The Misleading Gwyllion

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

In this new age of impish, whimsical, pretty little pixie fairies, like those Amy Brown and NeNe Thomas portray, it’s easy to forget that in times past the fair folk were generally annoying at best, and deadly at worst. The gwyllion of Wales is an interesting example of this.

Gwyllion comes from the Welsh word gwyll, which has a variety of meanings ranging from darkness and gloom to a witch, fairy, or a goblin. When a fairy is wrapped up in the same word as gloom and darkness you know this isn’t a Disney fairy we’re talking about. Gwyllion are generally described as hags with a distinctive cry or laughter. Some describe them as having the appearance of poor old women with oblong four-cornered hats and ash-colored clothes. Frequently they are seen carrying a pot or wooden pan, such as people would use to carry fresh milk.

The gwyllion follow in the well-established tradition of misleading travelers causing them to become lost forever. Seriously, so many creatures of folklore do this that I wonder if they’re unionized! So a lone traveler is out after dark, or in the early morning hours, walking a familiar path. Then he hears the cry of the gwyllion. Suddenly, the path seems unsure. Up ahead he sees an elderly woman walking. She must know the way, the traveler says to himself. He takes off after her, but never catches up. That’s your standard gwyllion encounter.

The gwyllion are known to seek shelter in people’s homes when the weather is bad. If this occurs, you are expected to be polite, offer them clean water, and keep knives and other cutting utensils out of view. Knives, you ask. Yep, unlike the cold iron of most fairy folklore, these guys are driven off by knives. Not being stabbed by them, just seeing them is enough to run them off. Apparently the knife has a superstition attached to it of if you give or receive a knife or scissors it cuts friendship. It also acts like a Cross would to a vampire for gwyllions!

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Magical Buffet Mythology: The Flying Spaghetti Monster

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

Yes, I have been touched by His Noodly Appendage. And honestly, anyone who has taken a moment to consider the nature of religious belief, scientific inquiry, and the difference between them has probably also felt his presence. That’s right, this month we’re talking about the deliciously delightful Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster looks just the way his name implies, like a ball of spaghetti with eye stalks. There is much debate as to what kind of pasta the FSM is made of, with Westerners leaning towards wheat. Of course, he is rarely seen, leading to the belief that he is invisible. His self proclaimed Prophet, Bobby Henderson, said that the FSM first appeared to him in 2005 as a response to a decision by the Kansas State Board of Education to require the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to biological evolution. This leads many to think the FSM is a new found deity, but since he appeared to Henderson, the FSM has been traced back further into history, most notably the glory days of pirates. Pirates are in fact the FSM’s chosen people, which is why one of the holy days for Pastafarians is International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Many claim that the FSM is fake, but a visit to www.venganza.org shows that the FSM has many academic endorsements. Last time I checked, no other deity had academic endorsements! Another moment of validation was in 2007 when three talks concerning the FSM were given at American Academy of Religion’s annual meeting in San Diego.

Ten Questions with John Coughlin

1. What is Waning Moon Publications?
Waning Moon Publications is a home-based bindery and publishing company for occult and related materials. We (mostly my fiancé and I) specialize in producing artistic hand-bound titles using leather and decorative papers. It is very much a magical project as much as it is a business since I find that books are themselves magical tools on many levels.

2. What made you decide to start it?
I love to collect books and I took up the hobby of bookbinding so I could eventually rebind my favorite books in leather. First I started to publish just my own books, but then I began to meet other authors who had great ideas but either lacked the encouragement needed to bring them to life, or could not find a publisher to take on the project. You see, publishers invest quite a bit of money to release a book so need to really take profit into account. They can’t afford to take risks. In my case, I have the luxury of taking risks when I believe in the author’s work because this is not my primary source of income. In fact almost all the profit I make goes back into the company so I can fund the next project. It’s nice to have that level of freedom to say the least! It’s also a great feeling to produce something fresh and exciting. For example, The Consecrated Little Book of Black Venus is the first English translation of a little known grimoire. Later this year we’ll be releasing the first fresh translation of Dee’s Hieroglyphic Monad in 50 years and this will be by magicians and scholars of Dee!

3. So, why are your books so expensive compared to the books at my local bookstore?
Currently all my books are hand made using “archival quality” materials, which means the books will last longer than we will. Start-to-finish, it takes a few weeks to a month to create a book, and that does not include all the editing and layout that is needed long before printing – that takes months! So between time and materials, the production costs ad up quickly. For example one goat skin costs between $90 and $115 depending on size and can only cover a few books since I have to cut around defects.

Once I start expanding into mass-produced books for certain titles, I’ll finally be able to offer low cost books, but not all my titles will be mass produced. Some books are better released in small quantities since its scarcity adds to its mystical context. Some things should not be easy to obtain. There is something to be said for having to seek and work toward obtaining information. Sometimes I feel the internet, despite all its benefits, has caused us to take information for granted and thus dulled it’s impact on the psyche. Anyone who practiced magic before the rise of the internet can probably appreciate what I am talking about, and how the excitement of discovering new material or new contacts had much more impact than today where much material is one Google away.

4. Can you walk us through the basic process of hand binding a book?
Well, after the prerequisite editing, typography and layout, there’s the printing. I hate that part. I basically sit in front of my printer – a special $3000 unit that does color, duplexing, and can handle the abuse. I need to inspect every page for defects and the printer is s-l-o-w and quite evil (I swear it knows when I walk away before it messes up).

Then I fold the signatures (usually 4 sheets), punch small holes in the fold for the sewing, trim edges of the text block, sew the signatures together by hand, and then glue the spine of the text block. This part is relaxing but takes the most time and just can’t be rushed.

Next comes prepping the spine. This is where I use a special press to hold the book while I use a backing hammer to slowly smooth and (for thicker books) curve the spine. I then add spine support using mesh and craft paper as well as add the headbands, ribbon for book mark, etc. This is a very important part which also takes much time. The spine is what you see when the book is on the shelf and is the backbone of the book so must be formed well.

I then add the boards, put the leather on, then cover paper, and finally the inside cover paper. This is usually a 2 to 3 day process since glue must dry well while sitting in a press between each step, but it is when you start to see a book come to life so is very exciting!

Finally, I treat the leather with a special oil, add spine title when there is room, do a final trim of papers when needed, and inspect book for defects. The book then has to sit in a press for a week or two to ensure all the moisture from the glue has dried so the book does not warp.

You would be amazed at how much glue is used! I typically use 4 to 5 different types of glue through the whole process and quite a lot of it.

Well that’s the gist of it at least, of course I have to measure and cut all materials which eats up time. I also treat the book binding process as a magical working so often start projects on certain days, seasons, or phase of the moon, use incense and oils of the proper attribution, add powdered herbs to the glue, and often inscribe sigils on the cover boards before covering them with leather.

5. What is your favorite book that Waning Moon has ever bound?
Ah, that would be the one I am doing now: The Consecrated Little Book of Black Venus. It has been a massive project and is the culmination of all the techniques I have learned while binding my other books. I can’t wait to send the authors their copy! Not only does it look great but it has never been translated into English before and is a not very well-known work grimoire so this is history in the making!

6. What book or writer that you haven’t published or bound would you like to?
I like the grimoiric feel of Michael Ford’s books. I think some of his work would look great in a special edition. Also Joseph Petterson has edited some great translations of various grimoires and I would love to work with him one day on a new project. Material-wise, I am hoping to eventually find a more “witchy” book to publish. Not a witchcraft 101 but rather a type of Book of Shadows ala the 1970’s style of witchcraft or perhaps Sabbatic Witchcraft.

7. I know that due to the time it takes to publish you’re selective about submissions. What do you look for in potential Waning Moon Publication book?
I definitely have a small checklist I keep in mind when reviewing material. Unique or personalized systems of magic catch my attention the most. The material must be internally consistent, as in, well thought out with a nice flow. I prefer scholarship over opinion unless backed by significant personal experience. Grimoires should be practical – a record of work done, and not theoretical mumbo jumbo that sounds nice but has never been tried. And finally it has to be something that makes sense being published as a hand bound limited edition. A novel with a magical theme for example would be better as a mass produced title. This is also why my book on Wiccan Ethics is only in paperback.

So I guess it comes down to being material which is alive, not dead – something that has value to the reader and the writer alike and not just a book to sell for money.

8. You wrote a book called “Ethics and the Craft”. Can you briefly tell us your thoughts on the evolution of Wiccan ethics?
I find it fascinating how much Wicca has changed over the years and how certain authors and books have lead that change for better or worse. What also amazes (and frightens me) is how easily details on Wicca’s roots are getting lost as the first wave of elders (like Doreen Valiente) pass away. We know so little about the early days due to secrecy, petty politics, and personal bias and it seems very little emphasis these days is placed on its history.

9. Folio, quarto, or octavo?
I ~love~ folio (especially extra large folio) and hope one of these days I have a book which makes sense to publish in such a large format. There is something exciting about handling an oversized book. The trick is finding something that can be printed on large paper but also have some decent thickness to it. This is actually the inspiration behind my super-limited “High Priest” editions.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question?
Hmmm… the boxers vs briefs in an intriguing one but I’d love to know what your favorite book (any subject) is and why.

Okay first, what most of our readers don’t realize is that the tenth question comes with an explanation that we edit out upon publication. It says, “This question cannot be changed. We ask everyone this one question. You can ask anything, even silly stuff like who is your favorite boy band or boxers or briefs!” Hence, the reason that the boxes vs briefs comment was made.

As to the actual question, “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeline L’Engle. It was the book that got me into reading. I love it as much today as when I first read it in fifth grade. “Wild nights are my glory….” (Close seconds are “Different Seasons” by Stephen King. The intro to “The Body” in that book blew my mind. “The most important things are the hardest things to say.” Also, the comic series “The Sandman”. If I need to tell you why, you haven’t read it.)

John J. Coughlin has been a practitioner of the Occult Arts since the mid-1980’s. In that time he has worked with several groups, although he primarily prefers to walk a solitary, eclectic path. Also associated with the Gothic scene, John has incorporated his personal aesthetics and ideals into his spirituality giving him an often unique perspective.

Preferring to consider himself an “obscure occult writer” due to his distaste for self promotion, John believes those who will benefit from his work will eventually stumble across it when the time is right. Professional writers are cursed with having to sacrifice their integrity to please the majority in order to sell their work to the masses. John does not seek to make a living off his writing and is therefore free to write about what he finds interesting and important regardless of its trendiness or political correctness. Much of John’s work remains in private distribution within the various magical groups with which he works.

John is also webmaster of waningmoon.com which is the mother site for his various web projects geared mostly to Gothic and Pagan audiences including the Gothic, Pagan and Vampire personals. John is also editor of the NYC Pagan Resource Guide which has been serving the NY, NJ, and CT area since 1996.

As a rogue scholar of sorts, John Coughlin has been researching the history and evolution of Wiccan ethics in order to show how the religion’s perception of ethics has developed since its inception and to promote true scholarly research into the Craft’s history.

Profile: The Alchemy Guild

Article provided by IAG

The International Alchemy Guild (IAG) is a group of alchemists from around the world who come together to exchange views, news, and research in the Hermetic arts and all forms of practical and spiritual alchemy. In 1968, the renewed Guild opened a permanent office in Vienna, Austria, and in 1998, a branch office was opened in the United States. The current president is Austrian organic chemist Hans Schimmer.

Currently, the Guild has members in 23 nations with new branches being set up in Australia and India, as well as dozens of local chapters. According to its charter, the purpose and goals of this non-profit organization are as follows:
To serve as a repository of alchemical knowledge and techniques both ancient and modern.
To support Guild members in their practical and spiritual work in alchemy.
To provide a forum for exchange of new techniques and discoveries in alchemy.
To release alchemical knowledge to the general public at appropriate times.
The Guild presents alchemy conferences, including the annual International Alchemy Cofnerence in Las Vegas ( www.AlchemyConference.com ), other regional conferences, workshops, and tours around the world. The Guild disseminates free information about alchemy to researchers and the media, and publishes the free ezine, the Alchemy Journal. The Guild oversees the release of alchemical research to the general public and maintains an online Archives of original alchemy texts and modern research that contains nearly 25 gigabytes of information and is the largest library of its kind.

Membership is open to the general public, however, new members without previous work in alchemy are placed on a one year probation and their use of the Archives and participation in discussion groups is monitored. Complete information on the Guild membership policies is at www.AlchemyGuild.org .

The original Alchemy Guild was formed by a confederation of practicing alchemists from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia who trace their lineage back to a unique association of freethinking scholars who welcomed both spiritual and practical alchemists, as well as any of their fellow craftsmen who had been outcast or persecuted by political or Church authorities. This enlightened association was founded by a Renaissance nobleman and practicing alchemist named Wilhelm von Rosenberg, who founded the original “Alchymie Cech” (or Alchimie Gilde”) in 1576 in a small town midway between Prague and Vienna. Today, the International Alchemy Guild (IAG) carries on von Rosenberg’s work on an international scale with members in 23 countries.

Our founder, Wilhelm von Rosenberg, was born on March 10, 1535, in Schützendorf Castle in Austria. His parents ranked among the most powerful and influential people in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and held castles and properties throughout the north central section the realm. Wilhelm, their oldest son, was educated at a private school in Bohemia and spent the years from 1544 to 1550 at a bishopric college in Passau. After finishing his studies, he went to Vienna and was welcomed into the court of emperor Ferdinand I von Habsburg. Later, when Rudolf II took power, Wilhelm became a diplomat in his court. He would also become the highest royal officer in Prague in the service of emperor Maxmilian II.

But his aristocratic background and diplomatic service were not what distinguished Wilhelm from his fellow noblemen. What made this man remarkable was his relentless passion for deeper truths and the rebirth of knowledge that was taking place in Europe at the time. At the age of sixteen (1551), Wilhelm took control of the Rosenberg estate and moved into one of the family’s castles in the small town of Cesky Krumlov. He immediately ordered the castle renovated into the Renaissance style with many hermetic symbols included in the design. Before construction even began, however, he set out on a pilgrimage to Italy, seat of the new Renaissance culture. When he returned to his home the following year, he was seething with new ideas from the artists, alchemists, philosophers, and politicians he met there.

One of Wilhelm’s lifelong goals was to have a large family, and when he was secure in his power and settled into a magnificent home, he sought a bride. At the age of 22 (1557), he married Katherine of Brunschwig. She became pregnant two years later but died giving birth to a premature child, who also died in a few days. Afterwards, Wilhelm set out on another one of his spiritual journeys, this time visiting leaders of Renaissance thought in Germany. Then, in Berlin in 1561, he met and married Sophie von Branibor, who returned to Cesky Krumlov with him. Unfortunately, she became sick and died three years later before having any children. It would seem that Wilhelm’s efforts to start a family were doomed from the beginning. Yet for some reason, even as a child, he felt it extremely important to have a large family. As it turned out, his premonition would prove correct and have deeper repercussions that even he could have foreseen.

In 1566, Wilhelm decided to leave his home and accepted a commission to lead Czech troops against Turkish armies, which had been invading Hungary for nearly a hundred years. Wilhelm was gaining considerable respect for his bravery and honesty in the Hapsburg court, and in 1572, was appointed to lead negotiations over the Polish throne. He was so admired by Polish noblemen that he was himself nominated as a candidate for the throne. His lifelong diplomatic work was recognized in 1585, when Wilhelm was awarded the Order of the Golden Fleece (the highest imperial honor for noblemen) by King Philip II of Spain.

In 1578, Wilhelm married once again, but this time he was deeply in love and was sure his new bride would provide him with a child. In a lavish ceremony that lasted for several days, he wed Anna Marie von Baden at his castle in Cesky Krumlov. According to records found in the castle, his guests consumed 40 stags, 150 oxen, 546 calves, 654 pigs, 450 rams, 20 other large game, 30 large grouses, 2,050 partridges, 5,135 geese, 3,166 chickens, 18,000 carps, 10,209 pikes, 312,000 crabs, and 30,000 eggs.

But once again, Wilhelm’s bride died (1585) before she could present him with an heir. Wilhelm interred her corpse in St. Vitus Church in Cesky Krumlov in a crypt next to where he would himself be buried. Finally in 1587, a desperate Wilhelm married Polyxena von Pernstein. Tragically, she was unable to bear him any children. Despite his lifelong desire for a family, all four of his marriages were childless, and he had no direct descendents. When Wilhelm von Rosenberg died on August 31,1592, the family’s dominion passed over to his brother, Peter Wok von Rosenberg. The effects on the Alchemy Guild would be devastating.

As part of his passion for the Renaissance, Wilhelm von Rosenberg invited alchemists from throughout Europe to his castles in Cesky Krumlov, Trebon, Prachatice, and his palace in Prague. Hundreds of alchemists ended up working in Prague under the patronage of Emperor Rudolf II, and the city would remain the center of European alchemy for another two hundred years.

Wilhelm wanted to make his city of Cesky Krumlov a center for alchemical research, not only a home to practical alchemists who focused primarily on making metals and elixirs. He encouraged free thought and accepted alchemists who had been shunned by Rudolf II. Before long, Cesky Krumlov became known as an alternative hermetic haven, the “the Bohemian Mecca of alchemists.”

When Wilhelm was just 18 years old, he had met an outspoken physician and alchemist by the name of Tadeas Hajek (1525-1600). Hajek prepared a one-year astrological forecast for Wilhelm that proved astonishingly accurate, and they became good friends. Hajek accompanied Wilhelm during his campaign against the Turks and returned with him to Cesky Krumlov. Hajek planted new species of flowers and herbs and supervised the layout of Wilhelm’s gardens. He also continued his astrological research and, in 1580, published an influential book called A Treatise of Comets and Celestial Signs. Because of his honesty and extensive knowledge of the natural sciences, Hajek helped evaluate the work and results of the many alchemists who came to Cesky Krumlov.

The alchemist who practiced the longest in Cesky Krumlov was Anton Michael von Ebbersbach. A sample from his writings is shown at right. He joined Wilhelm in 1565. Anton is said to have been successful at producing gold and lived a lavish lifestyle in his mansion out of town near Kajovska. He claimed to have discovered a Water of Multiplication, which when used to water seeds of gold coins planted in the ground would cause them to multiply and grow. He also produced a variety of wonderful tinctures and elixirs. In 1587, he created his famous elixir “Conservationem Senectutis,” which was said to significantly slow down the aging process.

In recognition of his work, Wilhelm appointed Anton Michael director of the gardens in which the alchemists’ spagyric herbs and plants were grown. He was also made administrator of mines, from which metal ores were supplied to the alchemists. Finally, Anton was asked to help direct and organize the activities and research of the diverse alchemists in Cesky Krumlov. In 1576, he began holding meetings of alchemists that evolved into the first guild, known as the “Alchymie Cech” (or “Alchimie Gilde”). These early meetings were probably held at the castle in what is now known as Renaissance Room 3, which adjoins Wilhelm’s private chambers.

In 1588, as the discussions became more informal and lab oriented, it is thought they were moved to a large building bought by Anton for that purpose. The imposing red structure still stands at 77 Siroka Street in Cesky Krumlov. Today, it houses a café and a few small shops. The structure dates from the fourteenth century, but when Anton bought it, he made extensive renovations. He constructed a large meeting hall with a dramatic vaulted ceiling on the first floor and added an elaborate granite entrance portal in the middle of the building with many hermetic and alchemical symbols. As word spread of the alchemist conclave in Cesky Krumlov, many alchemists – both obscure and famous – moved to the city and set up laboratories or work on manuscripts.

Besides Tadeus Hajek, there was another physician-alchemist in Wilhelm’s court by the name of Vaclav Lavin. Lavin took his alchemical apprenticeship in France and was known for a remarkable “tincture of transformation” he developed, although his original formula has never been discovered. It is believed, however, that he never worked with the metals. One of the most influential alchemists in Cesky Krumlov was Bavor Rodovsky. His grandfather, Bavor the Senior, was a wizard who had transmuted metals into gold on several occasions. He passed his alchemical knowledge on to his grandson, who never attended a university but demonstrated extensive knowledge of alchemy, astronomy, and mathematics, as well as history and philosophy.

Bavor had set up a laboratory in Nechanic, but his alchemical work proved so expensive that he was imprisoned for debts in the Black Tower of Prague. Bavor appealed to Wilhelm to imprison him in Cesky Krumlov and allow him to pursue theoretical alchemy in his cell. In exchange, Bavor offered Wilhelm a translation of the rare manuscript Secreta Aristotelis (“Secrets of Aristotle”). In 1575, Wilhelm bought the book, which helped pay off some of Bavor’s debts and freed him from prison. Wilhelm then paid Bavor to work as an alchemist in Cesky Krumlov.

Even before Bavor had set up his lab, he had tried to persuade the great alchemist Theophrastus Paracelsus to join them in Cesky Krumlov or at least share some of his ideas with them. Although Bavor’s efforts to sign up the fiercely independent alchemist were unsuccessful, Paracelsus did visit the city on several occasions and probably attended a few Guild meetings.

However, other famous alchemists actually lived at Cesky Krumlov year round. The renowned Italian alchemist Claudius Syrrus came to work in the city under a formal contract with Wilhelm. The actual document reads in part: “The alchemist reserves the right to be spiritually and physically free and independent, and makes it a condition not to be disturbed by anybody, with the personal exception of Wilhelm von Rosenberg. Should the occasion arise that the Philosophical Stone is actually produced, it is arranged that Claudius Syrrus receives a half share of it.”

English alchemist and mathematician Dr. John Dee (shown at right) and alchemist-conjurer Edward Kelley spent several years in the Guild environs. They came to Bohemia in 1584, and Wilhelm made arrangements for them to stay with Tadeus Hajek in Prague. He gave them access to his laboratories and also introduced them to Rudolf II. John Dee carried out a transmutation of mercury into gold in front of Rudolf II, then offered Rudolf his crystal ball and a magical scrying mirror made of anthracite. However in June of 1586, there were accusations that the men were spying for England. Out of fear of being arrested by Rudolf II, both men left the country. When Wilhelm von Rosenberg heard of their plight, he offered them asylum in his south Bohemian dominion. John Dee and his family found a house in Trebon in September 1586. Dee loved the city and visited Cesky Krumlov frequently. He enjoyed his refuge so much that he named his son, born there in February 1586, Theodorus Trebonianus (Theodorus of Trebon). Edward Kelly also settled in Trebon and spent considerable time working in Cesky Krumlov.

John Dee left Trebon to return to England in March 1589, and Edward Kelley returned to Prague to work in the laboratories of Emperor Rudolf II. Eventually, Rudolf had him imprisoned, but the artful Kelley tried to escape twice. On the first attempt, he killed a guard. On the second attempt, he fell from a wall and died of his injuries. Dee returned to England to find his house and library ransacked by Christian mobs. He lost many precious manuscripts, which he insisted contained the secret of his transformations. That must have been true, for he and his family lived in abject poverty afterwards. Finally, he sought and received a small stipend from Queen Elizabeth on which to survive. Undoubtedly, both men would have been much better off staying in Cesky Krumlov.

Linhart Wichperger von Erbach was another famous alchemist who joined Wilhelm’s group of alchemists in 1566. There was also Jaros Griemiller, who practiced alchemy in the service of Wilhelm in the 1570s. Jaros had studied hermetic philosophy and was an adept at both practical and spiritual alchemy. In 1578, while working in Cesky Krumlov, he completed his most important book. Dedicated to Wilhelm von Rosenberg, Jaros’ illuminated manuscript became one of the fundamental Renaissance texts on alchemy. He called it the Rosarium Philosophorum (Rosary of the Philosophers), and it contains a description of the preparation of the Stone of Sages.

Another important alchemist at Cesky Krumlov was Jakub Horcicky Tepence, who was known by his Latin name Sinapius. He was born in 1575 in Cesky Krumlov and attended the Jesuit College founded there by Wilhelm von Rosenberg. Horcicky learned alchemical laboratory procedures from local pharmacist Martin Schafner and went on to study logic and physics at Prague University from 1598 to 1600. Influenced greatly by Paracelsus, Horcicky focused his work on making medicines from plants and took on a number of jobs in botanical gardens to learn more about herbs. During his work in the Jesuit garden in Prague, he grew medicinal plants from which he distilled different therapeutic tinctures, ointments, and so-called “theriacs” or tonic remedies. These medicaments were very popular and were known as “Horcicky Waters”. His tonics even cured Emperor Rudolf II of a disorder that other doctors were unable to remedy. Horcicky was then named the Emperor’s personal physician and the Chief Distillator of the Emperor’s Castle Laboratories. In 1608, Horcicky was granted knighthood with the right to use a coat-of-arms, which he designed containing many alchemical symbols. After the death of Rudolf II., Horcicky spent the last years of his life in seclusion in Prague’s Klementinum, where he died in 1622.

Another alchemist who practiced in Wilhelm’s enlightened circle was engineer-alchemist Jakub Krcin von Jelcany, who designed the pond and lake system in south Bohemia. He kept a separate laboratory near the town of Krepenice. Wilhelm’s brother, Peter Wok von Rosenberg (shown at right), was also an alchemist and wrote an important text on the art of distillation. There are no surviving records of the Guild or of how many members it enlisted, but it has been estimated that over a hundred alchemists were at one time or another associated with Wilhelm’s south Bohemian group.

In July 1592, Wilhelm von Rosenberg became deathly ill. His lead alchemist, Anton Michael, locked himself in his laboratory to try to make the fabled “Aurum Potabile” (an elixir of life force that restored youth and vitality) to save his dear friend. Within a fortnight, he wrote to Wilhelm announcing, “I already possesses the remedy and have it in my hands, and his Lordship may have it at any time.” But it was too late, and Wilhelm died a few weeks later on August 31.

Because Wilhelm had no children, his brother (Peter Wok von Rosenberg, shown at right) immediately took over control of the family’s lands. Peter was a reckless and unwise ruler who lost the family possessions and was forced to sell Krumlov Castle to Rudolf II just eight years after he took over. Always suspicious of other alchemists and jealous of the Guild’s power, Peter immediately set out to break apart what Wilhelm had so lovingly created. Within days of Wilhelm’s death, he confiscated Anton Michael’s lab, manuscripts, and other possessions and gave the Guild meeting hall at 77 Siroka Street to his personal secretary. Anton was imprisoned in a cell near the first gate of Cesky Krulov Castle and died there less than a year later on May 15, 1593.

Anton Michael von Ebbersbach, first “president” of the Alchemy Guild, was buried with all the honors of a nobleman in the Minorite Monastery in Cesky Krumlov, and his tombstone can be seen in the wall of the Cross Gallery there. However, it is said that Anton Michael’s spirit can still be felt in Cesky Krumlov. Yet his ghost does not haunt the castle cell where he died nor the fabulous manor house he loved so dearly. Anton Michael has returned to the old Guild hall at 77 Siroka Street. Many stories have been told of hearing his footsteps on the stairway or hearing his sighs and mumbled words echoing through the deserted hall. A few have even seen his apparition standing in front of the wooden doors on the Guild portal, gazing out into the street, as if waiting for a meeting to begin.

X Marks the Spot

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

If our modern keyboard serves as a guide, the only less used letter than X would be Z. The letter X serves many purposes for being one of the least used letters in our alphabet. Yet, for all its apparent uselessness in our normal language, in the language of symbols it’s rife with meanings.


How many times have you ended an affectionate note with XX? You know, kisses? In countries where the Roman alphabet was used, illiterate people would put their mark, an X, on legal documents in lieu of their name. To prove their sincerity, the person who made the X would kiss it. In fact, the use of an X (a mark) to denote locations on maps gave us the phrase, “X marks the spot.”

In mathematics, an X means multiply. In algebra, it shows a variable in function, an unknown quantity. It was just a small leap from unknown mathematical quantity, to unknown in general, anonymity. Hence, the use of phrases like Mr. X or the X factor.

So here’s a question, how do we get from the anonymity of Mr. X to one of the biggest names in the religious world? Yep, X. We’re talking about the phrase Xmas. A long held belief by many is that Xmas is a result of the commercialization or for lack of a better phrase de-Christifying of Christmas. Which many find offensive, fortunately, that belief is just not true.

At least a thousand years back one can find Christ abbreviated as an X and P. The X and P came about as an abbreviation of the ancient spelling of Christ, Χριστος. This is still found in some Eastern Orthodox icons. This even evovled into the use of the letter X in ancient Christian art and the use of X as an abbreviation of Christos can be seen in ancient copies of the New Testament. Despite the common belief that Xmas is trying to X out the Christ from Christmas, Xmas is in fact a perfectly respectful way to abbreviate the holiday.

Hopefully this helps you appreciate the woefully underused letter X!

Ghost Research Society Investigation Report

Article provided by the Ghost Research Society

LINCOLN THEATER INVESTIGATION
October 27th, 2007

GRS Members Present: Dave Guss, Nancy Guss, Stan Suho, Jim Graczyk, Lisa Krick, Joseph Tito, Joey Tito, Jason Tito, Jerry Lutz, Art Schramm, and Dale Kaczmarek.

Jim Graczyk: “Equipment: 35mm camera. For this investigation I was training new member Jerry Lutz along with assisting the GRS members who were investigating this huge building. My pictures did not have anything unusual to report. I didn’t physically encounter anything unusual in the building. I was pretty busy assisting the entire GRS team and also helping out the public who were invited to this instigation. From what was encountered and reported by other people in this building along with GRS members, I recommend going back to this place for a further investigation.”

Dave Guss: “The night we investigated the Theater I saw a man in the chair in the lower level near the bathrooms, He was very thin, had worn out striped painter’s pants on, dark shirt, long dark beard, flat black hair, eyes were dark and deep looking, I said hi to him and then entered men’s room, after leaving washroom the man was gone. I looked all over theater, at all the group for this person but found no one that looked like him. Also noticed black mass in hallway on second floor on the ceiling looking up from bottom of stairs on first floor lobby.”

Nancy Guss: “Unfortunately I was unable to capture any findings on video but did see some black shapes moving up in second floor mezzanine on the right that were not of human form and also had a feeling of someone sitting in the chair between men and ladies bathroom downstairs and also saw some shapes moving in front of stage curtains that also were not of human form. But nothing on film to verify this.”

Dale Kaczmarek: “I had several EMF readings in the corridor before the seating area and around 2 radiators. There was no reason to get EMF readings there as there was no electrical wiring although I’m sure they were grounded in some fashion. When I went back to recheck the readings, the first radiator showed no fluctuation at all and when I was about to check the second radiator Jason came up and informed me that he had just witnessed a strange shadow glide from the radiator into the theater seating area.

I also got many very high EMF readings in the basement near some conduit however when I turned the EMF meter 90 degrees to one side, nothing appeared. Then when I turned it back 90 to the same direction without elevating the height, the meter went into the red.

Later when I was monitoring the GEIST computer, I felt something hit me physically on the top of my head. I immediately looked up, thinking that someone was playing a joke on me and there was no one up in the mezzanine. Troy and John were seated in the front of the theater near the concession stand and confirmed that no was up there at the time. When I looked on the floor, I noticed that the object that had struck me was a dime which was lying on the carpeted floor.”

Lisa Krick: “I spent most of my time following Rosemary around … we sat in the balcony where nothing happened. Then Jim came and got us and we headed to the twisty stairs which lead to the catwalk … we went up them and walked around in a dusty little room beside the catwalk. Nothing up there … then we went to the basement … on the way down to the basement (I had an EMF meter) I noted that at the top of the basement stairs on the way down, the EMF registered 2.1 … I took a step back and tried it again … it went to 0.0 … we went downstairs and sat staring into a corner where funky black images (in a dark room, mind you) would flit back and forth across the floor and where the shadows in the corner elongated farther than they should have, but would stop whenever more people would come into the room

We headed back upstairs and at the top of the stairs I took another reading … 0.0 … then it was said that someone saw a shadow man in the balcony area, so we headed up there to do readings and to see exactly what lead to where … it was me, Jason, Joey, Dave, and I think Joe … as I was heading down the same path where the shadow man was seen, I was doing EMF readings … Jason was sitting in a seat with an empty seat beside him. The closer I got to him, the higher the device reading went … right beside him in the empty seat, there was a cold spot and when I put the EMF meter over it, it was consistently 2.4 … then I sat down in the seat and it went back to 0.0 … I stood up and walked around a bit and came back to that seat again for another reading, but the meter stayed at 0.0 … I think I must have either crushed the poor spirit or scared him away…

We decided to head back down to the basement one more time … on the way down, at the same spot as before on the landing at the top of the stairs, the EMF registered 4.1 … and then nothing … nothing to report in the basement, there were way too many people moving around and talking for anything to happen … so, we came back upstairs and at the top landing I got another 0.0 … I think that there was something each time which didn’t want us going down the stairs and seemed to be trying to use its energy to keep us upstairs … because I got high readings when we were heading downstairs, but always a 0.0 on the way upstairs … kinda weird …

So, that’s my part in the investigation … it’s a great old building which would bear further investigation when there aren’t a blue million people running hither and yon through it …”

Jerry Lutz: “As this was both my first time with GRS and participating in an investigation, everything was extremely interesting. The speakers were outstanding. As a bit of an amateur photographer myself, I found Dale’s talk especially interesting. As I was “hanging out” with the
GRS crew, I tried to just keep my mouth shut and soak up all of their experience and know-how, which is considerable. The Lincoln itself was amazing. The teamwork and friendliness of the GRS team was outstanding. I was impressed by the way they worked together and assisted each other so well. I look forward to joining the group again. I experienced nothing of note in the Lincoln itself.”

Stan Suho: “For starters I set up GEIST in the second balcony with 3 devices, Ghost Cam, and Microphone. There were reported EVPs in this area. When things were up and running, I made a walk through with the Cassette Recorder. Starting in the lower level below stage, I made a sweep of all the rooms. There were also other groups in this area doing EVP experiments. Then I made walk-throughs of the 1st and 2nd balconies. While seated in a chair on the 2nd balcony I asked several questions. On one question I received a whispered reply. It was unintelligible, but, appeared to respond to my question. I was alone in the balcony at the time. I made a WAV file for the GRS archives and will present it at the next meeting. Nothing unusual showed up on GEIST or Ghost Cam picture.”

Joey Tito: “I was going over footage I had taken at the Lincoln and I came across something out of the norm. It could be nothing, but while recording in the hallway on the main level my camera blacked out for a split second then returned back to recording. This is where Jason had seen the shadow person “walking” toward the doorway into the theater seating area. I can’t explain why the camera would malfunction like that while recording. There was no problem with the continuous footage of Rosemary’s or Dale’s lectures, and we were running off of power not battery. As I mentioned it could be nothing, but I thought it was worth bringing to your attention.”

To learn more about the Ghost Research Society visit www.ghostresearch.org

The Bait and Switch of Duffy

As you all know, this has been the summer of my musical discontent…although more accurately it’s been the summer of my musical contentment and my wallet’s discontent. After my double barreled cd buying of the new Robyn and Madonna cds I was looking forward to a gap in my purchases. The next item on the list is Cyndi Lauper on 5/27 and to take a listen to the new Al Green that comes out that day to see if it to must be mine. All this said, you can imagine the word I said when browsing through my local discount store’s music section and I saw that the Duffy cd had released. (Hint, starts with f and rhymes with duck.) And with that, I snatched her cd “Rockferry” up and tossed it into the cart.

So ladies, you just realize that your life isn’t right. That the man you love isn’t capable of loving you back the way you wish he would. You need to reclaim your self-respect. To find yourself. You wake up just before the sun rises, pack your stuff into an old duffle bag, toss it into your beat up car and drive off into the rising sun on your journey of self-discovery. What cd do you listen to as you drive away? Duffy’s “Rockferry”.

Not to sound like every music critic on the planet, but it is the best way to describe it, Duffy’s cd sounds like a cleaner, less funky version of Amy Winehouse’s “Back in Black” album. It’s a fair assessment, but for me the two albums are a little like apples and oranges. Whereas Winehouse’s album reeks of self-destruction and self-loathing (God I love that album!) Duffy’s is filled with melancholy demands of self-respect and a desire for self-discovery. Maybe Rolling Stone did get it right when they said that Duffy is like Winehouse’s good girl sister.

The first single from Duffy’s album is “Mercy” which is up tempo tune that makes you want to shake your groove thang. It’s a great song. No other song on the album sounds like it. Not even a little. So do yourself a favor, don’t buy the album based on that one song! I don’t know if her label thought that Americans wouldn’t be interested in her bluesy, 60s songstress stylings or what, but they are definitely trying to pull the patented bait and switch on this one. In my opinion they’re doing the album a huge disservice. Duffy’s “Rockferry” album has a beating bleeding heart that draws you in, maybe it’s not an instant smash, but for me it is an instant classic.

Here’s the bait:

Here’s the switch:

Even a Stopped Clock is Right Twice a Day (You Can Decide Who the Clock in Question Is)

Look, it’s finally happening…the me and Billy Graham blog!  I almost bumped it again because of the “Evangelical Manifesto” press conference, but then I thought maybe I should actually read the manifesto before writing about it. 
 
Perhaps it’s hard to imagine, but I recently came across some advice Rev. Billy Graham gave someone, and I kind of agree.  I know, spooky.
 
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has an Ask Dr. Graham section, weird but true.  The column I read involved a Mrs. N.D. writing to Graham about her recently passed husband.  Her friend says she knows a psychic that can put her in touch with a loved one who has passed, and asks if there is any reason to not visit this psychic.
 
Well, Graham advises against it, of course.  First he explains that much of what passes for psychic activity is actually fraudulent, so she would be wasting her money.  Then he goes on to play the usual song of “Let no one be found among you who…is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.”  Party poopers.
 
If Mrs. N.D. had asked me, I would have also advised her against it.  I truly believe there are people with psychic abilities, but I also believe that the profession of psychic is a nebulous one that is rife for abuse.  When you visit most psychics they emphasize that it’s “for entertainment purposes only” and although I try not to make light of psychic readings I do try to put them into a perspective.  I would not let anyone’s opinion, regardless of how informed; blindly tell me how to live my life or what to believe.  Sure, a psychic may knows things that you don’t, but you know, my Mom does too and I don’t let her tell me what to do (much).  I view the advice of a psychic the same as I view advice from my Mom, well intended.
 
And then there is the matter of who she wanted to speak to.  That’s risky business in my book.  Penn Juliette kind of sums it up on his show “Penn & Teller: Bullshit”.  He talks about how when someone dies, you have the memories of them.  Some are good, some are bad, but they are all 100% true and real memories.  When you ask a psychic to communicate with that person after they passed, whatever that psychic tells you rewrites your history of that person and your relationship with them.  In my opinion, that’s too big of a chance to take.  I would talk to a psychic about my love life, or my career, but I don’t think I would trust a stranger with the memory of someone I loved.  Maybe that’s just me.
 
So, there you have it, Graham and I would actually have given this woman the same advice.  For different reasons, but still, we agreed.  Yep, definitely scary.

Madonna Commands You to Dance

The producers are back! Producers have always been a key piece in the music manufacturing puzzle, but in my opinion the producers haven’t shone like stars, like they do now, since disco’s heyday. Again, in my opinion, I don’t think that’s entirely a coincidence. During the time of disco, large portions of the population wanted an escape, and the high energy light content music of disco filled that desire. Although many of the disco performers were talented vocalists in their own right, it was the music those vocals were over that people cared about, and soon the producers became viewed as the artist. It even reached the point were producers started cutting out the middle man and released their work with them as the performers.

I think it’s safe to say that again, large portions of our population would like to forget about all the crap going on and just dance, dance, dance. And again, as notable and talented as the artists may be, it’s the producers who are gaining the notoriety. Despite working with such talented, or questionably talented, women as Gwen Stefani, Nelly Furtado, and Britney Spears, the credit for their recent successes seems to be falling squarely on such producers as The Neptunes, Timbaland, and Justin Timberlake. All of whom worked with Madonna on her new album “Hard Candy”.

This album received a lot of hype from industry folks saying that Madonna is trying to capture the urban market. Long time fans, such as myself, will remember that when Madonna first came on the scene, in a time when radio airplay came first and music videos came second, many people thought that Madonna was a Black artist. There was genuine shock when they saw the videos for “Borderline” and “Lucky Star” that featured a spunky, slightly pudgy, and absolutely Caucasian woman dancing about. Madonna isn’t trying to capture the urban market; she’s trying to recapture it.

“Hard Candy” wants you to dance so much that what you hear is the absolutely most danceable options available. No real risks were taken (since I wasn’t shocked, annoyed, or concerned about her collaborations with hip hop producers) and no real intimacy was provided (like in her equally danceable, but decidedly electronic, offerings of “Ray of Light” and “Music”). Take the R&B/hip hop of top 100 radio, mix in some disco, add a dash of techno, and you have “Hard Candy”. That said, “Hard Candy” commands you to dance, and makes you want to obey.

The first single “4 Minutes” is the real stand out on the album. Not only is it one of the tracks that really captures the R&B sound of the moment, but it has a marching band loop in it! Let me state for the record that what R&B needs is MORE marching band! It was the reason I liked JC Chasez’s song “Blowin’ Me Up (With Her Love)”, and I love it here now. The other song I really like on “Hard Candy” is “Heartbeat”. It really takes the old school Madonna and rubs a little funk on it. It’s got the thump, it’s got a catchy melody, and it’s got Pharell’s patented heys in it. The rest of the album is an exercise in mainstream danceability. Not that it’s bad per say, it’s just not inspiring. Occasionally it strays a little too far into disco territory like on the song “She’s Not Me”, which is okay with me, but it’s probably a touch too disco for today’s top 100 listeners.

Madonna wants you to dance, even if it means sacrificing herself on the altar of the producer. Honor her noble sacrifice and shake that thang!

Enjoy “4 Minutes” below. I have to say, that yes, I know she has trainers, and stylists, and all that jazz, but this 50 year old woman is holding her own with a spry young Justin Timberlake. When they do a little undressing of each other at the end, it’s not creepy, just kind of hot. Not many 50 year olds can pull that off!