Friday, 29 April 2011

Royal Wedding, The Omer and Prediction for the Future

It's the royal wedding today between Prince William and his bride to be Catherine (Kate) Middleton. It's also the 10th day of the Omer.

The Omer is a 49 day count between the Jewish festival of Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot (Tabernacles). Pesach celebrates the exodus of the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt and the crossing of the Sea of Reeds. Shavuot celebrates the revelation to the entire Jewish people and the giving of 10 commandments.

The Omer
Each of the 7 weeks of the Omer is represented by one of the 7 lower Sefirot and each day within that week is represented by one of the Sefirot. For example:

  • Day 1: Chesed in Chesed
  • Day 2: Gevurah in Chesed
  • Day 3: Tiferet in Chesed
  • Day 8: Chesed in Gevurah
  • Day 9: Gevurah in Gevurah
  • Day 10: Tiferet in Gevurah

So what is Tiferet in Gevurah?
Last night I was thinking about the royal wedding and what the 10th day of the Omer may signify for their future together. Here is a quote from “Inner Space” by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan on the meaning of Tiferet and Gevurah:

“In the case of a man and a woman in love, if only one of the partners gives of himself, it is an unbalanced Chesed relationship. This can lead to a total loss of one's identity. Gevurah, on the other hand, is not giving anything. Whereas Chesed-Love represents a total surrender of one's identity to another person, Gevurah-Restraint would involve a rigid maintaining of identity by erecting a barrier between oneself and the other. In essence, for a good relationship, each partner has to learn how to integrate these two modes, the ability to maintain an identity while at times to merge with another person.”

Tiferet is usually translated as “beauty”, but it does not carry the usual connotation of beauty. Tiferet-Beauty is like harmony, a harmonic beauty.”

Tiferet means you are able to harmonize and blend two extremes. In terms of the human body, Chesed is the right arm and Gevurah is the left arm. Tiferet is not both hands together, however, but rather the torso with all its complexity.”

Possible significance for the future of the Royal newly-weds

I'll be honest and say that my knowledge of Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism is minimal. So please take anything in this post and in this blog in general with a large pinch of salt.

Having said that I'll put forward my two cents on events today and say that the future life of the royal couple will be one of harmony against a backdrop of restraint.

A love that the public will see only in glimpses during royal engagements, with their full and harmonious love played out away from the media glare. Warm but retrained, loving but only on their terms.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Go for the Real Thing

The Jewish festival of Passover has just finished. The festival is very focused on what is eaten and what may not be eaten, and the food is also used to tell a story.

A couple of years ago I was invited to his family to lead the retelling of the story of the Exodus of the Children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. This ceremony is called the Seder (meaning order) and is read from a book called the Hagaddah (meaning ‘telling’).

The main focus of the evening is to tell the story and to get children (and adults) to ask questions. Although year after year the same story is re-told, each year we find new meaning in how the Exodus gave birth to our people and how that relates to our own lives.

Anyway, there was another guest at my friend’s house who had attended a seder in which the family sort of made it up as they went along. Now whilst I think that innovation is a good thing, it needs to be done within certain constraints and I’d like to share two stories to illustrate the importance of working within an agreed upon set of rules.

Story 1:

Some time ago I was working in a company that had very little process or agreed upon ways of getting things done. As you can image it was quite a chaotic environment and the people in charge intended for this creative chaos to give rise to a brilliant new product that defied the conventional way of solving the problem this market addressed.

Shortly after I joined the company had chosen to no longer follow this path and introduce a new process. As well as the usual resistance to change, the people promoting this process decided that they wanted to tailor the process to their needs. Normally this would in my opinion be a good thing.

However, the way that they tailored the process meant that the principles were not followed and hence very little benefit was gained from the new process. To add salt to the wounds of the development teams, it was mandated that the new process was the only process that could be followed for running a project.

The company was eventually sold. Some got jobs at the new company and the rest were let go.

Story 2:

There was a man travelling in Eastern Europe selling pots and pans. He would go from town to town selling his wares and after every few weeks would manage to go home to spend time with his wife and family.

One day whilst he was travelling home from a long journey he stopped in the next town from home. Since it was getting late he looked for an inn but they were all full due to a local wedding. Luckily someone noticed him looking upset and he was invited to spend the night with one of the wealthier home owners in town.

For supper that night the wealthy family had 3 courses, one of which was fruit-filled blintzes. The poor travelling merchant was amazed at the taste of the thin pancake wrapped around a delicious filling. He begged his host for the recipe and the rich man’s wife wrote down the recipe for how to make blintzes.

Rushing home the next day the travelling salesman showed his wife the recipe and began singing the praises of this delicious food to his wife. She looked at the expensive list of ingredients and almost burst in to tears.

The wife went to the market and bought the inexpensive ingredients and for the others she made some substitutions. Instead of berries she bought potato and instead of cinnamon she bought pepper. That night as the travelling merchant and his wife sat down together the family was very excited to taste the blintzes. Taking a big bite out of the pancake wrapped delicacy the merchant spat it out in disgust and shouted: “What is this rubbish? This is not how real blintzes should taste!”

Do not Accept Imitations

There are certain rules and principles in a process that need to be followed for it to work. Certainly a Project Manager’s approach should be flexible and make use of a toolbox of techniques and processes to deliver a project within constraints that adds business value. However, if you leave out or change some key rules then the benefit of a process is either reduced, lost or can actually end up costing money.

In a similar manner, if you are going to participate in a religious or magical ritual – make sure it’s the real deal. If, for example, you have been invited to say a Pesach Seder (Passover ceremony retelling the Exodus of the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt) then please make sure that the people running it are doing it according to Rabbinic Jewish Law. Anything less and you are experiencing blintzes with some key ingredients substituted and it’s really, really not the same thing.

Call me a purist, traditionalist, fanatic or what you like. But coming back to the friends seder above, the guest who had attended the ‘do it yourself’ seder the night before turned to me at the end and said: "This is the real thing!"

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Different Words for Politics

One topic that, in my experience, I’ve not come across too often in discussions with people interest in the occult is politics. That’s not to say that I have never discussed it, but I can count the number of occasions on one hand.

Politics in general (whether related to the occult or otherwise) is not something that I take any joy in researching. However, since we do not live in a vacuum I have in recent years come to see politics and economics are very important factors that influence my life. Hence my list of interests has expanded to include geopolitics but at the moment it’s struggling to hold my attention.

In order to have some understanding of politics as it affects and is influenced by occult movements - I read the following book (which I highly recommend):

Politics and the Occult: The Left, the Right, and the Radically Unseen” by Gary Lachman

Project Management Terminology for Politics
From a project management point of view, politics and the way that things are done are described in the following terms in the 3rd edition of Project Management Institute: Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMI: PMBoK)

Enterprise Environmental Factors [Output/Input]

Any or all external environmental factors and internal organizational environmental factors that surround or influence the project’s success. These factors are from any or all of the enterprises involved in the project, and include organizational culture and structure, infrastructure, existing resources, commercial databases, market conditions and project management software.

In laymen’s terms, think of teams competing for projects, budget, and key personnel in an organization. Also things like old boys’ networks (yes they do really exist) and culture (for example, tribalism or firefighting is our way of life). These are all things that will affect you if you are working with a group whether as a practitioner or magic, commerce or both.

“The way that things are done around here” in official PM Language is called:

Organizational Process Assets [Output/Input]

Any or all process related assets, from any or all of the organizations involved in the project that are or can be used to influence the project’s success. These process assets include formal and informal plans, policies, procedures, and guidelines. The process assets also include the organization’s knowledge bases such as lessons learned and historical information.

This means “how it’s done”. Is there a specific route to advancement? Are records kept of past failures to try to improve the way that things are done? How flexible is an organization to change?

Audit of Spheres of Influence
Now you might be asking, as a practitioner of either: magic, mysticism and or project management why should I care about organizational politics or organizational processes?

The simple answer is that you can up to a point ignore and quite happily live your life in ignorance of the greater political and economic view of your life’s surroundings and influences.

What I’d like to challenge you to think about though is, do you understand how politics and influence works now in your life right now?

Unless you have done an analysis of the power players in your life right now, how will you know if you are trying to gain more power and influence over yourself and others via management or magic techniques that it has the desired outcome both short and long term?

Monday, 18 April 2011

My first amulet (or willingness to look foolish)

March was a bit of a non-month in terms of doing practical stuff in terms of magic, mysticism or project management apart from reading some books. So I set myself the challenge of creating an amulet and decided to use the instructions provided by Jacobus Swart in his blog Practical Kabbalah and Self Creation. Scroll down until you get to the part where it says: "In another of its magical uses one is instructed to cut from a fruit tree a small stick about the size of ones little finger."

So as any decent project manager would do, I set myself a time limit to get the work done and worked out what resources were required. The list of resources is rather small:
  • Finger length piece of wood from fruit tree
  • Something wax to write with (e.g. crayon)
  • Paper

The finger length piece of wood came from the old apple tree at the end of our garden. I had to buy a hacksaw as I did not own any wood cutting implements (if you rule out things such as bread knives).

The wax crayon and paper were bought at a stationary shop. I already owned a drill which meant that I could make a hole in the length of the piece of wood.

However, since my brief risk assessment had indicated that the wood drilling might not be successful, I cut 3 pieces from the tree and sure enough the drilling went wrong on 2 of the pieces.

Then came the next step of practicing the letters to see how much space I should leave for each. I’ll be the first to admit that my skills in calligraphy are very poor indeed, the results are in the image below.

The cam writing it out again with a black wax crayon.

Finally putting it all together, which also did not go quite as well as hoped. You can see a bit of the paper sticking out of the end of the piece of wood.

Please be aware that before doing the writing of the amulet I recited the first 5 and last 5 psalms in Hebrew. The reason for this is two-fold: 1. To remind me that the One who has, is and continues to create the world is in charge. 2. I figured that saying some psalms wouldn’t hurt.

Total cost of making amulet:
  • Hacksaw £9.99
  • Crayons £1.79
  • Paper £6.29
  • Prayers £0.00
  • Total:  £18.07

So there you have it. The amulet is rather poorly constructed, done in a bit of a rush probably with the wrong ingredients, wrong ritual preparation and poorly drawn calligraphy. Do I think that it will work? For sure, 100%! Now all I have to do is figure out how it works…

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Challenge Your Worldview to a Workout Part 2

In my last post on “Challenge Your Worldview to a Workout Part 1” I talked about theoretical knowledge and put ideas in to practice. The former referred to as “literary fat” and the latter as an “idea work-out”.

Having posited that your worldview is what you consume (ideas, interactions, etc) and that processing is required on your part to make best use of what you consume. Let’s take a look at what areas to focus on. After all different exercises strengthen you in different ways and it’s important to be aware of what areas to target.

Passover and Limitations

Project Managers are often keen to work out what the constraints their project operate in, as this is key to understanding how to plan, manage, control and adjust projects. However, the constraints don’t just apply to the projects; they also apply to the Project Manager (and practitioners of magic & mysticism in general).

It’s coming up to the Jewish festival of Pesach (Passover) next week that celebrates the miraculous exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt. The reason I mention this in relation to this post is because the word Egypt is linked to constraints.

Here is a link from to an in-depth article about the Exodus of which I’d like to share the following extract:
The word "Mitzrayim:" is usually translated as "Egypt." But with ko'ach ha'chidush such as only the Sfas Emes can deploy, he reads the word 'Mitzrayim" in a totally innovative way. The Hebrew word "meitzar" means "constraint" or "limit". The Sfas Emes is reading "Mitzrayim" as being the plural of of the word "metizar". Thus, "yetzi'as mitzrayim" has become: "liberation from one's constraints". The Sfas Emes does not spell out what he has specifically in mind when he refers to personal constraints that Pesach teaches us can be overcome. I suggest that he is referring to long-standing attitudes, ingrained assumptions, and habits that too often constrain a person's growth.
The message that I understand the Sfas Emes is teaching is that the exodus was not just about phsycial liberation but also a spiritual and psychological one. We each carry around within us limitations that are self-imposed on our personal growth. This time of year is ideal for reflecting on what those limitations and constraints might be.

Change Requires Preparation of a Receptacle

The final point I’d like to make is that Jewish Kabbalists quite like to talk about metaphors of lights and vessels. The light is contained within the vessel according to the vessel’s ability to hold the light. In simpler terms, if a person is trying to overcome their self-imposed limits there needs to be a receptacle to accommodate those changes.

For example, someone trying to get fitter is working on their body (vessel) improving its level of fitness.  Part of the preparation of the vessel could also be to improve the balance of nutrition. Visualization of where you want to be in the future is also a way of creating a vessel; it’s a mental image that you hope to grow in to in the future.

The Rufus Opus Mention Phenomena

Being a Project Manager, from time to time I get a bit obsessed about metrics, statistics and data in general. One of the features that provides for bloggers is statistics on page views.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that this blog entitled “Trainee Golem Builder” is a bit obscure even for esoteric and project management standards. In fact, the way I like to visualize the potential overlap between the two is as follows:

To be honest, I was expecting to run out of things to blog about in the first three months. But for reasons that are still becoming clear to me there does not appear to be an end to the number of topics left to be posted about.

Anyway, when I started blogging back in October of last year (2010) there were very few people who read this blog. That was fine with me as it’s really a place for me to tinker with ideas and keep my interest in project management and magic & mysticism alive.

However, this week my blog got a mention (with a link) on a blog belonging to Rufus Opus. Since his blog is much, much more popular than mine, here is the effect that the mention in his blog had on my stats. I call this the “Rufus Opus Mention Phenomena”:

As you can see, a single spike and then back to business as usual :-)

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Challenge Your Worldview to a Workout Part 1

Every now and then I like to take an idea, a cliché, or something that has common usage and try to extract new meaning out of it. So for today’s thought, let’s use: “You are what you eat.”

You are what You eat
In terms of food intake this is a simple one. The nutrition that your body extracts from your food intake (solids and liquids) is what is used to allow your body to function within acceptable parameters. In other words if you have a balanced and healthy diet, your body is likely to be healthy (provided you exercise). If you have an unbalanced and unhealthy diet, you’re at risk of developing health problems that may manifest in a variety of unpleasant ways.

Now let’s take this idea a step further and apply it to the other things that you consume. Things such as for example ideas, conversations, books that you read, TV and films that you watch, the interaction with other people in your immediate family, friends and wider circles of encounters. All these have an impact on your life, some larger some smaller, some in a more overt way and some in more subtle ways.

Consumption of Ideas
For the moment I just want to focus on how a person absorbs ideas. I like to think of reading a book like eating a meal. If you just read it and store away the information without integrating it in to your life and making use of it… that’s a bit like storing away food that your body does not use immediately. I like to refer to this as “literary fat”.

On the other hand, if you start to make use of ideas and concepts from books (or other sources) and act on them, or debate them with other people, or try to teach them to someone else – all these things are what I call an “idea work-out”. Until you get in to the fighting ring of verbal debate with other people, or you challenge your ideas in other ways such as trying to make practical use of them (a simple example being trying out a cooking recipe) the idea remains in a state of untapped potential.

Your Worldview is What You Consume
So where am I going with all this? Well, having recently finished reading Professor Elliot Wolfson’s excellent academic book (on visionary experiences of Jewish mystics) called: “Through a Speculum That Shines” - I would like to share with you the opening to chapter Seven:
The Hermeneutics of Visionary Experience: Revelation and Interpretation in the Zohar
Interpretative vs. Revelatory Modes
Mystical Experience, like experience in general, is contextual. If that is the case, it follows that mystical visions will always be shaped, informed, and determined by one’s institutional affiliation. The claim that the vision is conditioned by preexperiential criteria renders the very notion of an immediate visionary experience of God or things divine problematic, if not impossible. Whilst the mystic may present his or her experience as a direct encounter with God or one of the angels – comprising, therefore, an immediacy unknown to normal everyday consciousness – the fact that this experience is shaped by prior experiences that are, more often than not, recorded in texts that have been appropriated as part of the canon of a particular religious tradition. A certain “anxiety of influence,” therefore, is clearly discernible in the visionary literature of the different mystical traditions: vision is always, to an extent, revision.
Basically what I think that he’s saying is that experiences are filtered through your pre-existing world view based on the information, knowledge and experiences that you have had to date.

But if your ideas and knowledge is mostly contained in “literary fat” (i.e. untapped potential), then how robust is your worldview really? How often do you challenge your assumptions as a practitioner?

Now Answer Me This
Whether you’re a Project Manager who believes that they understand a process methodology and have views based on knowledge and / or experience; or a practitioner of magic or mysticism who believes that they are, for example, in contact with some non-human entity whether angel, demon, spirit or other kind. Here are some questions I’d like you to consider:
  • When was the last time you took a step back and did a health and robustness check on your worldview?
  • How often do you read and discuss ideas that are in conflict with your own?
  • Are you conscious of choosing what to read based on how it might influence your view on reality?
  • If you are, have you ever dismissed a book or source of ideas that may challenge your worldview before reading them as, for example, too Pagan, New Age, academic, Gnostic, theoretical, too hard, too easy?
  • How frequently do you validate your worldview through action? Whether a ritual, a project ceremony, casting a spell or saying a prayer? Every few months, weeks, days or hours?

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

How to do more than One Thing

Do One Thing Well… And then Another
Rufus recently posted how it is important to do one thing well. That way you’ve got one success under your belt (even if it s a minor one) and then you can build on that.

Rufus followed this up with another post about how to make more time. In his Saturn post he specifically outlines how to go from being someone who is maxed out to getting better at time-management, hence making more effective use of one’s time.

Step Up, Lazy Style
However, my experience has been that it is a step by step process that involves switching up gears one after the other rather than jumping straight from barely efficient time management to super-duper efficient time management.

The Lazy Project Manager has an interesting take on dinosaurs and quotes the following theory by Miss Anne Elk (from Monty Python):

'All brontosauruses are thin at one end, much, much thicker in the middle, and then thin again at the far end. That is the theory that I have and which is mine, and what it is too.'

The Lazy Project Manager then turns this around by saying that:

'All projects are thick at one end, much, much thinner in the middle and then thick again at the far end. That is the theory that I have and which is mine, and what it is too.'

Another View of the Brontosaurus
Let’s view the brontosauruses as the workload that a person is capable of handling. At either end not much work can be handled and it’s in the middle chunky bit that we want to get to.

Now if we consider the project as the effort to reach that state of peak efficiency, you’ll see that it is thick at either end and thin in the middle. The ramp up to efficiency takes a lot of effort, once you’re there the focus is not on being productive but just getting as much done as possible. Once you reach peak efficiency though it requires a lot of work to prevent yourself from slipping back in to inefficiency if you take your eyes off the ball.

The other thing that I wanted to highlight is that it is an incremental process of step-up and step-down. Although the step-down can be very rapid if you let go of the steering wheel of efficiency, slide down the brontosauruses’ back and in to the muddy depths of inefficiency, panic-mode and possible depression.

Edit: Rufus has a follow-up post here that explains how (using the metaphor of leveling) through magic can help you to increase your capacity to get things done.

Friday, 8 April 2011

It ain’t what you do; it’s the way that you do it

Should a practitioner care about the way in which something is done if the results have the desired effect?

Elizabeth in her A Girl Guide to Project Management blog posted recently that it’s important to focus on the outcomes not the processes.

Rufus Opus recently posted on something similar about trying a number of different systems until he found the one he got the most results out of.

Both put forward good arguments for why it’s better to focus on the what than the how. However, whilst I agree that in Project Management there is too much focus on how things are done rather than getting results, when it comes to magic and mysticism I’m at the other end of the spectrum.

The how is much more important that the results. (With the exception when it comes to healing).

Faith and Leaping

Crazy? Well, I’ll be the first to admit it. But that is the leap that is required in my faith. It’s not just enough to acknowledge that there is a Creator who has and is bringing all of existence constantly in to being. Once such an acknowledgment is made then the next step is to act on that, to make a connection,

For me the path to achieving experience of the Divine is through studying and following the commandments in the Written (Tanach) and Oral Law (Talmud); to delve in to their mysteries and experience the Divine through the paths of Jewish mysticism and kabbalah. Part of that parcel of positive and negative commandments is not performing certain actions.

Does Sorcery Work?

There is mention of sorcery and witchcraft numerous times in the Tanach and there are commandment forbidding its use. That means that they not forbidden because they don’t work, rather by mentioning them and forbidding them the message is that sorcery does work. However I accept that by following the commandments I acknowledge that sorcery and witchcraft are not the correct paths for me to take.

Having said all that though I’m fascinated by magic and mysticism of all colours, flavours and incarnations. A Trainee Golem Builder is in my view someone who wears the hat of a metaphysics geek, ever curious to find out how things work and it all fits together.

In summary: when it comes to Project Management, as long as it is legal and ethical then use whatever works. When it comes to magic and mysticism, at least for me, the process is more important that the outcome. As one Rabbi put it to me recently, we have to take the risk that we could be betting on the losing horse, but that is what is being asked of those who follow this path.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Project Update: Not Winning in March 2011

It’s been awhile since my last project update and that is mainly because I have only one project going, which happens to be a research project. It had been my hope that by creating this blog I’d actually do more experiential learning and do more practical stuff but that’s not working out as planned.

However, since having been told by my wife that I’m not very practical I have done some home improvements, gardening and baked bread (almost every week). None the less, these things are not helping me grow as a Trainee Golem Guilder.

Here is the latest chart of my reading rate comparing expected page count against actual:

Understanding the Merkavah User Manual in 2000 pages or less

Amulet Creation Challenge to Self

Rather than leave this update as a “I failed to achieve much last month”, I’ll set myself a new challenge. Jacobus Swart recently described how to create an amulet using a peiece of wood cut from a fruit tree in to which is inserted a Holy name. This technique is based on Moses Zacutto's "Shorshei ha-Shemot”. See Jacobus’ blog entry here for a more detailed explanation and instructions.

If I’ve not created this amulet by the end of May, I’ll eat my hat. Since my hat is made of wool it’s unlikely to taste good unless dipped in cholocate and ice cream.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Treadwells Lecture: The Training and Work of Sangoma: South African ‘Witch Doctor’

“The Training and Work of Sangoma: South African ‘Witch Doctor’”
by Bernie Rowan

31 March 2011
“Sangoma is a traditional healer in South Africa: priest, counsellor, and soothsayer. To become one requires both a calling and a hard training followed by initiation. Bernie Rowen went through this, and tonight shares her personal journey, as well as giving an academic point of view of this remarkable world. Bernie, who is so-called ‘European’ South African, went into the townships in Cape Town to apprentice, learn and immerse herself, trained to the work, and initiated to the title of Sangoma. Bernie Rowen is by profession an alternative healer, who has presented talks internationally and is author of two books. She has a particular interest in ritual, and is currently reading for her Masters degree in Cosmology.”
The speaker outlined her talk by stating that it would be part autobiographical and part on the structure of ritual.

Bernie’s path to becoming a Sangoma began with going for a job interview to vet people at a cancer care clinic to see what treatments would be suitable. She had two dreams whilst visiting a friend in Devon, UK – the first of which was a ‘click’ song that is sung before a girl gets married.  The song is very hot and contrasted with the coldness of the English weather.

Bernie played the song, sang along and encouraged everyone to clap along. The second song in the following night’s dream was “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”.

When Bernie returned from the UK her PA greeted her at the office and drew her attention to a letter regarding a healing seminar by the ANC integrating Western medicine with complementary medicine. During the seminar she came across a Sangoma and wanting to find out more about what a Sangoma does – she contacted a friend to be introduced to one.

When they first met, the Sangoma said: “Where have you been? I’ve been looking three months for you!”

The Sangoma explained that Bernie’s ancestor’s had been calling to her. Not the very conservative grandparents who were Mr. and Mrs. Dutch Reformed Minister, but rather the grandmother on her father’s side who passed away when her father was stil young.

When she returned home, Bernie discussed her upcoming training with her husband. Sangomas had a bad press during Apartheid years and Bernie did not quite know what she’d be letting herself in for.  Her training began with drinking an herbal concoction that been whipped with a three pronged stick until it was foamy.

Never having taking even dope before Bernie was unsure of what to expect; but it was her PA who pointed out her employer’s growing powers of precognition. Telling her about appointments that were going to be cancelled and updating the diary accordingly.

Bernie’s training involved making beads put in herbs and ritually blessing them. She also had to do some sowing but it was being told that she had to dance at an initiation that would be the next big challenge. During the dance she was shown how to keep her back straight and move with her hips.

Her teacher told her that the ancestors were drawing near and that Bernie should spend several weeks in meditation. During this time she grew a little anxious, however it was also then that she realized that imagination is something to be used rather than feared.

There followed several tests such as finding her teacher at the Tree in to the township. Somehow she found the particular tree that her teacher and the other women were at. Then she had to find a number of objects hidden away without being told what she was looking for.

Finally for her initiation she was supposed to kill a goat. Being a strict vegetarian (more so then than now) she understood the need to give an exchange and that blood is a life giving force. But she asked her teacher to consult with her ancestors if any other sacrifice would do and the answer was money.

The initiation involved putting a chicken over her body, melding with the thing that was going to give her a new life. There was drumming, dancing and finally a meeting with her ancestors. Messages were exchanged for Bernie to relate to the people as a whole and for specific individuals.

Bernie was also told that she would not stay long in South Africa and she is now living with her partner in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Late Night Blog Search Caller

I’ve just finished a very surreal conversation, not affected in the least by the fact that I was woken up at 1am by the caller. Rather than paraphrase the conversation I’ve woken myself up enough to write down most of what was said the late-night caller and I.

“Hallo?” The voice sounded American but muffled as if the speaker had placed a handkerchief over the receiver. “Is this Shimon Tomski, the Trainee Golem Builder?”

“Yes, this is Simon Tomasi.” I tiptoed out of bed and headed downstairs in order to carry on the conversation without waking up anyone else.

“Listen Shimon!” the called shouted ecstatically. “I found your vlog!”

Having just woken up by a strange caller and fumbling for the light switch downstairs this was all a bit too much to take in at once.

“Do you mean my blog?”

“Vatever,” suddenly his voice became a lot clearer. “Anyvay, let me introduce myself. My name is Rabbi Bar-zel Arieh Tzion, perhaps you might have heard of me?”

I sat down, paused and the gears in my brain slowly started turning. “Sorry no, but for some reason it reminds me of a song by Bob Marley.”

“Ya, Ya,” he continued excitedly. “I need you to make me something…”

“Wait a second Rabbi,” my brain was still several minutes behind in the conversation. “How did you say you found my blog? If you found out about it by an online search, can I assume that you are not part of the communities that shun the use of the internet?”

“Sure, Sure,” he whispered. “The world wide interveb is forbidden. I got a flyer through the door explaining all about how it is treif and corrupts the young people. But don’t you vorry about me Shimon; I did a search on Google in something, my son assured, me is called Cyberspace.”

“Uh Rabbi,” I was about to attempt the herculean task of trying to explain the internet to a Rabbi at 1am when he interrupted me again.

“Listen Shimonelle,” he cooed. “I search this Google thing with the words Agile, Self Regenerating and Golems. Then guess what?”

“You found my blog?” I answered hoping that I could finish the conversation quickly and cordially. My bed was calling to me and my legs had already decided to go to sleep without waiting for the rest of me.

“Yes, your vlog.” He sounded very pleased with himself. Which for someone I pictured as a white bearded Luddite calling from across the Atlantic would be considered an achievement.

 “Just a moment Rabbi,” something was very wrong here I realized. “How did you get my number?”

 “Oh,” he responded sounding even more pleased with himself. “I asked a Maggid”.

“A Maggid,” now he had my full attention. “Do you mean the human type of Maggid that goes from town to town as a preacher? Or do you mean the angelic type of Maggid who teaches secrets?”

“I dialed 0800-Maggid”, he said as if speaking to a child. “I thought you were the smart one with technology Shimon.”

I stamped my feet less out of frustration than to try to get the circulation going again so that I could go to the kitchen and make some coffee.

“Anyvay Shimon, vat can you tell me about my search words?” has asked. “I came up with them after some delicate Divination work”. I could tell by the background noise that he was holding his breath.

“Well…” I answered feeling the gears finally warming up. “Agile is a term in Project Management that refers to a way of working in which the development can respond quickly to change. It means that the work adapts quickly to change and promises greater chance of delivering what the customer wants.”

During my answer I could hear the breathing commence and the sounds of a pencil scribbling furiously in the background.

“Self Regenerating….” I pondered. “This to me means the ability to rebuild, to repair oneself in the way that some lizards that lose their tails are able to re-grow them. You might like to do some research on Totipotency and the ability to regenerate plants from a small number of cells.”

“Gut, Gut,” he answered whilst the scribbling continued. His repetition of words was beginning to get on my nerves. “And Golem I know already. You use Sefer Yetzirah to make a man of clay come to life. That is great Shimon, you have linked all three vords together.”

“Actually Rabbi”, I corrected him rather tersely. “I’ve not combined the search phrases.”

“Oh,” he sounded rather deflated. “But I need to know what they mean together. Whatever it is, I need you to build it for me by Tuesday.”

I was about to remind him that he was the one who came up with the search phrases when a moment of Chochmah inspiration blazed in my mind like a mini-supernova.

“What! You want me to make you a self regenerating golem that is able to adapt quickly? What you are describing sounds very much like the Borg.” My patience had finally run out. “They are a fictional race in the Star Trek TV show. Man-machine hybrids that have a hive mind and are hell-bent on assimilating everything in their path to make it just like them.”

“The Vorg?” he sounded perplexed.

“Vatever,” I shouted and slammed down the phone. I then picked it up again and pressed the “end call” button before storming off to bed.