Has the Paranormal Bubble Finally Burst?

By Tony Harrington

paranormal bubble

Photo by Fabian Oefner

When “Ghost Hunters” premiered in October of 2004 on the SyFy channel (Then still called SciFI), there was nothing quite like it on the U.S. airwaves. The program introduced the world to Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, two plumbers who in their free time headed up “The Atlantic Paranormal Society” (TAPS) out of the New England colony of Rhode Island.

The program became an instant hit, drawing record numbers and putting the network on the map.
The show spawned several spinoffs including “Ghost Hunters International”, “UFO Hunters”, and “Ghost Hunters Academy”.

Additionally, the immense popularity of Ghost Hunters caused an insurgence of similar thematic programming on other networks. Paranormal State, Ghost Adventures, Most Haunted, and more found their way into the homes and the collection consciousness of American audiences.

Encountering a haunting went from something private and embarrassing to vogue at breakneck speed and suddenly groups of amateur paranormal investigation teams began cropping up across the US to meet the ever-increasing demand of people wanting to have their homes or businesses deemed “haunted”, or to have their home cleansed of unwanted spirits.

At the time, a lot of the organizations that came to fruition on the coattails of TAPS subscribed to the New England company’s model of investigation, taking a lot of what was presented on the show as fact and incorporating it into their investigations.

Many agencies sought out TAPS accreditation, to become a sister company of the famous organization.

While it seems logical for an organization wanting to be connected with the most popular of paranormal teams, it could very well have been the beginning of the end for the paranormal bubble.

As of today, the number of cases organizations are getting has dwindled considerably, often weeks or months separate inquiries and actually landing an investigation has become burdensome. So what caused the sudden decline in paranormal popularity?

A lot of it has to do with trends. At the height of its popularity, Ghost Hunters was probably responsible for the resurgence of paranormal investigations. Conversely, as the show’s viewership began to wane over the decade, so too did the interest in the paranormal. Contributing greatly to the decline was rumors of TAPS faking certain findings to keep viewers hooked. When the team responsible for making the paranormal cool was questioned, that began to signal the beginning of the end.

TAPS can’t take the full brunt of the blame. In addition to the interest in the pop-culture phenomenon declining, there were some high-profile cases of groups doing some rather unethical things such as when a Texas paranormal team burned down a historic building out of anger because they couldn’t capture any EVPs or proof of paranormal activity.

The biggest problem with paranormal investigations is that anyone could start a group. All they needed was some friends, some equipment, and the desire to spend long nights camped out at an allegedly haunted location in the hopes of catching proof that ghosts do indeed exist.

Another issue with the “paranormal bubble” is that there was no unifying body or organization in charge of setting standards of practice for how investigations were to be conducted. Every group could conduct investigations in any manner they saw fit. There was no education being conducted for the most part, any information about the world of the paranormal was obtained from the Ghost Hunters television program, but who were they to set the standard? They are nobodies to be honest. They were simply a group of people doing what other groups of people do all over the world. They just happened to get a television deal. It does not make them subject matter experts. It makes them quasi-celebrities with opinions on certain things.

Market saturation became a problem and it ultimately led to animosity or rivalries between competing local groups. When every group out there is belittling every other group, it undermines the entire industry.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the entire paranormal bubble is that most agencies sprung up simply to cash in. They became more obsessed with becoming celebrities than actually caring about the cases they took on. Radio show appearances, book deals, television appearances, etc…derailed the true focus of the organizations. It could be said that we created our own demise by losing focus on why we chose to become paranormal investigators in the first place.

As with all things, interest in the paranormal is cyclical. Ghost Hunters is still on the air, The Conjuring and Insidious franchises are still strong and rake in some big bucks at the box office, and paranormal themed scripted shows are being produced regularly. In time there will be another resurgence and there will be a great demand for established groups.

The best the remaining long-standing groups can do is use this downtime to educate themselves and revamp their teams in preparation for the next inevitable boom. Let go of people not willing to stick it out. Part ways with team members who don’t contribute to the betterment of the team but are only interested in when the next investigation is. Stay in the public eye by keeping your websites current and conduct networking workshops within your community. Take on social causes such as volunteering to clean up parks, or work adopt a road and maintain it. Doing community services can bolster awareness for your organization and presents your team as upstanding members of society and community. People won’t know how to reach you if you allow your team to slip into obscurity.

Has your organization seen a decline in cases or interest in the paranormal overall?

What, in your opinion, aside from what was mentioned above, do you feel caused the bubble to burst?

Share your thoughts and ideas in our comments section below.


DEAD LETTERS: Text Messages From The Dead


by Tony Harrington

The technology that powers our smart devices is one of the fastest advancing technologies ever. Many of us remember the days before text messaging when the only thing cellular phones could do was make and receive calls. 

Then came voicemail, text messaging, games (Snake anyone?), multimedia messaging, camera technology, and faster processors. Now, phones are mostly handheld computers that allow us to communicate with one another without ever having to make a call.

In fact, it is probably a safe assumption to assume that a majority of people prefer texting or interacting on social media sites versus actually having a vocal conversation.
It should come as no surprise then that, in this day and age, more and more people are reporting that their cell phones are being used as a means through which the dead can communicate.
I was not aware this was a thing until I had mentioned to someone at work that I am a paranormal investigator and that I maintain this blog. As is always the case, this opened up a line of dialogue, mostly filled with “what if” scenarios, until the person eventually feels comfortable enough to present me with a personal experience they have had and ask for my opinion on just what it is they are experiencing.
In the case of my co-worker, she had come into possession of her mother’s old iPhone when her mother died. Because she had no need for the phone, she allowed her young daughter to have it as a toy as the daughter was not yet old enough to be given an actual functioning phone.
One night, after my co-worker and her husband had put their daughter to bed, the young girl came into their room and said that the phone was making weird noises.
The phone was not on a data plan and there was no service. It did have a wi-fi capabilities, but allegedly they had never connected the phone to the wireless router. The only thing the phone could do, according to my co-worker, was play certain games that didn’t require an internet connection.
The father takes the girl back to bed and checks the phone. The noise the young girl had been hearing was a text alert. There was three messages on the phone.
  • “Still here”
  • “Love”
  • “Beautiful girl”
The messages came across with a three minute pause between each message. The text message was received by a phone number made up of all nines.
Now, there are many reasons this could happen. The internet is filled with many sites that allow you to send an SMS message to someone’s phone as long as you know the number. But the phone technically requires the number to be active for the message to be received. According to my co-worker, the number had not been active for three months.
To test this theory, we dialed the phone number thought to be disconnected. While it did not ring, it did go straight to voicemail. After the voicemail picked up the co-worker said, “That is strange”.
That evening, after work, my co-worker texts me to let me know the phone got another text message. This one said “Strange”.
Immediately I realized what was happening.
It seemed that calls to the disconnected phone number were being forwarded to voicemail, a separate number apparently, and callers were leaving messages. Those messages were being transcribed by an app on the phone and delivered to the phone via an installed messenger service sort of like visual voicemail.
My co-worker called the voicemail and heard the four messages that were delivered by text. She recognized the last message as the one we left, but she swears that the three other messages sound just like her mother who passed prior to the dates the messages were left.
There are some wildcard variables to take into consideration:
  • I can’t say for certain that the phone is not connected to some wi-fi connection. I am not personally there when these events happened.
  • I don’t know what my co-worker’s mother sounds like so I can authenticate the voice on the voicemail as belonging to the deceased woman
  • It is possible to spoof/mask numbers, so the calls could be coming from someone the family knows or from the family themselves to perpetuate this story.
  • As a fan of Andorid OS, I can say with certainty, I have no idea how the iPhone works or if what I suspected about how the texts were delivered is even possible using the iPhone.
It should also be noted that the young daughter is ten, and quite tech savvy, as most young kids are these days having grown up with the technology.
I share this story only as a way to introduce the topic of a modern paranormal phenomenon that I call “Texts From the Dead”; an obvious homage to the old school “Phone Calls From the Dead”.
Classifying this phenomenon, if it is indeed real and happening is somewhat difficult. It is definitely displaying signs of an intelligent haunting; interacting with technology and those who use it. It also seems a modern twist on “Electronic Voice Phenomenon”; the ability to catch disembodied voices responding to questions on an audio recording device.
Additionally, cell phones contain built-in dictionaries. How else do they know how to jack up your intended message with hilarious auto-correct fails? There are apps that have been developed based on the notion that the dead can manipulate the phone’s dictionary to pull words with which to respond to questions.  So, it is not uncommon for people to use their phones as a means by which to communicate with those who have passed on.
In researching this article, I was surprised to see that this phenomenon has stories dating back a few years, some as far back as the early 2000s. It would seem that since the advent of the ability to make and receive texts, the dead have been taking advantage of it.
It is still fascinating to see the rise of a new type of paranormal activity, though it remains to be seen if these cases are valid, or simply wishful thinking.
There are many reasons weird text messages could show up on your phone. Pocket texts, the silent version of the pocket-dial can result in some creepy messages from potentially unknown numbers. The ability to compose messages using speech-to-text could cause weird messages to show up on your phone, some of the random words could have significant meaning for you and hence you draw a parallel between a random rogue message and a significant aspect of someone who has died.
Some instances of Texts From the Dead come about not from actual received messages, but random notes left on a user’s phone. Notes they did not type but somehow occupy a text box.
These are easier to explain away though as the message originated on the users phone and could be a prank, a voice-to-text feature being unknowingly activated and capturing random bits of dialogue, a phone in a pocket or a purse being jostled around enough to create a message of some sort.
Regardless of how the messages got on the phone, there is a certain subset of people, and that subset grows every day as people encounter this bizarre phenomenon, who believe that they are receiving texts from those who have passed on. I have always said, that even if I don’t believe that ghosts are the culprit, it is very real to those who encounter something they deem paranormal, and I respect them enough to listen and try to determine just what is happening.

Are the living receiving messages from beyond the grave through modern technology? What do you think? Have you encountered texts from the dead? Please share your story in our comments section.

A Meme to Kill For: The Slender Man Phenomenon

by Tony Harrington

originalslenderIt was summer of 2009 when “Something Awful” forum member Eric Knudsen, going by the alias Victor Surge, first introduced web users to the frightening world of Slender Man.

The Slender Man was created by Knudsen as part of the Something Awful photo contest by which users took ordinary photos and edited them to contain creepy supernatural elements.

Knudsen submitted two distinct photographs for the contest and accompanied each photograph with cryptic statements. The photographs depicted groups of children with a strange spectral entity wearing a dark suit amongst them.

The figure was tall and thin and Knudsen called his creation “Slender Man”, going as far as copyrighting the name.

Despite the fact that the creation was not in the public domain, it ended up going viral and soon users all across the internet began elaborating on the creation, adding folklore and varied backstories to the fictional thin man.

Slender Man evolved over time, taking on even more horrifying supernatural abilities including the ability to teleport, control minds, and communicate via telepathy. As the years went by, the story of Slender Man transcended the intent of it’s creator as it took on near-celebrity status in the blogosphere and on social media sites.

As with the inception of the legend of the Blair Witch in the late 90’s, fiction began creeping into reality and the line between the two became blurred as a simple creation for a website morphed into real accounts of kids encountering the Slender Man.creepyslender2

In addition, as the phenomenon caught traction, more and more occurrences of the figure began to arise in pop culture. Video games, comic books, YouTube movies and more, began to feature the entity now deemed an authentic paranormal phenomenon.

The transition from fabrication to full-out supernatural entity didn’t happen overnight and perhaps was spurred on by sightings of the lesser-documented Stick Man encounters, which are wholly different from that of Slender Man.

Perhaps, the most surprising element of this new phenomenon is how ingrained in the psyche of America’s youth this creation is. He has taken on an almost deity-like status, though it appears to have waned greatly in the last few years, until…

May 2014, Wisconsin. Two teenage girls lured an acquaintance into the woods near their house where they stabbed her repeatedly and left her for dead in an apparent attempted sacrifice to appease the Slender man and gain his favor and attain power.

Two weeks later, reports out of Ohio indicate a daughter attempted to stab her mother to death in the kitchen of their home. The intended victim claims the daughter wore a blank white mask with her hoodie pulled up over her head. After the attack, the mother states she found dark writings about Slender Man and acknowledges that her daughter, obsessed with the figure, created a world within the game Minecraft specifically for Slender Man.

In both instances, the victims survived and the accomplices were arrested, charged, and are undergoing much-needed psychiatric evaluations.

What is it though about a fabricated entity having such power over an unstable youth? Is there something to Slender Man? Has a fictional character manifested into a true paranormal event simply by willing him into existence?

In reality, this may be nothing more than a modern “satanic-panic” that gripped America in the early 80s.

creepyslenderWe simply find it difficult to believe that our youth can be capable of such heinous activity and we look for reasons as to why they are “evil”. Slender Man is an easy target because the people who carried out their attacks cited him as the reason. He is a part of the culture of youth in this nation and as the news reports on these attacks, more and more unstable teens and pre-teens will latch on to the idea that this fictional character has some sort of basis in the real world and as a result, has some sort of control over them.

Perhaps these kids are dealing with a form of dissociative disorder whereupon they act out aggressive attacks and claim to be under the influence of supernatural forces. In both attacks, the girls (all three attackers in the reported stories are female) appear to have been in a trance-like state or detached from reality. They claim to have no knowledge of the attacks they committed.

People do bad things. Even children. Because kids are supposed to be innocent and untainted by evil, when they perform horrific acts of violence, we as a nation try to find a reason. In this case we attribute the attacks to a fabrication by proxy. Because the kids say it is the Slender Man, the news reports on it and it creates a cycle where other troubled youth can act out their homicidal inclinations and attribute it to external forces.

In the wake of “The Dark Knight” we saw a surge in crimes committed by people wearing Joker makeup because the character was psychopathic, anarchistic, and just plain dark and ominous. These type of forces have always appealed to children who are developing into adults and are faced with angst, depression, and a myriad of other issues as their bodies and minds transition from childhood into who they are destined to be as adults.

To this day though, there has never been a meme that has solidified its place in the psyche of America’s youth culture. The fact that “he” seems to have such a strong hold over our pre-teen and teenage populace is in itself frightening.

How does one fight something that in reality does not exist? How do you convince a child who believes so strongly in the presence of such a dark force that they have latched on to a fallacy, a cypher? A majority of the responsibility falls on the parents to understand and recognize when their child has fallen dangerously into such a place and remove them from it.

With social networking sites like Facebook and youth-obsession Tumblr doling out self-diagnoses at an alarming rate it is only a matter of time before events like these become pandemic and the chances of recovering the lost become…slender.

Where There’s A Will: The “Forced Reality” Phenomenon

by Tony Harrington

Forced RealityNew age mystics have long believed in the ability to warp the world to their benefit by the simple act of meditating on a specific outcome.

There are many different names by which the “phenomenon” is known such as “The Law of Attraction, but I will coin a phrase here; I call it “Forced Reality”. Primarily, I feel this title is appropriate because the belief is that if you focus on something long and hard enough then it shall come to pass and you in turn forced something into reality.

With that said, I should add, that as a skeptic of all things paranormal, the idea that someone can actually think something into existence seems a far stretch, but who am I to cast aside someone’s belief with such reckless abandon. Instead, I will say that I have yet to experience any life-changing event that has been brought about by my simple wishing for it to be so.

In my many years as a paranormal investigator, and as a student of the supernatural, I have encountered many people who adhere to this philosophy. An entire book and culture was born from it when Oprah brought the world of “The Secret” to the masses.

In “The Secret”, author Rhonda Byrne goes on to explain how positive thinking can manifest positive changes in your existence; be it willing a new job to manifest, or acquiring untold wealth. Even more dangerous is the belief that using “Laws of Attraction” can even cure cancer and other diseases. Basically, someone has penned a book all about karmic comeuppance and passed it off as reality. The irony is not lost on me that the author has undoubtedly stated that they used “Laws of Attraction” to garner the very success they received from the book. Clearly, my opinion on the matter skews toward skeptical.

That is not to say that there isn’t anything to the power of suggestion. I myself have longed for a new job before and attained one with relative ease. Sometimes I have been surprised with just how easy it was, almost as if I willed it to happen.  I have also wished for negative people to get what they deserve and in turn, they received what was coming to them. Are these instances of “Karma” brought about by the fact that I willed them into existence or would they have happened regardless?

The phenomenon of “Forced Reality” is one wrought with an even darker side. In addition to people willing bad things to happen to another and believing that they wield such a power when something unfortunate befalls their intended victim, I have also witnessed something even darker in my years conducting paranormal investigations.

One particular case stemmed from a couple who had been using a Ouija board for quite a few years. They believed that they were in contact with a malicious entity. After years of “communicating” with this dark spirit they decided to sever contact with it and destroy the board.  They promptly conducted some type of ceremony and set fire to the board. Shortly thereafter they both began wondering if they did the wrong thing, thinking that the board was a portal to a ghostly realm, perhaps the spirit had not crossed back over and because they burnt the board without ensuring the spirit had left, maybe they had trapped an evil force on this side of the veil.

They had obsessed over their mistake and constantly searched out signs that something was trapped here.

For a while nothing seemed out of the ordinary, but slowly, over time something began to manifest. Soon they were experiencing shadow figures, objects moving on their own, horrible screaming in the middle of the night, and attacks against their bodies with scratches and bite marks showing up.

Things escalated to the point that the husband had been fired from his job because he could simply no longer function.

In my investigation of the residence I found no sign of a presence. EVP sessions yielded no results, no photographic or video evidence was captured, and even a team psychic was unable to discern any type of paranormal anomaly. 

When we left, the activity allegedly began.

To the homeowners they believed that they performed an action that trapped a dark spirit in their world and as a result they began to experience things that seemed to support this belief. To this day I am not sure what was causing the biting, scratching, shadow figures, and moving objects that these homeowners encountered. They may have willed something into existence, but it was most likely mass hysteria, and not a ghost. Again, I am not discounting them completely, simply offering a real world alternative to the supernatural.

I can’t say for certain whether the Laws of Attraction are real. There certainly seems to be, on some verifiable level, something to it. For example, one year after the September 11th, 2001 terror attacks, there were many residents, 5,631 to be exact, who played a New York state lottery on September 11, 2002. They played the numbers 9, 1 and 1. There were two drawings that day and the evening winning numbers were 9-1-1 netting each winner a 500 dollar payday.

Could that many people playing one particular set of numbers sway the universe to their favor, resulting in them willing something into existence from thin air? Could be, or it could simply be the 1 in 1,000 odds that those numbers would have been drawn anyway.

Either way, it is a tough call. Skeptics will write it off as coincidence while those with mystic leanings will find comfort in knowing the world wants to bend to our whim and on occasion, it just might.

My question is: who willed me to write this article and did it meet your expectations?

Divine Intervention: Using Divining Rods to Communicate with the Dead

By Tony Harrington

dowsing rodsAs with most paranormal tech, divining rods, commonly known as dowsing rods, have their beginnings outside the realm of paranormal investigations.

Prior to being adapted and implemented by ghost hunters within their investigations, dowsing rods were simply a means by which individuals once searched for elements buried within the ground. These elements ranged from water to iron, from gold and silver to petroleum. How the process works is unknown and there has never been scientific evidence to substantiate accuracy. 

As with modern tech such as EMF detectors and thermal cameras being adapted for use within paranormal investigations, so too did this early form of detecting energy.

The theory is that the rods act as a conductor of hidden energy sources, and that spirits reside within these fields and draw upon the energy to manifest themselves. Because spirits are intricately connected to energy fields then they could, in theory, manipulate the rods to respond to yes or no questions.

Dowsing for water sources and precious metals dates back to the 15th century. In fact, it was then considered an act of occultism and declared by Martin Luther to break the first Commandment. The late 1600’s found the act of dowsing to be considered satanic but oddly enough, the 1700’s found the rods being employed in the first “paranormal” means of tracking and indicating witches and occultists.

Abuse and deliberate misuse of the rods to wrongly convict individuals led to a decree forbidding the use of the rods for the purposes of justice. [Thomas Fiddick (2011), Dowsing: With an Account of Some Original Experiments, Sheffield, United Kingdom: The Cornovia Press, p. 3,ISBN 978-0-9522064-8-4]

Modern rods are typically made of metals such as iron or copper or other conductive metals. In the early days the rods were created from porous woods so that they could bend at the presence of moving water.

In recent times the act of dowsing has been all but discredited through various experiments and tests suggesting that dowsing is the equivalent of a random guess. A study conducted in Munich, Germany over the course of two years in the 80’s found that of forty-three test subjects skilled in dowsing, only six of those individuals were able to accurately determine the course of running water under a barn, with the flow of water being controlled by third parties who could randomly switch the direction of the flow using a buried pipe system. Of those six, even the best dowser was only demonstrating a 0.0004% advantage over a mid-line guess.

Despite evidence to the contrary, many individuals within paranormal groups will turn to the rods as a means of communicating with any spirits that may be present.

The act of dowsing is rather simple. The rods are held firmly in each hand and do not themselves move. Instead, the rods are embedded into the handles on a pivot allowing the rods to swivel. The handles are held closely to the chest or abdomen of the dowser to prevent accidental manipulation of the rods, the dowser’s legs are spread shoulder width to ensure a stable stance void of swaying.

Instructions are announced to any spirit present on how the rods are to be used. Ground rules are established in how the questions are to be answered. Typically, crossed rods indicate an answer in the positive. After each question the spirit should be asked to uncross the rods. A negative response is typically indicated by the lack of manipulation. Because of this you will want to periodically ask the spirit if they are still there to gauge whether the lack of response is a negative response to a question or because the spirit has departed the scene.

The downside to using the rods is that the information you glean is often limited and unless you have prior knowledge of events surrounding the spirit or the alleged haunting, it could be an effort in futility determining just with whom you are in contact.

Some questions you can ask to determine the nature of the presence:

1) Are you male?

2) Are you female?

3) Are you a child?

4) Are you an adult?

5) Were you human?

6) Did you die here?

7) Were you murdered?

8) Did you die of natural causes?

Obviously if you know details about the case you are investigating you can ask more targeted questions and perhaps receive better results.

Additionally, some investigators ask the spirit to manipulate the rods to point the group to important areas within an investigation scene, using the rods as a sort of lead.

Dowsers will often caution those just starting out that the act of carrying on a session with a spirit can cause fatigue and nausea/disorientation as the spirit is supposedly using the energy of the dowser to manipulate the rods.

The Spirit Seekers have used the rods during investigations to varying degrees. More times than not though the results are inconclusive and make no sense in relation to the investigation.

So just who is moving the rods? Many believe that the movement is caused by subconscious muscle movement of the person holding the rods, similar to the belief that the moving planchette of a Ouija board is nothing more than subconscious movement of the participants. Others believe that the rods move on their own but that the movements have a more earthly explanation; that the rods are conductors for magnetic fields, water, and other elements and the interference is causing the rods to cross and uncross.

Whatever the reason, the rods have been in use for centuries and many people believe in their power. Be it finding underground wells or communicating with the dead, the rods are destined to be a part of paranormal history well into the future, and something with that kind of staying power is nothing to shake a stick at.

A Spellbinding Primer on Modern Witchcraft

Tony Harrington

witchcraftIn recent weeks I have received numerous requests for pieces on modern “Witchcraft”, specifically, Wicca. Unfortunately, religion of any type is out of my area of expertise so I put a line out there asking anyone who may have information on the history of Wicca to respond should they be interested in providing a piece for our blog.

Being the control-freak that I am, it takes a lot for me to relinquish control of the blog, albeit for altruistic purposes. I know when I am out of my depth though and in researching the topic of Witchcraft, paganism, Wicca and other modern religions I found that the information was abundant, varied and near impossible for me to put into a will-informed piece that is suitable for public consumption.

Enter Liam Cyfrin, an established author and practitioner of Wicca. Liam has worked on the anthology “Pop Goes the Witch” which covers Witchcraft of the 21st century and has provided several pieces from the work from which I could draw information regarding the modern religion.

That is to say, the article is written by me but the facts within this piece are culled from various sources published elsewhere, so any misinformation perceived is unintentional and could very well be the result of my own misinterpretation of the source material. The source material is cited herein:


“Fire-Light and Moon-Shadows: A summary of Wiccan Lore” by Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart

“A History of Wicca in England” by Julia Phillips

Appearing in “Pop Goes the Witch: The Disinformation Guide to 21st Century Witchcraft” Edited by Fiona Horne and published by Disinformation Press


There was a time, specifically the Burning Times of the late middle ages Europe and later the unfortunate Salem Witch Trials of early puritanical America, where being labeled,or God-forbid, identifying as a witch ensured a wrath of consequences ranging from being ostracized from the community to more health-detrimental being burned alive. (Other means of death were stoning, hanging, and drowning. Because far be it for one method to be decided upon for consistency’s sake.)witchburn

When dealing with modern witchcraft it is easy to get caught up in a mire of labels, all of which are interconnected and ultimately lead back to the roots of paganism, which is simply defined as not pertaining to monotheistic beliefs. Instead, Paganism subscribes to a broader polytheistic model where there are numerous elemental gods to whom worshippers may pray to for certain needs.

The irony is that even though Wiccans are looked down upon for their belief, Roman Catholics will pray to various deities (Saints and Archangels) outside of Jesus Christ to fulfill certain needs thereby making them somewhat polytheistic in a round-about way.

Humans are a fickle creature and it is in our very nature to shun that which goes against our own belief system,because how can something to which we so tightly cling be wrong?

It should be noted here that Christianity did not exist as we know it until Jesus Christ was born and fulfilled the prophecy (If you happen to be a Christian). Prior to that there was Judaism which in itself was a hybrid of various “pagan” beliefs constructed to adhere to the widely accepted monotheistic design which was simply established to keep things easy for those who pray.  One God to rule them all if you will.

Prior to the advent of modern religions, modern being a relative term here, Pagans ruled the roost; calendars and holidays were established around their beliefs, around the earth gods and goddesses and various equinoxes symbolizing times of fertility. At that time if someone claimed to be a monotheist, they would be the ones looked upon as an outcast.

But, slowly, Christianity came about and changed things. Because the religion with the biggest following wins. Over time it was expected that everyone convert to the new belief system in a case of forced “out with the old, in with the new”.

Moses came down from the mountain with tablets outlying the new rules, all of which, if broken, were punishable by death. And so it came to pass that anyone not adhering to the “Thou shall worship no other God but me” part was found guilty of violating the law of God and they were put to death as a heretic.

Flash forward to Medieval times when Christianity was the law of the land in Europe. There were still practitioners of pagan religion and it so offended Christianity that priests cried foul and let slip the dogs of war upon people who refused to convert. And so began the Spanish Inquisition, the European tribunal designed to discover and dole out punishment for heresy.

It is estimated that by the end of the Spanish Inquisition and various other “cleansing” that over 264,000 people were killed in what is considered to be the largest atrocity perpetrated in the name of Christianity. Many believe that the numbers are far greater and take into consideration poor record-keeping (intentional and unintentional) of the time.

(Source: Medieval Sourcebook: The Inquisition www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/in… PBS: The Files of The Inquisition @ http://www.pbs.org/inquisition How Many Were Killed In The Inquisitions Of Europe (PDF) @ http://www.newscholars.com/papers/Killin…)

In all, there was around 200 years of “purification” by various church factions and denominations.

malleusAlleged crimes against Christianity in the name of Witchcraft were fueled in Europe by the Malleus Maleficarum, a guidebook to identifying and killing those suspected of practicing witchcraft. The Malleus Maleficarum was written by Pope Innocent VIII and helped wrongly identify and sentence to death many women, men and even children in what is perhaps the most twisted case of irony. Incidentally, the text of the guidebook exists today http://www.malleusmaleficarum.org/  and it is a frightening glimpse into mass-hysteria that closely mirrors early psychiatric handbooks for identifying and “handling” the “mentally disturbed”.

Throughout these times “Witches” were vilified and painted as creatures driven mad by the devil and presenting abhorrent sexuality and defiance of God. They were depicted as corrupt vessels of Satan who were hideous and out to destroy the purity of all that is holy. And when the church speaks, people listen.

Over time, what was once a religion of peace became a twisted image of its true self, perpetrated by the lies of an over-zealous church. Slowly, the images of witches as we know them today in pop culture formed and terrorized little kids from an early age.

Luckily though, times change and for the most part people tend to become more tolerant of the belief of others, to an extent. In America and in Europe, we tend to look upon the Burning Times and the Salem Witch Trials as a mistake and a shameful footnote in history. A simple “Oops, my bad,” doesn’t seem justice enough though for the countless lives lost to such atrocities.

However, because of a relaxed social climate and paradigm shit in the views of spirituality and Christianity, more witches have “Come out of the Coven” and made their presence known. The stigmas surrounding what many still consider the equivalent of “Satanism” still exists due largely in part to ignorance and continued denouncement by Christianity and other “predominant” religions.

Modern Wicca is a relatively contemporary religion and is classified as Neopaganism, though it is rooted firmly in historical doctrine and practice that pre-dates Christianity.

Modern Wicca rose in popularity due largely in part to Gerald Gardner, a civil servant in Great Britain who cultivated modern Wicca from various writings including the works of Aleister Crowley and even Rudyard Kipling.

Gardner’s modernization of Witchcraft is refered to as Gardnerian Wicca and is the most prominent and influential of the modern Wicca movement though not the definitive or only version of the craft actively in existence for that matter.

There are underlying themes that unite all Wicca as well as other religions with roots in paganism and witchcraft. Among these:

  • Veneration of various gods and goddesses
  • The belief it attaining balance with the universe and the elements
  • Strong belief in “Magick” (magic) being used to enhance ones relationship with their fellow man and with the environment (Earth and Cosmos)
  • Strict adherence to Wiccan moral code that denounces harming another for personal gain. Basically, do what you will, but above all else, do no harm.
  • The Law of Threefold Return plays a prominent and significant role in the religion and states that any actions, be they benevolent or malevolent will return to the perpetrator of such actions with triple force. Think of it as Karma, the belief held by Eastern religions.

Additionally, many Wiccans hold true to a set of eight virtues: mirth, reverence, honor, humility, strength, beauty,and passion.

Many practitioners of Gardnerian Wicca also subscribe to the Wiccan Creed written by high priestess Doreen Valiente in her book Witchcraft for Tomorrow published in 1978.

In my research of Wicca it became abundantly clear that the religion is one of peace and love and empowerment and of finding harmony and balance with those we share the world with and with the very world itself.

It is deeply disheartening to have been raised in a world that maligned and destroyed these people. In doing so we wiped out centuries of learnings, teachings, philosophies and principles that could very well have benefitted us as a species. The irony being that the principles on which Witchcraft were founded were the very principles that modern Christianity hoped to aspire to and in their pursuit to attain that goal did so much damage.

This lengthy article is by no means an all-encompassing view of the religion as there could be volumes written on the practices and the tools of the religion. The list of deities alone is staggering and could take several entries to address them all.

Also, it is extremely important to know that this article is not a smear against Christianity, it is just impossible to address Witchcraft without addressing the tumultuous relationship between the two religions.

The main focus of the article is to offer a primer on the religion and perhaps pique your interest enough to continue research on your own into Wicca and other world religions so that we as a people do not live in a bubble and see the world only through whatever lens we wear.

It is about opening dialogue between people of different faiths and perhaps realizing that we are not that different after all. From the Christians, to the Wiccans, to the Muslims, and even the agnostics and atheists; we all have something to learn about each other and that is perhaps the most spiritual goal we can hope to attain.

Angels Among Us

by Tony Harrington

The belief in guardian angels is not something new.  In fact, guardian and tutelary angels and their hierarchy was introduced into Christianity in the 5th century by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.

Since then, there has been a firm and unwavering belief among Christians that God assigns guardian angels to serve, protect, and provide prayer to their earthly charges. The concept itself pre-dates Christianity and can be seen in ancient Roman and Greek mythology.

In fact, every religion has some instance of angelic intervention.

However, among Christians, the fact that every soul on earth is assigned a guardian angel is debated and is inconsistent among the many denominations. The belief that a guardian angel was assigned to a soul the moment it was placed into an earthly vessel was first realized by Honorious of Autun in the 12th century. His theological views were upheld and slightly augmented by Scholastic Theologian Thomas Aquinas to include that it was the lowest order of angels assigned to guard the living.

Regardless of the station of Angel, many Christians dare not cast disbelief upon the existence of angels, to do so is to live contrary to the Bible. Instead, there seems to be a resounding belief that we are not alone and we are being watched over by a presence assigned by the hand of God.

When I was nineteen years old I was in the Army. During that particular period in my life I was having a crisis of faith. I was coming to terms with who I am as a person and began shaping my life to become the person I am today.

I was attending church regularly though my faith was never particularly strong. I preferred the world to living a sanctified life and I began to realize that religion was not for me.

I tell you this, dear reader, to drive home the point that I am not a religious person and do not believe we are protected by angels. But, on one particular night seventeen years ago something happened that gave me pause.  It was a night of drinking and debauchery for me. The beer ran out and my friend, the only soldier I knew with a car, demanded we go on a beer run.  I opened the passenger door and got halfway in and I simply could not make it into the car. It was as if I was being restrained, I could not physically contort my body into the shape it needed to be in order to lower myself into the vehicle.

After trying to get in, I wrote it off as being too drunk to perform a simple task such as getting into a car. I stepped away from the car a bit disgruntled and headed back toward the barracks, deciding to call it a night. As I walked away, another soldier with whom I was unfamiliar took my spot in the passenger seat.  My buddy and this young guy in the passenger seat took off around the corner at a reckless speed heading toward the Class VI.

They collided with a light post and in a freak and unfortunate circumstance, a street sign broke free from the post, sliced through the windshield and partially decapitated the soldier sitting in the passenger seat. He was dead by the time medics arrived on the scene.

All I kept thinking about, and think about to this day, was the inability for me to get into the passenger seat. I clearly remember not being able to get into the seat no matter how hard I tried.

I shared this story with some friends and this led to a lengthy discussion of similar stories where a crisis was averted because of a feeling, a voice inside someone’s head, or physical intervention by an unseen force.

The skeptic in me prevents me from attributing this to some type of divine intervention and I cling tightly to the more earthly explanation, in my case at least, that I was simply too drunk to maneuver into a car seat. I can not answer for other people’s experiences.

All I know is that somehow, my number should have been called on that day and somehow I was saved. If my life being spared was the act of a guardian angel, I can’t help but wonder, just where was the guardian angel of the unfortunate soldier who took my place? Was it his time all along and I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and the fates corrected themselves? Was it some cosmic joke?  I don’t know.

But, I do know, that for millions of people, they believe that there is protection and peace afforded to us by God in the form of guardian angels. They provide words of wisdom, they intervene when we get too far off our course. They are the voice of reason.

What say you? What are your personal stories involving guardian angels? Share your stories with us in the comments section below.