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During the Industrial Revolution of the late Eighteenth century, a movement arose which opposed the mechanisation and urbanisation of labour. This movemement - the Luddites - named themselves after the (imaginary) Ned Ludd, an Ordinary Man, and commited acts of sabotage and civil disorder. They blamed the new technology - and the hands that wielded it - for all their woes.
I'm not really a Luddite, but I do strongly believe that people should use technology appropriately. Too little and there are things you simply can't do; too much and you end up relying on self-imposed crutches.
Charles Fort and Forteana
The study of weirdness - or at least, of 'anomalous phenomena' - is known as Forteana after its grande dame, the late great Charles Fort. Fort's books, published in the nineteenth century, covered a wide range of phenomena including strange animals, weird science, freaks, lights in the sky, and all the other bizarre stuff you can imagine.
Unlike many scientists (both then and now), Fort refused to theorise without evidence. While Forteana is generally a poor-relation science, it still remains (in my opinion) both an example of the Scientific Method at its finest, and a marvellous breeding-ground for cranks and nutters.
The British magazine Fortean Times is one of the best Fortean publications on the market; broad, impartial coverage and a funky layout make this surprisingly intelligent magazine a joy to read.
HORATIO: O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!
HAMLET: And therefore as a stranger give it welcome. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.Hamlet, Act I, Sc. 5
A thing that is unknown. Commonly in Fortean circles, it refers to a creature that exists in legend, rumour or myth, but has yet to be accepted by the scientific establishment. Such creatures include the coelacanth (now accepted), the Indonesian Orang Pendek (soon to be accepted, when someone catches one) and stranger beasts such as lake monsters and the devilish, goat-sucking Puerto-Rican chupacabras."
Conspiracy implies competence. Maybe it's just very Generation X of me, but for this reason and this reason alone, I don't believe in vast global conspiracies. Sure, there are conspiracies out there, but you can see traces of them.
You want an example? After the Oklahoma bombing, the US Government wants to tighten up anti-terrorism laws at home. But any attempt to tighten them up results in huge protests from the gun lobby and civil liberties people (Americans have a right to carry lethal weapons, you'll recall. Sheesh). So when Ussama Bin Laden (allegedly) blows up a couple of Embassies, the US retaliates heavily. Why? To deal a decisive strike to Bin Laden's terrorist network? Nope. The retaliation causes a huge anti-American feeling in the Arab world, and there are more attacks - this time unrelated to Bin Laden. To combat these, the US Government is 'forced' to institute temporary ultra-draconian laws, which just so happen to also apply to the folks at home. And the temporary legislation is just never lifted...
Paranoid? Sure. Conspiracy? Indeed. But vast? Global? Secret? Hardly.
(Note: This was written on 02 September 1998; let's see if I'm right in the next couple of years.)
A form of entertainment a bit like round-robin storytelling in which you assume a role and play out its part in an unfolding tale. It's not quite competitive, and not quite co-operative, but it is great fun. Explore the links to find out more; it's hard to explain.
A pastime very similar to roleplaying. Where roleplaying is sedentary, live roleplaying (LRP or LARP) is active: you act out the roles which you assume. This means that there is costume, props, special effects - it comes off a bit like participatory theatre when done well.
My Dad grew them and exhibited them in shows, okay? Sorry, no secrets here on how to grow good ones except the obvious: stone-free ground so that they grow straight.
A free-moving pointer used in divination in conjunction with a Ouija board. Where a board is not available, a small glass is often used instead, with scraps of paper taking the place of the board itself. In my Virtual Ouija board, the user's mouse takes the place of the planchette and the screen becomes the board.
This is an example of the glossary help that I'm talking about. The current implementation is crude and awaits slickening into a Perl-script driven database.
Hindu goddess of destruction, Kali the Destroyer is a fearful, blood-slaked horror who perfectly embodies the concept of the Dark Goddess. Her presence in the pantheon is necessary to promote rebirth, as fire is necessary to renew forests, but She carries a dangerous appeal. It is easy to become intoxicated by Her power - She has an undeniably compelling, grim sexuality.
Historically, the Thuggee sect worshipped and sacrified to Her before being wiped out by the British during the time of the Raj. Across India she is venerated in her due place as a part of the great cycle.
Other deities of a similar nature include the Greek warrior-goddess Athena, and the Egyptian destroyer Sekhmet who, like Kali, became so drunk on blood and destruction that only a deception by the other gods could prevent her from destroying the world.
C. G. Jung (1875-1961)
A pupil of Freud's, Jung went on to develop his own school of psychoanalysis. His contributions to the field are many, and include the concept of the subconscious (a layer of thought 'below' the conscious, but no less real for being unpercieved, which sometimes makes itself felt through dreams and intuition), and the collective unconscious as a sort of shared, inherited race-memory. The collective unconscious housed Jung's archetypes, myth-figures which recur throughout society such as the Universal Mother, the Hero, and the Crone. Jung's investigation of the social importance of these archetypes led him to study folklore and mysticism, where he found the same patterns repeating themselves in occult fields like Alchemy and the Tarot.
Jung also studied synchronicity, or meaningful coincidence. He emphasised the importance of personal experience (as opposed to the hard-science insistence of observable 'fact') and the psychological development of the individual during their lifetime - a process he called individuation and which is not too dissimilar to Eastern concepts of enlightenment.
Because of his mythic interpretation of the working of the psyche, the Jungian school of psychology is popular among people with a mystical or occult bent.
My wife, a lovely person. Very cuddly, into faeries.
Occam's (or Ockham's) razor is a principle attributed to the 14th century logician and Franciscan friar; William of Occam. The principle states that 'Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.'
'Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate'
William used the principle to justify many conclusions including the statement that 'God's existence can not be deduced by reason alone.' That one didn't make him very popular with the Pope.
The most useful statement of the principle for scientists is, 'when you have two competing theories which make exactly the same predictions, the one that is simpler is the better.' In physics we use the razor to cut away metaphysical concepts.
The canonical example is Einstein's theory of special relativity compared with Lorentz's theory that ruler's contract and clocks slow down when in motion through the Ether. Einstein's equations for transforming space-time are the same as Lorentz's equations for transforming rulers and clocks, but Einstein and Poincaré recognised that the Ether could not be detected according to the equations of Lorentz and Maxwell. By Occam's razor it had to be eliminated.
The use of analytical thought to break a subject down into understandable chunks was described in Robert M Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" using the metaphor of a knife, dissecting a body of evidence or splitting a gem down a barely-visible fault.
While use of the Knife can yield exquisite detail and accuracy, it is impossible to dissect a living creature, or to admire a shattered jewel.
Phaedrus' Knife can therefore be viewed as a form of destructive examination, whereby the beauty (or, in the terms of the novel, Quality) of the examined thing is destroyed in the process of the examination. This destruction is unavoidable when using logical analysis as Quality is an unquantifiable property (Don't believe me? Try it. Define Quality and send me an email).
Most cultures have a descriptive term for the life force. Chi to the Chinese, Prana to the Hindus; to Jung and his followers it was the ebb and flow of this psychic energy that defined the activity of the personality.
Wilhelm Reich was the first scientist to bridge the gap between these metaphysical concepts and the land of hard science. He termed the life-force 'Orgone' and considered it to be primarily sexual in nature. Reich's work into orgone accumulators and devices still has a strong following in the alternative science community, even though the mainstream ridiclues the work.
Incidentally, the Kate Bush song Cloudbusting is based on Reich's work in weather control; the opening line, I still dream of Organon, refers to Reich's research facility in the USA, and his apparatus appears in the video.
Phlo*gis'ton, n. [NL., fr. Gr. burnt, set on fire, fr. to set on fire, to burn, fr. , , a flame, blaze. See Phlox.] (Old Chem.)
The hypothetical principle of fire, or inflammability, regarded by Stahl as a chemical element. This was supposed to be united with combustible (phlogisticated) bodies and to be separated from incombustible (dephlogisticated) bodies, the phenomena of flame and burning being the escape of phlogiston. Soot and sulphur were regarded as nearly pure phlogiston. The essential principle of this theory was, that combustion was a decomposition rather than the union and combination which it has since been shown to be. This theory is now discredited and superseded by the theory of chemical reaction between oxidizable substances and oxidants as an explanation of combustion.
Amusingly, there is a new, pseudotechnical explanation of how things work that is frighteningly close to the theory of phlogiston. It's called magic smoke, and it's what makes computers and other electronic kit work. Sometimes there is a bang and a flash, and you can see the magic smoke escape... and after that, it doesn't work. Makes you think? Gods, I hope not!
Ę'ther, n. [L. ęther, Gr. , fr. to light up, kindle, burn, blaze; akin to Skr. idh, indh, and prob. to E. idle: cf. F. éther.] [Written also ether.]
A medium of great elasticity and extreme tenuity, supposed to pervade all space, the interior of solid bodies not excepted, and to be the medium of transmission of light and heat; hence often called luminiferous ęther.
Ęther was supposed to pervade the entire universe, and was presumed to act similar to air or water in that it allowed other phenomena to take place within it. The existence of ęther was finally disproved by a series of experiments measuring the speed of light; if light moved through a medium then its speed would be altered, but if it moved through a vacuum it would not. The speed of light was determined to be constant, and so the ęther theory was discarded.
Ęther still retains its place in steampunk literature (science-fiction based around obsolete pseudo-Vitcorian ideas) and is an important concept in paranormal studies and mysticism.
Vampire: The Masquerade
A modern-day adult roleplaying game by White Wolf Game Studios. The game has as its premise a group of player-character vampires in a concealed community of the undead living parallel to society. The challenges of concealment (the 'Masquerade') and its emotional consequences, conflict with other vampires, and the threat of the powerful Elders drive the game, though it is primarily concerned with how, when forced to behave inhumanely, one can retain one's humanity.
Monsters we are, lest monsters we become.
A fantasy roleplaying game with a number of 'cousins' - a science fiction game set in the year 40,000 and numerous table-top battle games. All are published by Games Workshop and are characterised by their gleeful destructiveness. The original game, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP), is much more intelligent than its kin and focuses on the conflict between order (represented by society) and chaos (represented by hordes of gribbly 'things' and their demonic masters).
Also spelled Cabala or Kabbalah. Transliterated from the Hebrew QBLH, so the spelling in English is moot.
A Hebrew mystical tradition incorporating the magickal values of names and numbers, and featuring the Tree of Life (a diagram demonstrating the connections between Divinity and the mundane) as one of its central symbols.
Qabalah forms the underpinning of most Western occult traditions, and may be seen in modern ceremonial magick, freemasonry, Wicca and tarot.
There is an old legend that when Moses ascended the mountain, God gave him the Qabalah. This told humanity what it could do. When Moses descended and saw the Israelites worshipping the golden calf, he hid the information from them, saving it only for the high priests. He returned to the top of the mountain and this time was given the Ten Commandments - which told the infantile humanity what it could not do.
A fantasy roleplaying game from Steve Jackson Games. Players assume the roles of 'celestials' - angels and devils - and take place in the Great War between good and evil. The tension of the game is centred around the 'means justify the end' debate, for in serving the greater Good, an angel may violate her own code and thus Fall.
A modern-day fantasy roleplaying game from Chaosium Games. Players take the part of immortal characters - Nephilim - in their latest incarnation. The game is notable for its use of a lot of authentic occult source material, mostly from the Qabalah. Sadly, it is not a very playable game despite being one of the most original products released in recent years.
Strictly, any four-letter combination (it means four-written-thing). In conventional use, it refers to the four-letter name of God in Hebrew, transliterated as YHVH and often pronounced Jehovah or Yaweh.
The name of God is supposed to hold enormous magickal power; it encompasses and names everything, and magickal tradition holds that names are of great importance. Its four-letter structure mirrors the four points of the compass and the four elements; it is circular, dualistic and yet whole. There is a story that God created the Universe by uttering His name, and it is common occult folklore that pronouncing the Name backwards could unmake the Universe just as easily.
At all times the Tetragrammaton has been used extensively both in ceremonial magick and day-to-day; it still appears on lucky charms.
A collection of pantheistic faiths based outside the Judeo-Christian model. These include traditions based upon or inspired by the pre-Christian pantheistic religions of the ancient world - including Wicca (also known as witchcraft), Druidism and Asatru (worshipping the Norse pantheon).
Other traditions include Voudou and Santeria, both a fusion of African and Catholic ingredients, and Native American paths.
Neo-Paganism is heavily syncretic, borrowing from spiritual and occult traditions more or less ad-hoc, and places a high value on the experience and responsibility of the individual; hence every practicioner follows a subtly different Path.
A small division of the vast multinational IT corporate EDS. Healthcare used to be part of the NHS, became a private company, and was then bought out by EDS for a fraction of its true worth. Since then it has been mind-stripped (it's like asset stripping for programmers). Good business practice? Probable. Ethical business practice? Certainly not. The systems they write support patient tracking, pathology results, pharmacy inventories... and I believe that patient care is adversely affected by this cynical big-business lack of commitment.
Is it just me, or are all helpdesk managers women in their thirties who have been divorced, have no kids, and have given up smoking?
Gardeners and the Moon
Weird but true: plants grow better if planted during certain phases of the Moon. Broadly speaking, it if is above-ground, plant it during a waxing Moon. If it is below-ground (like potatoes), plant it during a waning Moon.
This I'm babbling? Not at all. You can find moon-planting guides in any large bookstore. This is 'country wisdom' - farmers have known it for ever, but it was forgotten or suppressed when agriculture got a dose of hard science during the Industrial Revolution.
A small gate or door set into a larger door. The Jew's gate is commonly seen in the doors of castles, where it allowed a small number of men to pass easily in and out of the castle without opening the main gates and endangering its security.
The term 'Jew's gate' refers, I beleive, to the medieval and Renaissance role of Jews as moneylenders, whose considerable financial resources meant that they had were free to come and go. I've no idea whether this is true, of course, and would love to hear confirmation or denial from anyone with a concrete opinion.
Now, here's a weird thing. On the surface it seems to be the utter refutation of femininity - but then, when you claw your way past the fans - a selection of fellow-athletes, power-play worshippers, latent-homosexuals, 'bottoms' and other strange folk - you find that's not the case. But is it a sport, or not?
There's definitely a lot of athleticicsm involved in competing - training daily and extreme diet regimes to say the least - but the actual competitions are more like Miss World than the Olympics.
Female bodybuilders occupy a deliciously nebulous zone of extreme sensuality; all that hypertrophied and tended flesh reeks of self-oiling narcissism and a weird desire to punish oneself in the gym. It's a zone where sensuality overrides sexuality often, of extropian Uberfrauen and Ubermensch displaying fantastical bodies that, as far as we can tell, have absolutely no purpose other than to simply be.
Like Oscar Wilde said of great art, it is utterly and delightfully pointless.
My personal take on it? I find it fascinating but my real aesthetic wouldn't waste the effort on getting so big. There's a difference between being strong enough (which I find very attractive) and wasting resources on showing how strong you are. Bodybuilders are caricatures.
Followers of the school of magick formulated and propounded by Aleister Crowley, a turn-of-the-century mystic known variously as 'The Wickedest Man in the World' and 'The Great Beast 666'. The name derives from his abbey or magickal retreat, which was called 'Thelema.' For a proper discussion of the meaning of this name and all things relating to the Great Beast, do a Web search on his name.
The spiritual belief that divinity exists in all material things, rather than being removed to some hypothetical 'better place.' Immanence implies that every person is divine; every rock, every sunset is a part of the infinite; it is at diametrically opposed to the 'material world is sinful' philosophy of the Big Three religions.
Immanent divinity is one of the most common doctrines found in the neo-Pagan movement, as well as featuring strongly in religions such as Hinduism (the Hindu greeting 'Namaste' meaning, literally, 'I recognise the Divine within you, and that it is the same as the Divine within myself.')
A piece of information - such as a recipe or a tune or a religion - which is capable of replication through imitation. The new science of memetics treats memes in a similar manner to genes, suggesting that ideas replicate for their own benefit and that we are just vehicles for all this. I don't know how much credit I give memetics just yet - though certainly memetics allows accurate modeling of idea-spread using epidemiological methods - but it's amusing to think of ideas as being their own masters. The Feathered Fiend, who for months I labelled as a "pernicious meme", thinks they're funny. The canonical book on meme theory at this time is Susan Blackmore's "Meme Machine."
A thing of no certain purpose, which is yet too valuable to throw away. From JRR Tolkien's "The Hobbit". Mathoms were valuable but useless items, some very old, which were regularly given as gifts. In the course of its life, a mathom might pass through many hands, sometimes coming back more than once to its original owner. In general day-to-day use, a mathom is one of the things in your "stuff" drawer that you just can't file away neatly.
Pronounced like "sewage" and with about the same lack of sensory delight, "newage" is a disparaging term for all those parts of the New Age [TM] that you've got very little time for if you have any taste or sense. Feng Shui for Cats, crystal rainbow shamen, and most of the tat available from the shops in Glastonbury, are all newage effluent. The problem isn't that they try - I love pagan art as much as anyone - it's that they try to be pagan art, rather than art that's pagan. And that gets my back up, because the attitude seems to be, "You can't question us, because we're like you [shudder]" even when what's being produced might be utter poo.
Shapeshifter jargon. It is possible to alter one's form on a number of levels. Some of these are effectively in-head, nothing much more than psychology. Some are deeper, affecting the subtle form so that others who are sensitive can tell. This subtle- (or astral) body shifting can be of varying depths; I tentatively classify "mask" shifts which alter function and "deep" shifts which alter entire modes of perception. A mask-shift into Raven confuses your vision because the eyes are in the wrong place; a deep shift brings into play the way ravens perceive.
Often the social impact of shifting is amusing; Wolf has no thumbs and it's possible to put your back out trying to lick your arse. The most extreme shift, of course, takes not only the subtle body and its core pattern but also the physical body. Not that this is not usually necesasry: if your Work is on a subtle level then shifting your physical body is a waste of energy. Deep shifting will cause your musculature to try to mirror your energetic structure; the further the shift the closer this becomes to a full physical transformation.
Forms can be used for many reasons; while learning to swim I have used Otter with some results, but it doesn't have the grace of Seal. I'm working on Seal. Forms can also be abstract or partial; one can shift bits of the body to achieve a quick result. Catching peanuts in your mouth is so much easier with Chameleon's tongue.
It is generally accepted that in consensus reality the physical shift or P-shift doesn't occur. But only in consensus, and consensus can be a mighty flexible thing.
Division into two usually contradictory parts, categories or opinions. From the Greek dikhotomos, cut in two.
The Great Rite
A Wiccan (modern witchcraft) ritual symbolising the sexual union of the God and Goddess, either by the sexual union of the priest and priestess, or by the symbolic union of the wand and chalice.
A symbol constructed by writing several runes on top of one another. The individual runes may be layered, or clustered around a central stave, or radiate from a point; the layout is down to aesthetics.
A bindrune distills a concept into a symbol, taking a number of runes chosen for their individual meaning and stacking them. The bindrune here, for example, uses Ing (gestation/fertility), Neid (need) and Geb (gift/sex) for fertility.
Bindrunes often form additional meaning as they are constructed. Either other rune-forms will appear from the stacking, or other meaning will fall out. In this case, the three runes spell out "Ing", reinforcing the fertility message. A badly-designed bind may have these secondary forms cancelling the original intent.
Bindrunes are commonly used as talismans - like this one - or as the material focus of a magical working. There is also a tradition of building runes into the framework of timbered houses, building a protective charm (usually) right into the fabric of the building.
A cyclists' term for riding out of the saddle, usually when trying to accelerate hard or climb a steep slope. You stand out of the saddle and pull on the handlebars, bringing your bike towards your foot at the same time as your foot pushes down towards the road. The result is that you add both your body's weight and your upper body strength to the strength of your legs. Honking is rapidly tiring but is the best way to put serious power into a situation.
That which defines. The word comes from ote, root ot, possessive form otem, in the Ojibway dialect of the Algonquin Indians.
Note that the word is the possessive form; the newage might consider a totem to be something you can pick and choose, but the truth of it is entirely the other way around. You are beholden to them, you are theirs to do with as they wish. They make the rules, however arbitrary or bizarre they may seem.
The Catholic Encyclopedia says, "Totemism must be simple to the savage mind, yet it is a puzzle to anthropologists." Glossing over the narrow-mindedness that lead the author to use the word "savage," indeed it seems as if acceptance of totem in this sense is very much a grok thing: you either get it, or you don't.