Back in Black (and Blue)

6 November, 2010

Here’s why there’s been such a gap since last post, why writing’s taking ages generally and… well. A big part of why I’m me, really…

I get shy about remarkably few things. I’ll happily tell tales of wild sexual exploits and magical combat engagements, as true as I can (some of those stories get... involved.)

The thing I get most shy talking about is the state of my health. And it’s only after seeing the bravery and skill with which my beloveds Kirsty Hall and Jolane Abrams have come to deal with their own illnesses – and especially Kirsty’ brave, heartfelt blogging on how her Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’s affected her life and art practice, and Jolane’s ayahuasca trip reports (hers always aimed at healing herself and others) – that I’ve come to a point where I can accept my health issues, and even talk about them… hopefully not quite to the lengths many in middle-age seem to want to!

I’ve never been a fit lad – at school I was ‘The Odd Boy who doesn’t like sport’ of the Bonzo Dog song. Half-blind every summer with hay fever, I sat on the sidelines & read scripts for Drama club. (With inevitable consequences re. bullying.) After a childhood on the low, badly-fed end of poor working class, brief jobs then dole… not a lot of healthy choices. I did study martial arts for a time in my 20s – and ironically it was a much later dojo accident 6 years ago, resulting in a bruised foot that turned to gangrene, that led to the next discovery – of my having type-2 diabetes.

After they scraped the pus and rotted flesh from my double-sized black and green right foot, twice (delightfully, the term for this op is ‘debridement’), the resulting rather cunty-shaped wound was left open to granulise – repair from the inside out. This resulted in near 3 month in bed with a fucking great crater in my foot that went down to the bone.

You want pictures? Perverts…

My right foot, in 2004 – about 2 weeks post-ops

They pulled 6 feet of bandage out the hole after first op, like a magic trick.

So, that was 6 years ago.

One thing they don’t tell you about diabetes generally is that has so many knock-on effects. Such as weakening immunoresponse so that the smallest cough virus (man-flu, if you insist) elevates to full flu.

And, when like last year I got yer actual H1N1 Swine Flu… that was me flat out for 3 months. I got over that, but the diabetes ain’t going away any time soon, I still get bugs real easy – and now I’m informed I have a bone spur in one heel (also something diabetics are prone to). Fixing that, short of an op (had too many in past 6 years – on foot, tendon sheathes in hands and mutant wisdom teeth buried in my jaw – ta) recovery means reshaping my gait, using shoe inserts designed to shift how my feet land. Knock-on effect of that – knees having to learn new ways to bend, are beginning to weaken.

Recently I got to the FUCK THIS SHIT stage with it all. My bad health gets in the way of so much – wanting to write more, share my ideas with fellow minds, go places to do so or just to meet friends…

So I’m working on this, big-time. Slow but strong. Grinding. Finally, I feel freed from the odd geas I seemed to pick up young, that self-work using magic was somehow cheating. So I’m doing little healing workings to help me either fix what I can or strengthen what I can’t fully fix. Since I throw a bunch of imagery part-derived from Wilhelm Reich (orgone-visualisation stuff for one) I’m calling the work Blue Grinding.

I WILL to be well. I will be well.

So… that’s why there’s not been much going on here for months. Not just my health, but that of so many people I love, has been at risk for months – some very seriously but, thankfully, not many fatally.

But the Blue Grinding is starting to take effect. I’m well enough to walk a bit more (hoping to travel to London for a day soon) and those flu-bugs are finding me harder to riddle.

And the more well I am, the more I want to do.

This is not intended as a pity-party, or a call for “there, there” replies. It’s a statement that I want to do more, be more active, write more, share more with my remarkable friends and people yet to encounter. That, ill or not, diabetic or not, part-lame or not…

I’m Back. In Black. (And Blue.)

Thanks for reading.


Guttershaman, “…of Jedi and jail”

2 May, 2010

So, like I was saying earlier – this Jedi walks into a Job Centre

Because it’s a British Job Centre and we’re the proud world leaders in intrusive CCTV surveillence, the staff ask our hero to lower his hood. (Of course he’s in hood and robe – Jedi, remember?) He politely refuses, on the grounds that doing so is against his deeply-held beliefs.

So they chuck him out. And he sends a letter of complaint.

A couple of weeks later, the Job Centre send him a formal apology for disrespecting his faith.

This delightful tale of modern manners is interesting to me for many reasons.

For one thing, it hit the news a couple of weeks before the finale of another case of alleged religious disrespect, one where the complainant didn’t get the result they wanted. In this case, it was a Christian woman, a nurse, who was asked not to have her crucifix-on-a-chain visible at work. She sued the hospital and lost.

The parallels are notable. For one thing, both complainants were making a fuss about a display of their faith which is not defined as either a right or requirement of their belief – the Bible has no “Thou Shalt Have Jesus On A Stick Swinging Around Thy Neck” commandment and the Star Wars films have many examples of Jedi doffing their hoods in a variety of public and private settings.

The major difference, the thing that really interests me, is that the believer in a completely fictional faith actually got more respect and better treatment than the one from the long-established, allegedly historically-based one. That’s a first, I think.

And it’s a game-changer.

What happens when belief systems which cheerfully admit they are based on fiction get the same recognition in society and law as the ones that claim they’re not?

So far, the established religions have a hard enough time admitting any other faith deserves the same recognition or rights they they have. The case of Patrick McCollum in the US offers a sad example of the situation as it stands. McCollum is a Pagan priest who wants to be a prison chaplain. So far, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is refusing him permission to do so. The reason they offer – which is supported by a Xtian protest org perfectly named The Wallbuilders – is that there are two tiers of religious belief under the US Constitution. The First Tier consists of the so-called Big Five faiths – Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Native American – who have all the rights and privileges. The second tier – everyone else – simply don’t.

Needless to say there’s a lot of pressure from pagan groups, and people who seem to have actually read the Constitution, against this opinion. The case is, to date, unresolved.

But now we have this precedent, that Jedi-boy has all the rights and privileges of any other believer.

I use that word ‘privilege’ carefully. Its original meaning, ‘private law’, seems more than a little significant under the circumstances. One rule for the First Tier… and there’s nothing so galling to the privileged as being made to share with the rest of the group.

There is of course one New Religious Movement that’s managed to secure itself all manner of rights and privileges – the Church of Scientology. Suffice it to say that recognition of your faith’s status is fairly easily enhanced by having access to lots of expensive lawyers. (Though it doesn’t seem to have helped them any in their home state of California, as noted above. Maybe there are some things money can’t just buy?)

(Interesting to compare this to the UK situation. As I understand it, members of any faith, including pagan, can be prison chaplains in Britain. I don’t know if anyone’s tried to be a Jedi chaplain yet, but I do know that all of the 139 prisons in England and Wales and many of the 16 prisons in Scotland have the equivalent of their own Scientology chaplains and spiritual services… and there are precisely three Scientologist prisoners in the whole system.)

So – how does society decide which beliefs should be respected? Who decides? On what basis? Who gets to choose what is called real?

Obviously, the belief systems which hold the current monopoly of privileged status aren’t going to give up their exclusive specialness without a fight – which, judging from previous displays of their intentions towards anyone disagreeing with their beliefs, will involve everything from whiny protests to inciting murder. So there’s that to look forward to.

Meanwhile, my position is this:

I honestly believe all religions and beliefs are, at best, stories. Possibly stories with some level of truth to them, but no less mythological for all that. We can debate the degree of ‘truth’ at the core of each ’till the cows come home – but it seems to me a politeness for all beliefs to meet on an equal playing field. Certainly, the hard core believers will insist that their faith deserves privilege above the others because theirs is the Real True Truth… but after the first fifty or so different flavours of believer stating that with a straight face, it gets real old, real fast. Either raise all beliefs up to the level of the most-favoured… or bring them all down to the lowest. No special pleading, no tax breaks, no exemptions from civil law on grounds of belief. Everyone gets the same treatment. From the Jewish Anti-Defamation League to the Na’vi one. From Sunni and Shia to followers of Sol Invictus and Satan and Scooby-Doo.

Then, finally, perhaps we can all compare notes about what we believe, and how we see the world, like civilised people.

Yeah. Sure.

(Next time on Guttershaman – looking deeper at the ‘Hyper-Real’ religions via the work of Adam Passamai, who coined the term.)


Guttershaman – Of Avatar and Otherkin…

8 April, 2010

“…stories dramatize ideas and truths that we all intuitively recognize. Although these stories are not exactly ‘true’, they nonetheless offer a kind of Truth that is more compelling than hard facts.”

Rabbi Cary Friedman, ‘Wisdom from the Batcave

“Believe nothing,
No matter where you read it,
Or who has said it,
Not even if I have said it,
Unless it agrees with your own reason
And your own common sense.”

The Buddha

———————————

It’s an interesting time to be writing about belief and religion.

Consider, for example, the Avatar Otherkin.

Otherkin, for those of you who’ve not come across the concept, are people who believe they are (in some sense, be it spiritually or literally) non-human. There are lots of variations of this belief – some feel they are elves, vampires (in all flavours from Anne Rice-y to Twilight-ish), werewolves or dragons – others believe they are entities from what we usually call fiction – such as inhabitants of the Matrix, anime characters… or, recently, Na’vi from Pandora.

I trust I don’t have to explain what Avatar is.

What’s especially interesting to me (as someone who not only has a lot of sympathy for people looking to fiction for their spiritual metaphors but also who was involved with Otherkin earlier in my occult life) is not just how quickly this particular strain of Otherkin have emerged, but how vehement some of them are concerning their rights.

The Na’vi Anti-Defamation League were founded only a few weeks after the film was released. Their purpose is “to monitor and take action upon groups and individuals who are promoting hate speech and anti-Na’vitism against fans, Na’vi-kin, and followers of Eywa.” Now admittedly they’re a small group on Live Journal… but nonetheless, that they exist at all is interesting to me.

Why Avatar was the film which stimulated such strong feelings – among many people world-wide, not just the rather specialised area of the Otherkin community – is of course not entirely known. Some have suggested it was the exaggerated realism of the immersive 3D environment and computer graphics, or that its (to some folk) rather diluted version of classic mythological themes allows it to appeal to a wide range of viewers – or it could be simply that it’s the biggest hit movie of our time. For whatever reason, it’s become a major metaphor – to the point where Palestinian protesters in Gaza dressed as Na’vi when on protest.

After seeing Avatar, I have to say that all the criticisms – from plagiarism to white guilt – have justification. (A nice cumulative bitchslap version of them all here.)

But, you know, Smurf Pocahontas jibes aside… parts of the film still made me weepy with the sheer mythic aptness of it all. That much-maligned plot – a crippled warrior, twin of a dead scholar, seeks healing & truth in another world he enters through (more-or-less) lucid dreaming, finds magic powers after trials and ends as a fusion of his old and new cultures – None More Miffick.

You can certainly make a case that Na’vi spirituality is a watered down appropriation, a morass of once truly authentic cultural memes reduced to their lowest common denominator… but probably not to someone like me, whose view of the value of authenticity in mysticism is, shall we say, a tad harsh. It could be that the diluted Deep Green/Gaia Consciousness of Avatar simply fits some folk better than anything that other mythos of the world can offer.

And of course you could also make a case that Otherkin – Avatar or otherwise – are just mad. That they’re taking their imagination and wish-fulfilment too far, that they’re just sad fanboys-and-girls who’ve played one too many role-play games.

I wouldn’t.

For one thing – every religion or belief system looks crazy from the outside. All of them. Yes, even yours.

For another, these sort of beliefs are not only becoming more prevalent, but they’re also starting to be recognised as a legitimate expression of spirituality in our post-modern (and increasingly – I hope! – post-Judaeo-Christian) world. The sociologist Dr. Adam Possamai has coined the term “Hyper-Real religions” to describe them, and I’ll be coming back to that idea much more in later posts. Short version for now – people trying to seek meaning in a world where trust in traditional top-down belief structures has failed them often look for new myths to try and work out just who they are. They’re often a lot less picky about how ‘true’ something is for it to be ‘real’ to them… and there’s an awful lot of mythos to choose from these days. The end result – Otherkin, the Jedi religions and much else.

The Tribe of the Strange has a lot of overlapping sub-groups. The Venn diagram for ‘SF fan’, ‘occultist’, ‘tabletop role-player’, ‘BDSM/kink practitioner’, ‘polyamorist’, ‘Pagan’, ‘computer programmer’, ‘comic book reader’, ‘cosplayer’ etc. will often show a lot of people in any one category having at least two of the others going on. Unsurprisingly, they all feed into each other… so that, for example, the roleplayer  – whether in the form of tabletop or computer gaming or sexual exploration – will see a parallel between what they do in that state-of-mind and carry it across to their spirituality. (And if you’ve not yet experienced the kind of intensity which a good role-play session can create, the heightened unreality that nonetheless feels, at the time at least, utterly true and real… then your opinion is, shall we say, uninformed.)

But like any bunch of tribes, there’s a certain amount of internecine warfare going on among the conversations between them. (Drop words like ‘furry‘ or ‘Gorean‘ into some of those conversations, for example…) The degree of snottiness involved usually stems from one group having a perceived status over the other – of being more ‘real’ or ‘sensible’ or ‘proper’ or, my old fave, ‘authentic’. But there’s a phrase from one of those overlapping groups that fits pretty well here.

Your kink is not my kink and that’s OK.

Why not draw inspiration from a myth you know isn’t based on fact? Why does that idea harm your beliefs? For some folk, it just suits them more than the half-true (at best), ‘legitimate’ religions of the world. Some mystics would bluntly state both come from the same source (one version of which is Alan Moore’s concept of Ideaspace). Some would even say it’s more honest than insisting a blurry, ancient myth structure is unassailable truth. At worst, it’s a new perspective, a different angle from which to view the numinous signals that inspire all faith. (Assuming of course that you’re not one of those believers who’s utterly certain theirs is the One True Way…)

There’s nothing at all wrong with drawing on avowedly fictional sources for definitions of your personality, mysticism, even sexuality. The trick is, as I’ve said often before, being able to step away from that viewpoint from time to time, to consider it as if real, not as real. And to be fair, many of those who identify as Otherkin do so. It’s nowhere near as simple as these people suddenly deciding they’re a dragon and not actually thinking about what that entails…

From my experience in these realms, that’s actually hard to do. There’s something deeply attractive, even intoxicating, about getting some confirmation that not only are you not like everyone else, but that there are people similar to you who feel much the same way. The dichotomy of being an individual and being part of a tribe, combined. For me, finally, it was a good and beneficial place to visit, but I couldn’t stay there. For others, it’s a perfect fit. Same could be said of any faith or perspective, really.

But there’s no question that once you permit the possibility of a belief based on fiction having as much validity in consensual reality as established religions, all sorts of interesting problems occur.

Such as the one which sounds an awful lot like a bad joke, that starts “this Jedi walks into a Job Centre…

More on that next time…

“The movie is the modern equivalent of oral tradition. The indigenous people would transfer their theology and ancestral through storytelling. Those stories were mythological from modern standpoint, but still maintained identity in their cultures. Avatar is our equivalent of oral tradition.”

http://nadl-org.livejournal.com/1011.html

———————-

Post Script:

I’m far from the only occultist to note and draw inspiration from the Otherkin – the clear leader in this field is Lupa, whose drawing together of the Otherkin impulse and older shamanic aspects (such as shape-shifting) is well worth your time. Start here with her piece on Shamanism & Subjectivity. This old thread at Barbelith is also worth reading.

If you feel drawn to looking at the Otherkin community further, you could do worse than looking at the forums at Otherkin.com. But if you’re going to comment, don’t be so impolite as to troll or stir it – for one thing, they’ve heard it all before.

And a big retrospective thanks to the Elves – you know who you are…


Mind, senses, science and the spiritual

16 August, 2009
“Saying there’s no soul because the brain has consciousness structures is like saying there’s no light because a lightbulb has filaments.”
John Shirley

Saying there’s no soul because the brain has consciousness structures is like saying there’s no light because a lightbulb has filaments.” – John Shirley

A thought which needs further development…

It’s a common statement by modern scientists – especially the strain of no-ghost-in-the-machine rationalism espoused by the likes of Pinker and Blackmore – that there’s a part of the brain which acts as though it has some contact with a higher consciousness or God. Of course in their minds this part is either some kind of bizarre evolutionary holdover like the appendix or else just a glitch in the way we think. It can’t be actually be sensing anything, because what it reports doesn’t fit their model of the universe.

It occurs to me that the same thread of scientific enquiry has found many interesting flaws and glitches in our senses – in fact many optical, sonic and other sensory illusions are often offered as a kind of explanation for why people see or report non-ordinary phenomena. Yet, knowing this, those scientists do not automatically dismiss all sensory data.

Why is it so hard to consider the possibility that the ‘god-sensing’ part of our minds is at least as valid a sense organ as the others?

Prone to confusion and mistake, sure. Full of holes and possible to trick, certainly. But since that’s exactly what all our other senses are like, why dismiss it completely?


Mason Lang on film

24 July, 2009

Two interesting posts on the relationship between movies and religion recently leads me to remind folks of the splendid character Mason Lang in The Invisibles. This quasi-Bruce-Wayne figure, partly as a result of an early experience with non-ordinary reality (which he perceived originally as a classic alien abduction scenario) grew up a little… odd. Lang, a rich benefactor of the Invisibles combat-magic cells, has a theory…that some movies contain hidden subtexts designed for the Invisibles and allied occultists and mystics to receive.

And, to benefit those who might not have met the thoughts of Mr. Lang, here’s some quotes. (All words by the Magus Grant Morrison.)

“Speed is about human evolution, right? It’s so obvious. The bus represents the world. Watch it again – they’ve got every nationality on there. Not only that, but it’s being driven to disaster by this guy who’s either made up to look Cro-Magnon or chosen becasue he looks that way. He’s our brutal evolutionary heritage, driving the world to armageddon while everybody argues. The whole thing’s symbolic… Just look at the amount of times you see the number 23. it’s in scene after scene. That’s not coincidence. The whole things a coded message.

…and finally , after the whole tantric love trip on the subway train at the end, they burst out into the street in front of a cinema showing 2001-A Space Odyssey…”

“I see this weird stuff every time I watch a movie. Think about Pulp Fiction – the glowing thing in the 666 suitcase is Marcellus Wallace’s soul, right? The band aid on his neck in the bar scene with Bruce Willis is where the soul was extracted. I mean I could go on all day. Check out Speed next time you watch it, just keep in mind that the bus is the World and that big gap in the highway construction is the Apocalypse.

…it means… I don’t know. It means, basically, that some movies are clearly being made by Invisibles and they contain messages for other Invisibles. Invisibles talking to each other in ther own secret language… the movies are signals, they let us know that others are out there…”

And this one goes a little deeper behind the curtain…

“I remember looking at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia when I was a little kid. That’s what I love about illusions; they’re right up there in front of you but somehow you don’t see them… until suddenly you do… and I saw that I lived in a world where the symbol was more important than the reality. Where the menu was supposed to taste better than the meal.

They’re bombing Planet Hollywood… those terrorists know exactly where the power lies. None of it’s real.

Kennedy was a good man. Nixon was a bad man. Is that true or is that just what we’ve been told is true?

Half of the stars in Hollywood are gay pretending to be straight… Walt Disney was a shit.

The moon landings happened in a studio.

The America I thought I lived in was a trick; I’d only ever really seen it on TV, in comic books and movies… especially movies. The Rosicrucians who built this country wouldn’t know where they were if you brought them here, would they? Not until you showed them Independence Day.

That night when I pissed down over Manhattan, I saw time. I saw time itself… America has been in a declared state of national emergency since March 9th, 1933, giving the president powers to suspend freedom of speech and take control away from all communications media at any time.

Who cares? Bruce Willis is here to save us all.

The more I looked, the less real America became. And the less real it became, the stronger it got. Planet Hollywood.”

As someone who’s had a fair share of emotional experiences watching movies – which I would not hesitate to call mystical – I kind of identify with Mason. (Maybe my old idea of reviewing movies in the style of Mason Lang should be revived? Hmm…)


In Memoriam – John A Keel

6 July, 2009

When I was a boy, I read an awful lot of shite books about Fortean matters.

I ploughed through Erich von Daniken, dodgy tomes about the Bermuda Triangle and witchcraft and Earth mysteries. Like Stephen King described the process of reading/watching bad horror stories, I was prospecting through mud, seeking those few glimmers of gold.

Every now and then, I found something truly good, which asked hard questions and offered theories without falling into the trap of declaring their point of view as pure Truth. One of these was UFOs – Operation Trojan Horse, by John Alva Keel. It made a difference in how I looked at the world. Like Robert Anton Wilson (who I read about the same time), Keel showed me that ‘maybe’ was not a bad perspective to take – and that orthodoxy can so easily trap a mind.  In other works, such as Our Haunted Planet and especially in The Mothman Prophecies, his perspective and unapologetically personal approach were a breath of fresh air in the stale pulpiness of so much Fortean writing.

And now he’s gone. I’m startled at how sad this makes me – but perhaps I shouldn’t be. After all, we should mourn our ancestors when they pass, even (especially) when they aren’t blood kin.


Pagan Values Month

3 June, 2009

This is interesting…

Long-time pagan blogger ‘Pax” has inaugerated a month of encouraging other pagan bloggers to talk about the values (as in ethics) of their beliefs.

As he puts it in his intitial post;

In June the sun is at it’s height in the Northern Hemisphere and nearly hidden from view in the Southern Hemisphere.  Midsummer and Yule, festivals of fire and of light.

Let us then use our hearts and minds and words, invoking the fires of inspiration; let us write of the virtues and ethics and morals and values we have found in our Pagan paths, let us share how we carry these precious things forward in our own lives and out into the world.

This is a splendid thing for many reasons. Aside from a chance to show to other religious writers (specifically monotheists) that these beliefs actually can have a sense of ethical and honourable conduct, it offers a chance for that community to attempt to define what those ethical stances are… and hopefully to take a good look at where those stances are either in opposition or contradiction, or are observed more in the breach, even ignored.

There’s been some good stuff on this so far. I especially liked a short but pithy piece by Deborah Lipp, “Putting the ‘poly’ into polytheism”, on pluralism as a basic pagan ethic:

Monotheism has “mono” as a root value. One God, one Truth, one Right with all other things Wrong. This is a net negative for culture, I believe.

Polytheism allows us to worship many gods, few if any of whom are “jealous Gods.” None of them seem to demand that we worship Them and Them alone. Kali has never asked me to cease worshiping the gods of Wicca, and vice versa. Doing one thing fervently, wholeheartedly, with body, mind, heart, and spirit, does not prevent Pagans from doing another, very different, thing with the same wholeheartedness.

There are surely things that are wrong, but a pluralistic world view means that, once we have found something we know to be right, we do not know that everything else is wrong. One god worthy of worship does not make all other gods false. One life worth living does not make all other lifestyles inferior.

Also good to see this by Dawn on the Witchmoot group blog, which asks “What are pagan values, exactly?”, which is more than a little critical of some aspects of the pagan community:

We don’t want to be Christians. Not really. But wouldn’t it be nice if, when considering whether to attend an event, you could predict the sort of values that would be expressed there? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could dance skyclad without the worry that some dude would stick his hand in places he has no right to? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could take your kids to an event and not worry that some drunken fool was going to push mead (or something) on them. “No it’s good. I made it myself, you have to try it. It’s sweet. Tastes like honey. It’s alright, this is religious gathering. You can have some. You’ll like it.”

Although I don’t consider myself pagan as such, a lot of my friends are and modern paganism was a major influence on my own beliefs. It’s good to see self-examination and sincere thought about these matters there.

I’m bunging up links to interesting posts on my Twitter – and set up the #paganvaluesmonth hashtag for ease of finding.


Jedi – shamans they are not

25 May, 2009

My-beloved-the-ex-neuroscientist-shaman has posted a concise thought-piece on the mysticism of the Jedi in Star Wars 1-3. As she’s a practicing curandera, she’s got a good point to make. Plus, I sat through those three movies with her… so it’s good something of benefit came out of that!

Quote:

As I watched the movies, I kept track of how many times Anakin Skywalker violates some of the basic principles of being a shamanic apprentice – and of how Obi-Wan Kenobi fails to correct him in any meaningful way. I had a whole rant prepared about how the Jedi aren’t shamans, but upon further reflection, that’s a bit like saying that an apple isn’t an orange: the Jedi, at least at the stage at which we see them from the time of The Phantom Menace, aren’t even trying to be shamans anymore, if indeed they ever were. They’re archetypal heroes of the Joseph Campbell variety.

So what is the difference between an archetypal hero and a shaman?


When is a Celt…

5 May, 2009

… Not a Celt?

A fine article of this title by Joanna Hautin-Mayer just crossed my path (via the Naked Woad Warrior‘s blog). It’s a harsh-but-fair look at the level of pseudohistorical invention punted as fact by some neopagan writers. Informative and fun – take for example this gentle dig at the claims made in “Witta: An Irish Pagan Tradition” by Edain McCoy. After noting Ms. McCoy’s claims that the potato as an ancient Irish symbol (having somehow not been aware it was imported from Peru in the 16-17th Centuries!) she also points out this gem:

McCoy goes on to claim that “the famous epic poem Carmina Burana was a manuscript found in an Italian monastery which clearly glorifies the Mother Goddess”(p.4). What exactly this statement has to do with anything, I cannot determine. But in fact, Carmina Burana is the name given to a collection of bawdy drinking songs in Latin probably written down in the tenth or eleventh centuries, the manuscript of which was found in a Bavarian monastery. If pieces such as “It’s my firm intention in a barroom to die” are to be considered as hymns to the Goddess, then all country music must be pagan.

Ouch!

Have a read, tho’ it be longish.


CSI(COP) – best example of the skepticfuckwits at work

25 April, 2009

Via Greg Bishop, this timely reminder of when the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims Of the Paranormal (CSICOP- now CSI-Committee For Skeptical Inquiry) conducted their one and only scientific study of an alleged paranormal phenomenon.

The full sorry tale, ‘sTarbaby’ told by physicist and ex-CSICOP Dennis Rawlins is here. RA Wilson told a truncated version in one of the Cosmic Trigger books, but this is the one with the full dirt…

I USED to believe it was simply a figment of the National Enquirer’s weekly imagination that the Science Establishment would cover up evidence for the occult. But that was in the era B.C. — Before the Committee. I refer to the “Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal” (CSICOP), of which I am a cofounder and on whose ruling Executive Council (generally called the Council) I served for some years.
    I am still skeptical of the occult beliefs CSICOP was created to debunk. But I have changed my mind about the integrity of some of those who make a career of opposing occultism. I now believe that if a flying saucer landed in the backyard of a leading anti-UFO spokesman, he might hide the incident from the public (for the public’s own good, of course). He might swiftly convince himself that the landing was a hoax, a delusion or an “unfortunate” interpretation of mundane phenomena that could be explained away with “further research.”
    The irony of all this particularly distresses me since both in print and before a national television audience I have stated that the conspiratorial mentality of believers in occultism presents a real political danger in a voting democracy. Now I find that the very group I helped found has partially justified this mentality…

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