hunting

Finding Your Own Way

December, 2018

Chapter 8

The Shamanistic Path

I add this section for those who are interested in the spiritualistic or shamanistic aspect of meditation. This is simply an introduction to the world of the shaman. For those who wish to delve further, I would advise finding a reliable teacher to help them. In the last twenty years, there has been a widening of interest in the healing and spiritual practices of our ancestors and many have found a pathway back to a more earth-centred method of teaching and healing.

As always, trust your own instincts. Find out as much as you can before becoming too closely involved with any particular individual. We all go through challenging times, – but if this person is not handling the important aspects of their lives very well, then perhaps they are not for you.

If they care more about money than the work they are doing, then they are most likely not the right person to teach you. If they take on too many students, then they may not be able to give the support needed. Many shamans offer healing and counseling. If you are interested in learning from someone, then this may be a good way to find out if your paths are compatible. Even a good shaman may not be suited to you personally. Be prepared to take the time needed to find a way forward. A good friend who is a powerful shaman told me that the teacher will find you when you are ready. We work on ourselves and the universe guides us to where we need to be. I am always suspicious of weekend courses which promise to turn someone into an instant healer /shaman/counsellor with a nice shiny certificate.

What we know of the early religious practices of mankind is based largely on cave paintings and a few archaeological discoveries. Most anthropologists base their conjectures loosely on the tribal cultures which still existed in remote places up until quite recently, – before becoming overrun by modern society.

It is widely believed that shamans have existed as a separate class for at least 30,000 years.

It is my own belief that many men who were unsuited to hunting became shamans. In many ways, their initiation was as tough as that of the warriors in many cultures. Often they were buried for several days to symbolise a journey to the underworld.

Those with minor disabilities which would have made them unfit for hunting were able to help their tribe by performing rituals for success and journeying inward to help find the best places to hunt for game. They would then be on hand to protect the camp during the hunt and use divination to resolve any disputes. Contacting the ancestors may have been an important part of their duties and healing diseases by the use of herbs, and in serious cases, ‘soul retrieval’

In soul retrieval, the shaman enters the underworld to find the lost soul of a tribal member. The afflicted may have a mental illness or a fever or be near death.

The shaman must be confident and courageous, or he too may become lost in the vast realms of the underworld and perhaps never return.

I would find this idea quaint, – apart from having witnessed the effects on what could easily be called “loss of soul” on a good friend. He became lost during a badly constructed ritual for past life journeying which was popular in the 1970’s. Something rather nasty returned in his stead.

It took most of the night to evict the ‘entity’ and return this young man and he was never quite the same again. I am aware of the theory of disassociated personality complexes, but it is hard to call them that when they read minds and try to tear your throat out. This is why it is best to get a teacher before tackling more advanced work. Always set your boundaries and your intent. Use whatever help is available to you and meditate in a safe and a sane way. Take things slowly and easily.

My own ideas on how early shamanism was structured, are based more on my own experiences than on the little that is known of early man. Because a group of people may live a nomadic lifestyle or exist in buildings suited to their locality, made of straw and mud, – it hardly proves that their culture has not advanced in 30.000 years.

In 1980, I went to see a small collection of artifacts, taken from Newgrange, Ireland, which were on display in a private library in Dublin. I went with a friend, who I will call Susan. We were invited to go there by the leader of a Rosicrucian group we were involved in. All we were told was to look for an item listed as a ceremonial mace head and see what connection we could make with the object. It was an egg-shaped stone with spiral patterns and a hole through it, large enough to fill a man’s hand.

As I gazed at the object, I found myself back in Newgrange, sometime around the building of the passage tomb. A young man dressed in furs sat in front of a fire using the object to grind something in a bowl. He had a clubbed foot. When I commented on it, he laughed and told me it was why he was chosen to be a shaman. When I compared notes with Susan, it turned out that we had shared the same experience. Our accounts of the vision matched perfectly. Oddly, I forgot about this experience for many years until the memory came back to me one day. I wrote the poem below to remind myself of the journey.

Trance is a powerful tool for spiritual exploration.

It can be triggered by many methods.

Hypnotism is the least trustworthy and most dangerous method.

Wounded Heart

Do only fools and cripples live in longing for the light?

Are wounded hearts the only ones who venture deep into the dark to draw aside the veil?

They, who wander aimlessly in woods and fields, to search for wisdom long before the dawn,

Have pity for the poets and the artists who have felt this sense of exile since the day that they were born.

A simple, egg-shaped stone, small enough to fit inside my palm, became the key.

I gazed upon the spirals on this artifact and little did I realise the tale it had to tell.

My friend and I transported back in space and time to when it last was used.

At Newgrange barrow, we both stood, amazed, astounded and bemused.

The shaman sat before a fire, with robes of fur, and mischief in his eyes.

Grinding herbs with stone and bowl, our sudden apparitions seemed to cause him no surprise.

It happened forty, and five thousand years ago, I scarce remember all he had to say.

But one thing stood so clearly in my mind, it stayed with me until this very day.

He seemed quite young for one so wise, with a boyish face and long dark hair,

But, when I gazed upon his crippled foot, he quickly picked up on my stare.

I commented upon the injury at which he saw me glance,

He laughed as if I was a clumsy child, and asked how else would he have had his chance?

The wounded walk the lonely path, and fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

The blind can see the things which normally are hidden by the light, – their vision knows no end.

The beggar and the vagabond have riches that a king will never know.

And when the journey has no maps or charts, the child within us knows which way to go.

***

About the Author:

Patrick W Kavanagh, Featuring the inspirational art of Bill Oliver

Writer, poet, Patrick W Kavanagh was born in Dublin and now lives and works in Lincolnshire in a small rural town. Patrick became fascinated by the strange abilities of the human mind from watching his mother give psychic readings using tea-leaves and playing cards. With a lifelong interest in metaphysics and parapsychology, he has given tarot and spirit readings for over 40 years. He travels to many events with his wife Tina, exploring the power of shamanic drumming to heal, and induce therapeutic trance states. They also hold a regular drumming circle in the picturesque Lincolnshire Wolds.

By Patrick W Kavanagh available at most retailers:

Finding Your Own Way: Personal Meditations for Mastery and Self-knowledge on Amazon

The Bad Witch’s Guide

October, 2018

 

The Bad Witch’s Guide to Ghost Hunting

(Photo by Callie Gibson on Unsplash)

 

It is the season apparently for all things spooky…ooooh!

I don’t ghost hunt as a rule. I ghost shoo! That said I do understand the desire for some titillation and so, on some intellectual level.

It is easier in general to ghost hunt in cities than the wilds and better in Europe than the US purely down to number dead people over thousands of years. There are of course many kinds of haunting and spirit activity but violence and large amounts of people seem to imprint or cause haunting more often. My psychic American bestie used to hangout in New Orleans all the time without much hassle (but that could have been the others spirits influence, nudge, nudge) and was shocked, delighted and amazed visiting Chester for the first time! Chester is an old city, founded by the Romans in 79AD. It has much of the old town still intact as well as the later medieval town and its beautiful buildings. It doesn’t hurt that the river runs near it. Water is a great psychic and spirit conduit. She saw full blown colour spirit figures walking around, was touched, even got some stuff on film!

Hunting ghosts is easier if they are also seeking you!

That said the trend to go to derelict hospitals and such seems distasteful and a bit dangerous to me.

There are two main kinds of haunting. The restless dead (a spirit who is confused, frightened or lost, particularly one that doesn’t know they are dead) and an echo of an event that either happened over and over or was so traumatic it left a mark, a memory on a place.

The echo is just that. It doesn’t interact. It doesn’t change it is just the echo of a place remembering. It can be a bloody battle, a crash or someone leaving out milk bottles. You get a better chance of seeing one of these someone that has had a lot of people to imprint, or the sight of battle or trauma.

The restless dead can and are anywhere. This is why hospitals and the like can be bad because if they don’t know they are dead they can follow you home and get the hump when you ignore then. These poor souls often had a rough enough time in life, they don’t deserve it in death too. I dislike a lot of the ghost hunting shows, especially if they get shouty and rude.

All in all dead people are just that, people. Some of them are lovely. However some of the worst hauntings I have dealt with have been addicts and little kids. You want to see some shit go down have a ghost toddler wobbly. They will throw things, slam things and even bite! Crossing someone over usually requires years of training (which I have) and some reasonable sight, and friends and guides on the Otherside to help people cross.

All in all I’d rather living people than dead around me rather than getting cold or uncomfortable somewhere but to each their own. While I am medium I am also a witch. This means I don’t let spirit in my body, home or circle without permission, in fact I am strict when it comes to spirit. Granted I am a bit of a sucker for kids, but they are pretty easy to cross over.

A spirit guide or guardian is nothing like a haunting. A haunting is a spirit this side of the Veil. They tend to look like regular people whom slowly seem to drain of colour over time becoming shadows. They are stuck, either willingly or unwittingly and can be varying levels of troublesome. When a spirit crosses everything lifts. It is really beautiful. It is as though someone opened a window and let fresh air and light in. Spirit when they have crossed over is different. They are bright, glowing almost with the light of the Otherside. They can appear as how they saw themselves or even how they wished they had looked. They come and go at my request or their own desires rather than being stuck somewhere.

In general my experience with dead people has not been spooky, dark places. It is usually well lit living rooms on a sunny Sunday afternoon, or someone’s kitchen.

My advice is don’t go somewhere derelict especially without permission, you may end up as one of the ghosts! The floors aren’t clear, the ceilings are crumbling and you are far from help if you need it. I am serious these places are abandoned for a reason. If you want to ghost hunt, do a proper tour. You can do them in many cities and even some castles at least in the UK. Take a protective symbol with you (be it pentagram or something else) as a precaution. Cast a circle if it gets ooky. Don’t use a spirit or Ouija board*. Cleanse with salt water and smudge (sage, rosemary and frankincense are great) afterwards. Don’t get drunk or high and ghost hunt. You might be more open but you are also more vulnerable too.

If you are thinking of getting spooky closer to home (is your Aunts house haunted?) and decide to do some spell or rite or other please do not invite anyone or anything. Don’t use a spirit board or Ouija board. If you can get a proper and respected medium to attend do it. You would be surprised how often I get calls this time of year from folks doing this by themselves who get freaked out, and get caught out by something unpleasant. Some get attacked, some get sick, and some even have pets die! Mostly it is purely psychological and I turn up, check nothing weird is about and shut the door they opened. Again if you fail to heed my advice and you need to fix this, you will need a decent medium and they have every right to charge you through the nose (call it an idiot tax).

 

*Creating a doorway you can’t close is not a smart idea ever.

 

GoodGod!

February, 2018

Meet the Gods: Pan

(art by Samantha Sullivan)

 

Merry meet.

A man with the legs and horns of a goat, Pan was the Greek god of the wild and of hunting. He looks after shepherds, their flocks and the woods. He stirs up panic – a word derived from his name –because, one story goes, if his secluded afternoon naps were disturbed, his angry shout inspired panic.

Pan is also associated with sexuality. He chases nymphs, dancing with them in an effort to seduce them, but is always turned down.

One legend tells that he tried to seduce a beautiful wood nymph named Syrinx, daughter of the river god. To avoid him, she ran away, seeking refuge among her sisters. Pan followed, so her sisters turned her into a reed. When the wind blew, there was an enchanting melody. Not knowing which reed was Syrinx, he took seven (or nine) and placed them side by side in decreasing length to make the instrument named Syrinx for his beloved. Pan is typically seen playing them. The flute-like instrument is also known as panpipes.

Stories were told about other nymphs he pursued: Pitys, who was turned into a pine tree to escape him, and Echo who scorned the love of any man. There are different stories about her, one being that Pan had his followers kill her and scatter pieces of her on the earth. Gaia, the goddess of the earth, is said to have absorbed those pieces and now, Echo’s voice remains, repeating the last words of others. In another versions, Echo and Pan had two children.

Pan’s father is thought to be Zeus, Dionysus, Hermes, or Apollo while his mother may have been Aphrodite, Dryope, Hybris or a nymph named Dryope. Whomever his parents were, there is agreement that he was born in Arcadia, a rustic mountain district that was culturally different from the rest of Greece. It was because he was from that area that he became recognized as the god of fields, pastures, groves and wooded glens, and it is because of this that Pan is associated with spring and fertility.

He is notorious for his sexual powers and is often depicted with a phallus.

The Greeks also considered him to be the god of theatrical criticism and impromptus. His greatest conquest was Selene, the goddess of the moon. He hid his goat features by wrapping himself in a sheepskin so he was able to lure her down from the sky and into the forest where he seduced her.

Pan was worshiped in the woods, caves, grottoes and the wild. With two exceptions, no temples were built to honor him.

Pan could be a god you call for help with matters of fertility or to connect to the wild. It would be best to call him from a wooded area, or somewhere outdoors. Call to him with a wind instrument – be it a flute or a whistle – or by singing a series of notes known as the Lydian mode. Offer him milk and honey.

I would advise you only summon him for a genuine need and never for the fun of it.

Merry part. And merry meet again.

***

About the Author:

Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.

 

The Kitchen Witch

January, 2016

Basic Venison Stew

I have always been at home in the woods and fields and along the creeks and lakes. I learned to fish at such a young age I don’t remember when it was. My brothers and sisters and I used to collect empty shotgun shells from the fields from the fall hunting and feathers from pheasants. Often, my mother would receive a roast of venison or several pounds of mixed ground venison and pork, which she would make into chili or meat sauce. Generally she didn’t tell us beforehand what it was but it was obvious from the way it tasted. I was usually the only one who liked the forestry taste of the meal.

Polly

I didn’t learn to hunt until 1999, when I met a man with whom I would live with off and on for the next seven years. Once I did, I fully dedicated myself to emis and became at one with the forest. It was a glorious time. This is the first year that I did not hunt, due to health reasons. I really missed being in the woods.

But I was able to get a little fresh venison which I wrapped up and put into my freezer. And it’s so great, on a cold winter’s day, to take out a package of stew meat, and put it in a marinade for a little while and then make a nice stew out of it.

I always put venison in a marinade.

marinade

My basic go-to marinade for a pound of stew meat is a quarter cup of red wine, a splash of soy sauce, a teaspoon of garlic powder, a teaspoon of onion powder, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Cover and shake and refrigerate for at least thirty minutes.

The other ingredients you are going to need are: a can of cream of mushroom soup

a can of beef broth

an onion, chopped

6 – 8 medium sized mushrooms, sliced

several celery stalks, chopped

two medium potatoes or one large one, chopped

several carrots, chopped

salt, pepper, red wine for seasoning

In a Dutch Oven or heavy pan, heat a mixture of butter and olive oil and brown the venison, after discarding the marinade. Just before it is almost totally browned, add the onion and the celery and let them sweat a little bit and then add the other vegetables. Mix together the cream of mushroom soup and beef broth and then pour over the meat and vegetables. Season as you please with salt and pepper and whatever else you have on hand. I also often add whatever leftover vegetables I have in the fridge – in this case, I added some corn and peas to the recipe.

stew

If you want to know the truth, I never make it the same way twice! Hence the name “Basic Venison Stew”.

Of course, if you don’t have access to venison, feel free to use beef or even marinade some tofu and use that! The greatest recipes have come from experimentation and so have the best spells. Use what you have! Be creative! Enjoy your kitchen! Until next month,

Brightest Blessings from the Kitchen Witch, Polly Applequeen.

Across the Great Divide

June, 2014

Divide-300x188

 

“The Fine Line Between Believer and Skeptic”

I’ve been doing a careful dance as of late on a very thin tightrope.
I have been skeptical, highly critical, and utterly blatant lately in calling out bullshit when it comes to ghost hunting and paranormal research news. However, I want to make it clear that I am as much a believer in the field and open-minded when it comes to the possibilities posited by the many theories as I have always been. That’s because I believe in the existence of those possibilities and that we, as a species, do not and can not know everything about the universe in which we exist. Our collective understanding of how the universe works is akin to the collective understanding of science to the participants in a fifth grade science fair. Every answer only leads to more questions.
Who among you could blame me for being a bit miffed when there is a definite negative correlation between merchandising and the amount of real science these so-called reality shows share- such as a new video game based on that joke of a show, Paranormal State? That’s right. A video game- as if science needed further mocking. Last month I talked about amateurs playing scientist, but now you can- quite literally- play scientist and think that any of the phenomena or “history” experienced in the game will translate over to the real world of science.
Legacy Interactive, A&E Television, and developer Teyon released Paranormal State: Poison Spring on the iPad. In the hidden-object adventure game, available to download for free on the App Store (and a full Collector’s Edition priced $6.99), you can team up with the show’s stars to “investigate” a “terrifying supernatural event” at Poison Spring State Park, the historical site of a horrific Civil War battle.
The gullible continue to frolic through a brightly lit open field, pointing in awe at everything; while the staunch skeptics stumble through the dark, so blinded by their narrow vision that they can’t even see the light in the distance. A smart researcher knows that the road to the truth lies midway between cynicism and naiveté.
For example, do I believe in the possibility that the living can communicate with the dead in real time? Yes. However, the experiences of spirit mediums are highly subjective and the chances of proving those experiences are about as good as being hit by lightning twice.

 

Ghost
That didn’t matter to a team of ghost hunters known as Haunted Heritage from claiming during a visit to Donington le Heath Manor House near Coalville, Leicestershire, to have made contact with King Richard III after holding a séance by the bed where he spent the night before he died. The site became a beacon for ghost hunting groups after a skeleton found in a Leicester car park last year was identified as the remains of Richard III, sparking newswires and interest worldwide.
Their night at the 700-year-old house was a complete bust (something that happens more often than not in real investigations) until they entered the chamber where Richard slept before his fall at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
When members of the group shouted out “What is your name”, they say a man’s voice clearly replied, “Richard”.
That sounds legitimate, right? After all, he must have been the only man in the whole of written history with that name or something similar, not to mention that the mindset of the investigators had that name foremost on their minds and could have subconsciously thought or spoken the name, thus triggering the captured audio.
The medium in question, Gill Hibbert, was quick to point out that they were “being careful” about saying it was Richard III himself because they can’t prove it and are trying to employ a historian to look into other Richards who may have lived in the residence. Of course, they define “being careful” as plastering the name and the “evidence” all over the internet from their Facebook page, to their website, and all over YouTube; not to mention the various news and media sites covering their story.
The group’s “proof” of this contact? A response on the oft-maligned Ghost Box, a device that’s been routinely slammed by numerous members of psychical research, myself included.
At least the group put their data out there for the world to mull over. Here is a link to the group’s YouTube channel and the audio clip from their session. There is no mention as to whether the audio has been modified in any way (such as removing noise and hisses); had elements or volume enhanced; what the variables were; who were all those present; or what environmental and weather conditions were in effect at the time of recording.
The clip is only 34 seconds long and “Richard” only speaks at the :16 mark. I asked a credible and knowledgeable source on British history what she thought and if the speaking style would have been consistent with the late 15th century. As it turns out, whoever set this up did their research. I share in her summary that “it’s bollocks, but it’s well-researched bollocks.”
The pattern would have been Midland or Rhotic and somewhere between Welsh and the Deleware Islands, but, in her opinion, the accent being from Richard III’s time is believable.
From a purely scientific standpoint had the variables of the event been charged enough for his spiritual energy to become trapped in this dimensional plane, after 500 years it would have dissipated so much that the man known as Richard III no longer exists, nor could he communicate with them or anyone else.
As always, I’ll leave it up to you, my informed readers, to weigh the evidence and draw your own conclusions. If you have an opinion, please share it below and join the discourse of scientific discovery.

© 2014 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions

Across the Great Divide

April, 2014

Divide-300x188

“The only thing worse than amateur scientists are drunken amateur scientists”

Just when I thought that the bar of integrity in ghost hunting couldn’t get any lower someone went and removed it entirely.

I only allow members to bring a small water bottle on investigations, but the owners of one of the most infamously haunted locations in the country will now allow you to drink alcohol anywhere and everywhere while you play scientist and fall victim to their new amusement park.

Built in the 1880s, the Winchester House has never been registered for lodging let alone licensed for alcohol, but the current owners of the 160-room California mansion, Winchester Investments LLC,  will allow guests to stay the night and drink anywhere on the 6-acre maze of false doors and stairs that lead nowhere. Sarah Winchester reportedly built the famed additions in order to confuse the evil spirits she believed were the tormented souls of those killed by the family’s firearms business haunting the home.

A special use permit, which was approved by the San José planning department on March 5, 2014, will allow overnight guests to stay at the landmark site. It was made clear that their target market won’t be road-weary families on family vacations or traditional hotel renters, but those who want the ‘ultimate Winchester House experience’. In other words- a niche of clients predisposed to fall for their smoke and mirror act.

A reporter for the Silicon Valley Business Journalattempted to contact the owners to ask for plans that are more detailed but, conveniently, his request was ignored.

A visit to the Winchester House website reveals that no room rates have been added yet, but they have plenty of theme tours playing up the haunted history that seem better fit for Cedar Point’s Halloweekends- like their “Friday the 13th Flashlight Tour”. Tour rates range from $26-$65; and you can’t visit any page on their website without a highly-intrusive popup ad for the books and movie that have been made about the House making it perfectly clear that they don’t care whether or not the claims are real and substantiated- they’re going to use it to make a lot of money. The ads hover annoyingly center screen in front of whatever you are trying to read.

The city also approved the remodeling of the existing café into a full service restaurant open to the public.

Basically, this is nothing less than a clever marketing and moneymaking scheme by Winchester Investments to cash in on the legendary status of the residence by exaggerating and accentuating activity while bilking money from those foolish and gullible enough to fall for it. Well, we all know what they say about a fool and his money.

So an iconic and historical landmark will degrade into a booze-filled joyride of misfits and fools looking to play ghost hunter. I wonder how long it will be before the grounds are littered with beer bottles and a once-majestic residence falls prey to countless grubby feet and hands eroding every inch. The addition of alcohol to the equation is just asking for a lot of trouble in terms of increased police patrols, vandalism, and disruptive behavior.

I have nothing wrong with an historical site using public funds via tours to help offset the costs of maintaining beloved locations, but this goes far and beyond. It enables amateur and unprofessional individuals and groups to come in and make a sham of legitimate science. Any activity witnessed or recorded at the site from hereafter will be completely unsuitable for detailed analysis due to an exponential cascade of contaminations proving once again that the modern day business of ghost hunting is less about the science and more about the fame.

I look forward to laughing at the first bit of “evidence” put forth by those whom stay at the Winchester House.

 

Sources: io9.com, Silicon Valley Business Journal Photo: San José Library Digital Collections

© 2014 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions

 

Paranormal Path

April, 2014

Zozo

 

board

       You know how it is, you’re scanning the web looking for the latest in scary or bizarre happenings, and then something catches your interest next thing you know you find yourself in a spiral of stories and theories.  However, there comes the rare occasion when several stories match exactly or are eerily similar.  This is a rare occurrence in the paranormal community so when it does happen you can sense the universal excitement in the air.

     I came across this the other night.  I can’t even remember how I got there but soon I was reading, stories upon stories of an entity that refers to itself as “Zozo” and usually presents itself during Ouija board sessions.  The fascinating thing with these stories are the similarities, people of different ages, from different parts of the country and even some other parts of the world have had experiences with this entity and the entities associated with him/her. 

     Most research points to contact with this entity being reported through Ouija board sessions for at least 30 years.  The theories of who Zozo actually is go back much further to the early 1800s.  Usually the reports start out the same, a few friends, having a good time, “playing” with the board just to see what if anything will happen.  If Zozo isn’t the first to come through an entity called Lilly will start communication.  Lilly is reported as being nice and sometimes even warning the participant about Zozo.   She has said Zozo is her evil sister.  There are theories that Zozo and Lilly are the same entity and this is just a game it likes to play.  When Zozo does come forth there are some differences to how the session will go.  Some say it will humor the participant by answering questions but this soon gets frightening when it reveals very personal information no one else should know.  Another common report is the entity will come through as very angry, threatening and violent, often manipulating the board or the planchette by making it hot to the touch or launching it away from the participants.  This seems to happen most often if the person comes through as a skeptic or is being purposefully disrespectful.  Zozo is known to control the board, often saying frightening things like promises of death.  Another common report is of an entity called Mama, again there are theories this is all the same entity.  Mama will appear usually during a session, the planchette will just move to M A M A over and over again.  This is believed to be a tactic used by Zozo to confuse and weaken the mental defenses to move on to even more sinister intentions.

     The creepy thing on top of the fact that so many people have made contact with the same entity is that the contact, once initiated, doesn’t stop at the board.  People who have had talked with Zozo have reported very terrifying occurrences days, even weeks later.  Vivid dreams, catatonic states, accidents even deaths have been reported and not just by the person who used the board but to their families as well.  This phenomenon has caught the attention of many people in the paranormal community including demonologists. 

     Is this a demon?  Many have called it such, however usually a demon will not give its name so readily, though there have been theories that Zozo is not really a single name but a name for the group of entities that accompany what seems to be the leader.  Some have called Zozo more of an ancient Deity instead.  Many have tried to find the source of the name saying it is another name for the demon Pazuzu, that it is a rough translation from the ancient Basque language meaning Crow or blackbird, even suggestions this is the 3 headed dog that guards the gates of Hell.  A movie has been made about the encounters and there have been accusations that this is all just a wild publicity stunt to gain popularity on the project.

     Pending upon the part of the world or religion involved the theories of the identity of Zozo are seemingly endless.  Yet each day more and more stories are told of encounters and experiences with this entity and they are all similar in one way or another.  I have never been a fan of the Ouija board for this reason.  You never know what kind of door you’re going to open or who or what is going to come through.  I know there are supposed rules to follow or Ouija etiquette if you will, but in my opinion regardless of if you opened and closed the session properly, if something is strong enough to come in, the less likely it will want to leave and the greater amount of danger you and your loved ones could be in for a long while. 

Across the Great Divide

March, 2014

 

 

 

“Parapsychology’s Database Debacle”


It’s well-known that paranormal research isn’t taken seriously by mainstream scientists- after all there is a big difference between measuring phenomenon like earthquakes and hurricanes, which affect and are witnessed by hundreds of thousands, as opposed to telekinesis and ghosts sightings, which are often the subjective experiences of an individual.

Not only is there a measurement issue, but there is a records issue.

Advancement in medical research and development, for example, hinges on one crucial component- the existence of a database of verified knowledge and investigative research that is shared, and contributed to, by doctors and laboratories around the world. Without that collaboration, medical research does not progress. A doctor can look up the symptoms of his patient and find that a physician on the other side of the world had a patient with similar symptoms; they compare notes and, at some point, not only is a condition defined, but also a course of action determined.

This is at the very core of the issues facing parapsychology that I have covered lately. Gone are many of the world’s leading, official, labs and academic programs- at least in North America; and the few remaining respected and professional names in the field are seldom heard or departed. Meanwhile, amateur and semi-professional ghost hunting groups are concerned more with competing for exposure and fame, and not with the advancement of science.

This leaves the field with few professional organizations, no official research guidelines, and no reliable, secure central database to pool information that is collected from investigations.

Even if there were such a system-, something that I’ve been an outspoken proponent of for years- there must be a safeguard to certify that the data shared is not falsified, misrepresented, or incompetently interpreted. There have to be similar safeguards for those who are contributing that data. If a chain of people experiment based on fraudulent information, it does a disservice to all and makes the findings worthless. That’s a heavy price for someone’s time wasted and further ridicule of the field.

There must be an independent group  of qualified researchers tasked with keeping contributors to strict submission guidelines and testing and reviewing data to verify the results put forth for others.

These are factors which ruined database initiatives in the past and why any Joe Schmo with a night vision camera and voice recorder can call himself a ghost hunter and get a television show to flaunt his “evidence”.

For that evidence to be proven or disproven, and be taken seriously, it must be willingly and freely shared. There are a number of groups out there that refuse to do this.

I contacted a famous restaurant in Detroit that has been reportedly haunted for decades about doing an investigation only to discover that they have an exclusive contract with another group. No other group or research team is permitted to investigate, collect data, or post evidence of phenomena experienced at the restaurant. This contracted group even holds for-profit “tours” on occasion for mutual benefit of the establishment and “credibility” of their own group. The restaurant bilks patrons on the haunting legends and the group gets street cred for it. It’s a perfect win-win situation. No one is allowed to verify or refute the group’s findings and no one can recreate the exact conditions present when the data was collected to rule out or confirm factors. Not only is this bad science, it’s damn insulting.

There are a few ostensible databases on the internet that claim to collect information for scientific integrity, but beware because many of these are hackneyed and trite websites that merely collect folklore and personal anecdotes from often-anonymous responders looking to merely have their stories heard. It’s more fan fiction than fact.

A quick search on Bing found a number of hits.

Paranormaldatabase.com, for instance, seems like a legitimate attempt at such a database but much of the language in their legal disclaimer is highly suspicious and many of the highlighted phenomena have nothing to do with parapsychology or related theories.

Likewise, if a ‘database” is nothing more than a Facebook page without links to an official external website, or uses gimmicky names or acronyms such as PANICd (Paranormal Database and Research Information), then odds are it’s run by amateurs.

A promising one called ParaDB, created by a Seattle ghost hunting group, is a web-based PHP/MySQL application designed for use by ghost hunting and paranormal research organizations. It’s format and design is akin to many mainstream academic and medical forums.

The most serious and legitimate organizations are the American Society for Psychical Research and the famous Rhine Research Center– considered the last bastions of authoritative and academic paranormal research in North America. They publish The Journal of the ASPR and the Journal of Parapsychology, respectively, and both are world-renowned for the quality of their scientific content including research reports, theoretical discussions, book reviews, correspondence, and abstracts of university and laboratory research papers. I have been a subscriber to both and they hold a special place in my office library.

Until such a time that a verifiable, comprehensive, and worldwide database exists, the ASPR and Parapsychology Association journals will have to carry the weight of scientific discovery, but at least it’s a start.

 

 

© 2014 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions

Across the Great Divide

January, 2014

 

 

 

“Where, Oh Where, Has the Science Gone?”

There was a time, about 40 years ago, when paranormal research was fueled more by a passion for science and understanding than for fame and glory. It was a time when some of the world’s most prestigious universities were home to large parapsychology departments conducting cutting-edge research and publishing their theories and findings in the world’s top academic journals where they were discussed and graded on their methodology and scholastic merit. It was a great time for the field- before Hollywood and groups using poor techniques and duct-taped equipment stumbled around with night vision cameras looking for ratings rather than answers.

Somewhere, lost in the shadows of the scripted “results”, camera magic, and glitz of reality television’s idea of what paranormal research is, the honest, academic exploration of parapsychology has all but disappeared from the public eye, vanishing into the mists like a Gray Lady on a windy autumn night. Or has it?

For several decades, Duke University ran one of the largest centers for paranormal research in the world: The Duke Parapsychology Laboratory, established in 1935 as part of the college’s main psychology department. Other programs at Stanford and UCLA followed; but the academic environment was about to change.

Remember what happened to Dr. Venkman and company in “Ghostbusters” when they were kicked out? Those scenes were based on the real history of the Duke program when skeptics derided the field of parapsychology as pseudoscience and Duke ended its affiliation with the program. J.B. Rhine moved his labs across the street- literally- and continued the work off-campus that he and William McDougall started as the independent and privately-funded Rhine Research Center.

While it may be true that in recent years the field has become fragmented and underfunded, it still manages to hold on, even as the mainstream scientific community has once again ignored it. John Kruth, executive director of the Rhine, says, “It hasn’t gone anywhere. People have never stopped doing research in these areas, but the skeptic community is strong and vocal, and they’re much better at working the media.”

Kruth points to media-savvy skeptics such as James Randi for much of the academic community’s attitude toward the field. I would have to agree with him, at least in part, but it’s this level of blind skepticism that can’t accept anything that does not fit into rigid definitions and worldviews. Anyone who dares look at other possibilities is immediately labeled a fraud and excommunicated via a round of laughter.

This is a mindset summed up in the words of  Michael Shermer, editor of the quarterly journal, Skeptic, and columnist for Scientific American: “It’s [parapsychology] fallen into disuse due to the fact that there’s just nothing there.”

“Certainly there are fraudulent practitioners out there, and we’re always watching for that,” Kruth said. “It’s like we have the frauds on one side and the debunkers on the other, and we’re in the middle, still trying to do science.”

Critics retort that parapsychology, as a field of scientific study, has a fundamental evidence problem. I would have to agree, but I think Shermer is wrong when he arrogantly claims that “parapsychology has been around for more than a century. (Yet) there’s no research protocol that generates useful working hypotheses for other labs to test and develop into a model, and eventually a paradigm that becomes a field. It just isn’t there.”

At a recent presentation on the campus of Duke University, three parapsychology researchers presented results from their latest studies. The presentation topics:

“Synesthesia, Time and the Geography of Anomalous Experiences”

“Synchronicity and Psi: A Controlled Comparison”

“The Bio-Energy Lab at The Rhine and The O.B.E. (Out of Body Experience) Project”

Other recent research has huge implications in both parapsychology and mainstream clinical psychology. Surely it’s not your Vulcan mind-meld level of telepathy, but researchers came closer than ever to getting one mammal to read another mammal’s mind.

A research team had wired together the brains of two rats, allowing them to transmit information between each other and cooperate. The results, detailed in the journal Scientific Reports, could help improve the design of neural-controlled prosthetic devices and perhaps even show that one day we could network brains as well as computers, or communicate by translating neural activity in the brain into electronic signals.

In the experiment, the Duke scientists trained two rats to press one of two levers when a particular light switched on. Next, they connected the animals’ brains with tiny electrodes, each a fraction the size of a human hair, that linked the parts of the rats’ brains that process motor signals. Rat #1 was the “encoder” while rat #2 was the “decoder.” The first rat’s job was to receive the visual cue to press the lever. If it got it right, it got a reward.

As the encoder rat did its task, the electrical activity in the encoder rat’s brain was then translated into a signal and transmitted to the decoder rat. That rat would then press its own lever. For the second rat, though, there was no light cue to tell it which corresponding lever was correct. It could only go by the signal it received from the other rat.

It hit the correct lever an average of about 64% of the time, sometimes up to 72%- a result much greater than possible by chance. To confirm that this was an effect of the signals from the encoder rat’s brain, the team gave the decoder rat the same stimulation, but this time from a computer, with similar results.

Another experiment tested whether the rat’s brain could transmit information about touch. This time the rats were trained to put their nose through an opening and, using their whiskers, distinguish whether the opening was wide or narrow. For wide openings, the rats were taught to poke a computer port on their right. For narrow openings, they poked to the left.

Once trained, the rats were wired to each other. When the encoder rat poked the relevant port, the scientists recorded the brain activity and sent the signal to the decoder rat. The decoder chose the correct side- left or right- to poke 60-65% of the time.

These research models show promise for parapsychologists as they examine psi and other extra-sensory forms of communication.

Perhaps what researchers should do is employ a bit of psychology when publishing their findings to show just how much there is valid “research protocol and working hypotheses” in the field. By running their experiments with parapsychological theories in mind, make no mention of that fact and publish their experiments as typical mainstream neuropsychology, and see just how the scientific community reacts. Then we may be able to see just how deep the animosity and arrogance truly is among the world’s scientists. Remember that some of history’s greatest minds were laughed at in their own time, only to be repeatedly proven correct decades and centuries later, especially once the correct level of technology came along.

Until next month, keep your minds and your eyes open as you peer across the Great Divide. In the meantime, enjoy this video showing the most detailed map to ever be drawn of the human brain: Play Video

 

Sources: Discovery News

© 2013 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions

 

Paranomal Path

November, 2013

Japanese Ghost Lore
 
     Japanese culture is rich in tradition and lore.  There are many known ghost stories that are passed down from generation to generation.  Some of these stories may have been created to ensure proper curfew or to teach respect but there is always the question, how many of these tales are rooted in truth?
     The Japanese Shinto believe that after death a human becomes a spirit with two sides, one good and one evil.  These spirits are believed to be everywhere, water, trees, mountains, and wind.  Buddhists believe the way a person behaves while living would determine how they will spend the afterlife.  They would either go to the “pure land” or the “Land of the dead”, similar to Hell.  There are also certain prayers and rituals to ensure proper passing of a spirit due to the belief that a spirit starts out angry and confused.
     A Yurei or ghost is believed to haunt the place it once lived and torment the people responsible for any ill feelings it carried during its human life, such as jealousy or envy.  A person must pray that the soul of the dead can ascend and be released from its suffering.
     Recurring themes in these legends are angry and vengeful ghosts of women who experienced cruelty while they were alive.  There is a road between Tokyo and Kyoto known as the “Rocks that weep”.  A woman was said to have traveled down that road to meet her husband late one night.  She was attacked by thieves and murdered.  Her blood spilled onto the rocks and now these rocks are believed to contain her spirit.
     The Buruburu is a ghost believed to inhabit graveyards, forests or any dark quiet location.  The name translates to “the sound of shivering” and it will appear to you as a harmless elderly person.  The spirit then attaches itself to you; this is why you feel shivers down your spine, and fills you with intense fear, sometimes resulting in heart failure.
     The Ikiryo is a type of spirit capable of complete human possession.  This entity is said to inhabit those who carry hate and anger with them at all times.  The ghost latches on and slowly begins to drain the human host of all its energy.  The greater the negativity and emotional toxicity the person has, the more powerful this spirit can be.
     Humans are not the only ones mentioned.  Fox and raccoon are often seen as inhabiting magical abilities.  They can be tricksters, frightening, misleading and even positive omens at times.  The Tanuki is a small furry creature believed to be able to transform into something much more frightening like a one eyed demon who uses nature (earthquakes’, lightening) to claim victims.  Another popular creature is the Kitsune, a fox with shape shifting abilities.  Usually these creatures shift into beautiful women who seduce and even possess men and lead them to their demise.
     There are even stories of inanimate objects containing ghosts.  The Bakechochin is a lantern thought to contain the spirits of those who died with hatred and malice in their hearts.  The lantern has some human qualities, a long tongue and wild piercing eyes.  Anyone who dares to light the lantern will immediately be attacked by the spirits living inside.
     Many of these stories in their own bizarre way promote peaceful living.  Warning us all to stay away from hate, jealousy, lust, and all the similar things viewed as evil or sinful throughout the world.  The personification of emotions is a popular theme and a memorable way to teach lessons.  However many of these entities and their legends are so ancient the origins have become distorted over the centuries and yet they are powerful enough to stay and invoke fear into the most modern and advanced cultures.

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