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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Chant a Nightwish Upon a Shooting Star

Once Upon A NightwishOnce Upon A Nightwish by Mape Ollila
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I first heard of Nightwish was on youtube while looking for Pagan themed music. The first song I came across was a song with Annette Olzson on vocals called "bye bye beautiful" I also thought the band was an all girls band until I took a second look. The next song I came across was "I wish I had an Angel" To b e honest I could not tell the difference between the two vocalists and hence liked them both. In fact Nightwish got better with each and every record. I have been hooked on every single album of theirs. Sad thing is that female vocalists keep leaving the band. I wonder why.

The book traces their beginning even before they became a band. Tuomas was a dreamy keyboard player who put together the whole thing. He loved Donald Duck and Disney Land and he writes his music in order to take you to another world. Empuu is the hyperactive guitar player who may have attention deficit disorder by the sound of things. Always energetic and yet alll overthe place and forgetting things.Sami was the bass player who partied too hard and Jukka was the drum player. Tarja the female singer was the bands figure head and the most fragile of all the band members.

All of the original members came from Kitee, Finland. At the time of Nightwish's birth the metal scene looked rather dismal and Finland never produced much by way of good musical bands. Nightwish changed all of that. All of them received their training from Plamen Dimov a Greek ,Bulgarian who emigrated to Finland. Tuamos was not only the creative force behind the band he is also the one who got it exposure. While touring with another band he let some music producer listen to the music and he liked . From their they made it into an Album called "Angels Fall First" it garnered a positive response even if it was still a bit rough..around the edges. They toured a lot of small places around Europe and the community of Kitee was instrumental in helping this band get off the ground. Ocean Born was their second effort. A totally new and improved sound and lots of new exposure. Wishmaster being the third took things to another level. Tuamas could be a taxing band leader. So taxing that he pushed Tarja until she cried. The Wishmaster tour also took them to South America where they would run into Marcelo, a somewhat devious promoter.
Things in the band have always been heavy. The book gives you glimpses behind the scenes of what rock band have to got through while traveling.Substandard living conditions, sometimes no showers, living on a bus for weeks on end and endless partying. The boys got crazy and Tarja being a classy girl was not cut out for such heavy antics. The business end of politics is often behind some of the disappointments as album releases and tours are always postponed or cancelled. Even at this stage there was tension between Tarja and the rest of the members. Part of it was that a refined woman cannot put up with excess party antics of uncouth males and number two touring is very stressful.

Later on when Tarja would marry Marcello and he became her manager. He would not only advocate for her needs but also interfere with the band business. He torpedoed deals by asking for too much money. Tarja also began thinking that she was doing the bands a favor by singing for them. In a sense it got to her head a bit. Thanks to her and Marcello they would cancel gigs and wwhole legs of a tour. Tarja hated touring. They would go on to make Century's Childe and then "Once" the album Once really broke through for them and it seems that Tarja and Marcello were holding things back.

In the end the band let her go and in Finland it generated major controversy. The book ends off with Nightwish looking for a replacement. End of review. At the end of it all they got Annette Olzson who lasted for two albums and then left mid tour of Imaginarium. Now it seems Floor Jansen is with them. I hope they can hold on to this one.

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dark Side of the Pagan Peter Pan

The Child ThiefThe Child Thief by Brom
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great book! The man is both a talented writer and an artist.He also has done his research in the pagan past of Europe and the result is a superb novel. The telling is not Disney like at all but rather a turn into a darker side of Peter Pan. Of , course these days Peter Pan is getting a bad wrap cinematically speaking. He seems to be the bad guy now and Captain Hook is the good guy. This holds true for this novel as well.

The story starts off with a young girl shivering in her bed, fear stricken over the abuse her step father is about to give to her. Then a shadow appears to save the day. but not only does the shadow save the young girl, but he also kills the stepfather. Of course after such a heroic rescue how could any any damsel refuse.

Next comes the real beginning of the story. Young Nick is on the run from some drug dealer who are renting a room from his grandmother's house. Nick's life is deteriorating around him as result. He is subjected to abuse and humiliation that leads to a permanent scarring of his arm. In revenge he steals a bunch of the drug dealers drugs and flees. In central park the dealers friends catch up with him and once again Pan comes to the rescue. He beats the tar out of the bad guys and leads Nick through the mist where they are assaulted by sluach. On the way through Nick realizes that not everyone who has traveled through the mist was lucky enough to make it alive. Once they make it to Devil Tree and meet the "Devil"( instead of lost boys). Nick realizes that Pan is recruiting fighters for a war against Flesh Eater. The daily regime is of hunting and martial arts training. Within the Devils there is Sekou, a warrior woman, Leroy, who is a bully and ultimate bad guy who brings down the devils. Nick has got to learn to get along with these 'Devils" despite his misgivings and find a way off the island.

The flesh eater are really adult pilgrims who landed on the Island. The Island is not Never Never Land but rather the mystical island of Avalon made famous from the King Arthur tales. This island is the last refuge of the fae. It is home to all sorts of mystical creatures. If children come when they are small they remain the same and never age. Adults become deformed into greyish skin and black haired being. The magic of fae does not agree with them. They are burning down the forest and brings a scourge upon the island.

So Peter is acting as a recruiter for the Lady of the Lake to fight against the flesh eaters. Pan himself is half fairy and half human. He knows who is mother is but not his father. When his human family find out that he is fae they abandon him to die in the woods. It is in the woods that he is befriended by a woodland fairy who teaches him how to hunt and kill wolves. Peter also learns that humans can never be trusted. This lesson is driven home when he plays with some boys in the village. Once the adults spot him they chase him into the forest and kill his friend. In fleeing these vicious humans Peter ends up going through the mists to Avalon.

In Avalon a whole new set of troubles begins. Peter is at once favored by Modron the lady of the lake who minds the sacred apple tree. Ulfger an elvish demigod legitimate heir of the horned god who lead the battle against the Flesh Eaters and drove them off , is immediately antagonistic towards Peter. This leads Peter to being banished to devil wood.

In the end Peter tries to ally all the fae forces of the island and bring down the flesh eaters. Treachery prevails and many devil are caught and killed. An atmosphere of the witch hunt prevails which takes the story to the streets of New York. If you enjoy dark tales and stories that involve European Pagan elements then this story is for you.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Household Spirits of Europe

The Tradition of Household Spirits: Ancestral Lore and PracticesThe Tradition of Household Spirits: Ancestral Lore and Practices by Claude Lecouteux
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the medival times the house was a sacred space in Europe. The home would stay in the family for generations and it was a place that kept one safe from the outside world. In fact it would keep you warm, it was where you cooked your food and ate. So of course one would want to protect the home as much as possible. Usually this meant appeasing the household spirits. Of course in modern times a home is not so sacred. People are mobile and homes are made from pre-fabricated material.
The first part of the book is dedicated to the different parts of the European house. The most sacred part of the house was the hearth. It was at the hearth where the food was prepared and it was at the hearth that meals were partaken. The hearth was also the place of the fire in the center of the room. Often times this is where a household spirit would dwell. It was here that offering of wine, bread and food were made to the spirit of the house. Other places of importance that would house spirits were the attic, corners of the house and even the barn. Offering could be left and the sleepin space must be held sacred as the household spirit could vex , without injury, someone who was sleeping there. The chimney and the stove were also sacred places. By the chimney was the chimney hook and it was on the chimney hook that people would swear oath and perform magic. The chimney hook was alos a mainstay of the house. Something that kept it going so to speak.
Other places of importance were doors, window and the roof. Windows was where spirits could come in and out from. Protective measures of course had to be employed to bar a witches magic or malevolent spirits from entering. When someone died it was best to take them from the house via the window that way they would not come back in. The door was also a place where spirits could dwell. Sometimes a pentagram was painted on the door to keep the negative magic of the witch out. It was also wise never to slam a door as that would disturb the spirits. The roofs usually had holes in them and this could be conduit for souls. To stop a sorcerer from entering the whole could be blocked up or a whole in the wall could be blocked up.
One had to be careful which house one bought and where it was built. Near the road was the best place to build a house. Building near an open field or wilderness was considered a bad idea it would attract evil spirits. The house of a suicide or a criminal was also bad. Upon moving into a house usually an offering was made to the resident spirit to gain their good graces. To not have their good graces was to court disaster. Sometimes a family would bring a spirit with them from their old house.
Exactly who were these spirits? Some sources would say that it was the genius loci of the area. Other say it was the spirit of an former occupant. It could also be an ancestor spirit who chooses to stick around as a protector. Before the adevent of Christianity the household sprits were deities or Gods. Zeuss was the most common. Eventually these Gods devolved into spritis.
Some of the offering that were made could be food and wine offering but often times a human or an animal would be buried in the foundation of the house. The household spirits would provide a number of services if the homeowners were moral and treated the spirit well. The spirit would help with chores , increase wealth and protect from disaster. Of course when angered the spirits would choose to leave, impoverish the family or destroy the house. House hold spirits were are times called browning, kobald and alfs.
Great book the author accesses ancient European documents and brins it forward for the modern people to learn. Awesome job.


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Monday, December 16, 2013

THE INVENTION OF WICCA

Inventing Witchcraft: A Case Study in the Creation of a New ReligionInventing Witchcraft: A Case Study in the Creation of a New Religion by Aiden Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Inside the pagan community and without there is an on going debate as to the origins of gardenerian Wicca. On one side of the debate you have authors like Heselton and Whitmore who believe that Wicca is an ancient pre-christian religion that centered on a Goddess and God. On the other side you have authors like Ronald Hutton and Aidan Kelly and Tanya Lurman will maintain that Wicca is a new religious movement. Aidan Kelly’s perspective is unique because he is in fact an insider who practices witch craft. Dr. Kelley invented his own tradition of witchcraft with some other students in Sand Francisco. He was one of the founding members of the New Reformed Order of the Golden Dawn.
Since he himself has founded his own, or at least helped found his own witchcraft tradition, he finds nothing wrong with what Gerald Gardner did. In fact it is a sign of healthy society that shows spark of creativity. At one point all religions were man made and at one point they were new religious movements. Many religious movements whither and die it is only those few that meet the needs of the people that end up surviving. Judaism, Islam and Christianity are examples and so is Wicca. The number of Wiccans and Pagans doubles up every two years.
Gerald Gardner made many false claims implying that Wicca was an ancient religion. Of course when new religious movements come about they will often claim they are the original or the corrected version that people are supposed to follow. All religions start this way. Most follower identify this and just live with the fact that historical reality and mythos are not necessarily the same.
Aidan Kelley put the written works thorugh a scholarly test to determine if there was any truth to Gerald Gardner’s claims. Searching through Gardner’s belonging kept by Ripley’s museum of witchcraft and documents held by Carl Wesche he was able to determine through careful analysis and detective work that Gardner’s claims were false. Among the papers he found several versions of the same ritual often with dyslexic spelling and cross outs. Many of the rituals had undergone revision. These are the signs of authorship not copying something down from a book of shadows. Almost all of gardners works were direct plagiarisms. Elements were lifted dire tly out of Crowley’s works, Lelands Aradia, Rudyard kipolings work etc. Doreen Valiente saw this and when she was intiated she rewrote almost all of it.
One things that Aidan makes note of is Gereald’s interesting in spanking and bondage. His new religion sanctified it . The book does a good job of telling the background story of Wicca and how Gerald Created it. I think Hutton’s book is more complete though. Inventing Witchcraft tends to over do on printing in the text and analyzing it.
In the end after all my research I have come to the conclusion that Gerald Gardner did in fact invent Wicca from available sources. His witchcraft is very much influenced by Ceremonial Magiack. However I do believe that there were precedents about for following witchcraft and following the Goddess that Gardner was not expose to. I enjoyed the historical excursion.


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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Yemenite Jews

The Yemenites Two Thousand Years of Jewish CultureThe Yemenites Two Thousand Years of Jewish Culture by Ester Muchawsky-Schnapper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Should have went to Amazon first. I paid six bucks at a used book store for this. Oh well, in any case this book is a picture book/ book on Yemenite Jewish life in Yemen. The book starts off with a historical outline of the Genesis of Yemenite Jewish culture in Yemen. Then it goes into their housewares, costumes, Jewelry and ceremonial objects. With in each section there are pictures of objects with a page worth of discussion on them.

Starting with the history of the Yemenite Jews it is not entirely certain when exactly they arrived there. Some believe that when King Solomon coupled with Queen Sheba that he sent down high born Jews and that began the nucleus of the Jewish community. Other contend that Jeremiah predicted the fall of Judah 42 years before it happened and that a group of Jews up and left traversing the Arabian deserts until they got to Yemen. Roman sources do document a Jewish community and an establishment of a Jewish Brigade down in Yemen.

Since the advent of Islam Jews have been considered a protected people and given the status of Al Dhimmi. As Dhimmis they were not allowed to carry weapons, banned from serving in the military. Their houses could not be taller then a Muslims house and their synagogues could not be higher then the mosques. As a result the houses of Jews tended to be more modest boing up maybe two stories at the most, while Muslims houses could be as high as 5 stories and were ornately decorated from the outside. Jews tended to build beneath the ground so as to create more room while satisfying Muslims requirements. In their cellars and basements they stored food, animals and valuables. Thee interiors were simple yet elegant. There were no cupboards but carved out spaces in the wall. There were no pictures on the wall or fancy artwork. Around their rooms would be cushions surrounding a central table. They did have a main dining room for festivities and their was even a sukka room with an opening to the sky for meeting religious requirements. Many houses were connected by a courtyard which allowed everyone to meet. Sometimes it was on the upper level and sometimes it was on the lower level. Yemenite Jews had gardens for herbs.

By and large Yemenite Jews lived in settlement just outside of the Muslim town. Their celebrations were kept on the low end. Their style of dress differed from Muslims as well. Jews had to wear sidelocks and their head gear could not be as fancy as that of Muslims. Women wore the gargoush until menses while Muslim women would wear a scarf. Muslim women went about completely covered while Jewish women showed part of their faces. The ritual Tzittzit.were made goat hairs. Men and women did wear trousers beneath their skirt like clothing.

Silversmithing was career that was dominated by Jews. In fact when they left for Israel they had to teach their craft to a Muslim before leaving. Of course after the Jews left the quality went down for a variety of reasons and one of those was imported good from India, turkey and the far east. The Yemenite filigree was famous. THe Jews also embroidered their clothes with cowrie shells and coins.

Some of the ceremonial object included a torah pointer. Their ark called the Hiekal was used to house the Torah. It seems to be more portable. Their stand for reading the Torah was also more portable. Their menorah for Channukah was a soapstone square with the required niches for loading oil and lightings.

Many of these items are housed at the Israel museum. Viewing material artifacts is a great way to access information about a culture. Enjoy.

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nocturnal Ecstatcy

Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' SabbathEcstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath by Carlo Ginzburg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Records of the witches Sabbat reaches us in modern times through the stores and testimonies recorded by the biased inquisitors who tortured the suspected witches to get a confession from them. Historiean looking for the origin of these sabbats and trying to prove their veracity have come up against man y challenges. Some have thought the Sabbat to be nothing but invention of the inquisitors while others have believed that there was a factual basis to the reported Sabbat.
According to legend the witches Sabbat was when the witchews would anoint themselves with flying ointment and would ride a broomstick or an animal and fly to the Sabbat for frolicking with the devil. Now through out European history groups like the lepers, Jews and witches have been accused of poisoning wells, spreading plagues and eating live babies for rituals. The same accusations are repeated time and time again the only things that changes is the name of the group being accused.
Going back though historical memory there have been recorded night wandering with a Goddess called Diana or Herodia, Richella, or Oriente. She would lead a procession through the night stopping at houses to eat or drink if it was clean and offering were left for the riding company. She would have in her procession all sorts of followers, faeries and later on Demons. Now the Goddess occurred only in an area with a Celtic substratum. Places that were Norse or strictly Roman did not have this Goddess flying around.
Another source for this Sabbat or ecstasy would come groups like the Benadanti, Kressinski and Calusary. Based in Italy, Central Europe, and parts of Eurabia these dream warriors had the ability to shape shift into other animals, mostly wolves. The wolves or werewolves would fight against malevolent forces of the universe like witches and vampire in order to preserve the fertility of the land. Some like the Calusari followed Diana while others claimed to be servants of the Lord Jesus Christ like the Benadnati.
Some times there were groups of warriors who would fight for their town on the Astral plane to benefit their village against a rival village. These tnendencies tended to show up all over the place going from Europe, Eurasia all the way to china. The converging point comes from the Scythians who passed amny of these things on to Celtic Europeans and greeks. The Greeks had their ecstatic cult of Dionysus and the Eleusinian mysteries. The Scythians also had a goddess that was mistress of the beasts. Could this have passed on to the celts somehow and then to the rest of Europe.
The author then goes into the differing mythologies and makes note of how shamans had to have a near death experience and were often lamed in the foot somehow that marked them off. It was Shaman who did the healing and the fighting and the shapreshifting.
This book was fascinating. Carlo Ginzburg is not a neo-pagan or some wishy washy Wiccan he is a scholar and his work is based on solid research. Neo-Pagans should read material of this caliber.


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Baba-Sali
Holy Morroccan Sage engaged in Prayer

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One blond hair blue eyed Calfornian who totally digs the Middle East.
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