But, But….I’m Real!: The Okapi

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

Congolese Pygmies tell travelers about some creature that appears to be a cross between a zebra and a giraffe. Ridiculous, they say. Do we have another kongamato on our hands? Well fortunately for us, Sir Harry Johnston took them seriously. That’s why today most every zoo around the world has an okapi. That’s right, this month I am writing about a creature that definitively exists!

For years, the natives of what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo told travelers about an animal that frequented their lands that appeared to be some kind of blending of the giraffe and the zebra. Of course, no one believed the primitive people of the land. When Sir Harry Johnston rescued a group of Congolese Pygmies, they rewarded Johnston with tales of the okapi, and eventually showed him tracks from the creature. Johnston did not manage to see the okapi himself, but he was able to obtain pieces of skin and a skull. In 1901, the scientific community was introduced to the okapi.

These days okapi are common in zoos, but people believed they were going extinct in their native environment. Since 1959, the okapi had not been seen in the wild, but again the okapi kept scientists on their toes by showing up again in the wild in 2006.

The significance of the okapi is not lost on those that run cryptozoological circles. Until 1901, despite frequent instances of natives talking about the okapi, it didn’t exist. Then, one day it just did. In fact, the International Society of Cryptozoology, which I regrettably believe is now defunct, adopted it as their emblem. I cannot help but wonder what else is out there.

Magical Buffet Mythology: Lemminkainen

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

Mommy bails out daring, handsome, Finnish hero. That would be Lemminkainen, one of the heroes of the Kalevala. The Kalevala is an epic Finnish poem; it is considered the national epic of Finland. It is 50 chapters, runes, or cantos (depending on who you ask) of epic adventures. Today, we’re taking a little peak at Lemminkainen.
Lemminkainen is a young good-looking blond hunk of a Finnish hero. He is a sorcerer of sorts and is sometimes looked upon as a god of magic. Lemminkainen also gets to carry the magical sampo. No one knows for sure what the sampo is, just that it’s magical and lucky. Lemminkainen has a way with the ladies, and dedicates loads of time to wooing maidens. In fact, while attempting to win the hand of some lucky lady, he got himself killed.

He sets off hunting the black swan in the river of Tuoni (which is river of the underworld). Lemminkainen is approaching for the kill when Nasshut, the blind and crippled shepherd, sends out a poisonous serpent to kill the hero. Nasshut succeeds. Lemminkainen dies. The end.

Well of course, that’s not the end. Lemminkainen’s mother, Ilmater, begins searching for her son. Upon learning of his fate in the waters of Tuoni, she asks Ilmarinen, the eternal blacksmith, to construct a special rake for her. That’s right. She goes down there and rakes the river for all the bits and pieces of her son. Eventually Ilmater finds enough bits to make a man. She begins to sew her son back together with the help of Suonetar, the goddess of vein and vessels. However, when her task is complete, all she has is a body, there is no spirit.

So this when Ilmater talks to a bee. Yep, she asks a bee to go get a special honey to help her son regain his life. The bee goes and gets the special honey. However, wait, that honey helps just a little bit. Ilmater begs the bee to go get a different special honey to try. The bee lugs that honey back, and it helps more, but Lemminkainen is still not fully restored. At this point, Ilmater asks the bee to go get some of the honey that Ukko, the Creator, uses to anoint his children. At first, the bee is like, ain’t no way I’m going up there! Ilmater convinces the bee that he can do it, and by golly, he does. The bee brings back the super honey of the gods and lo and behold, Lemminkainen is restored.

That’s the end. Well, the end of this article. The Kalevala is an epic; there is a lot more to it than just this little bit. Many credit this little ditty with inspiring a Finnish national awakening that helped pave the road for Finland’s independence from Russia. Now THAT’S epic!

Read This Article and Live Forever

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

It’s big. It’s yellow. It can do neat stuff. It makes you smile. No, I’m not talking about Big Bird, although he is pretty cool. I’m talking about the sunflower.
What is the big, stinking deal with the sunflower? Lots. Physically it’s far more complex than it appears. What we normally consider the flower is actually a bunch of flowers crowded together. The outer flowers are traditionally yellow or orange. The flowers inside of that mature into what we call sunflower seeds, but in actuality, they are a fruit of the plant. The real seed is incased in an inedible shell.

Sunflowers are big, and round, and typically a shade of yellow. Can you figure out why it’s called a sunflower? In addition, it has this neat knack of turning to follow the sun. Can you guess why it’s most frequently considered a symbol for the sun? The sunflower was an attribute of Mithras, or at least some people think that’s the case. Mithras has a tricky and piecemeal history, that’s what happens when your followers worship you in secret.

In China, the sunflower is considered a magical flower. Its seeds are said to promote longevity. Since I want all of my readers to be around for a long time to enjoy The Magical Buffet, here:

Sunflower Seed Cookies

2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp butter
1 cup shortening
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1 cup coconut
1 cup roasted sunflower seeds

Cream first six ingredients. Stir in remaining ingredients. Roll into balls and flatten onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.

This recipe is from www.yumyum.com.

Ten Questions with Christopher Penczak

1. As a Rebecca that prefers not to be called Becky, why do you prefer Christopher to Chris?
Well, it comes down to practicality, at least at first. I was in a rock band in college with another Chris, and we got tired of both turning around when someone yelled Chris, so I started going by Christopher. Now, despite the recent NewWitch cover that has me as Chris Penczak on the cover, I prefer Christopher. Only folks who know me before college still call me Chris. My mom won out. She preferred I was called Christopher and as a kid I didn’t like it. Looks like she’s got a powerful Magickal Will in the long run.

2. I have met with several different covens and solitary magic practioners, regardless of tradition or philosophy; all them have at least one of your books in their library. Why do you feel your books are so well suited to just about everyone?
Wow. Well, I’m pretty honored by that. I think in the end, I try to write books I wish I had when I was learning, compiling ideas and exploring new things all in one place. I have a pretty wide range of traditions I draw upon myself, and I try to be respectful to traditionalists and eclectics alike, and drawn on both, and many things in between. I find it funny that most traditionalists see me as very modern and new age, and not very traditional, and some die hard eclectics see me as too traditional, as I emphasize discipline and digging deep spiritual roots. I guess I have aspects of both.

I think in general I like to show many different ways of doing something, so that I rarely give the impression there is only one way to do something. It makes the teachings more open and accessible to a larger group of people. I like to explain the ideas behind a technique, and then give examples. Once you understand the why, you can be creative about the how.

3. You wrote the book, “Sons of the Goddess: A Young Man’s Guide to Wicca”. With so much emphasis seemingly placed on the Goddess in Wicca, how can Wicca be a fulfilling religion for men?
I think witchcraft can be a fulfilling religion for everybody who is called to it. While there has been an emphasis on the Goddess for many traditions, there is also the balance of the God. Sons of the Goddess was a book to explore the relationship, particularly the mother and son relationship between the Goddess and the God, and what that means to modern men practicing witchcraft. Our whole Wheel of the Year cycle is really about the relationship of the God, as a transitory force, with the Goddess, as the eternal force. The god waxes and wanes with the shift in the Sun. By learning to align with the solar forces ,and exploring the energies of the Dark and Light gods, along with the Goddess, men and women can find a more complete sense of the mysteries and magick in witchcraft.

4. What challenges do you see facing the Wiccan community? How can the community resolve those issues?
That’s a big question. And a good one. I think we have to figure out collectively and individually our role as a “mainstream” religion. We are often seeking legitimacy in mainstream eyes, a seat at the table of global religions, and while I think that’s good, I think we have a different focus and purpose than the mainstream religions. I’m not sure if we are best served by emulating them. But we don’t have many other models to go by. As a personal, mystical tradition, much of our work is to transform the soul. We must do the magick, not necessarily just talk about it, or simply profess faith. While we are doing our spiritual work, how do we fit into social services, prison ministry, economics, politics, minister training, environmentalism and other forms of activism? Some traditions are tied to these issues intimately, and others are not. Some, in their effort to be more involved in the mainstream, are loosing the mystery traditions, personal development and relationship with the spirit world. Much of our responsibility is moving energy between the worlds and aligning ourselves and our world with the hidden spiritual forces, to be a bridge between the worlds. We can’t forget that. But we also know that all magick needs real world follow up. We can’t just wish a better world and hope it will be so with no action. It’s tough territory, as both are important, and I believe neopagan traditions have a lot to offer the world as we approach the next age. While I think we have something valuable to offer, we first have to learn to define and embody our values a bit better, and then be able to share them with the world.

The modern revival of paganism is still going through growing pains and this is a critical time to decide what we are really going to be. If our recent history is anything to go by, perhaps we wont’ have one voice, one purpose, one way of going about things, and each group and practitioner will do as their will indicates. It will make it harder to present ourselves to the mainstream with any coherence, but perhaps that view point is a part of what we have to offer too. Perhaps we don’t need one cohesive voice and vision.

5. What does the term d20 mean?
It refers to a twenty-sided die, used in table top, paper and pencil role playing games. D20 systems are most popular in Dungeons & Dragons style games. My husband designs role-playing games, also known as RPGs and writes related game fiction, and his game Mutants & Masterminds, is considered a d20 RPG.

6. Who generates the longer line, you at spiritual events, or Steve (Christopher’s spouse) at gaming conventions?
Depends on what we’re offering and where we are. If Steve is releasing a new book or game product at a major convention, I think they have a pretty big line. If I’m selling books after a class at a convention such as Pantheacon, I have a pretty big line too. It’s pretty wild to think about it. It makes up for the events and book signings we both do where only a few people show up. The balance keeps us humble. You never know when you sign on for an event what it will be like. I’ve done gigs for over 500 people and I’ve had events where only two show up. I think Steve’s job is much the same. You just never know who will show up. Sometimes the best events are with the two people though.

7. In your opinion, is there a difference between Witchcraft and Wicca?
That depends on what day you ask…. For some reason it’s become a big issue lately. When I began my journey, there wasn’t much difference between the two. Wicca was defined as the modern revival of the religion of witchcraft, or the legally recognized and protected form of witchcraft. Some think of the religion as Wicca and the spellcraft as witchcraft. I was taught witchcraft, and called it witchcraft, and it included science, spells and religion. I now look at it as a modern form of witchcraft in the sense that it has been influenced by Theosophy, ceremonial magick, shamanism and eastern thought, yet I think there were parallels between those traditions and more indigenous pre-Christian European forms of spirituality we would consider witchcraft. I consider myself a practitioner of modern Craft, taking the best of the old and the new to move towards the future.

We used Wicca as a “safe” word. When someone asked me about my religion, I would start out and say “earth religions” and see what they said. Then I’d move on to pagan or neopagan. Then I would use the term Wicca, because at the time not many people knew what that was, and then work my way up to witchcraft. And that was a gentle approach. Since I’m now associated strongly with witchcraft, I just start there and if someone can’t handle it, they can’t handle it, and that’s fine.

Due to the popularity of eclectic approaches and self initiation, championed by Scott Cunningham, there became a schism between Eclectic Wicca and Initiatory Wicca, such as the Gardnerian and Alexandrian lines. I was surprised at the adamant insistence of Gardnerian/Alexandrian initiates in the UK claiming what they practices was truly Wicca, and everything eclectic and solitary was just another form of witchcraft. Usually Americans call it British Traditional, though it’s gotten confused with people professing pre-Gardnerian traditions, popularly called Traditional Witchcraft. Such groups would include those in line with Robert Cochrane, a contemporary and vocal critic of Gardner, and the Cultus Sabati. Though it’s a fairly recent development, most people will now say British Traditional Wicca to differentiate it from pre-Gardnerian Traditional Craft. Each of these lines – Trad Craft, Gardnerians/Alexandrians and solitaries/eclectics want to differentiate themselves from each other. They each have their own mysteries and attitudes toward magick, and can be very different from each other. Yet, I think they have more similarities, at least the serious practitioners of each, than most would like to admit.

For me, I’m a witch. And much like Doreen Valiente once said, “a witch is a witch is a witch.” I embrace the teachings and ideas from all these different currents and though I’m eclectic, I believe in respecting and honoring the past as your build the future. You must be respectful to where something comes from, but at the same time, we are children of the global era, and have access to all this information and experience. We’d be unwise not to explore it all and find what works. We are a scavenger religion in many ways, and always have been, from modern witches to our ancient forbearers. For me, I prefer the terms witch and witchcraft, but I can embrace and certainly don’t shun Wiccan and Wicca.

8. If someone wanted to start reading your work, with what book would you suggest they start?
It depends on what they are interested in first…. If it’s witchcraft, then perhaps The Inner Temple of Witchcraft might be the best place to start. If you don’t know anything specific about metaphysics, I’d suggest the Mystic Foundation. It’s the book for people interested in alternative spirituality and personal mysticism, but for those who are either not sure what path they are on, or are interested in looking at a wide range of paths and traditions.

9. What book has most inspired you?
What witchcraft book? Well, probably my teacher’s book, Power of the Witch by Laurie Cabot. It was the first book on the Craft I read, and it was important for me because it connected the science aspects of the craft with the religion and spell work. I think without that piece I wouldn’t have gone further. With it, I was able to appreciate the work of Scott Cunningham and Doreen Valiente. But I started as a skeptic, so I needed to understand the ideas behind magick before I could do it. I took that approach when I started teaching, and in my level one book, The Inner Temple of Witchcraft.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question?
What was your first initiatory spiritual experience? I always like to hear about people’s awaking and deepening experiences, and how they sometimes occur in formal rituals and traditional initiations, and they often occur in the process of life and personal practice. My first one was experiencing a psychic healing and diagnosis, when I thought there was no way I could perform such a thing. It changed my life.

You and I have a lot in common Christopher. I find faith and belief to be absolutely fascinating and one of my favorite questions to ask is, “What made you decide to follow the spiritual path you’re on?” Unfortunately for you, asking me that kind of questions is horribly disappointing. I have yet to have an initiatory spiritual experience. It’s not for a lack of putting myself out there, it just hasn’t happened yet. Of course, if I had found that experience with something, The Magical Buffet may never had occurred. The Magical Buffet is definitely the work of a seeker, who loves the Bill of Rights.

PHOTO BY BERTA A. DANIELS
PHOTO BY BERTA A. DANIELS

About Christopher Penczak
Christopher Penczak is an award-winning author, teacher and healing practitioner. Beginning his spiritual journey in the tradition of modern Witchcraft and earth based religions, he has studied extensively with Witches, mystics, shamans and healers in a variety of traditions from across the globe to synthesize his own practice of magick and healing. He is an ordained minister, herbalist, flower essence consultant and certified Reiki Master (Teacher) in the Usui-Tibetan and Shamballa traditions. Christopher has been involved with the Gifts of Grace Foundation and is a faculty member of the North Eastern Institute of Whole Health, both in New Hampshire. He is the author of many books, including Magick of Reiki, Spirit Allies, The Mystic Foundation, Instant Magick and The Inner Temple of Witchcraft. For more information, visit www.christopherpenczak.com

Profile: The Pluralism Project

In the past forty years, the religious landscape of the United States has changed dramatically. There are Islamic centers and mosques, Hindu and Buddhist temples and meditation centers in virtually every major American city. The encounter between people of very different religious traditions takes place in the proximity of our own cities and neighborhoods. The results of the 2000 census underscore the tremendous scope of ethnic change in our society, but tell us little about its religious dimensions or its religious significance.

Pluralism has long been a generative strand of American ideology. Mere diversity or plurality alone, however, does not constitute pluralism. There is lively debate over the implications of our multicultural and multireligious society in civic, religious, and educational institutions. How we appropriate plurality to shape a positive pluralism is one of the most important questions American society faces in the years ahead. It will require all of us to know much more about the new religious landscape of America than we presently know.

Since 1991, the Pluralism Project has engaged students and affiliates in the study of the new religious diversity in the United States. We have a special research interest in the communities and religious traditions of Asia and the Middle East that have become woven into the religious fabric of the United States in the past forty years. The overall aims of the Pluralism Project are:

To document and better understand the changing contours of American religious demography, focusing especially on those cities and towns where the new plurality has been most evident and discerning the ways in which this plurality is both visible and invisible in American public life.

To study the religious communities themselves their temples, mosques, gurudwaras and retreat centers, their informal networks and emerging institutions, their forms of adaptation and religious education in the American context, their encounter with the other religious traditions of our common society, and their encounter with civic institutions.

To explore the ramifications and implications of America’s new plurality through case studies of particular cities and towns, looking at the response of Christian and Jewish communities to their new neighbors; the development of interfaith councils and networks; the new theological and pastoral questions that emerge from the pluralistic context; and the recasting of traditional church-state issues in a wider context.

To discern, in light of this work, the emerging meanings of religious “pluralism,” both for religious communities and for public institutions, and to consider the real challenges and opportunities of a public commitment to pluralism in the light of the new religious contours of America.

Today, our work has expanded to include the international dimensions of religious diversity, difference, and dialogue. Our new research initiatives focus on civic engagement, interfaith action, and women’s networks.

To learn more, visit www.pluralism.org.

North-Eastern Alabama Paranormal Society Case #0256

By Deborah Collard

Home of:
John and Jane Ghost
111 Ghost Town Drive,
GhostTown, Anywhere, USA

NAPS was contacted on June 15 in relation to a possible haunting at the above listed location by the homeowner Jane. Jane states that she is feeling a presence, very strongly in certain areas of her home. She states she would like for NAPS to investigate and see if she is only imagining things or IF there is a presence there. Jane reports no danger, only things that are giving her “roller-coaster” emotions at times and the feeling that she is not alone. Jane states that she and her husband will be on vacation for the next week and to please follow up as soon as we can. NAPS staff Ricci, Christy and Bob went over to the Ghost’s home the following week after their vacation for baseline studies and initial interviewing.

Initial Interview: June 23, 2007
The clients were made aware that there is a certain protocol for NAPS to investigate. Forms are required to be filled out unless the client declines. For example: North-Eastern Alabama Paranormal Society Advice Waiver, NAPS Confidentiality Form, Release and Waiver of Liability Form, Permission Form and others as deemed necessary.

NAPS Interview Sheet:
What exactly is occurring in your home?
Response: Well I feel like my daddy is here. I can smell him and feel his presence.

When did these occurrences begin and how often do they occur:
They have been going on for several years but seem to be getting stronger and more frequent.

Could you please give me a brief history of this property?
Well my parents owned this home until their death and then my husband and I bought it following their deaths.

Could you please give me the exact locations of the activity?
I feel it heavier in the back yard around the grape vines that daddy planted, also in the kitchen and the family den where they entertained.

Would you like for NAPS to investigate these occurrences?
Yes, please.

Notes: The Client seems very concerned about the presence of the spiritual activity. It appears the family is in a decision making process that could affect the home and it staying within the family. During initial walk-thru one can sense the presence of energy, especially in certain areas. Asked client to please journal any unusual occurrences both location and times until we return. Home is in good repair, very elegant and clean.

Investigation: June 29, 2007
NAPS STAFF Present: Deborah, Nathan, Ricci, Brandy, Larry, Robert, Christy and Bob
The team of NAPS met at the investigation point at 7PM. NAPS was greeting warmly by homeowners. Equipment was unloaded and placed in Family Den for disbursement to necessary locations of use. At 7:16pm NAPS staff determined the first place to investigate was the backyard area where the father had spent countless hours working. Lawns manicured with fountains, various statues and woodwork present. EVP’s, Photos and sensory feelings noted at this location. NAPS note the weather to be very hot, overcast as if storm or rain approaching. Baseline temperature reading while exiting to lawn area was 86 degrees then dropped immediately to 82 degrees. Pictures revealed some orbs present during the daylight hours, these could be associated with the mugginess and the ponds located in the backyard. While in the backyard temperature variances of 86-90 degrees based on location. EVP’s no evidence revealed.

At 7:37pm the Family Living Room had a baseline reading of 68 degrees. At this same time wireless cameras were being set up in the Family Den, also the original bedroom of the parents. HI 8 was set up in Family Den directed in the location of the Father’s private Bath.

At 7:40 EMF reading spiked in the Father’s private bath from 15 to 90. Determined bad fuse in bathroom. Homeowner replaced.

At 7:55 Living room baseline reading 68-69 degrees. Living room video being monitored by NAPS staff member. Noted various orbs and slight movement of chair in LR. Homeowner states this was her mother’s favorite chair.

From 8:00 until 9:00 NAPS staff member into Living Room sitting in the dark observing. Determined it would be time to bring in dousing rods. Client opens closet door and distinctly smells her father’s scent. Worked with dousing rods questioning whether or not spirit present. Yes responses recorded. Client pulled out two fur coats. Client asked me to determine with the dousing rods which coat the father liked the best on her mother. Dousing rods made determination, correct.

Around 9 pm NAPS staff members to the basement area. The deceased father’s belt was still hanging where it had been since death. Daughter had not removed. NAPS Deborah held the belt and feelings overcame her of a rapid heart rate and pain to the left side of her face. So Noted. Battery drainage noted on camera by Deborah . NAPS Ricci had a feeling of nausea. Note: There were chemicals located next to each other that would create a headache or stomach upset to someone sensitive to these things. Ricci and Nathan debunked.

At 9:06 Bob, Ricci and Larry to Master Bedroom to find it very peaceful but as they were leaving the EMF meter spiked. Unknown cause.

At 9:14 Guest Bedroom #1 had feeling of energy in the room. K-2 Spikes on bed. Found that bed was grandparents of client’s husband.

At 9:49 return to basement, Ricci at this time started having a headache. It was definitely determined because of chemicals in basement.

Around 10PM Larry is in the kitchen/DR area while monitoring video feels someone touch his neck. It made him jerk, due to startling. It was determined later that this dining room table was removed from a “supposed” Haunted Estate many years before.

NAPS staff continued to monitor the home with technical equipment for the next couple of hours. EVP’s continued to be taken throughout the home. Photo’s as well.

Deborah decided to meditate and see if anything would come to her in this altered state of consciousness. She could see a woman with short hair, brown hair with gray streaking wearing a snap housecoat. The housecoat appears green in color with some type of florals, material very soft and puff sleeves noted. The housecoat comes down below the knees slightly and the woman is wearing slippers with some type of bow on the top. A little dog, appears old, dog is black and white. The lady has pierced ears but no earrings. She is wearing two wedding bands, one wide and one thin. She has very thin hands. The woman was slender, not heavy. Someone touched her face and she stopped feeling and seeing. Ricci sat down with Deborah and said she keeps seeing a heart locket or necklace with a thin chain.

REVEAL: July 1, 2007 @ 1:30PM
NAPS STAFF Present for Reveal: Deborah, Ricci, Brandy and Bob
Both Homeowners present

NAPS Staff was welcomed warmly to the residence. We brought along the laptop for evidence reveal. We explained to clients that there was no significant photo’s and that video did not reveal any anomalies. One EVP we were unable to debunk, a female voice calling out the name of the female homeowner. After listening to the EVP, client stated that it sounded like her mother calling her. We noted that the high EMF spikes in the bathroom and at one electrical outlet were something that the homeowner should follow up on with an electrician. We concluded that the homeowner should store chemicals, pesticides and other things of this nature in a more appropriate manner as not to risk headaches or illness.

With this noted on the hard science side we continued to the soft science side of the evidence.
We concluded that Staff member Larry had indeed been touched by something of an unknown nature while in the kitchen/DR area. I expressed to the home owner that I had questions related to my meditative state whereas certain things were coming through to me. They were as follows and response from homeowner noted.

1. A woman with short hair, brown hair with gray streaking wearing a snap housecoat. The housecoat appears green in color with some type of florals, material very soft and puff sleeves noted. The housecoat comes down below the knees slightly and the woman is wearing slippers with some type of bow on the top. A little dog, appears old, dog is black and white. The lady has pierced ears but no earrings. She is wearing two wedding bands, one wide and one thin. She has very thin hands. The woman was slender, not heavy.

2. Response from female homeowner: My mother wore the snap housecoats; they were her favorites for lounging around the house. She wore the floral ones. Mother did have slippers with bows on the top, like house shoes she wore with her housecoat. Mother and Daddy did have a cocker spaniel and it lived a very long life. She continues to state that her mother had pierced ears but could not wear earrings; she was allergic to some of the metals in them. Finally she stated that her mother did wear both a wide band and thin band on her 4th finger. She states she loved her jewelry.

3. Ricci asked her if her mother had a ‘heart’ locket or necklace on a thin necklace. The homeowner smiled and said yes she did, it’s in the safety deposit box.

4. Deborah had the pain on the left side of her face and racing heart while holding the belt of the homeowners father while down in the basement. The homeowner states that her father had been killed at the intersection just at the end of the street. That he died instantly. That he had a bad heart and that he was struck on his left side.
We concluded our reveal and lovely conversation with the clients. The clients were thrilled with the kind and heartfelt service of NAPS Staff. The homeowner asked if we would come back again at a later date when we had time. The homeowners requested that we form a circle and hold hands while the male homeowner led us in prayer in a most gracious manner. NAPS Staff departed with the decision that although not haunted that the presence of the deceased parent’s spirits are still present in a good way.

About the Author
Deborah Collard
Founder, North-Eastern Alabama Paranormal Society
Haunted Southern Nights
Director of the Paranormal OmegaCon

Deborah again finds herself looking up in amazement at a beautiful monument located in Shiloh National Military Park. This is so what she enjoys doing. Exploring the past! Deborah, who is Cherokee by blood, enjoys reaching back into the past to connect her with the spiritual world. The way she celebrates this passion is through her studies of the paranormal. Deborah considers herself an ‘oldie’ in this venue, knowing that 30 years ago the only tools she used to investigate with were her flashlight and whomever she could drag along with her to see if she could find answers to the many questions that wandered through her mind. Did the spirits of those who had passed still have a grasp on the earth via earthbound spirits? Was there truly a form of life after death? Were there those who chose not to leave for reasons unknown? Today she enjoys her life as a wife, mother, and even a Nana! Her quest for answers has never ceased. As technology progressed so did she and many years later has a very solid team of paranormal investigators. The Team is NAPS – North-Eastern Alabama Paranormal Society. NAPS was officially formed and being sought out to do investigations in 2004. If asked she will tell you NAPS is her family. Deborah teaches workshops, does lectures and panels on the paranormal. It is important to her that ghost hunters know just what they are doing and the proper way to do it!

In January 2007 Deborah and NAPS became a viable part of OmegaCon. OmegaCon promises to be the greatest sci/fi, fantasy and paranormal convention to ever come to the State of Alabama. OmegaCon will be held in Birmingham, Alabama on March 14-16, 2008.

Now NAPS is taking it one step further with the guidance of OmegaCon Productions. Haunted Southern Nights was always a dream to Deborah but OmegaCon Productions is making it a reality. Starting in July, NAPS will begin filming a series of paranormal investigations in some of the hottest locations in the South.

Deborah hosts NAPS Live Radio “Haunted Southern Nights” along with her friend and colleague Nathan Levan, NAPS investigator and VP of OmegaCon. Tuesday nights are very much looked forward to. Deborah seems to never meet a stranger or a ghost she can’t be friends with.

AS TIME PASSES, SO DO LIVES………………………………………………………..

Reform Jews Bless the Transgendered

Just like with most religions of a certain size and scope, Judaism has many different denominations.  All denominations within their religion are about how best to interpret the faith, and each denomination does so as they see fit.  The denominations in Judaism tend to form a sliding scale of conservativeness, or of traditionalism.  Sliding from Orthodox, considered to be the more traditional and conservative, to Reform, generally viewed as the most progressive or liberal of the denominations.  Obviously there are many denominations that fall in between those two and a few that are outside the sliding scale all together.
 
During the last few years I’ve been reading more and more about the Reform denomination, which is technically mine, and what they have been doing to fall more in line with the needs of the modern Jewish community.  From what I’ve been reading, large sections of the Jewish community are accepting gays and lesbians not only as active members of the community but as rabbis and cantors.  Many support same-sex commitment ceremonies.  When I told a friend, and Pagan activist, this he informed me that, “Sure, they say that, but we’ll see.”
 
For the record, at the beginning of August I attended a same-sex wedding in Massachusetts, where it’s legal by state law, and the ceremony was performed by an actual rabbi, making it legal by Jewish law.  So put that in your smudge pot and puff on it!
 
For all of these progressive moves on the part of Reform Judaism, the community had never taken a stance on the transgender community…until now.
 
On August 7, 2007 the Union for Reform Judaism released the second edition of “Kulanu”, the union’s 500-page resource manual for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender inclusion.  One of the additions was blessings for transitioning genders.
 
“I believe that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Jews in our midst—our children, our relatives, and our friend—are in great need, as are we all of spiritual support,” said Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism in the “Statement of Purpose” for the new edition.  The Union for Reform Judaism website states, “Among the items included in the guide are services for same-sex commitment and marriage ceremonies, a prayer for the transitioning of genders, and classroom lessons focusing on the spiritual needs of both GLBT members and the community.”
 
According to the Jerusalem Post, “The issue of transgender Jews was first addressed in 1978 when the Central Conference of American Rabbis deemed it permissible for one who had undergone a sex-change operation to be married according to Jewish tradition. In 1990, the CCAR allowed such individuals to be converted. And in 2003, the union retroactively applied its policy on gays and lesbians to the transgender and bisexual communities.”  When you consider that the ball started rolling in 1978, it seems like it has taken forever to get here.  Of course when you compare it to many faiths, and even other Jewish denominations, Reform Judaism is moving at lightning speeds.
 
Let me say that I agree with Rabbi Eric Yoffie, we are all in need of spiritual support.  Those faiths that would deny that support because of something as truly insignificant as person’s sexual orientation or desire to change gender, well, I highly doubt that is truly something their faith would agree with.

Doorways to Spirit

The Magical Buffet was created with the idea of helping foster religious tolerance.  I’m sure one day it will grow and evolve, but at this point it’s almost a direct representation of my thoughts and views (that’s what happens when one person generates at least half of the content).  Sometimes I get so caught up in my chosen format for expression that I forget that there are many ways for an individual to express their views on the subject of religious tolerance.  Today I stumbled across someone else’s thoughts on the topic, and it was big.  In fact, it’s 16 door panels of big! 
 
I’m talking about “Doorways to Spirit” by the Victoria, British Columbia artist Maarten Schaddelee.  “Doorways to Spirit” is 16 wooden doors with hand carved art on each door depicting a different facet of the spiritual journey that people take.  The doors show very mainstream paths, such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Sikhism, and Hinduism, but Schaddelee also includes the less spoken of paths of Baha’i, Shinto, Zorastrianism, Confucianism, Jainism, Goddess, First Peoples, Nature, and The Arts.  The doors are all hinged, but they are locked together into a circle and do not open.
 
“The only way to pass through a door is spiritually, and regardless of which door or doors you choose to ‘go through’ the centre is the same for all,” says the artist on the gallery’s website.  You can see why I like this guy!  Just in case you don’t get the symbolism, Schaddelee spells it out, “These doors must stand together, or they fall down; the most important message is tolerance of each other.”
 
The “Doorways to Spirit” exhibit is going on until August 25, 2007 at Maarnada Studios and Gallery at 744 Douglas Street Victoria, BC.  To learn more and see some photos of the exhibit visit www.maarnada.ca. 

Buddy Christ vs. Kali (With Kung Fu Grips): Coming to a Wal-Mart Near You

Beginning in mid-August roughly 425 Wal-Mart stores will be selling a faith-based toy line in their preschool aisle.  The line includes Ester, Moses, Noah, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and more.  This is being billed as the first time Wal-Mart has offered a full line of faith-based toys.  For a thorough article, click here.
 
Okay, can we quit saying faith-based people?  What you mean to say is Christian toys.  If I can’t buy a Kali action figure with kung fu grips, your line isn’t faith-based, it’s Judeo Christian based.  A visit to one2believe’s, the company making the toys, website makes the Christ in faith-based pretty darn evident.  To see the whole line of toys, click here.
 
What my readers may find amusing is that I don’t actually have a problem with Wal-Mart selling these.  I mean, why not?  My problem will be when I find out they WON’T carry my Kali action figure.  I’m telling you, I could make some serious money with a Kali action figure!  My other problem is that the same people that are okay with little Billy learning about Jesus by chewing and drooling on his plastic head probably weren’t okay with this.  I love Buddy Christ.  I love the movie “Dogma”.  For that matter, I love Kevin Smith.  Where was I?  Oh yes, outrage and such.
 
I believe Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists, made a fun, bitchy, and true comment in the Canada.com story.  “Isn’t religion the one who is always claiming that everybody is so materialistic?  And now we’re marketing Jesus dolls.”  Johnson showed amazing restraint since in that same article one2believe’s founder David Socha said, “What’s nice is that they’re real as opposed to other superheroes that are out there.”  I can’t believe the president of American Atheists didn’t take the obvious shot there.  Maybe she didn’t know he said it.  Let me help her out here.  Um, real?  To an Atheist, um, not real.  To a Hindu, not real.  To a Buddhist, not real.  To a Pagan, Wiccan, or Druid, not real.  Congrats there Socha, they’re real only to those who use the Old and/or New Testament of the Bible.
 
So here’s the deal Wal-Mart.  I don’t mind you carrying “faith-based” toys, but if I find out you’re opting not to carry other “faith-based” toys, or that your salespeople are ramming them down customers throats in an attempt to “spread the word”, I’ll be back.  And when I come back, it won’t be the Buddy Christ, it will be Kali (with kung fu grips!).