Posted on

Courting Hela

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

 

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

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

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

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

And I headed off to bed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So the night came when I addressed that with Hela:

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

And She replied:

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

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

So I did as I was told.

And Michelle argued:

I’m not even Heathen!”

And I replied:

“I don’t think She cares.”

And she persisted:

“I belong to Cerridwen!”

And I countered:

“You’re a soft polytheist!”

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

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

And I smiled:

“Perhaps therein lies the problem….”

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

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

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

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

Posted on

ArtLife: Thinking In Color

Digital background paper, spirals, string cluster, and photo mask from Imramma by Connla and Duncan (upcoming). Lone hawk feather from Taliesin’s January Gathering: Winter Wonder: A Winter’s Tale, currently available.

“Creativity is not about painting a picture or producing an object; it is about wrestling with demons and angels in the depths of our psyche and daring to name them, to put them where they can breathe and have space and we can look at them….Art as meditation becomes our basic prayer form.” –Matthew Fox

Somewhere along the way, most of us get convinced that we are not artists: we start to suffer from I-can’t-even-draw-a-straight-line-syndrome, courtesy of a teacher, a parent, or some other mentor (or even the world-at-large) who told us we “lacked talent”.  But ultimately, being an artist has absolutely nothing to do with “talent”, and everything to do with our willingness to name and claim what makes us us.  When we think of prayer, whether coming from a Christian or Pagan/Heathen background, we don’t tend to think of that as something that requires “talent”; it’s simply a dialogue, between you and Deity; no “talent” required.  Prayer is also a process of naming and claiming what makes us us:  we send up our praise, our gratitude, our deepest petitions, and trust that they will be heard/received; possibly even answered.  Art–true art–requires that same level of trust; it does not require “talent”.

Certainly, “talent” or ability helps, but it’s not an absolute requirement to be an artist: We are all born into this world as artists, and if you require physical proof of that, simply watch the average three year old at play with a pack of crayons and a coloring book.  They see absolutely no need to stay within the lines. Instead, they see an image that they like, and then they think in color: the color becomes what defines the image for them, not the outlines that make up the image.  Lines which make up a drawing–which define a space as this or that “thing” that has been drawn–that may take a certain amount of “talent” to create, but color?  Our world positively blooms with it in unabashed array, everywhere you look, with no rulesno judgments, and nothing to contain it!  You thought in color once, too, though you may have to dig pretty far back in the recesses of your mind to even call up a scant memory of that time.  I’m very blessed that I never let the world stop me from thinking that way–from thinking in color.  That’s why I’m able to sit here and write this blog, and create all of these wonderful assets for you to use as you rediscover your artist within (and likewise for the rest of the artists here at Iaconagraphy).  Today, I want to help you return to thinking in color, too, so that we can start reclaiming your artist within.

To begin that process, we’re going to start with a coloring page (please click the image below to download):

 

Now, print out your free coloring page and go color it. Seriously, I’ll wait….

Oh, you’re back? Great!

So how did that feel? Did you stay within the lines, or did you find yourself going all over the place? Did you criticize yourself when you didn’t manage to stay within the lines? What colors did you use to bring this image to life? What do those colors mean to you? What significance do they have in your life?

Realizing what those colors mean in your life is the first step to thinking in color!  The second step, of course, is to stop criticizing yourself when you color outside the lines!

For example, I use a lot of olive green in my work here for Iaconagraphy and in my own artist journaling–all different shades of it:

Background paper, journaler, and photo mask from January Gathering: Winter Wonder: Winterfell by Daniel for Iaconagraphy; other elements created specifically for this project.

All elements from Samsara by Connla, currently available.

To me, olive means growth and prosperity. A little online color correspondence research results in the following meanings for olive:

olive green: space, wisdom, feminine leadership qualities, peace through compassion for humanity, new hope, acceptance, understanding, celebrating individuality, compassionate empowerment, a bridge between the will and the heart, balanced duality, health, youth, good luck, money

When I put my personal meanings for olive together with the meanings I discovered in my color correspondence research I arrive at “in order to grow and prosper, I need to balance my own duality when it comes to my more feminine leadership qualities, while at the same time practicing compassionate empowerment of myself and others.” See what I did there? Now you try it with one of the colors you used on your coloring page. Neat, huh?  You just unlocked the first doorway to your artist within.

Want to unlock some more of your doors?  Stay tuned for details on our upcoming ecourse, ArtLife, which we hope to launch at the end of March! In the meantime, you can explore more of your personal artistry through art journaling with Samsara, which is currently available. Maybe start with this prompt:

I think in full color!

If you do go out on a limb and create an AJ page with Samsara, we’d love to see it! Come on over to our Facebook Page and share! (If you patently do not Facebook, you can either attempt to add yours below, or email your art to us at sicilianomishy@yahoo.com; please put ATTN: Connla in the subject line!)

Posted on

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!