Friday, August 28, 2015

Foresee buttloads of ewk! in your future

Are you sure you want to ask this?
Today on Facebook, someone asked, "I was wanting to know if someone can send me a photo [of] what we should do during each moon phase? I'm still learning and it would be helpful."

This person obviously has a greater trust of humanity, especially of those inmates who frequent Facebook, than I do. I foresee buttloads of porn being sent to the person. What? Do you see them getting pictures of romping bunnies? Wait, that sounds slightly dirty. Is there anything that they might recieve that won't be slightly dirty? Oh to be a blind fly on that wall....because I am sure that you do not actually want to see what they recieve.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Devil card A or B (Tarot Art poll)

Awhile back during one of the Tarot Blog Hops, I did a version of the Devil card for my Mad Uncle Morgan's Political Tarot. I wasn't completely happy with it; so last week, I re-did the background of the card. So now, the debate is whether version A (the first version) or Version B (the new background) looks better. What do you think--A or B?

Devil version A

Devil version B

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Ouija Table (oh, I want to have one of these)

A spirit board (Ouija Board) themed table. 
This is such an awesome table. 
Oh, I just saw this on Facebook, and I so want one. It is by Brad's Page of Awesomeness.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Mercury in the small Tarot cards

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Welcome to the early August edition of the Tarot Blog Hop. (In this post, I will be discussing the effect of Mercury on five of the Minor Arcana cards.) Some of my more observant readers will promptly notice that this edition is a week behind schedule; that is due to the original scheduled wrangler having to step out to deal with a problem on her end, and a substitute wrangler stepping forward.

While researching the Wiccan holiday that this TBH is "occurring" on, our super wrangler, Joanne Sprott, noted that Lammas, also known as Lughnasad, is associated with the Irish/Celtic deity Lugh.

Lugh, a master of many trades and arts, is associated with both the Sun and the trickster planet of Mercury. In my Rite of the Magical Images of the Wiccan Wheel of the Year, the profession of the Image of Lammas is unclear, this is in part due to the importance of Lugh to his holiday, Lughnasad. "He might be a merchant; he might be a farmer; he might be a herdsman; he might be a soldier; he might be a raider [Viking]."

Likewise, it is sometimes hard to tell with the Tarot what "energy" is having the most effect. The Tarot as we know it is a combination of several sets of energies blended with one another. A card from the Minor Arcana is more than just its suit and number. Take for instance, a random card, the Five of Pentacles.

In the Golden Dawn (and groups that draw off of the lessons of the Golden Dawn), one is not only looking at the card from its suit and number; but also its associated sephirah (position on the Hebrew Tree of Life), the planet associated with the sephirah, its Mystical/Magical Title, and (in the case of the Five of Pentacles) its associated decan.

An uncolored example of the Golden Dawn version of the Five of Disks.

Some of my readers at this point are saying, "Decan?"

A decan is ten degrees of a zodiac sign. Each zodiac sign is divided into three decans, and there are thirty-six decans in the zodiac. Each decan lasts just a touch over ten days. The concept of decans comes from the Ancient Egyptians, who originally used the night sky as a calendar, using thirty-six stars to mark the beginnings of the decans (which served as the Ancient Egyptian version of a week).

In Golden Dawn, thirty-six of the small cards (Minor Arcana) of the Tarot are associated with the decans. Each decan is said to be like the energies of its sub-ruler (one of the seven classical planets) in that sign of the zodiac.

The Golden Dawn version of decan sub-rulers and their association with thirty-six Tarot cards.

In the case of the Five of Pentacles, it is associated with the first decan (00.00 to 9.99 degree) of Taurus, which is sub-ruled by Mercury. The Golden Dawn version of the card, reflects that astrological association, as well as the suit and number, associated sephirah (Geburah which is associated with Mars), and the Magical Title of the Five of Pentacles (the Lord of Material Trouble).

An colored example of the Golden Dawn Five of Disks.

In the able hands of the artist, Pamela Colman Smith, and the writer and occult authority A. E. Waite (former member of the original Order of the Golden Dawn), the Five of Pentacles was depicted as a poor shoeless woman and a man using clutches walking in the snow outside of a church.

The influence of the decan on this card is based on how the energies of Mercury reacts in an horary sense while in the sign of Taurus. The influence of Mercury on the Five of Pentacles causes the mind to focus on how dire the situation is (the half empty glass mindset). Quite often if the first card of a Tarot reading is the Five of Pentacles, the client is currently concerned with large stacks of bills (quite possibly medical bills), and their seemingly utter lack of resources.

There are four other Minor Arcana associated with decans ruled by Mercury. Let's look at how the energies of Mercury manifests in each of these cards.

Mercury has an opposite effect on the next card, the Three of Cups. Associated with the second decan of Cancer (10.00 to 19.99 degrees of Cancer) sub-ruled by Mercury, the Three of Cups is called the Lord of Abundance by Golden Dawn. Here Mercury creates a half full glass mindset, with the client being able to see lots of opportunities; many of which involve creativity or networking. The energies of Mercury and Cancer work well with the energies of the card's associated sephirah Binah (Saturn).

Mercury's energies also function well in its next associated decan card: the Ten of Pentacles (the Lord of Abundance), the third decan of Virgo (20.0 to 29.99 degrees of Virgo). Here Mercury's energies produce valuable work; and there is a decisiveness in the choices of the client, which are often practical and constructive.

In the fourth Mercury decan card, the Eight of Wands (Lord of Swiftness), the client can be a little trigger happy, a little too quick in their decision making, thanks to the effect of Mercury on the first decan of Sagittarius. Here is a place where the energies of Mercury can create what one can call "Instant Karma"--those times where the results of one's actions rapidly come to past; whether it is "good" karma or "bad" depends a lot on the decisions of the client.

The fifth and final card with a Mercury sub-ruled decan is the Six of Swords. Associated by the Golden Dawn with the second decan of Aquarius, its Magical Title is the Lord of Earned Success. The impact of Mercury on Aquarius can indicate that the client's mindset is a little unstable, and that they are taking an eccentric approach to matters at hand. There is a certain amount of detachment associated with Mercury in this position.

Each of the thirty-six cards listed in the earlier decan association chart can be explained in this manner using its respective decan, planetary sub-ruler and zodiac sign. Hopefully, this provided some understanding of this part of the composition of the small cards of the tarot.

Thanks for reading, Happy Belated Lughnasad, and hopefully you will continue onwards to the next blog post of this early August's Tarot Blog Hop.

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Should Merriam Webster Online Dictionary change their definition of Heathen?

Today in one of the many Facebook groups that I am in, someone shared a link to a petition demanding that Merriam Webster Online Dictionary change their definition of Heathen.

The petition demanding Webster change the definition of the word Heathen. 
So how bad is Webster's definition of Heathen?

First part of the Webster's definition. 
The first part is ok (I guess), and the second part is traditional. Many writers insisted that Heathens were uncivilized.

I just happen to know a worse definition of Heathen (from the 1982 edition of the Random House College Dictionary): "an unenlightened or barbaric idolater."

Oh look, the defintion of Heathen goes back to the 12th century. 
These "insulting" definitions have been in play for a long time. At one point, the term Heathen also applied to the Muslims. Today, it is more or less, everyone who is not a Jew, Christian, or Muslim. I guess that someone decided that the Muslims are civilized.

Definition by rejection of the Bible.
One of the complaints of the petition is that the definition is based on "rejection of the God of the Bible," a god that Jews, Christians, and Muslims share...uncomfortably, but it is the same baseline god if you follow the lines of transmission and origins of these three religions. They argue that Christianity (and the rejection of) should not be in the definition....which ignores why dictionaries get used in the first place--when using a dictionary, you want them to tell you the most likely ways that a word is being used (not some idealized seldom encountered in real life definition).

But look, it is a Christian definition of Heathen.
The synoyms include Pagan which is also defined by its rejection of the god of the Old Testament, New Testament, and Quran.

The definition of Heathen for kids. 
Yes kids, Heathens are uncivilized; Christian writers have been saying that for centuries. And writers do use the term to describe people who have no civilizations or wildly different ones.

Webster would like to know why you are looking up the word Heathen.
Can we at least agree that Webster asking why you are interested in the word Heathen is at least an attempt by them to stay current with its modern usage?

The two things that are to be included in the new definition of Heathen.
Gythja Dearbhla actually says in the petition that not only does they want the reference to the Bible removed, along with the insulting "uncivilized" definition, but they also want the definition to be "a convert of the Aesir and Vanir [ancient gods of the Norse religion]" and "a Norse polytheist."

(By the way, one of my favorite definitions of Cat is actually a definition by what it is not: Cat--not a dog.)

Here is your laugh out loud moment of the day. 
The best comment (for its humor value) was someone saying that "I agree whole heartedly with this action. I do believe the wording needs the approval of a heathen majority."

I presume that Scott Mattis means ONLY Norse pagans are to be consulted.

And this is where I have to ask, "Can you even get a dozen Heathens to agree what type of light bulbs to buy?" And what about all the non-Norse Heathens? Why don't they also get a vote?

As a writer and a scholar, let me be the one to break the bad news to you. Dictionaries reflect how writers actually use words, not how you think the words should be defined by your own particular religion. If religions were allowed to pick the definitions of words, we would get stuck with the following definition of Heathen (buckle in):

Heathen: an ignorant uncivilized person who absolutely is going to Hell for refusing to accept the one true God of the Bible.

And why would we be stuck with that definition? Simply because there are far more Christians than pagans and heathens in English speaking counties, both in the present and in the past. The definitions that Webster and Random House are using are not nearly as bad as the ones that we would get if a committee got to define the word to their satisfaction.

So how do we get the definition changed? Well, a petition is useless. What changes the definition of the word are writers using it in a different manner than it was previously used. So instead of signing a petition, go to Webster Online Dictionary and tell them about instances that Heathen (and for that matter Pagan) are being used in a modern sense of "someone civilized who believes in gods other than the Jewish Christian Muslim god." If enough people do this, they will add a new section to the definition reflecting its new use. Why? Because that is how dictionaries actually define words--by how people are actually using them.

(Please note that the current definitions will remain simply because there is a few centuries of usage that says that all heathens need to be saved by the civilizing force of the one true God. Also note that I am a Heathen and Pagan...not that it will stop you from calling me bad names in the comment section.)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Custom made Altar sets available for Wiccans and pagans (and maybe magicians)

Fans of my wife's pottery--rejoice! My wife has finally opened the door for you to order a custom made Altar set which includes a chalice, an offering bowl (plate), a cork jar (for herbs or aromatherapy), and an incense burner cauldron with a beaded copper handle and charm. By special ordering the complete set, you can have all the components match in color and style.

Colors available are white, black, cobalt blue, green, brown and purple.

(Please note that potters have a limited color palette, due to the chemistry and physics that underlie the kiln firing process. What you see in her Etsy shop is what she can do---colors outside of this limited palette are unavailable.)

You can special-order a custom made altar set over in her NEW Wiccan, pagan, magickal themed Etsy shop, Khari's Wiccan Treasures. 

Chalice and offering bowl--pansy purple. 
The reason for the new Etsy shop is so that she can cater more to those customers who practice Wicca, paganism, and/or magic without offending more mainstream customers. (Let's be honest--we all know that there are those people who assume that Wiccans, pagans, and magicians are Satanists and deserve to be stoned---and not in the good sense of stoned.)

And honestly, for years, I have been telling her that she has been leaving money on the table by not having a wider selection of "magickal" styled goods on Etsy.

But I also understoond her reluctance to the idea. After all, I keep some of my writing under a completely different pen-name, so not to upset some of the people who would frown on the fact that I used to write erotica.

Cauldron, offering plate (bowl), and corked herb jar--pansy purple. 
Her new Etsy shop is called Khari's Wiccan Treasures. 

I have also set up a Facebook fanpage for the new shop.

(And for those who are curious, her old Etsy shop is Celtic Soul Jewelery and Pottery.)

(Celtic Soul also has a Facebook fanpage.) 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

How to be a self-published occult writer (a list of ideas to ignore)

So you want to be an occult writer? Because everyone who is involved in the occult wants to be a writer. Well, maybe not everybody--I understand that there is an occultist in Denmark that does not want to be an occult writer....but I think that person might be a myth. So how does one become a self-published occult writer? (Because it is a lot of work to get a publisher interested in your work---after all, the average occult book sales numbers are only in the low hundreds, even for a bestseller. There are also economic reasons to be self-published...but that is a whole another post to be written.)

Step one: Actually be an occultist.

This might seem funny to put the horse in front of the cart, but it is really helpful to actually be an occultist when writing about the occult. And I do not mean being a fly-by-night just-got-involved occultist (who knows all about the occult despite never actually opening up a book and/or never doing a single spell or ritual) or an armchair occultist (all theory--years and years of theory, but not a single working operation ever). I mean an actual occultist, someone with years of practical experience under their belt who can wing-it on pretty much on every possible ritual type without having to consult the internet or beg for spells (I would include books here, except that no one actually reads books any more....which should give you pause).

Step two: Establish a presence.

The sad part about being a writer who wants to sell books is that your marketing has to begin years before you publish your masterpiece. Yes, I know that you are special and unique. But you could be a living god and you will not sell copies of your book if no one knows who you are. You want to have your Facebook, your Twitter, and whatever other useless social media presence that you want to have established before you hit "publish."

Remember that as a self-published occult writer, you do not have a publisher to pimp out your work. Not that a publisher will do that much advertising for you--for some reason, publishers tend to do a small shout-out when a book is published, and then they generally ignore it...unless it becomes a hot seller, in which case, they were always fully supporting your work.

You are going to waste a lot of time on social media. And not just on marketing---people tune out the salespeople on social media, so you better be prepared to trot out those funny cat pictures. You want people to be following you, and generally well-disposed to you, so that when you pop out that occasional "please buy my book!," they do not immediately ignore you.

While you are wasting gobs of time, keep an eye out for successful occult writers. Notice their work habits, their general level of helpfulness, how they conduct themselves. Keep track of which ones are actually supporting themselves doing something non-occult related.

Step three: Research and experiment.

This ties back into step one, and cannot be stressed enough--working occultists have an edge. Part of your presence should be you pretending to care about others and trying to be helpful. One should not smile at the stupid numpties who are packed up to the rafters while suggesting helpful ways for them to ensure that they are visited by instant karma. Remember living customers potentially are repeat customers, and you want to test your stuff to ensure that no one loses a limb while performing your awesome rituals of power and magic.

Step four: Try to be original.

And fail miserably. Everything has been done before. The only thing that you really have to offer without robbing a cache of unpublished material from famous dead occultists is your unique voice. If your writing sounds like everyone else's, you are not being unique. A reader should be able to spot a piece of your writing without seeing your byline. Unfortunately, developing an unique voice requires lots of writing, way more than you thought it would take.

Step five: Wrestle with the keyboard.

Let's be honest---there are a ton of "occult writers" who do not write. Oh, occasionally one will be working on a book or an article, but most writers are just giving themselves a fancy title to reap the glories and fame that they think comes with the profession of being a writer. Of course, if that is you, then you are already long gone, having abandoned this post four steps ago---or perhaps at the very title of the post.

The harsh truth of the writing profession is that writers write. We write a ton of bad copy, a ton of bad ideas flow off of our fingers and into inky pixels, horrifying us when we make the mistake of reading our first drafts.

Ask yourself this: Can I survive the horrors of National Novel Writing Month? (For the unenlightened, the idea behind NaNoWriMo is to hack out, and I do mean HACK, fifty thousand words in the space of thirty days. While the focus of NaNoWriMo is on bad first drafts of novels [fifty thousand words being the lowest word count to qualify a work as a novel...according to some literary standard board which name I am too lazy to look up], the idea is the same. Can you crank out copy?

If the answer is No, you might still be able to be a writer. There are occult writers who have milked the fame of a single occult book--I know one whose work was simply photocopying the same set of rituals over and over again, and the fifty pages that were not the same ritual over and over again were also cribbed from someone else...and there are people who think that he is the greater occult writer and authority of our time (I kid you not).

But, and it is a mighty big BUT, most writers who are truly successful write a lot of copy. In order to be truly successful, you have to write a lot of words to feed the beast. Fifty thousand words a month is actually below what most professional writers (aka those who are paying their mortgage payment with their writing income) write per month. Professional writers write, just like professional plumbers plumb. 

Step six: Edit the crap out of that manuscript.

One of the harsh realities of being self-published is that you are responsible for the whole nine yards. This includes the editing of your book. Speaking as a nasty harsh book reviewer, I take away points for spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. The more unreadable your work is, the more points I deduct---with a really badly edited and formatted book, it can cost the book five out of five stars.

So do yourself a favor and edit the crap out of your manuscript. Make it as easy and clear to read as you possibly can. You do not want your readers' eyes to bleed from merely reading the horrific way that you string words together. Save the eye bleeding for your revolutionary magical ideas.

Please note---you do not have to do your own editing. It is helpful if you can do your own editing, but know that a second (and a third and a fourth, etc. etc.) set of eyes is really helpful. Yes, it is going to cost to use an outside editor; but where there is a will, there is a way. Remember step two? Look how the successful writers are accomplishing this--some are paying for a service (who are they using? how much do they charge?) while others are using some form of beta-readers, or exchanging editing (because it is easier to see other people's mistakes). Also remember that the less painful it is for an outside editor to edit your work, the better (for instance, I charge extra for editing if it makes my eyes bleed).

Step seven: Putting it all together.

Also known as the joys of formatting. As I mentioned in the previous step, I deduct points when I review a badly formatted book. Again this is something that you can choose to do yourself, or farm out to someone else. I personally choose to format my own work, but I have also set up a front and back matter document to save me time during the formatting process. To the best of my knowledge, all the self-publishing platforms have a page (or a complete pdf) of formatting tips. Consider formatting as you write.

Step eight: Set up your accounts.

There are several companies that you can self-publish though. Or you can choose to self-publish though your own web page (this is not a good route if you have not built up an audience back in step two). The goal is to make your work available though as many sales platforms as you can. The nice thing about the current self-published world is that thanks to ebooks and POD (print-on-demand), you do not have to pay for a ton of books that you end up having to store and ship out of your basement.

The big daddy of all sales platforms is Amazon, of course--who else could it be?! I would avoid the exclusive option. For paper books, there is the Amazon-associated CreateSpace.

If you want to have a hardback book, there is only Lulu. I must admit that Lulu is on my low end of concern when it comes to uploading. For one, Lulu takes a bigger cut, and forces you to have higher prices (this is true even if you are not doing the paper route). Second, my experience is that Lulu just does not get random book paying traffic--in other words, for every copy you sell, you have to work hard to advertise.

There is Kobo, and Barnes &Noble, and quite a few other platforms...some of which I have never figured out how to set up an author account with. And each platform I have mentioned requires you to have a separate account, and upload an uniquely formatted document to (by unique, I mean that the various platforms have different requirements, including your adcopy refers only to their company...with one expectation).

 My preferred "I am a lazy writer who can't be bothered to upload to a dozen platforms" outlet as a self-publisher is Smashwords. The advantage of using Smashwords is that I get to use the same adcopy, a single document, and do not have to upload separately to Kobo and Barnes & Noble, and to other outlets that I see little, if any, sales from. Smashwords also distributes to a couple of outlets that I have never been able to create an author account for, or who absolutely refuse to deal with individuals authors (for instance, the library services). The disadvantage is that you have to give Smashwords, as well as the outlet that they distributed to, their percentage of the loot. But in my case, I would rather do that than spend a lot of time uploading to multiple platforms. The one platform that Smashwords does not support is Amazon (there is a long story there--bottom line Amazon wants the opportunity to trick you into exclusivity on their platform).

So for those who are curious, my priority to upload and distribute goes Amazon, then Smashwords, and Lulu on that cold day when I have nothing better to do.

At the very bottom of my list is a company called BookBaby. It is on the very bottom of my list, for the simple fact that it involves an upfront cost. Maybe you can afford it, and maybe you will sell enough copies to make a profit; but for myself, it just guarantees that I never will make my break-even point.

Step nine: Obtain a decent professional cover.

I suggest that you use frolicking unicorns with lots of rainbows. Or a black robed magician performing a human sacrifice. And hand-draw it even if you are not an artist. It will save you money...

...unfortunately, it will cost you lots of sales. Potential readers really do judge books based on their covers. When it comes to covers, unfortunately one needs to brace for the fact that you are going to have to pay for a professional cover. Fortunately, in step two, you might have learned of an artist or photography service that charges reasonable rates.

Step ten: Write adcopy.

Your adcopy, just like your book cover, is the first impression that a potential reader has of your book. Edit the crap out of it. And do not write it on the day that you are uploading (do as I say, not as I do). Remember that you need to know what category your book is in (research where other writers have placed their books--ex. Wicca is not the same as Satanism), and that you can use seven (Amazon) to ten tag words (Smashwords).

Step eleven: Upload files.

I mention my priority of who to upload to in step eight. A bit of advice that I give out from painful experience is: Block out a day to upload to a platform that you have never uploaded to before. You get better at uploading with experience, but the first time will be more painful than you think it will be.

Step twelve: Advertise and network.

This is where you abuse the presence that you set up in step two. Generally, devote as much time as you care to waste on it. I have discovered that a couple of dedicated Facebook pages and my FB wall, using a single ad, is more effective than most of the Facebook sales and promotion pages and groups are. A devoted audience is better than a random group of writers who are busy trying to sell you their own work. Throwing money at this problem comes only after you have shelled out for editing and a decent cover--no amount of money will move a fugly bad book without a dedicated audience. (Please note that bad books can sell if you have been a complete whore in step two. My proof? Fifty Shades of Grey.)

Step thirteen: Sell a single copy of your book.

And this is what it is all about. Selling a single copy of your book to someone who is not a close personal friend, lover, or close relative. Ideally, you want the joy of selling a copy to someone that you have never met or interacted with. And note that some writers never accomplish this step.

Step fourteen: Claim to be a famous best selling occult author.

We both know that it is a lie; but if you don't poke fun at me when I do it, I will try to return the favor. After all, we have both seen each other's Amazon sales rank (with some basic math, I can figure out your daily sales); therefore, we both know that we wasted a whole bunch of time that would have been better spent writing erotica or flipping burgers. But what us writers know, our adoring fans do not need to know.