Ruadhán J McElroy is a novelist, singer, and Mod revival & Ska DJ living in Lansing, Michigan. He is building the Kardia tou Thespiae garden at his home, soon to be available, by appointment, to all who worship Eros.
So, it seems that I am a Big Name Pagan, now! LOL! No, I kid. I just now write a blog for the companion site for one of only a handful of remaining pagan print magazines.
I have an idea where I’m going with this, but I’m still tossing around ideas in my head on exactly how to flesh out that idea into print. Hopefully, this might even lead to writing for a magazine again [crosses fingers].
Oh, and in case I’m the only one here who knows the reference with the blog title, it’s a Marc Bolan song, from the Dandy In the Underworld record.
“Let’s call it spirit, because to me, there is spirit in a reed. It’s a living thing, a reed, really, and it does contain spirit of a sort. And they say these areas make sound when the wind comes. It’s really an ancient vibration.” – Steve Lacy, Dixieland saxophonist
“The spirit of jazz is the spirit of openness.” – Herbie Hancock, pianist, composer, synthesiser pioneer
“The more enthusiastic his audience is, why, the more spirit the working man’s got to play.” – Johnny St. Cyr, New Orleans banjoist and guitarist
“The music is not part of this planet in a sense that the spirit of it is about happiness. Most musicians play earth things about what they know, but I found out that they are mostly unhappy and frustrated, and that creeps over into their music.” – Sun Ra, composer, pianist, synthesiser pioneer
“It’s not exclusive, but inclusive, which is the whole spirit of jazz.” – Herbie Hancock
“It’s more about conception and touch and spirit and soul than whether my hardware was in place.” – Pat Metheny, composer, guitarist
You know, this may not have proved all that accurate at the time, but 40+ years later, some of it is almost uncanny. Almost. [read more!]
The latest Sylvia Browne related drama pisses me off to no end. In fact, most of the time she —or John Edward, or others well-adept at cold reading and lucky guesses— end up on the news, or I see some blog tearing these charlatans a justifiable new one, it pisses me off because this makes any kind of psychic or divinatory artist look bad.
I haven’t gained the modicum of respect and trust I’ve EARNED as a cup reader and hydroscryer (among other techniques of divination) by acting like the smarmy, inconsiderate, egomaniacal douche canoe typical of the famous “psychics” justifiably taken to task by sceptics. Now, while I do maintain that this is a religious practise, the nature of the readings I give is inexact and I make an effort to offer at least two or three possible interpretations of what I’m seeing from this. Like I’ve said, it’s no more or less legitimate than a Catholic confession or Pentecostal exorcism: A good reader helps some people, but not everybody. Sometimes the message seems clear, but sometimes not. I always try to remind people who want to know something more important of the King of Lydia, who asked the pythia if he should go to war with Persia, and she told him that if he did, a great nation would fall —and he assumed that meant Persia would fall, but it was his own nation.
Sometimes things are a little less vague, but I think we diviners and oracles owe it to people to temper this sometimes. Don’t ever hold out on information for additional money, but “think as a mortal”, as they say, remember that sometimes when a Muse is just making shit up, She’ll say it in a way that makes you believe it’s the truest thing in the world (I have no doubt that the Moisai like to fuck with us in the divinatory arts, and on a regular basis, just for the purpose of keeping us in our place), and remember that the Gods only tell us what they want us to know, and if you can apparently function at least as well as Browne, no god has told you everything.
Now, Browne’s apologists clearly know what they’re doing, and they’re taking some of the literal words of Browne’s —paraphrasing and misquoting other words— to blame the victims. Yes, it’s absolutely the client’s responsibility to keep an open mind and consider all possibilitie interpretations of what was said, but let’s face facts: Dead is dead. When a diviner, medium, or psychic tells you “she’s not alive, honey“, that person knows damned well how that’s going to be interpreted. Cos dead is dead. When a purported “psychic” tells you that your daughter was shot in the chest, or that your lover, a 9-11 firefighter who apparently hasn’t been seen since, “drowned”, when that clearly was never the case, it’s time to cut the crap and call shenanigans. This woman is no pythia giving statements that are open to interpretation, she’s running on her own wild imagination and calling it fact, while the bobbing heads that follow continue to make shit up in hopes of making the idiot look better.
I’m going to call this out. Shit like this makes what I do look bad —in part because some people just refuse to see the difference (Browne and Edward and others pull a modern version of the Victorian medium scam, claiming to somehow communicate with dead people; I read the shapes formed by coffee grounds and tea leaves, smoke, ripples on the water, and other objects, and I interpret what that might mean as guided by my Muse —I’m not practising an exact science, but I’m interpreting things that are actually there at least partly intuitively, I’m not claiming to receive communique from people who are not there), and in part because I wholeheartedly believe that Sylvia Browne and John Edward are fakes and cold readers who, at best, have made enough lucky guesses to appear credible. They’re toxic, and no-one with any sense should believe them, give them any amount of money, or even make excuses for their nonsense.
Note: I understand that some people in the pagan and polytheist communities do work that involves oracular trance. I’m not personally comfortable with giving people readings from that sort of method, and my gods know that. I also know that those who do that sort of work and have the best reputations in the community tend to follow this pattern:
1) The people with the best reputations have been doing this for YEARS, and often for years before offering this service publicly.
2) Many of the people with the best reputations for speaking directly with the gods via oracular trance seem to be bonded to a particular deity or spirit (as a “spousal” or perhaps “godslave” sort of relationship), but not everybody. (Also note: Not everybody who has bonded with a deity, even very intimately, is going to be an adept oracle; the gods give everyone different gifts.)
3) They tend not to make public predictions because it’s regarded as a very sacred and very personal service, by its very nature.
4) Their track records tend to be better than even the average cup or card reader (much less charlatans like Sylvia Browne, who really doesn’t have the accuracy rate she claims, especially for her public predictions), and remember, I’m saying this as a cup reader, first and foremost. Hell, one of my friends even had a very personal falling-out with a popular oracle, and in the end my friend even admits, in spite of personal differences, the oracle never relayed an incorrect message from any deity.
5) Some people believe that asking for any kind of money for a spiritual service is “proof that you’re a fake”, but of those who do expect some kind of minimum fee for it, even oracular services, it’s reasoned that not only is time valuable, but that renumeration for a service was a part of their ethical code, and because it’s a matter of ethics, they offer the service either on a sliding scale, a very small minimum fee, or for barter. Usually fees in the triple-digits are the surest sign of a scam, not the asking for a fee, in and of itself.
Related note: I’ve edited and updated my Mantis page. I also might start reading cofee and / or teas locally. The occult shop that was initially interested in hosting me ended up closing down, but a local coffeehouse might take me on, instead. I have the same issue as before, though: I need a single-coil portable burner, to make my coffee (I know this is at a coffeehouse, but I’m very particular about how it’s made), and preferably my own grinder (again: I’m very particular and like to add a little bit of anise or fennel, so it’s best to have my own grinder). I’m still researching the minimum that I could do this for, so wish me luck!
I’ve written before about a film of his; Sebastiane. Despite the fact that Jarman himself identified as Christian, that’s not his only film that has a clear sort of “pagan sensibility” about it, and 1990′s The Garden, a pretty transparent Bible allegory (right up there with the too-often-forgotten movie musical The Apple) featuring a gay couple as the stand-in Christ figure, is probably #2 on any list of Jarman’s films by spirituality —and I only place it at #2 cos the story of The Garden follows a pre-set storyline, and pretty firmly sticks to it, whereas Sebastiane deviates wildly from the standard legend of the Saint it’s named for, and gives something altogether more about the symbolism than the story. Plus, the entire dialogue of Sebastiane was in reconstructed Vulgar Latin, which should give it high marks to anybody reading this. Jarman is also noteworthy for his several volumes of of diaries published (all of which I own in hardback), the garden of his Dungeness cottage he designed, GBLT activism, paintings, and also for directing several music videos and credits in art direction on Ken Russell films.
So, for the uninitiated, here’s a quick run-down of his other films:
Jubilee (1978) — With the assistance of John Dee (Richard O’Brian, writer of Rocky Horror, and Riff Raff in the original London West End cast and the film adaptation), Elizabeth I (Jenny Runacre) journeys to the late 20th Century, where Buckingham Palace has been converted to a recording studio, and London is overrun by punks, led by anarchist schoolteacher Amyl Nitrate, and a new self-appointed Queen, living in a squat, who has named herself Boudica, or “Bod”, for short (also portrayed by Runacre). Filmed in 1977, features many faces from London’s punk scene and London’s theatre scene, including Jack “The Incredible Orlando” Birkett, blind dancer and mime.
The Tempest (1981) — Considered by some to be the best film adaptation of Shakespeare’s play of the same name, it’s tweaked for maximum queer sensibilities. Also features Birkett.
The Angelic Conversation (1985) — homoerotic film clips (stylistically reminiscent of James Bidgood’s Pink Narcissus), with voice-over of select Shakespeare’s Sonnets read by Judy Dench.
Caravaggio (1986) — Postmodern biopic of 16th Century painter, Michelangelo Caravaggio. Caravaggio’s style was controversial at the time, as he painted historic figures, and figures from Christian and Greco-Roman mythology in modern clothes and with modern props. Jarman’s film, stylistically pays homage to this.
The Last of England (1987) — I still have no idea how to describe this. Featuring Tilda Swinton (previously in Caravaggio), it’s composed of Jarman’s prose, bits of poetry, and disjoined vignettes about queer and British identity –which kind of sums up Jarman’s catalogue.
Edward II (1990) — Stylistically minimalist, and slightly fictionalised biopic of King Edward II.
Wittgenstein (1992) — Even more minimalistic biopic of the British philosopher. Filmed using all-black sets and costumes that stood in striking contrast. Like most of Jarman’s films, there are autobiographical elements.
War Requiem (1990) — Lawrence Olivier’s last film. A film adaptation of Bitten’s piece with poetry by Wilfred Owen.
Blue (1992) — Jarman’s prose and poetry, musical soundscapes by Brian Eno, Coil, even Genesis P-Orridge, and absolutely no visuals except for a constant blue screen. Possibly Jarman’s most autobiographical film.