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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.

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Writing My Own Cinderella Story

Sometimes, you’ve gotta go “all in”, hell-or-high-water, back against the wall.  Feeding a passion can be hard work and nirvana-like bliss at the same time. That’s what the Annual Next Designer Competition at Digital Scrapbooking Studio means to me: all of that.

Having your passion be your only source of financial income can lead to long nights spent crying yourself to sleep, coupled with vistas of elation when people actually comment on how much they love your art, while sometimes also putting their money where their mouth is.  It’s a very bi-polar existence; you spend a lot of time “in your own little corner, in your own little chair”, as Cinderella sings in Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.

“In my own little corner, in my own little chair, I can be whatever I want to be! On the wings of my fancy, I can fly anywhere, and the world will open its arms to me!” That’s how I feel every time I settle into my comfy office chair and open up Paint Shop Pro 7 or Daz 3D.  Art takes me to places that few other things can; it is my solace; it is my peace. When the pain from the psoriasis is unbearable sitting on the couch watching TV, I can hobble upstairs and start making art, and the pain just fades. It sounds nuts, but it’s true.

When we were given the palette for that first challenge, I struggled initially with what to do with it. I didn’t want to do something “typically fall”; I wanted to break that mold, because breaking molds is what art is all about, right?  I do a lot of Steampunk-themed work, so my mind immediately jumped to that, and from there, my brain settled on the word “Steampunkin”, and given what this competition means to me, I knew the story I needed to tell: my own personal Steampunk Cinderella story!

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I am pleased and proud to say that I made it through the first challenge (I was in the top 30), and have now embarked into the second stage of the competition: Elements. Ephemera is my “thing”. I love making it, almost as much as I love using it in hybrid crafting.  We were required to make a total of 40 elements: 30 original elements, and 10 recolored elements.  This was the moment I had been waiting for since I made the very first artist paper for this set! To my surprise, I completed all 40 elements within twenty-four hours of the second challenge’s opening!

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Even though I seemed to finish these elements very quickly, it was still a challenge. I decided since I was “all in”, I would try a host of new techniques that I’ve never used before on my elements. I made my first accents (combining digital stamps with ephemera pieces such as ribbons, flowers, etc.). I made my very first flair. I made my very first cluster frames.  And the one item of which I am the most proud: I made a clock, completely from scratch, which is featured as a separate ephemera piece, and also on one of the cluster frames and as the centerpiece of my “clockflowers”.

I hope you will enjoy these papers and elements. I also hope you will choose to grow the Digital Scrapbooking Studio family by registering at their forums and voting for me, starting Friday, 10/14/2016, at 11:59 AM EST.  I cannot put into words what it would do for my world if I could make it into Round Three! I don’t want to stop telling this story through digital art!

 

 

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Do One Thing Well???

“Do not try to do everything. Do one thing well…Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.”–Steve Jobs

Except, I’m a multipotentialite:

“An educational and psychological term referring to a pattern found among intellectually gifted individuals. [Multipotentialites] generally have diverse interests across numerous domains and may be capable of success in many endeavors or professions, they are confronted with unique decisions as a result of these choices.”–Wiki Link

Interestingly enough, Steve Jobs has also been described as a multipotentialite. And yet….(see initial quotation).

I’ve been going at trying to run my own business, in one form or another, for the past twelve years (since January of 2004).  I’ve really gotten serious about it over the past two years (including publishing this blog).  Looking back, graphics (digital art) is where it all started, yet in the past year, I’ve expanded my horizons, in that renaissance spirit of being a multipotentialite, to also include my writing (I’ve self-published four books; two fiction, two non-fiction) and my Tarot/Cartomancy services.  Which is how I find myself standing at this present crossroads….

You see, when people don’t buy my work (and by that, I mean our work–please see previous discussion regarding the “mice-in-my-pocket”), they aren’t buying me,  and when they aren’t buying me, that gets translated as they don’t like me.  It goes way beyond the bottom-most financial line, and becomes very, very personal. Especially when we’re talking about my writing and my Tarot/Cartomancy services, because for the most part, the graphic arts end of my business (the part that started it all back in 2004, remember) is their gig (the mice), not mine.

I’m coming up on the end of the Second Quarter of 2016, and ledgers don’t lie: graphic arts/digital art is still the heart and soul of Iaconagraphy, not Tarot/Cartomancy, and patently not my writing.  And that’s a scathing, hurtful truth. It makes me want to run back under the rock I’ve been living under for the past several years, curl up with a blankie, and stay there. It also makes me ask whether or not being a multipotentialite is a blessing or a curse. Right now, I’m leaning more towards the latter….

You see, the thing with business is:  you have to market a business, and it can get pretty damned overwhelming for your customers (not to mention yourself), when you’re marketing as many different things as I am presently marketing. And when I get overwhelmed, my health literally goes to hell in a handbag. And it has been in that handbag for the past two months. When your health is in hell, everything becomes more difficult: from marketing right on down to actually providing product. Even with mice: when I suffer, so do they. Meanwhile, on the customer end of that spectrum, you find yourself attracting some folks who are very interested in one aspect of the business, but not at all interested in the other areas of the business.  You also find yourself offering so much stuff that people visit your website/facebook page/twitter and literally leave thinking “I don’t know where the hell to even start!”

Being an entrepreneur is like being a pirate.  Go for the booty and discover new, uncharted lands.–Steve Jobs

I started going for the proverbial booty and discovering those new, uncharted lands back in September: I set up the “Tarot side” of my business, started talking up the mystical, published two more e-books (of a mystical nature), and became an ordained Druid Minister.  Meanwhile, I continued to “take port” in the business-base that started it all for me: graphic arts/digital art.  In the process, I’ve discovered that my “compass” is spinning like Jack Sparrow’s back in that first Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  Guess what? Mine doesn’t point to constant magnetic north, either. It doesn’t even point to some ghost ship! It points everywhere, all at the same time, and there isn’t a map or a lighthouse in sight!

Except….art.

So, the question I pose to you, dear reader:  Should I just be doing one thing well? I’m serious: I desperately need your feedback! So, please comment to the Facebook Page. I need to hear from you.