October 18, 2017

Stuff & Nonsense 10/18/2017

I'll give you four guesses where this English-language Nazi rally took place,
and it wasn't in the UK, Australia, or Canada. via Cvlt Nation.
  1. In an historical sense, what have Americans really thought about Nazis? The answer isn't what you think it is. Read more here.
  2. What does it mean when there's a baboon on the Tarot card of the Magician in some decks? Read more here.
  3. What do warlocks do when they hang out in the wilderness for a weekend? The world may never know.
  4. From Devil to Fool: Jung’s dream symbols and Tarot. Read more here.
  5. Know Thyself: what could possibly go wrong? Read more here.
  6. If you thought abortion laws were awful in the USA, just wait until you hear about the laws in New Zealand. Read more here.
  7. Pop quiz: How many Satanists defaced a church with Satanic graffiti in South Carolina? Zero.
  8. Satanists are people just like everybody else. Well, maybe not "just like," but the point is we're already among you and we're here to stay. Read more here.
  9. Building a shield wall: a Satanist talks about being a father and what he does to build up those who look to him for support. Read more here.

October 16, 2017

Ghosts of Whitefish Island

via NorthernOntario.Travel

I believe in ghosts, and I know this is so because of Whitefish Island. Seven years ago I emigrated to Canada and settled in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, just across the border from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. 

Internationally, the city is best known for being the home of Roberta Bondar, who was Canada's first female astronaut; Team Jacobs, who won gold for curling at the 2014 winter Olympics in Sochi; and Essar Steel Algoma, founded in 1902, which is the second-largest steel-producer in Canada, processes 4 million tons of ore per year, and ships to destinations around the world.

Regionally, the city is best known for the world-class cross-country ski and snowshoe trails in the Hiawatha Highlands, and the Agawa Canyon train-tour, whose fall colors are second to none.

Locally, the city is best known for the St. Mary's River which drains Lake Superior starting at the end of Whitefish Bay and flows into Lake Huron, as well as its attendant locks built in 1837. The locks are large enough to accommodate ocean-going container-vessels, process more than 86 million tons of cargo every year, and by volume of traffic is the busiest lock in the entire world surpassing even the Panama Canal.

And if you're the curious sort, you might also know Sault Ste. Marie for the point of this story, Whitefish Island, a 22-acre island on the Canadian side of the St. Mary's River. Whitefish Island was an ancestral fishing station to the Anishenabek First Nation of the Great Lakes region for over 2,000 years, and was not only a seasonal settlement for tribesmen catching fish, but also a graveyard.

Since before the time that Christ was allegedly born, the Anishenabek were already transiting Whitefish Island (named for the fish they caught there), creating semi-permanent settlements on the land, and burying their dead in its dark, swampy soil; however, all of that changed between 1902 and 1913 when the railway expropriated the land, removed settlers, and relocated the graves of the dead who'd been resting there since before colonists gave the name of St. Mary to a river that for generations had been called the Bawating. The railway's claim against the land in 1902 coincides with the founding of Essar Steel Algoma. 

Since then, Whitefish Island has become a park in the Parks Canada national inventory and the island was designated a national historic site in 1981. In 1982, a land claim was filed by the Batchewana First Nation of Ojibways. After 10 years of negotiation, the tribe was paid 3.5 million dollars in damages and in 1997 Whitefish Island was reappointed as an Indian reserve.

Excepting a few trails for bicycles and hikers, Whitefish Island has been allowed to be overtaken by the wilderness. It's thick with trees, and the land and water within its boundaries have been designated off-limits to hunting and fishing. The foliage is so thick that most of the trails feel like tunnels through green with interlocking branches overhead, and little of the island is visible through this dense barrier. Given the atmosphere, you'd hardly think that a sign is necessary to know that the entire island is "look but don't touch."

Though I've lived in Sault Ste. Marie for seven years, I only found Whitefish Island two years ago. The entry to Whitefish Island is tucked away in a visitor center behind the Clergue hydro-electric station which channels the Bawating to power the city. It's not difficult to find, but if you weren't looking for it you'd definitely miss it. 

As it happens, I only ever found the entry to Whitefish Island by accident when I was walking one night. If you don't think too deeply about where you are, it's a terrific place--it's filled with all manner of trees and flowers, abounds with birds and small beasts, and is even tended by beavers who dam the river to catch the fish--but if you stop for a moment to think about the history, you might not feel as comfortable.

Whitefish Island has an uneasy feeling about it, and I'm not alone. After a number of people came to Whitefish Island to commit suicide, a permanent sign was installed complete with solar-powered batteries to provide illumination during the night to tell visitors that they're not alone and to list telephone numbers for suicide hotlines.

Every time I've visited Whitefish Island, I've felt a sense of caution about the place. If Anton LaVey were asked, he'd probably say that it has something to do with the oblique angles of the trapezoidal island and especially the International Bridge which to date has borne nearly 100 million vehicles across its span over the reserve.

If what is remembered lives, then the memory of the living who were denied use of their ancestral territory, the dead who were denied their sleep, and all those who succeeded in ending their own lives is with me as surely as if it were their own ghosts. Are the empty graves calling back bodies to lay down and fill them again?

If might makes right, then was it the right of Canadian colonists to seize the land and do with it what they would? If might makes right, would it be right for the ghosts of the past to visit unholy hell on the colonists of the present? I despair to think of what would happen to me if the tables turned and the ghosts of Whitefish Island rose up from the earth to hold me in judgement.

There's a lot that can be done to appease the ghosts of the present and the future in terms of civil- and indigenous- rights as well as sustainable living and respect for the environment. Regarding the ghosts of the past, I don't know how much can be done to appease them except to give life to their memory and—if they're real—pray that if they awake they're more merciful to me and mine than we were to them and theirs. Ghosts are real, but that doesn't mean I ever hope to meet them.

October 15, 2017

Stuff & Nonsense 10/15/2017

via Wikipedia
  1. Church of Satan High Priest Magus Gilmore interviewed with Rue Morgue about the life and legacy of Anton LaVey. Read more here.
  2. Who's your Tarot patron? Read more here.
  3. This amuses me: neo-Paganism has been a thing since at least the 1960's, but they still don't understand lesser magic. Read more here.
  4. This was written for a neo-Pagan audience, but if you read this through a Satanic lens, the assertions are just as true. Read more here
  5. It's the season of the witch. What does it mean to be a witch? Here's one perspective on the definition from Benebell Wen.
  6. The Ostara Tarot is beautiful. It's not what I would use for reading, but the artwork is stellar and it's a sight to behold. See more here.
  7. Who is the Magician of the Tarot? A trickster? A sun god? The demi-urge? Or something more? Read more here.
  8. Interviewing Jonasa Jaus, creatrix of Jonasa Jaus Tarot. Read more here.
  9. It's never too early to start the war on Christmas:
via Brian @ ShoeboxBlog.com

October 13, 2017

I'm leaving the Church of Satan, and here's why.


I am resigning my membership in the Church of Satan, and I'm writing this letter to explain why. Depending on who you are, you're going to see this resignation letter differently.

If you're a supporter or member of the Satanic Temple (TST), I'm not sure I could guess at what you'll see here. It's possible that you'll see some of your own criticisms, but owing to the fact that I've never been a member of your organization and have very little contact with your membership I'm not drawing on any of your criticisms. What follows are my own criticisms based on my own experiences. If my criticisms overlap with yours, then this is representative of common observations (and not a motivated conspiracy, as some readers will probably attempt to assert.)

If you're a supporter or member of the Church of Satan (CoS), then in all likelihood you're going to see this letter as an attack against the organization and possibly against yourself. In the words of Anton LaVey, I suspect you'll almost immediately accuse me of being the house masochist who took a shit on the carpet before throwing himself out the window. If you are such a person who regards this letter as a juvenile temper tantrum unworthy of serious consideration, then I invite you to live by the words of Oliver Goldsmith who said, "Be not affronted at a joke. If one throws salt at you, you will receive no harm, unless you are raw."

You might also accuse me of attempting to revenge myself against an organization that didn't "do anything" for me, but the reality couldn't be further from the truth: except asking for the CoS to link my website on their member page (a service offered to all members), clarify what I felt to be inconsistencies in their organizational policies, and to publish essays in the Black Flame (because they invite submissions), I've never asked for anything, nor do I feel that I was ever owed anything.

And depending on your level of skepticism, you might also think that this letter is intended to be some kind of clever marketing ploy to manipulate the combined interwebs of TST and the CoS to drive traffic to my blog and sell Tarot readings. The truth is that I do almost no business with Satanists either because they already practice fortune-telling or because they think fortune-telling is bogus. Believe my motivations or not--the choice is yours--but as many doors as this letter closes for me among supporters and members of the CoS, and doesn't open for me within TST, it probably only serves to isolate me. If you can find a clever answer to the question of "Cui bono?," please don't keep it to yourself.

The cause for this letter is not because I feel that I've been treated unfairly or to win free advertising for my blog. The cause for this letter is because no matter my criticisms I've been a consistent supporter of the CoS in the past and I feel like it'd be dishonest to leave and not say why. It's true that I maintain this blog for commercial purposes, but I also use it as a digital extension of my lair where I speak my mind about the things that are important to me. If you don't like what I have to say, you're welcome to depart my lair at any time.

The principal point to this letter is to say that I've come to feel that the CoS as an organization has become intolerable to me and is no longer deserving of my support. I'm not arguing against the literature--if you have the time, I'll tell you the Satanic equivalent of a born-again testimony how the Satanic Bible, the Satanic Witch, and the Satanic Scriptures totally changed and invigorated my life--but I am arguing against the orthodox and authoritarian body that the CoS has become.

I am resigning my membership in the CoS because I can no longer tolerate the attitude of grittiness for which there seems to be an unwritten rule that all members must nurture in themselves. I accept that whining about the status quo is generally no better than sadly masturbating in the dark, and in all circumstances it's preferable to seize any opportunity, but I also think that embracing grittiness--or a sense of determined courage and will to power--has its pitfalls, among them the tendency to not question authority and look down on anybody who dares say that the circumstances in which they find themselves are unacceptable.

An attitude has developed certainly within the online community of the CoS and probably within its extended real-world circles that any form of protest is synonymous with weakness and whining. This attitude tends to accompany the assertion that any form of organized protest is synonymous with a lack of critical thinking, surrender of individual will, and herd mentality, because why else would it be organized?

So this attitude goes, people who join protests are just acting blindly and are merely parroting what other people are saying. This attitude is even described in an authoritative essay on the CoS website as being akin to a piss fetish in which the politically motivated protester is only agitating because he or she enjoys agitation (instead of, you know, having a self-motivated interest to stand up for the kind of world in which he or she wishes to live.)

This attitude is even more sharply pronounced in regards to anybody who protests while at the same time openly identifying as a Satanist. I can't recall the number of conversations I've witnessed in which the accusation was made against TST that its members are sheeple who are incapable of manifesting their will and so cos-play their preferred fantasy as useful idiots for the dastardly Lucien Greaves.

Satanism as I came to understand it through the Satanic Bible, the Satanic Witch, the Satanic Scriptures, and the collected writing of Anton LaVey is a religion which surely embraces grittiness and getting things done no matter what stands against you, but it surely also embraces accusation and opposition for criminals and authoritarian tyrants who work against personal liberty and self-autonomy. At what point did it become embarrassing for Satanists to play the role of accuser and opposer? At what point did it become unfashionable to embody the spirit of Satan and use every infernal tool available (including dark aesthetics and volatile theatrics) to ram a blazing pitchfork up the asshole of every Christian dominionist, ignorant racist, or fascist autocrat who thought to get away with mooning us?

There's a lot to be said for the individual choosing for him or herself how to interpret and apply the principles of accusation and opposition, and I accept that many Satanists for very pragmatic reasons prefer to keep their Satanic identity tucked quietly away so that they're able to cooperate with other people and organizations which might otherwise shun them, but there's also a lot to be said about openly flying the black flag. Symbols have power, and if they have sufficient power to accomplish meaningful, substantive goals that affect real people and improve their quality of life and the lives of those they love, why should those symbols stay locked in a ritual chamber? It's not whiney, immature, unfashionable, or embarrassing to hold people accountable for their actions. To argue against using Satanic aesthetics to accomplish material goals is to disguise a separate agenda.

I am resigning my membership in the CoS because I can no longer believe that the CoS is an apolitical organization given its clear dog-whistles to the contrary. Anybody who's spent any amount of time reading the CoS's website (and it's political FAQ in particular) will encounter its declaration that the organization itself (but not its members) is apolitical and does not participate side-taking.

The explanation provided is that it's the individual member's responsibility to decide for him or herself which if any political agenda is worth pursuing, and that for the organizational leadership to officially endorse, support, promote, or agitate in any way for a political position would at best give the appearance of Satanic "politics" but at worst spoon-feed weak-minded Satanists who can't think for themselves.

Judging by the writing published in the news-feed by High Priest Magus Gilmore, it's true that he himself neither openly nor definitively supports any political candidate or party. In fact, going by the frequency with which he writes anything that hasn't been copy-pasted from a year before, his absence from the news feed is so complete that you'd hardly know he was there at all.

But going by what is in the news feed, a definite constellation of values emerges. There are several examples I could provide, but the one which I believe speaks loudest is the statement made after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia which featured actual Nazis marching in the streets and culminated in the death of a peaceful protester exercising her civil rights to accuse and oppose an ideology which she deemed unworthy of the world in which she wants to live.

Given Magus Gilmore's authoritative refutation of racism and fascism as being incompatible with Satanism in his canonical Satanic Scriptures, and insistence that people of all nations and ethnicities who are members of the CoS, it would be non-controversial for him to write a statement condemning the violent ignorance of fascists and racists who want to turn the USA into a whites-only ethno-state.

Instead of easily condemning the actual Nazis, the CoS under his leadership issued a bare 179-word statement written by a spokesperson affirming the work of the ACLU to protect freedom of speech. On its own, it says nothing except that the CoS believes--as do I--that the right to free speech in the USA exists specifically to protect offensive speech (since authoritarians of any stripe will always attempt to redefine what qualifies as "offensive" when it serves their purposes.)

But when in the wake of what is a national tragedy by any measurement of the word the CoS publishes a conspicuously short affirmation of freedom of speech followed very shortly after by a panel discussion featuring two of its most prominent spokespersons elaborating upon how the political left is propelled by white guilt, how pervasive leftism is infiltrating every facet of society, and communist radicals protesting against ethno-statists is a danger to society, then this is in fact a deeply political statement.

As the discussion continues the host of the show makes what appears to be a genuinely believed assertion that the USA is a bigoted, racist, and divided country because it's inhabited by people of so many different nationalities, ethnicities, and cultures with too many painful pasts to ever hope to live peacefully together. Does he realize that he's making the verbatim argument put forward by the ethno-statists that if everybody lived in racially segregated communities that racism would magically disappear? As an expat American living in Canada, all I've got to say is that if what the host of this discussion is seeing is what he believes to be the natural state of the USA, then I don't know how to explain what it's like to live in post-national, multi-cultural Canada.

For the CoS to post these two items in rapid succession following the racist fuck-fest that happened Charlottesville is glaringly political and when you connect the dots to see who and what they're not criticizing, you almost immediately see what they're supporting.

I am resigning my membership in the CoS because I can no longer invent reasons to explain High Priest Gilmore's complete and total abdication of organizational leadership. For a long time, I convinced myself that Magus Gilmore is practicing a form of servant leadership in which he elevates and gives voice to the most intelligent, successful, stimulating, and innovative voices within the membership, but based on all observable evidence I've come to feel that this is too generous an evaluation of his leadership style. Oh, sure--there are scattered interviews in the occasional blog, vlog, podcast, or magazine--but he's curiously silent when it comes to using his status within the hierarchy to speak to the membership at large and use his own worldly success and considerable knowledge to set a masterful example for others to follow. Magus Gilmore's complete abdication of leadership responsibilities has left a void that's been filled by authoritarian apologists and racist sympathizers.

There are people reading this who will say that if this is how I feel, that I'm no Satanist at all for expressing my disappointment that there's no leader to show me the way, but as Magus Gilmore himself said in the Satanic Scriptures there's no shame in accepting figurative slavery in service to a master worthy of your devotion. What I learned of Magus Gilmore in his Satanic Scriptures convinced me that he's an intelligent, capable man and at the time I sincerely believed that he and the organization he leads are worthy of my support; however, since I became an active, registered member in December 2015, more than once I've witnessed his childish name calling and--compared at least to the leaders I served in the United States Marine Corps--his refusal to lead from the front has convinced me that he's a master unworthy of the slavery which I'd offer him. Judging by all observable evidence, Magus Gilmore's talents do not exist within the categories of either management or organizational development.

And to preempt the argument which is about to made, yes--I'm aware that Magus Gilmore is following plans written by Dr. LaVey before his passing in 1997 which outline his desire for the CoS to become a kind of social club which operates as a mutual appreciation society to recognize its most successful members, but I've gotta say: What if Dr. LaVey was wrong? Both Dr. LaVey himself as well as Magus Gilmore have ridiculed people who held up Dr. LaVey as the great, infernal hope and both insisted that the man was a joker at heart who made it clear from the start who and what he was. After all, Satanists understand that their leaders are only human, unlike the Christians who insist on creating saints from whole cloth.

So if everybody including Dr. LaVey himself insisted that he was "merely human," then why are his desires given such weight? Is Magus Gilmore really no more than a place-holder to the best laid plans of mice and men from almost exactly 20 years ago? I'm not calling for change for the sake of change, but for a leader who's mindful to the law of the jungle: adapt, evolve, and overcome, or get eaten by something bigger and stronger.

I am resigning my membership in the CoS because I can no longer tolerate the hypocrisy how on one hand the CoS asserts that it is an elitist organization which operates in the shadowy margins and doesn't concern itself with the to-dos of the hoi polloi, but on the other hand is consistently and deeply concerned with the public discussion of Satanism among outsiders and its own representation in popular consciousness.

The CoS can't have its cake and eat it, too: either it's going to be a home for the alien elite and stand boldly on the infernal boundaries of polite society where it forges ahead according to its own agenda without a care for all the other people and organizations which it has repeatedly insisted are beneath its concern, or it's going to have to admit that it does in fact care about its place in popular awareness and is is deeply invested in participating in popular culture in order to sustain the value of its social currency. The CoS has got to make up its mind, because its effort to stand on both sides of the line is the worst kind of hypocrisy.

I am resigning my membership in the CoS because I can no longer tolerate the selective outrage that I've witnessed among the broader membership as well as the leadership of the CoS. Before I joined the CoS, I devoured the available literature and was utterly captured by its force of conviction. The power I felt in the literature emboldened me and the black flame of accusation was lit within my heart. It's a dramatic description, but the time I spent first-phasing was a thrilling period for me.

And if I'm going to be honest with you, one of the most thrilling things about it was the deep certainty that I'd discovered something pure and original. I fell hard for the literature, and for a brief period of time was one of the Satanic keyboard warriors on the Internet who made a few of those sophist arguments that anybody who practices outside the definition provided by the CoS isn't a real Satanist. They could be devil worshippers, inverted Christians, opportunists, or nut-jobs, but they couldn't be Satanists because they didn't fit the definition of the word. It was an easy argument to make, you know, because it was binary: either, or.

And according to this binary choice, Satanism is a zero sum game: either you're a supporter or member of the CoS, or you're a detractor. Friends of the CoS are welcomed as citizens into the infernal empire, but detractors are objects of ridicule which true Satanists are encouraged to avoid so as to not give even the faintest whiff of legitimacy to their non-Satanic delusions. As it happens, the CoS even maintains an official policy that members who express support for non-Satanic organizations are implicitly declaring their opposition to the CoS (which is so totally not a Christian attitude.)

So you can imagine my surprise when the CoS promoted in its news-feed of member activities a podcast in which the host interviewed racist, fascist, theist, animal-sacrificing Augustus Sol Invictus--who also happened to be a headline speaker at the Unite the Right rally--about his views regarding eugenics. Because I didn't understand how this is in any way consistent, I contacted the central office and asked for help understanding what I was seeing. After multiple emails asking for a response, six and a half months later I was finally answered by an official spokesperson who played a word-game in which he told me in as many words that I was stupidly wasting his time. But you know, it didn't feel stupid: how does it work that anybody who has a different vision for the meaning of Satanism regardless of any other skills, knowledge, or abilities is automatically persona non grata, but a person like Invictus who despite his grossly offensive and thoroughly non-Satanic world paradigm is welcomed onto a podcast (hosted by one of the CoS's most prominent spokespersons and promoted in the official news-feed) because he has something interesting to say?

At the time, I cared very deeply about my organizational membership and was sincerely attempting to navigate the question as respectfully as I could. It was clear to me that this was both the only and the final answer I would receive on this question and the matter was closed to further inquiry. I wasn't satisfied with the answer I received, but owing to my desire to be recognized by my peers and climb the hierarchy I was willing to suppose that I could be wrong and just didn't have an accurate understanding of the source material. I regret that I didn't challenge the answer I received, but at the time it was very important to me that I cultivate grittiness and respect the authoritative answer given to me. But you know, times change, and so do I.

I am resigning my membership in the CoS because I can no longer tolerate the foundation the CoS has built for itself upon a No True Scotsman fallacy. For reasons that I've already provided, I reject the notion that because the CoS was the first organization to provide a clearly defined and precisely codified religion called Satanism that nobody else is allowed to do it differently; however, given the official statements being made by the CoS at present, this makes me an extreme outlier. If the CoS is making as its first article of faith the assertion that it is the one true Satanism and all others are either demon worshipers, inverted Christians, opportunists, or nut-jobs, then you can count me out.

For an organization which claims to revere intelligence, self-awareness, and perspective, the statements being published in the official news-feed of the CoS are disturbingly ignorant and childish. If only there were a way to know what Magus Gilmore himself thinks about people who collect and post other people's information on the Internet in order to badmouth them? Oh, wait - here it is:
"So the spiteful brats who can’t bear to be ignored at times strike back by posting personal information about our members and representatives with whom they’re obsessed, or by stealing the sort of copyrighted material they could never create and illegally transmitting it (a real crime, folks). If that doesn’t give them away for failures, squealing for attention, then you might belong in their company." Source: Magus Peter H. Gilmore
For this reason and all the others I've outlined above, I'm unwilling to continue my support for the CoS and am resigning my membership. I'm not doing this to club the CoS over the head with my resignation--I sincerely doubt I'll be missed, and I'm skeptical that the observations I've shared in this letter will be remembered within a year's time--but it's important to me that I say it because I feel that to do otherwise is a disservice to myself.

I am not renouncing my choice to identify as a Satanist, only my choice to affiliate with the Church of Satan. There's no stopping Satanism: it's here to stay and will continue moving ever forward.

But given what I've observed, I'm doubtful that the CoS will go with it.

October 10, 2017

Stuff & Nonsense 10/10/2017

via le interwebz
  1. What is Tarot good for, anyway? Read more here.
  2. Satanism is an authentic religious movement. Read more here.
  3. Here are eight situations that you'll encounter on your quest to go pro with Tarot. Read more here.
  4. Another "Pro-life" and "Pro-family" Republican legislator wants his mistress to have an abortion. I love the smell of self-righteous hypocrisy in the morning. Read more here.
  5. Meanwhile in Canada, a pastor and wife face 25 sex assault charges for - you guessed it! - abuse of minors under their care over the span of three years. Read more here. After the Satanic panic of the 80's and 90's, can we finally declare that the world-wide religion actually abusing children entrusted into their care is Christianity?
  6. Video-games are a gateway to Satanism? Read more here.
  7. Have you read Christiana Gaudet's Fortune Stellar (What every Tarot professional needs to know)? Read more here.
  8. In defense of the Celtic Cross, it has a sort of quiet elegance and potential for subtlety that's difficult to capture in other arrangements. Read more here
  9. NSFW: The erotic etchings of Frans de Geetere. See it here.

October 04, 2017

What's the difference between Tarot and Cartomancy?

"Cartomancy" by Ivan Vladimirov

One of the more stimulating questions that I hear from new readers is about the difference between Tarot and other methods of divination with cards. Is there a difference between Tarot and playing cards? Generally speaking, cartomancy means only "divination with playing cards." Therefore, all Tarot is cartomancy - but not all cartomancy is Tarot. Even among Tarot, there are several distinct methods, and even among those methods not all readers follow the same interpretations.

Cartomancy is a broad term which includes Lenormand, all manner of oracle decks, playing cards (for which multiple systems exist), angel cards, and anything else printed on paper and assembled as a deck. There are differences among methods of cartomancy, both small and large.

In terms of reading with a 52-card deck of playing cards versus reading with a 78-card deck of Tarot cards, the differences are substantial enough that although the casual observer wouldn't notice them, any practitioner with more than a surface knowledge of the two would know the difference.

This says nothing, however, about "superiority." Whether playing cards are better than Tarot cards depends on your point of view, and your fluency in one system or another will have more to do with whether one or the other is "better" (at least for you.)

Having said that, though, and speaking as somebody who's read with both playing cards and Tarot cards, I prefer to read with Tarot cards because the four additional court cards and the 22 additional trump cards really add a lot of depth and nuance that wasn't available to me with a deck of 52 playing cards. When the need arises, I can always remove the additional face cards and trumps in order to read with regular playing cards, so it's nice to have that flexibility in my repertoire of skills, but this still says nothing about whether one method is superior to the other.

Although I think it's useful to follow a set method for reading the cards, in the end the defining factor will always be the performer him or herself. So long as you're confident and capable with your preferred method for reading the cards, that's all that counts. I believe it's true to say that a master may do more with a deck of Pokemon cards than a sophist may with a deck of Tarot cards.

October 03, 2017

Stuff & Nonsense 10/3/2017

via CNN
  1. Why is anybody surprised that Donald Trump called the Latin-majority population of Puerto Rico lazy? His casual racism toward Latin America is as equally well known as his misogyny, so it's only natural that he'd be feuding with the mayor of San Juan instead of saving lives. Puerto Rico needs help, and you can directly contribute to relief efforts today
  2. What does it mean to be an expert? And more importantly, what is the limit of your expertise? Read more here.
  3. Don't commit the Satanic sin of solipsism by assuming that "we all worship the same god." Read more here.
  4. While it may have been pride that lead to her later actions, it was the Devil’s rebellion against the forces of god that directly resulted in her being cast from heaven. Read more here.
  5. What do you do when sexual orientation isn't a protected class and a baker refuses to do your wedding cake? According to the Satanic Temple, the solution is to invoke religion (which is a protected class) and ask those same bakers to do a Satanic cake. Read more here.
  6. The latest mass shooting in the US has broken the record for the most people injured and killed. When will legislators and the NRA start thinking that mass shootings are bugs instead of features? Read more here. As usual, my opinion is that responsibility is for the responsible and that civilians have no business owning anything other than handguns, shotguns, and hunting rifles. Assault rifles, and semi- or full-automatic weapons should be for military use only. If you disagree, I'd love to hear why.
  7. Religious But Not Spiritual: Modern Satanism in the Atheist Community. Read more here.
  8. Beware teachers who only have students. Read more here.
  9. Halloween is almost upon us. How will you celebrate Devil's Night? What infernal wisdom will be bestowed upon you?

September 30, 2017

What does it mean when I get all aces in a Tarot reading?

Sometimes, a double rainbow is just a double rainbow.

One of the most commonly asked questions I hear from new Tarot readers is, "What does it mean when...," followed by some variation of:
  • I get all aces?
  • I get all face cards?
  • I get all pips from the same suit?
  • I get all trumps?
Because Tarot reading includes a lot of pattern recognition - a famously human ability - readers will find patterns every time. Including reversals, there are 3,723,720 unique ways to arrange three cards out of a 78-card Tarot deck. Pulling three aces can feel significant, but what about all 2's? All kings? Or what about all hearts? Or all spades? Or what about a run from ace, 2, 3? Or jack, queen, king? Or what about every-other even (2, 4, 6) or every-other odd (1, 3, 5)?

You can shuffle and lay down cards as often as you like and nearly every time you'll find a unique or interesting combination that by virtue of its pattern seems astonishingly important, but the reality with Tarot is that these combinations happen quite a lot.

Statistically speaking, there might be only one instance of getting all three cards as aces in a reading, but so too is there only one instance of getting any other combination from three cards. Therefore, all aces is as equally rare as any other combination among three cards and its meaning is just as significant.

Because Tarot isn't a trick-taking card game (except when it is), it doesn't matter in the slightest whether you find multiples of a kind, a straight flush, a full house, a flush, a straight, pairs, or the high card. When you get an interesting combination of cards on the table, we're not looking for point values but instead for meaning. In a way, it can be disheartening to think that all possible combinations are as equally rare as they are common. All snowflakes are unique but they're also identical in their uniqueness.

But then, it can also be very exciting to know that in a 10-card Celtic cross arrangement in which the reader is using reversals there are 72 to the 21st power possible combinations which is not only far more than the estimated 107 billion people who've ever lived but is also a number larger than the estimated age of the universe.

For these reasons, there's probably not a Tarot reader anywhere who's ever shuffled and laid down the exact same cards for the Celtic Cross in the same sequential order as any other Tarot reader ever, and I think that's exciting.

September 28, 2017

Stuff & Nonsense 9/28/2017

Trump the con-man selling a wall to gullible idiots.
  1. Glitch in the Matrix: a 1950's TV show featured a character named Trump who was defrauding simple townsfolk with promises about a wall. Seeing is believing. Don't commit the Satanic sins of losing perspective or forgetting the past. 
  2. Hugh Hefner has died at the age of 91. Hail lust! Hail indulgence! Hail Hefner!
  3. Wild Intuitive shares some thoughts on what it means to be the black sheep of the family and how your black-sheepness benefits you. Read more here.
  4. Reading Tarot professionally isn't all rainbows and sunshine. Believe it or not, but it's actually really exhausting, and professional readers use a variety of strategies to sustain their focus and stamina. Read more here.
  5. Christiana Gaudet has some thoughts about reading Tarot for skeptics. Read more here. Speaking for myself, I love reading for skeptics: my experience is that they often have a terrific sense of humor and tend to have more fun than the so-called "believers" who take things way too seriously.
  6. "I'm so surprised that a religious organization which considers itself to be above the laws of the Earth and beholden only to the desires of an imaginary friend would go against the law," said nobody, ever. Read more here.
  7. NASCAR owners pre-emptively announcing that they'll fire any employee who exercises his or her civil rights seems like an invitation for a costly lawsuit. Read more here.
  8. Christian reconstructionist and dominionist Roy Moore has been elected a senator for Alabama. This doesn't bode well. Read more here.  
  9. It's never too early to start preparing for the war on Christmas! Just watch this crafty Satanist below corrupt the charming snowmen to be sold to good Christian families:

September 23, 2017

Stuff & Nonsense 9/23/2017

The art of Simone Ruco via Cvlt Nation.
  1. Between Gods and Beasts: the tattoo artistry of Ruco. Read more here.
    • Bonus linkage from Cvlt Nation: the horror art of the House of Hammer magazine. Read more here.
  2. This looks interesting: the movie "American Satan" is opening in theaters on Friday, October 13th. Check it out.
  3. Take note, Jeff Mateer: transgendered children aren't part of Satan's plan. Read more here.
    • Bonus linkage: What is dead-naming and--if you care enough to not be an asshole--why should you avoid it? Read more here.
  4. Exquisite Equinox from the Church of Satan!
  5. Responsibility is for the responsible: a discussion about the illusion of free will, self determination, and consequences. Read more here.
    • Bonus linkage from Aeon: the Internet is mapping the contours of modern fear. Read more here.
  6. The Hip Hop Tarot is finished and you can see it in all its glory. If you're so inclined, you can also purchase a copy here.
  7. Want to become a good Tarot reader? Then there's only one lesson you need to learn. Read it here.
  8. Could Amazon's next headquarters be in Canada? Some people think it's likely to happen. Read more here.
    • In related news, the twin Saults of Ontario and Michigan have offered a joint application. Read more here. Shame on me for having insufficient esprit de corps, but I rather doubt my home will make the shortlist.
  9. The End is Coming. Or at least, an end is coming, and it might come in the relatively near future. Read more here.

September 22, 2017

After Action Report: Tarot Blog Hop 9/22/2017


The Tarot Blog Hop is an international group of Tarot readers who get together eight times a year to blog about a common theme relating to Tarot and fortune-telling. If you read Tarot and keep a blog then you're welcome to join us, but if not then I invite you to digest the highlights I've pruned from my favorite entries from this round.

The theme for this round is food: choose a card from the Tarot and describe what it likes to cook. I participated in the hop and you can read my entry here, but this after-action report is about the other blogs I enjoyed reading so let's get hopping!

I love smoked fish. There're some fisher-folks about 45 minutes north of town who catch and smoke trout year-round for sale at the local farmer's market. If the sheer volume of salt consumed wouldn't kill me, I'd eat smoked trout every day for each meal. Read more here.

There's a southern-style restaurant in town that does BBQ of all sorts and they’ve got brisket on the menu. To be honest, I was disappointed – it wasn’t that great – but I don’t know why I’d have ever thought that a restaurant so far north could cook such a dish. It may be a traditionally Jewish dish, but I’ve only ever seen it cooked by southern BBQ chefs. *shrugs* I guess I’ll have to invite myself over the next time the author is cooking another brisket? Read more here.

Alcohol with desserts is lovely. My wife made some truffle-esque things a few years ago and had a rather liberal hand with the liquor she added. She forgot how much she added to the batch and after noshing her way through about six of them a few weeks later realized that she was going to sit down and not get back up again for the rest of the evening. Read more here.

If you like honey-flavored cocktails, then you’d get along with my friend Bryan. He buys raw honey from the Mennonites north of town and uses that to brew his own mead. He’s entered a few amatuer competitions and has gotten to the point that people are telling him to start looking bigger. His mead is evil – it goes down so smooth and easy you don’t even think about how much you’re drinking until it’s way too late. Read more here.

Who doesn't love tapioca? Nobody, that's who. I wasn’t aware that anybody thought tapioca was gross, but then again I'm something of a social recluse so I guess I wouldn't really know. I’ve only ever had tapioca as a dessert – like out the paper packets sold in the grocery store – but I’ve loved it. Add some raisins and serve it warm with a sprinkling of cinnamon and I’m in dessert heaven. Read more here.

My wife and I had a Pagan handfasting officiated by a Wiccan priestess registered with an event agency in the region. Since my wife is a Wiccan-y witch, we did cakes-and-ale at the end of our handfasting. You could tell we were super-duper serious about it, too, because our cakes were donuts and the ale was hot apple cider both purchased earlier that morning at the local Tim Horton's. It isn't that we didn't have time to prepare, we just... didn't care that much? Read more here.

Mmm… cheese-crust apple pie. Those are so good. My wife has a recipe not unsimilar to the one linked here and it’s so good that I pout when she makes it for company because I want to keep it all for myself. Read more here.

Tarot Blog Hop: Eat Me

via Le Interwebz


For this edition of the Tarot Blog Hop, our host Kiss Boglarka has asked us to choose a card from the Tarot deck and use it to inspire our appetites. If this Tarot card were a person, what would it cook? I chose the Devil who loves nothing more than deep-frying unbaptized babies in hot oil. You might think this is blasphemous, but eating unsaved children really is quite a modest proposal.

Because I'm a Satanist, naturally I've got a full-fledged breeding operation in place to supply a young fatling for the black mass my coven observes at every dark of the Moon, but if you haven't such a supply then I suppose you could just cook chicken instead. Here's a recipe straight out of the Devil's cookbook for the best fried chicken you've probably never had:

Meat
  • 20-30 chicken wings, legs, or thighs (bone in, skin on). You can use breasts, but they're thicker than the other cuts and will have to be cooked separately to ensure adequate cooking time. If you don't want to cook this much meat, then you can halve, third, or quarter the recipe accordingly.
Marinade
  • Equal parts lemon juice and malt vinegar (4 cups each, 8 cups total)
  • 1/4 cup Salt
  • 1/8 cup pepper
  • 1/8 cup ground cloves
  • 2-4 bay leaves
Batter
  • 3 cups white flour. If you can't have gluten, then you can substitute the flour with 1:1 gluten-free baking flour which is easy to find at the local bulk store.
  • 3 tbsp. baking powder
  • 2 cups white wine or apple cider
  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 egg yolks (no whites)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup chopped green onion
Garnish
  • Wash and completely dry a bunch of parsley. You may remove the stems if you so desire.

1) Prepare your meat

Combine all the ingredients for your marinade. You can store the marinade in a large pot, or you can separate it into two large zip-lock freezer bags. This recipe is enough for 20-30 wings, legs, or thighs. You can use breasts if you like, but they're thicker and can be fussy about cooking all the way through.

When you're ready, put your skin-on, bone-in chicken into the marinade. The malt vinegar in this recipe is an acid bath which starts the cooking process like lime juice in ceviche. This flavorful marinade will saturate and tenderize the meat. Leave your chicken in this acid bath for absolutely no longer than three hours, and to be honest I wouldn't dare leave it longer than two hours. If you leave your chicken in the marinade too long, the flavor will intensify to the point that the chicken becomes inedible. Leave it longer than that, and you'll get a meat slurry.

Nota bene: This acid bath won't kill the salmonella bacteria. Handle your marinade carefully to avoid contaminating your entire kitchen, and of course remember that you absolutely cannot do anything else with this marinade when you're finished cooking except pour it carefully down the drain chased by lots of soap and hot water.

2) Heat the oil

Now you need to get your oil on the stove. If you're going to deep-fry, then you absolutely must use either a Dutch oven (an enameled cast-iron pot), or a thick-walled metal pot. The reason for using such thick, heavy pots is that they retain the heat and keep an even temperature. If you use a thin-walled pot, then the temperature will fluctuate too much and you'll ruin the batter and still get raw chicken at the end.

If you're deep-frying with a Dutch oven, thick-walled metal pot, or a deep fryer, then you can use some cheap vegetable oil. Even though more expensive oils can improve the taste, the difference isn't substantial and the delicate flavor will be wasted on the savory sin of fried chicken. If you're Southern frying with a shallow cast-iron pan, then you should absolutely use lard. Believe me when I tell you that battered chicken fried in lard is something you're going to love.

Heat your oil to between 350 F and 375 F, and keep it between 300 F to 325 F while cooking. My preference for monitoring the temperature is a large candy thermometer. There are people who'll eyeball the temperature by using a wooden spoon - if it makes air bubbles when you stick it in, then it's ready - but I'm not willing to risk salmonella poisoning from half-cooked chicken on a wooden spoon.

3) Mix the batter

While your chicken is acid bathing and the oil is heating, prepare your batter: as usual, mix all the dry ingredients first and then add the wet ingredients second. You can use a wooden spoon if you like, but I prefer a metal whisk for best results. This recipe includes alcohol in the batter, and I recommend a cheap bottle of Jackson-Triggs white table wine, but any sweet table wine will do. There are two reasons to use alcohol in your batter:
  1. Alcohol is more volatile than water and when you put it into hot oil it will violently expand. This creates more surface area on your fried batter, while also resulting in a crispier and lighter bark.
  2. The fruity notes in the wine offer a sweet contrast to the sour marinade.
If for whatever reason you just don't feel like pouring half a bottle of wine into fry batter, then I recommend apple cider, but remember that without the alcohol you won't get the same crisp on your chicken bark.

Pro tip: if you don't want to waste the separated egg whites, then you can use them to cook waffles (2 cups white flour or g-free 1:1 flour, 2 cups milk, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 1 tbsp. brown sugar, all the egg whites, and a splash of white wine or apple cider.) Cooking with just the egg whites will produce the fluffiest, crispiest waffles you've ever had, and the vanilla and brown sugar are so good you'll think you're eating carnival food.

4) Cook until delicious

When the oil is hot and ready, you can dip your chicken straight into the batter. Don't worry about shaking it off or letting it sit - just dip it right into the batter and then straight into the oil. Be aware that every time you drop a piece of chicken, you cause the temperature of the oil to fall. For this reason, you won't be able to cook probably more than four pieces of chicken at a time, and if you're cooking 20-30 pieces then you should get two pots of oil boiling so you're not standing at the stove for an hour. A deep-fryer can save you a lot of time.

Deep frying will take about 10 minutes to cook to golden crispy. If you're going to Southern fry with a shallow cast-iron pan, then you can probably fill the pan with as much chicken as you like. Just remember that you'll have to flip each piece after the first 5-6 minutes and cook the other side.

Pro tip: don't rest your fried chicken on a paper towel or it'll steam and get soggy. Instead, rest your chicken on a wire cooking rack laid over a baking sheet and kept warm in the oven around 150 F. This way, the chicken will get a chance to crisp and continue cooking in the oven. As an added bonus, the oil drains off the chicken without steaming and you can pour it straight off the baking sheet when it's time to clean up.

After all your chicken is cooked, you can fry the parsley. Use the freshest parsley you can find, and be sure that there's absolutely no water on it whatsoever or else you'll make a sputtering mess with your cooking oil. Drop the parsley into the oil and cook it just a couple minutes. Remove it, shake off the excess oil, and sprinkle over the chicken.

5) Hail gluttony!

Mm-mm - nothing like classic American fried chicken. Spread some butter on the waffles, lay the chicken on top, hit it with some North Carolina BBQ sauce, and then dust the whole thing with powdered sugar. Sweet baby Satan, it's so good that you'll swear you've died and gone to Hell. I cook this recipe twice a year and eat it over waffles with my friends, and the only reason I don't cook it more often is because the caloric content would kill me.

The only things missing are buttered grits, collard greens, corn on the cob, and maybe some pork links. Add a pitcher of sweet tea to wash it down plus a pecan pie for dessert and you'll have everything you need for a classically Southern family Sunday lunch. Drinking alcohol is traditionally discouraged on Sundays in the South, but that never stopped anyone from enjoying an after-lunch whiskey while relaxing in a rocking chair on the front porch. Be it ever so decadent, there's no place like home.




September 20, 2017

Stuff & Nonsense 9/20/2017

  1. Want to live forever? Then donate your body to science and let the final knowledge of yourself live on in the memories of nurses and physicians. Read more here.
  2. Interesting: Reflections on Melek Taus, the so-called Yezidi equivalent to Satan. Read more here.
  3. In the end, they'll call you a Satanist whether you carry the Devil's name or not. Read more here.
  4. Gwyneth Paltrow's "Goop" is selling a pocket-sized bottle of psychic vampire-repellant. Whether it repels vampires of any variety has yet to be demonstrated, but it sure does a good job of transferring money from your bank account to Gwyneth's. Seeing is believing.
  5. Citizen Valefar wants you to know that resisting technology is a dead end. Read more here.
  6. Navy Corpsmen in Florida photographed themselves flipping the bird to newborns, making them dance to rap songs, and calling them "mini-Satans." Perhaps they are mini-Satans? After all, these infants at only hours old managed to get two idiots fired from their jobs. Read more here
  7. Racism is expensive. Specifically, it's $63,000,000,000 expensive according to the US Department of Health and Human Services which completed a study showing that immigrants have a vastly net positive impact on the economy. Read more here.
  8. If you're such a Satanist who thinks that the Alt Right is a cute little movement that is a useful embodiment of accusation and opposition, you're a stupid idiot. This is what they really believe.
  9. Jack of Wands has some thoughts on wrath. Read more here.

Satanic Jihad

via LookHuman.com
In terms of the Satanism-related writing that I'm publishing on my blog, right now a lot of it is to do with the differences (and sometimes the similarities) between the Church of Satan and the Satanic Temple. 

On the side of the Satanic Temple - at least from where I'm standing - there doesn't appear to be much animosity toward the Church of Satan. From what I've observed, the most common sentiment expressed from members and supporters of the Satanic Temple is that the Church of Satan is irrelevant owing to the fact that the Church of Satan as a matter of organizational policy refuses to agitate for any social or political position and has also disavowed any role as an actively engaged leader in public discourse. 

On the side of the Church of Satan, the most common sentiment expressed is that the Satanic Temple is either simply not Satanic or else is some kind "Satanism Lite" without the meaty, spicy undertones of the Church of Satan. Speaking for myself, I reject both those criticisms of the Satanic Temple. I think that those accusations are ignorant and invite anybody who feels that way to not commit the Satanic sins of either solipsism or herd mentality.

It's fair to say that the greatest opposition among travellers of the left-hand path toward the Satanic Temple is coming from members and supporters of the Church of Satan, and speaking as a member (but of course not a spokesperson) of the Church of Satan, this is something that I think is worth discussing.

I have more thoughts on what I believe to be the reason for this hostility than I'm expressing here (and those thoughts may yet surface in a future essay), but the focus of this essay is on what I believe to be separate jihads being waged by each organization. Specifically, I've come to the perspective that the Satanic Temple and the Church of Satan are fighting lesser and greater jihads:
In his work, The History of Baghdad, Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, an 11th-century Islamic scholar, referenced a statement by the companion of Muhammad Jabir ibn Abd-Allah. The reference stated that Jabir said, "We have returned from the lesser jihad to the greater jihad." When asked, "What is the greater jihad?," he replied, "It is the struggle against oneself." -via Wikipedia
Thus, the lesser jihad is the fight against others, whereas the greater jihad is the fight against oneself. 

In this sense, the Satanic Temple's monument campaigns, their contributions to legal battles in support of women's right to bodily autonomy, their support for children to not be beaten in school, and their efforts to expose mental health workers perpetuating the Satanic Panic (and other falsehoods) are a lesser jihad which is waged against others. The overall goal of the Satanic Temple (as seen by an outsider) is to create change in the outside world in accordance with their will.

Likewise, the Church's of Satan nude witch revues, album release parties, curated art shows, use of tools as discussed in The Satanic Witch and The Satanic Warlock to gain power and pleasure, use of ritual as self-transformative psychodrama, and overall emphasis on self-awareness in regards to level of stratification is a greater jihad waged against oneself. The overall goal of the Church of Satan (as much as I understand it) is to create change within the self in accordance with the individual's desire.

If these analogies are accepted as valid--and if you see it differently, you're welcome to comment why--then I believe it's fair to say that on the whole, the membership of the Satanic Temple is more extroverted and involved in other people's affairs, whereas the membership of the Church of Satan is more introverted and involved in their own affairs. Seen from this perspective, the conflict perpetuated between the two organizations is needless and appears to be sustained by people whose identities and sense of purpose are strengthened by artificial conflict.

Or said differently, if the Church of Satan and the Satanic Temple were wolves, they'd not only be hunting different prey but would be hunting in different forests. In the Venn diagram of Satanic priorities, there's scant overlap between the two organizations and as I believe this makes animosity presently observed between the two possible only when it is engineered by interested parties.

Now let it be said that the distinctions I've made here are not only based on my own perspective and what I've seen, but also generalized. It's true that there are members of the Satanic Temple who are less interested in campaigning for justice and more interested in self-perfection and self-satisfaction. And let it also be said that there are members of the Church of Satan who are less interested in self-indulgence and more interested in civil rights and equal enforcement of the law. Let it be said that the canon literature of both organizations embraces both lesser and greater jihad. I'm not arguing that either organization is exclusively one or the other.

What I'm arguing is that I believe based on what I've seen that each organization promotes and encourages a different jihad. The lesser jihad is not "less important," and the greater jihad is not "more important." I think that both jihads are worth fighting, and that Satanic soldiers on each side have more important things to do than to get in the way of the other side's preferred jihad - especially since each side's jihad is complimentary toward the other's.

September 14, 2017

Stuff & Nonsense 9/14/2017

"Friday Fun" by Reginald Pean / Frenchinald
  1. NSFW: the BDSM-themed artwork of Reginald Pean.
  2. Church's of Satan high priest Magus Gilmore reflects on the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Read more here.
  3. Whether or not you support the Satanic Temple, victories against forced-birth legislation are worth celebrating. Read more here.
  4. Looking for a new Tarot deck with an indie flair? Spiral Nature rounds up 11 of the best independently published Tarot decks on the market today. Read more here.
  5. The real-life, true story about the Christian ventriloquist who wanted to rape, kill, and eat children. Read more here if you dare.
  6. The Stuff You Should Know podcast did an episode about Satanism. Check it out!
  7. Church's of Satan high priest Magus Gilmore and Magister Johnson appeared on the Dead Radio Podcast. There's a lot of cool stuff in the podcast, but I'm disappointed that they almost immediately started the show with childish name-calling about the Satanic Temple.
  8. In related news, what is the Satanic Temple actually teaching in its After School Satan clubs? The world may never know.
  9. Want to learn Tarot without spending a fortune to do it? Benebell Wen has you covered with five entirely free resources for new students. Read more here.

September 09, 2017

Movie Review: IT (2017)

via Express.co.uk
Have you seen IT? If not, you should - despite my criticisms, it's still a very scary movie and I think you're going to love it. This review includes some spoilers, so stop reading now if you want to see the movie with fresh eyes. In no particular order, here are my chief observations, criticisms, and takeaways from the movie:
  • The movie will be more meaningful to you if you've read the book.
IT (2017) received some very gentle plot revisions from the director in terms of what sorts of movie monsters the children feared, and there were a few scenes from the book that were either reinterpreted (the deadly blaze at the Black Spot) or completely ignored (Stanley's terrifying encounter in the water-tower.) Or, Bill's make-shift smoke-lodge and his vision of the great turtle. If you haven't read the book, then those things are meaningless to you, but if you have then you understand how they fit ever more deeply into the greater plot that ties everything together.

And then, there are other things from the book are included but never explained. For example, Pennywise's famous line, "Beep beep, Richie!", is without context unsettling all on its own, but it makes more sense in the totality of the book.

Another example of something taken from the book but not explained in the movie is the scene when Pennywise captures Beverly and hypnotizes her. Long story short, his head opens up like a big, toothy vagina and deep inside are seen three spinning lights, the sight of which puts Beverly into a catatonic state.

In the book, Stephen King uses these lights as a device to illustrate madness, insanity, and what lays beyond the outer limits of comprehensible reality. When Pennywise hypnotizes Beverly - an absolute but forgivable deviation from the book's plot - he's actually transporting her mind to the farthest limits of the universe where the fabric of reality begins to unravel. 

If you're a fan of Lovecraft, then you'll recognize this element of stupefying terror and incomprehensible horror. There's a much more elaborate method in the book used to return the (adult) Beverly from the thrall of the deadlights, but the method used in the movie is predictable yet satisfyingly effective.
  • The plot sprints to the finale at a blistering pace.
I was going to see IT just like I was going to see The Gunslinger no matter what the reviews said because I'm a big fan of Stephen King's writing, but I gotta say: have you ever noticed that Stephen King's books are frequently adapted very poorly to the screen? I think this is partly because the directors who make his movies are focusing on the visual horror as an end (and not a means), but also because King is the kind of writer who very effectively uses gross horror to illustrate fine reality.

As King himself is fond of saying, the most hideous monsters he can write are everyday people like you and me. All he needs do is to turn off the lights and watch what happens when food and water start to diminish. If you don't believe me, then you should watch The Mist which is perhaps the most oblique manifestation of King's horror philosophy.

Because King writes so much into his books, this results in multi-layered stories with a whole bunch of threads that require the nuance of the written word. When this dense bundle of narrative is translated from the page to the screen, this always results in critical cuts being made to important threads which would have created a more fulfilling movie so long as you've got an unlimited budget and upward of 10 hours to tell the story.

Movies are a different medium than books, so sacrifices must be made. Naturally, it's difficult to strike a balance between telling the story in its most pure and perfect state and the movie studio making a return on its investment. Despite the graphic and frequently violent nature of the book, IT is also very thoughtful and contemplative book. In King's book, these things aren't contradictory but complementary.

But in a horror movie? No matter how masterfully King wrote IT, the movie adaptation in 2017 has to compete with garbage like Annabelle (Creation), a movie so awful that it's bound for cult status immortality. For reasons that can only be explained by mass stupidity, people are lining up in droves to actually pay money to watch this eyesore of a turd.

So yeah, I get it: a balance has to be struck between storytelling and moneymaking. Unless IT was going to be an arthouse movie, chances are it would never get remade. What this means for IT is that achieving the balancing point between narrative and money required the plot of the movie to sprint at a blistering pace through each character's introductions, how those characters met, and the dynamics that evolved between them. IT might have been better done as a miniseries on Netflix or Prime so that the time was available to properly treat the 1,138 pages of King's IT, but instead we get two hours and 15 minutes to account for roughly 569 pages of content.

Despite the break-neck speed at which the plot moves in order to prepare for the movie's climax, I thought that the necessary compromises were effective and didn't ultimately detract from the movie.
  • The movie would be scarier if it didn't rely on computer graphics.
But you know what did detract from the movie? The computer-generated special effects. Part of what made IT (1990) so terrifying was that it made remarkably little use of special effects. There were a lot of practical effects in IT (1990) which - even if they're dated by today's standards - worked very well to make the movie frightening without distracting attention from the action on the screen.

IT (2017), on the other hand, didn't seem to integrate the special effects successfully. Sometimes during the movie I felt like I was watching Silent Hill (2006) - which was also a thoroughly entertaining movie - but Silent Hill was so thoroughly saturated with CGI that it more or less blended into itself. When IT (2017) uses CGI, though, it often feels like an interruption to the movie which is made worse by the irritating habit of CGI these days to appear muddy and indistinct.

So much of what makes IT (2017) terrifying has remarkably little to do with CGI: the haunted house on Neibolt Street, the clown room inside the Neibolt house, pretty much any scene featuring Bill Skarsgard's portrayal of Pennywise, Beverly escaping from her father, or the bully Henry being verbally assaulted by his father - these and several other scenes I could name thrived without any CGI at all, and the rest of the movie would have been improved if Skarsgard's Pennywise were given more screen-time without the use of CGI.
  • The movie would also be scarier if it used fewer jump scares.
I understand that different moviegoers want (and expect) to see different kinds of scares when they go to see a scary movie, but not matter how much I enjoyed so much of this movie, my opinion is that it made excessive use of easily predicted jump scares. Some people like jump scares, and then, some people like the Annabelle movies.

But me being the moviegoer that I am, the kind of horror I prefer is the slow, creeping horror. The horror that you see coming yet are powerless to stop. The horror that once it's touched you, it becomes part of you. The horror against which there are no physical weapons. The horror which makes you recoil from the people you thought you could trust. The horror which makes you question whether you truly deserve to live.

A great example of this kind of horror is found in the movie It Follows (2014), but for my preferences I've been equally (or even more) terrified by germ movies. There's a South Korean movie whose name I'm forgetting at the moment about the spread of a super-flu introduced into the country by illegal immigrants who were smuggled into the country in a shipping container. I'll ignore the deeper metaphor and what it says about immigrants and immigration, but even though that movie had a relatively low production value I found it to be so frightening that I had to stop watching about a quarter into the story. If IT focused more on the narrative horror instead of the visual horror, and also gave Skarsgard's Pennywise more screen-time, I think the movie would have been substantially improved.
  • This is the first of two movies.
This wasn't a surprise to me since I knew that when King wrote IT the book was actually two stories woven together: the story of the principals as children, and then the story of the principals 27 years later as adults. I knew going into this movie that it was going to be the kids' story, but there are a lot of people who think Annabelle is great weren't aware of this plot twist. For them, the movie probably felt like it ended on an empty note, but for people like myself who know the story and are aware of the broader narrative that King was trying to tell, the movie had a satisfying conclusion.

There's a metric tonne of stuff from the children's half of King's IT that I would have liked to see either included in the movie or where present in the movie just better explained, but as a stand-alone creation I thought that IT was very effective and equal parts terrifying and compelling. IT was a worthwhile movie experience, and I'm looking forward to seeing the story of the adults told in the second chapter in mid- to late-2019. If Pennywise-induced nightmares don't kill me, the wait for the second chapter will.