The Jackalope

I was in Texas just last weekend for the Texas Renaissance Festival. Coming home, we made a quick gas station stop. I was waiting for my friends to finish checking out as I browsed the area full of Texas souvenirs. You know how bigger gas stations always have those areas of cheap shot glasses and key chains and other various and sundry junk that you can take home to your loved ones? I’m always a little horrified and fascinated by these things, and usually take a second to look at whatever the gas station I find myself in has to offer. This time around I was delighted to find a Jackalope keychain for sale on the shelves. It had a Texas plaque attached to it, but that didn’t matter: The Jackalope was too awesome for me to pass up.

(It’s little arms and legs even move!)

The Jackalope is a quintessential piece of American folklore. It also happens to be one of my favorites.

The Jackalope was first “spotted” in Wyoming by cowboys out on the range. It is said that the animal can mimic human voices. One of the most common stories is that when cowboys sat around their campfires, singing at night, the Jackalopes would sing along with them.

For those of you that don’t know what a Jackalope is, it’s a horned hare found out West. The Legend of the Jackalope is that it is one of the rarest animals in the world. Most say that it is a cross between the now extinct pygmy-deer and a species of killer-rabbit (speaking of mythical, who knew we had those?). None have ever been captured alive.

Most agree that a Jackalope will attack you on sight,  but that when they flee they like to shout out things to misdirect pursuers, like “There he goes!” or “Over there!”. I always found it odd that such a supposedly fearsome beast would like to sing with the cowboys and would use misdirection to escape instead of attacking. I imagine Jackalopes have some fearsome teeth!

Jackalopes are also known to love whiskey.

One website claims that the Jackalope “will attack if cornered or provoked.  To avoid injury, quickly fall to the ground, remain calm and still while humming the Roy Rogers song, “Happy Trails to You”.”

Who wouldn’t attack if cornered and provoked? And who wouldn’t be calmed down by some Roy Rogers? Add some whiskey into all of that and it sounds like you and the Jackalope could make a pretty good night of it.

Most will argue that the Jackalope is purely a creature of myth. But it is interesting to note, that while jackalopes are thought to be distinctly American, there have been other stories around the world that described a “Horned Hare”.

Zakariya Ibn Muhammad al-Qazwini (1203-1283), a Persian scholar who wrote accounts of Alexander the Great, tells a story about Alexander saving an island from a dragon by feeding it poisoned cattle. In return, the islanders gave him many gifts, one of which was a “large and ferocious yellow animal with black spots and a dark horn”. This animal was never actually named, but “other medieval Muslim scholars copied his manuscript and called the animal “al Miradj”, a horned hare”.

Joris Hoefnagel painted this picture of the Jackalope in the 1570’s.

Animalia Qvadrvpedia et Reptilia (Terra): Plate XLVII, c. 1575/1580

Animalia Qvadrvpedia et Reptilia (Terra): Plate XLVII, c. 1575/1580

In 1606, the edition of Conrad Gesner’s Thierbuch (a German version of the first book his Historia Animalium by Konrad Forer, first published in 1563) and P. Gaspar Schott’s Physica Curiosa published in 1667 shows a tiny horned figure in the lower left hand corner.

Frontispiece of P. Gasparis Schott's Physica Curiosa, Sive Mirabilia Naturae et Artis Libris, 1667

Frontispiece of P. Gasparis Schott’s Physica Curiosa, Sive Mirabilia Naturae et Artis Libris, 1667

Another interesting myth is that Jackalopes only mate in the middle of thunder storms when lightning strikes. I personally think this must make things rather interesting for the poor Jackalope. Can you imagine mating in the midst of all of that and trying to avoid lightning while you’re at it?

The Jackalope is also known for producing milk that will heal almost anything. It is often called the “warrior rabbit.” Legend has it that if you catch a female Jackalope sleeping on its back, you can milk it and harness the amazing healing powers for yourself.

There are scientific explanations of the Jackalope. Rabbits are known to get what is called the Shope papilloma virus, a virus that is essentially a type of HPV, the same HPV that humans carry. In rabbits, it causes horny growths and horn-like warts. Extreme cases of this can also occur in humans (go Google “Tree Man of Indonesia” if you want to be more than a little horrified). But I’m sure that if you dig deep enough into any sort of mythical beast or any bit of folklore, you can find many different logical explanations to make whatever into a natural phenomena.

I’ve personally never seen a Jackalope, but would love to have the chance to do so. One of these days, I’m going to take a massive roadtrip across the Southwest to see some of the sights and visit the National Parks. Catching sight of a Jackalope is definitely going to be one of my high priorities for that trip.

I’m fascinated by the place that the Jackalope holds in American Folklore. Our folklore is so new in comparison to the lore of old world countries, and thus can be tracked much differently. Many people say that the Jackalope was made up by a man named John Colter of Wyoming in 1829. To this day, the town that Colter lives in has a Jackalope Day and a town statue of the Jackalope. One can obtain Jackalope hunting licenses. This is also the reason that most Americans will tell you that the Jackalope is a hoax; Most people trace the stories back to John Colter and dismiss it.

I prefer to think that there is no logical explanation for  the Jackalope. It is a being of magic and mystery. I hope to one day be camping out West, singing around the campfire one night, and to hear something start to sing along with me. I’ll be sure to bring an extra bottle of Whiskey with me for the occasion.

And as the Pixar short film Boundin’ has to say, “Now in this world of ups and downs, so nice to know there are Jackalopes around”.

I am not Kenny Klein

I would like to take a minute to clear something up. I am not Kenny Klein.

I state this in the “About Me” portion of this blog, but some people are still confused. So I wanted to clear things up once and for all and talk a little bit about my more creative half.

I don’t talk all that much about my  personal life on this forum, I bring up New Orleans; I bring up personal moments that relate to entries; but mostly I use this blog to discuss things in Paganism that I find interesting or issues that fire me up. Paganism is a burning passion in my life, after all. And be warned, if you don’t want to read about my personal life and don’t have patience for a long rambling piece, this is not the blog for you.

This is the story of how Kenny and I met and came to be a couple.

My name is Lauren and I work for a library (and if you don’t think that isn’t very much like admitting that you’re an alcoholic, well, that simply shows that you’ve never worked in a library before).

I grew up in Newark, a blue collar town right outside of Columbus Ohio. I moved to Cincinnati to go to college and ended up living there for a long time. For the record, Cincinnati is another awesome river town with a lot of great art and music.

It was in Cincinnati that I met the Pirates; with that meeting, my life changed forever. While I had always known that I wasn’t Christian (my family is solidly Methodist), I didn’t realize until my late teens that there were other options out there. Of course I had heard of Wicca before, but it didn’t really occur to me that it was possible to seek it out, or that there was a larger Pagan community to explore. In central Ohio, it’s hard not get swallowed up by the overall Abrahamic religious vibe. But when I met the Eclectic bunch of Pagans who call themselves The Pirates, a whole new world opened up for me.

When the economic downturn hit Southwestern Ohio pretty hard, I knew that my job was no longer stable. It turned out that as they were downsizing my department, another job turned up in Columbus. I was sad to leave my friends in Cincinnati, but I reasoned that Columbus couldn’t be too bad. My parents were nearby, I had grown up there; and it was only two hours away from my friends, so I could still go back and visit everyone regularly.

There were certain flaws in my reasoning. Namely, I was miserable in Columbus. There were a few pirates that dotted the Columbus landscape, and I was lucky enough to spend some time getting to know them better. Between them and my Cinci family, I was generally kept on the desirable side of sanity. One of the Columbus Pagans runs a small festival that brings the Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati Pagans together in Central Southern Ohio: it was there that I met Kenny.

I did not like Kenny the first time I met him. Little did I know at the time, he was in the process of going through a frustrating break-up and was moving his life from Los Angeles to New Orleans. He had lived in New Orleans before Katrina, but had moved to L. A. to be near family afterwards. At the time, all I saw was an old curmudgeon who was quite content to mope in a corner of the kitchen and yell at the pirates for being too loud at his concert. (The pirates ran the kitchen and we had to put up with him all weekend; we were excessively loud at his concert).

Kenny did however connect with my best friend at that festival, and ended up staying with her and several of my other friends while he performed at the Ohio Renaissance Festival. He endeared himself to her, but I was still convinced of his overall curmudgeonliness. While he stayed with my friends, he gave them an open invitation to come down and stay with him in New Orleans whenever they wanted.

Now, at one point, the older generation of the pirates lived in New Orleans for several years. For various reasons, they ended back in Cincinnati, but we of the middle generation had been fueled with many stories of the “good ol’ New Orleans days” and of course we all wanted to visit. I had been trying to get to New Orleans for years and every time I tried, plans fell through.

In early December of 2010, my friend called me up and asked me if I wanted to go to New Orleans. The conversation went something like this:

Friend: “Hey! We were thinking about taking a vacation to New Orleans over Yule, want to go with us?”
Me: “Of course!”                                                                                                                                                                                                   Friend: “One small thing…”                                                                                                                                                                                       Me: “What?”                                                                                                                                                                                                          Friend: “We’re going to stay with Kenny Klein…”                                                                                                                                               Me: “*Sigh” I suppose New Orleans is worth putting up with HIM, fine.”

And so, on December 16th, 2010, we set out on the thousand mile road trip from Columbus to New Orleans for an extended weekend.

We drove all night to get there. I remember stumbling out of the car, sleep deprived and rumpled in my sweats, simply wanting to sleep for a few hours. I was even beyond caring that we were staying at Kenny Klein’s house or that I was actually in New Orleans.

Kenny will tell you that he opened the door in time to see me come stumbling out and that he was struck with how cute I was and with the fact that he didn’t remember me at all from the festival. (Not surprising; at the festival, I avoided him like the plague). My friend had warned him that I shared no love for him at all, but that I had promised to be polite. Great start, right?

Over that long weekend, I was struck by the huge difference between the man I had met at the festival and the man that I met in New Orleans. In New Orleans, he welcomed us with open arms into his home, spent the entire weekend showing us around the city and was just, in general, a warm and lovely host.

We returned to Columbus and I didn’t really expect anything to happen with the connection that he and I had made. I was a thousand miles away, there is a thirty year age difference between us, and how in the world would something like that work anyway? But…he started writing me and I wrote back and soon I found myself driving to New Orleans again; this time, by myself.

The first time I came to New Orleans, I knew that it was the city where I wanted to live. So with Kenny writing me, I took a chance and started applying for jobs. I figured, if nothing else, I’d have a friend in New Orleans to help get me through the move and I wouldn’t be entirely alone when I moved a thousand miles away from home by myself. Kenny graciously offered to allow me to move in with him, thinking that I could watch his apartment for him while he was away on his annual summer tour, and then when he returned,I could get my own place. (Kenny says his evil plan was to convince me to stay with him all along, but he and I were both too realistic to think that we would work out in this fairly impossible scenario). Fortunately (unfortunately?) in the midst of all this, I found him to be the love of my life. Needless to say, I never did get my own place when he returned from that tour…

For those of you who don’t know who Kenny Klein is, Kenny has been in the Pagan community for over thirty years. He and his  first wife Tzipora are responsible for spreading the Blue Star tradition of Wicca across the U.S. and Kenny was one of the very first Pagan musicians of the modern era. Moon Hooves in the Sand, Kenny and Tzipora’s first recording, which Kenny generally shudders over now, was pretty groundbreaking at the time. It is one of the first recordings of Pagan liturgical music (if you want to hear really bad recordings of the music that makes up Blue Star ritual, go listen to it). And they did something that no one else had done before. Pagan music was not readily available to the public when they started out. While Kenny and Tzipora didn’t work out in the long run, and their break-up is the stuff of legends now, their music and the tradition they spread has had a lasting effect on the overall Pagan community.

Kenny will tell you even now that he never foresaw himself being a Pagan musician. He grew up in New York in the 80’s punk scene and hung out with bands like the Beastie Boys and the Bad Brains and played at the infamous CBGB’s. As a teen, he struggled with Judaism and searched for something greater. He went to his first Wiccan ritual at The Magical Childe in New York City and as they say, the rest is history. He has been a Wiccan Priest for nearly thirty five years now. Kenny is one of the figures from that second generation of Paganism that took what Gardner and the first generation had started and really spread it around the U.S. for the first time. He was and is close with figures like Oberon Zell, the late Issac Bonewits, the Farrars and many other influential Pagans of his era.

Kenny with Hair in the 80's Punk scene

Kenny with Hair in the 80’s Punk scene

Kenny is a pretty polarizing figure, both in Blue Star, the tradition he helped found, and in the larger Pagan community. A lot of people in the Blue Star tradition itself don’t like Kenny at all and get upset with what they see as being his old fashioned viewpoints. A lot of them will tell you that he has left the tradition and doesn’t know what he’s talking about. A lot of other people find him to be loud and obnoxious. He is pretty open with his viewpoints, whether you like them or not.

A lot of other people sneer at us and question our age difference. They see me as the little girl he’s been able to seduce. Anyone who thinks this has probably never met me.

So here’s the deal: When people mistake my writing for Kenny (who has four books in print), it’s pretty frustrating. While he and I are a couple, and I agree with many of his ideas, my thoughts and especially my writing are my own. And while I’m lucky that my infamous boyfriend is willing to promote my writing, it doesn’t mean that he’s secretly the one actually writing it. Whenever I see someone congratulate him on a blog of mine, I get this image of Kenny in a bad wig, hunched over my laptop, looking around sneakily.

Through Kenny, I have gotten to travel all over the U.S. and I’ve been able to go to Pagan festivals and gatherings of all kinds. I have gotten to meet many fabulous Pagan figures, and I get to be privy to a lot of the secrets and the politics that make up the Pagan community. Despite being brought to Wicca by my relationship with Kenny, I am forging my own presence in this greater community.

I also get judged by Kenny’s past decisions (which weren’t always great) and his past wives (which for the most part have been a tableau of mental disorders). I guess that can’t be helped. I have been told I am a welcome relief by some who have gotten to know me.

It frustrates me that often people can’t simply be happy for two people who finally found a happy relationship together.

At the end of the day, controversial, infamous, annoying, outlandish or anything else, Kenny Klein is my S.O. I chose him and kept him, no matter what he wants to tell you. Accept that we are an unconventional couple or don’t accept us at all. Neither of us are exactly what you would call everyone’s cup of tea.

Either way, when you read my blogs, be aware: I am not Kenny Klein. I just happen to live with him.

Kenny and I in Salt Lake City 2011

Kenny and I in Salt Lake City 2011

The Devil and Me

Here, here she comes. I’ll have a bout with thee;
 Devil or devil’s dam, I’ll conjure thee:
 Blood will I draw on thee, thou art a witch,
 And straightway give thy soul to him thou servest.
– Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Scene I, Act V

The history of witchcraft is intertwined with the image of the Devil.

It’s an ongoing battle for most modern Neo-Pagans to convince the rest of the world that we aren’t worshiping the Devil; killing goats, sacrificing babies at midnight, that kind of thing. If I had a Quarter for every time someone asked me if I worshiped Satan, I’d be quite well off.

And as this comic wonders, why would Satan want babies anyway?

The Sacrifice -

The Sacrifice

As a witch, it seems that my story is inevitably going to be entwined with this entity in the eyes of the larger community. From the merging of Christianity with mainstream culture in the Roman empire, the Burning times in later Europe, the witch trials of early America, to the occasional panic over witches in the current media (such as the West Memphis Three), witchcraft and the Devil are seen going hand in hand by a large majority of the population. Margaret Murray’s Witch Cult Theory may have been the first big argument in centuries for witches being separate entities from the Devil; but for the most part, witches and the Devil still go hand in hand  in the general mindset of the populace.

While I don’t worship the Devil, I do believe he exists. If he didn’t exist before, he certainly does now: there is too much fanatic belief by the same majority population for such a deity not to exist. And I don’t think he’s as easily escaped by Pagans as some of us would like to think. It’s easy enough to say “Oh! I have nothing to do with the Devil!” but that old Devil pops up in some interesting places.

The Devil is in and of himself an initiation that most witches have to go through. To us, he is part of a different pantheon, tied to the Christian God (though never actually mentioned in the Bible, other than a brief conversation with Jesus). But anyone who has been approached in public by a complete stranger and asked if they worship the devil, or asked the same thing by their family when they came out of the broom closet, will understand what I mean. The Devil is a liminal figure that most of us have to face at one point or another. There is a reason The Devil is one of the Major Arcana in the tarot; the Devil is a stumbling block, a blatant symbol of the need to make changes in one’s life. The most important aspect of the card is that all of the things that the Devil represents within the Tarot are bindings that a person willingly takes on themselves. You have to be willing to throw off the ties that the Devil creates.

Another one of the places where I find the Devil to be the most intriguing is in fairy tales. Fairy tales are excellent archetypes for magical work. If you were to read my S.O’s book Fairy Tale Ritualsyou would read about his theory that many fairy tales are describing initiations. Hansel and Gretel have to go into the Forest and defeat the witch (who has some rather suspicious ties to their evil stepmother from the first part of the story) to be able to grow up. He didn’t touch on the Devil, but the Devil shows up in many Grimm’s fairy tales as well, and serves as a Trickster character that helps assist these initiations along, just as any good villain will.

And really, at the end of the day, isn’t Lucifer the best villain ever?

Good Guy Lucifer

Good Guy Lucifer

The Grimm’s have many stories that involve the Devil. The authors even introduce the Devil’s Mother. Though, as the story of “The Devil’s Three Gold Hairs” shows, the Devil’s mother actually helps our hero on his way. It’s also interesting to note that the Devil is a fairly passive character in this story. We can assume that he was out and up to no good before he comes home, but the true evil character in the story is the King who is trying to get our hero killed. The Devil is simply a foil for the hero.

And then we have Baphomet. Many just see Baphomet as another image of the Devil, so for those Neo-Pagans who work with him, the stereotype continues. Baphomet can be a confusing figure, symbolizing many different ideas. It also probably doesn’t help that Baphomet came out of the Christian imagination during the Crusades anyway and was a large part of Crowley’s workings in the early twentieth century. It is a conundrum for Pagans that Baphomet has been heavily linked to Satanism.

In Aradia, Gospel of the Witches, Lucifer is Diana’s brother. Lucifer, of course, in Christian theology is Satan or the Devil. In Aradia, Lucifer is a God of intellectual freedom. He probably embodies everything that most people like to think of him as anyway: the free thinker who would not compromise his ideals, though it meant damnation. This tale, the Fall of Lucifer, is represented in Aradia.

The question also arises as to whether or not Satanists are Pagan. I know some who identify as Pagan and some who want absolutely nothing to do with that label. Several years ago, Anton LaVey’s daughter wrote a tome blasting Pagan girls, stating that Satanist girls were much better, and lived their ideals in a way Pagans did not.  I think Jason Mankey’s article, “Are Satanists Pagan?” sums the wider discussion up pretty thoroughly. But as with all labels, that’s a personal decision. It does probably cloud of the waters though for the larger issue.

The Devil, however you want to approach him as a divine figure, is a Trickster. Most Tricksters cause chaos to bring about a positive change. And as with any villain, the hero couldn’t overcome obstacles to change for the better without the barriers the villain is instrumental in bringing about. Maybe whether we like it or not, the Devil is here to stay: the trick he plays on us is challenging us to divorce ourselves from him. It’s a devilish conundrum.