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About poetguy

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  1. I'm wondering if anyone here can help me with information regarding the ritual and magical elements of a Taoist priest's robes. So far I haven't found anything written in any book regarding the robes. The Art Institute of Chicago put on an exhibition called Taoism and the Arts of China, and their website has two pages that deal with the kinds of things that get depicted on Taoist robes: AIC Robes 1 AIC Robes 2 Online research into magical Taoism just wouldn't be complete without the words of everyone's favorite self-promoting gun collector with excellent hair, Mak Tin Si. He offers a lot of intriguing information in a forum post at about.com, but his information is perhaps not the most reliable. What is your understanding of the robes? Are the trigrams and star patterns and deities only for decoration, or are robes, in some way, a wearable talisman? Are robes given to students as part of ordination? If so, are the robes seen as a technique for the transmission of power through lineage? Thanks in advance for your ideas, thoughts, suggestions, and experience.
  2. Taoist magical talismans

    I may or may not agree with that statement, and with the rest of your post (though I do posit that Mak Tin Si has awesome hair). But I'm not asking here for knowledge of the true Way of the Tao, I'm asking for information that will help me bring authenticity to a work of fiction set in premodern China. I'm asking for help in understanding the theoretical underpinnings of belief that a premodern Chinese Taoist may have held, and I'm looking for details that will help me write rich descriptions of rituals. What do you mean by "ku's"? The poison magic?
  3. Taoist magical talismans

    What is the significance of burning the talismans? Is it related to the "hell money" and burnt offerings in Chinese ritual, where the burned items find their way into the hands of the spirits? Strickmann says, "Through the action of fire, the priest's writing is transmuted into a gigantic, otherworldly script bearing a command that can move gods." Do you agree with his assessment? Is there some form of address field on the talisman, so that it arrives at the correct office? Is the maker's chop a signature identifying the sender, or is it a magical seal imbuing the paper with the "power" of the maker and her or his lineage?
  4. Taoist magical talismans

    I can't bring myself to blame the cultural imperialists. The ones like Johnson have found something they believe in, something that changed their lives. Perhaps it came in a blazing moment, and they dedicated their lives to this, this way, this Tao. But as they study and come across elements that just sound absurd to them -- "wait, this scripture says at the age of fifty, a fox will grow a second tail and begin to change shape into a human female and suck men's yang out of them?" -- they're forced either to reject the silly-sounding elements or find a way to interpret them as metaphors. For me, though, writing about Taoist priests in premodern China, the culturally imperialistic, it's-just-a-metaphor crowd fail to give me the insight I need into my characters and their world. My big issue with Strickmann isn't that he's a scholar, keeping the spirituality at a studious distance; it's that he's a synthesist. He argues that Tantric Buddhism had more of an influence on magical Taoism than had been previously thought, so he uses their texts interchangeably; he also uses Japanese Taoist texts interchangeably with Chinese Taoists, and so on. Other anthropologists have been much more respectful to their sources, like John McCreery, but my liddle poet-brain can only read so much of "Taoist exorcistic manuals from the 13th century comprise both those that do or do not ascribe powers to divinity, except of course for the Tiae-Zhong, which does both and neither, according to Margaret Sussissus' excellent paper, 'The Both of Neither: Discourse, Discrepancy, and Discord amongst the Tiae-Zhongian Subsects of 13th-Century China,' but as we all know, Pierre Derriere refutes her methodologies (without disputing her conclusions) in his 1984 book...." and so on, ad vomititum. Thank you. I've been doing this. I'm still seeking many of the pieces that make it all fit. Actually, one of them is "power" -- this is a word Eva Wong uses several times in her Shambhala guide, saying that the efficacy of a talisman is proportionate to the "power" of the talisman's maker. She says that more than once, but she doesn't define "power" or give the Chinese word she might mean by "power." She says something, I forget what, but she says something that made me think her notion of a Taoist's "power" was connected with lineage and ordination. Any thoughts? Mak Ching Yuen, aka Mak Tin Si, seems to think that a talisman's effectiveness derives from its creator's lineage. (His lineage, predictably, is the best. Judging from his blog, his lineage also has the best guns and hairstyles.) Taoist Master Chuang, according to Michael Saso's book (perhaps the only one so far that was a joy to read), seems to think that the effectiveness of spells in general derives from the "perfection" of the spellcasting performance. So, in other words, how I felt upon reading that superb paragraph.
  5. Taoist magical talismans

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Taomeow! I'm actually not looking to acquire talismans or to make them. I'm writing a story, and I wanted to be able to give accurate details of the talisman-making process, the theory behind talismans, the different kinds of talismans, their supposed effects, and so on. If there was someone who'd had a particularly striking experience with talismanic magic, it might help shape my thinking on the subject. I've tried to join Mak Tin Si's site -- it's broken, the captcha doesn't work, no way to join it. Perhaps the yaogwei are interfering. I've read Eva Wong's book, in which everything is described in very general terms, and I bought one of Jerry Alan Johnson's (extremely expensive) books. Johnson gave a lot of details, but the theoretical understanding seems sketchy to me; he explains everything in terms of human psychology, psychic vibrations and such, whereas anthropological texts like Michael Strickmann's (extremely expensive) Chinese Magical Medicine make it look like traditional magical Taoists actually believed these things emanated from gods, demons, lost spirits, and animal spirits like huli jing. I think Johnson doesn't believe in the gods, demons, and animal spirits, so he translated it all into modern pop psychology, which makes his book a frustrating resource for my purposes. I've been considering Wilson Yong's (extremely expensive) Secret of Taoist Talismans, but I don't know if it contains anything worthwhile. I'd like to find informative websites, or knowledgeable people, or solid book recommendations, or hear about personal experience. Thank you!
  6. Taoist magical talismans

    I've actually typed up the entire chapter on Magical Taoism and the section, later in the book, where she discusses talismanic magic. I was hoping to hear a broader spectrum of perspectives, maybe a range of personal experiences.
  7. Taoist magical talismans

    I'm trying to learn about them. What can you tell me about talismanic magic? What are its uses? How does it work? What are some interesting talismans? What about talismanic water? I'd love to hear about people's experiences, or theories, or knowledge.
  8. The Taoist Bridge

    In an essay called "The Bridge: An Essential Implement of Hmong and Yao Shamanism," Jacques Lemoine describes the construction and use of spiritual "bridges" among the Hmong and the Yao, two Chinese minority groups. I know the Korean mudangs make use of cloth "ghost bridges" as well. Lemoine speculates that the spirit bridge may exist as well among Taoist sorcery (the Yao are actually Taoist), but I haven't heard of it. The spirit bridge is a cloth or string connecting an altar to the front door. It is, spiritually, the route the "shaman" travels to enter the spirit world, and it is also the route the spirit helpers travel to assist in healing. Does anyone know of anything like this in any of the schools of Taoism? In historical records? In contemporary practices?
  9. Hi Tao Bums! I'm here looking for information for a piece of fiction. I'm hoping to find information on talismans, shoujue (mudras), incantations, and so on, the spell-making of magical Daoism. I've been working with the chapters in Eva Wong's Introduction, and with a book of Jerry Alan Johnson, and with anthropology texts, and with all the material I've been able to locate on the web. I'm looking for more knowledge, more understanding, and more guidance. Have there been threads here where Daoism's magical traditions were covered in depth? Are there books you'd recommend? Where would you suggest I look for more knowledge on the malevolent entities of Daoism, the yaoguei or the huli jing, and so on? Do you know where I could find thorough, solid material about Daoist exorcisms and other spells?