Daily Archives: February 28, 2011

Lunar Divination (1)

  1. Gaze up at the moon.

  2. Pose your question in you.

  3. Keep gazing and let answers and inspiration come to you.

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Lunar Divination

A particularly bright full moon, shining low on a cloudless night provides an extremely powerful scrying surface. When the moon presents this face, venture out so that you are exposed to the moonbeams. Although the divination may be performed indoors or in the shadows, you own psychic reception is enhanced by exposure to moon light.

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Arrow Divination (2)

In this version three arrows may be used, one designates an affirmative answer, the second, a negative answer and the third is left blank, because not all fates can be revealed. Separate messages can be attached to each arrow or the arrows may be distinguished in other ways.

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Arrow Divination (1)

Attach inscriptions to an arrow and shoot it. Distance or other predetermined signal determines which inscription forms the oracle.

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Arrow Divination

Known as belomancy, this is an ancient method of divination mentioned in the Bible and especially popular among Babylonians, Scythians, Slavs, and Germans.  Various methods are used.

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Vampires, Paganism, and You

Vampires, Paganism, and You

Author: Morgan St. Knight

I can hear the reaction from some of you now (because I already heard it once when I gave this to someone for feedback) . “What do you mean vampires and me? I don’t have anything to do with that!”

Like it or not, you very may well have something to do with vampires, if only because rarely (but not rarely enough for me) there are news articles quoting authorities who conflate the current trendiness of vampires (Twilight, True Blood) with Paganism. Worse, it’s clear some law enforcement authorities are ready to attribute bizarre or anti-social behavior to Paganism, vampire affiliation or both with careless abandon.

One such story unfolded in October, 2010 in Chandler, Arizona. Firefighters responding to a call at an apartment complex saw a bleeding man fleeing from another apartment. They called police, who arrested a man and woman living in the apartment. The bleeding man told authorities he was staying with them, and that the couple considered themselves to be vampires. He said he had allowed them to drink his blood in the past, but got into an argument with them because he didn’t feel like being a donor that evening, and was subsequently stabbed by the man.

Police later said the couple admitted to the stabbing, but gave conflicting accounts about how and why it happened, with the question of self-defense being raised at one point.

A spokesman for the Chandler Police Department released a statement saying that the couple “practice Paganism and vampirism and follow the vampire cult.” (1) . Of course, police didn’t bother to elaborate on what exactly they meant by a “vampire cult”, and they failed to explain precisely what form of Paganism these suspects were allegedly practicing.

I noted with interest that follow-up reports indicated the victim of “vampires” was arrested himself on outstanding drug warrants, and that this altercation occurred after he and the man who allegedly stabbed him had been drinking. (2) In an interview with a local television station, the man said he felt his “attackers” watched too many vampire films. (3)

I’m not going to weigh in on what I think really happened, because I don’t have enough information to make a fair, unbiased judgment. There are a lot of questions that need answering.

One which burns in my mind is, if the man was stabbed by a couple who repeatedly watched The Passion of the Christ” and “The Ten Commandments”, would police have characterized them as members of a Christian cult? Would religion have entered into it at all? If it turned out they were members of a local church, would they have been identified as Lutherans or Methodists? Or maybe Presbyterians. Yeah, those Presbyterians will shank you in a heartbeat.

I think I know the answer to that one, but it doesn’t get us any closer to the truth about what really went on in that apartment. The truth is these people may very well consider themselves to be vampires.

And–hang on to your besoms, folks–there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that in and of itself. I certainly don’t condone physical violence, and if this couple did indeed attack that man, shame on them. They deserve consequences for those actions.

My concern is that the consequences will be far more severe for them than they would be for anyone else who wounded someone with a knife in an altercation, because these people have now been identified as “vampires” as well as “Pagans”.

Some Pagans may say: “That’s their problem. If they think they’re vampires, they brought it on themselves.” But I believe we should understand what we’re talking about before we make rash judgments. If we don’t, we’re no better than small-town cops who blithely toss around the terms Pagan and vampire as if they’re the same thing.

There are people who simply live a vampire lifestyle; some of them just like the mystique, the clothing, the aura of danger and seduction that surrounds literary vampires like Lestat, or some of the characters in Laurel K. Hamilton and Sherrilyn Kenyon’s works. Let’s face it, literary vampires have been made out to be sexy, they make being bad look good, and they can defy the norms of society and still have completely fulfilling and satisfying (un) lives. I see people who adopt this lifestyle as no more dangerous than people who dress up for Renaissance Fairs.

In my opinion, as long as they aren’t hurting any unwilling people or animals (that includes behaving in ways that are detrimental to children and other dependents) , they should be given full respect, and not marginalized if they happen to be Pagan as well.

It is true there is a vampire subculture in this country, as well as several other countries, and by this I don’t mean people who just like to dress up and/or role-play. I mean people who are either blood drinkers or donors to such drinkers. If this thought causes you unease, you’re certainly not alone. But understand that in this subculture there are rules and norms, including not endangering the innocent, not victimizing the unwilling, not exchanging blood if you know you have a communicable disease, taking precautions to ensure that any blood-letting is done safely and does not endanger the donor’s health, and not behaving in a way that would create problems for others in that community.

Yes, it is true that some members of this self-proclaimed vampire community practice various forms of Paganism. It is not that they necessarily believe vampires must be Pagan; rather, I think it is largely because they feel the spiritual beliefs are less in conflict with their true selves than the beliefs of other religions. Odd when you think about it, because our liturgies don’t include “this is my body, this is my blood, take it…” That’s one of those big religions.

Still, Pagans do have way-cool jewelry…. that must be the attraction.

As far as the people in this part of the vampire community, I say: “If it harms none, do what you will”. If they’re playing by their own rules, not harming the innocent and only taking from willing donors, then I wish you all happiness.

But there are also people who say they really do need to drink human blood, or else they suffer physical maladies such as sickness or weakness, even death. Should we as Pagans support their activities (again with the assumed caveats that it involves neither unwilling participants, nor those who are not of age of consent) even if we find them objectionable on a personal level?

It’s an answer each of us has to reach for ourselves, but before making the decision, there are some things to consider. A stated desire to drink blood is likely a psychological need. It may arise spontaneously with no evidence to back it up other than the person’s conviction that he/she is indeed a vampire in the classic sense. Or, the person may believe he/she has a very real and dangerous condition such as porphyria.

Believing that porphyria creates a craving to drink blood is based on a misunderstanding of the condition. This is partly due to some very haphazard links drawn in published literature between the disease and vampirism, as well as lycanthropy. (4, 5) .

There are several different kinds of porphyria, and it’s true that on the surface some of them have symptoms which mirror those of vampirism as described in fiction. Let’s look at some of the connecting points.

About half the conditions classified as porphyria can create sensitivity to sunlight, which might even include skin blistering from direct exposure. It would be easy to see this as an explanation of the vampire’s legendary aversion to sunlight. This category, called cutaneous porphyria, also can cause necrosis of certain tissue such as the gums; this could cause extreme gum recession, which would make the teeth appear longer. People hearing this would immediately think of the vampire’s fangs.

Other conditions fall under the category of acute porphyria. These conditions can cause seizures and rapid and/or irregular heart rhythms, which can prove highly debilitating if not fatal. Seizures, arrhythmia or tachycardia can result in excessive lethargy or even an inability to move.

To the suggestible this might be a clear connection to the death-like state vampires are said to return to during the daylight hours. It might be tempting to draw conclusions from this, but remember, it is also true that such episodes of weakness or paralysis would be more noticeable in daylight hours when other people would be around to see them. Attacks occurring at nighttime in the privacy of the bedroom could easily go undetected if one is alone, or if observed, could be misconstrued as deep sleep or, in the case of a mild to moderate seizure, a troubled sleep.

Where does blood drinking come in? Porphyria is characterized by the absence or malfunction of enzymes involved in the production of heme, which is a crucial component of blood, and which gives our blood its characteristic red color. These days, acute porphyria can be treated with medications that balance out heme levels.

While we have the option of modern pharmacology, what would people who lived in earlier times have done to treat the disease? It would be easy to assume that the condition could cause unusual cravings; many bodily deficiencies do. So you might conclude that without the benefit of medicine, someone with a blood disorder might try to correct it by ingesting large amounts of healthy blood.

It’s debatable whether this would have any effect at all. First, the crucial components in the blood would have to survive the stomach acid and be absorbed into the blood stream in the intestines. Perhaps the iron in the consumed blood would be a small boost to heme and hemoglobin production, but you’d have to consume an awful lot.

Just because education was minimal in many areas back then, doesn’t mean common sense wasn’t rampant. Anyone would know it’s easier, and less socially awkward, to get the blood from livestock instead of humans. Back then, if you slaughtered a farm animal you’d probably use the blood to make sausage, soup, or something else. So if you had a craving for blood, would you attack your neighbor and risk getting taken out by an angry mob, or would you just eat more of that blood sausage from the last slaughter? I think this puts the nail in the coffin (all right, I had to go there!) of the idea that porphyria would drive someone to bite or otherwise injure people to get blood.

Porphyria is far less common in real life than it is in references in literature and on the Internet. How could you determine if someone who claims he/she must drink blood even has it? The only sure way is testing. Porphyria can be diagnosed through blood and urine analysis.

Here’s some trivia for you: the urine of some porphyria victims has the unusual property of becoming dark brown or even purple when exposed to sunlight. Unfortunately it’s poor form in just about every circle, including vampire circles, to ask people to pee in outdoor fountains at high noon as a diagnostic technique. You may just have to take them at their word.

Is it possible that people who feel the need to drink blood today suffer from porphyria? It might account for some cases, but only a small portion. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that most people who fall into the category of blood-drinkers do so for psychological reasons. While some people drink blood to consciously reaffirm their vampire identity (meaning they do it because they want to, and they know they want to) , others may be compelled to do so by psychological needs they can neither understand nor control.

This brings us to a morally grey area, and I definitely have serious hesitations about trying to navigate it. If a person’s craving for blood meets the criteria of compulsory behavior, it is difficult to guarantee whether they will behave rationally and respectfully to meet that need. Admittedly, seeking to take blood from others could be a symptom of a sociopathic disorder. What would separate such serious behavior from a less threatening compulsion? Mostly, the extent to which the person is willing to respect the boundaries of others, understand when someone doesn’t want to become one of their donors, and to accept such refusal maturely.

It’s undeniable there will be “loose cannons” who are unbalanced and think it’s OK to attack someone in a scene out of Blade or The Hunger . But this should not reflect on the vampire community mentioned above in general. Do we allow it to taint our view of the Christian community when one unhinged individual bombs a women’s clinic or kills an abortion provider in cold blood? Do we blame Christianity, or do we blame the individual?

Certainly, the media won’t dare to blame Christianity as a whole, although they typically jump at the chance to blame Pagans whenever anything even slightly bizarre turns up at a crime scene. It’s very tempting to engage in a tit-for-tat response when an outspoken Christian commits some crime in the name of religion, but most of us don’t because we know better.

I would ask that we give the same respect to the vampire community, and not jump to conclusions when we hear that someone involved in a bizarre incident “thinks they are a vampire.” We should judge that person by their actions, not by what they claim to be. It’s the same consideration you would want, isn’t it?

After all, you might be a vampire yourself.

Oh yes, I almost forgot; people who wear lots of velvet and/or drink blood aren’t the only vampires around. There are many other vampires who operate on a different level altogether: the psychic vampires.

That term has two very different definitions. One definition, publicized by (but probably not originated by) Anton LaVey (6) , the late head of the Church of Satan, states that a psychic vampire is an emotionally needy, manipulative person who insinuates themselves into the lives of others, taking up their time, energy, and attention, and essentially reducing the victim’s quality of life. The psychic vampire can be a physically debilitated person who makes others feel guilty for not being more attentive to their needs, or an emotionally needy partner who uses sulking and tears to badger their significant other into submission. They may be a friend or relative who creates a sense of obligation by always doing “little things” for someone, only to remind the person of their largesse at a later time and call in the favor.

But the term as many others and I use it means a person who can take life energy from another individual. Sometimes the self-aware psychic vampire claims to have an underlying physical condition that becomes worse unless they get regular infusions of this life force. In cases where their overall health is fine, they may simply become drained and lethargic without such “feeding”.

A psychic vampire can feed in any public location by taking small quantities of energy from the auras of several people, as well as the ambient energy that surrounds large groups. They may also take it in a more intimate one-on-one setting in which a deeper energy transfer is used. This can include the use of sex, massage, or simply physical closeness (7) . Rarely does the psychic vampire desire to drink even a small amount of the energy donor’s blood, although it’s true that our vital essence is very closely linked to the blood (some believe it is not “in” the blood per se, but exists in a symbiotic state, and therefore can flow out with the blood through any sort of wound or incision) . For a very unusual take on psychic vampires, you may want to read Dion Fortune’s The Secrets of Dr. Taverner. (8)

Certain psychic vampires can feed very well off the emotions of others; these people can posses a predatory empathic ability that can instigate or exacerbate strong emotions, usually those of a negative kind, in others around them. They may consciously do this (the so-called “drama queens” are a perfect example) , but in other cases the person may be totally unaware of this unusual ability to affect others. In these people the ability may be mostly latent unless the person is in dire need of feeding; then the ability awakens, causing an uproar of some sort which very often does not include the person in question, but which happens close enough for them to subconsciously draw in the energy from the emotional outburst.

We’ve all know people who seem to get “caught in the middle” of things on a frequent basis, and usually our sympathies lie with them. Little do most people know that these innocent bystanders may sometimes be the cause of the problem, though not through deliberate malice.

Sympathy, by the way, is a very powerful form of emotional transfer that many energy vampires can take in quite nicely. Some may generate a natural aura of sympathy through their demeanor, but others can use the actual giving of sympathy to set up the transfer. By offering a sympathetic ear or comment, we quite often put another person at ease, and that person offers a subtle, usually unconscious reciprocal energy release. For lack of a better term, it’s the energy associated with feeling gratitude.

As an empath I’ve encountered all of these situations, from people who naturally generate strong reactions by their mere presence or somehow seem to be in the thick of any mayhem that occurs, to others who silently walk through crowded clubs or other large gatherings like athletic events. They keep to themselves, acting like they’re a million miles away, but they are actually soaking in ambient energy. A couple of times I have encountered aggressive energy feeders who attempt to deeply tap people in these group situations without their knowledge, but surprisingly these attempts were clumsy and didn’t seem to work well. The targeted person didn’t seem to exhibit any change as you might expect from a sudden energy drain (from personal experience with willing energy transfers during healing sessions, I can say it often feels like the rapid “crash” after a sugar rush) . I concluded that the targets in these cases had enough natural shielding to prevent an unwanted attack.

Thankfully, like delusional people who attack people physically and try to drink their blood, these aggressive energy-feeders seem to be few and far between. I think it would be rare for any of us to encounter more than one or two in a lifetime unless we live in a large city, and rarer still for us to be the target of such activity.

But I would suggest, just in case, that you become familiar with shielding techniques. There are many good books on psychic self-defense, and it pays to know how to engage and maintain good shields on a daily basis as well as for more dangerous situations.

What if you feel you are a vampire, psychic, sanguine (blood-drinking) or otherwise? A short essay is not the proper forum for dealing with this situation. There are groups and authors who cover this subject much more fully than I can here. I urge you to do careful research and follow your gut instincts about whether you want to actively reach out to others in these communities or whether you’d rather confine your exploration to reading. There will be time to make contacts after you’ve thought about it and done some real soul-searching, but once you make those contacts, you can’t always undo them easily.

Tread lightly if you decide to walk these paths, and be careful before giving your trust too freely. This advice was given to me by actual members of the vampire community who I know and trust. They didn’t sugarcoat it for me, so I pass their words on to you undiluted. It is a lifestyle that is, by its nature, full of shadows. Sometimes the shadows hide beauty and wonder, but sometimes they cover a much deeper darkness. So I say again, tread these paths carefully.


Footnotes:
(1) http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/298776

(2) http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2010/10/07/20101007chandler-blood-sucking-stabbing-vampires1009.html

(3) http://www.azfamily.com/news/local/More-details-on-man-stabbed-by-so-called-vampires-in-Mesa-104822109.html

(4) Illis, L: “On Porphyria and the Aetiology of Werwolves (sic) ”; Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, Volume 57, January 1964

(5) Boffey, Phillip M: “Rare disease proposed as cause for ‘vampires’ ”; New York Times, May 31, 1985 (link: http://www.nytimes.com/1985/05/31/us/rare-disease-proposed-as-cause-for-vampires.html )

(6) LaVey, Anton Szandor: “The Satanic Bible”; Avon, 1976

(7) Belanger, Michelle: “The Psychic Vampire Codex”; Weiser Books, 2004

(8) Fortune, Dion: “The Secrets of Dr. Taverner” (reprint) ; Ariel Books, 1989

Copyright: Copyright 2011 by Morgan St. Knight. All rights reserved.

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The Paradox of Contemporary Paranormal Research

The Paradox of Contemporary Paranormal Research

Author: Michael Kundu

Psychical or paranormal research – the pursuit of evidence to validate the existence of psychic, supernatural, or preternatural phenomena using scientifically rigourous methodologies – has come to a crossroads in contemporary society. Mainstream, amateur ‘ghost-hunting’ activities appear to have upstaged institutional, science-driven, psychical research efforts, and the advent and application of innovative and objective methodologies and experiments in the field continues to languish and diminish. Consequently, the field now increasingly presents a paradox of purpose for its participants, both the tenured and the neophyte.

Parapsychology, as an acceptable scientific pursuit, first received authentication in the late 18th-century when two established organizations, the U.K.-based Society for Psychical Research (SPR) , and the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) [1.], rose to bring claims of spiritualistic and supernatural phenomena to the same level of critical analysis applied by many distinguished researchers and academic institutions during that era.

In 1882, the world was in the midst of intense and rapid intellectual acceleration; in London, England, Henry Sidgwick, Professor of Moral Philosophy at Cambridge University, collaborated with Trinity College Dons Frederic Myers and Edmund Gurney to establish the SPR. Over the next half century, the society, chartered to investigate paranormal phenomena in a scientific and unbiased way, would see endorsement and support from prominent persons such as Alfred Lord Tennyson, Joseph Banks Rhine, Mark Twain, Carl Jung, and Arthur Conan Doyle, among others.

Through the 1950s, the SPR, and subsequently other reputable groups established after the charters built by the SPR, conducted rigourous research in various paranormal arenas: telepathy, reincarnation, remote viewing, clairvoyance and precognition, psychokinesis, and even the existence of apparitions and ghosts.

Continuing into the 1970s, leading universities in the United States and abroad. Stanford, UCLA, Duke, Princeton, the Universities of Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Derby, etc., continued to seek evidence of quantifiable paranormal activities. In time, government agencies across the world would also promulgate and fund research into paranormal studies (U.S. CIA/Air Force’s Stargate Project [2.], U.K. Remote Viewing Research [3.] and their Ministry of Defense Remote Viewing Project [4.]) . Even the major religious denominations, (i.e., the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences) began conducting investigations and producing essays and reports on subjects directly and indirectly related to ‘paranormal’ subject matter [5.]

Inevitably, over time, the realization of an emergent absence of quantifiable evidence has largely resulted in the modern reduction of most public institutional funding and continuing research in the field [6.]. In 1996, renowned stage magician and paranormal skeptic James Randi announced a $1-million dollar reward to anyone who could provide evidence of supernatural capabilities while under strict scientific testing criteria [7.], a challenge that, to this date, no single individual has successfully undertaken.

While some scientifically rigourous research does still continue in a few U.S. institutions (Universities of Virginia Department of Psychiatric Medicine and Arizona’s Veritas Laboratory) and in the United Kingdom (Universities of Cambridge, Liverpool Hope, Edinburgh, Northampton) , along with other privately funded scientific institutions and agencies across the globe, most established institutions have ceased, or greatly reduced, their funding for research in the arena – the prevailing opinion by many academic governing bodies and research leaders is that paranormal research has (as of yet) , failed to show any quantifiable or scientifically verifiable evidence of its existence. [8.]

Clearly, since the early 1900s, the study of parapsychology has experienced a historical ebb and flow in mainstream cultural acceptance. During the last two decades however, following the emerging popularity of the phenomena of reality-based media programs, the increasingly mainstream popularity of paranormal research appeared to have reached a new height, while simultaneously maintaining its inherent merit to some as a legitimate scientific field of pursuit. A broadly diversified playfield, providing the opportunity for amateur ‘mediumship’ or ‘sensitive’ activities, and novice ghost-hunting expeditions and investigations, has increasingly buried authentic paranormal research under a new, populist disguise – one that often pits mockery against rigour, entertainment value against believability. Unfortunately in most cases, this ambiguity has worked to the detriment of the continuing, genuinely promulgated research being conducted in the field.

Certainly, on a positive note, the mainstreaming of paranormal research has effectively helped to publicise, and to increase the fields’ visibility to a larger scope of the public – of that, there is no doubt. New American and European broadcasts of popular televised ghost-hunting series have built a large cult following on both continents; previously esoteric paranormal research terms and equipment; (i.e., electro-voice phenomena [EVP], ‘matrixing’, electro-magnetic field [EMF] detectors, etc.) , now appear as household items and common language. Publicity for the field, also, has encouraged those who might suspect paranormal activity on their properties or in their lives, to seek out ‘expert’ opinions and to invite investigations and thus more locations across the country and globe have been ‘opened up’ to paranormal research and visits from sensitives or psychics.

And consequently, thousands of individuals, hereby charmed, empowered, or inspired by pop-cultural recognition opportunities provided by this ‘neo-clairvoyant’ movement, now profess to know how to sense spirits, to conduct ‘clearings’, or how to ‘channel’ entities and communicate with the departed. While the vast majority of these emerging clairvoyants are certainly untested or unproven in their capabilities, the prospect of some individuals to be more sensitive, emphatic, or attuned, to the character/ residual history/energies present in a location or site does seem intuitively possible, and it should be noted that there are hundreds of historical and contemporary accounts (albeit not yet scientifically validated) of individuals who may indeed possess such capabilities.

Inadvertently Supporting the Skeptics

The underlying dilemma is the question about the level of actual progress afforded the entire paranormal movement by the work of the amateur, mainstream ghost-hunting groups, along with those lavishly funded, televised teams, which continue to glamorize and profit from the field.

Particularly problematic in the mainstreaming of paranormal research is that, with no universally accepted parameters, checks, balances or quality controls governing the many amateur paranormal researchers or sensitives active in the populist arena, the field is becoming increasingly dismissed as ‘pseudo-science’ and accordingly, some legitimate research being conducted by groups applying quantifiable scientific methodologies (SPR, the Institute of Noetic Sciences, Society for Scientific Exploration, etc.) , are judged ‘guilty by association’, and also met with greater degrees of skepticism and scorn. Moreover, popular televised field investigations – and almost every investigation conducted by amateur ghost hunting groups operating in the United States and abroad – are conducted using the same repetitive, ostensibly ineffectual methodologies and application of equipment, which, while certainly creating excellent visuals for broadcast media, simply perpetuate the myth that paranormal activity can be definitively validated by the application of such devices and questionable techniques.

With the continual application of such poor or sensationalised methodologies, institutional support and funding for legitimate or unique, evidence-based research studies may also be increasingly judged and rejected, as the growing umbrella of amateur and charlatan groups, and media-hungry investigation teams continue to impugn the integrity of the field of paranormal research overall.

It should be understood that televised productions involving paranormal investigations are produced for two primary purposes: 1) for their prime value as highly viewed, pop-culture entertainment, leading to… 2) for their ability to generate significant levels of revenue for their production companies. As such, these programs should never be considered as objective or documentary programming. Pop-culture television series (such as Paranormal World, Scariest Places on Earth, Ghost Hunters International [GHI], etc.) , while maintaining a degree of entertainment value, are, at best, only capable of perpetuating the myths associated with psychical research. In fact, one of the most popular amateur ghost hunting groups engaged in such ‘pulp parapsychology’, the Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) , has been substantively accused of faking broadcast ‘evidence’ [9.] It has also been widely reported that many of these television shows refuse to release raw, unedited stock footage from their investigations to researchers in order for them to examine the material for evidence of fraudulent activities. Despite such groups’ popularity with their audiences, controversies, such as what TAPS and some other groups generate, tend to set back, and diminish the overall integrity of the field.

The incorrect use of devices such as infrared (IR) thermometers and electro-magnetic field (EMF) detectors is also common on such shows. Conclusions are persuasively presented by investigation leaders, based on subjective assessments of recordings or videotapes and personal interpretations, and without legitimately established baseline data or the application of genuinely scientific methodologies; tools are used without any precise understanding of how, or even if, their application has been established to prove the existence of apparitions, or the paranormal in general (assumptions such as ‘increases in magnetic fields or drops in temperature are always associated with the manifestation of an entity’, etc.) , seemingly intentional misrepresentations or events added to the application of artificial and sensational drama are also commonplace. While these are certainly valid theatrical techniques for increasing viewership interest and publicity ratings, they do serve to, again, diminish the integrity of the field and, in the long run, weaken the public’s belief in, and support for, more rigourous and defined psychical research efforts.

Notwithstanding the fact that the field of paranormal research is intuitively ambiguous in its nature – and that the current lack of empirical evidence continues to dissuade many skeptics of the field’s validity, it would behoove us to remember William Cowper’s tenet that ‘the absence of proof is not necessarily a proof of absence.’

Paranormal researchers should keep in mind the skeptic’s tendency to use (inappropriately even) the argumentum ad ignorantiam: that ‘a premise is false only because it has not been proven true’. In that light, it would behoove researchers and skeptics alike to extend the courtesy of the doubt to those who would claim clairvoyant capabilities, or those who claim to have accrued evidence of a genuine haunting: but that there must also, correspondingly, be the concession by these individuals to subject their evidence or capabilities to empirical tests or experiments, in order to establish and confirm validity.

A Contemporary Critique

A point of concern is the relatively simplicity of establishing a paranormal investigation cohort. Most proponents – however well intentioned – simply establish as website or create a social networking site, then promote themselves to like-minded individuals or enthusiasts, and then reactively associate with most people that respond to their proposed meeting schedules or informational postings. Few of these groups proactively establish or advertise pre-requisite codes-of-conduct, or outline the kind of critical analysis processes, mission statement, or objectives that allow for potential new members to carefully consider their engagement, or ideological affiliation, with one group over another.

And subsequently in many cases, some groups actively engage only those initiates who are like-minded (i.e., not skeptical or analytical of those claiming sensitive or psychic capabilities within the group) , and then formulate a smaller, closed circle of specialists, shutting the door to individuals with new, different, or more productive skill-sets – it is often these sorts of groups that promote themselves as the ‘premier’ paranormal investigative group in a specific geographic focus area.

Ideally, the more credible paranormal research groups are capable of well-articulating their organizational objectives, methodologies, codes-of-conduct, and the more rigourous requirements of membership. Some of these groups will occasionally admit new initiates, and then engage them in an informal screening process, or require them to go on an informal training investigation before allowing them to join in on formal investigations. These more professional groups generally have a democratic leadership process and annual elections, regular meetings, a quantitative method (and willingness) to openly assess or routinely evaluate their use of psychics or sensitives who claim to possess paranormal or clairvoyant powers themselves, and produce professional post-investigative reports or analysis for all of their activities.

Professional groups also continually pursue advanced training in subjects such as behavioural psychology, historical research and investigation tactics, technical (photography, audio, video, surveillance, etc.) , as well as privacy laws and regulations. A familiarity or understanding or personality disorders is also important, since issues related to substance abuse, domestic or sexual assault and abuse situations, dementia or other behavioural disorders, mental illness, or cognitive impairments could, in fact, be the underlying cause or contributing factors to the perceived paranormal activities reported. Reputable groups also commonly pursue formal recognition as a federally-registered organization, in order to adhere to the laws and expected codes of conduct – particularly since many of these groups are invited into private homes and properties in which personal liability, theft, and possible criminal activity can be a concern.

Professional groups will also work to prefer to seek affiliation with one of the existing scientific agencies engaged in paranormal research, i.e., the SPR, ASPR, the Parapsychological Association (P.A.) , the Rhine Research Center and Institute for Parapsychology, etc. Alternatively, most groups now try to affiliate with pop-culture groups (e.g., members of the TAPS family) , and, while certainly capturing their share of Hollywood fame, do not share nearly the same level of credibility, nor do they conduct as rigourous, peer-reviewed experiments as conducted within the more genuine institutional research groups.

Perhaps the most significant impediment to an advance of the field caused by many of the pop-culture associations is that many amateur groups refuse to collaborate and share data, techniques, or case history with others in the field. The central objective of psychical research involves a collective effort to prove that preternatural phenomena is authentic; this pursuit is universal, and the implications, if discovered, would have an effect on every single person that had ever lived. In an ideal environment, this shared objective should yield a playing field in which all groups would collaborate and share investigation opportunities, leads, and the associated body of accrued knowledge, effectively testing cooperatively, and critiquing each others’ work or experiments in order to refine or improve on methodologies, theories, and, most accordingly, to cross-check and interpret results. Not unlike the process of peer review in scientific research, the world of paranormal research – from amateur to institutional levels – would progress much faster if only the participants became more proactive in collaborating on projects, investigations, and experiments.

Orbs

The presence of anomalous ‘orbs’ in visual imagery is perhaps the most definitive example of how controversial and, again, how subjective the interpretation of paranormal investigations can become. There is no verifiable evidence in paranormal research suggesting that orbs are any more than the blurred backscatter from a light source captured on film. Most orbs are simply a circular reflection of an air born particulate – usually outside of a camera’s depth-of-field focus plain – and transmitted on either film or video. ‘Matrixing’, a term now commonly used in paranormal research, is defined as interpreting something familiar (facial features or apparition) out of a randomly occurring, often symmetrical form.

Not unlike the stir surrounding the historical, human face-like shadow seen on one of Mars’ Cydonian Mesas, captured by the Viking 1 Martian Orbiter in July 1976[10], humans possess a natural tendency to try and classify or interpret random images in a familiar fashion. This is the most common explanation of perceived features seen by some inside orbs, including some orbs that might be made of crystalline particulates, which could be optically reflecting the facial features of the camera operator.

Artificial images containing orbs are easily created by blowing dust, or stirring up other suspended particulate in front of a camera or video lens. Lens flares, chromatic aberrations, moisture, or condensation also have the propensity to create spherical shapes on film or digital media.

Dark orbs are created when an illumination source is placed away from the lens opening, and a dust or dirt particulate floats in front of that illumination, resulting in a shadow falling within the frame of the camera. In some cases, suspended particles (feathers, sawdust, etc.) may even have non-symmetrical forms, resulting in shadows, which are subject to supplementary matrixing by reviewers. Pursuant to the fact that no definite preternatural linkage has been established, orbs should not be considered as evidence of paranormal activity.

EVPS

In 1968, Dr. Konstatin Raudive, a Latvian psychologist and one of the early proponents of modern EVP recording techniques, published his treatise entitled ‘Unhörbares wird hörbar’ (“What is inaudible becomes audible”) . The book’s contents accelerated an approach that, even today, is seen by many investigative groups as the underpinning strategy in most paranormal field investigations. The premise behind EVPs is that audible ‘messages from the dead’ require the least amount of energy to transmit, so that it would be most likely for spirits or apparitions to communicate in this form, rather than the more energy-requisite methods of physical apparition or the movement of solid objects.

Most contemporary paranormal groups have vast catalogues of EVP; while many of these EVP very likely represent examples of auditory pareidolia (interpreting random sounds as voices in our own language) or ‘audio matrixing’, some samples may present genuine paranormal phenomena. The challenge becomes how we might effectively identify a baseline which could characterise a successful, or even authentic, EVP.

Raudive and many others (Friedrich Jürgenson, Sarah Estep, Peter Bander, etc.) have provided compelling data to suggest that some audio recording devices may be capable of capturing audiotape from discarnate entities or the spirit world [11]. What has been noticeably absent in scientific discourse of natural explanations however, is discussion about the possible longevity of radio transmissions, and whether electronically transmitted sounds might possible be perpetually captured in the ethereal void in a format that may be played back randomly –particularly when an individual human ear is making efforts to discern a specific ‘voice’ or ‘message’ originating from a distinct person or interest or departed relative. Specifically, each human presence on earth may leave a record of dialogue at some point in history: perhaps the earth itself, or magnetic field around the earth, or an alternative, heretofore unknown dimension, provides a vehicle suitable to audio-record human voices in the firmament somewhere, and when EVP devices are used to locate and isolate those communications, our selective hearing helps us to filter out the white noise and discern (or audio-matrix) voices that we seek to hear (pareidolia again) .

The most important element to consider, however, is that the audio recorded from EVPs is often far too subjective to present any specific or definitive evidence of paranormal activity – while the techniques itself is relatively easy to apply, there does not seem to be any logical explanation that voices or sounds discernable on the same, real-time level, or frequencies audible to humans during the playback (without processing) should not have be simultaneously audible during the act of initial recording.

Arguably, we must acknowledge that our understanding of the full spectrum and breadth of our electronic media (and possibly the realms, dimensions, worlds, frequencies, realities, etc. that our broadcast radio and television waves might reach – and vice versa) has yet to be fully understood. We do know that humankind’s use of electronic signals and recording instruments are sensitive and sophisticated enough to record, analyse, and transmit data collected from the outer planets of our solar system, or even from the ends of the known universe (NASA’s COBE satellite) [12.], so it would be presumptuous and cavalier of us to ignore the possibility that these technologies might not have the ability to provide a conduit into other, heretofore undiscovered dimensions or realms.

EMF Detectors

Electromagnetic fields are present around any object, which possesses an electrical charge. As one of the four fundamental forces of nature, EMFs are not necessarily preternatural by definition. The positive aspect of that premise is that EMFs and increases or decreases in measured milligaus readings are, hereby, physically measurable. The conundrum however, is that, since EMFs are a scientifically proven, naturally occurring phenomena, can variations in EMF fields, thereby, truly be influenced by supernatural forces?

This would present another paradox in itself – the seemingly absurd notion that ‘paranormal’ activity would be observable, or quantifiable, through ‘normal’, or non-paranormal, technologies. This paradox itself may define the futility of the current investigative methodologies and tools applied by the contemporary paranormal investigator.

Somewhere in the evolution of psychical research, a theory was set forth that, paranormal apparitions, in the process of manifesting or passing through an area, would cause a variation in EMFs recorded at that site. It should be noted that this theory has never been quantifiably validated – that the theory continues to this day as simply that… a theory.

Far too many paranormal researchers assume that, when dynamic fluctuations in EMFs occur, and all known causes are ruled out, that the sole diagnosis remaining is that some form of paranormal cause can be validated. Some television programs (i.e., Paranormal State) place a singular focus on EMF increases as providing definitive proof that paranormal activity exists. Instead, EMF detectors should primarily be used to determine and rule out natural causes of suspected paranormal activity, instead of providing primae faci evidence of ghostly activity or the manifestation of an apparition. There are far too many natural occurring reasons why EMF fluctuations happen in the field, and there is still no body of scientific data to support the theory that ghostly manifestations generate EMF increases or ‘spikes’.

Now accordingly, recognising that EMF detectors record fields that operate on level governed by quantum mechanics, and that quantum mechanics involve principles operating at the atomic level of matter (and further, that some of these principles appear to act against the expectations that we would expect natural systems to behave) , perhaps there is some heretofore unverified relationship between the increase in milligaus readings, and the apparent dimension-shift or apparition of ghosts. While the possibility should remain open in our minds, we need to understand that, until a plausible connection has been established, that EMF increases, like orbs, should also not be considered as definite evidence of paranormal activity.

Psychics and Sensitives

Professional groups should also understand that the underlying purpose of paranormal research is to obtain quantifiable evidence that scientifically proves the existence of phenomena or realms outside of the current body of knowledge. Very often, the impressions of sensitives, psychics, or others who claim the unverifiable ability to ‘channel energies’ or spirits, are given significant validity during an investigation – even when those abilities are reportedly ‘validated’ or ‘verified’ by other psychics or sensitives in a group, the value of such information is questionable at best, unless it can also be additionally validated using a quantifiable methodology, such as audio or videotaped evidence, historical research or client verification, official records, etc.

Frequently, sensitives or psychics in a group sometimes appear more interested in showcasing their own personalities, or building up a group identity to address their own individual psychological needs. Commonplace with those more established groups, sensitives begin with a team, then either branch out on their own as a result of group friction, or co-join with others who have collaborated or validated their impressions during investigations, and form macro-factions within, or ultimately, apart from the larger group. In many of the newer groups experiencing dynamic membership stages, there appear to be more stable cohorts of technical specialists (techs) , who tend to remain with one group longer than do the sensitives (perhaps due to the more dynamic or capricious nature of their personalities) .

In any event, the more successful groups manage to combine skilled technicians with a small number of sensitives, who most effectively deliver their skill-sets on a quieter level, and who do not use them to predispose or ‘telegraph’ the tenor or cadence of investigations. Effective sensitives document their field observations privately, and then afterward use their skills to independently validate or elucidate data collected during the investigation, or during the investigation, they subtly suggest room, location, or area shifts where they are inclined to interpret that more productive data or possible audio-video evidence might be collected. Sensitive-collected data – due to the presently subjective or unverifiable nature of its credibility – should not be substantially included in any client out-brief or field report.

Paranormal researchers who do claim psychic capabilities should ultimately understand the importance of credibility, and they should not feel threatened nor challenged if requested to show evidence of a skill that, at best invalidated, can only be considered as a subjective ‘impression’ or ‘interpretation’ of a site or location. Groups utilizing sensitives or psychics among their investigation teams should also be willing to engage their sensitives to controlled (voluntary) Zener Card [13.] or Ganzfeld [14.] experimentation. In order to provide transparency and disclosure to clients, the results from those experiments might also be openly and willingly shared, if desired, with any subject for whom those sensitives or psychics might conduct future group investigations.

Due to the inherently sentient or spiritual nature of the human conditions, it would seem that the human mind (i.e., the senses of true psychic or sensitives) should provide the most objective analysis tool to determine whether something is of normal or paranormal origin. With the proper pre-screening controls, checks, and balances, the human mind (insomuch as we still do not understand its full potential and capabilities) may, in fact, provide the best medium to assess psychical events.

Notwithstanding my prior criticism of the use of sensitives as a tool for psychical research, I do believe that experiments exploring the inert capabilities of the human mind present one of the most promising (albeit unrevealed) prospects for definitive inter-dimensional contact. The operative notion is that sensitives, when used to facilitate such contact, must first be thoroughly vetted for capability, competence, and credibility (and not accepted uncontested) , prior to their adoption as a viable investigative element on paranormal teams.

On Other Methodologies

Oftentimes, paranormal investigations depicted on popular broadcast television shows present ghost hunting teams entering ethnically diverse locations (i.e. GHI’s investigations of Banffy and Poienari Castles in Romania, Cachtice and Predjama Castles in Slovenia, etc.) , then conducting their communication or EVP sessions using the English language. Arguably, the transition into an otherworldly dimension does not come complete with universal translation services; if the intention were to communicate or provoke responses from disembodied entities, it would seem obvious that a familiar language (and even vernacular, if the era preceded contemporary times over a century or more) should be applied in the effort. Most amateur groups on television, however, storm into foreign investigation sites and proceed to announce their presence and engage the entities in the English language (e.g., GHI investigation of Karosta Prison in Latvia, and Borgvattnet Vicarage in Sweden) , expecting to earn credible results.

Additionally, assumptions are commonly made that spirits or entities have the desire (if not the capacity) to respond to comments or questions asked from those remaining on the worldly plain. In the case where a perceived or research-supported historical rationale justifying ‘interaction’ (i.e., unexpected death, tragedy, remorse for deeds undone or done unjustly, etc.) , the prospect might indeed be supported. Yet there seems to be an absurdity in the notion that individuals, having passed from the trappings of the mortal realm, into the afterworld (or even into some level of purgatory or interim state of being) would have the capability to transcend inter-dimensional boundaries, and create a coherent channel of communication with earthly audiences.

Contemporary understanding of the space-time continuum and the laws of physics supports the premise that linear time only moves forward, and that travel backward in time is not, in light of the current laws of physics, possible. Hereby, it is valid to think that any spirit that had passed onward from our dimension, and who is continuing the existential journey forward through the theoretical space-time continuum, would be (in accord with of the laws of physics) unable to communicate backward into the past, to the chronological spot on the linear space-time continuum where the communicating paranormal researchers resides.

Notwithstanding that this hypothesis does not account for the possibility that future paranormal researchers might be able to develop methodologies to communicate forward along the linear space-time continuum, into the future, toward the direction in which the forward-passing spirit may be travelling. But it is safe to say that most, if not all, paranormal researchers are quite likely not aware of such a premise, and are thereby not inclined to even consider the prospect that spirits may not, according to the laws of physics, be able to interact with those remaining on the mortal plane, nor perhaps even recognize the fact that they now travel a different path than do those do here on the earthly realm.

The current, repetitive research methodologies applied by most amateur groups are not effective enough to produce definitive evidence of inter-dimensional response or communication. Accordingly, there is a consensus among behavioural psychologists that certain, powerful human emotions are more likely to solicit responses from other humans (including those passed, if, accordingly, they are still able to sense earthbound emotions) ; these emotions include sexual attraction/desire, anger, and/or distress. In order to move the field forward and explore more innovative methods, it might be suitable to apply this knowledge during paranormal investigations.

Experiments designed to create or influence preternatural responses might be more successful if such emotions, or circumstances involving such emotions, are used as triggers or perhaps even as lures. Some televised programs have shown paranormal researchers using taunts or other antagonistic attempts to provoke an angry response from apparitions by using insults, challenges, mockery, and even profanity.

While considered distasteful or irreverent to some researchers, the act of provoking a response from a passed spirit, from a psychological standpoint, is a valid, albeit uncomfortable, methodology fitting for further exploration and experimentation under the appropriate conditions.

In the early 1970s, a cohort of the Toronto Society for Psychical Research (TSPR) , lead by paranormal researcher Alan Owen, conducted an experiment in which they ‘visualised’ the existence of a historical mid-1600 character named ‘Philip Aylesford’ [15.] The intent of the experiment was to examine whether meditation and visualization (in this case, a group’s effort to collectively image and manifest an artificial personality) could actually result in the manifestation, or apparition, of paranormal origin. The positive results of the controlled experiment (which included psychokinetic phenomena recorded on video and on live television) suggest that the collective subconscious of a group of focused individuals may have an effect on the outcome of paranormal or (in this case psychokinetic) investigations or experiments.

This prospect should also be taken into consideration during field investigations. Paranormal research teams – particularly the smaller, amateur groups commonly chartered in cities around the world, mostly seek to validate individually-held beliefs that the supernatural does exist. If evidence of manifestations occur as a result of a group’s inherent desire (visualization) to see such activity, the evidence could certainly be characterized as paranormal, albeit anthropogenic (internal) , versus non-anthropogenic, or preternatural (external) in origin.

Summary

Contemporary psychical research methodologies have, as of yet, failed to produce sufficient proof that a paranormal world exists. Mainstream ghost-hunting activities conducted largely by amateur and casual paranormal groups continue to lack the scientific rigour, ingenuity or innovativeness to move the field ahead and potentially bring new results, or definitive evidence, into existence. Participants in paranormal research efforts – both amateur and institutional, must continue to recognize that true progress in these arenas would best occur when ineffective methodologies are retired and new, scientifically defensible methods are conceived, implemented, and executed. Most importantly however, the current paranormal research community must adopt a willingness to cease sensationalizing the field and to vocally reject the ambiguity resulting from poorly conducted or disingenuous research.

Despite the current lack of emergent evidence, psychical research does still present a potential conduit into alternative dimensions and realities that we, as a collective, may not yet find universally plausible, nor in some cases, palatable. While some evidence does exist to suggest that some individuals may have actually experienced trace or fleeting glimpses into the realms of the paranormal or into alternate realities and/or dimensions, it is apparent that the majority of our culture would find the emergence of a metaphysical element to life as a shocking, unsettling occurrence.

Ironically, while the majority of sentient human beings are inherently spiritual in nature, the broadcast acceptance of paranormal phenomena continues to fluctuate, even as a vast majority of cultures continue to express devout and orthodox belief in the world’s various religions, or in a higher deity, prayer and divine intervention. In fact, what is considered as prayer to some people may also simply be a manifestation of psychokinesis [16.]; what may be considered divine revelation to some could simply be evidence of telepathy, remote viewing, or ‘thought-transference’. In this capacity, while there may be a distinct dichotomy in the conceptual approach between religion and a belief in the paranormal, the underlying importance of religion as a fundamental control mechanism governing societal behaviour, morality, laws and ethics, must not be undervalued.

Alternatively, while the pragmatic advantage that we, as a society, extract from a belief in the paranormal, may not yet be universally apparent nor outwardly beneficial as that of our collective embrace of religion, there are still some very significant reasons for us to pursue paranormal research – even if a large segment of the scientific community still consider the field as a pseudoscience.

If we are able to effectively prove the existence of ghosts, we will, in essence, have been able to prove in the existence of the Goddess, the God of Christianity, the Islamic Allah, or other deities.

That, in itself, would be an inconceivable accomplishment for all of humankind, and, that prospect alone, perhaps, might underscore the prime purpose of why we, as a society, should continue pursuing, promoting, and promulgating more ambitious and evolutionary studies and explorations in the realm of psychical and paranormal research.


Footnotes:
Endnote Sources:

1. Haynes, Renée (1982) , The Society for Psychical Research 1882-1982: A History; London: MacDonald and Co.

2. May, E.C., (March 1996) , The American Institutes for Research Review of the Department of Defense’s STAR GATE Program: A Commentary; The Journal of Parapsychology. 60, pp 3–23

3. Remote Viewing. UK’s Ministry of Defence. (June 2002) , disclosed in 2007-02-23. p. 94 (page 50 in second pdf) http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/FreedomOfInformation/DisclosureLog/SearchDisclosureLog/RemoteViewing.htm.

4. U.K. Ministry of Defense Remote Viewing Project, FOIA Request Reference # 21-09-2006-112024-005; http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/FreedomOfInformation/DisclosureLog/SearchDisclosureLog/RemoteViewing.htm

5. Brain research and the mind-body problem: Epistemological and metaphysical issues; Pontifical Academy of Sciences Round Table, 25 October 1988, pp. XV-186

6. Odling-Smee, Lucy (1 March 2007) , The lab that asked the wrong questions; Journal Nature #446, 10-11 | doi:10.1038/446010a; Published online 28 February 2007

7. Randi, James (2008) $1, 000, 000 paranormal challenge; The Skeptic’s Dictionary. http://skepdic.com/randi.html. Retrieved 2008-02-03

8. Hyman, Ray (1995) Evaluation of the Program on Anomalous Mental Phenomena; The Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. 59, 1995

9. Smith, Alison (2006-08-10) . TAPS vs. SAPS: The Atlantic Paranormal Society meets the Skeptical Analysis of the Paranormal Society; eSkeptic (The Skeptics Society) . ISSN 1556-5696. http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/06-08-10/

10. Viking News Center (1976-07-31) Caption of JPL Viking Press Release P-17384 (35A72) . NASA. http://www.msss.com/education/facepage/pio.html. Retrieved 2008-05-01.

11. Senkowski, Ernst (1995) . Analysis of Anomalous Audio and Video Recordings, presented before the “Society For Scientific Exploration” USA – June 1995; http://www.worlditc.org/f_07_senkowski_analysis.htm.

12. National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Cosmic Background Explorer Research Program; http://lambda.gsfc.nasa.gov/product/cobe/

13. Carroll, Todd (2008-12-25) . Zener ESP Cards”. The Skeptic’s Dictionary; http://www.skepdic.com/zener.html

14. Metzger, W (1930) . Optische Untersuchungen am Ganzfeld: II. Zur Phanomenologie des homogenen Ganzfelds; Psychologische Forschung (13) : 6–29

15. Sparrow, Margaret (1977) Conjuring Up Philip: An Adventure in Psychokinesis; Toronto, Harper and Row; 1st U.S. ed. edition (1976)

16. McConnell, Robert (1993) The “Enemies” of Parapsychology; Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp. 417-427

Copyright: Michael Kundu became an associate member of the U.K. Society for Psychical Research in 1986; today he remains active with the Washington State Ghost Society (WSGS) . A Canadian ex-patriot living in the United States, Kundu writes from his home in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State.

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Ghosts, Omens, and Fact-Finding: Wandering In Today’s Eco-Interface

Ghosts, Omens, and Fact-Finding: Wandering In Today’s Eco-Interface

Author: Willow Moon

Once upon a time…a few years ago, my life as I knew it abruptly ended. I walked from the fiery debris of the tower card, sore and bruised, mentally shaken, spiritually horrified, and physically intact. I had no choice; my life as I knew it was dead. I gathered everything I had left, put it in a knapsack, and set out with my trusty dog. Life began, again.

Five years later, this task of rebuilding still daunts me. Having lost my creative flow as a direct result of said debris, some sort of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is suffering inside of me. It is as if I have been too sad to create. Getting fed up with my own process, I would firmly sit myself down with conviction and intention and “force” creative energies… Ya right.

As a child I was fond of spending time with my grandmother. She was everything to me. On one occasion, when I was about five, I remember waking early in the morning at about four AM and noticing that my grandmother was already up, I set out to find her. I heard, and felt, a rhythmic pulsating coming through the ground and into my feet, “thump, thump, thump”. It felt as if the ground had a heart beat. Being half asleep I did not realize that this vibration was coming from outside. I followed the sound out the door down the driveway and into one of the many gardens my grandmother nurtured. She was sitting on her knees with a wooden spoon in hand hitting the ground; in front of her was a thriving “camomilla” (chamomile) .

“Nona” I said, “why are you hitting the ground”? Looking up at me she simply said: “Some things grow better when you beat them”, this is a loose translation from her native Tuscan language. I remember being completely taken aback by this statement. She simply went back to beating the ground. I stood in frightful awe for a long time watching her; she went about this in such a “matter of fact” way. Here was this tiny, demure woman who was smart and kind, and very much an observer of life… beating her beloved plants. This impacted me so heavily that I did not think to question it.

When I was my twenties I learned that chamomile reproduces when pressure is applied to the rootstalk; this is why it is so fond of roadways and footpaths. It is reproducing as it is healing from the shock of trauma.

Last December, just prior to Yule, I lost my job like so many other Americans. I hated my job, but it did pay the bills and I loved the comfort it provided. I panicked for the first couple of months, and then slowly I began to acclimate. I entered the “job shopping” market and began taking free classes on how to represent myself and my resume with all the latest tools and know how; what work not working is! I began opening up. I began to see things, hear things, and experience things with more vibrancy and clarity and in living color. I realized how polluted I have been, working in corporate America. I began to experience an accelerated healing process.

A series of omens, many in way of death and rebirth, have presented themselves to me. Owl has been calling. Through all of this, my creativity is emerging. Like the first tender tendrils of sister camomilla. I have begun creating my sacred ritual jewelry once more, and while I am engaging in this particular venture I am learning to create a small business and providing a resource for my larger neo pagan community. I have begun to travel locally and this allows for new friendships. I am drawing again, and I am writing. I have yet to pick up a paintbrush or to sing… really sing… not car sing; but in due time these too shall birth.

Most recently I found myself on Amazon (dot) com ordering an iconic black and white 60’s craft classic featuring Alex and Maxine Sanders; upon checkout the following message came up: “Next time use Express Checkout with PayPhrase, buy on Amazon and across the web with a simple phrase. Choose your pay phrase: “Willow’s Open Partially”. Huh! “Willow’s Open Partially”; this was an auto generated statement. Shaking my head in amused fascination, and just for kicks, I looked up “Partially”: 1) To a degree, but not completely 2) in a way that shows an unfair preference for one person or thing over another. Well, who can argue with that?

It has been roughly a full cycle since my (almost) reluctant departure from corporate America last December. Recently I have been gifted with a new job. It is everything I asked for, although the commute is a bit more than desired and the pay is quite considerably diminished (we get what we ask for, and what we don’t) but I believe I will be happy in this new endeavor, and for me, this is the key.

The Gods have a way of placing stepping stones; it is up to us to see them. Even so, we have the beautiful, knowing, difficult, fierce, and raw gift of choice. This is not to say that our path will then become more manicured, but perhaps simply better measured. For it is through love that we endure the trials of death so that we may have just one more chance to feel the sacred gift of hope through the inception of life.

This year I birth my creative endeavors. I have made a commitment to begin my days looking forward to creativity simply for the joy that it brings. I am open…. partially… and willing to hold the blessed energy of inception. I am willing to love myself wholly and “be” the sacred gifts.

May we bathe our faces in the tendrils of the coming Sun! May we be the creative flow of life!

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