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Archive for the month “March, 2011”

Sheroes: Xena, Warrior Princess – “a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl”

Looking through the stacks in Red Wheel Weiser’s  in-house library is a necessary temptation. I approach the shelves with a specific book in mind, and inevitably walk away with something completely unexpected. Take this morning for instance. I went looking for a book on Chaos Magick and came back with a delightfully informative and cheeky volume entitled Sheroes – Bold, Brash (and Absolutely Unabashed) Superwomen. Now if the title alone weren’t enough to grab my attention, the cover certainly clinched it – Anita Hill, Agent Dana Scully and (wait for it…) Xena:Warrior Princess.  So, given that today is the last day of Women’s History month I thought I’d share a little (lite) excerpt on everyone’s favorite sword-wielding, sandal-shod, mytho-feminist …

Xena:

A Law(less) Unto Herself

Perhaps the ultimate embodiment of sherodom as she kicks butt in the ancient world. sporting a chakram, breastplate, and the most blazing blue eyes this side of the New World, Xena Warrior Princess is a phenomenon unto herself.  She started out as a character on the live-action myth series, Hercules, starring Kevin Sorbo and Anthony Quinn, no less, but soon was busting out into her own series. In no time at all, Xena overtook strongman Hercules in the ratings …

In her incarnation as Hercules’s enemy, the Warrior Princess so impressed Hercules and the producers, they realized they couldn’t let her be killed off and, voila!, she undertook a transformation from icy killer queen to warrior princess with a heart of gold. With the second episode in the trilogy of Xena on Hercules, vibrant New Zealand actress Lucy Lawless, totally unknown before taking on Xena, was approached by the producers to do her own series and accepted immediately, ready to rock! Lawless recalls, “Rob and Sam had always wanted to do a female hero and just didn’t know where, when, or who…And it was me. Here and now!”

The rest is cathode ray herstory! Xena: Warrior Princess began production in May 1995 with twenty-two filmed episodes to air in September 1995. While creators and the newly-minted star hoped for a success at least equal to Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, no one could have predicted the huge hit Xena was to become with hundreds of sites on the Internet, Xena dress-up fan clubs and conventions, lesbian cults, and immense popularity among children and adults, particularly women, all over the world.

“I’m thrilled the show has struck such a chord with women,” says Lawless, “because it’s been brought to my attention that an awful lot of women need that.” Lawless reports that, as Xena’s living counterpart, she received mail that touches her deeply. ..

Xena’s superpowers bring new meaning to the word “awesome.” She brings enemies to their knees with the “Xena touch,” a pinch on the neck that either kills or forces the pinchee to tell the truth. Lawless demonstrated this skill on a clueless David Letterman; when he didn’t seem to know who Xena was, she proclaimed, “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl who traverses time lines.” She wields many weapons, but her signature piece is the chakram, a razor-edged discus, which she throws with deadly speed and accuracy. Xena differs from the perennial do-gooder Greek Hercules in that her character has much more depth and shading, thanks to her transformation from bad-ass to evil-fighter.

To some, Xena is reminiscent of the beautiful brunette SuperShero of the seventies, Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman, who would lasso her villains. To still others, she is a postfeminist answer to the world’s problems, showing that women can be bold and bodacious, self-sufficient survivors (after Lucy Lawless’s fall off the stage on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show, her pelvis was broken in four places, but she was back on the horse next season and kicking just as hard!) who can outfight any man.

Xena’s mission is to rid the ancient world of evildoers: “I’m Xena. I’m a problem solver.” In real life, she has shattered many taboos and ideas about women’s limitations. women’s sexuality, and most importantly woman power. An inspiration to women and girls the world over, Xena makes us know we can do anything we want, overcome any obstacle, and make the world a better place. Xena: Warrior Princess, you rule!

“Xena’s power doesn’t come from her sexuality…It’s not that she can seduce men, but that she can out-strategy them: that she is a great leader, a great sword person, and is inspirational to others.” – Lucy Lawless.

I’m thinking that Varla Ventura is a massive Xena fan!

For more things Xena, check out:

The “Official Xena Fanclub”

Xena Online Resources

Logomancy Xena “the oldest Xena site on the web”

Xena Fanfic Archive possibly NSFW – just a fair warning – the Xena/Gabrielle fans are a highly imaginative bunch ;)

Xena Online Community Forums

Xena Wikiquotes

Bookseller Profile – Bernadette Montana of Brid’s Closet

I am going to state this as plainly as I can – we need booksellers. We need the local independents, the Mom and Pop stores, the funky used paperback vendors, and yes, even the local mega-chains. We need them because they are owned and run by people who live for books. You can walk into a bookstore with only a vague yearning for something that will fill a few hours on a plane and leave with the literary love of your life – courtesy of an informed and insightful bookseller.

This is particularly true of specialty bookstores – run by individuals who sacrifice free time and financial security in support of small publishers, unknown authors and under-appreciated genres. They run on enthusiasm and a keen insight into their customer base – and they deserve our support.

So in honor of these heroes of the literary world, Ankhie is offering up a series of Bookseller Profiles – a spot in the blogosphere for these frontline warriors to speak for themselves about the dangers and delights of a threatened profession.

To start things off, I asked Bernadette Montana, the proprietress of Brid’s Closet in Cornwall New York to write about a day in the life of a metaphysical bookstore owner. It’s a fantasy that I know a lot of us share. What could be better than running your own business, surrounded by esoteric books, magickal tools and mysterious oils, unguents and herbs? I think that Bernadette would tell you that nothing is better – which is part of why her shop is so successful and so well beloved by all members of the occult community. Read on, and enjoy A Day in the Life of Brid’s Closet!

From the minute I open the store, people are waiting for me. Not necessarily to buy product, but to talk. While this is going on, I am trying to answer maybe 300 emails a day.  Half of these emails come from students of my intuitive tarot class or from the social networks that I belong to. The other half come from my coven mates, the pagan community, and others that I network with. After I TRY to do this, I read the tarot for my customers, sell product for the shop, book appointments for readings and make plans for any weddings or handfastings that I need to perform, and then prepare for evening classes.  And while doing all this, our festival is being planned!

In regards to the store, I make my own magickal oils and herbal preparations. When someone comes in with a special need, I will do the research needed and then make what that person needs.There are also medicinal needs as well. Colds, stomach aches, cuts and headaches all need tending to! People come to me for blessings and counsel.

I network quite a bit. It’s the best way to get the word out for any business. It may not sound very magickal but I still run a small business and have to do what I can so the business can make the bills. Whether it is donating to the public library for raffles or filming a short clip with Monster TV. The networking aspect is the way any modern pagan can find other communities to practice with. We have the largest pagan Meetup group in Orange County NY. In doing this, it is vitally important that I keep in contact with many in the community! Hosting authors and musicians for our festival and ceremonies are an important part of why I network.

Brid’s Closet also holds many events for this large and growing community! We hold open Full Moon and Holiday celebrations that are open to all! The Ostara ritual had 46 people.  Beltane is huge for us! This year Raven and Stephanie Grimassi will be at our festival. Last year we had Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone. I hold a festival that is getting a little bigger every year. The planning involved is enough to keep anyone up for a month! From stage building and logistics, to printing the brochure and determining the entertainment schedule, the Beltane festival is always on my mind. Planning is done on a daily basis as this festival is so big, that it takes approximately one year to plan. Once the festival is held, the next one is already in the works!

Tarot is a big part of what I do during the day. These sessions tend to be very deep. There are times when it turns into a counseling session rather than just a tarot reading.  Learning how to deal with a person’s issues is essential. It can be a very emotional time for both the customer and myself. I try to be sensitive to their needs if they are sitting in front of me or on the phone or online.

Most evenings I teach classes. The topics vary from Wicca, herbs, oils, tarot, to those requested by the community. I also teach the tarot and write articles/interview elders, authors, and teachers for an online Wiccan College called Sacred Mists. With the intuitive tarot class, I grade homework and attend their online forums. Every Wednesday is coven night. The group here consists of the inner circle and a very large “outer” circle group. Finding a balance between the needs of the pagan community at large and the coven is something I work at every day.  We also have many authors and teachers come to the store to do readings and workshops for us.  Some of these names are Judika Illes, Isaac and Phaedra Bonewits, Raven & Stephanie Grimassi, Dorothy Morrison, Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone and Lilith Dorsey.

I guess I never really realized just how much goes on in this store! Actually, Brid’s Closet is not just a store. It’s a home, a spiritual meeting place, a church. A place for most to relax. I am blessed to have this place and blessed to love what I do.

Blessings,

Bernadette

Brid’s Closet

Brid’s Closet is located in lovely Cornwall New York, and definitely worth a trip.

Bernadette can be contacted there or through:

Brid’s Closet “Random Thoughts” Blog and Podcast

Facebook

and Brid’s Closet Spiritual Circle

Our 100th Blog Post – Time to Give Away Some Books!

 

100 posts! Our little blog is all grown up! To celebrate we are giving away a complete set of the Weiser Concise Guides – short, sweet and sagacious books on a number of essential occult subjects, such as:

Alchemy

Aleister Crowley

Herbal Magick

Practical Astrology

and Yoga for Magick

to qualify for this glorious giveaway, go to our Facebook Fan Page and tell us what your favorite Weiser Book title of all time is. Don’t be shy – tell us when and where you got it, what it meant to your own mystical, magickal journey – anything and everything really! The winning entry will be posted here on the blog!

Deadline is Friday April 1st (no fooling!) so start typing, my friends, and good luck!

Women and the Occult – Sybil Leek

We continue our celebration of ladies on the dark side with a look at one of the first modern occult practitioners to unfurl her cape in public – Sybil Leek.

A hereditary witch who hailed from a small village in Staffordshire England,  Sybil settled in the U.S. after her American publisher pushed her for a book tour (ah, those were the days!) and her U.K. landlord kicked her out for drawing crowds. The relocation worked out rather well for Sybil, as you will see in this excerpt from The Weiser Field Guide to Witches, by Judika Illes:

Among the first to emerge from the broom closet, publicly revealing her identity as a witch, Sybil Leek was an accomplished astrologer, fortune-teller, author, lecturer, ghost hunter, and a popular television and radio personality.

Born in what she described as a “witch-ridden” part of Staffordshire, England, near the crossroads of three rivers, Leek’s birthday was February 22, but some controversy exists as to her age. Leek claimed 1922 as her natal year, but printed cards given to mourners at her 1982 memorial service gave the year 1917 instead.

Sybil was a hereditary witch from a family steeped in magic and metaphysics. On her paternal side, she claimed descent from Russian occultists affiliated with Russia’s royal court. Her mother and aunt were both psychics. Her grandmother, a hedge witch and astrologer, prepared charts for such friends and house guests as Lawrence of Arabia and author Thomas Hardy.

Sybil grew up in England’s New Forest region, an area with historic associations with witchcraft. Mainly home-schooled until age eleven, she never had more than a few years of conventional education, but beginning in childhood, Sybil studied witchcraft, occultism, astrology, Kabbalah, and the Bible, as well as Eastern religions, philosophies, and mystical traditions.

Aleister Crowley was a Leek family friend and predicted great things for Sybil. Another family friend, H. G. Wells, author of War of the Worlds, took little Sybil to see her first eclipse. Her grandmother taught Sybil astrology by baking cookies, decorating them with astrological sigils, and asking little Sybil to put them in order or explain their significance before being permitted to eat them. Sybil herself would eventually establish what is described as the world’s first astrological management consulting service.

During World War II, Sybil was a military nurse, serving for a while at the military hospital in Anzio Beach. After the war, she began to ply her trade as an astrologer. Among the clients described in her writings were the future King Hussein of Jordan, Egypt’s King Farouk, and the man who deposed him, Gamal Abdel Nasser. In the 1950s, following the repeal of England’s last law against witchcraft, Sybil began living openly and publicly as a witch. She published a series of articles and was interviewed by the BBC, resulting in much media attention.

For years, Sybil ran an antique store in Burley, Hampshire. As she began to attract notoriety, she was pursued by reporters and the village besieged by tourists. When her landlord declined to renew her lease, she took this as a sign to leave England and travel to the United States. Her original intent was merely to promote a book, but she fell in love with America and elected to stay permanently, emerging as perhaps the first witch celebrity. She gave many interviews, and appeared on the Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin television talk shows. The author of over sixty books, her autobiography, Diary of a Witch, was published in 1969. By the time she died on October 26, 1982 in Melbourne, Florida, Sybil Leek was a millionaire.

For further information on the inspirational Sybil Leek:

Wikipedia

Lovestarz

Witchcraft: a guide to the misunderstood and maligned

BBC: Inside Out

Controverscial.com

Chaos Magick for the Clueless (which would be me) – a converstation with Bob Freeman & Freeman Presson

As we prepare to read the Chaos Magick classics Liber Null and Psychonaut for our next 2 Weiser Book Club meetings, it occurs to me that I’m probably not alone in my confusion over what, exactly CM is …or isn’t. Wouldn’t it be great to have a little bit of a primer?

With this in mind, I asked Bob Freeman (@OccultDetective) and Freeman Presson (@LilithsPriest) to give me a lesson on  Chaos Magick 101.

Here is (verbatim) our enlightening email exhange:

Ankhie:

I don’t know if you two have e-met yet, but in case you have not let me do the honors:

Bob Freeman (@OccultDetective) – meet Freeman Presson (@LilithsPriest) Freeman – meet Bob!

What I’d like to do today  is talk a little about the basics of Chaos Magick before we have our first #WBC7 session on Liber Null next week.

Full disclosure – Chaos Magick is something I have little knowledge of, so if you guys would like to just take off with this, go right ahead. Otherwise I’ll pipe in with the occasional query.

Let me start things off by asking a simple question:

What is Chaos Magick and how does it differ from other magickal traditions?

Freeman:

The artist Austin Osman Spare is frequently cited as a primary inspiration for what became Chaos Magic. Spare was briefly a member of the Golden Dawn, but took off in a radically different direction. He stripped thaumaturgy down to its basics and showed how magic could be done by embodying an intent in something like a sigil (a simple glyph often derived from text) and launching it by entering a trance state. Spare also did novel things like invoking spirits into his paintings.

Spare’s approach bubbled along under the surface for a while, and then became a current in its own right in the 1980’s*. It is not that much of a force now; it has become fashionable to be “post-Chaotic.” But I am getting ahead of myself.

The “Chaos” in the name does not refer to personal wildness or amorality (necessarily), but to a recognition of primal Chaos as the mind-stuff out of which reality is made. Chaos magic breaks out of the Ceremonial mold by using this directly as the First Matter. Chaos Magic uses whatever is handy — sigils, drawing, dancing, sex — to imprint intent on the Chaos and send it out.

Peter Carroll was a pioneer in this field, along with the German Ralph Tegtmeier (Frater U:. D:.) And a few others. Notable organizations arose, like the IOT and Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth.

Chaos Magicians were typically agnostic, speaking a lot in terms of models, like the spirit model, the energy model, and the information model. They talked about the need to be fluid about beliefs, using them as tools rather than something to cling to.

I don’t want to rattle on about the history of the movement, and so on, as Wikipedia knows more about that than I do. This has just been my offhand ramble about the basics.

*the meetings and beginnings of Chaos-Magic-as-Movement that I referred to the early 80’s were happening in 1978-79, gaining visibility in the 80’s

Bob:

In essence, Chaos Magic is whatever the Magician wants it to be. Adherents to this current typically construct their own magical system, either from whole-cloth or through the appropriation of outside sources, often from pop and counter culture. I have known practitioners who utilized comic book pantheons in their rituals, such as Jack Kirby’s New Gods or his and Stan Lee’s take on Norse Mythology found in The Mighty Thor. I’ve known chaos magicians who have incorporated dead rock musicians into their personal systems, and those who have developed intricate rites involving characters from the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, the Works of HP Lovecraft, and more.

Freeman is correct in asserting that the godfather of Chaos Magic is Austin Osman Spare. His techniques in utilizing sigil magic is at the very core of almost every practitioner I’ve conversed with. I also find Robert Anton Wilson and Discordianism to be a common theme among the vast majority. The Illuminatus! Trilogy was probably the most important catalyst in advancing the Chaos Current.

One quick addendum, Freeman wrote that Spare was a brief member of the Golden Dawn, but I believe it was actually Crowley’s A:.A:. that he was initiated into. And I can’t believe I forgot to mention the late-great Kenneth Grant as one of the founding fathers of the Chaos Movement. The Thelemic Current and that of Chaos walk close in hand…

Freeman:

Yes, it looks like Bob was right about which order it was, the A:. A:.

Spare died in 1956, and Carroll met Sherwin in 1976. I can personally attest that that was a very weird 20 years, from the Beats to the end of the Vietnam war (and the publication of Illuminatus![1]), or from the birth to the death of Rock-n-roll; however you describe it, it was also the incubation period for Chaos Magic.

Another impetus for the current was the uptake into popular consciousness of the revolution in science that happened in the first half of 20th century: relativity, quantum physics (with uncertainty, non-locality, and entanglement), and Goedel’s incompleteness theorem showed that the world was not a nice, simple clockwork of ultimate predictability, and that there were cracks in the foundations of science. People inside and outside the sciences have been dealing with the implications since. Magic is no exception; Peter Carroll has made the best attempt of any of us to explain how magic might fit into a scientific Theory of Everything (I have just enough of a scientific education to be able to call bullshit on most of these attempts, but not enough to make my own).

The DIY aspect of Chaos Magic naturally gave rise to the sort of splintering effect we’ve seen in the last fifteen or so years. Even among the practitioners who still use the term Chaos, innovation is given such pride of place that there’s not much common ground. If you ask why the Wikipedia article on Chaos Magic is so short, one possible answer is that it covers just about all that Chaotes actually agree on.

Ankhie:

This may seem like a naive question, but since Chaos Magick seems to be a self-defined “tradition” (for lack of a better word) – how does it differ from Ecclectic Magic? Is it a matter of source, or intent?

Bob:

In my opinion the only difference between Chaos and Ecclectic Magic is intent. While both mine the paradigm shift model, I see Ecclectics as active magicians and Chaotes as reactive. Also, again, in my opinion, Chaotes are more methodical in their approach, while Ecclectics are more whimsical and freespirited. That’s not meant to disparage either path. It’s just my own limited observations of those few practitioners I’ve met out there in the real world.

Freeman:

I don’t think there actually is any coherent tradition of “Eclectic Magic.” If anyone were intending such, that is completely the wrong name for it. Or maybe I am not in on the joke and the whole point is that it is oxymoronic.

Ankhie:

I only use the word “tradition” because I couldn’t think of what else to call it. Practice, maybe?

Bob – you talked a little earlier about inspirational sources for Chaotes coming from pop culture, among other things – I imagine that would be a large part of the appeal – the ability to take images from everyday modern life (which is saturated with pop culture references) and work it into a functioning magickal practice. But could that also be why the movement is already waning? Because the culture changes too rapidly for these symbols to acquire lasting power?

Bob:

That’s certainly a contributing factor. I think more prevalent is the fact that there is no structure, no hierarchy. It’s hard to keep a movement alive when there’s no one marshaling the troops, so to speak. We, as a society, despite the internet “connecting” us in ways unimaginable, are becoming more and more isolated. In that sense, even though it may appear that the “movement” is waning, the Chaos Current is as strong as ever, even if it’s not called as such.

Freeman:

I don’t think tradition was the wrong word, I was just saying that, AFAIK, Eclectic Magic never had any sort of mindshare or traction compared to the Chaos Current.

First, I think the waning of Chaos Magic as an identifiable movement is perfectly natural. In part, it accomplished its mission: a lot of its core ideas are occult “common knowledge” now, at least among the magically hard-core. Secondly, as Bob said, it is by nature inimical to hierarchy (the IOT, which was widely considered to have too much structure, was still designed as a network instead of a pyramid).

Thirdly, a lot of people, for a variety of reasons, chose to do highly CM-influenced work and call it something else. Taylor Ellwood, the most visible exponent of Pop Culture Magic, didn’t call himself a Chaote, and as far as I remember, David Michael Cunningham, the primary author of  Creating Magical Entities (with Taylor Ellwood and Traeonna Wagener) never did either … although CME itself is a great “Chaos Magic” book.

Ankhie:

That all  makes perfect sense now that you point it out – especially since the nature of Chaos is flux.

Given that Chaos Magick is primarily self-defined, where would you direct someone interested in learning more about it or developing their own practices? (No need to shamelessly plug our books here, that’s my job  ;))

Bob:

Supernatural by Graham Hancock — Food of the Gods by Terence McKenna — The Book of Pleasure by Austin Osman Spare — Pop Magic! by Grant Morrison from The Book of Lies, edited by Richard Metzger — Condensed Chaos & Prime Chaos by Phil Hine — The Psychedelic Reader, edited by Timothy Leary — Quantum Psychology, Cosmic Trigger, & Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson (and the Illuminatus! Trilogy, of course)

Freeman:

I would still send people to the works of Peter J. Carroll (Liber Null and Psychonaut) and Phil Hine (Condensed Chaos) for an introduction. I have to confess I have not gotten around to reading Carroll’s latest book; I expect it to be amazing. For sigil magic, there’s PRACTICAL SIGIL MAGIC: Creating Personal Symbols for Success, by Frater U:. D:.

I mentioned Creating Magical Entities before (Immanion Press), which is a great text if you can get past the total lack of copy-editing. The works of Spare, esp. The Book of Pleasure still seem wildly original.

There were some influential CM journals; the last I know of was Konton, which published a few issues in 2005-2006. Those are worth a look.

Chaos Magic and other DIY approaches are not an “easy” route to magical success. Direct ways are often the hardest (said he-who-beat-his-head-against-Zen-for-half-his-life). I personally am in a phase of going back and filling in the gaps in my magical education, but this is part of a continuing spiral.

Ankhie:

I think this is a good place to wrap it up – what do you guys think?

Bob:

I’d say all the major points were covered. Thanks to you both. That was quite enjoyable.

Freeman:

I agree with Bob, we covered a lot, and it was delightful.

Ankhie:

That was fantastic! I knew you two were the guys to ask ;)  Many Many Thanks!

For more information, check out:

IOT North America

Witchvox

Technoccult

Chaos Matrix

Mommy, am I a Vampire? – Field Guide Friday/Vampire Weekend

No – not the band (although they are very much fun) – this is for those of you who have asked yourself at some point, “Am I a vampire?” …and I mean, really, who hasn’t? Given Ankhie’s aversion to sunlight and nocturnal habits, most members of my family are convinced that I spend my work days in a darkened room, fielding phone calls and tapping on a keyboard while I hang by my feet from the webby rafters.  But I digress…

If you think you may be a vamp ( be it of the energy or blood variety) , J.M. Dixon has all the advice and info you need in The Weiser Field Guide to Vampires. The following is an excerpt on vampiric “Hunger” the mysterious process known as “The Awakening”:

As the spirit begins to starve, a vampire gets his first taste of what it truly is to know the Hunger. At first, it feels like any other craving for sustenance. Like a deep want of food or water, this ravenous need comes on slowly and builds in strength over several years. As in his childhood, the young vampire will attempt to eat and drink to fill the need, but nothing will help. As in the cult classic movie The Hunger made clear, no human food can relieve this need.

Instinctively, the vampire will begin to seek high-energy situations. Arguments with friends or family members, difficult and often stressful relationships, and even unhealthy group environments all become arenas for the vampire’s early, unconscious attempts to feed. At this point, the young vampire will still be far from truly understanding why these difficult settings may partially sate his need, even bringing on a sense of calm amid the distress and chaos. But on some level his conscious mind will already be opening up to the possibility that he may somehow be very different from those around him, that there may be something fundamentally puzzling within him.

Searching for an answer to the Hunger, many young vampires will seek the help of medical practitioners, only to be eventually turned away, conventional tests and knowledge having revealed absolutely nothing. Many more will seek out metaphysical writings or prowl through the Internet for answers to the half-formed questions rising in the backs of their minds. It becomes a search for the self and for community, driven forward by a subtle feeling that the vampire needs to know something about himself, and, perhaps more important, whether he is alone.

Eventually, answers are found. Whether from a book, from a computer screen, or even from the lips of another, these answers often come in the form of terms like the Hunger and Human Living Vampire, – which provide both understanding and the comfort that others have been through this before. This simple revelation begins a process of deeper understanding and a reevaluation of previous mind-sets and philosophies – a process that since ancient times has been known as the Awakening.

The Awakening

The first recorded use of the vampiric term Awakening is in the epic Celtic tale of the Second Battle of Mag Tuired. In line eighty-three of the tale, as translated by Elizabeth A. Gray, Lug, the hero of the Tuatha De Danaan, an unbeatable champion sired by a Fomoire king, is instructed by the goddess Morrigan to “awake.” The remainder of the passage, the part that most likely explained how Lug was to awaken his Sidhe nature and talents so that he could win the upcoming battle, was supposedly untranslatable.

There are many forms of Awakening, and all mean relatively the same thing: opening one’s mind to the wider reality, often to the reality of energy and the spiritual world. For human magickal practitioners, an Awakening occurs when they first realize that their desires can be focused to create change in the world around them; for the psychically gifted, an Awakening occurs when they open themselves to the concept that the things they see and hear in their minds may be not only real, but very useful in their daily lives; and for a vampire, an Awakening is the realization that she is, in fact, undeniably a vampire. Awakening begins when a vampire first considers that she might not be entirely human. It continues as she learns what she is and finally fully accepts it. The process never truly ends. A vampire is always learning about what she is, because her survival depends on her continued education into what she is, what she needs, and what she can do.

*****

A change in sensory perception often comes first leaving the newly Awakened with overly sensitive vision or hearing, which will take them time to learn to cope with. A particular sensitivity to the smell of blood is quite common, due to its rather unique aroma, and on occasion, those with no previously notable psychic abilities will suddenly begin to see, feel, or otherwise sense energy flows and auras.

These and other changes are all a result of the vampire simply getting more in touch with her spirit, actively using its power for the first time and becoming hypersensitive to its needs. The vampire will need time to get used to these expanded senses and sensitivities but will eventually find the right internal balance to cope with them.

Finding this internal balance plays a major part in the vampire’s ability to sense and manipulate energy; whether the vampire feeds on blood or energy makes little difference. This ability will grow, resulting in what vampires often see as their trademark, the disruption or destruction of electrical equipment – yet another change those Awakening must learn to incorporate into their lives…

Oh there’s so much more! But I will leave you with that, my dark ones! Happy weekend!

“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree”

One of Ankhie’s favorite hang-outs back in her student-y days was a grim little bar called The Sligo. The beer was cheap, the floor was sticky, and everything in it was glazed in decades of nicotine residue.  I loved it for its name.  I had been to Ireland as a teenager and remembered a brief stay in Sligo fondly. The whole of Ireland was a revelation to me, but the trip had been plagued by weather that, although gothically atmospheric, did little to allow for  full appreciation of the landscape.  Sligo was different. The sun shone brightly through fast-moving clouds. Flowers bloomed. People smiled.  Driving there, I found myself eager to stop the car and run through brilliant green fields, explore the dark stands of trees that rose like deciduous islands, untended, begging to be explored. I was told in no uncertain terms by the driver that should I embark on such an adventure I would be struck dead, or worse, and would not be welcomed back into his company. What!!? Fairy rings, my friends. This one in particular was a grove of oak, others were single trees, or earthen mounds, distinguished by the fact that they were left uncultivated in the middle of farmed fields or meadows. They were not to be disturbed, by plow, scythe, or ridiculous American teenager. I was disappointed (it looked so cool, so inviting, so creepy!) but heeded the drivers advice. Thus began a lifelong fascination with the Sidhe, William Butler Yeats, and (by association) flat beer and surly bartenders.

The following is an excerpt from Magical and Mystical Sites: Europe and the British Isles, by Elizabeth Pepper and John Wilcock

The prosperous town of Sligo was the birthplace in 1865 of William Butler Yeats, the poet who devoted so much of his life to studying the occult. The area in which he was born is rich in antiquities, the raths, dolmens, caorns, and tumuli with which fairies are so often associated and which local legend often credit with having been constructed in one night.

One such, the Heapstown cairn (turn right at the village of Castle Baldwin on the road to Lough Arrow) is twenty feet high and consists of literally hundreds of thousands of small stones piled atop one another. It probably contains a passage grave, but like so many others of this type has never been excavated.

There are traditions in these parts that such tumuli shelter not ancient bones but rather living, breathing elves or fairies whose subterranean palaces are lavishly decorated and are the scene of constant revelry, which only the luckiest of mortals can share. The small, antique tobacco pipes that have been found in the vicinity of such places are supposed to belong to that species of elf known as the cluricaine, whose major pleasures are smoking and drinking and who is believed to have learned the secret the Danes brought into Ireland of making beer from heather.

Clurricaines have sometimes been seen in the daytime, if we are to believe the tales, and they usually make their appearance as aged little men with antiquated, pea-green coats, large metal buckles on their shoes, and cocked hats in the old French style.

Yeats, who spent several years in London associating with Aleister Crowley and other occultists of the Society of the Golden Dawn, was enticed back to his native land by Ireland’s growing renaissance movement. From an early age he had been fascinated by fairy legends and although he must have been one of the most incongruous figures ever to enter politics (he served in the Senate from 1922 to 1928), he remained an artist, like his father and brothers. Much of his poetry reveals his deep interest in occult matters. In his book Irish Fairy and Folk Tales he referred to the fairies as “gentle people.”

Dermot MacMannus, author of a more recent work on Irish fairies called The Middle Kingdom, says they are gentle only when not crossed and that some Irish housewives are still cautious enough to leave a saucer of milk or a bit of soda bread outside their cottage door for their diminutive visitors. Fairies were frequently familiars of witches, the author explains, and assisted their mentor “in her hurtful activities against her neighbors.”

MacMannus includes testimonials from various people of intelligence and education living in Ireland today who have sworn to seeing fairies, usually friendly, around four feet tall and wearing a turned-up hat and sometimes a bright red coat. Others have seen black-clothed figures of human size, standing motionless in a circle, only to have them reappear some distance away almost immediately.

“The thorn bush is locally reputed to be under fairy protection,” MacMannus avers, “but there are many popular misconceptions about the tree and innacurate generalities have too often crept into those versions of local folklore which are held by people not close enough to the earth to distinguish between fact and fiction.” The bourtree, the blackthorn, birch and broom are localities for fairies and any tree growing inside or near a fairy ring, or a lone thorn tree in an otherwise rocky and isolated field, can be assumed to be “protected.”

MacMannus says his grandfather met with much local opposition when he tried to move a thorn tree from a fairy fort in Killeaden and suffered great misfortune in the years after he did move it to his garden. It is now in the grounds of the author’s house, and wrens and robins, both “fairy birds,” nest in it. The fairy fort from whence it came, Lis Ard, has long been known for another fairy phenomenon: the bewitched sod or piece of earth that causes whoever steps on it to lose his or her way.

Although Sligo itself is closely associated with Yeats – there is a collection of his manuscripts in the local museum… and a full blown Yeats Society quartered in a magnificent house near the riverside Silver Swan Hotel – he is probably better know for his immortalization of a tiny spot about 200 yards from the southwest shore of Lough Gill along a dead-end road. Lines from his famous

“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,

And live alone in the bee-loud glade.”

Which epitomized the dream of so many, are on a board at the edge of the lake. A beautiful spot.

Witch, Wiccan, Warlock, Pagan – What’s in a Name?

The words “witch” “warlock” and “pagan” have been the source of  much heated discussion of late.  We’ve talked here before about the power of words and why language is integral to the art and practice of magic. It is important to remember that this power extends beyond spells and incantations, to the names we choose to call ourselves and others. Part of the history of the modern witchcraft movement has been the reclamation of the word “witch.”  One need not look very far to see the culture of fear that surrounds it – associations with evil and ugliness that remain painful to those who see the path as something positive and enriching. Even now,  individuals who claim the title “Witch” often put themselves at personal and professional risk. We respect and support them as a community, and if we are brave and able, we join them. The same can be said of  “pagan” – a term once used to mark the wearer for damnation by Judeo-Christian societies. Those who identify as “Pagan” today, do so boldly, fully aware of the word’s historical risk.  There are those in this community who are currently attempting to reclaim the word “warlock.” It is a choice that has garnered intense criticism from surprising sources. Now, I have no interest in engaging in a lengthy discussion on semantics  or fielding fractious comments on personality and group identity. We as a community have more important things to read, ponder, and practice.  But if we are to thrive, it is vital that we respect and empower each other – although our paths may be divergent.

So, back to the title of this post: What’s in a name? Everything to the individual who claims it. Our names are our identity and our strength. The names of angels and demons, gods and men have been used to control them for millennia. Every occultist, priest and (yes) parent knows that. Whatever we choose to call ourselves, we must own it fully in order to wield its power. And if we want others to be respect us for that, we must in turn respect them.

On a lighter note – “magic” is itself a word that means many things to many people. Judika Illes gives us a glimpse in Pure Magic:

There is a power that radiates from all living beings in varying degrees of force and clarity. Different languages have different words to identify this power. The Polynesians refer to it as mana. Among the Yoruba, a prominent language group of Western Africa, it is known as axe. In Morocco, this power is called baraka and in other areas of the Islamic world some variation on that word may be used.

I offer you words from different languages because English has no specific word for this concept. I can describe the concept for you in English but I can’t name it. The closest approximation is force or power but these are imprecise because there are so many types of forces or powers. One could say spiritual force but that too is imprecise. It is a spiritual force but this force also expresses itself in very physical ways. The spiritual aspect cannot be separated from the physical. This force is a holistic power. It does not acknowledge the splits between spirit and matter that humans may perceive but transcends these divisions.

This concept lurks in the English language, perhaps for safety’s sake, demonstrating our cultural ambivalence to magic and reflecting the reality that for centuries, those who openly and effectively practiced Earth magic were persecuted and suppressed. Interestingly, the cultures that do possess an explicit and specific term to identify this force rarely possess just one generic term for magic. Their languages may instead contain something more like those twenty-seven Inuit words for snow, assorted various, specific words that describe specific acts, intents and practices that would in English all be lumped together under the category, magic. There is no one blanket word to distinguish magic from real life because in these cultures, magic is incorporated into real life. It isn’t supernatural but a part of the way natural works. One is encouraged to be aware of the various forces because contact with them strengthens, protects and improves quality of life.

“Beware the Ides of March” – Omens & Portents

A little lesson in the history of politics and prediction from the the wondrous Juanita Rose Violini and The Almanac of the Infamous the Incredible and the Ingnored:

Beware the Ides of March

On March 15 44BC, Calpurnia, wife of Julius Caesar, tossed and moaned in her sleep while her husband looked on. Abruptly, she bolted upright in bed, awake, but screaming and weeping from a nightmare in which her husband was stabbed and spurting blood. Suddenly, the doors and window shutters banged open, flooding the bedroom with moonlight. That same night, a little bird had flown into the Forum, pursued by wild birds, who tore it apart in the hall. Calpurnia begged Caesar not to go to the Senate, though he had been specially summoned with a promise that he would be crowned king that day.

Other signs foretold the assassination. A group of Caesar’s horses refused to graze. A sacrificial offering made by Caesar had no heart, ans the soothsayer Spurinna warned him to beware the Ides of March. Calpurnia’s distress was so out of character that the dictator stayed home until late in the day, when his good friend Brutus arrived to fetch him. Brutus ridiculed the dream and divination, mocking Caesar and telling him that the Senate had been waiting all day for his arrival. Together they left for the Forum.

Along the way, they passed Spurinna, and Caesar remarked, “The Ides of March are come.” The soothsayer replied, “But they are not past.”

Upon Caesar’s arrival at the Senate, the sixty senators stood in respect, and then one man approached Caesar. He grabbed Caesar by the shoulders and plunged a knife into his neck. The assembly then rushed at him, unsheathing their daggers. Caesar was stabbed twenty-three times and was left dead. For the next seven nights, a comet streaked through the heavens.

“Our character…is an omen of our destiny, and the more integrity we have and keep, the simpler and nobler that destiny is likely to be.”George Santayana

Secret Power: Today’s power is omens.

To Optimize: Understand your personal symbolism.

Everything I Know About Pele I Learned from The Brady Bunch

Not entirely true, but the Hawaiian episode was my favorite. Black sand beaches,  a cursed tiki idol and Vincent Price? C’mon!

Pele, goddess of fire and lightning, is believed to make her home in the crater of The Kilauea Volcano. There are several myths regarding her ties to the Hawaiian Islands (all wild and worthy),  yet despite these supernatural origins she is often “seen” in the guise of a mortal woman, wandering. Treat her well, and her favor is yours in abundance. Scorn her (or worse) take from her beloved Kilauea,  and you will wish that you were part of a fictional TV family dodging falling wall art and tarantulas!

You know who knows a little something about Pele (and just about anything else)? Raymond Buckland! Here’s what he has to say about the tempestuous goddess in The Weiser Field Guide to Ghosts:

Pele – or “Madame Pele” – is Hawaii’s goddess of fire, lightning, dance, volcanoes, and violence. There are various myths about her origins, but she is mainly associated with Hawaii’s volcanoes…

Pepe is very beautiful “with a back straight as a cliff and breasts rounded like the moon.” She has many lovers. Her apparition appears as a young and beautiful woman, frequently dressed in a bright red muumuu and most often seen in the early morning hours, walking along a deserted road. You should stop to offer her a lift, otherwise she will become extremely angry, and her wrath is to be avoided at all costs!

Photographs of fiery eruptions have included what looked like the face of Pele. She is well respected by Christians, Buddhists, Shinto, and others. Since 1983 she has destroyed more than a hundred structures on the Big Island and has added more than seventy acres of land to the island’s southeastern coastline.

Pele has been encountered by drivers who think they are picking up and old woman dressed all in white, usually accompanied by a little dog, on roads in Kilauea National Park. But then they look in the rearview mirror to find that the backseat is empty.

Kilauea has been erupting spectacularly of late, so keep on your toes.

Oh – and if you happen to have a little lava laying around the house that you swiped for a souvenir – do yourself a favor and send it back!

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