Posted on

My Beloved Dead

Artist journal page created by Connla Freyjason for an Artist Journaling group in which he was formerly very active. The theme for that day? Lies he has told…..Features elements from the January Gathering: Winter Time (available by clicking this image) by Duncan.

It’s that time of year again: the time of year when even the Muggles don’t have troubles talking about the Beloved Dead and actively seeking them out.  Halloween (Samhain) has been my favorite time of year since I was a child because it is the one and only time of the year where I, Michelle Iacona, get to “put my crazy on the front porch”, as they say down South.  It’s the one and only time of the year when people like me, who can do what I do, are even semi-accepted by the Muggles. It’s the one and only time of the year when I feel like I can be completely myself.  The rest of the year, I have, for most of my life, been forced to live inside the shell of a firestorm of lies, and so have my Beloved Dead. You see, I bring most of mine with me, everywhere I go.

For the past twenty-four years, I have literally given over my life to being a shamanic trans-medium.  When you say the word medium to most people, it either conjures images of some wizened old gypsy-woman, sitting in a trance in a very controlled environment, while the dead speak through her in her voice, or of some young, hip whipper-snapper who is constantly spot-on, but defines mediumship simply as relaying the messages of the dead to the seeker(s) (ala Hollywood Medium).  Neither of those is what I do.  I’m not that kind of medium.  There is very little that is “controlled” about my environment–sure, we have wards on our house, and I have wards on my person, and I have a few in my “ranks” who actively act as guardian or warrior figures; that’s pretty much where any of the normal definitions of “controlled environment” begin and end.  I can literally “switch off” with any of the members of my “ranks” at the drop of a hat, and with some of them, most Muggles would have zero clue that “Mishy has left the building”.  I patently do not “channel on cue”; I don’t “take requests”; I’m not a deejay.  What I do is not a “parlour trick”, nor is it a service I perform for the living.  No, this is a service I perform strictly for the Dead. And these Dead have, over the past twenty-four years, become Beloved.

I’ve often been asked by those who actually understand what I do–such people are few and far between–precisely why I do it.  I give up a lot of my time to do this; I have literally risked my lifemy livelihood, and my relationships with other living people to do this.  It would be so much easier simply to be the priestess, the Druid, the writer, than to do this.  In fact, because I do this, I actually have very little time for all of those other things that I can do, and do well.  So why would anyone choose this life?  Because I love them.  I love them with a love that is completely selfless, and very few people ever get to know love like that, much less express it themselves.

I certainly don’t do it because of what the Dead might teach me.  Trust me, I’ve been “at this” long enough to know that just because they’re dead, doesn’t mean they’re smart! Contrary to apparent popular belief, death is not the sort of spiritual awakening most people seem to think it is.  Does it clue you in, often quite suddenly, to what’s really going on in the Universe? Sure.  It’s definitely a crash course in cosmology, not unlike being thrown into the deep end of the largest swimming pool imaginable.  Most of the Dead I know and have met have been shocked by that, most of them to the point that they honestly need therapy: someone who can actively listen to what they’ve just experienced, and then help them make some sense of it.  In fact, the “cosmic newsflash from the Great Beyond” that is that sudden dip in the “cosmological pool” is often so overwhelming that the Dead actually need a break from it.  Luckily, I’m here, to give them that break.

Which works out nicely, because given my disability, I could also really use a break from my own body.  Lots of people have psoriasis and/or psoriatic arthritis, and live with it every day.  Very few people have psoriasis and/or psoriatic arthritis on the level that I have it.  That’s not just my opinion: that is the very informed official diagnosis of the former head of Pediatric Dermatology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC).  If you are not actively living in my skin–as my Dead do–you cannot fully understand what I live with, on a day-to-day basis.  Imagine your own body attacking you.  Pretend your skin breaks open and secretes acid whenever it takes a notion to do so, while at the same time your bones are eating themselves and erroding.  That is what I experience every day.  So, yeah, I need a break.  Thankfully, my Dead love me back with that same selfless love, and are willing to step in and give it to me.

It’s rare that I get to use the personal pronoun “I”; most of the time, you will hear me refer to myself with what my Dead and some of my dearest live friends, relatives, and lovers have jokingly come to refer to as “the royal we”.  That’s because the instant I stepped foot on this path, my life ceased to be merely about me.  Suzanne jokingly referred to me today as the MDTA–Mass Dead Transit Authority–and she’s not wrong!  My life has become the paragon of that famous quote from Star Trek II: The Wrath of KhanThe needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.  Wherever I go, whatever I do, the Dead are not far behind. What happens in my life reverberates in their afterlives, and vice versa, when they are here on the physical plane, “riding” me, or “horsing” me, or however you want to describe them inhabiting my flesh and blood person.  I have a responsibility to my Dead, and my Dead also have a responsibility to me.  We keep each other safe; we work to better each other’s welfare.  If you ever needed a real definition of what a symbiotic relationship actually is, take a look at our life, and you will find it.

Experiencing life (and death) in this way has taught me lessons in loyalty that most people never get to learn. The quickest way to end up on my shit list is to hurt or offend one of my Dead.  I have both ended relationships with the living and had relationships ended for me by the living due to my ardent defense of my Dead.  The Celtic Value of Loyalty informs everything I do in my life, and everything my Dead do in their afterlives, in relation to me, and this has been the case for twenty-four years between myself and Connla, twenty-two years between myself and Taliesin, and soon-to-be twenty years between myself and Michael.  “Newcomers” (whom we lovingly refer to as “Newlydeads”) quickly learn the value of loyalty within the scope of this relationship, too.  In the end, I don’t care if one of my Dead has been with me for two years or twenty:  they’re already dead, they’ve been through enough; hurt or offend them at your own peril. I will become the protective mother (think: Kali-ma), when it comes to them, and that is a side of me nobody wants to see! They reciprocate that loyalty: hurt or offend me, their “vessel” or “conduit” (and also, more importantly, their new family), and be prepared for a reaction equal to someone defending their child, spouse, or mother from an arsonist.  

These lessons in loyalty that I have learned in relationship to my Beloved Dead have often made it very hard for me to socialize with the living.  In fact, for the most part, up until four years ago, I had reached a point where, apart from a very few live people, I honestly preferred the company of the Dead.  The Dead don’t tend to stab you in the back as often as the living.  Perhaps that’s because they can more clearly see all they stand to lose by doing so.  The Dead don’t take a look at this particular situation and decide “oh, wait, I don’t believe in that”, or “I don’t believe in you”, or “I don’t believe this is actually happening”.  The Dead don’t point their fingers at me and call me a devil worshipper or a fake.  No, they are quite aware of what they are experiencing and what we are going through.  The Dead don’t demand “prove its”.  Live people tend to do all of that and more.

Which is why, when we moved North four years ago, and suddenly found ourselves in a whole new world (cue that song from Disney’s Aladdin), surrounded by people who actually understand what I can do, and what we are doing, we still didn’t tell those people what’s actually “going on” here.  We finally found ourselves in a position where we were meeting people who we honestly wanted to keep in our lives, which is rare for all of us, myself included.  We’ve lost more people than I care to count over the past twenty-four years because we were honest: because we told them what was “going on”, and they either:

  1. Decided they needed a “prove it” (in other words, they wanted us to treat our lives like some damnable dog and pony show and somehow prove to them that this is actually “real” or authentic)
  2. Decided they could dictate to me and my Dead who is in-body when (I’ve actually had at least one person turn to me, sitting here, spending time with them, as a friend, in my own body, and ask “when is Michael coming back, because I miss him, and really want to spend time with him instead”)  
  3. Stated they “believed in” all of this, until such time as said “belief” became somehow inconvenient to them  (this one most often happens when the person in question has definite pre-conceived notions about precisely what kind of personality the specific Dead person involved ought to have, according to them.  I often wonder what would happen in the world if we treated living people that way?  It’s because of this one that every singly one of my Dead now introduce themselves under their taken names, and to most people never reveal their actual given name–and, therefore, their true identity–from birth and in life.)
  4. Challenged me and my Dead to a face-off over afterlife cosmology, based on their own personal gnosis as a living person who has never actually been dead (Yeah, this one happens often, yet it never ceases to boggle my mind and theirs.  I mean, if you’ve only read books and seen movies about Iceland, for example, you wouldn’t try to tell a native of Iceland that either a) Iceland doesn’t exist, b) is nothing like what they say it’s like, or c) that they are the tourist, and you’re the aficionado, would you? This is genuinely the exact same thing! Yet it happens to us. Regularly.)
  5. Refused to obey our rules. (Look: our rules are simple, and really the same as in any other friendship with any other live person.  Things told in confidence should remain in confidence. If you wouldn’t go around spouting to everyone within shouting distance a secret told to you by a live friend, then why the hell would you feel motivated to betray the confidences of the Dead?  If you treat other live people with respect, not expecting them to jump through hoops or otherwise “perform”, why the hell would you do that to the Dead?)

It is still terrifying, every single time we “come out of the coffin” to someone we care about.  It’s one thing, to be “out and proud”, here on this blog, where we’re speaking largely to strangers who we hope will become customers who we hope might become friends.  It is another thing entirely to be face-to-face with someone you’ve come to know and love and worked hard to build relationship with and have to finally say “oh, by the way, all of the time that we’ve been growing attached to each other? Yeah, some of that time it was one of my Dead, not me, and they really care about you a lot, so please, don’t be one more person that we lose because of this….”   

Inevitably, in the sorts of circles in which we now travel, there will be those people who will ask “but I, myself, am psychically aware, so how is it that I couldn’t tell this is what’s happening, if this is really what’s happening”?  My response to those people is two-fold.  First, if you have actually spent time around me, and then around Connla, Taliesin, or especially Michael, how could you not tell the difference between me and them? I am a girly girl with a fairly strong Southern accent (especially if you are hearing me for the first time and are not from the South), who enjoys dripping with jewelry and wearing long, flow-y skirts, and generally “being a chick”, versus Connla, who speaks with a deep voice (although he has, admittedly, and much to his chagrin, picked up a Southern lilt courtesy of living in the South for twenty years), dresses in a very masculine style, and saunters everywhere he goes like some action hero who just got kicked out of the comic books? Or Michael, who is obviously Australian.  Second, after a decade or so of scaring the holy bejeesus out of small children who can most definitely see who is in here, whether they want to or not, my Dead have grown very skilled at cloaking themselves from “prying eyes”, willing or otherwise.  The first hundred or so times that you have to turn to the parent of a suddenly-screaming child and say “I don’t know what I did to frighten your child, but I’m really sorry” teaches you to keep your guard up, and never let it down.  Those first few hundred times when a kid calls the person in-body out as a dude, in an otherwise apparently female physical form, in the middle of Walmart also quickly puts the kibosh on not putting up a protective shield, lemme tell ya! Finally, and perhaps a bit too simplistically, my response to such people would be: “They’re people inhabiting a person.  Do your psychic bells and whistles always go off, every time you’re around people inhabiting people?  If so, that has got to suck for you!”

Most live people fear the Dead, and fear Death even more.  I feel profoundly blessed that I no longer do.  The Dead are just people.  If you aren’t afraid of other live people, you shouldn’t fear them, either.  Sure, over the years, I have had encounters with the angry dead, too.  I don’t enjoy the company of live angry people–they, quite frankly, scare me–so it’s pretty natural to feel the same way when it comes to dead angry people.  My solution, when it comes to them, is simple: they aren’t invited to “hang out”.  Most people feel a certain sadness when it comes to speaking of the Dead, or dealing with Death.  I’m not a stranger to grief, even though I know in my heart of hearts that it’s not like we “can’t keep in touch”.  I’ve seen what the Dead themselves go through upon crossing over–how they miss their living friends, relatives, spouses, children the same way those living friends, relatives, spouses, children no doubt miss them.  The Dead grieve the living, the same way we grieve the Dead.  And that is painful to know and to watch.  If I can afford them a momentary happiness, by letting them briefly “live” again, in the midst of all of that, I am honored to do so.   But they are absolutely not allowed to ever make contact with those living friends, relatives, spouses, children, because I understand, and they have to come to understand, that the pain of such encounters would be debilitating for both parties involved.  Why? Because of “prove it“.  Because this is not the “Mishy Dead On Demand Network”.  Because pre-conceived notions define belief in existence too often when it comes to this.  Because the absolutely unavoidable debate on cosmology that is destined to ensue will do more to build sadness and anger than it will to quell it.  Because, quite simply, these are our rules

Long before Samhain became a time for me to honor the Beloved Dead, Halloween was a time when this little Southern girl could actually whip out the Ouija board and the Tarot cards and dress the way she wanted to, without anybody threatening to burn her at the stake (which actually happened to me in high school: a group of boys decided that because I was actively doing spellwork for my friends and reading Tarot that I should burn for that, and they meant it.  While they never actually went through with attempting to carry out their threats, that did not make them any less real, nor any less terrifying).  Over the past twenty-four years, Halloween also became a time when I could “let my Dead out in public”:  they could actually go to the “redneck bar” dressed and behaving as themselves, without fearing any sort of backlash apart from “wow, Michelle always has the coolest and most authentic costumes! She even acts the part!”  

As an ordained Druid and medium, however, Samhain has brought a much larger view of this time of year into my life.  It is the Celtic New Year: a time when we let go of the old, and welcome in the new.  It is also, obviously, the time when we Pagans pause to actively honor our Beloved Dead.  Three-thousand-words-into this blog post (and thank you for sticking with me this far), that is why I am writing here today, rather than Connla or Frances or Taliesin or Tobias, or any of the others of my “possee”.  I am here, writing this, because I am sick and tired of having to live behind a veil of lies, and so are they.  Being forced to live our lives that way does not honor my Beloved Dead; it lessens them.  So this is my “New Year’s Resolution”, of sorts:

Believe whatever you choose to believe; my Dead and I will continue to know what we know.

This is who we are.  This is who I am, and what I can do.  I love and honor my Dead, for I know that my Dead love and honor me.  And for all of you out there who have loved and honored us in the same way:

Thank you.  We also love and honor you.

 

 

 

Posted on

Freedom Friday: Elf Your Self!

You’re probably all familiar with the holiday ecard service that lets you turn yourself (and your family and friends) into Elves that dance around crazily, spreading giggles and chortles wherever they’re put on blast, right?  But what if we actually did that for the holiday season? No, I don’t mean get dressed up as an Elf and gyrate maniacally (although if that floats your boat and you can do it without getting arrested, go for it!). I mean, what would happen if we all developed an Elf Attitude for the holiday season?

Let’s start by figuring out what Elf Attitude actually is. In the dictionary, Elf  is defined as a small, mischievous creature that is lively, and usually has pointed ears and magical powers.  Okay, then: so what’s mischief, and what’s magicMischief is behavior or activity that is annoying, but is not meant to cause any harm or damage, or a playful desire to cause trouble (upset the status quo).  Magic is the exchange of energy:  you put your energy out there, and the Universe reciprocates! So, an Elf Attitude would be one of playful desire to upset the status quo by putting happy energy out there, even when people might find that profoundly annoying!  Sound like fun?

Ring in the holidays!  Have you ever noticed how many holiday songs talk about the jingle of bells?  There’s a reason for that: in many Pagan traditions, the ringing of a bell signals the arrival of The All (Deity) into the sacred circle. That’s also why churches ring bells as a call to worship.  There is something profoundly and undeniably happy about the sound of a ringing bell, no matter how big or small that bell might be.  So grab yourself a bell (or bells) this holiday season, and let no one jangle your jingle!  Dollar stores (like Dollar Tree) have entire bags of bells for a buck a pop! Get out there, and grab some; string them up, and wear them on your wrist or around your neck.  Every time you’re confronted with someone bent on pooping all over your holiday, jingle at them and jangle their vibe!

Commit random acts of gifting.  Make a second (or third, or fourth) “jingly-bob” (be that a bracelet or a necklace) from your Dollar Tree stash of bells, and randomly give it to somebody who could really use their jangle jingled! Or look for other small trinkets that you can randomly hand out to people you maybe don’t even know (Dollar Tree has a host of packs of party favors and things of that sort, like holiday-themed erasers, pencils, and piñata-fillings).  Make little paper crafts (maybe now would be a good time to take up origami, unless you’re afraid of coming across like that one creepy dude from Blade Runner), or get involved in the adult coloring craze, and shower the world (and total strangers) with your art!  Or you can go the simple route, and go back to Elf Yourself and create something to share on Facebook and brighten the day of your whole friends list all at once.

Take advice from Will Farrel in Elf, and sing loudly for all to hear!  Who cares if you don’t have the best singing voice in the world? In the immortal words of my beloved’s mother: “Raise your squeak to the Lord!” (Or in this case, The All!)  Buddy the Elf is right: one of the best ways to spread Christmas cheer really is singing loudly for all to hear! Sure, some folks may find that annoying, but generally, they’re the ones who need their jangle jingled anyhow!

Take further advice from Buddy the Elf, and enjoy the four holiday food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup. Don’t let guilt get to you or anybody else this holiday season, especially when it comes to watching your waistline!  Food isn’t the only area where you need to give guilt the boot, though.  Don’t let yourself (or anyone else you love) get caught up in all the mundane crap of debt, grief, or oh-my-god/dess-I-gotta-get-shit-done, either!  Put all of that stuff in the chuck-it-bucket, and walk on with your holiday!

Be the artist you never knew you were.  You practically can’t spit in a store right now without hitting a holiday coloring book.  There’s a reason why that’s one of the cheapest gifts you can possibly get for a kid, and still make them happy: coloring relaxes us, because it sets free the artist within, without needing to make excuses for our supposed inability to make things pretty.  We all have an innate ability to beautify the world, just most of us have had that crushed by criticism over the years, promoting a healthy heaping of really yucky self-doubt.  Start with the coloring page below (just right click, save, and print this puppy out); it even has a nifty blank space for you to doodle something that would make your holiday particularly merry and bright!

Be thankful for everything and everyone all the time.  Gush gratitude constantly!  When somebody does the teeniest tiniest thing for you, say thank you with the same level of excitement as if they’d just given you a million dollars or signed you up as an extra for the next Star Wars movie.  (We live in a world where we often talk about “shock and awe” as the world’s greatest secret weapon; it isn’t a secret anymore! Shock them and awe them with your exuberant gratitude, and see if that doesn’t put smiles on the faces of even the most jangled people you know!)

Put your Elf Attitude out there and see what happens to your holiday spirit, as well as to the spirits of everyone you meet.  Spread some light through laughter this holiday season!

Seventh Day Yule Coloring Page

 

 

 

Posted on

Pardon Me, You’re Blocking My Light…..

My original plan for today’s post was to talk about following your bliss, but something else–something profoundly negative–has been hammering at me all day, so clearly, I need to talk about that instead. I’ll talk about following your bliss on Monday, because I’m not feeling particularly “blissful” today.  No, today, I want to talk about hate. Well, that’s not really true–I don’t want to talk about it, but clearly I need to talk about it.

You may or may not come from a Christian background, but behind my “pagan veneer”, I definitely do, and here’s what the Bible has to say about hate:

Anyone who claims to live in God’s light and hates a brother or sister is still in the dark. It’s the person who loves brother and sister who dwells in God’s light and doesn’t block the light from others. But whoever hates is still in the dark, stumbles around in the dark, doesn’t know which end is up, blinded by the darkness.–1 John 2:9-11

Let me rephrase that for those of you who don’t feel comfortable with the concept of God:

Anyone who claims to live in the light and hates a brother or sister is still in the dark.  It’s the person who loves brother and sister who dwells in the light and doesn’t block the light from others.  But whoever hates is still in the dark, stumbles around in the dark, doesn’t know which end is up, blinded by the darkness.

So, if you’re fostering hate towards anyone, then not only are you not living in the light, you’re blocking out the light from other people, and you’re not only blocking out that light so that it doesn’t shine on the person, people, or groups of people you hate, you’re blocking out that light for everyone who comes in contact with your hateful attitude!  Now, if you do claim to be a Christian, hopefully you learned either in Church or in Sunday School that Jesus was pretty clear on the fact that we aren’t supposed to block each other’s light! When you’re blocking the light out for someone, you’re not only crushing their spirituality, you’re keeping them out of the loving arms of Jesus Christ by doing so! If you aren’t a Christian, then hopefully you either learned from your chosen path (whether it be Paganism, Islam, Hinduism, or whatever) or from simple common sense that you aren’t supposed to block out the light for other people because it harms them, and we aren’t supposed to go around harming other people!

Given all of that, why do people feel the need to perpetuate hate?  Honestly, most people who are perpetuating it don’t even realize that’s what they’re doing. They dress it up in the language of “political opinions”, and that’s supposed to make it perfectly acceptable and okay!  Newsflash: if you are perpetually speaking negatively about any person, people, or group of people, then you are perpetuating hate!  That includes the Muslims, the LGBT community, the Mexicans, and anybody else that you constantly express ill feelings towardsExpressing ill feelings is the direct opposite of love; expressing ill feelings is a form of hate-speech. Period.

I grew up being bullied because I was smart and because I was “different”.  I didn’t realize until I grew up what the true definition of that “difference” was: I’m a bi-sexual Catholic Druid with Christian Mystical tendencies. Try wearing all those “hats” in the South!  I am more familiar than most with what hate-speech sounds like, and the effects it can have on your emotions and your soul.  When you’re “hating on” the LGBT community, you’re “hating on” me, because guess what? I’m a member of that community!  When you’re “hating on” people of alternative religious traditions to yours, you’re “hating on” me, because guess what? My faith-base is probably very different from yours, too. Just because I don’t wear a burka doesn’t make me any less of an outcast, religiously-speaking, than the woman who does!

The human heart was not designed to hold hate.  Don’t believe me?  Look around at the lives of people who constantly spout hatred.  Are they happy? Truly happy? How often do truly good things actually happen to them?  No, they roll around in a pit of misery, and try to suck the rest of the world right into that pit with them!  People who shine forth love into the world get an equal amount of love back–truly good things happen to them, and they brighten the worlds of everyone who meets them. Hatred is a heart-sickness.

I have decided to spread light in this world, whatever it may take for me to do that.  That is my Calling, and, yes, I absolutely meant that capital-C.  That is what we were all put here to do; that is our purpose.  We are all meant to live our lives as St. Paul instructed in his Letter to the Ephesians:

Don’t grieve God.  Don’t break his heart.  His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself.  Don’t take such a gift for granted.  Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk.  Be gentle with one another, sensitive.  Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.–Ephesians 4:30-32

 

 

When you spread hate, you are not only blocking out the light for other people, you are also spreading grief and breaking hearts–including God’s, if you are a Believer (and by Believer, I mean Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and anyone else who believes in Deity equally with Christians).  You are taking your soul for granted, and, in the process, you are losing it. What’s the point in gaining everything in this world and losing your own soul?

So, please, if you must hate, at least do it somewhere far away from me. You’re blocking my light, and it’s hurting my soul. It’s also hurting your own soul, and I want better than that for you, so, please, just stop.