A dark basement where we hide the black candles and inverted pentagrams.

The First (TV) Exorcist

Posted over at Who Forted:

Living in the day and age when exorcism has become fodder for countless horror films, books, and even awful reality television pilots, it’s hard to believe that the ancient religious rite was once a fairly risky thing to show on television. In fact, the ritual wasn’t even televised until 1971, a good few years before feel good hits about battling Satan came along in the form of The Exorcist and The Omen.

Well, some kind soul has given us the opportunity to view that exorcism in all it’s poorly transferred, bad VHS tape glory via the miracle of YouTube. The clip features NBC journalist Carole Simpson interview Ed and Marsha Becker, a couple who began to experience some very strange things after moving in to their new Chicago home. Things like thrown objects and disembodied crying. Obviously rattled, the couple called upon the help of medium Joseph DeLouise and Rev. William Derl-Davis, who proceeded to channel the spirit and exorcise it.. two things you don’t generally see together very often.

Read the full article.

Did Aleister Crowley Unleash Demons at Loch Ness?

The atmospheric 9-minute film above, by Brian Butler, depicts a magical ritual on the grounds of Boleskine House at Loch Ness - a former residence of the infamous magician Aleister Crowley (and later, of rock guitar legend and occult enthusiast Jimmy Page). Most people know of the famous loch only through its alleged resident monster, but the Fortean roots of this Scottish location run deeper than that, as the film above suggests.

Situated in the north of Scotland, Loch Ness is nearly 24 miles in length, and at some points around 300 metres in depth - more than enough to conjure up all sorts of fears in human minds of what may lie beneath. And as paranormal researcher Nick Redfern pointed out in an article in Darklore Volume 2 (Amazon US or Amazon UK), there's no shortage of weirdness to dip into in the history of the place, including "encounters with UFOs, Men in Black, shape-shifting water-horses known as kelpies, demons, spooks, specters, fairies, and much more."

In his article, Nick notes the dark history of Crowley's former residence and the central location it plays in many of the location's legends:

Originally a hunting lodge for noblemen, Boleskine House was constructed more than two centuries ago on the southern side of the dark loch. During his time at Boleskine, Crowley was engaged in a magical sequence that was designed to create a “knowledge and conversation with the holy guardian angel.” The ritual was an elaborate one, consisting of several weeks of purification and ritual
work for Crowley.

Interestingly, at the site of what is arguably the world’s most famous monster, Crowley’s actions (which included black masses and wild orgies) led to some disturbing phenomena. In his autobiography, Crowley described how the spirits he summoned at Loch Ness got wildly out of hand, causing one housemaid to leave, and a workman to go mad. Crowley also insinuated that he was indirectly responsible for a local butcher accidentally severing an artery and bleeding to death. Crowley had allegedly written the names of demons on a bill from the butcher’s shop.

Across from Boleskine House is a graveyard with a reputation for strange activity, and which was established long before Crowley even set foot on the scene. One legend suggests a tunnel exists linking Boleskine and the graveyard, and that is said to be the haunt of a band of unholy witches.

Crowley's summoning of strange entities, mixed with the strange legends and folklore surrounding Fortean occurrences at Loch Ness, have led some, including cryptozoologist Richard Freeman, to ask whether the famous occultist's ritual "worked in a way that Crowley had not foreseen?”

Jimmy Page himself has noted the sulfurous stench that pervades Boleskine House. "A man was beheaded there and sometimes you can hear his head rolling down," he said in a 1975 interview. "That sort of thing was there before Crowley got there. Of course, after Crowley there have been suicides, people carted off to mental hospitals.”

But in truth, Crowley was late to the party when it comes to trying to harness the demons of Loch Ness. A century previous, in 1833, the Inverness Courier newspaper reported that a local resident, one George MacGregor (alias “Willox the Warlock”) had passed away. As Nick Redfern notes, found among his possessions was a “piece of yellow metal resembling a horse’s bridle, which in the days of yore was sported by a mischievous water Kelpie, who haunts the banks of Loch Ness and Loch Spynie.”

In other words, spirits have been called from the vasty deep of Loch Ness for a long, long time now...

For Nick Redfern's complete article about Loch Ness, "What Lies Beneath", see Darklore Volume 2 (Amazon US or Amazon UK).

Investing Money Based Purely on Superstitions

Superstitious Fund Brochure

Shing Tat Chung is more than acquainted with the role superstitions play in people's lives: his parents changed his name on the advice of a fortune teller. That sort of influence may have something to do with the project he's just launched: an experimental investment fund that will make decisions based on superstitions. The Superstitious Fund is...

...a live one year experiment where an uncanny algorithm or SUPERSTITIOUS AUTOMATED ROBOT will trade live on the stock market. The financial instruments it will be using will be spreadbetting on the FTSE 100.

The superstitious trading algorithm will trade purely on the belief of NUMEROLOGY and in accordance to the MOON. It will for example have the fear of the number 13, as well as generating its own beliefs and new logic for trading.

Unfortunately (or, it may turn out, fortunately), you can no longer invest in the Superstitious Fund - though you can express interest in joining the next one by emailing the project through their website (minimum investment 2GBP).

Read more at the BBC

Wickedest Books in the World 2nd Edition

A couple of years ago, I mentioned the publication of a fantastic book by a real good friend of the Grail, Blair MacKenzie Blake, titled The Wickedest Books in the World. It's a coffee table-style hardcover book containing more than 50 glossy full color photographs of the rare, often magnificently produced, first edition books of the renowned British occultist, Aleister Crowley that are currently in the collections of both Blair and fellow bibliophile, Danny Carey (Tool's drumming genius).

In case you missed out on the 1st edition printing (now sold out, and going for big prices on eBay), but would like a sumptuous occult tome to show off/scare family and friends, Blair has just published a revised and expanded (and corrected!) 2ND EDITION of the book. But do get in quick - this is a very limited run and I would imagine it will be snapped up extremely quickly by collectors, occult adepts and fans of Tool:

Wickedest Books in the World Cover


(With a foreword by DANNY CAREY)

GLOSSY LARGE-FORMAT SOFTCOVER with over 60 full color photos of rare Crowleyana currently in the collections of the author and Danny Carey.
A VERY LIMITED NUMBER AVAILABLE in the STORE at www.dannycarey.com (click on MEDIA) or via this direct link.
Price: $39.00 USD

When it comes to the history of books on the occult and Forteana, Blair is an absolute expert, and along with the wonderful images of these fantastic books you'll find text touching on Crowley's history, the story of how many of his most coveted books have meandered their way through the decades and into Blair's collection, and also a foreword by Danny Carey.

(And don't forget to check out Blair's book of sumptuous occult-influenced prose-poems, Ijynx too!)

Grant Morrison on Comics and the Occult

I seem to be on a real bender lately imbibing information about comic books and the occult, even though I haven't been actively going out to become inebriated. From Jeff Kripal's Mutants and Mystics being sent to me by his publisher, to incoming news stories about the passing of comic greats who had links to the paranormal and occult, I seem to be on a real journey of discovery into these closely-linked topics.

Anyhow, the latest shot glass slung across the bar at me is this video of a very drunk Grant Morrison discussing his own paranormal experiences, the occult, and comics at the 2000 Disinfo Con. NSFW language, and at times a real drunken ramble, but also plenty of nuggets in there and a few giggles as well:

Plenty worth discussing in those 45 minutes! For more on these topics from Morrison, check out his recent book Supergods (Amazon US or Amazon UK).

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The Rules of Magic

It's always good to have a little magic in your life, but this is fairly comprehensive. io9 have created a graphic explaining 'The Rules of Magic' (more explanations than rules really) as found in some of the great fictional works of fantasy (click on the cropped image below, and say "Maximus graphicus!" loudly, to view the full-size chart):

The Rules of Magic

Any others you think they should have included, or any obvious errors in the ones listed?

Was King Tut's Curse....Aleister Crowley?

Well I didn't see this one coming: a UK historian has claimed that the deaths of six people, supposedly due to the 'curse of Tutankhamun', were actually ritual murders committed by occultist Aleister Crowley:

Six mysterious London deaths attributed to the "curse of Tutankhamun" were murders by a Satanist called Aleister Crowley, a historian claims in a new book.

...At the time, a frenzied press blamed the "curse" and speculated on the supernatural powers of ancient Egyptians. But author Mark Beynon has now drawn on previously unpublished evidence to conclude the deaths were all ritualistic killings masterminded by Crowley, an occultist called "the wickedest man in the world".

After unique analysis of Crowley's diaries, essays and books and inquest reports, the armchair detective argues that he was a killer obsessed with Jack the Ripper's reign of terror in 1888.

Beynon puts forward his theory in his newly released book London's Curse: Murder, Black Magic and Tutankhamun in the 1920s West End.

Hysteria tonic is available right here: "How to Use Satanism to Market Your New Book"...

Escher Snakes

Another nice video from Cristóbal Vila, creator of the wonderful sacred geometry in nature video that I posted a couple of weeks ago. This one breaks down M.C. Escher's final woodcut print, "Snakes":

More about the film here.

P.Z. Myers Sock-Puppetry

Yet another tiresome skeptical rant from P.Z. Myers on the occult...

Last night at the Cheltenham Science Festival, I attended a Q&A between Robin Ince and Alan Moore... Much of the talk was about Moore's belief in magic Alan Moore— in a science festival, you say? Yes, and it actually made a lot of sense.

Moore has an affinity for a 2nd century oracular sock puppet, but he doesn't worship it. He believes in magic, but he doesn't believe in the supernatural. He also doesn't like religion. I agreed with almost everything he said 100%...

...So keep on trusting in the sock-puppet, or (once upon a time) taking hallucinogenic drugs, or staring at crystals, or dealing tarot cards, or using random number generators to spark novelty. It really does work well, and better than relying on narrow reason, which tends not to deviate much from what has worked before.

Wha....hey?! Did I read that right? First I was like this, and then I was like hmmm. But in the end I just realised that Alan Moore is simply one huge gateway drug to the woo...and P.Z. Myers has been main-lining Moore for years.

Seriously though, nice to see P.Z. acknowledge an aspect of all this that most of us crazy irrationalists have been saying all along. Though (non-existent-)God forbid that any religious folk get similar inspiration from their faith...

Astrology is Rubbish (?)

Regardless of your personal opinion on astrology, I highly recommend reading this informative *and* incisive article by Assistant Professor of History Darin Hayton: "What Exactly is Accomplished by Asserting 'Astrology is Rubbish'?". There's some really good points made about pseudoskepticism, and the almost fanatical approach some scientists take when it comes to topics outside the gates of science:

Scientists claim that arguments from authority do not carry logical force. Yet they rely on them in almost every effort to dismiss astrology. They then claim that precession invalidate astrology and suggest that astrologers are dolts because they either do not know about precession or have not taken it into account. Zodiacal SignsYet astrologers have studied and accounted for precession since at least Ptolemy borrowed it from Hipparchus. The standard medieval textbook used to teach astrologers the basics of planetary motion, Gerard of Cremona’s Theorica planetarum, devoted a section to precession. Georg Peuerbach’s enhanced and improved version of this text, his Theoricae novae planetarum, devoted an entire chapter to precession.

...Whatever else might be the case, astronomers seem singularly unable to avoid denouncing astrology and equally incapable of persuading proponents of astrology to relinquish their conviction (or even to dissuade the astrology-curious). Maybe astronomers’ lack of success is related to the cavalier approach they adopt when attacking astrology. They certainly have not engaged with the body of knowledge they hope to refute. Instead, they attack caricatures and straw men. They argue from authority rather than logic. And they seem to ignore astrology’s technical details—such as anything approaching an understanding of positional astronomy—and ignorant of astrology’s history. To be fair, they have occasionally asked questions about possible mechanisms for astral influence, but then dismiss the very possibility of such a mechanism. No doubt they realize that their invectives do not constitute logically compelling arguments. So what then is the point of their denunciations? And whom are they trying to convince?

And what really is at stake in this enduring battle between science and astrology? Are astronomers afraid that their funding will suddenly go to astrologers? Does the fate of the free world or the rational mind or science depend on refuting astrology? Given the characterization of astrologers and believers in astrology as simple-minded, uneducated, irrational dupes, what threat do these people pose to astronomers and scientists? Does belief in astrology stand for a purported, societal-wide irrationality that threatens the entire practice of science? That seems a bit apocalyptic, but maybe. And what is served by the denigrating rhetoric typically used to brand astrologers frauds and charlatans? Surely it would be more effective to adopt a more conversational approach rather than labeling astrologers and their customers irrational, superstitious dupes.

But maybe despite its guise of rationality and argumentation, the anti-astrology polemic isn’t intended to persuade an opponent any more than any other polemic. Maybe it’s merely a secular form of “preaching to the choir.”

Make sure you read the entire article at the Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science website.