Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Wind that Shakes the Pine Trees

It's a sunny day with a brisk wind blowing. Pine needles are in the air. M. and I both slept in a little last night after returning at midnight from one of the Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival concerts.

We went to one last year too, to hear Kim Robertson's harp and to watch Jerry O'Sullivan fight the uilleann pipes and win.

It's truly a little odd to hear stars of the Celtic music scene play in the old coal-mining town of Walsenburg, which is definitely in the non-fashionable part of Colorado, for all that they are trying to promote it now as "gateway to the Southwest."

Last night the harpist was Lynn Saoirse, while Seamus Connolly played fiddle and emceed. Add cellist Abby Newton, her fiddler daughter Rosie, Connolly's Maine neighbor Kevin McElroy, John Mullen, and the duo of Kim McKee and Ken Willson, who have moved to the area and whom my Celtic music-loving colleague wants to bring to campus.

Now: house-cleaning, cabin-cleaning, desk-cleaning, and somewhere I there I have to read essays from my creative-nonfiction class.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Gallimaufry in italiano

¶ I have nothing against the Good People, but I don't think they belong in law courts.

¶ Wicca: it really is a fashion statement.

¶ Francesca Howell, author of Magic with Gaia, speaks at an Italian Paganism conference (YouTube). Crappy video, probably from a cell phone, but interesting English and Italian soundtrack. How do you say "public outreach" in Italian, anyway? She was formerly at Naropa University but currently is living in Milan.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Gallimaufry (with horns)

Oberon Zell seems to drive some Pagans around the bend for his fondness for costuming, but who else reinvented unicorns? The original work was done by a Maine wildlife biogist whom Zell acknowledges, W. Franklin Dove, in various articles and a book, Artificial Production of the Fabulous Unicorn:a Modern Interpretation of an Ancient Myth (1936).

¶ I always say that making movies about writers is difficult because the work of writing is not very visual. Margaret Soltan links to an article about movies that are more about writers' egos and screw-ups. I think that I will rent a couple of them.

I would add Almost Famous to the list, mainly for Philip Seymour Hoffman's rants as a real-life character, rock journalist Lester Bangs, which are dead on.

¶ Recently a shut-down Toys 'R Us store in Pueblo that I pass on my way to the university blossomed with new, temporary signage as a Spirit World Halloween Store. I had no idea that there was a Halloween chain store! Or that there was a category for warrior and god costumes. Or that it included "outlaw zombie"--shades of Texarcana.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Feral Apples

Picking feral apples.The equinox is for apples. First M. and walk the small ravine that cuts through our land--that is where the feral apple trees grow.

I think of them as growing from apple cores tossed from someone's pickup window 50 years ago, but really I have no idea.

As Sally the witch says of the magicians' orchard in Robert Graves' Watch the North Wind Rise, these trees have been left in peace.

Only one of the feral trees has borne really well, and I will need a longer pole than my garden cultivator to knock down the high apples. "Wait until after the first frost," M. suggests.

And then we cross the road to a neighbor's house where two planted trees are sagging dangerously with apples. Why haven't the bears arrived? Maybe they will tonight. We fill our bucket in just a few minutes. Apples apples applesapplesapples.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Right Architecture for Reading

M. and I played hooky and went to Taos last weekend. I spent part of two mornings reading In Search of Zarathrustra (interview with author Paul Kriwaczek here).

The book is both an exploration of how Zorastrian ideas influenced Western monotheisms and an travel book about Iran, Afghanistan, and other regions of Central Asia.

It seemed right to read it on the patio of El Pueblo Lodge, surrounded by adobe walls, because as Kriwaczek reminds his readers, the word paradise comes from the Persian for walled garden, and many of those walls must have been mud brick.

The old parts of Taos follow the Middle Eastern/Mediterranean model: walled off from the street and easily fortified. I am acutely aware of the difference when I come home to my own house, built in the Celto-Germanic model: rectangular and decorated with antlers.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

The Cinematic Otherworld

About three weeks ago, I dreamt I was sitting with a group of people around a table in some sort of parapsychology lab. It was sort of like a séance, only instead of contacting spirits, we were trying to "make something happen."

After one session, I went into an adjacent room full of computer equipment, etc., and found a a group of electronic cables had all fused into a big ball. Somehow this was significant -- and somehow the affect of the dream was such that my unconscious dream controller pressed the "Abort!" button, and I woke up suddenly.

On some level, the dream reminded me of the 1990 movie Flatliners, in which a group of medical students try to create their own near-death experiences. There is Kieffer Sutherland as the bold leader ("Philosophy failed. Religion failed. Now it's time for medical science to try."), Oliver Platt as the over-intellectualizing Jew ("I did not come to medical school to murder my class mates no matter how deranged they might be."), Kevin Bacon as the angry but good-hearted skeptic, and Julia Roberts as the girl who is one of the guys.

Sutherland's character is actually expressing a very 19th-century notion, but let's set that aside. Set aside too why some demented set designer felt that Bacon's character should drive an Army surplus M751 truck -- in Chicago.

All of the medical students who "flatline" find themselves in an Otherworld where they must confront people whom they wronged. On some intuitive level, I always felt that the movie might have captured a sliver of the after-death experience, just as The Cuckoo has an interesting shamanic sequence.

Or am I kidding myself? Is it possible to portray the Otherworld realistically on film? And what does "realistically" mean in such a context?

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Friday, September 07, 2007

The Occult Experience

In my office with the fast Ethernet connection, I downloaded the 1987 documentary The Occult Experience. It is available on various bittorent servers, such as here. (There was tie-in with Nevil Drury's 1987 book of the same name, I believe.)

Lots of the film is actually older. Some footage goes back to the 1960s, such as a brief appearance of Isaac Bonewits during his Church of Satan experience. There's Selena Fox and Dennis Carpenter and her coven trooping through the Wisconsin snow and some New York Witch mispronouncing "Samhain," Alex "king of the witches" Sanders, The Temple of Set, and Janet Farrar teaching some students while Stewart smokes cigarettes in an armchair before robing.

One of the Farrars' initation rituals is shown at length, and there is also a segment on the Australian Witch and artist Rosaleen Norton.

Also included: Z Budapest and her Dianic coven of the time, explaining how women used to curse warmongers, Luisah Tesh talking hoodoo, the Fellowship of Isis at Clonegal Castle, and Michael Harner of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies. But what the filmmakers really love is the work of H.R. Giger.

What those Australian Pentecostals are doing in there, I'm not sure, except for the speaking in tongues and the exorcism. The latter just goes on and on ("Push it, Petra. In the name of Jeee-zuss, come out!"). Talk about savage rites!

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