Posted by The Reader



AUTHOR INFORMATION: Rob J. Hayes was born and brought up in Basingstoke, UK. As a child he was fascinated with Lego, Star Wars and Transformers that fueled his imagination and he spent quite a bit of his growing up years playing around with such. He began writing at the age of fourteen however soon discovered the fallacies of his work. After four years at University studying Zoology and three years working for a string of high street banks as a desk jockey/keyboard monkey Rob lived on a desert island in Fiji for three months. It was there he re-discovered his love of writing and, more specifically, of writing fantasy. 

OFFICIAL BLURB: BEATEN, BATTERED AND DAMNED NEAR BROKEN WITH A BOUNTY ON HIS HEAD SO LARGE HE’S TEMPTED TO TURN HIMSELF IN, the Black Thorn finds himself on trial for the crime of being him. Despite the impending probability of death he has but one thought on his mind; taking revenge against the Arbiter who took his eye.

In order to carry out his vengeance Thorn must first escape Sarth and recruit a new crew, each one with their own designs on revenge.

FORMAT/INFO: The Color of Vengeance is divided into three sections with forty-three POV chapters and an epilogue. The narration is in third person via Betrim Thorn aka The Black Thorn, Henry, Jacob Lee, Pern Suzku the Haarin, and Anders. This is the second book of the Ties That Bind trilogy

June 21, 2017 marks the worldwide e-book re-release of The Colour Of Vengeance and it was self-published by the author. Cover art is by Alex Raspad, cover design was by Shawn King.

CLASSIFICATION: The Ties that Bind is a dark fantasy trilogy with terrific characterization and a twisted plot-line that is very reminiscent of the works by Joe Abercrombie, David Dalglish and Scott Lynch

ANALYSIS: This book has been re-released by the author after he got his rights back from Ragnarok Publications and readers can read more about that in this interview and over on the author's site. I'm reposting my review with a few edits and to espouse the brand, new cover and re-release of the entire trilogy. A warning though before I begin my review, the start of the book is spoiler-ish for the climax of The Heresy Within so if you haven’t read it or don’t mind a minor spoiler, then read on. .

After finishing The Heresy Within, I couldn’t wait to see what happens next and immediately bought the second book and began reading. To my delight I read the blurb and saw that it focussed on the Black Thorn who along with Jezzet was my favorite character so far. At the ending of The Heresy Within, we are presented with an ending that is shocking to say the least and so with The Color Of Vengeance, we begin with Betrim Thorn who has been imprisoned after his failed attack on the Arbiter Kessick. Awakening in a dank corner he recalls his failed fight and the vital organ he lost. He manages to find his way out his most recent impediment and goes back to the wilds wherein he knows what to expect.

With the Black Thorn’s escape, the inquisition decides to send a new type of person to  track him down and deliver their verdict. Jacob Lee is the person chosen for the task and he’s a Templar with a penchant for dancing and seeing through lies. However his dancing is the type that leaves broken bones, & dead bodies in his wake. Pern Suzku is a Haarin, warriors who take contracts to guard people who can afford their services. Among the Haarin, he is considered to be one of the best if not the best one. His newest client however might be one to force Pern to reconsider what it means to be a Haarin.  Lastly all these characters are heading towards Solantis wherein most of them will meet up with some of their past and a reckoning for the future. 

There are a few other characters from the preceding volume who make their appearances as well but I’m hoping that the readers RAFO about them. But to put it mildly, The Colour of Vengeance simply blows away The Heresy Within and is safe to say the better book of the two. Once again the main reason is the characterization and as with the last book, it’s the POV characters that make it such fun to read. Beginning with the Black Thorn, Suzku, Jacob, Henry and the non-POV characters, mostly everyone is a two-faced killer and even harder to judge.

The author marvels in creating a volatile situation in the city of Solantis and to add to that are all these hot-headed killers and deadly warriors that are headed towards a violent finish. While this does seem a bit generic in the sense that cool characters come together and fight, what differentiates this book from the riff-raff is that the author creates a fantastic storyline wherein every new chapter adds to the tension and keeps the plot simmering all the way to its action-packed climax.  

I can't stress how terrific these characters are but think of all the bad-ass, grey characters we know from ASOIAF, the First Law trilogy, the works of David Gemmell and David Dalglish, simply put we get similar bad-ass rogues here and they will absolutely keep you riveted. Secondly the dialogue and action sequences are top-notch, with the variety of characters that fill in the pages, dialogue becomes crucial and the author doesn’t disappoint with his gems from time to time. The action is also considerably amped up and for those who can’t get enough of it; this book should very well fulfill all your cravings.

Also this book introduces a bit more of the secondary characters including a certain pirate who becomes a monumental figure in the overall happenings as well gives a clue about the overall world and therefore expands the story from its simple trapping of being a revenge saga. I loved how the author takes minor characters from his previous books and makes them standout ones. Cases in point are Anders, Henry and Drake Morass, the author deftly showcases what might be truly happening but then again readers must be wary that all is definitely not what it seems to be.

Negative points about this book are almost next to none for me. However one big point for many could be the absence of two of the main POVs from its predecessor. However because this volume focusses on newer characters who shine brightly if not more. Perhaps the reappearance of all the characters from the previous book can be thought of more than simply coincidental as the story makes it out to be. The author could have smoothened this bit of the story but the way it all happens I didn’t mind it. I didn’t have any other complaints about this book and it’s safe to say that this is a dark fascinating gem of a sequel. 

CONCLUSION: The Color Of Vengeance is not simply a revenge saga, no more than The Lies of Locke Lamora is simply a story of thieves. It’s much more than that and possibly the best fantasy book I've read in 2013 (when it was first released). Don’t take my word for it and start reading this series to see why I think Rob J. Hayes is the next fantastic Brit addition to the field of dark, gritty fantasy and another Indie gem after Anthony Ryan to arrive from the British shores.

Posted by bailoun

On Sunday, June 18, near the end of the holy month of Ramadan, Nabra Hassanen was brutally murdered. 

She was 17 years old, black, and wore a headscarf. She was bludgeoned with a baseball bat by 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres, who then kidnapped her in his car, killed her, and dumped her body in a pond.

According to the Fairfax County Police Department, Nabra and her large group of friends were walking back from a fast food restaurant to the mosque at about 3:40 A.M., prior to the start of the day’s fast. Torres “came upon the teens while he was driving,” and quarreled with a teenage boy on a bike. He then caught up with the group in a nearby parking lot, got out of his car with a baseball bat, and began to chase as the teens ran. Torres was able to catch Nabra, who fell behind.

Nabra was female, black, and visibly Muslim. She and the girls in her group were dressed in long abayas and headscarves. Yet the police department released a statement the day after, saying that they had not found any evidence to consider this a hate crime:

“There is nothing to indicate at this point this tragic case was a hate crime. No evidence has been uncovered that shows this murder was motivated by race or religion. It appears the suspect became so enraged over the traffic dispute it escalated into deadly violence…”

Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. said police have “absolutely no evidence” that her killing was motivated by hate.

Responses on Twitter to the police department’s characterization of Nabra’s murder as a “road rage” incident were varied. Most of them were angry.

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council of American-Islamic Relations, told CNN, “[T]here are not always overt statements of bias made during the crime. But we firmly believe that many of these crimes would not have occurred at all if the victims were not perceived as being Muslim.”

*  *  *

In February 2015, three young Muslims were killed in North Carolina. Deah Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha were newly married, and Yusor’s younger sister Razan often came over to stay with the couple at their home. The two women both observed hijab.

Craig Hicks, a neighbor, harassed them continuously in the weeks leading up to the killings. Yusor’s father later said she had told him, “Daddy, I think it is because of the way we look and the way we dress.”

On the day of the murders, Hicks sprayed Deah with bullets, shot the sisters execution-style in the head, and shot Deah once more before he left. The Chapel Hill Police Department stated that the crime was motivated by “an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking.”

*  *  *

I am a young Muslim woman, and I wear hijab. I live in New York City, among people from every conceivable walk of life; but I harbor no illusion that my identities do not make me more vulnerable to attack.

I pin my headscarf tightly, so that it can’t easily be ripped off.

I throw in a few words of English when I speak Arabic, so that I am not kicked off a plane.

I stand back from the yellow subway platform edge, so that I am not pushed onto the train tracks, or into an oncoming train.

Muslims are increasingly likely to be targeted by hate crimes, with the latest FBI hate crime statistics showing an increase of 67% between 2014 and 2015. More recently, the Council on American-Islamic Relations has reported a sharp acceleration in Islamophobic incidents after Trump’s November election.

But Muslim women in particular – who can often be more easily identified by their clothing – are even more recognizable targets. Their very presence in public spaces, as both women and visibly Muslim people, places them at a doubly heightened risk of discrimination and violence. In Nabra’s case, she faced a risk that was triply heightened: she was also black.

On May 26, a man killed two people and injured a third on a train in Portland, after they confronted him for shouting racist and anti-Muslim slurs at two teenage girls. One of the girls was black. The other was Muslim, and wore a hijab.

*  *  *

In the early morning of June 21, a 24-year-old man reportedly set Nabra’s memorial on fire. He was arrested and charged with “attending or kindling bonfires.” Sergeant Anna Rose explained, “[T]he memorial did not appear to be specifically targeted.”

The police report did not list hate bias as a possible motivation.

Posted by Manny Tejeda-Moreno

Welcome to the other side of the solstice: light is waning but abundant, still at its strongest and letting us stare deep and long into the world and into ourselves. This solstice is the triumph of life to its fullest, heralding the certainty of harvest in a moment of lavish light.

In my family’s traditions, midsummer meant a bonfire: the Bonfires of St. John. But not just a fire anywhere, a bonfire at the beach. Family members would make an ajiaco, a stew of root vegetables, plantains, corn on the cob and pumpkin that is cooked with tasajo, a Latin beef jerky. The ajiaco is a rich dish eaten with rice or bread but always sprinkled with lime juice at the last moment. The dish was reserved for big dinners and it accentuated the confluence of African, European and Indigenous cultures. We were taught that eating ajiaco connected us to the summer — the warmth of the world — and to our ancestors.

While I was growing up in Florida, we only celebrated one afternoon and evening but I was constantly told stories that the festival was supposed to last five days, creating a carnival-like atmosphere. It included costumes, dancing, parades, pageantry, a presentation of bulls, and the usual recounting of stories. Finally, on the fifth day — the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul — everyone would go to the giant straw and wood “doll” that had been built in one of the town plazas and burn it down, ending the festival celebrations With the burning of the doll, went all the negative energy in the town.

By the way, this is all totally not Pagan just, you know, traditions from the “Old Country.”

For us in Florida, though, when celebrating midsummer, there were three things you were supposed to do over the course of the day and into the night besides eat the ajiaco. The first of these was to jump over a small fire at least once. A small burning log was separated from the fires for us to jump over for the kids. The second thing was to bring herbs like basil, rosemary and oregano to wash in the surf. They were then bundled together and hung to dry at home, forming little salt crystals all over them. They were to be used during the next few days for both culinary and spiritual purposes.  The third thing we were supposed to do is to stand with your back to the ocean and fall backwards into it seven times.

Let me just note one more time that this is all totally not Pagan. They’re just fun traditions, you know, from the “Old Country.”

The Blue Hole at Ichetucknee Springs [S. Ciotti].

The last of these tasks has always stuck with me: falling backwards into the ocean. Now, just to be clear, I don’t recommend this without looking first, especially where I live.  Every Floridian knows not to go into any body of water — no matter how small — without a thorough inspection. Florida is constantly trying to kill you. No need to help it along.

But the act of entering water is spiritual, and falling backwards into it is both an act or trust as well as respect. While midsummer often focuses on bonfires, gardens and hikes — the stuff of the fire and earth — this is also the time of the year when many of us immerse ourselves in the waters of the world. We return to ocean, to beaches, to rivers and lakes, and creeks. It is a time when we need water the most. The heat of the summer demands we drink more to stay safe; and bathing in it cools us from heat.  This is a time of year that brings an opportunity to reconnect with the one substance that seems to be required for all life; the essence of the summer solstice.  There is no “us” without water, and in a very real way, we are water; we must return to it. As a shaman told me decades ago, “They like to tell us we are dust, but the truth is, we are water.”  We all go back to the water.

Despite its necessity for our survival and our spirit as a species, we seem to take every opportunity to collectively and consistently abuse  and ignore water. We do not revere it because it is common. In fact, we waste it will little regard. We pollute it specifically because of its abundance; we try to control it because of its utility.

Water exposes our human obsession with control.  We hear the echoes of our controlling nature in how we speak of water. We try to isolate it, keeping it away from us but allowing it to approach only on our terms, to what we choose: energy, art, or tea . We describe it as dangerous and irrepressible, and it is.

Offshore on the Atlantic Ocean [M. Tejeda-Moreno].

Its danger to us is not about its properties; it’s about our abuse of the world around us. Floods are not dangerous if we stop demanding to live where water belongs. The same is true for storm surges, even flash floods. In that sense, it is us prescribing to the planet where and how we will live that causes the damage.

Water floats our human gifts and aspirations. We learn to use water for communication and navigation. We sail for discovery and understanding, and use water to craft the world around us. Our buildings are possible because of water. Harnessing electricity became possible because of water.

Likewise, water drowns us in our human failures. The water crisis of Flint, Michigan exposes the environmental racism that plagues our civilization. It is through water that we witness how power, politics, and money continue to subordinate and even sacrifice communities of color. Our colonization was first made possible because of water. We also witness, in places like Fiji, how some of the purest waters on the planet are commodified to favor a hegemonic class. We see that social privilege in the most egregious wastes of water, lawns and golf courses; two spaces that exist only to mark class status.

As a species, we have been very busy destroying our water resources. We have decimated the Aral Sea, and we’ve been busy pressuring the North American Great Lakes ecosystems with urban and agricultural runoff. There are fewer and fewer unadulterated bodies of freshwater on every continent from streams, to rivers to lakes. It will come with a cost to our collective security and survival.

I’m reminded of a pataki about Orisha Olokun, the Orisha of the abyss. S/he is an androgynous Orisha separate from the better-known Yemaya of Yoruba religion, the Orisha of ocean surfaces and patron of the Ogun River in Nigeria. Orisha Yemaya is the mother of all, and she is present in the calm of the sea. But it is Olokun that is the power of the ocean and the rage of the maelstrom. Olokun is the water of life and the wellspring of all riches. S/he is the place where no one — not even fish — can go. The pataki is about two of his/her servants, one humble and the other arrogant. When Olokun asked the servants what they wished for, the humble servant said, “only to serve,” and so the servant was brought into the depths to learn Olokun’s secret wisdom and live in his/her riches. The other servant said he want only to live away from Olokun, and so Olokun cast him onto the land where he would only witness the famine and suffering of humankind, denied the greatness of waters. That servant cries endlessly to this day.

I think summer reminds us of that bargain. While the solstice brings the blessings of the sun, reentering Earth’s waters gives us a moment to reflect on Olokun’s choice.  Honoring water can offer us security, health and abundance; but disgracing it offers only the fate of the arrogant servant.

* * *

The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

Posted by The Reader


AUTHOR INFORMATION: Rob J. Hayes was born and brought up in Basingstoke, UK. As a child he was fascinated with Lego, Star Wars and Transformers that fueled his imagination and he spent quite a bit of his growing up years playing around with such. He began writing at the age of fourteen however soon discovered the fallacies of his work. After four years at University studying Zoology and three years working for a string of high street banks as a desk jockey/keyboard monkey Rob lived on a desert island in Fiji for three months. It was there he re-discovered his love of writing and, more specifically, of writing fantasy.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: As any warrior will tell you; even the best swordsman is one bad day away from a corpse. It's a lesson Blademaster Jezzet Vel'urn isn't keen to learn. Chased into the Wilds by a vengeful warlord, Jezzet makes it to the free city of Chade. But instead of sanctuary all she finds is more enemies from her past.

Arbiter Thanquil Darkheart is a witch hunter for the Inquisition on a holy crusade to rid the world of heresy. He's also something else; expendable. When the God Emperor himself gives Thanquil an impossible task, he knows he has no choice but to venture deep into the Wilds to hunt down a fallen Arbiter.

The Black Thorn is a cheat, a thief, a murderer and worse. He's best known for the killing of several Arbiters and every town in the Wilds has a WANTED poster with his name on it. Thorn knows it's often best to lie low and let the dust settle, but some jobs pay too well to pass up.

As their fates converge, Jezzet, Thanquil, and the Black Thorn will need to forge an uneasy alliance in order to face their common enemy.

FORMAT/INFO: The Heresy Within is divided into four sections with sixty POV chapters. The narration is in third person via Thanquil Darkheart, Jezzet Vel’urn and Betrim Thorn aka The Black Thorn. This is the first book of the Ties That Bind trilogy.

June 21, 2017 marks the worldwide e-book re-release of The Heresy Within and it was self-published by the author. Cover art is by Sigbjorn Pedersen, cover design was by Shawn King.

CLASSIFICATION: The Heresy Within is a dark fantasy debut with terrific characterization and a twisted plotline that is very reminiscent of the works by Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence and Scott Lynch.

ANALYSIS: This book was originally self-published by the author in 2013 and it completely blew my mind. When I first read it, I had no clue about this book but the blurb suggested a dark story and the excerpt that I read had me salivating as soon as I finished it. The story safe to say was far from a disappointment. This book has been re-released by the author after he got his rights back from Ragnarok Publications and readers can read more about that in this interview and over on the author's site. I'm reposting my review with a few edits and to espouse the new(ish) cover and re-release of the entire trilogy.

The story begins with Arbiter Thanquil Darkheart who is a member of the Inquisition that seeks to root out demons and those who practice the dark arts in the lands in and around the holy city of Sarth. They are an organization who based on the teachings of Volmar, and have dedicated their lives trying to burn heretics and forever stamp out the dark arts. Such dedication has given them the street title of “witch hunters” and it’s one that is actively discouraged as well. Thanquil however is not a typical arbiter and is just returning from a distant mission before he gets shanghaied into an even more dangerous one. 

Jezzet Vel’urn is a blademaster, she’s also a person who thinks more of day-to-day survival than anything else. Her troubles stem from a past friendship gone sour and before long she has to decide whether she will “fight or fuck her way” out of the troubles heading her way. Lastly there’s Betrim the Black Thorn, mercenary, rogue and all round deadly murderer. His name echoes throughout the wilds as a name to be feared. Having lost a few digits on his hands and feet have made the Black Thorn extremely cautious in trusting folk even those among his crew but come long he will have to decide whether he wants to remembered as just a vile mercenary or something more.

That’s the basic gist of all the POV characters however there are other characters as well and all of them crazier and scarier than these POV ones. If I had to pinpoint the one single strength of this book, I would say it’s the characterization. Very few authors manage to write such terrific characters in their debut, only a few such as Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie and Anthony Ryan come to mind but now I believe we have another addition to this list. Rob J. Hayes who has written about lowlifes and scoundrels but writes with such wonderful application that these very characters seem fascinating gems and before long have you hooked onto their antics. This is the best part of the story, and very reminiscent of Blake Crouch and J. A. Konrath’s serial killer thrillers wherein they explored the darker side of human depravity and power. 

Similarly the author herein focuses on people who frankly would be villains in most fantasy books however gives them three dimensional personas for the readers to enjoy reading about. Betrim, Thanquil and Jezzet are the main characters and they shine brightly through their chapters but it's also the side character cast such as Henry, Bones, Swift, etc that make the story so much more intriguing. The POV characters Thanquil, Jezzet and Betrim are all psychologically broken people however the way they cope with their problems is fascinating to read. Plus amid all the savagery, their semi-honorable actions seem even brighter as compared to the muck around them. Sure enough some of them are still reprobates, act crazy, commit violence in a wild manner upon each other and normal folk, however many of them become so interesting that the readers will be forced to turn the pages to get to know them better as well as their sides of the story. This was what I loved so much about this debut, the terrific characterization, the unpredictable plot-line with all the action and bleakness.

There are plot twists galore as the story hardly moves in the direction that the readers would expect and in the end the author makes sure that the rules of the world are obeyed in the sense that no character is truly safe. The author also subverts several fantasy tropes by not following conventional storylines Case in point the God Emperor of Sarth was a farm boy who was revealed to be a human incarnation of Volmar. However the author doesn't focus on this and mentions it and moves on to the juicy parts.  There are quite a few deaths and so I would recommend that readers not read the blurb of the sequel books so as to not spoil their reads. The ending is very Abercrombie-esque wherein situations are resolved but the characters are put through a psychological and physical grinder of sorts. All in all this is a kind of debut that you definitely don’t want to miss because as soon as you finish this book, you’ll want to start the next one and then the one after that. The nice news is that both the sequels are already out and therefore ready to be devoured. Lastly the cover art is also very apt and details a particularly fascinating scene from the book itself.

Now moving onto the parts of the book that seem to be a bit deficient, namely the worldbuilding front. Sure enough there is enough history and geography provided to make it seem three dimensional but because the story focuses so much on characters and action, some readers who might want to know more of the surrounding world might not be satisfied. This book is without a map and so for cartophiles (like me) it’s a bit of a negative. However the author has posted a world map on his website for those interested Lastly those who don’t like dark fantasy or grey characters please, please avoid this book at all costs as you definitely will not be able to stomach it for all its brutality, gore and graphic nature. There's also quite a few situations and characters that come on to the main stage without any explanation and so I hope their status and back-stories will be explained in the succeeding volumes.

CONCLUSION: The Heresy Within is an amazingly dark debut and like 2012’s Blood Song is an absolute gem. If you like Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch or Mark Lawrence, make sure this is your next book. If you want a dark journey filled with action, betrayals and truly magnificent bastards of characters then The Heresy Within is the book that you should seek. DO NOT MISS IT!

Posted by Dodie Graham McKay

CANADA – In March of 2017, legislation was introduced to Canadian parliament which could remove outdated and antiquated laws from the Canadian criminal code.

On June 6, the next step in this process was taken: bill C-51:An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act, was tabled in the House of Commons.

While this bill is designed to bring the criminal code closer into line with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it’s what’s buried deeper in the text that makes for interesting reading.

Under the higher-profile sexual assault provisions and other amendments is a list of outdated laws have been deemed obsolete and irrelevant. These are proposed to be stricken from the criminal code with the bill’s passage. They include:

  • Challenging someone to a duel (section 71);
  • Advertising a reward for the return of stolen property “no questions asked” (section 143);
  • Possessing, printing, distributing or publishing crime comics (paragraph 163(1)(b));
  • Publishing blasphemous libel (section 296);
  • Fraudulently pretending to practise witchcraft (section 365); and,
  • Issuing trading stamps (section 427).

Many of these laws are from Canada’s distant past, and holdovers from when Canadian law was codified in 1892. This system was adapted from English law, which inspired Canada at the time.

The bill was introduced by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and includes the removal of Section 365, which is of particular interest to Canada’s Witchcraft and Pagan communities.

Section 365 has been a sore spot for many Witches and Pagans in Canada, and has caused much confusion. It does not make it illegal to be a witch, or practise witchcraft, but it does specify that it is illegal to “fraudulently pretend” to practise witchcraft.

In an interview with The Wild Hunt in April 2017, Kerr Cuhulain, a retired Vancouver police officer, prominent Pagan author, hate crimes investigator and anti-defamation expert stated, “This law has to do with pretending to provide a service for money. The word ‘witchcraft’ in this law doesn’t refer to religion, it refers to magic. The courts really can’t interpret this as a religious law because then they’re crossing into human rights laws, that protect people’s rights to choose their spiritual path.”

While is has been recently reported by other non-Canadian media sources that “it is now legal to practise Witchcraft in Canada”, it is important to note that it is not illegal to be a Witch in this country. Section 365 of the Criminal Code of Canada clearly states that it is the element of pretending or fraud that is the problem:

Section 365 – Pretending to practise witchcraft, etc.

Every one who fraudulently

  • (a) pretends to exercise or to use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration,
  • (b) undertakes, for a consideration, to tell fortunes, or
  • (c) pretends from his skill in or knowledge of an occult or crafty science to discover where or in what manner anything that is supposed to have been stolen or lost may be found,

is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

Another important distinction to make is that the bill has not yet passed, but it has just been presented, and is “in committee” and being considered. The law will not be stricken from the books until it is passed by members of parliament.

Charges under section 365 of the criminal code are usually added to the more serious charge of fraud. During a plea bargain, the fraudulent witchcraft charge is typically dropped.

For example, in March of 2017, Murali Muthyalu was charged with fraud over $5,000, extortion and “pretending to practise witchcraft.” He extorted $101,000 Canadian dollars (approximately $75,305) from a desperate parent, who believed that Muthyalu would be able to cure his mentally ill daughter. Muthyalu told the parent that his daughter was possessed by evil spirits, and that for a fee, these spirits could be banished over several healing sessions.

During his plea bargain, the charge of pretending to practise witchcraft was dropped. Muthyalu, a visitor to Canada, was charged with fraud, ordered to pay restitution of $67,100 and ordered to leave the country

Crimes, such as the one committed by Muthyalu, are effectively covered by general fraud law in Canada. This makes the 125-year-old law citing witchcraft redundant.

The penalty for fraud can be a sentence of up to 14 years, whereas the penalty for section 355 (pretending to practise witchcraft) is a summary conviction of six months in jail and/or a fine of $5,000, which is why it is occasionally used in the plea-bargaining process.

For the general Canadian public, bill C-51 is most notable for the sexual assault reforms it contains. In addition, the bill would impose a new duty on the Minister of Justice to table a Charter Statement with every government bill. It will repeal or amend several criminal code provisions in order to better align them with the charter, and/or update them so they continue to be relevant in the 21st century. Finally, it clarifies the sexual assault provisions of the criminal code to reinforce protections for sexual assault complainants throughout the trial process, while preserving trial fairness for the accused. The inclusion of Section 365 is merely a curious and amusing leftover from a bygone era, along with the sections pertaining to dueling and publishing crime comics.

For Canadian Witches and Pagans, particularly those who may charge for their services, the removal of section 365 will potentially bring an end to the cloud of confusion over what constitutes a crime in our country.

No date is set at present, for the passing of bill C-51. The Wild Hunt will continue to update this story.

Posted by The Reader

Rob J Hayes has been a favorite of mine since first debuted his fantasy trilogy in April of 2013. The earlier covers weren’t anything that would catch most people’s eyes however his writing had that special quality that most readers including me took notice. Within a year of his indie success, Rob signed up with Ragnarok Publications to give his books a wider release and also got new cover art as a result.

Things however didn’t work out with Ragnarok because of their sheer unprofessionalism and the author has documented all of his pitfalls with them over HERE, HERE & HERE.

Thankfully earlier this year, Rob was able to get the rights to his debut trilogy back and decides to re-rerelease them with new cover-art. Okay so it’s new for books two & three and one slightly older cover for the The Heresy Within.

So here are the covers in all their glory and with new blurbs:

The Heresy Within (cover art by Sigbjorn Pedersen, cover design by Shawn King):


Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Heresy Within
Order The Heresy Within Over HERE (USA) & HERE (UK)

Official Book Blurb: As any warrior will tell you; even the best swordsman is one bad day away from a corpse. It's a lesson Blademaster Jezzet Vel'urn isn't keen to learn. Chased into the Wilds by a vengeful warlord, Jezzet makes it to the free city of Chade. But instead of sanctuary all she finds is more enemies from her past.

Arbiter Thanquil Darkheart is a witch hunter for the Inquisition on a holy crusade to rid the world of heresy. He's also something else; expendable. When the God Emperor himself gives Thanquil an impossible task, he knows he has no choice but to venture deep into the Wilds to hunt down a fallen Arbiter.

The Black Thorn is a cheat, a thief, a murderer and worse. He's best known for the killing of several Arbiters and every town in the Wilds has a WANTED poster with his name on it. Thorn knows it's often best to lie low and let the dust settle, but some jobs pay too well to pass up.

As their fates converge, Jezzet, Thanquil, and the Black Thorn will need to forge an uneasy alliance in order to face their common enemy.

The Colour Of Vengeance (cover art by Alex Raspad, cover design by Shawn King):


Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Colour Of Vengeance
Order The Colour Of Vengeance Over HERE (USA) & HERE (UK)

Official Book Blurb: BEATEN, BATTERED AND DAMNED NEAR BROKEN WITH A BOUNTY ON HIS HEAD SO LARGE HE’S TEMPTED TO TURN HIMSELF IN, the Black Thorn finds himself on trial for the crime of being him. Despite the impending probability of death he has but one thought on his mind; taking revenge against the Arbiter who took his eye.

In order to carry out his vengeance Thorn must first escape Sarth and recruit a new crew, each one with their own designs on revenge.

The Price Of Faith (cover art by Alex Raspad, cover design by Shawn King):


Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Price Of Faith
Order The Price Of Faith Over HERE (USA) & HERE (UK)

Official Book Blurb: NOT EVERYONE HAS A DESTINY.

Separated and miserable, Thanquil Darkheart and Jezzet Vel’urn both have their reasons for wanting to leave the Dragon Empire. Jezzet flees from the wrathful fury of an Empress scorned while accompanied by the ever insidious Drake Morrass and Thanquil sets out to find and judge his one heretical loose end.


Plus to celebrate the relaunch of his debut trilogy, the author has also made the collection of his First Earth short stories FREE on both side of the Atlantic. So please download a copy  for FREE and enjoy an exciting introduction to the First Earth Saga

Order The Bound Folio Over HERE (USA) & HERE (UK)

Official Book Blurb: The world is full of heroes, villains, and all the shades in between. The Bound Folio tells their stories from the tortured childhood of the legendary Blademaster the Sword of the North, to the humble origins of the Queen of the Five Kingdoms, to the death of one of the world’s greatest assassins.

This anthology collects together eight dark stories of swords, sorcery, and seduction from First Earth, the setting of The Ties That Bind trilogy and the forthcoming Best Laid Plans duology.

Posted by Juliana Britto Schwartz

Mahroh was at the D.C. vigil for Nabra Hassanen – check out her livestream on our Facebook page. 

Charleena Lyles was the second pregnant black woman killed by police this spring.

After months of sexual harassment and sexism scandals at Uber, CEO Travis Kalanick has resigned.

According to a new analysis, women carry approximately two thirds of student debt in the U.S. This, compounded with the gender pay gap, make it harder for them to achieve economic stability.

Meet some of the Vietnamese women who escaped violence and poverty to work in nail salons in the American South.

The vast majority of Americans don’t support mass deportation.

Posted by Cara Schulz

ARTEMAS, Penn. — A popular festival venue for Pagan events recently experienced an outbreak of suspected dysentery. Four Quarters Interfaith Sanctuary says it’s working with the Pennsylvania Department of Health to investigate the outbreak and is taking steps to ensure the safety of future events, such as the upcoming SpiralHeart WitchCamp.

On the weekend of June 15, the Mad Tea Party took place at Four Quarters. According to Maryland Our Community Now, “By Sunday morning, reports of horrifying conditions began to emerge from festival attendees. The event page on Facebook has become an active forum for complaints as attendees report ambulance rides, hospital visits, and over 20 hours of illness after an apparent viral outbreak.” The report also says prior events this spring at Four Quarters have also experienced similar outbreaks.

Four Quarters quickly put out a message saying they were seeking answers to what caused the outbreak and asked attendees to report any health issues to the Pennsylvania Board of Health.

The venue is a popular site for Pagan and New Age events because of its central location, beautiful scenery, and modern facilities such as flushing toilets. The next Pagan event to be held at Four Quarters is SpiralHeart WitchCamp.

WitchCamp is “a week long, magical, intensive in the Reclaiming Tradition” and is scheduled to begin July 10.

[Pixabay].

Gwion Raven is teaching at WitchCamp, and has been to Four Quarters for previous WitchCamp events. He describes the venue well-maintained and remembers seeing signs posted in key locations which warn about viral infections and what can be done to prevent them.

He says although the reports of illness concern him, he’s still planning to attend the event.

SpiralHeart WitchCamp messaged attendees saying they are aware of the problem: “Hello campers! In just under 3 weeks (20 days) we’re convening for our annual Summer Intensive at 4Quarters Farm. There was a recent outbreak of a viral GI illness at that venue. The PA Health Dept. has been involved, and it appears the virus was brought by recent attendees. Four Quarters is working with the PA Epidemiological Dept. and will be visiting onsite with them shortly. Our organizers are in contact with Four Quarters staff and we will update you when we have information.”

Raven says he’s going to take common sense precautions like bringing his own water and packing Pepto-Bismol, but is interested in knowing what caused the outbreak. “If the recent outbreaks have to do with the actual water system, hand-washing won’t help much,” he said.

Raven notes that viral infections at large gatherings aren’t that uncommon and says smaller events, like WitchCamp, place much less stress on a venue’s facilities.

Four Quarters put out a statement detailing what they know and the steps they put in place to limit viral infections from spreading during an event:

Recently we have suffered at Four Quarters outbreaks of a very contagious viral GI illness that is following the pattern of the 2008 season outbreaks. We have been in contact with our public health officials about Viral GI prior to the outbreak at the Mad Tea Party and have been in continuous contact since Sunday morning, June 18. We have been forwarding contact information, hospital information, test reports and samples directly to the PA Epidemiological Dept, and will be meeting with them on site shortly.

[…] In working with the PA Health Dept after our experience with Viral GI in 2008, we put into place policies and improvements under their recommendation. We believe these policies prevented a much wider outbreak at Mad Tea Party.

  • We quarantine campers and campsites that display symptoms of any kind of GI distress, until it is known they are not infectious, and we supply these camps with chlorine wash-down supplies. We track arrival times, travel histories and first symptoms of cases reported to us.
  • We educate through signage and publications about the nature of Viral GI. Much of our staff has passed Safe-Serve educational certification.
  • During high risk events we continuously clean and chlorine wash-down all potties, water spigots, hand-wash stations and smooth public surfaces many times during the day.
  • Our water supply is tested and licensed with daily chlorine readings and monthly sampling. We volunteered for this highest level of testing.
  • Food vendors are safe-serve certified and are Health Dept. inspected prior to events. Our own kitchen is licensed to the commercial level with safe-serve certified staff.

Experts suggest the first line of defense against catching some type of illness at a festival is to get adequate sleep. One study suggests people who get less than six hours of sleep a night are four times more likely to catch a cold when exposed to the virus than those who get seven or more hours of sleep.

Getting sleep reduces the chance of some viral infections [Pixabay].

They also say attendees should limit or avoid alcohol, wash hands frequently with soap and water, bring bottled water, and not share food utensils or beverage containers.

Posted by Sejal Singh

A new Missouri bill would target abortion providers and sanction employment and housing discrimination against people who use birth control or have an abortion. Blessed be the fruit.

Yesterday, the Missouri House voted to pass SB 5, a bill imposing several highly burdensome and even more unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers; for example, the bill would require abortion providers to send fetal tissue samples to a pathologist within five days. While supporters of targeted restrictions of abortion providers (aka TRAP laws) claim they’re supporting women’s health, regulations like these often serve no medical purpose whatsoever. In reality, anti-choice legislators use them as a pretext to impose costs and red tape on abortion clinics, forcing them to close.

But SB 5 has another insidious purpose: to overturn a St. Louis ordinance that bans employers and landlords from discriminating against people on the basis of their reproductive health decisions. In other words, if SB 5 is passed, you could be evicted in the state of Missouri for having an abortion, using birth control, or becoming pregnant while unmarried.

This extremely common-sense city ordinance, which St. Louis passed this spring, was apparently Too Far for Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, who took to the press to complain about “radical politicians” making “St. Louis an abortion sanctuary city.” Ah, yes, the radical idea that an adult woman should be able to plan when, and whether, to have kids without risking her job or home. Greitens called state legislators back to the Capitol this summer specifically to overturn the St. Louis law, and to respond to the fact that Missouri’s last attempt to shut down abortion clinics ended up getting shut down by a federal judge.

The result of that special session is SB 5, which the Missouri Senate passed last Wednesday after 10 hours of negotiations behind closed doors. The House passed an amended, even more anti-choice version late yesterday.

That’s right. Missouri lawmakers are going out of their way to say that if an employer has a problem with you taking the pill, he can fire you – and he’ll have a seal of approval from the state of Missouri.

SB 5 puts women across Missouri at risk of losing their jobs or their homes: according to the CDC, 99% of sexually-active, reproductive-age women have used contraception. And whether or not someone is part of that 99% is none of their boss’ goddamn business. The state is outrageously, invasively giving employers and landlords the power to police highly personal choices women make about their bodies and lives. Missouri is sending the message that a woman’s livelihood, independence, even her ability to provide for her kids is all less important than her boss’ personal need to impose his narrow beliefs on her.

Missouri legislators may not have gotten the memo, but the Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act already prohibits employment discrimination against women because they’ve had or considered an abortion. But federal protections for people who use birth control are less clear – and as the Trump Administration rolls back civil rights enforcement across the board, it’s imperative we maintain protections at the state and local levels.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, SB 5 also limits regulation of so-called “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” (anti-choice “clinics” that feed pregnant people misinformation to trick them out of having abortions), gives Missouri’s virulently anti-choice Attorney General Josh Hawley power to prosecute potential violations of Missouri’s TRAP laws, and allow the state to harass abortion clinics with unannounced inspections. The House’s version of the bill is headed back to the Senate, with amendments making it even harsher – and if it passes there it’ll head straight to Governor Greitens’ desk.

Are you in Missouri? Find your state representatives and call them to say you oppose SB 5, restrictions on reproductive freedom, and discrimination based on reproductive health decisions.

Image via the Ohio Statehouse News Bureau.

Savage Love

Jun. 21st, 2017 04:00 am[syndicated profile] savagelove_feed

Posted by Dan Savage

Woman's "perfect" guy charmed her before admitting he's already in a poly relationship by Dan Savage

I am a 34-year-old straight woman. I'm monogamous and have an avoidant attachment style. I've been seeing a guy I really like. He's just my type, the kind of person I've been looking for my whole life. Thing is, he's in an open relationship with someone he's been with for most of his adult life. He was sneaky—he didn't reveal he was in an open relationship until the second date, but by then I was infatuated and felt like I wasn't in control of my actions. So what I've learned is that poly couples often seek out others to create NRE or "new relationship energy," which may help save their relationship in the long run. I was deeply hurt to learn about NRE. What about the people who are dragged into a situation by some charmer in an attempt to breathe new life into a stale relationship? I feel like no one cares about the people on the side, the ones who might be perceived to be cheating with someone's partner, as some sort of competitor, a hussy. How can I reconcile the fact that I've fallen for someone who sees me as a tool to be discarded once the excitement wears off? I know we all have a choice, but we also know what it's like to be infatuated with someone who seems perfect. I feel like such a loser.

Sobbing Here And Making Errors

"One of life's hardest lessons is this: Two people can be absolutely crazy in love with each other and still not be good partners," said Franklin Veaux, coauthor of More Than Two: A Practical Guide to Ethical Polyamory (morethantwo.com). "If you're monogamous and you meet someone you're completely smitten with who isn't, the best thing to do is acknowledge that you're incompatible and go your separate ways. It hurts and it sucks, but there it is."

This perfect, sneaky guy who makes you feel like a loser and a hussy? He told you he was in an open relationship on your second date. You knew he wasn't "your type" or "perfect" for you the second time you laid eyes on him, SHAME, and you needed to go your separate ways at that point. And I'm not buying your excuse ("I was too infatuated!"). What if he had revealed that he was a recreational bed wetter? Or a serial killer? Or Jeffrey Lord? Or all of the above? Surely you would've dumped him then.

Veaux advocates ethical polyamory—it's right there in the title of his book—and he thinks this guy did you wrong by not disclosing his partner's existence right away. "Making a nonmonogamous relationship work requires a commitment to communication, honesty, and transparency," said Veaux. "Concealing the fact that you're in a relationship is a big violation of all three, and no good will come of it."

I have a slightly different take. Straight women in open relationships have an easier time finding men willing to fuck and/or date them; their straight male counterparts have a much more difficult time. Stigma and double standards are at work here—she's sexually adventurous; he's a cheating bastard—and waiting to disclose the fact that you're poly (or kinky or HIV-positive or a cammer) is a reaction to/work-around for that. It's also a violation of poly best practices, like Veaux says, but the stigma is a violation, too. Waiting to disclose your partner, kink, HIV status, etc., can prompt the other person to weigh their assumptions and prejudices about poly/kinky/poz people against the living, breathing person they've come to know. Still, disclosure needs to come early—within a date or two, certainly before anyone gets fucked—so the other person can bail if poly/kinky/poz is a deal breaker.

As for that new relationship energy stuff...

"There are, in truth, polyamorous people who are NRE junkies," said Veaux. "Men and women who chase new relationships in pursuit of that emotional fix. They're not very common, but they do exist, and alas they tend to leave a lot of destruction in their wake."

But your assumptions about how NRE works are wrong, SHAME. Seeing your partner in the throes of NRE doesn't bring the primary couple closer together; it often places a strain on the relationship. Opening up a relationship can certainly save it (if openness is a better fit for both partners), but NRE isn't a log the primary couple tosses on the emotional/erotic fire. It's something a poly person experiences with a new partner, not something a poly person enjoys with an established one.

And there are lots of examples of long-term poly relationships out there—established triads, quads, quints—so your assumption about being discarded once NRE wears off is also off, SHAME. There are no guarantees, however. If this guy were single and looking for a monogamous relationship, you could nevertheless discover you're not right for each other and wind up being discarded or doing the discarding yourself.

I'm going to give the final word to our guest expert...

"Having an avoidant attachment style complicates things, because one of the things that can go along with avoidant attachment is idealizing partners who are inaccessible or unavailable," said Veaux. "That can make it harder to let go. But if you're radically incompatible with the person you love, letting go is likely your only healthy choice. Good luck!"


I'm gay and married. My husband regularly messes around with this one guy who treats me like I'm a cuckold. He will send me a pic of my husband sucking his cock, for example, and a text message meant to degrade me. But I'm not a cuckold and I don't find these messages sexy. My husband wants me to play along because it gets this guy off. Advice?

Can't Understand Cuckold Kink

It depends, CUCK. If you're upset by these messages—if they hurt your feelings, are damaging your sexual connection to your husband, are traumatizing—don't play along. But if you find them silly—if they just make you roll your eyes—then play along. Respond positively/abjectly/insincerely, then delete. Not to please the guy sending the messages (who you don't owe anything), but to please your husband (who'll wind up owing you).


I am a straight male grad student in my mid-20s. My girlfriend wants to have sex with another girl in our class. Neither of us have had a threesome before, but both of us are game. Unfortunately, I am not attracted to this girl. When we started dating, my girlfriend told me that she is sexually attracted to women. We agreed to be monogamous except that she could have sex with other women as part of a threesome with me. She is not hell-bent on having sex with our classmate, but she would like to and says it's up to me. I don't want her to suppress her same-sex tendencies, but I am jealous at the thought of her having sex with someone else while I am not participating. What should I do?

Feeling Out Moments Orgasmic

You should take yes for an answer, FOMO—or take your girlfriend's willingness to say no to this opportunity for an answer. She's into this woman but willing to pass on her because you aren't. There are billions of other women on the planet—some in your immediate vicinity—so you two have lots of other options. Unless you find a reason to object to every woman your girlfriend finds attractive, you aren't guilty of suppressing her same-sex tendencies. recommended


On the Lovecast, Michael Hobbes on gay, middle-aged dating: savagelovecast.com.

mail@savagelove.net

@fakedansavage

ITMFA.org

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Happy summer solstice

Jun. 20th, 2017 02:13 pm[syndicated profile] thewildhunt_feed

Posted by The Wild Hunt

TWH – For many people around the world, this week marks the celebration of the summer solstice, also known as midsummer or Litha. It is at this time that the Northern Hemisphere is tilted closest to the sun. The astrological date for this year’s solstice is June 21 at 04:24 UTC (or 12:24 a.m. EDT).

In honor of the abundance of daylight and sunshine, communities have long used bonfires, music, dancing, and outdoor festivals as traditional features of both religious rituals and secular celebrations. In some modern Pagan practices, it is believed that this holiday represents the highest ascendancy of masculine divinity.

[Public domain].

At the same time, our friends in the Southern Hemisphere are experiencing the exact opposite. They are coming together to celebrate and mark the winter solstice; a time of darkness, candles and inward reflection.

There are several international secular holidays that correspond to the midsummer holiday. In 1982, Make Music Day, held annually June 21, was established in France and has since spread to become a global solstice celebration of sound. On that same day, others will be honoring the United Nations’ official International Yoga Day, while still others will be taking to the warm summer mountain trails to celebrate Naked Hiking Day.

June also marks gay pride month — officially proclaimed this year as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month — which has grown in popularity over the past few decades. Events are specifically held in June to mark the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, which happened in New York City on June 28, 1969.

As we noted this weekend, June is the month in which many countries honor fathers and father figures, and in the U.S. it marks the end of slavery.

While those celebrations mentioned above are all examples of secular-based traditions, there are just as many religious holidays that occur at this time, many of which are honored by modern Pagans, Heathens and polytheists. As already noted, there is the celebration of Litha or midsummer, or conversely Yule and midwinter.

The Fires of St. John festival, a Christian holiday, is also held at this time in many countries and is closely associated with the older midsummer solstice’s traditions, including bonfires and feasts. Similar celebrations are found in many European countries, often known by different names.

In Vodun, Lucumi and other African diaspora religions, there are a number of feast days celebrated around this time, including the Feast of Ochossi and Feast of Eleggua.

In modern Hellenic reconstruction, the festival of Promethea occurs on June 21. One of the traditions is to eat fennel, which this is what Prometheos used to smuggle fire to man.

Here are a few thoughts on the season:

If you’re like me and don’t feel like lots of merriment this Litha, it’s a good time to reflect on the significance of this turning point in the wheel of the year. Wait for the cool of the evening if that’s possible. Light some candles. Pick an incense with a floral or citrus scent. Have a nice glass of wine or other relaxing beverage. Then take time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished since Yule. Have the seeds of ideas and projects you planted during the first part of the year been able to grow? If not, is there anything you can do to help them germinate during this time of the year that is focused on the greening of the earth? – David Taliesin, Litha (Summer Solstice) for Introverts

 *   *   *

The energy of Midsummer night is a long-understood atmosphere in Western culture. It means air warm enough for all-night goings-on outdoors. It means woods and meadows and moon-dappled hilltops. Nights for mystical and amorous adventures! Wherever you live, I suspect you know what I mean. The long, lovely evenings. – Mark Green, Hail the Magnificent Sun.

 *   *   *

The longest day and the shortest night of the year. This is a time to celebrate the completion of the cycle that began at the winter solstice – the sun is at the height of its power and although hopefully the hot days of summer are yet to come this is the point when the year starts to wane. Connect to this moment by taking time to stop, be still and look back over the past few months, celebrate your achievements and acknowledge your failures, make sense of your actions and learn from them. Focus now on what you want to nurture and develop during the coming months. – Rachel Patterson, Magical Food for Summer Solstice

*   *   *

This is the time of year to be harvesting a lot of plants including yarrow, mugwort, elderflower, rue, comfrey, lavender, plantain, and St. john’s wort. The last is actually named specifically because it blossoms at the same time that midsummer occurs. Often European midsummer festivals were recast as festivals for St. John so that all the merriment and harvesting could continue to occur under the auspices of a Christian saint. – Melissa Hill, Harvesting the Verba for Midsummer

Posted by The Reader


Official Author Website
Order The Force HERE
Read an Interview with Don Winslow by John Wilkins

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Our ends know our beginnings, but the reverse isn’t true . . .

All Denny Malone wants is to be a good cop.

He is "the King of Manhattan North," a highly decorated NYPD detective sergeant and the real leader of "Da Force." Malone and his crew are the smartest, the toughest, the quickest, the bravest, and the baddest, an elite special unit given carte blanche to fight gangs, drugs, and guns. Every day and every night for the eighteen years he’s spent on the Job, Malone has served on the front lines, witnessing the hurt, the dead, the victims, the perps. He’s done whatever it takes to serve and protect in a city built by ambition and corruption, where no one is clean—including Malone himself.

What only a few know is that Denny Malone is dirty: he and his partners have stolen millions of dollars in drugs and cash in the wake of the biggest heroin bust in the city’s history. Now Malone is caught in a trap and being squeezed by the Feds, and he must walk the thin line between betraying his brothers and partners, the Job, his family, and the woman he loves, trying to survive, body and soul, while the city teeters on the brink of a racial conflagration that could destroy them all.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: "…he started out with his eyes firmly on the guiding star, his feet planted on the path, but that’s the thing about the life you walk—you start out pointed true North, but you vary one degree off, it doesn’t matter for maybe one year, five years, but as the years stack up you’re just walking farther and farther away from where you started out to go, you don’t even know you’re lost until you’re so far from your original destination you can’t even see it anymore" - Don Winslow

"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown" - Henry IV Part 2W. Shakespeare

After eighteen years in the NYPD, Detective Sergeant Denny Malone has good cause for unease. The de facto king of Manhattan North has seen considerable upheaval in his kingdom. He may be, effectively, the head of this select unit, charged with going after gangs, drugs, and guns. “Da Force” may have unusually free rein to do as they see fit to accomplish their goals. But a turf war between competing providers of recreational pharmaceuticals is growing increasingly kinetic, with one of the combatants looking to purchase a considerable supply of death-dealing hardware. Not OK. The captain is pressing for a high-publicity bust. There is also the perennial political dance one must perform to keep the brass at One Police Plaza and the political suits from interfering with business as usual. Of course, what passes for business as usual might not look all that good splashed across the front pages of the local tabloids.

Bribery may be the grease that keeps the wheels of civilization turning, but it leaves a lot of cops with very dirty hands. Denny is no saint, and no Serpico. He may mean well for the community he is charged with protecting, but his methods often lack the soft gleam of legality. We first meet him as he arrives in federal lockup. The novel then goes back to show how he got there. Slippery slope stuff. See the greased wheels above.

"The street stays with you. It sinks into your pores and then your blood." 
"And into your soul? Malone asks himself. You gonna blame that on the street too? 
"Some of it, yeah." 
"You’ve been breathing corruption since you put on the shield, Malone thinks. Like you breathed in death that day in September."
"Corruption isn’t just in the city’s air, it’s in its DNA, yours too." 
"Yeah, blame it on the city, blame it on New York." 
"Blame it on the Job, It’s too easy, it stops you from asking yourself the hard question."
"How did you get here? Like anyplace else."
"A step at a time."

Lines are crossed here with the frequency of runners reaching the end of the NYC marathon. Early on, Denny and his crew take out a major distributor, whack the principal, and skim off a significant portion of the captured product, a bit of an extra retirement fund. Some people are a tad upset by this. It’s not exactly much of a secret, though, and there are those who would like to see Denny being saluted by the entire force in Dress Blues and white gloves while someone plays Taps.

One of the great powers of this novel is the perspective offered on diverse forms of human behavior. Is Denny a brute for roughing up a guy who beat up a kid? Definitely outside the law, but are his actions effective? Denny really does care about the people in his kingdom. He cuts slack when possible, and brutalizes when it is called for. But the law seems a lot more of a recommendation than an absolute.

Winslow offers a close up look at a dark element of police culture:
 - How does being on the take work?
 - Who gets what?
 - How is money distributed?
 - Who is it ok to accept bribes from?
 - What is allowed that would otherwise be justiceable?
 - And why do the cops here consider it ok?

He offers as well a moving look at the human relationships that make up police life, the code of honor, the power of partnership, the requirement that all members of the team partake of the ill-gotten, if only as a means of self-protection, the wives who turn a blind eye to where that extra cash may have originated, and what their breadwinner may be up to when the crew parties hard, up to a point anyway. The interaction between the police and people in their area is rich with real affection, as well as the expected cynicism. Some of these scenes are stunningly moving, tissue worthy.

How about the relationship between cops and the local criminal element? You might be reminded of those cartoons in which Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote punch a time clock, go at it, then clock out at the end of the day, friends. The cops and criminals often seem cut from the same cloth, although the baddest of the bad guys are certainly much worse than the worst of the cops. And the bullets really kill. Winslow does not spare the one-percent, either, in his look at layers of amorality.

Don Winslow is a seasoned writer at the pinnacle of his craft:

"Malone drives past the Wahi diner and the mural of a raven on 155th. Past the church of the Intercession, but it’s too late for Intercession, past Trinity Cemetery and the Apollo Pharmacy, the Big Brother Barber shop, Hamilton Fruits and Vegetables and all the small gods of place, the personal shrines, the markers of his life on these streets that he loves like a husband loves a cheating wife, a father loves a wayward son."

There are wonderful nuggets of law enforcement intel in here. Like the notion of testilying. Or what is considered proper attire for a day on the stand. How about special celebratory nights for a crew? The upside of EMTs not taking a Hippocratic oath. Rules for note-taking on the job. How 9/11 saved the mob. Planning your crimes so they cross as many precinct boundaries as possible, increasing the likelihood that a paperwork snafu will botch a prosecution. On tribes within the force.

Winslow has a Damon Runyon-esque ear for character names. My favorites were a CI named Nasty Ass, and another the cops call Oh No, Henry, and a linguist’s appreciation for the local patois. Or maybe that would be another well-known teller of tales. (I think Dickens is one of the progenitors of noir fiction, writing as he did about the criminal underclass.) He peppers the novel with delicious small side-stories. Tales told in a bar by guys who have been spinning yarns for a lifetime. They give us occasional breathers from the breakneck pace.

He takes on topics that will resonate, from Blue on Black violence, and the resulting reactions, to how the jails are functioning as de facto mental hospitals and detox centers. From a consideration of God and the Church (Denny is not a fan) to the impact of the job on people’s lives. Denny recalls his father: "He was a cop on these streets, coming home in the morning after a graveyard shift with murder in his eyes, death in his nose and an icicle in his heart that never melted and eventually killed him."

From how cops cope with the daily horrors to how the crime numbers are cooked to support whatever preconceived outcome was desired. On the Iron Pipeline, the route on which legal guns from Texas, Arizona, Alabama and the Carolinas become illegal guns in NYC. The politics of police tactics and voting. The hatred and respect the cops have for the best defense lawyers. Their relationship with reporters: "You trust a reporter like you trust a dog. You got a bone in your hand, you’re feeding him, you’re good. Your hand’s empty, don’t turn your back. You either feed the media or it eats you."

Denny may be dirty, but you will be dashing along with him and hoping for the best. Maybe this whole situation can be fixed. He is a rich, multi-faceted character, and you will most definitely care what happens to him. Think Popeye (Gene Hackman) of The French Connection, or Lieutenant Matt Wozniak (Ray Liotta) on the wonderful TV show Shades of Blue.

You might want to secure your seat belt and make sure that your Kevlar is all where is it is supposed to be. This is a non-stop, rock’em, sock’em high-speed chase of a novel, a dizzying dash through an underworld of cops, criminals, and those caught in the middle, screeching stops, and doubling backs, hard lefts, harder rights, and Saturn V level acceleration. Once you catch your breath after finishing the final pages I expect you’ll find yourself realizing just what a treat it has been.

CONCLUSION: The Force is not just a great cop book, it is a great book, period, a Shakespearean tragedy of high ideals brought low, with one of the great cop characters of all time. The Force is an instant classic.

NOTE: This review originally was posted on Goodreads. Don Winslow picture courtesy of Milanonera.com

Posted by The Wild Hunt

[Wikimedia Commons].

AUSTIN, Texas — Governor Greg Abbott signed into a law the Texas adoption bill that aims to protect “the rights of conscience for child welfare services providers.” As we reported in May, the controversial bill has generated both national support and criticism. Proponents claim that the new law will help an ailing child care system by protecting faith-based service organizations, which make up a sizable bulk of the potential child welfare providers. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. James Frank (R), posted on Facebook: “HB 3859 bans no one.” The aim, as he has said, is to improve the system and find stable families for troubled children.

Contrary to that, critics say that the law will allow for open discrimination based on religion, marital status, or sexual preference. Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said, “With his signature [..], Gov. Abbott has joined the lieutenant governor  and other lawmakers in taking Texas down a dark and cruel road.” Miller added that the bill is a “clear attempt” to discriminate against not only the LGBT community but “also people of other faiths.”

In May, we spoke with blogger John Beckett, a Texas-based Druid and Unitarian Universalist. He said that while he understands the sentiments behind the bill, he stands in opposition, saying, “Its real-world impact will be to make it harder for LGBT families, Pagan families, and other non-Christian families to adopt children.” However, he did note that that the situation is complicated.

The new law will go into affect September. Several LGBT organizations have reportedly planned to challenge the new law.

*   *   *

BRAZIL — Members of the Piago Paganism organization inaugurated a new polytheistic temple dedicated to the religious traditions of the area. Located in the Piauí in northeastern Brazil, the temple is located in a “large rural area dedicated to the preservation of polytheist cultural and religious preservation: Vila Pagã.”

Held May 28, the inauguration ceremony was attended by members of the Pagan community, as well as political and religious leaders, including those from the Catholic, Neopentecostal, and World Messianic churches, as well as Candomblé  and Umbanda.

According to organizer and leader of Piaga Circle, Rafael Nolêto, the “event was started with a presentation of children from the community, who [presented a theatrical piece] representing the formation of Piaga Paganism, a polytheistic tradition that celebrates the spirits and deities native to Piauí and Brazil.” Piaga Paganism also honors the gods of 15 foreign pantheons.

*   *   *

UNITED STATES – Today is June 19th, also known as Juneteenth. As columnist Crystal Blanton noted in a June 17 article, “Juneteenth is just that – an historic day of freedom for Black Americans. Filled with celebrations, festivals, and remembrance, the date June 19 marks the end of chattel slavery in all of the states within the U.S.”

Celebrations are taking place throughout the country. Blanton lists a number of ways that Pagans can celebrate the holiday with the help of several websites, one of which is Lilith Dorsey’s Voodoo Universe. In a 2015 post, Dorsey discussed the honoring of ancestors with food. She writes, “Many of the recipes I feature here on this blog Voodoo Universe would be suitable dishes to make this Juneteenth for your own illusion. For at it center Juneteenth is about celebrating our hard won freedom on every level…. nourishing ourselves no matter what illusions life dishes out. Enjoy this Juneteenth and your freedom.”

In other news

  • Where did everyone go? Circle Sanctuary’s Pagan Spirit Gathering, one of the biggest and oldest week-long Pagan camping festivals, got underway yesterday. Look for blog posts and updates in social media from that community over the next week.
  • Speaking of festivals, Eight Winds is less than a month away. This four-day festival is ADF longest-running event. Held in Trout Lake, Washington, Eight Winds will offer “great food, rituals, workshops, fireside chats, and lots of bardic shenanigans.” Featured guests include: Lupa Greenwolf, Phaedra Bonewits, Shauna Aura Knight, and Rev. Kirk Thomas. The festival runs July 13-16.
  • Another summer Pagan event is New York City’s popular WitchsFestUSA: A Pagan Street Faire. The three-day-long annual event happens near Astor Place in the West Village. Last year, the event drew loud protesters, who irritated some attendees but did not stop the festivities. This year’s event will take place Saturday July 14-16.
  • Pentacle labyrinth [Google Maps].

    While it’s not news to labyrinth aficionados and Google Maps fiends, a Wiccan in Enola, Pennsylvania has built a pentacle labyrinth with his own two hands. Lord Fairy Bottom Educifer, high priest of the Coven of the Mighty Oak (part of the Blue Ridge Mountain Clan tradition) told a Wild Hunt reporter that he first created it in 2006, but upgraded and expanded it in 2014 over two months to make it usable in wheelchairs. Visible in satellite photography, the new version is 60 feet in diameter with paths lined with limestone dust three inches thick. More details about the labyrinth are available here, including the address and details on how to make an appointment to walk it.
  • A new issue of the Dolmen Grove Chronicles is available online. The midsummer edition features articles, reviews, and photographs that capture a Pagan spirit. For example, Rachael Moss offers seasonal sowing charts and Andrew Cowling writes about St. John’s Wort. The digital journal is the publication of the Dolmen Grove, a UK-based organization of mixed spiritual paths that was established in the 1990s.

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