The Little Book of Sanctuary

How much information can you pack into 40 pages? A lot. Yeah, but can it be useful and make you think? Yep. How do I know? I just read “The Little Book of Sanctuary” by Alison Marks.

This cute little book is a step by step guide to reevaluating your relationship with your home and implementing change into your space. Marks is the founder of Inside Out Design Coaching in San Francisco. (Incidentally, she has a great blog called Spirit in the City that I check in on from time to be shown the coolness that is San Francisco.) Whether it’s showing you the beautiful, useful, loved test for cleaning out your belongings or setting up a plan to redecorate your home, Marks makes the challenges seem less daunting and the process useful for home and spirit. All in book that easily slips into the back pocket of your jeans.

Can I make a suggestion? Are you throwing a New Year’s Eve party or attending one? At $5.45 this seems like the perfect party favor or hostess gift at New Year’s resolution time. Also, perfect for housewarmings. I told my husband if I ran a new age gift shop or home décor store I would put a rack of these at the register. It’s the perfect little gift book, and the old retailer in me knows it’s a perfect little impulse buy! So what are you doing still reading this? Buy it already!

Click here to learn more about The Little Book of Sanctuary and other Our little Books.

The Power of Jigsaw Puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles are hardly new. They’ve been around since the 1700s, and have evolved from hand-cut wooden educational tools to a huge industry targeting children and adults alike. They have certainly stood the test of time, providing education and hours of peaceful time passed. What studies are now showing is that these “toys” have lasting benefits both to our health and basic well-being.

We were likely all exposed to jigsaw puzzles in our youth. As toys, they are used to teach words, shapes, colors, and geography, and provide focused, quiet time for children and parents alike. They’re used in schools to educate, in waiting rooms to pacify, and are thought to develop fine motor skills in children and prepare them for reading.

Research is now showing the quantifiable benefits of carrying this activity into adulthood. Studies, like the notable MacArthur study, have shown that keeping the mind active with jigsaw puzzles and other mind-flexing activities can actually lead to a longer life expectancy, a better quality of life, and reduce our chances of developing certain types of mental illness, including memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s Disease (by an amazing third).

But how does this simple toy accomplish such amazing things? Most likely it is due to the simultaneous use of both sides of the brain. The left-brain hemisphere, our analytical side, sees all of the separate pieces and attempts to sort them out logically. The right brain hemisphere, our creative side, sees the “big picture” and works intuitively. Both types of thinking are required in order to successfully piece the puzzle together. In exercising both sides of the brain at the same time, we create actual “connections” between the left and right sides, as well as connections between individual brain cells. These connections increase our ability to learn, to comprehend, and to remember. In addition, completing a puzzle, or even just the successful placement one piece, encourages the production of dopamine, a brain chemical that increases learning and memory.

The connections made while working on jigsaw puzzles aren’t limited to our brain cells. Exercising both sides of the brain simultaneously also allows the brain to move from a Beta state, the wakeful mind, into an “Alpha” state, the same mental state experienced while dreaming. The Alpha state is where we tap into our subconscious mind. Jigsaw puzzles naturally induce this state of creative, focused meditation, where connections can be made on deeper levels.

The jigsaw puzzle is a metaphor for life. Challenges we face with our jobs, relationships, and health can leave us confused and overwhelmed. These challenges are easily likened to the fragmented jigsaw puzzle, with so many disconnected pieces and no clear starting point. By physically piecing a jigsaw puzzle together while in a powerfully creative meditative state, we are shifting the focus in our subconscious from confusion and inundation to proactively working on the solution. We become “rewired” to take a more balanced, holistic view of our lives, considering all the little pieces, but also how they fit into the big picture. We begin to make connections between things that may have previously seemed unrelated, such as relationships between our emotions and our state of health. Patterns begin to make sense as we focus that positive energy and apply it within our own lives. As the jigsaw puzzle takes shape, the different parts of our lives start coming together to form a sensible picture.

Jigsaw puzzles are a unique activity that allows us to achieve a state of creative meditation, while providing a fun activity that imparts a sense of accomplishment. The benefits to the brain are becoming increasingly clear. Perhaps even more powerful are the effects on the subconscious in helping us piece together this puzzle we call life.

Author Bio:
Trish Donroe Barker is a Homeopath and artist living in Hawaii and is the owner of Connections, Jigsaw Puzzles for Healing, a company that offers exclusive jigsaw puzzles featuring positive and healing images for focus. For more information about her Homeopathic practice or Connections Jigsaw Puzzles for Healing, please visit or contact Trish PO Box 661, Kula, HI 96790 / / (808) 344.4435.

This is Not a Review of the new Killers Album “Day & Age”

It was going to be, but I realized I could sum it up easily. This album takes everything that was good about music from the 80’s, smooshes it together and sprinkles it in glitter. Just go buy the darn thing, it’s awesome, and let me move onto The Airborne Toxic Event.

The Airborne Toxic Event is based out of Los Angeles, CA so despite the fact that their self-titled album has been out since August it just made its way onto WEQX out here on the east coast. What do they sound like? Remember that really sweet spot that existed in 80’s new wave music when it would overlap with Goth music? (I think there is some hipster name for that specific genre, like dark wave, or Goth wave, or something.) You know, the way you could dance to Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” knowing full well it was sort messed up to do so. Most of their album reminds me of that. Musically the album is cool. They have a full time violinist, which is always good in a rock band. While listening to it I feel certain I could totally bust out my Molly Ringwald 80’s white girl dance, which believe it or not is a good thing.

Lyrically I find myself feeling like The Octopus from the trailer for The Spirit: “What is it with you and women?” This theme is perfectly encapsulated in the ass kicking song “Sometime Around Midnight”. This song sounds less 80’s but has some tortured shouting towards the end, so it breaks even in my book. The hooking up, getting dumped, pining for women thing is pretty obvious, and fairly staple in rock and roll, I just never felt so hit over the head with it before. Adult me finds it a little tiring, but the teenage me (who I’m in close contact with) finds it kind of hot. It’s all angsty and sexy. Sue me – teenage me wins out more often than I’d like.

A quick trip to the internet provides some back story for this album. According to Wikipedia, “The band was formed in 2006 by Mikel Jollett. During a one-week period in March 2006 while working on a novel, Jollett learned that his mother was diagnosed with cancer, and he also experienced a break-up and was diagnosed with genetic Autoimmune disease. Even though the disease encompasses over 70 different disorders, Autoimmune led Jollet to develop 2 cosmetic conditions: Alopecia areata and Vitiligo. Spurred by these events in his personal life, Jollett turned from writing prose to writing songs, and soon realized he was composing an album instead of a novel.”

Well that explains a lot. Try out “Sometime Around Midnight” and see what you think.

If you want to shake your 80’s groove thang….

By the way, I’m hopelessly amused by The Spirit trailers I’ve seen. How about this one? “Somebody get me a tie! And it sure as hell better be red!”

Dancing Midget Zombies

Many of you know that here in the northeastern United States we had a vicious little ice storm that resulted in prolonged power outages. Fortunately I was only without power for under 48 hours, which I never thought under 48 hours was good until I talked to people who went 72 hours or more! Anyway, I’ve been busy catching up, and that means hitting all my favorite celebrity gossip blogs. It was during this that I came across the headline “Dancing Midget Zombies” on Perez Hilton’s website. That title was enough to get me to check it out, and I assume it’s enough to get you to click in for my article.

The title is in reference to a music video Hilton was featuring from the female British rapper Lady Sovereign called “I Got You Dancing”. I’ve always kind of liked Lady Sovereign, her stuff reminds me of early hip hop music. (Technically she is part of the Grime genre of music, “a genre of urban music which first emerged in East London, England in the early 2000s, primarily a development of UK garage, dancehall, and hip hop.” according to Wikipedia.) I’ll admit, I was curious as to how a female British rapper was working the concept of dancing midget zombies into a music video. Then I watched it.

This reminded me that not everyone is a big of geek as myself. What Hilton thought was a dancing midget zombie video I rapidly realized was a pretty awesome take on the 1979 movie “The Warriors”. Not only is the song infectious in a good way, but whoever put the video together did a great job of incorporating loads of “The Warriors” references. Obviously Lady Sovereign and her dancers dressing up as the various gangs during the dance numbers is fun, but I’m thoroughly impressed by what an attractive Luther Lady Sovereign makes. (Luther is the character played by David Patrick Kelly who said the infamous line, “Warriors, come out to play!”)

Check out the trailer to get a hint at what I’m talking about.

See what I mean? Good stuff. Unfortunately I don’t know if/when “I Got You Dancing” will be out on CD, but the good news is that “The Warriors” is out on DVD now! Perhaps someone should buy a copy for Perez Hilton.

The Bungisngis Mystery

Article by Rebecca
Image by Will Hobbs (

It’s always tough to work with creatures of myth that are not from your native culture. You find yourself wondering, what do the people of the country of origin think of this? Alternatively, am I even getting the right information? This is the predicament I find myself in when discussing the Bungisngis.

It seems simple enough; according to my starting point, the Bungisngis is a cannibal giant from Philippine folklore. His top lip is so big that he can pull it over his head (making him the male that can survive that joke about to understand the pain of child birth take your bottom lip and pull it over your head). They say that the hero Suac came along and stole the giant’s club, and used the club to subdue his enemies.

Then I made the mistake of opting to try to learn more. Education is never the answer to these things, I swear! I easily found out that the Bungisngis is a creature of Philippine mythology. It was featured in an episode of “Da Adventures of Pedro Penduko”, which is the third and fourth season of the Filipino fantasy TV series “Komiks”. After that things get a bit more tricky.

The story of Suac (remember Suac, the hero who stole the club?) well from what I see Suac killed a dark giant called Pugut. Pugut is a meat eater, but was more than content to eat a roasted hog, although he did threaten to eat the hunter (and later hero) Suac. Perhaps Pugut is a Bungisngis; you know, Pugut is his name and Bungisngis is his race? Another story with a similar set up has no mention of Pugut or of a Pugut, but instead has the villian as a Bungisngis, or the Bungisngis. There is no mention to his physical appearance, but again he wants to eat cooked meat. Instead of the hero Suac, this tale has a monkey defeat the Bungisngis.

So what did we learn? Well, the Bungisngis is definitely a piece of Philippine folklore. Certainly a meat eater, who would gladly consider eating you if you anger him, but otherwise seems content to eat cooked game animals. Probably a giant. And maybe has the name Pugut.

Of course Wikipedia paints an entirely different picture. According to their entry the Bungisngis is a giant from Filipino folklore, but they list it as having one eye, making it a cyclops, and they describe them as happy and playful…hardly the beast we just talked about.

See what I mean? Sometimes learning more just makes things more confusing.

End of the Year Update

I thought with the end of 2008 rapidly approaching that it might be time to give you all a little update. Normally only The Magical Buffet’s My Space friends get these awkwardly written and poorly edited updates, but I thought it was time to give every Buffet reader a little info on what’s been happening over here. So for those who are curious, click on in.

As you all know, it’s been a crazy year. In July we essentially re-launched The Magical Buffet. Not only did we change from a monthly online emailed magazine to blog format, but we added in things that were originally only on the old website, such as my book reviews and opinion pieces, and subject matter that never would have been published in the old format, like music reviews, television talk, etc. As I said when we made the switch, I hate change and was nervous as to what these changes would mean for the future of The Magical Buffet. We were expecting a huge volume of people asking to be taken off our subscription list and having difficulty finding new readers. We were worried for no good reason. It’s true that we have had some people cancel their subscriptions, but those were replaced with new subscribers, and our website visits have been very slowly, but steadily, going up.

This brings us to our next bit of news. The Magical Buffet is still attempting global domination on a budget of zero dollars, so to give our readers another way to show us some love and help spread the word about us we started a Facebook fan page for The Magical Buffet. If you’re a member of the social networking website Facebook all you need to do is search The Magical Buffet on Facebook and we’ll be there! Be our fan…all the cool kids are.

That’s all old news, let me tell you a little bit about what to expect next year. I’m hard at work lining up some more stuff for the gaming Buffet readers out there. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but I have a tentative interview set up with someone very cool, very feng shui, at the beginning of the year. I also plan on doing more letter-writing to politicians once the new administration comes into office here in the United States. I didn’t receive a single response to my first Zimbabwe letter, and since the political and economic situation that was already terrible has been made worse by a cholera, that’s right folks, cholera outbreak there will be more letters. And if by some chance I do get a response, I will share it with you. The last big thing I want to tempt you all with is a little ditty I’ve been calling the Wiccan Rede Project. There will be more info prior to its launch, but for the moment I’ll tell you it’s big, it’s cool, and it involves the likes of Raven Digitalis, Kerr Cuhulain, Thuri Calafai, and more!

To sum up, things are going pretty good here. Be our Facebook fan. And keep reading!

10 Questions with Thuri Calafia

1. First, what is the Circles system and how does it differ from other Wiccan traditions?
Well, I wouldn’t really call Circles a “tradition” per se, though others have. Circles is simply a system of organizing study, but it’s very eclectic. Each book is/will be a complete course of study for that level.
The first way Circles is different is that each level, each course, from dedicant through adept level, follows a Wheel of the Year program that is ongoing; it can be started at any time – there is no waiting period for the “next class” to start. In the Dedicant book (and in all the books), and in Circles School, the first unit for any level is the Orientation and Basics lesson. Once that is completed, the student simply “jumps on the Wheel” in the current month, joining the rest of the class in a smooth and seamless transition. It’s very exciting this way; there are new students coming in (and graduating!) all the time, yet there is enough time for folks to bond with each other, and of course with me, too. No one has to wait, and students can delve as deeply or move along as quickly as they like.
The other fundamental way in which the Circles system differs is that study is connected to the Wheel of the Year; subjects are discussed in the time they’re exalted (a term I picked up from astrology, meaning, in my opinion – where it’s magnified, most powerful, in its most natural “home”). For example, we learn about dreamwork when we’re on the threshold of, and about divination when we’ve passed into the Dark Time; we learn about candle magic and colors just before Imbolc; about human sexuality and sex magic during April, when Beltane is on its way and the air is buzzing with raw passion and the urge to couple.
Finally, when I have all class levels going at the same time (Dedicant, Initiate, and Adept), which I will soon, there is the monthly lesson for each class once per month, but all the classes meet together for Pathworkings, the “hands on” part of the classes, and each student then is able to do the work for their current level. For example, if we’re doing ritual, the Dedicants would probably purify and charge the circle, maybe call quarters, the Initiates would cast and call deity, and the Adepts would probably deliver the ritual’s message and guide the meditation/trancework and fire the cone of power. With Pathworkings such as divination practice, the higher level students can help the newer students by providing feedback and suggestions for improvement. This teaches the Dedicants the ropes while teaching the Initiates and Adepts how to teach and to lead. Everybody learns.

2. Tell my readers about your first book “Dedicant: A Witches Circle of Fire”.
Dedicant is the foundation book for the series, and gives a good, solid Witchy education up to and including initiation. There are some surprises – I like to poke holes in the pretty red balloons of tradition, so when I discover an answer to a Mystery or find a way to shed light on a practice or belief which could profoundly alter the way folks look at things, I convey this information through my teaching and my writing.
I’m a fiction writer at heart – the first major piece I wrote is an epic lesbian novel (called Visions), and I feel this love of good prose shines through in my work. Every monthly lesson chapter in Dedicant (and most likely in all the books in the series) starts with a guided meditation starring the student as the main character, and there are other guided meditations (elemental ones, for example) which are all rather poetic and colorful, which hopefully inspires the student to connect with the energies of the season, and the beauty around them throughout the turning of the Wheel. My hope is to also inspire in the student a sense of their own power and intuition, a strong connection to the earth and moon tides.
I stress good scholarship, and so there’s required reading of other authors – the cream of the crop of what I’ve read – throughout the course. There are ethics exercises designed to make the student think, so when they start using energy to create change in the world, they’ll be in the habit of examining all possible consequences of their actions before taking such actions.
I kind of went to the “hit and miss” school of Wicca, being self-taught, so I’ve tried to put together a system of learning which helps the motivated student avoid that trap by providing guidance throughout the path to initiation, and, with the other books in the series of course, beyond initiation as well. It’s great for teachers, too – rather than teaching Wicca in a linear fashion and having to make each group of excited, eager students wait (and wait and wait) for the next round of classes, teachers can use Dedicant as a foundation for their own classes, and teach around the Wheel of the Year, too, adding their own required reading and special touches.

3. How many more books will there be in the series, and can you tell us a little bit about them and what to expect?
There will be three more books, possibly a fourth. The one I’m working on now is Initiate: A Witch’s Circle of Water. Initiate will likely be quite a bit longer and lot more intense, as I feel the program will help prepare the student for the intensity of being a priest or priestess of the Old Gods in an active community service role. In Initiate, the student will learn much about energy work, which is the training I feel is most often missed on the solitary path. This gives the student a solid foundation for renewing and re-filling his spiritual vessel by connecting with his patron gods and matron goddesses at a deep level. This helps ensure he doesn’t get burned out when he begins to serve his gods at Adept level. There will also be considerable exploration into various spiritual callings, or gifts, which will help prepare and train the student, so that he can feel confident and strong when he starts giving back to his gods through community service work.
The next one will be Adept: A Witch’s Circle of Earth. Adept will be all about community service, writing and performing public ritual, writing and facilitating private, specialized rituals such as Dark Workings and other specialized healings, Life Passage rituals and Wiccan Rites of Passage, house clearings when spirits are more than happy to hang around mischief for the residents, etc. We’ll explore some of the deeper Mysteries, too, such as qabalah.
I also plan to do a sort of prequel to the series, called Seeker: A Witch’s Circle of Air, which will explore all kinds of different earth-based religions. This book will be a sort of overview for those who are drawn to an earth-based path but are not sure if Wicca, the Native American path, Asatru or other earth-centered spirituality is for them. This would also be a good text for those who have already finished a course of study in one tradition or spiritual belief system, and who want to learn more of other paths. This could give them new possibilities, new avenues to explore.
There may or may not be a Master: A Witch’s Circle of Spirit. If so, this would focus mostly on Right Livelihood and what the student feels the Pagan community needs and why it’s their job to provide it.

4. What drew you to the Wiccan faith?
Oh, my. What didn’t? I’ve always been deeply connected to nature, and feel most at home outdoors, especially in the wild places. I can remember, from a very early age, feeling a special resonance with the ancient Greek gods – Artemis in particular – and doing what, looking back, I can only call devotional rituals to Her in the field across from my house. She’s been my matron goddess since that time, although I did go through a born-again-Christian phase for about five minutes in my late teens. When I was in my early twenties, I started reading. Bonewits’ Real Magic was one of the first books I read, and it really struck a chord within me – I grew up with the same sort of dry humor, so it felt really familiar. In addition, I loved his logic, so I read the book over and over, and still do. The next thing was Spiral Dance, and it felt like coming home. Starhawk has a way of expressing both the light and dark sides of the divine in a way that really resonates with me. Then I read Drawing Down the Moon, and I must admit I cried through most of it – the sense of family, of belonging, of community was something I’d never had in my family of origin, and so had always longed for. Suddenly, here was the possibility that I might someday find that family, that tribe. That’s powerful stuff. From there, I was hooked; the religion I’d always felt in my heart finally had a name.

5. After teaching for so many years, what made you decide now is the time to put that knowledge into books for the masses?
Well, deep at my core, I’m a writer – it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. Even as a kid, I had a group of other kids that would sit and listen to me tell stories, and of course they always had a “moral,” a lesson in them, and I believe I wrote my first stories around age nine or ten. So I guess I’ve always been a teacher, too. Then, in my mid-twenties, I had an astrologer tell me I was destined to be a spiritual teacher, and students just sort of… started appearing. So I guess you could say I kinda fell into the spiritual teacher thing, with a few IRL students, but mostly, it started with a sort of online 101, back in the late 1990s.
As my packets of information got thicker and thicker, and my attempts at selling my novel became more and more frustrating, I thought, “Hmmm… maybe I could get my foot in the door with nonfiction – this is almost a book already,” and then I just fell in love with the work. In many ways, fiction is still where my heart is (I’m a sucker for a good story), but this work has captured my heart, too, and I credit the many wonderful and amazing students I’ve had over the years with that energy – they’ve truly opened my heart. Now, I have plans for all kinds of writing projects, from this series, to a book on healing women’s sexuality, to a Witchy cookbook. And of course, there are always the stories in my head. I just love to write.

6. What challenges do you see facing the Wiccan community? How can the community resolve those issues?
The biggest challenge I see the Wiccan community facing is the one I get on my soapbox about at every turn: we must stop the infighting, the Witchier-than-thou BS, and unite as a people! If we are constantly looking down our collective noses, squeezing out the new priests and priestesses in our communities so that only the “Old Guard” gets to present public rituals and other good works, if we cannot see past our tiny differences to the vast common ground we all stand on, we will fall apart. This “us and them” attitude comes from our domestication in western culture’s fear of anything different. As a religion, we claim to honor diversity, but then we snipe at each other, snub newbies, and talk trash behind each other’s backs when someone’s spiritual practices are a hair’s breadth different from ours. This kind of negativity will never allow us to truly grow and build as a valid and viable religious community.
How to resolve it? I think it can really only be truly resolved on an individual level. I believe that each and every one of us must try to allow for the possibility that the person smiling at us from across the circle is just as vulnerable as we are, just as hopeful that real connections can be made with another Pagan, is just as smart and savvy as we are, and that they have no intention to harm our standing or our place in our communities. They just want to be heard, too. Why try to compete when we can connect and network and build? So you know some stuff. Bet they know some stuff, too. We must expand our minds, open our hearts. And then we need to get off our high horses and step up to the responsibility of reaching out to that new person and quit assuming its everyone else’s job. We must embrace each other! We must walk our talk! We need to make others feel welcome and important. We’re all important, damnit. Every one of us.

7. Zatanna, Samantha Stephens, or Circe?
Hmmm, not sure what you’re asking me here. Don’t know much about Zatanna. I watched Bewitched as a kid, and loved it. Loved the movie, too. Circe? Well, that’s one goddess I wouldn’t want to cross. But I’m not too much like any of those women.

8. Can you tell my readers about the College of Wicca and Old Lore?
It was started by Morning Glory Dragonfly, in 2000. At the time, Morning Glory owned the shop Herbs and Arts in Denver. She got together a team of four other teachers, including yours truly, and we started the school. This was just after I first wrote and submitted the proposal for Dedicant to Llewellyn. We set up the school to follow a Wheel of the Year program, though it was much different than the WOY program I had in mind, so we butted heads on a few things.
Unfortunately, some of the teachers butted heads on a great number of things, but Morning Glory was truly wonderful to work with, very knowledgeable, and such an open heart and spirit! Though there were difficult times, she did her best keeping it all together and for the time I was there, the school seemed very successful. I left later that year to pursue my own teaching dreams and to work on the book. I will never forget her, though; she taught me many things about spiritual leadership, and I try to live up to her example in many ways.

9. I understand that you host Witches’ Afternoon Teas. I’m partial to English Breakfast Tea, what kind of tea is served at your gathering?
Well, Carmella Cook, the owner of Essential Elements Herbal Apothecary, the venue we hold the Teas at, is in charge of the tea part. She usually makes a couple of pots of her special blends for the events, but she’ll make a cup of whatever folks want, and she has a lot of them! She also usually provides a fruit tray or cheese and crackers, or other munchies. I provide the “cakes”, which have been everything from fancy and decorated (I used to be a professional cake decorator), or basic and homemade, or store-bought pound cake and fruit when I was pressed for time. There are always refreshments, though, and usually a good variety. We also have free readings and each Tea has a different theme, from seasonal to silly. They’re a lot of fun.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.
Well, I was going to ask you how the Magical Buffet got started, but then decided that question was too lame and ordinary and anyway, you probably answered that already in your FAQs or your About Us section, so I went there and found it. So now my question is: What is the first thing you’ll do as Supreme Ruler of the World?
I would immediately request more episodes of the television shows Firefly, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and The Boondocks

About the Author
Thuri Calafia is a Wiccan High Priestess of many years standing, and the creator of the Circles System and School. She is the author of DEDICANT: A Witch’s Circle of Fire; A Course of Study in the Old Religion. Calafia is active in the Portland Pagan community, offering various workshops and priestess services, presenting regular Open Full Moon rituals and Witches’ Afternoon Teas, and teaching Circles Dedicant level classes. She is working on the second in the four-book series, INITIATE: A Witch’s Circle of Water. She lives with her beloved Labrador, Miss Alyssa Ramone.

Freeze! It’s the Vice Squad! Part 4: The Hair Police Edition

Many Magical Buffet readers are aware that I’m a huge fan of the Iranian Vice Squad. I must be, I talk about them here and here and even touch on it here. I just thought I’d let you all know, those zany rascals are at it again.

The Daily Mail is reporting that at the beginning of this month Iranian police arrested 49 people for having “satanic Western style clothing and haircuts”. Additionally, they’re saying that five barber shops were shut down and 20 more warned for “promoting Western hairstyles”.

This is part of a campaign launched back in 2007 to help protect the moral values of Iranians. The Daily Mail’s article notes “Some analysts say the authorities fear such open acts of defiance against the Islamic Republic’s values could escalate if they go unchecked.” And they’re right. People want the freedom to express themselves whether it’s by strictly adhering to the laws regarding dress of their faith, or by getting one of those bizarre, vaguely androgynous, emo haircuts where your bangs cover one of your eyes that really shouldn’t be worn unless your name is John Connor and it’s the early 90s. Perhaps they’re onto something, you let some snot nose punk run around with that haircut and the next thing you know the earth is being destroyed by Skynet.

What’s next? No one knows for sure, but I for one truly think that rap music and a good pair of jeans can fuel a revolution.

Politics and the Occult

I’m given many books and products to review. I’m not swimming in them, but at this point, I’ve had my share of emails from publicists and delightful packages of goodies sent my way. Yet nothing could prepare me for the email I received from Quest Books asking me to review “Politics and the Occult: The Left, the Right, and the Radically Unseen” by Gary Lachman. That’s right music fans, Gary Lachman, also known as Gary Valentine, bassist for the to die for band Blondie. What was this emotion I was experiencing? Could it be giddiness? Yes, I’m embarrassed to say, I was “as happy as a school girl”.

It took awhile to get into the book. Not because it wasn’t engaging, but because I kept sitting there thinking to myself, I’m one person removed from Gary Valentine! How cool am I? Once I finally pushed past the girlish giggles and congratulatory pats on my back, I came to a startling and delightful realization. Lachman has got game. (For the record, I have very little game, just enough to recognize the fact that Lachman has it.) “Politics and the Occult” isn’t pop culture fluff, and it’s not a rehashing of the ever popular Hitler and the occult genre, it’s a fascinating, thoroughly researched, and entertainingly presented look at the subtle influence that occult movements have on societies.

In fact, Lachman himself says in the introduction, “So as not to disappoint a reader who is expecting a different sort of book, I should point out what this book isn’t about, a practice most publishers frown on, but which I feel may be appropriate here. It isn’t, for example, an expose of secret societies whose occult machinations are behind the political movements of today. Nor is it a rummaging through the occult closets of famous politicians in order to uncover some hermetic skeletons. (That Ronald Reagan, for example, employed an astrologer may be an interesting bit of gossip, but it tells us little about the nature of occult politics. Likewise, the fact that Aleister Crowley, probably the most famous magician of modern times, wrote pro-German propaganda during World War I tells us more about Crowley than it does about politics.) It’s also not about any conspiracy to infiltrate earthly governments involving UFOs, although it is true that in 1960, aliens took an interest in US politics and backed a candidate for the presidency. I’ve also not focused on occult politics in the sense of the politics of special interest groups, for instance, how neo-pagans fit into contemporary society or the relationship between wicca and some forms of contemporary feminism. These and no doubt other, equally deserving elements are missing from my study, and I look forward to being enlightened about them by interested readers.”

What’s left, you may be asking? Lots. A few favorites of mine were the discussion of the link between spiritualism and the women’s rights movement that includes an introduction to Victoria Woodhull, an interesting section about Jung culminating with the his time as “Agent 488” helping the Office of Strategic Services by making psychological assessments of Nazi leaders, and a mind blowing look at the occult movements at work during the French Revolution.

Personally, I plan on reading this book again. This time with a notebook and pen at my side to make note of all the people I want to learn more about and the many books that I’m now chomping at the bit to read. Add to that I now feel compelled to read all the other books Lachman has written that I just learned about, and well, I’m never going to have time to read all those “Hellblazer” comics that are sitting by my sofa.

Season of Light

by Sandra Kynes

The recent presidential campaign and economic news has been dominated by the words “crisis” and “change”. Along these lines, a commentator on my local National Public Radio station observed how the Chinese Mandarin word “weiji” meant both crisis and opportunity. That little tidbit piqued my curiosity and with a little research I found a translation of the word on the Chicago Tribune’s website that was more illuminating. The second part of the word, “ji”, also means crucial point or the point at which something begins or changes.

The crucial or change point that I see as a silver lining in the dark clouds of financial trouble is the opportunity to step out of the materialistic quagmire in which our culture has become stuck. Several years ago in his book and video series “Sacred Balance”, environmentalist David Suzuki pointed out that we had traded material wealth for spiritual poverty. Given our current economic situation, now would be a great time to begin our withdrawal from hyper consumerism and shift the focus a little more toward our spiritual lives. This is especially important with the holiday season approaching.

I have always loved Thanksgiving Day because of its focus on gathering with family and friends to share time together over a special meal. Unfortunately from there the holiday season turns into a shopping frenzy. This year, however, instead of struggling and feeling bad because our budgets are tight, we could turn the situation around and make it serve as our personal change point. Rather than going crazy about a long list of things to buy, we could change our focus and begin something new for the holiday season. After all, do most of us really need more stuff?

Rather than stressing out over what we can’t afford this year we have an opportunity to jump off the rush-around-and-spend merry-go-round. We can find new ways to be more creative, but more importantly, we can find our own deeper meaning for the holiday season. After all, many cultures have celebrated this time of year long before malls and online shopping. I can’t help but think of the Grinch who took away the Who’s holiday trappings… but Christmas arrived just the same in Whoville.

The winter holiday season has always seemed a little more special; a little more magical, but in recent years it seems that we’ve lost touch with something. Since ancient times this season of the winter solstice has carried a lifted sense of anticipation because it brings light and hope. The winter solstice is a turning point in the wheel of the year where time seems suspended – almost as though nature holds her breath until that special sunrise occurs and we know we’ve made it through the longest night of the year. If we can imagine what the world was like without the brightness of electric light we may gain an inkling of how extraordinary this event is.

Another aspect is that winter light is different; it’s not as glaring and bright as summer light. And of course, there’s less of it. As a result, we tend to draw closer to one another, gathering around a fireplace or dinner table lit by candles. We hunker down together around this softer light. When the days begin to grow longer, we celebrate because we know that spring and renewal is on the way.

The softer quality of winter light helps us look within. This subtle gift that winter offers encourages us to slow down and follow our spiral of energy inward. Like the stillness of winter, if we sit in silence we can begin to find things under the surface – buried in the snow of daily life waiting for the right combination of warmth and light to germinate and grow. It may take a little practice to quiet the squawking parrot of everyday thought, but with patience we can move beyond this noise into deeper self.

What we find can amaze us because at the center, at the core of who we are is light and joy. This journey inward is like the journey through the dark of the year to the winter solstice. Whether we use the symbols of a returning sun, sun god, or son of god, the light is there to give us hope. Even though we travel this annual cycle individually, sharing the joy and hope with others deepens the experience and strengthens the bonds of community.

At this critical point that world events has given us, we can scramble in fear and stress out about how our lives may never be the same, or we can accept it as a gift. This is a gift that can bring us back to (or help us find for the first time) who we truly are. We can discover new levels of spirituality both individually and with others as we follow the simple ageless traditions of celebrating the light within as well as the light around us.

Author Bio:

Sandra Kynes describes herself as an explorer of Celtic history, myth and magic. Her curiosity has led her to investigate the roots of her beliefs, and through the years she has been working to integrate her spiritual path with everyday life. Sandra tends to see the world a little differently than most people. She likes finding underlying similarities and connections and then crafting new ways to interact with the world around her. These investigations have resulted in seven books so far. Her website is at