10 Questions with High Priestess

1. I love your music, and we’ll get to discussing that soon, but first, as a woman, seeing a woman who looks as drop dead gorgeous as yourself, I have to ask, what is your secret to staying in such great shape? And if you tell me soda and French fries we’re ending this interview at question one!

In a nutshell? What works for me personally? I hike in an old growth forest with my dogs a few times a week, get a great kitty cat stretch with yoga poses every day and practice aikido. I also dance without inhibition and play instruments regularly. I eat only organically, about half of which are raw fruits. I eat organic vegetables and meats almost exclusively produced locally. I eat no corn in any form, including high fructose corn syrup and dextrose, no wheat in any form including bread, pasta, baked goods, sauces or breading, and no other gluten-containing grains. I use food as medicine.

It’s interesting that you ask, as I am writing a book about Faerie Magic, and it touches on this subject a few times. Obviously, glamour is one of the most well-known types of faerie magic! We have appropriated the word in modern times to refer to high fashion, movie stars and “an air of compelling charm, romance, and excitement, especially when delusively alluring.” The glamorous beauties of the fashion and entertainment world are now uplifted and perfected with the art of modern technology! The magic of Photoshop creates a beautiful illusion which, for better or worse, has seduced the world. So first let me acknowledge that magic in my public persona. However, it goes deeper.

My beauty reflects my magic, because I have cultivated my beauty magically for a number of years. The idea of visualization is becoming quite popular now, but as a child I knew it innately, and formed in my mind again and again the shape I desired for myself.

The other aspect of beauty that I think is really important is self-care. If we tend to our bodies as we would lovingly care for a child, an elder, or even the Goddess Herself, we will reap the benefits exponentially as we age. By tuning into the body’s deeper nutritional needs, and to our spirit’s playtime/physical exercise needs, we can bring our bodies back into natural balance. I have found that people who carry the faerie energy may often be thin, yet are sometimes still fairly out of healthy balance with their natural cycles. It’s more important to play than to work out. Bring the element of play in, and choose a way to get some physical exercise that is so delightful that you will happily put off work for it!

The same principles apply to the dreaded dietary changes required by “health.” Instead of trying to make some dramatic and inevitably ill-fated change, simply start by dropping major sources of bad food in your life 6 days per week. Give yourself a day off per week from any diet you are doing (unless it’s a food allergy). Start by swearing off fast food and coffee, soda or other sweetened drinks. Once you have done this your taste buds will start to readjust to natural food after the ultra-enhanced flavors of pre-made food are done away with. Then it’s time to get creative exploring the exotic world of fruits and vegetables! This should be what you eat most of the time. The choice to eat meat is very personal. It is an ethical decision which has, at times, pained me greatly. My physiology runs at optimum with meat in my diet, but I am scrupulous about only consuming meat which is given a good life, with natural feed, sunshine and grass to roam in. I don’t support any genetically modified feeds, or weird hormones or drugs given to the animals. Insisting on organic will mostly guarantee these standards, but you must trust your instincts and assess each company on its own.

Food has a cultural dimension, which is ultimately reflected in our health as well. The accepted food of American culture is that which is sold on television. Sadly this food is controlled by corporations, who are most often valuing the bottom line over what might be good food for their tribe to consume. It is ultimately a political act to prepare your own food, and an anarchistic act to actually grow or forage your own food. As I perceived the damage that this culturally-approved diet actually does to the human organism, I had no choice but to permanently boycott their “food.”

We live in such a culture of too-many-good-things! A bit of chocolate or a cookie isn’t going to kill any diet… In fact, soul food is very real and famously healing on all levels. When your heart needs it, indulge intelligently in something organic.

2. Your first album, “Sellisternia”, has a very electronic/techno sound to it. You followed that with “OakSong” which is more Celtic rock in its sound. What inspired the change?

Sellisternia, meaning a “feast in honor of the Goddess,” was a priestess alone in her studio learning the art of expression via technology. I had never really played music with other people. My studies were in classical piano and composition… both of which can be fairly solitary. I was dizzied with possibilities as a producer called Mother shepherded me through my first recording sessions with concert harp, flute, trombone and my own vocals. This process was going on in 2000-2002. I had no concept of what he was doing as he used EQ and effects on the tracks. By the time I did OakSong I had been playing with this awesome band, Advanced Bliss, for 2 years. I had taken my education to the next level at USC, and gotten much deeper into technology, arranging and orchestration. I wanted to take those songs that we had been so successful with playing out, and capture them in a studio setting. Here I turned to the magic-man Christian Wood for my engineering and mixing. It was a completely different process… Still some songs were developed with the band, and others came as mystical revelations. The album itself is both dreamy and provocative, much like Radiohead.

3. You’re also an extremely talented harpist. Any chance there will be a solo harp album someday?

Thank you so much! You know how to make a girl feel comfortable! I actually think I might have recently granted your wish! Faerie Archives volume 1 is our latest release—it’s brand spankin’ new, in fact! It features predominantly harp, but it is steeped in worlds of lush high fidelity nature sounds, delicate vocal harmonies, and exotic ancient instrument such as the medieval Viola de Gamba and Sitar. We invoked the faerie realm, created a magnificent faerie altar, left offerings and made invocations (some of which are audible on the CD). We invited the faeries in, and we recorded the music that came to us. The music was so very unique that we were inspired to start the “Society for the Preservation of Faerie Arts.” Learn more at www.faeriearchives.com. Samples of the newest release can be heard on my MySpace page and the best way to purchase the album is via CDBaby.com. Enjoy!

4. On your My Space page there is your version of the Blondie song “Rapture,” including a music video for it. I love the original and your cover; what made you decide to cover that song?

I love the original! Blondie is such an inspiration. I worked on that piece with producer Nick Launay (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, upcoming Cribs featuring Johnny Marr, Arcade Fire) and he thought I would really shine with the range of that piece. We wanted to give Retro-Gothy-New-Wave some “new school” claws. I think it worked.

5. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the folks that travel and perform with you?

I have just posted a video blog of our latest tour on Youtube! You can go to http://www.youtube.com/user/thehighpriestess22 to see the goings-on!

My dearest companion is my husband, Alexander Polinsky. He is my best friend and collaborator. It was his amazing faerie altars which opened the portal to the other realm. He has quite a lot of notoriety on his own, actually. He was a child actor on the series Charles in Charge, and has gone on to a successful career in voice acting. He is heard all the time on shows like Transformers, Batman, Legion of Superheroes and Starship Troopers. He is also an amazing singer, and fronts our band Flow Temple. He works one on one with performers, healing blocks and facilitating authentic singing and voice acting. I couldn’t do it without him.

I also have a very dear butler named James. He and I have been friends for about 13 years now! He actually played piano at my 19th birthday party. We have lived together, and played music together for the last 5 years, and he also is an important person in the tribe. He is a student of astrology, and always advises us on possible arising situations. James plays the vibraphone, which is sort of like a xylophone but dreamy. He comes from a family of musical geniuses, and his brother actually plays guitar with the Eagles.

6. What is the House of Bliss?

The House of Bliss is an outpost of love and authenticity amidst this modern Babylon! It originally started as my place of healing… and by the grace of all the amazing creatures who have passed through the doors, it has become an interdimensional portal, a food garden, a healing oasis and a very effective place for making beauty in a myriad of forms. In short, it is where we live.

7. For you, what is bliss?

Mmm! So many things! For now I’ll say only a few things. A purring cat, the morning sun, the rain at any time, delicious food, chocolate, playful dogs, an unexpected dance, musical or visual inspiration, a well-sung tune, playing my harp, hearing the wind play my harp, long kisses, happy people working together, voices in harmony, union with the Goddess, true awareness of the moment and the open road.

8. Are you familiar with Paul Avgerinos? He’s the only other musician we’ve featured here so far at The Magical Buffet. Anyway, I think a collaboration between you two would be brilliant and inspired. If you two ever do an album together, will you dedicate it to me?

Absolutely! And I’d be thrilled to do an album swap if he’s game!

9. What is one of your favorite albums that would most surprise our readers?

One of the most sublime albums of all time is Beethoven’s 3rd and 4th piano concertos. This is my painting music.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question?

What’s on the menu?

Stuff that is fried, preferably with cheese.

About High Priestess:
High Priestess is the musical project of composer Regan, who is known for her versatile musical ability. High Priestess’s music ranges from Celtic harp to electro-industrial, and Regan is known for her sensual, spiritual and operatic (though often dark) vocal styles. Regan and her posse, who are all known to be practicing Pagans, reside near Los Angeles in the “House of Bliss.” The band can be reached online at www.high-priestess-productions.com and www.myspace.com/advancedbliss

Midwest Preternatural Research: JFK Prep School Investigative Report

Report written by: Matt

Investigators present on Night 1 (August 5): Matt from Midwest Preternatural Research, Katie, Keith and Jody from Fox Valley Spirit Hunters, Kurt, Mark, Rhonda and Barry from HPI, Michael from Kettle Moraine Paranormal, and Jaeson Jrakman (www.jaesonjrakman.com). There was also a whole second group that we collaborated with the first night. But they disappeared the second night and didn’t get back to us or the owner with their findings. We don’t know what happened and we’re sorry it didn’t work out.

Investigators present on Night 2 (August 6): Matt from Midwest Preternatural Research, Katie, Keith and Jody from Fox Valley Spirit Hunters, Barry from HPI, Michael from Kettle Moraine Paranormal, and Jaeson Jrakman.

Also present: Client (J), worker (W)

Equipment used: Trifield Standard EMF meter, Trifield Natural EMF Meter, Cellsensor EMF meter, Digital Cameras, Digital Voice Recorders, Dual Infrared Non-contact Thermometer/Air Probe Thermometer, Sony Camcorders w/Nightshot

Background: The site is an abandoned Catholic school/church with five run down buildings (the school, the old dorms, the church, the library, and the printing building) and two fixed up buildings (the new dorms and the renaissance building, where we set up our headquarters for the investigation). These were the only two buildings that had electricity. There’s also a cemetery with all priests and the crypt of the founder of St. Nazianz, Father Oschwald, and an underground tunnel system.

DO NOT go there without permission! You’ll be arrested and fined $5,000 for breaking and entering, NOT for trespassing which is a lesser offense.

History: In the months leading up to our investigation, we researched the history and compiled this packet of information:

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–The death and body of the founder Father Oschwald:

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“Anton Stoll records: ‘A number of times, I have observed that [Father Oschwald], with closed eyes, when there was no one else in the room but I alone, would extend his hands in blessing, and then with his hand, signal someone away, and yet I saw no one in the room.'”

Father Oschwald was dying and could have just been delirious, not seeing ghosts.

It is strange that Father Oschwald’s body didn’t decompose for all those years. This is supposed to be a saint thing. Lenin’s body doesn’t decompose either, but his body is preserved by biochemists using chemicals. And it is taken in to a laboratory every 18 months. According to the Russian doctor who not too long ago did a makeover on Lenin’s corpse, “He looked terrible when he died, but what you see now is Lenin’s face, not someone else’s.” In Moscow, “mausoleumists” earn most of their money by preserving the bodies of dead mafia bosses. In 1970, the staff secretly embalmed the body of Ho Chi Minh that was on display in Hanoi. I’m not saying there were hoaxers at work on Father Oschwald’s body, as the then-untested chemical process used on Lenin was developed in 1924 and Oschwald died in 1873. And even if somehow somebody could get into the vault and sneak out Oschwald’s body once every year and a half without anybody noticing, the process used on Lenin takes 30 days. But it makes you think if there could be a scientific explanation.

–The “curse” of Father Oschwald:

Popular legend has it that Father Oschwald was evil and he cursed the town of St. Nazianz because the State took the land away in 1896, and that’s how the haunting started. But Father Oschwald died in 1873. The land was taken away twenty years after Oschwald’s death. He couldn’t have cursed it.

It is true that as Father Oschwald lay dying there were poundings heard on the doors and walls all around town — everywhere except in the room where Father Oschwald lay dying…

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But this, again, was not because he was EVIL. This can be explained by a phenomenon called Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis (RSPK). RSPK is an unconscious form of Psychokinesis. Sometimes when a person is in physical or emotional pain, or just under a lot of stress, they can unconsciously make their own bed shake or make knocking sounds on the walls, because they’re rebelling on a subconscious level. If you have a lot of stress or trauma in your life, it can continue and it can follow you from house to house until you solve the emotional problem that’s causing it. Another term for this is a “poltergeist” — poltergeists really don’t have anything to do with ghosts, despite what you’ve seen in movies. The only thing the “Poltergeist” movies got right is it’s typically a young girl going through puberty who’s causing it, but not always. Father Oschwald was not lashing out on the town, he was just dying and in a lot of pain, and he was psychokinetically pounding on the doors and walls all over town because he wanted the pain to stop. He didn’t even know he was doing it.
All that being said, the rest of the town does have a history of devastating fires, and there are stories of some ghost sightings, if there’s any truth to the stories:

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The whole town is not haunted. There is nothing to support that but 100-year-old personal experiences, and in most of the cases there was only one witness so it could have been a hallucination or an outright lie. How do you interview someone who’s been dead for 100 years? Even if the witness was credible and *believed* what they were seeing, there still could be a psychological explanation. Of course, you could argue it the other way too and say you can’t disprove it either, because it happened 100 years ago. But I think if you make a trip to St. Nazianz, all you’ll find is a regular town and regular people, not the frightened townsfolk of Blair, Maryland. EVERYTHING about this place was exaggerated. Also, some of those stories, like the boy riding a deer with a superlarge horn and throwing fireballs everywhere he went, allegedly happened when Oschwald was still alive and still had the land, before the land was supposed to have been cursed.

So then how did JFK Prep become haunted? There are stories of physical and sexual abuse at the school as to the origin of the haunting, however we couldn’t back that up either. In fact, there’s one urban legend about a student who hung herself from the basketball hoop in the gym after being beaten and molested by a nun. There really was a girl who hung herself on campus, but it didn’t happen in the gym and it had nothing to do with a nun or a beating. I know this for a fact because I was emailed by the girl’s old roommate. I was given her name, a little bit about her, and why she did it. I’ve since received emails from other people who went to school at Prep, including another one of her friends who was able to confirm it, the room she did it in, and even shared her suicide note with me. She had been over to the girl’s house and was able to tell me about what her family was like and who they were. Out of respect for the student and her family I won’t post what building she did it in or what her reason was.

We got a few EVPs that sound like it’s saying “burning”. Maybe the haunting is because of the great fire in 1871 where all those people died.

The fact is neither we, nor anybody else, knows for a FACT how the haunting originated. I think in a place like this with so much history, there’s just bound to be something. There could be residual energy from all the students that passed through here. But on our investigation we also had a few occurrences that would imply an intelligent style haunting. Maybe there’s a little of both.

–The graves in the cemetery alternately rising and sinking:

Another urban legend is that the graves in the cemetery up on Loretto Hill, where Father Oschwald’s crypt is and where all the priests are buried, alternately rise and sink. They do not. And the cemetery is actually still used, as some of the graves were new.

–The sounds of students laughing in the halls:

You’re supposed to be able to hear students laughing in the halls of the school. Actually, we found the school to be the least active of the buildings. The one time we did hear footsteps above us on one of our subsequent visits, it turned out to be *living people* who were caught trespassing.

Our Investigation: Katie, Keith, Michael, Barry and I arrived at 3PM and spent the afternoon just walking through the buildings and thinking about how we were going to set up. On the initial walkthrough back in May, the owner only had time to show us through two of the seven buildings and the cemetery. The plan was to spend the afternoon taking some base readings with our EMF meters, mapping out the buildings, and doing some control audio recordings with nobody in the buildings. But the place is so big that we didn’t get done and had to get going on our investigation. However, we were able to do more on our follow up.

The rest of the group arrived later, and we started the investigation at 8:00PM.

NIGHT 1, ROTATION 1 (8PM-12AM):

We split up into three groups. Jaeson was the zone leader for Group 1. There were six people in that group including Jaeson and myself, and there was an EMT in case anybody got hurt. Barry was the zone leader for Group 2 and there were five people in that group including her. She had one EMT in her group, just in case. Michael was zone leader for Group 3 and there were six people in his group including himself. Michael has medical training and he’s a psychic.

Then we also had someone stay in headquarters all night and monitor Michael’s live video feed on a laptop. The three groups communicated by walkie-talkie and were assigned to separate buildings.

Group 1:

Jaeson’s group investigated the school building first. We did a sweep of the building, then set up a video camera and Trifield Natural EMF Meter in the only hallway where the owner left a power strip for us. (The buildings have no electricity.) We put motion detectors around the camera so that nobody could tamper with it, then we left the building and sat outside. (You can’t walk around with the Trifield Natural Meter because it’s so sensitive it can detect the nerve impulses in your body when you move. But it’s also one of the best EMF meters you can get for that same reason.) Since there was one group in each building that first night (but not in the printing building which the owner didn’t let us in to until the second night, and not in the two fixed-up buildings, which we didn’t investigate), we had to just sit and wait for the end of the rotation because we had no place else to go. Jaeson admitted to me that there were just too many people (the owner also kept going back and forth between the groups to see how we were doing) and this wasn’t his normal ghost hunting method. The second night and follow-up investigation were more high quality experiences where we had smaller and fewer groups, and we had impressed the owner enough with our professionalism the first night that he let us have the place all to ourselves to do with what we wanted in our subsequent visits.

Group 1 didn’t come up with anything in the school. But the other two groups, meanwhile, were having better luck…

Group 2:

Barry’s group, meanwhile, was investigating the cemetery, church, library, and basements underneath (that was all one zone…it was a lot smaller than it sounds). Barry said in between rotations that it was pretty dead and uneventful.

Then later upon reviewing their audio, they came up with this possible EVP. What you are about to listen to was recorded by Mark. First, you’ll hear the owner ask, “What should we do with the place?” Then, you’ll hear Barry repeat “What should he do with the place?” The others present were Kurt and Rhonda, and two other investigators from the other group. None of them recall hearing what comes next:

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Mark had his digital voice recorder in hand and we have a log of where everybody else was at the time. If someone had said this just as a prank, we think someone would have heard it and said “that was so-and-so?” or someone would have made a mental note of it. If it was just someone clearing their throat, it’s pretty creepy-sounding and we think someone would have asked “what was that?!” Also, someone would have stated, “That was so-and-so clearing his throat?”
But yes it *could* have just been somebody clearing their throat and nobody remembered to comment. That’s the thing is there’s no way to be 100% sure because nobody was videotaping the EVP circle.

Another possibility is thought projection. Someone could have been thinking that answer subconsciously and projected it onto the voice recorder. What do you think it was?

Group 3:
Michael’s group, meanwhile, was investigating the old dorms. Michael said he felt drawn to a room on the fourth floor that became known to us as “the suitcase room”. There are a pair of old suitcases lying on the floor in this room that someone must have discarded. One of the suitcases was all the way open. Due to weathering of the item, it couldn’t be completely shut tight. Michael kicked it closed with his left foot. When he came back, it was re-opened, all the way, and back to its original position. Michael said he assumed someone else opened it, so he kicked it closed again, and turned around. He was standing outside, in front of the stairs, and when he turned around it was open again. He said that’s when he seriously started to question it. The first time, someone could have been playing with him. But the second time no one went past him. Michael forcibly closed the suitcase, so you may think it was just returning to its natural state of being partially open but opened all the way. Possibly — but it was only open a couple of inches in the first place and it was also pretty decrepit. In our return visit, we were unsuccessful when we tried to get it to open like that again. After it opened the second time, Michael took his pocket knife and cut away the liner a bit and he checked it well over for any electrical device, and found nothing.
But we didn’t get it on video, and upon further inspection Michael says they didn’t note any temperature oddities or get any EMF readings. So we can’t present it as evidence to anyone. We can only give it as a personal experience.
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After the first rotation ended, we met back in headquarters for an hour break, and I took a head count to make sure we still had everybody.

While we were eating, Michael excitedly talked about how it went in the old dorms.

Barry’s group was assigned to the old dorms next, and she was intrigued by Michael’s story and asked me if it would be okay to have her group and Jaeson’s group investigate the dorms together so we could have cameras on all floors. I was intrigued also, so I said let’s try it.

NIGHT 1, ROTATION 2 (1AM-4AM):

So Jaeson’s group and Barry’s group went up to the old dorms together, and Michael’s group went to the school building.

But it was dead now, and there were way too many people now in the old dorms, so Jaeson just left his camera and some of his equipment so they could have it, and we left to go investigate the church.

Meanwhile, the church/library/basement were also dead. We did a sweep, and just took some pictures and recorded for EVPs. Then we went up to the cemetery, but it was really peaceful there.

On our way back from the cemetery, that’s when we saw Michael’s group up on the roof of the school with their flashlights. They radioed us to come and help, and we did. They had been taking pictures from the roof, and these huge red mists were showing up in some of their pictures. On our follow up investigation we debunked these as the result of heated air rising up from a very large bonfire 100 feet away.

We went back to the church, but by this time my camera’s memory card was full and so was my voice recorder, so I just walked along. I couldn’t do anything. We all ended up back in the renaissance building because we were going to call it a night early. But first the owner showed Jaeson, Barry, and me the boiler room behind the renaissance building. Then he took Jaeson, Barry, Michael, and me into an underground tunnel that led into the basement under the library, and Michael recorded this possible EVP. Michael says, “Helloooo?” Then at 5 seconds you hear two words that we can’t identify as any of us, and we wouldn’t be likely to say. Everything after those two words is us talking. I don’t want to tell you what I hear before you listen to it because then that’s what you’re going to hear. Take a listen to it and then email us at midwestpreternaturalresearch@gmail.com what you think it’s saying:

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I would like to go back and investigate that tunnel – we really only poked our heads in.

We called it a night early at about 4AM and drove home or back to our hotel rooms. For me, my first night at JFK Prep was pretty uneventful and disappointing. (It wasn’t until we reviewed our evidence that I heard Mark’s possible EVP that I posted earlier.) I went home thinking “it’s not haunted, that was very peaceful” and “if this place isn’t haunted, what is? Am I wasting my time and money being a ghost hunter?” I wasn’t ecstatic about spending a whole second night in a row.

But I’m glad I did.

NIGHT 2:

We met back at 7PM. The owner opened up the printing building and underground tunnel for us (which just leads from the garage into the printing building), and we did a walkthrough. He also opened up this little yellow barn for us next to the renaissance building, if we wanted to go in there.

We started our investigation again at 8PM, with a much smaller group. Kurt wasn’t able to come back the second night, but let me know a month in advance that he could only stay one night. And Mark and Rhonda had kids at home so they couldn’t stay two nights either, so they drove down to tell me this in person and then Barry just walked them through the buildings they hadn’t got to see yet, then they went home.

So the second night we only had seven people – the three zone leaders, and Katie, Keith, Jody, and me.
With the fewer people, there was no rotation schedule. You just worked with who you wanted and investigated what you wanted, and I kept track of where everybody was on walkie-talkies.
Barry, Katie, Keith, and Jody started in the church, and Michael, Jaeson, and I headed straight for the old dorms. Michael showed Jaeson and me around the old dorms and he showed us the “suitcase room”. Also on the fourth floor across the hall from the “suitcase room” is the alleged Satan Room where, according to urban legend, the founder of St. Nazianz, Father Oschwald, or just a regular priest had an encounter with Satan and then the room was boarded up to protect the students and faculty. The Satan Room is a dud, no surprise. It’s not boarded up, and we never experienced a thing in there. It’s just a room. Father Oschwald could not have had an encounter with Satan or anything in that room because the school was built 100 years after Father Oschwald’s time. IF there’s even any truth to the story, it had to have been just a regular priest, and he could have just seen a regular ghost or residual energy and then it got blown out of proportion.
We set up a video camera and voice recorder in the “suitcase room”, and we put motion detectors at the stairs on the third and fourth floors. I left my voice recorder in a closet on the fourth floor.
Then we went down to the third floor and just sat quietly in the hallway and waited for something to happen. Around the same time that Michael had the experience with the suitcase the first night, the motion detectors started going off all over the place. We got up and walked toward the stairs to see if we could see what was setting them off. Bats? There were bats in that building. The other thing to keep in mind is motion detectors are REAL sensitive. Jaeson was walking with his Trifield Standard EMF Meter (the one you CAN walk around with) when his needle went crazy. Then I saw a door open right after that. A door opening can be recreated very easily, if it’s not shut tight, and it wasn’t. The wood expanding can cause it to swing open. It may still be worth noting that it happened right after the EMF spike, but it doesn’t prove anything. But because the motion detectors were going off, we radioed the others to come.
A little while after that, things got dead again. Jaeson and Barry left for the printing building. Katie, Keith, and Jody left for the cemetery. Michael and me stayed in the dorms for a little while longer and then left to go back to base for a short break. Then we went to investigate the little yellow barn that the owner had opened up for us. The owner said he had heard stories of cult activity in that barn from long before, and was curious if we would find anything in there.
Michael and me set up motion detectors at the entrances, then explored it by ourselves while taking some pictures and asking questions for EVP. There was nothing in there, and in the subsequent times I’ve been back I never came up with anything in that barn or even got a creepy feeling. Michael and me then left to meet Jaeson and Barry in the printing building.
We stayed together and stopped to do EVP circles in all the big rooms and took lots of pictures.
Next we moved back into the school and walked around the tunnels where I believe Michael thought he’d seen a shadow the night before (stopping in all the big rooms to do EVP circles and taking pictures and readings with the EMF meter), then through the locker rooms, then through the cafeteria directly under the gym, and then up into the gym.
After we left the gym we decided to walk the perimeter of the grounds because there were also stories of ghost sightings in the surrounding woods. We didn’t experience anything, and in fact we only got as far as the cemetery.
It was now about 2:30 in the morning, my voice recorder was full again, and we’d spent about 15 hours total investigating so far. We’d also been up till 4 in the morning the night before. We were all getting tired, and were ready to go home early. Everybody was back in the renaissance building again and starting to pack up.
Michael and I wanted to go up to the old dorms one last time before going home. We went alone, and when we entered we went straight up the stairs to the fourth floor.
Here Michael recorded another possible EVP. You’ll hear him say, “School is officially dismissed for you, thank you.” Then in the background you hear a strange noise that we don’t remember hearing at the time, and over that you hear me say, “It’s really pissed at you.” I said that because the air felt heavy, though we could have just been scaring ourselves. The two knocks you hear at the end are just Michael. Again, I know what I think I hear, but I don’t want to tell you before you listen to it because then that’s what you’re going to hear. Take a listen and then email me what you think it’s saying, if you hear anything at all:

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We went back out to the parking lot where everybody was getting ready to go home and go to sleep, and I think it was Barry who got us all to stick it through to the end of the night.

We all went back up to the fourth floor together as one big group. The owner came with us too. We set up shop in the “suitcase room”. Keith set up his video camera, and we sat in an EVP circle and turned off all our lights. (This is so you’re not distracted.) We asked, if there’s a presence in this room, could it please show us a sign of its presence and then we’ll leave and we won’t bother it again. Michael soon after started to feel cold and said that an entity had just entered the room, like it had gone away for a little while but was back now because it had heard people up here. So Barry snapped a picture:

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(That’s Michael in the picture.)

Then she took another picture just to verify, looked at the view screen, and said “holy cow!” Before you look at the next couple pictures, you need to know that we’ve been in this room many times, we know it extremely well, and there are NO reflective surfaces in this room. On our follow up investigation we returned to this room and tried taking pictures from every angle to recreate it and had no success:

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Then another picture:

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And one more:

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(In that last one, the obtrusion that looks like a hat is actually part of the wall.)

We showed these pictures to two professional photographers. One of them said it could also be Barry’s finger in front of the camera, but Barry tried to recreate it with her finger and, well, compare for yourself:

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Barry kept trying to re-create a white image and form like the one seen in the shots with Michael, but after many shots of her fingers and of the side of the chair, she still can’t find anything she can use to dismiss those shots – the closest she can get is holding her finger a good three or four inches out in front of the camera lens, which is very tricky and awkward to do and not a natural position to snap pictures in, but even then the base and sometimes the tip of her finger glows a pink/red and not a solid white.

However, it *does* look very similar. I think it’s too hard to be 100% sure.

Barry showed us these pictures in the view finder right away after they were taken. Then she wanted to get back to headquarters right away and put these on her computer before she pushed a wrong button and erased them or something. So we left the suitcase room and made our way out.
When we got to the second story landing, Michael said he heard a dog growl but nobody else did. We went to investigate, and we entered into a little chapel with a balcony over it where you can look down from the third floor where we had come. Michael said there was something watching us from the balcony. We snapped some pictures and asked some questions, but got nothing.
After returning to the renaissance building and putting the pictures on Barry’s labtop and showing them to the owner, we of course went back to the “suitcase room” again. The activity was getting hotter and hotter every time went back, and this time we were expecting a full body apparition. We stayed until dawn, but nothing more happened. Michael said he sensed it was annoyed and we were taking over its space, so it had gone downstairs.
We left the building, shook hands with everyone, and there ended our first investigation of JFK Prep.

FOLLOW-UP INVESTIGATION (OCTOBER 8):

Investigators present: Matt from Midwest Preternatural Research, Katie, Keith and Jody from Fox Valley Spirit Hunters, and Kurt and Mark from HPI.

We did a follow-up a couple months later on October 8th. Without nearly as many people this time, we broke up into small groups and split up over the campus to try to recreate some of what we had experienced on the first visit. We also just wanted to get in and do some more investigating, and try new things.
Katie, Keith, and Jody were in a group together, and they headed over to the church. Katie had brought a CD player along to introduce music in the church and see if that would get a reaction, but it refused to work (she admits she was already having problems with it before she left home). So instead, she thought she would just sing in the church to see what would happen.
The first thing she sang was “Ave Maria” by Schubert. After she finished singing it, she got this on her recorder:

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A few moments later, she decided to try a Christmas carol (having run out of memorized hymns), even though this was still early October. Then, about an hour or so after Katie’s group had left to go investigate somewhere else, Kurt and Mark were camped out nearby on the first floor of the old dorms (which leads into the church) recording for EVPs. They were sitting quietly when this happened:

Phone

In the clip, Mark and Kurt are sitting quietly when you hear something start to play an electronic version of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”. Mark asks Kurt if that’s his cell phone, and he tells him that it isn’t. After taking *everything* out of his pockets (recorder, digital camera, walkie talkie, etc…), Kurt finally takes out his cell phone, and realizes that the sound actually *IS* coming from his phone.
What makes this so unusual is, Kurt says that song isn’t anywhere on his cell phone. He says he knows what ringtones he has, and he knows what sounds are on his phone, and he can say with 100% certainty that “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” is *not* anywhere on there. And add to this the fact that it happened in the building that we seemed to catch most of our paranormal activity in. Other electronic equipment has been known to act a little strange in this building, too.
Kurt also says that the sound plays at a much lower volume than his ringtones and other sounds do, and the sound seemed to be coming not from the speaker, but more from actually somewhere inside the phone.
When he hit a button on the phone, the song stopped.
He says he has no explanation for this. His phone isn’t very advanced, so there is no way that someone could send him the sound without him knowing.
It could have been a glitch in the system, or some kind of hidden “Easter Egg” on the phone, but why would it play THAT song in October?
He says that honestly he didn’t put much thought into it at the time, passing it off more or less as a glitch. When they got back to the main building, however, and Katie told him how they had been singing Christmas carols in the church not too long before this happened, it really made him wonder.
Was it a glitch, a strange coincidence, or something else?

MISC. POSSIBLE EVPS:
Recorded May 1, 2005 by Katie during our initial walkthrough of the old school building. Katie and Barry have stopped to chat somewhere on the first floor and this came through:

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Again, recorded May 1, 2005 by Katie. Recorded after we entered Father Oschwald’s crypt in the Salvatorian Cemetery just above the property:

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Recorded May 1, 2005 by Katie. Katie’s camera has failed and as she is fussing with it, this came through. The person she’s talking to is the owner. It could be a human whisper, but why would someone say THIS in the vicinity of a client?

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Recorded on the first night of our investigation by Kurt. Kurt is counting down to taking a picture. In the background you can hear some smacking sounds that could be someone shifting? Then you hear what could be a cry or could just be other investigators closeby? The laugh at the beginning was Barry. Kurt says he doesn’t remember hearing anything when this was recorded:

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Recorded November 13 when Kurt was there by himself helping the owner clean. He was in the old dorms sweeping the floor and the owner was outside. There was only one other person on the grounds at the time, and there were no females anywhere:

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FINAL ANALYSIS: There aren’t ghosts in white sheets rattling chains at JFK Prep, but based on our findings I think *something* is going on there. But it’s also exaggerated (about 90% of the time we were there nothing was happening), and a lot of the stories are nonsense, like the town being cursed and Father Oschwald being evil. I don’t believe the place is evil or demonic or that there’s anything dangerous there. Most of the time it just felt peaceful. I think there’s a lot of imagination and psychology involved. I think if you go in to a big spooky place like this shivering with fear and anticipating being possessed by evil spirits, in your *head* you’re going to get an attachment and be followed home. The couple of people that I’ve met who claim that they were followed around by something while they were here were all people who were quivering with fear before they even set foot on the grounds. I think it’s in your head. Go in with a level head, and nothing can hurt you. Also, a lot of the stories about JFK Prep that you can find on the internet were written by teenagers and young kids who were trespassing, and I wouldn’t give them much credibility because they were after all just after a cheap thrill.

Midwest Preternatural Research are independent paranormal investigators located in Sheboygan, WI. To learn more about them and what they do, visit www.midwestpreternaturalresearch.com

The Colbert Healthcare Challenge: Part 2

I know you’ve all been eagerly waiting to hear about my adventures with the House healthcare reform bill. Well, I am currently on page 143 of the 1018 page document. As readers know, I am not afraid of a long and winding document. United States Constitution and Bill of Rights? A 19 page cake walk. Constitution of Iraq? A frustrating, but manageable 43 page read. The Malaysian Constitution? A very challenging 650 page quagmire, but I got the job done. I walked into this challenge cocky and confident. (Don’t remember the challenge? Click here.)

Here’s the thing, when everyone in the media reported on the bill, they said it was 1000 pages long. What they failed to mention is that it isn’t merely a 1000 page read. It is a 1000 page, soul crushing, life diminishing, tortured read. Mr. Gingrich, Newt, I apologize. You had every right to snort at the idea of reading this bill. Compared to you, I’m a young woman, with years ahead of me. You, on the other hand, have got to be in your 60’s. You don’t have the years to spare to have them sucked out of you by attempting to navigate this document. I now understand Newt, and I apologize.

So what I’m saying is, ouch, this is not an easy thing to digest. It’s constantly referencing other sections of the bill, and nine times out of ten it’s a section nowhere near the section you’re reading. The language is fairly clear, it has to be considering page 39 is sure to state:

PLAIN LANGUAGE.—In this subsection, the term “plain language” means language that the intended audience, including individuals with limited English proficiency, can readily understand and use because that language is clean, concise, well-organized, and follows other best practices of plain language writing.

“Concise and well-organized” is debatable, but I knew what all the words were, although occasionally despite reading statement out loud I still didn’t quite understand what it meant.

In defense of how outrageously long and complex the bill is, I have to say I hadn’t quite grasped the ripple effect of adding a government provided health option to our nation’s health care mix. You need to figure out who will manage it, how they will manage it, what it does to the tax code, how it may affect Medicare, and so much more. It’s this long because they’re attempting to be thorough.

That said, yes, I now understand why it’s so long and complex, that doesn’t actually make it any easier for me, Rebecca the Blogger, (Yes media outlets, contact me, I’m totally the next Joe the Plumber. If he can get a whole new career out of one question, I certainly deserve one for attempting this.) to read. Here’s the notables:

– I haven’t seen anything that looks like death panels.
– Looks like they want to lay the smack down on insurance companies: no dropping people suddenly, no denial due to pre-existing conditions, making sure all plans offer something with regards to hospitalization, outpatient hospital and clinic services, services of doctors and health care professionals, prescription drugs, Rehabilitative and habilitative services, Mental health and substance use disorder services, preventive services, maternity and infant care, no co-pays for preventive care.
– They are trying to make sure you can keep your current insurance if you like it.
– So far I’ve yet to see anything that looks like a socialist plot to take control of our federal government.

There you have it, the feeble sum up of the first 143 pages of the bill. Sweet mother, at this rate it will take me around two months to get through it all. I’ll keep working at it, but I suspect the bill will be passed, dumped, or radically altered by the time I get done reading this version.

There is one point I would like to make here, if you all will indulge me for a moment. I am not a politician nor am I a political analyst. I don’t even get paid to write for this website. I am not a professional anything. Yet here I am, struggling to wrangle this monster of a bill. I’m doing it out of a desire to try to be an educated citizen, and also to get some amusing blog content. Although I apologized to Newt, I’m outraged that a leader in the political arena would dare pretend to understand the bill without having ever read it. You make a LIVING with this stuff. You have a staff that could read it for you and give you a power point presentation. I got nothing. I’m a woman of average intellect with a PDF document that has nothing to gain by attempting to be versed in the nuances of this bill. Major news outlets aren’t asking me for an interview on the subject. I don’t have books to hustle. If you haven’t read the bill, I don’t want to hear your thoughts on it. Period.

Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now, because honestly, I can’t afford to lose any more time to writing this, I still have 875 pages to read.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Okay, maybe not the MOST, but certainly one of my favorite times of the year. What time is that? When Llewellyn starts busting out their annuals.

Although I’m not a practicing Witch, Wiccan, or Pagan, even I appreciate the detail in their yearly date books. Seriously, I save those bad boys. You never know when you’ll want to know the moon phase on a particular day in 2003. That statement may explain why I keep running out of room for books in my home.

Now that you know that, you’ll understand why I was in full on geek bliss when I received copies of Llewellyn’s “2010 Witches’ Companion” and Llewellyn’s “Sabbats Almanac: Samhain 2009 to Mabon 2010”. Let’s break it down, shall we?

The “2010 Witches’ Companion” has over 20 essays divided up into the categories of “Community Forum: Provocative Opinions on Contemporary Issues”, “Witchy Living: Day-by-Day Witchcraft”, “Witchcraft Essentials: Practices, Rituals, and Spells”, and “Magical Transformations: Everything Old is New Again”. Nice, right? Let’s delve in a little deeper now. Within those categories are articles from loads of authors who have been featured on this very website: “Giving Back to the Spirit World” by Lupa (who wrote “An Abbreviated Introduction to Chaos Magic” for us back in January 2008), “Cyber Altars: Using New Technology in Traditional Ways” by Lisa McSherry (she was interviewed by us back in 2007 and she recently contributed to our Wiccan Rede Project), “Crafting the Perfect Spell” and “The Modern Eclectic Coven” by Deborah Blake (who we interviewed in September 2008), and “Color Magick” by Raven Digitalis (who we enjoy so much that we interviewed him in November of 2007 and again in August 2008). Along with those, and more wonderful essays, you also get a lunar calendar, a monthly break down with the dominant astrological signs, and a moon void-of-course tables. All of THAT for $10. Why on earth wouldn’t you buy this? It’s entertaining, informative, and a great way to get acquainted with several authors…for only $10! Let me say it one more time….only ten dollars.

Now for the “Sabbats Almanac”. This book is divided up by the eight sabbats, surprising, right? This collection is an amazing look at the history and modern celebration of these holidays. This includes rituals, recipes, craft ideas, planetary influences, and family activities. The list of contributing authors is impressive, and again features some Magical Buffet favorites. The previously mentioned Deborah Blake contributes “Spring Equinox” and “An Ostara Ritual for New Goals”. She is joined by Thuri Calafia (who we interviewed in December 2008) who authored “May Day” and “A Beltane Ritual: Erotic Energy” .There are also two essays, “Summer’s End” and “A Mabon Mystery: John Barleycorn”, by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart (who we were honored to interview in January 2008). This book is so much fun! Since I love food so much, I have to admit I enjoyed reading the recipes the most! If you’re looking for new insights and ideas for celebrating the sabbats, this book is a must!

Hopefully you now understand why I can call this one of the most wonderful times of the year!

Loving the Lusca

Illustration by Will Hobbs

For some reason I love the idea of giant sea creatures. All those in search of the giant squid shows on the Discovery Channel – watched them. Ditto when they bust out the giant octopus stuff – I’m there. I don’t know what about them that I like so much. Perhaps, oddly, it’s the romanticism of the giant sea creature. I know it sounds funny, but for some reason a giant sea squid makes me think of multi-masted ships getting taken into the briny deep for venturing off the map. The ocean is still so vast that we continually discover new things living there. And that although doubtful, I can still entertain the idea that one day I’ll be watching BBC America news in the morning (because it’s back!) and hear a neutral voice with a British accent explain that a ship has been destroyed off the coast of some country by some giant tentacled thing from the deep.

This brings me to the lusca.

It is said by some, and by some I mean cryptozoology fans and Bahamian tourist websites, that in the blue holes (vertical caves) of the waters off of Andros, which is an island in the Bahamas, you may find the lusca. The lusca seems to generally be described as a giant, massive octopus, but like all creatures that end up of legend, it also has been described as half octopus, half shark, or as a multi-headed creature reminiscent of a dragon.

The scientific community, when feeling generous, will say that perhaps the lusca is an example of a colossal squid, or giant octopus, but since the stories put the size at anywhere between 75 to 200 feet long, most find the idea of the lusca existing in it’s traditional dragonish, shark/octopus, form unlikely.

Of course there will always be those, who like me, keep awaiting the return of the giant mythical sea creature. We have a resurgence in piracy, can the creatures that accompany the pirate mythos be that far behind?

Challenge Accepted Mr. Colbert

While catching up on my DVRed episodes of “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” it was hard to miss that the big news, and comedy, of the day is the battle over healthcare reform. Obviously I have my opinions on the subject, and I understand and share many of the concerns of many Americans. Also, being the often mean-spirited person that I am, I’m greatly enjoying the comic stylings of Stewart and Colbert as they cover this issue. But then, on the August 10, 2009 episode of “The Colbert Report”, it happened.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Death Panels
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Meryl Streep

That sounds like a challenge to me! That’s right, I went to CNN’s special healthcare website and downloaded the infamous 1018 page current House healthcare reform bill. I will do the thing that seems increasingly obvious that most politicians and television personalities won’t do, I am going to read the bill.

Keep in mind that this bill isn’t even finalized yet. It’s not at the point where anyone will be voting on it, and most likely will change dramatically. But since this version, right now, is the one that is just too big to bother to read, I made sure to download it to my computer, just in case it disappears from the internet.

I will be sacrificing time that could be spent reading awesome stuff, like Colleen Deatsman’s new book “Seeing in the Dark” or the Llewellyn’s “2010 Witches’ Companion” and “Sabbats Almanac”, in order to man up and read this bill that everyone else seems unwilling to read, but more than willing to discuss as if they have.

Challenge accepted Mr. Colbert.

3 Steps Forward, 2 Steps Back: The Iraqi Two-Step

Like many Americans, I don’t know how we ended up in Iraq. Just one day I turned on the news, and there we were, toppling Hussein’s regime. I think that I, like many of us from countries who have committed troops to Iraq, feel that we ended up there undereducated and under confused circumstances, but that if at the end of the day Iraqis could experience the security and freedoms that we have, it would be worth it.

And things have changed. Despite continued violence Iraqis have started experiencing a new life. One where stores sell alcohol (Is there such a thing as Iraqi Rum, and if so, can someone get me some?), Turkish soap operas are on the television, and internet cafes have started allowing the youth of Iraq to experience the joys of Facebook refusing to upload their photos (Simple photo uploader my butt, is all I’m saying.) Any change that allows a whole new group of people access to my website, well that is change I can believe in.

But quietly, the Iraqi government has been taking steps to begin censoring, monitoring, and denying access to books and the internet to its citizens. According to The New York Time’s article on August 4, 2009 “this spring the government contacted the handful of Iraqi book publishers still in business and asked them to compile lists of their books, along with a description of the subject matter. The material is to be kept at the Ministry of Culture, which is also preparing a document to be signed by publishers in which they will pledge not to distribute books the government deems offensive.”

The Associated Press stated in their article that “the plan to strengthen government control of content and usage will require Internet cafes – and later the service providers as well – to obtain licenses that are subject to government review and cancellation if compliance requirements are not met.”

The Journalistic Freedom Observatory is quoted by the Associated Press explaining that “the plan violates the Iraqi constitution, which guarantees the freedom of mail, telegrams, phone and electronic communications. The constitution, enacted in 2005, says such communications cannot be monitored, tabbed, or revealed.” Then I read in the New York Time’s piece that “Iraq’s Constitution is not clear on the matter. It guarantees freedom of expression, but only if it ‘does not violate public order and morality’.” Now wait, the Associated Press is going with the plan violating the Constitution but the New York Times is saying that the Constitution isn’t clear on the matter? Who is right?

Well, long time readers know that I’m not afraid to dive into another country’s constitution. I still have fevered dreams of wading through all 165 pages of the Malaysian constitution. The good news is Iraq’s constitution comes in at a pitiful 43 pages, still more than ours, but considerably less than Malaysia. So after several glasses of wine and a whole lot of talking to my computer monitor I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone is right.

Article 40 does guarantee “The freedom of communication and correspondence, postal, telegraphic, electronic, and telephonic, shall be guaranteed and may not be monitored, wiretapped, or disclosed except for legal and security necessity and by a judicial decision.” And Article 38 does read much like America’s First Amendment, guaranteeing, “Freedom of expression using all means. Freedom of press, printing, advertisement, media and publication. Freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration, and this shall be regulated by law.” But those are actually sections A, B, and C of the Article. The Article begins with “The State shall guarantee in a way that does not violate public order and morality:” And that to me seems like an awesome way to at any point decide that something “violates morality”. I mean, with a qualifier like that, why bother?

To put it into perspective, I can say right here on my publicly viewed website that I think Taher Naser al-Hmood (Iraq’s deputy cultural minister) is dooty head and that I would encourage someone to kick him in the shin. To say that here in the United States gets you nothing, even if I said I would encourage someone to kick President Obama in the shin, it still merits no attention. (You’ve got to make credible threats against the President’s life to get a visit from the nice men in suits with guns. Don’t ask me how I know.) However, to make that statement about Taher Naser al-Hmood in Iraq, let’s say by a frustrated teen on his Facebook page, could get an entire internet service provider shut down, assuming Taher takes offense, and that these laws are passed.

This brings me to something I discovered while wading through Iraq’s Constitution that got no mention by The New York Times or the Associated Press. That might mean it’s nothing, or that I’m reading it wrong. I’m not even an expert on America’s Constitution, let alone Iraq’s! However, here it is. The second section of Article 126 of Iraq’s Constitution states “The fundamental principles mentioned in Section One and the rights and liberties mentioned in Section Two (which is where the Articles mentioned are from) of the Constitution may not be amended except after two successive electoral terms, with the approval of two-thirds of the members of the Council of Representatives, the approval of the people in a general referendum, and the ratification by the President of the Republic within seven days.” This says to me there could potentially be a vote about the changes being proposed. Of course, the government can avoid it by arguing that they are not amending those Articles, they are merely putting things in place to ensure that things in the press, books, or on the internet do not “violate public order and morality”. See what I mean about why bothering?

Benjamin Franklin said “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Iraq is a country struggling to secure itself. They want what every nation wants, to live in peace. To help the process along, their government feels that by censoring what its citizens can read will make a difference. And let’s say it works. By not being able to read things critical of Islam, or seeing violent images, or watching scantily clad women shake their badonkadonks on You Tube, the violence in Iraq decreases. Congratulations Iraqi government, you saved Iraq from violence, but in the process of saving it, you’ve taken it back to the policies that existed under Saddam Hussein. Congratulations.

Update: I’m pleased to say, the journalists, authors, and publishers of Iraq are fighting back! Click here!

Compassion and Meditation

I’m not entirely sure of the statistical accuracy, but according to Adherents.com there are roughly 376 million Buddhists worldwide, with the 2008 Pew Survey saying there are roughly 2 million Buddhists in America. Even if these surveys aren’t entirely accurate, it’s safe to sum up that there are a whole lotta’ Buddhists out there. And yet, how much do most of us Americans know about this religion? I’ll admit that despite penning an article here and there that discuss a facet of the faith, I don’t know that much. I’m guessing many of you guys reading this don’t know much either.

Is Buddhism an exotic religion, filled with themes and ideas that are alien to our predominately Christian nation? Not according to Jean-Yves Leloup, author of “Compassion and Meditation: The Spiritual Dynamic Between Buddhism and Christianity”.

Leloup weaves a soothing tapestry between Buddhist and Christian thought. The author shows that compassion and spiritual integrity can be found easily in both faiths, and that the Buddhist practice of meditation and the Christian tradition of hesychast is a profound tie that binds.

“Compassion and Meditation” is meant to be a meaningful examination of the similarities of the two faiths (which it is), but it also serves as an introduction to many basic Buddhist concepts, and the presumably (I hadn’t heard of it before this book.) little heard of practice of hesychast.

If you’re looking to learn a little about Buddhism, and see a side of Christianity that is rarely discussed, this book is a must read.

Tree Medicine, Magic, and Lore: Elder

By Ellen Evert Hopman
Illustration by Will Hobbs

Elder trees are intimately associated with the Fairies. On the isle of Man an Elder was planted by the door just for them. Cutting one down is a profound insult to the Fey Folk who will desert a house where that has happened.

Elder is also associated with Elda Mor (Hylde-Moer), the Elder Mother, a powerful feminine spirit who lives in the tree. Other names for the Elder Mother are Frau Holle or Frau Ellhorn. Elda Mor is a good Goddess to petition whenever there is sickness, especially in children.

The Elder Mother is sometimes regarded as a Goddess of Death and the Underworld. Irish Witch’s brooms were made from Elder twigs. Slavic gypsies wore a wreath of Elder at Halloween so that they could see the spirits soaring by on their brooms, goats, and dragons.

Lithuanians left offerings for Puschkeit, Lord of the Underworld, under an Elder tree at twilight. The Jews of old Prague planted Elder trees in their cemeteries. In the Tyrolean Alps Elder wood crosses were planted on graves. In Britain a hearse driver’s crop was made of Elder wood. Elder branches planted near a grave are said to protect the dead.

Elder branches are easily hollowed making them ideal for bellows and pipes. Tradition holds that the sweetest music comes from Pan Pipes made from Elders growing far from human habitation. If an entire tree is cut down however, any furniture made from it will likely be haunted by the Elder Spirit and is bound to buckle, split, or warp.

In Shropshire, England, it was said that burning Elder in the fireplace would lead to a death in the family and it was a very bad idea to use its wood for a cradle, as the tree’s spirit would attack the child. This was no doubt a way of discouraging the cutting of these valuable medicinal trees. The fresh branches are hung in the cowshed and the house to repel flies. Elder leaves are used in natural insecticides, in 1772 Christopher Gullett reported that cabbages, turnips, and fruit trees could be healed of blight by whipping them with leafy Elder branches.

Witches are said to be able to transform themselves into Elder trees. Warts can be cured by cutting as many notches into an Elder twig as there are warts and then burying the twig in the garden during a waning moon. Elder stake in the ground is said to last longer than an iron bar. An old saying in Sussex;

“An eldern stake and blackthorn ether,
will make a hedge that lasts forever”.

The long association of Elder with Witches probably came about due to Elder’ formidable healing properties. Every part of the tree is medicinally active. The berries are edible in preserves and baked goods and help the lungs and blood when taken as tea. Elder wine benefits rheumatism and neuralgia. The fresh leaves and flowers are used in skin healing salves a fungus that grows on the tree (Hirneola auricula-judae) is used for throat infections.

The bark of the root clears congestion, eases headache, and makes a poultice for mastitis. The tincture of the flowers promotes perspiration and lowers fever. Elderflower water is a traditional remedy for sunburn and skin blemishes, added to the bath it soothes the nerves. Cold Elderflower tea can be applied to eye inflammations and Elderflower oil is rubbed on the sore nipples of nursing mothers.

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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Me Gusta Goya Malta

When I know in advance that there is a restaurant I’ll be going out to eat at, I generally look to see if they have a website with a menu. This is a good way for me to see if there is something that looks tasty that is low in calories and fat (Thank you restaurants that provide nutritional information!), or if it’s hopeless and I should just order whatever the heck I want. Well a while back, in anticipation of trying mofongo (which fell through), I was looking at an online menu for a Caribbean restaurant. Listed amongst their beverages was Goya Malta.

I’m never shy to admit to myself, or anyone else, that I certainly do not know everything about food and drink, and Goya Malta was a thing I had never encountered. Undaunted, I Googled it.

Of course there was an entry on Wikipedia all about it. It turns out that Goya is the brand name and that Malta is the beverage itself. According to the Wiki folks, “Malta is a type of soft drink. It is a carbonated malt beverage, meaning it is brewed from barley, hops, and water much like beer; corn and caramel color may also be added. However, malta is non-alcoholic. It is similar in color to stout (dark brown) but is very sweet, generally described as tasting like molasses. Unlike beer, ice is often added to malta when consumed. A popular way Latin Americans sometimes drink malta is by mixing it with condensed or evaporated milk.”

This sounded intriguing, and so when my plans to go to the Caribbean restaurant fell through, and I happened upon a six pack of Goya Matla in the horribly named “ethnic” food section of my grocery store, I decided the time to try it was now.

Never having tried it before, I took a few sips of it chilled straight out of the bottle. To be perfectly honest, it has a horrible aroma. I accidentally inhaled a nose full of it, which made my first few sips pretty weird. I then decided to pour it over ice. This time I was careful of my inhales and took a sip. Delicious! It’s a truly hard flavor to describe. It tastes like molasses, like a very strong, yet spiced root beer, and occasionally I thought it had a hint of coffee flavor about it. Soon I didn’t even notice the aroma. I could see why it’s frequently served with condensed milk, since I spent the rest of the glass thinking that Goya Malta would make an awesome beverage for an ice cream float.

So, I tried an odd soda, what’s with a whole blog post about it? Well, when trying to decide if I should share with everyone my Goya Malta adventure (Dude, I’m a boring person. Goya Malta IS an adventure for me.) I did another internet search about the beverage. What I found was a whole lot of passion for one little bottle of nonalcoholic beer.

UrbanDictionary.com proclaims Goya Malta to be “The most disgusting substance imaginable.” One angry individual felt so violated at how nasty he found Goya Malta, that he (or she) set up a website for people to share their personal stories of disgust about the drink. Then the Goya Malta fear hit a whole new level. “Can drinking warm malta goya and alka seltzer cause an abortion?” asks on_punishment_4_lyfe on Yahoo Answers. Holy cow, okay, my husband found it nasty tasting and refused to take a second sip, but abortion inducing?! And just when I thought this was an isolated incident, I find someone on WikiAnswers.com asking “Does drinking a hot Malta Goya kill the baby?” Holy cow, this definitely tops soda and pop rocks for sheer spooky bizarreness. It was then that I realized yes, I should tell the world:

I drank Goya Malta. I liked it. I suffered no ill effects (other than the increased calorie intake).

Normally I don’t show up in photos here on the website because I don’t feel I photograph well, but I feel so strongly about proving my point that I like Goya Malta and it didn’t kill me, or upset my stomach or anything, that I give you this compelling photographic evidence.













Me gusta Goya Malta.