Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Pagan Invocation

In the Town of Greece vs. Galloway decision, the Supreme Court allowed religious invocations at the start of government meetings, but only so long as the content of those invocations did not discriminate against minority religions. Recently a Florida Pagan named David Suhor was selected to give the invocation at the Board of County Commissioners for Escambia County, and he chose to perform what may be the best Calling of the Quarters that I've ever heard, shown in the video above.

Here’s the first stanza of his lovely song (the rest of the lyrics are in the YouTube video description):

     Hail, Guardians of the Watchtowers of the East,
     Powers of Air! We invoke. and call you
     Golden Eagle of the Dawn, Star-seeker, Whirlwind
     Rising Sun! Come!
     By the air that is Her breath,
     Send forth your light, Be here now!

Oh my god, I love it. This is what the Supreme Court decision has wrought.

But as the Patheos article goes on to report, not everyone was pleased with Suhar's beautiful invocation.

One of the commissioners wasn’t happy about it at all.

Wilson Robertson, a Christian, walked out before Suhor even began, telling a reporter, “I’m just not going to have a pagan or satanic minister pray for me.”

Welcome to our world, Robertson!

Suhor’s reason for delivering that particular invocation was brilliant:

“In a way I would like for other people to experience what it’s like when I go to a meeting and am asked to pray against my conscience.”

Suhar went on to explain that he actually does not support religious invocations to open meetings, and would instead prefer a nonsectarian moment of silence. But I disagree. I don't think that religious expressions need to be driven from the public square, and furthermore allowing those of all traditions to deliver invocations like this helps to remind everyone that we live in a pluralistic society that includes many different faiths - so long as it can be handled in a non-discriminatory way.

There are always going to be a few stick-in-the-mud jerks like Robertson, but I also can't help wondering if at least a few the folks present might have thought, "Hey, that was pretty cool. Maybe these Pagans aren't so sinister after all." And I have to say, I would love to go up there as a Thelemite and open one of these with an impassioned reading of Liber Israfel.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hacking the Solar Hexagram

One of the more bothersome techniques in Golden Dawn and Thelemic magick is the tracing of the solar hexagram in the Greater Ritual of the Hexagram. Aside from the Sun, the other six classical planets use a simple, straightforward method. To trace the proper figure, you map the hexagram onto the Tree of Life and start at the point corresponding to the sephira attributed to the planet, as shown on the hexagram above. Then, you trace clockwise to invoke or counter-clockwise to banish, tracing first one triangle and then its complement to form the complete shape.

Solve et Coagula has a more comprehensive article on the hexagram rituals here. From that article, this image shows how to trace the Hexagram of Mercury. The point for Mercury is on the lower left, corresponding to the sephira Hod. You start at that point to trace the first triangle, and then start at the opposite point (Jupiter in this case) to trace the second.

This method is simple and effective, but as you can see from the top diagram, the Sun presents a problem. As it sits in the center of the shape, none of the points of the hexagram are associated with it. So the solution that was arrived at by Golden Dawn magicians was to trace all six of the other hexagrams, starting with Saturn and working down the Tree of Life to the Moon. It is therefore drawn as shown in the image below, from the same Solve et Coagula article as the Mercury hexagram.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

No, THIS is the Saddest Harry Potter Ever

Back in 2002 a Chinese author came up with one of the most amazing ripoffs of all time. Amidst the media hype surrounding the Harry Potter books, the author decided to write his or her own - and by write I mean steal. The book consisted of the entire text of J. R. R. Tolkein's The Hobbit, with the character names changed to those of Harry and his friends. The author also added a short first chapter in which a spell changes Harry into a hobbit, and a concluding chapter in which he is changed back.

When I wrote about this amazing piece of work (pun intended) back in 2008 I described it as the saddest Harry Potter ever, but it seems that I spoke too soon. Jezebel has an article up about a Christian mom who decided to "fix" the Harry Potter series by rewriting the books from an extreme fundamentalist perspective. That is, she took out all the magical wizarding stuff and replaced it with "prayer and miracles."

A writer who claims to be an Evangelical stay-at-home mom named Grace Ann has taken it upon herself to remove all the witchcraft devil-worship from Harry Potter and replace it with a more Christian-friendly message. Looks like someone has finally thought of the children — by stripping a children's book of the very thing that makes it fun to read.

"I'm new to this whole fanfiction thing, but recently, I've encountered a problem that I believe this is the solution to," Grace Ann wrote on FanFiction.net. "My little ones have been asking to read the Harry Potter books and of course I'm happy for them to be reading, but I don't want them turning into witches! So I thought 'Why not make some slight changes so these books are family friendly?' And then I thought 'Why not share this with all the other mommies who are facing the same problem?' So-Ta da! Here it is! I am SO excited to share this with all of you!"

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Weird Things Happen to Skeptics, Too

Michael Shermer is well-known skeptic who has written extensively on debunking all manner of alleged paranormal phenomena, from bigfoot to UFO's to psychic abilities. But as he explains in this article from Scientific American, he recently witnessed an event that appeared to be of paranormal origin - or at least something he could not explain away.

The event in question happened on the day of Shermer's wedding, this last June. Growing up in Germany, his wife Jennifer had been close to her grandfather but he passed away when she was sixteen. One of the items of his still in her possession was an old transistor radio that did not seem to work, despite Shermer's best efforts to repair it. He finally gave up and put the radio away in a desk drawer.

Being 9,000 kilometers from family, friends and home, Jennifer was feeling amiss and lonely. She wished her grandfather were there to give her away. She whispered that she wanted to say something to me alone, so we excused ourselves to the back of the house where we could hear music playing in the bedroom. We don't have a music system there, so we searched for laptops and iPhones and even opened the back door to check if the neighbors were playing music. We followed the sound to the printer on the desk, wondering—absurdly—if this combined printer/scanner/fax machine also included a radio. Nope.

At that moment Jennifer shot me a look I haven't seen since the supernatural thriller The Exorcist startled audiences. “That can't be what I think it is, can it?” she said. She opened the desk drawer and pulled out her grandfather's transistor radio, out of which a romantic love song wafted. We sat in stunned silence for minutes. “My grandfather is here with us,” Jennifer said, tearfully. “I'm not alone.”

Shortly thereafter we returned to our guests with the radio playing as I recounted the backstory. My daughter, Devin, who came out of her bedroom just before the ceremony began, added, “I heard the music coming from your room just as you were about to start.” The odd thing is that we were there getting ready just minutes before that time, sans music. Later that night we fell asleep to the sound of classical music emanating from Walter's radio. Fittingly, it stopped working the next day and has remained silent ever since.

Friday, September 26, 2014

More Poor Oppressed Christian Hypocrisy

I know, this is a subject that I keep bringing up. But you know what? There are apparently still people out there who think that the Poor Oppressed Christians are just asking to be left alone and trying to protect religious rights for everyone. However, as their actions and public statements show, this is not at all the case.

Alternet has an article up today about how stunts by groups like The Satanic Temple clearly demonstrate that the "religious freedom" these Christians are talking about is just for them. This "freedom" also apparently includes securing them the right to impose their beliefs on others, and asserts that even mild disagreement somehow constitutes persecution. Frankly, comparing that sort of "persecution" to what is faced by Christians in some parts of the world strikes me as pretty offensive.

Now from a spiritual perspective I will admit that I find "performance artist" Satanists kind of silly. But generally speaking, they are not theists and find the spiritual angle irrelevant. Furthermore, from the standpoint of politics they are clearly on the side of minority religions, particularly those that the Poor Oppressed Christians find offensive. They also happen to be quite funny, especially in terms of the reactions that they provoke.

For example, recently one of these groups in Oklahoma City (not The Satanic Temple, which is involved in the Oklahoma monument controversy, but which distanced itself from this event) planned a "black mass" that turned out to be a ridiculous mess that was only attended by about forty people. While I would have been embarrassed to be involved with such a poor ritual, the media response made it totally worthwhile.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ebola Zombies

Could the zombie apocalypse be underway in Africa? According to this story from Liberia, two victims of the ongoing Ebola outbreak died and then came back to life. There's nothing in the article about rotting flesh, infectious bites, or a mindless, all-consuming hunger for fresh brains, but the tale is creepy nonetheless.

Two Ebola patients, who died of the virus in separate communities in Nimba County have reportedly resurrected in the county.

The victims, both females, believed to be in their 60s and 40s respectively, died of the Ebola virus recently in Hope Village Community and the Catholic Community in Ganta, Nimba. But to the amazement of residents and onlookers on Monday, the deceased reportedly regained life in total disbelief.

The New Dawn Nimba County correspondent said the late Dorris Quoi of Hope Village Community and the second victim only identified as Ma Kebeh, said to be in her late 60s, were about to be taken for burial when they resurrected.

The reality here is that Ebola is not always fatal, and people do sometimes recover after being near death for some time. Odds are that the two women's vital signs had declined to the point where they appeared to be dead before finally overcoming the disease and reviving.

Still, even without the zombie angle it's plenty creepy to consider that these two victims were almost buried alive. Clearly the doctors who declared these two dead need to do a better job of assessing their patients.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"What's 'Oops?' Don't Say 'Oops!'"

Here's how not to go about securing your reputation as a miracle worker. Last week a Pakistani Sufi holy man (called a pir) claimed that he could resurrect a dead man. One of his followers volunteered to be killed and raised from the dead. Remarkably, the holy man proceeded to do just that - except the "resurrection" part didn't go as planned. The would-be miracle worker was arrested by police, and now faces murder charges.

A Saddar police spokesman said Muhammad Sabir, a pir of village Mubarakabad in Bahawalnagar, gained popularity over the last five years for his ability to perform ‘miracles’. He said on Tuesday, he announced that he could breathe life back into a dead man. The pir gave the condition that the victim must be married and have children. Sabir said 40-year-old Muhammad Niaz, a daily wage worker and father of six children, volunteered for the miracle.

On Wednesday, Niaz was placed on a table in a square and his hands and legs were bound. The police spokesman said Sabir then sliced his throat as people looked on. Meanwhile, an anonymous caller informed the police about ‘the miracle.’ The spokesman by the time police reached, Niaz had died. Witnesses said Sabir uttered some words to bring him back to life. They said when he realized his ‘miracle’ had not worked, he tried to flee.

Now if I wanted to kill someone with the intention of bringing them back, cutting their throat is the last way I would do it. The problems are (1) magick can't create blood out of nowhere, and (2) even if it could, the new blood would immediately drain out of the body and the resurrected subject would die all over again. I would want to go with some sort of asphyxiation, like smothering or drowning. That way, if the body can be restarted, there are no wounds that need to be sealed. Then I could use my magical powers in conjunction with my Red Cross CPR training to revive them.

For bonus miracle points, if the subject were killed by prolonged immersion in very cold water I might even be able to revive them a half an hour or so later. Granted, a doctor could do the same, and I wonder if the ancient idea of "breathing life" into a person comes from a much earlier culture working out the basics of CPR and passing it along as "esoteric wisdom." After all, the method is fairly intuitive - when someone isn't breathing, breathe for them - and you really can revive someone from clinical death that way. They just can't have been dead for very long.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cracking Down on "Irregular Exorcisms"

The practice of exorcism is on the rise. In May, the Roman Catholic Church held a conference to train 250 new exorcists. According to organizers, more exorcists are needed because of the rise of atheism and secular humanism, which by some poorly articulated and utterly implausible mechanism leads to more people dabbling with the occult. But more exorcists means more exorcisms, and that brings its own set of problems.

Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, the Archbishop of Florence, recently delivered a missive to the priests of Tuscany reminding them of the strict procedures that exorcists are required to follow. According to church policy, before an exorcism can be performed the subject must pass a complex series of tests designed to exclude mental illness or any other mundane explanation for their symptoms. Apparently, some priests in the region have been disregarding this rule.

Around 15 official exorcisms have been conducted in Tuscany in recent years, according to the local press. However, dozens more have been performed without the say-so of church authorities, and the number of cases is increasing, prompting Cardinal Betori and the regional Bishops Conference to write to priests reminding them of their obligations.

The missive included the 20-year-old pastoral guidelines on dealing with demons and black magic, entitled “Regarding magic and demonology”, and called on priests to pay heed to the section headed “Exorcisms and healing prayers… pastoral rules and recommendations”.

A diocesan source quoted by La Nazione newspaper said: “Some priests, with the best intentions, are making themselves available to listen to these people and sometimes perform exorcisms on them in a way that is not permitted, not regular and not co-ordinated.”

Italy’s brutal and lingering recession has been blamed for a rise in mental health problems, which, the report says, might be confused with possession by some people.

Adherence to these protocols should be very important to representatives of the church, since they constitute the main difference between Roman Catholic exorcists and fly-by-night "demon busters" like the Teen Exorcist Squad who will, for example, happily conduct exorcisms over Skype at the drop of a hat - and, of course, for a "suggested donation."

I personally work with spirits and don't consider exorcism nonsense - it's one of the last remnants of real ceremonial magick left in the Christian tradition, and the practice of exorcism has a history that predates the Christian religion. However, genuine unwanted spiritual possession is rare, and mental illness is far more common. Hopefully exorcists will heed this missive and save their methods for those who really require them.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Libra Elixir Ritual

The following ritual was performed on Saturday, September 20th, as the Fall Equinox Ritual for my local OTO body, Leaping Laughter Lodge here in Minneapolis. It is based on a series of rites developed and performed by my magical working group, Comselh Ananael, a few years ago. The main inspiration for the elixir portion of this rite is the planetary elixir ritual found in Melita Denning and Osborne Phillips' Planetary Magick, which is in my opinion one of the only decent books out there covering planetary rites from a modern magical perspective. The rest of the magical forms are similar to those used in our other rituals.

The sign Libra was chosen for the Fall Equinox as it is the sign the Sun enters at that time. The ritual calls upon the angel Zuriel, found at key scale 22 (Libra) in column CLXXVII of Liber 777, the Geomantic Intelligences. The Godname used in the rite is VHYH, the permutation of the Tetragrammaton particular to Libra. The name Maznim (or Moznaim) is the Hebrew for Libra found at key scale 22 in column VI of Liber 777, the Heavens of Assiah. More information on constructing rituals using Liber 777 can be found here. The magical power associated with the sign Libra is "Works of Justice and Equilibrium."

In addition to these names and associations, the ritual includes a version of our operant field opening forms, and some techniques adapted to a Thelemic context from Vajrayana Buddhism such as refuge and dedication. It also includes the use of the Greater Ritual of the Hexagram for Libra, the conjuration and dismissal of the angel of Libra to aid in the empowerment of the elixir, and some basic energy work practices applied both individually and collectively by the participants.

The full ritual script follows.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Aleister Crowley: Serial Killer?

It's official: The Daily Mail hates Aleister Crowley. I pretty much figured as much from their articles about OTO, but this one seals the deal. It's actually from three years ago, but I somehow missed it back when it came out and frankly it's the single most bizarre Crowley conspiracy theory that I've ever heard - and understand, I've heard a lot of them.

According to author Mark Beynon, who is described in the article as a "historian" despite the fact that I can find no information about his supposed qualifications anywhere, Aleister Crowley was in fact a serial killer responsible for a series of murders related to the opening of Tutankhamon's tomb. According to Beynon, his victims include:

Raoul Loveday who died on February 16, 1923. The 23-year-old Oxford undergraduate was a follower of Crowley's cult at a Sicilian Abbey. He died on the same day at the very hour of Carter's much-publicised opening of Tutankhamun's burial chamber after drinking the blood of a cat sacrificed in one of Crowley's rituals. Mr Beynon argues that he was deliberately poisoned.

Nope, this anecdote is one of the oldest accusations against Crowley and it has been debunked by multiple biographers. How about the rest?

Prince Ali Kamel Fahmy Bey who died on July 10, 1923. The Egyptian prince, 23, was shot dead by his French wife of six months, Marie-Marguerite, in London's Savoy Hotel shortly after he was photographed visiting the tomb. Mr Beynon says that Crowley and Marie-Marguerite had been lovers in Paris. She was working as a hostess at the Folies Berghre and he was a regular patron at the same venue. He suggests that Crowley put her up to the shooting.

The more parsimonious explanation here is that Bey was abusive and his wife may have shot him in self-defense. This is, in fact, why she was acquitted when the case came to trial and reflects the findings of the court.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Satanic Youth Outreach

Recently schools in Orange County, Florida, were sued over allowing the dissemination of Christian pamphlets and Bibles to students. The judge in the case allowed the material to be distributed, but only if materials from other religions were also allowed. Never one to miss an opportunity such as this, The Satanic Temple has assembled their own religious pamphlets espousing the virtues of Satanism. They plan on distributing them to the same Florida schools affected by the ruling.

The Satanic Temple took advantage of this decision, deciding to flood Orange County schools with a pamphlet entitled The Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities that contains kid-friendly Satanic lessons. “These bullies are mad and afraid of things they don’t understand,” the instructions on the word-jumble reads. “Help Damian use inclusive language to defuse the situation.

The spokesman for the Satanic Temple, Lucien Greaves, explained that his organization “would never seek to establish a precedent of disseminating our religious materials in public schools because we believe our constitutional values are better served by respecting a strong separation of Church and State.”

“However,” he continued, “if a public school board is going to allow religious pamphlets and full Bibles to be distributed to students — as is the case in Orange County, Florida — we think the responsible thing to do is to ensure that these students are given access to a variety of differing religious opinions, as opposed to standing idly by while one religious voice dominates the discourse and delivers propaganda to youth.”

The Satanic Temple continues to make good use of the media to support the separation of church and state. While as an esotericist I find them a little silly and more dedicated to activism than any sort of spirituality, the fact is that calling themselves Satanists gives fundamentalist Christians the willies - and that's a good thing! If they really are going to push for religion in the public sphere, they need to understand that doing so opens that door for all religions, not just theirs.

Next question: who else wants in? The Pastafarians could have a field day with this, getting kids to dress up as pirates and wear strainers on their heads as protected religious practices. For that matter, how about Thelema? It seems to me that "Do what thou wilt" could attract some significant interest in a school environment.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It's Vampires, Not Satan!

Witch hunters are still unfortunately common in much of Africa. Recently, Nigerian evangelical Helen Ukpabio has threatened to sue two British activist groups. Ukpabio was accused by the two groups of writing that young children why cry at night are possessed by Satan, but she claims these comments are inaccurate and inflammatory. In fact, she wrote that such children were possessed by "vampiric witchcraft spirits." Which, in the context of throwing around baseless witchcraft accusations, is clearly such an important distinction that it merits a massive lawsuit.

The evangelical Christian, who claims to be a former witch herself, has drawn criticism for exploiting superstitions and potentially harming children. Among other things, she believes children under two years old who cry in the middle of the night might be possessed with black, red and vampire witchcraft spirits.

But Ukpabio, whose ban from the UK was made on the grounds of child protection, is now threatening to sue the British Humanist Association (BHA) and the Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN) over the wording of complaints against her, which confuse possession by Satan with vampire spirit possessions.

The associations accused Ukpabio of writing: "a child under two years of age that cries at night and deteriorates in health is an agent of Satan". However, the Christian preacher claims it is "vampire witchcraft spirits" the children would be possessed by, not Satan. She is considering a defamation claim as the public may now believe her to be an "evil woman".

In fact, the saddest thing about this story is not arguing about the distinction between vampires and Satan. Given the nature of African witch hysteria, the distinction could very well be highly significant to an angry mob. No, the saddest thing is how Ukpabio has apparently built an entire ministry around demonizing normal childhood behavior. I know from personal experience that children under two years old sometimes cry at night, often when they're sick - and it has nothing to do with possession by vampires or Satan or anything else. They just feel bad and have no other way to ask for help.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dyer Bigfoot is Fake, Surprising Almost Nobody

Remember Rick Dyer? Back in February the "Master Bigfoot Tracker" displayed a supposedly real bigfoot corpse at a Houston flea market. I noted back then that Dyer appeared to be following in the footsteps of P. T. Barnum, and that if his bigfoot were real he would be having actual scientists verify the discovery rather than dragging it around to flea markets and the like. When Dyer announced that the bigfoot corpse was in fact a hoax, nobody was surprised. Except, apparently, for this guy. Andrew Clancy, an Australian man who spent three months touring with Dyer, claims that he thought the body was real the whole time.

In March, Mr Clacy learned that he had Dyer was behind a second Bigfoot hoax when he posted on his Facebook page: ‘Coming clean about everything is necessary for a new start! From this moment on I will speak the truth! No more lies, tall tales or wild goose chases to mess with the haters!’

Clacy returned back home, but not without a serious toll: he was $12,000 out of pocket. He had also damaged his business, and says he was subject to a torrent of ridicule. ‘I was broken-hearted when I came back to Australia,’ he told Nine MSN. ‘I felt like a fool.’

To make matters worse, Dyer has embarked upon an online campaign to boycott Clacy, alleging on his blog that Clacy knew about the hoax throughout the period he was promoting it. He has even allegedly been hacking the Victorian’s emails. ‘He is actively trying to destroy me,’ Clacy said.

And no, it doesn't surprise me that a scammer like Dyer would also be an asshole. It kind of goes with the territory. In fact, given that he was charging people to see the body and publicly claiming that it was real, I'm wondering how he's managed to avoid being charged with fraud. It seems to me that some jail time might convince him that going around ripping people off is just a bad idea. To be fair, at this point anybody believing a word out of Dyer's mouth probably only has themselves to blame, but at the same time that's no reason to let his ridiculous confidence games go unchecked.

I can't say whether Clancy is being truthful in his statements, but either way Dyer comes off as a complete tool. Either he scammed Clancy out of a bunch of money, or Clancy was a partner in the scam who got thrown under the bus as soon as things started to unravel.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Higgs Boson Research Won't "End the Universe"

Lately a quote from physicist Stephen Hawking has been going around the Internet that, according to the media, means that the Higgs Boson could in some way end the universe as we know it. Others have gone on to suggest that such an event could be triggered in some fashion by further scientific exploration of the quantum realm, such as the sort of particle accelerator research that determined the mass of the Higgs Boson in the first place. Neither of these conjectures, though, are in any way accurate.

What Hawking meant was that the value we have now found for the mass of the Higgs Boson shows that the universe is in a meta-stable state rather than a stable one. What this means is that we now know it would be possible for the universe as we know it to suddenly end, whereas before we were not sure. Nothing scientists did changed the structure or nature of the universe; rather, determining the value of the Higgs alerted us to the (extremely extremely unlikely) possibility that the universe we live in could collapse into an unstable state.

Just as on a slope of a mountain, where there may be a little valley part way up the hill (above the real valley), it is possible that there could be little "valleys" in the energy slope. As the universe cooled, it could be that it might have been caught in one of those little valleys. Ideally, the universe would like to fall into the deeper valley below, but it could be trapped. This is an example of a metastable state.

As long as the little valley is deep enough, it's hard to get out of. Indeed, using classical physics, it is impossible to get out of it. However, we don't live in a classical world. In our universe, we must take into account the nature of quantum mechanics. There are many ways to describe the quantum realm, but one of the properties most relevant here is "rare things happen." In essence, if the universe was trapped in a little valley of metastability, it could eventually tunnel out of the valley and fall down into the deeper valley below.

This leads us to ask how the transition would occur. Would we have any warning? Actually, we'd have no warning at all. If, somewhere in the cosmos, the universe made a transition from a metastable valley to a deeper one, the laws of physics would change and sweep away at the speed of light. As the shockwave passed over the solar system, we'd simply disappear as the laws that govern the matter that makes us up would just cease to apply. One second we'd be here; the next we'd be gone.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

More Stonehenge Secrets Uncovered

This has been a good couple of weeks for Stonehenge discoveries. In the wake of England's dry summer revealing the positions of missing stones, archaeologists have now released the results of a large ground-penetrating radar and laser survey showing the site to be far more than a single isolated monument. Rather, it was part of a much larger complex several miles across, the exact function of which is still unknown.

Just a week after finding out that Stonehenge was once a complete circle, archaeologists from Birmingham and Bradford universities, and from the Ludwig Boltzman Institute in Vienna, have shattered the image of Stonehenge as a desolate and lonely place.

After four years of painstaking effort, and by using a magnetometer, a ground-penetrating radar (GPR), and a 3D laser scanner, archaeologists have shown that Stonehenge was once a sprawling complex that extended for miles.

And then there's the previously unknown "super henge," a monument located just two miles from Stonehenge. Scans suggest that each buried stone is about three meters (10 feet) long and 1.5 meters (5 feet) wide. The stones are positioned horizontally, not vertically, but it's conceivable that they originally stood upright like other standing stones. The archaeologists suspect they were brought to the site shortly before 2,500 BC.

The "super henge" is known as the Durington Walls, and can be seen in the upper right of the image above, which you can click to enlarge. None of the stones are still standing, but according to this latest survey it is likely that they originally did. The circle indicates its relative size compared to Stonehenge, near the center of the picture. The various red dots show new monument sites unearthed by the survey, and with so many new locations to investigate it seems that more discoveries about the ancient complex should be forthcoming.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

No, You're Not Using "Invocation" Improperly

I came across a discussion recently on a Facebook forum in which a commenter was chided for using the term "invocation" improperly. The commenter had used the term just like I and most other ceremonialists I know use it, to refer to the calling up of a spirit into one's field of consciousness, and this was deemed wrong because "invocation" means "prayer or supplication."

I don't know if this is a meme that certain magicians have recently started throwing around, but in case it is I'm going to head it off right here. Invocation can mean "prayer or supplication," but like most English words it has more than one definition. From the dictionary.com listing:

1. the act of invoking or calling upon a deity, spirit, etc., for aid, protection, inspiration, or the like; supplication.

2. any petitioning or supplication for help or aid.

3. a form of prayer invoking God's presence, especially one said at the beginning of a religious service or public ceremony.

4. an entreaty for aid and guidance from a Muse, deity, etc., at the beginning of an epic or epiclike poem.

5. the act of calling upon a spirit by incantation.

6. the magic formula used to conjure up a spirit; incantation.

7. the act of calling upon or referring to something, as a concept or document, for support and justification in a particular circumstance.

So definition #5, "the act of calling upon a spirit by incantation," and #6, "the magic formula used to conjure up a spirit; incantation" both refer to calling upon and/or conjuring up spirits. And anyway, I really don't see the point of being overly dictionary-pedantic about the word as a technical magical term. "Invocation" has been used this way by magicians for more than a century, dating back to Aleister Crowley's works and before that the original Golden Dawn schema.

After all, when magicians use terms like "energy" - ala "energy work" - we're not talking about the physics definition of the term. There are a whole lot of other similar examples as well, and the entire reason that the dichotomy between "invocation" and "evocation" exists in ceremonial magick is that it's useful to be able to distinguish between summoning a spirit into a containment structure like a triangle and summoning a spirit into your field of consciousness.

I suppose we could make up new nonsense terms that would let us distinguish between the two methods and appease the pedants, but why bother? "Invocation" and "evocation" already work fine, especially as terminology that most ceremonial magicians understand. And as I see it, that's the entire point of language - to communicate with others precisely and efficiently. Anything else is just pointless posturing.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Summer Drought Reveals Stonehenge Secret

For many years archaeologists have argued over whether or not Stonehenge was originally a complete circle. Now, thanks to a dry summer and a short hose, the question appears to be resolved.

Stones buried in the ground affect the growth of grass, long after they fall down, break, or are removed. This last summer was particularly dry in England, and those charged with maintaining Stonehenge found themselves with a hose that was too short to reach all the way across the circle. So part of it was left to dry out, which revealed a pattern of "ghost stones," areas of grass that died off faster than the surrounding turf.

"A lot of people assume we've excavated the entire site and everything we're ever going to know about the monument is known,” said Susan Greaney, from English Heritage.

"But actually there's quite a lot we still don't know and there's quite a lot that can be discovered just through non-excavation methods. It's great that people who know the site really well and look at it every day were able to spot these parch marks and recognise them for what they were.

"We maintain the grass with watering when it's very dry in the summer, but our hosepipe doesn't reach to the other side of the stone circle. If we'd had a longer hosepipe we might not have been able to see them. It's really significant, and it shows us just how much we still have to learn about Stonehenge.”

Historians have long wondered whether Stonehenge was an intentionally-incomplete circle, but countless high resolution geophysical surveys and excavations have failed to give the answer.

So it seems where high-tech archaeology failed, drought and a short hose may have succeeded. From a magical standpoint it makes sense that the site would have been built as a complete circle. The magical circle is an ancient construct, and in order to serve as an effective spiritual boundary it should not be broken. But speculative conjecture can only go so far until you need real data to fill in the gaps - pun intended.

And now it seems that we have it.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Brain Research and Meditation Methods

One of the more intriguing current trends in brain research is that over the course of the last decade or so, neuroscientists have been paying more attention to altered states of consciousness produced by "mystical" practices such as meditation. While I am not a proponent of the "mind as epiphenomenon of the brain" model of consciousness, at the same time it's clear that subjective experience can be related to neural events.

One of the more recent developments that came from this research is "mindfulness meditation," a non-sectarian meditation method similar to the Buddhist shamatha method. In this practice, thoughts are observed as they arise, and whenever the practitioner notices his or her attention being drawn to them, the attention is returned to the breath. This method produces a physiological state that researchers call the "relaxation response."

In this state, both the mind and the body are calmed. Studies have shown that the relaxation response can reduce everything from anxiety to inflammation, and that the benefits of this can be obtained after a relatively short period of practice. It should be no surprise to anyone familiar with neuroanatomy that the relaxation response achieves those results by activating the parasympathetic, or calming portion of the nervous system.

This explains in part why Theravada Buddhists who primarily practice this sort of meditation abstain from alcohol. Alcohol behaves like a stimulant in low doses because while it is a depressant, it depresses the parasympathetic nervous system before it acts upon the sympathetic, or arousing nervous system. So in fact there is a clear physiological reason why consuming alcohol interferes with Theravada practice - it undermines the primary mechanism behind the relaxation response.

In some cases, mindfulness meditation can produce the same sorts of cognitive problems that Buddhist teachers also sometimes encounter with shamatha. Again, this should be no surprise since the methods are so similar. Earlier this summer an article was published by The Atlantic discussing the work of Dr. Willoughby Britton, who is investigating cases in which the mindfulness meditation technique goes wrong.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Curses Target Thai Prime Minister

General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the new Prime Minister of Thailand, recently came to power in what his opponents have described as a military coup. Chan-Ocha has consolidated all three branches of government under his control, imposed martial law, and amended the constitution granting amnesty to his political party, which sure sounds like setting up a military dictatorship to me. Chan-Ocha now claims that his enemies are using magical curses against him, and that he has had to use spells of his own to ward them off.

Speaking at a meeting responsible for selecting members of the National Reform Council on Thursday, General Prayuth told those in attendance about the effects black magic was having on him, the Bangkok Post reported. The daily added that Gen. Prayuth made light of the black magic he alleges is being used against him:

“Today, I have a sore throat, a pain in my neck. Someone said there are some people putting curses on me. I had so much lustral water poured over my head, I shivered all over. I’m going to catch a cold now.”

Thailand and surrounding countries like Cambodia are known to have a deep black magic history. The use and practice of voodoo in Thailand, known as ‘barang’, is considered illegal in most of the country, but is still practiced by many black magic spell casters.

Another form of black magic that is performed in the northeastern part of Thailand, known as ‘ya sang’, is an old concept of black magic where poisonous plants are used with an aim to trigger abdominal disorders, intoxications, possible death, and as in Gen. Prayuth’s alleged case, bodily pain.

According to The Hindu, the Thai Premier added that he had conducted his own counter-spell ritual, which would help ward off the supernatural curses.

Just as a point, Thai barang and voodoo are completely different systems, which should have been made clearer in the article. Southeast Asia and New Orleans are a long way from each other, and the term "voodoo" does not generically mean magick, or even cursing. Media sloppiness surrounding this issue has led to a lot of confusion, even among practitioners who should be experienced enough to know better.

At any rate, given the history of military dictatorships and their use of propaganda it's hard to say whether this is true, or if Chan-Ocha is essentially accusing his opposition of invoking the powers of evil in a classic witch hunt. It is true, though, that magick is often the tool of last resort for oppressed people with no other effective way to fight back. I know that if a takeover like this happened in the United States, I'd be throwing curses at the aspiring dictator as well. I think a lot of us would.

Friday, September 5, 2014

He IS the Messiah!

Could this be yet another sign of the low-budget apocalypse? According to Philadelphia police, the Messiah has returned. Specifically, he recently launched an attack on a passing car that presumably was being driven by minions of the Beast. The driver struck back, and the Final Battle between good and evil commenced. But the Book of Revelation failed to account for the outcome, with the Savior treated for his injuries and the agents of evil escaping prosecution. The scriptural account also didn't mention anything about the Messiah not wearing pants.

On Sunday around 4 a.m., police spotted a half-naked man who appeared to have been thrown from a black sedan on the 1500 block of South Christopher Columbus Boulevard. Investigators say the 57-year-old man was lying on the ground unconscious as the vehicle fled the scene eastbound on Reed Street. The man was taken to Jefferson Hospital and treated for a cut lip. Investigators eventually tracked down five passengers inside the sedan and took them in for questioning.

After interviewing the passengers, police determined that the man, who they initially believed was the victim, was actually the aggressor. According to investigators, the unidentified man became delusional after taking his new medication while drinking alcohol. The man allegedly ran into the street while naked from the waist down. Police say the man was banging on vehicles passing by while claiming he was the Messiah.

The "Messiah" then struck a 24-year-old man who was inside the black sedan, according to investigators. Police say he then fell to the ground after the 24-year-old opened the car door. The "Messiah" allegedly tried to punch him again but the 24-year-old pushed him to the ground. The "Messiah" then chased after the other passengers inside the sedan as they returned to their vehicle and fled the scene.

So the Dark Lord has risen in Arizona, and the Son of Man has engaged the forces of the evil while pantsless in the streets of Philadelphia. The signs are everywhere - not only is the apocalypse underway, but it looks to be massively anti-climactic. Rather than the entire world being struck by global war, famine, pestilence, and death, the actual events seem to consist of a few delusional losers duking it out in the street. It remains to be seen who will win, and if, after all is said and done, anyone cares.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Fake Illuminati and the Ice Bucket Challenge

I suppose it was inevitable that Illuminati hysteria would strike the latest viral craze, the ice bucket challenge. YouTube videos are now claiming that rather than a publicity stunt to draw attention to the crippling disease ALS, the whole thing is a ploy by the Illuminati to prepare the world for mass human sacrifice. Or at least I think that's what the videos are going on about. Here's what the poster had to say:

“What if I told you that the good gesture sweeping across America called the “Ice Bucket Challenge” is actually a large ‘Ritual Purification Cleansing’ preparing for the Largest Human Sacrifice in History to usher in the Beast System?

What if I told you the latest Fire and Ice Challenges are tied to the Illuminati and New World Order’s bold Agenda of the rise of the Fourth Beast System, the Reign of the Anti-Christ?

What if I told you that depending on how you decided to “cleanse” whether having water dumped on your head or being the dumpee represented turning someone else in or giving yourself up come that time?

What if I told you the Ice Challenge was a hidden Illuminati code inviting ISIS to Ice Us?

What if I told you Obama sitting in the “Iron Throne” back in May in a “photo-shopped” White House tweet was in fact God showing us the hour we are living in according to the book of Daniel and Revelation?"

Frankly, I'd call you an idiot. Because if that load of conspiracy-mongering crap is not some sort of joke, I fear for both your critical thinking skills and your mental stability. It's classic paranoid reasoning that imparts earth-shaking meaning to random coincidences. It's like whoever wrote this picked up a newspaper and saw "ice bucket challenge," "ISIS," and "Obama" on the front page and came up with a creative essay that combined them.

Even if we assume that everything people believe about the (fake) Illuminati is true - that they're masters of mind control and so forth - why would they want to "sacrifice" their minions? Don't they want mind-controlled soldiers for the New World Order? The dodge of "but they're occultists!" doesn't fly here. Dumping a bucket of ice water on your head without any spiritual intent has no magical significance, for sacrifice or otherwise.

The more I write, the more I'm convinced that this is just a parody. At least I hope it is, because even I have a hard time believing that real people could be this dumb.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Virginia Town's Fortune-Telling Ban Repealed

The town of Front Royal, Virginia has finally moved into the current century by repealing a long-standing ban on "fortune-telling" and the practice of "magic arts." Oddly enough, the repeal proved a controversial issue for the town council, even though few other cities have such laws and the ones that do rarely enforce them. For the most part they're holdovers from a time when people were genuinely worried about supernatural influences.

For decades, Front Royal has had a code listed among its ordinances that bans fortunetelling and the practice of magic arts. Understandably, the ban's legality and use of offensive terms like "gypsies" has come under fire.

More than 50 supporters and opponents showed up at a hearing earlier this month to voice their concerns, after a local tarot card reader was allegedly asked to stop practicing her craft because it violates city code.

Monday night, the town council voted 4-2 to repeal the ban. Many Front Royal residents had wanted the ban to stay in place "out of fear" of harboring "Satanism," the Northern Virginia Daily reported.

Regulating professional fortune-telling is not necessarily completely out of line. The town of Salem, Massachusetts, for example, has a board that licenses professional psychics and "Halloween performers," and even that barely keeps the clown shoes in check. But the idea that fortune-telling of any kind should be completely banned along with "magic arts?" Sorry, but magical arts are part of my religious practices. Therefore, according to the Supreme Court, the town should not have the authority to ban them.

It also amazes me that apparently a lot of Front Royal residents are still living in the late 1980's, when "Satanism" was believed to be a real threat to actual people - as opposed to the tiny cadre of theatrical atheists and left-hand path esotericists that it in fact is. Given how rare they are, it's unlikely that even one would live in a town as small as Front Royal. And anyway, Satanists have a right to religious freedom just like everyone else. What are these folks afraid they'll do? Install a monument?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Arizona Dark Lord Curses Christians

It's events like these that make me wonder momentarily if there might be something to that fake Illuminati letter I received years ago. While the letter was obviously some sort of prank, going on about how the Son of Lucifer was stuck working as a plumber in a trailer park, it's clear that the title "Dark Lord" no longer means what it once did. Perhaps that, in and of itself, is one more sign of the low-budget apocalypse.

So here's the deal. Apparently, instead of setting in motion some sort of diabolical worldwide conspiracy involving massive financial resources held by elite banking families, reptilian space aliens wielding futuristic technology, and demons in the flesh raised from the deepest pits of hell, this "Dark Lord" burned a Bible. After urinating on it. Outside an Arizona homeless shelter. Can unspeakable evil get any sadder than that?

Eric Minerault, 22, was taken into custody late Thursday after a representative of the Yavapai Territorial Gospel Rescue Mission in Prescott called police, stating that a man was burning something on their porch.

According to the mission’s Facebook page, Yavapai Territorial Gospel Rescue Mission opened in 2013 “to offer help, hope and healing to the least of these in Yavapai County” and to “aid the homeless and poverty stricken towards a fuller, hopeful, God-filled life.”

When the Prescott police arrived on the scene, they found Minerault standing on the mission steps with a burned and wet Bible near him. Reports state that Minerault was dressed in a black and red robe and was wearing a pentagram necklace.

Police asked Minerault if he had committed the act, and he allegedly confessed, outlining that he targeted the location because it was a place of Christian worship and that he was “cursing the Christians.” When the investigation dug deeper as to the motivation behind doing so, Minerault advised that he was “dark Lord.”

Idiots like this guy are the reason a lot of serious magical practitioners have recently been railing against "dark fluff" in the occult community. This guy is no practitioner, he's just stupid and doing something offensive for the hell of it - pun intended - to show how "evil" he is. I don't have a problem with Christians running a homeless shelter; in fact, that's exactly the sort of thing they should be doing if they're being true to their beliefs. So it's the last place I would want to set up some sort of anti-Christian protest.

If this is what passes for evil these days, the forces of good clearly have nothing to worry about for the foreseeable future.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Ministering Angels

I gave the following presentation, "Ministering Angels: The Solomonic Roots of Enochian Magick" at the MNCON Midwest Ordo Tempi Orientis Convention on August 23, 2014. I had submitted it to two previous conferences, but I guess the third time was a charm.

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

The Enochian magical system of John Dee and Edward Kelly has inspired many modern esoteric groups, including the various Golden Dawn traditions, Aleister Crowley's A.'.A.'., and the Aurum Solis. However, much of the Enochian lore developed by these diverse groups is not drawn from and in some cases directly contradicts the source material. A more accurate perspective on the original diaries may be found by approaching the system as an advanced form of Solomonic grimoire magic instead of viewing it through the lens of nineteenth-century Hermetic Qabalah. I have found that approaching the Enochian system in this way, as outlined in my two published books, Mastering the Mystical Heptarchy and Mastering the Great Table, yields a highly effective system of practical magick.