The Buckland Museum

It’s a TRIO SIMPATICO field trip!

For this episode David Tavolier and Joshua Witsaman are joined by returning guest DAVID WESTER as the trio travels to the BUCKLAND GALLERY OF WITCHCRAFT AND MAGICK (AKA the Buckland Museum).

This hidden gem of Cleveland Ohio is a small but intriguing collection of some of the mystic and ceremonial possessions of Raymond Buckland.  A student of Gerald Gardner, Buckland eventually came to the United States and formed one of the first Wiccan covens in the country.  The collection on display at the gallery includes items which belonged to Buckland as well as several other occultists such as Aleister Crowley and Gerald Gardner himself.

We’re discussing the occult, witchcraft, museums, and the mystical in pop-culture.  Plus, as you should expect from this show by now, we go off the rails at a few points and delve into more than a few tangents. And, stick around to the end to hear your co-hosts break into an impromptu duet!

All this and more on this episode of TRIO SIMPATICO!

Listen HERE!

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Unrequited Death – 1870

To celebrate the occasion of the day I present the following short horro story.

Last year this was turned into an audio reading by Jessica Burkhart and my podcasting partner David Tavolier for our podcast TRIO SIMPATICO but I realized I never posted the actual text anywhere.  So here you are, I present to you in full Unrequited Death – 1870 by me, Joshua Scott Witsaman.

If you’d like to listen to the podcast featuring the reading simply go HERE!

Happy Halloween!

Continue reading

Friday Funny Pages: When You Gotta Go . . .

 

Today’s image arrives to us from the pages of Dr. Strange volume 2 #5, collected in the trade paperback entitled Doctor Strange: Separate Reality.  Written by Steve Englehart and drawn by Frank Brunner this collection of their run is really a pretty enjoyable read and should be on the must read list for anyone who aspires to be an apprentice fan of the good Doctor Strange.

There’s really not much to tell about this one.  The name of the fellow with the full bladder is Silver Dagger, a long running villain of Dr. Strange who is a Christian religious zealot determined to destroy Dr. Strange and his esoteric practices.  Armed with an enchanted dagger made of silver (go figure) Silver Dagger will kill any who get in the way of his mission to destroy the Sorcerer Supreme.  On the left is Clea, the transdimensional girlfriend of Dr. Strange and niece of his arch-nemesis Dormammu!  But of course you already knew all that.

Here Silver Dagger believes that Dr. Strange has been killed, but little does he know that the master of the mystic arts still has a few tricks up his ethereal sleeve.  The spirit of Stephen Strange is able to possess a mannequin dressed in his clothes and uses it to try and take the villain by surprise, to no avail.  Silver Dagger, believing the event was some trick by Clea, laughs off the attempt to overtake him and leaves her unattended while he goes off to take a piss.

Dr. Strange of course had a plan, and the underestimations of the mustachioed Silver Dagger come back to haunt him, quite literally!  I’ll leave out all the details however as I’m sure you’d much rather read it all for yourself!

That is all!

Omnia In Numeris Sita Sunt (Everything Lies Veiled In Numbers)

     Today I leave my twenties behind and venture now into the new uncharted realm of the thirties!  Yes that’s right, today is my birthday and something of a milestone as I’m lead to understand.  I will miss the previous decade of my life, but this last year was probably the worst year of my life thus far.  I guess I can’t say twenty-nine was the worst year, there were still quite a few awesome things that took place during the last fifty-two weeks of my existence but it certainly hasn’t been light on what I like to call, “shitty circumstances.”

     But enough about that, I’m not here to just blather on about myself and fish for feigned birthday wishes, I’m here to write a blog!  Besides, the birth you should be celebrating today is the birth of the great Bob Saget, he at least has done a few things in his life worthy of adoration!  He’s one of the few celebrities with whom I share my birthday, you can also rejoice about the nativity of Bill Paxton, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Trent Reznor.  As a side note it is National Famine Memorial Day in Ireland, yay.

Bob Saget and I together through the magic of Photoshop! Thanks Jason Lemmon!

     Anywho I thought I would take this occasion to share a little bit about one of my occult interests, Numerology.  As you may or may not know, Numerology is the “study” of numbers, their equivalencies, their meanings, and their supposed effects on individuals and their surroundings.  There are several lengthy operations that can be deciphered and worked out using a person’s name and the corresponding numbers for the letters.  Recently I worked through the entire scope of my personal numbers and even worked out a chart using an equation known as “the divine triangle” which supposedly determines which numbers will have the most influence over you during specific years of your life all the way up eighty! 

     Those of you who know me might think this is an odd pastime for me, considering I hate math with an undying passion.  In fact I’m fairly convinced I suffer from Dyscalculia.  All that aside however, the operations of Numerology consist of simple addition and reduction steps, though the major operations consist of many such steps.  Also I have a calculator that does all the work for me.  Regardless, I’m not going to go into the full depth of Numerology and the various philosophies behind it, instead I just want to share one of the basic and most simple operations, finding and deciphering your personal Birth Number.

     My study of Numerology mainly comes from the works of Richard Cavendish, the obscure if not tireless occult researcher and historian, and Faith Javane and Dusty Bunker self proclaimed experts in Numerology specifically.  According to these sources the Birth Number or Life Lesson Number as it is sometimes referred to, is an indication of the stamp which the mysterious forces of the universe impressed upon your character and destiny at the moment when you were born.  The Birth Number is related to lessons you must learn in this lifetime and is significant in your choice of careers.  The Life Lesson Number is not the most important bit of information in the grand scheme of Numerology but it is the easiest to determine without any other knowledge of the study.

     Numerology is mainly concerned with the single digits, the numbers 1 – 9.  Other numbers have significance, such as 11 and 22, but to keep it simple we’ll just worry about the single digits for now.  The steps to discovering your birth number are simple, break down the numbers of your birth date into single digits, add them all together, and then break down that result into single digits reducing the answer until you reach the final single digit, which is your birth number.  Let’s use my birthday as an example:

5-17-1981

5+1+7+1+9+8+1=32

3+2=5

5=My Birth Number/Life Lesson Number!

    There you have it, easy as pie.  Now enters the various interpretations and ideas about what the individual numbers mean and how they affect us and the universe in various ways.  For this brief encounter with Numerology I will refer to the numerical definitions as interpreted by Javane and Bunker in their book Numerology and the Divine Triangle, because I like their style and I think they do a good job of reconciling many of the varying claims that are out there.  Under their interpretation a 5 as a Life Lesson Number means the following:

     5 – “Your keyword is Freedom.  If you have “free rein” you can accomplish wonders, but if you feel bound or limited, you lose your enthusiasm and accomplish little.  You would be a good explorer or Peace Corps volunteer, as you learn well by travel and experience.  You are a diligent student if interested in the subject, but you may fail in subjects for which you see no useful ends.  You should be eager for new experience, and shun monotony.  In your quest for knowledge, you will become interested in discovering answers in books and magazines.  An avid reader, a fluent talker, and a versatile doer, you are the witty conversationalist, and brighten any group by your mere presence.  You are here to learn and to experience the value of freedom, and should not tie yourself down too severely.  Your talents, once learned, prepare you for a literary career or a position in sales, and dealing with the public”. 

     As I said before the Life Lesson Number is just a small part of Numerology and some of the more in-depth processes are involved with individual names, separating vowels and consonants, and working various results of those equations together to find other numbers, all of which hold separate meanings and interpretations.  Whether or not you buy into the notion that numbers have some sort of mystical sway over us and the structure of the universe, it is an interesting subject to think about.  After all as much as it pains me to say it, math seems to be the stuff that has slowly unraveled the mysteries of reality through physics, with its quantum mechanics and string theories.  Physicists are always portrayed working out complex equations scrawled across blackboards, but the one thing that keeps these scientists ideas about the universe unproven, is a lack of specific values for the equations.  A series of single digits to replace the Xs and Ns in the equations of their theories, are what seem to be hidden from scientists.  They have been devoting quite a bit of time and effort to try and flush out those numerical equivalents.  Just something to ponder on.

     Below I have the definitions for the other Birth Numbers if any of you feel like doing some quick arithmetic to figure out your own numbers.  The results may surprise you, or you might think it’s completely off.  You can take this to heart and do a little more research on your own, or simply save this little tidbit as a handy party trick and conversation starter.  Do with this information as you will, either way I don’t really care, I just thought I’d share!

That is all!

Excerpt from the book Numerology and the Divine Trialngle by Javane and Bunker

                            

Javane/Bunker. Continued below.

 

Check out the rest of the book Numerology and the Divine Triangle by Faith Javane and Dusty Bunker

Wizards, Jedi, and Vorlons: The Golden Age of Card Games

So over the past few weeks I’ve undertaken the task of organizing my collection of various card games I currently and formerly played.  A couple of weekends ago I was sorting through my Magic cards and this weekend found me extensively organizing my Babylon 5 cards.  (If those sentences haven’t made me sound like a complete dork then just wait for the next couple.)  As I was going through my B5 cards I remembered how awesome that game was and it also reminded me why I love that show so much, but it got me thinking about a time when collectible card games were king.  A time that has come and gone, when innovation and creativity were the banners held high for such games and their creators.  A day when several giants of the card game industry roamed the earth, unlike today where a single giant lumbers along with a few lesser known shrimps riding its coattails.

I have some experience with tabletop games.  I haven’t ever really successfully played Dungeons & Dragons or anything like that, but board games like Risk and Axis and Allies are a good time, most of the Cranium games are great, and I have discovered a few lesser known games like Zombies!.  Each year my New Years Eve festivities entail alcohol mixed with many board games with my wife and my entire family.  (Good times!)

During my college years I got into HeroClix, the superhero based miniatures game where four players build teams of superheroes from the Marvel and DC universes and then battle it out across a giant game map.  HeroClix is a personal favorite of mine because it is more or less a huge game of chess, but instead of the pieces moving in different ways, the pieces have super powers and they take clicks of damage, and . . . . well, it’s better if you just play it to see what I’m saying.

An example of a HeroClix game piece. Superman is a really good one to have, just FYI.

My first loves of table games however are card games.  I started in middle school with Magic: The Gathering, of course.  When that game was first getting started it spread like wildfire!  Nearly everyone I knew was playing Magic and it really is the game that started it all as far as collectible card games go, but let us fast forward several years to a time that I consider to be the peak years of card games: 1997 – 2001 The Golden Age of Card Games!  It was during these years that my geek culture and gaming interests collided in an epic fashion.

Magic: The Gathering is neither “Magic” nor a “Gathering.” Discuss.

This period saw card games expand in scope and complexity and brought us two more big games which would join Magic at the top of the stack, the Star Wars Collectible Card Game and the Babylon 5 Collectible Card Game.  For me, being a geek and a fan of both those properties, it was a glorious time.  Magic had set up the culture of card games and with the addition of popular franchises into the mix, card games were taken to a whole new level.  Players of the Star Wars CCG could watch the Empire Strikes Back while they defiantly reworked the movie’s plot on the table before them, having the rebels successfully repel the Imperial attack on Hoth.  Babylon 5 fans did not simply follow card text and use strategy to win the games, they had to make alliances and cut deals with their fellow players if they wanted to make any headway because many of the cards in that game relied on voting and political intrigue to succeed, just as you might expect for a card game based on a television show about intergalactic space politics.  For those who remember reading Scrye magazine back in the day, you will remember these three games dominating the covers of that bimonthly publication.  And as if these three games weren’t enough this is also the era that gave us the Pokemon Trading Card Game, the Star Trek CCG, and saw the beginning of the Lord of the Rings card game.

But let’s take a moment and examine what made each of the “Big Three” card games so great.

Magic: the Gathering The King of the card games, the Duke of decks, the sovereign of shuffling . . . . you get the idea.  Magic was and still is the number one card game of all time.  It’s broad fantasy setting and ever expanding library of cards has a wide appeal.  The single pile deck, straight across layout, and simple rules make it easy to learn, understand, and play.  Magic was unleashed onto the world in 1993 and was eagerly taken up by young and old alike.  The deceptively easy rules are offset by the wide variety of cards which a master player can assemble in swift and crushing strategies.  Overall Magic has endured because its original concepts are so brilliant and concise, and because of its general fantasy vibe which can change and evolve unlike games based on various movie and TV franchises.

This is Dr. Steve Brule’s favorite card.

Star Wars CCG– The loss of this card game still brings me down.  After its release in 1995 the Star Wars CCG was a solid second place in terms of sales behind Magic.  A smooth well crafted game that effectively captured the excitement and mythology of the Star Wars movies.  Somewhat more complicated then Magic, Star Wars still pitted two players against one another in a familiar linear layout but added the brilliant touch of having the deck itself be the “life” of each player.  In Magic each player starts with 20 life points and through battling that total is whittled away.  In the Star Wars CCG however each deck must have no more than 60 cards, which are then depleted through gameplay and damage from the opponent.  The main decks were cycled through three piles on each player’s side that would ebb and flow every turn like the Force.  This game mechanic was a practical solution to the problem of the “bad shuffle.”  The crisp, clean look of this game and the exquisite attention to detail made this card game not only fun, but a true homage to the Star Wars movies.  This game at one time held such great sway with Lucas that it was allowed to name and flesh out the history of several previously unnamed characters they depicted on their cards which have gone on to have some prominence in the Star Wars EU, which I suppose is the real legacy of this game.

C-3PO was included in the initial limited edition of the Star Wars CCG

Babylon 5 CCG-The Babylon 5 CCG had the smallest audience without a doubt, but surprisingly held onto the number three spot for popular card games for quite some time during this period.  Introduced in 1997 the Babylon 5 card game did not have the highest production value.  Whereas the Star Wars card images were heavily cleaned up and digitally enhanced, the B5 game often lacked such finery and was decorated with several fuzzy and grainy images from the television show.  This however was made up for by the intricate gameplay.  It wasn’t necessarily true to say that the Babylon 5 game was complex, because the mechanics were pretty straightforward, I would instead describe it as involved and strategically demanding.  Also Babylon 5 by far had the most accoutrement accompanying the game.  To play Magic and Star Wars all you needed were the cards, but to play B5 there were a few accessories.  I suppose you could play without some of these accessories, but they helped clarify a few things.  In the game each player represented an alien ambassador from the show who was representing their species aboard the Babylon 5 station, ala a UN in space.  During the game you had to keep track of political tensions between the races which could lead to peace or war.  You had to track your factions influence and the influence of the Babylon 5 station and other races that were not playable but which could affect the game and individual factions.  It all sounds very difficult and for a first time player or someone who knows nothing about the Babylon 5 show it doubtlessly was difficult.  However this was a unique game in that it was meant to be played by more than two players, it of course could function with only two players but then things would be rather dull.  This game did a good job of keeping their card mechanics in check, unlike Magic and Star Wars which seemed to introduce some new rule or card ability with each expansion.  Babylon 5 kept true to its original game concepts while continually encouraging action through the players and their own politicizing.

The Narn were one of the more adaptable factions to play as in the B5 card game.

In 2001 this personal golden age of card games came to a screeching halt.  In 1999 Hasbro bought up Wizards of the Coast, the makers of Magic: The Gathering which was a big deal at the time.  Hasbro is also the manufacturer of Star Wars toys and collectibles and is the long time holder of those production rights.  In 2001 Lucasfilm decided to consolidate their merchandizing, and did not renew their contract with Decipher, the producer of the Star Wars CCG.  Instead they handed the gaming rights over to Hasbro to produce a new series of games with their newly acquired Wizards of the Coast.  None of those games however matched the level of detail and quality of the Decipher game, or matched the success of Wizards of the Coast other big seller, Magic.

Later in 2001 Warner Bros. did not renew the Babylon 5 rights with Precedence, the card games developer.  Most likely this was due to a waning lack of interest, the namesake show had reached the end of its five season story arc and the cancellation of the spinoff series, Crusade, which was unable to match the tone and scope of Babylon 5 meant there was little in the way of future expansions for the card game.  The Babylon 5 CCG slowly winked out of existence like a dying star in the night sky.

Magic is still going strong and constantly making new innovative changes to the design of the game.  The Star Wars CCG though no longer in print, still has a large fan following, typical of Star Wars fans, and boasts a sizable online player community who still produce online “virtual cards” for the game and hold tournaments.  Babylon 5 however, like the show itself, has unfortunately gradually slipped further and further away from the public eye.  Immediately after the game was cancelled there was an online fanbase that took up a movement similar to that of the Star Wars CCG, but it lacked the numbers and the momentum of that game and is, as far as I can tell, all but dead now on the web.

That’s not to say that it’s too late for a resurgence of these games!  I still play Magic occasionally, but if anyone has any interest in playing some Star Wars or Babylon 5 let me know, I’m game!  Ha!

That is all!