Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Good Clergy Starts and Ends With Good Human Beings

I was saddened to read this news story in the Washington Post about an Episcopal bishop in Maryland who hit and killed a cyclist in Baltimore last weekend. Part of the title of an associated story really hit home for me: "Who's qualified to be clergy?"

With the understanding that we only have what's been reported in the media so far to go on, here's what we know about the driver of the automobile, Rev. Heather Elizabeth Cook, the 2nd in command or "suffragan" of the Episcopal Church in Maryland. 

  • Rev. Cook was arrested in 2010 for DUI while assigned to Maryland's Eastern Shore. According to reports, she was so drunk she couldn't even complete field sobriety tests and had thrown up on herself when pulled over driving a car that was rolling on three wheels and one tire rim. She admitted drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana before getting behind the wheel. Her blood alcohol was .27, three times MD's .08 limit. (I remember learning in school that .25 is the point at which people become unconscious from drinking, so she must have been extremely impaired!) . She received "probation before judgment" and completed her probation. 
  • She was placed on the short list for suffragan with four other women. While church leaders were aware of the 2010 incident, the larger group voting to install her as a bishop were unaware of it. Ultimately, she was selected this past spring after undergoing a psychological evaluation and background check. 
  • Rev. Cook struck cyclist Thomas Palermo, 41, and left the scene, only to return "20 minutes" later. Unconfirmed reports on cyclist Web sites say that the only reason Cook returned to the scene was because she was being chased by cyclists. Palermo died. 
  • Cook was placed on administrative leave, and the Diocese admits that she was involved in the accident, but no charges have been filed at this time. There is no mention of alcohol or drug involvement in this crash. 
This is a tough one. It's very easy to say "They never should have picked her for the job with her DUI," but I'm not sure that's realistic. Should that one mistake ensure that you rise no higher in your profession, despite your excellent qualifications? DUI is nothing to be trifled with. But Rev. Cook admitted her guilt and received punishment, whether you agree that it was too lenient or not. 

I will say, however, that there should have been full disclosure about her previous arrest so people could judge her fairly. Now it looks like the church was hiding something when likely they didn't mean to, but if I had been part of the convention that voted for the suffragan position, I'd ask what prompted church leaders to omit those details. Press reports indicate the leaders determined that "this one mistake shouldn't bar her as leader", but you do a disservice to your flock by not being up front about it.

Every person is different and every case is different. Based on what I've read, if I had been told about her arrest I don't think I'd have voted for her if other candidates were just as qualified. With that said, I don't think that the arrest alone should have prevented her from helping lead her church. We are all humans and have lapses in judgment, and unless there was a greater pattern of alcohol or drug abuse that the church discovered about Rev. Cook and did nothing to remedy, I don't think a reasonable person could have expected this.

What bothered me more than anything in this case was the apparent lack of compassion on the bishop's part. As I've said many times, spiritual leaders should be held to a higher standard, but to me, to just leave someone there dying after you hit them without trying to help is completely unconscionable. That's not even basic human decency, much less what we expect of a spiritual leader. It takes on an even greater significance when this person is not just any leader, but the #2 in the church in Maryland. What does it look like then?

My Scorpio senses are really heightened on this one. Why would you choose to leave a person there when you didn't know how injured they were, and with a heavily damaged windshield, as it said in the report? I'd expect a spiritual leader to stop and do everything they could to help that person, whether they were the one who hit them or not. She should have been on the phone to 911 immediately to get EMS rolling, even if it appeared the cyclist had suffered fatal injuries. (Full disclosure: I don't know that she didn't call 911; that wasn't included in the report, but I'd have thought if she had done something the Post would have included it.)

You know what? That last paragraph was incorrect. The third sentence should have read, "I'd expect any decent human being to stop and do everything they could to help that person." Hell, these days we all have cell phones and we routinely call in traffic accidents and aggressive drivers. Even people who don't normally call in accidents and other road incidents likely would have been moved to see a cyclist on the ground in need of medical treatment to call 911 or get out and see if the person was OK.

I'll be very interested to see what happens. I'll take a moment to repeat that we don't have the whole story on this one, but if it turns out that Rev. Cook hit this cyclist and left the scene without intervening in some way, she should go to jail for vehicular manslaughter and be removed from her position. If evidence comes to light that she was somehow impaired, the book needs to be thrown at her.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Thomas Palermo's family, especially his wife and two young children, as well as to Rev. Cook and the Episcopal Church of MD. This is an ugly situation and only with a strong faith and a desire to heal will they get through it.

As you go out this New Years' Eve, please party responsibly and be aware and safe. You don't want to be the next statistic. And let's be honest...I don't want to lose any readers. :)

Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014: A Retrospective

So it's that time again. The holidaze are almost over. The presents have been purchased and given, or at least mostly, and everyone is taking the time to look back over another year. With Saturn likely enjoying his season at home and Jupiter probably recovering from his, I thought I'd take a quiet moment in a crowded sports bar to share some thoughts with you. 

First and foremost, if you're reading this, you're very lucky. Now don't get me wrong...not because I'm the greatest writer in the world. But if you have any device that can read this message, you're much better off than so many people. I think the tragedy for many charities is that they focus on this time of year, but people are in need year round. But the simple fact is that you're very fortunate. Sure, we'd all like more money, less stress, and more time to do the things we like, but having an attitude of gratitude is vital for us all. 

I know lots of people this year who have had more than their share of misfortune. Dealing with failing marriages, aging parents, and not being able to find work are the reality that many of us have faced. For me, I saw more of it than I personally experienced, which is good for me...but I hate watching people around me suffer. It can make you feel powerless. Sometimes the only thing you can do is be a good listener and try to help someone lighten their load, even if it's just for a little while. 

Also, how many times this year have you said, "If [INSERT PERSON HERE] would just do what I tell them to do..."? You need to be careful starting a sentence that way. Sometimes the last thing that people need to hear when they're in crisis mode, or anytime, actually, is unsolicited advice. If you're asked for your opinion, please fire away. But I think we focus too much on how we would choose to solve other people's problems. Unless your life is in really good shape your time would likely be more productively spent taking care of your own challenges. I've found that people want to "help" others deal with their problems as an escape, to avoid dealing with their own shit. This is not a trap that you want to fall into. I call it the "Mother Hen" syndrome, but both men and women are guilty of it. 

I feel like I've learned a lot this year, but I've struggled, too. I had my share of days when the world seemed like it was conspiring against me. I think back in March I had my biggest struggles with our fiasco of a move and everything that went with it. I think that probably had to be my "low", and luckily my beloved bride and my friends helped me get through it. In some ways 2014 was the Year of the Rant. I felt like I always could find something to scream about. Hopefully that trend will end in a few days. 

I'm hoping for the next year to make astrology a bigger part of my day to day life. I got a reading from a psychic that was extremely revealing, and that was one of her pieces of wisdom.

This coming fall, I'm planning to enroll in the Midwest School of Astrology to supplement my lessons with my astrology mentor. This school is set up just like a college...1 class a week for three hours, September to June, for three years. The scary fact is that my MA in French wasn't even that long. Anyway, it appears to be an intense program that comes highly recommended. This Scorpio is so ready for it. Once it's done, I will be able to sit for the ISAR, an international board certification in astrology, which will be vital to my future work as an astrologer. I've been thinking about this for a few years and it's time to do it. 

Closer to home, my students at the Tradition of the Witches Circle have had over four months off but in a few weeks it will be time to go back to work for ToWC 301. I'll be happy to be back in the classroom as well. 

I noticed I didn't do as many blog posts this year as last year. Consistency with this activity has never been a strong suit of mine. Unless a great news story catches my eye I try to do it a few times a month. 

One story that I didn't blog about is the guy who was told to take down his zombie natvity scene. I felt like this guy was being unfairly targeted, that if he had had a "traditional" creche the authorities would have left him alone. Not sure about that one, but I'll be following it into the new year to see if there are any developments. I can understand that people would be upset by this, just like people in Haverhill, MA, were upset when someone replaced the baby Jesus with a pig's head in a nativity scene there. But in the case of the zombie creche, that one was on his own property. SPOILER ALERT: He runs a haunted house, folks. You don't think he wanted any attention, do you? How does it feel to fuel someone else's business with your outrage? Oh well. Even if he has to take it down, he'll be laughing all the way to the bank next fall. 

Anyway, my New England Patriots have put in their backup quarterback and have given up this game, since they're already in the playoffs. That's my cue to end this entry. 

Thanks as always for reading my stuff. I'm always humbled and honored when people say they took the time to read what I've written. It's not Shakespeare but at least it's mine. :)

Best wishes for you and yours for 2015. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

There is No "War on Christmas" For Me

Merry Christmas to all!

It seems like this time of year is when we start hearing in the media about the "war on Christmas", and frankly, I'm kind of sick of it.

I can understand people thinking that the religious/spiritual meaning has gone out of Christmas. For many people it's about spending money and making money. And there's nothing wrong with either of those two things; everyone has different ideas about what they get out of the holiday. But I can understand people being upset about that. 

With that said, it isn't what we're talking about, really. The distinct impression I get when I hear about the "war on Christmas" is that people are upset that people of other faiths are starting to push back against the idea that we're not all Christians, and that many of us do not celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. 

One of the manifestations of this phenomenon is the idea that you can somehow offend people with "Merry Christmas!" Since you don't know what faith everyone is, you can't necessarily greet them appropriately for their spiritual path. And what about atheists? Dan Piraro, the creator of the Bizarro comic, has two atheists greeting each other with "Happy Nothing!", which I found hilarious. But I digress. 

If someone wishes me "Merry Christmas", I take that as "I hope you have a great holiday, whichever one it is you celebrate at this time of year." I find it makes me feel good and doesn't piss people off, and I know deep down that people are wishing me well. Not everyone knows I'm a witch and I don't feel the need to advertise it, so I don't correct people and say, "'s 'Blessed Yule'!"

(For the record, more and more people are recognizing Wicca/Witchcraft, so I often get messages from friends wishing me well for the solstices and the other holidays. I'm always extremely impressed and grateful!)

Other than the whole "Merry Christmas" thing, I'm not sure what the "war" is about. If you mean that people should be able to put up nativity scenes and other faiths should be able to construct and publicly display symbols of their faith, I'm all for it. Everyone, from Wiccans to atheists to Satanists and every other group, should be able to put up displays at public buildings. Or no group should be allowed to do so. That's only fair. 

I think that many Christians are starting to get nervous that their faith is losing ground in the United States. I'm not sure why that would make people upset; your faith is your faith no matter how many people practice it. What other people say doesn't affect what you believe, does it? Christianity is one of the world's strongest and largest faiths, so I'm not sure how others expressing their religious beliefs threatens them. 

If you really believe there's a "war on Christmas", then perhaps you should look within and ask yourself why other people wanting to express their beliefs has a negative impact on your own.  To push this idea forward smacks of intolerance, which is just unacceptable.

My Christmas wish for us all is acceptance. If you can accept that the beliefs of others have nothing to do with you; and that when someone wishes you well, even if it's not of your personal spiritual path, you can accept it as a kind wish, you're already in good shape for 2015.

Best wishes for a prosperous, peaceful, and healthy 2015. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Solstice Interview with Saturn

John: Hello everyone, and blessed Yule to you! Saturn has been asking me for a while now to interview him on the show, since I did it for Jupiter a while back. This seemed like the perfect time for it, so I'd like to welcome Saturn back to the blog. 

Saturn: John, it's a pleasure. Well, it was more of a pleasure before, when you were one of my preferred people, but I've noticed that since you started this blog my reputation has taken a hit. So I'm glad to be able to explain my function more clearly. You tend to, shall we say, distort my image a little bit. 

John: Oh REALLY? What a fascinating observation from the "greater malefic".

Saturn: Now, now...that's pretty rude. If you're referring to that archiac archetype, they don't call me that anymore. That was hundreds of years ago. 

John: Well, would you like to tell my readers where that idea came from?

Saturn: It's because people don't like me. They never have. I impose limits; I force people to discipline themselves; I don't deal with fantasy or the way humans want things to be. I just AM. 

John: Well, while I'm still in my infancy in my astrological studies, I'd say those ancient astrologers were on to something. You're sitting in my 5th house, the house of excitement and fun. Did you know how BORING a child I was? How closed off? Would you like to guess what planet is sitting in it? That would be YOU. 

Saturn: I was there. You weren't boring; you were thoughtful and responsible. You weren't out causing trouble like people with strong benefic planets, having illicit sex, doing drugs, or just plain old acting like a spoiled brat. Which would you have preferred?

John: I'd have preferred a little more balance. Since you and Jupiter and Neptune don't get along in my chart, it took me a lot longer to find that. 

Saturn: Big lesson, wasn't it? I was responsible for it. You're welcome. 

John: Oh no, Old Man. If anyone is taking credit for that, it's me! You just made it harder. 

Saturn: And maybe it wouldn't have been as valuable for you if it hadn't. 

John: Should I tell them about the Grim Reaper?

Saturn: Once again, a chronic misrepresentation of what I do. Yes, people see me as the Grim Reaper. There are images of me with a scythe and people get carried away. 

John: But you said it yourself. You impose limits, right? Like our life span? And our health? 

Saturn: Yes. Nothing lasts forever. And things tend to get better for people as they get older. But when the time comes, eventually all of you bow to my will. But there are more of you who see 3 Saturn returns, and at 30 years a pop, that's pretty good, I'd say. 

John: What about depression? Don't you contribute to it?

Saturn: Yes, I do. I think you humans make too much of that. Some people were meant to be melancholy all the time. Acceptance of that limitation of happiness or contentment is a noble thing. 

John: Unfortunately, we call that a chemical imbalance. And you don't know much about us at ALL if you consider suffering with constant unhappiness noble. That's truly an asshole thing to say. 

Saturn: You've picked up a few habits from planets not named Saturn, I see. You demean yourself when you talk that way. And you're so much more intelligent than that but yet you tend toward lowest common denominator expressions. 

John: You are doing nothing but reinforcing the idea in everyone's mind that the "greater malefic" still lives. 

Saturn: Look, I do my job and I do it well. I'd love for people to love me like they do Jupiter and Venus. But they don't. Some good PR was the reason I came on your blog today, but you did exactly what most of you do: you're always looking at the negative.

John: Well, the way it sounds you don't have many positive qualities at all. 

Saturn: Depends on your perspective. I'm great at long-term goals that require work and sacrifice. I'm really good at boundaries. People want to be too nice. If you're nice all the time you become a doormat. And I'm fantastic at editing because I take out what is unncessary. 

John: As my astrology teacher says, "Saturn takes prisoners." You damage every other planet you come into contact with in a chart. Generally speaking your job is to remind people that they're getting older and will someday succumb to our health "limitations" by dying. Do you THINK that people want to get to know you? I can answer that one--"NO." 

Saturn: Honestly, John, most people don't have the stomach to get to know me. No, I am not a happy go lucky planet. I don't bring love, good luck, or peace. I don't help you think clearly and I don't provide motivation. But I'd like to at least get the respect that I am due for my role. It's a dirty job but someone's gotta do it. I've been around a long time and people haven't liked me since my astrological role was discovered. I was hoping that the magic of blogging and social media might help people "get" me a little more. 

John: Well, Saturn, in addition to everything else, you usher in a time of year when the earth is dead, so I think that's going to be a stretch. But I respect your desire to try to explain yourself to people. Maybe people will try to respect you a little more if you can stop harrassing other planets trying to just do their jobs. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Book Review: The Witches' Almanac, Issue 24, Spring 2015-2016

The Witches’ Almanac, Issue 34
The Witches’ Almanac, LTD

I have many old copies of The Witches’ Almanac from past years, back when they were done in paper without glossy covers. This should give you an idea about how useful they are, and this edition is certainly no exception.

The theme of this particular issue is “Fire, the Transformer”, and many of the articles deal with “fiery” topics. If you’re working with fire in your magickal practice, this is definitely not an edition you will want to miss.

Similar to other almanacs, there is very useful information in here for your magickal edification that would make it a useful purchase even with that information alone, such as holidays, moon cycles, and horoscopes for the coming year. But as usual there is so much more.

I was thrilled by the amount of astrology articles in this edition. I don’t recall seeing as many in the past, or perhaps I just wasn’t looking for them. But one of the best articles in this edition for me is the one about the “galactic center” in astrology, from approximately 25-29 degrees of Sagittarius. This is an important area of an astrological chart, and you should definitely check and see if you have any planets in that area. They will take on an added significance in your life, as their energy is being chewed up and recycled. What liked was that the article gave a nice introduction to the concept of the galactic center, and gave some planetary transits over that point in the next year.

I also enjoyed the article on the planetary days and hours, especially since it gave a calculation so you can figure out which planet is ruling a given hour in a day or night where you are. Certain computer programs will calculate this for you, but I’m totally excited to try it by hand!

For fire-themed articles, I definitely enjoyed the one on fireflies, a nice look at some of the legends of fireflies and how to attract them to your outdoor spaces. Who knew that having lights on in your house will interfere with their breeding?

Two page-long articles also attracted my attention. One was quotations from various people about fire, which includes, “Fire is the most tolerable third party,“ by Thoreau. The second was a short article on the Devil card in the tarot, which did a great job encapsulating some of the major themes and imagery on the card. Since the Devil is not a card you want to see come up in a reading, it’s important to know what it means when he does.

Finally, another short article that crossed my mind is on cardinals. They’re a bird I have always loved, and I’m guessing I’m not alone since seven American states have chosen them as the state bird, more than any other.

If you’re looking for lengthy articles, this isn’t the place, but The Witches’ Almanac shows consistently that an article doesn’t need to be wordy to be meaningful.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


Please accept my apologies for the last two blogs. Once again, I tried to make those planets in my chart work together. Both Neptune and Jupiter have oppositions to Saturn for me, and I find that writing about them helps me balance their energies in my own life. 

First things first: I didn't authorize Jupiter to be anywhere near this blog for the reasons you saw and many more. Don't get me wrong...he's an amazing guy to hang out with but he does get really carried away. When he knew he'd be going up against Saturn of course he lost his mind. Getting those two to get along in my own life is a pain. 

I think it may be best here to give you an example or two. Jupiter rules expansion...and he's in a very strong position in my chart, in his rulership in Sagittarius (a sign he rules). His energy flows easily in me. Jupiter is expansion on a physical level; I've never been a small man, and Jupiter loves to eat too much. Saturn is Jupiter's foil and deals with self-discipline. When I channel him, I lose weight very easily and feel bad about eating anything bad for me. Sometimes I don't eat enough when I'm with Saturn, which doesn't help my overall diet anyway. So my weight very much depends on whose energy I happen to be working with more.

Personality-wise, you've heard about Silent John. He's a Saturn construct for sure. He's about as much of an old curmudgeon as you can get. He doesn't want to be around people and he doesn't want to interact with them. Jupiter is the opposite. He's outgoing and very friendly...sometimes too friendly. He wants to be around others and, while not as much of an attention hog as the Sun, he's the teacher of the astrological planets, so he wants to lead groups and share his knowledge. When I channel Saturn in the classroom, think of the most strict teacher you've had, and that's him in a nutshell; he's not mean but he's a hardass, a real tough bastard who gives away nothing for free. He came in really handy when I was teaching high school. At the Tradition of the Witches Circle, I'm learning how to rein him in. 

And that, dear readers, is what life is about: Taking the hand you're dealt astrologically and making it work in your life for your benefit and success. Sure, I'd rather these planets be best buddies, but that's not going to happen and it's kind of good that it doesn't. In charts where the planets get along easily, there is less tension but people tend to be lazier. I guess I'll take the tension and try to work through the nonsense. 

Anyway, I'd like to take a moment to wish you well this time of year, no matter what holiday(s) you choose to celebrate. I'd also like to take a moment to remind you that tarot readings and astrology charts make fantastic holiday gifts. While I have a long way to go to becoming the astrological expert I would like to be (Saturn), I'm happy to share the knowledge I have with you (Jupiter), or use my intuitive gifts to give you some insight (Neptune). Wow, it's almost as if I planned that... :)

To my clients and students, thank you for your trust and confidence. I am honored and humbled, and it is my pleasure to serve you!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christmas Greeting Rebuttal from Neptune...and Jupiter?

Neptune: Hello everyone! Neptune here. John gave me the opportunity to write this blog, but since I'm sort of busy at the moment helping many of you deal with the holidaze through writing bad poetry and drinking, Jupiter offered to give me a hand in wishing you well. Take it away, good sir!

Jupiter: Thanks, Neptune! I'm thrilled to be here today!

What many people may not know is that in John's chart I am an even closer opposition to Saturn than you are, Neptune. So I've got even more reason to hate that [OFFENSIVE CONTENT DELETED BY BLOG AUTHOR] than Neptune does. Did he really think that was wishing you WELL? As far as I'm concerned, you can take that blog that Saturn wrote and [OFFENSIVE CONTENT INVOLVING THE LOWER DIGESTIVE TRACT DELETED BY BLOG AUTHOR].

Anyway, coming from someone who rules the sign we're currently transiting through--WHOOP WHOOP, ARCHERS!!!--I think this is the best time of year. People really let loose...they buy too much, they drink too much, and they eat too much. AND SO WHAT? If that [EXPLETIVE] ever even enjoyed life for a change, you never know what could happen. But no, Saturn's gotta sit up there like a [OFFENSIVE CONTENT DELETED BY BLOG AUTHOR] and judge everyone, like usual. Once the New Year comes around everyone can straighten up and fly right, and that's the way it's always been. (It's interesting that Saturn rules the ENTIRE MONTH where the most divorces occur, isn't it? There's a reason for that! No one can stand him!)

Nobody gives me credit for anything these days. I mean come the [EXPLETIVE] on! When good luck finds it's way to you, that's me at work, that great run at the craps table or that sweet promotion at the office. And I rule over partying and having a great time. Who wouldn't love being around me? Sure I have a spiritual side, that's true...and this time of year people embrace that, too. But I'm all about expansion. And when it comes to late November to the solstice, I'm all about expanding the fun. If I expand a few waistlines in the process...I'm not worried!

As far as John goes, don't listen to that [OFFENSIVE, DEMEANING CONTENT ABOUT SATURN DELETED]! You need to check out his tarot and astrology services for the holidaze! An astrological chart or solar return makes a great gift, as does a gift certificate for a tarot reading. He is extremely talented, and he's got Jupiter in Sagittarius--that's my RULERSHIP, BABY!--so he's very ambitious and is always learning more. No, he's not a Sag or Pisces, but he's a pretty amazing guy, for a Scorpio.

What are you still doing reading this blog? Get the [EXPLETIVE] out of here, [OFFENSIVE COMMENTARY ABOUT SATURN DELETED], and GO HAVE A GOOD TIME! YOLO, good people, YOLO! I'm OUT! [DROPS MIC].

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Restrained Holiday Greetings from Saturn

Greetings of the season to all of you.

I'm thankful to John for giving me the opportunity to write this blog. Originally, Neptune and I were supposed to write it together, but of course, our views on the season are not, shall we say, compatible, despite John's many and varied attempts to have us work in harmony together. So John reluctantly agreed to allow me to pen this one on my own, provided I don't throw any invective Neptune's way. 

Speaking personally, I certainly expect that Neptune will likely have his say, and I expect John to ensure that he plays by the same rules as I am. To quote a famous movie and it's just as well, "That's all I have to say about that."

For his part, John been particularly lax about writing lately, and he's definitely put on some weight, but that's not because I haven't been reminding him to write, go to the gym, and eat less. Anyway, none of that is important right now. If John minds that I shared all that with you, I'll have to make my apologies to him. But I digress.

What is important at this time of year are the virtues that I instill, or try to, in all of you, but they become vital in this season of "merriment". I've never really seen the point of all this partying myself, but as a personal favor to me, I'd like you to make sure it doesn't get too out of control. So I'm asking this year for you to be particularly careful by abiding by the following rules.

1) Show self-restraint in all that you do, whether it be food, alcohol, or dress. An in-control person is a happy person.
2) Please act fiscally responsible. I know many of you overspend (Jupiter's influence, no doubt) and it's just not a smart idea to open up your credit card bills in January and realize what a huge mistake you've made. How about things that are well-made but less expensive this holiday season? If you're going to splurge a little bit, which I highly discourage, please buy from local small businesses.
3) Be modest in all things. Accept congratulations and greetings of the season with the appropriate decorum and respect.

There is a fourth point that John asked me to mention, but since it appears to be a distasteful attempt at shamelessly marketing his tarot and astrology services this holiday season, I feel I am duty-bound to ignore it. He doesn't seem to realize that his services, while entertaining and mildly interesting in a plebeian sort of way, foster a belief in the otherworldly, and many people would rather ask for guidance from stars or cards than use self-discipline to guide their lives. If people lived in blissful moderation in all things, instead of excess, they wouldn't need his services at all. This is the same man reading a book entitled "Saturn: A New Look at an Old Devil"! IMAGINE! 

Actually, when it comes to astrology, John doesn't know half of what you think he does, so why would you consult him, anyway? [I expect this last statement to be censored in the final draft of this blog. I'll have to hit SEND before he sees it.]

Once again, I hope you will hear and follow my guidance toward self-restraint and modesty this holiday season, no matter whose holiday you choose to celebrate. You will thank me in January when it's time for the all-important New Years' resolutions.

Very truly yours,


PS: Despite what some astrologers may say, like the one who runs this blog, I am not as much of a prick as everyone thinks I am. 

PPS: If you choose to celebrate Saturnalia, well...I hope you'll keep me in it. Thanks in advance for your support. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

State of the Art Astrology Conference--Coming Soon!

State of the Art, better known as SOTA, is...well, why don't I let the organizer, Donna Van Toen, tell you. Take it away, Donna!

"STATE OF THE ART (“SOTA”) is an astrology conference geared to intermediate, advanced, and professional astrologers. As the title implies, its function is to illustrate the state of the art/discipline of astrology by featuring popular speakers and hot topics that exemplify leading-edge thought and techniques. We are unique in North America in that SOTA presents a mix of one-hour, two-hour, and three-hour speakers as well as all-day pre- and post-conference workshops."

This conference will be significant for a number of reasons. It's my first astrology conference ever. When it comes to astrology, I'm definitely a newbie in this crowd. But I'm hoping to pick up lots of interesting information from the presenters, especially my mentor Elizabeth Hazel.

It's also my first presentation at a metaphysical conference of any kind. Now while I'm still new to astrology, SOTA's having an "Open Forum" this year, where people like me who are experts at other metaphysical disciplines get a chance to speak in a 45-minute block. I was fortunate enough to get a speaking slot. 

My topic is tarot; more specifically, I'm doing a presentation called, "Are you a Tarot Misfortune Teller?" This is a topic that I've talked about before in blogs but it will be the first time it's presented to a live audience. I just can't wait to go.

SOTA is held in Niagara Falls, NY, and it's part "business" and part "vacation" for Jen and I, since we've never been up that way before. So you can expect lots of pictures from both sides of the falls, since we'll be going into Canada often during our stay.

A number of my close friends are coming to join us, but even if you're not attending the conference you can join in the fun through Facebook and Twitter!

Twitter: #sota14 or @sotaastrology

I'll be sending along the occasional update from the conference. Likely I'll be spending so much time getting to know new people, soaking up the lectures, or staring at the Falls that I won't have time to blog, but my Twitter (@JohnMaraniTarot) should be pretty active!

I've already started planning what to pack and what I'm going to say during my presentation. Mercury will actually stationary at the time that I'm speaking so hopefully we can avoid any Merc retro nastiness.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

When Mercury Retrograde Attacks: Caught in the Bullseye

So Mercury had his way with me last Friday night. I'm not ashamed to say that it wasn't at all pretty.

I'm a pretty new PlayStation4 owner. I was an Xbox guy for more than 11 years, and while I still have my 360, I looked hard at both next-gen console systems and decided to go back to my roots with PlayStation. When Jen and I first got married, one of our biggest purchases in our first month together was a PlayStation. We traded in our old consoles for it and all our old games at it was still $350, a huge amount of money for us. But we loved it. So I was glad to pick up the PS4.

Anyway, we bought the PS4 over Labor Day weekend with our Target debit card, and we also grabbed one game and a PS4 Network Plus card so I could play online if I wanted to.

We took home the system and set it up, but we could never seem to get it online. Turns out our Apple router must be set up a particular way to work with the PS4's protocols, and this past weekend I finally got around to making it work. Yes, I took the chance and did network changes during a Merc retro and had no problems; that was truly a gamble and this time it paid off. So we're now online, and it's time to put in the code from the PS4 Network Plus card so we'll be good to go online and play for a year. I enter the code and the error message is one that you receive if your card has not been activated at the time of purchase at the store.

Last Friday night, I head back to Target and found that it was time for Mercury to bend me over.

Mercury rules paperwork and I show up without a receipt. But I used my Target card, so they should have a record of all my purchases, right? My iPad app shows me the purchase amount and date but not the items. Tania at the customer service desk takes my information and goes to look for the purchase in a computer to ensure that I was charged for it. I knew that I had been, but of course she had to see the proof. So she left for a few minutes and checked the purchase dates. Since it was over Labor Day weekend the charge didn't post until September 2, so she came back and said she didn't find it. After some research in my phone, I gave her the exact date of the transaction. She comes back about 10 minutes later and says she still can't find it. Then she says, "I don't think we charged you for it, which is why it's not working."

I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had paid for it, and that card is $50, so I'm not going to go away quietly, but I'm trying to be very patient because I know they're doing their best. Tania asks me how much everything was that day, which I remembered, but she contends that it doesn't add up if I also bought the card. So we head over to electronics and she realizes that she had the wrong price on the PS4, that the math does check out, and that I did indeed buy the card. So we go to the electronics desk where the standard group of 20-ish guys is standing around waiting for some customers, and we meet Chris. Tania explains our problem and Chris says he's seen it before. The best solution, according to him, is to return the defective card and give me a new card. Sounds perfect to me. So we traipse back over to customer service to do the return.

Target keeps your transaction data for 30 days. But it has been more than 30 days, so of course when they go to process the return they can't find the card. They try my card, my license, and what I'm sure was either the first ten pages of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" or the complete works of Charles Baudelaire before they realized it wasn't going to work.

Enter Jodi, who has executive level privileges on the cash register. She's hoping she can help make this work. She gets further than anyone else so far as Chris looks on; Tania decided she would be more helpful elsewhere and bowed out. I'm thinking, "Awesome! We're in the home stretch." Stupid me. Before the final step of the return, however, the register freezes up and kicks her out. Clearly perplexed, she moves down to the next one and tries again. This happens a second, third, and fourth time before she starts wondering if Target's entire network is down. So she does exactly what she should have done: She called Target's tech support.

She clearly and calmly explains the situation to the tech rep, who tells her to process the return. When Jodi explains that she cannot do so because of what the register is doing--which is why she's calling, of course--the tech rep tells her that s/he sees that I didn't use the card, so they should just process it as a return and everything will be fine. Once again, Jodi explains that she CAN'T process the return, which is why she was calling to begin with. Five minutes later, Jodi is laughing at the stupidity of the situation; the rep didn't get what Jodi was saying and kept repeating how to do a return. Having been on both sides of such a call, I understand Jodi's frustration. Jodi tries once again after rebooting the machine entirely with no success. Without even saying goodbye, Jodi hangs up the phone, still laughing and shaking her head. Apparently they've had some technical problems with the registers recently. "Oh really?" I reply, with a smile. "I've heard there's a lot of that kind of thing happening these days."

I've now been trying to get this problem resolved for nearly 90 minutes, and to their credit, Target's team did a great job. But I've still got no card to show for it. Jodi explains she has no idea what is going on, but that she can give me a card for free to replace it. Before I say yes, though, she tells me that because of they way they have to process the transaction it's going to show that I didn't pay anything for this card, and if I come back with a problem on this card, I'm fucked and likely they won't be able to help me (my words, not hers!). So I can take the card and take my chances or I can have no satisfaction at all and be stuck with a card that doesn't work and go buy another one anyway. This Scorpio would not accept defeat; I took the offer and took the card home. (Warning: I'm thinking that was not a smart idea, but it's the one that made the most sense.)

At this point I'm thinking, "This is going to work or I will be really pissed. But I've gotta try." I get home and Mercury decides that he's got one final challenge for me to complete. You scratch off the back of the card for the code, but I peeled it off with my fingernails. Remember that Mercury rules paperwork? I really should have scratched it off with a coin, because half the letters came off and half stayed on. We could see some of them but the rest didn't come up. So I run to Jen, and she gets most of the rest of the letters, but there are one or two we don't know. So we spent parts of the next day looking for the right combination of letters and numbers; luckily we could make educated guesses.

After a number of attempts with the wrong letter/number combination, the code finally goes in and we've got PSN Network Plus for a whole year. And there was much rejoicing! YAAAAAAY!

The moral of the story: When you're Mercury's target, try as best you can to push through. If you can't, then you hunker down. That's all.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Embracing the Mercury Retrograde Fuckery: Is a Titanic Retrograde in Store?

Well, this doesn't exactly bode well for the upcoming retrograde when I have someone ask me, "When is it over?" Then I have to look like the asshole for saying, "Well...technically, it hasn't even started yet."

 We're still in the storm, which appears in some corners to have already earned the "shitstorm" title. 

One person shared her story with me. Her iPhone fell into a toilet. Luckily, everything works but the thumbprint scanner, so while it sucks, the worst of the damage was hopefully avoided. 

This same woman tried to make a deposit into an ATM that was possessed. I guess it needed a little extra cash, because when the woman tried to make a $300 deposit, it cancelled the transaction and took $120 for itself, leaving the rest for the woman. So now the woman has to wait 1-2 days before her claim for the money is processed and the stolen funds are deposited into her account. 

She's an Aquarius and asked me to warn everyone to be wary of using ATM machines during Mercury retrograde. And that receipt you normally throw away? Yeah, maybe you should get one...JUST IN CASE. 

I also experienced Merc retro, as a meeting between two executives and their various teams at work fell apart a day before it was supposed to happen. But you know what? I expected it from the beginning so I wasn't at all disappointed. At least I don't have to attend it myself. What's more, there was no agenda before, and now there is one, so at least people are starting to notice things. 

Speaking of seeing things, one of the Mercury retrograde challenges that I just learned about recently has to do with more difficulty in seeing what is right in front of your face. It can be harder to figure out what's going on. 

Everyone knows the story about how the Titanic just kind of plowed into that iceberg? If you're like me you were saying, "Why the fuck didn't they SEE it?" I took a look at the chart of the Titanic a month or so ago guessed it! Mercury was indeed retrograde. 

Also, did you know there was a ship that was 15 minutes away from the Titanic but never came to its rescue? That's right. The crew of the nearby Californian saw the flares from the Titanic and woke their captain, but he issued no orders. Also, the ship's radio operator would have heard the distress signals from the Titanic, but he had already gone to bed! Talk about two HUGE communications breakdowns! If the Californian had responded, a lot more people might have survived. 

So while I won't go on record to say that Mercury retrograde caused the Titanic disaster, it made it a lot worse than it could have been, starting with the mere 37 seconds the crew had to get the ship out of harm's way that night. They just didn't see it in time. 

Your problems with Merc retro might not seem as bad as Titanic's, but it's a sad and great example of how Mercury retrograde can fuck up your world. 

I hope that you're hanging on, and that Merc retro has been mild so far. Keep in touch! 

PS: Rose could have saved Jack. That plank was totally big enough. JUST SAYIN'! :)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Warning: Mercury Retrograde Begins Tomorrow!

Let the fuckery begin again! That's right, ladies and gentlemen...our favorite time of the year is coming again: Mercury Retrograde!

Friday, September 26, is when the storm begins. The "storm" is the period before the retrograde when Mercury, an extremely fast planet, starts to slow down. 

The retrograde's effects begin with the storm, as in tomorrow, so you need to make sure you take the proper precautions now. These may include:
  • Backing up all computers and electronic devices. NOTE: With the recent release of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, I'd suggest waiting until the retrograde is over to upgrade.
  • Checking all software for patches and upgrades and apply them now. Once again, iOS users should have already done this, but if you haven't, now is the time. 
  • Locating important paperwork you may need over the next month, like marriage licenses or other important transaction-related documents. 
  • Providing a place to note down new ideas so they can be evaluated after the retrograde is over. 
  • Updating your personal calendar--written or electronic--to ensure no appointments or important dates are missed.

In short, if it has to do with an electronic device, computer, network, or important document, the time to take care of it is RIGHT NOW.

This Mercury retrograde will start off in Scorpio--it will enter Scorpio on September 27, right after the storm begins, actually--and then it will back into Libra on October 10. So it will spend about half the time in Scorpio and half the time in Libra. Mercury turns direct on October 25, but will be out of its storm rather quickly and by October 29, everything should be moving back to normal.

The last Merc retro for me started off pretty shitty, but it ended pretty well so I can't really complain that much. But I have an important presentation during the weekend of October 24 and we'll still be in retrograde, and it will be during a vacation for me. So you can bet I'll be checking everything twice before I leave and before I open my mouth. 

I'll be attending the State of the Art Conference in Niagara Falls, NY, as an Open Forum presenter on tarot. SOTA is an astrology conference that's branching out into other metaphysical areas, and I'm so looking forward to not only attending the conference but presenting. Hopefully I can do well enough to earn a full two-hour slot next year!

The best way to deal with the retrograde is to 1) take the precautions above, 2) communicate slowly and simply for maximum efficiency, 3) be very patient and 4) confirming receipt of messages. In other words, DO NOT assume others have received messages; Merc retro is the time to give people the benefit of the doubt. Hopefully others will do the same for you.

Good luck! As always, I'm here to listen to your Mercury retrograde fuckery! Here's to hoping you don't have anything to tell me.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

There's Trouble Right Here in Front Royal...Again?

Wow. Front Royal, VA, is in the news again, and not for being a top tourist spot. And so soon! I would have thought that after the whole divination thing they would have decided their town had had enough bad press for a while. 

To be fair, this appears to be just a fringe element of the population of that fair city. But now they've gone after a sixteen year-old high school student who has not only started her own business, but who also supports other local businesses and gives money to charity. 

Tiana Ramos has had trash thrown at her--literally--and has been threatened by a local Catholic group for advertising in a local newspaper. The group threatens to boycott the shop. Other people make disparaging comments about the way the employees dress and make the idiotic assumption that they're going to look slutty to attract only male clients. 

There are lots of people in the world that deserve your anger, your ire, your vexation, your pissiness, call it what you will. But this business, "Naughty Girls Donut Shop," does not. If anything, Tiana Ramos deserves your support, your encouragement, and your business. 

The citizens of Front Royal have the opportunity to do the right thing by embracing this local business and stamping out closed-minded people whose parochial views do not reflect the whole of our society. And I certainly hope they will do it. 

I live about an hour from Front Royal, but a number of us in this area plan to make pilgrimages out there to support Tiana's business. If you're out that way, I encourage you to do the same. 

Tiana, if you're listening, YOU ROCK. Keep pushing forward and don't let ANYONE discourage you! 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Welcoming the Mann Show to the Web!

If you're in the mood for a good laugh, my dear friend Alex Mann and his partners in crime have started an Internet radio show known as, oddly enough, "The Mann Show." 

I can already tell that this show will attract a loyal following, and hope you'll also get on the bandwagon and enjoy the hilarity! 

Below is the astrological event chart of the Mann Show:

I'll make a few comments here about it, and save the rest for a future post!

Moon in Cancer: The Moon's in a very strong position here and even accidentally dignified in the 4th house, the house that it naturally rules. There's a strong emotional connection here between the hosts, who think of each other more like family than friends. It will be most successful when recorded in a home. 

Pisces Rising: The show will likely be very imaginative and go places that you don't expect. With one of its ruling planets in the first house, Neptune, it will touch on its share of deep, serious issues as well. 

Mercury vs. Uranus: Mercury is the ultimate communications planet and rules radio transmissions. Uranus is abrupt change. Translation: Try to stay on topic and transition smoothly between them for best results. The occasional tangent, however, will keep things fresh. 

Mars: The ultimate MALE planet, Mars is elevated and occupies a prominent position in the chart, which shows the focus on generally male concerns. 

Venus: Venus is not comfortable here in Virgo, in its fall; it's treated like the red-headed stepchild of this chart. Women who are discriminating will follow the show, but many women may not, writing it off as crude and/or immature. 

I appreciated the shout-out from the hosts last night, and look forward to additional episodes! I'm quite sure Alex is the right Mann for the job. :)

Their information:

Please also follow them on Twitter @mannshowradio and Facebook as well! 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Astrology, Arrogance, and Assholes

I recently saw this article on (one of my favorite sites, by the way!), which talks about the obsession that some fans have with astrologer Susan Miller's work. They get extremely upset when their monthly horoscopes are late. That's actually being kind; if you read some of what they comment and tweet, you'll see that they seem to lose their ever-fucking minds.

Susan has been struggling with medical issues for the past 18 months or so; she's not out on vacation in her yacht in the middle of the Caribbean. She takes immunosuppressants and struggles with her health daily. And people are sitting there accusing her of being unprofessional and just, generally speaking, being nasty and not compassionate at all to her situation.

I'll be the first person to tell you that astrology is an amazing tool and can be applied to so many areas of life with great effectiveness. Being a professional astrologer is a challenging job in and of itself, but think about if a monthly forecast you did went out to millions of people who expected you to be right, who made life decisions based on what you said. If you're not a little intimidated by that prospect, perhaps you should re-think what I just said.

How would you feel if you were at home sick and people were tweeting at you, calling you unprofessional and telling you to "get over it", no matter what your job is? When you're sick, you're sick and your main job is to be recuperating. It's almost like saying to someone "Your job is to serve me, and you can't serve me when you're sick, so get better." Consider the total arrogance of that statement. You would think that someone would have a lot of nerve to say that to anyone. If anyone said it to me, I suspect that I'd have a Scorpio nuclear reaction so severe that it would take a week for that person to realize how badly I had insulted them. But I digress.

Let's put this in even greater perspective. Susan Miller doesn't owe these people anything. These horoscopes are free online. It's good to keep your fans happy, but when they're greedy, arrogant fucks who lack compassion and expect to come before your HEALTH, there's a serious problem.

If you're afraid to live your life without a monthly astrological forecast, then I would question your dedication to actually living life. In other words, life just happens. If you're worried about what is going to happen, you are one of millions of people on this planet; I can't think of anyone who doesn't worry about the future sometimes. Astrology may help us decide when and how to do things, but there is never any guarantee of success. The future is dynamic; even using astrology, nothing is set in stone.

It sounds like it's time for people angry about Susan Miller's medical problems to get the fuck over themselves. Susan, you're amazing and you deserve the time and space you need to recover. I hope it's soon.

If you find yourself lacking in astrological wisdom without Susan's posts, there are other astrologers out there. I highly encourage you to visit astrologer Elizabeth Hazel's weekly forecast--usually posted on Sundays--at And if it's a few days late, well, you'll enjoy it when it gets posted.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

10 Things I Have Learned from 150 Hours Playing Simcity

So I recently crossed an important life threshold: my computer told me that I have played SimCity for 150 hours since I bought this version. I say "this version" because the game has been around on one form or another since I was in high school, so 150 hours is a drop in the bucket of how long I have enjoyed the game. 

Anyway, the game has taught me a lot and I'd like to share with you some of what I have learned so far from my virtual tenure as mayor of many cities.

1) People always want more shit. It doesn't matter how much I give my citizens; eventually it is taken for granted and becomes an expectation.

2) People get really upset when the sewage system is not up to par.

3) I have never heard a kid say "I miss going to school" before, but kids in cities without education say that to the mayor. I'm sure you do, but not that much.
4) I am a huge fan of public transit, but let me tell you that shit is expensive. I wish I could raise fares but the game doesn't allow it.

5) As I sit on the subway writing this blog, I am reminded that this version of SimCity doesn't have subways. Commuter blimps, buses, trains, magnetically levitating trains, sure. But no subway. I am stunned, but subways were always the most expensive thing that I would put in too early and bankrupt my city. Maybe it was a positive omission for me personally.

6) Legalized gambling works wonders for the coffers until you see the crime spike. Put police stations near casinos and businesses around them or citizens will complain. (At least it's casinos and not psychics, right, Front Royal, VA?)

7) There is a map view with structure in green--ones citizens want in their backyard--and red--stuff citizens do not want to live near. I can see not wanting to live near a nuclear power plant, but not wanting to live near a train station? There is a slight decrease in land value for living near one. The only explanation I have is that the more wealthy people are in the game, the less they care about public transit or being near it. Having lived near one in the past, it is all about the area around the station.

8) The spiritual part of the city is not as prevalent as it used to be. In earlier versions of the game, for every x number of residents, a church would appear. Now you can add a church if you like at the request of citizens. Destroying a church in the old game was a dick move and you would get the karmic backlash of a disaster like an earthquake thrown at your city. The same still holds true in this version, except that you have more choices of houses of worship. And sadly, there is no sacred grove or circle of standing stones.

9) I love that all the houses, people, and businesses are individually named. You can click on anything--or any person--and it will tell you about them. Are they happy? Do they have a job or money? What do they want? You can follow them around with the push of a button. This is big data taken to an extreme. Wouldn't some big companies love this? (Sounds like the magic bands I got last time I went to Disney World...)

10) Mayors of the world, you have my respect and admiration. I don't know how you do it. How you deal with all of us motherfuckers wanting things all the time is amazing to me. Thankfully I didn't have to get elected mayor of my SimCity, since that would be an entirely different kind of flying altogether--or all together, depending on if you're a fan of "Airplane!" or not. (If you haven't seen that movie, you need to.)

Well I can't sit here blogging all day. My virtual citizens likely have some concerns they want to bring to my attention. You people want monster trucks now? Fuck me.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Book Review: Llewellyn's 2015 Magical Almanac

Llwellyn’s 2015 Magical Almanac
ISBN 978-0-7387-2685-4
Llewellyn, 2014

Reviewing this work is almost a no-brainer. I say that because there are very few magical books that so many people have to own year after year that are more popular than Llewellyn’s annual magical almanac. I can’t think of one I’ve ever read when I didn’t find at least one of two articles that resonated well with me. I’m happy to report that this year’s was no exception, but let’s take things one step at a time, shall we?

There are those who buy it only for its “informational” value, and if it’s unclear, I’m talking about that section in the middle with the gray pages. Llewellyn calls it the “Almanac Section” in the table of contents. It’s an entire calendar for the year with moon phases and their respective dates, good days for communing with the earth, and the dates for festivals and holidays. I also like the little reminders, like giving a list of astrological correspondences for the days of the week. Sometimes you forget that Friday is Venus’ day, for example.

If you’re only in it for the information in the gray pages, you won’t be disappointed, but I’m not being honest with you if I don’t tell you that you’re missing out on quite a bit if that’s its only purpose on your bookshelf. There are some fantastic articles in here that you won’t want to pass up.

The table of contents is set up by elemental magical themes: Earth magic, air magic, fire magic, and water magic, in that order. In each section, I found at least one article that I really enjoyed.

The earth section’s highlight for me was “The Lure and Lore of the Graveyard” by Susan Pesznecker. As a sun sign Scorpio, graveyards have always been interesting to me, and the Paris catacombs fascinate me. The article gives us an interesting historical perspective on graveyards, catacombs, and mausoleums.

In air magic, I couldn’t choose one; there were two that really hit home for me. The first one was, “Conflict Resolution for a Magickal Community” by Emily Carlin. She presents some practical solutions for spiritual communities when conflict arises. You’ll note that I didn’t say “if” but when; this is a must-read for anyone in a Pagan or Wiccan community. As a professional tarot reader, “The To-Go Tarot Kit” by Deanna Anderson was wonderful as well.

For fire magic, even though I am myself melissophobic—afraid of bees—I really loved the article by Natalie Zaman entitled “The Blessed Bee”. I’m not in a position to create a spirit hive for them in my current living situation, but it’s a great reminder of how important bees are to us. Given the colony collapse syndrome that honeybees are facing now, building a hive like Zaman describes is a fantastic way to address an important environmental need as well as a spiritual one. If you work with the Goddess, you will definitely want to check out this article.

Finally, in the water realm, I have to give major kudos to Lisa McSherry, as both her articles were the tops in my book. “Wedding as Ritual” is an excellent primer for people trying to create their own wedding or handfasting, with plenty of her own experiences woven throughout. As an interfaith minister, I plan to recommend the article to couples I marry, especially the part about creating your own vows. This is definitely a delicate dance, and couples should heed McSherry’s practical advice on the topic.

McSherry’s other article about Brighid’s Well was a great travel story that discusses sacred wells, and gives their locations throughout Ireland. Warning: Do not read this article if you’ve always wanted to go. It will just make you want to go that much more. You have been warned. :)

A close second for me in the water realm was “Tarot’s Crystal Allies” by Lunaea Weatherstone, and explores correspondences between tarot and gemstones. I work with a gemstone altar in my professional tarot practice and understand the powerful link that can be created between these two disciplines. No matter what your experience level with either, I’m sure you’ll find something to take away from this article.

Speaking personally, I’d love to see a similar offering by Llewellyn on spirit magic. But the Magical Almanac’s byline is “Practical Magic for Everyday Living”. While I believe that spirit is an important part of everyday life, that’s not really the purpose of this particular guide.

One final important note: Many of these articles are sourced, either in the article, in a list at the end, or both. Honestly, that’s one of the ways that the Magical Almanac keeps on giving: If you want more information, the authors have graciously provided you the opportunity to find it.

I’m going to be keeping my copy of the Almanac handy, for many reasons. This one is definitely a big winner.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

There's Trouble Right Here in Front Royal, Part 2

The vote in Front Royal, VA, occurred last night, and this time, the good guys prevailed, 4-2. The ban on fortunetelling in Front Royal was lifted! And there was MUCH rejoicing! WOO HOO!

What's interesting to me is at the last minute, one of the City Councilors tried to amend the law by removing some of the language, including "gypsies", but that didn't fly. 

If you've read anything about this story, however, you probably remember that the last vote was 4-3 in favor of repealing the ban. What happened to the seventh vote this time? I've been looking for an answer but haven't found one yet...

In the end, it doesn't matter, because a ridiculous law has been struck down. I'm so glad it went the way it did. 

If you don't like tarot card readers or other psychics, don't patronize us. But to try to prohibit us from making money with our skills because you don't like us or believe in us is ridiculous and closed-minded. 

I applaud those who stood against what seemed to be a small, vocal minority in Front Royal and defended the rights of fortunetellers to practice. WELL DONE!

Friday, August 22, 2014

There's Trouble Right Here In Front Royal, and the "T" is for Tarot

I've been living in Northern Virginia for over ten years now, and I just love it. By and large it has been a very warm and welcoming place for both my faith and my tarot reading business. But I must admit that this story has me very concerned.

Front Royal, VA, a town maybe an hour west of where I live, is considering removing a ban on fortunetelling, which is how my business is classified by many municipalities. I look at that as a good thing; the bill passed with a small majority (4-3) and will be heard again soon for a final vote. I hope that the members of the City Council decide to push forward and repeal this ban. 

Folks, it's 2014. Do we still have "Witchcraft" mentioned in the same breath as "fortunetelling"? They are two separate activities. Many people use forms of divination as part of their spiritual practices, but they're not the same thing. 

Opponents of the repeal are afraid that somehow crime will increase in their little town if fortunetellers are allowed to practice their craft here. And if it is eventually lifted, then some townspeople are hoping to put regulations in, like that it must be done away from schools and day care centers. This sounds way too much like "The Music Man" and its pool table. "We've got trouble right here in Front Royal" because some people want to make money with their gifts. You've just put tarot readers in the same category as drugs and alcohol. Come the fuck on.

This is ridiculous. I understand that fortunetellers do not have a great reputation and I'll be the first one to tell you that you must be careful who you use. With that said, this is true of any business...I give my psychic the same scrutiny that I do my doctor, my dentist, and my auto mechanic. 

What scares me is that people can be so provincial, even in 2014. It is not going to bring more crime to your community; likely there is tons of it already that is invisible to most people. Or is it just that you find the practice morally reprehensible? 

"Increase in crime" might be a reason to disallow casino gambling, but I've never heard of psychics causing widespread criminal activity. So I'm thinking that it's more of the "morally reprehensible" angle, couched in words that are more acceptable in today's society; who can honestly say they want crime to go up? And that's the angle. The logic is specious to me, but if that's the best argument you have, you don't stand a chance of winning the second time around. 

I applaud all those who are standing up for the right of Front Royal's honest fortunetellers to do business there. 

On a side note, they're also looking at repealing the $400 "license fee" that they charge fortunetellers as well. Considering that here in Fairfax County I pay $500 a year for the privilege of reading cards, I'd love to see that happen here, too, since we're placed on the same level as "bail bondsmen" and "dance halls". LOL. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book Review: Bad Birthdays: The Truth Behind Your Crappy Sun Sign Sarah Christensen Fu

Bad Birthdays: The Truth Behind Your Crappy Sun Sign
Sarah Christensen Fu

Red Wheel/Weiser, 2014
$18.95 Amazon

The idea of a basic astrology book that points out the bad points of each sign is nothing new, and it's a concept I really like for the simple fact that if people are laughing they may learn a thing or two about themselves without realizing it. While astrology is becoming more and more mainstream, there are still those who think of astrologers like seeing Aughra in "The Dark Crystal": Old people sitting around staring at astrolabes talking about "the angle of eternity!"

There are at least two series in this vein that I'm aware of, and all have a place on my astrology bookshelf: Hazel Dixon-Cooper's Born on a Rotten Day from 2003, with its corollaries Love on a Rotten Day for relationship astrology and Friends on a Rotten Day for friendship; and Stella Hyde's Darkside Zodiac from 2004, with its companions Darkside Zodiac at Work and Darkside Zodiac in Love. Sarah Christensen Fu's Bad Birthdays: The Truth Behind Your Crappy Sun Sign is an excellent addition to it. 

What makes Bad Birthdays different from those two is that the snark level seems much higher to me than that of the other two, with Darkside Zodiac coming in second and Born on a Rotten Day coming in third. I'm a huge fan of that style, so I really liked enjoyed the even more "tell it like it is" flavor of this work. 

Sarah Christensen Fu also included something that the other two didn't: A day by day look at the year and a general overview of each from an astrological perspective, which parodies The Secret Language of Birthdays and others in that style. I take those books with a grain of salt, since each particular date is different astrologically from year to year. But honestly, I took off my professional astrologer hat when I read it, and had a really good laugh. Even if the particular date isn't your birthday, as you read through it you'll find entries like:

“Close your eyes and think back to your childhood, [DATE]-er. Was it all picket fences and pies on windowsills? Trips to the mall with your family, with a stop at TGI Friday’s on the way home? You have the strangest, rose-colored glasses of all time, because your childhood actually sucked, like everyone else’s, but for some reason you remember it to be the absolutely epitome of wholeness. This is cute for you, but actually slightly destructive for any offspring you might have, who will be forced to try to recreate these faux memories. Luckily, you’re financially stable and can save up for lots of therapeutic help.”

Also, I really liked the alliterative titles given to each sign. I think my two favorites were the Mercury-ruled signs of Gemini and Virgo, "Degenerate Gemini" and "Vexed Virgo". Mine is “Surly Scorpio”, and it’s one of the better ones. I suspect the author, a Virgo herself, was truly inspired with them. I just love them, for two reasons: One, because they make each sign truly memorable; and two, because they are extremely truthful. The memorable part is important. Each astrological sign has multiple two-word mottos; Aries, for example, is "I am." Most people can't even remember one for their own sign, but this way, it's easy and funny. 

They also have specific sun sign compatibility for each sign combination, as well as a section on “Jobs a [SIGN] might not screw up”, which I found totally amusing. 
This book is much simpler than the others, not really attempting to explain anything astrological. If a Scorpio were reading this, for example, they wouldn’t know who the sign’s rulers are (Mars and Pluto, depending on your perspective). Anything that looks like standard astrology book fare is pretty much left out. If you consider the target audience of this book, that’s a good thing. Likely if you’re picking up this one, you’re pretty new with all things astrological. 

The bottom line: If you’re looking for astrological humor, this one definitely has it in spades, but don’t look for explanations. Just sit back and laugh; you just might learn something in the process.