I Am a Rum Drinker

I’m not a rum expert, I’m not a rum connoisseur, I am a rum drinker. When I drink, it usually involves rum. However, I’m also endlessly fascinated with religious practices and various observances of spirituality around the globe. When you combine these two you get one obvious result.

I needed to own a Haitian rum. Haiti is one of the legendary lands of Voodoo (or Vodou, or Vodoun), and I wanted to try a rum fit for both man and loa (the spirits of the Voodoo religion). Fortunately for me, research into this matter was quick. There is only one distillery in Haiti that makes rum, Rhum Barbancourt.

In fact, a Los Angeles Times article published on February 9, 2010 by Scott Kraft had this to say about Rhum Barbancourt, “And every voodoo priest and priestess in Haiti knows that soaking the ground with the golden rum — not the three-star version, mind you, but the five-star, aged twice as long — can raise the spirits of the dead. ‘It’s what they drink,’ Markendy Jean Batiste, a Voodoo priest, said with a shrug as if explaining the obvious. ‘You’ve got to keep the spirits happy.'”

That’s I how I ended up owning the most expensive bottle of rum I’ve purchased to date; Rhum Barbancourt Estate Reserve Aged 15 Years. Soon after, it also became a source of great embarrassment.

Look, I tried to be respectful. I know what it is I own. It’s like a big ol’ bottle of Haiti’s history, a source of pride for her people, and an internationally respected beverage. I enjoyed it as a sipping rum, with a splash of water, okay? I even busted out my crystal tumblers for it. See, respectful. But one day I was alone, looking at my pint glass filled with ice. I knew I should have been reaching for the bottle of Captain Morgan’s Private Stock to pour in the bottom of my glass, yet I couldn’t resist, instead I grabbed the bottle of Rhum Barbancourt. Quickly, as if I’d be caught in the act, I poured a shot glass worth of it into the glass and immediately filled it to the top with Coca Cola.

Yes, I know. Seriously, I know. What I did was wrong. It was an insult to Haiti and to true rum connoisseurs everywhere. I made a freakin’ rum and Coke using the finest rum I’ll likely ever own! You know what? It was the best damn rum and Coke I’d ever had in my life. Suck it experts, I’m drinking what I like, how I like it.

King Solomon Oracle Cards

Every now and then I come across this problem. I see a product that looks cool. I ask the publisher if I can have a copy to consider for reviewing on this lovely website. They send said product, and it is just a wonderful as I anticipated. Then I am thoroughly unable to write a review.

By now the “King Solomon Oracle Cards” by Itzhak Mizrahi and Orna Ben-Shoshan from U.S. Games Systems are pretty old news. I’m pretty sure I’ve been sitting on them for at least a month! So why no review? Sheer inability on my part.

I like the art by Orna Ben-Shoshan. The coloring is vibrant, and yet the art conveys a soothing feel. I like the work of Itzhak Mizrahi. I appreciate how hard it is to come up with something new, and that the deck isn’t pretending to be a play on the traditional tarot deck. The “King Solomon Oracle Cards” are their own deck. A deck unto itself. Lastly, there are four amulet cards that also come with the deck. As per the included booklet, “These are your own personal sacred amulets that you may keep at home or carry with you wherever you go. These charms were written in Angel’s Writing and ancient Goatic symbols by the kabbalist Itzhak Mizrahi.” There is nothing more impressive looking than an amulet. Seriously. I love the included amulet cards and have them on my bulletin board so I can take breaks to look at them when I write.

Amulet One - Livelihood

That’s what I’ve got folks! After a month of handling the “King Solomon Oracle Cards”, a month of looking at the beautiful cards that I scanned into my computer for this review, a month of reading and rereading the over 40 page booklet included with the cards, I’ve got one paragraph to share.

Perhaps after reading this micro review some of you will be inspired to seek out these cards, and hopefully you’ll be able to do a better job of articulating just how wonderful they are.

Britney Spears is Dancing to the Apocalypse

The world is going to come to an end, and Britney Spears intends to dance her way to the apocalypse. Spears’ latest album “Femme Fatale” is the pop music equivalent of LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out”. It’s a game changer for the artist. While many critics are whining that the album never wavers from its dance floor sensibilities, or that the album is more a victory for the producers than for Spears, I see it differently.

Thankfully the pop music landscape has changed in recent history, and I think for the better. Thanks to the efforts from female artists such as Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Robyn, and as always Madonna, female driven pop music blends more styles and takes more risks than ever before. Sadly, these innovations made still relatively young Britney Spears something of a pop music dinosaur. Despite her releasing some songs that could compete, overall she hadn’t managed to break through to the new era.

“Femme Fatale” rips open with “Till the World Ends”, a pounding booty shaker and it never lets go. The album draws heavily on the ever encroaching electronic/techo sound (Yay!) with a heavy helping of thumping beats. Don’t call it a comeback, Spears could always make you dance, and thanks to her long time producers, everyone is being reminded. Oh boo hoo, it’s a whole album of music that makes you want to dance. What a waste of time that is! You know what, sometimes I don’t want a ballad, sometimes I don’t want to dissect songs for deeper meaning, in short, sometimes this middle aged white girl just wants to feel good, and “Femme Fatale” delivers.

I can’t consider this review complete with directing your attention to some videos. (Note that both videos have a 15 second advertisement in front of them.)

This first one is for the opening song “Till the World Ends”. As an occult fangirl I was tickled at the use of the ever popular December 21st 2012, even if it’s already getting a little played out. Also, there’s some pretty shots of a city getting wrecked. I don’t know who actually choreographed the video, but it’s got the fingerprints of Paula Abdul’s “Cold Hearted Snake” all over it. (Remember the part where they pull the blinds down? Yeah, that part.)

The other video I’m going share is for the song “Hold it Against Me”. Let me start by saying, I don’t really care for the video. If you’re looking for an awesome dissection of the video for hidden meaning I have got to send you over to Vigilant Citizen. He explores the ideas of mind control present in the video supported by his thoughts on Disney and Spears’ career. It’s always a good time over there! With all of that out of the way, here are the two things about this video that I want to share.

One, watching the video on YouTube was the first time I heard “Hold it Against Me”. While listening to it from the beginning I thought, this is a great dance song, I can’t wait to hear a techno remixer chop it up because that would be awesome. And then at 02:46 it segued into the exact sound I had been hoping for! So a tip of my hat to you noble producers. Second, at that mark starts a sequence that features the generally hokey person fighting themselves scenario. Now I’m not going to proclaim Spears the next female action hero (which was my response to Madonna’s “Die Another Day” video) but thanks to some decent camera work and choreography it looks pretty decent. Also, the close up of her little feet in stiletto heels shuffling for position makes me giggle.

If you’re bummed and looking for a party in an album, look no further than “Femme Fatale”. As they say in the movie “Protocol”, it’s a “guaranteed good time.” (Okay kids, it’s a movie. Starring Goldie Hawn. You do know who Goldie Hawn is, right? Fine, I get it. I’m old and you’re not. Damn kids.)

Decoding the Enochian Secrets

There are a lot of things I could tell you about “Decoding the Enochian Secrets: God’s Most Holy Book to Mankind as Received by Dr. John Dee from Angelic Messengers” by John DeSalvo, Ph.D. I could tell you how pleased I was to see the author devoted some time to discussing the apocryphal “Book of Enoch”. Or how I found DeSalvo’s reflections on the purpose of “The Book of Enoch” that was given to Dr. John Dee via the scryer Edward Kelly insightful. I could go on and on about how the history and background presented about this new “Book of Enoch” was tremendously fascinating. However there is only one thing that I should need to tell you to make you understand why you should own a copy of this book; it contains the complete original text for “The Book of Enoch”.

That’s right folks, and when I say original I’m not talking about transcribed, or somehow divined by the author, or any other such way a book could potentially claim possessing the “original” text. “Decoding the Enochian Secrets” features each page as seen in the British Library collection, with the actual handwriting of Edward Kelly and Dr. John Dee. If you consider yourself any sort of occult nerd, this should already have you clicking “check out” on your book shopping website of choice. Just to give you a little taste of what I’m talking about, feast your eyes on this beauty.

A table from the Book of Enoch

Just in case that wasn’t quite occult nerd enough for you, John DeSalvo will blow your mind with his meticulous research and attention to detail. I haven’t devoted much time to learning about Dr. John Dee and his work with “The Book of Enoch”, and after reading this, I’m not sure I need to read anything else. You can’t get more intense than “complete original text”.

Obviously a book like this isn’t for everyone, but if you’re as fascinated by such matters as Enochian magic and occult history as I am, you must own this book.

Immortal Blues: Part Seven

By Greg Bullard

Welcome to part seven of the nine part fiction series “Immortal Blues” by Greg Bullard. Aine Marina hangs around long enough to create more questions than answered and again, shots are fired. If you need to catch up, here is Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, and Part Six.

I stared into those deep brown eyes, alit with foreign thought, and in that instant, my memory betrayed me by dragging me backwards through time to a small hill, a green meadow and a beautiful girl so many centuries ago.

I was a conqueror, grown weary of battle. The scent of blood and flash of metal death no longer sustained me. Instead, I hunted true emotion, raw feelings, first pleasure, final pain and more. I was a skilled hunter.

The hunt had brought me to that hillside, where my lips stalked the flesh of the human woman who would ascend to be Queen of the Fey. She shuddered beneath my touch and trembled at the slightest brush of my fingertips on her blushing skin. Amidst that knee-high grass and the warm caress of the spring sun, I achieved my greatest conquest to date, drinking deep of the love-spilled tears of a once-virgin princess.

As clear as yesterday, I remember the passion aflame in those emerald eyes, framed once in alabaster skin and again in a fan of loose, red curls, spilled out around her on the hillside. I snapped back to the brown eyes before me, framed once in olive skin and again in long, straight hair of the deepest black. Impossibly, yet actually, they were the same eyes.

“It has been far too long, Your Majesty,” I inclined my head to her, politely, yet without a trace of subservience. “I admit, I had not expected you, but I am pleased none the less that you are here. Will you allow me to show you about the city? It’s a marvel of human creation.”

Marisela blinked once, doubt spread quickly across her features and was, itself, chased out by fear before she collapsed in front of me. I caught her inches before her head struck the hardwood floor.

Cradling her in my arms, I brushed the hair from her forehead and passed my senses over her. She was uninjured, but asleep in a fullness of depth and peace from which she would not soon awaken. The alien presence was gone, and along with it any sense of my own confidence that I somehow controlled this situation.

I stood with Marisela draped in my arms and looked questioningly at Isabella.

“Place her on her bed,” Isabella coughed, clutching at her cane she steadied herself. “Then you must leave.”

I was ten blocks from the Crone’s house, flitting from shadow to shadow, when the tidal wave of questions that I should have asked, came, unbidden. Why did you say you were sorry? Why must I leave? Did you know Aine Marina was coming? Why weren’t you more surprised?

I started to double back, but I’d made good progress towards home and it was late. Still, the state of events was confusing and frustrating. Over and over, I kept asking myself, had I just been played? If so, how long was the setup?

The trip home was nerve wracking. I had to double check each street and alley to insure I wasn’t observed, and no matter how clear it looked, I kept seeing movement in the shadows, but I knew no one was there. I kept telling myself I was just being extra careful. My little ink spot of darkness, absent the moon, stood out all too easily on the big city streets.

Finally, I made it safely across the Manhattan Bridge, and then down to the streets below. Walking in the shadows of the bridge, no longer quite so concerned with the moon, I let my guard down a bit. That’s when I was spotted.
Two drunks stumbled out of the backdoor of a dingy tavern, right into my path. I stepped around them, still mostly lost in my thoughts when I realized that one of them had spoken to me.

“Yous dere,” he slurred in the drunken, thick Italian-American accent of a Brooklyn native, “Yous gots some cash for me and my buddy ‘ere? Eh? We’re busted.”

I shrugged, shook my head and continued walking – and maybe offered up a few choice words about his state of employment and drunkenness. I then went back to ignoring the fool and his friend. That’s when, for the second time in a few days, I heard the unmistakable click of a hammer being drawn back on a gun.

I wheeled and fired my most menacing glare at him. Normally that does the trick, but I think he might have been too drunk to care or notice. He swayed back and forth, barely maintaining his feet, while the blued steel barrel of his snub nose .38 wavered back and forth, pointing in my general direction.

“Careful friend,” I said, again in my most menacing tone, “it’s been a bad week already and you’re quickly getting on the wrong side of me.”

“Di’ja hear that Antony? We’re on ‘is bad side,” he blinked, steadied himself a bit and tried to make an effort to aim the gun at me. “You knows what? You’re on our bad side too,” he added, “what says yous empty yah pockets and see about getting on our good side. Eh?”

Fed up, I blinked and flicked my hand in his direction, shifting reality slightly in the process – at least, that’s what was supposed to have happened. His eyes went wide at my gesture. There was a moment of panic on his features and then fire blossomed from the end of the gun.

The world never slowed down around me. Time didn’t flow like cold molasses from a full jug. The end of the barrel flashed with fire, and then the hammer of the gods slammed into my chest.

I crumbled to the ground, dropped in my tracks and the breath exploded from my mouth in one great gasp. I was left writhing amidst the trash and filth of the city’s worst streets, and I was scared. Something was very, very wrong.

About Greg Bullard:
Greg currently resides in Austin, TX, trying to do his part to Keep Austin Weird. While his wife, Julia, and daughter, Emily, both work hard to keep him on his toes, it is Julia’s red editing pen that does the most work. When he is not muddling his way through some fiction, he usually writes about What Greg Eats.

Rum Cake with Deborah Blake

Readers may remember that back in December 2010 I listed Deborah Blake’s book “Witchcraft on a Shoestring” as one of my “favorite” things. In the little blurb I wrote about the book I was quick to point out that it contained a rum cake recipe that I had to try. Then in January 2011, when I tried out Dawn Hunt’s Shepherd’s Pie recipe, I again commented on how I still needed to try out Deborah Blake’s rum cake recipe from “Witchcraft on a Shoestring”. Well, that distant someday has become a reality. Finally, at long last, I tried out the rum cake recipe.

I haven’t baked anything cake-like in years. My husband doesn’t like cake, so if I bake a cake, I know it will be me eating the whole damn thing. Even I know that’s not the best plan. I didn’t even own the ubiquitous Bundt pan. However, I recently found myself with plans that involved going over to a friend’s house for dinner and I decided that for dessert I would bring over the rum cake. (For those of you curious, I picked up Jim a bear claw from Panera for him to eat for dessert while we ate cake.) The recipe was pretty simple and fairly straight forward. With Deborah Blake’s permission, I get to share the recipe from “Witchcraft on a Shoestring” with you!

Rum Cake

Notes: This is one of my favorite special occasion desserts. It takes a little more work than a regular cake, but the results are worth it! If you want to get really extravagant, you can substitute a chocolate cake mix for the yellow one, and Chambord black raspberry liqueur or Grand Marnier orange liqueur for the rum; they are both pretty pricey though. This cake is intended to be made in a Bundt pan, although you could probably use a regular pan.

Ingredients:
1 box cake mix with pudding in it (yellow or chocolate)
3 eggs
1/4 cup cooking oil
1/2 cup rum (for cake) plus 1/3 cup rum (for glaze)
1/2 cup pecans or sliced almonds
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup water (for cake) plus 1/4 cup water (for glaze)

Time for preparation/cooking: 1 hour 10 minutes (50-60 minutes of baking time)

Directions: Grease and flour a Bundt pan. Mix the cake mix, eggs, oil, 1/2 cup rum, and 1/2 cup water. Put nuts on the bottom of the pan, then pour cake mixture over them. Bake at 325 degrees for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. For glaze, mix sugar, butter, 1/3 cup rum, and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan. Boil for 2-3 minutes, then pour over cake. Let sit for a while so the cake can absorb the glaze.

As I already said, I didn’t own a Bundt pan, but I decided to go ahead and buy one. I couldn’t find a cake mix that explicitly stated it had pudding in it, so I opted for a yellow cake mix from Duncan Hines that was touted as “deluxe extra moist”. Instead of greasing and flouring the pan, we (because although he doesn’t eat cake, Jim still helped me make the cake) just sprayed some Pam butter flavored spray into it. I opted for sliced almonds for the bottom of the pan, and I used olive oil as the cooking oil the recipe called for. And last, but certainly not least, there was the rum to consider.

The friends who would be eating this cake weren’t any old ordinary cake consumers, they were rum enthusiasts, complete with one of them already having what is considered THE definitive rum cake recipe. Obviously I carefully considered my rum options. In the end I opted for Kilo Kai rum. The rum is so smooth and delightful you can drink it straight. And when I say straight I don’t mean if you slam back a shot you won’t be left coughing and sputtering, I mean you can actually sit back, sip, and enjoy it. Also, it makes a fantastic rum and Cokes. I highly recommend it.

The good news is, I didn’t screw up the cake! The top was little more brown, I suspect thanks to the Pam spray, and the sliced almonds kind of slid to the sides instead of staying on top, but the cake was baked through perfectly and came out of the Bundt pan with ease. I ladled the glaze evenly over the top and then poured the final bit out of the saucepan over it.

That said, my clever choice of Kilo Kai rum was perhaps not the best option. Everyone in attendance agreed that the cake was very good, even the owner of the “official” rum cake recipe, but it fell a little short. After careful discussion and consideration, we think that the Kilo Kai rum was actually too smooth for the recipe. The “definitive” rum cake recipe that my friend uses clearly states to use Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum and no other, and we all now see why. My rum cake was moist, sweet, and tasty, but it lacked that slight kick, that little bit of bite, that alcohol laced desserts need.

Overall, Deborah Blake’s “Witchcraft on a Shoestring” rum cake recipe was a big hit! If you try it out yourself, let me know how it turns out! Also, I can’t stress enough how great “Witchcraft on a Shoestring” is, even if you’re not “witchy”. I keep my copy in the kitchen with my cookbooks because there are so many simple recipes in it that I want to try: Tres Leches Pie, Prosperity Pie Quiche, Easy Garden Veggie Pie, Jhaea’s Minty Couscous Salad, Ellen’s Beer Bread, Morgana’s Tomato Pie, and many, many more!

If you don’t already own a copy, you can get yours here or at any cool bookstore.

A Nice Guy and Some Special Ladies in my Life

It is that time again folks! Where I’ve got a bunch of random stuff to share with you, so I smoosh it together into one post and call it an “article”. Where to start?

Well, lets’ first start with the internet can be a nice place sometimes. Not too long ago I got an email from Spectral Dragon (aka Jason Compton) who runs a website called Gates of Mysticism. He was contacting me to ask for permission to re-publish Lupa’s article “An Abbreviated Introduction to Chaos Magic” that we had published in January of 2008. He had already secured Lupa’s permission so he contacted me for my blessing. Anyone who has spent any time on the internet knows that often people just copy and paste their way to new content for their websites. You can see why it was greatly appreciated that Jason asked for permission and assured me that he would be sure to mention that the article had originally appeared on The Magical Buffet website. Once he published the article he emailed me a link to it. In the past when I’ve re-published articles I usually just make a bland note at the top of where the article originally came from (including link) and say that it is being used with permission. However Jason took it a step further:

“A note on this article’s origins: This article’s origin is at this link to The Magical Buffet. Since The Magical Buffet has plenty of excellent articles on metaphysics and the occult it might be a good idea to check them out at The Magical Buffet Home Page. Gates of Mysticism would like to extend many thanks to both Lupa, the author of this article, and the Magical Buffet for allowing GOM to publish this excellent article.”

Nice, right? So if you’re interested in metaphysics and/or the occult why not check out Gates of Mysticism? They seem like good people.

Speaking of good people, I recently got an email from Cindy Chaney, founder of the My Nerd Girl website and one time Buffet interview subject. For those of you who may not remember this from last year, Cindy also suffers from Lupus. Last year the scarring on her lungs left her with difficulty walking and so her friends and fellow Nerd Girls decided they would pull Cindy in a customized wagon as part of Team Cindy for Walk for Lupus Now. This year she is fund raising again for Team Cindy, but sadly this time around she’s suffering from stage four kidney and lung failure and will be unable to attend the walk personally. Cindy is 31 years-old and had to go on hospice care.

I can’t read those words and not feel a welling up of rage. I won’t mention anyone by name, but at least one of the women I work with a lot for The Buffet suffers from a chronic pain condition, I myself suffer from several yet to be effectively diagnosed and treated health conditions, and here I find that Cindy, a woman who I would readily describe as one of the “best of the best” is in hospice care. I can’t help but feel there is a war on women right now, and we’re all losing.

As I said last year, I typically don’t donate to charity walk/runs. Since the cost of organizing and running the event comes out of the donations I always worry that not enough of my money goes to the charity itself. But again like last year I can’t help but be moved by Cindy’s spirit and the women she has supporting her as she goes through this. So like last year, I’m encouraging anyone who has $5 to spare to donate it to Cindy for Walk for Lupus Now. Every dollar helps, and every dollar reminds a remarkable woman that she doesn’t have to go through this alone.

Visit Cindy’s page here.

Update: I’m saddened to say that our losses continue. Just days after securing a review copy of the book “The Small-Town Pagans Survival Guide” by Bronwen Forbes with the intention of interviewing the author I learned that Bronwen Forbes passed away. According to her Facebook page, she died from a heart attack brought on by her chemotherapy drugs. I can’t articulate how saddened I am to have come so close to speaking with a woman who touched so many lives, only to have missed the opportunity. I wish to extend condolences to her friends and family, her readers, and her family of Llewellyn Publishing.

And in other news regarding remarkable women, Paula Chaffee Scardamalia, who contributed the beautiful article “Weaving a Woman’s Life” to The Magical Buffet is getting featured in the May 2011 issue of People Magazine! In this country issue of People a summation appears of an interview she did regarding a recurring dream of country singer Rodney Atkins. Paula is truly an amazing lady, if you haven’t done so before, check out her website Divining the Muse!

Lastly, it’s been a long time, but I’m back in the public speaking ring! As long time readers know, the past two years I’ve gone to the Spiritual Arts Fair in Oneonta, NY (2009 and 2010) and I always have a great time. Well this year I won’t just be attending, I’ll be giving one of the presentations! Along with the gigantic crowd of vendors there will be free workshops all day that include Hindu spirituality and chanting, Tibetan Buddhist meditation, Native American spirituality, Soul Mask making, Zen meditation and chanting, and more! Part of that more will be my presentation “Protection from Evil: Religion, Folklore, and Myth”.

For those of you in the area, the event is Saturday May 7, 2011 from 9:30am – 5:00pm. Admission is $5 and covers the workshops, but if you want a psychic reading, a henna tattoo (I get one each time we go), or other services, additional fees will be involved. The Spiritual Arts Fair is held at the Unitarian Universalist Society located at 12 & 16 Ford Avenue and Wilbur Mansion 11 Ford Avenue in Oneonta, NY.

In closing, thanks Spectral Dragon, stay strong Cindy Chaney, congrats to Paula Chaffee Scardamalia, and see you at the 7th Annual Oneonta Spiritual Arts Fair!

10 Questions with Emily Carlin

1. What led you to specialize in the study of dark and protective magicks?

I’ve experienced paranormal phenomena pretty much my whole life. I can remember seeing ghosts when I was as young as four or five. When you see these things you can either ignore them, go nuts, or learn how to protect yourself and take charge of the situation. I tried and failed to ignore them and I refused to let myself go crazy, so I had to learn more about the magick and the paranormal so that I could be in control of my experiences. I talked to anyone who would answer my questions and voraciously read every book on the subject that I could get my hands on and eventually became something of an expert.

2. How did you end up teaching for the Grey School of Wizardry and acting as their Dean of Dark Arts?

I learned about the Grey School back when if first opened in 2004 and joined the school as a student. I loved the fact that it allowed me to work at my own pace and to learn such a tremendous variety of subject. Unfortunately, at the time there wasn’t much in terms of advanced material. I realized that I knew just as much, or more, about the dark arts in general and protective magicks in particular than some of the faculty and decided to apply to teach. I was accepted as a teacher and quickly began writing classes on creatures of the night and defensive magick. When the then dean of the department decided to step down I immediately expressed interest in taking the wheel and the administration deemed me ready to do so. The department now offers 28 classes across 7 levels, with more on the way!

3. What is it like to be one of your students at the Grey School of Wizardry? For example, is it all done online, how structured is it, etc.?

The Grey School in an entirely online, work at your own pace, non-denominational magickal school. When a student enters the school they take a few required introductory classes and then they can select up to six classes of their level at a time from any of our 16 departments. We offer classes in everything from lore, to wortcunning, to alchemy, to dark arts. When a student signs up for a class they must be approved by the professor. Once approved they have access to all of the class lessons on the school site. Each class has a number of assignments that must be completed in order and are graded by the professor. The average class takes 2-6 weeks to complete depending on the diligence of the student and the number of assignments.

All students also have access to extensive school forums, one of our richest resources. Any question a student may have about any kind of magick can be asked in the forums and will generally get multiple responses within a day.

For more information on the Grey School just go to www.greyschool.com.

4. What made you decide that it was time to write your new book “Defense Against the Dark: A Field Guide to Protecting Yourself From Predatory Spirits, Energy Vampires, and Malevolent Magick”?

At the time that I started writing the book I had spend around ten years researching the paranormal and ways of protection oneself from it. Much of the material had crystallized in the form of Grey School classes, but there was still a lot more to be done. The catalyst for finally getting everything together into a book was actually my Grey School practicum. When you finish the 7 level course of study at the Grey School you do a large final project: the practicum. For most students this would be performing a ritual or writing a long paper. For me it was to pour the contents of my brain into my laptop and three months later I had a 75 page paper that my poor adviser had to grade. From there it was another month or so to flesh it out to book length and voila, Defense Against the Dark was born.

5. In your book you discuss a classic protective substance, holy water. However, you also mention “war water”, which I had never heard of before. Where did you learn about war water and can you tell my readers a little bit about it?

War water is basically the dirty, angry cousin to holy water. Holy water repels negative forces and cleanses; war water will actually harm negative forces – it fights back. I first learned about war water many years ago at a Pagan Pride Day workshop. It was mentioned briefly in a few of the books on psychic protection that I had, but I had a difficult time finding more information. Then, several years later, I found The Element Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells by Judika Illes and that book had several recipes and directions on how to use it. I make my war water using iron nails, sulfur, several kinds of peppers, blood, salt, and just about any other noxious substance I can get my hands on. I almost always have a vial or two on me, just in case.

6. Your book covers a wide range of malevolent and subversive spirits and creatures. Do you have a particular favorite?

My favorite creature tends to shift day to day, but at the moment it has to be The Wild Hunt. There’s something about the image of a great mass of spectral hunters riding through the night that I find rather thrilling. There are a lot of different theories as to what The Hunt really is, anything from ghosts to faeries or even gods, but I prefer the stories where they are a mass of spirits that hunt down evildoers and drag them to their just rewards. I’d like to think that there’s some force out there that makes sure that wrongdoers get what they deserve.

7. Since these people are attempting to seek out things that you write about how to protect yourself from, what are your thoughts on the ever increasing interest in paranormal investigations and ghost hunting?

I think paranormal investigations and ghost hunting is great. I’m glad that more and more people are becoming curious about the unknown and are actually looking for concrete answers rather than just telling each other stories. However, this trend also worries me because there are more and more people going to places where negative entities tend to hand out and they have no idea how to protect themselves. The vast majority of paranormal entities out there are not going to hurt anyone, probably 99.95%. Unfortunately, if enough people go out looking for the paranormal often enough, eventually someone’s going to run into that 0.05% of very bad things and I just hope that those folks have taken the care to protect themselves. It’s for those seekers of the unknown that I’ve written this book, so that they can be ready if they become one of the unlucky few to run into something really nasty.

8. What challenges do you see facing the Pagan/Wiccan/Witch community? How can the community resolve those issues?

Golly, no small question that one. One of the biggest problems I see facing the community right now is a lack of unity. The Pagan/Wiccan/Witch/Heathen/etc. community prides itself on individuality and allowing everyone to do their own thing. That’s one of the best things about our community – everyone can be what they are – it’s also one of our biggest weaknesses because it’s incredibly difficult to get such individualistic people to come together and actually get anything done. When everyone’s voice gets equal weight it’s very difficult to come to a decision. This is something the community really has to work on if we want to receive the respect and legitimacy that we deserve.

9. Remus Lupin, Severus Snape, or Gilderoy Lockhart?

From the books, Remus Lupin because he’s intelligent and courageous. From the movies, Severus Snape because Alan Rickman is awesome.

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

I’ve got a question for you. I’m already hard at work on the follow up book to Defense Against the Dark and it’s going to be a book on advanced magickal defense. What sort of things would your readers most want to see in such a book?

I’m honestly not sure, your current book has so much information packed into it! Being kind of a magic nerd, I wouldn’t mind more history and information as to how certain magical defenses came about. Sort of like the information you gave to my war water question. I like seeing how something came to be included in someone’s book or magical arsenal. But that’s just me, let’s see if any Magical Buffet readers have any thoughts on the matter. If you have a suggestion for Emily, just post it in the comments section, it would be nice see what you guys think.

About Emily Carlin:
Emily Carlin has been a magickal practitioner for more than a decade. She is the Grey School of Wizardry’s Dean of Dark Arts, specializing in defensive magick and creatures of the night, teaching magickal protection to people of all ages and skill levels. Emily also holds a BA in philosophy from Wellesley College and a JD from Seattle University School of Law, and is a member of the Washington State Bar. Carlin is a lifelong resident of Seattle, Washington.

Geek Month in Review: March 2011

By JB Sanders

More links for more geeks

Crocheted Reef
An entire reef made from yarn. Yes, it’s a real thing. And odd.

Dr Who Auction**
Bring your truckload of money, because you’ll need it.

Drilling Causing Earthquakes?
So Arkansas experienced a 4.7 magnitude quake Sunday (February 27th). Arkansas. Let that sink in for a moment. Arkansas. It’s not exactly a hotbed of quake activity. The article here discusses some research that suggests that the recent spate of earthquakes in the state might be the result of over-zealous natural-gas drilling. Seriously, is anyone other than me thinking it’s a precursor plot to some kind of James Bond film?

Walking Cactus
Not a typo, not a surrealist painting (although it might resemble that, strongly). This is a fossil found recently in China. It’s a “creature” that could be related to a worm or a lobster, with spines. Lots of spines. Be sure to check out the speculative movie for what it might have looked like.

Analogies Can Be Graphs
Or is it metaphors. Anyway, great take on the graph.

Spacewar, 50 Years On
The venerable first video game, originally coded on a PDP-1, has been ported up to the web. It’s using the original Spacewar code, running on a PDP-1 emulator. Originally the emulator was running in Java; in the latest version it’s been ported to HTML5 tools. Enjoy!

In case you’re not sure what a PDP-1 is.

Beer Bricks
So in 1963, Heinekin came out with beer in a bottle that, once emptied of beer, could be used as a brick. Yeah, how progressive is that? Plus it looks like a pretty cool glass wall.

BLDBLOG Interviews China Mièville
Love that BLDBLOG. Here he interviews the celebrated urban fantasy author China Mièville. Fascinating stuff.

Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite:

“And in his 2004 novel Iron Council, Miéville imagines something called “slow sculpture,” a geologically sublime new artform by which huge blocks of sandstone are “carefully prepared: shafts drilled precisely, caustic agents dripped in, for a slight and so-slow dissolution of rock in exact planes, so that over years of weathering, slabs would fall in layers, coming off with the rain, and at very last disclosing their long-planned shapes. Slow-sculptors never disclosed what they had prepared, and their art revealed itself only long after their deaths.”

Nintendo Bets On 3D
So this is where things are going.

Scientists Discover Giant Cave System on the Moon
Oh yeah, for real. Not the opening to some creepy science fiction movie. They posit that this would be a good place to build a moon habitat.

You’re Playing With Them Wrong
Because nothing you did as a kid was as awesome as these Star Wars Lego(tm) action shots. Seriously.

NASA Space Nerd Broadcasts
Like space? Or rocket science? Want to see what NASA is doing RIGHT NOW? Try out their live broadcast web feed. It’s like c-span in space.

Your Alien Invasion Will Be Graded
Speaking of space, scifi author and columnist John Scalzi grades a variety of movies featuring alien invasions. Not on how good the movie is, but on how successful the invasion was. Fun!

The Mathematics of Juggling
For you juggling geeks and you math geeks, a talented juggler with a PhD in Mathematics discusses high-end math as it applies to juggling. There might also be some balls flying through the air.

Transparent Solar-Powered TV
Yeah, really.

Atlantis Found – Again!
But maybe for real this time. The research team found the concentric rings described in Plato’s story (which is a first, in terms of Finding Atlantis), submerged where they think a tsunami hit it. In Spain.

Different link with a video describing better what the hell they’re talking about.

The Missing 9th Legion
Back in the days of Roman Britain, the ninth legion went north to quell a rebellion and was never heard from again. Read about the theories of what may have happened to it. Whatever became of the 9th, the results of their disappearance were dramatic. Rome sent reinforcements, and at the head of the 6th Legion was Hadrian. Yes, that Hadrian. The guy who’s wall defines the border of England and Scotland to this day. (Hadrian’s Wall)

History of the 9th, along with some commentary on their disappearance and appearances in fiction.

Shelterbox
Ok, maybe it’s the survivalist in me, but these “everything you need to survive” kits are pretty cool. They’re designed to go to areas after a disaster, or be available to emergency services to distribute to those lacking homes or shelter. The kit includes a 10-person tent.

Seedboms!
It’s called Guerrilla Gardening. You take these bits of compost & dirt shaped like grenades, wet them and toss them into abandoned urban blight. Boom! Mother Nature takes over and the seeds in the center of the “Seedbom” puts out flowers. Such an amusing idea, now commercialized into purchasable throwers.

Quote from their website: “Guerrilla Gardening is taking ownership of abandoned urban spaces and bringing them to life with plants and flowers.”

3D Loom Creates Objects With Carbon Fiber

So it just isn’t a Geek Review without some kind of 3D printer-type post. This time, it’s one of only two machines in the world, used to create parts for the Lexus LFA. Mesmerizing video.

Alfred Has Died
The actor, Michael Gough, who portrayed Batman’s butler (Alfred Pennyworth) in several of Tim Burton’s Batman movies has died. He also (watch how I work in a Dr Who reference) portrayed the Celestial Toymaker in the first season of Dr Who. Plus he had a 65-year career in stage and screen. A more worthy obituary linked to title.

How Much Radiation?
Ever wonder how much radiation you can suck up and not have a problem? Want to see that comparison visually, with solid science behind it? Well, look no further than xkcd, not only a great comic, but purveyors of fine graphs and maps.

Famous First Words in Tech
Not just the first words spoken on the telephone, but also the first transatlantic phone call, the first email, and the first twitter. Amusing!

Sneaky Bots**
Scientists are developing autonomous surveillance drones that know when and how to hide while watching. Creeeeepy!

Digital Currency
Some hackers have actually figured out how to make it and to make it in an interesting way. Video helps explain some of it.

How Insanity Helps SciFi Writers**
Especially that Phillip K Dick guy. Who if he had lived and kept up his output, would have surpassed Isaac Asimov as most prolific SciFi author.

Slow Sky
Another great time-lapse video of the starry sky. This time from South Dakota in the depth of winter. For you astro-geeks, there’s details on the equipment used to capture it.

HD version highly recommended.

Spiders!
Ten of the strangest spiders you’ll ever see pictures of — unless you’re a spider scientist, in which case, more work.

Water Powered Car
And no, I’m not kidding. It breaks down the hydrogen out of the water and uses it to generate electricity. It can run for a hour on just a liter of water — though it has a longer overall range.

Company’s website

What if Dr Suess Created Star Wars? **
With illustrations. Why are you still reading this? Go look!

** Rebecca sent this one along.

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: http://glenandtyler.blogspot.com

Immortal Blues: Part Six

By Greg Bullard

Welcome to part six of the nine part fiction series “Immortal Blues” by Greg Bullard. We say good-bye to The Crone, Isabella, and hello to a frenemy from the past. If you need to catch up, here is Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four and Part Five.

“What the hell do you want?” Marisela spat venomously, temper flaring and smoldering in her pitiless, black eyes.

In a snap I made a decision, perhaps rash in hindsight. In an amount of time difficult to measure, I had her wrapped in my embrace and my lips were pressed against hers. Instantly, her mouth parted, giving way to my advances, allowing my tongue to twirl and wrestle with her own. I could feel the core of anger seething within her. Slowly, with that impassioned kiss, I drew the roiling, writhing emotion into myself and drank deeply of the raw power within it.

Seconds passed and I felt my reserves of energy and emotion refilling. She would be exhausted – I felt her strength flagging now, but I was in no mood to coddle the temperamental girl. Like her great – many times removed – grandmother before her, she would learn the price of my companionship, and, in time, she would learn the value of it.

The sun sat behind my broad shoulders, casting lengthy shadows through the open doorway, darkening the room beyond. The large clock in the corner ground out the seconds on aging gears; I could count the rotation of those gears by the brush of steel on steel and the creak and whine of the spring that drove them.

As Marisela lost her battle for consciousness, my lips left hers. Catching her as she collapsed, I eased her into a chair near the doorway and covered her with the hand-stitched shawl that had been draped across the back of the chair – a gift I had given Isabella long ago, one of many gifts.

“Has it been so long, my Knight of Swords?” Isabella asked, her gravelly voice grating in the silence.

I turned to her. She stood in the shadows of the doorway to her sitting room, bent over a gnarled wooden cane. She had stood quietly, unmoving for the better part of a minute. I had known she was there.

“It has been that long and longer, my sweet,” I answered softly, in a clear unwhispered tone.

Unflinching, she held my gaze and asked, “Ah, my sweet is it now?”

“Now and for decades before.”

“It’s time though, isn’t it?” she sensed the weight of the moment.

I nodded, there was nothing else to say really. Crossing the few steps to her, I knelt on one knee. Taking her twisted, tobacco-stained fingers, I wrapped them in the strong, flawless skin of my large, but delicate hands. I marveled at the strength and warmth in her fingers.

Bowing my head, as if in prayer, I bent over her hand and muttered softly. Opening her fingers gently, I brought the still-soft skin of her palm to my lips and planted a lingering kiss there. Where the skin glistened with the slight moisture of that kiss, a tear fell from my eyes to mark the same spot. I blinked, tear and kiss were gone.

Her voice quavered slightly as she spoke, “Don’t mourn for me, my Prince.” Gaining determination, she continued with strength, “I have seen too many moons; I am ready to feel my mother’s embrace. You gave me life and amazement beyond the years a bright-eyed young girl once thought possible.”

“I gave you nothing of the kind, Isabella.” I shook my head, “I only repaid a love I never deserved by lending you grace that the gods should have freely given one such as yourself.”

“Time grows short.” Changing the melancholy subject, she pulled me to my feet, then held out her hand, “Show me what you have brought me.”

Offering her the crook of my arm, I escorted her to her table and helped her into her seat. While she adjusted, I removed the folded, linen cloth from my coat pocket. Sitting it in the center of the table, I unfolded the corners, revealing the demon’s claws.

She licked her lips and eyed the claws. Without moving her head, her eyes tilted up to regard me and she asked, “Once I have your answers, is that it then? Do I find my eternal peace tonight?”

“Were that it was so easy. You have lived long drawing on the strength of my gentle touch. You drank deeply, such does not pass in a night. I cannot say how long you will live – days, months, years perhaps?” I shrugged.

“And Marisela, is she next for you?” she seemed concerned.

“Who is to say? In kissing another, I broke the tie that has held you and I close for so long, but the other I kissed need not receive my favor as you did. Time will tell the whole of that story. For now, she hates me, and hate is just another emotion I can use to feed my existence. I expect her to hate me for years to come.”

She stared off in space for several minutes, time which I gladly gave her. Seeming to resolve herself to the situation, she turned her attention to the claws laid out on the table before her.

From the pockets of her peasant dress she extracted an intricately carved elm rod, inlaid with True Silver runes. Touching the tip to her forehead, she closed her eyes and held that pose for a slow count of twenty. When her eyes opened they burned with energy and vitality. She struck the demon’s claws sharply with the charged rod.

Just as before, when I disposed of the flesh of the beast, the claws burst into flame at the touch of the True Silver. This flame burned without heat though. It burned with the cool, grey light of the full moon.

Isabella gazed intensely into the dancing flame, as if hypnotized by each flicker and lick of the tongue of unnatural fire. She could read it like a book, its secrets unable to hide from her scrutiny.

In a few blinks the claws had burned away completely, leaving not so much as ash to mark their destruction. Still she stared into that same spot. I waited, semi-patiently, and by that I mean not at all really.

Finally, she spoke, “I’m so sorry.”

The delicate scent of meadowsweet filled my nostrils and my gentle breathing became a sharp inhalation. Forcing myself to turn slowly, I saw Marisela in the doorway. She regarded me with eyes that were not her own.

She spoke to me with a voice that likewise, was not her own, “How does it feel to be the hunted?”

Inclining my head in a graceful bow, I didn’t let the sinking feeling in my gut touch my features or my voice as I said, “Aine Marina, it’s been so very long.” I inserted the slightest of pauses before adding, “Your Majesty.”

About Greg Bullard:
Greg currently resides in Austin, TX, trying to do his part to Keep Austin Weird. While his wife, Julia, and daughter, Emily, both work hard to keep him on his toes, it is Julia’s red editing pen that does the most work. When he is not muddling his way through some fiction, he usually writes about What Greg Eats.