29 February 2012

Zombies! Run! and Pcon Handout

It's been madness since I got back from Pantheacon and I promise I'll get you a nice chewy blog post soon.  In the mean time I just have to plug some awesomeness for anyone who likes zombies and enjoys running.

First, if you haven't heard of Run For Your Lives, you should.  It's a 5k that you run through a zombie infested obstacle course.  This sounds like more fun than should be legal.  I'm going to be doing the Seattle/Portland run on 8/4.  I'll be a shambling zombie in the morning (11:20am-2:40pm) and running the course in the afternoon (3pm).  Signing up to be a zombie cuts the registration fee by more than half, but spots are limited.  If you want to join me as a zombie you should sign up soon!

Second, there's a great new app for smartphones called Zombies, Run!  It's a running app where it integrates your normal running routine with a really well told zombie story.  As you run you pick up supplies for survivors and get chased by zombies.  I have never sprinted so fast in my life as when I heard the radar beep getting faster and faster and that voice telling me that the zoms were gaining on me.  If you run and you like zombies it's a must have.

For those of you weren't at my lovely Pcon workshop, Magickal Munitions - Magickal Protection for the Urban Practitioner.  Here's the content of my handout:

Cities Are Alive – Fortify. Refine. Respond.

Fortify – Define and Defend Your Space

-  Define the borders of your space
-  Cleanse and purify your space
-  Ward
-  Sanctify

Refine – Learn More About Your Surroundings

-  Mundane
     Neighbors (personality, energy, proximity, discretion)
     Neighborhood (crime, tolerance, engagement)
-  Divination
-  Energy sensing
-  Spirits of the city

Respond - Adapt Your Protections Accordingly

-  Offerings to the mundane and magickal
     Community Service
-  Subtle, contained protective measures
     Chameleon aura
     Grounding shields
     Witch Bottles

21 February 2012

Home Again

Thank-you Pantheacon! I had a great weekend. I attended some amazing workshops and met some great people. A huge thank-you to everyone who attended my workshop and made it such a success.

20 February 2012

Almost Time

Sitting in a back corner of the Doubletree lobby getting ready to present. The workshop is at 11, and afterwards it's sushi time.

18 February 2012

The things you see

A woman with a spinning wheel in the hallway. I love Pcon.

At Pantheacon

Right now I'm sitting in a lecture on the dark side of the goddess Demeter. Tomorrow at 1:30 I'll be doing a book signing. On Monday at 11 I'll be presenting my workshop, Magickal Munitions, on urban protection. Come and see me!

08 February 2012

The Woman in Black

I love old Hammer horror films - the ones that always seemed to star either Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing, or both.  I'm a total sucker for a spooky atmosphere and a little thought.  I'm not a big fan of gore films (no Saw films for me thanks), so I really haven't seen any new horror flicks lately.  When I heard that Hammer was alive and making films again I got very excited, when I found out their new film was starring Dan Radcliffe I got a bit giddy.  I figured it was either going to be awesome or a total disaster - worth seeing either way, so on Saturday Rae and I went and saw The Woman in Black.  It did not disappoint.  I spent a good half of the movie curled into a ball on my seat watching through my fingers.  If you want to see a good heart-pounder, then I highly recommend this movie.

One of the things I most enjoy about watching supernatural thrillers is analyzing their treatment of the paranormal.  I may, in fact, be a total nerd - but you've probably figured that out by now. 

***spoiler alert - I am going to discuss the movie in detail, including the ending.  You've been warned*** 

The Woman in Black is basically the story of a hungry ghost. In short, a hungry ghost is the spirit of someone who either has been severely wronged in life and thirsts for revenge or is the spirit of someone so evil that they keep hungering for destruction in death.  In this case the titular woman in black is the ghost of an unstable woman who had her son taken away from her.   When that son died while under the care of her sister she went full buggers, killed herself, and started haunting the town.  Whenever she is seen she finds one (or more) of the town's children, possesses that child, and forces the child to kill him/herself in various horrifying ways.  In the film Dan Radcliffe's character kicks off the action by going to the house where the woman in black's spirit resides. 

In a way it's a classic story.  There are several traditional tales of the mothers of who lost their children, went mad, died, and then became hungry ghosts who went after other people's children.  The most famous is the tale of La Llorona who, depending on which version you read, either drowned her own child or neglected it to death then went mad and killed herself, came back as a spirit and drowned any child who strayed too near the river without supervision for revenge.  The woman in black is definitely a spirit of vengeance.  We learn of her intense resentment and instability during life from a series of letters where she clearly states that she will have her revenge on the people she feels have wronged her. 

If this scenario had not been fictional, the likelihood of someone in this position becoming a hungry ghost would be extremely high.  When you combine madness with being genuinely wronged and an implacable will you have the perfect recipe for creating a haunting.  Most traditional hungry ghosts were not insane during their lives, so their behavior after death is somewhat predictable - they go after the people who have wronged them or those that fit the same profile.  In this film the woman in black has a definite profile for her victims (children), but she doesn't confine herself to those who wronged her - she goes after any child within her reach (which appears to be localized to the immediate vicinity around the spot where her child died and she committed suicide).  The unjustness of her choice of victims is explained by her madness, as is her choice of triggers.  To bring down her wrath all you have to do is see her.  You don't have to defile her grave, speak out against her, or wrong the memory of her child.  You just have to see her, and she positions herself so she is seen.  She's about as malevolent as you get.

What I found most interesting about this movie was the ending.  As I watched the movie I thought to myself that if I were the main character I would try to end the haunting by giving the woman in black's child a proper burial (which he never got). Ghosts want something or they wouldn't still be around, so giving a ghost what it wants is the best way to lay it to rest.  It's a tribute to the paranormal savvy of both the modern horror audience and the studio that the main character tried to do exactly that. Radcliffe's character finds the body of the child, presents it to the woman in black to reunite her with her son and then buries the boy with the woman in black's body.  For the spirit of a sane person that probably would have worked; it really should have worked.  Unfortunately for the character, but great for the chills, the ghost is unsatisfied and goes on to the movie's grisly end.  *I won't spoil everything for you*  Great horror flick.

One of the things this movie has me pondering is the possibility of a hungry ghost actually becoming a demon.  Several of the woman in black's behaviors - extreme malevolence, implacability, intelligence, and the ability to possess - are far more common in demons than hungry ghosts.  Most hungry ghosts have the ability to lure people and trick them into harming themselves (e.g. coaxing people off of unseen cliffs, making people so frightened that they don't watch what they're doing), but it's rare for a ghost to actually be able to fully possess someone, at least without their cooperation.  It is possible for ghosts to oppress people and get into their heads, but they really can't force someone to harm themselves (rather like a hypnotists can't make someone harm himself).  Most entities that possess people are non-human, usually demonic.  I wonder if it would be possible for any ghost to be strong enough to transform into a demon?  If it were possible I would think madness and will would be the biggest factors.  I don't know, but it's something to ponder.

01 February 2012

Happy Imbolc

Ah Imbolc, that strange time of year when winter is half over and yet the worst of it is often yet to come.  This has been an odd winter for me.  Normally I spend most of my winter in quiet introspection, fully appreciating the season.  This year I started running in the winter and so I've been unusually active.  On the one hand this is great because running gives me a solid hour or two of meditative time several times a week.  On the other hand, all this activity has thrown off my natural seasonal rhythm.  Without the depth of my normal introspective time I feel like I just haven't connected with the divine in anything but a surface way.

I have a very strong connection to my deity and normally take time to really commune with her.  It's in that communion time that I get messages and direction for what I need to do over the next several months.  That gives me a great sense of purpose and fulfillment.  Somehow, those times just got lost in the shuffle these past few months. My mind has been so overworked with thinking about my health, exercise, and all the other mundania that I'm surrounded with that I just plain forgot to carve out time that was solely sacred and nothing else.  Meditation and mindfulness are great, but they're no substitute for direct communion with deity.  I feel a bit like a shmuck. 

Well, this evening I'm going to go home, run, and then take some time to do *gasp* an actual ritual!  I'm going to turn off my phone, get kitted up, and actually do a full formal ritual.  I need meaningful connection in a big way.  Somehow, in the midst of learning new techniques and strengthening my understanding of metaphysics I lost track of the point.  It all boils down to this: all that matters is that which puts you in the sight of your god.