Sunday, October 31, 2010

The True Meaning of Halloween

As usual, America's Finest News Source nails it. Costumes and candy may be fun, but we should never lose sight of the reason for the season - appeasing demons and evil spirits to ward off sickness and ensure a bountiful harvest.

Happy Halloween, everybody!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

New Study of Paranormal Activity in Britain

Especially around Halloween, spirits and ghosts are usually considered frightening or at least disturbing. Similarly, most hauntings get investigated because the people living with those paranormal manifestations are concerned that they may be dangerous. But a new study of paranormal activity in the United Kingdom has also found that some paranormal entities are of a much more benevolent nature.

The report into 'angelic paranormal activity in the UK' found that in the past 25 years there have been a staggering 755 official reports to cops and councils in the UK.

Hotspots of 'good' paranormal activity include the historic village of Croston in Lancashire, where there have been 44 official reports of fairies living in the nearby woods.

A spokesman for the report said the fairy is known to locals as 'Shrewfoot' and that on one occasion it appeared by the side of the road to warn a hitchhiker to get off the road before a convoy of trucks sped through the village.

The report, commissioned by TV show Supernatural, states: 'There have been 44 official reports of fairies and the woods in Croston, Lancashire.

44 reports over 25 years is still only a sighting or two per year, but of course investigators don't call these things "paranormal" because they are common. The overall number of positive sightings, 755, breaks down to about thirty a year total, so the odds of any individual encountering such a paranormal entity are very low.

The extensive research, conducted by the UK's leading authority on the unexplained, Lionel Fanthorpe, included studying multiple archives, police reports, published reports and interviews with a number of ex police officers.

The report notes that there have been 755 documented incidents in the past 25 years, ranging from healing and helpful entities, to visions of angels and animal spirits.

Another hotspot is St Martin's Church in Westmeston in Sussex where there are dozens of reports of a friendly phantom drifting across the churchyard.

Another 'friendly entity' has been reported at St Botolph's Priory in Colchester in Essex - where the ghost smiles at people who have been recently bereaved A total of 104 cases of 'angelic visions' have been reported with Sutton Wood in Derbyshire getting the most hits as walkers see a monk wearing a large gold cross as they walk though the woodland.

According to the report witnesses say that the entity is 'very holy' and has 'an aura of goodness that makes them glad that they have seen it'.

The report reveals that there have been 99 reported cases of 'helpful entities' in the UK, which phantoms helping save the lives of people who come across them.

One of the most documented is at the Manor House in Cold Ashton in Gloucestershire, where lost motorists regularly arrive at and knock for help with directions.

According to the report a 'friendly butler' answers the door and points them in the right direction - even though the Manor House has been derelict for decades.

All of these incidents, though documented, are still essentially anecdotal. But since the sample covers the whole of the UK it probably is large enough to draw some conclusions from the data, and it may be that the general percentages here can be applied elsewhere in the world.

The report states that in the past 25 years there have been a total of 755 official reports of angelic activity, including; 192 sighting of benign entities - ghosts which just appear and vanish without scaring viewers - 127 friendly entities, which smile or wave at people, 104 angelic visions, 99 helpful entities which actively help people who see them, 69 animal spirits, 44 sightings of fairies, 41 visions of saints, 32 of white witches, 24 guardian angels and 23 healing entities.

Last month it was revealed in a study by the same organisation that there had been 227 'evil' paranormal reports in the past 12 months in the UK.

To even out the sample periods, we multiply 227 by 25 to get a total of 5675 estimated negative sightings for the same period. Add the totals together and we then get 6450 estimated sightings for a 25-year period. The bad news is that the positive sightings only constitute 8.5 percent of the total, so if you have a paranormal experience about 9 times in 10 it is going to appear scary or threatening. The good news is that at only an estimated 258 sightings per year against the UK population of about 62 million, the odds of encountering any sort of paranormal entity are ridiculously low - unless, I suppose, you're a magician and do rituals to summon them.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

More EMF Experiments

Over the last several weeks I've done two more experiments using the EMF detector in conjunction with zodiacal evocations. Even though one trial was a failure, the other was a success and it seems like the first trial wasn't just a fluke. Obviously a lot more research needs to be done before any firm conclusions can be drawn, but we're off to what looks like a decent start.

Trial 2

This trial was performed by myself and two other magicians, one very experienced and one beginner.

Baseline EMF in the temple was very low when we started this one, around .05. The room's baseline is usually between .1 and .2 so for whatever reason there wasn't much background radiation for this trial. It was in the evening, whereas the others we've done have been in the afternoon, so that might have had something to do with it. I was surprised enough by this lower reading that I may do a study at some point to try and establish the baseline fluctuations in the temple for different days and times.

The detector jumped highest as we were doing the conjuration, but only up to around a .18. Checking after the ritual I found that it had dropped back down to around the original .05 reading. Even though this is a large percentage increase in the field, given that .18 is within the normal baseline range I am nonetheless considering this trial a failure as far as detecting an entity goes. I also noticed that the cold I usually feel over the altar when the spirits manifest was reduced for this trial.

Trial 3

This trial was also performed by myself and two other magicians, but this time both of the other magicians involved were very experienced.

Baseline EMF when we started this one was about .12, within the normal range that usually find when doing random sweeps with the detector. This ritual was performed late in the afternoon and ran into early evening.

For this trial the detector did jump above .4 as we were doing the conjuration, setting off the detector. It did not jump as high as the first EMF trial that my group conducted, topping out at around .41. Still, since .4 is the threshold that I'm aiming for this trial qualifies as a success. The sense of cold for this trial was substantially stronger than for the previous trial. After we closed down the ritual, I checked the temple again and got the same .12 reading that I had gotten before.


So far it seems as though in all of these cases there has been elevated EMF when the entity summoned is supposed to manifest. In two of the three experiments so far this elevation has reached the threshold for success, .4, selected because (1) it is twice the usual background reading and (2) it is the alarm threshold for the detector in high-sensitivity mode. The second point is important because when we're doing the conjuration we don't want to be constantly looking at the detector - we just want the alarm if the EMF is high enough.

The "cold spot" effect so far seems to correlate with the level of EMF. Whether this is because I'm sensing the EMF and my nervous system is interpreting it as cold or because the entity produces both cold and EMF is hard to say. Some sort of thermometer would probably be useful here to measure if the cold is physical or not, but the challenge there would be to work out some way to incorporate it into the altar arrangement without disrupting other ritual actions. Ghost hunters use digital thermometers, but I've read some criticism of using them to detect cold spots suggesting that they only work well to detect temperature on surfaces.

With a sample size of only three trials I have a long way to go before I have enough data to demonstrate that this method will work reliably as a physical test for the success of an evocation. But so far the trials seem to be going well.

UPDATE: In the interest of consistency in reporting these trials I have decided to give each of them a unique sequence number rather than numbering them within each article. So the trials here are now numbered 2 and 3 rather than 1 and 2, since the initial trial took place before these did.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Russian Satanists Convicted

About a month ago V.V.F. posted an article critiquing attitudes toward nudity and sexuality in the Pagan community as expressed in its artwork. She further explained her experiences in the comments section of Robert's article on the same topic.

In the experience I had with the local community, the conflict between traditional sexual mores and Lord Summerisle's idea of a good time was even more contracted, because while no one was actually boinking, there was this strange pressure to pretend as if we were the sort of people who had orgies. The over-enthusiasm displayed in regard to nudity was a big part of this.

My immediate thought was that I'm glad I was never part of such a community, because if I'm going to bother at all I want to be hanging out with the kind of folks who really do have orgies, not a bunch of poseurs.

However, I recently came across this story from Russia that has me rethinking my position, or at least refining it. Apparently this Satanic order did in fact indulge in orgies, but in just about the most distasteful way I can imagine. The leader of the sect and his second-in-command were arrested back in February and put on trial for various illegal activities related to their involvement in the group.

Two young people are being tried in Russia for organizing a Satan-worshiping sect. Their adepts were subjected to abuse during gatherings, while some girls, including those below the age of consent, were molested.

The sect named “Nobilis Ordo Diaboli” – or the “Noble Order of the Devil” – was engaged in the secret worshiping of Satan in the republic of Mordovia in central Russia since 2003. It was organized by medical student Aleksandr Kazakov, 24, and had up to 75 adepts over the years, investigators say.

Kazakov, who is the prime suspect in the trial, used his charisma to lure young people from well-to-do families into the “Order”. New adepts were recruited from mysticism-loving friends of sect members and through satanic websites and internet message boards. Every initiate had to sign “a contract”, which gave the “high priest” ownership of his or her soul as part of the initiation rituals.

Under Kazakov’s guidance, members gathered in secrecy, dressed in black robes and performed “unholy rites”. They also indulged in orgies and drinking sessions that could last for days. For girls, sex with the man and his closest “apprentices” was a requirement, and those unwilling could be raped. The Satanists also didn’t hesitate to involve minors, say the investigators.

The second man on trial, Denis Danshin, 23, was Kazakov’s second-in-command and was responsible for suppressing dissent and doubt among the flock, sometimes through violence.

The trial of Kazakov and Danshin concluded in July, with the sect leader receiving a 20-month prison term and his lieutenant a year-and-a-half suspended sentence.

The leader of a satanic sect that practiced orgies as part of the initiation of adepts has received a 20-month prison term.

Aleksandr Kazakov, 25, was found guilty of creating an organization that violated human and civil rights, and of indecent actions directed at a minor. His right-hand man, Denis Danshin, 23, received a year-and-half suspended term, reports Interfax news agency.

The two men organized the so-called “Noble Order of the Devil” or “Nobilis Ordo Diaboli.” Adepts, who were mostly high school or university students recruited via Internet, gathered in secrecy to perform death-themed rituals and indulge in promiscuity.

Prosecutors also accused Kazakov of rapes and beatings of dissident members, but failed to gather evidence.

The lack of evidence may mean that some of the allegations were false, as I find is often the case with crimes that are tied to the occult. Remember the "bad magick" case that I covered in 2008 and 2009? It wrapped up almost a year ago but finding that out took some dedicated searching since the local news organization that had been following the story didn't even print an article on the trial's outcome. The result of all that hysteria was two misdemeaner pleas that led to no prison time for either defendant, a far cry from the lurid allegations originally put forth by prosecutors.

Be that as it may, though, the activities of the "Noble Order of the Devil" strike me as cultish, ridiculous, and not particularly magically efficacious, even if some of their crimes were exaggerated. The idea of being a "devil-worshipper" as described in works of church propaganda from the Middle Ages makes no sense to me as a serious magical practitioner. There's no evidence that most of the activity those works describe ever happened, and from a magick theory perspective it's unclear to me how most of it was even supposed to function, aside from providing the celibate priests who compiled these supposed lists of depraved practices with a rich fantasy life.

To put it bluntly, accepting the entire Christian cosmology and then deliberately choosing the losing side is just dumb. Most people who call themselves Satanists in the United States are either LaVey Satanists, who reject Christian cosmology in favor of some form of humanism, or Setians and Luciferians who have their own metaphysical cosmologies that vastly differ from conventional Christian beliefs. I would hope that the "Noble Order of the Devil" is not representative of Satanists in Russia, because if that turns out to be the case my opinion of Russian occultists will almost certainly drop a few notches, but given the small membership quoted in the article I find it unlikely that this was anything other than an isolated group practicing their own brand of mysticism or lack thereof.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Jesus Versus Santa?

So does this mean South Park was on to something all along? A group of Roman Catholics in Germany have launched a campaign to ban Santa Claus in an effort against the commercialization of Christmas.

The church aid organisation Bonifatiuswerk of German Catholics has dismissed Father Christmas as an invention by the advertising industry who has little relation to the historical St Nicholas.

As such, they want to replace the image of Santa as a jolly old man in a red suit with one of a more traditional, charitable St Nicholas, who focuses on kindness and helping others rather than material possessions.

On the group's website, they describe St Nicholas as "a helper in need who reminds us to be kind, to think of our neighbours, and to give the gift of happiness."

The campaign has already garnered support from a number of well-known German celebrities.

As far as real history goes Bonifatiuswerk is right on. The modern form of "Santa" is fundamentally a commercial icon with little spiritual significance, though whether or not this fact makes him a problematic symbol of Christmas is open to debate.

The red-suited, white-bearded Santa Claus who most people are familiar with was first depicted by American author Washington Irving, who drew an image of a jolly Dutchman. This was then modified by a German immigrant called Thomas Nast, who drew a plump Santa with red clothing for Harper's Weekly.

Haddon Sundblom popularised the image when he drew Santa as a grandfather-style figure for Coca-Cola's Christmas advert.

Jesus as usual could not be reached for comment. He was last sighted in a cancer patient's MRI scan.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Haunted Tram

There's an old superstition that buildings should never be constructed with a thirteenth floor, on the grounds that the number 13 is unlucky. In Croatia, this logic or lack thereof apparently can also be applied to streetcars. Local residents of the town of Zagreb are demanding that officials renumber the #13 tram, citing an unusually high rate of accidents over the years.

Dozens of people have been hurt on the service in Zagreb over the decades, leading locals to become convinced it is cursed.

"We may have to renumber the route," an official said.

Halloween 1954 saw the worst accident involving the tram.

On October 31, it jumped off its track at 80 kilometres per hour, rolled over four times and knocked down a number of trees before finally slamming into a pole.

After the accident, in which 19 people died, the driver was found to be at fault but the tram was abolished.

The No.13 tram came back "on track" 42 years later, however, and was involved in four accidents in just a month of its 1996 existence.

Despite being out of service for over 40 years, it became the tram with the greatest number of accidents ever within 12 months.

In another accident in 2008, which happened at 13.00 in the afternoon, 13 people were injured.

The latest in the tram's spooky string of accidents took place last week, when several people were hurt after it was hit by the No.3 tram as it stood at the station.

This certainly represents a series of unusual coincidences so something paranormal might be going on here, but if so I doubt that slapping a new number on a streetcar is going to make much difference. As a magician the first thing I would check is the streetcar itself. If it's cursed or haunted there's no way a new number is going to change anything so long as the same physical tram is in use. Magical effects are anchored to objects, not numbers, and the same is true of ghosts.

Still, I'm assuming from the article that during the 40 years that this streetcar was out of service another one was still running its route. If not, the route should be examined before assuming that anything paranormal is associated with it. That particular track may simply be more dangerous than others under some conditions and that could explain the additional accidents right there.

In either case, all officials may wind up doing by renumbering is creating another unlucky number. But let's hope not.