Cabbage on the morrow

Posted in Liber et Audax on December 31, 2018 by Occult Detective


Let’s cut to the chase — The defining moment of 2018 was the death of my father near the end of July after a horrific battle with cancer. It was an exhausting ordeal, for everyone, and I’m still feeling the weight of it these many months later. My father had a lot of faults, but I loved him despite each and every one of them and I miss him, foibles and all.

There was some good, to be sure, spread out across the mantle of the past year. While my father’s passing was a grim shadow that hung over it, we still managed to find some light.

One of the highlights was seeing Connor meet one of his favorite authors, Margaret Weiss, at Gen Con. My son has been reading through all of the Dragonlance books, and recounting them, chapter by chapter, to me has been such a joy. His enthusiasm is contagious and I revel in his love for these books, much as how I did when they first hit the scene in the late 80s.


Another of the things I cherish about 2018 was our continued commitment to our health and well being. Yoga, meditation, and hiking have become such an integral part of our lives, with Kim being the driving force behind it. We eat healthy. We exercise. And we’re loving every bit of it.

We also took in several plays and concerts, and man, was that a lot of fun. To soak up a bit of culture like that, and being able to share it with Kim and Connor, was such an uplifting experience. I am so looking forward to expanding those horizons even more in 2019.

There were also a lot of things that took a backseat this past year, unfortunately.

My explorations into the paranormal were few and far between for the better part of 2018. A lot of that was due to my father’s illness, to be sure, but I also have been noticing an ongoing trend in the field, some things that I have complained about for years, that are becoming more and more prevalent. I hope to work toward changing some of that as the new year rolls out.


I didn’t get much writing done this year either, but I did manage to see a novella published — Hallowe’en House, co-written with my friend Greg Mitchell; and there was the introduction I wrote for a kickstarter project that reprinted the earliest tales of Kull written by my favorite author, Robert E. Howard.

Along with writing less, I also read less this year. Our Water Street Book Club petered out after two books (Sleeping Beauties was a real slog) and I managed only about 60 titles for the year, many of which were review copies that came my way. That will be one my New Year’s Resolutions, to see the Book Club revitalized and to get more reading (and writing) in over the course of 2019.

rpgAnother high point of 2018 was seeing the Oak Hill RPG Club grow. We picked up new members and played twice weekly for the better part of it. While we lost steam on developing our own RPG (due to various copyright issues), we really have seen gaming become more firmly entrenched into our regimen.

So, we say fare thee well to 2018. I’ve a fair number of resolutions for the new year, not the least of which is to be more mindful of content for this blog. I hope to have some exciting announcements in the coming months and hope you’ll stay tuned to hear them.

Till then, I wish each and every one of you all the best and may 2019 find you at peace.

Bliadhna Mhath Ùr!

Embrace the N.I.G.H.T.

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error, N.I.G.H.T., Occult Detectives on December 17, 2018 by Occult Detective


We’ll be launching a new venture come spring. We hope you’ll join us on this journey of discovery… More details to come.

To Thine Own Self Be True

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on December 4, 2018 by Occult Detective


This makes for a pretty good summation of what makes me tick. I could decipher the lot of it, but where’s the fun in that? Besides, it’s not really all that deep… just accurate.

In Defense of ‘Fakelore’

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on November 19, 2018 by Occult Detective

“And I suppose if I had to choose between the true version and an elaborate one involving a fish and a wedding ring, I might choose the fancy version. But that’s just me”

— Dr. Bennett (Robert Guillaume), Big Fish

Let me preface the following by stating categorically that there is no place for physical, emotional, or sexual abuse within any community, let alone the greater, so-called, ‘pagan’ collective. We should strive to be better, to one another and to those outside our circle. The age old adage that ‘we are all in this together’ is more than just a platitude or affirmation — it is grounded in the reality of our place in the universe. While I believe you will discover that I am no great friend to ‘reality’ as perceived by the masses, some truths are irrefutable, regardless of the cut of your jib.


If you’ve not already been treated to their words, I direct you first to a lengthy essay by Sarah Anne Lawless titled For Sale: Neopaganism “As Is”, and a response from anthropologist Amy Hale found under the heading On Paganism, Fakelore, and Tired Conversations about Authenticity.

Both are erudite and thought-provoking. Do I need to add my proverbial two-cents? Absolutely not, but then, that’s never stopped me before.

I watched the movie Big Fish this past weekend. Are you familiar? Based on the book by Daniel Wallace (which I’ve not read, but need to), the film was packed full of star power — Albert Finney, Jessica Lange, Ewan MacGregor, Helena Bonham Carter, and on and on.

Of the film, director Tim Burton said, “Big Fish is about what’s real and what’s fantastic, what’s true and what’s not true, what’s partially true and how, in the end, it’s all true.

My own faith, which stems from my interpretation of heathenry, is founded on the tall tale in many respects. Anyone who has taken even a cursory stroll through the Sagas can readily see this to be true.

Boasting around the campfire is a time-honored tradition. Tales often grow in the telling, but if they’re well told, then more’s the better.

The truth can be overrated, and more often than not, elusive.

Sometimes building a mythology, a legend, around one’s beliefs heightens the narrative. It becomes a part of the ritual, entering that headspace where reality is warped and blended with the supernatural to create a magical truth that transcends the reality of the mundane.

Looking at Thelema, for instance, does it really matter if Aleister Crowley fictionalized his account regarding the transmission of the Book of the Law?

What of Gerald Gardner or Alex Sanders? Do their backstories make their traditions any less potent if they are fabrications?

The Golden Dawn was founded on so-called fakelore as is nearly every ‘secret society’ born under the sun, moon, and stars. I’m looking at you, Freemasons and Odd-Fellows, and all the rest.

Entire nations are founded on twisted versions of the honest to goodness truth.

And why not?

In a sense, all of reality is false, memory is unreliable, and we all build mythologies around ourselves, altering the past to suit our chosen narratives.

Everything is fictive.

When looking for the truth, well, which version of it do you want, because we all see things from different perspectives. There’s a reason why eyewitness testimony is largely unreliable.

Psychologically, we reinterpret events so that they make sense to us all based on numerous cultural and biological factors.

Truth is what you make it.


Now, if you’re creating fakelore to manipulate and control people to feed your ‘cult of personality’, to use and abuse members of your ‘tribe’, well then, we have a problem…

But, if you’re building a mythological narrative to elevate and uplift, to pass down a fable that fosters a sense of wonder and importance, well then where is the harm in that?

We’re on a spiritual journey, each and every one of us. What matters is our evolution going forward. If your reimagined backstory propels you up out of the mire into the heavens, then so be it.

In the end, it’s all about intent.

At least, that’s how I see it.

Mt. Writemore

Posted in Writing in Theory & Practice on November 13, 2018 by Occult Detective


My Mt. Writemore is now complete. Joining Robert E. Howard, J.R.R. Tolkien, and E. Gary Gygax on that holy cliffside is “The Man” himself — Stanley Martin Lieber, or as he was professionally and lovingly known, Stan Lee.

So what is Mt. Writemore? Well, I like to think there are four writers in an author’s life that shaped them, molding them into the creatives they are, or at least, aspire to be.

For the sake of this exercise, my rules are simple: these authors must have influenced you in your pre-teen years and they must have shuffled off their mortal coil.

So here we are, with my sacred mount complete. The last face to join those in imaginary stone was instrumental in my development as a storyteller. Stan Lee willed the Marvel Universe into existence. With his words, he made the adventures of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Mighty Thor, and Doctor Strange (just to name a few) come to life in a way that no other comic book company had done before (and rarely since).


His heroes were fallible. Flawed. They had real world problems.

One of my favorite quotes attributed to Stan, and I’m paraphrasing here, related to Thor, but I always felt a kinship to them on a whole other level. Essentially Stan said, Thor can have all the adventures in Asgard he likes, but every once in a while has to come back down to Earth and take his lumps from the Absorbing Man.

Stan understood that the audience needs to relate to the characters in these stories, that no matter how fanciful or whimsical the tale, they needed to be grounded.

Stan Lee co-created hundreds of characters at Marvel Comics and shepherded the company brilliantly, creating a larger-than-life persona along the way.


He never talked down to his readers, never shied away from “big words” or big ideas.

He was a huge part of my childhood and probably the single greatest influence on me. I lived and breathed Marvel Comics for the better part of my life and cherish the memories of reading comics as a small boy. Stan was the architect of that love and the passions he ignited in a farm kid growing up in the sticks of Indiana still burn today.

Godspeed, Stan Lee, and farewell…


This Silent Well of Sorrow (Part Five of Five)

Posted in All Hallows Read, Horror, Occult Detectives, Writing in Theory & Practice on November 1, 2018 by Occult Detective


Part Five of Five


The trees pressed in on the magical procession, each intent on the path beneath their feet. It was treacherous footing, where a wrong step could mean the difference between life and death. A perilous cliffside trail, weaving through the Germanic landscape, was a physical manifestation of the spiritual journey these four found themselves bound to.

“The flesh is weak,” Samael muttered. He was at the head of the pack, the fire and impetus of their quest. He wore the skin of Guy Starbiter, long time friend and confidante to the father of the man who walked close behind him.

Landon Connors was calmly repeating a nursery rhyme his mother had recited to him as a small child, over and over again, punctuating each step. It was a talisman of sorts, magic words to block the pain that racked his body each time his ruined knee propelled him forward.

“One for sorrow and two for mirth. Three for a funeral and four for birth. Five for heaven and the sixth is for hell. Seven’s for the devil that we know so well.”

Behind the good doctor came Tracy Larson. Her jaw was set, a scowl locked on her lips. She had been through so much. The thought of following this archangel, fallen or not, soured her. Her instinct was to gut the thing, regardless of its intentions.

Bringing up the rear, Michelle Hawkes felt the same. Both women had their reasons to distrust the entity that had taken root inside Starbiter, both stemming from the loss of their first borns. Though there was more than twenty years separating them, they were bound by that commonality.

A crow cawed from deep within the grim forest as a mist drifted up from the cavernous ravine. A perverse clicking sound mingled with it, driving the corvus from its perch. It swooped over their heads, as if warning them that their journey had neared its end.


“What is that?” Tracy asked, her teeth chattering against the sudden drop in temperature. She tried to sink deeper into her jorongo. Her feet gave way then, slipping in the rich, black mud. Eyes wide, she looked to plunge over the side of the cliff, but a firm hand clasped hers and pulled her to safety. She stared up into Hawkes eyes, thankful for her quick reaction.

“Careful, kiddo,” Michelle said, “the doctor would have my hide if I let you take a tumble.”

“Sometimes I wonder,” Larson sighed. She looked toward him, pressing on, oblivious to what had transpired behind him. “I don’t get him,” she added, dusting herself off and resuming their hike toward who knew what. “It’s almost like he’s two people.”

“Only two?” Michelle laughed. “Wait till you’ve known him longer.”

They tried to hurry their pace, to catch up with the two men ahead of them. It was easy enough. One was slow with age. The other due to crippling injury.

“How much further? ” Michelle called out.

Samael stopped and sniffed at the air.

“We’re here,” the fallen said. “Come, up this way.” They left the path and entered the woods, leaving the cliffside trail behind. It was a short walk, up a steep ravine, until it plateaued. As they entered the grove the clicking stopped and all was as silent as the grave.

The mist had settled here, knee high, swirling about as a thing almost alive and sentient. The effluvium was light, like a sheer fabric and the moon overhead cast a magical luminescence on the clearing, causing the tendril mist to glow a phantasmal white.

A shovel was stabbed into the turned earth beneath the hanging branches of a twisted oak. An ancient bind rune was carved into the bark of the tree. Lying in the exposed roots of the tree was a leather pouch bound with vine, a silver locket lying atop it.

“Harug,” Samael said. “That is the word that comes to mind when I look upon this place. It is not my word, but the word of he whom I wear.”

“Holy grove,” Connors said. “It’s Old High German.”

“Ah, I see,” Samael relied. He looked toward the two women who were hanging back at the edge of the treeline. “The skirts are skittish,” he said. “Not that I blame them.”

Connors pulled the shovel from the earth. Blood seeped up from the wound there.

“I don’t suppose you want to tell me what I’m going to find when I dig up whatever you laid to rest here.”

“What Guy Starbiter laid to rest, you mean.”


“No,” Samael said. “You’d best see for yourself.”

Connors tossed his cane to Michelle who had approached, cautiously. Tracy followed, striking a match to the lantern she’d pulled from her pack. It only added to the tension, casting long shadows in the ethereal night.

Landon went to work, humming the nursery rhyme as fresh waves of pain hammered through him as each shovel full of dirt echoed with a liturgy of exquisite pain. The grave was shallow, but heavy, flat rocks, each painted with a different kenning rune, made the progress slow. Then, peeking up from the black soil, a tuft of cloth, lace fringed, soiled white with a floral pattern.

Connors took a deep breath and looked to his companions. He knelt then, painfully, and began to brush the loose dirt away, slowly revealing what lie within this silent well of sorrow.

Ashen blue-grey flesh in a pretty gown. Black, patent leather shoes and frilly bobby socks. Blonde hair in pig-tails. A thin silver chain and encircled triangle pendant around her neck, resting softly on her chest.

Connors back away.

“What?” he asked. “Who?” But no answer came, only a child’s eyes opening, revealing black pools of unforgiving and infinite space. As she rose up, slowly, Tracy gasped, backing away from the child’s awakening. She instinctively reached fro Michelle’s hand, but the former federal agent pushed her aside, stepping in front of the girl and drawing her Sig Sauer P365.

“Landon Connors,” a deep guttural growl spoke from the diminutive girl’s blue lips, “the Dark One would have words with you.”

The ground beneath her opened up and she hovered up above them, levitating out of the shallow grave even as Landon Connors tumbled into the breach. Michelle opened fire, but the bullets fell ineffectively to the ground with but a flick of the demon child’s fingers.

The earth around the grave was sucked in after the occult detective and in mere seconds the grave was refilled, the stones all returned to their place. The girl laughed and slowly dissolved as a wind rose up and carried her away.

“What did you do?” Michelle screamed at Samael.

“I-I… Michelle?” he replied. “Mein Gott, ich verstehe nicht.”

“Guy?” Shoving the gun back into the holster in the small of her back, she crossed the ground and grabbed Starbiter by the shoulders. “Where’s Samael? Where’s Landon?”

“I-Ich weiß nicht, he said, staring at the reconstituted grave. “Ich weiß es wirklich nicht.”

to be continued in
A Thousand Oceans
beginning November 28

My thoughts on Dee’s ‘Fortune Telling with Playing Cards’ & Marin’s ‘Monsters and Creatures’

Posted in Magick by Trial & Error on October 31, 2018 by Occult Detective

A lot happening today. It’s Hallowe’en, after all. A cold rain is falling on my haunted heartland and Jimmy Page’s Lucifer Rising is droning away on the turntable. Magic is, as they say, in the air.

playingcardsI thought I’d share with you some quick thoughts on a couple of new releases, the first being a re-release of Jonathan Dee’s Fortune Telling with Playing Cards.

I was quite fond of books such as this as a child. My parents were not the most tolerant when it came to the occult, so learning to read playing cards as opposed to the Tarot was an important stepping stone in my early development.

Therein lies the beauty of it. Most any household has a deck of cards handy, so you have a readily accessible divination tool within easy grasp.

You’ll find some rather generic card interpretations and a wealth of various card spreads to choose from and experiment with. It’s a solid enough introductory lesson in cartomancy, more than useful enough, especially for those just dipping their toes in preternatural waters.

You can snatch it up here, if you’ve a mind to.


The second book I’d like to shake a stick at is Gabiann Marin’s Monsters and Creatures, part of Rockpool Publishing’s ‘Supernatural Series’. Now, I reviewed one other installment in this run, Lucy Cavendish’s Witches and Wizards, and found it wanting. Monsters and Creatures is less offensive, but still feels a bit light.

monstersLike its predecessor, Monsters and Creatures is a lovely book. The graphic design folks at Rockpool are rock solid. These little hardcovers are crammed full of pictures, wingdings, and all the little bells and whistles and tricks-of-the-trade that make for a top-of-the-line reference book.

And I simply adored these ‘occult encyclopedias’ as a kid. This would have been 8 year old me’s favorite book, I’m sure. I would have carried it and the Witches volume around like the Old and New Testament.

53 year old me, however, is a little more jaded, and a little more learned. Is it a fun book? Certainly, and it’s a far cry better researched than Witches and Wizards turned out to be. My qualms about this is there’s nothing really new to be discovered between its covers.

I suppose that says more about me than it does about Monsters and Creatures.

Still, it’s a pretty package, and if you’re new to this sort of thing, or have young ones about, it’s well worth the price of admission, which you can easily do right here.

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