Friday, 6 July 2012

At $10 A Pop, It Might Be Time To Ride This Greasy Rocket

posted 7/5/2012 by the Salt City Sinner

WARNING: Lunatics, Hippies, Idiots, Mystics And Practitioners And/Or Enthusiasts Of The Occult Only Beyond This Point.

First, let's get the formalities out of the way: hope everyone is having a great summer (HAGS)!

Now, let me set the scene a little bit.

Salt City is a big enough town that it has the standard features that to me define Civilization: adult book and novelty stores, a muckraking local weekly, a public transit train system (TRAX in our case), multiple, enormous and successful arts festivals and farmer's markets, and at least TWO occult/magick stores.

For a while now, the two of these have fought a quiet battle for my loyalty. One is Golden Braid Books, located more or less downtown at 151 S. 500 E., is more staid and stately, with fountains, an attached restaurant (the Oasis Cafe, where I had my most bizarre job interview ever). The Golden Braid is what I would call "respectable" in occult circles, meaning they carry a lot of New Age stuff but also some titles by Alestair Crowley, Rider-Waite (and other) Tarot decks, etc. - nothing that would freak out anybody this side of Colorado Springs. Of course, in Colorado Springs the above is more than enough to get you burned as a witch. The have Cartomancy, Astrology readings, and other in-venue attractions, but it lends itself to the upscale, relaxed-fit, 40-something New Age lady or dude in tight cream Capri slacks sort of demographic.

Crone's Hollow, on the other hand, is a little funkier, and caters more to the Wiccan / Pagan community. Sure, they also sell crystals, and pendulums, and crystal pendulums, and the overlap between the book selection at either is enormous, but Crone's also has a performance art / stage type area they rent out to people who want to hold seances or raise demons or the like (cool beans!). I generally prefer Crone's because it lends itself less to the crapped-out, California, New Age vibe that rubs the wrong way at Golden Braid, but lo, something came to my usually cranky and seldom well-deserved attention this week.

You see, Crone's is bringing in a specialist. "A specialist in what, you freakish, wild-eyed lunatic?" you might justifiably ask.

Psychic self-defense.

soft focus, softer neckbeard
That's right, for the modest sum of $10 US, you can spend the evening learning PSYCHIC SELF-DEFENSE from John Culbertson, self-described "shamanic practitioner!"

Let's check the Reverend Doctor Culbertson's bona fides out (if you want a look at his hilariously awful website, complete with front-page typos, look here ):

John Culbertson is a shamanic practitioner born and raised in Missouri. He has spent the last eight years of his life and career working in Florida. He offers his services both in person and by phone. Mr. Culbertson has both United States clients and international clients including those from Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, India, France, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica and Germany... 
As a shamanic practitioner, John offers the following services: Reiki and shamanic healing sessions, Tarot reading and divination sessions, Astrology sessions, spiritual life coaching sessions, [and] spiritual education.

let's just throw some more "magical" images on there and see if they stick
Now, I'm not going to dump on Shaman John. No, actually, I am, but only two quick ones.

First, it takes a bumper crop of balls to call yourself a "shaman" of any kind. Real shamans don't call themselves shamans, but, really, what is a shaman? And people who follow the hidden path are always attacking each others' bona fides - Alestair Crowley famously made it a major part of his career (and also was a notorious self-promoter). Still, though, Mr. Culbertson seems mighty green to be describing himself as a shaman, let alone a set of "hollow bones...[that] act as a physical bridge between our physical world and the world that is beyond."

Perhaps more importantly, I'm going to go ahead and call John out on whether he has done his homework or not.

His tacky appropriation of Native American spirituality is predictable. He notes on his curriculum vitae that his shamanic ritual work includes "sacred smoke, feather dusting, rattling, [and] drumming." For a white dude from Missouri, that must all seem rather exotic.

 But this points toward something that I've noticed in New Age spiritualism in general, which is that it seems to enjoy taking an easy, "exotic" way around the harder path of esotericism, study of the occult, and, well, reading.

As far as I can determine - and yes, I will admit that I am greener still than John - the occult is like Marxism, or quantum physics. It requires the consumption of an enormous amount of original texts and commentaries, and for every word that you read there are probably two or three you'll have to read to comprehend that one. I'm still wading through my Arthur Edward Waite, and he spent three out every five minutes of his adult life in the "rare and crazy-asssed ancient books" department of the Library of the British Museum.

Anyway, grousing aside, here's where I make you a deal. Who is more convincing for your ten smackers?

The Amazing Jonathan:

Pros : Can "do Reiki," won't bone you (it's actually there in his Shamanic Promise Code, #8), hands as soft as silk soaked in whole milk

Cons : Lactates every full moon, must be immersed in a solution of malt vinegar and Hi-C every six hours or he loses his shamanic abilities


The Salt City Sinner:

Pros : Avid gardener and cook, HOA Vice President, winner of the 2010 Great Outdoor Fight.

Cons : Known liar and degenerate, might steal your Richard Nixon memorabilia, considered a hazardous waste by the State of California.



  1. Interesting....perhaps one should take time to get to know someone before blogging about them. Then again, I suppose anyone can claim to be an expert and write a blog...... much like you say anyone can claim to be a Shaman. And for the record, I call myself a shamanic practitioner... not a Shaman. If you would have actually read the site you would have known that though.

    1. hola, John!

      your criticisms are well-placed. I admit that I only spent a little time getting to know you, and while the distinction between a "Shaman" and a "Shamanic Practitioner" might seem academic to some I can see where there might be a difference.

      overall thank you for taking this post in relative stride - I should precede each post with a disclaimer emphasizing that it is "for entertainment purposes only." you seem like a good sport, so sorry if I ruffled any feathers. chances are I might show up at one of your classes just to see what the deal is.