Thursday, August 30, 2012

Rhine Research Center

Zenner Symbols
When Drs. Joseph and  Louisa Rhine joined Professor William McDougall in investigating psychic phenomena at the new Duke University in 1927,  psi research was in its infancy. Psi, or psychical research as it was called then, was mainly focused on mediums and investigating the afterlife.

While conducting their research into telepathy and clairvoyance, Joseph Rhine coined the phrase " extra sensory perception". His experiments in conjunction with psychologist Karl Zenner with ESP testing on Duke students lead to the development of the renown  clairvoyant testing tool, Zenner Cards.although not foolproof, this method of testing is the hallmark of the proof of mental telepathy.

The Rhine's area of study also covered psychokinesis (PK), or the movement of physical objects by mental intention. By 1935 their experiments into the unknown proved to be of enough value to Duke University to create a special division, the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory, which in turn became the birthplace of the field of Parapsychology.

From the beginning,  the legitimacy of parapsychology as a science has been a controversial subject. The early work of the DPL and it's graduate students was  distinguished by discovery of the various forms of psychic abilities and what resulted from research into those areas. Despite genuine academic exploration into these phenomena, the Rhine's work was met by skepticism by mainstream conservatives at the university, and with his approaching retirement, J.B. Rhine realized a need for an independent facility to allow his work to continue in earnest.  It was a huge risk by way of academic credibility, but he vowed to leave Duke University.

In the mid 1960s, J.B. Rhine created the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man. The organization was moved off campus in order for it's work to connect with other researchers in the field of parapsychology on both an national and international level. It remained as such until the 1990s when it evolved into the Institute for Parapsychology and the main facility named the Rhine Research Center.[]

Today the Rhine Research Center in Durham, North Carolina is located approximately a mile west of Duke University Hospital. It's library and archives houses some of the most extensive research executed in the fields of parapsychology, ESP, Near Death Experiences (NDEs),Out of Body Experiences (OBEs), Reincarnation, Haunting, Poltergeists and Psychic Criminal Investigation in the world. Research in many areas of the paranormal are still being pursued by academics and education is offered to the public through monthly meetings which charge a reasonable fee [], workshops, podcast and other special events. It's quarterly newsletter is available free online[] and also a free blog written by various contributors in the paranormal area [] There is an online merchandise site offering such items as books, Zenner cards,DVDs,etc. A calendar of events is also available online.

While the Rhine counts many notable academic on it's advisory board, one of the most well-known is author and parapsychologist Loyd Auerbach, who's book ESP, Hauntings, and Poltergeists : A Parapsychologist's Handbook the basic Bible on ghosts and haunting.[] Auerbach has appeared on the Discovery Channel, Larry King Live, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and collaborated with the late psychic medium Annette Martin ( known for her work with police investigations) and  famed ghost hunter/paranormal expert Joshua P. Warren.

Monday, August 27, 2012


Oberon and Morning Glory in jewels
...As in Witch Jewels. Not familiar with the term? Some of you who have been initiated in degree traditions might be.  For those of you who aren't, they were once the  the badge of office of a High Priestess. Now, because there are so many solitaries, they are the providence of any priestess or priest to wear.

I think it's quaintly anachronistic and ever so slightly delicious in an "every woman's a goddess" kind of way. Because, as the song goes, I enjoy being a girl. There is an old world charm when anyone puts forth the effort to dress the part.

I was not given these particular 'jewels' by a king; in fact, I gave them to myself...because I'm worth it Especially when I am channeling my inner Goddess during a ritual, and even if it's an occasion where I am celebrating solitary...both She Of Many Names and I deserve to feel like a queen...because in that moment, that's what we are. There are no diamonds shining among my jewels:they are mostly semiprecious stones set in silver, but each piece adds layers of meaning. If I, in fact, become the Goddess during ritual, have I not earned the right to adornment?

There are those in the pagan community who scoff at the idea of Witch Jewels. Jewels do not make the Witch,they say... and I agree. What wearing these particular pieces of jewelry does, however, is make me feel special...and magickal.

My elemental cross circlet is set with malachite, yellow quartz,carnelian, turquoise and amethyst. I love the buzzy vibration I get from the combined energy of those particular stones, especially when they're amplified by the clear quartz point earrings I usually wear with it. I feel I am a higher version of my feminine self at that vibration, and I am more womanly. The lovely Maiden shines, the Mother becomes Queen, and the Crone becomes Queen Mother. It is for love of them-and not for the adoration of me-they are worn.


I have begun this post and put it into draft several times. The week for the letter "J" was much earlier in the Pagan Blog Project 2012, and I wanted to write something warm and meaningful about Jack-O-Lanterns, because there is something in that glowing face that is welcoming to my soul...But I couldn't do it in the heat of Summer, with the misquotes and flies buzzing, and life in full bloom. Jack-O-Lanterns are the stuff of  Autumn, when there is a thin layer of frost twinkling on pumpkin stems, when the leaves have turned out in their finest colors, when the grass is brown and crisp, and the air has that certain invigorating crispness. Writing about Jack-O-Lanterns in the Summer when it's over a hundred degrees and I am wearing shorts and a tank top is a disconnect I can't reconcile

This morning it was 65 degrees, and I dressed in a heavy knit top and sweat pants. There's brace of searing orange leaves up in one of the trees in the back yard that wasn't there yesterday...And  I had to make a cup of hot tea to get started this morning to coax myself awake, because I wanted to stay snug and warm among the fleece throws and pillows.

We all know the story of the Jack-O-Lantern-How a humble turnip was turned into a lantern after being hollowed out and illuminated by a hot coal or a candle. We've heard the tales about faces being carved on the turnip, and later on pumpkins which were plentiful in America. We know the Irish introduced this charming tradition to their new homeland. There is nothing new to add to that bit of history.

I collect Halloween items, which began with the decorations that we used around the house. My modest collection now consists of things I grew up with-some which are now considered 'vintage'-and simply things that have caught my eye and I like. About a third of the pieces I've collected are Jack-O-Lanterns in paper, plastic,glazed ceramic and dolomite. My favorite, the one which stays out all year long and is the first to lighted to greet the season, is a simple clay piece I purchased at a dollar store about 20 years ago..and of course, his name is Jack.

There is nothing particularly outstanding about Jack. His features are rustic and crudely cut into the Terra cotta vessel. I  imagine if left intact, Jack would be nothing more than a rounded flowerpot. The eyes and nose are upward pointing triangles and his wide grin boasts three teeth. The face is slightly tilted and off center. Unlike some of his dollar store brethren, I have not chosen to improve his lot with cosmetic improvements such as smoothing and painting. Jack sits silently, in all his imperfection, on my desk, where he is lit daily from Mabon until after All Saint/All Souls. He ushers the portal open, as I prepare the way for the ancestors with prayers, chants and meditation to make the yearly journey back across the Veil to join the living, and throughout Halloween night until the first softness of All Saints morning he is the only light in the room where I keep vigil. I am always a bit sad to put him on the shelf at the end of the season to make way for the splendor and richness of Yule and Christmas.

Jack and I are old friends now. We've spent the better part of two decades together, and he's been a constant in the last tumultuous third of my life when I moved from my childhood home to my first apartment since college, then made subsequent moves due to job and financial situations, until today, where he's sat on my desk for the last five Halloweens in North Carolina. I suspect we've been together for much longer than before the time a flowerpot was turned into a Jack-O-Lantern. There is something comfortable and comforting about that ragged, imperfect, lop-sided grin...Something very old and knowing...Something kindred and connected to the place where my spirit dwells and my soul grows. In the subtle illumination of Jack's face, I see the face of all my loved ones who have left this earthly plane. They watch me through Jack-O-Lantern eyes and smile back at me with that ragged grin. They speak to me silently in the flickering light, reminding me that some day my own inner light will join with theirs, but for now, we are on opposite sides of the Veil.

Friday, August 24, 2012

"Q" With A View

If you're a Star Trek fan ( and I'll admit that I am only at best marginal ) you've probably seen at least one episode of the many spin-off TV series with the bombastic character "Q" played by actor John de Lancie. He is a synergistic character, an individual member of a race of omnipotent beings which together form the "Q Continuum". They live in a dimension all their own and seemingly exist to meddle in the affairs of humans or whom ever else might be inhabiting the Universe. They expect humans to know they posses superior intelligence and paranormal powers, and if de Lancie's Q  character is any indication of the attitude of the rest of them, they hold us mere mortals in contempt for our lack of  recognition and validating their greatness.[]

In other words, they sound like typical Deity to me.  Ho-hum, Humans, we are bored.

I find the character of  Q particularly interesting from a theological angle. If Q represents our concept of a god-like being, then how, exactly are we humans viewed by the gods? Are we viewed as a sort of  blight on Planet Earth by a species far advanced beyond our wildest dreams? Are we merely tolerated?  Do the gods just allow us to exist for entertainment? Is our evolution an experiment in growth potential? Are we valued as an emergent creation to be nurtured during our time of discovering our potential. Are we merely mortal-or fully equal?

It's not much of a theological jump from the Q to the gods of, say, Olympus. Each god and goddess had assigned duties or "aspects".[] Individual deity were prayed to or worshiped depending on what the devotee desired. A relationship or patron-ship developed between human and god, and the human depended on the superior knowledge of the god to help them through their lives. Many of these groups of Deity exist, depending on location and pantheon, but all have similar duties or favors. We know from our experience what these patrons mean to us, but still, there is the question of what Mankind-the Human Species, et al- mean to the gods? A quick Internet search will usually yield nothing other than the Judeo-Christian definition of Mankind being made in G-d's image from the book of Genesis, followed by the story of the Fall from Grace. That leaves us yet to wonder...What is our relationship with the gods of antiquity?

The word deity derives from the Latin deus (male) and dea ( female); the related words divine and divinity (divum), roughly translates to "open sky" or "heaven". The Sanskrit word deva also reflects this definition " shining ones". also cites the words "heavenly" and "celestial" included in its definition of divine. The gods are believe by humans to be supernatural beings of superior intelligence and power to our own. Some believe humans were created by the gods, some hold to the belief that humans and gods are co-creators in earthy matters, and others define them as archetypes (C.G.Jung). The worship of deity is largely a religious and spiritual matter: the belief in one singular omnipresent god (monotheism), many gods (polytheism) or the divine in all things (animism) are all valid forms of belief. Many earth-centered religions take an animistic view ( as do many Native Americans) of the spirit alive and living in everything that exists, not just humans and animals. In addition, demigods, the combination of gods and humans, are also recognized through many religious traditions, and some houses of royalty claim their rulers to be such.  However, the majority of religions believe their gods and goddesses to be sovereign and dwell in places inaccessible to humans, such as other worlds, celestial, subterranean and supernatural. Most are thought to be invisible forces which interact with humans through rituals. Others are manifest in the physical forms of men ( such as the Dali Lama) or animals.

Basic monotheistic Christianity believes that G-d is a single personification with Trinitarian  aspects of the Holy Spirit and the Son. Various Christian sects ( Christian Scientists and Gnostic Christians, for example) deviate from that by believing that G-d is both male and female ( Father/Mother God). Others believe that the three members of the Trinity to be equal in standing; of these groups, a small amount name the Holy Spirit as a 'female' aspect along with the two males who hold slightly higher power. Polytheistic religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and neo-Paganism believe in many concepts of the Divine, in forms not only limited to gods, but as spirits and Elementals.[].The most popular belief among religious traditions is anthropomorphism, that the gods are personified with human traits. In religion and mythology, it  refers to the perception of a divine being  in human form, or the human qualities in the gods.[]

The closest I can come to answering the question posed regarding our relationship to the gods is this: we exist to give life to each other. Humans need the personification of a higher power on which to project their fears and adoration. The gods need humans to provide veneration to justify their existence. Again, we dance on the edge of the sword.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Wishing Summer Away

It's no secret that Autumn is my favorite time of year, for I live and breathe it's colors and the feeling it evokes everyday. By the end of August, I am glowing with anticipation of the change of seasons and want to run naked through a cornfield carrying a pumpkin...okay, not really, but you get the picture.

This Sunday I'm leading the circle for my home group, and the theme is a Rite for the End of Summer. We meet every other week, and for Sabbats and other holidays, so I chose this subject very carefully because as much as I love Autumn, I believe that Summer should be given it's due and not just dismissed like an old rag when we're done with it.

I am not a Summer person: I despise the heat and humidity and my creamy Irish skin rebels in the Summer sun, no matter how much sunblock I apply. I can dispel the  romantic notion that women 'glow' instead of sweat within five minutes of stepping outside in temperatures above 80 degrees- I sweat. A lot. There is nothing attractive or sensual about it. That pinkish cast I take on after being out and about isn't exactly cute either: later in the shower I will burn and/ or itch and have to slather myself with aloe vera. Years ago, after a hike in Aspen, Colorado, I ended up in the ER because I thought I'd developed an allergic reaction to something I'd come into contact with on the trail. The intense waves of itching actually made me cry, and I was clawing myself bloody trying to scratch the huge red blotches that appeared all over my body. After eight hours in the hospital and a battery of lab tests,steroid shots and a dermatologist consultation, I was sent back to my friend's home with a large bottle of Benadryl and a diagnosis of extreme sun sensitivity. I wasn't even sunburned, I'd taken all the precautions and slathered on the high end sunblock made for that altitude and UV exposure that professional skiers used...The doctor joked that I was "allergic to Summer". I don't even own a sundress any more because it's an exercise in futility.

End of Summer has a little different meaning for me now. When I was teaching, it meant I was rushing around  to get all the supplies together I would need for class. There was the headiness of 'back to school' and the thrill of meeting my new students. There were endless workshops and school administration meetings. When I began my teaching career at a little private school housed in a large church, it meant all of the teachers and aides going in a couple weeks in advance to clean, paint and decorate classrooms before the educational year began. It was a lot of work-but it was fun. Now the end of summer is defined by a break in the Southern heat and avoiding being run over by a school buses when the 'yellow plague' is at it's worst during the day. It means sorting through my wardrobe and storing the flimsy 'Summer' clothing  and storing them, then unpacking the mid-weight 'Fall' clothes that will serve me through the coming coolness.

I "conjured Summer in", so why am I wishing it away? The other day I realized that my wishing aloud for Autumn to hurry wasn't exactly expressing gratitude for the goodness Summer had given me...and there has been goodness, truly. So I apologize to the spirits of the season, and hopefully my small token of appreciation is acceptable and gives closure to our journey this season.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pagan Blog Project 2012: Quacks

Quackery abounds in the occult/paranormal community. How most of it exists is beyond me. I'm honestly astounded at the number of malleable and gullible people who will fall for the tripe I see on the Internet.

"This RARE haunted ring contains a POWERFUL Jinn! His power is unmatched! Centuries of hidden secrets can be yours!"...Buy It Now price: $19.95...We take PayPal."  If a Jinn did acquiesce to being at my disposal as my very own personal genie I'd be keeping him around...I'm just saying. And I think it would take a lot more silver than merely ponying up $19.95 to get him from me... That's basically the price of a large pizza. How insulting is that to a spiritual being hundreds of years old? I'd be one pissed off Jinn if it were me.

You used to see this kind of ad next to the ones for x-ray glasses and bust enhancement creams in the back of cheesy pulp magazines. Now they're on eBay-at least until August 31. I understand eBay has changed their seller policy concerning such items. [] Presently eBay is a fertile  source for this type of quackery: "There is a time we can no longer deny our destiny!" My destiny is another cup of coffee while I'm reading this hogwash."Do not dismiss any unusual occurrences that take place near you ..." Does that include uncontrollable laughter and that causes the urge to pee yourself ?

The part of this ad that caught my eye was the statement that this was a 'Pure Vampire Marid Djinn'
Oh baby, now we're talking! This guy ( and I'm assuming that the spirit in question is a male) is also a he's not just a genie, he's a vampire genie...WOO HOO! Wait a minute? What the hell IS a Vampire Marid Djinn? I didn't know, so I used that great tome of ancient archaic knowledge, Google, and found this on a site called Djinn Universe:"The marid is unruly and rebellious, and the most powerful of djinn. The marida (plural) possess great knowledge of magic and have assisted kings and priests. They are also known as “blue” djinn and are the ones most often associated with wish-granting genies.[] we have an unruly and rebellious  powerful blue vampire genie who has an " Unquenchable lust that will not be denied!" As they do. All the ones I've seen advertised for sale on eBay are of the extreme studly variety, guaranteed to ravage you on command. So far, he sounds like a rock star. I'm disappointed that it doesn't come with sparkles.

But wait...there's more. If you happen to win the auction, not only do you get the Jinn, but three wonderfully occult bonus items: Marid Fire Djinn Vampire Vapors, Blood Rose Oil, and Vampire Spirit Food. I have to wonder which end of the vampire the vapors come from...seriously. Vampire Vapors? I have this mental image of Barnabas Collins huffing into a Breathalyzer during a traffic stop on I-95. Admittedly, I'm at a loss as to what one would use the magickal application of Vampire Vapors for, exactly....and I am just as intrigued by the disclaimer accompanying the Vampire Spirit Food: " Not for human consumption-Safe for animals". This is simply mind boggling. Excuse me while I top off my coffee...

Let's move on to the next item: "RARE haunted Elder Celtic Druid Dragon King Psychic Power Money Passion..." This is the actual description of the item. I've read through it several times and looked at the fantasy art graphic of dragons that accompany it. I cannot for the life of me figure out what this one is selling, but at $15.00, it seems to be  a better bargain that the Marid Vampire Djinn. But are they selling an actual elder Druid that's a Dragon King? Inquiring minds want to know. If that's so, then I know several Druids who would be thrilled with this purchase, " Look, Mac- I bought your very own Druid Elder on eBay! AND he's a Dragon King! Think of the fun you two will have together..."

Okay, enough with the satire and sarcasm. Here's what occult quacks really do: besides ripping off the uninitiated public and making all occult practitioners the butt of psychic hot line jokes, it hurts the little guy selling their homemade wares who are only trying to make ends meet. Most of the folks selling talismans, amulets, floral waters, oils, poppets, occult themed jewelry and herbal preparations ( for non-medical use) on Etsy and eBay are legitimate practitioners. Not many of them are in the market to sell haunted or possessed items of dubious credibility, and none that I know of have a warehouse of spiritual entities for sale. They are not dabblers in the sensational, they make no claims other than to offer supplies for use by the customer. Yes, some do sell ready-made spell kits, but no outrageous claims as to the effectiveness of these kits are made, because those who are authentically practicing folk magick or the Craft know that the result of any charm or spell lies solely with the skill and intention of the individual.

I applaud both Etsy and eBay for their concern about the sale of occult items and services because I believe they're only trying to protect their customers from the charlatans and snake oil salesmen. My question, however is this: If you are restricting the sale on your sites of items used by Pagans and various esoteric/mystery traditions, then are you also restricting the sale on your sites of religious medals,prayer cards, blessed candles, malas, prayer beads and rosaries, holy water and anointing oils used by Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Jews among others? Because if you aren't there is a disconnect that leans toward discrimination.

Pigs in Pagan Myth

Pigs are cute. Their cuteness rivals that of kittens and puppies, and they're smart. They provide humans with spare body parts because the truth is we are more biologically similar than most of us would like to admit. They taste really, really good,too, especially when made into sausage or bacon and served along side a couple of over easy eggs. There's an old farmer's joke about how chickens only make a contribution to breakfast, but pigs make a commitment ...Okay, sometimes they smell a little funky, but hey...don't we all? That whole 'unclean' thing is a bad rap, because a pig will only lay in the muck to cool off or get away from insects. They're actually pretty clean as  livestock goes. Ancient tribes weren't too fond of keeping them because they require a lot of water and shade: instead, they  preferred cows, goats and sheep because they would eat anything when the folks were on the move. You can turn a ruminant animal loose in  sparse countryside, and they'll find something to munch.  Pigs, on the other hand, like to eat what humans eat, so they were expensive to feed and will squeal like your Uncle Louie when there's nothing for them to nosh...and they are known to eat meat when given the opportunity; and they are not only carnivores, but cannibals.Sows will eat their young. The mythologies of indigenous people are full of stories where someone disappeared in the night  and it was suspected they were eaten by wild boars. My cousin Chuck used to raise adorable pot bellied pigs. They were tiny, cuddly and I couldn't resist picking up the babies. They would  root and nibble at my fingers while  making sweet little grunts... in hindsight, I was probably just being tasted  to see if I would be a suitable future meal.

Pigs are largely native to much of the world, so there are many myths which include them. The Norse   god Frey has a huge golden pig companion named Gullenborsti; his sister Freya sometimes eschews the chariot pulled by cats she's usually seen with to ride a wild pig or boar. Pigs were once sacred animals in much the same manner as the cat.  Feral pigs are included in the animals seen among those of the  phantasmal Wild Hunt.

Pigs were often associated with the underworld: it is believed that swineherds can cross the veil unimpeded. Because of this they were associated with demons and spirits. In the Biblical story where Jesus casts the demons into a herd of swine, the modern understand in of the symbolism is that he did  so because the swine were considered unclean and according to the story were at once driven mad and hurled themselves off a cliff. [Mark 5:12, Revised Standard Version] The writers of the Old Testament were scholars of antiquity and as such often wove obscure occult facts into Biblical  text: pigs, as sacred animals of the underworld, would have been able to have been possessed by the demons and carry them off without being harmed. This is why the demons made such an odd request of Jesus, and he complied. The additional caveat of them hurling themselves off a cliff  echoed the reoccurring theme of the triumph of Good over Evil, when God throws Satan into the abyss, and was a later addition to the original story.

Pigs have figured nearly as frequently as horses in Pagan mythology. They are close to the Earth- they roll around in soil and root for their food in it. They were often set loose into newly planted fields to tamp down the soil. Because of their prominence in agriculture, they were often included in the symbolism of  many deities associated with vegetation, fertility, and harvests. According to the Welsh Mabinogian, pigs were  introduced to Britain as a result of trickery against King Pwyll, a Lord of the Underworld.  Cerridwen is often portrayed as Henwen, the white sow, who  swam across the sea from Corwall to Wales, where she gave birth to a litter that blessed the people of Wales and allowed these regions to prosper. The ferocious Cailleach is sometimes portrayed with the tusks and snout of a  boar. Pork was not only a particularly favorite meat of the Celts, but a preferred sacrificial offering. This is borne out by a quote by anthropologist and Iron Age expert Jean Louis Brunaux in The Celtic Gauls: Gods, Rites and Sanctuaries  “In antiquity, cooking was not differentiated from sacrifice; meat could not be eaten except by means of a ritual that could be directly related to that sacrifice. The hearth was therefore symbolically arranged to this effect.”( This book is excellent, but out of print.)
Pigs are also notorious protectors and sometimes associated with warfare: the Hindu god Vishnu assumes the form of Varahi when he saves the world from the floods.

Attis,Tammuz and  Adonis were all killed by pigs ( a pig, in fact, ripped open a tree so Adonis could be born). Pigs were sacrificed by the ancient Egyptians once a year during the full moon to honor Osiris. The sky goddess Nuit is portrayed as a sow whose many piglets are the stars.  In the Eleusinian Mysteries offerings of pigs are made to Demeter in return for a good harvest.( Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, John and Caitlin Matthews). Ceres,too, is associated with pigs because of her motherly nature. Adherents to Aphrodite and Ishtar make porcine offerings to these goddesses because of the highly regarded and sacred stature of the pig.

In places where it was not restricted by dietary laws, smoked, dried or salted pork was a staple of  the ancient diet. The preserved meat kept well throughout the long winter when people depended on food stored from the harvest. Lard provided flavor and fat needed in cooking, and the meat was a necessary form of protein. Sometimes the presence of pork was the difference between life and death in surviving the sparse cold months.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Papal Sorcery

Before I even begin, this IS NOT a treatise against the Pope or the Roman Catholic Church. It does, however, point out the allegations of sorcery connected to various individuals holding the office of Pope, with as much historical accuracy as I could find through current research.

The Holy Roman Church's psychological hold on the populace throughout history has been it's  privileged knowledge of Mystery and the Occult. The Papacy is the highest elected office in the Church-that of the Vicar of Christ-the single human conduit and intercessor to the Divine according to the belief of the world's many Roman Catholics. It is the highest position in Church Hierarchy, so when the credibility of a Pope is suspect in any manner, particularly in association with the 'dark arts', it is a very, very serious matter. It happened more often than one would think: all of the Popes accused of sorcery and being in league with the Devil were embroiled in controversies spawned from jealousy and political envy. Fights for control of the Papacy were common-and are ongoing to this day.

Leo I engaged in a power struggle against his bishops and attacked a major gnostic religion in Italy-where upon he was accused of sorcery and witchcraft by his detractors. A later namesake, Leo III, was credited with writing the Enchiridion, a grimoire  which he gave to Charlemagne. The emperor provided protection to the Pope for the remainder of his reign.[]

Sylvester II was an interesting character. A reputed necromancer, it is rumored he won the Papacy through a pact with Satan via the use of magick- and he consorted with a demon mistress names Meridiana who provided him with material wealth as well as satisfying him sexually. ( Talk about having it all!) A man of science, Sylvester formed a bronze head with which he conversed  on matters of state and religion.[] One of the predictions of the head was that Sylvester would "only die in Jerusalem". The Pope vowed never to visit that city. One day, while saying mass in a Roman church, the pope fell ill. Remembering the prediction of the bronze head, he asked his assistants the name of the church...which turned out to be The Church of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem. (Talk about irony?) Resigning himself to his fate, the Pope gathered his Cardinals and confessed his deal with the Devil. He died and was buried in Lateran, where local lore claims his tomb sweats prior to the death of a prominent person. Upon the death of a Pope, the sweat from the tomb is so heavy that it creates a puddle, and the bones of Sylvester rattle and shake.[] Many in the Catholic Church consider him to be an anti-pope and not a legitimate Pontiff.[]

The rule of Popes were sometimes brief: that of Pope John XXI (also accused of witchcraft) lasted eight months-after he was gravely injured in a roof collapse. Benedict XII was elected on the first ballot in 1334 and was a notable theologian and peacemaker who smoothed the waters with the Franciscan Order when they were at odds with the Church. Gregory VII was accused of sorcery by the Synod of Bressanone, before he was elected to the Papacy. He was known to make sweeping reforms despite the objections of his cardinals. ( I see a pattern occurring with these things, don't you?) All were accused of sorcery by their detractors.

Boniface VIII was an impulsive man with a short temper, although he was as well known for his intelligence. One of his most  vehement opponents was Philip V, King of France, who openly accused the Pope of sorcery and heresy. Boniface was charged with conjuring and consorting with demons, keeping an imp in a ring he regularly wore...and sacrificing a rooster...among many other atrocities. Legend has it that when  he confessed his demonic associations on his deathbed the sky roared with thunder and wind, and there were flying dragons belching fire seen in the sky. It is well to note here that after that spectacular display, he was exonerated of all his supposed misdeeds in 1312. ( At least it only took the Church eight years, and not the 300 it took to exonerate Joan of Arc!)

Other notable sorcerer Popes ( I told you this was not an uncommon charge, didn't I?) Is John XXIII, who supposedly called upon Abramelin the Mage for help, but was disposed by the Council of Constance anyway.( *SNORT* Sorry.) Honorius III , as his predecessor Leo I, is credited with authoring a grimoire .[Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy,pg 124, Rosemary Gulley] This particular text is cast as a papal bull giving everyone from cardinals down through common clerics the right to invoke and command spirits of all sorts. He is also believed to be the author of the Rite of Exorcism.

Sixtus V entered Holy Orders as a child and developed a talent for sniffing out heresies. Upon investigation of the Archbishop of Toledo, the resulting animosity of Spain won him an accusation of entering into a pact with the Devil.[] According to the tale of his servitude to Satan, he was given six years to reign as Pope, but the Devil came calling after only five, reclaiming a year because Sixtus V gave a death sentence to a young man one year too young to be executed. According to Craft lore, he was the Pope who authorized Phillip II of Spain to send his navy to England...where upon the witches of England promptly and magickally raised storms to cause Phillip's ships to turn back.[

How they hanging there, Joan?
And then there was....Pope Joan. That's right, Joan. Several hundred years after the fact, scholars were still debating the existence of a fabled ninth century woman who supposedly cross-dressed her way through the Church hierarchy to it's highest position.Variously, writers portrayed Pope Joan as everything from a myth, to a a hermaphrodite (quite possible if there ever was such a person), to a transvestite (An amusing thought, considering the fabulousness Papal bling!)...and of course, a sorceress who used witchcraft to gain the Throne of Peter. There is also an intriguing theory that Pope Joan was actually a man who experienced some sort of spontaneous sex change. Personally, since the official stance of the Vatican is that Pope Joan never existed, then I'd like them to  explain the existence of the Porphyry Chair, a throne with a keyhole cut into the seat in order for the College of Cardinals to process by and view the newly elected Pope' The chair actually exists and is part of the collection of the Louvre in Paris [The Afterlife of Pope Joan, by Craig M. Rustici,University of Michigan Press]

Saturday, August 4, 2012


All my life's a circle;
Sunrise and sundown;
The Moon rolls thru the nighttime;
Till the daybreak comes around.

All my life's a circle;
But I can't tell you why;
The Season's spinning round again;
The years keep rollin' by.

It seems like I've been here before;
I can't remember when;
But I got this funny feeling;
That I'll be back once again.
There's no straight lines make up my life;
And all my roads have bends;
There's no clear-cut beginnings;
And so far no dead-ends.
~ "Circle" by Harry Chapin

The concept of the circle permeates our lives. We gather in circles, dance in them, circle around the campfire, grieve when the circle is broken. We wear them in necklaces, bracelets, anklets, rings and belts. Our calendar is ordered in a 12 month cycle, we live through the cycle of the moon and the seasons. History is want to repeat itself time and again, just as we repeat our mistakes.We always seem to come back to whatever it is we were doing after a brief hiatus, and we focus our attention on things in the center of something. We are People of the Circle.

If you have been involved in the occult for any length of time, then you are familiar with the Oraborus, the snake that eats it's own tail. In alchemy, Oraborus is a sigil- a seal, a pictorial representation of either an abstract or semi-abstract of a thought expression or form. Many sigils in Hebrew-oriented magickal systems represent angels and demons. In this case, Oraborus represents the unending circle, the infamous, that which continually recreates itself. Oraborus represents that which begins again as soon as it comes to an end. The definitions of it are as vastly unending as that which the image represents.

Swiss psychologist Carl Jung believed that a sign stood for something known,contrasting it with a symbol, which stood for something unknown or unclearly defined. He perceived Oraborus as an archetypal mandala: no beginning and no end, continually recreating itself. Jung likened it to the individuation process, the continual cycle of becoming and wholeness. In this way the Oraborus also represents synergy: the creating of the whole. The true meaning of the Oraborus lies in man's unconsciousness and acceptance of 'the shadow self "...(as) he slays himself and brings himself to life, fertilizes himself and gives birth to himself. He symbolizes the One, who proceeds from the clash of opposites, and he therefore constitutes the secret of the prima materia..." ( Prime matter of Creation)
[Carl Jung, Collected Works, Vol. 14 para. 513]

The Oraborus dates back through antiquity, with the first representation believed to be found in a funeral text found in the tomb of Tutankhamen
. In the second century Chrysopoeia of Cleopatra, it appears with a light and dark half reminiscent of the Taoist Yin/Yang symbol. It was also described by the Greek philosopher Plato [Plato, Timaeus, 33], with a bit more organic description of it than that of Jung. It has reoccurred in Norse and Celtic mythologies (among others, as obviously stated) Gnostic Christianity claims it as a symbol of the eternal.The Aztec serpent god Quetzalcoatl has been portrayed as biting his own tail on Toltec ruins. The list of examples goes on and on.

Oraborus has also been represented as a dragon biting it's own tail, most notably in Asian and Celtic art. (The word dragon derives from the Greek verb 'drakein', " To see clearly".) Many Asian cultures hold the dragon in spiritual significance as the primal force of Nature. In the Celtic countries, and Ireland and Wales in particular, they are associated with wisdom. These cultures imbue them with a form of magick all their own, and associate them with life-giving waters- rivers, streams, lakes, and sacred wells. Therefore a dragon biting it's own tail would bespeak of the knowledge of the whole of Life, or the cycles of Life. 

Friday, August 3, 2012


In 1924, H.P.Lovecraft's short story,"The Hound" was included in the February edition of Weird Tales, a popular pulp magazine in the occult/horror/mystery genre. It was a story typical for it's time, written in a  style hauntingly reminiscent of  one of Lovecraft's forerunners, Edgar Allen Poe. It was not a tale that stood out among the many Gothic horror stories of the time period. What makes The Hound noteworthy is not the story, but an item mentioned in it: a grimorie of extraordinary evil known as The Necronomicon, a book of totally fictional origin written by  the 'Mad Arab' Abdul Alhazred, a character in another Lovecraft creation.( Much later, Dean Koontz would use the same strategy by using 'quotes' from the fictitious Book of Counted Sorrows his works; in 2003, Koontz did finally publish a limited edition volume of poetry using that very title. For him, as for Lovecraft, I believe the model is a minor bit of marketing genius.)

The Necronomicon is the stuff of literary legend: a moldy, hidden manuscript of ancient origin written by a partly insane devotee of  Cthulhu. Although it's contents and origin are spotty, it is hinted that it contains the secrets of the dead, was used as a reference in ceremonial magic for centuries, passed down from the Sumerians to many other civilizations, translated into Greek and then Latin (when it was banned by a Pope Gregory IX) by way of Spain, Italy and other parts of Europe and later into English through the Elizabethan magician John Dee-who never published his translation in it's entirety. It's mysterious content existed only in fragments throughout it's long life, adding to it's appeal among many occultists who insisted upon it's actual existence.

Lovecraft himself insisted that the Necronomicron was his own invention and never existed in reality."...As for seriously-written books on dark, occult,and supernatural themes- it all truth they don't amount to much. That's why it's more fun to invent mythical works like the Necronomicon..." Lovecraft wrote to Willis Conover, a broadcaster on the popular Voice of America Radio Show, and who published a sci-fi fanzine, Science Fantasy Correspondent in the 1930's.

Although Lovecraft always claimed the book was non-existent and nothing more than a figment of his imagination,the ensuing years brought forth an overabundance of individuals claiming to own authentic copies of the fabled text, from various sources. Library card catalogs listed the book with the notation, " Reference only. Inquire at desk", which was, I believe, more of a device to keep copies written by others with the same title from being stolen rather than limiting public access to it's supposed dark, dangerous contents.

While there are no legitimate copies if the Necronomicon, a number of books using the same name but written by other authors have surfaced, most notoriously, the version in the late 1970's by a self- proclaimed East Orthodox Christian priest using the alias of 'Simon'.  The "Simon Necronomicon"(as it is popularly known) contains an 80 page introduction by the author  and leans heavily on the theory of ancient middle eastern origin for the grimorie that contains mainly conjurations, incantations, demonic and angelic seals and rituals of ceremonial magic. A later book by Simon, Dead Names: The Dark History of the Necronomicon[], uses a confusing and convoluted timeline in a conspiracy theory format that attempts to ferret out the 'true' history of a Greek version of the ancient text by the author. It has long been suspected that 'Simon'is the nom de plume of Peter Levenda(, an occult writer who specializes in political conspiracies and who just happens to be one of the characters frequenting the book. His identity is thinly veiled in this occult cat and mouse game of  occult political intrigue that comes off sounding a bit like a psychedelic version of Raiders of the Lost Ark to me. I am especially suspicious of Levenda's credibility when he claims that as a twenty-something he and a colleague crashed Robert Kennedy's funeral mass dressed as two Eastern Orthodox Bishops (Dead Names,pg 60). The account of this adventurous lark in Dead Names is very detailed and specific; the problem I have is that I have viewed the event in question captured in video-taped news footage on Youtube numerous times and have never seen clergy of that denomination sitting in the place of honor described by Simon, nor any ministers fitting his description of their age and vestiture...and as someone who holds a degree in Comparative Religion and is an ordained minister, I would recognize them instantly. It is just one of the details Simon takes liberties with in writing this book. On a positive note, the book is interesting and entertaining in a taboo kind of way-as long as the reader doesn't take his words has truth, because I suspect the account is a fictional as Simon's name.  I did rather enjoy thumbing through the pages featuring a rag-tag troupe of occult notables,near notables and out right odd-balls, most notably his recollection of the flamboyant and toady Herman Slater [], owner of the infamous Magickal Childe bookstore.  I met Slater (unbeknown to me around the time all of this nefarious intrigue surrounding the Necronomicon was taking place) when I was a student at NYU and stopped in Magickal Childe on impulse. He was quite simply a character.

Back to Lovecraft's original statement that the Necronomicron does not exist as invented by him; later pretenders to the literary throne don't count as far as I'm concerned. Writing a grimorie and simply calling it Necronomicon doesn't make it the Necronomicon, it just makes for poor imitation intended to dupe the public...which, in my opinion, places the action in the same class as those who claim degrees of adept  in esoteric orders of dubious existence.