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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.

 

 

 

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Everything You Need To Start Your Own Magick: Only 6.99!

Yes, that really sounds like I’m trying to sell you something, but I’m not.  That 6.99 isn’t a dollar amount, it’s the Six Celtic Values, the Nine Welsh Virtues, and the Aesirian Code of Nine (which is Heathen/Asatru, aka Norse/Germanic/Teutonic).  I’m talking about ethics, y’all, because to start your own magick, you are going to have to have a serious ethical code firmly in place, or you’re going to pay, and pay bigtime!

Truth is, we need an ethical code in our lives if we want to succeed at anything, not just magick.  The current “Christian climate” of rules-as-subjugation (at best) and rules-as-an-excuse-to-peddle-hatred (at worst, and, unfortunately, most often) has many, many people taking one look at the word ethics, and running the other way.  I can’t say that I really blame them.  I’ve personally dealt with that crap my whole life (grew up in The South, remember), and rule-breaking, or, at the very least, rule-overturning does sound far more appealing, when put into that particular context.   The rules I’m talking about aren’t aimed at doing either of those two things, though.  In fact, these are designed to give you a foundation to strengthen your whole life!

The Six Celtic Values are Honor, Justice, Hospitality, Honesty, Loyalty, and Courage.  These are very, very old: we’re talking pre-Christian and handed down for ages orally before they were ever committed to writing.  These are the Values practiced by modern Druids, and you’ll also find them explored in-depth in my book Dragonfly Theology.   I’ll break them down further in a moment, but first let’s take a look at the .99 I mentioned previously, because I think you’ll find it as interesting as I did how those Six Celtic Values are echoed in the Nine Welsh Virtues and the Aesirian Code of Nine.

The Nine Welsh Virtues are also sourced from Celtic pre-Christian Tradition: in this case, the traditions of the Celtic Peoples of Wales.  They are regarded as the nine keepers of the Cauldron of Awen, which I’ll grant you, sounds like something out of a really awesome Fantasy film or novel, but in the Welsh Druidic Faith is a very, very real thing.  They are Integrity, Friendship, Generosity, Wisdom, Self-Knowledge, Trust, Humility, Courage, and Innocence.

Finally, there is the Aesirian Code of Nine, which was first discovered as a carving in Denmark, dating to 825 A.D. That date may sound post-Christian, but in reality the people of Denmark came into contact with Christians only sporadically, via Viking raids (i.e., they weren’t exactly sitting down to a friendly dinner with their Christian brethren), until the 11th Century. So, in 825 A.D., whoever carved the Code was still an “Odin-worshipping Heathen”.  It is believed that it is largely based on the Nine Virtues spoken by Odin in the Havamal, from the Poetic or Elder Edda (the earliest confirmed date for which is around the latter half of the 10th century A.D., but it is believed that this is likewise based on a much older oral tradition).   Briefly, the virtues of this code are: To Honor, To Protect, To Flourish, To Have Knowledge, To Accept Change, Fairness, Balance, Control, and To Understand Conflict.

Last night, after being awakened by coyotes at midnight (which I initially thought were children screaming outside my window), I had an epiphany: if you stick all of these into a comparative table, you wind up with what you see below. (Yes, given the “coyote-of-it-all”, one could legit say “Loki Made Me Do It“!)

Celtic and Norse Ethics

So, what does any of that have to do with you? Or with magick? Or with strengthening your whole life?  Comparing and coalescing these different systems of ethics left me with a “breakdown” that I’m calling The 6.9.9 (you know, sort of like the slang “411” that the kids today use):

6.9.9. Druid Ethics

 

If we start from a place where we are behaving with Honor, our lives will necessarily flow more smoothly, and we can guarantee that if we do magick, we’re doing it for all the right reasons, instead of for our own selfish gain.  To behave with Honor means to treat everyone with respect; to treat everyone we meet with a certain measure of reverence, realizing that the same Sacred Force that drives us is also (hopefully) driving them.  (Granted, that might not always prove to be the actual case–some people are driven by things that definitely wouldn’t be classified as Sacred–but we should always start from this place, until proven otherwise. More on what to do about those people in a moment….)  Behaving with Honor also means realizing and recognizing that there are forces larger than us at work in the Universe in the first place, and showing those forces the same respect and reverence that we would to the people we love. (In other words: when you’re doing magick, you are not in it alone! Taking full credit for your magickal workings is a no-no; not to mention, it’s rude!)

Treating people with Honor will naturally lead to building Friendship, which is a way bigger concept than most people today realize.  This isn’t about how many people “like” you on Facebook, follow you on Twitter, or have subscribed to your email newsletter.  True Friendship entails protection, and protection requires justice-seeking.  Once you know what is Ultimately Right (which hopefully you’ll fully understand after exploring the 6.9.9.), you can’t just sit idly by and watch the world run rough-shod over that.  You’ve got to protect the ones around you that you call your friends and loved ones, and that should include every single person on this planet (except where people’s actions have proven their motives to be less than Honor-driven, as mentioned previously), because all of humanity is your friend, until proven otherwise.  Your Circle of Friends also includes the forces that are bigger than you that are at work in the Universe, whether you choose to call these gods and goddesses, totems, guides, or whatever.  They’re there, and the sooner you realize that, the happier you’ll be in life.  They are there to protect you; you are Honor-bound to protect them back!

When we think of Friendship in our modern world, the next thing that usually comes to mind is Hospitality: most of us like to “part-ay” with our friends, right?  My semi-adopted-son, for example, has made himself semi-(in)famous among his friends for hosting Saturday night parties at “Matt’s  Bar and Grill” (translation: our basement).  Those things can get a little rowdy, and drive his Mother and I to complete distraction, but the bottom line is: our kid is like the poster child for Hospitality, and you can readily see the effects of that when you talk to his friends.  He can ask almost any of them to do something for him in return (or for his Mother or I), and they scarcely blink before asking “what do you need done?”  When we are welcoming to others, they tend to welcome us back.  You get what you give. It’s the simple Law of Reciprocity.  Not surprisingly, this doesn’t only apply to people, either: it also applies to the Universal Powers, and, believe it or not, to Inspiration (known in the Welsh Tradition as Awen).  The more you give to the Powers-That-Be (gods, goddesses, guides, totems), the more they will give to you.  Daily prayer, blessings, and sacrifices (no, I’m not talking puppies here; I’m talking things like burning incense while making promises to do good that you intend to keep) should be our way of showing Hospitality to those powers.  But how does one show Hospitality to Inspiration/Awen? Well, if you’re already a creative person, it probably won’t come as a great shock to you that the more you create, the more ideas you get, so that you can create some more!  Again: you get what you give.

Learning and practicing these first three concepts is the beginning of Wisdom.  These first three bring you more deeply into contact with the fact that there is, in fact, something way bigger than you in the Universe.  What you choose to call it is completely up to you, of course, but exploring these first three concepts should make it pretty plain that it is there in the first place.  As you interact more and more with it, you will come to know it more and more deeply as a simple fact of existence, the same way we can no longer imagine our lives without someone once we’ve deepened a relationship with a physical friend or loved one.  This deep knowing is Wisdom.

And that Wisdom should develop in us a great thirst for deeper Self-Knowledge as well.  To truly and deeply know anyone else (including the Sacred Forces of the Universe), you have to first truly and deeply know yourself.  Getting to know one should strengthen your knowledge and understanding of the other, and vice versa. For example, how do you fit into this framework so far?  How do these things I’m talking about speak to you and inform you on the deepest levels of your being?  What is your place in the Universe? What drives you? What pisses you off? What brings you the greatest joy?

Once you truly know yourself, you’ll be in a much better position to practice real Honesty.  You can be more deeply truthful (and gently truthful, too, I might add, because sometimes the truth can hurt), and you can be more faithful in relationships because you will no longer need to hold anything back.  You’ll develop a more fair worldview, which no longer includes perpetual us vs. them scenarios, but instead leading to Loyalty: partnerships where you view the other person as on equal footing with yourself, and deserving equal and vehement protection where and when necessary.  Together, Wisdom, Self-Knowledge, Honesty, and Loyalty will keep your magick on the right track as well, as you develop the realization that you are working alongside larger forces, instead of it being “all you”.  This will make sure you aren’t going off on “magickal power trips”, and that you’re being completely honest, not only with yourself, but also with the Universe, about what your intentions truly are.

All of these finally lead us to Courage and back once again to the ideal of Justice.  Through all of these, you will find that you develop great measures of self-control.  It’s a little hard to go off “half-cocked” all the time when you’re operating from these Values, and viewing others as on equal footing with you, until proven otherwise.  But what about when you have been proven otherwise? First off, how to you prove the otherwise in the first place?  Well, what is Ultimately Right will fit into the 6.9.9.; what is Ultimately Wrong will not.  Fairly simple, right?  When you encounter something or someone that is Ultimately Wrong (and believe me, in this world, you will eventually encounter something or someone that fits under that heading), that’s where Justice comes in.  I’m not talking “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” here; enough people have tried to promote that over the centuries without Druids joining in the devastation that line of thinking brings.  I’m talking about hopeful correction through education.  When you encounter a situation or a someone who is “otherwise“, you should first attempt to educate them on what is Ultimately Right.  Show them through your actions even more than through your words.  If that doesn’t seem to have any effect, leave it to the Universe: it may take Someone or Something to get clear to that particular person/situation.  That does not mean passively walking away; instead, it means let them know you’re handing it to a Higher Power and then actively do so through spellwork and prayer. No, I’m not saying use magick for revenge, ever!  What I’m saying here is ask the Universe to teach them to be a better human being; to make them a nicer person; to take away the things in their life that make them such an asshole in the first place. Remember that great measure of self-control I just talked about? These are the times to actually put it to work!

Every single situation that you encounter in life can be placed into the framework of the 6.9.9., measured against it, and dealt with accordingly.  That’s what I’m talking about, when I say these ethics can strengthen your life.  They’ll also provide a framework for your Spiritual Path, whatever it may be, even if you aren’t “Druidically-inclined”.  And whether you’re a magickian/spellworker, or a prayer-warrior of another kind, they can provide a step-by-step guide as to whether or not you should proceed with what you’re doing, and precisely how to go about it: what you should be asking for, and what your intentions should be. So, get with the 6.9.9., and let it give you strength, as it has given me!

To get more on the 6.9.9. and a whole host of other magickal goodness, don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter, Inspirations, today!