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Showing posts from April, 2011

W is for Wicca

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Wicca is a religion that was developed towards the middle of last century in England, right around when a big spirtualism/medium revival was happening. The word itself came into common usage in the 1960's. While there may be ideas and rituals that date from far previously, the religion itself is relatively young.

There are many many different ways to be Wiccan, there are several different main traditions (which is like a denomination) and of course many covens have their very own tradition. Gardnerian and Alexandrian are two of the very first and are sometimes both referred to as British Traditional Wicca, they both are the two original branches of Wicca. In addition to these there are, of course, many many more traditions.

Wicca is one of those things where the only rule is that there are no rules- there aren't many overreaching Wiccan beliefs, rituals, or teachings. There is the Wiccan Rede, which varies in wording but generally goes something like: If it harm none, do …

S is for Slender Man

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Slender Man resembles an extremely (inhumanly) tall and thin 'man' who appears to be wearing a suit. Sometimes he appears to have an excessive number of arms, although this varies from sighting to sighting. According to legend (more on this later) he generally targets children, and makes them disappear. He's not opposed to attacking adults and will sometimes leaving their corpses hanging in trees, devoid of internal organs.

He is also, completely, a product of the internet. It's possible to read the very first post Slender Man ever appeared in, and the thread through which his legend grew. MarbleHornets (which I recommend if you really like getting the pants scared off of you) was born in the same thread.

But setting aside all the terrifying fiction, what makes Slender Man really fascinating is that since his inception there are people who have been claiming to see him. Some people believe that this is just people scaring themselves silly, which is possible. Howev…

O is for Ouija

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The Ouija Board (also known as a Spirit Board or Talking Board) has it's roots in spirit writing, when the medium and spiritual craze heated up in the late 19th and early 20th century. The planchette originally had two rolling casters and a pencil for a tip, which could be used to inscribe messages by the dead (or a crafty medium). The messages were too long and laborious to write, and sometimes were difficult to read. In other words, they were a crowd killer, and soon the practice of using the planchette this way was dropped in favor of the medium directly channeling the spirit in question.

While there were a few complicated dial based contraptions for contacting the spirits, they were expensive and over-engineered. When someone had the admittedly brilliant idea to put the alphabet on the board and have the planchette point to the letter in question, it was an idea that was both marketable and accessible. While it was generally accepted that anybody could make their own alph…

N is for Necronomicon

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The Necronomicon, originally titled Kitab al-Azif, is a book of eldritch lore concerning the Elder Gods written in 730 A.D. by the 'Mad Arab" Abdul Alhazred while he was in Damascus. The book details the history of the great Old Ones and how they may be summoned. To read the book is to invite madness, because the learning contained within its pages is not meant for human minds, and will drive them insane. The knowledge contained within the Necronomicon's pages will not only drive the reader mad, but will imperil their very life. Alhazared suffered a horrible fate as a result of his temerity in committing the book to paper: reports variously claim he was either seized by an invisible demon in broad daylight and rent to shreds before horrified onlookers (in 731 A.D.), or abducted by the fanatical minions of Hastur the Unspeakable and then tortured, blinded, had his tongue cut out, and finally executed (in 738 A.D.).

Alhazared's original Arabic manuscript appears to have…

Lock Up the Children They Might Roll Dice!

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Sitting at a table rolling handfuls of polyhedral dice while pretending to be Conan, Aragorn, or Elric is, according to many on the lunatic fringe of religious thinking, a gateway to the occult. Rule books full of esoteric tables of numbers and lists of fictional attributes are, somehow, the very directions to how to summon real demons and use black magic. What I'm talking about here is occult based hysteria, and Dungeons & Dragons.

Back in the 1970s, Gary Gygax and David Arneson, inspired by the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert A. Howard, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, and others as well as their own experience playing historical miniatures wargames, created the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. Playing the game involves creating characters detailed by intricate and obscure rules who then set out on adventures, usually with the idea of becoming mighty heroes like the protagonists in the many hundreds of fantasy novels in circulation. Players generally sit a…

H is for Horoscopes

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Almost everyone loves to read their "horoscope" in the local paper. But based on the way astrology works, knowing your sun sign isn't much more specific than in biology identifying that you're a human, in that it rules out a lot of things - not an elephant, not an ant - but there are certainly a lot of details that we think make us much more unique than that.

If you're curious about your detailed horoscope you can get a free account at astro.com. They have some detailed interpretations available for fees, but you can also run a chart and see some basic interpretations for free. You just need to know when (to the minute) and where (city) you were born.

What you will find is that although a sun sign is important (kind of like saying you're a human is very defining in some ways), there are a myriad of other things going on. What sign is each of your planets in? What house (slice of the pie on the wheel) is each planet in? What sign falls on each house? What are th…

G is for Ghosts

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What do Charles Dickens and Grant Wilson have in common? Ghost hunting, of course! Dickens was a member of London's "The Ghost Club" and Grant is part of the famous Ghost Hunters duo on SyFy.

Across cultures and history there has been a strong belief that some part of us lives on after we die - our spirit, essence, financial debt - something. While some people claim they can see ghosts, still others of us believe there could be ghosts but are reliant on equipment like cameras, audio recorders, and other sensors in our attempt to pick something up from the afterlife.

It's hard to say, though, where the truth ends and the human love of a good story begins. Who hasn't
spent a long, dark night with friends telling ghost stories to each other? Sometimes we feel a need, or at a desire, to scare the bejeezus out of ourselves and others. We flock to horror movies, keep Stephen King living in style, and pour billions of dollars into Halloween. We WANT to be scared.

But jus…

F is for Fairy

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Do you hear a bustle in your hedgerow? Based on my experience you should be alarmed. The fae aren't necessarily bad, but they are a bit... capricious. If your only reference for fairies is Tinkerbell then you haven't gotten the big picture of fairy history.

For one thing,  in the whole of fairy literature they usually aren't what you would call nice. There are some distinctions between Seelie Court and Unseelie Court, but many of these are creatures that will happily steal your life, if not your soul, for their own whims and pleasures. Somewhere between a Greek god and a modern vampire. On the other hand, they may grant you wishes, treasures, or other worldy (and otherworldly) delights. Fortunately most of the fae don't have the power to take you to the fairy realm or do the really big stuff. But don't underestimate them.

What to Do About a Fairy Infestation
First of all, don't upset them. Unless you happen to like to have things around your house broken, misplace…

E is for Extrasensory Perception (ESP)

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Has the phone ever rung and you knew who it was without looking at the caller id? Have you ever started humming a song to have someone else say "I was just thinking about that song!" Do you always know the winning lottery numbers before the drawing? Then you might be psychic! (And about that last one, please leave us your contact information below...)

In case you missed the memo, the term Extrasensory Perception (ESP) was coined by J.B. Rhine back in the 1930s. His buddy Karl Zener, the psychic researcher's Wizard of the Coast, developed the card game version of a psychic test, which they used to develop elaborate testing for psychic ability at Duke University. Eventually all that testing paved the way for Peter Venkman to hit on co-eds in Ghostbusters because the world has a fabulous logic like that.

Although no longer associated with Duke, The Rhine Research Center still exists in Durham. We will assume that you don't need to call ahead if you want to visit.

Sue Lond…

D is for Divination

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Do you wonder what the future holds? Or, more specifically, what your future holds? There are those who believe that we can find out through various methods of divination. Divination can be defined as "the practice of finding answers to questions, through observing natural indicators or signs or through using a variety of techniques to contact natural or preternatural spirits." (source)

When you start to research methods of divination you realize that it isn't a question of what you can do your divining with but what you can't (and that answer would be nothing - and in fact you can divine with nothing). You can use tarot cards, runes, dice, animal entrails (ewww), crystals, bones, sticks -- seriously, just pick up some crap at your house and use that.

Now what do you do? Well, you can toss it, observe it, wave it, hold it, dangle it. Yep, just pick some stray piece of crap up and do something with it. Are you feeling your cave dweller roots yet? Sure you are. Now th…