Friday, January 31, 2014

Oklahoma Christians Support Satanic Monument

It sometimes seems as if Christians get a bad rap here on Augoeides, for the simple reason that the stories in the news usually feature voices from a loud minority of extremists that, as an occultist, I feel obligated to push back against. However, most Christians in fact don't see themselves as oppressed by the mere existence of other religious beliefs, and understand very clearly that religious freedom isn't free. That is, they know that if they want the freedom to practice their beliefs, they must afford the same liberty to those who follow other spiritual paths.

The recent "Satanic Monument" controversy going on in Oklahoma is a perfect example. While the Christian voices in the media overwhelmingly oppose the monument, Salon has an article up today pointing out that many local Christians support it on religious freedom grounds. That is, they get the point that their extremist brethren have completely missed - religious freedom means religious freedom for everyone.

The announcement sparked outrage from Oklahoma lawmakers, but some residents apparently support the Satanic Temple’s wish to build a statue. “It’s really encouraging. It’s really moving. We do get a lot of messages that start out with the caveat, ‘You know I am a Christian.’ However, and they explain that they appreciate what we’re doing,” explained Lucien Greaves, a spokesperson for the New York based organization. “We’ve gotten a lot of messages from people saying that they served or are serving in the armed forces, and they feel that these values are exactly what we fought for.”

News 9 quoted some residents who supported the idea. “This is kind of what America was based on, freedom of religion. And for us to say whether you believe in it or not, that it shouldn’t be there, is kind of wrong,” said one resident, Bailee Boyce.

To some extent I understand why the media seeks out extreme voices. It makes for bigger controversies and better stories. I've mentioned this before, but hardly anybody realizes that the Westboro Baptist Church is barely a church at all - it has about 20 members, all from one family, and thus is smaller than the local Twin Cities OTO body. But from all the press they get, you would think they were a much larger organization rather than an insignificant fringe faction. The problem there is that chasing such stories results in non-Christians conflating the entire religion with the Poor Oppressed Christian minority, which simply is not the case.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Exorcism Online

Here's the latest innovation in exorcism from Teen Exorcist Squad leader Reverend Bob Larson - exorcism via Skype. Never one to pass up an opportunity to take on a demon in exchange for donations to his ministry, Larson takes advantage of the video chat application to perform exorcisms all over the world without those pesky travel expenses. There's no word yet on whether he performs all of the online exorcisms himself, or if he passes some of them off to members of his squad.

The idea of using Skype came from a Scottsdale reverend Bob Larson who claims that thanks to Skype he can take a crack at demons all over the world. So far he claims to have banished 20,000 demons to his nether regions, unless we heard him wrong. We guess that some of those demons would have been doubling up, as demons sometimes share bodies to avoid paying council tax.

Larson said that exorcism is the process of expelling an evil spirit from an individual who has become somehow invaded and demonised by that being, and sending it back to hell and freeing the person. It is not clear how it would work over Skype. While you don't have to worry about flying beds, it is really tricky to spray holy water in anything's face over the net. Your video can also be disturbed by puke splatter.

Despite the tongue-in-cheek commentary, the article does raise a valid point. Magick performed remotely is always going be less effective than magick performed in person, simply because the link to the target is not as strong. Back in the early days of the Internet a number of chaos magicians tried to do group rituals over chat, and the ones that I followed back then proved pretty ineffective - though I'll grant there may be somebody who figured out how to make it work and then never released their findings. It's also the reason that astral initiations may do something, but not nearly as much as real temple initiations done in the physical presence of officers.

My guess is that Larson is falling back on the classic scripture that in Jesus' name all things are possible, the usual Christian explanation for why they expect poorly constructed spiritual technology to function. There's always the possibility that he has come up with a novel method that will prove effective, but given his history and background I highly doubt it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pope's Blood Stolen by Satanists?

Recently a reliquary containing the blood of Pope John Paul II was stolen from a church in Italy. Unsurprisingly, the coordinator of an anti-occult group has blamed "Satanists," and in the process revealed himself to be completely ignorant on the subject of the occult. Here's what I want to know - why does it seem like every single anti-occult group out there has no idea how occultism actually works? You would think that if they were serious, they would sit down and study the subject so that they could make informed statements.

“It’s possible that there could be Satanic sects behind the theft of the reliquary,” said Giovanni Panunzio, the national coordinator of an anti-occult group called Osservatorio Antiplagio.

“This period of the year is important in the Satanic calendar and culminates in the Satanic ‘new year’ on Feb 1. This sort of sacrilege often take place at this time of the year. We hope that the stolen items are recovered as quickly as possible.”

The theft of the reliquary comes as the Vatican prepares to canonise John Paul II, along with another former Pope, John XXIII, at a ceremony on April 27.

Here's the ignorant bit. There's no evidence, anywhere, for a "Satanic New Year" falling on February 1st. You can find a thorough compilation of the dates named as "Satanic holidays" by various authors here. According to the list, Teen Exorcist Squad leader Bob Larson did name Oimelc, celebrated on February 1st, as a Satanic holiday, but as usual he's simply confused. Oimelc is a Pagan holiday, and Larson is well-known for conflating Paganism and Satanism. Furthermore, even for Pagans, Oimelc is not the "New Year." So it's hard to see where Panunzio is getting his information. I suspect he's just making it up as he goes along.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

An Indiana Exorcism

In a story that seems to come straight out of a horror film, a family from Indiana claims to have been terrorized by demons that required several exorcisms performed by Father Mike Maginot, pictured above, to finally remove. What's remarkable about this case is that it has been massively documented by law enforcement and Child Services since 2011, and as such, the article outlines the entire series of events from beginning to end. Read the whole thing; it's a fascinating account.

Gary police Capt. Charles Austin said it was the strangest story he had ever heard.

Austin, a 36-year veteran of the Gary Police Department, said he initially thought Indianapolis resident Latoya Ammons and her family concocted an elaborate tale as a way to make money. But after several visits to their home and interviews with witnesses, Austin said simply, "I am a believer."

Not everyone involved with the family was inclined to believe its incredible story. And many readers will find Ammons' supernatural claims impossible to accept. But, whatever the cause of the creepy occurrences that befell the family — whether they were seized by a systematic delusion or demonic possession — it led to one of the most unusual cases ever handled by the Department of Child Services.

Many of the events are detailed in nearly 800 pages of official records obtained by The Indianapolis Star and recounted in more than a dozen interviews with police, DCS personnel, psychologists, family members and a Catholic priest.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Growing Up Scientologist

Cracked has an article up today by a former member who grew up in the Church of Scientology. Prior to reading it my opinion of Scientology was that while they believe a lot of silly things, that can be said about many religions and my main problem with the group was its overall cultishness and its never-ending quest to relieve its adherents of as much of their earnings as possible. But according to the article, the treatment of children in the organization is a serious problem as well.

Only the barest amount of natural light graced us through the tiny windows, and the teenagers they left in charge weren't exactly child-care pros. They wouldn't even let my baby sister go to the bathroom. Also? No food. My mom had to hide food in our pockets so we didn't starve while she spent hours in their meeting. Oh, and they actually locked all the doors into and out of these meetings. We had to leave early for a doctor's appointment once, and my mom realized this fact rather suddenly when she found she couldn't get out of the service. The whole congregation had been locked inside. So, you know, good thing there wasn't a fire.

Scientology "schools" are another mess altogether. They place a lot of emphasis on something called word clearing. L. Ron Hubbard believed that misunderstood words were quite literally the only possible way for a child to lose interest in a subject at school. Nerdy kids who read during math class can attest to the absurdity of this claim, but it's a lynchpin of Scientologist tech ("tech" is Scientology's equivalent to scripture, crossed with the owner's manual for a 1994 Buick Century). So if you go to a Scientologist school, you can look forward to a lot of time with your dictionary.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Just Like Galileo, Except Totally Different

The controversy over teaching creationism in schools continues to heat up. In two weeks science educator Bill Nye will take part in a live debate on the issue with Ken Ham, CEO of the creationist organization Answers in Genesis. The upcoming event has prompted various reactions across the political spectrum, but the weirdest of them comes from conservative commentator Glenn Beck. Beck compared Nye's opposition to creationism with the Catholic Church's persecution of Galileo.

On Tuesday night, Glenn Beck compared Bill Nye the Science Guy to the people who silenced and oppressed Galileo, one of history’s most celebrated thinkers. Beck’s attack on Nye came in the context of a larger argument about how “you can’t force things on the people.” Despite ample evidence in human history showing that governments indeed can — and generally do — “force things” on “the people,” Beck claimed history will show that anyone who tries to “force things on the people” will be judged negatively by future generations.

The Catholic Church silenced Galileo for claiming that the earth revolves around the sun, a scientific fact that stood in opposition to a silly literalist interpretation of several statements in the Bible. Likewise, the theory of evolution is an established scientific fact that stands in opposition to a silly literalist interpretation of Genesis. But obviously Beck has the sides precisely backwards, with Nye on the side of science and Answers in Genesis on the side of Biblical literalism.

Also, the dispute between Galileo and the Catholic Church had nothing to do with anyone, government or otherwise, forcing anything on "the people." Galileo published a defense of heliocentrism, which in modern America would be called exercising his right to free speech. The church took offense at his statements and put him on trial, eventually forcing him to recant. Again, the takeaway is the exact opposite of Beck's - large organizations like the Catholic Church can try to force scientific knowledge underground, but it always comes out eventually.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

UK Storms Caused By Gay Marriage?

This article just goes to show that religious nuttiness surrounding the issue of same-sex marriage is not unique to the United States. A British city councillor recently claimed that current severe weather in the UK is God's retribution for the passage of a same-sex marriage bill. I'll ask the question one more time, since I never get anything resembling a satisfactory answer. If homosexuality really is the main issue that the Christian God cares about, why did Jesus - who was the Christian God, according to mainstream Christian theology - say nothing about it?

"The scriptures make it abundantly clear that a Christian nation that abandons its faith and acts contrary to the Gospel (and in naked breach of a coronation oath) will be beset by natural disasters such as storms, disease, pestilence and war," wrote David Silvester to his local newspaper, the Henley Standard. "I wrote to David Cameron in April 2012 to warn him that disasters would accompany the passage of his same-sex marriage bill." He assailed the Prime Minister David Cameron for his arrogance "against the Gospel" and said "It is his fault that large swathes of the nation have been afflicted by storms and floods."

An unusual shot of old-timey religion in the arse of Britain's smarmy, well-groomed political scene, Silverster was initially supported by his party. After news reports appeared, however, he was suspended by the UKIP, which released a statement condemning his remarks. “We cannot have any individual using the Ukip banner to promote their controversial personal beliefs which are not shared by the party,” said Roger Bird, the party's regional chairman.

The difference between Britain and the United States on this issue, then, appears to be that across the pond nobody takes David Silvester very seriously, not even his own party. In many regions of the United States, political parties continue to stand behind people who make similar ridiculous statements. If God really strikes back whenever a law contrary to the Gospel gets passed, it's hard to see why he wouldn't be angrier about laws that reward the rich at the expense of the poor - which get passed all the time both here and in Britain. But maybe those are causing some of the bad weather too.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Forgotten Pharaoh's Tomb Discovered

The golden age of Egyptology was in the early 1900's, when the Valley of the Kings was explored and its tombs excavated. Recently, though, a previously unknown tomb was discovered near the ancient city of Abydos that held the remains of a forgotten pharaoh. This ruler was identified as Woseribre Senebkay, and the tomb represents the first tangible evidence of a short-lived independent Abydos dynasty, which up until now had remained hypothetical. Aside from the skeleton the tomb was mostly empty, and was likely looted long ago. The pharoah's body was originally mummified, but it decomposed further after apparently being ripped apart by grave robbers.

The modest tomb is the first physical evidence of the Abydos Dynasty, a reigning lineage that had been suspected to have existed, but never proven. "It's exciting to find not just the tomb of one previously unknown pharaoh, but the necropolis of an entire forgotten dynasty," Wegner said in a statement.

The archaeologists first uncovered hints of Senebkay in the summer 2013. That field season, the researchers discovered an enormous red quartzite sarcophagus (or coffin) at the site of Abydos. It was clear that the 60-ton behemoth had been removed from its original tomb, but no one could tell who had first been buried inside.

Continued excavations revealed a story of ancient Egyptian recycling. As it turns out, the original owner of the sarcophagus was a pharaoh named Sobekhotep. Most likely, it belonged to Sobekhotep I, the founder of Egypt's 13th Dynasty around 1800 B.C.

Sobekhotep I was buried in a pyramid in Abydos. A century and a half later, pharaohs apparently began looting Sobekhotep I's tomb for their own purposes. One unknown king snagged the huge sarcophagus. Another king picked up a cedar chest, covered up Sobekhotep's name, and used it in his own tomb. The recycling ruler's name? Senebkay.

It remains to be seen if somewhere in this newly discovered necropolis an intact tomb might still exist. If so, the discovery would be highly significant, similar to that of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. The Abydos dynasty reigned hundreds of years before Tutankhamun, with Senebkay's tomb dated to 1650 BCE and Tutankhamun's to 1323 BCE, and it would be fascinating to compare and contrast the artifacts entombed with bodies from such different periods. Excavations at Abydos are ongoing, and I'll be keeping an eye on them.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Creationism Versus Science Education

Texas has been a battleground state for some time now in the conflict between "creation science" and actual science. Much of the conflict has focused on textbook standards, because Texas is a large enough state to influence the kinds of books that are written and home to many evangelical Christians who support creationism. Creationists have tried to place majorities on education committees, but have been thwarted by legal rulings that teaching creationism in place of science is unconstitutional. Whether or not that's the case, attending a creationist school puts students at a severe disadvantage in terms of understanding everything from biology to medicine to just about any form of advanced technology.

Even though the Texas school board did wind up approving textbooks that support modern biology and evolutionary theory, charter schools are still allowed to choose other textbooks that may support creationism. Slate has an article up today about Responsive Education Solutions, a network of Texas, Arkansas, and Indiana charter schools with more than 17,000 students that is one of the worst offenders. Under the guise of "teaching critical thinking," the biology textbooks used by Responsive Ed schools "teach the controversy" by pointing out supposed flaws in evolutionary theory that have long been fully addressed by punctuated equilibrium and epigenetic models.

Last month, science won the day in the battle over textbooks, and Texas adopted texts that teach evolution. But schools don’t necessarily have to adhere to this list of textbooks. They can choose, as Responsive Ed does, to use alternative textbooks, which may teach creationism.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Football Magick

In the past I've covered a number of incidents from Africa in which magick was used or thought to have been used to influence soccer matches. Given that belief in magick is widespread in Africa, it's not terribly surprising that a substantial percentage of fans, players, or team owners might try to make use of it in order to increase the odds of victory. More unexpected is a new study that shows even here in the supposedly materialistic United States, half of all American football fans likewise believe supernatural or paranormal forces are at work determining the outcome of games.

Two weeks ahead of the Super Bowl, half of American sports fans say they believe God or a supernatural force is at play in the games they watch, according to a new survey. That percentage includes Americans who pray for God to help their team (26 percent), think their team has been cursed (25 percent) or more generally believe God is involved in determining who wins on the court or in the field (19 percent). Overall, half of Americans fall into one of these groups, according to the survey Public Religion Research Institute released Tuesday.

“As Americans tune in to the Super Bowl this year, fully half of fans — as many as 70 million Americans — believe there may be a twelfth man on the field influencing the outcome,” Public Religion Research Institute CEO Robert Jones said in a statement. “Significant numbers of American sports fans believe in invoking assistance from God on behalf of their favorite team, or believe the divine may be playing out its own purpose in the game.” Football fans were the most likely to pray for their own teams to win, with 33 percent saying they ask God to intervene in games, compared to 21 percent of fans of other sports. They were also more likely to think their teams were cursed (31 percent compared to 18 percent) and to take part in rituals before or during games (25 percent to compared to 18 percent).

The reality of professional sports is a harsh one, in which the difference between the best and worst players in any position is tiny at best. The structure of games and matches amplify those differences, such that even a player's passing bad mood can make the difference between a game-winning performance and a dismal one. Such tiny, imperceptible events that make so much difference in the final score primes fans for all sorts of superstitious behavior. On the other hand, I did once try an experiment to see if I could influence football games with magick and the team went from a losing record to a winning streak that lasted for the duration of the spell. So I suppose you never know.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Secret US Government Run By Nazi Aliens?

An Iranian news outlet has apparently broken the story of the century, or maybe even the millenium. According to the report, NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden to journalist Glenn Greenwald prove that the United States government is being run by space aliens. Not just regular space aliens, mind you, but Nazi space aliens - the same extraterrestrials who aided the German Reich during World War II. It makes me wonder if there's a form of Godwin's law particular to conspiracy theories, and whether or not this report might be a good example of it.

In Snowden’s own words, this report continues, he outlined to Greenwald the reason for his highly secretive group obtaining and releasing these documents by warning that that there “were actually two governments in the US: the one that was elected, and the other, secret regime, governing in the dark.” As to who is running this “secret regime” Snowden and his cohorts were warning about, FSB experts in this report say, was confirmed this past weekend by former Canadian defense minister Paul Hellyer who was given access to all of Snowden’s documents by Russian intelligence services and stated they were, indeed, “accurate.”

Even though Defense Minister Hellyer’s exact statements to the FSB in regards to Snowden’s documents remain classified, shortly after his “extensive electronic interview” by the FSB he was allowed to appear on Russia Today’s program SophieCo this past fortnight where he shockingly admitted that aliens have “been visiting our planet for thousands of years” and described several types of these extraterrestrials, including “Tall Whites” who are working with the US Air Force in Nevada. Of the many explosive revelations in this FSB report, the one most concerning to Russian authorities are the Snowden’s documents “confirming” that the “Tall Whites” (further revealed by Defense Minister Hellyer as noted above) are the same extraterrestrial alien race behind the stunning rise of Nazi Germany during the 1930’s.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Oklahoma Satanic Monument Unveiled

The Satanic Temple just doesn't quit. Into the latest round of controversy over their proposal to place a "monument to Satan" at the Oklahoma City statehouse, the group has unveiled their design for the monument. It features a friendly-looking Baphomet (who is not Satan, by that way, but that's a topic for another day) flanked by two children. It's about the most inoffensive and unthreatening rendering of the Dark Lord that I've ever seen, which I'm sure was the entire point.

The New York-based Satanic Temple submitted its proposal to Oklahoma officials this month after applying for a spot on Capitol grounds late last year. The Satanists say their statue would "complement and contrast" with a Ten Commandments monument placed at the Capitol in Oklahoma City in 2012.

The Satanists' proposed monument depicts Baphomet, a goat-headed pagan idol sitting on a 7-foot-tall throne inscribed with an inverted pentagram. In an artist's rendering provided by the Satanic Temple, smiling children look adoringly at the devilish figure.

"The statue will serve as a beacon calling for compassion and empathy among all living creatures," Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the Satanic Temple, said in a prepared statement. "The statue will also have a functional purpose as a chair where people of all ages may sit on the lap of Satan for inspiration and contemplation.”

According to its Indiegogo page, the Satanists have raised more than $16,000 toward their goal of $20,000 for the monument, which Greaves said would "be a historical marker commemorating the scapegoats, the marginalized, the demonized minority and the unjustly outcast.”

I'd be happier with this whole situation if the Satanic Temple was more a sincere religion and less a band of political pranksters, but they are making an important point and I don't see any representatives from other traditions stepping up. Back in December a Hindu temple floated the idea of putting up their own statue, but I've heard nothing from them since then. Sometimes history winds up being made by the people who show up.

Meanwhile, Fox Business News commentator Bernard McGuirk has called for members of the Satanic Temple to be put to death. You know, because clearly that's the proper Christian response to people who disagree with you.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Introduction to the Heptarchia Mystica

This is the text of a presentation I gave on the Heptarchia Mystica over the weekend at Leaping Laughter Lodge here in the Twin Cities. It presents an outline of the Heptarchial system based on material from my book, Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy. The procedure outlined here is Dee's grimoire evocation method, but the book includes an expanded template that shows how to incorporate modern ritual forms into the basic structure.

Dr. John Dee is well known in the occult community as the author of magical diaries from sixteenth century England detailing his operations with scryer Edward Kelley. The diaries span seven years and describe a previously unknown form of angel magick that has come to be known as the Enochian system among modern magical practitioners. Modern Enochian systems such as those derived from the Golden Dawn, Aurum Solis, or Liber Chanokh attributions typically emphasize the Watchtowers, four tablets of letters that are thought to represent the cardinal directions and elements, and the Aires or Aethyrs, regions of space that expand outward from the Earth and are thought to in some manner span the same “psychic space” as the Qabalistic Tree of Life.

Less well known and explored are the angels of the Heptarchia Mystica, Dee’s first attempt at assembling an angelic grimoire. The material found in the Heptarchia was originally received in 1582, Dee’s first year of working with Kelley, and includes descriptions of the implements that commonly represent Enochian magick today such as the Holy Table and Sigil of God. The source diaries can be found in John Dee’s Five Books of Mystery edited by Joseph Peterson, and unlike the rest of the Enochian system Dee also assembled the Heptarchial material into a grimoire form in 1588, which is the Heptarchia Mystica itself. Joseph Peterson has this text available on his website, Twilit Grotto Esoteric Archives, in two versions. The first is titled Compendium Heptarchiae Mysticae and is a sort of rough draft, a compilation of the diaries similar to that found in the Five Books. The second is De Heptarchia Mystica, which is the final text of Dee’s Heptarchial grimoire.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Is There a Creationist Personality?

It often seems as if those of us who accept scientific explanations for natural phenomena and those who like the idea of Jesus riding a dinosaur inhabit completely different realities. A new study may have identified a personality trait that can help to identify those who subscribe to creationist beliefs. A new study conducted by Andrew Village, head of the theology and religious studies program at York St. John University in the United Kingdom, subjected 663 religious individuals to Myers-Briggs personality tests and a questionnaire on their beliefs regarding the Genesis creation story. In analyzing the data, one particularly strong correlation emerged.

Village's survey-takers were recruited in churches and thus were quite religious, with 93 percent reporting they attended church weekly and 90 percent saying they prayed daily. The survey of this group's creationist beliefs and personality traits revealed that the more people preferred "sensing" over intuitive information-gathering, the more likely they were to believe that Genesis should be interpreted literally.

This finding makes sense, Village said. If someone believes the Bible is the word of God, and that the Bible is true, it follows logically that Genesis is true. "When people think, 'Oh, creationists are unthinking people,' they're not," Village said. "They're just using a different system."

Intuitive people are more willing to speculate and less likely to take things at face value, Village reported Dec. 23 in the journal Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. More indirectly, "thinkers," or people who prefer logical decision-making, are more likely than feelers to believe in creationism, Village found. This was explained by the fact that thinkers tend to gravitate toward more conservative religious traditions, however.

I'm an intuitive myself, and I will say that when I was Christian I was never a young-earth creationist. I did believe that God created the world and so forth, but I wasn't caught up in minutia like whether or not a "day" had to be exactly 24 hours before the existence of a Sun and Moon. Sensers do tend to be more detail-oriented, so perhaps that explains this aspect of the findings. I'm also a thinker, and I will say that one of the reasons I'm no longer Christian is that I finally found myself unwilling to accept the bits and pieces of it that I liked and leave the rest. I suppose that makes my outlook more conservative, except that how it worked out in practice is that now I'm a Thelemite. It seems strange that logical decision-making would lead a person to believe in young-earth creationism when there's so much evidence against it, but I suppose as with everything else in life your logic can only be as good as your premises.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

This Time, For Sure!

Rick Dyer, self-proclaimed bigfoot hunter extraordinaire is back in the news. In 2008 Dyer claimed that he had shot and killed a bigfoot and posted pictures of the body stored in a chest freezer. Unfortunately, the Internet spoiled his fun, as commenters in online forums quickly noted that the picture depicted a popular sasquatch costume frozen in a block of ice. Amazingly, Dyer now claims that this time he's killed the creature for real, and has sent out a new round of photographs. None of them have yet been exposed as commercially available costumes, so I suppose that's at least something.

Until Thursday Dyer never provided any proof beyond a grainy video clip he shot of the big beast outside his tent. More video was included in the documentary "Shooting Bigfoot," but it failed to impress skeptics. Following a lengthy battle with his investors, Dyer said he was finally able to reclaim the body.

"I have been worried for so long. I have been put off for so long, and finally we went up to Washington (state) and we got the body," Dyer said. "Every test that you can possibly imagine was performed on this body -- from DNA tests to 3D optical scans to body scans. It is the real deal. It's Bigfoot and Bigfoot's here, and I shot it and now I'm proving it to the world."

Dyer has let more than 100 people see the body up close and recorded their reactions. "We wanted to get people's reactions, make them believers, and we did it to over a 130 people," Dyer said. "We definitely made them believers."

Despite a history of past Bigfoot hoaxes, Dyer insists he's not fooling around this time. "Bigfoot is not a tooth fairy -- Bigfoot is real," Dyer said. "The most important thing to me is being vindicated, letting people know that I am the best Bigfoot tracker in the world and it's not just me saying it."

Really, this isn't about the existence of bigfoot. It's about the existence of hoaxers, which has frankly never been in doubt. If Dyer has DNA tests, he should write up his findings - I'm sure that the DeNovo Scientific Journal would be happy to publish them. While I do think that sometimes skeptical demands for "extraordinary proof" are unfair, surely that standard should apply to a known hoaxer.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Big Trouble for "Ark Encounter"

In November I covered funding problems at the proposed "Ark Encounter" theme park in Kentucky. In an attempt to raise funds, the park's developers were selling bonds - that they had no legal obligation to ever pay off on. Perhaps not surprisingly, this ridiculous scheme hasn't proven to be quite the windfall that the developers expected, and now the park may fail completely if the remaining bonds can't be sold by February.

The northern Kentucky city of Williamstown in December issued taxable debt for affiliates of Answers in Genesis, a Christian nonprofit, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Even though $26.5 million of securities have been sold, the project needs to sell at least $55 million in total to avoid triggering a redemption of all the bonds, Ken Ham, the nonprofit’s president, said in an e-mail to supporters yesterday. Without the proceeds, construction funding will fall short, he said.

“We still need those Ark supporters who weren’t able to purchase the Ark bonds at closing to prayerfully consider participating in a secondary bond delivery at the level they had indicated to us,” Ham said. “Will you please step out in faith with us?”

The problem with "Ark Encounter" stems from the first year that Kentucky's Creation Museum was open. The museum drew far more patrons than the organizers expected, so they started making bigger plans for the Ark exhibit. However, attendance fell off dramatically after that first year, leaving them scrambling for funds. I've often speculated that many of those who visited that first year only did so to see how ridiculous the place was, and if that's the case, there probably isn't nearly as much legitimate interest in a creationist theme park as the developers originally were led to believe.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Meet the Sheepsquatch

It's not every day that a new cryptid comes to the attention of the media. Recently, though, a strange creature called the "sheepsquatch" has been sighted in West Virginia. The creature supposedly looks about like you would imagine from the name, half-bigfoot and half-sheep, which just goes to show that apparently bigfoot DNA can mix with something else besides possum. It's not precisely a horror, though - sheepsquatch is big and scary looking, but essentially timid. According to reports, its usual response to a human encounter is to simply run away.

Sheepsquatch, also known as "the white thing", is a woolly-haired cryptid reported across numerous counties in West Virginia, predominantly within the southwestern region of the state. Those counties with the most sightings are Boone, Kanawha, Putnam and Mason, with a surge in sightings taking place in Boone County during the mid-1990s. It is described as being a quadruped about the size of a bear, with entirely white wool-like fur. It has a long and pointed head, similar to a dog but with long, saber-like teeth and a single-pint set of horns not dissimilar from those found on a young goat. Its forelimbs end in paw-like hands, similar to those of a raccoon but larger, while its tail is long and hairless like that of an opossum. It is reputed to smell like sulfur, which has been attributed through folklore to the beast being born within the TNT area in Mason County, though this is not likely and instead may be a musk scent gland similar to those found in many species in the order Carnivora such as weasels and skunks.

So, more seriously, could this be a real animal? If so, it might constitute a legitimate discovery. Most witnesses describe the sheepsquatch as about the size and shape of a bear with a white coat, and it so happens that such an animal does exist - just not to our knowledge in West Virginia. That animal is the Kermode or spirit bear, a subspecies of American black bear native to British Columbia.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

How Not to Walk on Water

Gabonese pastor Franck Kabele believed that he could perform the same miracles as Jesus. So much so, in fact, that in an impressive but tragic display of faith he drowned attempting to cross the Kombo estuary on foot. While I give him credit for conducting such a brazen test of his miraculous abilities, it seems to me that he probably should have tried it out on a smaller and less dangerous body of water first.

Pastor Franck Kabele, 35, told his congregation that he was capable of reenacting the very miracles of Jesus Christ. He decided to make it clear through way of demonstration on Gabon’s beach in the capital city of Libreville.

Referencing Matthew 14:22-33, Kabele said that he received a revelation which told him that with enough faith he could achieve what Jesus was able to.

According to an eyewitness, Kabele took his congregation out to the beach. He told them that he would cross the Kombo estuary by foot, which is normally a 20 minute boat ride.

Sadly by the second step into the water Kabele found himself completely submerged. He never returned.

There's nothing wrong with putting paranormal powers to the test. I do with my magical operations all the time. But I also know that since such things don't always work, setting up a test that requires me to stake my life on them is simply a bad idea. On of the more dangerous ideas that comes out of the "faith based" model of magick or miracles or whatever you want to call them is the concept that taking reasonable precautions somehow undermines faith. The same problem happens with faith healing when healers insist that for their methods to work their patients must forego regular medical care.

The magick that's most effective is a both/and discipline. Set up all the tests you want, but make sure you also engage in whatever mundane actions are necessary to prevent disasters like this one and ensure success.

UPDATE: A recent article on Patheos now contends that this story is a hoax. It certainly might be; in some African countries the local news can be wildly inaccurate. At the very least it's older than I thought and was first reported online in 2006 by WorldNetDaily, a web site known for uncritically passing along stories from around the world.

The rest of the Patheos article, though, can pretty much be summed up as "this has to be a hoax because nobody would ever be that stupid." Sorry, that's a terrible argument. People do stupid things all the time. And while it may be difficult to find official documentation of Kabele and his congregation, I don't know enough about the state of religious record-keeping in Gabon to say whether or not such documents should be expected to exist.

Friday, January 3, 2014

January 2014 - Now On Twitter

For the New Year I've finally gone and set up a Twitter account for my Augoeides and author website posts. I've resisted getting on Twitter for years, but it's quite popular and these days in order to promote books online you pretty much have to be everywhere all at once. So if you're on Twitter go ahead and follow me to receive my latest posts and updates over there as well as on Facebook and Google+.

Augoeides continued to grow in 2013, from 10,022 pageviews per month in January to 12,639 in December. I also had my first semi-viral post in November, which gave me my best month ever at 42,422. This year I also released a new book, Mastering the Great Table, which is the second volume of my Mastering Enochian Magick series. In 2014 I plan to build on last year's success and keep sending stories about magick, spirituality, religion, and the paranormal your way.

I'd like to thank everyone who enjoys my posts for their continued interest and engagement. One of the most rewarding things about blogging is producing articles that resonate with readers and stand out from the sometimes overwhelming chatter of the Internet, and I'm glad that I've been able to do that at least some of the time during the last year. Thank you all very much for your support.

Here's wishing you all a very happy 2014.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Ancient and Illuminated Seers of Nigeria

I suppose it was inevitable. Scammers from Nigeria have discovered the many ridiculous online ramblings about the "evil Illuminati" and are now spamming accordingly. Recently this message has been showing up all over the Internet, on just about any page that matches the "Illuminati" keyword, including some of my posts here on Augoeides.

Join illuminati - Freemason online today, to meet your demand and acquire wealth, power, protection, influence and a better paying job etc. Also get instant sum of $500,000.00 dollars with a free home anywhere you choose to live in the world $2,500.00 dollars monthly as a salary and other benefit attached. if you are interested contact us now via email: [redacted] or call +234[redacted] for assistance.

The redactions are mine. I'm not going to give these folks extra publicity by including their contact information on the front page of my blog. If you're really interested it's not hard to find by clicking on the following links, but let me stress that I highly recommend you avoid calling or e-mailing them. I did leave the +234 country code from the phone number to identify the country of origin as Nigeria, home of the notorious advance fee scam.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Go Away Cameron!

Back in July I covered the push by David Cameron's government to censor Internet content in the UK, including "esoteric sites." The plan is moving forward, but as it turns out you can't keep a good techie down, especially when it comes to bypassing Internet filters. A new extension for Google's Chrome browser bypasses the filters on adult content and presumably esoteric material as well.

A Chrome browser extension called Go Away Cameron, which can circumvent the "porn filters" being implemented by ISPs, has been launched.

The news comes just a week after BT announced that new customers would have porn filters automatically switched on when customers subscribe to its broadband service. BT and the other major UK ISPs have signed up to the government's campaign to protect children from pornography, which will see 95 percent of houses connected to the Internet having to choose whether to switch on filters by the end of 2014. Sky and TalkTalk have already introduced a filter choice at the point of sign-up and Virgin Media will do the same soon.

The filters have already been shown to be ineffective, since they are letting hardcore material slip through the net while preventing access to sex education, addiction, and women's abuse charity sites, as outlined last week.

And, of course, the latter is exactly what groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation warned the UK government about from the start. Every single company that's tried to implement effective Internet filters that (A) filter out objectionable content while (B) leaving educational material and so forth alone has failed. What made them think that they could get it done by simply imposing a mandate on ISP's? The good news is that with this new Chrome extension there's now a solution for the esoteric-minded to avoid having sites they want to read filtered out.

Go Away Cameron can be downloaded here.