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Commercialized Magic?

Original digital painting by Connla Freyjason for Iaconagraphy, 2016.

Commercialized Magic:  Employing supernatural powers or demonstrating the power to apparently influence the course of events via mysterious or supernatural forces purely for the sake of profit and/or financial gain.

That is not what we do here at Iaconagraphy. It never has been, and it never will be. However it has recently been brought to our attention that some people view any use of spiritual gifts in the creation of a product to sell as precisely that, so we felt the need to blog about it, and clear up any misconceptions or preconceived notions that might be held by others of our followers and folks within our customer base.  We’re going to be doing this blog post a wee bit differently from our norm, as Michelle and I are co-writing this one.  She has served as a psychic service professional for far longer than I have, with a combined thirty years of Tarot and oracle card reading experience, though only in a paid capacity for the last two.  I have personally been “tossing runes” for twenty years, as well as reading oracle cards for myself and friends, also as an un-paid reader, until now.  She is ordained; I am not. She is published; I’m not yet.  Therefore, I feel that hearing both our perspectives on this issue is not only worthy, but warranted.

Warning: If you are sensitive to certain types of “language”, be forewarned. This post contains some mild profanity.

So what does qualify as commercialized magic?

Connla:  As far as I’m concerned, anybody who “hangs out their shingle” as a “psychic service professional” based more on what they can gain than on what they can give is committing an act of commercialized magic.  The key word in the phrase “psychic service professional” is service.  If the only thing you’re intending to serve is your own damn wallet, then you need to stop muddying the waters for the rest of us who are actually here to perform a service to other people.

 

Michelle: First of all, I don’t consider “psychic readings” to be a form of magic; I consider magic to be magic.  A psychic reading does not actively attempt to “influence the course of events”.  We aren’t “making shit happen” by doing a reading for you.  We will hopefully be providing you with tools, so that you can “make shit happen” yourself, but no amount of advice “makes shit happen”, psychic or otherwise.  Anyone who tells you that a reading they have performed for you is going to “make shit happen” in your life probably also has a bridge over the Marianas Trench they’d like to sell you!  That’s “snake oil salesmanship” at its finest.  I consider active spellwork to be magic, because that’s precisely what active spellwork is: it is performing an action with the direct intent of “influencing the course of events”.  Neither Connla nor I will ever participate in active spellwork for money, for a variety of reasons.  First, because that obviously is actively doing magic for money (though that doesn’t necessarily mean that even that falls under the heading of “commercialized magic”, as defined above), but our reasons go much, much deeper than that.  Magic always comes at a price, and I’m not talking about money when I say that.  Simple physics tells us that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”: when you perform a spell, there will be some “equal and opposite reaction” incurred.  As such, active spellwork is an intensely and necessarily very personal thing. Neither of us are “into” incurring anybody else’s equal and opposite reactions!  We create enough of those of our ownon our own.  I’m not willing to say that there aren’t people out there who are selfless enough to take those sort of risks for you–the conjure community has been full of precisely those sorts of people going all the way back to ancient Africa–what I am willing to say is that doing readings of the type that we do here at Iaconagraphy is taxing enough, without adding active spellwork to that mix.  For the record, not all active spellwork for money is “commercialized magic” as defined above, either:  if someone is doing that as a service for others, rather than solely for what they personally financially gain from it, then that’s not commercialized magic; that is simply a different sort of psychic service profession from what we do here at Iaconagraphy.    

How is what you do different from commercialized magic?

Connla:  First, and quite simply: we’re here to serve othersnot to serve ourselves or our own wallets.  The financial bottom line is not what I was put here to serve: I was put here to serve the Gods first, and other seekers second.  While the old adage of “a gift for a gift” and an active energy exchange are necessary for our very survival in this world, I made a decision months ago to no longer be a slave to our bank account.  I don’t serve it; I serve the Gods, and I’m here to serve all of you.  

Second, most paradigms of commercialized magic put forth a “here, let me do it all for you” perspective, which makes the person purchasing said “services” wholly dependent upon the person performing said “services”.  This is how things like “Tarot addiction” get started.  The “Tarot addict” becomes as dependent on the Reader as the alcoholic is on their local bartender, or the drug addict is on their local dealer.  That’s how such people keep the money flowing in: they continue to build on that dependence exactly the same way as a drug dealer. “Your life is shitty?” “Here, let me do another reading for you and give you all the answers so it will be guaranteed to be less shitty; that’ll be $200”.  We don’t do that.  Our readings are designed to be stepping stones; nothing more.  They provide advice that could potentially help you improve your life, sure, but they are never put forth as the “be all and end all” answer to all of your problems. We can’t do that; we’re not Gods!

 

 

Michelle:  One would hope that the answer to this question would be self-evident, from my answer to the first question, but just in case it isn’t, let me be overtly honest:  a person who was actually offering readings as a form of commercialized magic (especially of the “snake oil salesman” variety that has been implied in this particular situation) would not be as deeply offended as I am right now!  I lived in the South for most of my life–forty-two years, to be exact–in an area of the country where any psychic ability was either viewed as being “of the Devil” or “fakery for the sake of money-making”.  When I began to read Tarot at the ripe young age of fifteen,  for free, as a service to my peers, I received death threats after they proved to be uncannily precise.  Meanwhile, the local “psychic reader” in our town, who was a complete charlatan, performing readings purely for the sake of making money, was allowed to practice in peace: no threats of burning crosses in her yard; no threats of “we’ll burn you at the stake in the local churchyard”.  That experience taught me at a very young age that if I ever, ever considered making money off of my God-given gifts, someone would actually make good on those death threats!  I subsequently did my level best, for the next twenty-seven years, to hide away my psychic gifts as much as was humanly possible.  When you’re me, that’s a little bit hard to pull off. I consequently became agoraphobic.  I reached a point where I was actually afraid to go out in public and remotely be myself, much less remotely entertain the thought of offering my skills as a service for money.  Three years ago, we moved to Massachusetts, and I suddenly found myself living in the “Girdle of the Goddess”, instead of the “Bible Belt”.  Here, my gifts are seen as precisely what they are: gifts. Here, there is actually an industry based on people offering such gifts in service to the public.  I could finally be wholly myself.  Not only that, I could finally be recognized as what I am: a gifted psychic service professional.  

How do you personally feel about commercialized magic?

Connla:  I feel the same way about commercialized magic that many Heathens feel about the AFA: those people muddy the waters for the rest of us.  Those of us who are really into this for the right reasons get lumped together with all the “boardwalk psychics” and “gypsy fortune tellers”, and get the same bad rap, and fall victim to the same levels of disrespect–disrespect which we patently do not deserve. Just because I perform this sort of service for people for money doesn’t make me a con artist or charlatan, anymore than me being a Heathen automatically makes me a racist!

 

Michelle:  My simple two-word answer to this question would be: that depends.  Depends on what exactly?  Mostly, it depends on whether or not the person in question is actually legit.  If a person is legitimately gifted with the ability to perform magic (and “psychic activity”), and is selfless enough to be willing to do that for other people, and then chooses to charge for their services as a way of either avoiding the necessary “equal and opposite reaction” (energy craves energy; “a gift for a gift”), or as a way of maintaining their lives (i.e., simple survival), then I certainly don’t take issue with that. Go them! I just know that isn’t a life for me, or for Connla. We have enough of our own endemic mental and physical backlash, without courting other people’s.  However, if a person is a “snake oil salesman” of the magical variety, they are actively making our lives more difficult by promoting the stereotype of the “boardwalk psychic” and the “gypsy fortune teller”, and that, quite simply, pisses me off.  Either a person is actively working in service to the community (services for which they should wholeheartedly get paid), or they’re a con artist and a grifter; they just choose to dress up their con and their grifting in the language and trappings of the supernatural.

What’s the difference between a psychic service professional and a “boardwalk psychic” or “gypsy fortune teller”?

Connla:  A psychic service professional does exactly that: they provide counseling services to others, for which they are paid, which rely on their own gifted (psychic) abilities.  They attempt to lead you to a point where you can develop your own answers, providing you with potential tools along the way to assist you in doing that. A psychic service professional understands the old saying “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.”  They’re not there to essentially pour that water down your throat.    A “boardwalk psychic” or “gypsy fortune teller”, on the other hand, bases their “services” on either telling the consumer precisely what they want to hear, or the exact opposite (so that they can then provide answers for how to avoid catastrophe), in an effort to keep the money sliding across the table and into their hand.  

 

Michelle:  To me, that’s like asking “what’s the difference between a barber in the Old West (who usually also performed the occupations of surgeon, dentist, veterinarian, and mortician) and a modern surgeon”?  Or, better yet, “what’s the difference between the Seidhkonas and shamans who served our Ancestors and the old lady downtown with the neon ‘Psychic Reader’ sign in her window who is basically only pedaling bullshit for money because she possesses no psychic ability whatsoever?” In the Old West, if you suffered a gunshot wound, you hoped the barber could fix you up; in our modern world, going to the barber with a gun shot wound is pretty much a guaranteed way to die! (Better hope he’s also a mortician; chances are, he’s not!)  In the ancient world, people with actual psychic ability were held in extremely high esteem: we need look no further than the evidence of artifacts within their collections of grave goods to see the truth in this statement.  That they might remotely be a fake was not a factor: theirs was seen as a sacred duty, not only by the perpetrator of the action (the shaman, Seidhkona, or other “magickal practitioner”), but also by the people whom they served.  I see what I do as a sacred duty in exactly that same way, and so does Connla.  The little old lady passing herself off as a psychic while pedaling bullshit for bucks clearly does not!  As Connla said above, a psychic service professional does exactly that: they provide a service to others; they are not merely servicing themselves

Why offer such services for money? Isn’t that a slippery slope?

Connla:  Other people in service professions get paid, why the hell shouldn’t we?  Service professions are defined as professions which require special training in the arts or sciences in order to serve others, and include accountants, dentists, pharmacists, morticians, hairdressers, barbers, psychiatrists, and social workers.  You likely wouldn’t entertain the thought of not paying your hairdresser, right?  Why should it be any different when it comes to us?

Insofar as it being a slippery slope, I would ask you: Do you consider paying your hairdresser the first step down a slippery slope?  Sure, there are people out there who are out to take your money, and that’s all they care about.  That’s been a reality in the Universe since time began.  There are also people like us who are out here to do our jobs.  When you sit down for a haircut, are you thinking in the back of your mind “well, what if they cut my hair crooked so that they can charge me extra for fixing it?” For most people, the answer to that question is “no, of course not”.  That’s because we tend to go to hairdressers we know beforehand we can patently trust.  When choosing a psychic service professional, the same rules should apply: pick someone who has proven they can be trusted.  Otherwise, caveat emptorbuyer beware. No slippery slope necessary.

 

Michelle:  The Seidhkonas, shamans, and other “magickal practitioners” of ancient times were paid for the services they rendered, why shouldn’t modern people performing the same services likewise get paid?  I’ve heard it argued that such people of ancient times amassed all of their wealth because people paid them respect, of which those items were an outward sign.  Isn’t money paid to a modern practitioner the exact same thing? Or are we somehow less worthy of respect, simply because we are separated from that time period by a few thousand years?  I’m sorry, but that is, quite simply, bullshit!  In case I haven’t made this clear enough, I’m sorry, but I’ve been fighting to have my gifts respected for forty-five years!  The primary difference between now and then, insofar as how that respect might be shown, is that back then, part of the respect factor involved not only the giving of gifts in payment, but also bowing down before the person in question as a revered individual.  I explicitly chose the title of Ollamh (essentially: “Poet-Teacher”) at the time of my ordination precisely because I don’t believe any person is worthy of the title  of “reverend”.  People aren’t meant to be revered, only Gods are!  So the modern way of showing that respect is by expressing that person’s worth in the form of monetary payment, which mirrors the giving of gifts to the person providing the service as a sign of respect, as has been done since such services have been practiced by humankind.

Insofar as charging for such services creating any sort of “slippery slope”, I would refer you to Connla’s perfectly eloquent response above.

Isn’t marketing such services almost like a form of “spiritual prostitution”?

Connla:  Gee, let me think: Is a hairdresser practicing “hair prostitution”?  Is an accountant practicing “number prostitution”? Is a dentist practicing “tooth prostitution”?  All of these other service professions depend on a person choosing an occupation based on their gifts.  Hairdressers become hairdressers because they are gifted with the ability to style hair well.  Accountants become accountants because they are gifted with an ability with numbers.  Dentists become dentists because they are gifted with an ability to treat people’s teeth, and an interest in doing so.  All of these professions require years of study and practice.  We don’t look down on them or judge them based on their gifts, nor their active pursuit of said study and practice; we’re just very grateful they had those gifts in the first place, and put in the time to become adept at their professions.  Psychic service professionals are exactly the same, our gifts just happen to be of a supernatural variety, and without years of study and practice, we wouldn’t be professionals, we would be little more than dabblers.  So why is it that when we use our gifts, after years of study and practice, to actually earn a living, we get accused of “spiritual prostitution”, but your local hairdresser or dentist is seen as a valid service professional? That is, quite simply, unfair.

 

Michelle:  have heard some professional readers liken the way their services are treated by tourists to a form of psychic prostitution, yes.  I have also felt that way myself on more than one occasion, when a client has come back six times with the same damn question, simply because they don’t like the responses they’ve received, and are hoping this time they’ll get what they really want to hear.  I’ve also felt that way myself when people expect my services to come for free.  (In fact, I’ve even joked, when referring to the latter situation that I am “patently a prostitute, not a whore”!)  When readings are treated as nothing more than a form of entertainment, rather than an actual serious service that is being provided by the reader, then, yes, this definitely becomes the equivalent of “psychic prostitution”.  But I personally feel that is the case with any Spirit-driven profession.  If you are making what is ostensibly votive art, for example, purely for the sake of “what can I put on a t-shirt this week?”, then that is also a form of “psychic prostitution”.  During the medieval period, when the Catholic Church offered plenary indulgences in return for money, that was also a form of “psychic prostitution”.  For a moment, let me do as Connla so eloquently did above and take the “psychic” part out of the equation.  We are all gifted with something that we’re so skilled at doing that it could potentially be the basis of our occupation.  That’s simply the way the world is designed to work.  Painters, paint (and I don’t just mean the artistic ones; I also mean the ones who paint houses for a living).  Those who are gifted at medically taking care of other people become doctors and nurses.  Those who are good at arguing points become politicians and lawyers.  At what point do any of those professions based on a person’s natural gifts become “pimping your gifts for dollars”?  At the moment when that person–or the people employing their services–views that gift and its subsequent off-shoot-profession as nothing more than a money-making activity; at the moment that they or the people employing their services either overvalue or undervalue the part that the individual performing said services personally plays in getting whatever job in question done.

Why seek a reading from a psychic service professional, when I could just “throw my own cards” or “toss my own runes”?

Connla:  We are all human, and, as humans, we tend to have our own inborn biases.  If you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you can “throw your own cards” or “toss your own runes” without any of those biases entering your mind as you interpret those cards/runes, then you may never need the assistance of a psychic service professional.  That assumes that you know how to read cards or toss runes in the first place, which not everybody does. It also assumes that you’ve put in the same level of study and practice as most people who choose to do this for a living, as a professional.  Finally, it assumes that you have confidence in yourself as an intuitive/psychic.  If the answer to any of those things is a resounding “no”, then a professional reading would be a good investment.

 

Michelle:  If you feel that you can perform the exact same services which we provide for yourself, all by yourself, then by all means, do so.  Also, it is very nice to meet someone else who has put as much time and effort into the study of this field as we have, and with similar psychic gifts. We don’t meet many people like you, so please, let’s chat, hang out, or something!

How do you determine what to charge for your services?

Connla:  How does any other service professional decide what to charge for their services?  We do it exactly the same way!   First, we figure our overhead costs. When dealing with a service-based industry, as opposed to an industry that is based on shipping actual crafted products, those overhead costs include all the things that are necessary to stay in business: things like your internet connection, maintaining your website, equipment used to perform the service (in our case, cards, runes, incense, and a computer), room and board (because if you don’t have a roof over your head and food in your belly, chances are, you’re going to be physically unable to do any job in the first place!), marketing and advertising, and any necessary further education/study/necessary certifications.  If you’re charging less for your provided service than your overall overhead costs, then you’re doing it wrong.  Next, you consider how much labor (work) your service actually requires: how physically or mentally taxing is the service provided?  This is commonly referred to as labor costLabor cost is why, when you go to a mechanic, you don’t just pay him for the parts!  Finally, you weigh things like experience and skill.  What is your level of experience and skill worth monetarily?  The final price on something is not just a source of income, but also a signal of its worth. This commonly breaks down in the human brain as “cheap cost=shotty service”.  

Our overhead costs include everything on that list in my first paragraph.  This site isn’t being hosted for free. Our internet access is not free.  Our cards and runes did not come cheap, nor did this computer on which I am typing (which we use not only to advertise our services, but also to provide them in the final format of a PDF delivered via email), nor does the incense and other things required to reach an alpha state and perform the readings in the first place.  Our room and board expenses should not be dependent solely on the “good graces” of other people–we are not Stewart from Big Bang Theory!  Marketing and advertising are neither cheap nor free.  Resource materials to improve our skills (such as books and classes) are, for the most part, neither cheap nor free.  Any further certifications in our field (and, yes, that’s actually a thing!) cost money.

Our labor costs are determined based not only on what it takes out of us, both mentally and physically, to perform this service, but also on how much time performing this service takes away from performing the duties of the rest of our business and our life in general.  Every reading is, on average, a good three to four hours that we cannot be working on writing, art, marketing, or “earning our right to live here” (i.e., helping to maintain the household).  When we are done with a shamanic reading (the type of readings we presently offer), we are tapped out.  Achieving the alpha state alone is enough to require a good, long nap. Mentally and physically, this involves a whole lot more than just “getting down on the floor with some cards and some runes”.  Shamanic readings require a psychic connection with the querent, as well as with those entities, forces, and energies which are coming in, to assist in giving answers in the reading.  This service is, therefore, both mentally and physically taxing.  Wearing ourselves out like that shouldn’t come for free, anymore than a mechanic wearing himself or herself out under your car, covered in grease and oil, with the potential of that car coming down on them and crushing them (accidents do happen!), should come for free!

Finally, our worth is high: we have a combined fifty years of experience (thirty on her side of the equation; twenty on mine) with psychic ability and performing readings (runes, Tarot, and oracle cards); she has proven psychic ability, and I’m a “dead guy” and a practicing vitki (which I didn’t become overnight, on a whim).  That’s a level of experience, and those are skills, that you don’t run across every day. That is worth something!  I’m sure you probably have your own distinctive personal skills and experiences which you offer in your own field of work. What if your employer suddenly told you those weren’t worth anything? 

 

Michelle:  When I first began doing readings for money, I significantly not only undervalued my abilities (because I had been led to believe my entire life that what I can do was not only worthless, but also dangerous), I also severely underestimated the toll doing this for a living would take on me, mentally and physically. I neither considered the effects it would have on the time constraints of the other parts of this business (writing and art), nor did I consider the effect it would have on the people around me (friends and family members who also require my time and who patently do not like constantly being told not to disturb me).  I subsequently wound up in situations where I would perform a reading which took me six hours from start to finish and then making $20.  That’s not even including subsequent personal counseling sessions.  In the end, I was averaging making $1.00 or less per hour of my time. That’s way less than minimum wage, in payment for a distinctly skilled labor service profession!  Thankfully, I have Connla, who worked out all of the stuff he talked about above. What we can do is worth more than $1.00 or less per hour! I am worth more than $1.00 or less per hour, and so is he! 

We hope that this blog post and mini-interview clears up any misconceptions or preconceived notions that people might have about exactly what it is that we are doing here at Iaconagraphy, when it comes to offering paid-for psychic services.  Above and beyond anything else, at the end of the day, we are here to serve you: whether that be as writers, artists, or psychic service professionals.  Everything that we do is in the nature of that service: service to all of you, who have supported us on this journey, and service to the Gods, for all of the gifts which They constantly pour into our lives. Anything less than that, and we would not be living to the full potential of who we have been created to be.  We would not only be performing a disservice to the community, but to ourselves, and to the Gods.  When all is said and done, this is about far more than money; this is about living true. And that, my friends, is priceless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are interested in employing Connla’s services as a psychic service professional, please click here. We would be delighted to serve you!

 

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Summer Reads: Carnavale

What’s summer without a few good books?  Whether stretched out on the beach or curled up on the couch with a tall glass of something yummy, one of the truest joys of summer is being able to catch up on all of that reading you might have missed over the winter.  In the interest of that, we’ve decided to feature excerpts from some of my fiction pieces here on the blog.  I hope you will not only enjoy, but want to see what happens next enough to visit the links provided at the end of the excerpts. Enjoy!

 

CARNAVALE

by Michelle Iacona

Published by Michelle Iacona at Smashwords

Copyright 2012 Michelle Iacona, inclusive of cover art.

Winner of the Bunn-McClelland Chapbook Award, St. Andrews Presbyterian College, 1993

20th Anniversary Definitive Smashwords Edition

 

His desk was a cluttered pile of leaves, strewn helter-skelter as if by a hurricane wind. Roman Baines pilfered through them, searching for something, although at this particular moment in time, he had forgotten what. The clatter of footsteps from the hall was welcome–a rescue from the storm here on his desk. A rather shaggy head and shoulders peered into his office and smiled a ragged-but-all-American smile.

“There’s a call for you, Roman,” he said. “It’s about books.”

Roman rose and crossed to the door, heading to the press office.

“I’ve never spoken with this person before. They sound nuts,” the younger man said.

“Have we ever had a call from anyone who wasn’t?” Roman asked, his mustache turning upwards in a smile.

He stepped into the office, picked up the phone, and smiled over at the young man.

“Yes? This is Roman Baines.”

“Yes. Hello, Mr. Baines,” the voice on the other end of the line said softly. “You sell books?”

“Yes, of course,” Baines replied.

“Bring me some books, Mr. Baines,” the voice said, crackling.

“May I ask which ones you would prefer?”

“Just bring the books!” The voice unhinged itself momentarily, then, calming, added: “Your assistant, Mr. Byrd, has the address. I need your promise of personal delivery.”

“Might I ask why?” Roman asked.

Stop asking so many questions, Mr. Baines. Give me your word.”

Yes,” Roman answered carefully. “I give you my word. Personal delivery.”

The line went dead. Roman replaced the phone on its receiver.

That, Jay, must be the weirdest call I have ever received. I don’t know whether to laugh this person off, or worry for our safety. At any rate, I’m certainly curious. And I’m afraid I’m about to become a very dead cat.”

“Are we actually going to deliver the books?”

Roman scowled at him for a moment, his mind in turmoil. Then he nodded slowly.

“Yes, Jay, we are. They gave you an address?”

Jay nodded: “Out in the boondocks.”

Well, tell Marty to clear her afternoon tomorrow. The bigger troupe we are, the better.”

Chapter One

Martina Gianelli sat on the brass daybed in her dorm room, huddled over a notebook, scribbling madly. The story pressed against the front of her mind, desperate to escape into her fingers, and she let it, freeing it in a flow of purple ink on the blue lines of the page.

She had not begun in this room. She had begun in another, before the ceiling caved in, soaking her room in pillars of water from the burst water pipes above the flimsy tiles above. Luckily, she had been home for lunch between her busy schedule of classes, and she and the maintenance-folk had been able to salvage most of her clothes, and knicknacks and–more important than anything else–her papers: her mountains upon mountains of papers; failed tales and term papers in a kaleidoscope of blue and white and pink paper and purple scrawl.

Now she lived here, alone, in the bowels of Pate Hall, which was usually reserved for esteemed guests to the College, rather than students. Living alone wasn’t such a bad thing–no scream of loud radios in the morning; no slamming doors in the middle of the night. Except, occasionally there were slamming doors in the middle of the night, only, she was the only one there.

A knock on the door snapped her head up from her work and made her jump a good six inches, the line of her pen skipping across the page in a jagged line.

“Who’s there?” She asked, slamming down her notebook, and coming to her feet.

“It’s Jay,” a muffled voice came from the other side of the door. “Roman needs us.”

She scuffed her feet into her fuzzy purple slippers, and stomped to the door, opening it, and ushering him in.

“Needs us for what?” She asked.

“He got this really weird call,” Jay replied. “Some crazy person out in the boonies wants us to bring them some books–they don’t care which ones.”

Marty raised one graceful eyebrow.

“Yeah,” Jay said, nodding. “That’s what I said, too.”

“Well, if nothing else, I guess it’ll be an adventure,” Marty concluded, reaching for her black motorcycle boots and exchanging her slippers for them. She grabbed a black cardigan as well, tossing it on as she headed for the door. “Are you coming?”

“I’ve got a choice?”

Chapter Two

As evening fell, the three crowded into Roman’s white Yugo, armed only with books and the lonely light of a cigar. The sky was a piercing blue, drawn together with gray lines of cloud. The sunset held promises of rain.

Driving seemed to last forever. Two hours passed, running like molasses down the road with them. The sun began to paint the gray clouds purple and orange until the rain began to fall in sheets.

The wipers barely worked, rubbing the windshield with the unruly sound of rubber on glass. Roman grated his teeth on his cigar, eagerly concentrating on the rain-strewn road ahead. It was getting harder and harder for him to see. They seemed to be lost in the rain.

There should be a dirt road somewhere up here on the left,” Jay said, leaning forward from the backseat.

Yeah, but who can see?” Roman growled around his cigar.

Through the rain, all of the landscape looked the same–cotton fields and tobacco and dried-out corn, all in rows of snowy gold and gray. And every field seemed to have a road winding through it, its end cloaked somewhere in the distance with mist and rain.

Maybe that’s it,” Marty piped up from her silence in the passenger seat.

Coming up on their left was a dirt road a bit wider than the others. It didn’t seem well-traveled. Any ruts in the road were quickly washed away by the driving rain. This choice seemed as good as any, so Roman pulled the Yugo into the red clay mud.

“So how goes the magnum opus?” Roman asked Martina.

She shrugged.

“Answers come in words,” Roman quipped; “As do opuses.”

“Opi?” Jay piped up from the backseat.

Roman shook his head; chuckled.

“I was writing when Jay knocked, actually,” Martina said, shifting uncomfortably in her seat. “But–“

“But?” Roman urged.

She shrugged again, then, correcting herself, continued: “Sometimes it’s like it’s desperate to escape. Other times, it’s like I need to beat it with a whip and maybe a baseball bat.”

Roman laughed. “Novels are strange creatures.”

“Well, the beatings will continue until morale improves,” Marty replied.

In the backseat, Jay chuckled softly.

The road seemed to twist and turn forever in the gray pillars of rain. They passed a few trailers, their lights warm in the cold, surrounded by the carcasses of cars and tractors. A dog barked in the distance, the only voice in the rain. The Yugo skidded on the clay, bathing its sides in a red-orange spray. Ahead, the road split in two around a huge sycamore.

Now what?” Roman asked.

It doesn’t say,” Jay answered.

Marty reached over and locked her door.

Outside, the wind began to pick up.

I suppose we could go back to one of those trailers and ask directions,” Roman said hesitantly.

I’ll go,” Jay ventured.

We’ll be waiting,” Roman replied.

Marty tightened her grip on the armrest of her door. Something inside her roiled. Something was bad–she didn’t know what, but it blew in as Jay opened the door. She was reminded of the midnight doorslams in her solitude in Pate, and the hunkered female shadow she often saw outside her window.

Jay’s leg only got halfway out the door before teeth gnashed at his ankle. He jerked back into the Yugo, slamming the door. The car rocked as a huge dog clawed hungrily at the back window.

Marty released a small shout.

Jay locked his door. He was taking no chances.

Well, I guess that gets rid of that idea,” Roman said.

It was Jay’s turn to ask: “Now what?”

Marty sat silent, staring into the rain.

I guess we’ll drive until we see a house.” Roman said, “We’re bound to find something eventually. If nothing else, we’ll get further away from that dog.”

They rode for a time in silence, then Jay asked: “Why are we doing this, exactly? I mean, that person on the other end of the line sounded like an escapee from Dorothea Dix.”

“I don’t know,” Roman answered honestly; “I felt compelled.”

“Compelled?” Marty asked.

Roman nodded. “I’m a poet first, and a book-peddlar second. Something about that call struck the former chord, rather than the latter.”

Martina somehow understood this cryptic reply, but Jay clearly didn’t.

“You know I served for a time in Iceland,” Roman replied, and Jay nodded. He had heard these stories before, referenced in classrooms and over brandy in the quiet glow of Roman’s home; “Something in that call reminded me of the traditions of the Hidden.”

Marty couldn’t keep herself from a small shudder.

“The Huldufolk,” Roman continued. “Light and Dark, they live in the trees and the rivers, the lakes and the streams. As the tradition evolved, the people of Iceland came to believe that the Light lived closer to the old gods, and to God Himself, worshipping in churches built in caves and clefts of the rock. But the Dark–they lived underground.”

“What about that phone call could possibly have reminded you of that?” Jay asked, still not understanding.

Roman smiled. “It’s possible to learn magick from the Huldufolk–how to influence the unconsciousness of others psychologically. Sounds rather like poetry, does it not?”

“Poet is priest,” Marty quoted, and Roman nodded.

“They’re quite seductive–the Huldufolk,” he continued; “Though if you don’t do as they wish, they will turn against you. And even if you do accept what they offer–learn the magicks which they represent–there is a great risk of becoming insane.”

“I reiterate,” Jay put in, his face clouded with a strange sort of worry; “Why are we doing this, exactly?”

Roman laughed. “Because sometimes sanity is highly overrated; especially when compared with a potential gift of magick.”

Ahead, a house loomed in the darkness. It was Victorian; skeletal white gingerbread in the rain and mist. Lights burned in all the windows, but no shadows moved in them.

That must be it, Roman,” Jay said from the backseat, his voice full of every ounce of the growing fear he now felt: “They said it was big.”

A chill ran down Marty’s spine.

Wind blew the dead vines of last spring’s wisteria across the windows of the house like a veil. Roman pulled the Yugo into the crude driveway. The rain turned into a soft pepper and the wind died to a whisper.

I hope they don’t have a dog,” Roman said, attempting humor. No one laughed.

The ground was soft beneath their feet and squished as they walked. Red mud welled like blood in the yard, flowing across the dying grass. They crushed leaves as they crossed to the door, loud against the silence of rain and wind. Roman was the first up the concrete steps to the screen door. Jay and Marty followed him, weighed down by loads of books. Roman rapped on the door three times, but there was no reply from within.

Now what?” Jay asked yet again.

Yeah, can we go back to the car now?” Marty joined him, praying feverishly that there would come an affirmative answer. The pit of dread in her belly had grown from a soft whisper to a raging scream, and she had no idea why. It was just a house in the rain, after all, wasn’t it?

Wait. I’ll try again,” Roman said.

He knocked a bit too hard, and the door creaked open.

Maybe if I called them. Surely someone is here,” Roman said. “They really wanted those books!”

Martina and Jay exchanged a wordlessly wary glance.

“Hello? Hello?” Roman shouted into the cavernous shadow of the house. “You called about books? We have them here….”

Roman’s calls were answered by a loud meow and the skitter of paws on linoleum as a large calico cat entered the room. She loped towards them and rubbed up against the door as if inviting them in. Roman stepped into the house. Surprised, Marty and Jay followed.

Well, they’re cat people. They can’t be that bad,” Roman growled as the rain was swallowed by the closing of the door.

The interior of the house was aglow with candles and warmth. The calico led them from room to room, almost dancing, her step was so light. Everywhere, there was pine and white walls laced with a mellow, comforting scent of cinnamon and smoke. They traveled in a circle through the house, finding themselves finally in the kitchen. Across from them, a gold refrigerator, which was suddenly the center of the cat’s attention.

Marty and Jay set down their heavy loads of books. Roman had insisted on bringing at least one copy of nearly everything the Press had ever published.

Outside, the wind whipped the eaves.

Hungry?” Roman asked the cat.

The cat meowed in reply.

Roman approached the refrigerator. There was a note addressed to him posted on it. He peered over his shoulder at Marty and Jay with a bemused smile and pulled the note from the fridge:

Yes, Mr. Baines. This is the right house. Thank you for coming. Follow Amber….”

As if on cue, the cat meowed again. This time her voice was as raspy as the wind gathering in the leaves outside.

Roman looked down at their feline escort: “I assume you’re Amber?” He asked the cat, and she mewed once more. “We’re supposed to follow the cat,” Roman said, smiling.

Follow the cat to the rest of this story, and see what happens next!

 

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Paper Magick!

There is something absolutely magickal about paper.  For me, there always has been. Take me to Staples or Office Depot, and I am in absolute heaven!  And scrapbook stores, or the scrapbook section at Michael’s, AC Moore, Hobby Lobby, or JoAnn’s? You don’t want to take me to those unless you’ve got some serious time to spend. And plenty of storage…..

It’s not so much that I’m an avid scrapper, or even an avid card-maker: I’m just addicted to pretty paper. And I always have been.

As a kid, I literally collected stationery. I played dress-up with tissue paper and things I made out of construction paper and even typing paper.  My first foray into the model horse world actually involved paper horses in my pockets, ala National Velvet. This has been a lifelong addiction.

So why have I waited til now to do anything about it/with it? Well, honestly, it just never occurred to me.  I mean, you would think it would have, given my Mother. Those of you who know her will understand. For those of you who don’t, her family and friends frequently refer to her as the Scrap Queen. It’s a title well-earned.  She doesn’t just spend hours scrapbooking, she is a legit paper architect.  The things she can do with paper often boggle my mind.

I’m also a writer, so a blank piece of paper to me is like a doorway into another world, just waiting to be opened.  If said blank piece of paper just happens to also be beautifully decorated, so much the better. My stories, as they unfold, are like love letters to myself.

When it comes to the more mystical side of my life, as a practicing Druid, paper also plays a roll.  I began doing spellwork when I was sixteen–all of it based in paper magick.  I’ve always excelled at that type of thing.  Even cartomancy (reading Tarot and Oracle cards) has its genesis in paper.

I’ve spent the past two years trying desperately to figure out how all of this fits together–my Tarot Card reading, my more mystical offerings (because I really want to offer still more stuff in that area of my expertise), the digital art of my mice, and my writing–and it finally hit me Friday night as we were sitting on the couch being lumps and watching Now You See MePaper.  Paper is how it all fits together!  My lifelong obsession with the “souls of dead trees” is the key to making my compass stop spinning and finally arrive at magnetic north.

Many of you arrived here because of the Tarot, or because of my more mystical leanings, and have probably never considered scrapbooking or any other type of paper crafting ever in your life.  So our overall “new direction” may be throwing you for a bit of a loop.  You may be thinking “but I signed up for pagan stuff”, or “I signed up for more of your writing”, or “I signed up because I eventually want to have my cards read”.  Trust me, all of that is still here, and it’s still going to be here, I just need you to continue to trust me as we travel together on this slightly bumpy ride.  When I was sixteen, I took my first leap of faith into actual magick: I wanted a guy to call me, so I found a spell that involved writing his name on a circle of parchment, sticking a toothpick through the center of the parchment, and sitting it in the sunshine.  Bingo, he called me the next day.  That leap of faith led to the very magickal/mystical life I’m living right now.  I took that leap of faith alone; this time, I’m bringing all of you along for the ride!

Just pardon our dust as we once again reimagine ourselves based on this latest epiphany.  I promise, it’s mostly pixie dust, and you know how that works, right? Think happy thoughts, and together, we’ll all take flight!