Letters from Hardscrabble Creek

"Letters from Hardscrabble Creek" is a series of irregular, self-syndicated columns about living a Pagan life. Any Pagan magazine or newsletter editor is welcome to reprint them. My only request is that you send me a copy of the issue in which the column appears. Here are some of my personal favorites.

Chas S. Clifton

There really is a Hardscrabble Creek--here are Jack and I on its bank.


6. "Returning to the Holy City of the Plains" -- During the Carter and Reagan administrations, when the Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic revolution was rampaging through Iran, news reports frequently referred to doings in the "holy city of Qum," located somewhere southwest of Teheran. . . . Realizing that Qum is probably home to numerous dour Shiite Muslim clerics debating whether the chador sleeves worn by Iranian women should extend to the fingertips or if just to the wrist was long enough, I was still taken by the romance of the name, which sounds like something from King Solomon's Mines. Why don't we have a holy city on this continent? . . . If we do, perhaps it's Amarillo, Texas, the magickal crossroads of the Southern Plains.

9. "A Pilgrimage to the Parthenon" -- Starting out on an empty stomach was appropriate. I had gorged the night before anyway: blackened catfish, fried potatoes, corn cakes, ice cream, and several bottles of Market Street, a local beer. I could wait to eat until after I had visited Athena's temple.

10. "Amy's Night" -- Almost everyone in the encampment except Amy knew what was going to happen to her that night. She was running around with some older friends, going topless in the section of the campground away from public view, smoking cigarettes, and generally acting like she was 15 going on 28. She had no idea what was coming.

11. "How They Confessed" -- If you want a feel for the old witch trials, forget the historical novels. Go to a good video rental store or library and rent "Brother's Keeper," a documentary film about the 1991 trial of Delbert Ward for the murder of his brother William, made by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky.

12. "The Three Magicians." -- Once upon a time there were three magicians. At least they thought they were magicians, and their names were Mike, Phil, and Teresa.

13. "Training Your Soul Retriever" -- Probably the greatest error soul-retriever owners make is not starting the dog soon enough. Often they are victims of their own high standards--if the dog does not perform well or follow instructions, they give up, terrified by the image of showing up in a shamanic competition only to have some grizzled old practitioner sneeringly remark, "That dog's barking up the wrong World Tree." No, your emphasis in puppy training should be simply to exercise Pup's natural soul-retrieving abilities, not to mention his or her innate interest in dead people.

14. "The Ka of Mrs. Benson" -- I had a rough time with the priestess. She simply was not going to cut me any slack. It was the temple's way or no way: she made that perfectly clear, and she had the Legal Affairs department to back her up. All I had was a piece of paper from the probate court appointing me as "special administrator." That got me into the inner sanctum, all right, but I couldn't take anything out with me but the one sacred scroll mentioned in the appointment letter.

17. "Chasing Margaret" -- Needing some back-cover copy for a new paperback novel, a Bantam Books editor typed triumphantly, "Women are writing science fiction!" When Margaret St. Clair's novel Sign of the Labrys came out in 1963, this indeed was news. "SF" definitely stood for science fiction then, although of course it was speculative too. It was the age of "space opera" starship troopers and slim-finned rockets pulling G's as they strained to leave planetary gravity.

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