The Siren’s Song of the Kongamato

Article by Rebecca
Image by Will Hobbs (www.sirwilliamwesley.com)

The swamps of Africa can easily be described as inaccessible. The ground is soft, and people sink trying walk. The area is layered with vines and brush, adding more difficulty to movement. There are disease-harboring insects, and the locals do not welcome strangers. Why would any man travel there? To answer the siren’s call of the kongamato.

The kongamato is sometimes referred to as “overwhelmer of boats.” It is a giant bird or bat-like thing that terrorizes the locals of the sub-Saharan continent of Africa. It is described as a sort of flying lizard, with a wingspan of 3-3 ½ feet. The kongamato is black or red, with a pointed snout, or beak, filled with sharp teeth. It’s frequently described as looking like a pterodactyl. This description occurs so often that some people toy with the idea that it is actually a surviving pterosaur, a class of prehistoric animals that includes the pterodactyl. Other people say that perhaps it’s a giant bat. Yet, more people suggest that the kongamato is actually a stork of some kind. Since many sightings occur at dusk, the light obviously effects how they perceive the creature. No matter what you say the kongamato is, it is safe to say “big flying thing.”

Now you may be asking, okay Rebecca, who answered the call of the kongamato? Not all of these people went out specifically looking for the creature, but once presented with the kongamato, it became what their trip was about.

The kongamato made its debut in Frank H. Melland’s 1923 book “Witchbound Africa”. He presented locals with a picture of a pterodactyl, which they immediately identified as the kongamato. In 1925 British journalist G. Ward Price and the future Duke of Windsor traveled to Southern Rhodesia. While there, they heard about local attacks made by the kongamato, stories that they shared upon their return to Britain. Captain Charles Pitman wrote in his 1942 book “A Game Warden Takes Stock” about a large pterodactyl-like creature that existed in the swamps. Dr. J.L.B. Smith investigated the kongamato in the 1950’s to include them in his book “Old Fourlegs” which was about flying dragons. In 1956 J.P.F. Brown, an engineer, reported that two prehistoric looking creatures were flying over head while he was in Northern Rhodesia. This was well publicized in the papers of the time. Obviously there have been more sightings and stories in and amongst all these times. That’s all history Rebecca, old news.

Well is 1988 recent enough for you? University of Chicago biologist Roy Mackal was so intrigued by the history of the kongamato that he packed up and headed to Nambia in the summer of ’88 to investigate. He collected many stories while he was there, but unfortunately left without seeing one. One member of his group stayed behind, and he did report that he saw a giant black glider.

After everything is said and done, there is no proof of the kongamato. No photos or specimens. Perhaps the kongamato is just a folk tale, something tribesmen tell each other about to keep them from wandering too close to the water at night. The African equivalent of the urban legend. It could be that it is, in fact, the lone surviving pterosaur. Will we ever know? Probably not. Will people keep looking? Yes, they will, and that, for me is the real story.

Magical Buffet Mythology: Pele

Article by Rebecca
Image by Will Hobbs (www.sirwilliamwesley.com)

Last month we talked about Hephaestus, the Greek god of fire and volcanoes, whose fires helped forge some of the greatest legendary items of all time. This month we’re discussing Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire and volcanoes who uses her fires to demonstrate her power and emotions.

Let me start out by saying that Pele is a beautiful woman. Sure most goddesses are attractive but Pele is beautiful and the bad girl diva of the Hawaiian pantheon. When Pele appears to mortals in human form and busts out the hula dance, of which she is one of the patrons of, hot times literally and figuratively occur! With that being said, now it should come as no surprise to learn that Pele ended up in Hawaii after fleeing her sister, Na-maka-o-kaha’I the Goddess of Water and Sea who was more than a little upset at Pele’s indiscretions with her husband. In fact, most stories about Pele involve her torrid affairs, generally with very handsome mortal chiefs.

There is one story I like about Pele that for once does not involve her totally dominating her potential partner. A demi-god named Kamapua’a proved to be quite the match for her. Where Pele would cover the land with lava creating barren landscapes, Kamapua’a would bring down torrents of rain to extinguish the fires and then since he was the God of Pigs, he would call wild boars to come and break up the earth so that seeds could be sown there. These two fought against each other for so long that eventually Pele’s brothers begged her to give him a chance. They feared Kamapua’a would make it rain so long that Pele may lose her abilities to even create fire! So at a place called Ka-lua-o-Pele, where the land appears to have been torn up, is where it is said that Kamapua’a finally caught and ravaged Pele. The two stayed lovers until a child was born, at which point he left and Pele went back on the prowl for another man. Moreover, much like our modern day tabloids, the volcanoes let people know what is going on in Pele’s love life. When there are squabbles, there are jets of steam and smoke, and when there are fights, there is lava.

In my opinion, not only is Pele an ancient goddess, but she is so potent that she crosses over to urban legend as well. Stories are told of Pele appearing as an old haggard woman asking strangers for food and drink. Those that help her are rewarded; those who do not are punished. What is noteworthy here is that these stories are not always ancient; there are modern tellings as well. In these more modern times, she sometimes is dressed in white and asks for a ride across the island. When the driver looks in his rearview mirror, she is gone. This bears some similarities to the woman in white stories that our urban legend fans will recognize. Another religious, yet urban folklore type thing is the removal of volcanic rock from the islands. Religiously speaking, should you take something of Pele’s without her express permission, a cavern of bubbling churning lava tells you the answer is a resounding “No!” When tourists started visiting the islands, and more specifically the volcanoes, park rangers would warn that removing volcanic rock would cause you to be cursed by Pele. Many say the park rangers made up this whole thing to keep people from removing mounds of volcanic rock from these historical landmarks, but that does not stop people from mailing volcanic rock back to the islands asking for forgiveness and for the curse to be lifted. If you want to learn more, or perhaps have some volcanic rock of your own to return, you should check out these guys: http://www.volcanogallery.com/lavarock.htm.

What is the appeal of Pele? Why after so much time is she still so relevant in the lives of people? For starters, as long as there are volcanoes in Hawaii, there is proof that Pele is around. In addition, I find Pele appealing because she embodies womanhood in a very true, if more exaggerated way. Pele’s blend of beauty, grace, sexuality, and desire for vengeance are always portrayed in very recognizable ways. In my opinion, as long as there are wild women, there will be a Pele for them to model themselves after.

What else can I say? Hawaii rocks! Want to learn more? Start here: www.gohawaii.com.

10 Questions with a Mentalist

1. What is a mentalist?
Someone who can create the effect of using mindpower by reading minds, moving objects from a distance, predicting the future, and more.

2. You’re a woman of many talents. When practicing your mentalist arts do you associate it with your stage magic, your fortune telling skills, or your abilities as an empath?
I use all three skills in combination to give a more in depth show.

3. Is mentalism a practice that can be taught?
Anyone can do what I do if they spent the same amount of time studying and practicing that I have. Anyone can do simple mentalism if they have the resources to learn.

4. How could someone learn more about mentalism?
They would need a strong desire to buy a mentalism books and read them until they understand what they are reading, and then finally find an effect that they have the courage enough to do. It’s not easy performing for others. I remember I was completely nervous the first time I read someone’s tarot cards.

5. Who is your favorite mentalist and why?
I LOVE Banachek. He is a great mentalism thinker, performer, and he actually fooled the scientists at Universities into believing his psychic powers when he was only a teenager. Not many teens can perform mentalism. It can be a dry study, but somehow he did it.

6. Zatanna, Samantha Stephens, or Circe?
I guess right now I relate to Zatanna because I’m a young magician in New York City having fun. I think when I’m married I will look forward to the family life of Samantha Stevens and do quiet spells in the suburbs to keep up the household chores and familial responsibilities.

When I’m an old sorceress, I’ll probably move to some chic city or island somewhere in the world, and open up a Tarot reading parlour with a rear secret entrance to my magic den. When I’m not at my Tarot reading parlour, I look forward to enchanting young men to my yacht to swim and then having them for breakfast. But that’s just between you and me.

7. When I checked out Wikipedia to read about mentalism there were over 15 noteworthy mentalists listed, and they were all men! Where are all the female mentalists at?
Mentalism like magic is still a male dominated art and can be intimidating for many women. I’m a pretty brash, loud, strong, opinionated person who had to develop a high tolerance for locker room antics of my colleagues, just to be accepted in the fold. I think that is slowly changing, but that is my explanation for the lack of women in the field at the moment.

8. I’m thinking of a number, what is it?
Would you like fries with that? This is not McDonalds! Mentalists hate being ordered around.

9. Is there anything else about mentalism or being a mentalist that you would like to share with us?
It can be a lonely field with a lot of secrets. I find it’s best to have a close friendship with at least one mentalist who also understands the art of divination and the occult and who has a good sense of humor about it.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question!
What is the top branch of the occult that everyone practices on the Magical Buffet, aka, is it Wicca, nothing in particular, Satan, Misc Goth, fan of occult, Santaria, Voodoo, etc…

It’s an interesting question you pose. I would say that over half of our readers would identify themselves as some variety of Wiccan or Pagan. As for me, I’m a hopeless dabbler, cursed to wander the occult landscape. When it comes to personal practice, I probably fall into line most with the chaos magic movement that is out there, but I have huge amounts of respect for the ceremonial practioners. I wish I had their level of discipline. Of course, now that I said all of THAT, I have to say that the more I learn about witchcraft the more I like it. And Voodoo, I’ve been learning about Voodoo as of late and that kicks butt! I think we’re all figuring out Rebecca’s problem here.

Maritess Zurbano redefines the traditional rabbit-out-of-the-hat magic show with enthralling illusions and play-with-your-mind feats of mentalism. Forget balloon animals, vapid-minded female assistants, bad jokes and showy Vegas acts, The Amazing Maritess tackles the male-dominated world of magical feats and shows what a Filipina-American from the Chicago suburbs can accomplish.
As the only female Asian Mentalist in history, and one of the few professional female magicians in the world, Maritess combines dramatic monologue with internationally award-winning sleight-of-hand, mind reading and illusions.
Maritess Zurbano has performed at every major casino in Las Vegas, and toured with her illusion show throughout Asia and Europe. She was nominated for competition in the Federacion Internacionale Des Societe Magique 2000, considered the Olympics of magic. Jane magazine, NHK Japan, Lifetime Television, VH1, Yolk Magazine, The Philippine News, and NYC Newsday love her show.

"Maritess is urban sophistication with an edge"
…New York Newsday

"With her street-smart stage presence, dazzlingillusions, and great sense of humor, Maritessredefines magic for a hip new multicultural age."
…David Henry Hwang

Visit her Website at www.maritess.com

Profile: Avalon Center for Druidic Studies

Article Provided by Alferian Gwydion MacLir

Avalon Center for Druidic Studies was founded in 2005 as an institution of higher learning based in Druidic philosophy. The Druids were, of old, the judges, wizards, and priests of the ancient Celts and the modern Druidic revival is inspired by the Romantic image of priests of nature, wise men of the oaks and the sacred groves. To the antiquarians of the 18th century, such as William Stukeley, and the Romantic poets, such as William Blake, the ancient Bards and Druids became symbols of a native British spiritual tradition, one in tune with the land itself, not based on worldwide conquest and conversion or notions of orthodoxy and conformity. Today’s druids are inspired by that tradition, creating the modern Druidic philosophy as an earth-based spiritual path, a pagan religion, based in the love of the Earth and the respect for all species. Modern Druid philosophy forms the basis of Avalon Center’s approach to education – a philosophy that acknowledges the validity of both spirit and science.

The Avalon Center takes its name from the Isle of Avalon, so prominent in Welsh myth and the Arthurian legends. Avalon is the Otherworld, the world of the dead and the world of Faerie and for us it signifies the Druid devotion to the Ancestors and to the non-human spirits of Nature. The Center is inspired by the Bardic Colleges of old, where the Welsh, Irish, and Scots bards once learned the complex poetic forms of their language and the mysteries hidden in the poetic triads and visionary verse of such legendary figures as Taliesin and Merlin. The bardic ideal is founded in the idea that knowledge may be pursued through imagination as well as reason. Music, poetry, literature, myth, studio arts, and drama are at the core of Avalon Center’s curriculum. Magical arts, divination, energetic healing, and herbalism coexist as disciplines alongside natural history, philosophy, history, legal studies, and Celtic languages. The Center is embarking on a five year program of course development to create college-level courses in all of these subjects and programs of study that are inspired by the traditional Druidic grades of bard, ovate, and druid. In addition, the Center offers an introductory study program called the Awenydd program, named with the Welsh word meaning “one blessed with inspiration.” The Awen, is one of modern Druidry’s key concepts: the inspiration that links each of us to the Divine Imagination.

Avalon Center is committed to representing Druidry, or draiocht, as it is in Irish Gaelic, as a field of knowledge and practice, not as narrowly defined doctrines of any single “tradition” within paganism or occultism. In Irish draiocht can be translated simply as wizardry or magic, and at Avalon we interpret that in the broadest way, seeking to create a college of Druidry that can include lore from magical traditions across the world. It is the hope of the Governors and Faculty of Avalon that the Western magical tradition will come into open dialog with Eastern traditions and spiritual traditions from all nations. Taoism, Shinto, Buddhism, Hinduism, Native American traditions, African and Oceanic traditions all share common roots with Druidry in the human interconnection to the land, water, sky, and energies of the Earth, and the respect accorded to the spirits of place. These spiritual beings include the various beings commonly referred to as Faerie folk in the British tradition, but known by other names in almost all human cultures. They are beings of the land and of the elements. In modern Druidry such a animistic view is coupled to modern scientific explanations for natural phenomenon, and both ways of seeing are held as equally true in their own ways, not inimical to each other.

Pagan and magical education has been carried on for generations in secret, either in Wiccan covens, Druid orders and groves, or magical lodges. Secrecy has long been a part of this tradition of training and for initiatory orders and covens, this will undoubtedly continue to be the case. However, it is my hope, as Chancellor of Avalon Center, that the pagan community is ready to develop its own institutions of higher learning. Largely excluded from mainstream academia which sees magical philosophy as incompatible with scientific thought, the lore of wizards and witches, magicians and druids, has been forced into the margins, moved underground, and adopted by various counter-cultural movements. Avalon Center is founded in the hope that magical folk and those moved by a spirituality of Nature, can take the next step “out of the broom closet” and out of the margins of our culture.

Of course, there are many among both fundamentalist Christians and orthodox scientists who reject the idea of magic and divination. This is one reason pagans need their own institutions and academic standards applied to areas of knowledge that are typically rejected as superstition or delusion at best, devilry at worst. Because of this, Avalon Center is founded on the principles of religious tolerance and open discourse. Members of the Avalon Center faculty come from all philosophical backgrounds, including skeptics and atheists as well as witches and Druids of various theological opinions – pantheist, polytheist, panentheist, Gnostic, and agnostic. While we do cater to modern pagans, we also offer courses of study that will benefit students of other paths, or who are seeking their path. The Center’s history courses and proposed language and mythology courses will interest students whose principal desire is to discover their Celtic heritage. There is ever-increasing interest among those of Irish, Welsh, and Scottish descent in the study and revival of the native Celtic languages of Gael and Briton. Those not of direct Celtic descent will also find great rewards in the study of this almost lost culture that once dominated Northern Europe and extended from Iberia to Anatolia. A culture very different from that of Rome and Greece, which are so often thought to be the foundations of Western civilization. It might be said, that we represent the “barbarians.” But what is revealed is a complex culture that was rejected by the Romans in the same way that many other tribal cultures were, in the 18th and 19th centuries rejected by European imperialism. In the twentieth century and the twenty-first we have come to understand the value of these so-called “primitive” cultures and the hubris that drove the European empires that inherited the mantle of Rome.

So, one may well ask: What does an academic institution look like that is founded on the culture of barbarians and which embraces non-conformity and free-thought rather than conformity and orthodoxy? The Awenydd program in effect asks and addresses this very question, opening up students to dialogue about the nature of magical philosophy and of the spiritual ideas if the Celts and the Germanic tribes of Northern Europe.

The Center’s advanced study programs go beyond an introduction to magical philosophy and Celtic history. The Magister of Bardic Arts program interprets the role of the modern bard broadly. While revering the training of the ancient bard or filid of Celtica as poet and musician, we recognize that the core of bardic work is Awen, inspiration, and that creative expression and the preservation of myth and lore may take many forms. The required courses of the program focus on history and literature, myth, and lore. Through electives each bard can pursue artistic expression in music, poetry, prose, drama, or studio arts. In addition bards may choose to focus on the magical and divinatory arts.

The Magister of Ovate Studies program includes many electives to permit students to concentrate in areas such as healing, divination, magical arts, or natural history. The ovates of old were seers and diviners, often conducting the blood sacrifices and reading of entrails that were the stock in trade of the Iron Age. In our modern information age, it is the hope of the Center’s governors and Faculty that ovates will bring together such modern forms of augury as statistics and the ancient arts of intuition to follow their professional interests and healers, diviners, mages, or scientists. Avalon Center is unique at the present moment in developing an academic environment in which the intuitive and the empirical sciences can both be studied hand-in-hand.

For students who have achieve one or both of the Magister’s diplomas, further study is available at what is intended to be a doctoral level. The Ollamh of Druidic Studies program provides advanced students with training to become teachers of Ovates and Bards, to assume leadership roles as Druids within their local groves and Druid orders, and also to fulfill the role of pagan clergy, mentors, and counselors. Ollamh is an Irish Gaelic word that refers to non-medical doctors and was more anciently the title given to the highest rank among poets. In addition to courses in leadership and advanced meditation, students are expected to work closely with their dissertation adviser to write a substantial thesis of high scholarly merit on an appropriate topic, approved by the student’s dissertation committee.

At each level of study, the work is treated not as the pursuit of initiatory degrees, as such, but rather as work which can lead to traditional academic degrees. Once its curriculum is fully developed, Avalon Center intends to pursue registration as a college of higher learning in the State of Minnesota and accreditation by the regional accrediting body. This is a long and difficult process and it may prove that a pagan school will never be able to satisfy the standards which have been built up around modern research universities and financially well-endowed private colleges. There is talk among the heads of several pagan schools and seminaries to form a professional association that might further lead to the establishment of an accreditation system within the pagan community.

Now, some modern Pagans find the idea of pagan credentials to be almost a contradiction in terms. Many pursue the path out of a counter-cultural urge to reject both the Christian and the scientific Establishment. The desire to define oneself a pagan comes from a desire for simplicity and authentic living. It is a way of life, a way of living in Nature, not something that can be reduced to degrees and diplomas. Some Wiccans and druids object to the idea just as strenuously even where those traditions acknowledge degrees and titles of initiation. The very real objection lies in the feeling that initiation and esoteric knowledge cannot be measured by academic standards and that academia has, historically, focused on the teaching of dogma. I do not disagree with these objections. However, the Avalon Center is not setting out to issue credentials in Paganism – or for that matter in Druidry or Wicca as religions. Rather it is founded on the ideals of the cutting edge of educational thought today, which seeks to break away from the dogmatism and “correct answers” of the past. It sets out to offer, not a religious eduction, but study programs that are challenging and thorough, and which some individuals may enjoy for the love of learning. The pleasure of pursuing a course of study, carrying on discussions with like-minded (or different-minded) fellow students and teachers, of writing papers and even passing exams in a subject leading at last to a diploma – this is a particular pleasure enjoyed by some and not by others. It is by no means for everyone and it certainly should not imply that one is a “better” person, pagan or otherwise. A diploma merely signifies a certain achievement of serious study and writing or other creative work.

Will Avalon Center diplomas be acknowledged by employers or other institutions? Will they, in short, mean anything to anyone but the students and faculty of Avalon itself? That is something that must unfold naturally in time, as with all institutions that issue diplomas or degrees. Standards are set by a community and within a culture more broadly, and programs are evaluated for their merit. I fully suspect it will be a long time before pagan education is acknowledged outside of the pagan community. The idea of applying an academic model to magical philosophy is new. There might have been philosophical schools and even Druidic or Bardic colleges in the ancient world, but of course they were not structured like modern academia with its departments and disciplines.

Avalon Center does not embrace the modern academic model uncritically and indeed mainstream academia is breaking down the divisions of knowledge into “disciplines” in order to promote trans-disciplinary studies and collaborative work from experts in different fields. From the standpoint of Druidic philosophy, as I see it, the reunion of the sciences and the humanities is crucial, and both must be linked together through an understanding of the integral relationship between Nature and human beings. Unfortunately, as the last sentence illustrates, our separation of “us” and “Nature” is so built into our language that it is hard to even express the connectedness without reinforcing the duality. In Druidic philosophy (if one can generalize), human beings are seen to be part of Nature, not distinct from it. We do not have a god-given right to master and subdue Nature, as is expressed in the Biblical traditions. Rather, we are Nature and in this way Naturalism and Humanism merge, so that human nature and the human soul are the expressions of natural phenomena. The reverse is also true: natural phenomena are not soulless mechanisms which we can objectify and reify into “things” apart from ourselves. Natural phenomena are intimately implicated in the human mind and human imagination at all levels.

Such a philosophy is in keeping with the view of many traditional tribal cultures which have survived the attempts by Christianized Europe to “civilize” and “correct” them. What was a hundred years ago still regarded as “barbarism” is now accepted as a type of culture that is not inferior to European modern civilization, but simply different. Druids today, like many pagans, do not uncritically embrace the ideology of the machine which sees progress and “advancement” in purely technological terms. Increased power over Nature, power to change or tamper with nature is not seen as always “improvement.” Similarly, the notion of a landowner “improving” his or her property is not accepted in the typical sense. Nature does not need improving and it may well be that human beings would be more improved by adapting to Nature’s ways than by seeking to strip and cultivate and exploit the land, water, trees, and animals through technology.

Avalon Center intends to embark on a major fundraising campaign once our tax-exempt status has been secured. This campaign will allow us to acquire farmland in rural Minnesota suitable for residential study. On a small and intimate campus, students will be able to work directly with the land, trees, herbs, animals and their spirits. They will be able to take classes in a physical classroom as well as online, and work with teachers and mentors on their chosen academic quest for knowledge and understanding. We plan to engage in cultural education, showing how our Iron Age and Stone Age ancestors may have lived, as well as open community lectures intended to dispel the myths surrounding the practice of magic and its history. It is worth noting that no one at Avalon considers the practice of magic to be in opposition to the practice of religion. Indeed history suggests that the two expressions of human relatedness to the cosmos have always gone hand-in-hand. On the other hand, one may come to Avalon to study merely the magic of music and drama, history and literature and not pursue the magical arts or divination at all. Magic is essentially wonder, and that takes many forms.

Avalon requires students to seek admission to study with our faculty and the application process is made as painless as possible in order to encourage students of all ages and backgrounds to give it a try. Once enrolled, students are given guidance by an academic advisor as well as by individual instructors. Our goal is to support every student to do their very best and succeed in their studies. Online classes are especially challenging because they require so much self-discipline and time management. Courses taken at a physical campus where you have to show up at a particular time and place each week, provide a good deal of structure that is lost in the environment of cyberspace. However, when the challenge is met, one can engage in stimulating discussions with fellow students and teachers in the online classroom as well as in a material space. In time, we plan to offer both options and a fluid combination of the two, utilizing modern web-based technology. It will be a long and gradual process to build this institution, probably covering generations. No college was ever build entirely overnight. But as we druids say, we are growing at oak-speed.

It is my sincere hope that you will visit Avalon Center at www.avaloncollege.org and look at our cyber-classrooms and message board, which we fondly call AvalOnline. Come join us and contribute to the dream of a magical school, a place truly filled with the wonder we bring to our love of Nature and of Spirit.

It’s Peachy Keen!: The Peach

Article by Rebecca
Image by Will Hobbs (www.sirwilliamwesley.com)

Ah, the peach, so many people lay claim to this sumptuous fruit. South Carolina has it as its state fruit, yet Georgia calls itself the “Peach State.” The peach is native to China, but it also has a history in Iran. It also happens to be the name of an adult entertainment empire! What is the deal with the peach? Surprisingly, it comes down to symbolism.

Let’s talk about China. The United States may produce peaches to eat, but China produces a lot of lore about the fruit! The peach may be one of the most potent symbols for the Chinese, although there is some definite sharing with Japan in regards to this. The peach tree’s fruit, blossoms, and wood are all linked to longevity, fertility, immortality, protective magic, marriage, youth, and spring. Peach wood was once widely used to create bows, talismans, and idols. Peach trees blossom early, which is why they are considered so fertile, and one assumes why peaches are linked to fertility. Of course in Chinese legend the peach tree tended by Xi Wang Mu, the Queen of Heaven, only bears fruit every three thousands years. That would be why many believe it to symbolize longevity. In addition, to Buddhists the peach is one of the three blessed fruits, along with the citrus and the pomegranate.

In the Western world, the peach can symbolize truthfulness. Check this out. In Renaissance art a peach with a leaf attached represented truthfulness. Why? This is too cool, the peach was representative of the human heart, and the leaf was the tongue. Therefore, a peach with a leaf on it showed a direct link between the heart and tongue, thus you were speaking directly from the heart.

Look at all this stuff! It boggles the mind how one little fruit can be associated with so many things! At the end of the day, here is my favorite aspect of peach symbolism from one of my favorite websites!

Peach Crisp
Ingredients:
6 cups peeled, sliced fresh peaches
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
½ cup butter, softened

Instructions:
Place peaches in a lightly greased 8-inch square baking dish; set aside.
Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a medium mixing bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Sprinkle mixture evenly over peaches in prepared dish.
Bake at 375 deg F for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
(recipe from www.yumyum.com)

The Story of Edgar Cayce

by Kevin Todeschi

Every year, tens of thousands of people – from all over the world – become interested in the life work of one ordinary man. He was an average individual in most respects: a loving husband, a father of two children, an eager gardener, a devoted Sunday school teacher, and a skilled photographer. Yet, throughout his life, he also displayed one of the most remarkable psychic talents of all time. His name was Edgar Cayce.

Daily for over forty years of his adult life, Cayce would lie down on a couch with his hands folded over his stomach and allow himself to enter a self-induced sleep state. Then, provided with the name and location of an individual – anywhere in the world – he would speak in a normal voice and give answers to any questions about that person that he was asked. These answers, which are called readings, were written down by a stenographer who kept one copy on file and sent another to the person who had requested the information.

Today, on file at the library of the Association for Research and Enlightenment, Inc., in Virginia Beach, Virginia, there are copies of more than 14,000 of Edgar Cayce’s readings. These are available to the public and have been filed along with any follow-up reports received from individuals who had asked for the readings. This material represents the most massive collection of psychic information ever obtained from a single source.

Edgar Cayce was born near Hopkinsville, Kentucky, on March 18, 1877, one of five children, surrounded by a large family with grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins living nearby. He had a lifelong interest in the Bible, and even as a child his dream was to become a medical missionary.

At the age of six or seven, he told his parents that he could sometimes see visions, occasionally talking to relatives who had recently died. For the most part, his family attributed these experiences to his overactive imagination and paid little attention to them. He found comfort in reading the Bible and decided to read it through from cover to cover, once for every year of his life. At the age of 13 he claimed to have had a vision which would influence him for the rest of his life: a beautiful woman had appeared to him and he told her that, more than anything, he wanted to help others – especially children when they were sick.

Shortly after the experience Edgar displayed the talent of sleeping on his schoolbooks and repeating, word for word, any length of material – even if it contained words far beyond his limited education.

Edgar Cayce just after his marriage
Edgar Cayce just after his marriage

At the age of 16 he moved with his family to Hopkinsville and got a job – first, at a dry goods firm and later at a bookstore. While working at the bookstore on Main Street, he met and fell in love with a young woman named Gertrude Evans. They became engaged four days before his twentieth birthday, and decided they would marry when he was financially able to support a family.

He moved to Louisville to find a better paying job and became a traveling salesman. He sold stationery and insurance at the turn of the century, and he became confident that it wouldn’t be long before he could afford to get married. However, at the age of 23, after taking a sedative, he developed a severe case of laryngitis. He wasn’t really concerned at first but the condition persisted. Doctors were called and later, specialists, but still Edgar was unable to speak above a whisper. As the days turned into weeks, he was forced to give up his job as a salesman and look for something that didn’t require much speaking. He found the perfect job in Hopkinsville as a photographer’s assistant. There he could be close to Gertrude and his family.

At this time, hypnotism and stage shows were experiencing a renewed revival in this country. One showman, who called himself “Hart – the Laugh Man,” brought his comedy and hypnotism act to the Hopkinsville Opera House. Edgar Cayce happened to attend the show and was volunteered as one of Hart’s subjects. Unfortunately, it turned out that Edgar was one of those people who couldn’t be hypnotized, but he offered to put himself to sleep – much as he had done when he had slept on his schoolbooks.

While Cayce was in his self-induced sleep state, he could respond to questions in his normal voice while in the trance state. However, he didn’t take the post-hypnotic suggestion, and his laryngitis returned when Hart awakened him.

The local papers became excited about the case. His parents, however, were concerned. Ever since the first experiment with Hart, their son had lost weight. It appeared as though putting himself to sleep was a drain on his physical body.

The next time hypnotism was suggested, a local man was found to give the suggestions. Al Layne had educated himself. Not only had he worked with hypnotism, but he was familiar with osteopathy as well. The text he tried was quite simple: as before, Edgar put himself to sleep, only this time, instead of suggesting that the young man’s voice return, Layne asked Cayce to explain what was wrong with him and how he could be cured. While asleep on the couch, Edgar described the cause as a “psychological condition producing a physical effect.” The problem could be removed by suggesting to him – while he was in the unconscious state – that the blood circulation increase in the affected areas. Layne made the suggestion, and he and Cayce’s family watched in amazement as the upper part of Edgar’s chest and throat turned a bright crimson red and the skin became warm to the touch. After the suggestion was made that the blood circulation return to normal, and Cayce was awakened, he was able to speak normally again. The laryngitis had lasted nearly an entire year.
The date, March 31, 1901, marked the first time Edgar Cayce had ever given a reading. He had no intentions of putting himself into the sleep state again, but Al Layne had witnessed something extraordinary and had other ideas.

For years, Layne had been bothered by a stomach difficulty that doctors had been unable to cure. He convinced Edgar to try giving a reading on the stomach problem. With a great deal of reluctance, Edgar finally agreed. Asleep on the couch, Cayce spoke in a normal voice and recommended herbal medicines, foods, and exercises for improvement. After following the sleeping Cayce’s suggestions for one week, Layne felt so much better that he became even more excited about Edgar’s ability. He convinced Cayce that the talent was not to be overlooked, and he strongly encouraged him to try other tests.

Edgar Cayce felt as if he had been placed in a precarious position. On the one hand, this business of readings was very strange to him. He knew nothing about medicine or the diagnosing of illness. Yet Layne argued that he had a moral obligation if his talent could be helpful to people. Finally, after a great deal of prayer, after talking it over with his family, and after looking to his Bible for guidance, he agreed to continue the experiments under the condition that if he ever suggested anything in the sleep state that could be at all harmful to people, he would stop the readings.

One of the earliest readings was for a five-year-old named Aime Dietrich, who had been seriously ill for three years. At the age of two, after an attack of influenza – which doctors then called the grippe – her mind had stopped developing beyond that of a two-year-old. Since that time her tiny body had been racked with convulsions. Her mind was a blank, and though doctors and specialists had been consulted, she continued to worsen.

Layne conducted the reading. The sleeping Cayce said that Aime’s problem had begun a few days before catching the grippe – she had fallen and injured her spine while getting down from a carriage. The influenza germs had settled in her spine because of the trauma, and the convulsions had begun. The little girl’s mother verified the accident. While still sleeping, Edgar Cayce recommended some osteopathic adjustments that were to be carried out by Layne. Layne made the adjustments on the little girl’s spine and got a check reading. The sleeping Cayce told Layne he hadn’t done them correctly and gave further instructions! After several attempts, Layne was able to carry out the suggestions to the exact specifications of the sleeping photographer. Several days later, Aime recognized a doll she had played with as a child and called it by name. As the weeks passed, her mind recognized other things as well and finally the convulsions stopped completely. Within three months, Aime became a normal, healthy, five-year-old girl.

It was soon discovered that Cayce only needed the name and location of an individual to be able to give a reading, diagnose the person’s condition, and outline a regimen of treatment. Cayce continued giving readings without charge, while Layne conducted.
In 1903, after an engagement of more than six years, Gertrude Evans and Edgar Cayce were finally married. In spite of being uncomfortable with the readings, his life was fulfilling. He had a loving wife, a home, a Sunday school class at the local church, and a good job. A year later he formed his own photographic partnership and was able to open a studio.

Meanwhile, a Dr. Wesley Ketchum had recently diagnosed himself as having appendicitis, and he wanted to have a reading to see if Cayce would be able to discern this. However, while asleep, Cayce gave an entirely different diagnosis and outlined a simple treatment. In order to humor the young man, Dr. Ketchum went to another doctor for a third opinion and discovered that Cayce’s diagnosis was indeed correct.

Wesley Ketchum used Cayce’s psychic talent in over 100 of his most difficult cases. In one instance, a wealthy construction supervisor, severely fractured his leg and kneecap in an accident. Several doctors in town said that they could set the leg, but because the kneecap was damaged beyond repair, he would never walk again. Not satisfied with their reports, Dalton consulted Dr. Ketchum. Cayce gave a reading and recommended what was an extremely radical treatment for 1905: Ketchum was to drive several nails into the kneecap to hold it is place while the leg healed. The procedure was unheard of at the time, but Dr. Ketchum, trusting in Cayce, carried it out. The surgery was performed, and several months later Dalton was up and walking around as though the accident had never occurred.

Because the requests for readings continued to grow, Cayce formed a partnership with his father and Dr. Ketchum and began to give readings on a daily basis. He became known as a psychic diagnostician. At the same time, he opened his own photographic studio and spent most of each day inside the “Cayce Art Studio” taking pictures before handling the requests for readings.

Cayce and Gertrude had had their first son, Hugh Lynn, in 1907. In 1911, Gertrude gave birth to their second son, whom they named Milton Porter. Soon after his birth, the baby developed whooping cough and later on colitis. Several doctors were consulted, but the baby continued to get worse. Cayce never really thought about consulting the readings until the doctors had given up hope. As a last resort, Cayce gave a reading for his second son. The readings offered no hope, and the baby died before it was two months old.

Cayce and his wife went into a state of depression. He blamed himself for not getting a reading sooner – perhaps it might have helped; now he would never know. Gertrude became weak after the baby’s death, and the doctor thought she had contracted pleurisy. As the months passed, the illness hung on, and she showed no signs of improvement. In fact, she was getting worse and was eventually confined to bed.

By late summer, Gertrude’s doctor had changed his diagnosis. He called Cayce aside and told him that Gertrude had tuberculosis and was dying. Everyone expected her to die by the end of the year except her husband, who decided to give a reading.

While in the sleep state Edgar Cayce recommended a combination of prescription drugs as well as filling a charred oak keg with apple brandy. Gertrude was to inhale the fumes to clear up the congestion. Although the doctors claimed that the combination of drugs would be useless, Dr. Ketchum wrote the prescription. After following this treatment for only two days Gertrude felt better and her fever left. By November even her doctors decided she was going to get well. By January of 1912, Gertrude Cayce was almost fully recovered.

That same year Edgar Cayce was investigated by Harvard University and was able to demonstrate the legitimacy and the effectiveness of the readings. He moved his family to Selma, Alabama opened a photography studio and began to live a quite life. However, one day his son, Hugh Lynn, severely burned his eyes while playing with flash powder in his father’s studio. The local doctors recommended removing one of the eyes because of the extent of the damage. The son asked his father for a reading. In the sleep state Cayce gave assurance that sight was not gone. He recommended an additional compound be added to the solution that had been prescribed by the doctors and said Hugh Lynn’s eyes should be kept bandaged for two weeks. No eye surgery was performed, and when the bandages were removed, the boy could see. Local newspapers picked up the story and again, Edgar Cayce’s fame grew.

As the requests for readings continued, Edgar Cayce was faced another problem. Although people were being helped by the readings, many found it difficult to have their doctors carry out treatments recommended by a sleeping man they had never even met – a man who, in many instances, had never seen the people he was diagnosing. Cayce thought the solution was having his own hospital, staffed with fully qualified doctors, nurses, and therapist, who would carry out the treatments recommended in the readings.

Cayce with his wife Gertrude and their secretary Gladys Davis
Cayce with his wife Gertrude and their secretary Gladys Davis

Now, he hired a secretary, Gladys Davis, to take down the information in the readings while Gertrude asked her sleeping husband the questions. Until 1923 most of Cayce’s readings were limited to medicine. However, that year a wealthy printer from Dayton, who had obtained successful readings for two of his nieces, asked the sleeping Cayce for a horoscope reading. Toward the end of the reading [5717-1] Cayce spoke the curious sentence: “he was once a monk.” That statement opened up the door to a whole new area of research – the possibility of reincarnation.

All at once, Cayce was faced with a new dilemma. There wasn’t any doubt that the information was helpful and accurate when dealing with health, but the readings matter-of-fact reference to reincarnation seemed foreign to his fundamental Christianity. He prayed about it, did much soul searching, and obtained a few readings. Edgar Cayce found that the concept of reincarnation was not incompatible with any religion. Soon afterwards, the “life” reading developed. It dealt with an individual’s previous lifetimes, as well as the person’s potential for this lifetime.

Because of the helpfulness of the readings, several backers were found to make Cayce’s dream of a hospital a reality. One group wanted to locate the facility in Chicago, another wanted it to be in Dayton. However, time and again, the readings advised that the hospital be located in or near Virginia Beach, Virginia. Finally, a New York businessman agreed to finance the project, and in 1925 the Cayce family moved with Gladys Davis to Virginia Beach. In 1928 the Edgar Cayce hospital opened its doors.

Until 1931 the hospital operated successfully. However, in the midst of the Depression, financial backing was lost. In this turmoil, Cayce incorporated the Association for Research and Enlightenment, Inc., [A.R.E.], that was to serve as a research body to investigate the information given by Cayce in the readings. The organization survived, the hospital did not.

As the years passed, Cayce became more and more psychic in the waking state as well as in his sleep state. He once fled from a room in sorrow because he knew that three young men would not be returning from the war. He had also developed the ability to see auras, which are fields of light that surround all living things. From these auras Cayce could perceive people’s moods as well as their overall physical condition.

During the height of World War II, sacks of mail were delivered to Cayce with ever-growing requests for readings. Despite the readings’ warning that he should give no more than two a day, Cayce began giving eight in an effort to keep up. Gladys Davis’ appointment book had readings scheduled two years in advance!

In the spring of 1944, Edgar began to grow weak. His own readings advised him to rest, but he felt a tremendous obligation to those asking for his help. Finally, he collapsed from sheer exhaustion, and just as he gave his first reading for himself, he gave his last reading for himself – in September of 1944. The reading told him he had to rest. When Gertrude asked “How long?” the response was “until he was well, or dead.” Shortly afterwards, he had a stroke and became partially paralyzed. He died on January 3, 1945. At the time, no one really understood how ill Gertrude was, yet within three months, on Easter Sunday, she died as well.

Gladys Davis took it upon herself to preserve the information she had taken such great pains to write down, until Edgar’s sons returned from the war. Eventually, Hugh Lynn took over the organization his father had started and was able to encourage interest in the information his father left behind all over the world. When Hugh Lynn died, in 1982, the Association had grown from a few hundred members into one composed of tens of thousands. Gladys finished indexing the readings in 1971, more than a quarter century after Cayce had died! After the indexing, she discovered that the readings covered more than 10,000 different subjects – nearly every question imaginable had been asked. She continued working as secretary for the Board of Trustees of the Cayce organizations until her death, at the age of 81, in 1986.

To learn more about Edgar Cayce and the A.R.E. visit: www.edgarcayce.org

Where Have You Gone Tanya Pointer?

So who is Tanya Pointer? She is the woman who called herself Nonchalant and in the late 90s released the song “5 O’Clock”. It’s a favorite tune of mine and it’s on my mix cd “Acts of Female Aggression” that I have been listening to again. Forgive me if I don’t have the lyrics dead on.

It’s really real, when I feel the way that do right now
I see all my brothers underground
Pushing up daisies, man, it amazes me
That you can’t see where you’re gonna be
A statistic, everybody’s gone cold ballistic
If you had a good day, damn, I must have missed it
Cause you mad at the Universe, going to hell with everybody else
Cause you want your own first
I got the urge to let you in on a little secret
Cause you keep dying to keep it
All the killing that you’re feeling is from within
For the copper check the color of you skin
Why lie? I couldn’t try even if I had to
Born with the bullet-proof vest when I had you
A black woman trying to get through to the few
So you can lead the next crew

Well Mr. Black Man tell me where you’re heading
The last few years I watched while you were shedding
Pounds and pounds off of the growth of population
Soon we won’t be able to have a strong black nation
A shooting here, a stabbing there, will it ever stop
Cause now you’re dying from the dose of the crack rock
I’m just a Nubian Queen that needs a king to stand strong
And try to press on
It’s not a white man’s finger on the trigger
Car-jacks, drive-by’s, calling each other “nigga”
I’m not here to scold but rather shape and mold
A young black mind that won’t live to grow old
Cause you’re fronting, smoking on the blunt and
Down with your friends cause you think you’re making ends,
But you’re not
And it’s the truth of the matter
Your brother is getting skinny cause you want your pockets fatter

Tanya Pointer, aka Nonchalant, lived in Washington, D.C. Early every morning she would head into work and the streets would be empty except for her heading in, and the drug dealers and their buyers. She wrote “5 O’Clock” in response to that. It peaked at #24 on the Billboard’s Hot 100. It also set the stage for D.C. to have its own rap identity. Then, she was gone.

Driving into work the other day I heard this song and started to wonder, where is Tanya now? What is she doing? Does she still feel the same way she did as when she wrote “5 O’Clock”?

What appeals to me about this song is its lyrics. They’re clever, and very rarely does she cross over into preachy. Nonchalant assumed that her listeners were smart enough to grasp the larger message. Between verses two male rappers have says. They open with “Why should I do right and suffer?” I’m sure the mind set of many of the dealers she saw every morning. They ask who is she, because see he’s a big man, and the other male rapper confirms that the former is a big man. Nonchalant counters with what she feels “is the truth of the matter, that your brother is getting skinny cause you want your pockets fatter.” Tanya presumes that her listeners know why that line answers the question of why should I do right and suffer. Because those who profit from the destruction of others can’t ever truly be the heroes of the drama.

With incredibly smart turns of phrase, such as “I got the urge to let you in on a little secret, cause you keep dying to keep it” and “born with a bullet proof vest when I had you”, Nonchalant created an important contribution to the hip hop community. She let her listeners clearly see what life was like in Washington, D.C. and expressed her outrage, desperation, and dismay at a community that couldn’t seem to see what she did. Nonchalant challenged her listeners to strive for more, with a good flow. “5 O’Clock” is what rap music is supposed to be. So I ask again, where have you gone Tanya Pointer?

Exorcising Some Musical Demons

At work the other day I’m listening to a web radio station when John Mayer’s “Your Body is a Wonderland” comes on. I immediately hit the skip button on the player to go to the next song. My boss kind of looks at me and I say “I can’t stand Mayer. He can go to hell.” My boss is used to this kind of random and irrational behavior on my part so I follow up with, “You know who else can go straight to hell? Fred Durst.” “You have quite the list over there, don’t you?” my boss asks. To which I respond, “A little over six years in music retail? Heck yeah I have a list.” That’s when it occurred to me that it’s time to purge my pent up musical frustrations, exorcise my demons, and maybe, just maybe move on with my life. So here is my long and winding (and whining) list of grievances, justifications, and perhaps a few props from my years in music retail.

First, I feel I should clarify, when I say that someone should go to hell, I don’t mean it literally. I don’t believe in hell. I’m just using it as a way to sum up the concept that I feel they should be recognized for annoying me in some very real way. Enjoy!

A person that definitely should not go to hell, but should be mentioned with a serious strike against her is Madonna. I love Madonna, but you don’t, I repeat, you DO NOT cover the song “American Pie.” And if, for some reason that I cannot divine, you do cover this absolute classic song, you do not turn it into a lullaby for some damn movie you’re in. “American Pie” was why God gave us Don McLean, leave his song alone!

Fred Durst, leave Pink Floyd’s music alone! I’m Fred Durst, I’m going to cover “Wish You Were Here” but I’m going to change…that’s right, CHANGE, some of the words to turn it into a tribute. Screw you Durst, Elton John (and Bernie Taupin) managed to write “Candle in the Wind” and he’ll drag that sucker out for any tragedy and not have to change a damn word. Learn to write a song. Oh, and honestly, he could go to hell anyway pretty much for existing. But don’t worry, the other members of Limp Bizkit are totally off the hook. Satan just wants Durst.

Ah, Bob Carlise’s “Butterfly Kisses.” What a sweet tribute to a father watching his daughter grow up. It brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it? Of course it does, he pulls on all the heart strings. Perhaps that’s why it seems that every woman uses that song for their father daughter dance at their wedding. Now I’m not saying that the song isn’t appropriate, but what I want to stress is that it seems EVERY woman picks that song. When a woman would come in and ask for that album for her wedding I would think to myself, so you and your father have absolutely no common bond, no shared memories, no personal connection. So instead of picking something personal, you’re going to borrow Carlise’s sappy song to compensate for that. Me, I used Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years.” So, um, bite me.

The lead singer of Creed, Scott Stapp, he and his I’m Jesus fixation can seriously go to hell….much the route of his career, thank you Lord. It was hard for me to realize that this guy needed to go to hell because “My Own Prison” is one of the best songs ever, but all that standing around with the arms out, ego ballooned up nice and big…he gets to go to hell.

Come on people, what the hell does Juliette Lewis have to do to get her second album released in the U.S.? The first Juliette and the Licks album kicked ass! If there is room at your local music store for Dogstar (Keanu Reeves), 30 Odd Foot of Grunt (Russell Crowe), and the Bacon Brothers (Kevin Bacon, and not too bad actually), there can certainly be a little space for the follow up to one of the best chick rock albums, strike that, best rock albums of 2005.

It’s a long story, but the lead singer of Live, can go to hell. I paid to see a concert, not listen to you ramble on and on while the band I’m waiting to see is stuck in back waiting for you to SHUT THE HELL UP!

And how is it I’m the only person who loves the song “Lapdance” by N.E.R.D.? It compares politicians to strippers, has a rap that cleverly involves the word cockpit, and they totally rubbed some funk on it! Someone, please, buy the album “In Search of….” It’s good…really.

This brings us to John Mayer. Why oh why Rebecca would you have anything bad to say about Mayer? (Pausing to take a deep breath.) Let me start with there may be something wrong with me as a woman. I can’t style my hair. I didn’t care for the movie “Titanic”. And, I would love to punch John Mayer in the face. That damn song “Your Body is a Wonderland.” You know what John, I know my body isn’t a wonderland (for those of you curious, I would say Jenna Jameson’s body is a wonderland), so stuff it. I have heard my share of “I wanna get laid” music but for some reason this one offends me to my very core. Maybe it’s because I’m not right as a woman, but a song like “Because I Want You” by Placebo, or “Washin and Wonderin” by Stroke 9 would be more likely to make me drop my pants for a guy than that steamin’ pile bull crap. I mean, it’s working on Jessica Simpson…JESSICA SIMPSON! I’m smarter than THAT, right?

So there you have it, love it or hate it, I feel a little better for the sharing. Who knows, perhaps one day I’ll amuse you with the story of why “Our Lady Peace” can go to hell. Or, how the Scissor Sisters absolutely SHOULDN’T go to hell for covering “Comfortably Numb”. Until then, I’m going to enjoy the feeling of a heavy load having been lifted from my shoulders.