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Posts from the ‘magic’ Category

Short Story Collection Released Today (careful, it’s about ghosts)

Publisher’s Description

A readers’ advisory for this collection of nine stories forecasts widely scattered ghosts with a chance of rain. Caution is urged at the following uncertain places: an abandoned mental hospital, the woods behind a pleasant subdivision, a small fishing village, a mountain lake, a long-closed theater undergoing restoration, a feared bridge over a swampy river, a historic district street at dusk, the bedroom of a girl who waited until the last minute to write her book report from an allegedly dead author, and the woods near a conjure woman’s house.

In effect from the words “light of the harvest moon was brilliant” until the last phrase “forever rest in peace,” this advisory includes—but may not be limited to—the Florida Panhandle, northwest Montana, central Illinois, and eastern Missouri.

Widely Scattered Ghosts is available in paperback and e-book at online booksellers and leading bookstores. (If your favorite store doesn’t have it, tell them they can order it from their Ingram catalogue.)

You can learn more about the stories’ location settings on the spotlight page of my website.

Before it was torn down some years ago, this old Florida building was a favorite of ghost hunters. I was in the building when it was a clean and functioning facility.

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I’ve seen ghosts from both sides now

When I was a kid, I read every psychic book I could get my hands on. Some were secular, some were based on religions where mystics were still honored, and others were spiritual in a much different sense than what I saw at church. Somewhere I read that if a person read what I was reading, they’d open themselves up to ghosts and other spirits, precognitive dreams, and waking visions. Well, all that was true enough.

Early on, I noticed a big difference between real shamans, witches, psychics, and mystics and the way all of these folks were portrayed by the organized church all the way back to the inquisition and such purges as the Cathar Crusade (1209-1229). The church saw these folks as heretics and, strangely, as devil worshippers, even though Satan was, more or less, a Jewish/Christian concept and had nothing to do with the spiritual people in the church’s gunsights. Yet, it served the church’s needs to paint everyone who was different as evil incarnate, a point of view that got picked up by Hollywood’s occult movie producers and writers. I’m always on the warpath when it comes to books and movies that turn ghosts, mystics, shamans, and witches into whatever untrue nastiness the writer or producer can imagine and then proceed to kill them in order to save humanity.

In “real life,” it’s still somewhat dangerous to speak out against these lies. Yes, every once in a while, somebody will say so and so is a witch and then look at me awaiting a wink and a nod of agreement. My response is, “So what?” This throws people for a loop, but they usually will tell me that so and so and so worships the devil. “She doesn’t believe in the devil,” I say. “Well, maybe not,” they respond. Okay, that conversation never goes anywhere good and it tends to get me shunned by a lot of people who think maybe I need to be watched carefully.

Fortunately, most people who read ghost stories–or even that phony occult crap–don’t think the authors are practitioners. And, we’re not. I’m not a conjurer, witch, or shaman. I don’t have an altar in my house covered with herbs, candles, pictures, and other arcane supplies. That’s all in my imagination. What I believe an author should do is tell the stories truly. That is, we can tell stories that fit what actual conjurers, witches, and shamans say and do rather than giving them the powers of, say, Voldemort out of the Harry Potter series along a boatload of evil motives.

Magical realism has given me a genre that works because it shows readers the everyday reality they’re used to seeing and then adds conjurers, witches, and shamans in their “natural habitats” rather than in some highly charged occult setting. My “Florida Folk Magic” series of novels is an example of this. On Monday, my publisher Thomas-Jacob will release Widely Scattered Ghosts,” my new collection of ghost stories. Most of these have something in common with my personal experiences, though my imagination may have strayed a bit.

When compared to the ghosts of horror/occult authors, these stories are very gentle even though you will find sadness and confusion in them along with a bit of humor. They’re not for kids. No, it’s not because of devil worship and gore, but from the psychological themes. Above all, I wanted the stories to be as true as fiction allows, and those of you who’ve tolerated this blog for years will know that I believe fiction is allowed to portray realities that facts cannot touch.

–Malcolm

Coming February 18th:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magic: Crooked Roads

“Improvement makes strait roads, but the crooked roads without Improvement, are roads of Genius.” ― William Blake

Praise the universe for crooked roads.
The misdirection of gods and storytellers.
The ancient spells and scrolls of wisdom hidden inside rocks, waiting.
The combined consciousness and will of liked, loving minds, cosmic valentines.
The stars of which we were made and those of future generations
Praise the universe for crooked roads.
The alternate universes of our salvation, just a glimpse away.
The new paths seekers have yet to create, bypassing old roads going nowhere.
The magnetic attraction of all that is good toward those who desire it.
The old mysteries that have retreated but are never lost.
Praise the universe for crooked roads.
Praise for the dreamers walking the Earth in cloaks of stars.
Praise for the children who see beyond the worlds of the crib and the classroom.
Praise for the wisdom that releases sons and daughters from the dogma of ancestors.
Praise for the special sight of all who see the souls of every rock and bird and horse.
And blessings for all who stumble and crawl along those crooked roads toward true heaven.

–Malcolm

Copyright (c) 2019 by Malcolm R. Campbell

 

 

Doubt is the magic killer

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

― Frank Herbert, Dune

I agreed with a lot of the sentiments in Dune. I also extrapolated upon them.

I tend to think we create wherever it is we’re going. If fear is a mind-killer, then I step forward from that thought and think that doubt is also a mind-killer. I’m not against being prepared–as we were taught in the Boy Scouts. Yet, I can’t help but think time spent with negative negative concerns such as fear and doubt is not an example of being prepared. Instead, those repeated concerns not only demonstrate to the universe we have no confidence in what we’re doing (praying, casting a spell, intuiting a situation far away, transmitting healing energies), they also create the very conditions our fear and the doubt are focused upon.

Experts in the I Ching, the book of changes that many use for divination, point out that doing the same reading twice because you doubt the first answer you received will often bring a chiding response from the oracle. I’ve seen that happen. I’ve also seen it happen with Tarot cards.

If I send (serve as a channel for) healing energy multiple times to help a sick friend, what does the second time say about the first and what does the third time say about the first two times? I believe it suggests that we doubt our ability to allow a flow of energy or that we wonder if the first energy we sent knew what it was doing.

Prayer is like that, too, I think. If we ask God on Monday for a certain thing, what’s the result of asking God for the same thing on Tuesday? Does it mean we think She/He didn’t hear us on Monday? Perhaps we are suggesting She/He was too stupid on Monday to know what we were talking about, so we have to offer a wordy explanation on Tuesday? Or, maybe we think God screwed up so we need to give Him/Her another chance to get it right.  Out worst doubt is negating our best efforts.

In conjure, we say that when you cast a spell, don’t look back. Why would one look back anyway? There’s no reason to look back unless one thinks s/he crewed up the spell the first time. The double whammy here is that thinking one screwed up the spell only serves to screw up the spell. As in, say, foot track magic, the magic isn’t just the powder one places in the path of the intended target, it’s his/her intentions for that powder. Looking back weakens your intentions.

I’ve seen people fail when trying to use the law of attraction, first because they say they are trying to use it rather than using it, and second, because after their positive affirmations, they go through the rest of the day filled with doubts and other negative thoughts. If one works to attract money and then worries about getting evicted from his/her apartment for non-payment of the rent, the negative thought becomes a stronger affirmation than the positive thought.

The worst that can come of all this doubt is that one ends up believing prayers and magic and positive thinking don’t work. Oh, they always work. It’s just that one’s lack of belief has become the strongest spell they are using.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell writes novels about magic.

 

 

 

 

 

Tarot: Step inside the cards

Sooner or later, most good cooks throw away their recipe books. What they know is not rote memorization, but an understanding of food, the impact of heat and cold, and the results of mixing one thing with another.

Knight of Swords – Thoth Deck. Other decks use the term “King.

Effective Tarot card readers throw away books that list the standard meanings of each card because they have discovered that the card is a prompt–or perhaps a spirit–that directs the reader to his/her own intuition and knowledge.

Personally, I don’t believe the future is fixed in place, so I’m going to see a reading (whether it comes from the I Ching, Tarot Cards, Bones, or some other system) as a story about what is now the case or is developing. How the reader sees this matter will also impact how they react to either the so-called standard meanings of the cards and/or to their intuitive glimpses into the question on their minds that is prompted by seeing the cards in a certain order.

In time, the reader no longer needs the cards. That’s much simpler, but perhaps a long time coming for many people who pick up a Tarot deck and wonder if it will speak to them.

I am influenced when I look at the cards by knowing that they are “ruled” by the elements Earth, Water, Fire, and Air. Fire and Air are considered active. The Swords suit (modern-day spades) is within the realm of Air. Knights are always considered the fiery/active part of each element. The active nature of a Knight is shown in the movement of the figure on the card. As described on Raven Tarot, “The element of Air is the pure mind, the thought and the intellect, synthesis and analysis, the proceeding of the amorphous spirit of Fire and the unconscious emotion of Water into definitions and concepts. Air is both structure and conscious realization, both formation and abstraction.” 

Other readers come to the Tarot with other basic ideas and they will be influenced by those and they will find the cards to be catalysts to their intuition in a somewhat different way, though they “should” more or less come to the same conclusions about a subject as I do.

The deck I use.

Some people “learn the cards” by meditating on each one and allowing ideas about each card to come to them without actively trying to “figure out the card.” Others do multiple readings about things they will know in the “future” and see how what they saw in the “spread” (the card’s layout on the table) coincides to the unfolding future. When one does this, it helps to do readings about others because if you do them about yourself, you can always change the way things unfold an invalidate the reading.

The Card as a Doorway

In my imagination, I visualize being in a nondescript room with a large doorway in it that’s painted like the card I want to learn more about. After I’ve relaxed and gotten rid of all the general chatter going on inside my head, I walk to the door and open it. What do I see outside? What do I hear? First impressions are important because they simply are and haven’t had time to get twisted into logical deductions about what’s going on. When I open the door painted like the Knight of Swords card, I see swirling fog, sometimes by day and sometimes by night, and hear the sound of the wind.

Sometimes my intuition leads me to sit on the doorstep there–as we’re supposed to do at a railroad crossing–and Stop, Look, and Listen. Sometimes my intuition leads me to step outside, and when I do that, I’m usually in the sky, swirling around like a leaf in the wind with no control of its own. There’s no fear in this, no sensation of falling, and no worry that I might be carried so far away from the door, I won’t know how to get back. Since this is “my card” in Tarot readings and as I see myself generally, floating, swirling, sailing, and tumbling in pure air is a basic, womb-like experience. I’m often content to do nothing and just soak of the nourishment of the moment.

I can exert control if I like, though it’s more intuitive than logical. Rather than, say, deciding to fly over a specific place, I simply wonder “what’s down there” or “what else is up here.” I might see cities and oceans the way I would seem them from a plane or stars the way I might see them through the lens of a telescope. Air carries me whither it wants to.

Doing this kind of meditation is not unique to me. Many intuitives have said that Tarot cards are, for them, like windows or doorways. I suppose, though, that I bring a shaman’s journey technique and, rather than seeing figurative worlds or literal places, I see what’s outside the door of each card.

And, in a sense, whenever we do a Tarot reading, we are looking at what’s outside the doorway of the present moment and our present time and current place.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of novels filled with magic.

 

 

 

Today’s Tarot Reading: Everything’s going to hell in a handbasket

Wikipedia photo

I’ll confess, I didn’t do this reading myself. I went out to tarot.com which is kind of a fun site and checked to see what my three-card free reading would be. I learned that the world’s leadership has collapsed and that I should stay alert.

Okay, I can stay alert.

I’ve had decks of tarot cards in my desk since I was in high school. I enjoy the symbolism a lot. The 78 cards cover almost all of life’s situations. When the cards appear to fail, the problem is usually the person reading the cards.

Readers must always recognize that the future isn’t engraved in stone. The cards indicate what will happen based on current conditions. You’ll find the same thing to be true if you use the I Ching, the book of changes, to ask questions about current conditions or the so-called future.

I’ve gotten rusty using either oracle because I discovered a long time ago that I can see the situation better through meditation than on relying on either the Tarot cards or on the I Ching’s hexagrams. In either case, the probable future related to your question always comes from you. The cards and hexagrams are crutches, so to speak. Perhaps “guides” is a better world.

When I was in high school, the country was gripped by one of those recurring new age fads in which folks were reading cards and the I Ching and trying to become one with the universe. As I’ve gotten older, oracles have become less important to me because I realize that I am creating the future events that I will soon experience in everyday life.

While I think oracles can provide a lot of guidance, it’s been helpful to me to leave them behind for the most part. I feel confident that I am on the right path. So I don’t need to keep checking my Tarot deck or my copy of the I Ching to see if I’m right. At some point, constant checking translates into uncertainty and doubt, and once we’re preoccupied with those feelings, we are going to hell in a handbasket.

I find that I’m usually aware of signs, the cries of birds and the appearance of clouds and winds and blowing leaves. I see this as no different than an inner-city dweller being streetwise to possible dangers around the corner or a farmer being aware of changes that might affect the sowing of seeds or the harvesting of crops. Some would say I’m superstitious. Possibly so.

When we become attuned to our environment, whether it’s a mountain town or a big-city suburb, we certainly know better where it’s safe to walk and where it’s not safe to walk. Yes, the Tarot cards can tell me that. But my thoughts are faster.

The whole shebang–whether you call it “the future” or “the big picture” comes down to trusting oneself. Conjure women used to say that if you have to keep checking on how your latest spell is proceeding, you’re signifying doubt

In Frank Hebert’s novel Dune, we were told that fear is the mind killer. That resonated with me when I read it back in 1965. It still does. I also think doubt is a mind killer because it counteracts the positive thoughts we have about a specific project or the future in general.

Symbols tend to resonate with us. Some say that’s like hitting one tuning fork with a mallet and having a nearby tuning fork make the same sound. Art impacts us. Stories impact us. So do “chance” meetings with others or odd changes in the weather or the pictures we find on a Tarot card deck. All that is like computer input. Consciously or subconsciously those symbols alert us to probabilities and help us find our way through the ever-shifting maze of life.

–Malcolm

My novel “Lena” continues on sale for 99 cents through October 5th.

 

 

 

 

What Macbeth’s Witches Were Really Mixing Up

Wikipedia graphic

Fillet of a fenny snake, 
In the cauldron boil and bake; 
Eye of newt and toe of frog, 
Wool of bat and tongue of dog, 
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting, 
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing, 
For a charm of powerful trouble, 
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble. 

Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 1

When you read Macbeth and hear the witches chanting about the eye of newt and tongue of dog, don’t worry. Most of those ingredients are the folk names of herbs, not critters’ body parts. Here are those added by the second witch.

  • Fenny Snake – Fenny refers to fens (swamps).
  • Eye of Newt – Seeds of Black or Brown Mustard (Brassica juncea), which–in hoodoo- are used to confuse enemies. They are often mixed with sulfur powder.
  • Buttercup: Steve Matson photo from Califlora

    Toe of Frog – Yellow Buttercup, including within the United States, the Western Buttercup (Ranunculus occidentalis Nutt), the seeds of which were ground up by Indians with other seeds for making a flour-like staple called pinole. The flowers themselves are considered poisonous.

  • Wool of Bat – Holly (Ilex aquifollium), meaning “holy,” used by Druids and other ancient Europeans. Holly symbolized male and female and Yule and is still considered in conjure as not only a blessing to the household and as protection for the home.
  • Tongue of Dog – Houndstongue (Cynoglossum officinale), also called dog’s tongue and gypsy flower. It was once considered a cure for madness and has been used by herbalists for a variety of ailments, including venereal disease and inflammations.
  • Dog-tooth Violet – Wikipedia photo.

    Adder’s Fork – Dog-Tooth Violet (Erythronium americanum) and related species. It’s also referred to as rattlesnake violet and serpent’s tongue. It’s not related to the violet. In conjure, it’s used to stop slander and gossip and those who are using it against you. It is placed on the doorsteps of enemies or when meddling inlaws are the problem, mixed with slippery elm into a body wash.

  • Blind Worm’s Sting – This is a lizard that looks like a worm. It’s sting is it’s bite. Perhaps they used the poison or tossed in the worm.
  • Lizard’s Leg – Ivy, genus (Hedera) and other creeping plants. Potentially, might include poison ivy and poison oak. Ivy is for binding things together as well as for ensnarring unwelcome desires (including drinking too much.) One can spend days trying to unravel the folklore and symbolism of ivy throughout the ages, including the use of the plant as a crown. Holly and ivy are among the evergreens used to decorate houses for Christmas and Yule as symbols of rebirth.
  • Howlet – That is to say, an owl.

–Malcolm

The Kindle edition of my hoodoo novel “Lena” is on sale this weekend at Amazon for only 99₵. P.S. I have no idea why WordPress changed the font of the Toe of Frog paragraph

Magic: the ‘Catch-22’ of using it

Most magic is fairly easy if all you’re looking at is a set of directions. It can become more complex if it’s so-called high magic and requires a complex ritual. It can become challenging if multiple preparations are required, including herbs, candles, purifying oneself or one’s house, and other activities or ingredients that one may wish to hide from friends and family.

Regardless of the approach one takes, the one aspect that cannot be overlooked no matter how perfectly one follows the directions and prescriptions for an intended result is belief. Magic requires belief in order to function, or, as some might say, your beliefs create your reality. One point I emphasized in my three hoodoo novels is that when a conjure woman does a spell, she doesn’t look back–if she throws it into a stream or lake, for example–because looking back to check on the spell signifies doubt.

Those who don’t believe in magic think that the necessity of belief is “convenient” for those trying to convince you magic is real. That is, if you don’t believe, it won’t work. But how can you believe, if you’ve never seen it working?

I believe I’ve written here before that a lot of those who hoped The Secret and other books related to the “law of attraction” would change their lives for the better were disappointed with the results. Why? They didn’t seriously believe the process would work. Perhaps some of them wished for changes that seemed so logically impossible that even the enthusiasm they felt after reading a book like The Secret wasn’t strong enough to extinguish their doubt.

Most of us are “programmed” by society or our ever-hopeful (or partially cynical) belief systems that small changes are more likely to happen in our lives than huge changes. We believe it’s more likely that we’ll find a dollar bill on the street than win a Powerball lottery jackpot. This suggests how we should proceed with magic. Since small changes seem more logical to us, we can focus our magic on small changes. That is, rather than trying to use magic to become suddenly rich, we can use it to do better financially this month than last month. Instead of trying to heal ourselves or a loved one from a dread disease overnight, we can focus our intentions on feeling better than the day before.

We can accept this, so we’re less likely to doubt our first experimentations with magic. That’s what we build on. When those seem to work, we can focus on a result that’s slightly more challenging.

Of course, our overall belief system helps or hinders our magic. If we think that Murphy’s laws rule the universe, we will be less successful than if we are generally positive and tend to see the best in other people until proven wrong. Or, if we spend ten or fifteen minutes working on a spell intended to help a loved one feel better, but then spend the rest of the day worrying about them getting worse, we’re undoing our magic because our energy is more focused on something negative than something good.

When it comes down to it, magic is part of an individual’s approach to life. One has to be open to new experiences and systems of thought that are outside the everyday realm of logic to make magic work. If you want to make magic a part of your life, you need to make your life a part of magic; that is, begin with meditations and interpreting dreams and reading about those who’ve had transcendent experiences. No surgeon goes into an operating room thinking, “This procedure isn’t going to work.” S/he has many years of education and practice before stepping into that OR. Likewise, magic requires (usually) an equally time-consuming and diligent study of how the world works and how the self works before you can do what looks so easy in the Harry Potter books and movies.

Like any other discipline, magic and medication seem to work better when people learning about them are content with taking baby steps first. Nobody takes one piano lesson and then expects to play at Carnegie Hall the following week. Yes, if you truly believe, you can change your life in an instant. But we’re brought up in a science and technology world where logic is the prime mover of the universe, so large-scale belief on the first day one encounters magic is a hard row to hoe. Over time, and with patience and practice, we can prove to ourselves that magic works. We may never convince our friends, but then that’s not really important because seeing the universe in an alternative way is our path, lonely as it may be.

We can all conquer that “catch-22” about magic and belief if we devote time and effort and faith to our studies. It’s not an easy path, yet I think it’s a wonderful path.

–Malcolm

My hoodoo novel “Lena” is currently on sale on Amazon for 99₵.

 

A wee bit o’ cantraip

This is one of my favourite words for magic. I like it because it’s old and it’s a Scots word. The English say “cantrip” and use the word to refer to ‘scam.”

The English need to get their minds right about this.

My ancestry is Scots, with a strong dash of Irish from my mother’s side of the family. That means I was born with an affinity for cantraip whether it was the spell of a witch or the mischief out of the faerie world.

In The Life of Robert Burns, which you can find in Project Guttenberg, he says:  “I owed much to an old woman (Jenny Wilson) who resided in the family, remarkable for her credulity and superstition. She had, I suppose, the largest collection in the country of tales and songs, concerning devils, ghosts, fairies, brownies, witches, warlocks, spunkies, kelpies, elf-candles, dead-lights, wraiths, apparitions, cantraips, giants, enchanted towers, dragons, and other trumpery. This cultivated the latent seeds of poesie; but had so strong an effect upon my imagination that to this hour, in my nocturnal rambles, I sometimes keep a look-out on suspicious places.”

I grew up reading Bobby Burns’s lowland Scots poems and perhaps that influenced me as much as my DNA to always be seeking a fair bit o’ cantraip in every dark wood and every dark woman.

Truth be told, I expect that the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics and panpsychism will ultimately explain many things that are best-considered cantraip at present.  Quantum physics is science and panpsychism is superstition (or so some say), but they have a lot more in common than the followers of either viewpoint are willing to acknowledge yet. I’m enchanted by both–call it a Scots Irish thing.

Cantraip is never sleight of hand, the kind of “magic” you see during most magic shows on TV or conventions. I did like Erin Morgenstern’s novel The Night Circus wherein the magicians were using real magic while pretending it was sleight of hand. Whenever I see purported sleights of hand, I wonder, “hmm, is that real magic or practices misdirection?”

Sleight of hand, it seems, is much easier for audiences to believe in. Audiences want to be fooled, and they are. The great sucess of Penn and Teller is evidence of that. If you saw Tony Randal in the 1964 movie 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, you may remember that the audience was far more excited over the splashy sleight of hand than Merlin’s real magic.

You fools, I thought.

The world might be better if we could buy faerie dust at Walmart. We need a wee bit o’ cantraip to give us hope, make us smile, and prove that Washington’s politicians don’t know everything.

Malcolm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florida Folk Magic Series: a journey into the past

In 1954, the year in which most of my Florida Folk Magic Series is set, Dwight D. Eisenhower was President, Richard M. Nixon was Vice President, Earl Warren was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and  Elvis Presley issued his first single, “That’s All Right”, on Sun Records. It was the era of an unconstitutional Communist witch hunt conducted by Senator Joseph McCarthy. It was the era of Jim Crow and the so-called “separate but equal” doctrine.

It seemed natural to me then, even in grade school, that people were still talking about World War II and that when kids played army in their backyards, they were fighting the Japanese and the Germans. What seemed unnatural to me then was that people were still, one way or another, fighting and re-fighting the U. S. Civil War.

The words “terrorism” and “terrorist organization” weren’t part of national security debates in those days, but if they had been, the KKK should have born that label; permitting the group to march in parades was, as saw it then, as ludicrous as allowing the Mafia to march in parades and, as I see it now, made as much sense as allowing ISIS to march in a U. S. parade today.

My own childhood years were good ones, but Klan violence–which was heavy in Florida–and the mistreatment of African Americans as a group were, to me, an intolerable smear on our nation’s intentions and mission as written down in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

The vestiges of that smear are still part of a polarized national debate today. We still have more problems to solve and attitudes to change in 2018 than we should. White supremacists, neo-Nazis, bigots, and misogynists, as I still see it, are people with an Attila the Hun mentality and, frankly, we’d be better off if we put them on a giant ice-flow and set them adrift during hurricane season.

Yes, I have strong feelings about these issues.

But in spite of those feelings, the three books in this series are not intended as a political statement. They are history. They are the culture of another era. And they are the everyday magic of another era, one that still has many devotees today. It has been said that in the South, Whites didn’t like Blacks as a race but liked many of them personally as individuals. From what I saw, there was at least some truth in this, for our moderate and liberal White friends did have Black friends and colleagues. Even so, the KKK prescribed how far we could go.

If a White went “too far,” s/he would run into trouble that could be fatal. If we broke one of the rules–such as allowing a Black to sit in the front seat of our car or walk through the front door of our house–the Blacks would say, “this isn’t done” because they were even more at risk should anyone see the infraction than we were.

Oddly enough, Scouting brought conjure to my attention. That is, we learned to respect the out of doors and how to live safely in forests and swamps. This led to discussions with Black friends who had additional ideas about what was out there and how to safely approach it. Needless to say, I didn’t take any hoodoo practices back to the Scout troop or overtly use them on our monthly camping trips. But those practices taught me a lot about humankind’s potential relationships with the environment, one that in later years ecopsychology would explore without deriding these relationships as superstition.

The bottom line for a novelist is telling stories set in specific time periods with characters with points of view that aren’t always mainstream. Yes, as a writer I also needed to make sense of what I saw as a child, but not in a political treatise. I’m drawn, as I was then, to the people themselves and how they fought against the dangers that came into their lives. Have I put tall my demons to rest? Probably not.

Nonetheless, writing these stories has brought me a sense of closure to the time when First Lady Mamie Eisenhower christened the Nautilus, our first nuclear-powered submarine, Vice President Richard Nixon said we might send troops Indochina (as we called it then) even if the allies didn’t like it, the United States Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional, and Blacks weren’t allowed at lunch counters where I had the blue plate special or in the front of the city bus I rode into town.

–Malcolm