Monday, November 30, 2009

When John Dreams Wagner...

This is what I get for reading A.S. Byatt's entry from "How I Write: The Secret Lives of Authors," which included a cover of Norse Mythology....

My sense is that this dream image occurred several times, or that the actions repeated from different dream perspectives. Sometimes I watched a stage with a Wagnerian-style opera on it. Sometimes I was in the opera.

On a traditional precenium stage, figures stood on small platforms before a cobalt blue and purple scrim. The platforms were difficult to see, so the figures appeared to be floating in the air. The precenium was blue shadows. Wavy bars of of yellow light passed like flames over random figures; it never illuminated more than half a face or part of an arm, and never for longer than a few seconds. The setting was the formless, disconnected chaos before the cosmos. People, animals, and irregular planes floated in a disconnected tableau.

Odin stood on a platform hanging in the middle of the stage. In the versions of the opera I was participating in, I was Odin's apprentice / assistant / Fricative (not quite the title used in the dream, but it works in waking narrative). I might have been Baldr (I don't know why). Other times I was in the audience watching.

My job was to urge Odin on his work while messaging his back and stomach to raise his heat or "frenzy" (again, not the right word, but neither is berserkergang). Sometimes I think we were both clothed; sometimes I think (only) I might have been shirtless, the spotlight making stage glitter sparkle on my white shoulders. (Cue pensive oboe and flute duet like an aurora over the string section.) I remember Odin's solid abdominal, back and shoulder muscles. In any case, we were on stage performing an opera. Because I was raising Odin's frenzy, I was getting hot as well, and I cried out in some kind of prophetic, erotic trance (no, I don't remember what I said).

At last, Odin reached out and grasped a cosmic serpent writhing over our heads. The flitting yellow lights focused on him. The serpent straightened and turned into Odin's rune-covered spear. (Cue orchestral surge led by the horn section, probably with kettle drums.) Stage left, the shadowy figures coalesced together; their strangely shaped platforms spinning around a common center to come together as a circle. Yellow and green light illuminated what was the Earth (or Midgaurd), with various heros standing on a circular platform. Odin and I stood in the center, at the top of a tree (which I can only assume was the World Tree). Other areas of the stage came together as locations from the Norse cosmology.

And I woke up with the overture to Tannhauser in my head.

No, I'm not usually drawn to Norse Mysteries. Yes, I went to bed asking myself for dream guidance. No, this isn't the first time I've drempt an erotic encounter with a deity. Yes, Jesus is a better kisser.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pre-birthday Ruminations

My birthday is coming up in a few weeks. I will be 45. (45 is still the new 35, right?) In a couple of ways, I'm not looking forward to it. I guess it's not so much an aging thing (although I would appreciate my body not spontaneously falling apart like it seems to be lately)... so much as a dark tea-time of the soul. OK, maybe that's "not-quite-as-light mid-afternoon snack-time of the soul" -- but instead of chocolate it's one of those "chocolate" snacks made with too much paraffin that make you fart at socially inopportune moments.

Yeah. That kind of crisis of the soul.

Various friends remind me that life is filled with ups and downs, and that for me 45 is the new 25. (15 was also offered, but I think I'll pass.)

Anyway, part of me recognizes that I have little to complain about, and that crises like this are a little indulgent. Still, late at night, I seem to be channeling my inner Antonio, the Merchant of Venice... and then I listen to Pink Martini sing "Jai déjà passé un bon moment. Un bon moment autrefois."

I need to work on changing that inner sound-scape to Miss Peggy Lee singing, "Is That All There Is?"

Or maybe something by the B-52's (do they do Peggy Lee covers?). And then I need to write something and limit my use of using social networking services.

And plan a birthday party. Something with dancing. Something with little snacks. Something with stars. Something with music taken from the Christmas tree growing music from The Nutcracker, the Aquarium movement from Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns's Carnival of the Animals, or Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.

Or maybe a day spa... anyone know of a good John Mall I can visit?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


On the shoulder front. My shoulder is improving. Sort of. I have more mobility and less pain, but probably not as much as my PT wanted. At least I haven't gotten worse. So now I get to do stretches five times a day. Time to set the cell phone alarms...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New from the Fronts

On the dream front: I was in my regular body, but I was also in high school, too. I think I went to a cast party at somebody's house. The house was on the very top of a very large mountain, and the host's name was "Bear." Bear was a classmate, not a grizzly or other ursine, and I didn't think about his name until after I woke up.

At some point I was trying to leave the party. I pulled out a shiny iPhone (which I don't own in real life) and I couldn't quite remember my (folks') home phone number. I got a lift from someone else, and we started down the mountain when I realized I'd left my phone at Bear's and had to go back.

The party had died down at this point, and lots of snow was falling. The four or five people still in the house were partied-out or sleeping / about to rest.

The mountain was like a world or city unto itself, and I think at some point traveling over its snow covered highways turned into a kind of James Bond movie.

On the shoulder front: My sessions with a physical therapist are almost over. I guess he's done everything that he can, so now I do about four or five stretching exercises three or four times a day and wait for my shoulder to unstick. Oh, and make sure I sleep with about three pillows so I don't wake from fitful sleep with a tension headache.

On the holiday front: They're almost here. After some reflection, I've decided that it's normal not to be wildly excited about Christmas on November 22.

On the writing front: This is the time of year when I need to push myself so that when February roles around and I really have to push myself I don't have any "make-up" work to do. This leads to ...

The job front
: I have to start looking for some income (no, we're not in any danger of losing the house, we need more cash fluidity). I'd hoped that between Writers of the Future 2007 and now I'd have sold more short stories; but I haven't. (Insert writers' angst here.) So it's time to polish up the resume.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The John Emporium

The building surprises you when you stumble across it, and at first you suppose it is a Greek revival folly -- but then the Art Deco figures in wall niches between narrow grilled windows look vaguely Egyptian. Cypress trees in giant pots line the roof. Plain white columns front the three story edifice. A few of them lay on the courtyard ground to provide seating; their broken bases serve as tables.

The entrance's huge brass and bronze double-doors are thrown wide -- bass relief priests and priestess in geometric headgear line the doors' insides, and seem to watch over the portal. You enter. Monotone grey hexagons, flanked by black and yellow triangles, tile the foyer. Etched decagons, squares, stars, and octagons interweave on frosted glass panels set into the walls. Music from a concert harp draws you forward.

The foyer opens onto a circular atrium. Two ramps -- tiled in sinuous designs -- coil around the atrium to the rooftop garden. Small curved concrete benches nestle in the larger curves of planters filled with eucalyptus and giant gunnera. In the center, a silver clepsydra indicates the hour. On top of the water clock, a signpost supports six simple arrows of green, dark blue, red, black, silver and purple.

The arrows point to six archways surrounding the atrium. Each entrance leads to its own sanctuary of commerce.

Green as peacock's emerald eye

A simple wire stand in front of the entrance holds an iridescent green placard, which reads "Tableau Vivant." Inside this place, Tiffany lamps illuminate displays of jewelry inspired by ancient Greek and Roman jewelry, medieval art, Art Nouveau and Art Deco -- silver wires; hematite beads; sprays of diamonds, emeralds, sapphires; cloak pins; bracelets -- lining the walls. Pre-Raphaelite robes -- cloaks of velvet, veils of silk, cascades of silver bells -- and Edwardian jackets adorn mannequins. The place is resplendent with vests, cravats, and cavalier gloves; boots, belts, and suspenders; feathers and pendants. Hats, yes -- and diadems and crowns, too.

At the back of the room, two stage hands move scenery into position for a bride, while a photographer shines a spotlight through a grill to create zones of shadow and light onto the stage. Other customers wait for their turn on the runway.

Blue as star-filled cobalt sky

Before the archway of the next place, silver letters on a blue placard read "Subtle Machinations." The starry heavens are reproduced on the ceiling. Pendulum clocks stand sentry along the room's perimeter. Just inside, a young man and a woman play Senet. Their quadrant of the store holds Lewis chessmen and other chess sets. Arrayed behind them are other games: backgammon, circular and hexagonal chess, Alquerque, Go, Fidchell and Tafl.

Across an isle, an attendant winds one of many silver pinned, glass cased music boxes with a filigree key. Other spring-driven automatons rest nearby. Next to these are Antikythera mechanisms, models of Stonehenge, and other orreries. Telescopes, sextants, and star charts hold court beneath a hanging model of the solar system. The final quarter of the store is magnetically driven mobiles, leaded crystals and chandeliers.

And glow-in-the-dark star stickers.

Red as bard's most crimson rose

A round, tiled table, like a small stone dais, has its station before the store entrance. On it twist glass tubes and retorts filled with water and mint leaves over a low flame. Before this alembic a red sign reads, "Quintessence." The room inside is lined with wood cubby holes filled with dark bottles and shiny canisters. Small clear glass jars of coffee beans -- used to clear patrons' pallets between aromas -- sit at stations scattered throughout the room. The left hand side of the place is filled with balsams, unguents, oils, potpourri, and aromatics. The right side is for infusions, teas, tinctures and tisanes. An island counter holds retorts and flasks; teapots and tea sets; bath salts, bees wax, incense briquettes, candles and candle holders.

Five stations, each furnished with a large reference herbal, are staffed by attendants knowledgeable in the ways of blending aromas, moisturizing, exfoliation, simple massage, and the wonders of chocolate.

Black as forests under snows

The grey placard has black letters with white shadows reading "Evocations." Black and white tiles adorn the floor. One side of the entrance is a café with a dark granite counter inlayed with squares of hematite. A small fire burns in the corner hearth, surrounded by large Arts and Crafts chairs and small tables. Tapestries depicting personifications of Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Geometry, Arithmetic, Music, and Astronomy hang on the ends of shelves -- which hold tomes such as Gerard's Herbal, Newton's Optics, the Unabridged Oxford English Dictionary, Sagan's Cosmos, CG Jung's Red Book, reviews of MC Escher and museum surveys. A reading table holds the current editions of various periodicals. And a magnifying lens.

A seventh shelf displays blank books, paper making tools, and binding supplies; embossers, flower presses, stamps, ink pads, brushes, paints, and punches; calligraphy nibs, glass pens, and inks., and ink pads. An attendant in a black apron, his white shirt sleeves rolled up, inks metal typeface at a small press, overseen by an arc of manual typewriters.

"Yes," he tells you when you ask, "We do have Wifi here."

Silver as Dianna's argent orb

The harpist in front of the shop packs her harp away and is replaced by an oboe trio. Egyptian columns, topped with capitals sculpted as the face of cow-headed goddess Hathor, flank the entrance. A music stand displays a grey placard with silver embossed letters reading "Harmoonia." Inside, large prints taken from Robert Fludd's De Musica Mundana, into which cows have been playfully inserted, adorn the walls. Wall tiles show variations on cats with fiddles and cows over moons.

Arranged roughly by age, musical instruments -- rattles, sistrums, crumhorns, harps, kalimbas, drums, glass organs, hurdy-gurdies, whirling plastic tubes, synthesizers -- fill the shop. A small dance floor lays in the middle of the area. LEDs in the floor display dance steps. Blank sheet music, tuners and tuning forks, batons, rosin, and other supplies are on display next to a light board which turns the playing music into a cascade of sine waves, bouncing dots, and color washes.

The attendant encourages you to sing your own light show.

Purple as Time's amethyst robes.

Before the entrance of this market, a weathered stone hand holds a purple placard which reads "Ozymandias." A tile meander leads you into the store and a labyrinth of gazing globes; statuary, both antique and modern; stone and stainless steel obelisks; path luminaries, and weather vanes. Benches of all sorts for the weary are scattered throughout.

You follow the tile maze past kinetic sculptures and Archimedean solids of wood, glass, silver and steel spinning lazily near burbling fountains, illuminated misters, and indoor waterfalls of etched glass and textured obsidian. Armillary spheres and sundials -- bowl, pierced gnomon, and garden -- stand station within the winding aisles of merchandise. Wind chimes sound infrequently.

Beneath a lair of gargoyles, the attendants mix small amounts of concrete for a class of aspiring backyard sculptors.

❧ ❧ ❧

Back in the atrium, you find a bench and lean back against its companion planter. The water clock's sounds mix with the oboe trio's music. You feel a little like a swimmer who has beached on the shores of a swift river.

A middle-aged man walks out of the green store with a walking stick and you wonder how you missed those. A boy with a spinning LED toy dashes by you; you don't recall seeing his whirligig for sale, either. At the bistro there is a young couple, heads inclined as they read a green, leather-bound book together.

Next time, you decide, you'll take one venue at a time, coming back regularly to make little discoveries. Who knows, perhaps next time you'll meet another explorer.

Deb Layne on Polyphony 7

Here's the latest on Polyphony 7 (from Deb Layne):

In 2002, the Polyphony anthology series debuted. Conceived as a short fiction venue for stories that would skate gracefully across the boundaries of science fiction, fantasy, magic realism, and literary fiction, it was quickly recognized as the standard bearer for cross genre work. Since then, the series' six volumes have become a vital, unique collection of voices in literature of the fantastic.

Polyphony has been twice nominated for a World Fantasy Award and the stories therein have been featured in several "Year's Best" anthologies, along with garnering accolades from several award judges and committees. Polyphony authors range from multiple-award-winning seasoned writers to the previously unpublished. The series is truly a melodic interweaving of many voices: old and new, speculative and literary, heralded and unknown. Polyphony has not merely crossed literary boundaries, it has reformed and redefined them.

The harsh economic climate threatens to kill this vital series. Wheatland Press is asking for your help.

The authors have graciously made concessions to make Polyphony 7 a reality. They've agreed to a reduced pay rate to see the volume published. Now we need readers.

In order to publish Polyphony 7, Wheatland Press must receive 225 paid pre-orders via the website by March 1, 2010. If the pre-order quantities cannot be met, Polyphony will cease publication. It's that simple. The preorder link is here: (mid page)

If the preorder number is met, then Polyphony 7 will be published on or about July 1, 2010.

We have heard from many in the SF/F literary community that Polyphony is a vital part of small press publishing. We agree, but we cannot continue without your support. We hope that you will support our fine authors and their art by becoming part of the Polyphony community and pre-ordering a copy of Polyphony 7.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ten Hours

This weekend I spent a lot of time sitting in front of a gas fire with a giant clock over the mantle piece. Between napping, trying to write and thinking a little about Jung's Red Book, I had a vision. If decades are like hours on a clock, my life's at 4:30 PM (assuming we start at Noon), and if I live to be 100 years old, that would be like going to bed at 10:00 PM. There's something sobering about compressing one's life that way. But there's also something nice about knowing that I still have five and a half "hours" left (and about four and a half of those will be productive assuming I inherit my maternal grandmother's longevity genes).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Reactiongs CG Jung's “Liber Novus"

Last night I stumbled onto news about CG Jung's "Liber Novus" or The Red Book and got weirded out.

First there's the title, "The Red Book," which sounds like what I call my "Book of Art." Granted, using medieval-esque titles for self-produced works like computer manuals started out as a joke.

Then I started looking at Jung's drawings and the calligraphy and it looked kind of familiar. The dream-like quality of Jung's illuminations reminded me of some of my own dreams, and some of my drawing in my own little Books of Art remind me of his (much higher quality) works.

But the clincher were the conversations he had with the characters in his book. For a while in the mid 1990's, I was experimenting with a story character who I would imagine spoke to me while I wrote things down.

The whole thing felt like a -- wait for it -- huge synchronicity. Or a déjà vu.

I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised, since I'm familiar with guided meditation or ritualized day dreams and it sounds like Jung used his "active imaginations" in the same way. Still... on one hand it sounds like Jung was a little crazy when he was in the thick of his book. On the other hand, it seems like the hype around the book fuels the romantic notion of the "insane creative type."

Ultimately, what does The Red Book mean: is it just a famous person's personal journal; is it indicative of a particular psychological or cognitive process; or does it hold some kind of cosmic road-map that could help folks navigate their lives?

And I should be honest. I sometimes daydream about my collection of journals someday being mass-produced while interesting pages are on display in a museum. Maybe my freak-out is a form of hero-identification.

Still... the images are compelling and familiar.

On the shoulder front: my shoulder seems slightly more stiff than when I last visited my physical therapist. He's given me a new stretch to do.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Common Neo-Paganism Questions John Gets Asked

Q: What is Neo-Paganism's theology?

There is no one theology. Neo-Paganism is a 21C, primarily Occidental, urban or suburban religious trend which views the universe as a living and sacred system of choices and consequence, with a little bit of random chance thrown in. Neo-Paganism borrows celebratory, communion, transformative, and meditative techniques from a variety of traditional Pagan, contemporary indigenous, and 19th and 20th C occult sources. It is a continuation of social trends with roots in the Age of Enlightenment and especially Romanticism.

Q: Are all Neo-Pagans earth, moon or sun people; is this a denominational difference?

No. Some pagans are sea people, and some are Tree Huggers. :-) I think a better question might be, "Are all Neo-Pagans Goddess Worshippers?"


Generally, Neo-Pagans gather -- ideally for ritual, celebration, and communion -- at eight points in the year. Four are on the equinoxes and solstices, four are between the equinoxes and solstices. Sometimes they gather on the nights of the full moon.

Neo-Paganism is an umbrella term for polytheistic, immanent, Earth mystery religions such as Wicca and Druidism. Wicca itself has several branches based on founders of differing methods. Some also include Heathenism: An umbrella term for religions (i.e. Ásatrú, Odinism, Forn Sed, and Theodism) based on the "Northern Mysteries" of Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Germany, with practices gleaned from the Eddic Sagas and other material sources.

Neo-Paganism should not be confused with indigenous Paganism (such as Shinto, Native American, or African practices), or with historical Paganism (such as pre-Christan Rome). In my experience, Shamanism seems to straddle Neo-Paganism and occult technique (as opposed to ceremonial magick, a technique used by many Neo-Pagans, or a High Mass used by Catholics).

At the other end of the spectrum from Neo-Paganism would be "New Age" practices and beliefs, particularly those which seem to view angels, devas, faeries, candles, and crystals as personal delivery-folk from a cosmic mail-order catalog.

Q: What draws a person to Neo-Paganism?

I think it depends on *when* one is drawn to Neo-Paganism -- individually as in age and culturally as in which decade. I always felt closer to "god" in the woods than I did in the Corvallis Episcopal church, and in 1985 I decided Neo-Paganism was a better match for my spiritual needs.

Other reasons:
- The Christian church is
+ too restrictive
+ says everyone is a sinner
+ tool of Dead White Guys
- To freak out one's family
- To do spells and perform magick
- To find a significant other
- To find a religion that is one's own choice, and not blindly inherited

Q: Do you use / do divination, magic and crystals ?

Pausing to remember that Starhawk cautioned about [Neo-Paganism] becoming "mindless idiocy." ...

** Divination ... I know a minister who says, "Scripture is everywhere, pay attention." Divination works the same way on the premise that everything is connected to everything else (a universal application of Sir James Frazer's law of magical contamination). The universe is seen as being governed by fate, fortune, and choice -- things are like really complicated clockwork, but there's some wiggle room; so it helps to pay attention so you know what actions to choose.

Divination methods with Tarot cards most western Neo-Pagans use today are derived from the turn of the 20th century methods developed by the Golden Dawn (Waite, Mathers, Levi, Crowley, Regardie). Other older methods involve drawing tokens (runes), casting yarrow sticks or coins, or counting birds/clouds/leaves/whatever during a particular span of time. Oh, yeah... dreams and visions -- um Oracal at Delphi. Er.. and Astrology... yeah... a 2000 year old compendium of Egyptian and Babylonian star lore.

My sense is in the past the "results" of various divination methods were more clockwork; these days, folks are likely to say that the results are more a reflection of the future (or of the hidden present) *at that moment*. Sort of like a weather report.

I've done Tarot Readings -- it's possible that I've unconsciously stumbled onto a cold-reading method. I've also had a few "spooky action at a distance" readings. I find they work better when they're for other people than if they are for me. My experience is that the cards suggest things to me, so I'd call them a focus aid.

About once every two to three years I have a dream that seems to predict the future -- but it's always about little mundane things (like seeing a foyer of a house I've yet to visit) and I never realize the prediction until after the fact. I wish they'd tell me things like when the stock market is going to crash or who will be president.

I would add that divination is simply one more method to gather, organize and analyze data about one's relationship with others, the environment, or deity. It's always good to cross-check your information sources.

** Magic (sometimes spelled Magick) is the art of using voice, body, song, dance, prayer, props and poetry to imagine a desired outcome, coupled with actions to manifest that outcome. But you have to really want it, and you have to be willing to work for it. And action works a whole lot better at getting something done than staring into a candle's flame.

Starhawk writes about Magic: "A spell is a symbolic act done in an altered state of consciousness in order to cause a desired change." AND... "Spell casting is the lesser, not the greater, magic; but the greater magic builds on the less. 'spells are extreamly sophisticated psychological tools that have subtle but important effects on a person's inner growth." AND ... In one sense, magic works on the priciple that 'it is so because I say it is so.' ... For my word to take on such force, I must be deeply and completely convince that it is identified with truth as I know it. If I habitually lie to my lovers, steal from my boss, pilfer from supermarkets, or simply renege on my promise, I cannot have that conviction."

Dion Fortune (Violet Firth) writes about magic: "Magic is the art of changing consciousness at will."

** Crystals.... are pretty. I think Mdm Blavatski started the thing with crystals when she imagined Atlantis as a super nation of magical technicians. But now that I think about it, what is the history of the crystal ball? Hmmm. Dr John Dee... 1550...?

I had a collection of tumbled crystal stones that lived on a window sill most of the time. Occasionally I would put one in my pocket if the mood struck me... Oh, yeah. OK... I do have a basalt rock with a natural hole in it that I found on the beach which I call "The Lodestone of Atlantis". A friend said that it looked like something a charlatan would wear, so I immediately found a thong for it. I wear it for rituals and on days when I think I'll need extra help staying calm and clear headed.

Q: Where does "magical power" come from?

When I'm feeling secular, I'll say that these are all psychological aids. When I'm feeling woo-woo, I say that these things are influenced and influence subtle patterns in a spiritual dimension. When I'm feeling somewhere in between, I'll say that my brain is somehow picking up subtle information not necessarily psychological.

Q: What is Samhain?

Samhain is an old Irish word for a"Celtic" festival taking place sometime midway between the Autumnal equinox and the Winter Solstice. I put "Celtic" in quotes because historical Celts ranged over Ireland, Spain, Gaul (France), Germany and parts of Eastern Europe over a time period beginning around 300 BCE to the 12th century (or later depending on if you think Christianized Celts are still Celts...) . So when someone says something is "Celtic", one should ask, "Yes, but what kind of Celtic?"

In "Celtic" tradition, Samhain is the last harvest when everything's stored, the herds are culled for winter (to make their feed last until Spring), and -- at least in theory -- it's the hunkering down time before things get cold and nasty and someone dies of influenza.

Sometimes Samhain is called the "Celtic New Year." The veils between this world and the Faerie World (or the world of the dead) are thin, and beings may wander between the worlds. Supposedly, it's a good time for divination because it's a kind of inter-calendary, limbo time. Sometimes people who have died in the previous year are remembered (ala Día de los Muertos).

Because I think using Old Irish terms for a borrowed "Celtic" folk customs is cultural appropriation, I prefer the term "Ides of Autumn" to indicate this particular time of year.

Q: Why does Neo-Paganism ignore logic, focus on anecdotal evidence, and is particularly "woo-woo?"

My preferred way to ask this is, "Why does it seem like so many Neo-Pagans are refugees from Math and Science?"

I think this is a Eugene-specific, but American-general phenomenon. The three or so British introductory books I've read stress a more balanced approach to spiritual / magical practices and keeping good records. However, Neo-Paganism's roots in the Counter-Enlightenment placed extra value on the emotions and intuition, and I think this tends to attract emotional and intiutive people to Neo-Paganism's ranks.

Q: What are five beginner texts and why?

This is a really hard question because most of the beginner texts I've read are really dated, or not "beginner" texts, or should have the good bits gathered together into a primer.... Sir James Frazer, Andrew Lang, Margaret Murray have contributed a lot of -- er -- dated research which has crept into books on Neo-Paganism and Neo-Pagan Theology and have yet to be rooted out. And although I might lose my honorary lesbian status by saying so, ditto Merlin Stone and Riane Eisler... and Maria Gimbutas.

Here's my picks:

1. "Drawing Down the Moon," by Margot Adler. The standard overview of the Neo-Pagan movement in the United States by an NPR reporter and practicing Witch.

2. "The New Encyclopedia of the Occult," by John Micheal Greer. Quick and easy introductory articles that seem well researched. Greer has an eye for "the emperor has no clothes" which shows up in his writing. Good alternative to Hutton's "The Triumph of the Moon (which is not a beginner book)".

3. "The Druidry Handbook," by John Micheal Greer. Accessable, well researched, no "pedigree bullshit." Introductory rituals and methods. Great annotated bibliography.

4. "The Mystical Qabalah," by Dion Fortune. Written in the archaic style mastered only by the English in 1935, this is an attempt to integrate Eastern philosophies with the practices and wisdom of the Hebrew Qabalah. Has some interesting explorations of the ethics of magic and the psychological boundaries between magical reality and delusion. Dion Fortune is the author of the phrase "all the gods are one god, and all the goddeses are one goddess, and there is one initiator," and "magic is the art of changing consciousness at will." Fortune established the concpet that polarity -- especially sexual polarity -- is a magical force and that (heterosexual) sex is sacramental. She's also a product of her time, so she's classist, racist, and homophobic; her writing style is chatty and gossipy, and I find that if I read her with a Monty Python accent I enjoy her books immensely. . . . and if one wants to understand the magickal theory behind most Western Neo-Paganism, one has to read this book (it's more accessible than Alestar Crowley, and it's possible that "A Garden of Pomegranates" by Israel Regardie -- which I haven't read -- might be a better choice ).

5. "Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions," by Starhawk et al. Simple language and fun activities... even if it is a little gynocentric (my pet peeve). Starhawk, the "American Witch," introduced me to Wicca, and she'll always have a special place in my heart; but she's really focused on the female reproductive system (which I don't have) and she's adopted the Persephony Myth as her own personal story (which does get tedious after the third book). Starhawk's fatal flaw is that she is a novelist -- while this allows her to communicate complicated ideas with powerful images, she sometimes reasons by analogy or presents her imaginings as actual fact.


In terms of Wicca, which is the tradition I'm most familiar with, books tend to be focused either on ritual, spells, and the neopagan calendar; or they tend to be historical / sociological / archeological.

** History / Sociology / Archeology

Ronald Hutton
The Triumph of the Moon -- If you want something more pithy than Drawing Down the Moon (or even if you don't) I highly recommend this book.Very dense history of the development of paganism, starting with the general movements of the English Enlightenment and Romantic eras, narrowing down during the Industrial Revolution and Modern eras to focus on specific occult scholars and students. Ends with an examination of the influences of Aleister Crowley on Gerald Gardner, and Gardner's subsequent development of Wicca.

Witches, Druids and King Arthur -- especially the first chapter "How Myths are Made."

Ancient British Paganism

Cynthia Eller
The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory -- Wildly sarcastic, but it addresses some unspoken core feminist values embedded in American Wicca. Excellent companion to "How Myths are Made."

Grahm Harvey
Contemporary Paganism -- Sort of a 1990's British/European version of Drawing Down the Moon

Carlo Ginzburg
Ecstasies. -- Translation of 1989 work tracing the history of pogroms against lepers, Jews, and non-Christians in Europe by an examination of court records. Questions the Murray thesis of the Burning Times. Examines records of self-identifying witches and other occult villagers who have ecstatic, mystical experiences.

William G. Dever
Did God Have a Wife -- Dever argues that there is text and objects in the archaeological record supporting the theory that families worshiped a goddess, Asherah, at family shrines in 11th century BC Israel. Further states that Asherah was a fertility goddess, most likely worshiped by women, and that Asherah was Jahweh's consort.

Watshington, Peter

Madame Blavatsky's Baboon -- A review of the doings of H. P. Blavatsky, Master Koot Hoomi, Annie Besant, William Judge, Charles Leadbeater, G. I. Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky, and Krishnamurti. Spanning the time of the rise of the English Empire, the fall of the Russian monarchy, the decline of English colonialism, and the rise of California-style demagoguery, this book veers between comic and melodramatic turns.

** Ritual and Magical Theory

Bonewits, Isaac
Real Magic -- A master's thesis written in the early seventies. Sometimes a little too cute, it attempts to codify magic into a scientific paradigm.

Fortune, Dion (Violet Firth)
Psychic Self-Defense -- Lots of anecdotes of the psychic doings of the English Occult Jet Set. In between some of the quaint racism and homophobia is good advice for determining what kind of experiences one is having, and what to do if the experience is a bad one.


Spiral Dance, The -- A discussion of spells, rituals, and ethics behind the women's spirituality movement.

** Wiccan Theology

Farrar, Janet and Stewart
Witches' God, The -- Attempts to reexamine the role of male deity within Wicca. Very dualistic and concerned with polarity, and therefore heterosexist. A good overview of various cultures and gods.


Truth or Dare -- An detailed discussion of the workings of our hierarchically based society, in which the forces of power-over and power-with are examined closely.

Dreaming the Dark -- A discussion of the workings of power upon the fields of sexuality and politics. Includes a discussion on the ethics of magic.

** Earth Sciences

Heath, Robin
Sun, Moon and Earth -- A wonderfully illustrated book and a great introduction to the motions of the sun and the moon across the sky. A must read for anyone wishing to make their own observations of the seasons. Very accessible.

News Flash

On the health front: my shoulder is still stiff. I think it's improving. I've been congested the last few days, but I have no fever.

On the story front: I just finished a science fiction story I could send to Analog, but it needs critique. I also sent out a boatload of stories via e-mail and US Postal Service. I really should write a novel now, since that's supposedly where authors make their bread and butter.

On the recreational reading front: I haven't finished "The Age of Wonder," and since it's a new book, I have to return it to the library. Sir William Hershall and his sister, Caroline, were very interesting people. I guess I'll have to sign up for the book again.

On the religion front: Today has been the day for religious discussions. First a flurry of e-mails about Karen Armstrong, faith, logos, Origen, Celsus, and fundamentalism. Then a request by a high school student to interview me about Neo-Paganism.

On the weather front: The rain has knocked off most of the leaves from the trees and is busily trying to send them down into the city drains. Mark says that none of the leaks around the chimney seem to have returned.

On the truck front: Mark's truck blew out a spark plug. He put a new one back in, but wonders if other spark plugs will blow out at some random time in the future. He is kind of wishing that he had participated in the cash for klunkers program.

On the social network front: I've turned LeechBlock back on on my Firefox Browswer. It prevents me from staying on Twitter for more than ten minutes per hour and blocks me from Facebook for large chunks of time. My productivity has improved accordingly.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Flu and Friday

No more vivid dreams the last few days.

I've been reading, "The Age of Wonder." Sometimes I have to skim through the minutia of who was drinking with whom. Where the book works, it's really interesting. I especially like the section on William Hershel, and I have fun imagining what it must have been like in 1800 when the size of the solar system (and pretty much the known universe) doubled with the discovery of Uranus.

The other aspect that I find striking is how little the author mentions the American War for Independence -- so far I've read about King George a little and the apprehensions between the British and the French. Ben Franklin has only been touched on as a Francophile.

On the shoulder front: my shoulder is still stiff; I'm slowly getting more flexibility.

On the writing front: I've finished two short stories, and now I need to get them mailed out.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Dream: Hasty Stag Knight

The dream's setting was the middle ages. The people were dressed in long robes that made me think the time was around 900 AD. There was a large stone castle (which now that I think about it, is anachronistic, since mostly stone castles didn't appear until about 1100-1200). The village hugging the walls of the castle was made mostly of stone with thatched roofs.

The main characters in the dream were a lady, her twenty-something son, and a forty-something knight. The lady reminds me in waking of Agnes Morehead as Endora from Bewitched. Her face was roundish, and she had long hair ala Princess Leia wrapped in loops on either side of her head. Her robes were layers of lavender and emerald silk. Her son was newly knighted. He had silvery armor, with a stag crest on his helm. I think his talberd was brown. The older knight's main attribute was that he was guileful -- his armor wasn't as shiny as the other's and his gear more worn.

I have the impression that the lady had advised her son to not be hasty, or to think carefully, or even possibly not to trust the older knight. She seemed to be a ruler in control of the countryside, but also slightly vexed (in that way that Endora always was).

The two knights were having a kind of mock fight on the wide, gravelly shore of a flat river. Aspens grew on the far shore. The rocks were mostly white. The young knight was pretty invincible. The older knight couldn't best him. So the older knight tricked the younger one into taking off some of his armor for another round.

I have a very strong image of the younger knight holding his helmet like a shield. The bronze stag kneeling on the top blocked a sword swing. The older knight was supposed to pull his blow, but ended up deeply slicing the younger knight on his upper right arm.

The younger knight went wild with pain, fell onto the river rocks, and screamed for someone to please help him take his armor off. The older knight walked away.

There is a break in the dream narrative.

(Pause to imagine a fade-over of the lady and the river.) The lady had caused her young son's sword to be taken across the river so that it would not cause further troubles while he heeled. I have a strong vision of a door with a rounded top, with a circle window in the top, set in a river stone frame buttress sticking out of a stone house (it's difficult for me to figure out how they built an arching, half-circle roof out of river stones because I don't recall seeing mortar).

A man, presumably a healer, stepped out of the door and along a cobbled street...

...and that's all I recall.