When It’s Just You and the Prince of Darkness, Only an Acme Will Do.

That’s the tagline for the company Acme Wand Supply, LTD. This is truly a website for the spellslinger. Any wand company that has a cowboy wielding a wand on its homepage is going to get me to take a peek.

(from their website)
We here at Acme have been fashioning magic wands, magicsticks, varitas magicas and sceptres since well into the last millennium. We have outfitted some of this world’s most powerful and prestigious wizards and sorcerers, passed and living. Sadly, we cannot reveal the identities of any of our customers, as confidentiality has been key to maintaining the sterling reputation that this establishment possesses in the thaumaturgical realm. Suffice it to say that you have observed the fruits of our labor time and again.

We employ or may contract with craft persons of a broad spectrum of wand-wielding disciplines. For practitioners of Wicca, we are more than happy to supply Wiccan ceremonial objects. If you fly the Faerie path we can outfit you as well.

Our state of the “dark” arts facility is and has been located outside of Lyons, Colorado since its genesis.

While market pressures have forced us to take the regrettable but inevitable step of “going online”, you may rest assured that we will steadfastly resist this insidious trend towards digital wandage. All of our products are and will always remain analog.

Every magic wand piece is built by hand by a single craftsman, and no two are ever alike. Our handcrafted wands are constructed of the finest exotic hardwoods and hardwood burls, sterling silver (with the occasional gold accent,) precious and semiprecious stones, expertly tuned crystals and any other material that the builder or the buyer might specify.

Not only do these guys have a wonderful way with words (“All of our products are and will always remain analog.” Ha!), but they have a way with the “wandage”!

Check this out!

Sorry, I need a moment to catch my breath after partaking in those totally bad ass images. I want one!

Another Wheel

by Rebecca
illustration by Will Hobbs

In December of 2006, shortly after The Magical Buffet launched, I wrote an article about the Wheel of Life. I found this visual roadmap to enlightenment fascinating and have wanted to revisit Tibetan Buddhism ever since. Well, hold onto your wheels Buffet fans because after roughly two years Buddhist symbolism is back! It’s time to look at the Wheel of Law.

The Wheel of Law is also referred to as the Dharmachakra or Wheel of Dharma. Unlike the Wheel of Life, which is wheel-shaped and can been seen as making nods to the cyclic nature of humans, the Wheel of Law is a more accurate wheel in the fact that motion is implied by this symbol. Many Buddhists believe that the wheel’s motion is in accord with the evolution of Buddhism’s effects on humanity and the world around us. The Wheel of Law was first turned when the Buddha shared his original teachings in the Deer Park. This is where Buddha acquired his disciples and is why the Wheel of Law frequently is depicted with a deer on each side of it. However, just like the Wheel of Life, this wheel is a map to enlightenment.
The Wheel of Law looks like a classic steering wheel of a ship with eight spokes. The eight spokes represent the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. The hub represents discipline and the rim, which holds the spokes, represents mindfulness, which holds everything together. This wheel is so important to Buddhism that before there were images of the Buddha, the Wheel of Law was used in artwork to represent Buddha. In fact, this wheel rates high enough to get its own mudra, a symbolic gesture used in Buddha images as well during Buddhist meditation or ritual to evoke particular ideas. The U.S. Armed Forces use the Wheel of Law as the insignia for a Buddhist chaplain. Buddhist chaplain? I gotta’ get me an interview with one of those!

Circles, and images of circular things, are found everywhere symbolically, but when it comes to wheels, I think the Buddhists may be the kingpins of that particular circular symbol.

What’s the Deal with “Watchmen”?

On March 6, 2009 a long awaited movie adaptation of the graphic novel (collected comic book series) “Watchmen” will be in theaters. What started as a project originally tapped director Terry Gilliam stated was impossible to translate to film is now being brought to the big screen by director Zach Snyder of “300” fame. Those of you who know comic book fans, who at this point are in a near ecstatic state, may find yourself wondering, what is the big stinkin’ deal about “Watchmen”?

I have generally found myself hesitant to write about comic books here on The Magical Buffet. I do not feel I have the knowledge of the history of the medium to discuss it intelligently, or the intellect to discuss the medium in such a way that does it the justice it deserves. My explanation of why “Watchmen” is such a big deal is my opinion alone, and undoubtedly will not do this book justice. I could fill pages mentioning the awards and acclaim this collected comic series won, and I could quote experts in the field on the importance of “Watchmen”, but this isn’t a collegiate write up, this is hopefully an everyman accessible glimpse at why “Watchmen”, and its upcoming film, are such a big deal. Aimed especially for those who are not comic book readers.

In order for me to explain why “Watchmen” matters so much to me, I have to start out at the beginning. Like most girls growing up, I wasn’t a comic book reader. I would read “Garfield” and “Peanuts”. Occasionally my mom would pick me up a “Misty” or “Archie” comic book at the grocery store. My only other experiences with comic books were their translation onto the big screen, like the “Superman” movies. I didn’t read any other comics until the middle of high school when my friend Doug loaned me his copy of the graphic novel “Season of Mists” for the comic book series “Sandman” by Neil Gaimen. This book was eye opening for me. First, I had not known that comic books were sometimes bound by story arc into books, generally referred to as graphic novels. In addition, I was unaware that there were comic books that didn’t deal with superheroes. The complexity and passionate stories told in that first book impressed me so much that one of my first comic book purchases when I moved to New York was to buy every “Sandman” graphic novel….all at once.

Why does that bit of background matter? It shows my atypical introduction to comics. Until rather recently, I had never read a “superhero” comic book. No “X-Men”, “Spiderman”, or even “Batman” had been touched. Which, from what I’ve been led to believe, is not how it normally works. (Much the way that I didn’t start my role-playing experiences with “Dungeons and Dragons”.) Shortly after my now husband and I started dating we had a very important book exchange. One of those tests. If you “get” this, then you’re okay, kind of things. I loaned him “Neuromancer” by William Gibson and he gave me the graphic novel “Watchmen”.

I’m not going to give you some sort of plot synopsis or character outlines. Instead, I’m going to tell you what really matters to me about the book.

Why would a normal man choose to don a mask and fight crime without the backing of the police or superhuman abilities? What happens to a normal man who can rewrite reality but has no human connection to the reality in which we live? Is it ever morally correct to comprise? Are love and hate more closely connected than we would like to believe? Does doing whatever it takes to save your loved ones make you a monster? What happens to a masked vigilante when they quit?

All those questions, and more, are asked and explored within a back drop of an alternate history of the United States in the 1980s where vigilantes have been outlawed, we’re moments away from nuclear war with Russia, and someone is murdering retired masked heroes. For me, this is what a “superhero” comic book should be.

That is what the big deal is with the “Watchmen” movie. The best of everything comic books can be will be translated to film and offered up to the general population. Will the film live up to its source material? Will people unfamiliar with the book “get” it? We’ll have to wait until March 6 to find out. And the waiting is killing me.


Tree Medicine, Magic and Lore: Alder

by Ellen Evert Hopman
illustration by Will Hobbs

Alder thrives in damp areas – wet lands, flood plains, river banks and moist lowlands, the types of places that ancient people commonly sought out for habitation. Ancient Celtic tracks and roads were made of its wood due to its ability to withstand rot. Alder was used in piles for lake dwellings, for water-mill wheels, house foundations, canal locks, milk pails and pipes. There was an ancient Celtic God named Alisanos, the Alder God. Alder was also known as “Bran’s Tree”. Bran is the ancestor God of the Celtic Cult of the Sacred Head. He was a Celtic hero who instructed his followers that after his death his head was to be placed on a pillar so that he could continue to give them counsel. Later they were told to bury his head at the White Mount, the site of the present Tower of London as a powerful talisman of protection.

As long as the head remained buried Alba would be safe from invasion. Arthur made a fatal mistake by digging up the head, the Saxons invaded not long after. But Bran’s sacred birds, the ravens, have dwelt at the site ever since.

Alder makes an excellent charcoal for gunpowder, smith’s fires, and potter’s ovens. It is a tree sacred to Phoroneus, inventor of fire, and to Astarte and Her son, the Fire God. Fresh cut Alder wood turns red as blood. The bark gives a red dye, the twigs a brown dye. The cones make a black dye and the inner bark of the root dies yellow.

Irish tradition states that the first man was created from an Alder, the first woman from a Rowan.

Alder bark is prepared for medicinal use by carefully scraping off the dead outer bark and using the green, living tissue underneath. Alder bark can be simmered in water to make a wash for very deep wounds. The leaves and bark are simmered into a bitter tea for tonsillitis and fever. The leaves are used in poultices to dry up breast milk.

The Penobscot Indians used Alder bark tea to stop cramps and vomiting and in a Seven Herbs formula that was taken before a sweat lodge ceremony. The seven herbs were; Alder bark, Witch hazel twigs, Fir twigs, Cedar branches, Sweet-flag, Prince’s-pine, Lambkill, and Brake. The Mohegan used Speckled Alder twigs in decoctions for sprains, bruises, headache, and backache. The inner bark of Alder is used in poultices to stop swelling. The fresh juice stops itching. Alder bark tea can be used in the vagina as a douche or in the rectum for hemorrhoids.

Alder leaves were once gathered while they were still damp with dew and used to cover the floors of a house plagued by fleas or other insects. Adhering to the leaves the insects died. Alder pollen is a favorite of bees. Grouse eat the leaves, buds and seeds, beaver and rabbit chew the bark.

about the author:

Ellen Evert Hopman is a Druid Priestess, herbalist and author of “Priestess of the Forest: A Druid Journey”, “A Druids Herbal – Of Sacred Tree Medicine”, “Walking the World in Wonder – A Children’s Herbal” and other volumes. Visit her website for more!

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Thinking Inside the Box

by Rich Rittenhouse

There is a certain plot that has been used time and time again in teen comedies. It goes something like this: Geeky Boy has a crush on Unobtainable Perfect Girl. Geeky Boy has a platonic friendship with Geeky Girl. Geeky Boy strives and schemes for the affections of UPG, oblivious to the fact that Geeky Girl has a crush on *him*. This goes on until 1) Geeky Boy thinks he is about to get UPG, then gets humiliated by her and her friends and realizes she’s a cruel bitch, or 2) Geeky Boy actually does get inside UPG’s 1980’s pink spandex hot pants, but discovers that despite her Phoebe Cates level of Reagan-era foxiness she’s vapid and/or a cruel bitch (perhaps this realization comes from Geeky Boy hearing UPG dis and/or plan a mean prank on Geeky Girl), or 3) Geeky Boy actually gets in UPG’s pants, but realizes that even though she has big sexy mall hair and screws like a minx, she’s mainstream and superficial and he can’t talk to her about important things like Dungeons and Dragons, Nolan Bushnell, or the new Wall of Voodoo LP. And at long last, Geeky Boy learns what we the late-night Showtime viewing audience have known all along, that the perfect girl for him was right there with him the whole time, and he rushes into the arms of Geeky Girl. Cue credits. Add subplot(s) regarding video game tournaments, a wet T-shirt contest, and/or terminal illness to taste.

The 1981 Tom Moldvay Basic Set is my Geeky Girl.

When I first started my “Retro 80’s D&D” game, it was a sort of stop-gap thing: I really wanted to return to gamemastering, but I was sort of gun-shy from the last RPG I had ran a few years before, a perhaps overly-ambitious superhero campaign that had crashed and burned spectacularly. So I wanted a system that was as simple as possible, just to take some of the work and stress off myself. The idea was that I would start the game using the old pink-box rules, I guess as a sort of nostalgic training wheels, then switch over to 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons when it came out.

Then a funny thing happened. After a few games, I stopped thinking of it as “My Retro 80’s D&D game” and just started thinking of it as “My D&D game”. The decision to use the old rules started to feel less and less like an ironic experiment or a clever stunt and started to feel more like a sensible way to run a fun game without crap getting in the way. The players, too, had a change of heart. The first session there was some bemused grumbling about why I wasn’t running 3.5…this was totally gone by the next game. The simpler rules took a lot of the work out of the game for the players, and in particular they were all happy to see the back of Attacks of Opportunity, something that had slowed previous games to a crawl with arguments and second-guessing. After Teasop the Halfling finally drove his magic sword Ghostbreaker into Count Vorlock’s heart and ended the first “season” of the game, I asked the players if they wanted to switch over to 4th Edition and it was a unanimous “No”.

And so it goes. For my “new” D&D game I have gone back to the rules we used for my very first D&D game at age 11. The late Mr. Moldvay’s adaptation of Arneson and Gygax’s rules is so simple that even my players that have never played any version of D&D before can learn them within minutes. Of course, in gaining simplicity you loose options, but the older rules are so robust that new stuff can be added on the fly easier. Many of the story elements that the newer rules use feats and prestige classes to model we now simply role-play, often to greater effect than a simple +2 here or +4 there. And now I have the new Goblinoid Games LABYRINTH LORD hardcover that puts a streamlined “retro-clone” version of the old Basic and Expert boxed sets together into one book, so I don’t even have to put any more wear on my battered originals.

I’m probably going to pick up fourth edition, or at least the Player’s Handbook, sooner or later, but right now I’m not in any hurry.

POSTSCRIPT: I never did pick up 4.0.

Author’s Bio:
Rich Rittenhouse is a longtime tabletop RPG player from the rural Midwest. In Rebecca’s opinion, he should be the one with a website.

Buddhafuls: Buddhafy Your World

Yes, the name is too cute. I hear ya’. But this website has some awesome stuff!

(from their website)
Meditation on sacred images has long since been used in Buddhism, and other spiritual practices, to increase health, inner peace and bring one closer to enlightenment. Buddhafuls provides unique and beautiful sacred fine art prints and gifts, from Buddhist and other traditions, intended to not only beautify your space, but create a space that serves to enlighten the soul.

Everyone visit the Buddhaful website! Feel free to purchase any of the following things for me! I thank you in advance for your generous gifts!

Look Ma’! No Instruments!

Nothing fantastically deep or insightful today folks, just a few videos that hopefully will dazzle you.

The human voice is truly fascinating. We were all reminded of this in the 1980s thanks to one hopelessly addictive song by Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and the performances of actor Michael Winslow in the “Police Academy” movies. And then life, and pop culture, moved on.

However, I’ve been reminded again at how imaginative people can be and how versatile the voice is. Not too long ago my husband bought the “Shadowrun” game for his PC. The intro to the game has this fantastic song “Baiana” by Barbatuques. I purchased it on iTunes and it found its way onto every mix CD my husband and I made for months! Imagine my surprise when I finally saw the song performed live….the song is entirely voice and rhythmic step. Check it out!

Then, my friend Jason sent me a video of two guys, Nathan “Flutebox” Lee and Beardyman, performing at the Google offices in London. Technically Lee uses an instrument, a flute, but come on; he’s doing percussion and flute…at the same time! At the 4 minute mark Beardyman comes on. It’s like a full on techno club coming from one tiny British man. It’s fantastic! Not only is it musically impressive, but they both have a real sense of humor and reverence for pop culture that comes through in their performances.

Like I said folks, no deep messages here, no real educational content, just a little reminder that people are capable of amazing things.

Annual Golden Oak Winners Announced

I received some exciting news in my inbox yesterday. The 2008 “Oakie” Awards were announced. I’m thrilled to tell you that Magical Buffet contributor and all-around go-to Druid for The Magical Buffet won “Best Academic Book” for “A Druid’s Herbal of Sacred Tree Medicine” (which I loved) and even sweeter is that she won for “Best Druidical Essay” entitled “Female Druids” which appeared right here on The Magical Buffet website. That’s right folks, our website has award winning content. Not surprisingly, it’s content not written by myself.

Congratulations to our friend and supporter Ellen Evert Hopman! You rock!

To read the complete list of winners, click here.

To learn more about Ellen Evert Hopman visit her website!

Stay tuned readers, this month we will be debuting the first of many articles by Hopman!