The Secret History of Carnival Talk

•April 21, 2014 • 8 Comments

SHCTcover“In 1937, my grandparents joined a carnival for a season. He sold candy, she ran the milk-bottle game. In his spare time, he took photographs. And they learned the secret speech of the carnival folk, which they later taught to me. After speaking Carny for many years, I decided to seek its origins. I fell head-first into the world of the Depression-era travelling carnival, brought to life by my grandfather’s photos. In the process, I discovered a linguistic legacy spanning over a century, and turning up in the most unexpected places.”

This is it folks, the project I’ve been working on and obsessing over for the last couple months. It’s a slim volume, but it contains a wealth of information on “Carny” – a linguistic oddity first developed amongst carnival folk at the turn of the last century, which then found its way into professional wrestling, children’s games, and mainstream hip hop where it is still heard today.

But this is not just a cultural history, it is a personal one as well, since I learned Carny directly from my grandparents and used it frequently in my teenage years as my own secret language. Last year I recalled that my grandfather had kept an album of photographs from their journey with the carnival, and the idea for this book was born. I found some academic papers, books and websites talking about the Carny argot, connected a lot of dots, and ended up with what I believe is the most complete history of its evolution.

faerpresstnThe text is accompanied by 30 of my grandfather’s photographs in their original sepia tones – really interesting slices-of-life from an incredibly fascinating period of history, which I’ve annotated with comments on the people, places and things shown (for instance, there were at least three midgets travelling with them that season who ended up playing Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz movie two years later!).

The book is 8.5″x8.5″ with a matte cover, 50 pages. It is under my new imprint Fær Press, which I’ve created to publish all of my future books on a variety of esoteric topics. The list price is $17, and you can buy it directly from Createspace, or from, and it should soon be available to order from your local bookstore.


But wait, there’s so much more! I have also produced a set of postcards featuring 10 of my favorite images from the book, and three 8×10 prints, as well as some bookmarks. You can buy the prints (select one or all three) and postcard sets alone if you are interested in the photographs more than the book contents… and you can buy various sets of these items including a signed copy of the book too (at a discount off the combined prices, of course)! They’re all available at my new Carnival Talk Etsy shop, and here’s a photo of the most complete package (signed book, bookmark, 10 postcards, 3 prints):


Finally, there’s the website at There you can read more about the book, see the Table of Contents, view bonus photographs not published in the book, try out an English-to-Carny translator, visit a bunch of links to carnival websites, movies, books and songs, watch the book trailer, and watch a video compilation of the examples of Carny from popular culture which I mention in the book. And if you haven’t clicked through to any of that yet, here’s the book trailer video, featuring a few of the photographs, and audio of me speaking Carny!

As with all such projects, getting the word out is key. So please, if you know anyone you think might be interested, pass this on! Post the book links, Etsy shop and/or Youtube videos on social media, send them to your friends or colleagues, and especially to anyone you know who loves linguistics, history, old photography, and carnivals or circuses. Thank you in advance for your help!

This has been a true labor of love for me - a way of honoring my ancestors, indulging my academic curiosity, a creative and artistic outlet, and even tied to my spirits in a strange way. I’m very happy to finally be able to share it with all of you.



•April 8, 2014 • Comments Off

“While Whorf did not find separable notions of space and time among the Hopi, he did discern, in the Hopi language, a distinction between two basic modalities of existence, which he terms the ‘manifested’ and the ‘manifesting.’ The ‘manifested’ corresponds roughly to our notion of ‘objective’ existence, and it comprises ‘all that is or has been accessible to the senses…with no attempt to distinguish between present and past, but excluding everything that we call future.’ The ‘manifesting,’ on the other hand, ‘comprises all that we call future, but not merely this; it includes equally and indistinguishably all that we call mental – everything that appears or exists in the mind, or, as the Hopi would prefer to say, in the heart, not only the heart of man, but the heart of animals, plants, and things, and behind and within all the forms and appearances of nature, in the heart of nature [itself]…’

“The ‘manifested,’ in other words, is that aspect of phenomena already evident to our senses, while the ‘manifesting’ is that which is not yet explicit, not yet present in the senses, but which is assumed to be psychologically gathering itself toward manifestation within the depths of all sensible phenomena. One’s own feeling, thinking, and desiring are a part of, and hence participant with, this collective desiring and preparing implicit in all things – from the emergence and fruition of the corn, to the formation of clouds and the bestowal of rain. Indeed, human intention, especially when concentrated by communal ceremony and prayer, contributes directly to the becoming-manifested of such phenomena.”

David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous

A fascinatingly different way of conceiving of “time” which much more directly allows for and explains the efficacy of magic.

Girls Underground Interview

•April 3, 2014 • Comments Off

guFor those of you who might be interested, but do not regularly read my Girls Underground blog, I just did an interview on the concept for Paper Tape literary magazine, which is available here. It kicks off their Underground issue, which I’m eagerly anticipating. Enjoy!

Recent Tattoos

•April 2, 2014 • Comments Off

As I mentioned awhile back, I finally got my Pythia tattoo commemorating seven years of service to Apollon as His oracle. It’s on my calf, nestled between the herm and the Persephone/Hekate tree:

A few months before that, I got a dotwork tattoo on my back which is loosely based on a symbol you see on some shaman robes, representing the ribs (and therefore the whole dismemberment/re-making from bones process of shamanic initiation), and also the hollowness of emptying out for the spirits:

Here it is in the context of my other work there:

To see more of my tattoos, go to my Flickr set. I don’t have photos of everything though – there is an outline of the Chauvet Cave bear on my hip, a flock of geese winding around my arm (very hard to photograph), and several others more personal in nature. Maybe eventually I’ll get around to uploading it all.


•March 19, 2014 • Comments Off

So some of you may have noticed I have been around even less than usual in the past several weeks. See, I finally started serious work on my next book project, one that has been bouncing around in my head for about a year, which I started loosely planning back in July, then steeped myself in the themes for a few months, but only really began researching and writing in mid-February. The text is short, but the concept as a whole has been time-consuming. Well, more than time-consuming, it has been brain-consuming, passion-consuming, not much else has existed for me since I started. I actually love that kind of obsession, though it has its price.

One of the best things about this time, though, has been watching the universe confirm my obsession with more signs than even I could believe. I mean, this project has direct ties to certain ancestors, and less direct but important ties to my main group of spirits, so I knew it was important, and meaningful, and even spiritual (although it might not seem so on the surface), but these last few weeks have been absolute MAGIC.

The book, very generally, is about carnivals. And all of a sudden, everything in my life was carnivals. Every novel I read, every movie or television show I watched, everywhere there have been carnivals. In the most unlikely places. I suddenly remembered an old 90′s song I hadn’t  heard in ages, found the video on Youtube, and it’s set in a carnival. That sort of thing. After countless of these synchronicities, my partner and I sat down to watch a cartoon movie the other night, one based on a graphic novel he had read awhile ago, which we’d had on order from the library for months and finally got in, and I jokingly said “is there going to be a carnival in this?” And turns out – THERE WAS. He hadn’t even remembered it, but it featured prominently in the second half.

This, to me, is part of the benefit of living one’s life with the gods and spirits, in synch with Their priorities even when they make no sense to you. It may take you in some odd and unexpected directions, it may not even be what you want sometimes (the not-doing and subsequent revelations that led to this focus were certainly not easy for me to accept), but the pay-off can be extraordinary. A magical life.

“More conservative minds deprive coincidence of meaning by treating it as background noise or garbage, but the shape-shifting mind pesters the distinction between accident and essence and remakes this world out of whatever happens. At its obsessive extreme such attention is the beginning of paranoia (all coincidence makes ‘too much sense’), but in a more capacious mind it is a kind of happy genius, ready to make music out of other people’s noise.” (Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes This World)

Divine Inspiration

•March 3, 2014 • Comments Off

Galina’s been running an interesting series of Devotional Polytheist questions, and while I don’t plan to answer them all, this one – and her answer – caught my eye.

“6. What does it feel like when one receives inspiration from the divinities?”

“It is like drinking fire…..It’s like being utterly swept away but at the same time it energizes, fires the mind, ignites the spirit, brings focus and clarity to one’s world…..It leaves a fierce joy in its wake to which nothing, absolutely nothing can compare.”

It’s not that I don’t know what she’s talking about – I’ve been there, for sure. But I thought I’d talk about a different sort of experience that I’ve started paying more attention to lately, especially in regards to artistic (in the broadest sense) inspiration. Yes, sometimes it’s a crazywonderful explosion of intensity, but other times it is more subtle – so subtle I find I sometimes don’t acknowledge it for what it is, or I only can recognize it in retrospect. It’s when things are simply, obviously, undeniably RIGHT. When you catch upon an idea, for instance, and it feels like you’ve always had it. When you could not possibly explain any rational motivation for the piece you’re making, you just know you have to make it, even if no one ever sees it. When you suddenly just know the solution to a problem, or the right way to construct something. It doesn’t feel like anything’s really happened, because it seems so natural. If anything, it is like remembering rather than creating.

I’ve noticed the same effect at work on the high seat. Sometimes I would hear or see the answer to a question, but often the oracles which proved to be the most powerful, the most on-target, were ones which I just suddenly knew. It would take me a moment to realize the oracle had been given, because it just seemed so familiar, not new information at all, and then I’d realize I didn’t know it a minute ago.

With a lot of time and experience under my belt at this point regarding both sacred art and oracular work, I can recognize that these are examples of extremely clear divine inspiration – so clear it’s invisible, so to speak. Having been able to judge the results in the long-term, I have noticed how often such experiences prove fruitful, on a level I am not capable of alone. Not to mention, they often happen after I pray to a god or spirit for assistance, even if they’re not the way I’d expected to be answered.

And that reminds me of another thing – a similar process seems to be at work during some of the most intimate moments of spirit contact. It doesn’t feel like reaching out across a great distance to communicate with an otherworldly being, as such things often do, it is instead like looking up to see Them right next to you, and realizing They’d been there the whole time. It was only your perception that changed. Not calling or invoking, or even praying, just opening your eyes.

I love the whirlwind of passionate divine contact as much as anyone – probably much more so – but for me, in a way, these other times are actually coming CLOSER to my gods and spirits. So close there is no barrier between my mind and Theirs, as if for a moment we inhabit the same exact place and time, not enough space separating us for me to even observe Them. Only after They are gone do I realize what has just happened.


•February 27, 2014 • Comments Off

“A colleague of mine….mentioned how serving the Gods, really entering into a devotional relationship with Them has given him a strong foundation from which to face any challenges that come his way, that he knows that his life ‘is being well-spent.’ I was quite taken with this and I think that this is something that it seldom occurs to us to articulate: the Gods instill in those who venerate Them a rock-solid sense of purpose. It will carry one through many a dark place if one’s courage and devotion holds. I think that this is something many of us take for granted: as a direct result of our devotional work, we have a sense of purpose and deep, deep meaning in our lives that underpins everything. It’s a grace and a gift and moves us to change the way we are in our world.” (Galina Krasskova)

I would have been lost many times over if it were not for the life’s work my spirits have set for me. Over and over again, I can come back to that as my center, my reason for being, no matter what else changes (and oh, so very much has changed). It is a gift that I have not given nearly enough thanks for.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 481 other followers