Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Cernunnos Monte Bibele


The Horned God



God of Nature, Life, Fertility


A series of photographs I took of wild mountain goats during a recent excursion to Monte Bibele, ancient holy site of the Central European Celts.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Saint Catherine of Bologna; Mystic, Artist, Incorruptible

Saint Catherine of Bologna, Catherina de 'Vigri, was an Italian Poor Clare nun, writer, teacher, mystic, and artist.

Caterina was born in Bologna, on September 8, 1413, she was the daughter of the Ferrarese nobleman Giovanni de'Vigri, professor of law at the University of Bologna. Despite being born into wealth and privilege she preferred to follow a very spiritual path and followed a monastic life of seclusion.


An image of Santa Catherine in life

She was described as being well loved during her life, and with a lively personality. She became interested in art, music, song, dance, painting and literature. There is a viola, some paintings and various writings created by her, including  her book The Seven Spiritual Arms, The Twelve Gardens, the Rosarium, and The Sermons, which has been preserved. 


Artwork by Caterina of Bologna 

Caterina died on 9 March 1463 and was buried, without posessions, in the bare earth. Surprisingly her body after death did not decompose. 

Testimony from 1463:

"When the grave was ready and when they lowered the body, which was not enclosed in a coffin, it emanated a scent of indescribable sweetness, filling the air all around. The two sisters, who had descended into the grave, moved with compassion on His beautiful and radiant face, covered it with a cloth and placed a rough table a few inches above the body, so that the clods of earth would not touch it. Yet they stared at him awkwardly that the face and body were still covered when the pit was filled with earth. The sisters often came to visit the cemetery, cried, prayed and read at the grave, and always noticed the sweet smell that surrounded it. Since there were no flowers, no herbs next to the grave, but only dry land."

And after her exhumation:

 "When we found the body and cleaned our faces, we noticed that it had been crushed and disfigured by the weight of the wooden table that had been placed on it. In addition, by digging, three of the sisters had damaged it with a spade. We placed it in a coffin, and we were about to rebuff her, but a strange impulse prompted us to place it temporarily under the portal. And it was then that the crushed nose and the entire face gradually regained their natural form. The deceased became white, beautiful, intact, as if she were still alive, her nails were not blackened and she smelled delicious. All the sisters were deeply agitated; the scent spread in the church and in the convent, impregnating the hands that had touched it, and there seemed to be no explanation. After she became quite pale, she began to change color, becoming redder, while her body began to emit a pleasantly perfumed sweat. Passing from the pallor to a color of incandescent amber, She exuded an aromatic liquid that at times seemed like limpid water, and sometimes a mixture of water and blood."


From  the circular window of her altar you can see Saint Catherine (my photo) 


Immediately after her death she was hailed as a saint, and on 22 May 1712 she was canonized by Pope Clement XI.



The incorrupt body of Santa Caterina de 'Vigri is preserved in Bologna in a chapel of the Sanctuary of the Corpus Domini monastery in Bologna founded almost 600 years ago.

On a sunny Wednesday morning this April I visited the monastery located on a quiet street in a very non descript neighbourhood of Bologna. The church is very plain from the outside, but beautifully humble and uplifting in the interior. I had been hoping to spend time with the Saint, and although it was not a day the public were normally allowed to be with her, the kind nuns allowed me to spend time alone with Caterina.


My photo.  My reflection in the glass with Saint Catherine.

She is perfectly preserved with the exception of her blackened skin from centuries of candle smoke, and there is a smell of flowers that surrounds her. She sits upon a gold chair with her bible in her hands.

Words cannot truly express the emotion and feelings I had in her presence. I am not Catholic. But I felt joy, and a sense of peace with her. I have visited several chapels and Cathedrals in Italy and I can truly say none has moved me so much as the Sanctuary of the Corpus Domini and Saint Catherine.




Thursday, 12 April 2018

Witches, Feminism, and a 15th century Bolognese Countess


From high atop the Sasso Marconi mountainside one can view the Palazzo Sanuti-Bevilacqua a 15th century villa, and home to a most remarkable medieval woman, and early Italian feminist. 

While I was hiking through this stunning and atmospheric area I was amazed to learn about Nicolosa Sanuti.


Nicolosa Sanuti was the daughter of Antonio Castellani, a notary, and Margherita Franchini. After her marriage to the Count Nicolò Sanuti, she became the owner of a vast lands in the province of Bologna. Along the bank of Reno River, the Sanuti family built the villa that was their residence and still bears their name, Palazzo Sanuti. From the beautiful fountains located inside the property the adjacent hamlet took its name, Fontana. 


Madonna and child






Inner courtyard including a photograph below from the turn of the last century depicting the fountain from which the hamlet took its name.


The Palazzo Sanuti Bevilacqua Degli Ariosti is currently in use as a private residence and office, but the influence of the original Countess is still very much felt and remembered. 


The historic plaque above recalls Nicolosa's fight against draconian laws which dictated what women could and could not wear in public.  In 1453 Roman Catholic Cardinal Basilios Bessarion of Bologna enacted his own particularly restrictive sumptuary laws, especially with regard to women.

In response, Nicolosa Sanuti wrote to the cardinal (in perfect Latin) arguing against his politics, in which she underlined the injustice of having to oblige women to adopt different and more modest customs than those of all the other Europeans. She also pointed out that fashion was viewed as symbol of femininity, and that women were already prevented from wearing the clothes of magistrates, militia and priests. She accused him of not wanting to take into account the greatness of women who all descend from Sappho, Artemisia, and Cornelia.

Not only was her letter one of the precious few in that time period to be written and conceived by a woman, but she was the only one who contested the theoretical assumptions underlying the sumptuary laws.

The reaction from the government of Bologna was negative. Cardinal Bessarion left her letter unanswered. And the canon Matteo Bosso publicly questioned the identity of the author considering a woman incapable of writing with such eloquence, and in Latin.

Countess Sanuti was a contemporary of Ginevra Sforza the wife and counselor of Giovanni II Bentivoglio, Lord of Bologna, and Gentile Budrioli, wife of the notary Alessandro Cimieri and student at the University of Bologna, who was accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake in 1498.

All three of these women were unpopular with the Church and State, the Countess for challenging the sumptuary laws, Ginevra for having the ear and influence over her powerful husband, and Gentile for her skills as a healer and astrologer. While the first two women had powerful stations within society, Gentile did not and she may have paid a price for the sins of her feminist counterparts with her brutal execution in the main square of Bologna.

Nicolosa Sanuti died in 1505 in Bologna.

During the same year and due to several conspiracies the Pope ordered the Bentivoglios including Ginevra to leave the city, their properties in Bologna were looted and the Palazzo Bentivoglio was razed. Ginevra was excommunicated by the Church and she died on the 16th of May 1507. Her body was buried in a common grave.



The Palazzo Sanuti-Bevilacqua is located in an area where I have been studying local folklore. La Rupe of Sasso Marconi is geologically significant and has a rich history. In 1283 it was chosen as a site to build a shrine and sanctuary to the Venerated Virgin of Sasso. Over the years the rock mountain had been excavated, and there are a series of tunnels still visible, where in centuries past poor people lived like cavemen. On the night of June 23rd 1892 the side of the cliff facing the river crashed down and crushed the houses below it. 14 people died that night and many others were injured.




Following the tragic event stories of black magic, witchcraft, and strange mystery lights have plagued the area. Before hiking through the area I had not heard of the feminist Countess Sanuti before. And after researching more about her and her contemporaries Ginevra and Gentile, I now wonder if the accusations of witchery in the area and black magic somehow link back to the courageous Nicolosa Sanuti?

All of the photographs above with the exception of those from the historical archive were taken by me in March 2018.


Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Ostara 2018 - Happy Spring

This year I am blessed to welcome in the Spring in Central Europe, which will arrive today, March 20th, at 5:15pm.


The wee crocuses from my photo above survived a farewell snow storm that occurred yesterday in the mountains where I am staying. The photograph below I took on March 19th. An eerie, wintry silence; frozen, and beautiful, descended on the land, and just as quickly gave way to Spring. By this morning all the snow had melted, some of which I have gathered in a pot the night before for my Ostara altar. 


As Winter went out like a lion the Spring is now being greeted with the birds singing, green grass and flowers, and a wonderful energy of renewal and rebirth in the air. 

Some photographs I took of my altar and fire:


I have burned some of the remnants of my Winter altar including pine needles and cedar. 






A mysterious local pixie who has become a travel companion and symbol of good luck.   


For Eostre

by Galina Krasskova

"We hail the Goddess of spring,
of vibrancy, of stirring bounty,
of the waking earth,
that readies itself for the seed.
We hail the Goddess of sunshine,
and cycles, and changes,
and all good and terrifying things.
We pray for fertility in our works,
of minds, and hearts, and hands.
We pray for blessings,
and the gift of hope’s manifestation.
We hail the Goddess of spring,
as Her bounty covers the land.
Eostre, be Thou praised."



 Wishing everyone in the Northern hemisphere a magical spring equinox, and everyone in the south an enchanted autumn equinox.

It has been a tough winter for many of my friends, and family I am wishing us all a hopeful and joyful Spring.

Friday, 23 February 2018

A Different Kind Of UFO


This highly unusual and very interesting report of flying women was sent to me by my good friend and colleague in the documenting of the strange, Albert S. Rosales this past Winter Solstice. This appeals to my UFO-ish and Cosmic Witchiness.

Location: Birkenhead, Wirral, Merseyside, England
Date: early June 1982 Time: afternoon


Insidious heat crept into the country at the end of May and bubbled road tar and inflamed tempers, when two painters saw an incredible sight. A perspiring 17-year old apprentice decorator named Dominic Bassett took off his paint-splattered T-shirt on the roof of an office building in one of the higher parts of Birkenhead not far from Bidston Hill. The sounds of distant shrieks – female shrieks – and girly laughter came from somewhere up in the burning blue sky. The painters both looked up and the ultraviolet stung their eyes. “That came from up there!” Dominic placed his hand over his eyes as if he was saluting and saw only a passing gull. Female screams pierced the air again, followed by melodic laughter – and this time it came from behind the painters. They both turned around and looked out towards a Liverpool skyline ghosted by the haze of the heatwave and a light wind gently wafted up an aroma of tar and Mersey salt, and there in the distance, some 400 yards up in the Alice-blue sky were three colored dots. “Balloons” the other painter, Eric, muttered, but the superior eyesight of youth could plainly see three people, and Dominic shook his head, “Its three girls!”


The hay fever began to water Dominic’s eyes and he sniffed and rubbed them and looked again and the three girls moved off towards the north, until they were specks over the river. Then they were gone. Eric stuck to the balloons explanation but a sneezing Dominic knew what he had seen. Eric then blamed the lad’s hay fever. About 10 minutes later the men had managed to resume painting. Eric climbed a ladder and then Dominic felt paint trickling onto his head. “Eric!” he looked up and saw his workmate gazing at something in a daze with paint dripping off the brush. This time the three levitating women were almost near enough to touch as they flew by, and Eric swore in shock. The first woman in the formation was a brunette of about 30 sitting slide-saddle on a brush, and wore a flowing pinkish dress, and the young blonde lady flying behind her had her hand on the broom-mounted woman’s shoulder. The third figure flying closely behind the blonde one was much younger, possibly in her teens, and she was also blonde. All of these females were laughing and giggling and the brunette was screaming as she almost fell off the broom. They were oblivious to the male observers as they flew in the direction of Bidston Hill. Eric was so shocked he had a ‘funny turn’ and went home.

According to the source (Slemen) years later when he gave an account of this incident on the Billy Butler Show (radio) he was inundated with calls and emails from people of all ages and all walks of life who recalled the “witch scare” that summer.


HC addendum
Source: Tom Slemen’s Spooky Summer: Broomsticks over Birkenhead – Liverpool Echo Type: E
Comments: Slemen comments that “someone reading this knows the truth”, I can only conjecture what these flying women were. Modern day witches, apparently that’s what they were trying to portray themselves as? This one is beyond strange.

Greetings From Magonia

"All that we saw was owing to your metaphysics."

—William Blake  The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Magonia is the name of the cloud realm whence felonious aerial sailors were said to have come according to the polemical treatise by Carolingian bishop Agobard of Lyon in 815, it is featured within the research of Jacques Vallee's book Passport to Magonia, which explores the link between modern UFO visitations and reports from antiquity of contact with these "space beings" where he quotes Agobard's description.

An Initiation

On November 4th, 1990 at approx. 1 am, I was getting ready to go to bed for the evening. My then husband, children, and my sister who was visiting, had already turned in for the night. I had been watching an "Elvira Mistress of the Dark" movie with my brother-in-law, when I looked up at the clock. Realizing it was way past my bedtime (I had small children at the time) I got up to lock the sliding glass doors to our balcony.


At the time we were living on the 10th floor of a condo building, and as I had young children it was my habit to make sure those doors were always locked. I will also mention that this apartment had a SSE exposure with a clear view of Lake Ontario, and the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. As I went to lock the glass doors I observed a large, red, glowing orb.

It was like nothing I had ever seen before.

In my pajamas I stepped out onto the balcony. I noted that the "orb" seemed to be in the vicinity of the nuclear power plant. My mind raced with all the possibilities, a plane, a search light, quickly discounting each.

I yelled out for my brother-in-law who was at my side within seconds.

I was yelling "what is it, what is it"? He started yelling back, "it's a UFO!” He had grabbed my arm, and I remember I glanced down to see my own goose-flesh.

Almost immediately after he said that it was a UFO, the full moon-sized orb, began to pulsate. And for some inexplicable reason, for which I cannot fathom I said, "they know we can see them."

After pulsating, the UFO, which appeared octagon in shape imploded in on itself, turning into a speck, and shooting straight up. At this point my brother-in-law's memory and mine differ slightly. He says he saw the orb implode, but not shoot up into the sky.

I clearly remember that I looked down towards the street and I saw a single car driving eastward. I remember thinking we cannot be alone in seeing this. We went inside, and sat up in the kitchen discussing everything within our own experiences that we could to rationally try to explain what we had witnessed (despite my strange comment of a "them"). We were up until about 4 am. and I ran back to the sliding glass doors a few times that night to see if the orb had returned. It didn't, not that night nor in the many nights after that I would sit out on the balcony looking for it.

My brother-in-law and I failed to report our sighting immediately. We both were afraid of nor wanted to put up with ridicule. We also did not know who we should have reported this experience to. In those days there was no internet or easy way to locate a UFO investigative group.

I did pick up a UFO book from the library and sent a letter to CUFOS in Chicago, which was listed as a place people with these experiences could contact, but the letter was returned to me as undeliverable.

Eventually many years after the fact I was able to report the experience to MUFON (Mutual UFO Network). They were able to piece together quite a bit of information and based on the fact I could give them an accurate time frame as Elvira had been on the television.

Despite never answering the question of what we saw that night with any degree of certainty, I learned there were thoughtful and intelligent people who were looking into these extraordinary experiences without prejudice, and we were not alone in that regard. This in turn inspired me to follow suit and eventually towards the establishment of my own research interests.

It was an experience that has radically shaped the course of my life, and continues to do so through other UFO events I have had since.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
—Arthur C. Clarke

I was 23 at the time of the experience in 1990, 23 being an important number throughout my life, but I will save that for another future blog.  I had, had a childhood filled with odd events, and as I grew up I would try to put them down to imagination solely. As an example I was plagued by what I thought were wee little ghosts or dwarfs and these frightened me, until a large talking wolf appeared to me one day and became my protector against these day/nightmares. When I was in my late teens I had figured out that I was the wolf, and that I was in fact empowering myself in a highly creative way.

In 1990, however, that experience as an adult and with another witness directed me towards a way of thinking and being that otherwise would likely have not come. I recall so vividly in my mind's eye, what we saw that night red, and octagon much like a stop sign with an equally forceful message that through a lot of deep introspection I believe I was eventually able to at least partially decode.

I feel that these experiences guide me, and much like a dream where the content is not always reflective of the message I see the UFOs as symbolic and on a personal level very meaningful to important and crucial points in my life. My life took on the framework of UFO experience, and I consider it my true life's work.

I experience much synchronicity within these encounters, and they have also assisted in shaping my own spirituality as well through the emergence of the "Cosmic Witch" (Pagan Divine Feminine) which I am strongly self identifying with.

Carl Jung, Jacques Vallee, and J. Allen Hynek have all played significant roles in progressing my thoughts and ideas.

Recent books that have also greatly influenced my thinking on the subject include:

The Hyperspace of Consciousness by Massimo Teodorani PhD  ElementĂ  June 2015

The Trickster and The Paranormal by George P Hansen Xlibris 2001

Illuminations: The UFO Experience as a Parapsychological Event by Eric Ouellet PhD Anomalist Books August 2015

For Illuminations I provided some of the research and edited the manuscript. Eric and I continue to work on innovating new models based on scientific parapsychology that allow us to look at UFOs with fresh lenses.

I was recently honoured to be included in a compilation of original essays exploring alternative perspectives on UFOs and how we might more usefully study the phenomenon in the 21st Century.

UFOs: Reframing The Debate Edited By Robbie Graham

I am currently conducting a series of independent experiments based in part on the work of the late mathematician, Dr A.R.G Owen and psychotherapist Dr. Joel Whitton that will be the focus of a planned future book on UFOs, social PSI, and Magick.

You can read more on my research if you are so inclined through my website:

Out of My Mind's Eye
http://www.susanstclair.com/

Monday, 19 February 2018

Honouring My Ancestors

Fancy bottle with graveyard dirt 

I use graveyard dirt lovingly gathered with my own hands from my family's burial ground, and placed within a pretty crystal bottle as part of my ancestral altar. 

"We hear your whispered voices speaking words of wisdom into our unconscious minds. Your whispers awaken our dreams, our hearts, our desires. You who are our ancestors who once walked upon the earth and are part of our shared life eternal, we praise you with all that is sacred in our lives."

Since the death of both my parents I have regularly honoured my ancestors as a means of continuing connectedness with them, and all those who came before me. There are many traditions and ways to do so, and there really is no right nor wrong way in my own humble opinion. I prefer a daily prayer invoking those who came before me, those who have stayed to guide, and protect me in my own life journey. I thank them and make an offering of my favourite incense, and will often light a candle in remembrance. Much like my Goddess altar I have created my ancestral altar as an outward expression of heart. I have included items that remind me that they are still a part of my daily living. I also include items that remind me of my distant ancestors, rocks, and bits of wood pine cones, from the land they once lived upon in a way to include those who I never met in this life, but feel strongly in my being. 

When I am able to I will visit the family burial ground to plant flowers, and sit quietly, but unfortunately that is not as often as I would like to. So creating this small space within my house has actually worked out very well for me. I find the privacy of honouring the dead at home more conducive to making them more fully a part of my daily life. My altar is alive, it is a living source of connection, strength, guidance and well being.

A  few words on cemeteries since I have pictured graveyard dirt above.

I love to visit them, they are sacred, liminal places. I enjoy photographing memorial art, giving thanks to those who they honour, and I will say occasional prayers for person's graves that appear in need of kindness or just call out to me.

But, I never take dirt, nor rocks from graves, or anything that does not directly belong to my people.

Nor do I invoke the dead that I am not directly related to by either blood or love. This just feels right to me personally. I know others do, and of course Ouija is very popular even if used as just game with no serious intention, but I do not recommend it, nor anything that involves working with the dead who are not your own. I have done a lot of ghost hunting in the past, along with investigating reports of hauntings and this has probably helped to greatly shape my view on the matter as I have witnessed and heard of many negative experiences.

A good resource for those who may wish to venerate their ancestors with Pagan traditions: For The Ancestors which contains helpful articles, advice, and prayers including for the elevation of the soul of the troubled dead.