Leave witches alone

The persecution of people, mainly women, isn’t something that just happened centuries ago in Europe or in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 and 1693. It’s still happening today In Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Tanzania, Gambia, India, Uganda, New Guinea, and probably elsewhere.

This is one of my hot-button issues and it makes me see red especially when Christians are doing it, often outside the law, and today it came to mind because it’s part of the plot of the novel The Witches of New York (Ami McKay) that I just finished re-reading.

Over the years, the organized Christian church has characterized witches as Satan worshippers. The flaw behind this slander is that Satan is a Christian belief, not a concern of witches who (generally) don’t believe in him. In modern times in the U.S., hate groups still think witches believe in Satan. But then, if they wanted to, they could since we have freedom of religion, not freedom to practice what Christianity says is okay.

I generally like witches because they practice folk magic, know how to use plants for healing, and–like conjure women–often have strong Christian beliefs as well. They also use various methods for looking into the future and protecting themselves from negative people.

I’m not a witch (traditional) of a Wiccan (man-made alternative to true witchcraft) or a conjure doctor. I know enough about them to know neither set of beliefs is “mere superstition.” But, I suppose if one had a choice, it’s better to be disliked for practicing superstitions than purportedly worshipping the Christian devil.

I am very intuitive, use tarot cards, and believe in reincarnation (something witches don’t accept). So, I am used to being “on the outside” in terms of my spiritual beliefs and suspect strongly that is one reason I get upset when others are persecuted for beliefs that are different than the mainstream faith in the countries where they live.

Plus, as a young man, I was strongly impacted by Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” and while it’s not a true factual account of Salem, it was horrifying to me then. Still is.

In Salem and elsewhere, most–if not all–of the people persecuted as witches weren’t witches and wouldn’t have a clue how to become a witch if they were tempted. They are suspected, imprisoned, and killed due to what always appears to be mass hysteria and hatred of people who are (or might be) somehow different and, therefore, probably communicate with Satan. I don’t know why this mythical entity is so greatly feared by some denominations. I grew up in a mainstream Christian church, where we seldom mentioned him.

We knew enough to know that “he” wasn’t the god of the witches. In fact, our preacher spoke out strongly against modern-day witchhunts by hate groups. He said we should leave the witches alone and all these years later, I still agree with him as much as I fear the kinds of people “The Crucible” was about.

Malcolm

‘Books may well be the only true magic’ ― Alice Hoffman

If you read and re-read Alice Hoffman’s novels (possibly with an initial focus on the “practical magic” series that concludes with The Book of Magic from 2021), you might slowly come to believe that books are the only true magic.

Some might suggest the magic is within the author and that in ways nobody can know, s/he transmits that magic to the page. Perhaps, but I doubt it. I believe the magic arises in the act of writing and the author only discovers its truth while reading through the manuscript.

One of my favorite Hoffman quotes comes from Practical Magic when Aunt Francis says, “My darling girl, when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage.”

If one is normal, then s/he doesn’t consider magic at all, and should magic come up in a conversation, s/he will attack it as a scam. I’ve believed this since high school which, no doubt, accounts for the fact that my teachers considered me a troublemaker. I’m not sure “normal” shows a lack of courage so much as a lack of imagination and/or a simultaneous lack of the kind of curiosity it takes to “test the waters” when new ideas come to mind.

Perhaps the basis for a healthy aversion to consensus normality is an open mind. Having a closed mind seems to begin in high school where the goal of many students was “fitting in.” That was the way one became popular or even acknowledged.  In The Rules of Magic, we read that ““Other people’s judgments were meaningless unless you allowed them to mean something.” In school, it seems, we became addicted to allowing those judgements to mean everything.

I suppose this herd mentality is built into us. It’s not easy breaking free, though the right books will certainly help (Hoffman, perhaps?).

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Florida Folk Magic Series, a 1950s-era story in which the good guys battle the KKK. Save money with the four-novels-in-one Kindle edition.

Getting kicked into next week

Bullies often say I’m going to kick your ass into next week. Before confronting the bully further, I’d want to know if it’s just my ass or if the rest of me follows my ass into the future. Sometimes weather reporters say the wind is strong enough to blow you into next week. As with the bullies, the primary consideration is will I arrive alive.

And then, does one kicked or blown or thrown or otherwise forced into next week remain a week ahead of the rest of the world forever? Or can they crawl back one way or another to “normal time”?

Assuming that one arrives alive and can get back in sync with the world, being kicked into next week has a lot of benefits. The main thing is knowing stuff in advance. Another thing is profits from changes in the stock market etc. which can be taken advantage of.

It does without saying that if you’re kicked into next week, your life may be: (a) spared something bad that was going to happen to you this week, (b) that you’ll know about something bad scheduled for next week, and can now avoid it.

The next time a bully threatens to kick you into next week, don’t dismiss the opportunity out of hand. Your life and/or your wallet might depend on going with the flow of the moment.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the satirical novel “Special Investigative Reporter.”

Resource for those interested in magic

“Ley lines (/leɪ/) refer to straight alignments drawn between various historic structures and prominent landmarks. The idea was developed in early 20th-century Europe, with ley line believers arguing that these alignments were recognised by ancient societies that deliberately erected structures along them. Since the 1960s, members of the Earth Mysteries movement and other esoteric traditions have commonly believed that such ley lines demarcate “earth energies” and serve as guides for alien spacecraft. Archaeologists and scientists regard ley lines as an example of pseudo-archaeology and pseudo-science.” – Wikipedia

If you’ve read a lot of novels focusing on ancient magic, including The Da Vinci Code, you’ve probably encountered the concept of Ley lines. I’m interested in them, but have never had the opportunity to investigate them, much less travel to a purported location.

If you are curious about them, here’s a link to a post from Dreamcatcher Reality that’s the best explanation of Ley lines I’ve seen in ages: https://dreamcatcherreality.com/ley-lines-matrix/

I don’t necessarily agree with Wikipedia except to say that they are speaking about the view of mainstream science. I find Dreamcatcher reality to be an interesting site, but I don’t use its information in my novels because it’s rather like Jane Roberts’ “Seth Materials” in that I can’t prove it. Even thought I write fiction, I want the details to be true; doing that makes for a stronger story.

Malcolm

Florida Folk Magic Stories: Novels 1-4 by [Malcolm R. Campbell]Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the four-part Florida Folk Magic Series in which the hoodoo magic was verified to the greatest extent possible.

I’ve got the sun in the morning and the moon at night

The lyrics of Irving Berlin’s 1946 song written for “Annie Get Your Gun” tell us what the singer doesn’t have but then say, nonetheless, that s/he has the sun in the morning and the moon at night. The story, as Wikipedia says, “is a fictionalized version of the life of Annie Oakley (1860–1926), a sharpshooter who starred in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, and her romance with sharpshooter Frank E. Butler (1847–1926).”

MGM’s feature film by the same name appeared in 1950 with Betty Hutton as Annie Oakley and Howard Keel as Frank Butler. While Merman, Hutton, Keel, Oakley, and Butler have almost faded into the mists of obscurity, the song maintains its traction through recordings by Reba McEntire and others.

But, on this Thanksgiving Day, I wonder how the sentiment survives, that the daily comings and goings of the sun and the moon are enough. Is there beauty enough to sustain us, or the fact that as long as we’re seeing them we’re still alive, or perhaps the symbolism behind the images. To be blunt–along with the often-quoted line, “You can’t eat the scenery”–seeing the sun and moon in the sky doesn’t put food on the table.

Perhaps the song is a bit idealistic, then.

And yet, maybe the beauty of the sun and the moon in the sky has an impact on us, feeding our hungry souls. We can be thankful for that even if the food is metaphysical. Such food gives us the power to persevere and perhaps triumph, as Ollivander, the seller of wands in the Harry Potter series told the originally down-and-out wizard, “I think it is clear that we can expect great things from you, Mr. Potter.”

Seeing the sun in the morning and the moon and night gives us hope, and there’s little nourishment or incentive more powerful. We can be thankful for that on this day.

Malcolm

Writers want to sweep you up into their stories

“Magic doesn’t sweep you away; it gathers you up into the body of the present moment so thoroughly that all your explanations fall away: the ordinary, in all its plain and simple outrageousness, begins to shine — to become luminously, impossibly so. Every facet of the world is awake, and you within it.” – David Abram, “Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology”

An ancient campfire beneath a fetching moon. Trees standing close, listening to a storyteller spin out a tale that captures the imaginations of those sitting around the fire so completely that the listeners see no boundary lines between themselves and the characters within the story. Truly, there is no outside at this point, no separation between the words and the trees and the moonlight and the derring-do of the far-away people whom the storyteller conjures into the world of that very moment.

As Wikipedia says, “Through the telling of the story people become psychically close, developing a connection to one another through the communal experience. The storyteller reveals, and thus shares, him/her self through his/her telling and the listeners reveal and share themselves through their reception of the story.”

Creating such shared moments is more difficult in a book because the storyteller and reader are worlds away from each other physically until or unless the words are strong enough and vibrating powerfully enough to dissolve the illusion of physical distance. When the book works for a reader, the experience becomes as powerful as the campfire scene where all is connected.

To be sure, the connection between writer and reader depends not only on the skill of the writer, but the a reader’s (often) long-time experience with books (how they work), the subject matter, the reader’s state of mind and (probably) physical comfort. When conditions are optimal, the reader is swept up into the story as though s/he is sitting with the storyteller next to a fire in a quiet forest or within cabin’s sweet shadows.

Books for prospective writers try very hard to teach us what we need to do while researching and writing to ensure that conditions are optimal. My approach–which doesn’t necessarily work for all writers–is that the writer must first be swept up by the story and its characters before s/he can produce a novel that sweeps up readers in the way David Abram suggests.

No matter how a writer connects with his/her story, getting those conditions right takes practice. Nobody sounds like Coleman Hawkins, Stan Getz, or John Coltrane the first time they pick up a tenor sax. Nobody writes like Stephen King, John Hart, or Neil Gaiman the first time they pick up a pencil or sit down at a computer. All of these people evolved into the people they became. 

Time seems to fly while writers are becoming comfortable with words, plots, techniques, character development, and magic. In a world where many people want everything right now, it’s difficult to submit to the necessity of practice. Even the wizards at Hogwarts needed to practice their spells. So do storytellers dreaming of campfires and writers dreaming of books and short stories.

After that, the magic begins to work behind the scenes and become second nature to the man or woman with the pencil. 

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the magical realism series of novels that begins with “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and ends with “Fate’s Arrows.”

 

My books take me by surprise

Writing books is fun because once I get into the story, I want to know how it’s going to end. I promise I have no idea until I get there.

I thought of writing Fate’s Arrows because a new character named Pollyanna showed up out of nowhere in Lena, my previous novel. She had a lot of sparkle and energy, so I thought, “Hmm, maybe she has enough spunk to carry a new novel on her own–rather like an actress with a small role in one movie who ends up staring in the studio’s next movie.”

While I planned for Fate’s Arrows to be a standalone novel, I set it in the same fictional town (Torreya) where the Florida Folk Magic Series was set. It’s not surprising, then, that the characters from the series began showing up and found important things to do.

Fate’s Arrows relies less on conjure and more on Pollyanna’s skills, skills that readers learn about as the story moves along. I can’t mention them here because they would be spoilers. Suffice it to say, she is a lot more than she appears while sitting behind the counter in the Mercantile balancing Lane Walker’s books. If you’re a bad person, don’t mess with her.

The Big Al’s Books and Pals nailed it in her review when she said, “Malcolm R Campbell is an author who has lived in the Florida panhandle (where this novel is set) and is old enough to remember the final days of the KKK. His anger about that organisation continues to burn, and this is an angry book.” 

I needed a protagonist who had the same hatred for the KKK I’ve always had and who had the guile and the grit to do something about it. If I’d tried to take the action she takes in the novel when I lived in the Florida Panhandle in the 1950s and 1960s, I probably would have gotten killed–or worse.

Of course, Pollyanna has a strong supporting cast from the earlier books: Eulalie the conjure woman and her cat Lena, Willie Tate who knows how to get people out of trouble, Police chief Rudy Flowers, and others.

I admire Pollyanna and I think you will, too. She kept surprising me every with every risk she took.

Malcolm

The magic in my books

One way or the other, most of my novels include magic. Over time, this blog has often sought a comfortable niche. Apparently, that niche is magic even though I do a few book reviews, some posts about writing, conservation and wilderness, and some opinion posts.

The existence of this niche has become apparent of late when I see that most of my readers are stopping by to read posts about magic (many of those posts are old) and fewer readers are stopping by to look at everything else. My views of consensual reality and magic are more blurred than most people’s, meaning that I often think I’m writing realism and others think I’m writing something else. So, here’s how the books sort themselves out:

  1. Florida Folk Magic Series (Conjure Woman’s Cat, Eulalie and Washerwoman, Lena, and Fate’s Arrows – Magical realism based on hoodoo (conjure) as it’s generally viewed in the South. These are set in Florida.
  2. Mountain Song and At Sea – Both of these books are realism, but with fantasy elements and (in Mountain Song) spirituality in the form of a vision quest. These are set in Montana, Florida, and the South China Sea.
  3. The Sun Singer and Sarabande – Contemporary fantasy set primarily in Glacier National Park. The Sun Singer follows a hero’s journey theme and Sarabande (the sequel) follows a heroine’s journey theme.
  4. Widely Scattered Ghosts – paranormal short stories in a variety of settings.
  5. En Route to the Diddy-Wah-Diddy Landfill While the Dogwoods Were in Bloom – Short story within the Florida folklore and magical realism genres.
  6. Emily’s Stories (audiobook) – Three contemporary fantasy short stories. One of the stories is set in Montana and two are set in north Florida.

So, apparently, I’m writing about magic when I’m not even aware I’m writing about magic.

Malcolm

From one magic to another

When I wrote my contemporary fantasies, The Sun Singer and Sarabande, I was following the tropes of the hero’s journey and the heroine’s journey. The magic infused in these books was hermetic, that is to say, it followed old western magic traditions that were (and still can be) found in mystery schools, Tarot, the Tree of Life, and–in general–the western esoteric traditions.

Aeon Trump Card. Thoth Deck

There was supposed to be a third book named Aeon, yet I was unable to write it when I finished Sarabande because the protagonist was an avatar and I didn’t know enough to write a book from his point of view. I still don’t. But it’s time, now, to give it a try.

Meanwhile, I’ve written four novels–the folk magic series–that focus on conjure, also known as hoodoo. This magic follows some traditions that came out of Africa and, in this country, became blended with Christianity and Witchcraft. There are too many practices and beliefs here so summarize them, but suffice it to say, they are not part of western mysticism and traditions that go back to the Greco-Roman mysteries.

Apples and oranges, in some respects. Different ways of approaching the same truths, in other respects. I have a great appreciation for all the paths leading to transformation into being at one with the universe and understanding the powers we all have if we take time to find them.

I’ve been taking some time researching western esoteric traditions again as well as what I wrote in the two earlier novels so that events and intentions are consistent. I view the Aeon Tarot card (XX) as a step past the Sun card (XIX) where the seeker on the path has stepped into the arena of the actual universe “behind” the illusory universe we see with our physical senses.

Needless to say, I’m not an avatar, so I’m going to be relying on my imagination and intuition and a lifetime of experience with the Thoth Tarot deck to get this new novel into shape. Don’t hold your breath.  At any rate, I’m enjoying getting back the magic I started out with.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s latest folk magic novel is “Fate’s Arrows.

 

Review: ‘Piranesi’ by Susanna Clarke

PiranesiPiranesi by Susanna Clarke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Imagine this: You live in a huge, seemingly infinite house filled with statuary and ocean tides; you have never been outside the house because the house is all you know and all you can know; your life’s mission, as you see it, is exploring this house to length and breadth of possibility and, as you walk and climb and stay away from the highest of those tides, you catalogue everything you see in a series of journals that may potentially become infinite in number and detail.

The protagonist is called Piranesi–perhaps in deference to the great printmaker of the 1700s, though Piranesi doesn’t know this–by the other living human being in the house. Piranesi doesn’t believe “Piranesi” is his real name, nor does he know the real name of the other man in the house, so he calls him “The Other.” Their researches into the ways and means of the house are, at first, beneficial. However, their co-operation begins to wear thing when Piranesi discovers that The Other is seeking advanced and secret knowledge he believes to be hidden inside the house. Piranesi thinks nothing can be more important that the beauties and scope of the house itself.

There are some dead in the house, not many, and where and when they died is unclear. Piranesi has taken care to arrange them in an orderly fashion and to keep them out of reach of the tides. The Other says there’s somebody else in the house, a person who hides, perhaps, in unknown rooms, and he suggests that that person wishes to harm Piranesi. They refer to him or her as “16,” since–when you include the dead–that’s the number of people in the house.

There’s deep and quiet magic in this masterpiece, and it becomes more evident as Clarke’s novel unfolds. There are hints that there may be a past Piranesi has forgotten or misconstrued. He becomes unsure of some of the entries in meticulously kept journals. There’s a growing worry about The Other’s truthfulness in some manners. Is anything what it seems? Piranesi can only wonder and proceed from room to room and tide to tide with due care.

For those who don’t require fire-breathing dragons or the snap of lethal energies flung from the hands of protagonists and antagonists in epic battles, this book is a treasure to be savoured like fine wine.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism, including the novels “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “Eulalie and Washerwoman,” “Lena,” and (NEW) “Fate’s Arrows.”

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