Let’s help keep young Wiccans and Pagans safe in our circles

Convicted paedophile Robin Fletcher has hit the headlines in recent days, with a judge recently handing down a decision to revoke a supervision order against him and the subsequent appeal against its revocation by the Department of Justice. What makes this case even more remarkably horrifying is that Fletcher is justifying his behaviour as being part of his “Wiccan” beliefs. To date, the appeal is pending.

The Pagan Collective of Victoria have released a statement, with several prominent figures in the Pagan community declaring no affiliation with Fletcher and condemning his actions. Pagans across Australia have also expressed their concern over his pending release. For the record, I have never met Fletcher, nor do I want to. The guy is scum, and he is not representative of the Wiccan/Pagan community.

Fletcher is a lot of things, but a Wiccan he ain’t, despite his assertions to the contrary. First of all, he has broken the Wiccan Rede, an it harm none, do what thou wilt. He manipulated his victims in order to facilitate his crimes, and in doing so, interfered with his victims’ free will (interfering with another person’s free will is also a huge no-no in Wicca). Let’s put it this way, Fletcher is to Wicca what the Westboro Baptist Church is to Christianity and ISIS is to Islam. He is twisting the interpretation of a religion and using it as an excuse for his actions.

Wicca is certainly more liberal in matters concerning nudity, sex and sexuality, but consent is paramount. Whether or not the witch works skyclad (the witches’ term for naked) during ritual work in the privacy of their own home is their own business. There are dickheads in any group, and unfortunately, Wicca has its fair share too. Trust your instincts. If you have recently started working with a group, building a mutual trust, only for a member of the group trying to pressure you into doing anything you’re not comfortable with, speak up. Anyone worth their salt will respect your boundaries. If they disregard your concerns, give them the flick and find another group. No one should be pressuring you into doing something you’re not comfortable with. If they start harassing or intimidating you (or worse, physically harm you), go to the police. No group is worth the trouble. You may have seen the movie The Craft? The scene where Nancy threatens Sarah with bad things happening to her should she leave their coven? Prime example of unacceptable behaviour. You should be free to leave any group if you no longer feel comfortable with the direction the group takes, or if you feel you’ve outgrown it. If you are a member of a group and someone leaves, it’s okay to let them go. If you took an oath not to divulge any details of ritual workings within the group, be sure to keep your oath, but if any of those “workings” broke the law (for instance, sexual assault or aggravated animal cruelty), report it. No one should be able to conceal their crimes under the guise of an oath.

Just in case you’re a young person who’s only just discovered Wicca and your parents are probably worried that you might become a victim of someone like Fletcher, here is just a basic outline of what you’ll find in the pagan community.

Public rituals – As the term suggests, public rituals are conducted on public land (in a park, for instance) and generally family-friendly. Anyone can attend, but there is a general requirement for minors to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Casual clothing is fine, although you’ll find a plethora of hooded capes and robes – just make sure you wear comfortable shoes, because you’ll likely spend a majority of the time on your feet. Alcohol is forbidden at public rituals due to liquor licensing laws and laws against consuming alcohol in a public place. Juice and cookies are usually on offer after ritual for “grounding”, brought in by either the organisers or other attendees, or both. If there is a donation jar, it is prudent to offer a donation, preferably gold coin, to help the organisers cover the costs for the food and for ritual items used, such as incense and candles.

If anyone in attendance at a public ritual behaves inappropriately towards you, speak up. The organisers can tell the offender to leave, or call the police if needed.

Private covens – private covens usually meet in a private residence or other private venue by arrangement. Unlike public rituals, private rituals run by covens may be more in-depth, hence an oath of silence. All covens require new members to undergo initiation rites to varying degrees. Some covens may have age restrictions, or at the very least will require parental consent from minors. They may also have various prerequisites that must be met before being initiated. They want to make sure that you will be a good fit in their group, and that your joining them will enhance not only your own workings, but the overall workings of the group as a whole. Be patient, if there is a group that you really want to work with, they will grant you admission. I am an initiated member of a ceremonial magick group, and it took a good nine months before I was initiated into that group.

Workshops – New Age/occult retail outlets such as the Esoteric Bookshop in Vermont, Victoria, and The Modern Witch based in Sydney, regularly run workshops in relation to all things witchy. Some organisers will have regulars that attend several workshops through the course of the year.

Social gatherings – There are social gatherings for young and old alike, organised by various pagan and Wiccan community groups. If you are at least 18 years of age, there are Pagans in the Pub meetups in various cities across Australia. (If the venue is at a pub where minors are permitted if accompanied by a parent or guardian, and you can get your dear ole’ Mum or Dad to tag along, all the better.) A Google search of “Pagans in the Pub” with your city should point you in the right direction. Some occult/New Age retail outlets will even organise the occasional open day, with the purpose of socialising and also having items available for purchase. House of Hexenn is one such retail outlet.

The Mind Body Spirit Festival is the most widely known gathering of Wiccan, Pagan, New Age retailers, herbalists, psychics, tarot card readers, health food vendors and natural therapists, among others. View their website here. They also have seminars conducted by prominent figures in the Pagan/New Age community. At past MBS festivals, I have attended seminars by Stacey De Marco (The Modern Witch), tarot reader Paul Fenton-Smith and Rose Inserra, author of Dream Reading Cards: Discover the Purpose of Your Dreams and other books on dreams and dream interpretation, among others.

Security guards are on duty at all times during the MBS Festival, which in itself should act as a deterrent for any unsavoury behaviour, and deal with such behaviour should any problems arise. In my 5 years (2017 is going to be my 6th year) attending the Mind Body Spirit Festival, I have found the MBS festival generally safe, especially since I often go on my own. Ultimately it is up to the discretion of young people and their parents to decide whether to go – Melbourne MBS is at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, near the Crown Casino, with plenty of cafes and a gelato bar along the Yarra River.

If you’re a young adult who has discovered Wicca, Paganism or other like path, exercise caution, trust your instincts and you will find people in whom you can put your trust. I discovered Wicca at age 14 and was lucky to have trustworthy mentors – and I want the same for you.

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6 Features in Game of War: Fire Age that Machine Zone forgot

2016 saw more new research, new buildings, new cores and new set gear, then the introduction of hero level 75 just before the new year. There was something new every 1-2 weeks (and more often than not required in excess of USD $1000 to be maxed again).

With all the new shit that’s rolled in, much of the existing shit has fallen by the wayside. Remember when…

#1. Kill events that run for three consecutive days

3-day kill events were before my time in GoW, and when Kingdom v Kingdom kill events started (usually when a kingdom is around 2-3 months old), they ran for 24 hours. Nowadays, the only place you’ll find a 3-day kill event is in the Kingdom of Fire, and that only opens once a month if you’re lucky. Kingdom v Kingdom kill events now run for 15 hours – Great if you live on the west coast of the United States, but you’re screwed if you live in the UK or Europe (forget about it if you live in Australia, New Zealand, Japan etc). The most action happens in the last few hours of the kill event -One kvk, I just happened to wake at 2am with an hour and a bit to go, and we were able to rally a player with a poor defence setup. Earned the third tier prize as rally leader, and got our alliance the third tier prize – and our master trap account player, cursing me because I scored higher than he did.

The kill events against multiple kingdoms are great, but once upon a time…

#2. Declare War 2.0 KvKs

Go to your wonder and tap on it, then tap on War List . When a Declare War 2.0 kill event was announced, anywhere between 4-6 kingdoms (including your own) would be shortlisted. The current reigning King would select a kingdom from that shortlist to fight against, but that means spending crowns to do so. Other players in the kingdom could vote on which kingdom they would ultimately go toe to to with at the kill event, but the selection ultimately rested with the King. The kingdom to make the declaration of war against their chosen kingdom would then get access to some boosts that would give them the upper hand against their chosen enemy. The kingdoms were selected a day or so in advance of the kill event.

I was still in Ferdi (kingdom 498) when these kill events were in vogue, and we saw Maccabee, kingdom 492, quite frequently when the opportunity arose. (when I saw an old battle report of my very first tile trap in Maccabee, I tapped on the coordinates to discover that they’ve since lost a merge war and absorbed into another kingdom. As to which kingdom, I don’t know yet.)

To date, I haven’t seen a Declare War KvK for at least a year. Maybe longer. Maybe those in the newer protected kingdoms are seeing it, but us old fossils in the ancient kingdoms haven’t seen them in yonks. Speaking of ancient kingdoms…

#3. Merge KvKs

I have made myself a new resident in Kingdom 801, Adlan. I joined an Adlan-based alliance shortly after they became ancient (they became ancient on or about 16 January 2017), then ported there at the beginning of February this year. About a month has passed since Adlan became ancient, and not a single merge kvk in sight. Ferdi got its merge within a week of becoming ancient, as did Kalmarsa (Kingdom 657, lost to Latrell, k659).

Machine Zone even forgot at least two kingdoms when they made the older protected kingdoms ancient – Kingdom 322 (Dion) is still a protected kingdom at 2 years 4 months, and Kingdom 689 (Kisul) is also still a protected kingdom at 2 years old. While MZ are deciding what new things to throw at the players, these two kingdoms are chomping at the bit, sending ticket after ticket begging MZ to make their kingdoms ancient, to a non-responsive Customer Support.

I somehow anticipate a merge kvk happening after this blog post is published. I’ll keep you posted. If you’re in either Dion or Kisul and your kingdom goes ancient after this blog post is published, make a comment below.

And gods, I wish we could buy ancient teleports in the bazaar – oh wait…

#4. The Bazaar

When was the last time the items available to sell in the bazaar was refreshed? It’s the same old shit. And the copper limit boosts? I haven’t seen them in packs in ages. The stuff available to buy in the bazaar hasn’t refreshed either. There’s only so many Great Wave gems and pink fireballs one can sell, only to discover you can’t get turret manuscripts to help complete alliance city turret research, or coat of arms to upgrade the War Council building. We just need to catch a monster in the World Boss dungeon for the hall of monsters…

#5. World Boss Monsters

Just as I got my World Boss research maxed, I looked around the kingdom (which, at the time, was Katara, k354) for a world boss monster. Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch. I haven’t seen a single world boss monster for at least eight months, but mythics and behemoths abound! Speaking of dungeons…

#6. Wonder Dungeon packs

If you’re like me and you haven’t completed the dungeon mastery research, you’re probably also wondering if the Wonder Dungeon Pack ship has sailed. Apart from the shrapnel of crystal fragments and shards MZ puts in the packs, a pack with enough to get a good chunk of dungeon research done is as rare as hen’s teeth.

Okay Machine Zone, before you introduce your next new brainfart feature, how about giving us more mileage out of  your existing features, mmkay? Fix the lag and the other glitches and problems that are ruining our enjoyment of your game (which have done for the last two or so years). We’re beginning to wonder if NASA will soon be conducting test flights between your ears.

 

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Let’s just get it over with and make marriage equality in Australia a reality

Right now, the plebiscite vote as to whether same-sex marriage should be enshrined in law, is the hot topic du jour. Yes, grown adults in parliament wanting to conduct what is essentially a glorified opinion poll (because the result of a plebiscite vote is not legally binding, therefore the government is not legally obliged to act on the result) to determine if the majority of voting-age Australians agree to two consenting men or two consenting women being allowed to marry.

For the record, I am a straight, cisgender female and I say “yes” to marriage equality. I’m a bit sick and tired of the same old arguments being trotted out by the anti-same-sex marriage brigade. It’s time to do a hatchet job on those arguments, once and for all.

 

The argument: “But marriage is between a man and a woman!”/”It’s ‘Adam and Eve’, not ‘Adam and Steve’!” etc etc ad nauseum

The definition of marriage and the purpose of marriage has changed over the aeons. Marriage was once a means of forming a strategic alliance between families, has not always only been between one man and one woman, and consent wasn’t a prerequisite until a Benedictine monk decided that consent should be a thing. Hell, marital rape wasn’t even outlawed in Australia until the 1980s. And even now, there’s bound to be at least one person out there who is still yet to accept that a woman in a relationship/marriage doesn’t have to just “lie back and think of England“.

And before anyone harks up about homosexuality being “unnatural”, let’s just point out that homosexuality has been observed in 1,500 known species. Homo Sapiens seems to be the only species that has an issue with it.

Lastly, before anyone bangs on about same-sex marriage “destroying the sanctity of marriage”: Look at the divorce rate in Australia and then come back and say how same-sex marriage will “destroy the sanctity of marriage”. Hands up those who know any same-sex couples who have been together longer than some marriages!

 

The argument: “But a child needs a mother and a father!”

I wasn’t raised by a same sex couple, so I don’t really have a basis for comparison. But, here are two videos from adult children of gay parents, who talk about their experiences. We’ll just leave these videos here:

 

 

 

But wait! There’s more!

 

 

And we’ll leave you with one more for good measure…

 

 

I will also leave this video of a young girl who wrote to US President Barack Obama about her two dads:

 

 

So that I am not accused of cherry-picking, here are two videos, one from Millie Fontana, and one about Heather Barwick, adult children of gay parents. The former speaks about the impact on how her parents denied her contact with her biological father, and the latter is a report on Heather Barwick, who opposes same-sex marriage. Now, before you start firing off with expletives, hear them out:

 

 

 

Fontana’s argument is not so much an argument against same-sex marriage as same-sex parenting. While Zach Wahls and Erin Judge seemed not to be bothered about their paternal line, Millie wanted to know hers. This argument can be brought up in several scenarios not related to same-sex couples, and there are legal, moral and ethical issues to consider, e.g. anonymity of sperm and/or egg donors.

Barwick argues that same-sex marriage should be opposed because her dad abandoned her, despite the fact her mother and her mother’s female partner loved her very much and did a good job raising her (on her own admission). However, to deny other LGBT people the right to marry because her dad was a jerk is about as absurd as an adult child of heterosexual parents calling for marriage between a man and a woman to be outlawed because one parent repartnered/remarried and the other parent abandoned them. There are heterosexual couples/people out there who aren’t exactly a shining example of how to guide young people to behave as an upstanding member of society. Exhibit A: the father of Brock Turner.

There’s a Yoruba (African) proverb, it takes a village to raise a child. Anyone seen the movie Preaching to the Perverted? [SPOILER ALERT] Remember the very end of the movie? Without giving too much away, let’s just say that the infant girl at the end was the luckiest baby in all of London – she had her dad, her mum, her mum’s (presumably) female partner and her paternal grandmother, all with love in their hearts and all happy to help in raising this child.

The argument: “But same-sex couples have the same rights as heterosexual couples anyway!”

Well, not quite. In 2007, the Australian Human Rights Commission released this report into the systemic discrimination against same-sex couples enshrined in law at the time, and same-sex law reforms were passed in November 2008. To read the Act in its entirety, click here. These reforms addressed discrimination with regard to social security, taxation and the like. So yeah, Centrelink recognises same-sex couples like it does a marriage or a heterosexual de facto couple.

However, the right of next-of-kin depends on which state you live in. In 2015, in Hobart, a man was denied the right to be next-of-kin of his deceased same-sex partner. Then there was the case of David Bulmer-Rizzi, who died in an accident while honeymooning in Adelaide – and authorities refused to recognise his widower, Marco Bulmer-Rizzi, as David’s husband, let alone his next-of-kin. Victoria, at least, has some legislation in place to help prevent something like this from happening in the first place.

Anyway, enough of the rebuttal of the existing arguments against marriage equality. Now to present some arguments in favour of marriage equality:

#1. John Howard did not need a plebiscite to amend the Marriage Act in 2004

These amendments included the insertion of Section 88EA of the Marriage Act and the definition of “Marriage” under Section 5. And if John Howard didn’t need a plebiscite then, then Malcolm Turnbull certainly doesn’t need one now, especially considering senator Eric Abetz has gone on the record to say that Coalition MPs won’t be bound by the plebiscite result and Liberal Party senator Cory Bernardi has also stated that he will ignore a ‘yes’ result and vote against any marriage equality bill in parliament, which kinda makes the plebiscite pointless.

#2. Same sex couples shouldn’t need the permission of the Australian public to marry

Same sex couples are adults. They vote. They work. They pay taxes. They can buy liquor and cigarettes. They are serving in our defence force. They do all the adult things, JUST LIKE US STRAIGHT FOLK! Married couples, did YOU have to ask permission from the Australian public to marry? No. They will also have the choice whether to marry or not, just as heterosexuals have that choice as it stands.

#3. What two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedroom is none of your damn business

Dear people who oppose marriage equality, is the marriage of a same sex couple going to affect YOUR life in any way? Let me tell you now, it isn’t going to affect mine, so it’s hardly going to affect yours. Never mind this married couple who claimed that they will divorce if same-sex marriage became legal. It’s still their choice, not to mention that they’re “destroying the sanctity of marriage” by divorcing and “living in sin” (an archaic term for a couple living together as husband and wife but not legally married).

#4. It will benefit the wedding industry

The wedding industry in Australia is worth about $2 billion annually. Imagine all the extra revenue generated for businesses such as florists, photographers, jewellers, bakeries (for wedding cakes), formal wear and catering. That means increased employment (directly and indirectly) and more government revenue in the form of income tax and GST.The Liberal Party of Australia are the self-proclaimed champion of small businesses, yet if they want to stimulate “jobs and growth” as they parroted out in the last election, surely this a good start.

Once marriage equality legislation passes and everyone gets over themselves, 40 years from now, people will see the current arguments over same-sex marriage as absurd as our generation sees the hoo-hah over interracial marriage back in the 1960s.

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Learning from the past: Why Mike Baird’s new counter-terrorism bill will fail

On May 4, 2016, New South Wales Premier Mike Baird announced on his Facebook page about new legislation that was tabled in NSW parliament this week.

Today we introduced legislation into Parliament that will allow our Police to detain and question individuals, without charge, for up to 14 days if they are suspected of committing or planning terrorist acts. The laws will apply to anyone over 14 years of age.

– Excerpt from Mike Baird’s Facebook post, 4 May 2016

Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.

“But what could possibly go wrong?” I hear you ask…

The British Parliament enacted similar legislation in the 1970s to combat the IRA terrorist threat

In 1969, the Irish Republican Army was founded. The Provisional Irish Republican Army is the recognised terrorist organisation, not to be confused with the Official Irish Republican Army. The PIRA’s goal was to remove Northern Ireland from British rule and unite it with the Republic of Ireland. Until the PIRA declared a ceasefire on 19 July 1997 (effective 20 July 1997), they were responsible for several bombings and assassinations (among other things) around Northern Ireland and Great Britain, targeting British government officials, military targets, civilians and police.

In 1974, in an effort to combat the IRA, British parliament passed the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1974, which enabled police to detain suspects for up to five days (initially 48 hours) without a warrant and on reasonable suspicion that they were guilty of a terrorism offence. Sounds good in theory, but in practice…

The only people arrested and convicted under the Act were innocent

On 5 October 1974, the PIRA detonated bombs at two pubs in Guildford, Surrey. Their targets were chosen based on the popularity of the two pubs among British army personnel from nearby Pirbright barracks. Then on 7 November 1974, a shrapnel bomb exploded in the Kings Arms pub, Woolwich.

The Guildford Four, as they became collectively known, were:

  • Gerard Conlon
  • Paul Hill
  • Patrick Armstrong
  • Caroline Richardson

The Maguire Seven were arrested on suspicion that they had supplied explosives to the IRA. They were:

  • Anne Maguire
  • Patrick Maguire (Snr)
  • Patrick Maguire (Jnr) (a minor aged 14 years at the time of the bombings)
  • Vincent Maguire (a minor aged 17 years at the time of the bombings)
  • Sean Smyth
  • Patrick O’Neill
  • Patrick “Giuseppe” Conlon

The Guildford Four and Maguire Seven were arrested shortly after the bombings. Despite having alibis that were verified by witnesses, they were detained and charged. They were allegedly beaten and tortured, an allegation which Gerard Conlon maintained right up to his death in 2014. An inquiry was conducted to investigate the failings of the police investigation at the time, but it stopped short of suggesting that there was an official coverup. Gerry Conlon had spoken candidly about the impact the wrongful conviction had had on him and the others since their release, and wrote an autobiography, upon which the movie In the Name of the Father was based. Paul Hill’s letters to his family were donated to the Archive of the Irish in Britain.

The four IRA paramilitaries involved in the Balcombe Street Siege in December 1975, were arrested and brought to trial in 1977. During their trial, they claimed responsibility for the Guildford pub bombings, stating that “four innocent people were in prison for a crime they didn’t commit”, referring to the Guildford Four. Despite this confession, they were never charged, let alone tried, for their alleged involvement in the Guildford pub bombings.

The Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven had their convictions quashed in 1991.

A similar case is the Birmingham Six.

The Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act didn’t make the British people any safer, as evidenced by the continued IRA activity up until they declared their ceasefire.

And the legislation currently being tabled in New South Wales isn’t going to make the people of New South Wales any safer either.

“But what about the Lindt Cafe Siege?”

Let’s get this out of the way. Man Haron Monis, the gunman responsible for the siege, had no connections with any terrorist organisation (let alone the Islamic State), was on bail and awaiting trial for being an accessory before and after the fact in the murder of his wife, and for several sexual assaults. Further, ASIO dismissed Monis as a “serial pest” and didn’t take reports regarding posts on Monis’ Facebook page seriously. Muslims who were contacted to help the police comply with Monis’ request for an IS flag, felt as though they were set up. If state and federal governments and the judiciary in Australia treated violence against women as seriously as the threat of terrorism, Monis wouldn’t have been out on bail and the Lindt Cafe siege would never have happened. The last act of terrorism to happen in NSW was the Hilton Hotel bombing in 1978. That’s 38 years ago. And yet, as at 3 May 2016, 30 women have been murdered by a current or former partner in 2016.

Now, just say, hypothetically, that this bill passed into law. Replace “Irish” with “Muslim” and 25 years later, we will hear about how NSW Police tortured suspects and coerced them into signing false confessions, and these confessions were the only piece of “evidence” that the Police had to support their case. Despite having witnesses coming forward to provide evidence supporting alibis (and in this day and age, CCTV footage which proves their suspects were elsewhere at the time of any crime), they will withhold this evidence from the defence to secure convictions, or the defence will otherwise be unable to obtain this evidence to defend their case.

“But wait”, I hear you say, “the police wouldn’t do that!”

NSW Police have a history of corruption

Remember the Wood Royal Commission into Corruption in the NSW Police Service? Do you really think we will trust them to act reasonably? ‘Nuff said.

Still not convinced? I’ll leave you with this little gem:

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
– John Dalberg-Acton

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Memento Mori: the facts of life that we need to talk about

“Over my dead body…”
“I’m here for a good time, not a long time…”
“Would you jump into my grave as quickly?”

You may have heard someone say those words in response to certain scenarios. It’s an acknowledgement of our own mortality.

It’s a reminder that we aren’t getting any younger. And, as the Southern Hemisphere descends into winter, southern hemisphere pagans recently celebrated Samhain (April 30 in the southern hemisphere; 31 October in the northern hemisphere. It’s the original Halloween). As the leaves on the trees wither and fall to the ground, the days get shorter, the nights longer and colder, nature gives us a stark reminder that nothing lasts forever, that certain things need to come to an end before we begin something new. It reminds us of the reality of death.

Samhain was/is the Celtic Festival of the Dead, a time during which deceased loved ones and ancestors are honoured and remembered. It is not so much a mourning of their passing, but a celebration of their lives.Think about it – you are alive because of your ancestors. Mexico has a similar festival, the Dia de Muertos.

Which brings us to the topic of this blog post. Yep, today’s pep talk is about this guy:

grim reaper

The Grim Reaper (Still from the movie Metropolis)

 

We dodge him, cheat him (and then sometimes follow through with a kick in the balls), we dread that one day (if we even acknowledge it), he will come beckoning at our door. And yet, we have become so divorced from Death that we look upon it as though death is something to be conquered, that we are invincible (News flash – we’re not invincible). And yet, when a loved one, be they human, canine, feline or otherwise, passes on, we are left with heartache, loss and grief in their wake. We are given the cold, harsh reminder of the permanency of death.

Which brings us to the old adage: “There are only two guarantees in life. Taxes, and Death.”

So, let’s explore humankind’s love-hate relationship with death.

The English language  probably has almost as many slang terms for death as it does for sexual intercourse. Here is a clip from the movie Patch Adams, where Patch Adams (portrayed by Robin Williams) gives comfort to a patient who is dying of pancreatic cancer:

 

Rather than holding the view that the world became poorer on Williams’ passing, the world became richer because he lived. Williams left quite a legacy – and he will be fondly remembered as Mork from Mork and Mindy, not to mention the countless films in which he starred. Arguably, his most memorable moment would have to be his performance in Good Morning Vietnam. The manner of his passing also highlights the need for us to do more for mental health services – it was that dreaded black dog that robbed the world of a beautiful soul. To learn more, I recommend a visit to the website of the Black Dog Institute, which is a non-profit organisation that specialises in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of conditions such as depression and bipolar disorder.

The reminder of your own mortality still hasn’t sunk in yet…

 

Just be thankful those days are over.

Because this is such a complex topic, it will need to be explored in a series of blog posts, rather than a single one. So, here’s one more to drive home your own mortality:

 

Now that we’ve driven the point home, it’s time to think about what to do with the time that we’ve got, i.e. while we’re still alive. We also need to get our shit sorted out so that our worldly possessions are divvied out in accordance with our wishes. So, Chapter One of Memento Mori will be all about all the things to do before we die. Here is a list of inspirational quotes to get you going. When you’re done, let’s continue.

Get your affairs in order. Write a will. You’re probably thinking, “But I don’t own a house. I don’t need a will.” Do you have superannuation? Do you have a car? Are you a performing/literary/visual artist whose works are still earning you royalties? Do you have any specific instructions, e.g. cremation or burial, exclusion of specific people from making a claim on your estate, or you have your wishes as to how and where you wish to have your funeral service and wake? Do you have other valuable possessions, such as jewellery or musical instruments, that you wish to be passed down to any specific person? You need to put that in a will. There are DIY will kits available if you know what you want and understand the advice given in these kits. But, if there are any questions you have that aren’t answered in the DIY will kit, or you have complex arrangements (such as a testamentary trust for grandchildren), or if you have debts (such as a mortgage), you need to see a lawyer. A lawyer will be able to draft the will and make sure that it accords with your wishes, advise you on the consequences of making the will, explain the role of the executor appointed under the will, and to make sure that the will revokes any previous wills or codicils that you have made. The lawyer will also ensure that the will is properly executed and witnessed in accordance with the applicable laws to ensure its validity.

But, have you already made a will? If there are changes in your circumstances, such as marriage or divorce, then you need to update your will. Victorian law firm Slater & Gordon has a comprehensive overview of wills, probate and estates, which you can read here.

Is there anything you really, really want to do while you’re still alive? Write a bucket list. This list is limited only by your imagination. Remember, you’re never too old to try anything. Don’t think you’re good at something? Do it anyway, the time will pass regardless. This list below is not necessarily my bucket list, but an example of what a bucket list can look like:

  • Drive the Great Ocean Road
  • Learn a second language
  • Travel and explore foreign lands
  • Learn a new skill, e.g. photography, sewing
  • master a musical instrument
  • Be part of a TV studio audience
  • Learn how to scuba dive/bungee jump etc
  • Make a pilgrimage (e.g. Wacken Open Air if you are a heavy metal fan, Summernats or NASCAR if you are fond of cars or car racing)

Spend quality time with family and friends. Among the most common regrets of the dying, is that they wished they didn’t work so hard, and wished they had spent more time with family and friends. Remember the lyrics to the songs Puff the Magic Dragon and Cats in the Cradle? The former is about a little boy who lost the magick of childhood after he became a man and bearing the burdens of adulthood (not about drug use – go and read those lyrics again some time), and the latter is about a father who regrets not spending more time with his son, to quote the final verse: I’ve long since retired and my son’s moved away, I called him up just the other day. I said “I’d like to see you, if you don’t mind”, he said “I’d love to Dad, if I can find the time. You see my new job’s a hassle and the kids have the flu, but it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad, it’s been sure nice talking to you.”  When I hung up the phone it occurred to me, he grew up just like me, my boy was just like me…

Go and scrutinise the above picture of the Grim Reaper again. Apart from the scythe, which is his most notable attribute, his other attribute is the hourglass. See if you can find it in the picture. The hourglass serves as a reminder that time waits for no one, and that our time is finite.

Let go of the past. You are not your past. Are some people beyond salvation or redemption? Perhaps they are. Or maybe not. One of my good friends, who passed away in late 2014, was an ex-con, but he was a man who stood by  his convictions, whatever the cost. Writing music became his outlet, his vehicle of expression. Which brings us to…

Be more creative. Creativity heals, creativity inspires, it keeps us out of trouble (we hope). Our modern society devalues creativity, dismissing it as folly. People who make a living in any creative arts (especially photographers and seamstresses, for example) have to fight tooth and nail to justify their rates for their craft. Memes such as this have become necessary to express the bugbears of the creative:

Cinderella sew meme

Add a couple of zeros to that figure and then we’ll talk. (Still from the movie Cinderella)

 

“But I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” I call bullshit. Everyone has the capacity to create. Some will take longer than others, and that’s okay. Hell, there was a time where I couldn’t even do so much as sew on a button. Still not convinced? Here’s a bit of inspiration. You’ve heard of a guitarist Steve Vai, right? Steve Vai has stated on the record that he was not a natural when he first began to learn the guitar, and practiced 11 hours a day to get better.

And here’s a select clip of Steve Vai in action:

 

You don’t have to create for the benefit of other people. You create for the benefit of YOU. Even if drawing stick figures on a restaurant napkin serves as a creative outlet, if it gives you satisfaction, that’s all that matters.

The next instalment of Memento Mori will explore death’s place in folklore through the ages, including folkoric tales of the afterlife and the undead (yes, that includes vampires).

To end this blog post, here is a shortlist of movies that deal with the topic of death and dying, in the context of this blog post:

Big Fish
Thunderstruck
Beetlejuice
Steel Magnolias
Beaches

Posted in Religion & Spirituality, Society and Culture, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why The Craft is one of the most frustrating movies about witchcraft (which also made it awesome)

WARNING: Contains spoilers!

When people hear the word “Witch”, the first image that comes to mind is this:

witch_with_warts_flying

It’s the go-to costume for Halloween when all other options are not viable. Despite all the dress-ups and fun, witches have had a pretty bad rap over the centuries. Yeah, there are people out there who have claimed to be witches and gone and killed people, or animals even, “in the name of Satan”. Just so you know, even Satanism frowns upon animal cruelty.

It is even written in Exodus 22:18 of the Holy Bible (King James version), Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Ironically, the Christians appropriated all the pagan holidays and turned them into Easter, Christmas etc, even taking pagan symbols (the Easter bunny, the Easter egg, the Christmas tree etc) and claimed them as their own. This topic can be reserved for its own blog post in the near future.

Before the invention of the video camera and the creation of the first motion picture, there were plenty of occult grimoires in circulation, the most famous being the works of Aleister Crowley and Agrippa; on the other side of the coin, there were treatises on identifying, interrogating and convicting witches. The most well-known such treatise is the Malleus Maleficarum, first published in 1486. The persecution of witches continued over the aeons, with the Salem Witch Trials in 1692 among others.

The mantra of “witches = bad” continued into the modern age. Despite the foundation of modern Wicca (founded in the early 1950s by Gerald Gardner), horror movies such as Dario Argento’s Suspiria had evil witches at the crux of their storyline. Mention tarot cards to a non-Wiccan and they will try to convince you of how evil they are, when most tarot readers will describe the tarot as a psychic road map, rather than a means of telling the future – which in turn, they will tell you, is not set in stone. Although for the most part, modern society has stopped blaming witchcraft on their misfortunes or on their own misbehaviour, that’s not to say that it doesn’t still happen – because it does, no matter how few and far between the incidents.

On 3 May 1996, The Craft was released in the United States of America, and released 4 July 1996 in cinemas across Australia. The Craft is copyrighted, released and distributed by Columbia Pictures.

The Craft starred Fairuza Balk, Robin Tunney, Neve Campbell, Rachel True and Assumpta Serna, and was directed by Andrew Fleming.

Since the release of The Craft, subsequent movies such as Practical Magic and TV Shows such as Charmed have helped with the good witchy PR, making witches look less scary and more like your next-door neighbour.

The Craft has been earmarked for a remake, and The Frisky have even listed their dream cast. However, no one will scrutinise The Craft remake as closely as the practising neo-pagans and Wiccans of the world, as they did with the original (as I am about to do in this blog). Given the film industry’s history of how witches have been portrayed in film and TV over the years (let alone the persecution of witches throughout recent history), can you blame them?

All things aside, I enjoyed the movie The Craft. I was pleased to see a movie that shone some light on what Wicca is really all about. The movie Practical Magic, starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, is another movie deserving of its own blog post similar to this one in the not-too-distant future, as it also has a few underlying truths in relation to folk magick generally. And, like The Craft, Practical Magic can be found in my DVD library.

So, what’s The Craft about?

For those who have been living under a rock for the last 20 years, The Craft is a cautionary tale about a group of four teenage witches who use magick to manifest their desires or otherwise bring about change in an aspect of their lives. Their actions, and the consequences thereof, are testament to the saying “Be careful what you wish for”.

 

Okay, so what is it about The Craft that makes it so frustrating to Neo Pagans and Wiccans?

The Craft is one of the few movies about witches that gives an outsider a glimpse of what it’s actually all about. Far from the evil witches of Wizard of Oz, Hocus Pocus (despite this, I still enjoyed that movie) and B-Grade 80s horror movies, and the fluff of the Good Witch Glinda and the Good Witch of the North from Wizard of Oz, The Craft explains the basic tenets of witchcraft/Wicca as you would find in any book on the subject, with a liberal sprinkling of Hollywood magic (i.e. special effects). I will list some recommended books on Wicca and Wiccan authors at the end of this blog.

Here’s the lowdown:

#1. The Craft had a Dianic Wiccan High Priestess as their technical adviser

Who better to advise the filmmakers on all things Wiccan than an actual practising Wiccan? High Priestess Pat Devin was the technical adviser on the set, and she had a lot of input during pre-production (including input with the screenplay). Actress Fairuza Balk is also a practising Wiccan (or at least at the time of production) and even bought a magickal supplies store, Pan Pipes, in Hollywood shortly after The Craft was released. It is not certain whether she still owns the shop to this day.

So, when you’ve got an actual Wiccan as a technical adviser on the set, you’ll get more than just the standard Hollywood magic on the set…

 

#2. The Craft used actual Wiccan rituals

The ritual on the beach and the initiation rite in the forest are actual Wiccan rituals. They’re not taken from some obscure occult grimoire – you will find them in most books on Wicca in any New Age store or online bookshop.

The Watchtower ritual which was used on the beach is generally used to cast circle. You can read a more detailed description here and here. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn version of the ritual can be found here. It interesting to note that Gerald Gardner, the founder of Wicca, was reputedly a member of the Ordo Templi Orientis (and also reputedly a member of the  Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. He was also a Freemason). The Watchtower ritual is also used in ceremonial magick, and its purpose is the same – to clear the magickal space and create a boundary between that magickal space and the mundane world, and to contain the magickal energies within that boundary. The purpose of the Guardians at the four cardinal points is that of a gatekeeper, to keep out any uninvited entities.

The line “Blessed Be” and the mantra “As Above, So Below” are typically used by Wiccans, and you’ll find them used in any book or website on Wicca, to varying degrees.

“But what about the spells?” You ask… We’ll get to that, but before we do…

 

#3. The spells (or variations thereof) used in The Craft can be found in any spell book in a New Age store or website

The binding spell used in The Craft is a basic version of many that you will find on the Internet and in spell books in any New Age store. The wrapping of the white ribbon around the photograph is part and parcel to the spell. Its purpose is simple – to stop someone from causing harm upon another. In Cassandra Carter’s book Everyday Magic, she cautions the use of binding spells, summed up in the mantra as you bind, so you are bound.

Love spells – they are at a dime a dozen. All you have to do is a Google search on “Love Spells” and you will get approximately 1.8 million search results in 0.63 seconds.

 

Love spells google search.PNG

A search on luck and money spells will also get similar results. Yes, I did an actual Google search above to prove my point on the abundance of love spells.

The glamour spells they perform in Nancy’s bedroom after she and her mother move to a new high-rise apartment, work more on the power of suggestion than anything else. There are magick potions available at your local hairdresser, supermarket or pharmacy that work on changing your hair colour (read: hair dye), and as for changing your eye colour, it’s called going to an optician and buying contact lenses.

Technical advisor Pat Devin made sure that the spells referred to in the movie were basic enough that they could be found in any commercially-available book found in any new age store.

But… but… things ended up going wrong!

Okay, before we go into the nitty gritty of why the girls’ spells went wrong, let’s continue with why The Craft is frustrating to witches…

#4. Lirio (the occult store owner) is, for the most part, a walking, talking encyclopaedia of what Wicca is about

Lirio is portrayed in the movie by Assumpta Serna.

While I take issue with Lirio’s comment to Sarah in the first scene, “Maybe you’re a natural witch. Your power comes from within“, she is pretty much spot-on with the Law of the Threefold Return, and her analogy on spellcraft when answering Sarah’s request for advice on how to undo a love spell: “When you open a floodgate, how do you undo it? When we unleash something in a spell, there is no undoing. It must run its course.” She also hits the nail on the head with her response to Sarah’s accusation of black magick: “True magick is neither black nor white. It’s both because nature is both. Loving and cruel, all at the same time. The only good or bad is in the heart of the witch. Life keeps a balance of its own.

As to why I take issue with the comment of Sarah being a “natural witch”, magick, like anything else, is an acquired skill. Anyone can create an effect, if they put in the time and effort to hone their craft. But, they must also be able to control and balance the energies that they are working with. And that takes practice.

Okay, okay… but what about when things started to go wrong?

In the next few paragraphs, we shall explore the how, why etc of the things that went wrong with the girls’ spells. Sure, things initially looked like they were beginning to work in their favour. Then things took a turn.

Seeing as Sarah’s spell was the first to manifest, we’ll start with her…

Sarah’s spell: 

Sarah is portrayed by Robin Tunney.

She cast a spell to get Chris Hooker (portrayed by Skeet Ulrich) to fall in love with her. She broke a cardinal rule of love magick with her spell – She focused her spell on a specific person, and thus interfering with another person’s free will – read about love magick on any website or in any book on the subject, and they will all offer cautionary advice on why it is not a good idea to focus your love magick on a specific person. Cassandra Carter’s book Everyday Magic has a very comprehensive chapter on love magick, and is recommended reading. Apart from the magickal no-no of interfering with another person’s free will, you could find yourself stuck with someone like Chris Hooker, or at least what he had become (whether it was because of the spell, or the magick revealed a hidden aspect of his personality, is anyone’s guess) – obsessive and possessive, not to mention the very real possibility of your own personal safety being jeopardised (Chris turns up at Sarah’s house at 3am after attempting to contact her by telephone, then later attempts to rape Sarah after deceiving her into accompanying him on a drive, making her believe that they were going to see a movie. Luckily, Sarah is able to escape and flee, seeking refuge at Bonnie’s house). The Wiccan Rede, An it harm none, do what thou wilt includes not doing any harm to yourself!

Everyone wants to be with someone [*Citation needed]. To what level of commitment is a personal choice. Love is indeed profitable, as evidenced by the abundance dating websites and dating apps. Florists are well-stocked on flowers for Valentine’s Day, and weddings can cost a small fortune too, depending on the extravagance of the bridal gown, the ceremony and wedding reception, or lack thereof. I think Johnny Cash sums it up best:

Bonnie’s Spell:

Bonnie is portrayed by Neve Campbell.

Bonnie wanted to rid herself of severe burn scars across her back and shoulders, because she felt that she would be more beautiful without them. There is a lesson in her journey as well. If anyone were to think less of her simply because of her burn scars, that says more about the person judging Bonnie than Bonnie herself. While there are cosmetic surgery procedures for burn scars, gene therapy was the form of treatment referred to in the movie – and it is a thing. Burns treatment has come a long way since 1996, with hydrogel and spray-on skin revolutionising the way burns are treated. In the movie, the gene therapy treatment worked for Bonnie (with a bit of magickal assistance), and afterwards, she becomes completely narcissistic. Sarah notices the first signs when the girls visit Nancy in her new condo. As they stroll through the common property towards the main entrance into the complex, worrying over whether their magick had facilitated the death of Nancy’s stepfather, Bonnie spies an attractive man passing them in the opposite direction. She then says flirtatiously, “Hi. Don’t be shy…” then turns back and coos, “Hmm… nice ass.” while the subject of her desires turns his head with a bemused look on his face. Later in the movie, Sarah calls Bonnie out on her behaviour, to which she responds, “Excuse me, but I spent a big chunk of my life being a monster and now that I’m not, I’m having a good time and I’m sorry if that bothers you.”

Bonnie is testament to the saying, beauty is only skin deep. But she can hardly be blamed for her way of thinking. We live in a world that seems to value the aesthetic of a woman’s brain-case more than its contents, and is adequately summed up when Bonnie said, “Except me” when Nancy tells Sarah that Chris Hooker “comes on to anything with tits”. We see images of photoshopped ideals of beauty, splashed across billboards and magazine covers, in a society that worships youth. Teenage girls feel pressured to conform to this ideal that appears to be imposed upon them by the bombardment of these images on our billboards and in fashion magazines. If only someone told Bonnie that her scars were beautiful – that they told the world that one day, Death had come for her but she fought him and said defiantly, “Not today!”, and lived to see another day. And if only Chris Hooker and his friends could see that too.

I now present to you, a shining, real-world example of inner beauty shining through from beneath the burn scars. Below is a 60 Minutes interview with Turia Pitt, who survived horrific burns after being caught in a bushfire while running an ultramarathon in Western Australia’s Kimberley region.  Turia Pitt’s partner had bought an engagement ring while she was in intensive care, and they are now engaged to be married. Hmmm. That just made the Chris Hooker character look like an even bigger arsehole.

Before we move on to the next one, we will have a little intermission with this fun fact: Brenda Strong, the actress who portrayed the surgeon in The Craft, had previously appeared in Spaceballs as a nurse – you know, the one who assisted the plastic surgeon  Darth Helmet hired, so he could hold King Roland of Druidia to ransom if he didn’t give Darth Helmet the combination to enable the Spaceballs to deplete Druidia’s atmosphere. He threatened to perform a rhinoplasty on Princess Vespa to restore her old nose if King Roland didn’t give in to Darth Helmet’s demands. Yes, Brenda Strong was the sexy nurse!  Since The Craft’s release, Strong appeared in the movie Get a Job as psychiatrist Emily LaCrosse, and in the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode Overload as a doctor. Another notable role in which she didn’t play a doctor, was in Starship Troopers as Captain Deladier, breaking away from the medical professional typecast.

And, back to the witchy stuff…

 

Rochelle’s Spell

Rochelle is portrayed by Rachel True.

After dealing with nasty comments and taunts from Laura Lizzie (portrayed by Christine Taylor) over what seems a prolonged period of time, Rochelle finally confronts Lizzie and demands an explanation from her as to why she is being so mean, to which Lizzie casually responds with, “I don’t like negroids. Sorry”, revealing herself to be a bit of a racist. So, Rochelle seeks a bit of revenge.

Rochelle’s spell involved using a lock of Laura’s hair, which Sarah obtained while she casually strolled past Laura, and reaching out and yanking out a few strands of hair as Laura walked in the opposite direction. The lock of hair was then braided into Rochelle’s hair, and the spell began to manifest at the swimming centre as Rochelle took to the diving board. Laura Lizzie’s usual taunts were silenced when she noticed her hair falling out as she took off her swimming cap. Not to be perturbed, Rochelle performed her dive, for the coach to see, finally. Later in the movie, it is revealed that all Laura’s hair has fallen out and she has to wear a wig. She approaches Rochelle and just says “Hi, how are you doing?” – then the camera cuts to the bedroom, but not before we hear Laura begin what we can only assume is an apology, with “Listen…” while Rochelle understandably appeared a little defensive.

In the movie, it looked as though Laura’s scalp had been burned, and chemical burns from hair dye is known to happen. Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune disease by which the immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing the hair to fall out.

It was difficult to feel any kind of sympathy for Laura, especially because of how nasty she was to Rochelle (and why). Rochelle’s acknowledgement of her spell quickly descended into schadenfreude when she boasts about how Laura has to wear a hat to hide her patchy scalp. But, Laura’s attitude could possibly be attributed to her upbringing.

“Racism isn’t born, folks. It’s taught. I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates? Naps. End of list.”
– Denis Leary

There are studies that have shown that racism is a learned behaviour, mainly from parents and/or family members. If Laura Lizzie’s casual racism was a product of her upbringing, and her racist attitude was indeed learned (I am going to go with learned behaviour because she later approaches Rochelle to make amends), did she really deserve to have all her hair fall out as some sort of punishment? This falls into a grey area. As Sarah said to Rochelle while she braided the strand of Laura’s hair into Rochelle’s, “If she leaves you alone, nothing will happen to her” after Rochelle asked what would happen to Laura. Obviously Laura had continued to taunt Rochelle, given that the spell had manifested, and Rochelle probably didn’t think it all through, as hair may or may not grow back through burn scar tissue, depending on the severity of the burn (going by the chemical burn theory).

And last, but not least…

Nancy’s spell

Nancy is portrayed by Fairuza Balk.

Nancy is probably the most complex character of the four girls. She has a dominant personality, and is very much the alpha of the group, even before Sarah joined them, but this dominance becomes more apparent as the story moves on. Her spell was simple – she wanted “All the power of Manon” (it should also be pointed out that “Manon” is a fictional deity – Pat Devin advised against referencing a real deity for the movie). Nancy didn’t state her intent or purpose for this power – she just wanted power for its own sake.

Taking in that kind of power into a physical body and a mental state that are already in a state of chaos (that being puberty and sexual awakening, and a mind that has been impacted by living in a dysfunctional household) would invariably create chaos, and we could see how it affected Nancy after her spell began to manifest. The results of her spell were indeed tragic – her stepfather suffered a fatal cardiac arrest, but he had left a life insurance policy that made her mother rich, enabling them to move out of the hovel of a home that they were living in and into a new, swank apartment with new furniture. When they performed the Watchtower ritual on the beach, the next morning the beach was awash with sea creatures that had beached themselves.

And then things get worse…

She uses her glamour spell to take on the likeness of Sarah, in order to seduce Chris. When Nancy calls out Chris for his atrocious behaviour towards women (again, another learned behaviour that he probably observed in the interactions between his parents), Chris utters a feeble “sorry”. Nancy, of course, doesn’t believe him. So, with a bit of magickal assistance, the french doors swing open and Chris is sent to his death over the balcony. And then Sarah is on the receiving end of her magick, subjecting Sarah to night terrors and then the little stunt at the occult shop, then Sarah’s home.

Things ultimately didn’t end well for Nancy. I won’t say what became of her, you’ll just have to watch the movie to find out.

On the surface, it appears that Nancy was nothing more than a wicked witch. I disagree. She wasn’t inherently evil, but appeared to be motivated by revenge. Look at all the people she targeted – her obnoxious stepfather, who in one scene in their home, lifted up Nancy’s nightgown, saying “Look at that, you can almost see through that thing!” We only get to see the tip of the iceberg as to the extent of how he treated her (and her mother).  In her stepfather’s case, did she break the Wiccan Rede of “an’ it harm none, do what thou wilt”?

You can read these articles here, here, here, here and here about children who killed an abusive parent or step-parent. How is Nancy’s use of magick to cause death to her abusive stepfather any different to how the children in the linked articles killed their abusive parent? Note that it all happens after Nancy’s stepfather raised his hand at her mother. And before anyone throws around the bible quote “Honour thy mother and thy father”, why should anyone, let alone a parent or step-parent, who abuses a child be worthy of being honoured? There is no honour in child abuse.

When Nancy warns Sarah about Chris, we get an insight into the psyche of Chris Hooker. A young man who uses young women for his own pleasure, with little regard for their feelings or desires. When Nancy warns Sarah that he “spreads disease”, it becomes apparent that Chris is promiscuous, and picked up an STI from one of his “conquests”, then passed it on to Nancy, which is revealed when Nancy says quietly, “I’m talking from personal experience”. Teenagers, this highlights the importance of safe sex. If you’re going to engage in sexual activity, “It would be much sweeter if you wrapped up your peter“. The contraceptive pill only helps prevent pregnancy, but condoms and other barrier prophylactics help prevent the transmission of STIs. But coming from a dysfunctional household, Nancy would have likely complied with any request from Chris not to use protection in order to keep the peace, not wanting to make a scene, and blindly trusting Chris (who probably told her “but I don’t have any diseases”). But did Chris deserve to die? In Chris’ case, after getting the mother of all earbashings from Nancy, he had every chance to change his ways, if only Nancy listened to Sarah and just walked away. But no. Had Nancy let him live, he would have been given ample opportunity to redeem himself.

Then when Nancy, Bonnie and Rochelle began to invade her dreams, find out what was inside her head, we could see the effects it was having on Sarah – anxiety, nightmares and night terrors, among other things, can keep people from having a good night’s sleep, and there has been study after study on the effects of sleep deprivation on the human body, and the consequences of not getting a good night’s sleep. So absolutely, Nancy was causing harm to Sarah. As to why Nancy targeted Sarah in the first place, Sarah was the only one of the other three girls who dared to challenge Nancy’s authority, and Nancy didn’t take to the criticism too kindly. Sensitivity to criticism is a trait you’ll find in a child from a dysfunctional household. Nancy was abused, neglected and exploited, and sought revenge against the people who had wronged her instead of focusing on improving herself and her self-worth.

The ending wasn’t a case of “and they all lived happily ever after”. The girls all had to deal with the consequences of their actions in their own way and (hopefully) learned something from it.

Okay, but isn’t witchcraft dangerous? I mean, look what happened to Nancy?

Fire is dangerous, but people still use fire to warm their home and cook their food, and people still light candles in their home. Electricity is dangerous, but people still use electricity to warm their home and cook their food, and power their electronic devices that provide hours of entertainment. But, if used with the proper care, consideration and precautions, witchcraft can enhance and enrich our lives, just as the use of fire and electricity has enhanced and advanced our society.

 

Recommended further reading:

Encyclopaedia of Spirits: the ultimate guide to the magic of fairies, genies, demons, ghosts, gods and goddesses by Judika Illes, HarperOne ISBN 978-0-06-135024-5

A Witches’ Bible: The Complete’ Witches Handbook by Janet and Stewart Farrar, Robert Hale Publishers ISBN 13: 0-978-7090-7227-0

Wicca: The Old Religion in the New Millennium by Vivianne Crowley, Thorsons ISBN 0-7225-3271-7

The Grimoire of Lady Sheba, Jessie Wicker Bell (Lady Sheba), Llewellyn Worldwide ISBN 0-87542-076-1

Spellbound: The Secret Grimoire of Lucy Cavendish, Lucy Cavendish, Rockpool Publishing ISBN 978-1-925017-15-1

Witchcraft Theory and Practice, Ly De Angeles, Llewellyn Worldwide ISBN 978-1-566718-782-3

Any book by Christopher Penczak, Raymond Buckland or Scott Cunningham

If you find tarot cards rather unsettling, these oracle card decks are recommended alternatives:

Messenger Oracle by Ravynne Phelan, Blue Angel Publishing ISBN 978-0-9872041-1-0

Gods and Titans by Stacey Demarco and illustrated by Jimmy Manton, Blue Angel Publishing ISBN 978-0-98087 19-2-0

Goddesses and Sirens by Stacey Demarco and illustrated by Jimmy Manton, Blue Angel Publishing ISBN 978-0-9808719-5-1

Wisdom of Avalon Oracle cards by Colette Baron-Reid, Lifestyles Publishing ISBN 978-1-4019-1042-6

The Goddess Oracle by Amy Sophia Marashinsky and illustrated by Hrana Janto, US Games Systems Inc ISBN-13: 978-1-57281-546-9 & ISBN-10: 57281-546-9

Posted in Movies & TV, Pop Culture, Religion & Spirituality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Travellin’ ’round the GoW countryside: how Ancient Kingdom teleports have changed the face of Game of War: Fire Age

de_game-of-war_hauptbild

Screenshot from the opening page, just before it loads

Okay, so it’s been a while since my last blog post about Game of War: Fire Age. The game has evolved in leaps and bounds since my last post, most notably:

  • New maximum hero level 60 (introduced late July 2015)
  • New March research (increased march size, rally size capacity and embassy troop capacity increase)
  • Wild Combat (new Wild Troops, tiers 1-4)
  • Alliance City Bazaar
  • Alliance City Combat
  • New hero research (World Boss monsters)
  • New Hero gear sets and core sets
  • Ancient Kingdoms
  • Kingdom Merge

The most profound change in Game of War: Fire Age is the creation of ancient kingdoms. Protected kingdoms become ancient based on:

  • The age of the kingdom (typically kingdoms at least 6-8 months old are earmarked to become ancient kingdoms)
  • Population size (low population kingdoms tend to be given first preference for becoming ancient)

If your kingdom has recently become an ancient kingdom, expect a Kingdom Merge kill event within weeks of becoming an ancient kingdom. It may be as early as a week after becoming an ancient kingdom.

My first kingdom, Ferdi (Kingdom 498) became an ancient kingdom just after New Year’s Day, 2016. In the first weekend in January, we had our Merge KVK against kingdom Caelan. Ferdi won (which came as a shock to everyone, given the kingdom’s long-running KVK losing streak). Several Caelan players weren’t too happy with the results, with one player changing his player name to “FUK FERDI” at the conclusion of the event.

Another perk that came with the creation of ancient kingdoms, is the ancient kingdom teleport. Just like your advanced and random teleports (which you can use to port within a given kingdom), ancient kingdom teleports come in advanced and random. Don’t like the kingdom your stronghold (and hero) grew up in? Got a lover in another kingdom and you want to be with him/her in-game, and port over to his/her kingdom or get him/her to port over to yours? Or do you and your alliance want to be GoW’s answer to the Leyland Brothers? Pick a kingdom and use your advanced ancient kingdom teleport, or leave it to chance and use a random ancient kingdom teleport and see where it takes you. (NB: The ancient kingdom teleports are only available in gold packs, so be sure to keep an eye out for them when they become available.) After the Ferdi/Caelan merge KVK, several players from both kingdoms had indicated that they had ancient kingdom teleports on the ready, in the event that the outcome was not in their favour.

I waited until the end of January to give the ancient teleports a try. I had two random ancient kingdom teleports in my inventory. I used my first one, and found myself in Jaakko (Kingdom #555). I collected scores of heroes (mostly non-executable), and brought them back to Ferdi for a bit of “Hero Racing” – How “hero racing” works (and I first did this during a kill event), you go into another kingdom, collect as many non-executable heroes as you can, teleport home and then shield to release (or deconstruct your prison to release if you port in the forest). The first hero past the kingdom border is the winner. At the time, no one thought to place bets on which hero would pass the kingdom border first. I had to rename a few captives, but the lag while scrolling down the long list of captured heroes was terrible because I had captured so many. I have so many Captured Hero Renames in my inventory, thanks to prizes earned in kill events. I chose names of famous race horses (one hapless hero got renamed Makybe Diva, and another got renamed Phar Lap), others got something else entirely. But that was but a drop in the ocean of possibilities presented by the introduction of ancient kingdom teleports:

 

#1. Outlanders can teleport in and make your kingdom their new home

Before the Ferdi/Caelan merge, a few lone wolves ventured in to Ferdi and made themselves at home in a Ferdi alliance. Many had their reasons for wanting to move from their home kingdom. They had ported to Ferdi by choice (and in some cases, by chance) and they were welcomed by the kingdom. One or two decided to stay for good.

 

#2. Outlanders will port in on a Wonder Dungeon “vacation”

One random day in Ferdi, all was quiet… until somebody posted in the kingdom chat, “Hey! Stayalive77 is at the wonder!”

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Yes, the then-Emperor of the Kingdom of Fire himself, Stayalive77, was at our wonder. The poor fellow had to deal with people one-trooping and scouting him while his hero negotiated the wonder dungeon. Subsequently, several big players rocked up to send their heroes into the depths.

That’s all the fun stuff. However, there’s a catch…

 

#3. Outlanders can teleport in and raze your kingdom, without the benefit of a KVK

There are going to be players who will port around from kingdom to kingdom, to burn everything in sight. There were outlanders drifting around Ferdi, burning people, tile hitting and collecting heroes.

Now, here’s the cold, harsh truth about being in an ancient kingdom: Even if your kingdom had set rules and everyone abided by them, nothing is going to stop a player from another kingdom from porting in and doing whatever they want. Because fuck you and fuck your rules, that’s why. They pay their money and they’ll play the game however they want. Throw the rule book away, it’s not even worth the paper it’s printed on. You can moan in kingdom chat about tile hitting until you are blue in the face, but you may as well appeal to a brick wall.

Having said that, it’s not just the lone wolves you have to worry about. Whole rally teams had shown up in Ferdi…

 

#4. Rally teams can turn up in your kingdom and really raise hell

Ferdi got two surprise visits on two different occasions from rally teams hailing from other kingdoms. The first was just after Ferdi became an ancient kingdom, and the second was  after the merge with Caelan was complete. (On a side note, the Ferdi/Caelan merge took 10 days to complete, because MZ bit off more than it could chew by holding several merge kvks at once.)

The first time around was just before Ferdi’s merge kill event, when a posse from an alliance in kingdom 412 (Andris), turned up and challenged the top alliances for the wonder. Of course, the top alliances got their hackles up. Who the hell do these people think they are? the top alliances were thinking. Ancient Kingdom teleports were set to change the game profoundly, yet some people were in denial, or just wilfully ignorant to the new doors of possibilities the ancient teleports opened. The Andris players rattled a few cages (and certainly angered the top alliances when they started spending the kingdom’s crowns on various economics boosts), but what the kingdom experienced was a taste of things to come. The Andris players made it known that Ferdi had earned a reputation as a farming kingdom (as evidenced by other lone wolves, including one sole member of Stayalive77’s alliance D:V, with a collection of up to 70 executable heroes from Ferdi strongholds in their prison) and they had turned up to motivate Ferdi to put its collective fighting gloves on. Andris had its merge kill event on the same weekend as Ferdi, and ironically, Ferdi won its merge kvk; Andris lost theirs. And when I said they were giving Ferdi a taste of things to come…

Shortly after Caelan was absorbed into Ferdi and everyone had settled in, Ferdi was, once again, the unwilling host to a posse of unannounced visitors. The alliance Bx$ (Blood Oath Syndicate) decided to pay Ferdi a visit, and caught a few big players with their shields down, heroes in research gear. Of course, they proceeded to zero the unlucky souls (surely the Andris episode should have taught them a thing or two)…

The fun really started when a banned account at around 17bn power, caught their eye. The hero was still in the city, and the hero’s equipped gear was masked thanks to Hades gems. The banned account had come in from Caelan, and according to the Caelan players, the gemmed gear was in fact the full Haunted Xena set gear. Not to be deterred, Bx$ rallied the banned account… and the banned account ate the entire march and captured the rally leader’s hero. (It didn’t help that the rally leader’s choice of cores was the Dragon King set, now a little bit piss weak against Haunted Xena compared to the new core sets.) The rally leader ultimately had to hemlock to get his hero back. They hung around for a few days, dragging out the wonder battle for as long as they could, much to the chagrin of top alliances. But, Ferdi can’t complain, players from Ferdi did the same thing in Latrell (Kingdom 659) about a week before this blog was posted… And as I type this, I log in to my farm account, which is still in Ferdi, and discover that Blood Oath Syndicate have made a return visit…

 

#5. Your adopted kingdom will become your new home kingdom if it loses a merge kill event (if you don’t port home beforehand)

About a week or so after my little misadventure in Jaakko,  I used my second ancient random teleport to see where it would take me. I found myself in Kalmarsa, kingdom 657. Within minutes of arriving, they welcomed me like an old friend and I was invited to join an alliance. I dropped my tags and joined one of the top alliances in that kingdom. Kalmarsa had only just become an ancient kingdom, and their merge kill event was imminent. I told my new alliance members (and the other players in the kingdom) about Ferdi’s merge with Caelan. They asked, “When can we expect our merge?” My reply was, “As early as this weekend, but definitely within a month.” Sure enough, their merge kill event was the forthcoming weekend, so I decided to stick around and fight with them.

Kalmarsa ultimately lost the merge war, and the next question to me was, “How long until the merge is complete?” I told them about Ferdi’s long wait for the merge (Ferdi and Caelan both had a 16-way KVK in the interim, while they waited for MZ to get their shit together. The choice of kingdoms in Ferdi’s KVK was a dick move on part of MZ – of the 16 kingdoms, 10 had completed their merge, and not surprisingly, those ten kingdoms were in the top ten kingdoms for that kill event – the bottom 6 were all low population kingdoms). To my utmost surprise, Kalmarsa and Latrell didn’t have to wait anywhere near as long as Ferdi and Caelan did. Two or three days after the KVK, the merge was complete. One morning, I logged in to my main account to say hello to my alliance members and collect gifts. Kalmarsa still existed. I log out to take a shower, then dress for work and make a coffee, come back and lo and behold, I found my stronghold in the middle of Nowhere, Latrell! Then, I noticed this at the bottom of my player profile:

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Yup, Ferdi was ousted and Latrell became my new home kingdom. Had I used an ancient home teleport before the merge was complete, Ferdi would have remained my home kingdom. But, I saw it as a good thing. I haven’t been back to Ferdi since, but…

#6. You will always run into your old kingdom mates from time to time

Meanwhile, in Ferdi, my absence was seemingly felt across the kingdom. So, one or two from alliance @fF in Ferdi, decided to visit Latrell…

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Then, weeks later, they came back and brought half the bloody kingdom with them…

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They did in Latrell what Blood Oath Syndicate did in Ferdi. So, next time a bunch of outlanders port into your kingdom and take over your wonder, chances are that an alliance in your kingdom is planning the same thing.

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