Hauntings? Trust No One

I blogged on this subject elsewhere last summer, but I’m reposting here because I feel like examining the subject again (yes, I was watching episodes of A Haunting on YouTube this morning).

Begin repost:

I am starting to suspect a trend toward people writing books about their alleged hauntings or possessions or whatever, not so much for profit’s sake as to lure the unwary paranormal enthusiast into a proselytizing situation.  There’s a suspicious similarity to these tales, many of which are cropping up on shows like Discovery Channel’s A Haunting; and they almost invariably end in some sort of religious deliverance.  Then you do a little digging on teh intartubes and find the person’s website, and learn that out of their haunting has come a ministry.  Hmmm.

(To say that I doubt the veracity of many or most of these claims would be a mild understatement.  In some cases where I’ve had the dubious fortune to read sample bits of their dreadful books, I can only think that perhaps these were frustrated horror novelists who couldn’t get anyone sane to publish their dreck unless they shifted to a first-person narrative, pitched it as a True! Life! Haunting! along with the religious conversion angle, and sold it to a Christian publishing house.  But y’all know how cynical I tend to be.)

And the whole “ohnoezdabblingindangerousOCCULTFORCES11eleventy!!” thing has been done to death, brought back from the grave, and done back to death again.  Seriously.  If just reciting some words from a book you bought at the mall, or playing with a piece of cardboard with letters and numbers printed on it, has unleashed the fiends of hell upon your household, then perhaps UR DOIN IT RONG.  I’ve known quite a few witches, magicians, occultists, and the like over the course of my life, and I have yet to see any of them who’ve been demon-possessed or cursed or haunted.  The one person I have known who claimed to be demon-possessed exhibited many symptoms suggestive of undiagnosed schizophrenia (with manic features, so there was the potential for a touch of undiagnosed bipolar disorder there, too).  So, um, yeah.  The whole “witchcraft/ouija boards/meditation/etc. opens a doorway to evil forces” meme has been a part of the popular culture at least since the 1980s, when I became aware of it in the middle of the Satanic Panics of that decade. 

I suppose I should just be thankful that they’re no longer pushing the canard about rock music conjuring up the devil and his minions.  Perhaps the Dark Ones hate rap and crap music as much as I do.

End repost.

It’s not just A Haunting that follows this format; I’ve also been watching some episodes of A&E’s Paranormal State, and the Christian religious angle is very apparent there, as well.  Of the half-dozen episodes I’ve seen in the past couple of days, I can’t recall one off-hand that didn’t involve at least one big invocative prayer against the dark forces–no, wait, I take that back; there were no prayers on the episode where they determined that the phenomena in the house were being caused by a carbon monoxide leak.  That was the only one free of interventionist prayers.

Sometimes I think that people outside the pagan/polytheistic faiths are even more superstitious and gullible than the ones within.  It’s always “Oh no, don’t even LOOK at a Ouija board!” or “He read a book on witchcraft and next thing you know, he had a houseful of DEMONS!” or “That house was built on an ANCIENT INDIAN BURIAL GROUND and it’s haunted-cursed-possessed–whatever!”  You’d think a hunk of cardboard (or plastic, as today’s Ouijas are made of) or a cheap paperback cranked out by some Llewellyn hack was more dangerous than plutonium. 

Set your minds to rest, people.  The museum where I volunteer has a haunted reputation; the family who owned it were Presbyterians, not devil-worshipping seance-having Satanists.  I own a modest but reasonably comprehensive library of occult literature; the house is still standing, and the only person who’s ever come on the property and claimed to see “portals of evil” was the person with the major mental malfunction mentioned earlier in the post.  When I was sixteen or so, I found a Ouija board; someone had lobbed it, box and all, out the window of a car, and it landed in the ditch in front of my house.  I’m not making this up.  I had a few little private seances where I asked it just the kinds of stupid questions a sixteen-year-old might ask (well, assuming that the sixteen-year-old in question was a weirdo like me).  I only remember two of those things, but the answers were both perfectly accurate.  The house in which those seances were conducted is still standing; and to my knowledge, no one has ever reported seeing any demons or portals of evil therein.

Fear of the unknown is human, and normal.  Fear of the spiritual practices of those who are very different seems to be normal as well.  In most cases unfounded, ridiculous, and overblown, but normal.  The only prescription I can come up with is talking to others who have different ways, and coming to realize that they aren’t so very different under the skin–but that’s hard-to-impossible to do, since most of us are only ever exposed to the freakshow types of various faiths that the media likes to trot out for our entertainment.  The internet may hold the key, but only if all parties are willing to be honest and set their preconceptions aside, at least momentarily.  Is that possible?  In some cases, I think maybe; but the memes here are pretty deeply rooted, and fear is the most primal and hardest to eradicate of our responses.  I’ll keep blogging, in any case; even a single candle can dispel at least a little darkness.


Pagans and headcovering

LisaM over at Those Headcoverings linked to an article about an Imbolc ritual that mentioned, in passing, one participant’s “red veil” (of hair).  This started me thinking, again, about how people of different faiths may feel a desire or a conviction to cover their heads, and the reasons for it. 

Obviously, a Christian woman’s reasons for covering will be different from those of a Jewish or Muslim woman’s; and the reasons why a Pagan of whatever tradition might wish to cover will be quite different from those of a person from a monotheistic faith.  Women’s roles in Pagan faiths are strikingly unlike those of their sisters in the “big three” religions mentioned above.  We lack the Biblical injunctions that may motivate them; concepts of male headship and female submission are–well, I won’t say “unknown,” as I’m not an expert on every extant form of paganism, but I think I can safely say that they are extremely unusual.  If anything, Pagan women may be resistant to the idea of veiling or covering simply because they associate it with female subjugation.

And yet, I know that this is not always the case.  For example, Olivia Robertson, the co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis, has said that she wears her headscarves in a particular way not for style’s sake but because of a vision she had of the goddess Isis, in which She wore Her veil in a similar fashion.  Isis is only one of the deities known to appear veiled before their devotees–and woe be unto the importune worshipper who dares demand She lift Her veil!  In Wicca, veils are sometimes worn by priestesses who are emulating or aspecting particular godforms at particular times (for example, wearing a black veil at Samhain when aspecting the Lady in her crone phase).  There must surely be other examples in other traditions, as well.

As a High Priestess of British Traditional Wicca, I was taught that my hair was to be worn loose and flowing, and crowned as it were by a silver circlet with a lunar crescent upon it.  In the FOI liturgy, various types of headcovering are suggested for the participants.  When I conduct Kemetic rites, I wear a gold circlet with a winged solar disk, which is reminiscent of the sort of crowns worn by various of the goddesses.  My patroness or spiritual parent within Kemetic Orthodoxy is Hathor, who is typically portrayed wearing a horned solar disk upon Her head.  There are no hard and fast requirements in either of the traditions that I practice, so the headcovering is left up to the desire of the worshipper, based on the inspiration provided by their patron/ess deity.

I don’t know of any pagans that feel called to cover their heads in daily, secular life, but I’d imagine there are some out there.  I’ve felt an interest in trying it myself; and if I do, I will certainly discuss it here.  I know that what I have on my head impacts my ritual performance; I certainly feel more formal and focused covered than I do bare-headed.  In that respect at least, I think I may have something in common with my monotheistic sisters.  Perhaps there are other similarities as well.

Rethinking Imbolc

Imbolc is the holiday celebrated at the midpoint between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, and I’ve always looked upon it as such: the literal turning-point between winter and spring.  My husband has tended to look at it more as how it literally feels here locally, i.e. the dead depths of winter misery, when it’s still wretchedly cold and you’re sick to death of it but still have to slog through another six weeks at least of unmitigated suck. 

I’m now more inclined to agree with him.

Two days ago a fierce winter storm cut a swath across the country, and we were right in its path.  (Oddly, it followed to some degree the path that was cut by Hurricane Ike back in September; and did even more damage, it seems.)  From Tuesday around midnight, until about seven o’clock this evening, we were without power.  We were utterly dependent on our little fireplace to keep the house livable; all we could do was huddle round the fire and keep tossing logs on it, from a supply that was small to begin with and dwindling faster than we would have liked.  That gave me a taste, a not entirely pleasant taste, of what life at this time of year might have been like for our ancestors.

Survival is a foreign concept to most of us.  We have our houses and our cars, electricity, all the technologies that smooth the path before us.  Stripped of those things, we realize just how vulnerable we really are.  It was possible for us to dig the car out of the snow and ice, drive just a few miles down the road, and find hot food and warm shelter; we have friends and relatives who were not as badly affected who offered us hospitality.  People living agrarian, pre-industrial lives would not have had those options.  You would have lain in your stores of food and firewood and the necessities to see you through the long cold months, and you would have hoped and prayed that those stores would be enough.  If they weren’t, well, you might not have survived.  We experienced some distress, but no great danger.  But springtime has never felt farther away.

I consider myself to be a pleasant and curious person.  I like to meet interesting people of different cultures and faiths and races.  Other peoples’ religions in particular fascinate me, and have since I was very young; I always want to know about their beliefs and customs and practices, what they do and what they believe and above all the whys and wherefores of it all.  Maybe this makes me insufferable instead of pleasant and curious; at any rate, rather than ask people such questions directly, I tend instead to read their blogs and websites and books instead, to gain the insights I seek.  The reason for that is quite simple: the more I read from people of other (read: monotheistic) faiths when they post among their own kind, the more certain I become that there can never be a meaningful dialogue between people of wildly divergent belief systems.  Gods know it’s hard enough to communicate with those ostensibly of your own path.

Jason at the Wildhunt put up a link to a story about a pre-inaugural ritual smudging of the White House.  To me it seemed pretty harmless, a pretty typical generic neo-pagany thing with smudging and chanting and such; not my thing, but also not a bad thing.  Despite the site’s being called the “Progressive Examiner,” a read-through of the comment thread indicates that the readership thereof is anything but.  I’m sorry to say, but such ranting screeds are what I’ve come to expect from those who call themselves Christians these days.  There may be–must be–certainly are Christians out there who are more moderate, more progressive, but it is always the voices of the unhinged fringe that rise above the softer speech of the reasonable.  Here are a couple of tastes, if you’re curious:

Yes, they are trying to use matter to invoke demonic spirits. Since, they don’t probably believe in Satan, they don’t realize what they are doing. They are probably thinking from a “naturalist” perspective, meaning that the world has it’s own powers, which, of course, it doesn’t. The only power that is ordered to the Good is God. They are harnessing Satanic power…

Or, how about:

What about the abortion demons? Where are those now? I believe they just moved into the White House and plan to stay.

There’s a fair bit of anti-abortion rhetoric along with the demon stuff, perhaps because of the President today rescinding the Global Gag Rule (which I will discuss on my other blog later).  One commenter stated “Make way for the infanticidal communist!”  I don’t really see how it’s possible to have a reasoned and reasonable conversation with people who have their heads shoved that far up their own holy asses.  If your worldview is that firmly divided between Us and Them, then there can be no understanding.  And those of us who are Them, and who would consider extending a hand in friendship or a heart in understanding, are only wasting our energy and our time.

Not that I intend to stop seeking and reading and learning, if only because I feel it behooves us to know what our enemies (for, unfortunately, that is surely what they are) think and say about us.  I do have hope for the future, if only because our new President made a point from the very start, in his first official address to our nation, to use speech inclusive of all faiths and non-faiths.  Some of the inroads made by extremist religious groups under the previous administration will not be allowed to stand, and we can perhaps move forward with the realization that this is one nation under many Gods and many Goddesses.  And maybe, just maybe, some of the more defiant and fearful (on both sides of the fence) will some day be able to recognize others as fellow Americans, even if they’ll never be able to meet as friends.

So mote it be.

(ETA:  Hahaha!  Now the commenters at the Examiner are dismissing the ritualists as “young people.”  HAHAHA! Could they be any more arrogant, dismissive or wilfully ignorant?

Oh, wait.  Yes, they could.  Never mind.)

Of Oaths and Auguries

When President Obama took the Oath of Office on Tuesday, Chief Justice Roberts flubbed the wording slightly.  The President caught the flub and recited the words correctly, and he was duly sworn in; nonetheless, in the interest of dotting i’s and crossing t’s, the Oath was readministered, lest any question of his validity be put forth by a detractor based on the words having not been spoken in the correct sequence.

Sound familiar?   😀

Someone, on one of those lists I don’t admit to reading, hinted that the flub will raise issues from a ritual standpoint and wondered what this new Presidency will be like, as it was begun under a waning moon and during a mercury retrograde.  And I say, does anyone know under what baneful omens the previous administration began its reign? 

Why yes, yes they do.

At the time of Mr. Bush’s first inauguration, on 1/20/01, Mars was in Scorpio, a conjunction signaling the presence of vehement, fearsome enemies. We all know what happened later in 2001; OMG, does that mean astrology works?!  The moon was waning that year, too, and in 2005 during his second inaugural as well.  Mercury was direct on both those occasions, but it certainly doesn’t seem to have helped Mr. Bush’s communication skills any.  President Obama seems an effective speaker, so perhaps his abilities will offset any influence that a wayward planet might place upon him.

As far as the oath-taking goes, well, I’ve taken a few of them in my day; but these days I’m more swayed by the spirit of the law than the letter of it.  It’s not always about speaking every syllable exactly as ordered–and I say that both as a Kemetic and a British Traditionalist; of equal importance are the operator’s intent and understanding.  Clearly Mr. Obama had both of those things in place, and was able to correct Chief Justice Roberts and proceed accordingly.  The redo was less about his actual validity than his perceived validity in the eyes of those who for whatever reason might seek to undermine it; which is invariably the case, and thus made the retaking of his Oath a prudent preventive measure, symbolically important even if it was ritually unnecessary.

Oh, my aching brain.


There really is no such thing as an original idea anymore; it seems people have been using their iPods as divination tools for at least a couple of years now.  Always the late bloomer, always behind the curve!

Nonetheless, I set my nano to shuffle, asked it about the immediate future of my happy band of infidels in view of recent developments, then pushed the button.  Blackmore’s Night‘s Morning Star was the result (lyrics below):

There are shadows in the sky
Dancing in the air
Calling to my heart
Saying, “If you dare,
We’re running fast
We’re running far
Trying to catch the morning star…”
And time and space
Our only shield
Keeping secrets
Falling night
Breathes in the dark
Trying to catch the morning star…
I can fly through my mind when I see them as they shine
Can it be so hard to try and charm the elusive morning star…
So within the chase
We soon will find
The light of the moon
Those left behind
Try to free the gypsy in their hearts
By trying to catch the morning star…
Now that the time
Has come and gone
Illusion has past
And we’re on our own
Know the dream is never far…
When trying to catch the Morning Star…

And from where I sit, that seems both fantastically apropos and very encouraging.


(Lyrics by Candice Night.  No copyright infringement intended.)

Better Off Dead?

Barring those with suicidal ideation as a feature of a mental illness, why would anyone think that?

The neighborhood Southern Baptist Church has a lighted electronic marquee sign, and they change the message on it daily.  This morning’s genuinely brought me up short.  It read:

My life will be so much better…after I die.

Cast me as intolerant, but that seems so incredibly wrongheaded as to border on pathological.  Or, as I yelped in my early-morning brainfog, “That’s just crazy-talk!”  The illogic is stunning in its own right, but it goes deeper than that.  Of course your life won’t improve upon death, because you’ll no longer have a life.  You may or may not have an afterlife, but lacking any empirical evidence one way or the other I wouldn’t go putting all my eggs in that potentially nonexistent basket, either. 

Mulder:  Do you believe in an afterlife, Scully?
 Scully:  I’d settle for a life in this one.

              (Excelsius Dei, episode 2:11)

I freely admit that I have no concept of the kind of worldview that advocates such a total denigration of human existence, while on the other hand allegedly championing the value of “life.”  It looks, to this outsider at least, as though the only “life” to be valued is that which remains in a foetal state, or that which is dependent on machinery to keep it going; the healthy, independent human organism should be dead to the world, so to speak, and longing only for the next world–which one fervently hopes will be a pleasant place, but may not be.  My brain hurts just trying to wrap around this.

All right, yes, I know; I’m a big ol’ heathen and just don’t get it.  If I had a dime for every time someone, pagan or otherwise, had told me I didn’t get something I’d have no worries for this life or any potential others.  Maybe I get it and don’t want it.  The life I’m living now–this one, right here, on planet Earth in the 21st century–is the only life I’m absolutely assured of having.  Everything else is just conjecture.  I’m not enough of a gambler to risk the bird in the hand for the (theoretical) one in the (also theoretical) bush. 

My life will be so much better…when I start to fully live it.

I went through my other blog (one of them, anyway) and pulled out some spiritual and religious-themed entries that I wanted to archive here. They’re mostly from 2005 and 2006, but I found them all still relevant enough for reposting. Obviously, I’m not in the same space spiritually or religiously or emotionally or anything else as I was when these were written, but neither do I want to lose what I gained from that time of my life and those experiences. And maybe someone else will take something away from one of them, as well.

Oneness (repost)


“There is no part of me that is not of the Gods.”

This statement from the Gnostic Mass (by way of a Golden Dawn interpretation of an Egyptian inscription) is an amazing and powerful thing. Think about it: if you recognize your essential oneness with the divine, knowing yourself to be a part of everything and knowing everything to be a part of you, the illusion of disconnect falls away. You can no longer believe the lie that you’re fallen, inferior, sinful, bad. You are a part of the gods, and the gods are a part of you. (At this point, do not ask me, “But, taijiya-san, what about that other line in the Gnostic Mass that says ‘there is no god where I am’?” That is attributed to Hadit, in Liber AL II:23; and it’s in reference to something else entirely. Not feeling particularly pestilent today, I don’t feel like going into my interpretation thereof at the moment.)

But, yeah, part of the gods. The other day I’d got out my old Episcopal Book of Common Prayer and was reading the Easter Vigil rite, thinking that I might still find the flowery language appealing. I didn’t; I found it appalling, almost, because of the heavy emphasis on marking the worshipper as wretched, worthless, sinful and weak and fallen. Yegads, get that drilled into you from every sphere for long enough and you’re bound to take it to heart–and who on earth wants to live with that burden. If you can believe that you are the creation of a deity (itself a bit of a stretch), then why can’t you believe that you’re exactly as you’re supposed to be, just as your creator intended you to be–not a failure, not a fuckup, but the absolute crown of creation?

We are human, of course, even if we share in the stuff of the divine; and being human means that we are limited, fallible, liable to corruption and decay and every form of perversion and foulness imaginable–but there’s plenty of elasticity in the definitions of those things, and one man’s failure is simply another man’s challenge–(heh, and one man’s perversion simply another’s delightful diversion). If I am apart from god, as some religions teach, then I am forsaken and vile; if I am a part of god, then I am just as I must be, just as I was intended to be, and therefore capable of seeking out my purpose in life and doing my Will therein.

I like that second idea much better!


To this day I wonder if I’m the only pagany person in the entire world who thinks that expecting a deity (or, as most imbeciles spell it, diety) will come when called like a well-trained puppy, Possess the desired person, dispense the desired Words of Wisdom, then depart again on command, is utterly ludicrous? I don’t doubt that at least some people who engage in invocative trances (by whatever name they’re called) believe wholeheartedly in what they’re doing; but I’ve yet to see or hear or experience anything that would convince me, and I have also seen/heard/experienced enough obvious bald-faced fakery to be highly suspicious of anyone who makes the assay and puts it forth for an audience. Invoking a particular deity form for a particular, personal reason can be a quite beneficial exercise; but the only reason to turn it into a spectator sport is for self-aggrandizement, the sort of occultier-than-thou posturing in which many take great delight.

I have ties to various traditions and organizations, and most (if not all) of them seem to feature some form of this activity, whether it be the relatively innocuous “aspecting” or a full-bodied, blackout, dissociative-episode full-trance possession complete with bizarre behaviors and pompous pronouncements. Opening my yap on this subject earned me no end of suffering as a Wiccan, since it would appear that the practice is considered by most to be the religion’s central feature. Um. OK. ::edges slowly toward the door:: Right, then. Generally, one does not consider wilfully inducing a dissociative state to be a desirable thing. Generally, one does not consider a person claiming to be embodying a god/dess to be anything other than a ranting, raving loon. Generally, most pagans would dismiss a Christian writhing about speaking in tongues and getting Slain In The Spirit to be a ranting, raving loon, so why is it different when you or one of your co-religionists is doing essentially the same bloody thing?

Do I even believe in invocation? Sure; it’s similar in character to what used to be called Method acting, to my mind at least. I can call upon a particular deity or spirit or what-have-you in a similar way to how I might “get into character” for a show, drawing the desired characteristics into myself to achieve a desired end. Does it work? Yes. Is it a “possession”? Holy crap, no. Do I believe in possession? I believe a belief in possession is likely to cause possession, how’s that? I believe some people have experiences in which they believe themselves to be possessed, either wilfully or accidentally; I’ve known at least one person who thoroughly believed herself possessed, and she did indeed exhibit classic symptoms–but she was also taking a prescription medication with known psychotropic contraindications (the same scrip had been a factor in one of her relatives’ suicide) and appeared to a degreed friend to be an undiagnosed schizophrenic to boot. So…make of it what you will. I’ve known plenty of folk in pagan and occult circles who were slightly less than stable–a few fries short of a Happy Meal, no mortar between their bricks, pick your metaphor–who also indulged, seemingly successfully, in various forms of possession trance (mostly the Wiccan “Drawing Down the Moon” type). And frankly, at this stage of my life and occult career, I’ve seen enough that were I to experience anything that seemed to indicate the possibility that trance possessions by deities were genuine, I think my first response would be to have an MRI done to make sure I hadn’t got a brain tumor.