Friday, November 17, 2017

Sinister Sparkle: 10 Mysterious & Cursed Gemstones

They're beautiful but deadly. Here is a collection of terrifying accessories that have killed their owners, or driven them mad — at least according to legend. From the Hope Diamond, to a stone that was almost worn to a recent Academy Awards, here's our list of the most cursed pieces of real-life jewelry.

The Hope Diamond

Tantalizing beauty, rare color and impressive size are just trivial attributes of this most notoriously infamous diamond Jewelry.

Arguably the most famous and most cursed precious gemstone in history. Rumor has it the original stone was stolen from a Hindu idol and acquired by Jean-Baptiste Tavernier.

The Hope Diamond has been blamed for a laundry list of tragedies, including but not limited to: beatings, stabbings, murder, insanity, and suicide. In fact, King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette owned the fancy blue diamond during the French Revolution and their beheadings.

The last person to privately own the diamond – an American socialite named Evalyn McLean – had her daughter die of an overdose, her son die in a car crash, and her husband leave her for another woman. The trustees of her estate sold the Hope Diamond to Harry Winston, who eventually donated it to the Smithsonian. It remains there to this day, so you can view the Hope Diamond’s rare, deep blue coloring whenever you’d like.

The Black Orlov Diamond

Also referred to as "The Eye Of Brahma Diamond" this stone was allegedly stolen from one of the eyes in a statue of the Hindu god Brahma in Pondicherry by a monk. Which would explain the curse, and the many suicides to follow the owners of this black diamond.

In 1932, a diamond dealer took the Black Orlov to New York City to try and find a buyer for the famous stone. He killed himself by jumping from a skyscraper just a few months later. 

The next owners were two Russian princesses, Nadia Vyegin-Orlov (whom the precious stone was named after) and Leonila Galitsine-Bariatinsky, who both committed suicide (months apart) by jumping to their deaths from buildings in Rome in 1940. 

The diamond was later cut into three smaller pieces in an attempt to break the curse by Charles F. Winson. Most famous is 67.5 carat Black Orlov pendant set into 108 diamond setting suspended from a 124 diamond necklace that has been displayed at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and the Natural History Museum in London and many more. 

The actress Felicity Huffman was supposed to don the necklace at the 2006 Academy Awards, but mysteriously decided against it. Smart move.

The Koh-i-Noor Diamond

“He who owns this diamond will own the world, but will also know all its misfortunes. Only God or woman can wear it with impunity.” With such an ominous warning in old Hindu transcripts regarding this fine stone, one can only be too cautious about it. 

The allure is not just that this huge diamond stands tall in the British Royal Crown, now displayed at the Tower of London, but the tantalizing history that follows it. Fought over by rulers all over the world, the Koh-i-Noor has a particularly bloody history. Its early history is 5,000 years long, where it was captured and re-captured by India, Persia, the Afghans, and the Sikhs. The Koh-i-Noor’s curse is rumored to only affect men; women are immune to its bad luck.

The whopping 739 carat rock in uncut form has traversed many hands; from the memoirs Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire in India, it once belonged to Rajah of Malwa but stolen in 1306. 

The British Royal family acquired it in 1950 with the reign of Queen Victoria and since then it has only been worn by women of the royal family, including Queen Alexandra of Denmark, Queen Mary of Teck and the late Queen Elizabeth to heed the legend.

The Delhi Purple Sapphire

This jewel was discovered just 30 years ago by Peter Tandy, curator at the Natural History Museum in London. Found inside the museum's "mineral cabinets" the gem was supposedly sealed up in several boxes, surrounded by protective charms and came with a warning:

“Whoever shall then open it, shall first read out this warning, and then do as he pleases with the jewel. My advice to him or her is to cast it into the sea.”

Many suspect the gemstone (which is not technically a sapphire) was part of the looted treasure stolen from Temple of Indra in Cawnpore during the bloody Indian Mutiny of 1857. The cursed quartz was brought into England by Bengal Cavalryman Colonel W. Ferris, who eventually went bankrupt, as did his son (after he inherited the stone).

It was then purchased by writer Edward Heron-Allen, who later claimed it brought him nothing but bad luck. So he gave it away to friends, who promptly returned it after experiencing mountains of misfortune including a singer who lost her singing voice (forever!) after possessing the stone. Gem Select even claims that Heron-Allen threw the Delhi Purple Sapphire into Regent's Canal, only to have it returned a few months later (after a dealer bought it from a local dredger). The jewel was eventually sealed up and sent away to the family banker with the instructions that it should stay forever locked away until Heron-Allen's death. Only after three years after his death would his banker be allowed to donate it. And under no circumstances was Heron-Allen's daughter ever allowed to touch or possess the stone.

The Sancy Diamond

The Sancy is a 55.23-carat pear shaped diamond with a pale yellow hue. Like some of the other cursed diamonds on this list, the Sancy Diamond was allegedly stolen from India. A French soldier sold the Sancy to King James I of England, who actually wore it as a good luck charm. 

The Sancy Diamond is believed to be cursed because it has disappeared and reappeared so many times in its history.

At one point, the diamond was “stolen” from a messenger and believed to be lost to thieves. However, the Sancy was found just a few days later in an unexpected place. Medical examiners discovered that the diamond was inside of the messenger’s stomach during his autopsy. He had swallowed it so that the robbers who murdered him would not steal it.

The Lydian Hoard

The Lydian Hoard is a collection of elaborate jewelry, plates, pots and other golden pieces. But the brooch and necklace from the Hoard have caused its owners nothing but trouble. 

A part of King Croesus' treasure, the loot dates back to 547 B.C. But in 1965 (when it was discovered in an dig in the village of Güre) is when the real trouble begins. The treasure was found in the tomb of an unknown princess, and promptly looted by just about everyone. 

Over 150 relics were ransacked. Almost all the looters met with sickness, bad luck and death.

The Regent Diamond

Famous for decorating Napoleon’s sword, the 140.64-carat Regent Diamond has a faint blue hue. The diamond originally rose to fame after it was – you guessed it – stolen from India. The slave who stole the Regent from India’s Golconda Mine is the origin of its curse.

To swipe the diamond, the slave had to hide it in an open wound on his leg. He then hopped a ship for Europe in hopes of selling the diamond, but the ship’s captain got word that the slave was carrying an extremely valuable gemstone. The ship’s captain murdered the slave and sold the diamond himself, starting its long history of being handed down through generations of French royalty.

Nowadays, Regent Diamond can be found not in a slave’s leg wound, but rather on display at the Louvre, along with the Sancy Diamond mentioned earlier.

The Shah Diamond 

This rough-looking lasque-cut diamond has a dark and violent history. Ever since the 16th century it has been at the center of many usurps and invasions, with each new shah and conqueror seizing it from his predecessor and transferring it to their own headquarters. 

As a result, this diamond has made its way from India, to Persia, to Moscow. 

Three shahs have even engraved their names in it, making it even more mysterious and unique. This cursed diamond is displayed today in the Kremlin building, along with the Orlav diamond, where they are both exhibited as one of the seven famous gems.

La Peregrina Pearl

La Peregrina (literal translation “the pilgrim” or “the wanderer”) has most certainly wandered the hands of many rich, royal and famous. Never has history seen such a tumultuous token of love for the possessor suffers heartbreak. 

Discovered in the Gulf of Panama in 16th century, this large pearl was a gift from King Philip II of Spain to his betrothed Queen Mary of England before their marriage as a token of his love in 1554. 

Queen Mary also nicknamed Bloody Mary, for ordering execution of hundreds of Protestants during her reign, was abandoned by King Philip and died without an heir. After her death La Peregrina was given by the king to Elizabeth I, Queen Mary’s half sister, when he proposed to her. 

It remained with the Spanish Royalty until Napoleon Bonaparte seized the Spanish crown and the pearl. 

The Pearl came in to much lime light because of its legendary owner, the glorious Elizabeth Taylor. It was Valentine’s gift from then husband Richard Burton. We all know her infamous scandalous romantic liaisons which seem to never last for long. And while she got married for total eight times the pearls remained with her throughout her topsy-turvy relationships.

Black Prince’s Ruby

They might call it a ruby but this fiery red rock isn’t a ruby at all. It in fact is a large spinel, a hard glassy mineral worth much less than a ruby gemstone, giving it its infamous name “The Great Imposter”. 

This blood red ruby has a bleeding yet glorious history. The first record dates back to 14th century when it was pillaged by Don Pedro the Cruel, emperor of Seville, Spain from the Moorish Kingdom of Granada. From one conqueror to another the “ruby” was next famously owned by the Black Prince – Edward of Woodstock, so known because of the his success in the battlefield during the Hundred Year’s war. The next conqueror with yet another success at war was King Henry V who had set the Black Prince’s Ruby in his helmet and wore it when he defeated the French at the Battle of Agincourt. The gem passed on to British Royalty who almost lost it twice but now is sits regally at the dead-center of the Imperial State Crown of England exactly above the Koh-i-Noor Diamond.

With such scandalous and blood trodden history build on castle of lies, deceit and desire for power, is it much of a surprise that these fine piece of gemstones jewelry carry with them bad luck and ill will? 

Some legends surrounding these artifacts might be hyped for the curses they carry but it sure makes for an intriguing bed time story.

Also read:

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Healing Power of a Cat’s Purr

A Brief History of Cats

Although dogs are commonly called man’s best friend, cats have been taking care of humans in their own way for just as long. Back in 2004, archaeologists found the remains of a young wild cat buried with a human. The site, located on the island of Cyprus, is believed to be 9,500 years old. (CNN)

Before this discovery, Egyptians were thought to be the first group of people to keep cats as pets. They also worshiped them. Bastet is the Egyptian goddess of war and protection. She was initially represented as a woman with the head of a lion or a sand cat, but as the culture evolved, so did her image. Later depictions of Bastet were of a woman with the head of a domesticated cat. (Source)

Egyptians were not the only group of people that worshiped cats. Norse farmers left offerings to cats to ensure a good harvest. Farmers worshiped the Chinese cat god Li-Shou for protecting their fields from rats and mice. Ovinnik, the Polish cat god, watched over domesticated animals and chased away evil spirits. (Catster)

If you are seeing a theme here, you are not mistaken. Cats have played a key role in the developmental history of humans. They became domesticated at around the same time we became farmers. Without them, our crops would have never survived, and we would have never advanced.

Now they are helping us in different ways.

Do you ever get the feeling your cat knows when you’re unwell, and even where it hurts? If you have a headache, he seems to know to settle down by your head. If it’s a stomachache, he’ll come and sit on your abdomen. And all the time he’s there, he purrs and purrs and purrs!

We all know a cat’s purr is relaxing and stress-reducing, but science has shown it can also be physically beneficial. It’s not just the sound of purring that’s important, but the vibration it produces.

Scientists have known for many years that vibrations at specific levels or frequencies cause healing changes in the body. These vibrations can induce bone growth and regeneration, so that bone fractures heal faster and weakened bones begin to strengthen and rebuild. Higher frequency ranges increase production of the body’s natural anti-inflammatory compounds, thereby reducing joint pain and swelling. Evidence suggests that these frequency ranges can repair muscles, tendons and ligaments, which has led to their use in sports medicine and gyms around the world, especially in the former Soviet Union where so much of this research has been conducted.

Various veterinary studies, meanwhile, indicate that cats rarely suffer bone or joint-related diseases, including hip dysplasia, arthritis and ligament problems. Even bone cancers, such as myeloma or osteosarcoma, are almost unheard of in cats. There’s even a popular saying amongst veterinarians: “If you put a cat and a bunch of broken bones in the same room, the bones will heal.”

It took researcher Elizabeth von Muggenthaler, a specialist in the field of bioacoustics at the Fauna Communications Research Institute in North Carolina (FCRI), to put two and two together. Bioacoustics is the study of the frequency, pitch, loudness, and duration of animal sounds as they relate to the animal’s behavior. Based on her research, Muggenthaler has proposed that purring is nature’s way of endowing felines with an evolutionary healing advantage.

Purring takes energy, and cats purr not only when all is well, but also when they are giving birth, hurt or scared. There has to be a very good reason for expending the energy needed to purr, especially when the cat is physically stressed or ill. In other words, the act of purring has to be somehow contributing to its survival. Nature doesn’t usually select traits without this evolutionary survival advantage, which means that contentment purring just doesn’t make the grade. There has to be another reason for it and Muggenthaler set out to find it.

She recorded and measured the purrs of 44 felids (members of the cat family), including cheetahs, ocelots, pumas, domestic cats, and servals. She found that all these cats generally purr in the range of 20 to 140 Hertz (Hz). Some are as high as 150 Hz but the average housecat comes in at about 25 to 50 Hz.

Interestingly, research has shown that exposure to frequencies at that same 20 to 50 Hz induces increased bone density, relieves pain and heals tendons and muscles.

Bone and joint problems may not be the only illnesses helped by a cat’s purring ability. For example, respiratory problems associated with heart disease are almost non-existent in cats. In fact, respiratory problems resolve quickly once purring is activated. In 1973, Dr. T. F. Cook published an article called “The Relief of Dyspnea in Cats by Purring” in the New Zealand Veterinary Journal. (Dyspnea is the condition of difficult breathing). It seems a dying cat had such trouble breathing that the vets were considering euthanasia. But when the cat began to purr, it started breathing normally. The very act of purring appeared to open up his air passages.

Other healing mechanisms associated with purring include large skin-tissue grafts that take quickly in cats without necrotizing. Domestic cats also tend to be less prone to postoperative complications following surgery. The list goes on and on.

In effect then, by changing the frequency of their purring, cats may be fine-tuning their healing abilities, a distinct evolutionary advantage. It is this unique advantage that has probably given rise to the notion of cats having nine lives, since they seem able to survive conditions that normally kill other animals, such as falls from heights. When researchers looked at the records of 132 cat falls from an average height of 5½ storeys, the found that 90% had survived. The record height for a cat falling and surviving is 45 storeys!

As Muggenthaler concludes, “An internal healing mechanism would be advantageous, increasing recovery time and keeping muscles and bone strong when sedentary.”

The extrapolation of this research may prove vital for human health too, and studies that expose tissue to frequencies of 20 to 50 Hz are ongoing. In 1999, for example, Dr. Clinton Rubin discovered that this exposure creates the robust striations associated with increased bone density, suggesting applications for osteoporosis, particularly in post-menopausal women and the elderly.

Ukrainian and Russian researchers discovered the benefits of vibratory stimulation many decades ago and have employed these techniques in sports training and medicine. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, many of the treatment devices used by the Soviets have made their way into Western gyms and physical therapy treatment centers.

Even the space program has benefited from the research. This breakthrough could help astronauts, who generally lose bone density in zero gravity, to maintain healthy bones and resist the problems of atrophy in outer space.

But it’s the cat’s “healing by association” that people find most interesting – that ability to sympathetically help cure illness in people simply by being around them. For instance, many individuals swear they can ease or completely eliminate their migraine headaches simply by lying down with a purring cat next to their head. And studies have shown that people with cats, especially senior citizens, have lower blood pressure and can live longer than people without cats.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Chaos Magick: Unlocking the Power of the Subconscious Mind

As we are exploring more of the occult/esoteric world of magick, it is important to understand why/how these principles work, and where they originate from.

Chaos Magick is a form of manifesting, which caters to the individual, and borrows from other belief systems – as the central belief in chaos magick is that “belief is a tool”.

According to Wikipedia:

Some common sources of inspiration include such diverse areas asscience fiction, scientific theories, traditional ceremonial magic, neoshamanism, eastern philosophy, world religions, and individual experimentation. Despite tremendous individual variation, chaos magicians (sometimes called “chaotes”) often work with chaotic and humorous paradigms, such as the worship of Hundun from Taoism or Eris from Discordianism and it is common for chaotes to believe in whatever god suits their current paradigm and discard it when necessary. Chaotes can beagnostic or atheist. Some chaos magicians also usepsychedelic drugs in practices such as chemognosticism.

According to chaos practitioners a computer is the central tool for connecting the followers, building virtual knowledge libraries and it also could be used for the simulation of the online ritual environment.


Sigils are a technique that is exclusive to Chaos Magick, and if you are truly interested in higher learning, Sigils are a great way to begin experimenting with the power of the subconscious mind altering your reality.

Sigils are an occult method of bypassing the “nay-saying” conscious mind and implanting desires deep within the unconscious mind. This lets you use the full range of your mind to make a desire real, rather than constantly second-guessing yourself.

They were invented in the early part of the 20th century by the magician and outsider artist Austin Osman Spare, often called the grandfather of chaos magick, who developed his technique from the work of medieval magicians like Cornelius Agrippa. They have formed the central technique of the entire occult world ever since.

Because most people can’t access their unconscious mind deliberately, with techniques like sigils or self-hypnosis, they are unable to produce the “magical” results of those who can access and direct the power of their unconscious.

The theory goes like this: the conscious mind is not directly capable of performing magic (in fact, it inhibits magic,) so the subconscious mind must have the magical intent implanted in somehow it so that it might "unconsciously" manipulate aetheric information to bring about the result.

Chaos Magick Star

The Symbol of Chaos originates from Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion stories. In them, the Symbol of Chaos comprises eight arrows in a radial pattern. In contrast, the symbol of Law is a single upright arrow. It is also called the Arms of Chaos, the Arrows of Chaos, the Chaos Star, the Chaos Cross, the Chaosphere, or the Symbol of Eight.

There are a number of traditional symbols that have the same geometrical pattern as the symbol of Chaos, such as any of various eight-pointed stars, the star of Ishtar/Venus, the Eastern Dharmacakra and the Wheel of the Year, but none of these were symbols of chaos and their limbs are not arrows.

The '8' of Wands in Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot deck features prominently an eight-pointed star with arrows at the ends. Crowley described the card as representing "energy" scattering at "high velocity" that had managed to create the depicted eight-pointed figure.

Moorcock said about his version,

The origin of the Chaos Symbol was me doodling sitting at the kitchen table and wondering what to tell Jim Cawthorn the arms of Chaos looked like. I drew a straightforward geographical quadrant (which often has arrows, too!) – N, S, E, W – and then added another four directions and that was that – eight arrows representing all possibilities, one arrow representing the single, certain road of Law. I have since been told that it is an "ancient symbol of Chaos" and if it is then it confirms a lot of theories about the race mind. 

Chaos theory suggests that small changes at the beginning of a trajectory will create large changes in the distant future. This is often called the butterfly effect.

The chaos star has – as one would expect from a star that symbolizes chaos – very distinct interpretations. Because many people understand the word chaos to represent a negative situation, the symbol has been used in pop culture to mean evil, negativity, and destruction.

On the flip side, the chaos star can represent the idea of many possibilities, as opposed to a single arrow that shows one path as law. In this interpretation, the star is really a beautifully positive and inclusive symbol, and urges open-mindedness and tolerance to other’s experiences, along with creativity and an lovely blend of different possibilities.

Also read:

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Still Small Voice by Samael Aun Weor

There exists a particular mystical sound that the yogi must learn to hear. The Aztecs knew this mystical sound. Let us remember the hill of Chupullepec (The hill of the cricket).

In ancient Rome, during the time of the Caesars, the cricket was sold in golden cages at a very high price. Magicians of ancient Rome bought crickets in order to employ them in practical magic.

If we have the cricket close to the head of our bed when we are meditating on its beautiful song, we will hear the ‘slill voice ‘ in the instant of slumber. This phenomenon is equivalent to the phenomenon of two pianos that are equally tuned. If we play for example, the note TI on either piano, the other piano will repeat the same note without the touch of the human hand. This vibratory phenomenon is very interesting, and it can be proven by anyone. This exact phenomenon also happens with the mysterious sound of the cricket. There exists in the human brain the music sound that resounds when the cricket sings. It is a matter of affinity and vibration.

Whosoever hears the ‘still voice ‘ can travel instantly into the astral plane at any time. If the devotee concentrates on the sound of the cricket, or if the Yogi meditates on the sound of the cricket and goes to sleep while listening to the sound of the cricket, suddenly the same mystic sound, tone or ‘still voice ‘ will resound within his brain, and the doors of mystery will then be opened. During this instant, the Gnostic can rise from bed naturally and depart from his home in the astral body.

Every devotee must learn how to hear the ‘still voice’. 

The devotee can perform marvelous wonders and prodigies with this mystical sound.

If the devotee wants to hear this mystical sound his concentration must be perfect. To begin with, the student will hear many sounds, yet, if he concentrates intensively on the sound of the cricket, eventually he will hear this sound and will attain victory. We inevitably attain illumination with this mystical sound.

With the grace of the Divine Mother, every devotee can have the joy of hearing the mystical sound that grants us the instantaneous projection of the astral body.

The devotee who wishes to perform these practices with success must meditate internally until he truly feels the state of slumber. You must know that every esoteric exercise of meditation, if practiced with a lack of the sleepy state, is useless, sterile, because it damages the mind and harms the brain.
Therefore, internal meditation must be intelligently combined with the sleepy state.

If the Gnostic student does not have this marvelous cricket when practicing this exercise, then he must pronounce the letter ‘S’. This letter must be pronounced like a fine and delicate whistle, like this: ssssssssssssssssssss (lips opened and upper and lower teeth together).

Behind this fine sound dwells the ‘still voice ‘ that permits us to project instantaneously in astral body.

The devotee should be in a very comfortable position in order to practice correct internal meditation.

-The Yellow Book, Samael Aun Weor (Find his book on the right bar of our site)

Also read:

Thursday, November 2, 2017

North America’s largest Witchcraft collection has its first major exhibition

On Halloween evening, dozens gathered in Kroch library for the opening of “The World Bewitch’d,” an exhibition — on display through August 2018 — exploring the history of witchcraft.

The exhibit features a variety of rare manuscripts, photographs and historical movie posters and is known to be the largest witchcraft collection in North America. The exhibit holds over 3,000 objects on superstition and witchcraft in Europe, mostly acquired in the 1880s but spanning multiple centuries of artifacts since the 1400s, according to the Cornell University Library website.

Kornelia Tancheva, co-curator of the exhibition, said the purpose was to show what witch-hunting actually meant in the original context and how it was reinterpreted in popular culture.

In her opinion, the broader significance of the exhibit is its connection to the modern day.

“There are a lot of accusations of witch-hunting in our present time, and it’s really interesting to see how anybody who feels that they are wrongfully persecuted for political, social, religious or whatever reasons, employs the trope of witch-hunting,” she said.

Anne Kenney, the other co-curator, said that the persecution of witches reveals a theme of scapegoating that is relevant in many other contexts.

“When you want to blame others for things, you blame it on something that is beyond your control, and the powerful become the victims is a very interesting twist,” she said.

The collection was started by Cornell’s very own cofounder A.D. White, who collected rare books and manuscripts. Since then, the collection has grown dramatically. The popular culture portion, most notably, was started in 2012, Tancheva said.

“It’s not just a single, finished collection of material, it’s something that’s very much alive and we continue to add to it,” said Anne Sauer, director of the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections.

“This is the best witchcraft collection in the country,” Tancheva said.

“When I first picked the Nuremberg Chronicle up, I went, ‘Oh my goodness, I can’t believe I’m holding this book,’” she said.

The stories of the women who were tried for witchcraft are Kenney’s favorite portion of the exhibition because these demonstrate the ordinariness of the women being accused of witchcraft.

“They were seen as possessing so much power but they were really powerless,” she said.

“Prior to 1500, most sorcerers were men because they were seen as powerful agents — think of Merlin — but as the ecclesiastical leaders began to think of a new form of witchcraft, it was the more powerless people whom the devil contacted to do his work,” Kenney said. “So they were not independent agents, but slaves of the devil. That powerlessness really became associated with women.”

Among the five featured books in The World Bewitch’d that were published before 1500 is the first written on witchcraft. Dating to 1471, it is still in its original binding. It was soon followed by the notorious demonology tome Malleus Maleficarum, first printed in 1487, of which Cornell has 14 Latin editions. “The book was second only to the Bible in terms of sales for almost 200 years,” Kenney explained. It not only served as a touchstone for subsequent treatises, it was used as the basis for how trials were conducted.

“It is mainly cited today for its misogyny in identifying women as being witches,” Kenney added. The text claims that women consort with the devil due to their uncontrollable carnal lust, and thus sex with the devil was a big part of supposed demonic pacts. Although there were exceptions, like Dietrich Flade, a city judge who spoke out against the barbarity of witchcraft trials in the 1580s (the minutes of his own trial are at Cornell), the majority of those accused and tortured were women. The World Bewitch’d uses its exhibition narrative to focus on seven individual women, and find their voices and stories in court records, depositions, and the surviving imagery.

These centuries-old manuscripts are joined by contemporary objects, including newly acquired film posters that show recent portrayals of witches, from the malicious figures in Rosemary’s Baby to the heroic wizards in Harry Potter. Familiars, the small animals that accompany witches, reappear in cinema through the forms of cats and owls, as does the trope of witches flying on broomsticks, which dates back to 1451.

“There’s the contemporary twist where witches in popular culture now are more powerful, whether they do good or bad things, whereas in the historical material, most of the women who were accused of being witches were powerless, they were victims of a mania that was occurring,” Kenney said. And that mania is difficult to comprehend without examining the religious, societal, and political forces at work in the 15th and 16th centuries. Estimates range from 50,000 to 100,000 for the number of people burned, hanged, and otherwise executed for witchcraft.

“Most Americans know about the Salem Witch Trials, and not to diminish the horrible aspects of that, but only 19 women were hanged,” Kenney stated. “There’s this whole bigger story of witchcraft that is not very well known.”

The exhibit opened on Halloween in Kroch Library and will remain open until Aug. 31 2018.

See their Digital Witchcraft Collection to view 104 English language books from Cornell’s Witchcraft Collection.

Also read:

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Witches’ Familiars, Spirit Guardians and Demons

The folk lore of the wicked witch and her diabolical familiar is a well-known and often repeated tale. When the seasons change and the nights get long it’s not uncommon to see images and symbols of a dark-cloaked witch with an evil black cat or toad at her side. This is a fantastic archetype of magic users wielding control over nature and animals, but it’s a far cry from the beliefs that started it all.

The concept of magical spirit creatures has resonated throughout history in creation myths, tribal traditions and religions, but it’s only relatively recently that magical animal and familiars became re-imagined as evil or dangerous companions. Historically, familiars or spirits were often seen as a type of guardian angel rather than an evil demon.

The Witch’s Familiar

A familiar (or familiar spirit or familiar animal) is an animal-shaped spirit believed to serve a witch or magician as domestic servant, spy and companion, in addition to helping to bewitch enemies or to divine information. The animal was often believed to be possessed of magic powers, such as the ability to change its shape. 

In the days of widespread persecution of witches in Europe and North America during the Medieval and Early Modern periods, women accused of magic use and witchcraft were assumed to have a familiar, most often in the form of cats, dogs, owls, mice, newts or toads. These servants to witches were considered low-ranking demons, or even fairies. Legends of the time, British and Scottish contribution to the lore, said familiars fed on the blood of the women. The witches in turn used the animals for spell casting. The familiar could shape-shift, and spy on others. Many completely innocent pet lovers were persecuted for this ‘unnatural’ pairing, and the blame was placed on them for any kind of bad luck, such as milk spoiling or crops withering.

“During the Salem witch trials, there is little account of the practice of animal familiars, although one man was charged with encouraging a dog to attack by way of magical means. The dog, interestingly enough, was tried, convicted, and hanged.” Patti Wigington reveals in About Religion.

Pagan Lore writes that beyond the infamous witch trials, familiars “helped diagnose illnesses and the sources of bewitchment and were used for divining and finding lost objects and treasures. Magicians conjured them in rituals, then locked then in bottles, rings and stones. They sometimes sold them as charms, claiming the spirits would ensure success in gambling, love, business or whatever the customer wanted. This sort of familiar was technically not illegal; England’s Witchcraft Act of 1604 prohibited only evil and wicked spirits.”

Because of the assumed dangerous nature of the familiars, many animal were massacred, especially cats. These killings resulted in a tragic situation. In the middle of the 14th century Black Death was ravaging Europe. Some scholars suggest the huge reduction in cat numbers allowed rat and rodent populations to boom, in turn increasing the amount of plague-carrying fleas, and ultimately leading to the near-decimation of the human population.


In ancient Rome, a tutelary, or spirit guardian, was a protector of a household or nation, or even of simple farms or storehouses. 

Classical Greek philosopher Socrates spoke of a personal spirit or daimon who guided his conscience, stopping him from making rash mistakes or foolish decisions.

One type of tutelary deity is the genius, the personal deity or daimon of an individual from birth to death. Another form of personal tutelary spirit is the familiar spirit of European folklore.

Many eastern religions maintain shrines and altars dedicated to tutelary spirits. Tiny, brightly painted ‘spirit houses’ built to contain tutelary deities are found abundantly in Bangkok.

Totem Spirits

Power animals are featured prominently in Native American mythology. These helpers fall within the spirit realm, and are believed to assist the Shaman when called upon. Native beliefs hold that totem animals – animal symbols which reflect certain qualities or characteristics – serve as guides and guardian spirits of both the physical and spiritual worlds. It is believed they advise on the journeys and tasks of life. Such animals could range from the smallest butterflies, to large buffaloes, deer, coyotes, rabbits, turtles, and more. Ultimately they were helpful, benevolent creatures (if sometimes mischief makers).

Totem animals, or familiars, can be found in societies around the globe, including Africa, Asia, Australia, Eastern and Western Europe, and more.

Modern Witches

While Christians traditionally interpret familiars as demons, to Wiccans and Neo-Pagans, they are more like the Christian concept of a guardian angel. 

Modern ‘witches’ see them as creatures sensitive to psychic vibrations, extra-sensory perception, power, and magic, and are welcomed partners inside the magic circle and other magical work.

A witch's familiar can be his or her closest companion, offering moral support, special knowledge, and/or physical healing. They also serve as psychic radar, reacting visibly to the presence of any negative or evil energy, whether it be an unseen force or a person who dabbles in the wrong kind of magic.

Also read:

Monday, August 14, 2017

What does Mercury in retrograde mean?

Three or four times a year, planet Mercury is said to go retrograde — that is to say it moves in an opposite direction to planet Earth. Planets move from east to west around the sun, and when Mercury turns to move from west to east instead, that's when Mercury is in retrograde. Many refer to this time of year as simply Mercury retrograde.

But this backwards movement is an illusion, similar to the one you experience when you're in a car on the highway moving faster than a train alongside you. The train appears to be moving backward, but it's just moving more slowly than you are. The same thing happens when our planet passes Mercury in our orbit around the sun. Mercury is just moving slower than Earth, causing the illusion that it's moving in retrograde.

Illusion or not, astrologers believe that during this time, it has an effect on life here on Earth, specifically within the realm of communication and technology. In astrology, Mercury governs communication, travel and learning.

What happens when Mercury goes retrograde?

It's a time to be careful about the way you operate your life in order to avoid a variety of problems that tend to occur during these three weeks. During the retrograde period the world seems to go haywire with miscommunications of all types.

What causes this to happen? Astrologically, each planet in the sky exerts a unique influence on us, and the world we live in. The planet Mercury rules our intelligence, mind, memory and, all types of communication ranging from talking and texting to writing. It also affects our self-expression, and communication style. In a more public sense, it rules commerce, computers, telephones, transportation and air travel.

When this unique event happens (3-4 times a year), communications of all types go "bonkers!" Suddenly, normal communication becomes unreliable, filled with misinformation where important data is missing or misunderstood. The passage of information from one person to the other seems to be unintentionally cloudy or confused in some way. After all, Mercury does rule the mind, mental clarity, talking, self-expression and overall communication. During the Retrograde period, a person's intellectual, communication and mental processes are less acute. They become mistake-prone and forgetful.

This is why any action one takes or decision one makes during the retrograde often fail or seem sabotaged. As a result they will have to be re-done or restructured in some way when the Retrograde period ends and Mercury goes direct.

But a Mercury retrograde is a wonderful opportunity to redo, redecorate, reorganize, research, read, reunite, reconnect, and restore. Anything with a "re" in it is encouraged. 

What to avoid during a Mercury retrograde is anything NEW. It is not a good idea to sign a contract, buy a new house, start a new relationship (unless it is a reconciliation), open a new business, purchase a new car, or make travel plans. 

These events are often met with delays or frustrations with houses falling out of escrow, mechanical difficulties with your new car, or cancelling your trip altogether. 

Remember that this does not have to be the case for everyone, but as a matter of precaution, it is good to have all the information handy, especially if you don’t like doing things twice.

 Is there a positive side?

Mercury Retrograde has a way of opening our eyes up to what we were unable, unwilling, or just too busy before to actually see.

This makes Mercury retrograde a wonderful time to review what you are doing. Rather than jumping into something new, it’s a great time to finish up existing projects, refine and make your existing work better, and reveal solutions and innovations where you may have felt blocked or stagnated before.

It may also be easier to see things from another vantage, or another person’s perspective.

Yes, sometimes you will need to be patient, as transportation, technology, and communication need a bit more time. But when you’re open to the energy of Mercury Retrograde, this doesn’t have to be a bad thing and can all be like a breath of fresh air when you realize it’s ok to slow down a bit, be patient, and let things work themselves out.

Mercury Retrograde does sometimes show us things we need to redo, fix, or change completely. So rather than being frustrated when you realize something needs to be rebuilt, think of it as an opportunity to create something even better than you would have before.

We often have major breakthroughs — intellectual, emotional or spiritual — during this time.

Mercury retrograde wants us to move back spiritually. It is providing us with a chance to re-examine various areas of our life which may need a little more work, so that we can move forward to a bright new dawn.