The Living Magick Tarot Challenge: November 2010

Images Courtesy of Living Magick

A few months back I found myself thumbing through a magazine and I found an advertisement for a company I’d never heard of called Living Magick. Their ad touted the release of “self study flash cards” for astrology, runes, and tarot. I said to myself, flash cards! Brilliant! Why haven’t I seen anything like this before? The “Tarot Learning Cards” in particular really got my attention.

It’s no secret that I love me some tarot cards, but I’ve repeatedly lamented, online and otherwise, that I cannot sit down and do a basic tarot reading. I don’t feel psychically inclined so the idea of using intuition to read the cards, which seems pretty popular these days, holds no interest to me. I’ve wanted to really learn the cards and be able to give a technically correct reading. I know that kills a lot of the romance of tarot cards but what can I say, I’m an occult fan girl, it’s the technical aspect of these things that matter to me. So I sent an email to Living Magick pitching them the idea that I get a deck of their “Tarot Learning Cards” and I’ll chronicle my attempts to finally, at long last, learn tarot. The folks at Living Magick were terribly nice and very enthusiastic. Next thing you know, I’ve got myself a deck of “Tarot Learning Cards”!

Despite how excited I was to get the deck I made sure to wait until November 1st to open the box. I wanted to be able to give a 100% honest account of what I accomplished with the deck in the first month. Here we go!

I opened the box and thumbed through the cards. The most obvious thing was that the cards are not playing card sized or the traditional tarot card size. The cards are more square, very much like a deck of flash cards you may have used in school to learn math or letters. For those of you truly curious, the dimensions of the cards are 3.75″ x 5.25″. They are very basic in appearance, with the Major Arcana having the name of the card with its corresponding number in Roman numerals on the front and a nice brown and white border. The Minor Arcana are the same, but instead of the Roman numerals they have an image of their suit; cups, swords, wands, and pentacles. The backs contain information about the card, but more on that later.

After taking a look at the tarot card portion of the deck I turned my attention to the six supplemental cards that came with the deck. The cards included information about the associated elements to the various suits, numerology, terminology, information about reversals, general information about the Court cards of the deck, a list of recommended reading, and most important to me and my task at hand, how to use the deck.

Since I wanted to give you guys the real deal on how Living Magick’s “Tarot Learning Cards” worked I decided to follow the advice on the card about how to use the deck. They suggest that you break the deck down into manageable parts, adding that the Major Arcana is good place to start. I thought that sounded like a good approach so I dedicated November to learning the Major Arcana with the idea that next would be each suit of the Minor Arcana, then the Court cards, and then start over to work on the reversals, as was outlined on the “how to use the deck” card.

I had thought that like an elementary school student I would need someone to run me through the flash cards, but actually with the sturdy cards I really could run myself through them without needing someone else to hold the cards to “keep me honest”. The back of each card lists the theme, astrological association, and general keywords associated with the card. I’m happy to say at this point I am familiar with the overall theme of each of the Major Arcana cards and their astrological associations. I’m still struggling to remember a few of them, and I definitely still need to work on remembering more of the keywords. However, knowing the themes goes a long way to figuring out at least some of the keywords associated with each card.

You might be thinking geez Rebecca, a whole month and you couldn’t learn 22 stinkin’ cards? Here’s the thing, I had a few setbacks this past month. Generally I would devote 10-15 minutes an evening to run through the cards, but often times I skipped weekends, and I lost a week to illness. I think if I had that lost week back I would have the Major Arcana down cold. As it is, I’m rather pleased with what I accomplished. I have a terrible memory, so getting as far as I did in one month probably means that an average person could already be onto another section of the deck by now. Yes, the deck really does work; all you need to do is be able to dedicate 10-15 minutes a day to the task.

I’m thrilled with my progress this month with Living Magick’s “Tarot Learning Cards” and I can’t wait to learn more! The tarot deck is working so well for me that I’m seriously considering tackling astrology or runes too, at some point. I plan on sharing with you my progress each month so you can see how the deck works out for me.

Yes my friends, Rebecca has taken on yet another challenge! First it was “The Colbert Healthcare Challenge”. Then it was the “Everyday Dharma Challenge”. Now I’m proud to introduce the “Living Magick Tarot Challenge”! Stay tuned!

Cruisin’ with Dr. Boozin’: Part One

At the end of September I, with my husband and parents, took a cruise to Bermuda. It was on this exact same cruise, right down to the same ship, that I took, again with husband and parents, four years ago that introduced me to the joys of rum. As this latest cruise approached, I was a woman on a mission. I was going to dive down deep into the land of rum cocktails and chronicle my findings here, for all my readers. That’s right, if you’re reading this, you are totally my enabler. Thanks!

On our previous cruise we toasted each other at the champagne bar after dinner on the first night. It seemed like a fine tradition, so after our first dinner out at sea the four of us went to the aptly titled Champagne Bar to again toast to another wonderful cruise. Four years ago the Champagne Bar was a champagne bar. Let me explain. Four years ago the drink menu had only champagne and a handful of classic champagne cocktails, like Mimosas, to choose from. In fact, it was the only bar on the ship that wasn’t equipped to serve “the drink of the day”. When my husband ordered it, a bartender left to go to the next closest bar to pick one up for him while our champagne drinks were being prepared.

This time around the menu still had a variety champagnes but it also had an expanded champagne cocktail menu and a variety of other non-champagne cocktails. It was that evening that I witnessed my first bar fight. Yes, a bar fight at the Champagne Bar. I know! However, far more exciting than that was my husband’s drink choice, the Sparkling Mojito. What remarkable alchemy was this? A sparkling champagne flute, filled with bubbly that tasted faintly of mint with a tiny bit of lime floating in the glass. It was my husband’s drink of choice for the rest of the cruise. We would walk by the Champagne Bar and the bartenders would wave to us every time, occasionally even calling out our names. This is delicious we thought, but obviously too complicated to recreate at home. We were wrong.

One evening instead of having table service my husband ordered his Sparkling Mojito at the bar and was stunned to find out how stupidly simple it is. Okay kids, ready to learn how to make delicious and affordable Sparkling Mojitos at home? Here we go. Take a champagne flute and pour into it a shot glass worth of Mojito mix. Yes, I’m absolutely anti Mojito mix…..for Mojitos, but for this, it’s the way to go. We used Stirrings Simple Mojito that we bought at our local grocery store. Then pour in champagne until the flute is full. For champagne we went with a suggestion I got a few years back when looking for an affordable but tasty champagne, Cook’s California Champagne Brut. (As you may suspect, long time food and drink confidant Greg of What Greg Eats made the suggestion.) The bottle of Cook’s we bought cost $8.00. There you have it folks, a cheap ass champagne cocktail to amaze your friends. If you’re feeling fancy you can float a mint leaf and some small diced lime in it.

During our cruise my father mentioned that he had read online that the cruise line we were using is trying to break into the market in Brazil. Perhaps that’s why I saw Caipirinhas on one of the bar menus. The Caipirinha is very similar to the Mojito. In fact, if you want to learn more about them you can go to Google and type in “Brazilian Mojito” and you’ll be taken directly to Caipirinha. Mojitos tend to be sweet and refreshing. The Caipirinha had a touch of bitterness to it, you could taste some of the rind of the lime. I have no way of knowing if this is appropriate or traditional to the drink, but I enjoyed the slightly sour, slightly bitter version of the Mojito. It was refreshing in its own way.

Behold the Caipirinha! I'm sure it was the camera that was out of focus, not me.

Check back next week when I’ll be dishing a little more on my cruise ship drinking and will reveal where the title “Crusin’ with Dr. Boozin'” came from!

10 Questions with Benjamin E. Zeller

1. To start my readers off on level ground, can you tell them what you mean when you say “new religious movement”?

Generally, a new religious movement (abbreviated as “NRM”) is a religion that has formed in the past 50-60 years. That is a moving target, which means that some groups that were NRMs when scholars first coined the term in the 1970s are really stretching the limits of the word “new” by now. The Nation of Islam, for example, is often considered a NRM, but it was founded in 1931!

Scholars tend to use the term “new religious movement” where many other people would say “cult.” That’s because cult is a pejorative and subjective term. Who says they belong to a cult? Southern Baptists consider Mormons a cult. (But some people consider Southern Baptists a cult too!) The Hare Krishnas, who I study, are often called a cult here in America, but in India they are seen as a traditional religious denomination.

2. How did you end up focusing on these new religious movements instead of more established religions like Judaism and Christianity?

New religions are bellwethers—they are fast-changing and usually led by self-proclaimed prophets or seers who claim to speak directly for the divine. This means that they can respond quickly and straightforwardly to the big issues of the day. Established religions take a longer time to do the same. The vast majority of sociological studies of the past 40 years have shown that the people who join NRMs are normal people. What appeals to them and drives their religious questioning are the same issues that percolate through wider culture. NRMs are the cutting edge, so to speak.

3. What made you decide to examine new religious movements with regards to their relationships with science?

I think that science (and its daughter, technology) is one of the most powerful forces in the modern world, along with religion. Everyone today needs to deal with science, whether they want to or not. And when I looked at NRMs, I found that they all talked about science, often making science a central issue in their theologies.

More personally, I’ve always been interested in both the study of science and religion. I’ve been a science geek since I was a child, and obviously religion is something I’ve decided to study professionally. For me, it was an obvious choice.

4. What can we learn about religion and science from what you discovered in researching these new religious movements’ thoughts on the subject?

I was just teaching a class recently on science and religion, and I started the class by asking the students what came to mind when they heard the phrase “religion and science.” Most of the students said that they thought of controversies and conflicts. But that isn’t the reality on the ground. From my study of new religious movements, what I found was creative tension, not conflict. This creative tension leads to a number of very inventive ways to rectify science and religion in those NRMs. Oftentimes (but not always), creative people and groups have found ways to deal with even sticky issues like evolution or the age of the earth. That’s not to say that there aren’t heated disagreements and conflicts over particular issues. But it’s much more complex than what we might expect from listening to sound bites.

5. The three new religious movements you discussed in your book “Prophets and Protons” were The International Society of Krishna Consciousness, Human Individual Metamorphosis (Total Overcomers Anonymous), and Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity; better known by most as Hare Krishnas, Heaven’s Gate, and the Moonies. Many label these organizations as cults, do you find some people become confrontational or offended by your study of these groups?

Well, some members of these groups are offended at being in the same category as the other ones! Remember, no one believes that they belong to a cult. I’ve had Hare Krishna members smirk when I say that I am studying the Moonies, and vice versa. But generally most people have understood that these groups are worth studying. I’ve given all sorts of talks on my research, not just at scholarly meetings but at bookstores and churches and such, and I’ve yet to have anyone tell me that they are offended by my work or that they disagree with my basic premise that controversial religions should be taken seriously and studied.

If I may make a comparison, it is like studying Creationists. One can study why people believe in Creationism without promoting or endorsing their specific religious positions. In fact, I think that these sort of non-mainstream groups need to be studied. We need to understand what power these ideas have, and why people find them attractive. Simply dismissing the odd or controversial is tantamount to the metaphorical ostrich sticking its head in the sand.

6. I hadn’t realized until reading your book that the Heaven’s Gate website was still up on the internet. Personally, I found it quite unnerving to Google “Heaven’s Gate” and BAM! Here’s essentially a website of suicide notes. Do you find it hard when studying a group that essentially killed itself off (literally and figuratively) to separate the academic research from the emotional response to some of what you learn?

Yes, it is difficult. Have you watched the “exit videos”—effectively video suicide notes? (You can find them at ) I disagree strongly with the choices they made. But I think it is very important to ask why they made those choices, and to recognize that they were in fact choices. Those suicide notes and videos are so disturbing because the members of Heaven’s Gate really believed in what they were doing, and they come across as rational people. If they were raving lunatics, it would be easier.

I never knew any of the original Heaven’s Gate members (though I did interview a former member, Rkkody, before his suicide a few months after the main ones). That being said, I look at my research as my own way to deal with the emotional response of their actions. We need to understand why they did what they did.

7. I was surprised to find that when choosing to study new religious movements and their relationships with science that Scientology didn’t come up. With its founder having been a prominent science fiction author, the groups’ use of things such as E-Meters and a sizeable internet presence, and with the word “science” almost literally in their name, it would seem like a match made in research heaven. How did Scientology not make the cut?

They were part of the original research, but they denied me access to their archives. My research is historical, and I need full access to their historical and current materials to do my work right. Scientology is at its heart an esoteric tradition, meaning that you need to be an insider to be allowed full access to the materials. Since I had a wealth of sources on the other groups, and my research on Scientology was so limited, I decided to drop them from the final project. I hope one day they open all their religious sources to scholars. That is what the Hare Krishnas and Unification Church have done.

8. The Magical Buffet are big Flying Spaghetti Monster fans! Is the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and its adherents, the Pastafarians, a new religious movement?

Depends on your definition of religion! If you define religion as belief-based, then I am not sure. Do people really—I mean really, really—believe the faith statements promulgated by the Church? Most Pastafarians I’ve met don’t. On the other hand, there are other ways to define religion. Religion can be based on shared values, or community, or self-identification. In those regards, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a new religious movement.

9. I greatly enjoyed “Prophets and Protons: New Religious Movements and Science in Late Twentieth Century America”. What’s your next project I can look forward to?

I’m working on two projects. One is a longer study of Heaven’s Gate. The group fascinates me, and I am always looking for a new angle to understand it. The new project tries to understand the relationship of Heaven’s Gate to wider currents in American culture, like conspiracy thinking and apocalypticism. In that way—connecting a controversial group to wider culture—it is a lot like the first book, just more focused on this one group.

The other project is on science as a religion. There are several groups and people I could look at, and I am still mulling over the options. One possibility is to look at social/scientific movements like environmentalism as a new religion. The other is to look to how working scientists engage and respond to religious ideas. Regardless of which direction I take with the research, I will continue to study the nexus of science and religion.

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

How did you decide on the name “Magical Buffet”?

Ah, that’s right, you weren’t around here for the original Magical Buffet. Initially The Magical Buffet was a monthly online e-zine that focused entirely on religion and spirituality. I became inspired while watching the movie “Big Trouble in Little China” for probably the hundredth time, if not more. A character in the movie, Egg Shen, says, “Of course the Chinese mix everything up, look at what we have to work with. There’s Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoist alchemy and sorcery. We take what we want and leave the rest…. Just like your salad bar.” That had me realize a lot could be gained by offering up articles introducing readers to as many different ideas as possible, enabling them to “Take What They Want, and Leave the Rest”.

However, I had other interests; music, food, politics, and I realized that those were also communities and that I would have even more fun and potentially more could be gained by my introducing all these different communities, spiritual and otherwise, to each other so The Magical Buffet still seems like an appropriate name for the site. And let’s face it, it’s a cool name.

About Benjamin E. Zeller: Benjamin E. Zeller researches religion in America, focusing on religious currents that are new or alternative, including new religions, the religious engagement with science, and the quasi-religious relationship people have with food. His book, “Prophets and Protons: New Religious Movements and Science in Late Twentieth-Century America” (NYU Press, 2010) considers how three new religious movements engaged science and what they reveal of broader culture. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina, and a Masters of Theological Studies from Harvard University. Zeller serves as Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Coordinator of the Religion and Philosophy Major, and Director of the Honors Program at Brevard College, a private liberal arts college in North Carolina’s Appalachian mountains.

The Sun and Moon Tarot

This review is way overdue. For months now the adorable box for the “Sun and Moon Tarot” by Vanessa Decort has been sitting on my desk, continually being reached over, moved to different stacks on my desk, and just generally being overlooked. I kept meaning to open it up, but other stuff managed to always force its way past the box to the front of the line.

I’m sorry “Sun and Moon Tarot”; I should have opened you sooner because now I see what I have been missing. The “Sun and Moon Tarot” may be the most adorable tarot deck of all time. Vanessa Decort’s art for it is just so darn cute! She definitely colors outside the lines with her artistic interpretation of the tarot; playing with various cultures in her work. I wish I could sit here and wax poetically about it, but every time I look at a card I just find myself smiling and thinking, that is so damn adorable!

I mean here, look:

The Five of Swords

Has a Five of Swords ever looked cuter?

Or how about this?

The Hermit

How awesome is that Hermit?

Beside the art, (Did I mention how much I love it?) the “Sun and Moon Tarot” integrates numerology and Sephirot, the tree of life in Judaic mysticism, so each card in the Major Arcana is linked to a symbol from the 22 character Hebrew alphabet.

I decided to try out numerology to find my personal archetype following the instructions that Decort outlines in 40 page booklet that comes with the deck. Here we go:

Count up the numbers of your birth date, including the date, month, and year. Following her example I take my birthday May 29, 1976 and break it down.

5 + 2 + 9 + 1 + 9 +7+ 6 = 39

If the number is higher than 21, you add the numbers together again, like this.

3 + 9 = 12

This number is The Hanged Man in the tarot.

The Hanged Man

Oddly, I’ve always had affection for The Hanged Man. I’m not entirely sure why, perhaps it’s because he always looks at peace despite hanging there. Intrigued I flipped through the booklet to see what Decort says about The Hanged Man.

“Linked with Neptune. Associated with breaking away from old patterns, or reversal. You can flip the values of society or break through them. Hold on to something that is larger than your personal power, namely a higher belief, or a new point of view. The tree symbolizes the kabalistic tree of life, or the Sephirot in Judaic mysticism. The ankh is the Egyptian symbol of infinite vitality. The yoga pose, shown upside down, is the Tree. The Hebrew character Mem represents water.”

And now my affection for The Hanged Man is even greater than before.

I can’t tell you how much I adore the “Sun and Moon Tarot”. It’s simple, whimsical art gives way to rich symbolism and well thought out design. Buy it now.

Freeze! It’s the Vice Squad! Part 6: Rap Music Strikes Again!

Iran’s “Vice Squad” is a long time favorite topic here at The Magical Buffet. Those spunky individuals charged with insuring that the citizens of Iran don’t stray too far from the government’s “norms”. In other words, they spend a lot of time harassing women for wearing make-up or showing off a little ankle. However, back in December 2007 I took a moment to discuss Iran’s rap music problem. And oddly, nearly three years later, Iran’s relationship with rap music has again found its way into my news browser.

In 2007 I suggested that as much as it’s said foul language may be provoking the ire of the Iranian government, in actuality it’s rap music’s history of empowerment of the marginalized that truly concerns Iran. I said, “As those of us ‘old school’ rap fans here in America know, sure, the swear words concern Iran, but the anti-authority, revolution inspiring themes, are what is really causing the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry to crackdown on the genre.”

I think I may have been on to something considering that almost three years later CNN International is reporting that “Police in Tehran have arrested several members of underground Iranian rap groups, the semi-official ILNA news agency reported.

Tehran Police Chief Hussain Sajedinia told ILNA that several young boys and girls were discovered using vacant homes to record and videotape illegal rap music for various websites and satellite networks.

Police raided the homes, arrested the young musicians and confiscated ‘western style musical instruments’ and several bottles of liquor, according to ILNA.”

Tehran police chief Sajedinia, through ILNA, “accused Iran’s underground rap scene of spreading profanity and poisoning young minds.”

Reading this article made me have two thoughts. One, “poisoning young minds” sounds an awful lot like, “the anti-authority, revolution inspiring themes, are what is really causing the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry to crackdown on the genre.” (Aren’t I the savvy pundit?) Two, please someone tell me that the “western style musical instruments” were turn tables!

I find the fact that rap music persists in Iran to be an encouraging thing. In April 2010 when discussing music returning to Afghanistan I said, “Music matters. I don’t have facts and figures to back up that statement. Sure, I could go online and find them, but you know it’s true, so why fight with WordPress to create a link? Music inspires, educates, and liberates, that’s just how it is, no sense in denying it.” Despite a regime that wishes to stifle creativity, rap musicians are finding a way to make it work; working out of abandoned houses, getting their music out to the internet, selling CDs on the sly; that my friends is truly “old school” and assuredly “hard core”.

Making Zombies

In anticipation of Halloween my husband Jim announced he was going to start an “All Flesh Must Be Eaten” roleplaying campaign that would eventually lead up to the inevitable zombie apocalypse in 2012. (As an aside, in case you don’t know, as per Eden Studios website “All Flesh Must Be Eaten is a roleplaying game set in a world of survival horror. A world where the dead have come back from their graves.”) (As another aside, in case you don’t know, as per Steve Kenson, “A roleplaying game is something where you and some friends get together, create characters in an imaginary world, and play out their adventures using dice and a set of game rules to determine the outcomes, building the story as you go along.”) Are we all now on the same page? Good, because all of that is what you need to know to understand why in September I found myself wondering how to make a Zombie. Yes as you may now suspect, I won’t be telling you how to animate dead flesh to do your bidding, but if you heed my words you will have a bunch of living humans wishing they were dead!

What better idea than to make a pitcher of the tropical cocktail classic, the Zombie, for an afternoon/evening of playing ‘All Flesh Must Be Eaten”? Despite my endless and eternal love of rum, I was lacking any confirmed as awesome recipes for Zombies. As I do in most matters of food or drink, I consulted Greg Bullard of What Greg Eats who immediately emailed me his all time favorite recipe for the Zombie.

Greg’s Zombie Recipe

1 1/2 ounces amber rum
1/2 ounce dark rum
1/2 ounce 151 proof rum (you may remember this rum from my Flaming Mojito experiment)
3/4 ounce fresh pineapple juice
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce Velvet Falernum (has alcohol in it)
1/2 ounce brown sugar simple syrup
mint sprig for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all the liquids and stir well. Strain into ice filled tiki mug. Garnish with mint.

This looked daunting. Brown sugar simple syrup? What the heck is Falernum? But just like alchemists in the days of yore, I steeled myself for a complex chemical process that if executed correctly would surely yield enlightenment (and hopefully an amusing article). So with the support of my spouse, we started our journey.

We already had all the rum we needed on hand. You’re not surprised, are you? And I didn’t worry about the mint, because I was making a pitcher’s worth. Also, thanks to my friend Erin (who you may remember from the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear) who introduced my husband to the joys of a pineapple and Malibu (pineapple juice and Malibu rum), we always have cans of pineapple juice around the apartment. Yes, I used canned pineapple juice. Who do you think is writing this, Martha Stewart? Might as well also tell you we used the finest lime juice you could get in a bottle. We had brown sugar on hand from when we were planning on trying a new cookie recipe that we never made and we had water, so that was just a matter of dissolving it into some simmering water for the simple syrup. This just left the Falernum.

What the heck is Falernum? As with all questions that general answers will work for, I turned to Wikipedia. The random folks over there said, “Falernum (pronounced fah-learn-um) is a sweet syrup used in tropical and Caribbean drinks. It contains flavors of almond, ginger and/or cloves, and lime, and sometimes vanilla or allspice. It is used in cocktails in a manner similar to orgeat syrup or drunk on the rocks. The syrup form can be alcoholic or nonalcoholic. The consistency is thick, the color can be white to light amber, and it may be clear or translucent.” Armed with this knowledge we started checking our local liquor stores, who had no clue what we were talking about.

However, an incredibly enthusiastic man at one store decided to Google it. One of the first things he saw was this recipe for making your own Falernum. We explained we weren’t going to make our own Falernum, it was ridiculous, but he was so excited and confident we would do great that we ended up buying the overproof rum the recipe required and left to give it a try. (Can I just add that the website Kaiser Penguin is awesome? Now that I’ve tackled the Falernum issue I plan on becoming a regular reader!) I’m not going to copy and paste the recipe over here, this isn’t Cooks Source, so to see what’s involved just take a quick peak. The site is totally safe unless you’re a recovering alcoholic.

I accidentally deleted the photos from the soaking overnight phase, but I have a cute picture of our completed Falernum in it’s own little pitcher. Sigh….yes, that is supposed to be used for cream but our household is light on dairy and heavy on rum.

Our proud little pitcher of Falernum

With all the components ready to go, Jim and I tried out Greg’s Zombie Recipe. Delicious! Surprisingly smooth, but a little tangy with a nice spice. Oddly, the spiced flavor it had made me feel like it would probably also taste good warmed up like a deadly mulled cider. I’m not going to lie, it was a labor intensive process. I feel it was labor intensive and Jim did most of the labor, so definitely a bit laborious, but the result was a surprisingly good Zombie that ended up be a big hit with my fellow gamers.

Ghost Hunters of the Finger Lakes: Investigation Summary

Article Provided by Ghost Hunters of the Finger Lakes.

Private Residence in the Newark Valley of Upstate New York.

We got a call to check out a house in Newark valley in upstate NY. The owner had been having activity and wanted some answers to what was going on in her home. Her husband had even witnessed a large apparition in the basement. He actually walked over to it and swished his hand right through the dark shadow man standing before him. Then the shadow man vaporized right before his eyes. They also had lights flickering, doors closing and opening, and a lot of other noises in their home. After figuring where to set up our equipment and started our investigation, we had a heard a lot of noises and had some really high EMF spikes in the living room. My EMF meter was sitting on the table in the living room and it just started going off for no reason at all. We had many motion lights coming on for no reason and the house seemed to have a lot of paranormal activity happening. We picked up our equipment and headed home.

The next day I was looking over my photos taken from the investigation. I could not believe what I had captured in several of my photos in the living room. It was a huge man standing right where we were getting very high EMF readings. The man was huge and it was easy to tell it was not any of our investigators. At first it showed no head, only shoulders and his large body. The next picture showed his head and you could plainly see he was wearing a large hat. We showed the family what we captured along with the high EMF spikes and motion lights going off with no one around them. They could not believe what we captured for evidence in their home. We assured them that it was okay and nothing that could hurt them.

They still have activity in their home but they know its okay and not to be afraid of the ghosts among them. They are harmless and never tried to hurt them. Here is my photo of the large man that haunts their home.

The first picture is my sister walking by the large ghost in the living room.

Copyright belongs to Ghost Hunters of the Finger Lakes

The next one is the large ghost standing by himself in the living room.

Copyright belongs to Ghost Hunters of the Finger Lakes

To learn more about the Ghost Hunters of the Finger Lakes, visit their website.

Geek Month in Review: October 2010

By JB Sanders

Everything “geek” from October:

Ptolemy Code Broken
Historians have figured out some maps of ancient Germany that hadn’t made sense until recently. Penned in 150 AD by Ptolemy, the map of what is now Germany was always believed to have wild inaccuracies, owing partly to the fact that Ptolemy never left Alexandria, Egypt. Well, it appears that when Ptolemy was wrong, he was wrong in a consistent and accurate fashion. Scientists have figured out a mathematical match-up system to correct the errors, and now the origin date of quite a few German cities has been made older by about a thousand years.

Ten Years of Smart Phones
From mega-bricks you could commit murder with to tiny plaques that we’ve long seen in scifi books and movies, the smart phone has come a LONG way in just a decade. Ars Technica has a great gallery of pictures.

Ninjas and Cowboys
Really, what more could you ask for in your epic action movie? Just watch the trailer.

Periodic Table of Swearing
A graph of all the naughty words and their relative weights. Obviously, this is so NSFW. In fact, it’s probably NSFMP (Not Safe For Most People), as they really don’t spare any of the circus of vulgarity available. Extra bonus: it’s UK English swear-words, so some of them are extra funny (to American ears).

Zombie Head Cookie Jar
Has to be seen to really get the full effect. It’s VERY cool. I think some kind of salmon-pink cookies would be best.

Remote Control Wand
This is not your standard goofy remote control redo, it’s a wand. A not-quite-real, use-gestures-to-control-things wand. For your TV. Or whatever. Watch the video at the bottom of the blurb to see it in action. Buy it, then change the channel with a mere flick.

Not Quite Dead Languages
According to the website, every 14 days a language dies. The Enduring Voices Project, a National Geographic program, is documenting as many languages as they can as quickly as they can. It has a nice interactive graphic showing the “hotspots” around the world, with info on each. Interesting if you’re into languages. Or intensely useful if you need some esoteric background stuff for a novel or gaming adventure.

And here’s a nice trivia bit: “Di’nisbaas” means ‘I’m in the process of driving a vehicle into something and getting stuck’ in Navajo.

Map of Online Communities
What if there was a map, like you get at the front of your better fantasy books, that showed the online communities sized to their relative daily bandwidth? That would be one of xkcd’s wonderful virtual maps. I should have one of these things in every monthly article.

Do you need more than that? You do? Ok, how about is has two built-in cameras, runs a Linux flavor on-board and you can control it via iPhone software? Ok, yes, it’s $300, but it comes with games you can play through the cameras — like first person shooters where the real world is your “level”. No real guns included though. (Article includes video of the quadrocopter in action.)

It’s All Tommy Westphall’s Fault
This isn’t new, and it isn’t terribly October-y, but BOY is it geeky. If you’re just about to watch St Elsewhere on DVD for the first time or something, look away now, because I’m going to ruin it all for you. Follow along with the crazy, will you? At the end of the TV series St Elsewhere, the last scene has an autistic boy (Tommy Westphall) shaking a snow globe with a miniature version of the hospital in it. The scene right before that had snow falling on the hospital. And the two other characters in the room with Tommy idly wonder what the boy sees in that snow globe. So the obvious interpretation from this is that the WHOLE series has just been inside Tommy’s head, kind of like a giant “and then she woke up” moment.

Weird, but that’s not the Crazy part. See, several characters from St Elsewhere made cross-over and/or cameo appearances on other TV shows (e.g. Homicide). So that means, by some Law of Contagion, that those series are ALSO all in Tommy’s head, or meta-fictional (fiction within fiction). Cross-eyed yet? Wait, there’s more. If you assume that:

A) St Elsewhere was all in Tommy’s head, and
B) any TV series where a St Elsewhere character also appeared is ALSO in Tommy’s head

Then it logically follows that

C) any characters on a B tv show who themselves appear on another tv show is … yes, you guessed it, in Tommy Westphall’s head.

Which makes like 90% of TV shows in the same damned virtual imagined autistic universe.

Don’t believe me? Take a look:

The big picture, for those who need the visual:

And download the PDF for the full explanation of all the crazy connections.

It’s like a Unified Conspiracy Theory for TV.

Danny Elfman & Tim Burton Music Box
Do I need to say more? Ok, it’s the 25th anniversary music box, collecting CDs from all their wonderful collaborations over the years. It’s a limited series of 1000 and it sells for $500. Perfect gift except for that last part. But it looks cool.

Dresden Codak
It’s even fun to say! Wait, I should begin at the beginning. It’s the usual thing to do, I guess. This is a webcomic that not only has really great art, but robots, esoterica built into the narrative and funny bits. Enjoy!

Oh, and a related link that I just can’t help sharing. This is 42 Essential 3rd Act Twists (by category).

The Alternate World of Marty McFly
What if Eric Stoltz had played Marty instead of Michael J Fox? Wonder no more! Actual mind-bending Eric Stoltz / Marty McFly footage!

700 Hobos
That’s it, just 700 hobos. With names and quirky illustrations. Would I make this up? Look at the URL!

Number 4!
No, not a Prisoner remake or anything. Some kind of superhero movie, maybe? Who cares, it looks cool.

Got Coal?
This is a computer that requires a handy turn of the coal shovel to operate! Mr Babbage’s Analytical Engine, not to be confused with his Difference Engine (which was little more than a calculator by comparison), is the true first computer. It’s reprogrammable, has a printer, a CPU, expandable memory and a plotter. In Babbage’s time, the Analytical Engine was never built (partly because it would be the size of a friggin’ locomotive), but all that’s about to change. Now someone is raising money to really build one. Steam Power!

Now That’s Bling
How about a phone that costs millions of dollars? I’d love for this to be some kind of super-phone that works absolutely anywhere, but no, it’s just encrusted with gems. Still, how great a job is “phone jeweler”?

This Cable Isn’t Wireless!
And other priceless quotes this Retail Hell escapee jotted down in the course of over 3 years.

Water from Water
As in, de-salination. MIT has developed a prototype for a portable, solar-powered de-salination plant capable of converting 80 gallons of water in all sorts of weather conditions. Can you say “better disaster relief”?

From the Earth to Orbit
I know, infographics are all the rage now. Well, this one is especially cool. It shows the various layers the atmosphere in scale (which means it’s TALL) and all the various phenomena that happen at each level.

Fun With Gummi Bears
What happens when you put a gummi bear (red) into a solution of potassium chlorate (with a drop of sulfuric acid)? Fun! Fun is what happens.

Evolution of the Geek
How could I pass this up? It’s a biological evolution flowchart showing how the “geek” has evolved over time, from head-biting to Elite Geekdom.

(For those of you opposed to evolution, just assume that the first geek sprang forth from the forehead of the chicken-biting guy and leave it at that.)

And Speaking of Flow Charts
Here’s one for Every RPG Ever Made. It’s pretty accurate, and funny.

Spaceport Open for Business
Really. Virgin Galactic officially opened it’s spaceport. I believe this would be the very first commercial spaceport.

Drive Your Own Spaceship
Speaking of spaceports, behold Artemis, the multi-player (Windows-based) computer game, where each person (up to 6) takes one station of a simulated starship. Another person sits back, and as the game so amusingly puts it, “tells everyone else what to do”. It’s like Star Trek on your laptop! (No, not the movie, you buffoon, like YOU driving the ship around, or firing the weapons.)

Update: apparently the interface isn’t that fantastic (usability-wise), but I’m holding out hope that future versions will be better.

You are standing in an open field, west of a white house.
Ever wanted to write your own interactive fiction? You know what I’m talking about, right? Stuff like Zork, or Planetfall, or the Lurking Horror (with real screams!), or Leather Goddesses of Phobos [cough!]. Well, it’s the Modern Age, and you no longer have to know crazy complicated programming language stuff to pull it off. You just have to know mildly complicated, word-problem style stuff. No really, it’s cool.

Watch the screencast and you’ll see what I mean. If you can write fan-fiction or a blog post, you can write yourself a game.

From Dust
Did you know that “god games” is a category of simulation game now? I didn’t. This new one allows you to control terrain in a direct and interesting way, allowing you to change the course of rivers, pull up lava and form the rock like clay. It looks spectacular.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:

10 Questions with Donald Michael Kraig

1. Congratulations on the release of the revised and expanded third edition of Modern Magick! What changes can readers find with this edition?

Thank you very much. I’m very excited about it, too. I’ve spent the last 18 months working on it and it’s amazing to see that it’s finally come to pass.

The first thing people will notice is the size. It has about 40% new material, and to put it in a format that’s usable it’s gone up from 6” x 9” to 8.5” x 11”. The next thing people will notice is the brilliant new cover. It draws from the original but it is breathtakingly new and modern. About 95% of the art on the inside is brand new, too. If you want to see what my original designs for the artwork looked like, you can find them on my website,

There are four new forewords. The writers are Lon Milo DuQuette, David Godwin, John Michael Greer, and Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero. I’m very grateful for their contributions.

The contents pages have been completely re-done. They are now more thorough, making it easier to find what you’re looking for. The index is new, too. It’s clearer, more concise, and also easier to use. There’s a completely new preface, a new glossary, a new annotated bibliography that focuses on in-print books.

The original eleven chapters have been completely re-written and updated. Nothing has been removed, but everything is presented more clearly and with more up-too-date language. Each of the chapters has extra tips, ideas, new stories and new art. They also have longer self-tests at the end of each chapter, so you can check to see if you’ve grasped the material.

Finally, there is a completely new, 12th chapter. This chapter includes the latest information and rituals on styles of magick that appear to be a strong focus for the future. These styles include Neuro-Linguistic Programming or NLP (most people don’t even realize that much of NLP is magickal), chaos magick, and postmodern magick. As with previous editions, the goal is to make these three systems of magick understandable and usable. I think this is also the first book to show the progressive links between these styles of magick.

This edition of Modern Magick is really a new book combined with a thorough revision of the previous edition. I think it is now a book for the 21st century.

2. Obviously Modern Magick is a popular work, with over 150,000 copies sold and a new third edition, why do you think this book in particular continues to endure?

I think there are several reasons. Quite honestly, I think the cover is one of those reasons. Under my direction, the original cover had a main character designed to look like a strong and powerful person who could be a man or woman of any age. I think a lot of people saw that and on some level thought, “This could be me!” I am very fortunate that the spectacular new cover takes that same concept and makes it even more beautiful and stronger.

The second reason has to do with the original publication date. At the there were several basic types of books on magick available. Some focused on tiny aspects of magick. Some were very basic. Some took a superior attitude and talked down to the reader. Some were just not very good.

Modern Magick was the first truly comprehensive book that started by assuming a reader knew nothing about magick but was intelligent. I never talked down to readers. It was also the first book on ceremonial magick I know of that didn’t look down on Wicca and natural (AKA “low”) magick. I also believe it was the first major magickal book to discuss AIDS. It’s breadth and step-by-step progressive structure made it easy to follow and use. I know of many occult orders and Pagan groups that use it as a training manual.

Third, I believe I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and capable of saying things in the right way. Some time before I wrote the manuscript, I heard that Israel Regardie was going to re-write his massive book, The Golden Dawn. I had met Regardie and corresponded with him, so I wrote again and encouraged him to have his new version follow a more logical order and provide the GD training step-by-step. I knew if he did that I wouldn’t write my book and would use his book as a text for classes I teach. Unfortunately, in the massive new edition he choose to follow the pattern of the original book, making it more of a reference than a study guide. I still recommend Regardie’s works, but it’s difficult to follow them, especially if you’re new to magick. I suggest that if people first study Modern Magick, they can more easily understand the books by people such as Regardie, Crowley, Grant, Bardon, and many others.

The new edition adds so much I’ve learned over the years and uses modern language. It adds concepts that most people didn’t even know about when it was originally published. The result is that Modern Magick is truly modern again. I hope it will help people for decades to come.

3. I loved Appendix Three “The Modern Magick FAQ”. It’s loaded with some fantastic advice. I particularly like T.F.Y.Q.A. Would you mind explaining to my readers what T.F.Y.Q.A. stands for and why it’s so important?

Llewellyn asked me to do a second edition of Modern Magick and I was originally told I could make as many changes as I liked and make it as long as I liked. Unfortunately, this changed due to a variety of constraints. Basically the contents pages were expanded, a few minor typos were corrected and the FAQ was added.

T.F.Y.Q.A. has become a strong part of my thinking. I share it at the beginning of every talk and workshop I present. It stands for Think for yourself. Question authority. Just because I, or someone else, says something or writes a book doesn’t mean that what we share will work for everyone. I’m not saying that we’re trying to deceive. Rather, we’re presenting the material the best we can. For some people it just may not make sense or be workable.

So what I suggest is that when you read something new or attend a workshop, try what the author or leader is presenting. If it works, that’s great! You have something new and useful to use. And if it doesn’t work…well, that’s great, too, because now you know what you don’t have to waste your time with.

This is true even of things that don’t seem to make sense. The British philosopher, Herbert Spencer, said, “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation.” So try it out and see if it works. We can leave “contempt prior to investigation” to the self-styled “skeptics” who seem to revel in that attitude.

4. What question are you most frequently asked by beginning students of magick?

This actually seems to change from time to time. For a time it will be one question and then it will change to another. Most of those are answered in the FAQ appendix in the book.

I think the question I receive most often these days has to do with a simple word: visualization. Many rituals and spells include the visualization of colors, objects, shapes, entities, etc., and people think this necessarily means you have to “see” what you’re visualization as if it were hanging in front of you. “I try to visualize but I can’t see anything. What can I do?” is a common question today.

While some people can see visualizations easily, or can develop this ability with practice (I include techniques for this in Modern Magick), visualization is a practice that is more than just seeing. It is the creation of something on the astral plane. This is important because what you create on the astral plane eventually manifests on the physical plane. Visualization isn’t only about seeing, it’s about creating.

Some people have a knowing or a feeling that what they’re visualizing is there, and that works fine. This does not mean hope or wish, but actually know or feel that your visualization is there.

Just as we have physical senses, we also have astral or psychic senses. Sometimes one or more of these astral senses is open, and part of what you learn in Modern Magick is how to develop these abilities. If your astral vision were open, you would be able to see what you are creating. But as long as you absolutely know that what you have created on the astral plane is there, your visualization will be a success.

5. Aside from Modern Magick, what are some other resources available to people interested in learning about ceremonial magick?

There are an amazing number of great resources out there. I really like the books by the Ciceros and those from numerous small publishers such as Golden Hoard, Teitan Press, Avalonia, Mandrake, and many others. I like to suggest that people read Modern Magick first as it will give them a basic grounding so they can understand other books.

I believe one of the difficulties Aleister Crowley had is that he really thought he was just a common person. I think it was in his Magick in Theory and Practice where he begins by saying that magick should be studied and practiced by everyone. He follows this with a paragraph in Latin (or maybe it was Greek). I think he expected everyone to know how to read that ancient language. The first books on chaos magick didn’t include banishing rituals. I think that was because the founders of the system expected that of course you’d use the concepts to create a banishing first. Unfortunately, especially here in the U.S., many of the early followers didn’t know that. So if you practice the techniques in MM first, you should have no trouble with other systems.

6. What challenges do you see facing the Pagan, Wiccan, and magickal communities? How can the communities resolve those issues?

I see two major problems today. The first is information overload. Just 20 or 30 years ago it was difficult to find any information. Today there is so much information it is hard to sort out what is good and what is…not so good. Today, if you have a couple hundred dollars, you can publish your own book. You can publish on the internet whatever you want. Some people—I call them IROBs: “I Read One Book” and now I’m an expert—pass off their personal prejudices and fantasies as if they were ancient secrets.

I daresay that many people consult Wikipedia as a source for their information. I like to say that “Wikipedia is a great place to start but a horrible place to finish.” Most people don’t know it, but there are disclaimers almost hidden on their website:

…Please be advised that nothing found here has necessarily been reviewed by people with the expertise required to provide you with complete, accurate or reliable information…

…Wikipedia cannot guarantee the validity of the information found here.

And yet, people do rely on them. I know of one person who self-published books on the Craft for several years, including attacks on some well-known personalities, because what they wrote years ago didn’t agree with his new ideas.

In the past, people learned magick within a coven or from an occult Order or through a mentor. Today, most people seem to learn through books and on-line. How can we know what is accurate? As we discussed earlier, T.F.Y.Q.A.: Think for yourself. Question authority. Read several authors on a topic and check their sources. And yes, this means question what I write and say, too.

The second major problem is isolation. Emailing or IMing people on line is not personal contact. Working in person with other people and seeing how they do rituals and spells is a great way to learn magick. With the breakdown of the dependency on magick orders and covens, this is now a challenge. But thankfully, there are solutions which do not require people to go back to the old format. Specifically, there are festivals and conventions held all over the world. I strongly encourage people to attend such events. You get a chance to meet people of a like mind, make friends, find vendors for products you need, participate in workshops and rituals, and see what others are doing. Humans are social animals. Festivals and conventions give us a chance to be social. One group that sponsors many international events is the Pagan Pride organization. They help with Pagan Pride Day events all over the world and you can participate by attending or volunteering.

7. As such a well-known “face” of ceremonial magick, do you feel any pressure of being a role-model to beginning practitioners or of representing a belief system to the general population?

In all honesty, I feel very uncomfortable in that position. I have been asked many times to lead groups and have almost always turned it down or relatively quickly turned the group over to someone else to run. I’m not a guru or master. I even feel weird when someone calls me “Mr. Kraig.”

I would much rather walk next to someone and share than walk in front of someone and have them walk behind. I prefer friends to followers. When people running festivals or conventions bring me out, I hear “horror stories” of “big names” who they brought to events and who turned out to be divas or give a workshop and then hide for the rest of the event. I like to meet people and make myself available. I’m having too much fun to make Van Halen-like “no brown M & Ms” demands.

On the other hand, I feel very good about representing our community to those outside of it. I have investigated and practice numerous traditions and can represent our beliefs. I’m also not afraid to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” People outside of our community often try to group us as a single, monolithic entity. It’s difficult for some to understand that there are many magickal and spiritual paths. As a result of my years of study and being in the middle of a lot of the occult practices over the past two decades, combined with my training in speech at UCLA, with Toastmasters, in retail sales and NLP, I am more than happy—and, I believe, qualified—to represent our community, and have done so many times, including on one of the most popular radio shows in the U.S., Coast-to-Coast AM with George Noory.

To those who would like to represent the community, I would respectfully urge training in both public speaking and study to gain a broad knowledge of what magickal people believe and do.

8. In the preface to the third edition of Modern Magick you mention that for six years you shared a two-bedroom apartment with Scott Cunningham. Which one of you was the roommate that let the dishes pile up in the sink? (I can’t help it, these are things I wonder about.)

Actually, neither of us. For two guys we were surprisingly clean and tidy. He had his bedroom and I had mine, and we each kept our own bedrooms clean. I can be fairly clean in the common area, however Scott probably cleaned more than I did.

Scott also had a unique quality: he could become so focused on his writing (and preparation for writing) that he would forget other things. Sometimes he’d get a glass of water, have a few sips and put it down to go back to work. Later, he’d get another glass, have a few drinks, put it down and go back to work. If I came home late at night I might have to be careful to dodge the maze of glasses he sometimes left around the house!

Of course, he had complaints against me, too, from not laughing at some of his jokes to…well, let’s just say if he came home late he might find me in the living room with a guest in, uh, a “compromising position.”

9. Now that the third edition of Modern Magick has released, what’s the next project my readers can look for?

I actually have a variety of projects I’m currently involved in. I have a divination deck I’m working on that needs just the right artist. I’m hoping that the popularity of this new edition of Modern Magick will spark more interest in my novel, The Resurrection Murders, so I’ll have a good reason to complete its sequel. I’m working on CDs that can help people with Modern Magick, and a DVD Tarot project. I’m also a trained hypnotherapist and certified to teach hypnosis. I’m planning a combination book and CD on hypnosis that will be quite different from anything else out there. I also want to do a book and CD on hypnosis and past lives. Finally, I’m working on a large book that looks at the Pagan spiritual system of pre-Hindu India. I think people are going to love this ancient spiritual system brought forward to modern times. It clearly influenced the Druids, the Celts, the ancient Hebrews, the Kabalists, the ancient Chinese and Tibetans, and many others.

I like to hop around so I don’t know which will be finished first. Retire? What’s that?

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

Hmmm. Okay. Recently, the Republican candidate for Senator from Delaware, Christine O’Donnell, claimed that she had briefly flirted with Witchcraft followed by a brief description that did not apply to Witchcraft at all. Since that time, the mention of Witchcraft has flowed through every news program and by every comic and comedian, and almost consistently with derision. It would seem that all outreach from the Pagan community over the past years has not succeeded or has been quickly ignored.

My question, then, is how do we better represent Paganism, magick, and Witchcraft to those outside of our community so our practices are not misrepresented and we are not the butt of jokes? Imagine what would have happened if Ms. O’Donnell had said she had flirted with Judaism and had a picnic on a blood-stained altar with a Jewish man? The furor would have been immediate and immense, not a joke for Letterman and Leno. What do you think we should do?

I’m certainly not an expert on such matters, but I suspect it may be less about outreach and more about being in your community, not just your Pagan or magickal community. Interfaith dialogues are invaluable, and interesting for religion geeks like myself, but having an open dialogue with other religious communities isn’t the same as being there, in your local community, to celebrate the good and help mitigate the bad. A Witch can be a caricature, a cartoon, a joke. However, the person who happens to be Pagan that volunteers at the local soup kitchen, participates in Autism walks, or helps organize a group to clean up their local park, is a member of the community, and more importantly, a person. Witch jokes aren’t as funny when the Witch is their neighbor and a member of the community. Being a religious minority is a hard path to walk, but from what I’ve seen, the best way to walk it is with a good heart, good intentions, and a good sense of humor. Of course, all of this is easy for me, someone who belongs to no particular magical or religious community to say.

Of course, as my friend Deborah Blake points out, “the problem with this approach is it only works for those who are living openly (out of the broom closet) as witches. You can do all the good deeds you want, and if no one knows you’re a witch, witchcraft doesn’t get any credit.

So maybe add something about how it is important for those who can safely do so to come out of the broom closet and show, by their own example, that pagans and witches are people just like everyone else. The more folks who ‘show up’, the more seriously everyone else will have to take witchcraft as a religion and a lifestyle.”

Consider it added.

About Donald Michael Kraig:
Donald Michael Kraig graduated from UCLA with a degree in philosophy. He has also studied public speaking and music (traditional and experimental) on the university level. He received a fellowship to the University of Southern California where he received a certificate in multimedia, 3D graphics, computer animation and web design, eventually going on to help teach those classes there. As a musician he has performed before tens of thousands of people, including opening for acts ranging from Elton John to Great White.

After a decade of personal study and practice, Don began ten years of teaching courses in the Southern California area. He became a certified Tarot Grandmaster, has been a member of many spiritual and magical groups, and is initiated into several Tantric traditions. He holds numerous advanced certificates in clinical hypnotherapy, including teaching credentials, and is a master practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. He was the Editor-in-Chief of Llewellyn’s “New Times” magazine and “FATE” magazine, as well as producing and starring on “The FATE Magazine Radio Hour” in Minnesota. Don has lectured all over the U.S. at virtually all of the major festivals and conventions (and many smaller ones) as well as at universities. He has also lectured in Europe. He specializes on topics including Kabalah, Tarot, Magick, Tantra, Hypnosis, Past Lives, The Chakras, The Sri Yantra, Evocation of Spirits, and Sex Magick.

His books include “Modern Sex Magick” and “Tarot & Magic”. His “Modern Magick”, the most popular step-by-step set of instructions in real magick ever published, has sold over 150,000 copies worldwide. A vastly expanded and revised edition of “Modern Magick” has just been published. Just before that his most recent book was an exciting, magick-oriented novel called “The Resurrection Murders”. He has also contributed to several books including “Ecstasy Through Tantra”, “Planetary Magick”,”The Rabbi’s Tarot”, several volumes of “The Golden Dawn Journal” series, and “The Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy”. Besides his books and contributions to websites, magazines, as well as appearances on TV, radio shows, podcasts and vodcasts, Don is the editor of Llewellyn’s free, on-line encyclopedia.

You can learn more about Donald Michael Kraig at his website.

The Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear

As most of you probably know, Saturday October 30, 2010 was the Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear hosted by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Unfortunately I was unable to attend (Halloween Eve sessions of “All Flesh Must Be Eaten” don’t come around every day!) so like many people I was watching it Sunday morning thanks to my DVR. Fortunately for me, my good friend Erin Jennes made the trip and with a bribe of dinner out on my part, she was nice enough to share her thoughts and experiences from having been there first hand.

By Erin Jennes

We originally planned on taking the free buses provided by Arianna Huffington from NYC to the Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear in Washington D.C. At the last minute, I changed my mind and decided to drive. The bus seemed like a bad idea. Arrive in D.C. at 11am (not near the rally site though), fight the crowds in the subway, get to the rally by noon (when it started), leave the rally at 3pm, have to be back on the bus by 4pm. When was there time to eat?! And did they not take into consideration that thousands of people were going to be trying to get out of the city using the subway system at the same time?! My instincts were right. A friend of ours took the bus, showed up to the rally with less than an hour left of it, and was so far in the back that they heard nothing. Then they turned around and got back on the bus for the ride home.

What everyone really wants to know though is “How was the rally?!” It was great! Did it change my life? No. However, it was fun and I’m glad I can say that I was there. The crowds were insane. We got really lucky that we got to the city early. My husband went to go to the bathroom and to find merchandise at 10:30am. He finally made his way back to us just as the rally started at noon. Another friend fought the crowds to get to the bathrooms at 11:30am. She never made it back. She spent the rally stuck behind some Port-O-Potty’s for 3 hours and didn’t get to see much. Jumbotrons were set up going down the National Mall so that most of the crowd got to see what was going on. People far in the back would randomly start chanting “louder”, hoping that they’d crank the volume up so they could at least hear. Others climbed into trees to see the stage and the screens, while some made their way onto the tops of Port-O-Potty’s (which proceeded to collapse as a result of their weight). Rally staff walked around handing out free merchandise stamped with the rally logo – towels, plastic megaphones and Team Sanity/Team Fear flags. If you bought the merchandise that was for sale, the proceeds went to restoring the National Mall (which really needs it). Everyone in the crowd was calm and respectful. A nice sight to see. The rally signs ranged from political, to amusing, to ironic, to serious, to pointless, to just plain dumb. “Palin/O’Donnell 2012 – Vote M.I.L.F.” “Obama/Stewart 2012” “Stewart for Moderator of the 2012 debates” (wouldn’t that be awesome?!).

Unfortunately, I have to say that I wasn’t that impressed with the content. I know others won’t agree. Cat Stevens and Ozzy Osbourne were definitely surprises. Poor Ozzy was near incomprehensible – but isn’t that what one would expect?! Cat Stevens is generally a recluse so you could hear everyone in the crowds “oohing” when he came out. They proceeded to engage in a battle of songs – “Peace Train” VS. “Crazy Train”. Colbert, pushing fear, fought for “Crazy Train” to prevail. And the Mythbusters guys…I could just imagine Rebecca crying out in jealousy when they appeared on the stage. They commissioned the crowd to do a series of tests for them. 200,000 people laughing, crying and cheek popping at the same time. From what I’ve been told, you couldn’t hear the cheek popping on TV, but it was audible in the crowd, and amusing to hear. They had everyone jump up at the same time to measure the seismic activity it produced. Although it wasn’t much, in the crowd you could hear an intense thump when everyone hit the ground. Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow came out for a duet…and I never wanted to be able to say this, but Kid Rock was the best thing about that performance. Sheryl Crow had little idea of what the words to the song were and her voice was ear screechingly horrible. The Roots were great. Tony Bennett has seen better days. The crowd had no idea who the 4 Troops were (and the only reason I did was because I work for a music store). I hoped for an “A” list star to pop out of the wings at some point, and it bothered me a little that one didn’t.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were, of course, the best part of the Rally. I personally favor Stewart over Colbert but the two play off of each other so well. The tone of the rally was comedy. Sanity VS. Fear. And then, at the end, it got a bit serious. Stewart came out to thank everyone for coming. This was my favorite part. Even knowing that it wasn’t a political rally, I still hoped Jon Stewart would take the enormous opportunity he had to encourage 200,000 people to vote. Of course, he didn’t. And I knew he wouldn’t…that would go against everything he stands for. He may believe everyone should get out there and make their voice heard – but at the end of the day, he isn’t one to preach. He noted that all he wanted was attendance. He went on to point out that his biggest problem is with the media and the role that they play in not only our daily lives, but in shaping this country into what it is.

“The country’s 24-hour, political pundit, perpetual, panic conflict-inator did not cause our problems. But its existence makes solving them that much harder,” he said. “If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”

“Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Party-ers, or real bigots and Juan Williams or Rick Sanchez, is an insult, not only to those people, but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate,” Stewart said, “Just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe, not more.”

Although they didn’t come out and say it point blank – I think the real point of the rally for Stewart and Colbert was to just bring people together who had the same views. Nice, respectful people who think things are unnecessarily crazy. For everyone to be able to walk away with a glimmer of hope that maybe it won’t always be like this…and maybe we will live to see a better, less corrupt media elite – not to mention political system, and a more cohesive, flourishing country. Let’s just hope 2012 doesn’t find us at the end of the world so that maybe these hopes can see the light of day ;o)

About Erin:
With over 10 years in music retail Erin Jennes is uniquely qualified to say whatever the heck she wants about musical artists. Currently she’s working on bringing the best of art and music to Poughkeepsie, NY with her new venture Darkside Records & Gallery.

Hey Folks, Rebecca here. In case you didn’t get to go to the rally and you missed it when it aired on television, you can go to the Comedy Central website and watch the rally in convenient bite size pieces! Behold the power of the internet!