Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Mark Teppo on Magick and Fiction

I noticed this post about Mark Teppo and urban magick on Instapundit, linking to an Amazon blog item about his thoughts on the nature of magick.

Like I said, the definition [of magick] is a bit slippery, and it might be a bit much to attribute to the writing of a pulpy occult noir book the grandiose intent of creating magick, but that's part of what inspired the Codex of Souls. Not so much making magick, but rediscovering the possibility of it. Instead of holding such strangeness at arm's length and pretending that we're an entirely rational species, I wanted to embrace our esoteric history. Let it all be true. Why not? It's a matter of faith, isn't it? One of the things that separates us from the beasts with smaller brains is the ability to believe in something that isn't there, and you can argue that when we learned how to dream, our brains got bigger.

Sounds interesting. Have any of you read his books? What do you think? How do they stack up against, say, Charles De Lint?

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Friday, February 05, 2010

Don't Visualize, Organize!

That is the takeaway message from Barbara Ehrenreich's new book Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America.

Like much of Ehrenreich's writing, it is fueled by righteous anger.

First, as a breast cancer patient, she is disgusted by the happy-face positive thinking of what she calls "pink ribbon culture":

The cheerfulness of breast cancer culture goes beyond mere absence of anger to what looks, all too often, like a positive embrace of the disease  (27).

From there it's often into the "motivational" business culture that routes laid-off employees into seminars where they learn to be "a brand called you."

And there is "prosperity theology" in the churches, a/k/a "God wants you to be rich," and "positive psychology" for the non-churchgoing.

Not to mention the "prices will always go up" thinking that contributed to the recent real-estate bubble!

And in Ehrenreich's view, it's 99 percent bullshit, a new synthetic Big Pharma opiate of the masses that prevents people from clearly seeing their economic and political quandaries.

She does give some space to a fairly mainstream history of creative visualization (or whatever you want to call it) via New Thought, Christian Science, and so on.

Reading Bright-sided as an adherent of a magical religion, I obviously have some disagreements with Ehrenreich's wholesale condemnation.  These things work, sometimes with unexpected results--hence the old admonition to be careful what you ask for.

So where do we draw the line between possible and not possible? I do think that "visualize world peace" is a fruitless task, although one may act in a peaceful manner. And whatever you seek under the idea that "thoughts are things" has to be backed up and affirmed by tangible actions.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Greenwood's Anthropological Study of Magic

British anthropologist Susan Greenwood is interviewed at Pagans for Archaeology about her new book, The Anthropology of Magic.

In this new book I have taken that argument further and related it to a classical anthropological debate on mystical mentality; and I have also explored the nature of reality in relation to an inspirited world, developing a new methodology of magic from my own experiences, as well as those of others.

The "Luhrmann effect" mentioned by the interviewer refers to the backlash against anthropologists expressed by some British Witches and ceremonial magicians whose practices were discussed by anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann in her 1988 book, Persuasions of the Witch's Craft.

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

All Great Men Were ... Rosicrucians?

It's the 100th anniversary of modern Rosicrucianism.

For all their concern about tracing lineage, however, it is possible to find beneath the umbrella of modern Rosicrucianism just about any belief, philosophy or superstition you might care to name – pantheism, reincarnation, alchemy, psychic power, astral out-of-body travel, telepathy. There are Cosmic Ray Coincidence Counters and Sympathetic Vibration Harps. And you can corral just about any historic hero – Plato, Dante, Descartes, Newton – into secret membership of the movement (unbeknown, of course, to the dull minds of conventional historians).

For all the snarkiness, at least one serious historian of esoteric movements is quoted in the article.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Your Prayers, Our Magic--Do They Always Help?

It's a common argument among Pagans--Witches in particular--when conversing with monotheists to say something like, "What you call prayer, we call spells," or words to that effect.

No doubt we think ours are better. No one is testing them, but there have been a number of studies attempting to quantify the effects of "intercessory prayer," usually meaning prayer for people facing health crises.

Some seemed to show that such prayer helped, results that were seized upon by Christians.

But the results of one are not so simplistic, reports Christianity Today magazine. (I urge you to read the whole thing.)

The study received some attention at the time [three years ago], but seemed to have escaped the notice of many Christians, probably because of its surprising—and for Christians, disturbing—conclusions.
. . . .

The result: The group [of surgical patients] whose members knew they were being prayed for did worse in terms of post-operative complications than those whose members were unsure if they were receiving prayer. The knowledge that they were being prayed for by a special group of intercessors seemed to have a negative effect on their health.

Where does that leave people who say that you should get permission before "working" for anyone?

The authors then turn theological:

Our prayers are nothing at all like magical incantations [!]. Our God bears no resemblance to a vending machine. The real scandal of the study is not that the prayed-for group did worse, but that the not-prayed-for group received just as much, if not more, of God's blessings. In other words, God seems to have granted favor without regard to either the quantity or even the quality of the prayers.

And then they have to jump through more theological hoops to answer the obvious question, "Then why pray at all?"

Obviously, that is not our theology. Pagans do not expect the gods to conform to our standards of either/or logic.

But try reading the article and substituting our language for its authors'. How would you respond?

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Hymn to Extrication and Destruction

In my role as a volunteer fireman in this little hamlet, I went to a "vehicle extrication" class today in a nearby town. That meant learning to use the "Jaws of Life" (firemen just say "splitter") and other hydraulic tools for ripping apart vehicles in order to remove injured occupants.

In that larger department's classroom, the instructor had written on the board:
Welcome to Vehicle Extrication
Cut It. Split it. Ram it.
And all I could think of was Aleister Crowley's "Hymn to Pan." (YouTube version here.)
Through solstice stubborn to equinox.
I rave; and I rape and I rip and I rend
Everlasting, world without end,
Mannikin, maiden, maenad, man,
In the might of Pan.
Io Pan! Io Pan Pan! Pan! Io Pan
I'll bet Uncle Aleister would have liked to see us ripping the roofs and doors off of motorcars.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Call for Contributions: Women in Magic

This call for contributions to an edited collection comes from editor Brandy Williams' blog.

Megalithica Books, an imprint of Immanion Press (Stafford, U.K./Portland, OR, U.S.A) is seeking submissions for an anthology on women working in the magical communities, particularly in communities where women have not been extensively published or in which women face stereotyping and misunderstanding within and without the community. These communities include (but are not limited to) groups and individuals working in the Golden Dawn, Thelemic, Aurum Solis, Alchemy, Chaos, and Experimental Fields.

Women have been involved in traditional and ritual magic since the late Victorian era. However women are often viewed as tangential to these communities or as soror mysticae, assistants to the magician. Today women are actively involved in ceremonial magical groups and lodges, alchemy, chaos magic, and Experimental Magic, overcoming stereotypes and creating new visions of magic within the communities.

Go here for the whole thing.

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Monday, September 01, 2008

Lucifer Rising

I took a little trip back into the 1970s today to watch occult/underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger's Lucifer Rising.

It is not about Satanism but more about invoking energies of nature, a highly symbolic short film with not a word of dialog on the soundtrack.

Or you could say that it is about the aesthetics of ceremonial magick.

You can watch a low-quality version online, but I rented it as part of a Kenneth Anger collection from Netflix.

Even the story of its music is a masterpiece of Psychedelic Age gossip, involving a composer imprisoned for murder as part of the Manson Family, after Anger's first choice, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, failed to deliver.

Another article on Anger's use of color symbolism is here.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Gallimaufry with Atoms

Just some links while I am busy on two editing projects and a proposal...

¶ Aleister Crowley's legacy still poses problems for occultists -- especially when they take Internet "life" as equivalent to a "scene."

¶ Lonnie muses about animism and consciousness.

¶ A British celebrity chef recommends henbane in salads. Much concern ensues. The ethnobotanist Christian Rätsch has a recipe for henbane beer, which he says is excellent. (His personal site, in German, is here.)

¶ Peter Bishop has been reading the book of Genesis. It's fun to watch the reaction of an intelligent, non-Christian reader, "letting it speak for itself, instead of viewing it through the lens of later writings." I love the idea of Yahweh as a sort of venture capitalist investing in Abram and Sarah.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gallimaufry with Ink and Paper

Zines live on. That was me once, even down to the hand-cranked mimeo machine many years ago. A poet friend told me -- in all seriousness -- that "after the revolution" I would still be able to do mimeograph reproduction with used, dirty motor oil. Of course there would be no electricity.

¶ Some people should avoid sword-swinging magic? (Via Law and Magic Blog.)

¶ Jason has that one and more witches in the news for the wrong reasons.

¶ In India, the Virgin Mary is a goddess. (Via Non-Fluffy Pagans.)

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Another Serving

¶ A body-art slideshow, beginning with the signs of the Zodiac. (Probably NSFW.)

¶ Read the comments and see where you fit in.

¶ For your polytheistic bookshelf: Dancing In Moonlight: Understanding Artemis Through Celebration, via Executive Pagan, who is reading it and other books.

¶ Info on an article on Jack Parsons, ceremonial magician and rocket scientist.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Review: Beyond Lemuria

Imagine that cult film director Ed Wood was also a ceremonial magician.

Or imagine a merger of Dion Fortune and Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. She would be perfect to introduce this film.

Imagine giant caverns underground filled with degenerate descendants of the Lemurians, accessible from the lower slopes of Mount Shasta.

If you can imagine all that, you should watch Beyond Lemuria.

Written by Poke Runyon, well-known in West Coast Pagan and magickal circles, and including several other veterans of that scene in its cast (as well as some much younger and cuter actresses to balance the mostly mature male cast), the movie was clearly a labor of love, with the director and cast enjoying themselves almost too much.

You can’t have an occult thriller without swirling visual vortices or bits of Central European menace: a black magician with a “broomhandle” Mauser pistol strapped over his robe, or a sinister Romanian carrying (oddly) the Hungarian name of “Zoltan.” And black magic must work, because that particular cabal seems not to need California license plates on their black SUV. Evidently they are invisible to the cops.

At the heart of Beyond Lemuria are a 19th-century occult bestseller, A Dweller on Two Planets, by Frederick Spencer Oliver and the “Shaver Mystery,” which sustained the sales of the old SF pulp magazine Amazing Stories for years, not to mention being a staple topic in Fate magazine as well.

Anyway, the good guys are all good and seek enlightenment. The bad guys are bad and seek power. “Other members of the expedition were expendable,” sneers the chief baddie.

A young initiate must choose between two paths. But evil is never permanently defeated.

You will have to buy it from the filmmakers or from Amazon, because you won’t find this occult thriller at Netflix or showing at the local cineplex. But once you own a copy, you can add it to your “midnight movie” collection. Think of it as Plan 9 from Inner Space.

Best line: “Now I don't care how politically correct and liberal you people are, believe me, these aliens are not people you want to have for your next-door neighbors,” delivered by Poke Runyon’s character of an over-the-top anthropology professor.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Getting What You Ask For

A New York City principal has been effectively fired for spending the school's money for a Santería ceremony to remove negative energy from the school. (Via The Wild Hunt.

What an example of the "be careful what you ask for" principle. Something in the universe decided that Maritza Tamayo herself embodied the negative energy that she was trying to remove.

Tamayo later forced her assistant principal to pay the Santeria priestess $900, then improperly paid [the santera] $350 more to drive children to school for Regents exams.

And the custodial staff was stuck with cleaning up the chicken blood, apparently.

I am reminded of a ritual invoking the god Mercury that some friends and I performed when I was in my early twenties. We followed our source as best we good, even rising early in the morning to utilize the calculated "hour of Mercury" and speaking the lines in Latin.

We all got what we petitioned the god for. One friend, who clerked in a struggling used bookstore, asked that the bookstore's business would improve. And then the owners fired him, moved to a new location, and the store's business did indeed improve.