Friday, March 29, 2013

Africa's Penis-Snatching Epidemic

I first covered penis-snatching back in 2008, with an article about this supposed black magical practice prompting arrests in Congo-Kinshasa. At the time I noted how ridiculous the whole idea seemed, but it nonetheless remains a serious problem in Africa. Accusations of penis-snatching commonly lead to mob violence and lynchings, even though I have no idea how anyone could possibly believe his penis to be been stolen by a black magician. I mean, can't you just pull down your pants and look? Even the mob that claimed a witch stole a car and then turned into a goat actually brought a real goat to the police as evidence.

Besides the mechanics of it, the motivation for penis-snatching also strikes me as quite dubious. I suppose if I really knew a penis-snatching spell it would make a particularly nasty curse, but beyond that it seems rather pointless. However, a recent episode of The Current revealed the truth. Apparently, a market exists for stolen penises, so black magicians can make a tidy sum by selling off their ill-gotten members to wealthy individuals.

We started this segment with an eyewitness account from Mayowa Adebola in Lagos, Nigeria, of a theft that can't possibly have occurred. The tape from freelance journalist Sam Olukoya illustrates what can happen when someone claims to be a victim of what is called penis-snatching. In these cases, a victim claims his genitals were stolen or shrunken through the use of witchcraft.

The alleged motive sounds as preposterous as the crime. Victims say the loot may be sold to wealthy Europeans or a powerful local person. These incidents are referred to as penis-snatching or Koro, and these days, Nigeria is Koro-central. There's been a spate of reported penis-snatchings in Nigeria in the past few months. And the incidents are increasing in some other African countries as well.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Poor Oppressed Christians Totally Lose It

Support for legal same-sex marriage has undergone a dramatic reversal over the course of the last five years. Today the majority supports allowing same-sex couples to wed, and with California's Proposition 8 and the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act before the Supreme Court this week, the Poor Oppressed Christian community is going totally off the rails. The latest column from David Brody of CBN is a perfect example. Brody claims that Christians who "believe in the biblical definition of traditional marriage" are now more "scorned" than homosexuals.

But what about today? Let’s be honest: If you are a conservative evangelical who believes in the biblical definition of traditional marriage then guess what? You are one of the following: An outcast, a bigot, narrow-minded, a “hater” or all of the above. It's a different type of ridicule but it's still ridicule.

The tables have been turned. Evangelicals are now the ugly stepchild. In our American culture today, you can easily make the argument that it is harder to stand for biblical truth than it is to be a supporter of gay marriage in today's society.

Don’t believe me? Ask Kirk Cameron or Tim Tebow who both have been endlessly ridiculed for stating mainstream biblical positions on marriage and other topics. How about the comments by Chick-fil-A Founder Dan Cathy? Remember his comments in strong support for traditional marriage? He nearly had his head ripped apart by the mainstream media.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Groundhog Charges Dropped

Well, that was quick. After issuing an indictment last week against famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, Ohio County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser has dropped the charges - after the president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club claimed that he had misinterpreted Phil's prediction of an early spring.

Bill Deeley, president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's Inner Circle, said Monday the furry prognosticator had actually predicted six more weeks of winter, but he mistakenly announced an early spring because he failed to correctly interpret Phil's "groundhog-ese."

"Now it turns out, Punxsutawney Phil is little more than a scapegoat," Gmoser wrote in the dismissal.

That's a sharp contrast to last week, when Gmoser had written: "Punxsutawney Phil did purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the people to believe that spring would come early."

This leaves me with two observations. First of all, if you're going to use any magical divination tool, be it a rodent or a deck of Tarot cards, in order to be accurate in your predictions you need to know how to interpret correctly. Second of all, this is an awfully convenient announcement to those like myself who have noted that Phil's accuracy is, shall we say, other than stellar. "Of course he's always right! We just don't always understand him."

You know, because he's a groundhog.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Kill the Groundhog!

Last February I posted an article on the practice of divining the weather by groundhog. I noted that the most famous of these prognosticating critters, Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil, was correct only 39% of the time. A commenter cleverly noted that in fact Phil is quite accurate as a divining instrument so long as you always assume that the weather will behave in the opposite manner. Last year, Phil "saw his shadow" which theoretically put the kibosh on an early spring. The result? Temperatures in March soared above 80 degrees in one of the earliest springs Minnesota has ever experienced. This year, Phil didn't see his shadow - and temperatures are still below freezing with a respectable amount of snow on the ground. So Phil was wrong both times - or, if you reversed his predictions, 100% correct. The continuing winter has not sat well with Ohio County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser, who today issued an official-looking document charging Phil with "misrepresentation of spring," an offense which at least in Ohio apparently carries the death penalty.

On or about February 02, 2013, at Gobbler's Knob, Punxsutawney Phil did purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the people to believe that Spring would come early. Contrary to the Groundhog day report, a snowstorm and record low temperatures have been and are predicted to continue in the near future, which constitutes the offense of MISREPRESENTATION OF EARLY SPRING, a Unclassified Felony, and against the peace and dignity of the State Of Ohio ...The people further find and specify that due to the aggravating circumstances and misrepresentation to the people that the death penalty be implemenied to the defendant, Punxsutawney Phil.

This is all, of course, a joke - Ohio is not about to send death squads across the border into Pennsylvania to execute a medium-sized rodent. It does, however, highlight the importance of understanding your divining instruments and how they work in order to avoid a lot of unnecessary frustration. "Opposite Phil" has been two-for-two these last two years, which means that maybe he's who we should be listening to instead.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

But... He's a Witch!

Here's a big difference between American culture and a lot of other places in the world in terms of how allegations of spell-casting are handled. In this country they're largely dismissed, but elsewhere they can lead to attacks by angry mobs and other forms of vigilantism. A woman in Georgia recently accused her ex-husband of casting spells on her. Far from taking it even marginally seriously, the allegation was completely dismissed by law enforcement.

Mychia Vang and her mother, both of Winder, Ga., contacted law enforcement Tuesday, claiming that Vang's ex-husband, Bruce Lor, had cast a spell on the two women, according to a police report obtained by The Smoking Gun.

The pair told a responding deputy that Lor, 28, was "able to know what they do and where they go," the report states. They also accused him of using magic to give Vang health problems.

“There is no audio or video of this incident," the deputy noted.

Now it should be pointed out that perhaps this man did in fact cast a spell on his ex-wife. The problem, though, is that there's no objective method to determine whether this is an actual report or a mistaken belief on the part of the accuser. That's really how it has to be. Anti-witchcraft squads and other such "magick police" forces around the world wind up perpetrating all sorts of abusive incidents without any real oversight precisely due to the subjective nature of magical operations.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Higgs Boson Discovery Confirmed

It has been noted many times that one of the key differences between science and religion is that religion reaches a conclusion and sticks with it even in the face of conflicting evidence, while science reaches a conclusion and then expends an enormous amount of time and effort trying to disprove it. I would add that this is far more true of institutional religion than it is of more gnostic spiritual paths, but the basic premise is sound. The point of science is that only once a discovery has stood up to intense scrutiny can it be accepted as true.

Back in July, I covered the announcement from CERN that the Higgs Boson, the last particle predicted by the standard model of quantum physics, had officially been discovered. It's important to keep in mind, though, even the "official announcement" was contingent upon the full data set standing up to rigorous peer review. This week, CERN announced that the data had indeed stood up to this level of scrutiny, and that the Higgs discovery is for real.

The elusive particle, called a Higgs boson, was predicted in 1964 to help fill in our understanding of the creation of the universe, which many theorize occurred in a massive explosion known as the Big Bang. The particle was named for Peter Higgs, one of the physicists who proposed its existence, but it later became popularly known as the "God particle."

Last July, scientists at CERN, the Geneva-based European Organization for Nuclear Research, announced finding a particle they described as Higgs-like, but they stopped short of saying conclusively that it was the same particle or some version of it. Scientists have now finished going through the entire set of data year and announced the results in a statement and at a physics conference in the Italian Alps.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Popes and Prophecies

So now we've met the new pope Francis, formerly Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina. As I noted previously, a twelfth century prophecy made by the Irish Saint Malachy named this 112th pope "Peter of Rome," and on that basis I predicted that an Italian, probably Milan Archbishop Angelo Scola, would be selected if the prophecy were genuine. Meanwhile, in between bouts of sloth-bashing over on Facebook Rufus Opus writes:

Everyone saying the Malachy prophecy isn't fulfilled by Pope Francis I just because he isn't named Peter and he's not from Rome are just being lazy. You haven't even tried.

That's true! Malachy's prophecy, like most, is quite vague. Here's the full text:

“In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will reign Peter the Roman, who will feed his flock amid many tribulations; after which the seven-hilled city (Rome) will be destroyed and the dreadful Judge will judge the people.”

While the name doesn't seem to fit at all, some of the rest of it does. The Roman Catholic Church remains under attack over covering up sex abuse scandals worldwide. Bergoglio chose the name Francis to honor Francis of Assisi, a saint known for his work on behalf of the poor - "feeding his flock," so to speak. As far as the destruction of Rome goes, the financial situation in Italy is currently quite precarious, though whether that will lead to literal devastation of the city is anyone's guess.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Religion as Justification

From a magical perspective a religion is simply a formal system for producing spiritual experiences - or at least that's what it should be. A perennial problem faced by most religious denominations is those who treat membership in a church or other religious organization just as they would membership in a social club with no connection whatsoever to spirituality. For such individuals enlightenment or metanoia or salvation or whatever term you prefer for realized consciousness never even enters into the equation and is replaced with a bunch of tribal markers and social controls. From the standpoint of expanding consciousness, this conception is entirely worthless.

The original concept of the prison as "penitentiary" was conceived based on the notion that exposure to religion would make criminals better people. While it makes sense that exposure to more realized states of consciousness could possibly have such an effect, a problem remains with religion itself - or more specifically how many people relate to it. Now a new study has highlighted a disturbing phenomenon within a sample criminal population. Rather than treating religion as a vehicle for spiritual realization or even as a mere social club, many of those sampled use it as an excuse to justify their crimes.

“God has to forgive everyone, even if they don’t believe in him,” insisted one 33-year-old enforcer for a drug gang, with a vested interest in avoiding damnation for the murders he had committed. A 23-year-old robber called Young Stunna suggested that the circumstances of his upbringing would absolve him of his crimes: “Jesus knows I ain’t have no choice, you know? He know I got a decent heart. He know I’m stuck in the hood and just doing what I gotta do to survive.”

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Chechnya Bans Wizards

Three weeks ago Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov called for a ban on "wizards and false healers" on the grounds that such practices are both fraudulent and forbidden by Islam. This would be just another story of a religious state banning magick, which unfortunately is all too common around the world, except that Kadyrov himself is a hard-core magick enthusiast. He may not be a wizard himself, but he is all too eager to sponsor their work - so long as they subscribe to his own religious beliefs.

Though Mr Kadyrov is taking a hard line on "forgers" who "discredit Islam," he has been eager to promote Islamic mysticism since he became president in 2005.

Folk belief is widespread in Chechnya, which many locals believe is a hotbed for Islamic spirits called djinns drawn there by the destruction from the wars, which killed tens of thousands and reduced much of the region to rubble.

Mr Kadyrov was the driving force behind the Center for Islamic Medicine in Grozny, the largest Islamic folk hospital in Europe where healers perform djinn exorcisms by reading Quranic verses aloud.

This would be hilarious if it were not being perpetrated by a state known for human rights abuses. As long as you're the right kind of wizard - that is, a Muslim exorcist - you get government support. If you're the wrong kind, though, like the rest of us, you get a visit from the security forces and may simply disappear in the middle of the night. So the sheer hypocrisy is pretty staggering. The thing is that in reality it's all magick, no matter what religious system you happen to subscribe to. There's something to be said for cracking down on fraud, but I strongly suspect at least some of those "approved" wizards are also not on the up and up.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Voodoo Paranormal

This probably won't end well. Years ago, I brought up the concept of a reality television show based on genuine practicing occultists. I noted at the time that main problem such a show would run into is that from the outside most of our practices either look pretty boring or downright laughable. If we're doing contemplative work, much of what we do is meditation. The internal landscape of what's happening during that practice might be profound, but to a camera it just looks like somebody sitting there. Even if we're engaged in more active magical work, most of what we do is put on odd clothing like robes and then wave funny-looking tools around while vibrating various names and words that have no significance to regular television viewers.

Apparently, though, somebody has now come up with the idea of adding magical elements to a regular paranormal investigation show. In the era before Ghost Hunters became a big hit a lot of those shows employed psychics, but the fact is that most of the material such individuals produced was vague and even the most detailed observations generally proved impossible to verify. The twist to this new show, Voodoo Paranormal, is that the producers are looking to integrate real Voodoo, Hoodoo, and Santeria practices into the show.

The production team is casting for its new unscripted paranormal reality show, Voodoo Paranormal.

"Voodoo Paranormal follows paranormal investigators as they investigate haunted locations in search of ghosts, ghouls, and goblins using sophisticated technology paired with vintage Voodoo spells."

The production team is looking for passionate people that are practitioners of Voodoo, Hoodoo, and Santeria.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Fake Bishop Nearly Infiltrates Papal Conclave

The Roman Catholic Church has lately had more than its share of problems. The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI has prompted accusations of everything from financial mismanagement at the Vatican Bank to a secret network of gay priests reported by the Italian news media. The extend to which these allegations are true remains unclear, but they have certainly stirred up a lot of bad press. And now, the conclave charged with electing the next Pope was nearly infiltrated by a man claiming to be a bishop of a non-existent Italian church.

The impostor, identified as Ralph Napierski, was reportedly caught sneaking into a gathering of cardinals. Before his ruse was discovered, Napierski had already passed by a security station manned by Swiss Guards and had even posed for photos with at least one high-profile (and real) cardinal.

According to USA Today, security became suspicious of Napierski when they realized his cassock seemed shorter than appropriate. Also tip-offs: Napierski wore a black fedora instead of a skull-cap, and his bright purple sash was actually a common scarf.

According to The Telegraph, Napierski told reporters he belonged to the reportedly non-existent Italian Orthodox Church. A blog that appears to be associated with Napierski claims he is a bishop of a Catholic order called the Corpus Dei, also said to be fabricated. Napierski's contact information on the blog points to an address in Germany.

Napierski was stopped before making it all the way into the conclave, but it's pretty impressive that he got as far as he did with his scarf and fedora. It seems that in addition to the other scandals threatening the Roman Catholic Church, heightened security also needs to be taken into account. As for Napierski, had he made it in this would truly constitute an epic prank on one of the world's oldest and most powerful organizations. It also would have been quite interesting to find out more about what really goes on within the sealed doors of the Papal Conclave.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Prosperity Gospel

According to the so-called "green" or prosperity gospel, God wants you to be rich. If you're poor, it's because you're not virtuous enough or pious enough or perhaps God just does not like you. Many critics have noted that this ostensibly Christian theology is diametrically opposed to the actual teachings of Jesus Christ, but the apparent contradiction seems not to bother the evangelists pushing it to their parishioners. And why should it? Green gospel pastors have airplanes, fancy cars, extravagant houses, and even private islands - you know, the personal tropical paradise that God needs them to have as a reward for spreading the good news. On the other hand, if this story out of Indiana represents the work of the almighty, he apparently doesn't care so much about trifling matters such as mortgage payments. The story concerns Steve Munsey, a green gospel pastor who looted so much money from his ministry that his church is now being foreclosed upon - even though Munsey himself is millionaire many times over.

As it turns out, the story is about Munsey’s church, Family Christian Center, which claims to have a weekly attendance of 15,000, making it one of the largest churches in the country. According to an investigation by the, a paper covering northwestern Indiana, the judge presiding over the foreclosure proceedings told attorneys in court, “When I saw some of the expenditures being made in this church when there was a mortgage not being paid, I was astounded.” NWITimes reports that even as the church owed close to $100,000 a month in mortgage payments (not to mention mortgage payments on condos the church claimed to use for visiting clergy, and other unspecified bills in excess of half a million dollars), Munsey and his wife Melodye raked in “$2.9 million in total compensation from 2008 through 2011 from organizations connected to Family Christian Center, IRS records show.” In all, “The church annually spent $3.5 million in leadership compensation and had a $900,000 budget for travel and meals, a $500,000 housing allowance and $500,000 for jet fuel and other expenditures, according to the transcript. In 2010, the church paid $1 million for property in Illinois, the transcript states.” There’s more: an IRS investigation and tax liens, for starters.

What I find the most surprising about this story is that too many people apparently still haven't caught on that these "prosperity preachers" are almost universally corrupt. They spend all their time preaching about money because that's all they think about, and at the end of the day accumulating it is all that they want. Concern for the poor, one of the cornerstones of Jesus' teachings, falls by the wayside. After all, it gets in the way of the excessive salaries that let the leaders of these groups live like rock stars at the expense of not only everyone else but sometimes the very organizations that they rode to prominence in the first place. As I've mentioned many times before, a proper religion should be a system for producing spiritual experiences rather than a scheme to line some pastor's pocket.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Eighth Plague

A common misunderstanding of magick places it in the realm of the supernatural. This is fundamentally inaccurate, as the natural world and material world are one in the same. A truly "supernatural" magical process, to my way of thinking, would exist outside the bounds of the natural world and therefore be unable to influence it in any way. On the other hand, if magick is more properly seen as a part of nature rather than separate from it, the possibility of paranormal influence in fact becomes more plausible. Take one of the most famous magical operations of all time - the Ten Plagues of Egypt. Back in 2010 I discussed the possible physical basis of the Biblical parting of the Red Sea, and now Egypt is being struck by a plague of locusts just before Passover, the Jewish feast commemorating the exodus from Egypt.

This time, even the Israelis are worried that the locusts are out to get them. "They may not have ruined Pharaoh, but they could ruin us," one farmer, Tzachi Rimon, told Israel's Channel 10 TV. Locust swarms have the potential to wipe out agricultural crops, and it's been eight years since such a serious assault has hit Egypt's Cairo region and Israel, said Keith Cressman, the senior locust forecasting officer at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's headquarters in Rome.

"They came from the Sudan-Egypt border after breeding in December and January, flew north along the coast to nearly Suez, then got caught in some winds associated with a low-pressure system over the central Mediterranean to Cairo," Cressman told NBC News in an email. The weather system moved eastward, and on Monday, changing winds carried the swarm to the northern Sinai Peninsula and Israel's Negev Desert, he said.

The point here is, that like the parting of the Red Sea, there are natural explanations for such phenomena. Locust swarms do strike from time to time and are unpredictable. The point of working magick is to align the probabilities of the natural world such that the event you're attempting to conjure happens at just the right moment. Real magick doesn't look like fireballs or lightning bolts shooting from your fingers or any other movie-type manifestation that depends on physical energy appearing out of nowhere. It just looks like luck - incredible, amazing, and totally out-of-the-ordinary luck.