Black Dogs of Norfolk

The Iceni were a tribe who lived in the area of England now called Norfolk.

According to Black Dog Folklore, there are eighty-two accounts of black dog sightings of various kinds (or of some kind, as there are no details in many cases) in the region. Also according to Black Dog Folklore, East Anglia broadly is home to the Shuck type of black dog ghost, an ominous creature sometimes said to kill those who witness it.

Going off the data provided in the book:

  • at least seven sightings position the dog as an omen of death
  • there are two headless dogs
  • there are five dogs with chains
  • there are three one-eyed dogs (possibly Shucks), one is a local legend
  • there are two reports of hell hounds, including one local legend
  • one dog is called Skutch
  • there are four overt references to Shucks
  • there are four dogs with physical effects, sometimes violent

There are several for which no data has been recorded, so it’s hard to say how things really look without living over there yourself.

There is also the concept of the cu sì, or fairy dog, which I learned about from Morgan Daimler’s works Fairies: A Guide to the Celtic Fair Folk and Fairy Witchcraft. Fairy hounds are recognized as unusual in some way and are sometimes conflated with (or possibly otherwise connected to) other forms of black dogs (many fairy hounds are black, but they can come in white and green, as well as other colors, missing limbs, eyes, etc.), such as the aforementioned Shuck.

I had a sighting of my own, which could fall into either category. All I know is I got a vibe off the encounter and I remember it well.

On page 173 of East Anglian Witches and Wizards, an individual is described as having had a sighting of a Black Dog or Shuck while he was a child, an encounter which inspired him to become a “traditional magical practitioner”. The chapter goes on to describe further encounters with the Shuck, some of which I recognize from Black Dog Folklore but others of which are new to me.

In both sources the Shuck or Barguest (depending, I suppose, on where you are) seems to be connected to the dead. Ancient burial mounds and old tracks used to take the dead to the graveyard. Crossroads. (Barguest may be a corruption of the phrase “Barrow Ghost”, but who knows?) The lines in the Isles between the Gods, the dead, land spirits and the Fae are notoriously blurred, hence the aforementioned conflation, and Christianity has changed a great many things in order to comport with its worldview. (The earliest written account of a Shuck, involving two nearly simultaneous attacks on churches during a thunderstorm, attributed the apparition to the work of the Devil, but if the motif existed then (and there’s a whole discussion to be had about using handy metaphors to describe inexplicable things, it happens to this day in the UFO world) then it is surely based on something.)

It’s possible the Iceni and their tribal neighbors knew of entities similar to the Shuck and other Black Dogs found throughout England. But it’s too difficult to tell and no one’s bothered to write anything down about it. The spirit (which I believe is there) has surely been around for quite some time and is still around, causing the odd spook here and there. Perhaps more sightings will come in given the increasing awareness of the magical world. Who can say?

American. Fucking. Gods.

Like all of the rest of the internet, I thought the first season of the show American Gods, based on Neil Gaiman’s novel, was fantastic! It even ended when Easter took the spring and that shit was fire! It was awesome!

Only recently did I go back and watch seasons 2 and (half of) 3 as of this writing. And… I’m less than impressed. I was star struck by the first season, and listening to the audiobook along the way, I was eager to meet characters in the show whose chapters I just listened to. I was having a good time.

I was not having a great time for season 2, but it was passable. Season 3 is falling apart before my very eyes and no amount of fisheye effects and oversaturated or undersaturated color palettes (depending on if we’re “Backstage” or not, basically in the otherworld or in the real world) can save a mess of a plot.

I’m not qualified to talk about the representation issues caused by white guys deciding Anansi “sends the wrong message” (or, for that matter, whether Anansi’s portrayal was accurate) and then moving on to a storyline about the Orishas that, as far as I’ve gotten as of this writing, is primarily about holding out hope that tomorrow will be better. Which is fine for Annie, but like the man himself said, “Angry gets shit done.”

But there’s something else here, too, and it’s baked into the premise, into the source material. OK there’s a couple somethings.

The Goddesses

There’s something strange I noticed about the goddesses Gaiman chose to write about (and then subsequently made it into the show). The two most prominent (in the show at least) are fertility/sex goddesses Easter and Bilquis, who are respectively the Girl Next Door and the Vamp. I give credit to the TV series for fleshing out Bilquis’s character where Gaiman originally did not, but a first impression like that is hard to shake.

There’s the scene where Bast has dream sex with Shadow and heals his wounds. There’s New Goddess Media offering Lucy Ricardo’s breasts for Shadow’s viewing pleasure.

And unless I’m missing anyone, that’s… it.

I mean if you’ve been following along and doing your own research you’ve probably worked out that goddesses in myth are many and varied, multifaceted beings. Aphrodite, stereotypical love goddess, has a warlike aspect and is thought to be connected to Ishtar and Inanna. (And her Roman counterpart Venus began as a harvest goddess and evolved into the Mother of Rome itself.)

(Noted mortal female character Laura Moon is fridged and then unfridged primarily to propel and assist with Shadow’s plot, although she gets development in the series, because adaptations can actually be great like that.)

The Theology

The basic premise, if you’ve been living under a rock, is that gods come into being because humans believe they exist, and are fed by prayers and sacrifices of time, energy, and even blood. Human sacrifice gives gods the most power, which is probably an excuse to have crazy death scenes of all sorts of varieties.

Now, I have no idea how the gods came into being, but I don’t necessarily believe my belief in them has caused them to be or sustained them in quite such cut and dried terms.

I’m not trying to say we shouldn’t strive for reciprocity with the gods, because I believe that we should. Prayers and offerings may be primarily for the benefit of the human practicing them; I know that my routine of prayer gives structure to my days and I can’t do without it.

But I also wonder how easily this whole thing could fall apart if humans just never happened to think up the concept of divinity. Sure, trees may have been the first to fill “the god-shaped hole in man’s head”, but what if they weren’t? What if that hole never existed? That’s really the load-bearing idea here, and while humans as we know them are religious creatures, I think based on the way I think about the gods, I would’ve executed this premise differently.

Additionally, I want to take a minute to bring up the antropocentrism of the premise. Gods exist because humans specifically believe that they do. Easter takes the spring to spite the New Gods and the humans, without thought for her other charges. I follow Beckett’s thinking in that gods are gods of other things besides humans. There are more forest and river deities than I can name, as well as gods with sacred animals (whom they probably also have to look after). I happen to hold that Andred is the goddess of hares and rabbits as well as victory in battle, and they are among Her other charges that She is worried about.


So yeah, that’s where I’m at with American Gods right now. I don’t know if I’ll finish season three or just go back to season one and wash the bitter taste from my mouth. Maybe finish the audiobook finally and call it a day with this franchise.

Panera Bread

The franchise which owns Panera Bread (the chain of restaurants) is being sued by an employee over discrimination she faced after feeling pressured to reveal to her (Christian) supervisor that she was Pagan. The filing is here.

I no longer have a television, but when I lived with my parents and they did nothing but watch news in the morning and old movies the rest of the time, I sometimes caught ads for Panera Bread restaurants. They struck me, and looking back still strike me, as something for People Who Are Not Me. This is a phenomenon I’ve become attuned to lately thanks to the existence of WandaVision as a television show, but with regards to Panera Bread, I distinctly remember ads that focused on white middle class women, possibly career oriented, going out for their girl’s lunch or whatever, laughing because they had no problems.

Plus they marketed themselves as having the cleanest, freshest possible food, and knowing that a ton of plastic now exists in the food chain, I’m going to press X to doubt on that one. But the gimmick did get them to stand out from Olive Garden, despite OG having the superior breadsticks.

Basically, the target audience for Panera Bread was and is neoliberal “vegetarian/vegan” types who have money to throw around on food products that make them feel superior to the rest of us.

The exact opposite of people who turn to paganism, witchcraft, and The Old Ways. (Also the exact opposite of people who feel the need to riot, but I’ll leave that conversation for others, if they would like.) Witchcraft historically has been the recourse of the dispossessed (I’m sure I’m paraphrasing something from someone here). It still is. There was a trend back when President Fake Tan was in office to hex him every full moon. I never joined in, but many pagan critics were concerned that advertising the practice would allow Christian “prayer warrior” types to counteract their magic. After all, one of the sides of the pyramid is “to keep silent”. But I understand why others felt the need to do such a thing, since he was hell bent on running this country into the ground and I’m sure we’re all sleeping a lot easier now that he can no longer do so (except the aforementioned prayer warrior types who want their Gilead).

All of this is to say that I’m not exceptionally surprised that this happened at a Panera Bread, to such an egregious degree that it is now being filed for judicial proceedings. I don’t know if the company will settle, but I hope they don’t. Part of me is actually secretly very eager to watch this play out in court, in front of cameras, being billed as a “witch trial” by some media outlet or another. I think that would be a helluva thing.

But I won’t get my hopes up.

Disloyal – A Review

At one point, [Cohen] reached out to Putin’s press spokesman Dmitri Peskov, but couldn’t get through. It turns out that’s because he meant to email[.ru] but actually emailed .gof instead, and .gof of course sends you right to the server of the new HBO series Game of Flounder, where powerful flounder families fight for control of the seven sandbars… Another, even more ridiculous case of Cohen bungling contact with Russians involved Dmitry Klokov, a former press secretary to Russia’s energy minister. Klokov’s ex-wife had contacted Ivanka, offering his assistance his assistance to the Trump campaign. So, that is someone with ties to the Russian government offering help to elect Trump. Ivanka forwarded that email to Cohen, who googled Dmitry Klokov and concluded that the person they must be talking about was a former Olympic weightlifter by that name.

John Oliver, “Mueller Report: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”, Apr 22, 2019. (emphasis mine)

I had to bring this up, because it appears that in the entirety of the memoir Disloyal, by Michael Cohen himself, this error had yet to be even addressed. He devoted a lot of page space to Trump’s efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow and ultimately give a penthouse to Vladimir Putin as a way of greasing some wheels (and revealing that Trump admired Putin for being the de facto Tsar of Russia, which is not at all surprising in the aftermath of Jan 6, 2021). I am willing to chalk up “.gof” as a typo he had never noticed, but mixing up a pencil pushing press secretary for an Olympic weightlifter is a bit more far fetched and if you ask me, a lot fucking funnier. (John Oliver notes that Cohen appeared to be mixed up even during his interviews with Mueller for the report, but Cohen’s problems in the book concern his belief that Mueller misrepresented his statements in a footnote.)

Speaking of…

I was going to be truthful, but I also had good reason to be economical with the truth. Because here is the thing: I care for Donald Trump, even to this day, and I had and still have a lot of affection for him.

Cohen, Michael. Disloyal: A Memoir. 2020. pp. 333-4

While this is not the book he had wanted to write in the wake of Fire and Fury (and in conversation with it), and arguably had to change in the wake of his prison sentence and falling out with “the Boss” as he calls Trump, I don’t necessarily believe Cohen did a complete 180 and decided to tell all the dirty details (in fact it’s probably impossible, even for a four-hundred-page book, counting appendices).

(As an aside, if you are like me and do not give a single flying fuck about reality TV, it is on page 358 that you will learn Michael Sorrentino, “The Situation”, was in prison alongside Cohen. According to his wikipedia page, he was convicted of tax evasion. Like Cohen, oddly enough, although Cohen, and this is important, claims to have not done a single thing wrong and been railroaded by Southern District attorneys for the sake of a notch in their belts. Despite spending the entire book laying out the things he had done for Trump and claiming again and again that he was by no means an angel and that his actions were reprehensible, I as the reader was expected to believe this was the one thing that was not his doing. He claims he didn’t lie to his bank, that the “fraud” on his taxi medallions was because of someone else, that the IRS made a miscalculation. It is never his fault.)

Much of the book is about Cohen’s work for Trump as a “fixer” (his word) and what he describes as a slow descent into madness conforming to the Trump worldview. I have grown up with narcissists, those being my parents, and so I have a sense of this process, and I believe not even Cohen himself knows the true extent it had on his psyche. Of course, he was an adult throughout the entire proceedings, so he had that stable foundation (more or less, he did also grow up around and idolize mobsters, even though he was expected to be a good Jewish boy and go to law school). It is easy for people to fall into traps like this: just consider any cult or MLM in existence. Humans are not rational creatures.

But, his being an adult makes him culpable. Just as it made the Manson Family’s members culpable in their attempts to start a race war. He is responsible for his own actions.

He says repeatedly that he is not denying anything he’s written about in the book, from violently screaming at a man that he was fired (on Trump’s behalf) to shady underhanded dealings of all kinds to silence less-than-flattering stories about The Donald in the press (including the National Enquirer, though I don’t know a single soul who takes that seriously). However, this entire thing falls apart near the end. As stated above, he claims innocence of what he was indicted of (and ultimately pled to). I am unsure how true or untrue this is, given as he already mentioned (also above) that a previous version of this very book, then in conceptual stages, involved him being “economical with the truth”. He portrays his entire runaround with conviction, prison (which I noticed was not initially on the table, he’d been told), release, reimprisonment, parole, appeal, and so forth as a witch hunt directed at him personally.

I’ll be honest. It’s a post Jan. 6, 2021, world. We all know the lengths to which Trump supporters are willing to go based on what they believe he said (and, I suspect, The Donald knows this). Trump probably said a few nasty things on Twitter about Cohen, and these people in positions of power took it as license to give Cohen the runaround described. Cohen blames Trump personally because something something “mobster” tactics, but I’m not willing to ascribe to Trump any kind of 4D chess moves like this. I’d much more readily believe that tweets or vague references in speeches got filtered through so many parties that this kind of thing was inevitable. He doesn’t need to say “target this man”, because so many people think he’s the Second Coming of Christ that his words will get interpreted that way regardless.

Is it functionally the same? Well, yes, they both have the same end result. And because the book exists and I read it, and I found it exceptionally engaging learning the “inside secrets”, which despite not shocking me, were fascinating reading… We can all see any attempts to “silence” Mr. Cohen didn’t work.

Read the book. Come to your own conclusions. Here it is on Amazon.

Yuletide Vandalism and Misrule

The Gavlebocken, or Gavle Goat, has been erected in Gavle, Sweden, since 1966, and in its life, its incarnations have been destroyed or damaged 37 times. Some consider it fitting that the Goat has been burned down (the most common method of destruction, given as the thing is made of straw) each year, as a sort of ritual sacrifice of the Goat to the old gods. Those in this school of thought would consider it fascinating that the Goat survived 2019, and a superstitious sort might attribute the year 2020 to that fact.

People are being discouraged from publicly visiting the Goat because of the pandemic, so it is likely to survive 2020, as well, although some enterprising sort might burn the thing down out of spite, or through some form of divine inspiration.

That isn’t the only form of Yule-related vandalism, although these days vandalism and general mayhem are relegated to New Year’s Eve and Halloween, parties at the former and things like toilet-papering houses at the former (Oct. 30 is called Mischief Night for a reason). There is also a living tradition of the theft of little baby Jesuses from Nativity scenes on public and private property. (There is a related custom of lifting garden gnomes and taking them on trips, but that is not strictly Yule-related.)

This year I have been feeling the undercurrent of older, wilder Yuletide customs and beliefs and the thinning of the veil between the spirit world and the physical world, more so than in past years. Christmas is lights and trees and carols, yes, but also ancient spirits and spiritual phenomena (such as the Wild Hunt, which some customs hold as most active around this time of year). I’ve been hearing the call of the spirits this year, and I think there’s something to the odd bits of Yuletide vandalism. I’m not the only one to feel the subtler energies this time of year that Victorians and Christians and other sorts tried to bury.

The term “misrule” originally applied to a complete social reversal, as occurred at Saturnalia when slaves were served by their masters, men dressed as women and vice versa. The custom, as customs are wont to do, evolved over time to arguably include wassailing, the practice of going door to door, singing and performing in exchange for gifts, food, and drink. The thing is, some people are rowdy drunks. Threats of vandalism began to enter the picture (although I wonder whether or not they were always there, under the surface), especially with the rise of the middle class and nouveaux riche, and the practice “fell out of favor” (this is how it is commonly described). It was replaced with the more benign caroling, going door to door singing Christmas carols just to do so.

But this doesn’t stop people from getting rowdy. Some of those instincts get shunted off to other holidays, as mentioned. However, some of them get funneled into acts like burning down the Gavle Goat, or stealing your neighbor’s or the town’s baby Jesus for a lark.

Perhaps it all speaks to something older “than us or God” (to quote a favorite “not quite Christmas-y” song). Perhaps the energies of the season, the energies of the Otherworld, are moving through arsonists to enact ancient rites. I wouldn’t know, of course, but there might be something to it. Something has been moving about in the physical for quite some time as many writers have attested, and this year it hit me personally quite hard.

What else was I gonna think about in 2020?

Rabbit Rabbit 3-2

It’s been a year. A full year.

I’m still not done with that book. My parents still make weak attempts to contact me. My dad especially continues to be a disappointment. I even told him what she did to me and he doesn’t care. I’m about ready to walk away from him entirely.

Of course, I don’t think the police are willing to do anything since he’s “cleaned up his act” by quitting alcohol.

That’s the trouble. No one’s ever been willing to protect me. Not parents from bullies, not Dad from Mom, not boyfriends from parents or anyone else really. Except that time the child pornographer started issuing threats. But he was a child pornographer. That doesn’t count.

So here I am, wondering what I do with myself and feeling set back by the very people who should have propped me up and done right by me. I feel like I’ll be trapped forever in a tiny apartment, at a dead end job, with nothing to show for my life when I inevitably have enough of it.

I’m considering officially hopping on the Bernie train, since that looks like the best way out of this right now. Imagine what I could accomplish if I didn’t have to worry about things like health insurance (or any kind of insurance), or getting my bills paid. Ideally I’d want my job to be automated, freeing me up to do something I actually care about. Anything I actually care about. If we’re being really optimistic, I’m looking forward to a post-scarcity future where no one has to worry about money and we can all do whatever it is that makes us happy. I’d wax poetic about “the good old days but with indoor plumbing”, but see my last post. (And I’m still not sure how I feel about living in a commune. That sounds like a fast track to a cult if we’re not careful.)

And, in the mean time, maybe when the boomers die off we’ll have solved most of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc.

Do We Romanticize the Past?

I’ve found a group of fellow pagans who want to start a farm commune of their own, away from wider society. While I understand that sentiment, absolutely, I grew up in a rural ranching/farming community. I learned, through it and growing up listening to country music (written by and large from people from those same communities, so it’s a bit of a theme), that not every year is a good one. You can want to sustain yourself and then sell your goods to try and stay afloat. But one year you might not even have enough to feed everyone. (And then there’s the questionable matter of whether you will be strong-armed into selling your farm to some large company or another but I know we’re all trying to avoid that.)

The trouble is, I don’t see much besides optimism for the project, despite my above reservations. I don’t feel comfortable stating these anywhere related to the project, but they’ve got me thinking. Do we want to go back to a sort of “pre-Depression” lifestyle, living on a homestead in some unforgiving country trying to make ends meet with all generations in one home? Much as I dislike living in society, considering my “station” (and the fact that my dad drunk me into it), I don’t think I want to leave it. I certainly don’t want to go “back in time” to shitting in outhouses on the regular and wondering if it will rain enough or if the crop will get flooded out. (I don’t exactly have green thumbs.)

Maybe the answer isn’t to divide ourselves from society. Maybe the answer is to introduce a new way of living. I know, I know, sounds cheesy and over done by everyone from contactees to fake Tibetan monks to plastic shamans. However, one does not solve one’s problems by running away from them (unless those problems are abusive persons. In that case, run as far and as fast as you can). This is why people who say they aren’t going to vote catch a lot of flak.

We cannot try to create an Arcadia-like ideal little section of Earth where everything is perfect and everyone is happy. It’s naive, based in a poor understanding of how it was back then, and it solves little.

(And, I seem to recall learning quite a bit about communities in the early 1800s, during the Second Great Awakening: Groups followed preachers to some wilderness and built communes and other types of communities. Very few of those groups have survived to the present, Mormonism among them.)

Flashback Friday – That Time We (Almost) Made a New Goddess

Mesperyian is an original creation by a high school student and posted to Booksie in 2009. The story has it that she was imagined into existence by Hades because he was depressed that Persephone was topside for a bit and he really wanted a child with her but couldn’t have them. But, Mesperyian came into being nonetheless and (perhaps because she’s a project of imagination) word of her striking beauty reached Mount Olympus. Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, grew jealous and burned Mesperyian’s face. So changed, she asked Hephaestus for a mask of intimidation and became vengeful, a goddess of torture and punishment.

A 2015 Tumblr post got to the question of what to do when asked which Greek goddess is the most beautiful. One user offered to name Persephone, and another said to name Mesperyian.

And, this triggered some backlash. Mesperyian is not attested in ancient sources and some pagans (and possibly others) disagreed with even the concept of worshipping her, because she is not “real”.

That’s not a question this post will get into. In part because I’m not sure how much it all matters (and let’s be clear, I think, at one point, all the gods become entities one can interact with, completely independent of whatever spawned them–and still powerful for it, too).

The matter is: Tumblr especially thought that Mesperyian was real. They believed it. Some people asked about, and possibly began, worshipping her. People looked her up to try and find or deepen a connection. In short, they treated her as if she were an extant goddess. Her attestation in ancient myth didn’t matter, at least, not initially.

And it was all very believable. We all know someone who wants to have children, and many of us probably know someone who struggles in that regard. We’ve all heard (perhaps simplified) myths of Aphrodite being jealous of the beauty of others, especially when it prompts the worship of the other beautiful person over Aphrodite (which may, at that point, be a matter of enforcing the “rules” for dealing with the divine).

I haven’t read the short story, and I’m sure it has that vibe of “OC Do Not Steal”. However, what matters here is what the story has grown beyond. It isn’t a short story by a high school student who hasn’t thought about their characters and motivations. It became a fledgling myth. People took it seriously for quite a while.

Then they walked away.

There’s a bias in our society toward “older” things. There always has been, and it goes back to forever. People have said their ideas or practices are “ancient” or “given by the gods” for ages. They care about “older” because “older” = “authentic” in their minds. And this isn’t always true. The humors theory, for example, has been completely debunked, but it’s old as the day is long. The earliest theories of psychology developed by Dr. Sigmund Freud are also complete bunk, and we rightly discount them.

Yet, when it comes to religion, people want “older”. For a while Wicca sold itself as “the old ways” to gain members. Reconstruction religions gain steam by trying to put together the ways ancient people worshipped (with varying regard for the way we live now vs. the way they lived then). Naturally a new goddess is anathema to all of that. People want “real” Greek myth, with all that entails, and want it to never change (and usually, they want the Greek myth they learned in middle school, which doesn’t account for the complexity, layered meaning, metaphor, or polytheist lens the myths originally had). Humans think of mythology as like an ancient source material, something to draw on and work with but never, under any circumstances, add to. If GRRM dies before finishing A Song of Ice and Fire (which is likely), then his books will be given this treatment, too. I seem to recall that the fans of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo had some pretty serious problems with The Girl in the Spider’s Web because it was written after Larsson’s passing (honestly Spider’s Web is terrible compared to its predecessors, but that’s because Larsson was not around to actually write it).

In a word, humans want “old”, which they equate with “real”. “Old” varies on a case-by-case basis, but this rule generally holds for all things but the field of science (where seminal works are respected but new research valued more).

It’s a strange thing, because looking back over the incident, Mesperyian was simply treated as an obscure goddess no one had ever heard of. I’m not sure how the idea got started off of one short story, but it did. When I consider it today, at this point in my journey into polytheism and paganism, I realized: we almost made a new goddess. And that would’ve been a really good thing for the world. It’s an instance of living mythology, of living polytheism, and it petered out because of the value we place on the old.

“I Spent A Week Becoming a Witch and the Results Were Worrying”

Whew Lads!

This article is already generating quite a bit of chatter in the Paganosphere, through which it has crossed my radar. Now, when I first read the title, I thought “this is gonna be a 700 Club story, isn’t it”. Commentary suggests otherwise but I thought it would be fun to go through this one bit by bit as a live reaction of sorts.


It’s the new year. I could have given up booze and bacon, or embarked on a punishing new fitness regime. But these seemed too harsh for the drab days of January and besides, I had more ambitious plans for personal transformation. Namely, to turn myself into a witch.

Ceri Radford

That’s it. That’s the opening paragraph. I was right, “Whew Lads” indeed.

At this opening of a scary new decade, we’re in the midst of a resurgent interest in all things mystic, superstitious or more than a little bit woo.

Pretty sure there’s a reason for that, but we’ll deal with that some other time. This is where I start picking up on the cynical tone detected by other reviewers, as clearly to Radford, this is just a cultural trend driven by market forces, and nothing more. (My Gods would like a word with you, Ms. Radford.)

“astrology is currently enjoying a broad cultural acceptance that hasn’t been seen since the 1970s”. And its cousin in dogged resistance to logic, specifically witchcraft, is also having something of a moment

The quote is from The New Yorker, but her tag at the end, “its cousin in dogged resistance to logic”. I…I can’t even. Behold as I am unable to even. I must, I must.

I picked up a copy of the newly published The Modern Witch’s Guide to Happiness by Luna Bailey and set my cynical self a New Year, New Me challenge. 

A’s for honesty, I suppose. Though I’ll be honest that book sounds tempting. (I must not, my pocketbook is counting on me.)


Right. This witching business. One of the things I need, along with a suspension of belief in the scientific underpinnings of the universe, is an altar.

Off to a banging start, I see. (In seriousness, I’m not sure how well people who believe science and magic are incompatible fully understand either science, magic, or the universe, because I’m not well versed in The Science, but the lack of understanding in the universe is there 100%.)

By the end of the day, though, [my altar] has been joined by a light smattering of cat hair and my four-year-old’s lego T rex. Is the universe trying to tell me something?

The sarcasm has come on thick.


Crystal-shopping time: no self-respecting witch in this new age of Aquarius would be without these ubiquitous lumps of pretty rock. I take myself to a gift shop. The book informs me that I should allow myself to be drawn to the crystal that has meaning for me. I position myself in front of a stand of crystal bracelets. Will it be the pastel-pink rose quartz, with qualities of “love, peace and tenderness” apparently laced into its silicon and oxygen atoms; or the “playful” inky-black bornite? I close my eyes, then open them. I found myself uncannily drawn to something, after all. It’s the price tag. Ten quid! I am propelled out of the shop by unseen forces.

Crystals are not absolutely necessary. Helpful, but not necessary. Which you would have picked up on, I suppose, by reading the book as anything other than a Wine Aunt.

Wednesday (Oh Gods!)

Finally, some advice I can wholeheartedly embrace: five tips for making simple connections with nature, from touching leaves to noticing sights and sounds.

This is it. This is paganism (basically).

We’re not going to be able to keep this, are we?

I don’t believe it offered me protection through the winter months, as the book claims; I just like the feel of it.

Ahh, good, something DOES make her happy.

I suspect a large part of the appeal of witchcraft today is the emphasis it places on slowing down, switching off from your phone and taking notice of the natural world.

Once again she’s onto something. This is like the only “day” of hers where I don’t feel like I’m suffering through consumerist nonsense and like she has a modicum of understanding.

We’re not going to be able to hang onto this, are we?


Magic. Here we go. (So far, I want to note, no mention of the divine, not even in the above nature section. Though nature is shockingly close to godliness.)

None of the “magick” incantations listed involve putting a pox on my enemies, which will be a relief to the landlord who has failed to fix my broken boiler; they’re all perky personal growth exercises.


“Pesky personal growth exercises.” I have once again lost the ability to even.

Next to “tax return” I put “knee-jerk scoffing cynicism”. I would have set it on fire but I was too cynical to waste a match.

We almost had her!


Tarot. We are going. To read tarot. Something tells me a complicated system like that is not for someone who is not only an obvious beginner, but also a careless individual who doesn’t REALLY feel the call or believe in any of this other than as a commercial fad. I wonder how this will go.

I don’t have an actual set of cards, but witchcraft has a relaxed, homespun kind of vibe so I improvise. I raid my daughter’s toy drawer, find a set of sea-creature playing cards, and get reading.

Playing cards. Just use. A fucking. Deck. Of playing cards.

As a personal aside I have serious problems with parents going through their kids things for personal gain. Children have every right to privacy as adults do, and that doesn’t go away because of the blood connection. I’m sorry you’re such a shit mom, Ceri Radford.

And there we have it: confirmation bias. You go looking for a pattern, and you will find it, even in a pack of deeply non-mystic marine-animal cards bought to entertain a small child on a rainy holiday in France.

I take it that’s how messages from the Divine work, too, huh, Radford? All confirmation bias, all the time. I don’t usually hex but I am oh, so tempted.

It’s part of the reason we’re all such credulous suckers, still seduced by superstition at a time when we have the technology to make a space probe orbit Saturn.

Saturn. Screams.

Don’t believe me?

There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Saturday and Sunday

it’s hard not to snort coffee through your nostrils when you read that water that has had rose quartz soaking in it can be given to soothe traumatised animals.

Um, what the fuck?

witchcraft is no less irrational than any other religion and many of its practices are in fact a fairly reasonable response to the major challenges of our time. Rediscovering nature, reclaiming the sexist trope of the witch as a symbol of female empowerment, switching off from the constant thrum of social media and consumerism: what’s not to like?

A) Witchcraft is a practice, not a religion. B) That isn’t all there is to it. Talk to actual practitioners, if they’ll even listen to you at this juncture, and you’ll see. C) The only thing you’re onto is turning off your hot-damn twitter feed.

(Gods this is painful.)

No matter how many spells we cast to ask the universe for help, the universe isn’t listening.


the recent zest for the mystic is part of a worrying backlash against the enlightenment values that have driven human progress.

I long for release in the sweet embrace of death.

Bet she doesn’t think climate change is real, either.


That hurt. That physically hurt. Was it a bad idea to read it right before going to work? Well, worse things have happened to me.

The chief problem is Radford didn’t take it seriously from the get-go. She admitted her cynicism and went ahead anyway, and didn’t actually suspend that cynicism during the course of the challenge. Which maybe counts as cheating. The only thing she seemed to get was spending time in nature, which is how one generally reaches the Otherworldly. If she did more of that, maybe she would understand.

(Also she needs to not be a shit mom.)