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. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Book Review: The Witch's Eight Paths of Power: A Complete Course in Magick and Witchcraft

The Witch's Eight Paths of Power: A Complete Course in Magick and Witchcraft
Lady Sable Aradia
Red Wheel/Weiser, 2014
$14.92 (paperback) / $9.99 (Kindle)

As a Head High Priest of a community and school of Witchcraft, I'm always interested in books such as The Witch's Eight Paths of Power: A Complete Course in Magick and Witchcraft. It's always great to compare notes and see what other schools of thought are in the area of the Craft.

I could tell there was going be a lot here to like right away, even by looking through the table of contents. A lot of the principles that were nearest and dearest to me were here, from the basic to the more advanced, and it became obvious to me that a person who didn't have access to either an in-person or online school of Witchcraft could learn a whole lot.

One of my favorite sections of the work was about midway through it, and discussed the role of ego in Witchcraft:

“As we are learning to reclaim our power, sometimes we become a little drunk with it, especially those who came to the craft because we felt disempowered. This is commonly called the High Priestess’s disease, and it is associated with the shadow […] This is the stage of development that causes most of the ‘Witch wars’ that happen in our small communities. It is good to recognize that you are divine; but so is everyone else. It seems that humility should go without saying, but my experience in training priests and priestesses tells me that it mostly falls on deaf ears.”

I couldn't agree more with this quote, and considering the empowerment that can occur through the Craft, and the book's title, "Eight Paths of Power", I have met way too many Witches just looking for that next "level up" in their community just so they can have a title they can flaunt. That's ego, pure and simple, and it destroys relationships and communities, and hinders spiritual growth. 
Many people don't understand the tremendous responsibility that you take on as a spiritual leader. A big part of spiritual leadership is putting your ego aside for the good of others and not expecting recognition or reward, financial or otherwise, for doing so, and this book seems to support that theory. 

So I'm repeating myself, but there's so much to like here. Chakra work. Visualization. Symbols. Basic herbalism. Spell work and intent. Astrology. Dealing with psychic vampires. And exercises for it all. It's an all in one resource for those who want to learn the Craft, and in that regard it’s an impressive work.

And then I read the parts in chapter four, “Intoxicants”, about how to connect with the Divine using drugs and alcohol, and what could have been a truly outstanding book took a unexpected and unpleasant turn.

I understand that people have been using both legal and illegal drugs to connect to the Divine for centuries. I don't purport to make that choice for everyone; it's certainly an individual one, and my opinion is irrelevant. With that said, I think it's incredibly irresponsible for a spiritual leader--and if you look at Lady Sable Aradia's bio, she certainly has earned the title of spiritual leader--to put the information in a book, especially one called Eight Paths of Power.

If Witchcraft is so empowering on its own merits, and I believe that it is, then why is it necessary to include information on using intoxicants to connect with the Divine? It sets a dangerous precedent for witches of all levels, and for those considering the Craft as a path, it puts the idea in their minds that this is something that is expected. Yes, there's a statement at the beginning of the chapter, reminding each person that they take no responsibility for the actions of individuals, and that's something you'd expect. The reality is that anyone with an Internet connection can find that information if they choose, but by including it you are tacitly encouraging it, in my opinion, and I do not believe you need to use any sort of drug to improve your connection to the Divine.

With that last chapter being the lone exception, I generally agreed with the rest of what was presented. Every Witch practices a little differently, but what was here was a solid base for anyone who wants to go back to basics on their own.

To me, a classroom setting—even a virtual classroom—is better than a book for learning the Craft. But if that’s not possible for you, The Witch's Eight Paths of Power: A Complete Course in Magick and Witchcraft is a better way than many to increase your knowledge.