Friday, July 13, 2018


Back in the age of the dinosaurs, when I went to University, I saw a poster in the college bookstore. It was called "Thoughts of the Past" by Stanhope, a second generation Pre-Raphaelite. One look at this piece of art and I was in love.  The Pre-Raphaelites were my soulmates: their themes, their vibrant colors - not to mention all those fellow gingers - took my breath away. Be that as it may, I knew nothing about Stanhope. Yet, here was the evidence that he was able to capture a glimpse of my heart with oils and canvas.

I had been through a hard transition. In my senior year of High School I had "come out" as a Wiccan. As it was a Catholic school I was damn near expelled, passed over for National Honor Society, and demeaned by the nuns for the remainder of the term.

Then... I was at University. I was suddenly - jarringly - free. I could pick my own courses, no one cared that I was a Witch, no one restricted my thoughts, or gave explicit directions regarding my academic future. I was free...and terribly, terribly lost.

"Thoughts of the Past" depicts a prostitute standing at the window of her humble room on the London docks.  Her surroundings are suppose to symbolize her low condition - from dying plants, discarded violets on the floor, a man's walking cane and gloves left behind, and a scuffed and scarred vanity upon which rests her costume jewelry.  The hay being off-loaded from the ship down in the harbor is a commodity, as is she.  This was a a once innocent country girl transformed into a "soiled dove."

However, I saw this poster in 1972. To me it cried "bohemian" and echoed the values and the belongings of my hippie friends. Love beads, return to Nature, living off the grid divorced from the money chase, free love (although, that wasn't part of my personal philosophy)... and there she stood, brushing her long red hair and thinking back over her Path. How had she gotten here? Where did the path swerve? Was there ever a chance to steer a different course?  Is it all worth it?

I so loved this painting that, on my first trip to London, I went to the Tate Gallery. The Stanhope was not on display, but my friend begged the director for a personal viewing.  Into the stacks we went, where I had a glorious half hour, up front and personal, with "Thoughts...".

I have a copy of the Stanhope on my wall to this day, 45 years after I first set eyes on it.  I still go through periodic depression.  I've gone through it lately, in fact, where the fundamental question became, "Is it still worth it?"  Are the illnesses, limitations, loneliness, lack of success, a price I'm willing to pay for staying on the planet?  Have I been of benefit to ANYONE? I merely taking up space and air that another might use to greater advantage?  Am I worth it?  Do I make a difference?  Does anyone want or need what little I have to offer?

The one thing I have never contemplated is "revision".  I may not cherish all my actions and associations from my past, but I have never sought to erase those parts of my life journey where I walked towards something unhealthy, or where some one's now regretted footsteps were next to mine.  I may do a directional recalculation, but never a deliberate deletion.

What brought this all up, you might ask.  Well, I was doing research for my blog when I came across a pod broadcast from 2017.  I knew the guest, so I decided to give a listen. They were discussing the author's new book, but the interviewer also seemed very interested in how his guest became a Witch.  At that point, so was I.  I had initiated and trained this individual, but I had become a "persona non grata" about a decade ago.  (I was never given a reason why.)  The author told a tale of being influenced by a book encountered in grammar school.  It sparked her interest in witches and she began her research, and that was the beginning.

I was completely written out of her narrative.

I found that I had little to no personal, emotional response to this.  After all, it had no impact on my own life, but I will admit it left me a bit sad.  It is not the first time revisionist, magical, history has reared its ugly head,  I remember when I first met Laurie Cabot.  She asked me my tradition.  When I answered "Celtic", she replied, "What's that?"

Now she are one, and claims she always was. Ah, well.

I got a small insight into my former student when she and the host discussed the film, "The Witch".  At the end of the movie, the goat named Black Phillip (the devil in disguise), when asked what he could offer the teenage girl Tomasin, says: "Wouldst thou like the taste of butter? A pretty dress? Wouldst thou like to live...deliciously?" See this eerie clip below.

The author summed this up by saying, "What's YOUR butter? YOUR pretty dress?  What would you sacrifice to get what you want?  The wanting is sexy."  Perhaps friendship, integrity, loyalty, and history, are offered up on the altar, wiped away with the pricking of a thumb, and the signing (or even writing) of a book.

Is this healthy?  Is it better to contemplate the Path you've walked, owning it all, or to simply edit out the portions of the Past which no longer serve you?  Is it less stressful to claim a "do-over", or an avoidance of necessary - if inconvenient - life lessons?  After all, Peter denied being a disciple of Jesus three times, and he STILL got to be the foundation rock of the Church.  Things worked out OK for him, right?

What about all the "little roots" and "saplings" left behind once you fell the massive, unwanted, trees in your life?  

What about the people who were witness to the original events?  Do you call them liars?  Win them over to the edited story?  Eradicate the ones who no longer suit the new script?  How much DO you have to offer up for that taste of butter, that lick of fame, that pretty garment of rebirth and reinvention?

Is this what the last generation has made of Paganism and the Craft?  Is this what the next one is being taught?  Have we moved from Wicca to Orwellian?  From Kitchen Witch to Kisch?  Are this year's Witches willing to do what they must, pay any price, to live "deliciously"?

In my youth, that's what we called The Dark Path.

Just trying to lighten the mood...
My intent is not to poke sticks at any one individual. I'm not trying to be mean, or publicly shame anyone. Neither are my questions self-serving. I would truly like to know how others feel about this, as I've had friends come down on both sides of the issue.

Input is welcomed, so let me know your thoughts.

Peace, and Blessed Be.

Thursday, July 5, 2018


On May 19-20 of this year, my sister Diane treated me to a weekend at the Halloween Show at the Showboat in Atlantic City, NJ. Our friend, artist Donna Marian, had a booth there, and this would be her last time with the show.

I had never been to Atlantic City. I grew up playing Monopoly, I heard all about the diving horse, the Miss America pageant, knew that old tune, "On the Boardwalk in Atlantic City" - but never made the trip.  I'm not a big fan of gambling, so even the introduction of casinos didn't entice me as an adult. But a Halloween Show? Count me in!

Diane arranged for the room, and even rented a motorized wheelchair for me. It was our first time going on a trip alone as adults, so I was really looking forward to it. The drive down was rainy, but uneventful, and we got there around the time we anticipated. The Showboat was an experience in  itself.

The hotel has seen better days. It closed as a casino for a few years, and reopened as a convention center.You can tell they are still working on it. I was afraid that the rooms would still have issues, but they were clean, if somewhat outdated. There were NO restaurants, but at the boardwalk end of the building was a little burger deli, run/owned by a very friendly young couple.  The food was great - and the onion rings were the best I ever had. Even Diane had a few, and she doesn't do fried food.

The boardwalk was just beyond the back door. I love being near the ocean, and thrive on the smell of seaweed and dead fish (Ok. I'm weird).  We meandered down to the next casino, and Diane briefly played a penny machine, then we wandered back.

We were in a constant fog...not mentally; REAL fog. It felt like Brigadoon was either coming or going. We passed an area with a ferris wheel, which looked quaint. Then, I saw the sign on the closed gate: "Steel Pier".

Really? THIS was the famous Steel Pier?.....Really? It was so... short. It looked like a bad church carnival. Wow. But, I liked how the wheel looked against the misty sky, so I took this picture:

It wasn't until that evening, from the window of our 19th floor room, that Diane got a great video of the lights. In the background you can hear "Ghost Adventures", and me snoring (sorry).

As to the show - it was good! However, we could have done it in a day, since we weren't going to the dinner, or the party, or any of the other offerings. We were there for the vendors, and they did not disappoint (except for the eejits selling air horns, setting them off every five minutes).

First, we located Donna Marian. 

 She runs a shop in New Hope, PA called "The Creeper Gallery", but was a gothic doll artist way before that.

 She is one of the people featured in this book:

and has provided quite a few creations for Zak Bagans ("Ghost Adventures") and his new Haunted Museum in Las Vegas.

Donna usually does a few items just for the show, and this year she did "murder rooms".  She created a few that were a bit too bloody for my taste, but most were just the right blend of morbid and beautiful. I loved the Lizzie Borden death scenes, and Joan of Arc...

My sister really fell for the Plague Room...

But in the end, I bought two others. Donna had made a Salem Witches murder room, as well as one featuring the Hall-Mills Murders.  The inner lid even had the heading and by-line from my feature in Fate Magazine.

Along with the murder rooms, she had dolls, taxidermy pieces, a vampire killing kit, and other oddities.

Among the various vendors, there was one that seemed to be exclusively about animatronics. They had several displays where you could push a button and watch the scene come to life. I was fascinated by the gothic mannequins. 

This one even looks a bit like my niece.

See what I mean? 

When you pushed the button, the middle one did this:

They also had a snake that slithered around in its box...

And spiders and wasps buzzing, moving wings, and dropping down from the ceiling. I was impressed!

There were folks creating... well... body parts...

...advertising escape rooms...

...selling masks and gothic/steampunk costumes...

... and one table that looked a play date didn't go so well.

There was a fellow who was REALLY into making skulls. (Ooooh...skulls....)

Do you think the president of my mutual would mind if I did my doorway like this? Humm...

Beyond these vendors, there were plenty of pumpkin people...

Full size props...

...and larger than life props...

There was one smaller vendor, however, who really touched my heart. She was selling throw pillows. You picked the cover, and she would fill it and complete the sewing.  She was doing this to raise money to pay for her chemotherapy.  She was so young, proving that cancer is no respecter of age, gender or circumstance. As a cancer survivor myself, I hope she sold every last pillow. Diane and I each bought two, and they were cute AND quality!

There were jewelry sellers, candy sellers, a few psychics and card readers, a guy into clowns...

(Oh My gods, how I do hate clowns...)

...and this guy...

(Zombie Brain Smash?)

At one prop booth, Diane seemed to fall in love with Baby Moldy. 

She refused to let me buy it for her. ( Oh yeah? She obviously forgot with whom she was dealing.) After the show, I ordered it on line AND created a casket for him, complete with victorian black calla lily floral arrangement and "At Rest" coffin plaque... my special "thank you" for taking me to the show,  and attending to my needs.

I'm pretty proud of this!

I'm sure there will be a show next year. Go and check it out. It was fun! And, when in New Hope check out The Creeper Gallery. Their hours are posted on their website.

Until next time, happy haunting!