Volume 0, Issue 0

Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page

The Art of Sacrifice

In Discussion on 2012/07/30 at 9:55 am

Suicide Bomber vest at ComicCon 2007, San Diego, CA, by Cory_DoctorowThe man who is prepared to die may accomplish anything.

I’ve been looking through sources to see who I might be quoting for the sentiment above and I still haven’t sorted it. The original could be in a language I don’t know, thousands of years old. Or maybe it’s a James Bond villain. But it’s not just a truth in narrative logic. It’s actually true. One who dies in the process or aftermath of achieving any goal, no matter how stupid or heinous or heroic or pointless that goal is, is freed from suffering any consequences except the one that he or she has chosen. Any punishment or shame or notoriety passes, usually harmlessly, to family or associates. Both heroes and villains, which are frequently interchangeable depending on individual sympathies, derive their status as such by not being particularly opposed to a fatal outcome.

On that topic, these creatures have something interesting in common: Read the rest of this entry »

More on Narrative Logic

In Discussion on 2012/07/27 at 12:08 pm

steps, in detailOne of tenets of narrative logic — the logic used to make things true in our heads, that causes distress when it does not agree with observations — is that effort is rewarded, followed swiftly by a corollary that says greater effort is rewarded more than lesser effort. Of all the major disagreements with the nature of causality that we carry around in our heads, this one is the one that seems to cause the most misery. We desperately want there to be parity between effort spent and reward received, if not a slight tip of the balance in our favor.

Physical causality isn’t like that. An action taken at the right place in the right time under the right circumstances has a result, and it might be a desired one, but it’s just the next step in a cascade. Read the rest of this entry »

Working in Progress

In Art on 2012/07/23 at 9:38 am

Wishing Well (in progress) by Saia RomanisaelThe works in progress featured in this article are by Saia Romanisael, whom I have never to date met in person but consider to be a close friend. I include her striking pieces here less to accuse her of sorcery than to visually highlight her use of deep-textured elements of symbology and association that would make for good hoodoo workings. Should she be so inclined.

So much of what we think of as the syncretic hodge-podge of homebrew magical action is about a thousand percent tied up in the artistic process, and that fascinates me. We work in symbols and arrange them, in whatever media, according to a logic that has nothing to do with linearity and traditional causal logic. Read the rest of this entry »

John the Balladeer

In Fiction on 2012/07/17 at 10:14 am

John the Balladeer by Manly Wade WellmanMost of a hundred years ago an author named Manly Wade Wellman wrote for the pulp serials, churning out SF for the juvenile market. And then he turned his hand to things a bit more of a fantastic nature, geared toward a more mature market, and exploded. He invented a character to make central to his tales, set in Appalachian country, and wove a coherent tapestry of the supernatural that still stands to this day.

If you’re a modern consumer of pop culture horror, and have heard of DC/Vertigo Comics’ John Constantine of Hellblazer or Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden of the Dresden Files, then read a sample below to see the silver-cast prototype of the distinctly North American supernatural troubleshooter. Read the rest of this entry »

On Narrative Causality

In Discussion on 2012/07/16 at 1:36 pm

It’s been ages since I’ve read Isaac Bonewits’s Real Magic, but a huge chunk of it stuck with me.

It’s by no means a how-to. Instead, it’s a book-length, thrice-revised expansion of of the senior thesis of the only person I’ve even heard of to receive a Bachelors of the Arts in Thaumaturgy from an accredited university — though it may explain it a bit to say it was from UC Berkeley in 1970. The overall view is that it is an academic work, in construction if not tone and lack of bias, and as such the analysis it contains is not unscientific. Various traditions and practices of (scientifically speaking) a superstitious nature are deconstructed to reveal a candidate set of underlying laws that seem to govern the construction of esoteric belief and ritual.

I remain fascinated by Bonewits’s analysis, and I believe there is some truth in it — truth in what it reveals of how people think why they try to influence the world around them, leaving aside any question of whether such influences are effective. Read the rest of this entry »

A word of welcome…

In Administrative on 2012/07/15 at 2:54 pm

Manitou PetroglyphThe Journal of American Hoodoo exists to identify and explore the different approaches to causality and the unseen world in which we all have been immersed since birth — that portion which remains outside the circle of firelight cast by scientific analysis and accepted facts. Read the rest of this entry »