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Not Enjoying The Silence

Back in May, a white supremacist touting himself as a Heathen stabbed and killed two young men on a train in Portland, Oregon, when those two young men attempted to protect a pair of Muslim women from the supremacist’s attacks on them.  Members all across the Heathen Community raised their voices in an attempt to educate the rest of the world on what we actually believe and practice, lest we get lumped in with the “bad Heathens”.  I rarely get political, but it was enough to drive me to write a blog post about Declaration 127.

(You can find that blog post here, and Declaration 127 here.)

On August 12, 2017, violence erupted when white nationalists gathered for a “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Ostensibly organized to prevent the removal of yet another remnant of Confederate history–this time, a statue of Robert E. Lee–from a city park, it quickly became apparent that this “march” was more about making history repeat itself, than about defending history so that it doesn’t repeat.  The white nationalists gathered around the site, “defending” it with Viking-styled shields.  Don’t believe me? Check this out:

(You can find that photo here.)

The response of the Heathen community in the wake of what has been described by some as an act of domestic terrorism? Thus far, I’ve seen maybe two posts. And I’m not enjoying the silence….neither is Tyr.

As technically-a-person-of-color (I’m of Asian descent; Chinese, specifically) who happens to be Heathen, and also happens to be spending his afterlife inhabiting a white Southern woman, I find that once again, I cannot keep my mouth shut.  I can’t keep politics off of this blog right now; to do so would go against every fiber of who and what I am. Before I proceed, you might want to thoroughly acquaint yourself with the beginning of that last sentence: I am notwhite guy; repeat: I am notwhite guy. I’m also devoutly Heathen. All set? Okay, that clarification completely out of the way, let’s continue:

As a group of people practicing a Reconstructionist or at least Reconstructionist-derived religion, Heathens, on the whole, are obsessed with history.  We only know what we know about our faith–enough to actually have this faith and have it continue to exist–because of historians, and anthropologists, and archaeologists.  Because we are so needfully well-acquainted with history, most of us are also very well aware of that old adage: 

Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. ~Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke was an Irish statesman–a Dubliner, to be precise–as well as an author, orator, political theorist, and philosopher, who supported the American Revolution.  It’s a great quote, and growing more and more powerful by the day in our modern age, but the truth is, there are absolutely zero corroborating sources proving that Burke ever actually said or wrote those words.  That he said them first is a tradition.  However, we do know of someone else who absolutely said something quite similar:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” ~George Santayana

So who the heck was George Santayana?  He was a Spanish philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist who was raised and educated in the United States from the age of eight and identified himself as an American, even though he maintained dual citizenship.  In fact, he spent most of his life not far from where I’m writing this: in Boston, Massachusetts, the birthplace of the very same Revolution that Edmund Burke so firmly supported. 

Why is that so important for this discussion: that Santayana was of Latin/Hispanic descent?  Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past two years, you can likely arrive at that answer easily enough.  A person of color, and specifically, an immigrant person of Spanish descent actually said the words that both sides of the present argument are constantly using against each other in the worst ways imaginable. Chew on that for a minute.

Michelle and I both have written numerous posts here and elsewhere in defense of not tearing down Confederate monuments, and not erasing the Confederate flag as a symbol of heritage (not hate!), largely based on the argument of Santayana’s famous quote.  We stand by those arguments. However, on the other side of our arguments, which come from a very genuine place of standing behind that aphorism, there are people like those guys with the viking-style shields in Charlottesville, Virginia who are ostensibly defending the same things for the same reasons, but not really.  And they proved that conclusively on Saturday, August 12, 2017.

Because those people wouldn’t “dirty their mouths” with a quote from a Spanish immigrant, if they had actually known that was who said it.  It would be totally valid and “okay” if it had been said by the white guy from Dublin, but, oh my, the shock and disgust if they realized it had been said by a Spanish immigrant! (Who’s mother, by the way, was raised in the Philippines.)

This brief history of quotes (and the juicy irony involved) aside, the fact remains that the initial vision of those white nationalists (before the “real violence” ensued) is an image of a bunch of white, bearded dudes, standing in solidarity, behind a freaking Viking-style shield wall.  The guy who actually drove the car that killed the one person who perished in this “debacle”–who, incidentally, was white, just like the two young men who lost their lives in Portland, Oregon, back in May (not that that should matter, mind you, but the tragic irony should not be lost on anyone, which is why I point it out)–also stood in that initial wall, holding a shield.

(Don’t believe me? Check out this photo. He’s the second from the left, in front of a poster bearing yet more appropriated Heathen symbols, as well as appropriated Christian symbols: the Algiz rune, and a Chi Rho, respectively.)

And yet the Heathen community stands largely silent this time around, and I would really, very dearly, like to know why? So would Tyr.

For that matter, why aren’t Christians screaming about their symbology being appropriated by these asshats?  Because not all Christians are of the conservative, alt-right variety, anymore than all Heathens are of the white supremacist, neo-Nazi variety….

Plenty of people were out there screaming and yelling and having hissy fits back in 2015, when the outcry against the Confederate flag grew so loud that the General Lee, the car driven by the Dukes of Hazard, legit got a makeover, and resulted in the show (still in syndication) getting banned, even though most of its storylines that even touched on race relations in the South involved inclusiveness, rather than bigotry. (Though I never really cared for the show, I can honestly say it was a bit of a “redneck primer” on inclusivity, and I give it kudos for doing that way back in the 1970s.) Yet when it comes to actual religious symbols from whatever faith being bastardized, everybody’s suddenly mute? What gives?

Instead of an outcry on either side of the religious divide over such important matters, the one thing that everybody seems to be able to agree on is crucifying our current president for his statements in the aftermath of Charlottesville 2017.  I am not a fan of Donald Trump.  I try to largely keep my opinions on such things out of this blog, off of our Facebook page, and generally out of my sphere of discussion in general. Trump gets zero frith in my heart or mind, to the point that he’s so utangardh that he basically doesn’t exist to me.  In other words, I put him so “far away from me” that I don’t let his energy touch my own in any capacity. I find that’s healthier for me.  However, while I can understand people’s outrage that he did not single out the white supremacists involved (further proof, most argue, that he’s “in bed” with those people), that’s not the rhetoric being used by most people in opposition to his reaction to decry what he said.  No, what he’s being crucified for is saying that there was wrong on both sides.  Honestly, this is one of the few times in his presidency that he’s actually said something halfway honest or halfway correct.

So how dare I make such a statement?  How could somebody–anybody–who is against racism and patently against Trump himself deign to say such a thing?  Because we’re living in a world where everybody so desperately wants their side to be right that they’re willing to invoke violence to prove it, no matter how wrong they actually are, and even an imbecile like Trump can see it!

Don’t get it twisted: I am in no way, shape, form or fashion attempting to defend Trump in all this. What I am saying is that if what he actually meant in his statements is that “two wrongs never make a right“, then for one, brief shining moment in his presidency, he’s actually been right about something!  And we should probably all take a moment to bask in the shock of that, before moving on toward cohesion.

Because I don’t know if anybody else has recognized this yet, but our country hasn’t had anything remotely resembling cohesion, when it comes to racial relations, since seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin fell to gunfire on a rainy February day in Florida in 2012.  That was during the Obama administration, folks–long before Trump was even a glimmer in the eye of the American conservative right-wing; back when he was just some orange-haired loudmouth whose primary vocabulary consisted of the words “You’re fired!”.  That was when we actually had a president of color!  That was the tragic death that began both the “Black Lives Matter” and the “Thin Blue Line” movements, and yet, forgotten by most people in the ensuing violence, raging arguments on both sides, and subsequent hate crimes, the dude who actually shot Trayvon Martin was also a person of color, and patently not a cop:  George Zimmerman is a man of Hispanic descent (specifically, Peruvian) who worked as an insurance fraud investigator while working towards an associate degree in criminal justice.  Zimmerman shot Martin while “serving” as the head of the local Neighborhood Watch program: he thought Trayvon “looked suspicious”, pursued the young man, and subsequently shot him.

What color the people involved in a situation–any situation–are ultimately does not matter when innocent lives are being lost. The symbols of my faith and your faith ultimately do not matter when innocent lives are being lost, either.  What ultimately matters is that we are all one family–the human race–and when we lose even one member of that family, we all lose.  There are no sides in that; there shouldn’t be any sides at all!  When someone dies innocently, everybody loses. Period.

If people are going to be building shield-walls around anything–any ideology–it should be that one!  Yet, that isn’t the case, unfortunately.  In fact, in most circles nowadays, if you have the cajones to say the words “all lives matter“, you’re instantly labeled as part of the racist scum! How the hell does that work out?

I became Heathen because faith, folk, and family was an ideal I could get behind: because, for me, treating other people honorably and fairly is the very crux of my faith, and the entire human race is both my folk and my family.  Very quickly, I discovered this was patently not what these words represented to most other Heathens, thanks to the bastardization of that phrase by the white supremacists among us.  To that subset, faith means guarding (white) folk and their (white) family from any outside forces seeking to “muddy” those waters with “other colored blood”.  Gobsmacked really is too small a word to describe how I felt upon said discovery.  I came to this Path because the core of it–that phrase, now bastardized–represented everything to me that I have believed my entire life, and now I am left with the astonishing realization that, like that famous quote from The Princess Bride, that phrase “does not mean what I think it means”.  

And maybe that’s the main reason why people are so gods-damned silent in the wake of Charlottesville 2017, even when the bastardization of the symbols of our faith are so morbidly less hidden in this “debacle”, than they were in the crime committed against those two young men (and the Muslim women they were trying to defend) in Portland, Oregon, three months ago.  Maybe it’s because the very foundation of our faith has become rocky ground on which to stand.  Or maybe it’s because there are far too many would-be Vikings among us, and not enough faithfilled people.  That “us versus them” sentiment was the very thing on which the Viking mindset rested, wasn’t it? I mean, after all? We see the thirst for it–that “us versus them” mentality–every time a member of our community says foul things about “those Christians”, lumping every follower of Christ in with the conservative crap-eaters; every time a member of our community talks about the Christian “weak god” or “dead god”; every time a member of our community types the letters UPG with hate and disdain as an expression of how “non-historically-accurate” true experiences of living faith are or possibly can be. It’s hard to cry out against people taking sides–no matter what those sides might be–when you’re a community divided in upon itself because people are so damned busy creating sides to take!

As a Chinese-American dead guy inhabiting a white Southern woman, I am quickly reaching a point where I am honestly afraid to wear my Thor’s Hammer in public or proudly show off any of the other symbols of my Heathen faith–runes included.  I’m afraid that people will “get the wrong impression” and label me as a racist. I am just as afraid, at this point, of the “inclusivity-championing liberals” as many Muslims, Hispanics, and African-Americans are of certain factions of the conservative right-wing.  And it patently should not be that way for either side of the equation! Yet, here we are.  And silence by our community in the wake of Charlottesville 2017 only serves to perpetuate that climate of fear.

So I will not join in that silence!

My faith is in a Deity(s) Who looks down upon this human race and sees, without doubt, and for once and for all, that we are all the same family.  My folk are those who will stand with me, against injustice: whether that injustice is due to race, creed, gender, or any other “dividing” factor.  And my family is the human race.  As Bruce Lee once said:

“Under the sky, under the heavens, Man, there is but one family.”

And I raise my own shield, not to defend some statue wrought by human hands in another time or place, or even some distant history which is too easily revised to suit the current political climate, but instead to defend that Truth which has always been with us:

We all matter.  Every man and woman is someone else’s mother, father, brother, sister, spouse, child. And every mother, father, brother, sister, spouse, and child matters.

We will never enjoy true peace until we realize this. Hate will continue to grow, no matter how bright and shining the motives of those who decide to take the side of the Right and the Just.  Until everyone is on that same side–so long as sides remain–we’re all living in No Man’s Land. And No Man’s Land is the place of stalemates, not victory.

 

 

 

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Four Easy (Not Really) Lessons

I’ve officially been on sabbatical for two weeks (out of the eight weeks I’m taking), and I can already tell you that time off, while extremely important for self care (and for getting things done, like packing up this house and moving our home elsewhere), is also a valuable learning tool.  What could one possibly learn from an unpaid vacation?  Read on, Dear Friend….

Lesson #1: Prioritize Your Priorities

The primary purpose of this sabbatical is to pack, move, and then unpack and settle in.  So what does one do when one is not actively engaged in packing, moving, or unpacking? Those first few days of my “time off”, I had zero clue what to do with myself!  I even went so far as to look at sites on what to do when one retires, all of which had three things in common:

  • They all suggested taking up a hobby.
  • They all suggested taking up a sport.
  • They all suggested getting a part-time job.

Which left me wondering: if you’re so bored now that you’ve retired that you need to develop a hobby, take up a sport, and gain a part-time job, then why the hell did you retire in the first place?  This got me thinking a lot about my own priorities, and about priorities in general.  

Most people have a list somewhere in the back of their brain (or, perhaps, if they’re lucky, in the front of their brain) of the things that are the most important in their life.  Now, these may be things that are truly important–things without which life becomes bland and/or unlivable–or these may be things that are peripherally important–things that are necessary to facilitate the truly important things.  My experience of abject boredom during that first week of my sabbatical made me take a long, hard look at my own priorities, and sort through and differentiate the truly important from the peripherally important.

So what is truly important?  In the interest of not boring you to tears with the details of “my little life”, let’s answer that question in an “across the board” fashion:

  • Peace
  • Love
  • Happiness/Fulfillment

Yes, I know that might sound trite, but I have found it to be an ultimate truth.  The hippies in the 1960s got it right: so long as you have peace in your life (a life free of drama llamas, including yourself!), love in your life (whether from a beloved, or from family and friends), and you are happy and fulfilled (able to do things that make you smile and laugh, as well as feed your passions), pretty much anything could happen in “your little life”, and you’d still come out relatively unscathed on the other side of whatever happened!

Boredom, at its deepest core, is a feeling of emptiness: it’s that thing we feel when we’ve lost sight of our priorities, and forget for a moment to simply enjoy the peacefeel the love, and focus on happiness/fulfillment.

Lesson #2: Plenty Is As Plenty Does

We live in a society where the word plenty somehow automatically equates in our minds with monetary wealth, but when it’s all said and done, ultimately, money is one of those priorities which is peripherally important.  Money is a thing which may help facilitate those three things that are truly important, but it doesn’t lie at the core of any of them.  Plenty, on the other hand, often does.

Plenty is actually defined as “a large or sufficient amount or quantity; more than enough”.  

I ached over the need to take this sabbatical, because I was afraid it would interfere with my previous definition of plenty: i.e., plenty of money to pay my bills, help out around the house, and purchase the furniture and things we’re going to need in our new home.  What I have found over the course of the past two weeks is that I have exactly the same amount of that particular definition of plenty, whether I’m working my tail off every day or not.  Meanwhile, when I’m not working my tail off, the really important plenty has increased three-fold: I may not have plenty of money, but I do have plenty of peacelove, and happiness/fulfillment!

The bottom line is: plenty is as plenty does.  When you sit around focusing on money as the definition of plenty, all you ultimately wind up with is realizing precisely how poor, financially, you actually are.  In the process, you also end up killing peacepushing away love, and feeling sad/unfulfilled.  However, when you focus on the really important plenty, you find yourself doing plenty:  enjoying peace breeds more peace; recognizing love breeds more love; focusing on happiness/fulfillment breeds more happiness/fulfillment!

Lesson #3:  Don’t Complain, Explain.

To complain is to explore a situation by focusing on the most dissatisfying or annoying parts of that situation, whereas to explain is to explore that same situation by focusing on the most relevant and meaningful parts of it.  Complaining shatters peace (it is the ultimate drama llama bait!), annoys love (it pushes people away), and denies happiness/fulfillment. On the other hand, explaining can actually bring about peace, foster love (as it encourages people to listen and then attempt to meet genuine needs), and lead to happiness/fulfillment.

The entire process of selling a house, packing your belongings, finding a new home, and then moving your stuff and unpacking it into said new home sucks.  I’m not talking a little amount of suckage, like “wow, rainy days really suck”, I’m talking major, industrial vacuum cleaner level suckage, like “you stubbed your toe on the couch so hard you’re now bleeding? Man, that sucks!”  The whole thing is a bigtime complain vs. explain opportunity.

I’m not gonna lie: I spent most of the period just prior to taking this sabbatical complaining.  I complained about the lack of sleep I was getting, due to early call-times by our real estate agent for showings, as well as other issues.  I complained about the size of the yard at every home we looked at.  I complained about having to put my much-loved stuff in storage.  I complained about having to take the cat out of the house in ninety degree heat on short notice.  I complained about how the entire business of having to keep the house spotless for showings while also having to pack impacted my work schedule. I complained, and complained, and complained.  Consequently, there wasn’t a moment of peace to be had: I officially became a drama llama.  I drove my Beloved bugnuts, which had some serious ramifications in the love department.  I was constantly unhappy and unfulfilled, and pretty much on a mission to get everybody else on the unhappy/unfulfilled bandwagon.

And then something wonderful happened: I stopped complaining and started explaining.  I’m still not getting enough rest, but in two more weeks, we’ll be in our new home, and I can sleep whenever I please (between unpacking and homemaking, of course).  The yard at the new house isn’t exactly huge, but you know what? It has an actual tree, and less yard just means less to mow!  I am presently staring at blank walls and mountains of boxes, true, but all the stuff that’s already in storage is probably safer for the move than the stuff presently sitting in boxes in my office, so now I wish I had packed it all from the get-go! We may have had to take the cat out of the house on short notice, but guess what? We made new friends!  Finally, in keeping the house spotless for showings, I discovered there are more fulfilling forms of work than my work-work: making Suzanne smile is the most rewarding thing in my corner of the universe!  Guess what? Now I have peace, and I realize just how deeply I’m surrounded by love, and I’m as happy and fulfilled as the loudly purring cat who is presently asleep in my lap!

Lesson #4:  Your Stuff Should Tell A Story

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past two weeks (and the months prior) deciding which things to throw away, and which things to actually wrap lovingly in bubble wrap and put in boxes.  As a borderline hoarder (who is in love with a chronic purger), that has been a really tough process for me.  As an artist, I have a desperate need to be surrounded by pretty things. That has made putting things in boxes very tough.  I also tend to attach memories to things (more on that in a moment), so throwing things out is very hard for me.  As the boxes have mounted to fill our entire storage space, and now my office as well, I find myself wishing I had learned the previous three lessons sooner than now….

Because if I had, I would’ve realized: your stuff should tell your story.  If it doesn’t actively tell your story, or if it doesn’t help you tell that story, then you don’t actually need it in your life.  When I say it should tell your story, I don’t just mean that your stuff should somehow be symbolic of your actual autobiography. What I mean is way deeper than that: it should tell the story of what you wish and want your life to be.  It should represent a deep expression of those truly important priorities we talked about in lesson onepeacelove, and happiness/fulfillment.

This theory came into play a lot when I was cleaning out my desk.  Obviously, my desk is where I do all of my day-to-day work for Iaconagraphy.  It is also where I keep all of my important documents (like Michelle’s birth certificate), my myriad notebooks for online gaming, and all of my snack food.  Betwixt and between all of that, there are also a thousand dead lighters, a vast collection of character-shaped erasers, and various other flotsam and jetsam from my life (such as saved movie tickets and things “I might scrap one day”).  In short, apart from those important documents, there was a lot of crap in my desk!  There were legit six boxes of cookies in my snack drawer!  Six boxes!  

As I was going through all of that stuff, it occurred to me that the vast majority of it was autobiographical, but patently did not tell the story that I want or wish to tell.  It was autobiographical in that yes, I really like cookies, I smoke a lot (I have to, to maintain the necessary intake of coal tar to keep our disabling psoriasis on at least an even keel), I like quirky things, and I really enjoy scrapbooking.  But the story that all that stuff told was not the story I want or wish for: instead, it was a story of getting fat, being annoyed (because there are few things more annoying in life than a dead lighter), putting my own quirkiness in a drawer or on a shelf, and never having time to do the things I really enjoy.  So the cookies went to that great cookie graveyard in the sky, and the lighters joined them in the trash bag.  I kept the erasers as a reminder to stop putting those quirky parts of me in a drawer or on a shelf, and I resolved to actually scrap the things “I might scrap one day” as soon as we’re settled in our new home.

Everything I pack now is weighed against the question: does this tell my story as I wish or want my life to be?  I have a feeling this new lease on life is going to lead to a lot of throwing things away during my unpacking process!

So what dowish or want my life to be? What’s my story?  Once upon a time, there was a guy who had to die to learn how to live.  He loved the ocean, he loved a beautiful, brilliant woman (who loved him in return), and he also had the love of good friends and extended family.  And one day, he realized the ocean wasn’t someplace you go; it’s a feeling.  So he decided to surround himself, and the beautiful, brilliant woman he loved, with that feeling every day.  He realized the call of the gulls as you lie on the beach is really friends talking to friends, so he decided to be a seagull, and finally embraced his wings.  He discovered that cleaning and homemaking and creating beauty all around him gave him the peace he craved, so he decided to do those things all the time, instead of the things he had been doing, which made him perpetually cranky and constantly reminded him that he was financially poor, making him very, very sad.  He finally understood just how loved he was, and he basked in that, the way sunbathers bask in the sun.  And the dead man who learned how to live and his beautiful, brilliant woman, and his good friends and extended family lived happily ever after, and they were all fulfilled.

What’s your story?

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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!