Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How to Tell a Genuine Magical Practitioner from a Confidence Trickster

I'm going to start this by declaring a marked bias: while I understand that people have an ambivalent relationship with the magical arts, it seems to me extraordinary the way people go to other people to do magic for them. To me magic is something you do, you can't get it (except indirectly through knowledge) online. Nonetheless people have always gone to other people & handed over money for the practitioner to get their hands dirty so that they could either say they hadn't done it themselves or thought they'd get better results. This unfortunately leaves people at risk of confidence tricksters, who are relatively secure in the knowledge that people will be too embarrassed to tell the police they've been tricked by a sorcerer. There is a rise of traditional African healers, sangomas, ngangas, & what have you, in Britain. Certainly I get loads of adverts for them put through the door: some make incredible claims, but the phenomenon is giving rise to concern amongst the chattering classes (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-158843/Witchdoctors-exposed.html and http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/british-witch-doctors-charge-3000-3247614). So here, as a public service, the Hound will give his personal take on how not to be taken in, & a way of avoiding the problem completely.
There are two ways to tell a fake, & the first is the more difficult because it requires that painful thing, self-knowledge. If you want final stage lung cancer cured, if you spend every night on the phone to psychic lines wanting to know when your man (whom you haven't seen since 1992) is coming back to you, in the real world you're a sitting target for confidence tricksters. So you must start by asking yourself how possible your desire really is. And here's the thing: by doing this, by subtly changing your world-view & protecting yourself against worries, dangers & people that prey on you, you are actually starting to do magic.
The second key is to understand how magic works. This comes second, because you have to do the magical act of a full & frank self-examination to get into the magical worldview first. All of the definitions of magic involve change of some sort. I like to think it is magic whenever anyone does an act that will result in life improving or at least changing in some way. Anything. Because once you've done that you are taking charge of your life & making change happen.
My personal solution to this situation would be that it is better to do the magic yourself. You have the ability to do it. Stop looking over your shoulder, I mean you. You! No, *YOU*! Reader of this blog, you can work magic.
'But I don't know how,' you may say, which brings me nicely to another point about how real magic works so that people can recognise it. When you need it, the magic will always be there. The means to do it will come to your hand, if you can trust that that will happen, & keep your eyes open to see the means of your liberation come to hand. I'm not giving you instructions, because we all work magic differently, my way may not be your way. But when your back is to the wall, if you have the *will* to do it, the means will come to hand. For example, you may say a prayer. That magic is called theurgy. This may sound terrible if you have a conventional religious background, but I've touched right to the heart of why religion has a problem with magic: the boundary is blurry & religion's in denial! Nor is there a question of technical skill - we're accustomed to getting in experts for IT nowadays, but we're talking about an ancient technology that we have built in, & you don't need an expert for it. People's first spell is quite often incredibly effective: the universe /G*ddess, what have you, will not be outdone in generosity.
I must say something about cost. I personally have grown up in the school of not equating magic with money. It fixes the magic to only one of the four 'elements', ultimately limiting it if you're not carefully. My other problem with this is that magic is very expensive. But not in monetary terms - usually if you've got your back to the wall you'll already have paid for it.
So if you still insist on getting someone else to do it (there are circumstances in which I would ask someone to do it for me, but in my experience a soul mate will appear at that moment) a genuine magical practitioner will broadly speaking fit in with these characteristics of magic. S/he will speak directly to your situation at the time, opening up new insights & actually helping you in the process of change that is magic. A good sorcerer will have a personal code of ethics that they should be able to explain to you & should turn down certain types of work. Merely meeting them will make you feel like a burden's been lifted - this is what magic should feel like.
Certain things should indicate the practitioner should be avoided completely. The classic is telling you you've been cursed & it will require further work to sort it. Most people actually curse themselves, but anyway don't go near this person again. Also don't fear that they will curse you (they may threaten you, in which case ring the police) - they don't understand curses & clearly have no magical ability. A requirement for rare herbs that can only be gathered from some strange place far abroad at great expense is also bullshit of the highest order & indicates a confidence trickster who doesn't understand magic. The American folk magic system of hoodoo originated in the practices of slaves who were cut off from the West coast of Africa & had to adapt to what they had at hand. *That* is real magic. Any use of cold reading techniques is incredibly suspicious, or 'barnum' statements. Avoid them. Work that doesn't have an end date or full price equals confidence trick - avoid them. (Are you seeing why I say it's better to do it yourself?) A friend (who is an incredibly powerful witch) recently accompanied a friend to a traditional sangoma, who didn't pick up or acknowledge that she's a witch. Believe me, you can't miss it. Suffice to say, even I'm in awe of her. I'm tempted to say take a witch with you, but I really genuinely think it's better to avoid these people. The means will always come to hand when you need it.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Weird Shit: The Catholic Church Thinks its Priests Should be Masculine (but Obviously Doesn't Really)

I found the forum referenced here & the picture in very quick succession & was struck by what a ridiculous contrast they make. Obviously acres of lace, marble, & brocade are going to attract some very manly men into the priesthood!
'Says Fr. Mason: "Many bishops, seminary faculty and  priests...suffer under this vice [of effeminacy] and are therefore unwilling or unable  to recognize it as a vice and address it.... Does the seminary deal  with a seminarian that sways when he walks, who has limp wrists, who  acts like a drama queen or who lisps? It must."
'Says Fr. Mason: "This is not just distracting to other men but I  know my sisters will roll their eyes when a Liberace-like priest  celebrates himself while celebrating the Mass.... This may be one of  the reasons why the church has a difficult time attracting men to  Mass...."
'Fr. Mason says, "I remember in my first year of seminary how I was  shocked when I came across an ordained cleric in the seminary who was  wearing a gold ankle bracelet and matching gold earring."
'Says Fr. Mason: "Catholic seminarians scored as less masculine than any  other male group of their age. Right next to them...were the Protestant  male seminarians...." Fr. Mason says that "Most [Catholic] seminaries  breed an effeminate culture."' (http://www.fisheaters.com/forums/index.php?topic=1481200.0)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Kray Twins Again

The revelations in the newspaper article referenced here have been around for a while, but they're new to me, & provide an opportunity for more twin porn!
'These regular battles with other local gangs dispersed much of the aggression between the twins themselves and focused it on others. Fighting shoulder to shoulder bound them even more tightly together. Word got round that they were telepathic because they never needed to speak to each other when they were hammering someone but just got on with it, as if they were one person.

And they did indeed have a secret connection. In adolescence they discovered they were both homosexual. At the time and given the macho nature of the East End, this struck them as so shameful that they attempted to conceal it. According to Ron, they were so concerned to keep their secret hidden that for a while the only sex they had was with each other. As they grew into manhood there was for a short time a chance that, through professional boxing, they might escape a life of crime.' (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1305259/Did-Kray-twins-uncanny-bond-lead-break-ultimate-taboo.html)

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Witch as Bus Driver

I came across a new (to me) idiom today - a bus driver is someone who takes someone else to school.
For some time I've had a spot of bother at work with someone addressing me by a variant of my name despite being told not to repeatedly. I have also clearly warned him that I will do him for harassment.
Given the kind of fools I'm surrounded by it is no surprise that he took it on himself to do it again yesterday. Some people are just hard of thinking & think I won't go there. So I've gone there. He probably didn't think I'd complain to Human Remains about him, thereby taking the matter completely out of the hands of any of his friends. He's also in a temporary manager's position, so has picked the wrong time to be seen as a fool at headquarters. The other thing that may be coming home finally is how dirty I fight. I learned the anatomy of workplace bullying from several experts at it, so I have strategies prepared for any way he may try to get out of it. In a sense his best outcome would be to pucker up & kiss my ass, or I'll do a hatchet job on him.
He could also have prevented this by stopping his unwanted behaviours when I told him to originally. He's going to school & he's going to learn a lesson. I'm driving the bus & in case you're wondering whether I've used magic as well - you bet I have!

Spirit of Place: Tourism in Birmingham

On a train last weekend my cocktail party ears heard that it is finally happening: I overheard some American visitors on the way to Stratford saying that they were on holiday in Birmingham. No wonder, since it has been promoted by the New York Times & others:
They obviously already had a connection to Britain, since they talked about having relations elsewhere. The Grauniad has had various articles on weekending in Brum (it's a bit old but I like http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2010/nov/06/birmingham-day-trips-arts-festival). I wonder if Birmingham had the effect on those American tourists that it had on the photographer from the Telegraph:
'Afterwards I took [John the photographer] on a tour of hidden Birmingham – the city that outsiders don't know exists. The city of intricate waterways, leafy expanses of rolling parkland and splendid public buildings. The city that The New York Times included in its list of 45 places to go in 2012 because of its remarkable cuisine. It came just above "Space" in the pecking order (although admittedly below Glasgow, another unlikely tourist haunt).
'John wasn't convinced at first, but this is normal for newcomers. A couple of hours later he'd changed his mind. We'd wandered the elegant canal paths that criss-cross the city centre. One of the most successful regeneration schemes in the world has turned the city of a thousand trades into the city of a thousand loft apartments.
'"This is amazing," he said. "I had no idea it existed. It's really beautiful."' (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/thenorthandmidlandsproperty/9023250/My-love-affair-with-Birmingham.html)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

After the Revolution

I posted recently on the dangerous religious idea that something is willed by God, using the example of apartheid in South Africa to illustrate the kind of dangers that this idea can cause. Since then I have continued my reading around (mainly Southern) African history: I have actually been to Africa, to Kenya, but haven't really read the history. I'm horrified at the effect this reading has had on me: I'm in danger of getting to the point where I no longer believe anything anyone says on this subject because of the sheer contradiction & the sheer nonsense spouted by some people. From pseudo-scientific justifications for apartheid to the writings of those who explicitly want to remove Whites from Africa permanently, I'm finding a complex world of contradiction. Colonialism, even without apartheid, leaves a legacy of resentment, jealousy, paranoia, guilt, distrust, & a permanently dodgy power dynamic.
This kind of history is also well nigh impossible to come back from.
In the middle of all this, I was watching a Youtube video by a South African man talking about murders of whites, when I was captivated - he obviously assumed that everyone would know who this was & what it meant - by footage of a Black woman saying 'With our boxes of matches & our necklaces we shall liberate this country.' This refers to a particularly brutal form of murder with a peculiarly South African significance, since used on informers or collaborators in the townships. It's a horrendous death, but if you've been necklaced you're probably better off dead than rescued. The quote is one that is forever associated with the controversial Winnie Mandela. I was horrified to realise what she was talking about, but my friend in South Africa assures me that the beatings & imprisonment she's been through would be enough to turn anyone violent. This lengthy preamble brings me to the point of this post: what happens after the revolution is over - you'll notice that even I'm ducking facing the odious Mugabe, so my reflections on post-revolution revolutionaries will largely be based on an interview with Winnie Mandela (http://www.standard.co.uk/news/how-nelson-mandela-betrayed-us-says-exwife-winnie-6734116.html Quotations in this post are from that interview). The point of this in a blog about witchcraft is that we are accustomed to think that it is important not to limit the power of our magic - 'Impossible is nothing' should be our motto - but when you are in the middle of effecting change, it is easy to lose sight of what you want the final outcome to be, or even what you want the effect of the change to be on yourself. I realise that I am again using an extreme situation to illustrate a process of change that will usually be more subtle, but extreme situations make good illustrations, if bad law.
For a start it is impossible to avoid the legacy of the past, in fact Winnie Mandela talks about how the bizarre situation in South Africa had become normal:
'No, she was not happy. And she had her reasons. "I kept the movement alive," she began. "You have been in the township. You have seen how bleak it still is. Well, it was here where we flung the first stone. It was here where we shed so much blood. Nothing could have been achieved without the sacrifice of the people. Black people." [...] "The ANC was in exile. The entire leadership was on the run or in jail. And there was no one to remind these people, black people, of the horror of their daily reality; when something so abnormal as apartheid becomes a daily reality. It was our reality. And four generations had lived with it - as non-people."'
Similarly the sheer process of revolution leaves a legacy of trauma:
'"Yes, I was afraid in the beginning. But then there is only so much they can do to you. After that it is only death. They can only kill you, and as you see, I am still here."
'I knew that the apartheid enforcers had done everything in their power to break this woman. She had suffered every indignity a person could bear. They had picked her up in the night and placed her under house arrest in Brandfort, a border town in Orange Free State, 300 miles from Soweto. "It was exile," she said, "when everything else had failed."'
It was the above passage that really made my witch ears prick up & pay attention, since to me she is clearly describing an initiatory experience, with the key elements of death, danger & having to make decisions with no way back from them or even a way of knowing their possible outcome. And this is the point of using an extreme illustration here: outside of what might be called 'ritual' witchcraft, the world of magic is a powerful, scary life-changing, yet -threatening thing.
And of course you cannot predict where these decisions, necessarily made with no possible way of knowing the outcome, have results that are unexpected:
'"Look what they make him do. The great Mandela. He has no control or say any more. They put that huge statue of him right in the middle of the most affluent "white" area of Johannesburg. Not here where we spilled our blood and where it all started. Mandela is now a corporate foundation. He is wheeled out globally to collect the money and he is content doing that. The ANC have effectively sidelined him but they keep him as a figurehead for the sake of appearance."
'The eyes behind the grey tinted glasses were fiery with anger. It was an economic betrayal, she was saying, nothing had changed for the blacks, except that apartheid had officially gone. As she spoke of betrayal she inadvertently looked at a portrait of Mandela.
'I looked at Winnie. Maybe she did not know when to stop. Maybe that is the bane of a revolutionary: they gather such momentum that he or she can't stop. I saw that although her trials and tribulations had been recorded, the scars on the inner, most secret part of her spirit tormented her.'
And of course hindsight is a wonderful, if painful, thing:
'"You know, sometimes I think we had not thought it all out. There was no planning from our side. How could we? We were badly educated and the leadership does not acknowledge that. Maybe we have to go back to the drawing board and see where it all went wrong."
'This was Winnie the politician. This was the phoenix. Publicly, the ANC leadership, who made her a minister in the first post-apartheid government in 1994 and welcomed her back subsequently, distanced themselves from her amid allegations of corruption (in 2003, she was convicted of fraud and given a suspended prison sentence). But for the masses, she spoke their language and remains popular with those who feel their government hasn't done enough.
'We could see why the ANC had needed this obdurate woman. She was bold and had an idea of her worth. She was the perfect mistress for the ANC in the bad times but then she became dangerous.'
Despite my horror at some of the things she has been implicated in, I'm finding her a sympathetic character. I can't begin to understand what these people must have been through, it is too complex, foreign, extreme. Also she makes a very important point that the struggle should not be forgotten. It is a curious thing about humans that we tend to want an easy life, so soothe ourselves by looking at the past with rose-tinted spectacles. But that is not the way of the witch, since learning the lessons of history is the only way to ensure history doesn't keep repeating itself. Since, as a witch, I place so much importance in my life on living purposefully, instead of lurching from crisis to crisis, I can learn lessons from other people's pasts as well as my own.