Friday, June 29, 2012


Maleficent:"with the intention of  doing harm."  The word has a certain quaintness and old-fashioned charm about it, don't you think? At first glance one forms an image of obvious negative actions, abet even a form of evil. But most malefica encountered in today's world is subtle and brooding. It is not as dramatic as, say, the casting of a full fledged spell via ceremonial magick. True maleficia begins quietly as a form or jealousy, envy or covetousness, where it roils and builds into obsession. The motivation is most likely due to need or lack of something perceived to belonging to another. Sometimes the perpetrator isn't even aware of it, but it's still there, and it expresses itself in various forms.

The arena of psychology is full of this form of maleficia- narcissism, and negative personality disorders are commonly dealt with in the therapist's office. Eric Berne's ground breaking book Games People Play gave birth to the theory of Transactional Analysis.[] In it Dr. Berne describes intimate emotional exchanges as 'games' which are ritualistic transactions or behavior patterns between individuals that can indicate hidden feelings or emotions.The New Age lexicon has contributed the phrases energy parasite and psychic vampire to describe one of those 'games' played by those who drain others of  their vital life force.

Occultist and author Dion Fortune refereed to this condition as psychic parasitism in her book Psychic Self-Defense []. She identified it as a a combination of psychological pathology and vampirism, with an insightful observation that there was a difference between mental illness ( what we now term personality disorders) and an intentional exhaustion of an individual's vital life force.

Anton La Vey, the founder of the Church of Satan, also had a unique take on the subject (as he always did) of psychic vampirism. He believed that a psychic vampire was a spiritually weak individual who drained the personal energy of another to replace what was lacking in the emotional makeup of the vampire. LaVey used the term psychic vampire to mean an emotionally weak person who drains vital energy from other people.

To  me, this is the most insidious of all ways of harming another. I will allow that the perpetrator isn't always mindful of his or her actions, but after having dealt with these types of individuals for years as a counselor, I'm of the opinion that they are aware on some level of what they're doing in a very passive-aggressive way, even though they may not normally someone who is narcissistic. My experience is that a person  who seems to be all take and no give, an opportunist who always takes advantage of a situation to personally benefit from others, or makes persistent demands of your time, attention or resources is most likely a psychic vampire. If you continually feel drained and exhausted from interacting with this person, my advice would be to keep the relationship at a distance and in perspective, because it is so easy to be taken in by the charm or vulnerability these individuals. Most of us have a lot to learn about these types because our early socialization included the characteristic that 'good' people are always helpful to others. Explore and apply some of the many techniques of auric shielding available. Some excellent methods are found in Christopher Penczak's book The Witch's Shield []
Baneful magick is another subtle form of maleficia, for example, the  malocchio (evil eye), or using a poppet or voodoo doll in a negative manner. This  is a form of using the Universal power from the lower astral depths to case harm and do evil. Let's drop the misleading and pejorative term "Black Magic" from our vocabulary! It simply reinforces the notion that anything "black" is bad, while "white" is good. That black equals dark muddies the waters even  further: darkness is not wrong, bad or baneful. The example that always immediately comes to mind for me is that the seeds of flowers are planted in the dark womb of the Earth to gestate and grow...nothing evil about that. Magick in and of its self is's a blank canvas until you add your intention. Intention is what determines the outcome.

Some who are new to the magickal community ask under what circumstances it's permissible to cast a hex or curse. I don't have the answer to that question because it applies to the intention of the individual practitioner. Why have you made that choice? What's your motivation? What will you gain by hexing another? Are you doing this with the intention of harming another or stopping another from doing harm? Have you done the mundane work that goes with this, or are you willing to work in the physical realm to make it manifest? One must examine every possible angle they can think of before performing the work. I will tell you that I believe that a witch who cannot hex cannot heal, but you also must do the mundane work, too. My personal feeling is that if you are aiming to stop someone from harming another, and that person is not you personally, then that request goes to the Universe to handle. If someone has actually made a legitimate threat to my safety and welfare and I have exhausted all reasonable forms of handling that threat within the legal system, then I have no problem binding the individual...Otherwise I will leave the punishment to the gods, because it's not for me to pass that judgement.When  I have  discerned that hexing is the last resort in a course of action, I will then and only then do so without reserve. I believe that is the ethical thing to do....and I will wait until I have calmed down and am less emotional before even beginning to discern the problem. I will force myself to re-assess the situation and try to put it into a logical perspective before take the steps of the last resort. I'll tell you why: because while I don't adhere to the Three Fold Law, I believe in the spirit of it. Whatever you do will indeed come back to you. That's not a theory, it's a fact, because what you put into the Universe will eventually return to you. Don't perform an act of binding or any other type of magick if you're not in control of your emotions. The situation will keep until you have a clearer head and you can focus on the situation with laser like precision. Reacting out of anger and emotion alone will weaken and scatter the energy needed to power the work. Blind rage may seem like the perfect point at which to do the work, but it is not...Examine the situation and your feelings about it and then if you so choose to use your personal power in that manner, there will be no mistake in the work...because for any spell to be effective, that which goes into formulating it must be as near to perfect balance as you can make it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pagan Blog Project 2012: Magickal Self-help

Marion Weinstein is one of my heroes. Her 1978 book Positive Magic is a building block in the foundation of my spiritual formation as a Pagan., and I still recommend it to today. I believe it's simply one of those 'must have' books in everyone's occult library.[]

Positive Magic is another of those witchcraft related books that 'found' me. I never intentionally went out looking for anything in particular in mind, and I always came home with a gem or two, Interestingly enough, I found this book in the self-help section of a used bookstore in NYC when I was doing my undergrad studies and I needed something to cite for an abnormal psych class. Any book with reviews and recommendations by Margot Adler, Merlin Stone and Elizabeth Pepper automatically get my  vote! And although it is going on nearly 40 years after it's publication, there is very little I have found to  anachronistic between the covers, although the edition I own is very clearly a product of it's decade.

That's a sure sign of usefulness and power...and this book is exactly about that-power...personal power that anyone can achieve and master by putting the elbow grease required behind it. Very much a 'do-it-yourself' project, the sage advise in this book blends common sense with the occult mysteries. It contains one of the best definitions of magick (The 'k' is my one concession to Crowley's excess, because for me, it does separate the Universal Power of Nature from the kind of slight-of-hand used for entertainment purposes.) Like all books, the author has her own take on things, and you nor I have to take everything she says as gospel. Positive Magic is written on a very intimate, personal level, which I appreciate. Marion Weinstein wrote from her background as a Dianic Witch, and her knowledge at the time was up-to-date as possible nearly 4 decades ago.

Magick is experiential. It's transformational. Both those statements make it difficult to define because magick is different for everyone. My personal definition is that the individual's will works in concert with the Power of the Universe and Nature, which puts me back to Scott Cunningham's theory that because nothing exists outside the realm of Nature, which is the normal state of being, nothing is supernatural or paranormal. To believe this is to know there is an explanation  for everything in the Universe: we just don't have all the answers. Magick allows the individual to seek those answers...and a lot of those answers will enrich who you are and assist you in achieving the type of spiritual integration most often explored by another of my personal heroes, Carl Gustav Jung.  Magick is basically what it is miraculous within your own framework...Personally, I think flipping a switch in the wall and having the combination of subatomic particles and magnetic field turn into electricity that turns on a lamp is pretty freakin' magickal. A little over a century ago, the simplicity of turning on a lamp would have been labeled as a form of sorcery ( and probably black magic, at that!) Because we know the cause and effect of the act of turning on a lamp in a scientific manner, that knowledge is no longer occult, but an accepted part of a normal life everywhere except in certain isolated third world countries. However, just because we know, that doesn't mean the magick has gone out of it; all that's changed is the way we view the action.

Wish-fulfillment is a sort of magick. I'm not talking about the fantasy type of daydreams that are manufactured by our mind as a sort of mini-vacation, but about the desire that can be fulfilled by the mastery of the will. Occultists are not an insular group who is privy to magickal secrets. We are a group of individuals who have learned to effectively use the natural power within each of us to focus our will into manifestation...and the truly wise among us know this also requires working in both the realm of Mystery and the Realm of Reality. It's my experience that you simply cannot wish something into being. While it's true you can set the achievement of form into motion through magickal workings, you also have to put out the effort to getting what you want...or the former is nothing more than wishful thinking.

So, how can magick fall into the category of self-help?  Marion Weinstein points out that,"All occult work is the very essence of creativity; occult work is the deepest expression of the self." [Practical Magic, pg. 7] Creativity originates in the right hemisphere of the brain. Despite popular belief, it is far more difficult to label properties as simply 'right brain or 'left brain', because actions are compartmentalized within areas of the brain and incorporated with other functions. For the right brain, processing is nonlinear and non-sequential, intuitive, thoughtful and subjective. My personal thought on this goes one step further: the logic and organization of the left brain is also necessary to make magick into something truly workable. While the inspiration for ritual comes from the right brain, surely the necessity to put spirituality into a context and form comes from the left, rational brain.

Further reading on this subject:

Friday, June 22, 2012

Making a Fraud Magically Disappear!

I will admit that some of my most giddily entertaining moments come from flipping through eBay listings posted under the headings of  Wicca, Witchcraft, Paranormal and Pagan. There is always something in a product or service for hire description that will get a chuckle out of me.  It is undeniably true that we have our share ( Okay, admittedly maybe more than our share) of  uniquely 'interesting' folks. Pagans are known as individualists who eschew the boundaries of the mainstream. Some of the more exotic among us exhibit  a quaint goofy charm in their originality. The purveyors of 'haunted' items always manage to make me smile, because, seriously, if the item truly were haunted, why would you want to sell it in the first place? Who do you think would buy it? (I'm not expecting an answer, it was a theoretical question).

Last week a mutual friend posted a comment on Facebook to express her outrage that one of the more colorful members of our community was offering a Booty Enhancement Spell on eBay. There are a number of these particular items offered by several sellers, so this product is not as unique as one would suppose. What got my friend's attention-actually a number of mutual friends' attention- was the accompanying profile photo of this particular eBay seller, a "Powerful Wiccan Witch" named Amelia who goes by the eBay handle of Moonstruck9000.

They say everyone in the world has a twin, so normally I'd give Amelia the benefit of the doubt in this case if it weren't so blatantly obvious that she was using a photograph of  my friend Sabrina the Ink Witch. There is no mistake about this because the exact same photo of Sabrina appears on her legitimate website at . And now I, too, am outraged, because this individual is, by virtue of the fact of the inclusion of the photo on her profile misrepresenting herself as someone who is a well-known, respected member of our community. In some quarters, Sabrina is considered an Elder. It is unthinkable that someone would dare to attempt to steal her identity. This trickery is unacceptable.

Not Amelia
Greetings! My name is Amelia.  I have been a spellcaster for 20 + years.  All spells are cast by me, sometimes with the assistance of my Coven.  My spells are strong and very effective.  Upon purchase of a spell I will set up an alter solely for your spell to be cast.  Be assured your desired outcome will receive my undivided attention.   This will include the use of candles, herbs, oils, gemstones, tools and some other items that may be required to bring results.  Your spell will be complete within 24 – 48 hours of purchase depending on the complexity of your spell.  I will send you a confirmation upon completion via ebay message.  You can expect to feel positive energy immediately that will increase in strength daily.  Some of my clients say they experience a tingly sensation while I cast the spell. 

You can read more about Amelia the Impostor at Patti Wigington's Pagan/Wiccan page.

Amelia, dear, a friendly word of must be as crazy as a bag of hangers to think any of us are falling for your deception, because as they say, it ain't gonna happen. Never mind the shitty karma you've earned from trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the public. Forget the Three Fold Boomerang Whammy Law. Disregard the fact that not only are you illegally impersonating a beloved member of the Craft ,your game-playing is an insult to the intelligence of the Pagan community. Slapping a disclaimer on your little piece of fantasy that says in effect, " It's all for fun and entertainment" isn't going to deflect the anger of fellow witches- some of whom are quite adept at magically making a fraud disappear by contacting the proper legal authorities to file a complaint. And while I'm on a knit-picking rant, get yourself a fucking dictionary and learn the difference between the words 'alter' and 'altar'.

I suggest everyone who reads this blog contact eBay and file a complaint against Moonstruck9000 for her dishonesty and attempt at fooling the public.

By the way, Amelia, you might just become aware of a tingling in YOUR ass in the near future.

UPDATE 6/23:And so it seems, all has ended well. Amelia/Monstruck9000's profile on eBay has come down...Not without a whole lot of noise from the subject. Not surprising. Oh, and it seems that rather than see the error of her ways and take responsibility for her actions. Amelia blames any negativity or distastefulness on Sabrina (you big bully, you) and her friends (Minions!). Oh, and there was some mention of bad KARMA, but I suspect she doesn't understand that SHE is the recipient due to her deeds. Amelia, darling YOU -and everyone like you- are what's wrong with this community and give it a black eye in the public. Karma, indeed!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Loci Theologici

In the mid 1500s, Lutheran Theologian Philipp Melancthon wrote his magnum opus Loci communes rerum theologicarum seu hypotyposes theologicae (Common Places in Theology or Fundamental Doctrinal Themes) to systematically explore Christian Theology  and the Bible through the use of 'leading thoughts' and guidelines. Simply put, it was a book of 'talking points' on everything Christian. His writings were so distinct and through that Martin Luther himself declared there was no better book in the whole of Christianity save for the Bible. []

A literal translation of the Latin is not difficult: Common places of God. Not literal places such as holy sites, but subjects of intellectual discourse: that which pertained to all subjects common to the Divine. It is a encyclopedia of general definitions and short discussions written on particular subjects such as "faith" "law" "community", etc. At the time is was an exhaustive collection, although subsequent volumes were later written by others in the same genre.

Because Paganism is a diverse theological concept, we have many definitions of what it is to be Pagan. Those definitions are by and large individual to the practitioner. An adherent of a particular tradition would give  a different example of their belief system than the next person, even within the same tradition, because the experience of spirituality is unique for each of us. For example Wicca is a specific form of Paganism, but within that framework there are many different forms of Wicca.  Most Wiccans consider themselves to be witches, but not every witch is Wiccan. Not every wiccan is Gardnerian-inspired.  A common thread runs throughout Wicca, but there are no concrete absolutes. The books that come closest to loci communes theologici are Raven Grimmasi's Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, and the Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: A Complete A-Z of the Entire Magical World, and various anthologies by Buckland, Gulley and a few others on specific aspects of occult and/or paranormal practice. We have no one singular written authority on the subject.

There is no Book of Principles of Pagan Theology. One reason for this is because our community is still arguing about legitimacy and lineage. We cannot seem to bring ourselves to a place to honestly admit to ourselves that the majority of our traditions are reconstructions of ancient religious practices. In most instances the lineage of many traditions, and perhaps most of them, are not unbroken. There are periods where they changed, lost or ceased to exist for a time.

Much of the history of ancient religion and culture is based on oral tradition, and it therefore at the whim of whom ever was the story-keeper of that era. The ancient  history of many indigenous peoples has been seriously impacted by being retold by those who co-opted them. Anthropological reconstruction of culture and history is notoriously spotty.

In reconstruction of our belief traditions we make a lot of assumptions and take massive liberties...which few in our community are willing to admit. Somehow working from assumptions doesn't feel quite authentic and so to make up for a slender sufficiency of detail we, too, rewrite history by fleshing out the details. What is behind the niggling insistence of authenticity? It is more often a  matter of pride; no one wants to admit their 'background' may be a little thin in the details. It is all about an investment of ego.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the reconstruction of a religious tradition as long as we are honest with ourselves and truthful with others about it's origin. It is when we insist upon ancient, unbroken linage and pedigree that we get into trouble. It's when we start to put words into the missing parts of the ancient papyrus that are torn away  that we begin to weave a garment of  self-deception. Self-deception even as an educated guess is still deception. The antiquity or 'proven' lineage of a tradition does not make it more valid than that of any other. New systems of belief are not less lawfully begotten than established traditions if they answer to the personal needs of their adherents, for the spiritual satisfaction of the individual that his/her god/dess is adequately served is the only reason any form of worship should exist.

I posit writing our own personal Loci Theologici, every single one of us. From there we can measure what we have in common as a community, rather than our differences. What we have in common can lay the foundation for more than Paganism to be just an umbrella term. In building toward a common goal-without loosing our individuality-we can become more than  marginalized, and a less nebulous entity in the constellation of the world's faith traditions.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Stark Raving Mad

I know it's bad form to say anything perceived to be negative in public about an individual who's considered a Pagan elder in most quarters. It will certainly be judged as bad form particularly if that person is known a a  forerunner in contributing to the development of a tradition. But what if that individual has crossed all the lines of etiquette and common sense? What if that individual has begun to disassociate from the scholarly personality she has so carefully cultivated over the years? What if that individual has not only embarrassed herself but the entire  Pagan Community with her pronouncements of who is and is not worthy to worship the Goddess?

Sigh...Yes, I am talking about  Zsuzsanna Budapest, the name most associated with Dianic Wicca. It seems everyone is talking about Z Budapest's refusal to allow trans women to attend a female-only ritual at PantheaCon last year, with a repeat 'performance' at the same conference this year. And I say 'performance', because I sincerely hope this wasn't a publicity stunt dreamed up by  Z's  publicist, because it has become incredibly poor public relations for her with the Pagan community at large.  Zsuzsanna Budapest  has up until now been a respected name, a woman who came into to her own during the Feminist Movement of the 70s. A woman who has inspired countless others to become wholly the woman they deserve to be through her writing and many personal appearances. Someone who was revered as the expert on women's mysteries in the Pagan community. Z Budapest, the person to turn to when you need to deeply explore your womanliness and find your inner strength. A keeper of the Goddess....and for some, the Goddess personified.

No more. In the last few months, Z Budapest has become an anathema and the butt of jokes in the Pagan Community. This was caused first by her openly spewing personal hatred of men, and then by expressing her bigotry toward transsexual women. Her rhetoric has become so hysterically hate filled that she has become a 'character', an oddball, someone who we point at and say is not all quite there in the head. Her diatribes on the subject of  who is and is not a real woman is not only hateful, it's laughable and downright embarrassing.

While it is true that women have been discriminated against since the dawn of time, that discrimination has come from those in social, political, and economic power, particularly by those in the hierarchy of  specific religious institutions. It is also true that 99% of those in power have been men. The fact is  that these despicable acts have also been wrought upon other less powerful, less influential men as well. It is also true that many times those men in power were supported in this endeavor by women-wives, mistresses, mothers and siblings-who desired to reap the benefit of that ultimate authoritative power. Ms. Budapest seems to have conveniently forgotten that part of history in lieu of the history she is promoting.

My life has been a nightmare at the hands of men. That is a shocking statement, even to me. It is also quite misleading. My childhood was a nightmare due to the behavior of particular individuals, several of whom were men, and I was gang raped by three men at the age of 47.  The opening statement holds it's own legitimacy, but it is too broad a comment. There is a literal, defining difference between the facts and what is stated. Do I hate all men because of what I have suffered at the hands of a few? Of course not. Could I be justified in hating all men because of what I have suffered at the hands of a few? I could choose to be a victim, but I have chosen, instead to move on. That doesn't imply forgiveness on my part, it means that I choose not to become stuck in the past.  I used that particular opening statement as an illustration, because it sounds very much like the kind of bombastic quasi-truth Z Budapest has been pedaling as of late. While not a wholly dishonest statement, it is indeed inflammatory, plays on the emotions and garners support from those who have their own axe to grind in that area.

I have a difficult time framing where the  level of vitriol Z has for the male of the species originates. Perhaps knowing a little more about her background and point of reference would be helpful toward making me a little more empathetic. Hating half the human race because they are biologically different than you is madness, sheer, unadulterated madness.  Heaping the sins of some on everyone else is in  the same vein of behavior we as non-Abrahamic people see and love to self-righteously finger point at in the instance when the JudeoChristian God condemned all of the human race for the actions of Adam and Eve. It is generalized, systematic guilting of the masses for the actions of a few. But it seems to make good press, if only good in the way it has been passed through the publications and online resources normally used by our community. Other wise, it is a terrible disservice to us, because to the general public it comes off as the ranting of a crazy old woman, or worse, sounding like the stereotype of the occult practitioner who is less than mentally stable.

Many of my Craft sisters have looked to Z Budapest for guidance in the formation of their personal paths. They are well read, intelligent women, not easily taken in by gender biased nonsense. The majority of them aren't out to make the male half of the human race into villains. They do not view the possession of a penis and testicles as a crime, any more than having a uterus and ovaries. It is ridiculous to say so, and yet in her own recent words, this is what Z Budapest has said: Men are not only inferior creatures, they are out to take over and take away that which is Goddess in women. The implication that men are dirty and wanton is nearly palpable in her speech:"My conflict? Imagine a group of males banging on the door to be allowed into a all women skyclad circle. There is no sense of decency amongts them. Its occupy, and bother naked ladies."* 
Sorry, that doesn't cut it for me. It's a trite excuse for prejudice. It is a ridiculous attempt to garner sympathy from the Sisterhood. Men are not out to invade our sacred spaces . They are not out to steal the sanctity of those places. They are not out to get us. They are not out to "occupy and bother naked ladies". This is crying victim where there has been no crime committed.

These are the words of someone who is carrying around the baggage of a lot of unhealed hatred, who has been wounded and is now picking at old scabs to continue the psychological bleeding. It is most certainly wrong to lay blame on every man for what another has done.  This is, unfortunately, a perfect example of someone who is playing 'the victim' to the max and enjoying every minute of attention it gets her... and believing it will work. It is promoting the now unacceptable head games women of a certain era used to play when they thought they could get sympathy. It says, " Look, he hurt me, the bastard. Punish him!" I am glad to say we have indeed come a long way, baby, because we no longer have need for these games. I share the disdain for this type of grandstanding with many women of my generation who have found more constructive ways of solving our internal conflicts and unabashedly reply:" Suck it up, Buttercup and put on your Big Girl panties.Get over it!" Indeed, we have transcended that immaturity and channeled our personal power into making genuine inroads to improving our lot...without histrionics and public outbursts about what others have done to us.

Z Budapest's loathing of men is so enveloping that it extends to transsexual women. It is so complete that she denies the existence of such: "You cannot become a woman. No doctor can change your male brain. Nor can they create a woman on the famous operating table. So where are you transiting to? Its a illusion."*

Fact: Some individuals are psychologically tuned to be the sex opposite of that into which they were born. Your gonads are only half of the picture. Having lady parts or guy parts does not determine who you are.  That individual can be male in a genetic sense, yet be wholly female in gender identification. 
Trans women are not out to subjugate biological women, because trans women are biological women. My friends who have gone through years of  conflicting mental anguish and suffered the humiliation of being labeled as freaks by society- and have gone through multiple transitional surgeries to become the woman they are inside their mortal shell- are not just dressing the part as if their lives were some sort of street theater. They are not out to threaten the sacredness of womanhood, as Dr.Budapest suggests:"Be careful how easy it is to quilt trip you sisters. Think what is your universe like? You get transprobes into your vagina? Where are these so called "women" when the chips are down like they are now for the real women? Nowhere. its not their concern. They are only out to "invade" womens space. Everywhere."* ( Excuse me, but just WTF is a 'transprobe'?)

And a yet another quote, which I find humorously ignorant:"The transies fight us like Marines with lipstick."*

Really Z? Is that the best barb you can come up with to get your point across after being a  writer for 30+ years? Did that bit of snark make you feel uber-fem and powerful? Because what I think you accomplished  was not so much insulting trans women than negating the legitimacy of female Marines in the exact manner often used by their male detractors. In other words, you just lowered yourself into making  the same sort of gender insult you've been fighting against for so many years....not to mention an implied derogatory remark that women who have served in the fight for freedom of this country are some how less than women.  This is not just an unfortunate choice of words, but a stupendous back flip off your celebrity pedestal onto the cement. Way to go! 

And this most recent post from her on Facebook is just over-the-top in the 'They're-out-to-get-me' level of paranoia:"Ladies, please look around you. Anybody could put me in touch with lawyers who care about women's issues? We need to build a global network, in order to defend ourselves. The trannies are powerful, foul mouthed and hating us women because they are never going to be us, but they can push us aside if we whimp out. There are many issues here for lawyers to ponder. I would just feel safer ." *  This is just pathetic. It kind of makes me hope she's suffering from some sort of dementia rather than her actually believing this delusional rant is reality. You would think that someone who has championed  being a woman to be the first one to celebrate transsexual women committing to becoming who they truly are. I can't for the life of me come up with a solid reason for her unwarranted fear of transsexuals...except maybe she's in fear of all the crap she's put out in the last year rebounding and coming home to roost. Just my opinion, but I suspect she might need more than an attorney's help with that one.

This sample display of public hubris by Z Budapest from her Facebook page is enough for some of us to be justifiably offended, but she took her personal rampage against those of us who reject the hate to a new level when she threatened to curse anyone who dared to change a single word in the chant " We All Come From The Goddess",which she claims to have written. It is one thing to claim infringement on intellectual property and quite another to put a hex on anyone who makes a substitution in the wording of a piece in the public domain. Having many friends in the creative fields of prose and songwriting, I staunchly believe in crediting the author, credit where credit is due and monetary remuneration where appropriate...but a curse? How quaintly old-fashioned! Much quicker than litigation, but about 40 years too late by my calculation. This particular chant has been assimilated into the unconscious collective of the Pagan community, so everyone has their personal take on it who has ever used it. So now Z Budapest is childishly demanding that once again, things go her way. What I believe she fails to acknowledge while lost in this particular  delusion of grandeur is that there are quite a few of us who can match her  bitchiness witchiness.  Personally, I'm all for sending whatever negative she puts out back to her 10 times 10 and binding her.

There are those of us in the community who are willing to overlook Z's outbursts as coming from an old woman in her dotage. Truly this is a different world than the one Z was raised in, but I have a hard time believing that she's stuck in anachronistic thinking. And even if that were the case, it is no excuse for blatant hatred. Saying she has slipped a cog because she's getting along in years is too easy an excuse to make. The more she rages, the more of us will examine in earnest what she's raving about., and the more of us will formulate a dissenting opinion of our own. That actually saddens me, because this is becoming a tarnished end for her. Meanwhile, the Goddess cries.

The inadvertent lesson being taught by the projected of Z Budapest's amplified  bigotry  is tolerance and the rejection of fear of The Other. Perhaps the Universe has found something positive in this after all.

*Asterisk denotes quotes taken from Z Budapest on Facebook at

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Flash of Myth: Lightning

 Copyright Sam Javanrouh,2009
My grandparents used to tell a story about how Mom's mother Florence was literally scared to death by a bolt of lightning hitting a nearby tree. Allegedly the explosion either knocked her out of the rocking chair on the front porch of their clapboard farmhouse on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, or she was in such shock that she fell out of the chair on her own. At any rate, she took to her bed and died the next day.  I suspect there was more to the story than that, but like all snatches of eavesdropped family history, the story was colorful and short. Just like the fabled lightning bolt it charged the moment and was gone in a flash. Forever after that day the distant rumble of thunder was the signal to my grandmother that she should stop whatever she was doing wherever she was doing it and go to bed, where she would cover her head with the linens and wait out the storm. I rode out a lot of thunderstorms by myself during my childhood.

The other side of the thunderstorm anxiety coin in my house was my grandfather, who was the local fire chief. Being fire chief imbued Pop with a lot of Ripley's Believe-It-or Not kind of  knowledge about things other people didn't know. Things like: If you dunked a cat in ice water all it's fur would fall out. I never asked for the empirical proof of how he came by this tidbit, but I think it was the white fire chief's helmet that graced him with this plethora of wisdom. The guys at the fire house seemed to  think he was some sort of genius  because they would look up at him in awe...or maybe it was disbelief... I never could tell.  While the first rumble of distant thunder signaled Mom to go into hiding, Pop would run around the house and unplug every appliance with a cord on it from the wall sockets...except the lamps. Why the lamps were exempt from the rule is still a mystery, but since there weren't any circuit breakers other than the ones that were part of the ancient fuse boxes in our house, this might have not been a bad idea. Perhaps his subconscious fear of lightening originated from a particularly nasty aircraft crash that occurred during a vicious storm near our home-in the middle photo in the following link, Pop is the fire chief at the far left of the recovery crew. (,-md-lightning-explodes-air-liner,-dec-1963)

And then, there was the Ball Lightning Incident, which was the antithesis of proof of Pop's vast knowledge of thunderstorms. It happened during a whopper of a storm that came up the Delaware River when I was about ten years old: a ball of bright blue fire shot through the screen door at the front of the house, traveled the entire with of the building, and exited through the open bathroom window, trailing a tail of  white smoke behind it. It was accompanied by a loud sonic report and the aftershock of fracturing glass and took only seconds. My grandmother was snuggled down beneath the bedclothes in a Valium-induced haze and slept undisturbed through the whole thing. Thereafter the front door and  windows remained firmly closed during any threatening weather, no matter how hot it got in the house upon orders of the local fire chief.

How I was never traumatized by my grandparents real or imagined fear of lightning I will never know. The simple fact is that I love the energy and power of thunderheads, I will run out into the downpour like a mad woman to embrace the wind driven rain. Maybe it's because I'm a Pisces, or maybe it's because I was raised not far from a river whose tides frequently pulled the storms in and out. I can smell the rain in the heavy atmosphere as the barometric pressure falls, and the hair will stand up on my arms in response to the gathering electricity of a thunderstorm.

Myth about the fear of thunder and lightning was once credited to the anger of the gods. In fact, one of the identifying attributes of Thor is the lightning bolt.( The lightning of Thor is often represented by the swastika, which is also a symbol of power in the Hindu, Buddhist and Jain religions. Native Americans recognize it as one of many representations of the Sun Wheel. Thunderbirds-a stylized form of the eagle- are thought to carry lightning bolts in their talons.The right facing swastika was adopted as the symbol of the Nazi Party during the 1920s as an amulet of power. It is said that the mighty Roman god Jove kept eagles to hurl thunderbolts as punishment for men. 

Folk magick abounds with  lightning lore: wood taken from a tree struck by lightning should never be used in a fireplace lest it attract lightning to the house. Mirrors are covered so as not to absorb or attract it in some places, while in others mirrors are set out to taken in the energy. Planting holly around the foundation of a home is said to deflect lightning, as well as elder, hazel or acorns kept in the dwelling. ( Cassell's Dictionary of Superstitions, pg. 157) A fire started by a lightning strike should be allowed to burn out on its own, and the charred wood gathered to be used in magick. A particular prized find were Devil's pebbles, beads of melted glass caused by lightning striking sand.

The Navajo have many taboos concerning lightning; items such as wood or stones should only be handled by a shaman because they have sacred significance. ( ) Some Navajo blankets have patterns inspired by lightning in them.

Wiccan Author Scott Cunningham ( 1956-1993), an adept at elemental magick, recommended charging personal healing,protection and power items during thunderstorms by placing them in a secure open spot where the items will be exposed to the rain and reflection of lightning.  Cunningham taught that since lightning storms are periods of intense power, the spells cast during them will be amplified. He advised that protection spells would particularly benefit from this energetic boost.  (Scott Cunningham,Earth, Air, Fire and Water, pg. 189)

Ultimate respect should always be used when employing elemental magic. The forces of Nature are unpredictable, and therefore when practicing in the outdoors-particularly during a thunderstorm- I urge you to use caution and common sense. The feeling of lightning flashing all around you is indeed exhilarating, but standing in a clearing and pointing your wand at the sky during a violent storm with the hope of commanding the elements will make you more of a lightning rod than a magickian. Practice with safety first in mind!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Monsters Everywhere!

In the golden age of film, Universal Studios made a name for itself through a series of films portraying legendary monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy,Wolfman,the Phantom of the Opera and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The acceptance and popularity of these mythical creatures were due not only to the need of the public for escapist fantasy in a stressful period, but because on a subliminal level the fear they generated expressed that of the masses during a time of war and economic upheaval. Life was uncertain and overwhelming. Society had need of something sinister, something or someone not resembling us as human beings on which to blame our anxiety. In one gigantic episode of corporate denial we could point out that it was the monsters that caused our fear, and not our own actions which impacted our lives

Flash forward to the present: wars, an unstable economy...everything old is new again...with a twist. Our current favorite mythical monsters-the worst case scenario of what it means to be inhuman - are zombies. They are characterized by unspeakable acts of violence and gore and are by all accounts unstoppable. And they eat our brains, the seat of of self awareness, the place where we store intelligence. They wrought the most unspeakable act of terror upon us by mindlessly making human beings into meat. Reanimated decomposing humans eating living human beings recalls what is the beast in us, devoid of conscience and wholly evil...and it horrifies society to think we could be  capable of such, even when applied in a fantasy setting. Psychologically are multiple layers of fear and disgust to apply to the concept of zombism. That is why the recent onslaught of murders currently in the news accompanied by acts of cannibalism is so frightening. We deny that any human could do so disgusting to another, so it must be proof that the Zombie Apocalypse is upon us.

The distressing  actions of the late Rudy Eugene will forever seal his legacy as a monster. The 31 year-old Florida man literally destroyed the face of a homeless man by tearing out chunks of flesh with his teeth. The media, ever ready for the latest out-of-the ordinary news, sensationalized the story to the 'nth' degree by dubbing it a cannibal attack, capitalizing on the current fascination with all things zombie in pop culture.

Friends of the deceased were quick to note that he carried a Bible around and quoted scripture, attempting to frame him in an acceptable characterization. Family have admitted that he was attempting to get his life back together after a less than exemplary period of behavior which included (allegedly) holding a gun to his mother's head and threatening to kill her. Existing police records show a yet another picture, that of a repeat criminal offender who earned the dubious distinction of being the first person in Florida to be tasered by officers during a previous encounter with law enforcement. His girlfriend thinks someone used voodoo on him. That's all the flying monkeys of the press needed to hear to fire up the whole zombie connection.

Authorities have made an educated guess that Rudy Eugene was more likely under the influence of a street drug known as 'Bath Salts' rather than a curse. 'Bath Salts' ( aka as 'Bliss', 'Ivory Wave' and 'Vanilla Sky') has been sold legally in corner stores and other out-of- the- mainstream places noted for their character, such as truck stops. It is advertised in a clandestine manner so as to be available just under the legal radar, but just as I am sitting her writing this post a news alert came up saying that it has been banned in the U.S. ( ) Which, of course, doesn't mean it's use will stop any more than any other substance. If an individual is driven to get high, they will find a way to get high-and will go to extraordinary lengths to do so. Their attention is so riveted and polarized to the present moment that the threat of frying their brain isn't a deterrent.

The psychosis caused by Bath Salts is impressive. Toxicology experts have stated that the high of the drug resembles the hallucinogenic/delusional properties of LSD, the often violent agitation of PCP and the stimulant effects of methamphetamine, in concert, meaning the worst aggregate of features and traits of all of the above  in one. An ER physician I spoke with the other evening while I was pulling a chaplain sift told me that users are not controllable with the use of standing treatment counter medications such as Diazapam- even in high doses. From personal experience as a medic who has administered my share of Valium in the course of emergency care, a 10 mg. shot will lay out  a 250 lb. man in full blown combative psychosis in under a minute. This is not true with Bath Salts, according to my physician friend: it takes multiple high-level doses of several sedatives-which of course have their own dangerous effects. This some serious shit, folks.

Which leads me back to the subject I really intended to address which was not drug abuse, but the intimation that Ruby Eugene was under a voodoo curse. According to the Huffington Post, his girl friend stated that either he was unknowingly drugged or placed under a Haitian Voudo curse ( ) She was very specific about the source of the alleged hexing, which makes me think that she's unintentionally incriminated herself as to some of her and/or her late boyfriend's clandestine recreational and/or religious activities. I'm not implying there is anything nefarious about Voudo as a magickal practice because it is indeed a very legitimate and wide-spread religion rooted in the African diaspora of Haiti. It is just as authentic as any other faith tradition in my book.And just like everything else, it's how it's used that determines if it's positive or negative. However, given that Rudy Eugene and as far as I can tell, most of his closest cohorts were Bible toting Christians, I find his girlfriend's statement concerning Voudo rather curious. I mean, personally, I would go for the drug angle-which would be more believable-than to attempt to explain away his despicable behavior by attributing it to being cursed.

What makes her explanation incredulous to me is the fact that nearly every outrageous act of violence one individual inflicts upon another in the State of Florida is reported by the media as attributable to a Voodoo Curse. It makes me wonder if this phenomenon is due to the religious prejudice of the fundamentalist Christian stronghold in that area, or simply due to society's ignorance of what is not sufficiently understood.

Enough already... Let's stop blaming indigenous faith traditions that are largely a mystery to the general public for contributing to personal misfortune. We create our own monsters, whether in our minds or in reality. Let's try a more refreshing approach like, say, lack of individual responsibility and leave the religion-and the zombies- out of it.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Knot What You're Thinking

We are up to week 24 of the Pagan Blog Project, and it's getting more and more difficult to select subjects following the alphabet. A few fellow bloggers are stymied and suffering the dreaded writer's's more difficult to chose subjects for some letters than others. I'll admit that I've gotten behind-not because I've had writer's block, but because other things have been blocking me...sometimes Life simply happens and our schedules are here I am, trying to get back on track and post when expected...onward.

K is for " interlacement of one or more flexible bodies" according to Merriam Webster's Dictionary..."a joining or binding" says others. One of the most useful skills I learned in Scouts was knot tying. It was necessary to know how to tie knots to  successfully pitch a tent in the days before rip-stop nylon and shock cords, when a tent was actually made of canvas and guy lines were necessary to suspend the structure. It was literally a badge of honor if you possessed the ability to tie more than a half dozen knots at camp. And then there was macrame, which is a series of specialty knots applied as a type of hand- weaving...everyone in my generation knows how to make one of those utilitarian plant hangers that was so popular in the 70s. There are entire websites dedicated to tying fishing lures, which incorporate elements such as beads and feathers into the final product.

I will admit that my knot tying skills have degraded over the last few years of urban living. I discovered just how inept out of practice I'd become when I attempted to re-attach the clothesline to a tree and failed to properly fasten the rope with a proper clove hitch. I suppose nailing the clothesline tot tree would show a lack of ecological savvy and woodsman-ship, so I didn't resort to that drastic a measure. It's to the point where if I can't make do with an overhand knot, then I resort to other duct tape.

Superstition places great store in the magickal power of knots. Folk magick uses the power of binding luck to a person by tying a knot in an article of clothing being worn ( much easier to do when petticoats, skirts and long tailed shirts were the fashion). Tying a knot in a handkerchief was an easy way to remember something- and to hex and bind.Other schools of thought believe it unlucky to allow a knot to remain tied in some circumstances-such as twisted and knotted bedclothes. One old belief in particular is that a dying soul cannot be freed from the body if the sheets and blankets are wrapped too tightly or knotted. 

Happily I can report that most knot magick (or cord magick)will require nothing more involved in the way of supplies than an overhand knot and a short length of string. Knot magick is simple and done with little effort other than focusing your intention to bind the power of a thunderstorm ( particularly good when your working needs an energy boost later ) or bind love during a handfasting. Knot tying is one of those methods that are multipurpose and can be used in so many way as an effective tool. I usually include a period of meditation on my desired out come and use a chant to seal the work when I bind in the energy or release it. There is a more involved method for using knots and cords here: Personally, I use utility cord ( the kind used to tie packages) because it is inexpensive and readily available. It is usually white or cream colored, which means it covers pretty much everything, but occasionally I have combined it with a bit of colored embroidery floss for a visual effect. They are tied firmly to keep the energy, but not so tightly they cannot be released by hand.

I have several very nice witch's ladders made of simple cord. One incorporates beads and a few silver charms, but the others have been made with simple overhand knots from thin cotton cord. They resemble a rosary or necklace and can be worn around the neck, wrist or ankle. They have been tied during the full moon, dark moon, wind and thunderstorms. I have one which was made during a hurricane and another during a particularly energetic rock concert....and they all work well for their intended outcome.

For practice, I would suggest tying a string of not more than three knots  on the same length at a time when you are feeling particularly powerful or confident, and saving that particular talisman for a time when you need a little something extra in your working.