Doctor Dee….The Opera

Who is John Dee? That can be a complicated question. He is different things to each person familiar with him. Like all complex things, let’s go to the anonymous folks at Wikipedia for the general gist.

John Dee was a noted English mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occultist, navigator, imperialist and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I. He devoted much of his life to the study of alchemy, divination and Hermetic philosophy.

Dee straddled the worlds of science and magic just as they were becoming distinguishable. One of the most learned men of his age, he had been invited to lecture on advanced algebra at the University of Paris while still in his early twenties. Dee was an ardent promoter of mathematics and a respected astronomer, as well as a leading expert in navigation, having trained many of those who would conduct England’s voyages of discovery.

Simultaneously with these efforts, Dee immersed himself in the worlds of magic, astrology and Hermetic philosophy. He devoted much time and effort in the last thirty years or so of his life to attempting to commune with angels in order to learn the universal language of creation and bring about the pre-apocalyptic unity of mankind. A student of the Renaissance Neo-Platonism of Marsilio Ficino, Dee did not draw distinctions between his mathematical research and his investigations into Hermetic magic, angel summoning and divination. Instead he considered all of his activities to constitute different facets of the same quest: the search for a transcendent understanding of the divine forms which underlie the visible world, which Dee called “pure verities”.

Dee’s high status as a scholar also allowed him to play a role in Elizabethan politics. He served as an occasional adviser and tutor to Elizabeth I and nurtured relationships with her ministers Francis Walsingham and William Cecil. Dee also tutored and enjoyed patronage relationships with Sir Philip Sidney, his uncle Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, and Edward Dyer. He also enjoyed patronage from Sir Christopher Hatton.

Damon Albarn is a British singer/songwriter/producer that you may know best as the front man for Blur and the Gorillaz. He is also preparing for the debut of an opera that he collaborated with theater director Rufus Norris on about the life of John Dee. Intriguing, no?

BBC News reports, “This concoction of Renaissance ideas and a human story is being brought to life with an eclectic musical composition – featuring medieval instruments, West African drummer Tony Allen, and Damon Albarn’s unmistakable vocals.” Albarn goes on in the article to explain that he feels Dee has been “whitewashed” out of history, and is quoted as saying, “It’s just amazing how much colour there is in his ideas. Just imagine the English now if we had kept that spirit in our hearts.”

The opera is called Doctor Dee and will be debuting in July at the Manchester International Festival.

Rebels & Devils

It’s only an anthology, I thought. A nice way to ease myself into the writings that Original Falcon publishes. Sure it’s titled “Rebels & Devils: The Psychology of Liberation”, but still, it’s just an anthology. Then, as you might suspect, the anthology kicked my ass.

“Rebels & Devils” features the writings of Robert Anton Wilson, William S. Burroughs, Timothy Leary, Ph.D., Phil Hine, Aleister Crowley, Osho, and more. I suspect you’re getting the tone now, right? Trailblazers of a sort, people who left behind the status quo. In short, rebels and devils.

What does it mean to be a rebel? How do you become a devil? These questions are asked and sometimes answered not just in the typical short essay format (An absolute stunner of an essay comes from Diana Rose Hartmann titled “The Calling of the Holy Whore”. Dare I call it a must read for every woman? I dare.), but also in the form of interviews (I loved Christopher S. Hyatt, Ph.D interviewing Israel Regardie!), fiction (Look forward to “Paradise Mislaid” by William S. Burroughs), poetry (I enjoyed “Prelude to a One-Night Stand” by Adam Matza. “I need a body-sized condom, to protect me from your malaise, and you from mine.” Rough.), and even a comic strip from Christopher S. Hyatt, Ph.D and S. Jason Black called “VoodooMan”.

“Rebels & Devils” dedicates a section of the book to “The World of Chaos”, which includes discussing the practice of Chaos Magic. If you buy this book and only bother to read “Beyond the Event Horizon: Responses to Chaos Culture” by Phil Hine and “Undoing Yourself with Chaos Magic” by Robert F. Williams, Jr., you will come away with the best understanding of Chaos Magic that the uninitiated can hope to attain. At least that was the case for me!

So hopefully now you’re psyched. You’re chomping at the bit, ready to dive in. Consider this a word of warning, this book WILL kick your ass. Am I in charge of my destiny? Do I only focus on myself, leaving others to fend for themselves? Is that a good or bad thing? Am I weak in ways I didn’t realize? These are just some of the thoughts that raced through my mind while reading this book. If it were a website, it would be NSFW (not safe for work). All manner of very adult themes are at play in “Rebels & Devils”. However, if you’re willing to take it on; if you’re ready to be confronted by ideas you’ve never encountered before, presented in some extremely outside of the normal comfort zone kind of way, you will be rewarded at the end of the journey.

NNYPRS Tech Council: Being a Paranormal investigator

By Brian Leighton

I get asked by a lot people to join NNYPRS, they saw the shows and want to be a ghost hunter!!!! Now as soon as I hear the term ghost hunter, I usually cringe, then roll my eyes and politely respond with what is needed to join our team (sign up at our forum and start joining discussions) most people that contact me never follow through.

Now the TV shows out there are pretty entertaining but while they have done a lot to help bring the paranormal sciences into the main stream it also has not shown everything involved with a proper investigation. That’s not the TV shows fault, a lot of what is involved is REALLY boring…. For example, when you watch most shows they are reviewing data for about 3-5min. YA RIGHT!!!! Try 20+ hours for a 6-8 hour investigation. How is that possible?? Well when you have 4 cameras recording for 5 hours that is 20 hours of video that you have to review, plus EVP sessions, AND all the photos that are taken!!!! But wait there’s more…..That is just the investigation!

One thing that NNYPRS does is a historical research on the property. What this does is helps us separate fact from fiction. There are many times that we are told “I heard a guy hung himself in this room” or “there was a huge fire and someone died” The problem is without proof of the event it is simply just a story. We have a couple investigators that spend countless hours combing through newspapers, atlases and other resources. Now the internet has made this a little easier, it allows us to do this mainly from home as opposed to before when there were several trips made to local clerk’s offices to search deeds and land records. Sometimes this still has to be done. This allows us to give the clients a detailed history of when the property was settled, who lived there, possibly who died and if there were any traumatic events on the property. When we leave the client has a file about an inch thick about their property.

Now I don’t want you guys to think that I am bashing all the shows out there, some are kind of close to what we do, “Ghost Hunters” is one of them. Then you have a show like “Ghost Adventures”, also known as the “Jersey Shore” of the paranormal shows (not sure which one would be Snooki). Pretty much the farthest you can get from what an investigation should be, but it is entertaining…

The best part of this is that we do it for FREE!!! We NEVER charge for any investigation at all…NNYPRS is run with donations, member dues and fundraisers like the Expos we produce. Our next one is at Fort William Henry in Lake George, NY July 2nd and 3rd. We have a lot of awesome people that will be speaking at the event, demonologists, bigfoot hunters, yours truly as well as other members of our group. You can visit with the psychics or enjoy all the other vendors that will be there. So if you want to find out what it takes to be a paranormal investigator stop on by and we will be more than happy to show you all the equipment!!!!! See ya there….

About Brian Leighton:
Brian Is the NNYPRS Team Leader and head of the Tech Council. You can contact him at with any question or comments.

Hey Folks,

It’s Rebecca and I thought I’d give you all some more details about the Lake George Paranormal Expo that’s being presented by the Northern New York Paranormal Research Society and the Fort William Henry Hotel and Conference Center.

It’s a two day event being held on Saturday July 2 and Sunday July 3, 2011. The hours are 10am – 8pm both days with speakers starting at 10:30am both days. Speakers you ask? They’ve got a great bunch of folks coming out for the event! Gordie Little, who you may remember from “Spicy Italian Ghosts”, NNYPRS Tech Council, who keep providing The Magical Buffet with paranormal related articles, James Annitto, demonologist and paranormal investigator, Bob Canino, author of “UFO’s in Upstate NY”, and more! Like me!

There are assorted vendors attending, ranging from psychic readings to aura photography to soy candles featuring scents being created specifically for the expo! There will also be activities for the kids!

Admission is $12 each day for adults but you can save $2 by bringing a non-perishable food item for donation!

To learn more visit:

Hope to see you there!

TempleFest 2011

Buckle in folks, I’m back and recovered from my long day in the sun at TempleFest 2011 and I’ve got loads to share! So much stuff it’s hard to figure out where to start!

Let’s start with the event overall. TempleFest is put together by the folks at The Temple of Witchcraft. I’m not sure what The Temple of Witchcraft community is like on a normal day, but I was amazed to find plenty of volunteers working at the event, and all of them seeming to be happy to be doing their tasks. Having gone to other events, I know it is hard to find volunteers to work and often times if you get some they end up being a sullen crowd wishing they were out in the thick of the action. Not the case here, everyone was brimming with enthusiasm.

Mike and Wren: Presenters and Protectors

Next I’ve got to talk about the vendors. I thought it would be fun to print out a flyer for TempleFest and then try and to get as many vendors, presenters, and staff to sign it like you would a yearbook. Well there were so many vendors and staff that my flyer looks pretty sparse. You guys know me, it’s not like I can just walk up and say, “Sign this,” and move on. I want to talk about the products they’re selling, or the job they’re doing. My Chatty Cathy ways left me missing out on talking to plenty of vendors and presenters, damn it! However here is my vendor rundown from who I did get to visit.

First, say hello again to Patrick and Rich from FairySpa! You may remember I met them at Celebrate Samhain 2010. It’s funny how despite only a brief meeting it was like seeing old friends again. I picked up some of their “Intense” lotion, because these hands, they need some lovin’.

Patrick and Rich, the men behind FairySpa

Now I know it’s crazy because she’s been featured on the site a bunch, but I never actually got to personally meet Dawn Hunt of Cucina Aurora until this trip! She is so funny and filled with such joy, it’s pretty contagious. I met up with her shortly after arriving, so this is me falling asleep while waiting for Jim to take our photo!

I'm the collapsing girl on the left, Dawn is the beautiful woman on the right.

Again, I “met” Michael Dolan when I interviewed him and the rest of FeatherScale for The Magical Buffet, but I had never gotten to meet him in person. He was there not as a musician, but as a craftsman, with Haunted Wood Crafts. He’s such a funny guy, I could have spent all afternoon in his tent just chewing the fat and looking at his awesome crafts. Alas, I did have other things on my agenda.

Visiting the infamous Michael Dolan

I got to meet the folks at Healing Touch Pottery. Of course the pottery was beautiful, but the detail and care that goes into each piece is what impressed me the most. They use quartz enhanced raw clay, then various crystals and minerals are infused during the firing process, gemstones and crystals are chosen to be added to areas of the pottery that you will touch, and lastly each piece is inspected and charged with Reiki. Can you say that about your morning coffee mug?

Healing Touch Pottery

There were loads more vendors that I wish I had gotten to visit and spend some time with, but on top of the vendors, there were workshops to attend!

The first workshop I went to was Steve Kenson’s “The Fool’s Journey: Techniques of Ecstasy”. I was intrigued by this one for a couple of reasons. First, to me Steve Kenson is “Steve Kenson: Game Designer and Developer”, despite the fact that here he was “Steve Kenson: One of the Three Founders of The Temple of Witchcraft”. I was interested in hearing him speak about spirituality outside of gaming. Second, ecstatic practices are a tricky subject to discuss. They’re often dangerous and you can’t really discuss them without also talking about sex and drugs. Treacherous waters to navigate.

I’m happy to say Steve navigated the waters just fine. His presentation explained in detail the benefits of ecstatic practices without backing away from explaining the potential dangers involved. Sex was discussed with humor and candor without becoming too graphic for the mixed demographic crowd in the tent, and drugs were also handled with mature discussion. Personally, I don’t see myself undertaking the practice anytime soon, but it was an insightful workshop.

The other workshop I attended was “Origami Magick” with Adam Sartwell. What a great time! If you ever have a chance to do this workshop, go! He’s got such a great personality, I promise you’ll have a good time! I have to start out with admitting that the idea of using origami for magic is so simple and obvious that I cannot believe the thought had never crossed my mind! Adam did a great job of explaining the usefulness of adding origami to your magical work. Did I mention how silly I feel for never having thought of it before? Here’s the other thing, I really didn’t think I would be able to do origami. It always seemed like it would be complicated, however with Adam’s instructions I sat there making hats, cups, and Yakko-sans with relative ease.

Richard from Looking For Group donning the Samurai hat I made.

Of course by now you have to be wondering, how did my presentation go. Well, here’s what happens when you share a time slot with Christopher Penczak.

(insert tumbleweed here)

Although in my opinion I still came out a winner because not only did I get to meet a bunch of great vendors and attend two really wonderful workshops, but Steve Kenson showed up about 15 minutes into my “presentation” and we got to talk RPG games, Pagan publishing versus game publishing, television, comic books, conventions and festivals, and other assorted chit chat. I told him to not let my suave demeanor fool him, once he walked away I was going to squeal like the silly little fangirl that I am.


Me with Steve Kenson

TempleFest 2011 was a great day out! I hope to make it out again next year!

TempleFest 2011

What I’ve Learned From Bin Laden

By Cindy Chaney

I turned on the television and news of Osama Bin Laden’s death had just reached the air waves. Ten years after he changed the world with an act of war Navy SEALs finally found him. Like many Americans I felt relief but I also began to reflect and wonder what could we learn, what had I learned? Not just about war but about peace? Was peace possible and would the death of one man help bring us closer to this ideal? Almost immediately I could feel the resistance, reluctance, and skepticism trying to push through to the surface. I could hear my ego screaming “yeah, right buddy! You are totally out of touch with reality; peace is never going to happen.” As I began to listen more to what my heart was saying I realized that I wanted so badly to have peace in the world and within myself. Why was I feeling this resistance?

Thinking back I was actually able to pinpoint the exact occurrence in my life that changed the way I looked at peace. I was twenty-one years old and the year was 2001 and I had just moved to Italy. I was excited to move into a new chapter of my life and to finally be living with my new husband. We had been best friends, high school sweethearts, long distance lovers, and now husband and wife. Our marriage had taken place the summer prior but I insisted on finishing my last year at Chapman University before joining him in Vicenza, Italy where he was stationed for the United States Army. It was exhilarating to pack up all my things and move away from all I had known to start a new life in a foreign country. Italy was breathtaking and I loved feeling like every day I woke up I was on vacation. I arrived in July and by September I was still full of joy as I woke up each day pinching myself and wondering if this really could be my life.

I loved waking up and falling asleep next to my husband, I loved living in Italy, I loved traveling around Europe where everywhere I looked there was something I had never seen before, and I loved being a wife. I was eager to find a job and despite the constant assurance from fellow military spouses, Italians, and even the job placement coordinator that it would be almost impossible to find a job that wasn’t waitress or cashier I was soon hired as a Human Resource Assistant. Things in our country were pretty peaceful at this time and I definitely can say that I had peace within and I was more than abundant. This was the happiest time in my adult life. Even the smallest tasks such as; stopping for a morning cappuccino felt like an exotic holiday adventure. It was a joyous way to live.

By September my husband was in Germany at PLDC which is training to become a sergeant. While he was away we still had not received any of our house hold goods or my car, my job would not be starting for another month, I had not made many friends yet, and I had not learned much Italian. It was a bit of a lonely time for me as there was much solitude. However, I was able to begin to learn my way around town and use the quiet time to learn about myself. I guess you could say this was the calm before the storm. On September 11, 2001 everything changed as my life like many others became overwhelmed with fear. Would my husband be going to war? I began to immediately pray for peace. I prayed that our President would choose peace. I prayed that our leaders would be level headed and not blame a group for a small number of people’s actions. I prayed that the love of my life would be safe from harm. I prayed for peace externally every night before I went to sleep and constantly throughout my day but I never thought of claiming the peace within. I had not yet realized that I could claim myself to be peace and have that projected throughout all of my reality.

Soon our country was at war in Afghanistan and my husband was still in training in Germany. Although I wasn’t in America at the time I hear that many people were eager for revenge and supported our decision to invade Afghanistan and then Iraq (or at least that was the news we were getting in Italy). Other countries were protesting these actions but the Italians were the ones that I identified with the most. They didn’t protest rather they just called for peace. The Italians began to hang up beautiful rainbow flags that said PACE (peace in Italian) in big white letters. I felt the same way as all I wanted was peace. What army wife wouldn’t want peace? I decided to join the Italians in their call for peace and I purchased an exquisite rainbow flag that said PACE and hung it from my balcony.

My PACE flag flew in beautiful harmony for exactly five days before I was forced to take it down. The sergeant in charge of my building called me a communist and called my beloved flag anti-American. I asked him, “How can hoping for peace be anti-American?” He believed that my flag was protesting America. I think part of my soul died that day as taking down that flag went against everything I stood for as a human being. It was devastating for me to think that I was surrounded by people that had the same thought structure as this sergeant. If I only had myself to worry about I would have left the flag. Leaving the flag up would have be the best thing for my soul. Unfortunately, in the military your actions as a military wife affect your husband and so for him I took the flag down.

In this moment I realized that not only had September 11th created war externally, it had a created a war inside me. September 11th and my PACE flag had a domino effect of doubt, worry, fear, and cynicism on my life. Furthermore, I’ve learned that the first time you back down from something you believe in it becomes easier and easier to do so and before you know it you don’t even recognize yourself anymore. The PACE flag was one of the first in a series of decisions where I allowed myself to compromise who I was and what I believed in order to be the wife I thought my husband wanted. It wasn’t until this announcement of Osama’s death that I began to see how much I wanted to be the girl who never backed down again, the one who had high moral standards for herself and those around her, the girl who didn’t let anyone push her around. I need to look at the war that goes on within me. This is the war of the ego vs. spirit and the constant battle of right, wrong, positive, and negative which is where polarity is at.

One visionary, John Lennon, sang “Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do, Nothing to kill or die for, And no religion too, Imagine all the people, Living life in peace.” Perhaps if we are able to operate in the consciousness of total oneness and abundance, and without the need, desire, and want to compete, then we could have peace. As I write this I am making a pledge to myself to never let others make me question what I know is right, to be true to my soul, to allow myself to imagine what Lennon envisioned, to not let others fear influence me, and to wave my PACE flag for the entire world to see. Will you join me? As human beings we must go within ourselves and stop the war within. Once you have established this then the thought conscious level that creates the activity of war in masses and governments will also change.

About Cindy Chaney:Cindy Chaney is currently completing her PhD.D at the University of Sedona where she is studying Metaphysics where her focus is on Holistic Life Coaching. Prior to her PhD.D work she completed a B.A. and a Masters in Metaphysics with The University of Metaphysics where her thesis work was completed on channeling. Prior to her studies of the unknown Chaney was educated at Cameron University with a Master in Business and Chapman University completing a B.A in Organizational Leadership and Communications. Chaney has worn many hats in the business world including; working for the United States Army in Italy, working in finance for the notorious Lehman Brothers, creating a website for nerds called, and as a Business Professor to name a few. Chaney is also an ordained minister, well-trained in the art of reflexology, a lousy but passionate ukulele player, and an avid cat lover.

Coming Soon, TempleFest!

Looking for something to do this Saturday and you live in the South Hampton, NH area? Then rejoice because I have got some good news for you! This Saturday, June 18, 2011, will be TempleFest!

This outdoor event starts at 10am with an opening ritual and the day concludes with a Midsummer main ritual that starts at 7:30pm. What goes on in between those two events? I’m glad you asked.

There will be vendors; including FairySpa (who you may remember from my article about Celebrate Samhain), Haunted Woodcrafts (aka Mike Dolan, aka one of the members of Featherscale), Cucina Aurora (aka Dawn Hunt, aka the wonderful lady who has shared great articles with us about Shepherd’s Pie and Spinach Quiche), and more!

There is also a packed schedule of speakers; including Christopher Penczak and Steve Kenson (who you may recall I went all fangirl on at Celebrate Samhain). But wait, what’s that one? At 4:30pm? “Protection from Evil: Religion, Folklore, & Myth” with Rebecca Elson. Holy crap! That’s me!

Admission is $25 if you pre-register, but hurry, the last day to pre-register is tomorrow, June 15, 2011. After that it will be $30 for the day.

To learn more, visit the TempleFest website! I hope to see some of you there! And for those of you who can’t make it, don’t worry, I’ll be sure to let you know how it went!

10 Questions with Alferian Gwydion MacLir

Just a little note. When we originally did this interview, we were under the impression that Alferian’s book “Wandlore” would not be available until the beginning of July. However if you head on over to you’ll see it’s available now!

1. Readers may not know this, but you were the very first interview done for The Magical Buffet. You were “10 Questions with a Druid“. Why on earth did you agree to do that interview?

Why not? It was fun and I’m always interested in talking about druidry.

2. Back in 2006 when I interviewed you I put your Bardic skills to the test by requesting you write a poem about The Magical Buffet. In response, you wrote this:

There once was a girl named Rebecca
Whose tastes ranged from London to Mecca
She offered up choices
From alchemy to oysters
In a buffet for magical trekkers.

I’m here to challenge you again and put your Bardic work to the test by asking for a second verse. Are you up to the task?

Gosh! I had totally forgotten that. Well, it’s a limerick so doesn’t have a second verse. How about free verse…

Magical Buffet
Car on a magical train
The Hogwarts Express —
The train of all desires —
Blue, and the buffet full of
And apple Pythagoras
Genmai cha
Eye of newt
We eat Cornish pasties and
Drink coffee
Hot, black arts sweet,
Then go back to looking
Out the windows
As the landscape of magic
And the castles of imagination
Steam past.

3. In 2006 we also talked about the Avalon School for Druidic Studies. I was so enthusiastic about it and sad to discover the website for it is gone. Can you share with me and my readers what happened with it?

The board of governors and I closed it down mainly because I did not feel I had the time or skills to keep on herding cats. As many people have said, it was an idea ahead of its time. What is needed, as I’ve always said, is a physical location. Sort of, if you build it they will come. Some of those involved in the project thought online learning would draw students, but at the present moment druids are spread rather thinly and most of them haven’t any money. My thought was to present druidic ideas in a formal way, but entirely open, so you did not need to belong to an order to study it. No “secrets.” But you do need money, competent administrative staff, and time to draw students.

There are a number of other folks out there running magical schools of one sort or another, and I really have respect for them. Last year I tried teaching at the Grey School of Wizardry and was very impressed with the administration and the teachers. I enjoyed the students too, and was sorry to leave, but I need to focus my energies on my writing. In fact, what happened after I closed Avalon Center was that I began writing a novel that is set at a druid university. It starts as a “school days” novel, as so many have, and follows the heroine as she grows up. It is meant to be a series. Although it is somewhat the same idea as the “Harry Potter” books, it is not intended to be a fantasy about magic. Rather, it is intended to present real magic as the subject of study in the schools. This gives me a chance to develop my idea of a magical school, without the hard work of manifesting using real people. Much easier if you can just create the people you need. The first novel in the series is titled “Emily Glass and the Alchemist’s Secret” and it is a bit steampunk, though not dystopian, nor set in Victorian England. I won’t say any more. You will just have to read it.

4. Enough about the past, you’ve got a wonderful book, “Wandlore: The Art of Crafting the Ultimate Magical Tool”, that is coming out in July! Let’s first talk about how you started making wands?

It was 1998 or so that I made my first wand, when I was studying in the Ovate grade of OBOD (the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids). The grade work includes a good deal of work with the trees and ogham signary, so I was talking to a lot of trees. The oghams are a system of signs used by the Irish bards of old. Among other things, each signifies a different tree. I’ve always talked to trees so far as I can remember but in this case I was getting to know the character of each type of tree in a more methodical way. An oak dryad is different from an elm dryad, and both of those are very different from a poplar or birch. So, the study of the old bardic lore of the trees and their correspondences quite naturally led me to my calling as a Wandmaker. It definitely was a calling too. My spiritual guides told me that part of my purpose was to reintroduce the art of wandmaking into the present magical culture.

That along with my fiction writing is what I feel called to do with my life – principally. Obviously there is a lot else. Steampunk for instance.

5. And then how did the book “Wandlore” come about?

I accumulated a lot of the lore on my website – the Bardwood Wandry – and at some point a druid friend of mine told me that I really should write a book on the subject. After about five years, here it is. Writing “Wandlore” helped me to articulate a lot of the ideas I have had over the years – things that I accepted intuitively and had never tried to explain to others. The elemental structure of the four principal parts of a wand for example. Those parts are, the point, the shaft, the handle, and the pommel. They correspond respectively to fire, air, earth, and water. Why? Well, let me tell you why.

The pommel which is often set with a stone or a large rounded shape, is used as the reservoir of spiritual energy or prana within the wand. It is elementally water and yin, while the point is the opposite – fire, the energy of will, and yang. The handle which contacts the wizard’s hand is earth because it draws on the immediate physical and material control of the user. The shaft is air due to its role as the conducting medium of prana. Magic is cast through the air, as it were, both in the literal sense of material air uniting and connecting all things on earth, and in a psychological sense in which it is the thoughts of the wizard that conduct the will, the non-verbal power of desire.

6. The amount of detail and just raw piles of information in the book is staggering. How long did it take to do all the research?

Several lifetimes. I drew upon the work of many others, as you probably noticed if you read the bibliography. The book collects a lot of information that has been scattered around in magical circles for a generation or more. Everything from tree lore, to stone lore, and the mysteries of magical beasts. One of the techniques I adopted from the famous Mr. Nitrogenous P. Ollivander is the use of magical cores in my wands. I had to do a lot of research on that subject with my Elven sources. I have three Elvish friends who very kindly made their own knowledge available to me. Some of it was general knowledge of how magic works, and some was particular lore about wands. They advise me in all my magical work, and confirmed that the use of spiritual inclusions from astral beasts was a long-established practice, not just the stuff of fiction.

Anyway, magical cores. The use of phoenix feather, unicorn hair, griffin feather, etc. etc. has a perfectly good basis in real magic, quite apart from the “Harry Potter” books. In the fictional world of J. K. Rowling, one is led to believe that the wand’s magic comes from the unicorn hair or phoenix feather. This is only partly true. The magic in a magic wand comes from the mage using it. It does not bestow magical power on the wizard, as seems to be the case to some extent in the Harry Potter books. But the inclusion of bodily ephemera of mythical beasts adds their character to the wand. A wand of wood with an animal core and a stone reservoir in the pommel unites all three of the major kingdoms: animal, vegetable, and mineral. The parts used, however, are a bit off in the fictional world of Ms. Rowling. She, for example, has Ollivander using “dragon’s heartstrings” which is a horrible idea. If there is one thing you must not do when taking body parts from a magical animal it is to kill it or dissect it. Heart muscle, which I presume is what she means, would be nothing but trouble. That’s the sort of thing you would use to create a cursed object. It is the scales of the dragon that are used in wands. Dragons shed their skin like snakes and the scales can be harvested by a wandmaker or general apothecary of magical ingredients. I know a very nice shop in the netherworld where I get mine. Saves a lot of time.

The aspects of druidry that enter into my practice, in the process of enchantment and in the work with tree spirits (dryads) come from the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids and my studies within the order. Druidry forms the framework of my magical practices, and I have also adopted a few ideas and ritual forms from the Hermetic tradition.

So, there was some original research and there was a lot of comparing of older sources and testing them. The actual writing of the book took about four years I think, including the better part of a year to revise the whole thing after Elysia Gallo, the Llewellyn editor and her colleagues gave me feedback. I’m very grateful for that help because it is really the editor that makes a good book a great book.

7. Now that your book “Wandlore” is about to release, have you been flooded with requests from people looking to have you craft a wand for them?

Ha! Ha! Ha! No. I doubt if anyone who has seen the book on offer knows about my website. They would have to search for my name I think. I’ve put the web address of in the book, so when people actually come to read it, the word might get out. Bardwood Wandry is, at present, just me. I would like to engage an apprentice or two, but I’ve been too busy to advertise. My clients have to be very patient. It usually takes me months to turn an order around. I always have something in the works. I’ve been making a fire staff from one of my druid brothers just lately and the dental work on the dragon head at the top is taking far, far longer than I ever imagined it would. Teeth. Teeth!

8. Um, ahem (cough), err, um….any chance you would craft me a magical wand?

Why not? All you need to do is go to the web shop and come up with a design you like. You can choose from the ones in the photos there, or you can come up with your own design in consultation with me. Bespoke wands are my specialty. I’ve priced them in three ranges – pocket wands, regular length wands, and extra long wands. There is an additional charge for making them “fancy” which means elaborate carving, animals, goddesses etc. I will generally throw in a few leaves and spirals and an inscription without counting it as fancy. And I do make staves, but that’s a different story. Much more laborious than a wand, and as such, considerably more expensive.

9. So what do you say, want to do another interview 5 years from now?

Absolutely. You don’t need to wait that long! Perhaps when “Emily Glass” comes out we can do it again.

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

Okay, tell me what you would like in a wand: wood, length, core, stone (if any), carving, symbols, inscription. Design your own wand!

I definitely like the more “traditional” (and by my air quoted traditional, I mean as portrayed in popular culture) style wands. So, a standard size and straight. Since I don’t have a magical practice, I don’t know after that! Relatively simple with perhaps some carving along and around it. Not being very magical myself, I generally leave magical intuition to the crafts people who make things for me. Thus far, they’ve done better at it than if I suggested something myself!

About Alferian Gwydion MacLir:
Dr. Alferian Gwydion MacLir was born in a zeppelin over the south of France in 1830 — in his most recent incarnation that is. Like most time lords, he tends to change his appearance from time to time. Living with one foot in the Netherworld, Dr. MacLir sometimes forgets where or when he is and is chronically absentminded and distracted. He cannot abide doing nothing but always has to be creating something. Even when reading for pleasure, he is taking mental notes for his books. He has been a wand maker for eleven centuries and a Druid since about the 3rd century B.C.E. He is a card-carrying member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD) a traditional British Druid order. He might be a Freemason, but if he were, he wouldn’t tell you because it’s a secret. He might also be a secret agent but there again, you wouldn’t know.

Presently he lives, writes, makes wands, and builds steampunk mods at his home, Bardwood Lodge, a small and hardly noticeable place in the Lake District of Terre des Lacs in the northern oak savannahs of upper-middle North America — approximately 44.92° N Latitude and 93.3° W Longitude. He has a lovable cat named Minerva and a large collection of extraordinary hats. The doctor travels often and spends the Winters at the MacLir family castle Llyranwyddllyneth in Gorias, mainly because it is always summer there. Certainly not for the plumbing. When he doesn’t have his nose in a book or his clothes covered in wood chips, he is probably at a cafe writing, girl-watching, or asleep in his hammock.

Geek Month in Review: May 2011

By JB Sanders

And the weather is warming!

Fantastic Time-Lapse Movie
If you’ve never seen a cloud layer boiling and roiling like the ocean against a beach, you haven’t seen a real time-lapse movie. Must watch this in HD (full-screen).

The Amazing Transforming Apartment
Anyone else reminded of Bruce Willis’ guy from “Fifth Element”? Watch what this guy packs into 24 square meters:

It’s a Plane! No, it’s a Train! Actually, It’s Both.
A Japanese research group is working on a type of “train” that floats above the ground on a cushion of air. No, not a maglev train; apparently those are old hat. They’re working on a train that acts like a plane cruising right above the ground.

National Jukebox
The US Library of Congress (working with Sony) has put together a database of sound recordings from the early part of the 20th Century. It’s streaming-only, but has a wealth of stuff, all searchable. It’s not just music, but speeches, too.

Let Quantum Physics Officiate Your Wedding
No, really, that’s what the title of the article is. Apparently a scientist is using some machine to quantum entangle photons as they pass over the happy couple. Or something.

The New Domesday Book
In the 80’s the BBC and some historians cooked up a national effort to create something like the original Domesday Book, on it’s 900 anniversary. The original was a census of England at the time. The new thing was created with a population survey, tons of photos, virtual walk-throughs of historical buildings, etc. And then pressed onto special laser discs. That’s right, laser disks. Which required a special reader to read and a specific computer to display. Fast forward 30 years or so, and todays historians are worried the disks won’t be able to be read anymore (can’t think why).

The Project:

Here’s what they did to solve it:

CDC Tells How to Prepare for Zombie Apocalypse
Do they know something we don’t? You ever read that story about a conspiracy that uses movies and tv shows (“fictional” ones) to prepare the wider population to accept and deal with an upcoming Big Problem? No? Oh, never mind then.

Surreal Monuments from the Future
So I totally stole this from the Illuminated Site of the Week, but here’s 25 monuments in the former Yugoslavia that look like they’re from the future.

Orchidarium Professor Ruth Cardoso
It’s a nifty looking building, but the name itself is just so much fun to say. It’s a memorial to Professor Ruth Cardoso (which is why her name is tacked in there), but the purpose of the building itself is to grow Orchids. Thus the “Orchidarium” part.

What If We’re the Forerunners?
An amusing little blog entry that posits, ok, there something like 500 million Earth-like planets out there, just in our galaxy. So why isn’t there a spaceship in orbit right now, offering to sell us cheap hyperdrives? Well, what if we’re the first sentient race? And then he has a very funny idea….

Concrete Tent
Brilliant, simple idea. Ship a canvas tent that’s been impregnated with concrete, put it up with an air blower, dose it with water and in 24 hours, you have a permanent concrete structure. Awesome!

Real, Functional Bionic Hand
Welcome to the 21st Century, where we have real bionic limb replacements. No, I’m not kidding. Yes, it is real.

When Your Museum Gets Raided by the CDC in Biohazard Gear…
…You know you’re doing something interesting. So this historical society in Virginia put on an “oddities” exhibit from their collection, including a letter from a smallpox sufferer who included one of their smallpox scabs. Call me crazy, but I think there are some things you don’t need to collect for posterity, and potentially viable smallpox is definitely high on the list.

Weather in Mordor Today: Overcast, 100% chance of Eye*
Official in Hungary are using locations from the “Lord of the Rings” instead of real places to test broadcast their automated radio alerts.

* Headline courtesy of

Need a Drone?
Need an unmanned aerial drone cheap? Need to make 3D maps of the photos your drone takes? Look no further than Pix4D, a cloud-based company that helps stitch together your aerial’s photos and create nice 3D maps out of them. They also created a spin-off company that can sell you the drones.

Graphene: the New Plastic
The latest miracle material — wait, don’t stop reading. It really is. The discoverers/inventors have a Nobel prize to back up their assertions. Not to mention the over 200 scientists doing active research into it.

Icelandic Volcano Eruption, in HD
Because there’s nothing those Icelandic folks like better than a good volcanic plume. Video in wonderful HD.

Pigs Flying
Duke Nukem has gone gold. I know, hell has frozen over. (See the illustration in the linked article, it’s funny.)

Lost Pyramids Found
It’s not really news that infrared satellite imaging will reveal hidden structures. It’s certainly not news that Egypt has pyramids. What is news is that these researchers found 17 pyramids, over 1,000 tombs and over 3,000 ancient settlements, all previously unknown. Oh, and the city of Tanis. You remember that one, right? From the first Indiana Jones movie? Buried in the sands thousands of years ago, Ark of the Covenant? Yeah, that Tanis.

Robots Developing Their Own Language
No, not a headline from 2044. It’s a lab in Queensland (Australia) where the researchers are setting up their robots to develop their own communications system.

Ring Around the Moon
Japanese research firm is proposing building a ring of solar cells around the Moon’s equator, and then beaming the 13,000 terawatts of energy back to Earth. Yeah, seriously.

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:

Recharge your Magick, Refresh your Spirit

by Melanie Marquis

Our magickal rituals are meant to be enriching, transformative experiences that have a real effect on both our inner world and the world at large. When our rituals become routine, however, it’s easy to switch from active participant to automatic bystander, simply going through the motions without really feeling (or working) the magick. As this rut develops gradually over time, it can be hard to realize just how deep of a hole we’re getting ourselves into. A failed spell, a backfiring charm, an empty and unfulfilling sabbat ceremony—these magickal mishaps shake us up and open our eyes to the fact that our practice is missing something. We become aware of a sense of disconnect, an inner knowing that, magickally speaking, things just aren’t like they used to be.

If this sounds familiar, look up! It’s very possible to recharge your magick and refresh your spirit, and it’s a journey you’ll likely enjoy. In fact, it’s a journey you will likely never end, as continued progress is the true key to satisfying, effective magick. Designing your own road forward is what my new book “The Witch’s Bag of Tricks” (June 2011, Llewellyn Publications) is all about. I believe we have not only an ability, but a duty, to make our magick the best it can possibly be, and to use that magick for the best things we can possibly imagine. If you’ve been feeling any less than totally powerful and enthusiastic when it comes to your craft, it’s time to boost your strength and rekindle the flame in a big way. Here are a few tips and tricks you can try right now to start revamping your magickal practice and renewing your spirituality.


Simply finding a new place in which to work our magick is often refreshing. Our craft is very much tied to the earth, and taking your magick to a new environment can be a source of inspiration and fresh power. Try this. Go out alone or with a group to a natural place or to the middle of a city—where you go is up to you, as long as it is a place you have never (or rarely) practiced magick before, and as long as it is a place where you feel safe doing so. Take in your surroundings with all your senses; tune in to the energies around you. What power sources do you sense in the area? What do you see? Are there any stones, plants, or water features that could perhaps be useful in a bit of magick? What thoughts and images are swirling through your head? What does this particular place suggest to you? On the spot, craft a ritual or spell using elements of this new environment. You might request the help of local nature spirits, or pick up a handful of soil to use in a prosperity spell. You might cast your charm into a stick you find lying on the ground, then toss the stick into a nearby creek to seal the spell. You might find a special stone that appeals to you and craft it into a luck-bringing talisman. Let the new environment guide your magick, and you’ll benefit not only from the spontaneity of the act, but also from the renewed sense of connection to the earth you’ll experience.

Skip the Tools!

Another easy way to recharge your practice is to do what you usually do, only without the aid of any ritual tools. The tools of magick are primarily intended to aid the spellcaster in performing the internal, spiritual, emotional, and mental actions of the magickal process. They are somewhat of an outer trapping, helpful but not necessary. When we rely too heavily on our magickal tools, we can lose focus of the true heart of spellwork, our attentions directed instead to the wand in our hand, the pentacle on the altar, the candle before us. Put yourself back in the center of the action by skipping the tools altogether every now and then and giving one of your favorite spells a go using nothing more or less than the enormous magickal power that lies within you.

Does the original spell call for a potion to be blended, or a talisman created? Ask yourself what the particular function of each ingredient and each direction in the original spell is, then decide how you can perform that same function using only your consciousness, will, and intent to direct and manipulate the magickal energy. You’ll become more aware of the essential steps of the magickal process, and as your technique improves, your spells will be more successful.

Rise to the Challenge!

When our magick has been a bit mediocre, we can lose faith fast. We begin to doubt our abilities and we may even hesitate to use them. If your spellwork hasn’t been quite up to par, don’t avoid it or ignore it. Face it head on and get to the bottom of it, so that you can clear your way back up to the top! One helpful technique is to test and track your magickal activity. Don’t just cast spells. Take notes, experiment, record results, and evaluate your magick. Try performing several spells with the same goal, a week or so apart, and see which sort of spell works best for you. For example, you might cast a prosperity spell using a candle as the main focal point, envisioning the growing flame of wealth. If the spell yields no results within whatever time period you specify, try another method, perhaps using a tarot card as a wealth-bringing talisman. If you still have no results, try a spell using image magick. Note what spells give you the best results.

Another exercise to try tests your banishing magick ability. Try this the next time you have some really hard-to-wash pans to scrub. Perform a banishing charm on one side of the pan, using a blast of psychic energy to separate the layer of crud and direct it away from the pan’s surface. Now scrub each side of the pan in equal measure, using the sponge with a uniform pressure. Which side cleans easiest? Did your banishing charm have any effect, or could your charmswork use some polishing?

What other experiments can you think of? Testing our magick and tracking results, noting successes and failures alike, allows us to see the “big picture” of our magickal development. Once we collect enough data from our magickal “experiments,” larger patterns become apparent. We’re aware of strengths we can utilize and weaknesses on which to work. We’re inspired to further our learning and empowered to make the most of our magick, which in turn, makes our magick more exciting, fulfilling, successful, and fun.

Next Steps

Whether you take your magick to new places, work it with only the bare essentials, or put it to the test through experimentation, trying new ways to shake up your magick routine and learning new techniques to improve your spellcasting will reinvigorate your practice. What other new tricks might you try? Are you curious to discover just how powerful your magick can be? From one witch to another, I urge you to go for it! Even the tiniest step forward can make us eager once more to sprint ahead on our own personal path to greater magickal and spiritual fulfillment.

About Melanie Marquis:
Melanie Marquis is a lifelong practitioner of magick, the author of “The Witch’s Bag of Tricks” (June 2011, Llewellyn Publications), and the founder of United Witches global coven. Her new book offers lots of ways to reinvigorate your craft and put the spark back in your spellwork. Visit her online at

Pluralism Project Photo Contest

The Pluralism Project at Harvard University has announced their 2nd Annual Pluralism Project Photo Contest. I’m sharing their press release because I think this is an excellent opportunity for many of the wonderful individuals and organizations that The Magical Buffet has worked with to come out and mingle with other communities. Albeit virtual mingling, through photos. Feh! The folks over at The Pluralism Project are doing some great work and I want to give my readers the opportunity to be a part of it!

Here’s the info:

We invite you and your students, networks, and organizations to participate in our second annual Pluralism Project Photo Contest. We are looking for high-resolution digital images that convey the vibrancy of religious diversity in the USA. We are particularly interested in images in the following categories:

* Religious practices and rituals
* Religious centers, including festivals, center openings, and parades
* Participation of religious groups in American civic life
* Interfaith encounter or social action
* Women’s leadership and participation
* Emerging leadership within Muslim and Sikh communities
* Historic and present day images of the Atheist/Humanist, Bahá’í, Confucian, Native American, Shinto, Taoist, and Zoroastrian communities in the US

One grand-prize winner will be selected; the winning photographer will receive a $250 cash prize and an extended exposé in the spotlight on our homepage,

All winning photos will be featured in our forthcoming online publication, On Common Ground: World Religions in America 2.0 and on our homepage slideshow over the course of one year, beginning September 1, 2011. The photographer’s name, as well as the location of the image will accompany any digitally published images.

In order to participate, you must:

* be the photographer of the image
* grant the Pluralism Project rights to use the image on our website
* have the permission of those persons in the picture, if applicable

Entries must be submitted via email to by 5 PM on August 1, 2011. Photos should be sent as an attachment. Please put “contest” in the subject line.

In the body of the email, please include:

* your name and title
* relationship to the Pluralism Project, if any
* addresses – mailing and email
* phone number
* a brief caption, including location of the image(s), when the image(s) was/were taken, and what is happening (2-3 sentences)
* a brief statement indicating that you were the photographer, and that you grant the Pluralism Project the rights to use the image(s) on our website, if selected.

Submissions of more than 10 photos should be sent on CD-ROM to:
The Pluralism Project
2011 Photo Contest
2 Arrow Street, 4th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138

Information also available at: