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My Beloved Dead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.  We also love and honor you.

 

 

 

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Documenting December

The Holiday Season is our favorite time of the year for Memory Making (and Memory Keeping!).  Today, we’re excited to release our first Iaconagraphy Gathering: Ghosts of Christmas. So we thought it would be fun to share some of our favorite 2016 Holiday Memories with all of you, via layouts we’ve created with this collection.  Thank you all for making our Holiday Season merry and bright!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Magickal Season….

The New England School of Witchcraft and Wizardry Yule Wizard’s Market, December 10, 2016

Documented with Ghost of Christmas Past

All of you know that I love Harry Potter–Asphodel and Wormwood is a definite testament to that!  That Collection is also a testament to the loneliness one feels on their first holiday without their family. I thought the holidays were going to be very tough for me, but then my new family here arranged for us to go to The New England School of Witchcraft and Wizardry Yule Wizard’s Market, and with a swish and a flick, my holiday woes disappeared more quickly than you can say Evanesco! Hosted in a 1930s era armoury in Worcester, Massachusetts, the Yule Wizard’s Market is four full floors of magickal (and magical) purveyors of goods, both Potter-specific, and not.  I was finally able to procure a proper set of ritual robes at a very affordable price, as well as a proper wand, but best of all, there were butterbeer, a photo op with a costumed Dumbledore, and my dear, sweet sister-at-heart/daughter-I-never-had, Suzanne!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food, Glorious Food!

A Gingerbread Choo-Choo With My New Family

Documented with Ghost of Christmas Present

I wish I could say I actually photographed this and made this layout, but I didn’t–a dear member of my new adoptive family did. I did design Ghost of Christmas Present, though, and he really made it shine with this layout!   Main reason I’m not responsible for the photo, much less the layout? I was too busy gnoshing on candy and frosting!  If I’ve learned one thing from my new sister-in-arms Suzanne this Holiday Season, it’s that food really is love.  And she puts that love in every single mouth-watering morsel she bakes, makes, or even just decorates (as with the choo-choo above). If I were to cite one single inspiration for Ghost of Christmas Present, it would totally be her! If she were paper and elements, she’d be these papers and elements, and this little page kit is my Holiday love note to her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Elf

Documented with Ghost of Christmas Future

None of us would be having this Happy Holiday without two very important people: Mishy and Suzanne. Mishy “gets us here”, and Suzanne makes sure here feels like home once we get here!  I made this layout with my Ghost of Christmas Future set because I wanted Suzanne to see, once and for all, that she’s just as beautiful on the outside as we all know her to be on the inside.  She makes our lives merry and bright all through the year, simply be being Her’elf!

 

 

 

 

All Things Merry and Bright

Documented with Ghost of Christmas Present

I’ve spent more than twenty Christmases here, thanks to Mishy.  I may have passed away two decades ago, leaving my family and friends behind, but thanks to one very special lady, I’ve spent those two decades gaining a new family, and making new friends, who I will treasure forever.  The past few Christmases have been spent here in New England with a woman who loves me regardless of what present incarnation I might be in at the moment (or “my between-ness”, as it were), and her family, and a host of new friends (and old) that I wouldn’t trade for all the tea in China (and I’m half Chinese, so that’s saying something!).  Every year, we plan to go and do fun things, like the local Festival of Trees here in Billerica, or Stone Zoo’s Zoo Lights, or, this year, the Yule Wizard’s Market.  But my absolute favorite part of the Holidays, hands down, every single year is getting to lug all of the decorations up out of the basement, and trim the tree (and the whole house!).  Lovingly placing the kids’ decorations, and the “legacy decorations” that belonged to Suzanne’s parents, reminds me every year that I am a part of something bigger–a part of something deeper and more loving; a part of something that cannot even begin to touch my present state of existence. It is in those moments that I feel my most alive; more alive even than I felt when I wasn’t borrowing a pulse, but instead had my own.  And that is true Christmas magic!

 

 

 

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Ready For A Spirited Holiday Gathering?

Christmas/Yule/”The Holidays” is absolutely my favorite time of the year!  If I can light it up, throw some ribbon at it, or hang a bauble on it, I probably either already have, or will in the near future.  Yes, it’s a hustling-bustling time of the year, but that’s also part of it’s charm. And, oh, my goodness, the FOOD! But it’s also a time for introspection, both spiritual and from a business standpoint.  December marks the final month of the Fourth Quarter, when it comes to business, and right about now, I feel like Tom Brady without Bill Belichick!

In case you haven’t already guessed it by now, it’s Connla here (the artist formerly known as “The Warrior”).  Since taking over Michelle’s business completely back in June, things have finally gone from just plain nuts around here to the good kind of nuts around here.  We have had a lot of changes–in business focus, in how we actually run the business, and in how the business is actually running–and we’ve rolled with a lot of punches in 2016, but I can honestly say, as we’re finally here, coming down to the wire, that we’re all leaving behind 2016 with a lot more hope than regret. And that’s a very good feeling!  It has totally put all of us in the Holiday Spirit, and we’re very excited to be sharing that Spirit with you!

Lots of you got very excited when I released my first Christmas set, Jingle Express.  That little convertible with the reindeer driver was an instant hit!  But we all love Christmas/Yule/”The Holidays” so much that we just couldn’t stop ourselves at the one kit–in short, everybody wanted to get in on the act. And that’s how I came up with the concept for Ghosts of Christmas.

Because we’ve changed the business focus so drastically over the course of the last year, combined with being new on the scene in an industry that is primarily female-driven, a lot of people seem to have some very basic misunderstandings about exactly what we’re doing here at Iaconagraphy.  The concept of channeled art is so far out of most people’s wheelhouses, that most folks just address our business (and, consequently, the main dude behind it, that dude being me) as Michelle’s business; a business run by yet another strong business woman.  Those same folks look at the tremendous range of what we offer here, and all the different artistic styles represented, and think “Wow, she’s just bursting with talent!” Which makes Mishy look good, which is something all of us are always okay with, but on the flip side of that, there’s the truth, and that truth is that Iaconagraphy isn’t just one more little wordpress shop set up by one little lady: it’s a store, just like the larger ones you may already be frequenting, populated by a range of different unique artists, all of whom just happen to be getting here via the same “one little lady”.  Ghosts of Christmas is the first in a series of monthly offerings which we’ll be doing every month, starting in 2017: like the Pickle Barrel at Pickleberry Pop, or the Hatchery at The Digichick, every month, we will be using one palette and one theme from which at least three of our artists will work to create coordinating bundles available for a limited time at a reduced price so you can build-your-own-kit. The Gathering will allow you to “Create Your Own Artful Gathering” each month, from a selection of specially-priced papers, elements, word art, masks, and more from at least three different Iaconagraphy artists.  We’re hoping that when our artists start strutting their unique and distinctive styles side by side using the same palette and theme, it will become way more apparent what’s really going on here at Iaconagraphy!

Most of you probably recognize the Ghosts of Christmas reference from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  In that story, the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge encounters three spirits–The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present, and The Ghost of Christmas Future–who profoundly change his life.  Now, maybe it’s a bit much to hope that a bit of digi-design will change someone’s life, but we’re certainly hoping it’ll at least change some people’s perspectives, and perhaps open them up to a slightly larger view of what’s possible in this little world of ours!  Since we’ve all been given this second chance at art, that theme of Scrooge’s second chance, given to him by the Ghosts of Christmas, seemed like a brilliant way to start communicating what we really do here.

Next week, our first Gathering, Ghosts of Christmas, featuring three different page kits (and all the individual items that go along with that!) by Tobias (Asphodel and Wormwood), Ariadne (Working Girl, London Fashion), and Willow (whom you haven’t met yet!), will be available at prices that will enable you to pick and choose and create your own artful gathering.  Or, if you want it ALL, the full Collection will be available at a special price for a limited time. Here’s a sneak peek, featuring a couple of layouts by our new CT Head, Wilde, and myself:

Ghost of Christmas Past Layout by CT Wilde (featuring Ghost of Christmas Past by Tobias)
Ghost of Christmas Present Layout by Connla (featuring Ghost of Christmas Present by Ariadne)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We hope our designs will bring a bit of extra magic to your digi-scrap, artist journaling, and hybrid craft this Holiday Season, and we can’t wait to bring you a bit of Winter Wonder with our January 2017 Gathering!