10 Questions with Brian Patton (aka The Sexy Vegan)

1. After “The Sexy Vegan Cookbook”, what made you decide to make your next book “The Sexy Vegan’s Happy Hour at Home”?

I was sitting at my computer one day and got an email from my editor at New World Library. As I remember it, she said something to the effect of, “your first book is selling really well, and we project that it will continue to sell…and we love you better than all of our other authors, and you’re the best at everything, oh, and do you have any ideas for another book?” I had recently started a tradition in my house of doing a little “happy hour” on our little balcony with me and my girlfriend (who has since become my wife). It was a tapas kind of thing with small plates and, of course, some adult beverages. I presented this idea to the editors and presto! Happy Hour at Home was created!

2. You have very specific rules as to what constitutes a happy hour. Do you mind sharing them with my readers?

Yes, well, these are the rules I use in my own home. You can use these, make up your own, or have complete anarchy and chaos.

1. Happy Hour is always served on the balcony.
2. Happy hour season may begin only when the weather is such that once the sun goes down, even the whiniest of guests won’t get chilly sitting outside, because, see rule #1.
3. Happy hour is on Friday. Period.
4. Happy hour is for four people. Any more and you’d have a dinner party, and that’s a different book.
5. Happy hour guests may not be made privy to the menu until the chef posts it.
6. Guests bring the booze at the chef’s instruction.
7. And finally..there’s no crying in happy hour.

3. Is it hard being a vegan when going out to an average restaurant’s happy hour?

It is. Usually going out to eat as a vegan in a non vegan world is not a difficult thing once you get the hang of it, but a happy hour poses it’s own challenges. The menu is usually limited to bar food like buffalo wings, chicken fingers, nachos, sliders, jalapeno poppers, etc. There’s always fries, and sometimes onion rings, but those onion rings most likely came out of a big industrial bag and were frozen solid 5 minutes before they were served to you. “Happy Hour at Home” is the solution to these problems…and if all else fails, we still have gin…thank Dog that’s vegan…makes things much easier.

4. What is your favorite food recipe from “Happy Hour at Home”?

The stromboli from the first menu is very near and dear to my heart, because I ate stromboli growing up. There were all kinds, too. Regular stromboli had salami, ham, cheese and veggies. Then there was the cheesesteak stromboli, which was awesome! And I’ve even had buffalo chicken stromboli! I really wanted to veganize it, and with all the great new vegan cheese options out there, it made it pretty easy. So I get to have stromboli once again…really good stromboli.

5. What’s your favorite drink recipe from your latest book?

For many reasons, my favorite cocktail is The Bloody Vulcan. While a blood mary is made with tomatoes, and colored red, a Bloody Vulcan is made with tomatillos and colored green…like the blood of a vulcan. It’s fresh tomatillo juice mixed with lime, agave, and tequila.

6. The Bloody Vulcan as a Star Trek reference is all well and good, but now what are you going to do about those alienated Star Wars fans?

Well, if you pay attention to my instagram, facebook or twitter feed, you can see that I have hung a large R2D2 pinata in my unborn child’s nursery. I give both Star Wars and Star Trek equal time in my life…but I can’t *ahem* FORCE myself to come up with a Star Wars themed drink. It just didn’t happen this time. While I can’t think of a drink, however, the only thing I can come up with off the top of my head here is: “Boba Fett-uccine”…a pasta dish, with a “bounty” of fresh veggies. See? That’s what happens when I force it.

7. And let’s face it, once you’ve got Star Wars covered you better have a Lord of the Rings drink lined up too. Ideas?

Oh wow. Okay… umm… How about a shot called “The Fires of Mordor”. Tomato juice, carrot juice, tequila and a squirt of Siracha..then float Bacardi 151 on top and set it ablaze. I totally just made that up and it is untested..I may have to give it a try though.

8. With your first book you were a guy with a girlfriend. Now you’re married to that girlfriend with a baby on the way. What’s a vegan infant’s diet going to be like?

Well, it’s going to start with breast milk, which technically isn’t vegan, I suppose, but I’ll let that one slide. Once the kid starts eating solid food, it’ll be the same as any other baby, pureed fruits and veggies. At some point, most people “introduce” animal products into a child’s diet. We’re just going to skip that part, and make sure he’s getting all the vitamins and nutrients he needs with plants. I’m not all that worried about it. I know plenty of kids that have been vegan from birth, they seem more than fine.

Update: Say Hello to baby Oliver!

9. So, you’re the executive chef for Vegin’ Out in Los Angeles. You still do the Sexy Vegan instructional YouTube videos, you’ve authored two cookbooks, you travel the country to attend events, and now you’re about to become a father. What’s next for Brian Patton?

Retirement. Ah, if only. I’m doing some menu consulting for a new vegan restaurant that’s coming together in Los Angeles, and I’m toying with the idea of doing some pop-up dinners and things like that. I’ve got more book ideas that I’m fleshing out as well, but that’s a ways off. Mainly I’m going to be making sure my dogs don’t eat my baby..at least for the next few months or so. I don’t think they will, they’re pretty good dogs.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

What will be your first order of business once you, Rebecca, become the “Supreme Ruler of the world?”

I have three words for you: Bring back Firefly.

About Brian Patton:
Brian L. Patton is the executive chef for Vegin’ Out, a vegan food delivery service in Los Angeles. The quintessential “regular dude” vegan chef, he started posting instructional cooking videos on YouTube as his witty, ukulele-playing alter ego “The Sexy Vegan” and quickly gained a large following. Brian offers his popular cooking demonstrations at stores, restaurants, and community centers throughout Southern California and in his travels around the country.

10 Questions with Pierce Word

1. What made you decide to do a book of presidential quotations?

Well, since an early age I loved history, and I loved writing. So I always had it in the back of my mind that I would eventually write something history-related. And then one day in college I was writing a term paper on American History, and I was trying to conclude the paper with a profound quote, and thought who would be better to quote than a U.S. president for a U.S. History paper. But to my amazement, this country has tons and tons of books on American History, Culture, and yes, Presidents, but a comprehensive book exclusively on U.S. Presidential quotations was actually non-existent. And it was at this moment that I decided to put “Wisdom from the Oval Office” to pen and paper.

2. How did you go about compiling all the quotes?

I utilized local libraries in Chicago, in addition to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and several presidential libraries. My sources ranged from personal diaries, to letters, to newspaper articles, to autobiographies of the Presidents.

3. There are 40 different categories of quotations ranging from Democracy to Government to War. How did you decide to categorize all the quotes you found?

Well, I was looking for themes that were hot-button issues to Americans. Issues that interest people, and which people want to read and know more about. So I visited surveys, polls, and library catalogs, and pooled categories that people showed interest in, like the economy, love, war, politics, God, and so on. And I eventually made these categories into the chapter headings for “Wisdom from the Oval Office.”

4. Did you ever find yourself feeling a partisan inclination when compiling quotations? Where you maybe wanted to include more of one party’s or president’s quotes than another?

No. The purpose of this book was to give readers a glimpse into the lives of the Presidents, both in their public and private spheres…with no sugar-coating!

5. Who is your favorite president?

Abraham Lincoln.

6. What is your favorite presidential quote?

It really depends on what you’re looking for. You have serious ones, to comedic ones, to meaningful ones. That being said, one of my all-time favorites: “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” –Ronald Reagan, during a news conference on August 12, 1986. Also, being a fan of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I can definitely relate to James Garfield’s saying, “Man cannot live by bread alone; for he must have peanut butter!”

7. Did the President’s with the shorter terms have fewer quotes represented in the text?

Not necessarily. Some Presidents just talked more than others :).

8. Did you discover any unusual bits of trivia about any of the Presidents while researching quotes for the book?

Yes. Did you know, originally, Vice Presidents were the presidential candidates receiving the second-largest number of votes? Could you imagine George W. Bush and John Kerry as President and Vice President of the United States?!

9. Do you have any upcoming projects my readers can look forward to?

Thanks for asking Rebecca. Yes I am. It’s on the successful businessmen and women in America, their lives, their struggles, and their stories, in their own words, and how they reached the pinnacles of financial success in this country. It’s meant to be more of an inspirational business handbook…I’m not set on a particular title yet, but if any readers have any suggestions, please let me know!

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

Why do they call it an escalator if it takes you down?

But they can also carry you up! (Although if you want to geek out, you can read about the origins of the name here.)

Wisdom from the Oval Office
Compiled by Pierce Word
List $18.95
Paperback: 303 pages Also available as an e-Book
History Publishing Company, July 23, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-1933909448 ISBN-10: 1933909447

Available from Amazon.com (Softcover & Kindle) and Barnes and Noble.com (Nook)

PR Contact: James or Lynda O’Connor, 847-615-5462, jimo@oconnorpr.com

About Pierce Word:
Pierce Word studied at the College of DuPage in Illinois and later earned a B.A. in Middle Eastern Studies with honors from the American University in Cairo, Egypt, and an M.S. in Project Management from Boston University. He spent two years touring Europe and the Middle East. While in Cairo, he taught U.S. History and English as a second language. Over a 3 year period, he researched and cross-referenced speeches, letters and diaries of the American presidents, and compiled a collection of presidential quotations, the largest published collection to date. He lives with his wife in his native Chicago.

10 Questions with John Mabry

1. What made you decide to write “Growing into God: A Beginner’s Guide to Christian Mysticism”?

I’ve long been a student of Christian mysticism—and a practitioner, too, I might add! I was teaching a graduate course in Christian mysticism at a local university, when I realized that the only textbooks out there were either antiquated or hopelessly inept. I decided to write one myself. But because I’m me, it isn’t a textbook. I teach, but I don’t consider myself an academic. I’m a pastor—so I’m not writing for academics or even students necessarily, but for ordinary folks. My ideal reader is a Christian who wants to go deeper into her own tradition, or a non-Christian who wants to see what all the hoopla is about.

2. Readers know what I mean when I say Christianity, but what is Christian Mysticism? What is the difference?

In my mind there isn’t one. Mysticism is the very core of the Christian tradition, regardless of what denominational lens you’re viewing it through. The problem is, most Christians have either forgotten this, or they don’t recognize what they believe as being “mystical.” Mysticism is the pursuit of—or enjoyment of—union with the Divine. Since all Christians believe that they are united with God (or Christ or the Holy Spirit) in some fashion, all Christians are mystics. But unfortunately, we in the Christian tradition have done a pretty lousy job of communicating our tradition, even amongst ourselves. We’ve made it so sin-centric that we’ve sapped it of its joy—and that’s just not the way of Jesus at all. Christianity isn’t about sin or guilt or blame. It’s about life and transformation and making love to God. (There, that should get me on some Christian fuddy-duddy’s hit list.)

3. The path of the Christian Mystic has steps leading to Union. Could you describe each step to my readers

Sure. First, Evelyn Underhill describes a step zero, called “Awakening,” that kicks everything off. This is a mystical experience that just kind of comes out of nowhere and knocks you upside the head. You go, “WTF? What the hell was that?” This is kind of the “God as heroin dealer” model. The first taste is free, but you know you’ll want more, and soon you’re hooked. Which is good, because the next step is very hard. The mystics call it “Purgation” and it’s the first step in the classical model. Once you’ve had an Awakening experience, you see everything in a new light. You begin to sort through the things in your life, weighing them in light of the mystical revelation you received. You begin to let go of those things that are not congruent with your vision, and hold on to those that seem congruent. Basically, you’re sorting the illusory from the Real, based on the brief glimpse of the Real that you’ve received.

Once your done with this sorting, you can settle into a serious meditation practice, which the mystics call “Illumination.” In the Illuminated state, you see the Divine in all things. But as you go deeper, you realize that this is incomplete—that in fact, it is the other way around: all things are in God. I call this stage, “Enjoyment” because in it you really learn to enjoy the presence of God, and you sink deeper and deeper into an awareness of the Divine presence.

Finally, you sink so deep that the distance between you and the Divine disappears. The mystics often speak of this as “divine marriage” or “divinization,” but the result is the same—the illusory distinction between the Creator and the creation is dissolved, and the mystic enters into full and conscious union with the divine. But this is no sea of bliss. To be one with God means that what God wants, you want, and what God does, you do. And since God’s primary concern is to heal everything that is wounded or broken, mystics in full union are very busy people, spending most of their time with the poor and the oppressed.

(Question 4 was skipped because he pretty much answered it in question 3.)

5. In reading “Growing into God”, the path of the Christian Mystic doesn’t seem entirely safe. Could someone attempt this by themselves with just your book for guidance?

No form of mysticism is safe. People blow out their nervous systems doing Kundalini yoga all the time, when they try it out of a book. Christian mysticism isn’t as hard on the body’s electrical system, but you’re right—it’s not a safe endeavor, either. It’s best done within the context of a loving and supportive church community (there is no such thing as a “lone ranger” Christian, after all) and for best results, one should see a trained spiritual director once a month.

6. The Catholic Church features many mystics in their history, but I get the feeling if someone spoke to a bishop today and said, “I’m pursuing the path of the Christian Mystic,” the Bishop’s response would be to back away from you slowly. I guess my question is, what’s up with that?

Well, my guess would be such a reaction might have something to do with an overzealous ambition. It’s like the difference between saying “I’m thinking of going into politics” and announcing, “I’m going to be king of the world!” Going into politics is doable, being king of the world is less likely. And so it is with mysticism. The truth is that all Christians are called to be mystics, but few ever reach the “finish line” of full union in this lifetime, but the good news is, we don’t have to. As St. Therese of Lisieux of Liuseaux said, “All the way to heaven is heaven.”

On the other hand, if most Christians knew their own tradition better, we’d all own up to being “on the mystics’ path,” and there would be far fewer raised eyebrows. Still, your fictional bishop should know better. Instead of backing away, he should clap a hand to your shoulder and say, “That’s a wonderful thing. I’ll be praying for you.”

7. Can Union be compared to the Buddhist concept of enlightenment? Is this path just for Christians?

The stages of the mystical journey are roughly the same in most religious traditions. If you conceive of the Buddhist Noble Eightfold path as a linear model of spiritual development, and compare that to the model laid out in the Hindu Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali, and compare that with the Christian model of Purgation, Illumination, and Union, you’ll find amazing similarities. The Hindu and Christian models are the closest. The Buddhist model does things in a slightly different order, but all the pieces are there. Of course, each tradition uses a different vocabulary, different metaphors and symbols to describe this journey, but the journey is basically the same. In my book I’m describing the journey as Christians have experienced and spoken about it. But when you strip away the symbols and language and cultural baggage what you find is the same journey of the soul—a human journey.

8. Can you tell us about one of your favorite mystics and why they’re a favorite?

I have so many favorites! I especially love Julian of Norwich, though, because her visions are so rich, so emotional and loving, and they also challenge the theological notions of her time, albeit in a cannily diplomatic way. But I also love the practical mysticism of Charles Williams. His “occult thriller” novels are masterpieces of both horror and theology. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today if not for his influence.

9. What’s next for you? Any more books?

Yes, there are always more books! I have a new one coming out from Morehouse/Church Publishing titled Faithful Generations: Effective Ministry Across Generational Lines. I’m also polishing a Christmas novel, and hope to soon start work on a sequel to my horror/comedy/adventure novel, The Kingdom. Meanwhile, my progressive rock band, Mind Furniture, just did our first gig and we were blown away by the positive response we get, so we’ll probably put some energy into more live shows, even as we continue working on our next CD. Our last CD is called Hoop of Flame, and it’s on iTunes, so I hope you’ll check it out. It’s got a great hymn to Shiva, and a rock opera where we put God on trial for his crimes against humanity. It’s a kick!

10. Part shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

Have you done any articles on Christo-pagan/Christo-Wiccan rituals or communities? I’d love to read that, if so.

I haven’t, but I’d love to. There are so many topics out there, so little time it seems. A great place that has discussed it from time to time along with a ton of other fascinating topics is The Wild Hunt website.

About John R. Mabry, PhD:
John R. Mabry is a United Church of Christ minister and pastors Grace North Church (Congregational) in Berkeley, CA. He teaches spiritual guidance and world religions at the Chaplaincy Institute for Arts and Interfaith Ministry in Berkeley and at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto. Among his books are “The Way of Thomas”, “Faith Styles”, and “Noticing the Divine”.

Another 10 Questions with Deborah Blake

1. What made you decide to write “Everyday Witch Book of Rituals”?
Mostly popular request! I’d begun to think I’d said everything I had to say about the modern witch’s practice, but people kept asking me for rituals. In addition, I’d always wanted to write a follow-up to my first book—Circle, Coven & Grove: A Year of Magickal Practice. One of the things I loved about that book is that it made a year of Pagan practice easy by giving you everything you needed to celebrate full moons, new moons, and Sabbats…but it was designed mostly for covens (witches working together) and I wanted to write one that was aimed at both solitaries and group witches, and had a little something added.

2. How do rituals differ from spells?
A spell is simpler—usually a kind of prayer or request or putting intentions out into the world (sometimes rhyming, sometimes not). They’re often fairly short; anywhere from two lines to twenty or forty. A spell is often used at some point during a ritual, although not always.

3. How does “Everyday Witch Book of Rituals” differ from one of your early books, “Circle, Coven, and Grove”?
As I said before, CC&G was a book for coven practice, while Everyday Witch Book of Rituals is aimed at everyone (although lots of solitaries told me they used the earlier book and loved it anyway). There’s also a lot more detail about why and how we do rituals, as well as rituals for special occasions like handfastings, Wiccanings (child blessing), eldering, passing over rites and more. And, of course, some sage advice from Magic the Cat.

4. What was the most difficult part about writing a book of rituals?
Trying to create rituals that would work for witches who were just starting out, while not boring witches who had been practicing for years. (I think I pulled it off. My readers will have to let me know.)

5. What do you hope readers take away from “Everyday Witch Book of Rituals”?
I hope they get a sense for what ritual can add to our lives in a spiritual sense, as well as how useful rituals can be to celebrate the magickal year.

6. What other books would you recommend for readers wanting to learn more about working with rituals?
There are lots of great books out there with rituals in them, and few that are focused entirely on rituals. If you are a beginning solitary, Scott Cunningham’s Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner is a good one to start with, if you like more ornate and complicated rituals, you should take a look at Raven Digitalis’s Planetary Spells & Rituals. Another couple of good ones are A Year of Ritual: Sabbats & Esbats for Solitaries and Covens, by Sandra Kynes and Dorothy Morrison’s Everyday Moon Magic: Spells and Rituals for Abundant Living (anything of hers is great, really).

7. Readers may or may not know that your cat, Magic, generally helps with most of your work. How much input did Magic have in this book?
She wrote a section on how to practice rituals with a familiar, which she considers to be the most important part of the book. Other than that, she did her usual fabulous job of sitting on the back of my chair and supervising me as I wrote. It is a well-known fact that I am not, in fact, capable of writing without feline supervision, which is why you will never find me typing away in a coffeehouse.

8. And as long as we have Magic’s attention, who is Magic’s favorite cat: Garfield, Sylvester, or Tom (of “Tom and Jerry” fame)?
Wait, I’ll go ask her. *sound of receding footsteps* *sound of cat sitting down at the laptop* “Don’t be ridiculous. Cats don’t eat lasagna. And they don’t get their butts whupped by teeny tiny birds or mice. None of these are on my favorite cat list. Puss in Boots, now, HE was a clever cat.”

9. Do you have any other projects that my readers can look forward to?
I am currently working on my seventh book for Llewellyn, tentatively titled “A Broom for Every Witch.” It is all about the different kinds of broomstick magick you can do, as well as everything you ever wanted to know about brooms. I’m having a lot of fun writing it, and can’t wait to share it with everyone (probably late in 2014). In the meanwhile, if people haven’t read my fiction, they can find my ebook, Witch Ever Way You Can, at Amazon, B&N, and Itunes. And yes, there’s a witch in it!

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.
What is your favorite thing to eat at Panera Bread? (And when are you coming to visit and bringing me some?)

I don’t think I can pick a favorite. There is a lot of stuff I like at Panera. When I’m forgetting calories at breakfast I go with a Cinnamon Crunch bagel, and I love when they have the seasonal Trail Mix bagel! Lately I’m in love with their version of the BLT which is bacon, lettuce, and tomato, but also avocado and turkey too! Seriously, you need to keep this girl AWAY from Panera! But when I come to see you, I’ll be sure to have some. Maybe later this month?


Deborah Blake is a Wiccan High Priestess who has been leading her current group, Blue Moon Circle, for many years. She is the author of six books on modern Witchcraft from Llewellyn Worldwide, including The Goddess is in the Details: Wisdom for the Everyday Witch, Everyday Witch A to Z Spellbook, Witchcraft on Shoestring and Everyday Witch Book of Rituals.. Deborah was a finalist in the Pagan Fiction Award Contest and her short story, “Dead and (Mostly) Gone” is included in The Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction. She is also the author of Witch Ever Way You Can, a paranormal romance featuring…of course…a witch. She is represented by agent Elaine Spencer of The Knight Agency.
When not writing, Deborah runs The Artisans’ Guild, a cooperative shop she founded with a friend. She lives in a 100+ year old farmhouse in rural upstate New York with five cats who supervise all her activities, both magickal and mundane.

10 Questions with Alicia Dattner

1. Tell my readers a little bit about the Online Spiritual Comedy Festival.

First of all, I’m thrilled about it. And you must know how much it takes for someone with as much equanimity and peace as me to be thrilled, so that’s saying a lot. It’s an international festival of comedians with a sense of Spirit and spiritual teachers with a sense of Humor who are coming together, online, to share what’s funny to us about being human. The festival is basically a series of shows in which I will interview these folks and they’ll share their humor, insight, and wisdom. It’s a unique concept to make it all online, all audio, and all free, and I am excited to introduce this new idea.

2. Why do spirituality and comedy mix?

Essentially, they come from the same place. I decided to call it The Spiritual Comedy Festival because no other set of words described it better. How I see spirituality is that it’s a contemplation of and awe at the great mystery of our existence. And when we truly contemplate this mystery, we can come into communion with its beauty, its absurdity, its “suchness”, and its divine perfection. At its purest, human spirituality is a communion with truth and spontaneity and the unexpected. And that’s what humor at its purest is also. They mix because when we leave behind our concepts and beliefs about what they are, they are actually very similar.

3. What do you hope the festival accomplishes?

I hope to bring more people into contact with these brilliant-hearted souls who weave humor and spirituality together and for this contact to make space for our audience to experience more love, joy, playfulness, laughter, and peace in their lives. And I hope that these qualities ripple out to everyone who meets the people affected by the festival, and to everyone they meet. I hope it adds more peace to the world. I also believe that it’s important for us to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable—again bringing seemingly opposite ideas together—and that for those of us who are suffering, we bring some laughter and ease to the pain. For those of us who are hovering safely inside our comfort zone, we give a healthy nudge outside. Even within our own beings, we have comfortable and afflicted parts, and we can address those inward parts with both nurturing and nudging.

This festival is about speaking truths that happen to be funny. So I hope we make some people uncomfortable, if it means they’ll grow through more telling of truth. And I hope we do it in such a funny way that even difficult truths feel good to hear.

4. There are over 15 performers lined up for the Online Spiritual Comedy Festival. Did you have any difficulty finding participants that were in sync with your idea?

Yes and no. There were several people who, in my mind, express the idea of spiritual comedy beautifully, but when invited, they declined. I have the sense that most people in the world of comedy just don’t see themselves as spiritual—or wouldn’t want their audiences to see them quite in that light because it makes them feel less funny. Soft. Serious. It might not be good for a comedy career. And the same for spiritual teachers who might worry that their sacred spiritual ideas could be made fun of. This could feel dangerous if they didn’t trust that this festival is coming from a loving place. But there were actually a whole bunch of people—those who decided to participate—who are playing this same exact game of bringing funny and sacred together. They all said yes. And I feel this festival has been divinely guided from the moment it started. Everyone who is supposed to participate has shown up, and I feel so grateful to be the conduit for this particular event to occur!

5. Do you think it will be difficult to do comedy online where you won’t receive that immediate feedback of laughter from the audience?

Yes—that’s why, with most of the shows, we’re going to open up some of the phone lines so that the guests will be able to hear their laughter. That was a really important piece for me to figure out—who wants to do comedy with no audience?

6. Can you describe how you discovered the comedy-spirituality connection?

I’ve been a comedian for, like, 15 years – and a spiritual being for, like, 15 million years. After a number of years of doing comedy, I went into addiction recovery (I couldn’t stop telling jokes. Kidding. I went into actual recovery.) When I tried going back to the comedy club after doing all of that spiritual, emotional, and psychological work on myself, it felt kind of… oogie. I don’t ever want to stop doing edgy and irreverent comedy, but the smell of beer bitterness in the club just didn’t fit for me anymore. I figured there had to be a better way, so I started creating one-woman shows and filling theaters with audience members who wanted to hear what I had to say. And eventually I discovered there were other people doing this same kind of thing.

7. You’re a certified laughter yoga instructor. What’s a Laughter Yoga session with you like?

A lot of Laughter Yoga happens in libraries and senior centers. It’s beautiful to bring that playfulness to people there. But sometimes I get the sense that the teachers are trying really, really hard to get people to laugh, and it can feel a little fake, or just uncomfortable. That’s the last thing I want people to feel in my class. So we begin with lots of meditation and relaxation. I believe joy is our natural state, and when we release the tension, our life force just flows and we feel it again. I like to rub people’s feet or neck to help them really let go, and sometimes even tickle them a little. As we relax more and more, releasing the tension through breath and sound work, we begin to make that “ha” sound… and eventually, somebody just “pops”, and suddenly we’re all giggling uncontrollably. It’s such a beautiful sight to watch people lose themselves in hysterical laughter, and to laugh even harder when they hear someone next to them laughing. Eventually, we gather together in the center of the room, and get to interact too. Sometimes we’ll do improvisational exercises in dyads that also encourage spontaneous laughter. My favorite part is watching people leave looking younger, lighter, happier, and re-filled with love. We underestimate how incredibly powerful an experience like this can be—and imagine if we could have something this nourishing in our lives on a regular basis!

8. What’s next for you? After the Online Spiritual Comedy Festival is over do you have any other projects my readers can be on the look out for?

Yes, I’ll be jumping back on stage with my new show The Oy of Sex, which is a comedic one-woman show about love and sex addiction and recovery. It’s a bit more edgy than the festival itself, but every bit as spiritual. I’m excited to premiere the show in San Francisco as well as touring The Oy and also my previous show, Eat, Pray, Laugh! around the country.

I’m also excited to be offering both online and offline workshops teaching people how to cultivate their own inner spiritual comedian!

9. Here’s a last chance to leave us with some parting Alicia Dattner comedic spiritual insight!

Many people think that enlightenment is an unreachable goal reserved for monks in the Himalayas. Many other people still believe enlightenment is a myth and that the present moment is as bright as it gets. And in my experience having traveled through India in search of the great truths, I agree with that. The big secret that nobody tells you about enlightenment: it’s not that hard, it’s for everybody… I was enlightened yesterday. For, like, a minute. The hard part is being enlightened around other people. Like roommates! “Ooooooommmm… Damn, you guys can’t wait ten minutes to turn on the blender?”

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

What’s your favorite laughter-delivery mechanism for deep belly laughs? Comedy? Unintentional comedy? Tickling? Contemplating the absurdity of the universe? Puns?

Usually, it’s being a snarky, catty bitch amongst my friends. I also love cartoons for laughs. There’s obvious adult oriented ones like “Archer” or “Family Guy”, but I also get solid laughs out of some children’s cartoons like “Codename: Kids Next Door” or “Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil”.

About Alicia Dattner:
Spiritual Comedian Alicia Dattner has been touring the world, selling out her one-woman shows, Eat, Pray, Laugh!, The Oy of Sex, and The Punchline, and winning awards, including “Best Storyteller” in the NY United Solo Festival, “Best of the Fringe” in the SF Fringe Festival, and “Best Comedian 2011″ in the East Bay Express. Now she’s bringing together comedians with a sense of spirituality and spiritual teachers with a sense of humor in the world’s first Online Spiritual Comedy Festival Jan. 29-March 21, 2013.

10 Questions with Jayme Barrett

1. I’m guessing most of my readers have some idea, but can you go ahead and explain what Feng Shui is?

Feng Shui is the art of arranging your home and office to support you in living a healthy, happy, successful life. It originated in China 3,000 years ago and gives you guidelines to set-up your furniture, decorate with color and positive symbolism and bring nature indoors in order to create a gentle flow of life-force energy in your home.

2. You studied with Grand Master Choa Kok Sui, best known for his work with Pranic Healing. What was that experience like and how did it prepare you for your work with Feng Shui?

I was very lucky to meet Grand Master Choa Kok Sui in 1995 after taking a Pranic Healing class in Los Angeles. Pranic Healing (www.pranichealing.com) is a no-touch healing system that works with life force energy or “prana” to heal the physical and emotional bodies. I studied advanced healing, meditation and manifestation along with Pranic Feng Shui with Master Choa for many years. He always encouraged his students to “experiment” with feng shui solutions and corrections to see if they worked and not just follow blindly. When I had the opportunity to write “Feng Shui Your Life,” I asked Master Choa for his blessing and he gave me specific instructions for what I could include in the book. I’m extremely grateful for his priceless teachings.

3. Unlike most books on Feng Shui, your book “Feng Shui Your Life” doesn’t just talk about how you arrange and decorate your home, it also discusses what you call “Inner Feng Shui”. Can describe what that’s about for my readers?

“Feng Shui Your Life” is about creating positive energy in your mind, body, spirit, relationships, work and all aspects of your life which includes your environment. When you feng shui your inner life and outer life, transformation happens on a larger scale. In Chapter Two, I write about meditation, asking for guidance, synchronicity, positive thinking, good karma, tithing and sending pink light. It was my favorite chapter to write! I believe that Feng Shui can be a lifestyle, a new way of looking at the world where you make positive choices in the way you think, emote and act.

4. It seems like you can’t escape it, you’ve got to clear away clutter. When consulting is this one of the most difficult undertakings for your clients?

Clutter is the number one problem I see in most people’s homes and it’s the first ingredient for good feng shui. Chapter Three is dedicated to clearing clutter and space clearing which you need to do before all else. Clutter massively brings your energy down, creates overwhelm and obstacles, and stops you from focusing on the things that are most important to you. Clutter is your past. You must clear it to open new opportunities for your present and future life. People’s lives change when they overcome their clutter. They feel liberated and amazing things can occur.

5. What is the bagua and what role does it play when applying Feng Shui to your home?

The Bagua is a feng shui map with nine different energy centers that correspond to specific areas of your life including Health, Wealth, Love, Career, Family, Creativity, Fame, Knowledge and Helpful People. It is a great way to be purposeful and intentional in the way you decorate your space. You can overlay the Bagua on the structure of your home and there are specific colors, symbols and natural energy to boost each area of your life. Chapters Five and Six give instructions to how to overlay the Bagua and what items to place and not to place in each energy center. You can overlay the Bagua on individual rooms as well

6. And if I recall you can also apply the bagua to your office desk at work?

Yes, in Chapter Ten, which is about the office, there is an illustration and instructions on how to place the Bagua on your desk. It’s important to use your intention and place what I call “environmental anchors” in specific areas to boost that area of your career or business.

7. In your book, you offer a Feng Shui plant guide and in it you say that the snake plant is a house plant to avoid. I found this to be a bummer because I’ve always really like the snake plant. What makes a plant good or bad for Feng Shui in the home or office?

Pointed or spiky plants are not considered good feng shui because they have sharp energy, which creates disharmony. Plants with rounded leaves create harmony, give oxygen and represent new growth from a feng shui perspective.In general, use plants that a baby could sit next to and not get hurt. The larger the leaf surface, the more energy it gives off.

8. The foreword for “Feng Shui Your Life” was written by Mary Steenburgen. I don’t want to pry, but was she nice, she always seemed liked she’d be nice, please tell me she was nice.

Mary Steenburgen is absolutely lovely as is her husband Ted Danson. They were gracious to let us photograph some rooms in their home and of course, Mary wrote a beautiful foreword. She is spiritual, kind and generous.

9. What advice would give someone who picks up your book “Feng Shui Your Life” with the intention of working their way through it?

My book “Feng Shui Your Life” can be used in many ways. You can read it all the way through to get a feel and then go back to work on specific rooms or on specific goals you wish to manifest. Each section has a “Take Action Now” sidebar to get you started right away. It’s a book you can use again and again for every new home you move to. I suggest reading Chapters One and Two to get a basic understanding of what Feng Shui is and how it can affect your entire life. Of course, if you have a clutter issue, Chapter Three is a must. There are chapters on the Bagua and on every single room in your home and office. Chapter Eleven is full of tips like “Health Musts,” “Love Musts,” “Wealth Musts” and a new section on Feng Shui for the Body. It’s a great gift for yourself or to give for the holidays, a birthday or a house-warming. Enjoy!

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

How do you incorporate Feng Shui into your everyday at the Magical Buffet?

I don’t really….yet. I have to say, your book really inspired me. I want to start using some of what I learned in our apartment, our office, and my work space for The Buffet!

Author Bio
Jayme Barrett is a certified feng shui consultant specializing in energy techniques for personal fulfillment, prosperity, and integrated health. For over 15 years, she has studied Eastern and Western healing traditions, life coaching, and spiritual practices from teachers around the world. Her inspiring and transformational work with individuals, businesses, and corporations has made her a sought-after speaker on feng shui and life enhancement. Jayme consults on residential and commercial properties and lives in Los Angeles, CA.

For more about the book click here

10 Mostly City Magick Questions with Christopher Penczak

1. “City Magick: Spells, Rituals, and Symbols for the Urban Witch” was your first book that was published. How does it feel to see it back in print?

It’s honestly a little weird. Though I am very happy with the book and how it started my writing career, I feel a lot less attached to it now and it feels like a lifetime away. I no longer work in the city and have those same issues, so when folks want to talk intensely about it, I feel a little disconnected. I just moved into a lovely home with a barn and five acres in New Hampshire, and we’re setting it up to be the home of the Temple of Witchcraft. I find the woods calling to me more and more, and only in the cities when I travel to teach.

2. What had inspired you to write “City Magick”?

I was working at Fort Apache, a Boston area recording studio and record label. I had just gotten my first degree in Witchcraft, and shifted from this more coven based, outdoor practice in the suburbs of New Hampshire to working all the time in Cambridge, and staying out late at shows and events in Boston. My time off was between office hours and the next show, and I was trying to squeeze a magickal practice in at that time. The techniques naturally grew out of my experiences there and some inspiriation from my partner, Steve Kenson, and his approach to magick through Chaos Magick. Some Peter Carrol, Phil Hine and Grant Morrison helped me on my way.

I kept good notes on my practice, and when I found myself no longer employed, I began writing about it to fill the time and soon had a book to publish.

3. I think many Pagan magic users feel the closer to nature the better. Are there perhaps any advantages to city based magic?

I think it teaches you to feel the current of life force anywhere you are. I think someone who can only practice in nature isn’t really paying attention and needs to gain better percpetion and connection. Nature is everywhere. It is tenaciously growing through the city cracks and found upon the streets no matter where they are. Cities have their own nature, their own ecosystems, their own spirit systems, and they are available to us.

4. At this point in your career you’ve traveled quite a bit, are there any cities you find particularly magical?

Seattle. I love Seattle. Great harmonious mix of nature and city, art and magick. Just returned from there actually, so I might be a little biased. I find San Francisco, Boston and New York City particularly magickal. London is overwhelmingly magickal. At times I feel like I’m wading through the aura of London, but at other times, it’s easier. I wonder if that has to do with seasonal or astrological alignments. Cities have astrology and charts, just like people. They have their own persona and character and life their share with their inhabitants.

5. “City Magick” offers an extensive list of exercises for readers to try such as Sidewalking and TV Scrying. What are some of your favorites and why?

The Sidewalking is still one of my favorite – to attune to the energy and currents and spirits just when out for a walk. You can do it in the woods on a trail, or in the city through downtown. It helps you pick up on what is present energetically wherever you are.

I also like looking for magickal symbols in graffiti art. That is still inspiring. I used to blog about it when I traveled, but haven’t done it in a while.

6. In “City Magick” you discuss magic having three basic building blocks, “the three Rs: reality, rapture, and ritual”. Do you still use those building blocks when discussing magic now, 11 years later?

I don’t think I use that same language today. I tend to focus now on the teachings of the Temple of Witchcraft, and the three there have gotten boilded down to clear intent, strength of will and a method to direct energy. There are some parallels, but not an exact match. I think for the Temple, it was more about basic spell casting magick to start, while City Magick was talking more about magickal consciousness in general.

7. Obviously there is no shortage of books dealing with magic in nature, and “City Magick” covers cities extensively. Can readers adapt the lessons in “City Magick” for life in any of the seemingly zillions of American suburbs?

I think so. In some ways, suburbs are becoming more urban now, aren’t they? The suburbs of my youth are not what they are like now. They are much more congested. So I think the basic idea of attuning the spirit of place, no matter where you are, applies anywhere and anytime.

8. You recently designed spell charms/coins for Deva Designs. Can you tell my readers a little bit about them and where they can find them?

I was approached by the owners of Deva Designs to help co-create a magickal line of products that would serve the Pagan communities and beyond. Deva Designs has a stellar reputation of making magickal products at fair prices. I was always a big fan of their Ted Andrews animal coins and liked their Goddess designs. We designed fifteen spell coin pocket charms, and have release the first five – Love, Healing, Prosperity, Protection and Psychic Power. They are designed with a magickal geometry and symbolism, combining images from several different systems as used in modern Witchcraft. On the back is a spell written to activate the charm. Follow the instructions and recite the spell while holding the charm and then carry it in your pocket.

I sell them on my own website, www.christopherpenczak.com, and local metaphysical retailers can obtain them through Deva Designs whole sale and provide them to the public.

9. I know you’re always insanely busy, do you have any upcoming projects you can share with my readers?

Well, I’m super excited about the Temple of Witchcraft’s new land project. We have obtained a mortgage on a property where the founders of the Temple will be living and paying rent to the Temple. We don’t work on the traditional parsonage model even though we are a nonprofit church in the eyes of the federal government. The first floor of the house and the barn will be Temple facilities, and we are raising funds for a parking lot and barn renovation. Anyone who wants to donate, can visit www.templeofwitchcraft.org. We’ll be putting together a formal donation program for these projects soon, as they really just happened less than two weeks ago, but anyone can donate via our paypal donation button.

I’ve also completed work on two new books to be put out through a publishing company that I’m a co-partner in, Copper Cauldron Publishing. This month’s release is The Feast of the Morrighan, a book about the Celtic Crow Goddess the Morrighan. The second will be out early 2013 is called The Mighty Dead, a book on the enlightened ancestors of the magickal traditions, and most specifically, of Witchcraft.

And lastly I’m helping Laurie Cabot out with her next book, a spell book gathering her years of experiencing running a shop, teaching and pioneering her way as a Witch. It’s great to be reconnected with one of my first and beloved teachers and get such a first hand, direct teachings that we are able to share with the world.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

Have you tried Nettles for your allergies? They work wonders for me and my other partner, Adam.

I haven’t given that a try. I don’t know, using nature to treat my allergies……I’m suspicious of the enemy……

About Christopher Penczak:
Christopher Penczak is a modern Witch, teacher, and healer. He is the author of the acclaimed “Inner Temple of Witchcraft” series and of “Gay Witchcraft”, Weiser Books, 2003. He offers classes and workshops throughout the U.S. Visit him at: www.christopherpenczak.com.

10 Questions Again with Alaric Albertsson

1. Holy crap! Do you realize it’s been over two years since we’ve talked? Seriously. Can you forgive me?

Of course. We should both be grateful that we have such busy, interesting lives. It is good to connect with you and the Magical Buffet again, though.

2. We first talked back in 2009 when “Travels Through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan” came out and again in 2010 when you talked about your work with Taren Martin in creating The Martin Rune Deck. Since then there has been a whole other book, “Wyrdworking: The Path of a Saxon Sorcerer”. Can you tell my readers a little about it?

Just as “Travels Through Middle Earth” was my book on Saxon Pagan spirituality, “Wyrdworking” is a book about Anglo-Saxon magic. I had originally intended it to be two books – one discussing the Anglo-Saxon runes, and one discussing other magic modalities – but early on I realized the topics would be more salable if I combined them. Most of the first half of the book explores rune lore. Most of the rune sets sold today are the 24 symbols of the Elder Futhark, which were popularized by authors like Ralph Blum and Edred Thorsson. “Wyrdworking” examines early English runes, known as the Futhorc, which include nine additional symbols.

The second half of the book looks at other magical practices (including incantations, herb magic and divination) as these were practiced in England. We can reconstruct many of these practices from what we know of folk magic and Old English healing and fertility charms. But “Wyrdworking” is not an abstract study of Saxon sorcery; it is a practical guide. The book explains how to use runes both for divination and active magic, how to design effective chants, how to prepare herbal potions and how to choose the tools and supplies you would need for your own magic.

3. I asked this back in ’09, but for those just tuning in you follow the path of a Saxon Pagan. For my readers who may be curious, how does this differ from Celtic or Nordic paths?

The Celtic Britons had some influence on Saxon praxis due to their proximity, but for the most part they were an entirely different culture with their own gods, their own language, and so on. As for the Norse, there is much more similarity. The Saxons were, after all, Germanic people just as the Norse were. The Saxons had a goddess of the spring, Eostre or Eastre, who was unknown to the Norse. Conversely, the Norse had Loki. (I think we have the better deal here.) Saxons also tend to be VERY tribal. Ásatrúar often form kindreds, but it tends to be perceived as more of an option rather than a fundamental aspect of the religion. Obviously there are some solitary Saxon Pagans, but most of us feel there is something incomplete if we cannot worship with an inhíred (tribe or family).

4. Back in 2009 I asked, “What challenges do you see facing the Pagan community? How can the community resolve those issues?”

And you said, “I think the biggest challenge we face – and we have been challenged by this for as long as I’ve been Pagan – is a tendency to believe in One True Path. Face it, most of us are still first-generation Pagans, and part of our baggage is the One Way Syndrome. I believe the central defining quality of Paganism is, or should be, an acceptance that there are many gods and many paths. My way is the best way for me. It may not be the best way for you. Superficially we all seem to agree with this, but on other levels I constantly see people behaving towards others in ugly, judgmental ways.”

Do you still feel that way, or have other issues moved to the forefront?

No, I still think this is our most crippling challenge. Just this past year a woman who has contributed to her branch of Paganism for decades came under heavy fire because of who she would and would not allow into a ritual. I was not there when the incident occurred, and I do not dispute that it could have been handled more diplomatically, but I was very disappointed by the self-righteous zealots who screamed about how “wrong” this woman was for her choice of who she felt comfortable worshiping with.

In my own Saxon e-group, the most common problem that I or one of the other moderators must address is one person telling another that he or she is doing something “wrong”. I do not expect people to agree about everything, but sometimes it gets so negative.

5. On Facebook you occasionally talk about your chickens, and I generally find your chicken status updates so amusing. Can you share with us a little bit about deciding to have chickens, getting started, and now having them?

Oh, chickens are not new for us. We had a small flock when we lived in Missouri. Only then we were in a more rural area, so our flock was larger and always included a rooster. (Who I always named “Stu”, to keep in mind where he would eventually wind up.) Now, in Pennsylvania, we are suburbanites with a tiny flock of three Rhode Island Red hens. If you have never had a fresh egg, you have never really tasted an egg. The factory-farmed eggs you buy at the supermarket are not “fresh” by any rational definition of that word. I missed fresh eggs, and chickens are really so easy to keep. We have a parakeet in the living room, and three hens in a coop in the back garden, and caring for the hens is no more time consuming than caring for the parakeet.

You do want a sturdy coop, because EVERYBODY loves the taste of chicken. Dogs, hawks, opossums and raccoons will all cheerfully devour your birds. Otherwise there is not a lot of work involved, and most people would be surprised to know that a lot of cities allow a family to keep two or three hens. Sometimes there are specific rules, such as how far the coop has to be from other residences, so it is important to find out what the law says in your own city. Roosters are almost always illegal in urban areas. Because, you know, the pastoral sound of a rooster crowing is so much more annoying than ambulance sirens, gun shots and screaming children.

6. Speaking of Facebook, how do you feel about the rise of social media? A lot of authors I know love the access to readers it allows but curse it as a horrible time sink.

I like Facebook. It isn’t a time sink for me, but then I do not feel that I have to respond to everything. If somebody has a reasonable question I answer it succinctly, but I really don’t spend that much time on social networks. Also, a lot of the same questions are asked again and again, and do not take long to answer. I don’t “cut and paste”, but typing a response is very quick if I’ve answered the same question a dozen times before.

I do think we are living in a very exciting era. Not only can people connect more directly with me, but I have been able to connect with authors (like Paul Huson and Louise Huebner) whose books I read 35-40 years ago.

7. You present at and attend a lot of festivals and events, what are some of your favorites?

I’m going to have to say the Heartland Pagan Festival, but I’m extremely biased. Heartland is held every year in – well, in the heartland, of course – in Kansas. In the 90’s I was actively involved with the group that puts on the festival, so it will always have a special place in my heart.

In recent years I have been very impressed with the Earth Warriors Festival held every autumn in Ohio. Earth Warriors tends to have more of a focus than many festivals, which gives it a sense of purpose and direction that is often lacking. And they have the best meal plan ever.

8. Now that spring/summer season is gearing up, are there any events that you already know you’ll be attending and/or speaking at?

I plan to attend Heartland this May, although just as a participant this year. In June I will be speaking at the Steel Valley Pagan Festival in Ohio. It is a single day event, and this is their first year, but the organizer is very enthusiastic. In August I will be speaking at Summerland, an ADF festival held near Cincinnati. Then in September I’ll be speaking again at the Earth Warriors festival, also in Ohio.

It isn’t a festival as such, but I will be one of the speakers at Pittsburgh’s local Pagan Pride Day celebration.

9. What’s next? Do you have any projects my readers can look forward to?

I’m currently working on a book about living as a Pagan. “What to do after the ritual is over.” The book is filled with suggested activities to help a person live more fully with an earth-centered spirituality. And, yes, keeping chickens is among those many activities. I don’t want to say much more than this, because I’ve learned that I stop writing whenever I start talking about what I’m writing. It sort of dissipates my energy.

I’m hoping that Llewellyn will pick up this project. If they are not interested I will market it elsewhere, but the people I have worked with have been very respectful of my writing and helpful in promoting my books.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question!

How long is it going to be before we do this again? Two years is too long!

I don’t know, I hadn’t meant for it to be two years this time! We should definitely do this when your next book about living as a Pagan is coming out, or when you have some really good chicken stories.

About Alaric Albertsson:
Alaric is the author of “Travels Through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan” and “Wyrdworking: The Path of a Saxon Sorcerer”, both published by Llewellyn Worldwide. Alaric first embraced polytheism in the summer of 1971, and has never looked back! Over the past four decades his personal spiritual practice has developed as a synthesis of Anglo-Saxon tradition, country beliefs, herbal studies and rune lore. For Alaric, a reverence for the earth and respect for ancestral and indigenous spirits are fundamental defining qualities of Pagan religion.

During the 70’s, living in the Ozark mountains, Alaric had the opportunity to talk with rural people with traditional customs – moon lore, weather lore, healing superstitions – passed on for generations. During this time he was also influenced by spiritist traditions. He eventually moved to Kansas City, where he served as Vice President and on the Board of Directors for the Heartland Spiritual Alliance during the 1990’s. In 2001, on the day of the winter solstice, Alaric left the Midwest and moved to Pennsylvania, where he currently resides.

Alaric and his partner Scott co-founded the Saxon inhíred Earendel in 2003. Like all inhírdas, Earendel is an extended family and not open to the public, but its members strive to foster a greater public awareness and appreciation of Pagan Saxon traditions in southwestern Pennsylvania. As an author, speaker and drýmann, Alaric himself travels around the United States giving presentations and classes throughout the year.

You can learn more at www.alaricalbertsson.com.

10 Questions with Margaret Pearson Ph.D.

1. When did you first develop an interest in the study of Chinese history?
I first studied Chinese history in the eighth grade, when my teacher convinced the Seattle School Board that her students needed world history up to the Romans more than a second round of Washington State History. In high school, I devoured Lao-tzu (Laozi) and Li Po (LiBai). When I took Chinese language the summer of 1963, I found it MUCH easier than German, and felt I had found the field of study which suited me. (Later I realized that reading and writing come a lot slower without an alphabet.)

However, I wanted to be more practical, so my first career was designing computer systems for a large corporation in New York City. But after four years of that, I decided to try graduate study of Chinese history.

2. How did that lead to your interest in the I Ching?
I first read and studied the “Changes” as an undergraduate at Smith. I liked many of the words in it. Later, during a sabbatical at Cambridge University, I consulted the book each morning, partly as a way of procrastinating. As I compared Chinese and English texts. I found so many differences between them that I wondered whether a new translation was needed. A friend trained at the Jung Institute in Zurich told me some of the ways she felt the text was being misused by some Jungian therapists. I could not bear to think that some women, at their most vulnerable moments of indecision, being told that some of the concepts in the “I ching” translations were ‘universal truths.’ I published a short note on how far the usual translation of hexagram 44 is from its original topic, the honors given to a royal bride.

3. For readers who may not be familiar with it, what is the I Ching?
That is a very hard question! Actually, what I have translated in just part of the I ching (Yijing, Book of Changes). The core text, the Zhouyi (Chou Dynasty Changes), was assembled between about 1050 and 700 BCE, although it contains nuggets of text which are earlier. The full I ching includes this core plus all the commentaries ever written about it. This much longer work is the product of many authors over many centuries, and reflects quite a diversity of points of view. The Zhouyi (Chou Changes) is a bit like the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch or Torah. The I ching is like every commentary written on these books, including the entire Talmud.

4. How does your book “The Original I Ching: An Authentic Translation of the Book of Changes” differ from other books on the subject?
Probably the most important difference is that I have clearly separated the core text from later commentaries. I have added some historical background, but this is clearly separated from the text itself, in paragraphs after the Images. I wanted to let readers be able to select their own interpretations freely, based on knowledge of what the original says. I have included page references to three other translations reflecting other views, one with a full translation of the earliest surviving commentary, written around 240 CE, and one done between 1913 and 1923, and reflecting late imperial thought. (This latter is the familiar Wilhelm/Baynes translation.)

Secondly, my translation recognizes that women as well as men used the Changes. We know this from many references in historical texts like the Tso chuan (Zuozhuan) and from the discovery of a copy of the book in the tomb complex of a Duchess who died around 165 BCE. (Buried near Mawangdui.)Chinese pronouns are usually gender neutral or absent altogether. So I suppose they ought to be translated as “s/he or it or they.” But most translators have said “he.” I think that is misleading. I have used “you” instead. It’s a bit less awkward than “s/he or it” and it’s one of the few gender neutral English pronouns.

Third, I am a historian of China, and have taught Chinese history and thought for over thirty years. I have added relevant historical background which includes references to recent discoveries which have transformed our understanding of earliest Chinese culture and society. For example, we now know that some elite women ruled their own walled cities and had many subordinates, male and female. One queen led multiple successful military campaigns. And probably men and women were of nearly the same height at this time. All of this challenges stereotypes which we now know are anachronistic.

5. When discussing your translation in the book, you focus on the positive and ungendered meaning of yin. Can you explain the significance of this for my readers?
Alison Black, Vitali Rubin, Lisa Raphals and I have found much evidence that the paired concepts of yin and yang were not gendered for about a thousand years. So the idea that they refer to people at all came later. By the time of Wang Bi (d 249), many assumed that they referred to the genders. The line by line analysis, also later, assumes this. But original analysis was far more concrete. As I read through the entire Zhouyi, I discovered that about 90% of the derogatory comments about women disappeared, since most of them were in later commentaries, not in the core text itself.

Only once is the character yin used in the Zhouyi, at nine in the second place for hexagram 61: The crane cries from yin. Here yin has its original topographic meaning of the southern bank of a body of water. This is the usual meaning in other early Chinese texts such as “Mencius” and the “Classic of Poetry (Shijing)”.

Changing lines (sixes and nines) are emphasized; static ones (sevens and eights) are not discussed. The original book is, after all, about Change! Compare hexagrams 11 and 12: Peace (11) exists when earth is above sky; stagnation (12) when each is stuck where it usually belongs.

When I first discussed this discovery at Cambridge University, I noticed that the faces of Asian women changed, apparently as they realized that the concepts of yin and yang have evolved and that the gendered meanings are not truly universal or primordial. These interpretations were added by societies which could not imagine what early China was like, where nature was seen more clearly, and many elite women were honored and authoritative.

6. In reading the section on societal structure in “The Original I Ching” I was struck by the revelation that many royal and noble women outranked men, and that at least one Shang queen governed and led military campaigns as her husband’s second in command. That’s not the common perception people have when considering ancient China, how is it that it’s taken so long to discover this side of their society?
Part of the problem is that the British arrived in China when footbinding was nearly universal, in the mid nineteenth century. For most of Chinese history, women had natural feet, but most Westerners do not know this.

The excavations of the tombs of Fu Hao and at Mawangdui happened towards the end of the twentieth century. It has taken time for these discoveries to be studied and added to literature about China. In the meantime, old stereotypes have persisted.

Also, people have confused norms with realities, and forgotten that class and age trumped gender for most of Chinese history.

Finally, until recently almost every trained Sinologist was male. Many of them did not think gender issues were very important.

7. What do you feel is the biggest misconception about the I Ching?
That everyone thought it meant the same thing for thousands of years. But it is like any other great text: how it is understood has changed as the people reading it have changed.

8. Are you familiar with the assorted I Ching apps that are available for downloading onto mobile phones? Any thoughts on the phenomena?
I have used a few of those on the web, and one writer of phone apps has contacted me about using my translation.

For me, there is something about the physical process of writing down a question, tossing the coins with my own hands, and reading changing lines and images with long term attention, over several hours, not just minutes, that makes the experience more meaningful. I suspect that nuances are lost in shorter versions. But to each his/her own! Using the phone versions may lead people to deeper study eventually, so I’m not categorically against them.

9. Now that “The Original I Ching” has been published, what will you be focusing on next?
First I will be writing up the information on what yin meant in early China, because I think more folks need to understand how this term has evolved. I have also started a short article on one time the Changes were consulted, in 133, and the life of the person who used it then, before and after the consult. (which was about when to retire from a frustrating job). I want to do another book as well, though it usually takes me thirteen or fourteen years to complete a book, and I’m not sure I have that much time left.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

What would you like my next book to be about? Explaining more examples of how it’s been used (and misused) in the past? Giving more explanations of more of the lines, something I cut out of this translation?

Also: what other question would you like to ask, of me or the Changes? Have you used it and found it helpful or not? I’d love to hear those stories.

I would definitely be interested in a book explaining the evolution of the term yin. Also, more stories of the empowered women from Chinese history would be a fascinating good time.

I’ve used the I Ching a few times and have found it to be a satisfying experience. I’m not sure I would describe any of the times as helpful, but they weren’t disastrous, or horrible, or unhelpful.

About Margaret Pearson Ph.D.:
Margaret Pearson Ph.D. studied Chinese literature with Hellmut Wilhelm, and history with Jack Dull and Chan Hok-lam. Her doctoral dissertation was the first English translation of the political sections of Wang Fu’s “Qianfulun”. In 1997 she was elected a Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge University, and was elected to life membership there the following years. Since 1980, she has taught Chinese and Japanese history at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Readers can contact Pearson via responses to the ‘interview’ on this website, or at her new website, originaliching.org, or by email at originaliching@me.com.

Want to learn a little more? Here’s a video about Pearson and her book.

10 Questions with Avi Glijansky

1. For my readers who may not be familiar with it, can you tell them about “The Further Adventures of Cupid & Eros”?
THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF CUPID AND EROS is a fantasy romantic comedy about two love gods (the titular Cupid and Eros) trying to set the world and their own love lives right.

While it’s commonly believed that Cupid and Eros are two names for the same god, in our world they are in fact colleagues, each the god of love in their respective pantheon. They still match up mortals and do their best to stem the tide of infidelity and divorce, but besides their common mission they are as different as night and Day. Cupid is the original “nice guy”; sweet, charming, but constantly in the “friend zone”. Eros on the other hand is sexy as hell, and irresistible to anything with a pulse—Mortal, God, or anything in between. He’s the ultimate romantic, she’s the ultimate personification of passion and unbridled sensuality.

When we first meet Cupid he’s still depressed from being dumped by his girlfriend Psyche. Eros has just about had it with his moping and her plans to help him recapture his confidence are what kicks the story off in our first season.

2. Where did the idea of Cupid and Eros doing their job in our modern times come from?
I’m a big nerd. Well OK, that’s not the entire answer, but it’s a big part of it. Ever since I was little, myths (not just Greek, but myths and legends from all cultures) were some of my favorite stories… right next to episodes of The Twilight Zone and just about any comic book I could get my hands on. I guess all that stuff kind of swirled around in my head and I found myself constantly intrigued by the idea of what these mythic figures would be like if they were walking around today.

The thing that set me off towards what would eventually become C&E was actually a panel from a SANDMAN comic by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman presented this banquet with representatives from different pantheons and folklores. I loved that idea of these different mythologies interacting directly… and I thought ‘OK, so Gaiman puts them in a palace, at a banquet… I’m going to put them in a gymnasium at what amounts to an awkward high-school reunion’ That idea, which would eventually become the Inter-Pantheon Mixer we see in episodes 5 and 6, was the beginning of Cupid & Eros.

As for why I chose focus on Cupid… At first it was simply because I thought it’d be funny to show a Cupid who can’t get a date himself… from there… well, lets just say I can relate (perhaps a bit too well) to his plight.

3. In future episodes can we look forward to them coming across competition from other love based deities like Aphrodite, Ishtar, Venus, or Qetesh?
I wouldn’t call it competition exactly, but I do want to feature a lot of those gods you mentioned. Aphrodite and Venus figure prominently in our heroes’ stories… If you go back and read some of those myths (not the least of which is Cupid & Psyche) you realize Cupid’s relationship with his mother was about as neurotic as they come.

And because in our world the different pantheons co-exist, I see different gods of the same thing as being like cops from another precinct… there’s some competition but there’s also the need for cooperation. I have a story I want to tell where Cupid ends up having to work with Kama (or Kamadeva, the hindu god of love). Kama is also an archer so there’s no way the two wouldn’t have a bit of a professional rivalry.

4. In the first episode it’s revealed that Psyche left Cupid for a dermatologist. How did you decide that out of all the occupations that would be the one of Psyche’s love interest?
Well, Psyche’s beauty is so central to her myth, but I figure if your boyfriend’s mom is Venus… after a while wouldn’t you start to worry that you might not live up? And wouldn’t you constantly look for ways to preserve that beauty both in the godly realms and on the mortal plane?

Also I lived in in NYC up until 2006 and there’s a dermatologist whose subway ads are legendary… in my mind that’s who Psyche is currently shacking up with 🙂

5. I’m a big fan of the deity Quan Yin (Kwan Yin). I think she’d be an excellent “straight man” in a comedy setting, any chance I could see her in a future episode?
Believe it or not, a version of her is actually present at the Inter-Pantheon Mixer! If you look very closely at the name tag on the young goddess who Cupid mistakenly believes is smiling at him, you’ll see it actually reads “Guan Yin,” one of the alternate spellings for Quan Yin. I liked the idea that a goddess of mercy would unintentionally shoot down our hero… and I figured she’d be the kind of goddess Cupid would be drawn to. Plus there’s a real treasure trove of legends about her and ways in which she’s been presented. I think you’re right she would be a great addition to the cast.

In fact, almost every single extra at the mixer is actually tied to a real deity that we wanted to potentially bring in to the show in the future… but we did take care to be a bit vague about it so that we would have some flexibility down the road.

6. Are there any particular deities you’re fond of that might make an appearance in future episodes?
Oh man, there are so many. As mentioned, Venus, Aphrodite and Kama all figure into stories I want to tell. And Neikea, our villain at the end of season 1, has a whole family (not least of which is her mother, the goddess of discord Eris) who aren’t too fond of love gods.

I love the Egyptian and African pantheons and would love to bring them in. As much as I love putting modern spins on the Greek/Roman pantheons part of the fun of the show is calling attention deities that most westerners really don’t think about.

7. You’re the creator, writer, and director of “Cupid & Eros”. Can you describe the process of taking your ideas and ending up with an episode?
Things changed a bit episode to episode, but the basic plan of attack remained the same.

I started by writing our scripts. In all but one case I knew who my actors would be so I could write with them in mind. It’s one of the perks of having so many insanely talented friends. What’s more, my key crew – Director of Photography Jefferson Loftfield, Production Designer Vicky Chan, Gaffer Edwin Kim and Costume Designer Tera Struck – had all come on board as I was writing our first few episodes. Because they were with me from the beginning, I knew that we were all on the same page even before we shot our first frame of footage.

I wrote all of season one in 3 episode story arcs, so after I had a draft of each arc I would send it to my co-producer Andy Wells. Andy would then look at the draft, and in addition to making any story suggestions, he would identify areas that might have been problematic for our budget. One of Andy’s strengths, and one of the reasons why I was so fortunate to have him at my side, is his ability to figure out ways to stretch every dollar to the max. He was the definition of the creative producer.

Once our scripts were locked Andy would handle most of the details organizing the shoot so I could concentrate on working with my cast and crew on the creative side of things. One of the great things about working on something episodic like a web series is that we all grew with the show as the shoot progressed.

Yes I always had final say, but I knew that my colleagues understood the show, its world and its characters just as I did. A director is only ever as good as his crew and I truly believe I worked with some of the best.

Once production wrapped I moved to the editing room. I’m fortunate to have a phenomenal editor, Matthew Smith (who also edits The Guild, a web series created by Felica Day that is largely considered the mark by which other web series are measured). I would do a first cut of each episode and then Matt would come in and take my ideas and polish them, often suggesting even better ways to structure a scene or pace an episode.

While we did our best to stay ahead of the curve, we often found ourselves working right up until the night before an episode was due to go live. All in all we were actively in production and post production from roughly February of 2010 to February of 2011.

8. Where can our readers go to see episodes of “Further Adventures of Cupid & Eros”?
Our home base is at www.cupidanderos.com There you can watch all of our first season, learn more about the show and the people behind it, and get updates on screenings, new content, etc. This month you’ll also be able to go there to buy our Season 1 DVD which is going to be filled with not just our 9 episode first season, but all our additional content, photos, and audio commentaries.

And if people prefer, you can also watch us via Hulu, YouTube, Blip, and other online networks. There’s a complete list of all the places you can go to see C&E here: http://cupidanderos.tumblr.com/watch

9. Do you have other projects our readers can look forward to? Can readers look forward to more episodes of “Cupid & Eros”?
I hope we get to do more “Cupid & Eros” but at present we’re on a bit of a break. Our first season was completely self-funded and the stark reality at the moment is that I don’t have the resources to do that again… not without either dropping the quality of the show or asking my cast and crew to work for free, both of which I’m simply not willing to do.

We’re using what we have to build our audience (which is why I’m so thankful for chances like this) and hopefully we’ll soon get to a point where we can move forward with season 2. I’ve got a lot of stories left to tell and the next two seasons are already plotted out, so it’s just a question of finances (as it often is with independent filmmaking).

To that end, if people dig what we’re doing they can help by spreading the word far and wide. Following us on twitter/liking us on Facebook. Subscribing to our channel on YouTube or Blip.tv. If people wish, they can also donate directly to the show via our website. But the most important thing people can do to help is just watch and encouraging others to do the same.

In the meantime, I do have other work out there. My other web series The Silver Lake Badminton and Adventurers Club ( – co-created and directed by my C&E Editor Matthew Smith) has it’s first episode out and can be seen at www.slbaac.com. Some of my short films are available online and can be seen at my website www.highway9pictures.com or on my Youtube page, youtube.com/user/aglijansky

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question!
You already mentioned your affinity for Quan Yin, what other gods or goddesses would you like to see re-envisioned for 2012? I promise to give you credit if we steal… I mean, borrow your idea 🙂

Oh geez, don’t ask Mom to pick a favorite! Of course here on the website I’ve gotten to discuss a lot of my favorites already, that’s the joy of having your own site! We already mentioned Kuan Yin. I haven’t gotten to her on the site yet, but I have an affection for Kali. I tend to have a soft for figures who have been misunderstood or who have gotten a bad rap, so I list Set, Pandora, and Haephaetus amongst my favorites. I love Pele because in my opinion, what woman doesn’t? And I could go on, and on. But a real favorite of mine was technically an actual woman, but in my mind she is as legendary of a figure as an mythological character of her era, and that is Phryne, the courtesan of ancient Greece who lived a life larger than perhaps the Gods themselves.

About Avi Glijansky:
Avi Glijansky is an independent filmmaker living in Los Angeles, CA. He is the Writer and Director of several short films including OCEAN CITY (Haig Manoogian Post Production Award, NYU; Opening Night Film, Cape May NJ State Film Festival; Nominee Best Student Short, Ashland Independent Film Festival, First Glance Philadelphia Film Festival, Rehobooth Beach Film Festival; Nominee Best Dramatic Short, Ohio Independent Film Festival). In 2005, a draft of his feature film screenplay, 30TH STREET, took 2nd place in the “25 and Under” category of the annual Set in Philadelphia Screenplay Competition organized by the Philadelphia Film Office. In 2006, Avi and his producing partner, Adam Spielberg (Ramin Bahrani’s PLASTIC BAG), were among the final 15 filmmakers considered by Jonathan Lethem when he held a contest to give away the option to his novel YOU DON’T LOVE ME YET. Avi also adapted the novel MESSIAH, by Gore Vidal, for producers Mark Petracca (WILDWOOD DAYS) and Michael Butler (HAIR). From January 2007 through January 2009, Avi was a Production and Development Executive at Los Angeles-based Upload Films. During his time at Upload, Avi was intimately involved in all of the company’s projects including SHOTGUN STORIES, THE BABYSITTERS, PRINT, and DROOL. Avi is the Writer/Director/Co-Producer of THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF CUPID AND EROS, an original web series about the love god Cupid and his terrible love life. Season 1, which features guest appearances by Bradford Anderson (GENERAL HOSPITAL) Jeff Cannata (THE TOTALLY RAD SHOW) and Taryn O’Neill (COMPULSIONS), had its finale on Feb 28th 2011. The show was one of six winners of NYU’s Inaugural Web Series Showcase and has received great reviews from Tubefilter, Eguiders, ThoseVideoGuys, Indie Intertube PopCultureMonster and tVadio. Most recently, Avi, co-created, co-wrote and produced THE SILVERLAKE BADMINTON AND ADVENTURERS CLUB which won the judges prize at the Celebrate the Web 4: Raising the Bar Web Pilot Festival.

You can follow him on twitter @ag457 and find his work online at www.highway9pictures.com

Hey Folks! Rebecca here. I told Avi that I was going to embed the first episode, “I’m Fine”, of “The Further Adventures of Cupid and Eros” here at the end of the interview. I told him that after my readers saw the first 5 minute episode they wouldn’t be able to resist watching the rest of the series. So go ahead, give it a try. We’ll talk in the comments after you watched the rest of the series. 🙂