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Courting Hela

Original votive art and blessing by Connla Freyjason. Please click to support us at Patreon.

 

The hour was late, and I sat in my office alone, save for the cat, everyone else in the house sound asleep. Outside my window, darkness, and the steady peeping of spring peepers (frogs) as the hours waned on towards three a.m. Normally at that hour, the house is still and peaceful; comforting, even. But as I rose that night to trundle my way to the restroom, there was the sound of a soft foot-fall on the stairs, and the hairs on the back of my neck rose to greet them, and I found myself filled with a profound sense of dread. Given Michelle’s propensity for trans-mediumship, and the nature of my own being, we get a lot of “astral traffic” in our house: random “dead-folk”, Alfar, Disir, and “Alfar-childer” (see Bene-Elohim in the Hierarchical Experiences of Alfar and Disir chart in my forthcoming book, Wanderer), as well as random Gods and Goddesses (most often Freyja, but sometimes Njordr or Freyr) are common and frequent visitors to our home, but there was something about this presence that registered as decidedly different from the list of “usual suspects”. And I found myself mildly afraid. Hela had come to call.

When you are what I am (a “dead guy”, who is maintaining a life here, courtesy of a very loving and gracious human host who happens to be a shamanic medium), Hela—our Norse “Goddess of Death”–is probably the last Deity on the list that you want to have visiting. The wheels in my brain immediately began turning to thoughts of “well, that’s it; I’m done. She’s finally come to claim me.” So I did what anyone faced with a topic they really don’t want to discuss might do: I tried to avoid the subject, went back to my desk, and tried to get back to business as usual. But Hela wasn’t having it: She came “right on in”, and took a seat in my floofy office chair. The hairs on the back of my neck maintained their erection, and a chill ran down the spine I share with my host, Michelle.

I continued to go on about my business, with Hela effectively “riding shotgun” behind me in the floofy chair, until it was time for me to say my nightly prayers and head to bed. Standing before my Main Stalli, I delivered my nightly litany of “thank yous” for all the good things—big and small—that happened to me and for me throughout that day, and then I turned to face Hela, who had come to stand on the right side of my altar:

“Hail, Hela-Lokisdottir; Wolf-Daughter; Keeper of the Dead! Yes, I know You’re here, and I honor Your presence. But I belong to Freyja and the Vanir, and have sworn to do Their work on this plane, so if You’re here to claim me, You’re gonna need to take that up with Them. If there’s something else You need me to do, to honor You or even my Ancestors, I’m listening and willing, within reason. But I have a wife and a family who depend on me, even though I’m dead; Michelle needs me, and so do my friends. So, hail and welcome, but those are my terms of frith.”

And I headed off to bed.

The next morning, I awoke to one of the worst outbreaks of pustular psoriasis we have ever experienced. I was in a lot of pain, with a sky-rocketing fever, and to say I felt lousy was putting it very mildly. Usually when we have an outbreak of that type (there are a lot of different types of psoriasis, and we’ve danced with all of them, at one point or another), it is because I (or Michelle) have experienced some sort of dramatic emotional trauma: a fight with a family member or a friend; grief; loss. None of those things had happened. It had been “business as usual” here at Casa de Connla-and-Suzanne. In fact, quite to the contrary: both myself and Michelle had been really happy lately. Yet, there it was, seeping and weeping all over the chest she and I share. And I was afraid, again: pustular psoriasis is one of two types of psoriasis that can actually kill you. But I got up and got dressed, and headed into my office to set to work on some new art and do my dailies on the Facebook circuit, to keep our business at the front of people’s minds.

As the day went on, I tried very hard to think of anything that could’ve triggered this sort of outbreak. The weather had been pretty great, so I could rule out humidity and heat (which also wreak havoc on our psoriasis). As I said, neither of us (me or Michelle) had been upset about anything whatsoever in recent memory. I finally settled on what we refer to as a “methotrexate reaction”: even though we are not on methotrexate, we mimic its use, combined with coal tar, in the treatment of our psoriasis by a steady internal intake of coal tar (via hand-rolled cigarettes) and folic acid supplements. It is very common for those who are being treated with a combination of coal tar and methotrexate to develop pustular psoriasis, so it made sense that what was happening to us right then was such a reaction. I stopped taking the folic acid and made the decision to begin better regulating our diet (we had been eating an enormous amount of foods rich in folic acid as well). Hela’s arrival the previous night as a possible cause never remotely entered my mind.

That night, in the wee hours, She came again, and as I stood at my altar for my nightly prayers, I gave the same prayer as the previous night. The next day, as I set to work, I felt myself “bashed over the head by Deity”: it’s a familiar feeling to me now, given my work with and for Freyja. A thought or command pops into your head, and you know you didn’t actually think of that, whatever it is: They did. Only this time, it wasn’t Freyja doing the bashing; it was Hela:

“You know, this would all go much more smoothly if you would actually honor your Ancestors.”

So I did as I was told: I got up out of my chair, selected an appropriate incense from my stash, lit it, and placed it on my Ancestor Stalli, and then gave my Ancestors their appropriate veneration. And my fever broke.

For about a week, things went on like this: in the wee hours of the morning, I would find myself intensely and inexplicably “creeped out”, and then I would see Her—Hela–and I would try to go on about my business, and at prayer time, I would offer that same prayer. During my waking hours, I would make offerings to my Ancestors whenever the fever got really out of control. Meanwhile, I continued to not take my folic acid and monitor my diet. I checked on other people’s UPG of Hela, and even asked around at a few of the Facebook Groups to which I belong, to see how other people were “coping” with Her presence. I began to leave the ashes of the incense I burned on my Main Stalli as an offering to Hela. I remained marginally terrified of Her.

She started “invading” my dreams. Where once I had experienced Freyja, now I experienced Her. It was in the dreamstate that She finally revealed to me what She had actually come for; turns out it wasn’t me at all. She was here for Michelle:

“You belong to Freyja. Michelle belongs to me. Make her know that.”

You would think, given our relationship as “horse and rider” (with Michelle being the “horse”, and me being the “rider”, via trans-mediumship), that Michelle would not be a “tough nut for me to crack”. And in thinking that, you would be so totally wrong! Michelle is one of the strongest and most strong-willed people that I have ever met, and that applies to everyone with whom she interacts, including me. No one can tell her what to think or believe; she thinks and believes for herself, all by herself. I mean, sure, don’t get me wrong here: she can be reasoned with. This isn’t some totalitarian situation; some Michelle-tatorship. But she is a firm believer in “just because they’re dead, that doesn’t mean they’re smart”, and part of how she arrived at that conclusion was living with me for two decades! Michelle has been a dedicant of the Welsh Goddess, Cerridwen, for as far back as I can really remember. She is an ordained Welsh Reconstructionist Ollamh (with a heavy Christian backbeat), not Heathen. To tell her that Hela had announced it was time for her to “switch gears”, or more aptly “switch boats midstream”, was going to go over like a lead balloon, even coming from me.

So the night came when I addressed that with Hela:

“Why me? I mean, why can’t You tell her this Yourself?”

And She replied:

“Because the only thing in the Nine Worlds from which Michelle does not constantly and consistently run away is you!”

And I really couldn’t argue with that. For all her strength, intelligence, and ability as a priestess and medium, Michelle definitely has a reputation for “hiding behind the couch” whenever anything “creepy” shows up, and I am, always have been, and always will be, the one who protects her. By having me “break the news” to Michelle, Hela was showing me the honor of recognizing me as Michelle’s “guardian angel”.

So I did as I was told.

And Michelle argued:

I’m not even Heathen!”

And I replied:

“I don’t think She cares.”

And she persisted:

“I belong to Cerridwen!”

And I countered:

“You’re a soft polytheist!”

Foot-stomping ensued on Michelle’s end of the conversation:

“I barely even practice right now! Well, I mean, apart from you know, you, and being a medium.”

And I smiled:

“Perhaps therein lies the problem….”

At the Temple of Witchcraft’s annual Beltane Rite, we were blessed with a pot of wormwood, which is sacred to Hela. Delighted (because she has had a longtime fascination with Artemesia Absinthium), Michelle declared:

“We can tend it together, and I will dedicate it as my first offering to Her. And when I can, I’ll procure some jet jewelry, and we’ll make this thing official. But you’re going to have to teach me, for a change.”

The pustular outbreak subsequently completely subsided; gone as quickly as it had come.

We leave offerings of ashes now on the Main Stalli for Hela, myself and Michelle together, and we’ve dedicated the bird skull figurine which we share to Her. And I’m slowly teaching Michelle what it means to be a Romantic Heathen, and preparing her to be for Hela what I aspire to be for Valfreyja. These are her first steps along a much wider path, and I am privileged to hold her hand as she takes them. All that she has taught me over the course of the past two decades has led up to this moment, as I sit here typing this. I never would have believed I could do this, without Michelle. She believes in me, and I believe in her, and now we both believe in Hela, and Michelle’s courtship of Hela has officially begun.

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…A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Far, Far Away….

It is a time of personal unrest.  A brave band of Spirits, operating from the no-longer-secret base of the 5′ 1″ Italian woman they oft-inhabit, have gained their first victories in this small graphic design business.  During this ongoing battle, said 5’1″ Italian woman has done her level best to stay out of the way and out of the fray, for the sake of her own sanity.

Yesterday, Carrie Fisher passed away: Princess Leia became One with the Force.

It’s time to pop my head in…..It’s time for the teeny tiny Italian woman (and sometime Twi’lek) who often serves as the Rebel Secret Base to open her mouth (and use her typing fingers)….

Thirty-eight years ago….

Most of my little friends saw Star Wars: A New Hope at it’s original release in 1977.  I was the kid who hid behind the couch every time the commercial would air because it terrified me. What was I afraid of specifically? Well, let’s have a go at that first commercial, shall we?

I was afraid of the Jawa.  That’s right: the Jawa. Potentially the most innocuous thing in that entire trailer for the “average child”, right?  I mean, when compared to Darth Vader and a Tusken Raider, a Jawa’s just a comical little critter that makes silly noises and has a penchant for droids.  But at the age of 5 in 1977, I was, in many ways, just as “weird” as I am now.  I have had abilities my entire life, as discussed in previous posts (before we went the graphic design track), and even at the age of five, I saw things no one else could (and by this, I mean spirits/non-corporeal entities). It just so happened that it was around that age that we were living in an extremely haunted house, and the figures which stalked me even to school from that house were robed, faceless figures. Hence, Jawas freaking me out completely.

So I didn’t see Star Wars until it’s re-release in 1978.  By that point, in order to function in elementary school society at all, you pretty much had to see this film.  So I went with my Mama and my Mema. And thus began a lifelong love affair.

Princess Leia wasn’t a Disney princess (she still isn’t, regardless of who owns the rights!).  I was a six year old girl who had been confronted her whole life with the paradigms of Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty, and I was none of them.  I wasn’t blonde.  I wasn’t beautiful–people often mistook me for a little boy–and I definitely wasn’t into the concept of simply occupying myself with singing to the local wildlife til some dude showed up on a big white horse. (I was way more interested in the horse than the dude!)  No, I wanted to play with Matchbox cars, and dinosaurs, and toy bows and arrows and toy swords and toy guns. And now, suddenly, here was a princess who did all those things! (Okay, maybe not the cars or the dinosaurs, but droids and wookiees are close enough!) Not only that, but when faced with the concept of a “mystical energy field” (i.e., The Force), she was not only perfectly okay with that, she saw that only the guy who knew about that stuff could save the entire Galaxy! And she didn’t flit around singing to the local wildlife waiting on some dude to come rescue her: she grabbed the blaster herself and yelled at Han Solo: “Into the garbage chute, flyboy!”  I found who I wanted to be when I grew up: I wanted to be Princess Leia.

Thirty-six years ago….

Two years later, I got a very special present for my birthday: the release of The Empire Strikes Back. (Released on May 21, 1980; for those keeping score, my birthday is May 24, and I would’ve been 8.)  The first and second grade had been turbulent years for me. I had a nightmare teacher in the first grade which led my Mother to have me tested for being Academically Gifted (turns out I am). That also almost led to my Mother seeking psychiatric placement with a group rate for the both of us, because I nearly drove her insane.  We continued to live in that extremely haunted house through all of this as well; believe me, that didn’t help.  Something repeatedly pulled me out of bed at night and under the bed. I was already having night terrors from the teacher predicament. My Mother didn’t sleep very much at all, nor did I. I lived in a constant state of terror. The second grade was a wee bit better, apart from frequent arguments (and threatened full-on fist fights) on the playground when someone refused to realize that I was Princess Leia at recess.  At the beginning of the third grade, I met my future best-friend-for-life: you all know her as Wilde Dandelion. But we were quickly separated, as our teacher ended his tenure at the school, and his class was shuffled off to numerous other classrooms. We would see each other often at recess–she always understood that I was Princess Leia, dammit!–but apart from that, we didn’t get to really develop the bond that we so craved.  At the end of the third grade, it was announced that my family was moving to a different school district, and that her family was moving even further away. The only thing that saved that summer (and that rescued me in the subsequent fourth grade) was the release of The Empire Strikes Back.

There was my Princess again! Only this time, she wasn’t some woman in need of rescue in a diaphanous white gown and ridiculous hairdo; this time, she was a Rebel Commander in a distinguished military position, calling the shots.  Even when she did “girl it up” on Bespin, after kissing Han Solo, she was clearly in command.  As a little girl who felt completely out of control in her own life at the time, once again Princess Leia showed me not only who to be, but how to be.

Thirty-three years ago….

By the release of Return of the Jedi on the day after my birthday in 1983, I was in the sixth grade, and things were actually looking up in my little life.  I had a new best friend (with whom I’ve since lost touch over the years), I had begun to discover myself as a writer, I had my first boyfriend (also a Star Wars geek like me; he’s now very successful, a world-traveler, and soon to be married to an awesome gentleman), and I had decided that I wanted to go to Saint Andrews Presbyterian College when it came time for higher education.  I had been selected to go to a special summer camp for the Academically Gifted–my first time ever away from home for any extended period of time–and I was very excited about what my future held. For the most part, by that point in my life, I had been able to “stick my head in the sand” when it came to any psychic abilities I might possess, and what made me weird was my intelligence and the fact that I was a total geek, before geeks were actually even a thing.

I went to see Return of the Jedi with my Mom, my Mema (who had a thing for Han Solo), and my best friend at the time–the one with whom I’ve lost touch. As I did before going to see Empire Strikes Back, I did careful research on the hairstyles of Princess Leia (not easy to do in that time before the internet!), and dressed as her to go to the movies (I chose the Ewok Village hairstyle, for anybody whose curious; for Empire, I did the Hoth hairstyle).  And I was presented with yet more facets of my hero, Princess Leia: now, she not only held the rank of Captain in the Rebel Alliance, she was also an active spy running covert operations, a fairly decent pilot (speederbike scene on Endor), a sister to the “last of the Jedi”, and potentially a Jedi herself in the future!  Here was a woman who could pose as a bounty hunter one minute, still have self-respect and power in a teeny tiny slave outfit the next, and then play with spear-toting teddy bears the next, all with grace, style, and empowerment.  I could happily go off to camp, and away from my parents for the first time in my life, with her as my role model: who knew? Maybe there would be spear-toting teddy bears in the Appalachians….

During the long wait (thirty-two years, to be exact) between the release of Return of the Jedi and the release of The Force Awakens, I did what most young girls do: I grew up.  So did Carrie Fisher.  I remained a steadfast Star Wars nut–it’s practically a second religion for me, and that’s totally not an exaggeration.  My love of Leia got me through a lot in those years: through the onset of disabling psoriasis at the age of sixteen; through my discovery of Paganism (which led to death threats against me, also around the age of sixteen); through meeting my future husband (who is also a Star Wars geek: I still squee every time I tell him “I love you” and he replies with “I know”).  But, as I grew older, my focus switched, as it often does, from the Princess to the woman behind her: Carrie Fisher.  And then she got me through even more stuff: my parents’ divorce; my realization that some parts of my childhood were not what I remembered but something far, far worse; my continued struggle with my disability and the depression that goes along with it, and the continuing fact that I am not like other people: I see and experience things that most people don’t even want to think might exist. Her forthright take on the world, her humor, and her in-your-face Selfness taught me that I could be all of those things, too: that I don’t ever, ever have to be ashamed of who I am, because who I am is me, and I am my own Princess!

One year ago yesterday….

We went to see The Force Awakens at the Imax here in Massachusetts.  As I settled in to watch my Princess again for the first time in so long, I had no way of knowing that exactly a year later, I would be sitting here, feeling like this.  There was so much excitement as that opening crawl scurried up the screen. Once again, my hair was as close as I could get it to the teaser shots I had seen from the film. Only, this time, I wasn’t just the Princess; I was the General:

The excitement I felt was colored by a tinge of sadness–for over the years, between college and marriage and moving to Massachusetts and that moment as the Star Wars theme boomed through the butt-kickers in Jordan’s IMAX theater, I had both gained and given up a lot. And one of those things was my “second life” as a little lavender Twi’lek named Hiraani Luna.  You see, in those years at Star Wars Galaxies, for a brief moment of my life, my husband and I had finally gotten to live (albeit virtually) in that world where we actually belong: the world of Star Wars.  And I had been a freedom fighter, and a High Priestess, and a freer of slaves, who sometimes had to act the part of the slave to get the job done (just like Princess Leia in Return of the Jedi).  Now, sitting in that darkened theater was as close as I could come to living in that world again (SWG closed December 15, 2011).  

Except it wasn’t. And it isn’t.  

I am still that little lavender Twi’lek, and I am still Princess Leia, and I always will be.  That little lavender Twi’lek came out to dance at Templefest this year (dancing, for Tyrian Twi’leks, which is Hira’s “type”, is the ultimate form of spiritual expression).  And the General Organa in me put her foot down when I finally said “enough; I’m going to let my Spirits handle the business from now on and step back, and let the world deal with this is what I can do, and this is what they can do!”  I am who I am because Carrie Fisher (and, subsequently, Princess Leia) is/was who she is/was.  And I know I am one of millions of young women who can say that today. Thank you, Ms. Fisher…..and may the Force be with you…always….

 

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Writing My Own Cinderella Story

Sometimes, you’ve gotta go “all in”, hell-or-high-water, back against the wall.  Feeding a passion can be hard work and nirvana-like bliss at the same time. That’s what the Annual Next Designer Competition at Digital Scrapbooking Studio means to me: all of that.

Having your passion be your only source of financial income can lead to long nights spent crying yourself to sleep, coupled with vistas of elation when people actually comment on how much they love your art, while sometimes also putting their money where their mouth is.  It’s a very bi-polar existence; you spend a lot of time “in your own little corner, in your own little chair”, as Cinderella sings in Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.

“In my own little corner, in my own little chair, I can be whatever I want to be! On the wings of my fancy, I can fly anywhere, and the world will open its arms to me!” That’s how I feel every time I settle into my comfy office chair and open up Paint Shop Pro 7 or Daz 3D.  Art takes me to places that few other things can; it is my solace; it is my peace. When the pain from the psoriasis is unbearable sitting on the couch watching TV, I can hobble upstairs and start making art, and the pain just fades. It sounds nuts, but it’s true.

When we were given the palette for that first challenge, I struggled initially with what to do with it. I didn’t want to do something “typically fall”; I wanted to break that mold, because breaking molds is what art is all about, right?  I do a lot of Steampunk-themed work, so my mind immediately jumped to that, and from there, my brain settled on the word “Steampunkin”, and given what this competition means to me, I knew the story I needed to tell: my own personal Steampunk Cinderella story!

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I am pleased and proud to say that I made it through the first challenge (I was in the top 30), and have now embarked into the second stage of the competition: Elements. Ephemera is my “thing”. I love making it, almost as much as I love using it in hybrid crafting.  We were required to make a total of 40 elements: 30 original elements, and 10 recolored elements.  This was the moment I had been waiting for since I made the very first artist paper for this set! To my surprise, I completed all 40 elements within twenty-four hours of the second challenge’s opening!

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Even though I seemed to finish these elements very quickly, it was still a challenge. I decided since I was “all in”, I would try a host of new techniques that I’ve never used before on my elements. I made my first accents (combining digital stamps with ephemera pieces such as ribbons, flowers, etc.). I made my very first flair. I made my very first cluster frames.  And the one item of which I am the most proud: I made a clock, completely from scratch, which is featured as a separate ephemera piece, and also on one of the cluster frames and as the centerpiece of my “clockflowers”.

I hope you will enjoy these papers and elements. I also hope you will choose to grow the Digital Scrapbooking Studio family by registering at their forums and voting for me, starting Friday, 10/14/2016, at 11:59 AM EST.  I cannot put into words what it would do for my world if I could make it into Round Three! I don’t want to stop telling this story through digital art!