Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why I'm against 'talking to the dead' psychic readings - cold reading fraud

This is a very contentious subject, especially coming from someone like myself.  I really do feel that it has to be put out there, and some people I know might not like it, but that's life.

There may be some people who can genuinely 'talk to the dead', but if you can tell it's cold reading then you know that they're a fake straight away.  If they don't ask you any questions then they're more believable.  Having said that I love my tarot, I'm free to make whatever I want out of it without someone else pulling at my heartstrings.

Traditionally there are two types of reading: cold reading & hot reading.  Cold reading is where you throw small pieces of information at the participant to 'hook' them in, and they're so enthusiastic to believe that they will start to (unintentionally) give answers from which the psychic can then add more general information to.  They feed each other energy and excitement towards a delusional experience.  Many people come away from the experience days later thinking "But they really weren't that accurate, they had very few hits."  There are usually more misses than hits.  More often than not if they don't have 30 people in a room to choose from they will have one person "I'm sensing someone in your family who's passed away, I see some letters A...N" then the readee jumps in "Allan, my uncle Allan!" then another handful of hooks are put out for the readee to latch onto.

The other type of reading is hot reading.  This is less likely as it relies on the psychic having already had straightforward information from the readee, such as recorded information of the people speaking before they enter another room or, as per an experience of my own, having the reader stand off at a distance before her next reading listening in on our conversations about our beliefs etc... that's when I turned around and saw her standing in the vestibule listening to us talking on the balcony.  I still wanted to believe too - it took me months to admit to my boyfriend that I'd caught her out in the act.

Some of these people might genuinely believe that they are capable and have had people bolster their 'talent' for many years.  One in particular amazed me - a man who met my mother and pointed out some weakness points in her body: a bad knee & shoulder... which could later become sore thanks to the power of suggestion, but I still remain dubious.  He also managed to be able to 'read' everything about her work situation at the time & how she could overcome it.  Sometimes this kind of thing can be helpful, but when it comes to 'talking to the dead' I really draw the line.  Some people are so desperate to be able to have that last chance that they will allow themselves to believe the psychic, then weeks later feel the emptiness of realising the ultimately there was too much cold reading involved for it to have been really that 'amazing.'

It has to be said aswell: why aren't these psychics able to see into the future so that we can help people?  If they're so keen on helping people be at terms with their losses, why aren't they just counsillors?  Why are they only looking back into the past and reading about people who have already gone - or do I not know enough about the nature of these kinds of abilities?

I just feel that I have a responsibility to draw the line with Wicca.  It needs to be more practical & realistic with the most healthy approaches to thinking & practice.  It is so easy for the Wiccan faith to become tied up in the fluffy arena of self help books & spiritual mumbo jumbo which gives it less gravitas.  We are in a faith which since the Pagan Renaissance in the mid 20th century needs to be more grounded.  It's great to be open-minded, to look at the possibilities and allow for the fact that science still has questions to answer as we explore the 'doors of perception' in our minds & work with Nature.

Please, if you have enjoyed what you've read so far, please advocate this cause because it is wasting people's money, time and emotions.  Also, please watch the Penn & Teller episode of 'Bullshit' below which gives you a much more detailed picture than myself & Derren Brown's video also tells you how cold reading works.

Blessed Be,
)O( Elspeth.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Witchy Outfits of the Week XIV - The last of Alexander McQueen

Some of his final works shown recently at Paris Fashion Week post mortem
Alexander McQueen's Spring/Summer collection 2011
Rest in Peace McQueen

30 Days of Paganism [Day 4: Beliefs - Birth, Death & Rebirth]

My beliefs on birth, death and rebirth is that they occur during your lifetime, taking you both through phases of your life and also through the Wheel of the Year from the recognition of death at Samhain to the bursting joy of life at Beltane.  The death phases are not as drastic as they sound.  Just as when the card number XIII for Death is drawn from the Tarot (or 'Book of Thoth' to some), it simply means the end of one phase of life for another: a time of rebirth and rediscovery.  With every rebirth we face an opportunity, whether it's difficult and challenging or simply allows you to open your eyes to the splendour and good fortune at your feet.  Everything presented to you in your life allows for some opportunity to learn and develop spiritually towards becoming the wise old crone.  Where there is death in one aspect of your life, there is an opportunity for growth in another.  For example: as sad and as unsettling as it was for me to leave my coven recently, it allowed for me to explore new ideas, spend more time with my friends and become excited about going to other open Pagan events and meeting new people.

A witches relationship with death is a very healthy one.  Our association with this balance of life is difficult for others to understand.  As I've learned: witches are both dark and light - a balance, as nature itself is balanced.  Whilst we create magick 'for the good of all' it does not meant that we, as human beings, are perfectly 'pure' though we strive to make a valuable and positive contribution to society - we do not claim to be perfect.  We go by our own threefold law 'Do as thou wilt but harm ye none', understanding that whatever we send out we get back times three.  Our perfection rests with nature itself, being close to the Goddess and moving with her cycles.  The true nature of the witch is in her/his heart, and that speaks for any individual within any religion: there will always be a balance of light and dark characters within religious institutions because that is the balance of nature, it cannot be avoided.  A person is to be judged by their actions, not by their words.

As others are often escaping from death, we embrace it.  In many ways, we have no choice.  Many witches see a spectre of a person before they die, and were/are often blamed for the death of that person.  It's a difficult one to know what to do with - do you warn the person or just allow for nature to take care of itself and keep your mouth shut?  Being associated with the owl, the 'harbinger of death', witches are often seen as much more frightening if they have the ability to see what the owl sees and choose not to say anything.  Suspicion arises and doubts about the intentions of the witch are skewed with anothers' interpretation of death as something not to embrace but to run from.  So we too are often ran from, misunderstood and mistrusted.

So if you see a crow, raven or owl, don't fear - least of all don't fear.  See whether your perceptions change, whether a new door has opened or new paths have been created for you to walk if you choose.

As a generalisation, Wiccans believe that there is a place called the Summerland, where we bask skyclad (nude) for the rest of our days.  Its made to sound like a Garden of Eden, and apart from its title, no-one can specifically tell you what exactly goes on there & I love the mystery of that.  Having  said that though, I'm not the biggest fan of summer - I actually prefer spring, and a little autumn here and there.  So having summer automatically prescribed to me is hard to believe.  I'd rather think of it as the Eternal Summer Holidays rather than just the Summerland.

It could, too, also depend on which pantheon you have the strongest link to.  If I were to croak it Egyptian style, I would have to pass by the 42 gods in the final judgment where my heart is weighed up against a feather from Maat - and if it is at equal measure to my heart I will be allowed to enter the spirit world and live with the Goddess and God.  If my heart's too heavy - a big scary beast eats me!

Some Pagans and Shamans also believe in having to pass through the River Styx to the underworld with the boatman Charon.  Often, people left pennies on the eyes of the dead for the purpose of paying the boatman for the trip.

I've never heard of Wiccans being 'punished' in the afterlife for committing suicide, I don't believe that anything in particular happens - but then, it's a case of trying it out and see what happens!  I don't honestly know what will happen when I die.  If it's purely the end of it all and there's nothing else then that's fine.  Given that I have a powerful connection to the Egyptian pantheon though, I would imagine it most likely that if I did 'pass through another stage' it would be via their Hall... which is terrifying, but sounds spectacular.

)O( Elspeth.

Occult shop of the week I

House of Isis, Johannesberg.  
Click here to see more.

30 Days of Paganism [Day 3: Beliefs - Deities]

My deity are wildly bold, strong characters: Isis and Thoth.  They are marvellous examples of the woman I aim to be, reminding me of what I can contribute to the world with their shared strength, composure, wry humour, gusto and intelligence stretched over thousands of years worth of pathworking in their own right.

Isis is known as one of the first documented workers of magick, having learnt from both Thoth and Ra - who actually contribute to a 'holy trinity' as it were.  Ra is just starting to step into the picture for me, and has been calmly guiding me through moments of stress by opening my third eye which seems to deeply relax the body when I feel overwhelmed.  I had initially met Isis and Thoth in my first pathworking journey in the form of a visualisation trance in about December last year.  The trance I put myself into was of my own devising - completely off the bat & working with raw energy to start my journey into high magick.

In this trance I floated over the shoulder of Isis who was lead to Thoth.  Thoth gave her the scribe (which is meant to list the dead as he is the scribe to the Gods and in the underworld) which she took and I have been journeying with them ever since.  I would give you the whole story, but I'm bound to write about them more as I go and eventually also paint them.

My deities seem to stretch from Egypt through to India - where ironically they share a lot of the same or similar kinds of animals: hyenas, elephants and monkeys.  I find that the Egyptian diety is one of great pride, power, discipline and strength.  The Indian pantheon is vastly different: its goddesses and gods much more primal and wild, more like animals than the anthropomorphised characters of Egypt.  Many are dubious about the Egyptian pantheon, perhaps partly because of its associations with Aleister Crowley, but I find the Indian pantheon far more confronting because I'm not sure how to approach its members.

I've learnt not to approach Isis and Thoth with any feelings of fear because they are working with me to deplete all of my fear and to enjoy my time with them whereby I learn so many new things.  Isis was taught magick by both Thoth and Ra, and I do feel as though I am literally walking by her side, experiencing her teachings as a 'sister' - perhaps as Nephthys, sister of Isis and 'Mistress of the House.'  Its been an amazing experience - I hadn't heard of these characters, and I was lucky that a friend of mine had unlocked the mystery of the first visualisation for me by letting me know who Thoth was whom my friend "Hadn't seen in a long time."  From there on I was able to figure out who these characters were and I have been on an amazing journey ever since.

In ancient Egyptian times, Isis and Nephthys were embodied by priestesses:
"The goddesses were personified by two priestesses who were virgins and who were ceremonially pure; the hair of their limbs was to be shaved off, they were to wear ram's wool garlands upon their heads, and to hold tambourines in their hands; on the arm of one of them was to be a fillet inscribed "To Isis," and on the arm of the other was to be a fillet inscribed "To Nephthys." On five days during the month of December these women took their places in the temple of Abydos and, assisted by the Kher Heb, or precentor, they sang a series of groups of verses to the god."

It's hard for me to contain my enthusiasm for my Deity - which is really quite spread out, with Isis and Thoth being the two main characters, also allowing for other Gods and Goddesses to come through and share their energy with me.

It's very late so there will be more soon!


Monday, October 4, 2010

Druidry officially classified as a religion in the UK

Isn't it strange to have the concept of registering a faith in order to have it taken seriously?  They did, however, only apply 'because they were legally obliged to do so.'  Having said that, it is a great step for Pagan religions in general, to bring our beliefs into the spotlight and have hopefully bear more awareness of the Wiccan path very soon to rid any confusion about the source of our beliefs.

"Druidry is to become the first pagan practice to be given official recognition as a religion.  The Charity Commission has accepted that druids' worship of natural spirits could be seen as religious activity.  The Druid Network's charitable status entitles it to tax breaks, but the organisation says it does not earn enough to benefit from this.  The commission says the network's work in promoting druidry as a religion is in the public interest."

Read more at BBC News here