What Came First? The Magic or the Book?

1-dire_francesco_del_cossa_010As I’ve written elsewhere, I’ve had a lifelong interest in the occult and some very odd experiences too, but I didn’t start studying Western magic and witchcraft until I started writing this fantasy novel on Nov. 1, 2016. The plot required my characters to learn from Western magical traditions and so I figured I had to research this as well. What I didn’t realize was that this study would prove as important and life-changing as any of my other major epiphanies (and I’ve had a few).

The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, now completed, is many things to me. It was my salvation during a very difficult time of loneliness and social anxiety. It was my way of creating community (though imaginary) in the aftermath of a divorce, in a time and place where friendships and family were proving unreliable. And it was my love letter and good-bye to Hawai’i nei (beloved Hawai’i). Dire Deeds is also my social commentary on forms of settler-colonialism peculiar to the Puna District (Hawai’i Island’s “Lower East Side”). Other themes include aging, LGBTQIA etc. struggles, white privilege, and more. But this description makes the book sound far too serious. I assure you, the “tone” is often playful, comic, and sweetly sardonic, even though these topics–and events in the book–are “dire.”

Best_small_ Buffalmacco,_trionfo_della_morte,_eremiti_02 copyNow I begin the second book in what will be a trilogy: The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. Spoiler alert – it takes place in Lake County, California, where I now live. All the previous characters will continue in this second volume, and a few new ones will be added–notably the charismatic “drifter,” Lucky LaFey.

The third book will take place in England, and will be called The Perilous Past of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) was the vehicle for jumpstarting and continuing Dire Deeds, and I am going to begin The Witching Work during this year’s NaNoWriMo contest, which starts (as always) on Nov. 1st (my birthday). I expect to have no problem achieving the 50,000 word count which is the goal of the contest. Even so, please wish me luck. And it would please me too if you went to my book website and read some of the excerpts and blog posts.

Thank you!

####

A Homeopathic Dose of Madness

I’ve joked in the past that my epitaph will be “Not Insane” (a line from an old Firesign Theater routine), and I can tell you honestly that the only mental health diagnosis I’ve ever gotten was (is!) “adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood.” It’s supposed to be a passing phase, based on difficult life changes, but the “hits” just keep on coming, therefore I think I’ve had it longer than most people. A therapist friend who knows me well says (unofficially) that she thinks I’ve graduated to post traumatic stress disorder, but I, uh, erm…well, I kinda don’t want to go there.

It is true though that my tendency to suddenly flee toxic relationships (or even incidents) has accelerated in recent years, especially if my gut erupts in feelings of nausea even thinking about the person. In Hawai’i, the na’au (the gut) is the super-smart “heart,” the seat of emotions. And in Western medicine, we know the enteric nervous system can tell us a lot. So that “mixed anxiety” of mine (I’ll take it shaken, not stirred) includes a deep, visceral reaction to people and things which cause me to suffer. So I have to work hard at keeping hyper-reactivity from taking over my life: meditation, self-hypnosis, my spiritual practices, loads of “quiet time,” creative writing (like this blog and my novels), reading, and avoidance of and withdrawal from the people and situations which feel harmful. Like the jet test pilots of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, I try hard to “maintain an even strain.”

But that’s not exactly what today’s blog is about. I just wanted to lay the foundation first. That’s because I’ve entered a new phase in the last couple of years, turning from my formerly avid amateur engagement with Hawaiian culture toward a renewed interest in Western magic, Neo-paganism, and Celtic/Northern spirituality. And because I’ve turned into a god-struck old lady (not the first to do so, by any means). But not just any god either. As readers of this blog know already, Loki is my patron, though I’ve always been an animist and a polytheist and continue to cultivate relationships with other massive beings (aka “gods”) and some of the less spiritually bulky ancestors and land wights.

LOKI_0031-897x1024
Loki illustration from D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths.

Some of my oldest and most beloved friends might be finding this new phase of mine hard to take, though they are (by now) used to the ever-changing parade of “Amy’s special interests.” And it’s true that isolation, loneliness, moments of despair, and a “what the hell” attitude unique to this age bracket has propelled me into an even more determined exploration of what it means to engage with non-material realms. I was always into the occult, anyway, so why not run with it now for all I’m worth?

That picture of Loki at right seems to indicate that even he might be questioning my sanity at this point. (That’s a joke.) But for those of my friends and family who might be worried about this pagan, god-struck phase, I ask them to consider that I am placing a deliberate, homeopathic application of “madness” into my life in order to keep the rest of me sane. Because honestly, without the support of my devotional practices and a feeling of being held by my ancestors and gods, I might not manage to remain here for much longer. And that’s a fact.

That, and the fact that my cats need feeding and my kids need me to not go there.

As an artist, a writer, a thinker, a mother, an eccentric, an activist, and a sorrowing human soul, I am living into this next phase of my life (the Baba Yaga phase?) with as much robust curiosity and creativity as I can muster. And I don’t mind looking ridiculous. I will, Scorpio-style, do this to the hilt. You, dear reader, are witness.

It’s life.

Baba_Yaga_and_maiden-birds_by_I.Bilibin_(1902)

####