - a butthurt deity with the power to lift a finger and save lives, but who willfully decides not to simply out of spite. While the problem of evil has been debated for centuries by Christian theologians, I've never heard a more appropriate description of a Demiurge in my entire life. Maybe those first millennium Gnostics were onto something after all. Here's a God who demands special treatment, and if he doesn't get it a bunch of children are going to die.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Investigating an Iowa Haunted House

Here's a ghost story from the neighboring state of Iowa. Over the past few months six student athletes living together in a house in Iowa City began noticing strange occurances. One student claims that the channel on his television set appeared to change on its own. Another saw a shadowy figure that resembled a young girl. The students also heard strange noises, and apparently small objects and pieces of furniture seemed to move on their own in the middle of the night. The furnished attic room of the house seemed to make occupants feel depressed and unmotivated.

Aside from the apparition, frankly a lot of that just sounds like college to me. When a group of people live together, it's not always possible to keep track of who moved what, especially if everyone is on erratic schedules. Television channels can change on their own, sometimes triggered by random electromagnetic signals. There's no mention of how old the house's wiring is, but high EMF could produce small electrical effects at the same time as provoking depression in sensitive individuals. Still, the students contacted a local paranormal investigation team who came and swept the house for anything unusual.

All four members of the paranormal group entered the house with their equipment to see if they could confirm or deny the presence of a spirit, or spirits, in the house. The tools they brought included thermometers, infrared cameras, voice recorders, dowsing rods, and equipment to detect electromagnetic fields.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Vigilance Is Just Another Word for Paranoia

I used to joke that if I ever became so super-rich that I had no idea what to spend my money on, I would devote my resources to making the world more fun. I would pay people to put on costumes and go fight crime because a world filled with superheroes is more interesting than one without them. I would put enormous advertising budgets behind concepts so dubious that all they provoke from reasonable folks is nervous laughter, and then see if the mass media picks them up and treats them as legitimate. I would run bizarre political ads of the sort that Stephen Colbert's Super PAC ran during the Republican primaries. And maybe, just maybe, I would erect a giant monument on a Georgia hilltop with my own version of the Ten Commandments rendered in eight different languages - because what sort of weirdo would ever think of doing that? Oh, wait...

Made of Pyramid blue granite, the Georgia Guidestones are meant to withstand the test of time and to communicate knowledge on several levels: philosophically, politically, astronomically, etc. It consists of four major stone blocks, which contain ten guides for living in eight languages: English, Spanish, Swahili, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian. A shorter message is inscribed at the top of the structure in four ancient languages’ scripts: Babylonian, Classical Greek, Sanskrit, and Egyptian hieroglyphs. It is important to note that those last four ancient languages are of a great importance in the teachings of occult mystery schools, such as the Freemasons and the Rosicrucians, organizations I will discuss later.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Russia's Resident Aliens

For years the UFO community has been trying to obtain confirmation from the United States government that space aliens have visited Earth. So far all they've been able to uncover with Freedom of Information Act requests are designs for saucer-shaped aircraft that may or may not have been developed and more than anyone really wants to know about top secret weather balloon experiments. However, based on the latest statement from Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev it sounds like they might have better luck in the former Soviet Union. Last Friday the Prime Minister and former President confirmed not only the existence of alien encounters, but that some of those aliens still live among us.

"Along with the briefcase with nuclear codes, the president of the country is given a special 'top secret' folder. This folder in its entirety contains information about aliens who visited our planet," Medvedev answered playfully.

"Along with this, you are given a report of the absolutely secret special service that exercises control over aliens on the territory of our country ... More detailed information on this topic you can get from a well-known movie called 'Men In Black' ... I will not tell you how many of them are among us because it may cause panic," he says.

Naturally the mainstream media claims Medvedev was joking, but let's face it - if the world really has been infiltrated by, say, shape-shifting reptilians mysteriously perceptible to only David Icke, that's exactly what they would want us to think. Maybe the only real inaccuracy in the Men in Black film is that the secret alien refuge on Earth is not Manhattan, but rather located somewhere in Russia. Really, when you think about it, that makes more sense - parts of Siberia are easily remote enough that nobody's going to be around to observe the landing craft.

Friday, December 7, 2012

How Silent Monks Sing

So it's the holidays, and you happen to belong to an order of monks and have taken a vow of silence. You'd like to be able to sing some classic holiday hymns like the Hallelujah Chorus - but how? Here's a creative solution that was originally performed in 2006 at Winter Park High School in Florida. While the video is years old, it has just recently been making the rounds on the Internet. It's also really funny.

This solution wouldn't work for hymns with less repetitive lyrics, but for the Hallelujah Chorus it's perfect. It's also interesting to see all the words spelled out - I had previously thought that the line "And Lord of Lords" was "And Lord Our God" because that's how it sounds to me in most recordings, but in fact that's not the case. At any rate, all silent monks out there should take note - you too can sing! Sometimes there's nothing more fun than hacking the system.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Hitting the Social Media

It's been a while since I've updated the social media links for my books. My Facebook author page goes all the way back to shortly after the release of Arcana in 2009. However, seeing as I appear to have two distinct audiences for fiction and non-fiction books I've added two more pages, one for my Guild series of novels and another for my series of Enochian books. I only have one book out in each series so far, but that will be changing soon. Here are the new Facebook links:
I also have created pages for Arcana and Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy on Google+ for those who prefer that platform to Facebook.

Go ahead and 'like' whichever series you happen to be interested in if you primarily use Facebook, add the corresponding Google+ pages to your circles if you primarily use Google+, or do both. That way you can stay in the loop on upcoming publication announcements and so forth.

Arcana generated little buzz back when it was first published, but it's a fun story that includes a lot of real magical elements like Enochian incantations and modern ceremonial forms rendered in more detail than what you usually find in urban fantasy novels. If you enjoy occult fiction, and especially if you find yourself rolling your eyes at the unrealistic magical concepts that most of those books present, I invite you to check it out. In addition to the print edition, you can order it for Kindle from Amazon or in multiple eBook formats from SmashWords.

Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy has gotten good reviews around the blogosphere, which I have compiled here. The ceremonial methods it includes are suitable for both modern and traditional grimoire practitioners, and present a vision of Enochian magick that has room for modern elements but remains true to the content of Dee and Kelley's original system. If you're interested in working with the only portion of the Enochian system that Dee ever assembled into a usable grimoire, it's a must-have - the only book in print that focuses exclusively on the Heptarchia Mystica. In addition to the print editions, you can also order it in multiple eBook formats from SmashWords.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

North Korea Unearths Unicorn Lair

North Korea or Bust!

Yes, it's true. North Korean scientists have located an actual unicorn lair. At least, that is, according to the North Korean press, famous for promoting stories such as how the North Korean weather mourned the recent death of leader Kim Jong-Il. Apparently, in the mythological history of the world's only necrocracy, the unicorn lair plays an important role.

Jo Hui Sung, director of the Institute, told KCNA: "Korea's history books deal with the unicorn, considered to be ridden by King Tongmyong, and its lair.

The Sogyong (Pyongyang) chapter of the old book 'Koryo History' (geographical book), said: Ulmil Pavilion is on the top of Mt. Kumsu, with Yongmyong Temple, one of Pyongyang's eight scenic spots, beneath it. The temple served as a relief palace for King Tongmyong, in which there is the lair of his unicorn.

The discovery of the unicorn lair, associated with legend about King Tongmyong, proves that Pyongyang was a capital city of Ancient Korea as well as Koguryo Kingdom.

Most experts think that stories about unicorn horns originated with the narwhal, a whale with a single horn that grows from the middle of its forehead. The thing is, a narwhal on top of a mountain makes absolutely no sense, so that can't be it. One wonders - if the unicorn lair turns out to be real, will the creature finally shower the North Korean people with rainbows? The way things have been going there for the last several decades they sure could use some.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Studying Traditional Astrology

A note about the "Magick Monday" plan - there won't necessarily be a Monday post every week, but the idea is that if there is one it will be related to actual magick rather than weird news, cryptozoology, religion, or what have you. Enjoy!

Over the weekend I joined a local discussion group that is studying traditional astrology. Traditional in this context means up to around the eighteenth century or so, when the modern ideas that most of us are more familiar with began to take hold. I first attended a talk on this older form of astrology back in 2010 and one of the key concepts from traditional electional methods, the Mubtazz or Victor of the chart, was incorporated into a series of zodiacal workings performed by my magical working group from 2010-2011. Those workings proved quite effective for accomplishing both mystical and practical goals, and also provided me with much of the data I gathered on EMF and evocation.

For those of you who are used to working with modern astrology, the traditional version has some key differences. The most basic is in the overall approach. Modern astrology operates from the perspective that for the most part your chart represents your mind and is therefore largely psychological. Traditional astrology, on the other hand, looks at the chart as a collection of macrocosmic forces that act upon you in addition to the components of your mind. In effect, it focuses much more strongly on macrocosmic events than its modern counterpart. This allows the traditional form to be approached in a more empirical manner, in which specific predictions can be tested against real-world events. In this way its approach is more similar to that taken by Vedic astrology, though there are many technical differences between the two systems.