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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Experiencing the Other Crowd

  One complaint that I see often in the wider pagan/polytheist community is that people of a more reconstructionist bent, such as myself, don't share enough personal experiences. That's actually a fair criticism generally speaking. For my part I have been trying to share more, although I have so far found it easier to share numinous experiences, especially those involving the Gods, through poetry. Today I wanted to share a little bit of my experiences with the Good Neighbors. Although everything to do with themselves is tricky, and often carries specific prohibitions about what can and cannot be shared, there are certain experiences that happened which involved more than just myself or which I know its okay to talk about. these are an array of things and involve, naturally, a variety of different kinds of spirits, but nonetheless I'd like to share some here. Hopefully it'll give people an idea of what these things can be like.

  For those who have read my book Fairy Witchcraft or attended some of my classes about the Other Crowd some of these may be familiar. This is my top 5 list of public or share-able experiences:
  5) I had made a habit of offering milk every friday to the spirits of my home and immediate area. My finances took a downward turn and I couldn't afford to keep up with it so I switched to other things. One friday a couple weeks after I stopped offering the milk I was getting out of my car after going grocery shopping when a gallon of milk was pulled out of my hand. The container hit the grass and burst. From then on I made sure to offer at least a small bit of milk each week
4) Many years ago I had a loose assortment of friends who were all different types of pagans. One full moon we decided to get together and have a ritual and one woman mentioned a spot out in the woods that she had used many times. We all met up in early afternoon and then drove out to the suburban home where her parents lived, before hiking back into the woods about a mile or so. The ritual location was lovely and we had a casual ceremony followed by a long, pleasant conversation that lasted into the early evening. Finally it was full dark, and even with the full moon above us the forest was closing in so we packed up and started back. After walking for about 5 minutes we could clearly see the lights from the houses shining through the trees ahead of us. But after ten more minutes the lights were no closer. We climbed over rocks and around trees, through thorns and fallen branches, yet never seemed able to move forward. One other friend and I began to suspect fairy enchantment, as the rest of the group fought to push forward. Finally, after perhaps another 15 minutes of walking, my friend and I acknowledged that we were being pixy-led; we began to laugh and compliment the fairies on such a fine joke. The energy broke with an almost physical snap and within a few minutes we emerged in a backyard a few houses down from where we’d first gone into the woods.
3) My friend has had a large shrine/altar for the aos sidhe in her store for 15 years. This past equinox we needed to move the shrine, which was an epic undertaking, and took most of a morning. Several days later I noticed a flourite ring was missing from a jewelry display. We both assumed it had been stolen, which was upsetting. Then my friend found it, days later on the new fairy shrine - covered in years of dust as if it had been there for a long time. (note we left it there - if they want an offering enough to take it, they can keep it)
2) As I was helping out in my friend's store one day I looked down and realized my wedding ring was gone. I panicked and my friend and I searched everywhere but there was no trace of it. I made several offerings to the aos sidhe hoping the ring would turn up, because I knew of their tendency to take jewelry, but it didn't. Months went by and I felt pressed to write my Fairy Witchcraft book, which I did (separate story). Shortly after I finished the book and submitted it to my publisher my friend found the ring sitting in front of her altar.
1) about a decade ago I was at a local state park that has a strong Other Crowd presence. While I was there I left a small pendant, a moonstone with an iolite set above it, as an offering. At my house I have a small room dedicated for ritual use; its where all my altars are. About a year ago I walked into my ritual room and sitting on the floor in front of my main altar was the pendant I had left as an offering all those years before.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Work In Progress Blog Tour

 Well I've been nominated by Arie Farnam, author of The Soul and the Seed to participate in the Work in Progress Blog Tour. The idea is to post the first sentence of each of the first three chapters of your work in progress.
  My current work is the sequel to my urban fantasy novel Murder Between the Worlds. This book picks up where the last one left off with my protagonist, Allie, trying to get her life back to normal after her attempt to help the police solve a series of murders in the first book. She's learning that moving on isn't as easy as she wants it to be, especially since things aren't as neatly tied up as the authorities all think they are. There's several mysterious things afoot, from missing girls to arson, and someone is going to a lot of trouble to make Allie's life unpleasant, but the biggest threat might be the one no one sees at all...
  Anyway, here are the first couple sentences/paragraph from the first three chapters of the rough draft. Enjoy!

Prologue
He watched the girl as she got ready to walk to her car, his hands shaking in excitement. She had finished her shift and clocked out five minutes ago but lingered, talking to friends. He wished she’d hurry. He’d waited too long, until the night he needed to do the ritual, and now there wasn't any time for mistakes.

Chapter 1
Allie McCarthy was not having a good day. She was late leaving for work after losing track of the time. When she turned onto Asylum street, the back road she usually drove to avoid Main Street, she was confronted with a wall of construction equipment and a sign declaring the road closed for repaving. By the time she detoured and fought through the weekend tourist traffic – not even a hint of what it would soon be when summer was upon them – it was quarter past and she was late. She parked haphazardly in the lot behind Between the Worlds, her bookstore, and jogged as quickly as her bad ankle would allow to the back door, hurrying to lower the magical wards that protected the building and unlock the door.


Chapter 2

 “Wow, that stuff reeks,” Jason made a face, waving his hand in front of his face.  
Allie stopped walking, the burning bundle of sage leaves held out in front of her. She glanced around her store, the ordered rows of bookshelves now obscured by a haze of smoke. “I like the way it smells.”
Jason wrinkled his nose, then looked up towards the ceiling, “You did remember to turn off the smoke detectors before lighting that thing up, right? Because I’m going to be really embarrassed if the alarm goes off and -”
“And all your firefighting buddies roll up and see you playing witch.” Allie interrupted, rolling her eyes. “Fine Takada, go open the front door and let some fresh air in.”


Here are the rules:


You write a blog post about your work in progress and include the first sentences of the first three chapters (at least as they stand at the moment). You link back to me and you link to several other authors who you nominate. Traditionally, you nominate four.

 I have been trying to decide who to nominate but am being challenged by the fact that the authors I know either don't blog (I'm looking at you James Ferace!) or don't have a current work in progress that's at a point where its ready to discuss (Looking at you now Nimue Brown). So I'm going to nominate Catherine Kane, because I know she's working on the sequel to her wonderfully fun urban fantasy The Land That Lies Between and she blogs, and also Elen Sentier whose amazing book Moon Song is coming out through Cosmic Egg Books and who I'm sure is working on something, and blogs.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

You May Have Fairy Blood If...

So there's a post on a major blogsite about 8 ways to tell if you may have fairy blood. The list is heavily prejudiced towards a modern (post-Victorian) view of fairies and specifically of winged flower fairies as far as I can tell. It also includes an array of characteristics that could apply to many people for many reasons, like feeling the need to lighten the mood in serious situations with humor.
   Now in the traditional lore there are stories of people who have fairy ancestry of various sorts, from the children of selkies and fisherman to those who have a human mother and aos sidhe or alfar father. But I would tend to use a very different measure, myself, when discussing whether someone might have "fairy blood". You'll quickly see a theme for my criteria....but I'll say that I'm not just getting this from folklore, and that I do believe there are more things on Heaven and earth as Shakespeare said, so...
  The following is just my own list, feel free to disregard if it doesn't appeal to you. And I know it won't to many people.

  You May Have fairy Blood If....
  1) An aversion or reaction to iron and iron alloys - its pretty traditional in most stories for the good Neighbors to have issues with iron, which is why its such a powerful protection against them. This same thing can also apply to other traditional fairy protections.
  2) A flamingly inappropriate sense of humor - laughing when other people are crying, or laughing when other people are very angry. In many stories fairies are described crying at happy occassions or laughing at funerals. The jokes they play on people are also often extreme and lean towards the macabre.
  3) An unusual charisma or ability to charm people - if we look at stories that mention people with mixed ancestry they are usually described this way
  4) A reputation for magical skill or healing - same as above
  5) An unusual physical appearance - in stories this can be exceedingly pale, fair, dark, tall, beautiful, Otherworldly or so on.
  6) Intense emotions that may be described as inflexible - again based on looking at how folklore portrays fairies, they are often described as quick to anger, quick to love, and difficult to sway.
  7) A love of both the beautiful and the broken - in folklore the Fey love luxury and fine things. They also have a penchant for the grotesque.

 Of course for the really traditional view there is this list here

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Why Plagiarism and Pirating Books Suck

This is expanded and re-posted from a blog I wrote a couple years ago called "The Ethics of Information"

   Several years ago I wrote this: Twice in the past week I have seen people post online direct quotes they did not write. One was a prayer and the other an excerpt from a book, but in both cases no source was given, nor was it even mentioned in the original post that the person posting the information wasn't the author of it. In the first case when asked if it was okay to share the prayer the person said they had not written it and could not remember the source so, in a move that totally baffled me, the second person replied that they would simply credit the original poster as the source, even though that person admitted they had not written it. A quick Google search turned up the name of the author but even when that was known people continued to credit the poster, I assume because they ignored the discussion under the post. In the second case the person posted a paragraph long excerpt from a book under similar circumstances, but in that case I actually was familiar enough with the book that I immediately recognized it and mentioned the source. The response by the poster was that they liked the subject and just wanted to share. Along those same lines a friend had her entire blog re-posted without attribution by someone who seemed equally baffled as to why that mattered. Sometimes the person may genuinely not realize that it does, and sometimes the person may want other people to think that they did write those words, so they can enjoy the praise and compliments generated from it. And this morning I woke to read a link to a blog talking about yet another site making the rounds that offers free pdfs of many popular pagan books, something that should clearly be against the majority of neopagan morals yet rarely fails to appeal*. (yes I admit it mystifies me that the same person who argues to the death that any magic for personal gain is wrong will turn around and cheerfully download over 100 still-in-print pagan books without seeing any issue with it). 
   Maybe this is a sensitive issue for me because I have experienced it in the past, opening an email to see my own words - my reading list, my spell - under someone else's name and fought back only to get the same reply - who cares? As if I was the one who was wrong, because they say, information should be free for everyone. I have been told that anything spiritual should be free, should be shared, that sources don't matter, or in one case that knowing the true source was the responsibility of the reader not the poster, like some sort of test. Well I will never agree that it doesn't matter or that we shouldn't care. Plagiarism is a big issue in paganism, sometimes by accident and sometimes on purpose, but it will never get any better as long as we as a community put up with it. Now I don't mean things like chants and songs which can be more difficult to track back and spread like ink in water, although it's still worth trying to find sources on those as well, but most other material can be found, and in our online age can be found fairly easily. I would like to hope that it was obvious that any book under copyright - anything under copyright at all actually - should be respected.
   On the other hand there are some things that I do agree belong to everyone. Ritual structure, general meditations, things that truly cannot be traced back to any one person. Mythology. The old beliefs themselves. No one person can claim these things and they do belong to all of us. 
   I think it presents an interesting challenge to the community at large to decide how we are going to deal with the ethics of information. There seems to be a pretty wide spread belief that sources, and citing sources, doesn't matter, and that can only change if we as a community change it. The idea that everything should be free - including books - will only change when the people thinking that way stop and realize how much work and effort goes into that book, or article, or what-have-you and decide that supporting the author (or in the case of deceased authors the family) is better than the quick fix of a free file. What value do we place on something that is free, compared to something that we had to work and save to get? What value do we place on our community itself and it's integrity if nothing matters but instant gratification?

  *I am reposting this today after finding one of my books available on a free download site this morning. It has been downloaded there almost as often as copies have been sold, which represents a significant loss both to my publisher and to me. These sites offer a wide array of in-print in-copyright books all of which represent taking money away from people who put a lot of time and effort into writing, editing, and publishing those books. 
   Taking someone else's words and claiming them as your own is wrong and it hurts the original author. Taking those words and attributing them to "anonymous" also hurts an author. How? Because people who like those words don't know who said them and may never expend the effort to find out. People who might have read more by that person instead add small quote or prayer or article into their own array of material under that anonymous label without another thought. 
  Taking a book in pdf form - or scanning one into that form - and then handing it out like candy hurts authors. It devalues the original work, for one thing, and it takes money away from authors who are already not seeing a huge return for their efforts. It is stealing. Imagine that you have worked hard for months or even years to make something and you put it out to sell it and then find someone else has taken it and is giving it away instead. And lets just be blunt here, free pdfs are not in anyway like library books. For one thing a library has one copy which was paid for and can only go to one person at a time; a free pdf can be copied and handed out exponentially. People who pass out free books are hurting the authors of those books, and anyone who thinks authors make a lot of money and won't notice a few stolen copies of books - or a few thousand pdfs getting passed out - has no actual idea of how being an author really works for the vast majority of us.  
  I want to emphasize that this kind of theft of intellectual property really hurts small authors like myself. It's not a harmless thing or a victimless crime; its choosing to take an action that has a real world impact on a person. This is true whether its a book, artwork or music - people need to think really hard about what they are doing before they do it. If you wouldn't walk up to me, reach into my pocket, and take money out, then why would you ever think its okay to get or hand out a free copy of one of my books?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Poem for Nemain

This is another attempt to convey a vision experience with a poem. Take it as you will.

The smell, metallic in the air,
on my tongue, a taste like iron
She appears before me, fair
skin painted for battle with
blood, it drips from her hair
as if she'd run through a rain
of it, drenched and dripping
she stares through a mask
of blood, her eyes stripping
my defenses down to the bone
her bloody hands gripping
a sharp short sword's hilt
silent and shadowed, staring
she stands there still as death
frenzy in her eyes flaring
like fire, burning in darkness
like razors biting, tearing
into flesh, until a river flows
her body still, her eyes aflame
terror goes where she goes
I shudder to see her, in fear,
in love, and in a flock of crows
she is gone

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Novel Writing

I started writing the sequel to my novel (which is free on amazon right now) a couple weeks ago. As part of my writing process I post little word count update and plot hints on my facebook page as I write and I thought it would be fun to share them here as a follow up to my "Novels, sequels and looking back" post. At this point I think I'm about 1/3 of the way through the draft of the new book, so here's where it's at so far:

4,436 words - only just beginning. There's a very dangerous man, a missing girl, and a distraught mother - but my protagonist does not want to deal with more problems. She has enough of her own, and she just wants some control over her life....

6, 037 words - sage, 4 thieves vinegar, and a hopeful attitude might not be enough to turn my protagonists luck around but she's trying. Misery loves company though and she's not the only one with problems....

8,044 words - rekindling romance is a complicated thing when my protagonist feels like maybe she's bad news for the person who cares about her most. Meanwhile there's a new roommate reminding her that life goes on whether she wants it to or not....

11,602 words - Sometimes you really just need a friend to tell you to stop being an idiot. Sometimes instead what you get is a voice from the grave telling you to get your head out of your butt. We'll see if this is a wake up call for my protagonist...or not.

14,664 words – just under 15,000 words and really only just beginning. Comparing to the last book I’m estimating this one will probably end around 100,000 words total so a bit more meat on the bone for you guys that have been eagerly awaiting the sequel

16,800 words - sometimes we just can't let go of the past. Of course its harder to let go when the past is also holding onto us. One small ray of sunshine in my protagonist's otherwise cloudy day is a friendship that is proving much stronger and deeper than she realized it was.

19,763 words - my love triangle is still triangular despite my protagonist's attempts to round it out. Maybe because her heart isn't as clearly decided as her mind is, which is bound to cause trouble for everyone later. Meanwhile there's some very suspicious activity afoot...but no one is connecting the dots yet.

21,732 words - beware making bargains with elves; my protagonist is about to learn that they are a lot better at it than she is. The devil, as they say, is in the details...

23, 574 words - time is running out for our missing girl.
We'll have to wait and see if she meets a bad end or not, but the bad end may be the greater mercy in this case....

25, 779 words - more than one conspiracy is a foot, and they may be on a crash course with each other…

32,669 words - someone is keeping a close eye on my protagonist but they definitely don't mean her well. She's under a lot of pressure and may be relying on the wrong person, but how do you know who to trust when nothing is quite what it seems to be?


37,092 words - the other shoe has dropped and its a big one, but my protagonist has no one to blame but herself for thinking that dealing with elves was a good idea. Meanwhile the game's afoot and my protagonist is finally on the trail of the missing girl, which means she's also only a couple steps behind a very dangerous person....

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Donn and the House of the Dead

 "The wind concentrated upon the ship where Donn the king was, and Donn was drowned at the Sandhills; whence Tech Duinn derives its name." - Lebor Gabala Erenn, volume 5

  There is some debate about whether the Irish have a God of the dead, but if they do its generally agreed that it would be Donn, a king of the Milesians who died at sea when the sons of Mil were trying to take Ireland. The place where he died, off the southwest coast of Ireland, was called Tech Duinn - Donn's house. Tech Duinn became equated in folklore with the Otherworldly land of the dead and Donn with a primal ancestor and underworld God (Jones, 2004). In the Death Tale of Conaire Donn is explicitly called the King of the Dead and a 9th century text has Donn claiming that all who die will go to him and his house (OhOgain, 2006).
   According to Green Donn's name means 'Dark One', however looking up the Old Irish we see a variety of meanings for the word donn including brown, noble, poet, stolen property, pregnant, and ale (Green, 1997; eDIL, n.d.). The dictionary also defines Donn as "Probably the god of the dead or the ancestral father to whom all are called at their death; Amalgamated with the Christian Devil" (eDIL, n.d.). Both Green and Jones compare Donn to the Roman Dis Pater, who Caesar said the Gauls believed they descended from; as Donn was seen to be an ancestor of the Gaels and also a deity of the land of the dead this comparison seems valid. Green goes further in saying that Donn is likely also Da Derga, who appears according to her as a death God in the story of Da Derga's Hostel (Gren, 1997). Berresford Ellis suggests that Donn might also relate to Dagda and Bile (Berresford Ellis, 1987). O'hOgain agrees with the Dagda association, seeing the name Donn as originally an epithet most likely of an Dagda's; he relates the name to the concept of darkness and the realm of the dead (O'hOgain, 2006).
    There are a variety of explanations for why Donn died. I have heard some Irish pagans say that it is because he insulted Eriu, one of the main sovereignty goddesses of Ireland, when the Milesinas were negotiating with her. Others say Eriu only predicted his doom but did not cause it (Berresford Ellis, 1987). The actual text from one redaction says: "Then Donn son of Mil said: I shall put, said he, under the edge of javelin and sword all that are in the island now, only let land be reached. The wind concentrated upon the ship where Donn the king was, and Donn was drowned at the Sandhills; whence Tech Duinn derives its name" (Macalister, 1956) I tend to read this myself and believe that it was his threat to kill all living things in Ireland that led to the sea and air turning against him and causing his death before his ship could land.
   Folklore tells us that Tech Duinn is a place where the dead go, but not necessarily their final destination. Some believe that the house of Donn is where the dead go before moving on to the Otherworld (Berresford Ellis, 1987). In the 8th to 10th centuries Tech Duinn was seen as an assembly place of the dead, and a place that the dead both went to and left from (OhOgain, 2006). Besides Tech Duinn (present day Bull Rock, County Cork) Donn is also connected to Cnoc Firinne in county Limerick and Dumhcha in county Clare.
    The Donn of Cnoc Firinne had strong aspects of a lord of the aos sidhe, being called Donn Firinne and said to kidnap people into his hill who had been thought to have died (OhOgain, 2006). Like many other Irish deities belief in Donn seems to have survived conversion to Christianity by shifting him from God to Good Neighbor, albeit a very powerful one. In county Clare Donn was Donn na Duimhche, Donn of the Dune, and was believed to ride out as a fairy horseman with his army (OhOgain, 2006).
   Donn may or may not always have been seen as a deity but he certainly seems to have been understood as one from at least the 8th century onward, until his shift into an Otherworldly horseman. throughout his shifting mythology though he has always been related to death and the dead, both as the Lord of the 'house' where the dead go and also as a primordial ancestor of the people. He also has a strong association to the sea, the drowned, and to horses.



References
Macalister, R. (1956) Lebor Gabala Erenn, volume 5
Jones, M., (2004) Tech Duinn. Retrieved from http://www.maryjones.us/jce/techduinn.html
Green, M., (1997) Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend
eDIL (n.d.) Donn
Berresford Ellis, P., (1987). A Dictionary of Irish Mythology
O'hOgain, D., (2006). The Lore of Ireland.