It’s All in the Cards / #Occult30

Posted in #occult30 on June 25, 2020 by Occult Detective

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Day Twenty-Five of #Occult30 — a month long celebration of
True Tales of the Strange & Unusual.

It’s All in the Cards

LenormandToday, the 25th of June, marks the 177th anniversary of the death of one of the most influential cartomancers of all time, Madame Marie Anne Lenormand. She read the fortunes of the likes of Empress Josephine and Tsar Alexander I, as well as many notable French revolutionaries. Her professional career spanned more than 40 years.

When she died in 1843, her only living heir, a nephew, took her fortune, more than 500,000 francs, and, being a devout Catholic, burned her considerable occult library and destroyed all of her esoteric paraphernalia.

What a tremendous legacy we were robbed of.

I’ve had a near lifelong passion for cartomancy since I was a kid. I bought my first Tarot deck, the Rider-Waite deck illustrated by Pixie, in 1979 at Cole’s Bookstore in the Marion Mall. I’ve had dozens of decks since, and have even designed a few. I published my Occult Detective Tarot for a very limited time a few years back, and individual card designs have been licensed for t-shirts, posters, and even book covers.

tarotread4.3.18

I read Tarot as a part time job while in college, mostly in the mid-80s, and I’ve been “entertainment” at various parties over the years, and I used to read for several friends and clients on a regular basis, but I mostly look to the cards on personal matters these days.

I’ve always found that most people don’t really want to know what the cards can teach them. It’s either a novelty, or they’re looking for some kind of validation. The truth is often far too messy. for them.

The cards are far more than some sort of parlor game.

tarot spread

In recent years, meaning the past twenty, I have been developing a method for using Tarot as a means to aid paranormal investigations, something I hope to share in a publication in the near future.

I hold that the Tarot is an invaluable tool and resource and highly recommend its counsel.

MagicianI have, in recent months, returned to using my old Robin Wood deck that I picked up from Marilene Isaacs Kauffman back in 1991, the last time I put her sensory deprivation tank to use. That was my deck of choice in the early 90s and it’s been nice to put my hands on them again.

The beautiful thing about the Tarot is that, in addition to being instruments of divination, they are works of art. I have loved so many, from Lady Harris’ Thoth deck for Crowley to Miranda Grey’s Merlin deck. On of my favorites was David Palladini’s Aquarian Tarot, but alas that deck was stolen from me in the late 80s and I’ve never got around to replacing it. I may have to rectify that as it really was a beautiful, art nouveau-inspired collection.

Aquarian-Tarot

Regardless of your preference the Tarot is an inspiring tool of divination and self-reflection, and a valued part of my occult detective bag of tricks.

How about you? Do you have a favorite deck? If so, I’d love to hear about them.

Seven Pillars / #Occult30

Posted in #occult30 on June 24, 2020 by Occult Detective

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Day Twenty-Four of #Occult30 — a month long celebration of
True Tales of the Strange & Unusual.

SEVEN PILLARS

Driving along the Old Francis Slocum Trail that parallels the course of the Mississinewa River you’ll happen upon Westleigh Farms, an impressive estate that was home to a young Cole Porter. Built by Porter’s grandfather, J. O. Cole,  it’s a gorgeous property, sitting behind a wrought iron fence, well above the waters of the Mississinewa.

Below it lies Seven Pillars, a sacred site to the Miami Indians. Seven columns, carved into the limestone by the rise and fall of the river’s waters, stand out as a testament to nature’s wonders. For centuries, weathering along the bedding of the Liston Creek Limestone and the scouring action of the Mississinewa have carved rounded buttresses and grotto-like alcoves in the north bluff of the river, reaching from 25 to 50 feet above low water. The Miami used the area as a trading post with French trappers, and as a place where they held tribal counsel. Men judged harshly would often times be beheaded there from atop the cliff, their heads toppling into the waters below.

7pillars

The Miami, or Mihtohseeniaki, believed the site to be home to what Europeans would refer to as fairy-folk, or land wights… preternatural beings who live between this world and the next, with the natural formations of the Pillars being a gateway between these worlds.

pillars4Seven Pillars is more than a geological curiosity, it is the epicenter to all the weird and wonderful paranormal phenomena in northern Indiana and home to unseen forces, sentient apparitions, and residual manifestations…

I spent years out at that site, marveling at the beauty of it, and trying to make contact with the spirits there. I witnessed the fluid mist as it drifted on the winds, and I heard the sounds of panicked feet stumbling through the icy waters…

But I’d never been able to capture anything on tape or film.

In 1994, my brother and I were out that way, taking pictures of Seven Pillars and the Porter House with a cheap disposable camera. Imagine our surprise when we had the pictures developed and the image below was captured.

PORTER

In late 2004 I was asked to contribute to Jeff Belanger’s Encyclopedia of Haunted Places, the first directory to be written by dozens of the world’s leading paranormal investigators. One of the three entries I submitted concerned this truly amazing site that has been a part of my life for nearly fifty years.

FrancesSlocumTrailThePillars

It’s little wonder as to why the local tribes of Native Americans were drawn to this place. One can sense the energies that ebb and flow from this site held sacred for hundreds of years. A preternatural nexus, with a confluence of telluric currents and ley line convergences, Seven Pillars is home to myths and legends punctuated by an aura of mystery and inspiring beauty.

PillarsPeruIndiana

The Doom That Came to Goose Creek / #Occult30

Posted in #occult30 on June 23, 2020 by Occult Detective

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Day Twenty-Three of #Occult30 — a month long celebration of
True Tales of the Strange & Unusual.

The Doom That Came to Goose Creek

Late Autumn, 1983. Thirteen high school kids drove out to a secluded area in the Mississinewa State Forest and performed a ritual from the so-called Simon Necronomicon. What follows are some of the highlights.

cthulhu header

First, the set up. A large number of us used to eat lunch together in the school cafeteria, our ages ranging from 13-17. Most were band and orchestra kids. Most of us played D&D and read Lovecraft and Howard.

One day, as a joke, a couple of us performed a “ritual sacrifice” of a Hostess snack cake. People called us “The Ho-Ho Killers”. It was funny, at least to a bunch of teenagers. No harm was done or intended.

We talked and joked a lot about magic and the occult. It was the height of the Satanic Panic, after all, and we were feeling particularly attacked by the adults (and some peers) in our communities for the music we listened to, the games we played, and the books we read.

One day, one of our group brought in the Simon Necronomicon, a slim mass market paperback published by Avon on my birthday three years before. It was a mishmash of HP Lovecraft, Aleister Crowley, and Sumerian Mythology that played into Wilson and Shea’s Illuminatus! Trilogy as well.

It would be years before I learned the real history behind the book. For us, at that lunch table, it was as close to a real grimoire as we’d ever come across. We decided, then and there, to perform one of the rituals from the book. Fall break was coming up, and we knew the perfect place — Goose Creek.

cthulhu header

As I recall, a week later, we all met to head out to our chosen spot. We had trouble finding Goose Creek road in the dark, however, missing our turn and ending up near Peru. As we were in three separate cars, we had pulled over in the parking lot of a granary to get our bearings.

That’s when we realized we’d forgotten several necessary items for our little misadventure. One car of kids opted to drive around and approach random houses under the pretense of a “Christian Youth Group Scavenger Hunt” to collect the basic items we’d forgotten.

Once we had figured out where we were, it was easy enough to make our way back to the long, potholed drive to the graveled lot that sat above Goose Creek.

The road further was blocked by a steel barrier. The old roadway itself, eaten up by vegetation growing up through the cracks in the pavement, with years of runoff on either side eating away at the old road, till it was but a sliver of its former self.

cthulhu header

It was dark. Overcast, with black, ominous clouds. The evening’s “high priest” stayed behind with one other, while I marched the rest of the group down the hill to what awaited below.

Goose Creek was a small tributary that fed into what was now the Mississinewa Reservoir. When the Army Corps of Engineers created the lake, this whole area was flooded, but the water was released every fall, draining the lake to reveal the ghosts of what had once been.

A county road used to bisect Goose Creek, a bridge traversing its course. That road was normally underwater, but now it was exposed to the night, the bridge long gone, with the road ending abruptly where the bridge had once stood, and beginning again across the divide.

This is where our summoning circle would be constructed.

But as we walked down the ravaged road, the night near pitch black, the full moon suddenly appeared overhead, the clouds separating around it and spilling its majestic light down upon us… but then one of the kids muttered, “oh my god, look at it,” pointing to the moon.

The clouds had framed the moon in what looked like an inverted pentagram.

Everyone became very nervous at that point, made even worse, as we continued our approach. With better visibility, we now saw that the fractured roadway was covered in dead fish. Someone commented on the Christian symbolism of the fish and how this was a bad omen.

In the waters surrounding us were dozens of dead trees jutting up from the mucky swamp like accusing fingers pointing to the heavens.

Bad omens? Overactive imaginations? Take your pick. Regardless, the fear among these teens was palpable.

I sealed them inside a circle of protection, then waited as the “priest” joined us, coming down the hill. The ritual was a disaster, of course, we were kids after all. What followed has long been debated, but the ensuing aftermath — the tears, the screams, the terror as ten kids broke from that protective circle in a frenzied sprint up the hill and to their cars above… It was all overblown and bordered on parody.

The rumors that grew from that night, the legend that sprung from it, followed me, in particular, for many years. There were accusations, incriminations, and interrogations in the weeks that followed, all baseless and dramatized, fed by the Satanic Panic.

In the end, it was a fun, fright-filled evening spent among friends that got overblown once it made the rounds at school… and then the administration got involved. It was an ugly scene, but luckily, I had good teachers that stood up for me and my friends.

We were good kids. A bit mischievous perhaps, I mean, we were teenagers… but good kids. And that fact has born out.

There’s more to the story. A lot more. But we’ll leave it for now. I mark this date as the beginning of the Nightstalkers and for good reason.

I learned more about the power of magic, the power of belief, in those few hours than anything else had ever taught me. Everything leading up to that point was like kindling collected and tendered. That night was the igniting spark that illuminated the course I have been on ever since.

23 Skidoo / #Occult30

Posted in #occult30 on June 22, 2020 by Occult Detective

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Day Twenty-Two of #Occult30 — a month long celebration of
True Tales of the Strange & Unusual.

23 Skidoo

Notorious gangster and folk hero John Dillinger was born on this day, the 22nd of June, 1903, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Painted as a Robin Hood-like figure of the Great Depression, Dillinger was responsible for more than two dozen bank robberies, the looting of several police stations, and was so slick, he escaped jail twice, once by carving a potato and covering it in shoe shine so that it resembled a gun.

dillinger

Ratted out by the infamous “Woman in Red”, Dillinger was gunned-down by Federal Agents in Chicago on the 22nd of July, 1934, in front of the Biograph Theatre at the age of 31.

While Dillinger was certainly well known to me, being a fellow Hoosier, it wasn’t until I read Robert Anton Wilson & Robert Shea’s Illuminatus! Trilogy that I really took interest.

Strangely enough, and to the pleasures of William S. Burroughs, Wilson, and Shea, Dillinger’s Birthday adds up to 23. 6+2+2+1+9+0+3 = 23, which becomes 2+3=5, to fit the Law of Fives, of course. 23 Skidoo.

Anyway, discovering a Dillinger connection to my hometown of Converse fueled my interests even more. See, Converse is a little town, though it had a bit bustle in its day. Located virtually equidistant from four small cities ripe for plucking — Kokomo, Marion, Peru, and Wabash — made Converse a perfect hide-out for the outlaw.

Legend holds that he took a room frequently in a boarding house by the railroad tracks in my hometown and that he frequented a lawyer’s office on Jefferson Street where after hours poker games were played, and where Dillinger laundered his misbegotten money.

So, where’s the paranormal connection?

First, the room where Dillinger supposedly played poker? Yeah, very active. Is it Dillinger? No, I don’t think so, but we have had interesting experiences there nonetheless. Objects have been moved, doors opened of their own accord, strange orbs have manifested, there has been multiple instances of physical contact, and, yes, once two women were thrown off the bed in that room and the bed itself rose off the ground about six inches and dropped back to the floor — witnessed by my own eyes.

I’ve had unusual experiences at the former boarding house as well. Again, I do not believe they were Dillinger related, but the most odd occurrence was the discovery of a hidden room there, sealed off and only found by accident, when a laborer fell through the roof and into the hitherto unknown room. Inside was a child’s bed, a medicine cabinet, and an old doll.

Strange? Check. Unusual? Absolutely.

As for John Dillinger? Well, he was certainly a character who left his mark on the world before exiting it in a blaze of infamy. A hero? Certainly not, but he was Hoosier born and bred, and they didn’t come more colorful.

 

 

Father’s Day / #Occult30

Posted in #occult30 on June 21, 2020 by Occult Detective

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Being the Twenty-First day of Occult30 — a month long
celebration of the strange and unusual

Father’s Day

Today marks the second I’ve celebrated since my father passed. I now stand at the head of my line, with my son behind me and the hope of future generations that yearn to spring from him.

I miss the men of my bloodline that are no longer here, those men I knew — my father, my paternal grandfather, my maternal grandfather and great-grandfather.

Each had a unique personality, despite all being born in Arkansas. Those similarities of being the product of poverty and migrant labor paled against their very different approaches toward embracing life.

I learned a lot from each of them and hope that I am a better man and father because of the lessons they taught me.

Ancestor worship is at the heart of my spirituality. Today I honor them and all of my forefathers, all the way back to the beginning.

lineage

Dinner for Wolves / #Occult30

Posted in #occult30 on June 20, 2020 by Occult Detective

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Day Twenty of #Occult30 — a month long celebration of
True Tales of the Strange & Unusual.

Dinner for Wolves

Short post today, from my phone. It’s Midsummer, and there’s a lot on my plate. I hope the solstice is one filled with magic and wonder for you all.

Here’s a quick little stroll down memory lane, to a summer solstice in days gone by. The year was 1993.

A friend I had met during my adventures in the southwest reached out to me, telling me of “Dogman” sightings in the Batesville, Arkansas area.

He was convinced it was a skinwalker.

In Navajo culture, a skin-walker is a witch who can take on the form of an animal— most often that of a wolf.

It didn’t take much convincing. I packed my bags and headed south… back to the land of my forefathers.

After interviewing witnesses and scouring the town for clues, we made our way up into the Ozarks, hiking, camping, and tracking a wolfpack through those mountains.

While we never found our prey, never identified the skinwalker, it was an amazing journey— one that left an indelible mark on me and influenced all the investigations that came after…

Occult Detective, Part I / #Occult30

Posted in #occult30 on June 19, 2020 by Occult Detective

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Day Nineteen of #Occult30 — a month long celebration of
True Tales of the Strange & Unusual.

Occult Detective, Part I

As those of you who have been following along know, I’ve had a lifelong fascination with occult detective fiction, in print, tv, and movies, and a thirst for the supernatural and occult sciences from a very early age.

In the summer of 1986, those worlds collided, quite by accident.

One of my favorite haunts was the Pearson’s Mill Shelter House which sat atop a hill overlooking the Cliffs and the Mississenwa Lake. My friends and I would gather there, under the cover of darkness, put the fireplace to good use, and proceed to drink cheap liquor, smoke way too many cigarettes, and ponder the mysteries of the multiverse and our place within the fabric of such things.

It was harmless, youthful fun, with a philosophical and certainly metaphysical bent. It was, however, the very height of the so-called Satanic Panic, thus we were often looked upon with suspicion, myself in particular, but then people were afraid and anything with even the slightest hint of the occult was suspect.

One evening, near Midsummer, a small gathering was underway, though we were, thankfully, not into full revelry mode, as we were approached from the woods by a Conservation Officer.

We were all under age, but we were careful to avoid any obvious offense.

thothThe CO, a young man only slightly older than ourselves, asked us some innocuous questions, but it was obvious he was shaken by something else. He noticed that, alongside my guitar case was a deck of Tarot cards and Crowley’s Book of Thoth.

He asked if we were into satanism and black magic and I spent a fair amount of time explaining my personal beliefs, with others chiming in, until his suspicions were adequately quelled. My studies at Ball State in Witchcraft, Magic, and Religion had afforded me the vocabulary to accurately differentiate between the various types of magic, and he was suitably impressed.

He asked me if I wanted to see something… in the woods. Something he had recently come across. Something I might be able to explain to him.

I agreed, and my pal Brent and I followed the CO into the woods, a lone flashlight our only guide. What we were led to was revolting.

In a small clearing, not far from where two abandoned houses would be discovered in a few short weeks, the CO’s flashlight played against a grisly scene: a black cat lay pinned to the earth by kitchen steak knives within an encircled pentagram made of salt. Spent candles were at the points of the star. A short distance away were the remains of a campfire, poorly constructed, full of ash and the remnants of burnt logs.

ozzHis asked my opinion on it and after kicking around the scene, it was obviously kids. Cruel, sick kids, but kids nonetheless. There were PBR cans and a melted cassette tape case in the campfire — Ozzy’s Blizzard of Ozz.

What you had were what they used to call ‘self-styled satanists’.

You know the type, no? Teens out for a thrill, acting out against their parents, using the trappings of heavy metal music as their vehicle, not realizing that it was all marketing. The tropes of heavy metal were the equivalent of a Hammer horror movie.

Brent and I were gutted, though. We felt horrible for that poor cat, who was made to suffer at the hands of some sick and twisted kids.

I wish we could have helped find the culprits, but the CO was at least relieved this was not an actual black magic working, but I assured him that, even though their knowledge of the dark arts had come from song lyrics and comic books, the intent was very real…

He then told us of other strange happenings in and around Somerset — talk of witches, dark covens, and all manner of creepy goings on. He thanked us for our time, and for educating him on some of what was going on, and then Brent and I stumbled our way through the dark and back to our friends, not realizing that, come Fall, we would run into that CO again and be led into another adventure…

to be continued

INTERNATIONAL (PAN)IC DAY / #Occult30

Posted in #occult30 on June 18, 2020 by Occult Detective

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Day Eighteen of #Occult30 — a month long celebration of
True Tales of the Strange & Unusual.

INTERNATIONAL (PAN)IC DAY

pan-ic
/panik/

noun: sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior; widespread financial or commercial apprehension provoking hasty action; a frenzied hurry to do something.

verb: feel or cause to feel panic.

origin: early 17th century from French panique, from modern Latin panicus, from Greek panikos, from the name of the god Pan, noted for causing terror, to whom woodland noises were attributed.

elfbreak

 

aleister.crowleyIo Pan! Io Pan Pan! Pan Pan! Pan,
I am a man:
Do as thou wilt, as a great god can,
O Pan! Io Pan!

—Aleister Crowley, Hymn to Pan

 

 

In Thelema, Pan is the giver and taker of life, and the Night of Pan initiates the symbolic death wherein the adept transcends all limitations and experiences oneness with the universe.

Dion Fortune wrote:

I am she who e’er the earth was formed rose from the sea
O first begotten love come unto me
And let the worlds be formed of me and thee

Giver of vine and wine and ecstasy,
God of the garden, shepherd of the lea –
Bringer of fear who maketh men to flee,
I am thy priestess answer unto me!

Although I receive thy gifts thou bringest me –
Life and more life in fullest ecstasy.
I am the moon the moon that draweth thee.
I am the waiting earth that needeth thee.
Come unto me great Pan, come unto me!

The first time I sat in with a coven, an Alexandrian group I met through the New Age bookstore I read Tarot at in the late 80s, they performed what they called The Blessing of Pan, which borrowed heavily from both Crowley and Fortune, but was, nevertheless, a beautiful and powerful ceremony.

It left a lasting impression.

pan

Pan, a pastoral god and patron of shepherds and hunters, being half man and half goat, with horns sprouting from his head, became the physical representation of the Christian Devil. Pagans too conflated him with the Celtic Cernunnos, the Horned God of the Wild Hunt.

The closest of the Norse Pantheon to that of Pan is often thought to be Freyr of the Vanir, who made Alfheim his home and who gave up his dancing sword for the love of Gerðr. Like Pan, he is a god of fertility and virility, but I always felt that Pan’s mercurial nature made him more akin to Loki.

I would say that, where once Pan was commonly raised in sacred rites, there has been a shift in recent years away from his influence. There has been a dramatic transformation underway throughout pagandom.

What was it Merlin said in Excalibur, “The spirits of wood and stream grow silent. It’s the way of things.”

Not everywhere, of course, but it has been noticeable to me, among those of our ilk, as we become more and more fractured and divided.

But some of us remember and hold to the old ways of the wood.

I would be lying if I were to deny the (Pan)ic influence in the forests of my haunted hearth. In the quiet of Hobbitland and the pale of Goose Creek, along the shore line of the Circle of Stone, and in the thick of the Mississinewa, Pan is there. Never (or seldom) seen, the spirit of wanton nature is ever-present, if one has a mind to silence the bustle of modernity.

And therein lies the crux. Pan is the very spirit of nature in all its libidinous glory. He has no place in your cities or towns. He is of the country, where the cunning folk dwell, in those secret places where few are brave enough to venture.

There was a bit of irony perhaps in seeing Pan invoked in the season two finale of Hellier. That their ritual was so obviously successful, but they seemed to miss it (among many other clues throughout) was not lost on many of us.

Pan. Panic. Pandemic.

I feel like we are in the midst of another transformation, that the world is going through the growing pangs of reincarnation. O Pan. Io Pan. What shall we become in the years to follow?

Something more, perhaps, something…wonderful.

 

 

Bloodletting / #Occult30

Posted in #occult30 on June 17, 2020 by Occult Detective

occult30

Day Seventeen of #Occult30 — a month long celebration of
True Tales of the Strange & Unusual.

BLOODLETTING

On June 17, 1462, Vlad Dracula led the infamous Night Attack at Târgoviște, and “caused such terror and turmoil” against Mehmed II’s Ottoman forces that “the sultan abandoned the camp and fled in a shameful manner.”

The result was the Forest of the Dead — 23,844 impaled Turks — on Vlad’s command. This, of course, inspired near countless fictional tales of Vlad the Vampire, called Count Dracula in popular culture.

I’ve had a fascination with the vampire since early childhood. My favorite cinematic Dracula was Jack Palance in Dan Curtis’ 1973 adaptation. Curtis was responsible for many of my most favorite vampire interpretations: the aforementioned Dracula, Dark Shadows’ Barnabas Collins, and the tele-film Kolchak — the Night Stalker.

The question for me has always been — do vampires exist? Or, at the very least, did they? I wish I had an answer for you.

I have never investigated a case in which someone was the victim of a “bloodsucking vampire”, though I have dealt with the psychic kind. But I do not discount the possibility. The sheer volume of folk tales related to vampirism, across continents and varied ethnic and cultural groups clearly means there’s something to it.

Sean ManchesterThe closest I came to taking part in the investigation of reported vampire activity was through an invitation from (so-called) Bishop Seán Manchester, Primate of the British Old Catholic Church, to join him for a return to Highgate, that most notorious and fantastic cemetery wherein he acquired his notoriety, alongside David Farrant, in the 1970s.

I corresponded with Bishop Manchester for some time in the late 90s and early 2000s, and I was keen on the adventure, but we fell out, in large part, because Manchester is more than a bit out there. But in this field, who isn’t?

The Highgate story has always fascinated me, largely because I would love for it to be true.

The story goes, on the night of Halloween 1968, a graveyard desecration occurred in the London cemetery. Someone had arranged flowers taken from graves in circular patterns, with arrows pointing to a freshly dug and uncovered grave. There, a coffin lay exposed and the body inside had an iron stake in the form a cross driven through the lid and into the corpse’s chest.

Heady stuff. Especially for a kid in rural Indiana reading about it in, I believe, an issue of Fate Magazine, circa 1974 or so. It most likely was an earlier edition as my grandfather had stacks of Fate, True Crime, and Detective magazines lying about.

In March of 1970, a mob had descended on Highgate to hunt the vampire after numerous reports of sightings, and following the publicity of Manchester performing an exorcism, not to mention Farrant’s activities as well.

Things were getting out of hand, then in August that same year the charred and headless remains of a woman’s body were found near the Highgate catacomb, with the police declaring it an act of Black Magic.

The seventies really were the headwaters of the occult revival, fueled by pop culture and the global social and political upheavals of those turbulent times.

Makes one wonder if we’re not on the cusp of increased paranormal activity due to our own turmoil.

Apache Sunrise / #Occult30

Posted in #occult30 on June 16, 2020 by Occult Detective

occult30

Day Sixteen of #Occult30 — a month long celebration of
True Tales of the Strange & Unusual.

APACHE SUNRISE

apache sunrise

GeronimoGeronimo, hero of the Bedonkohe Apache, an infamous warrior and medicine man, was born on this day, the 16th of June, 1829. He died, a prisoner of war in the custody of the United States, on the 17th of February, 1909.

Geronimo became a cultural icon for people of all races, and is remembered as a fearless leader of men. His dying words were said to be: “I should have never surrendered. I should have fought until I was the last man alive.”

As a kid, growing up on a horse farm, raised by southern parents, I had many western and frontier heroes. Of course, I only knew them from the sanitized versions they share with children, but Geronimo was right there alongside Jesse James, Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Tecumseh, Little Turtle, and Doc Holliday, among others. The picture here was on my wall, beside pictures of Fess Parker, Clayton Moore, and Jay Silverheels.

I was blessed to have traveled across the American Southwest, first as an anthropology student interacting with several tribes across Arizona and New Mexico, and again a short time after, immersing myself in the cultures I had only briefly tasted before.

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In all, I spent time with the Apache, Havasupai, Hopi, Navajo, and Pueblo, and it was an honor to have done so. I also got to know the chieftain of the Kwakiutl, who was visiting the Hopi while I was there. I was treated with kindness and respect by all, even when I allowed my youth to be less so with them on occasion.

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I got to take part in a Navajo peyote ceremony, I witnessed the Hopi call down rain as they sent their gods back to their sacred mountains, watched in awe as a young woman danced the Apache Sunrise and saw Apache warriors carry fire down to appease the mountain spirits. I performed the LBRP in Mesa Verde’s Sun Temple and a Blót in the cliff dwellings.

I have always respected and honored the indigenous peoples of the Americas and have supported many of their causes, and I have been blessed to call several of them my friends.

So, today, on the 191st anniversary of Geronimo’s nativity, I give thanks to all those who have welcomed me into their homes over the years, that broke bread with me, and invited me into their most sacred rites. I salute your unconquered and indomitable spirit.

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