Runes of the Blood

So…  I wrote a new book, my third book about runes.  The first, Aegishjalmur: The Book of Dragon Runes, taught a curriculum of the Elder Futhark of 24 runes, tying them in with my Apophis programme of Draconian Magic:  Norse dragon lore, best in the world!  The second of my runic titles was Runes of Mann, which was a catalogue of the runic monuments on the Isle of Man, my home, together with a few brief suggestions for their practical use.  The new book, Runes of the Valiant, is a more thorough account of the theory and practice of the Younger Futhark, the 16 rune row which was used by the Norse settlers on the Isle of Man.

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This is a very personal and meaningful project for me, a chance to take all of the lore and practice I have acquired over the years and apply it to the specific runes used by my own ancestors, because there is actually quite a philosophical and pragmatic leap in the transition from the Elder Futhark to the Younger, which occurred at the dawn of the Viking Age.

Before a rune worker can make the shift from the Elder rune row to the Younger, he / she must address several fundamental questions and deduce satisfactory answers for them, in order to understand the new dynamic behind both the philosophy and the base meanings of the runes:

  • Why was the 24 rune Elder Futhark reduced to the 16 rune Younger Futhark?

  • What became of the ‘missing’ eight runes? Are they to be ignored, or were they combined with other runes?

  • How did the ancient runemasters decide which eight runes to condense?

  • Why sixteen runes specifically? Why not some other number?

  • Have the meanings of the remaining runes changed to accommodate the reduction of the rune row?

These questions are all addressed in the pages of Runes of the Valiant, together with considerations of updated models of cosmology and so forth, based upon the new arrangement.  Specific practical methods of using the Younger rune row are then presented.

The Isle of Man is a place which the Northmen did not simply raid.  Instead, they chose to settle here, establishing themselves as Lords of the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles, intermarrying with the existing Celtic population and establishing a rich mixed heritage.  Nevertheless, when speaking of Manx heritage, the Celtic is often emphasised at the expense of the Norse, ignoring the richness of the intermingling.  The Norse heritage is still represented in the many carved runic memorial stones; the burial sites; the place names; and of course – most powerfully – in the Manx bloodline itself.

It is my hope that this book will give that heritage a new lease of life, perhaps stimulating some to Seek after the Mysteries their forefathers sought.

An Evening of Wonders

On the evening of Saturday 3rd September 2016, the staff of Shoprite supermarket, Ramsey, Isle of Man, met for their summer staff party in the Buffs Club.  I also attended; I used to work with them before transferring to another location.  I hope everyone who attended had a great, entertaining night.  For me, it was particularly special, as I was the entertainment.

This was my first show as a semi-professional magician / mystery entertainer.  And it was a real baptism of fire.  Anyone who stands up to perform in front of others will testify that it is considerably more difficult when those people are well known to you than when they are complete strangers.  It’s very difficult to slip into your stage persona when they know you as someone completely different.

The evening went very well.  Not perfectly, but very well.  I’d been afraid there might be a failure or two, but there were no outright flops and most things worked perfectly.

My presentation is a story telling routine enhanced by props and effects, rather than a stream of banal ‘tricks’, and these stories tend to revolve around matters macabre and sinister.

For the first half of the show, I had gathered together a few of my simpler routines, all themed around witches and occultists of the past and the fates they had met.  The tales started in the Fourteenth Century, moving gradually forward to more modern times, as the shade of Aleister Crowley was called upon to deliver us a message from the spirit world.

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All items packed, ready to depart for the venue…

All of these early stories and effects went smoothly and without a hitch, eliciting a pleasing number of exclamations.  The routine I was most uncertain about, a mild waking trance induction to make someone ‘see’ a spirit on cue, worked perfectly well, in spite of the ever increasing alcohol that was flowing.  I did have a ‘get out’ story in place in case this less predictable routine failed, but it wasn’t necessary.

In the second half, I moved on to talk about curses, presenting a couple of yarns around those themes.  It was here that my inexperience showed.  For these kinds of routines to work, I need to choose the ‘volunteer’ very carefully, someone who will really respond and ‘go with the flow’ of the story, getting into it.  By now, the drink was freely flowing, so the choice was even more critical.  This led to a couple of routines not failing, but falling a little flatter than I would have hoped.  They worked and the reaction was one of “Ah, okay then” instead of awe.  This is my own fault, I should have chosen more critically instead of according to my pre-selected plan.  A lesson to learn for those occasions when the alcohol is strongly in evidence:  choose the ‘assistant’ who is transfixed by the show, not the ‘good sport’ or ‘the one from the table that hasn’t had a turn yet’.

Not that this minor lull in momentum was disastrous, people were still interested and watching, and I’d saved my favourites for last.  I love haunted books, and I used an old diary in a demonstration of psychic ability, telling a reader the images that went through her mind as she read randomly chosen entries in the diary.

The closing effect was my favourite among those I currently have in my arsenal, as two volunteers placed playing cards between random pages in a cursed copy of Dennis Wheatley’s The Satanist.  As the lights were turned out and a black candle was lit, the cards eerily rose up from between the pages of the book, displaying Infernal scorch marks upon their surfaces.

It was a good night, and I was heartened that everyone seemed to really enjoy it.  It certainly gave me the taste to do more, and soon.  I’ll be hosting another show in November, though I’ll be available too if anyone wishes to book me before then.

The next show will be quite different, of course.  Less than half of my routines were used in this first show, and I’ll be mixing them about from one show to the next, depending upon which themes I want to play with.  There are a couple of favourites that will appear regularly, but many effects will come and go, swapping in and out of the setlist as the stories I wish to tell dictate.  There are also no less than three further new routines on their way to me at the moment.

What’s more, as any real magician should, my own creative juices have been stimulated and I am starting to develop my own stories, props and effects based upon the Norse and Celtic lore of the Isle of Man.  I’m currently gathering together the props to create a runic necromancy effect I’ve devised.  Watch out for ‘DRAUGR’ at a future date!

Anyone wishing to book for a function or private event, please contact via email at manxbull@yahoo.com or message me on Facebook.

 

Rekindling Old Fears

Every self-published author knows the importance of editing.  But when publishing ebooks, there’s an additional element to take into account.  No matter how perfect your manuscript may be grammatically, no matter how precisely each word may be spelled, no matter how immaculately each page may be formatted, you may still be thwarted.

When a file is converted to Kindle format, it undergoes all manner of changes.  If you prepare the print version of your book first, preparing a print-ready PDF file, then choose CreateSpace’s default options to create an interior file suitable for Kindle, the resulting ebook will lose much of its formatting.  The simple fact is that although their use is encouraged, the Kindle conversion process does not treat PDFs kindly (pun intended).

My early ebooks were all produced from PDFs in my naive innocence, and I wondered why the page breaks were lost, with one chapter sometimes running into the next; formatting was lost; text justification was scrambled; the fonts I had employed to display runes etc. were stripped away…  despite the painstaking work I had put into my initial document.

With time – and many more books – comes knowledge and experience.  So here are a few tips for those of you who may be preparing your first ebooks:

  1.  Always use a .doc file, not PDF.  This way you will retain the majority of your formatting.
  2. Remember to remove any blank pages at the front or rear of your document, between chapters, etc.  Blank pages on Kindle just look like errors, so tighten up the document and eliminate the blank space.  Also if you are in the habit of starting chapters half way down a printed page, bear in mind that on a Kindle display, this may push the beginning over onto the next display page, so strip away any empty lines at the beginnings of chapters.  Get rid of drop capitals too, they display very weirdly on Kindle.
  3. Remove all headers and footers and page numbers, or there’ll be tears when they pop up right in the middle of random sentences.
  4. If you use specialist fonts, Kindle won’t display them, converting them to a default font instead.  The only way to get around this is to insert any special text in runes or whatever as a graphic, or if their use is extensive, see the paragraph below.

If your book contains many illustrations or a lot of fancy fonts, or if the retention of the precise layout is particularly important, there is now an alternative.  Amazon have now made available ‘Kindle Textbook Creator’ software, which will create a Kindle book which is the exact image of the print volume.  The downside is that the cost of the resultant ebook is increased and that these ebooks will not display on the original Kindle ereader:  they will only be readable on a Kindle Fire, iPad or other tablet, or a PC or Mac.  Nevertheless, for certain titles, this is a godsend.  I could not have produced an ebook edition of my Runes of Mann without this tool.

With all that I have learned of Kindle publishing, I have started revisiting my earlier ebooks and uploading fresh files for them, which will display much cleaner formatting, making them that bit easier to read.  Aegishjalmur has already been done and today I have updated For Fear of Little Men, my collection of dark Celtic folktales.  The other titles will follow suit.

If you have already purchased these ebooks, you will be able to freely download the updated version by going to the ‘My Account’ section on Amazon, choosing to manage your digital content, then instructing to download to the appropriate device.

To celebrate the reinvigorated Kindle edition of For Fear of Little Men, here’s a video of me reading a complete spooky story from the collection:  Moddey Doo

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Would You Trust This Man With Your Soul?

Another of the recent major changes and innovations I’ve been working upon is that after years of being an armchair collector of weird artifacts and bizarre tales, I have decided to take the plunge and merge my storytelling skills, my collection of weird oddities and my knowledge of the occult into an unholy union.  I will henceforth be offering my services as an entertainer, albeit a very sinister and macabre one.

I will be hosting evenings in which I will spellbind attendees with tales from the dark corners of history, eerie and frightening accounts accompanied by dramatic magical demonstrations.

If you have a taste for the macabre and love a ghoulish story, permit me to enthrall you with feats of magic, with psychic phenomena, with demonstrations of the paranormal, communications from spirits, Tarot and Rune readings.  We all love to be frightened, and I offer an evening of entertainment with enough shivers to delight the most jaded soul.  And who knows?  Perhaps I may even open a window to reveal a nightside world of wonder and mystery whose existence you had not previously suspected?

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Needless to say, the macabre nature of my shows means that they are most definitely not suitable for young children.  This is not kiddies’ party style magic, with bunnies in hats and lots of silk scarves!

I plan to begin hosting shows from November 2016, initially on a monthly basis.  Details will follow nearer the time.  The first show will be by invitation only, for family and friends who have been supportive of my writing.  Thereafter, tickets will be on sale.  I hope you’ll come along, though your knees be knocking and your teeth chattering.  You have nothing to lose but your soul, though I do promise to take good care of that … I want you to survive to come back for more and bring your friends, after all!

In addition to the shows and special themed evenings I plan to host myself, I will be available for private functions at a rate of £50 for one hour, or £80 for two.

So come along, you know you want to … Be a Devil!

Event Horizon

They say that black holes have an event horizon.  This is the distance from the collapsed star where the point of no return is reached.  Beyond this point, nothing – not even light – can escape the gravitational field.  Once you reach the event horizon, there’s no turning back.

I entered a black hole last night.  Not a super-massive anomaly in space, but the black hole which was once the dungeon where prisoners were shackled in the old courtroom in Peel, beneath the building which is now the Leece Museum.  The building dates back to the 1500s and is reputedly haunted by several ghosts.  I attended a ghost investigation there last night, the evening of 1 August 2015, arranged and hosted by the good folks of Isle of Man Ghost Tours.  I entered the black hole and crossed an event horizon, which cannot be uncrossed.

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The evening began with everyone trying out dowsing rods.  These reacted well and I found the process quite fascinating.  We were encouraged to ask questions, looking for yes or no answers to be indicated by the rods.  This was good fun and I was content to wander about the dungeon with my rods, listening to others ask their questions.  I’m fully able to accept the ability of the rods to detect a ‘presence’ or an ‘energy’ and respond decisively to it, but personally I’ve never warmed to the notion of the yes / no question routine, either by this or any other method.  I can accept a direct flash of insight or a spontaneous psychic message if they stand up to scrutiny, but the yes / no questioning doesn’t cut my sceptical mustard.  But it was fun and others were enjoying it and I was happy just walking about with my rods, seeing what they could detect.

Then my rods doubled back upon themselves, pointing directly at me.  Try as I might to realign them, they kept swinging insistently back to that position.  Emma, the medium working with the Ghost Tours folks, came over and our little group discovered what was going on as I passed over the event horizon and experienced something which cannot be unexperienced.  I was struck by a most uncharacteristic emotional response as I realised how linked the past and present were, spanning some fifty years of family history and location.  Plans which I have shared with very few people (and am not about to share here either) were openly revealed and discussed, and as Emma moved off to assist another group, she correctly named my grandfather.  This was a very real phenomenon, which shook me.  I always keep an open mind about things and am aware of several different possible explanations of this particular event, I won’t pin the hypothesis down to a certainty or a belief.  But I will certainly assert that the phenomenon was very real and it was beyond the pale.

Returning upstairs, the group experimented with electronic voice phenomena.  There was little response this night (sometimes there’s more, sometimes there’s less), though the downstairs group reportedly got some good recordings, and there may be more when the recordings are properly listened to.  We were played some interesting recordings from prior investigations, and there were a couple of very definite noises heard upstairs, including somebody loudly whistling at one point and the sound of footsteps climbing the stairs behind us and beginning to cross the floor (everyone was all together and the sounds could be heard to emanate from the empty boards right in the room with us).

We were treated to another experience before the evening closed.  As I stood with the two friends I had arrived with, we observed an empty water bottle which had been standing on top of one of the museum’s display cases, begin to move of its own accord.  It began to vibrate on the spot very rapidly, then swayed back and forth at an ever increasing speed before it fell over and rolled to the ground.  We stared at each other amazed, then picked it up and put it back.  A few seconds later, it began to tremble and then rock rapidly back and forth again.  By now a few other people had gathered around.  We tested the floor and the case (both solid), there was no way we could discern that any vibration could possibly be conveyed through to that bottle.  A camera was set up to watch the bottle in case it happened again and set recording.  The bottle sat still after that, but when the camera was picked up later, it was discovered that the recording had been paused as soon as it had begun.  It seems someone was determined not to have their picture taken!

Every walk, talk and presentation I have attended with Isle of Man Ghost Tours has been interesting and entertaining.  This was my first actual investigation with the equipment, but it won’t be my last.  These aren’t the first ghostly experiences I’ve had in my life, but they’re the first for a number of years, the first under these investigative conditions, and the personal revelations of the evening were very important and emotional indeed.  Treat yourself.  Take a walk on the dark side…