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Friday, December 21, 2018

2018 in Review

Its hard to believe we're already wrapping up 2018. Inspired by Benebell Wen's 'My 2018 Year in Review' post linked on social media I thought I'd do my own version here.
So, my 2018.

I travelled a lot this year!
In April I went to Ireland, visiting Ardagh, Sligo, and the Beara Peninsula. Part of that was for a Land Sea Sky Travel tour and it was a great experience.
June I was back for another year at the Morrigan's Call Retreat and in July I went down to Atlanta for the Mystic South Conference
Mystic South was a great conference. I had fun with my presentations and I was able to hang out with old friends and new.
Then in September I went to Iceland, travelling from Reykjavik up to Akureyri with the fabulous Land Sea Sky Travel on the Hiddenfolk, Witches, and Elves tour. I think this may have been the most accurately named tour ever.
Shoutout to my travel buddy Mel who lets me drag her to all sorts of random places. Level 7 friendship unlocked.

I wrote a lot this year as well. I had my usual blogging for Patheos Agora, but I also started blogging on Witches & Pagans, kept up with my personal blogging here (albeit scaled back a  bit later in the year) and wrote for my Patreon. I had two articles in an issue of Air n-Aithesc this year and one in Watkins Mind Body Spirit.
I contributed pieces to several anthologies including a chapter for a book (forthcoming in 2019) on Modern witchcraft, articles about the Morrigan and Brighid for an ebook on Celtic Goddesses, and had several pieces published in a really awesome Dagda anthology 'Harp, Club andCauldron: a curated anthology of scholarship, lore, practice and creativewritings on the Dagda' 

I wrote several books: Desire and Ashes (the 7th book in my fiction series), Pagan Portals Manannan, Pagan Portals Fairy Queens, and I'm just wrapping up a New Fairies Dictionary.

I had several books I wrote published this year, including the aforementioned novel Desire and Ashes, as well as Pagan Portals Odin, Travelling the Fairy Path, and Pagan Portals the Dagda.

And inspired by my friend Lora O'Brien I started making youtube videos and ended up with my own youtube channel.

I am of course leaving out all the boring parts and just focusing on the highlights here, but suffice to say there was also a lot of driving kids to school and doctor's appointments, celebrating things, assorted shenanigans, and general life going on. And of course that whole Pleiades thing.

Looking forward to seeing what 2019 has in store.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Witchcraft, Acceptability Politics, and Defiance

I've often said that I think witchcraft, specifically American neopagan witchcraft, is a victim of its own public relations. This is something we can see more and more clearly as different divides appear within the wider community, often over core issues of inclusion or exclusion. Why do these things happen in witchcraft which is at its core something that should be amorphous enough to hold a place for everyone?
Because, I think, we have forgotten where witchcraft came from, where its power is rooted.

There's been a push for decades, since the 1950's at least in my opinion, towards mainstreaming witchcraft and painting a picture of it as gentle and kind. Reimagining witchcraft as the domain of the white middle class, literally recasting the witch as a young and white and female - and of course beautiful. Harmless. And intending no harm either.
This idea has been pushed so hard and for so long that many of us have started to believe it ourselves, and there's a whole generation of witches now who see witchcraft as an aesthetic of young, beautiful, spooky (but harmless!) people. Looking like Wednesday Addams but with candles and a cat.

Maybe there's nothing wrong with that, and I have no issue with people whose witchcraft is gentle or based on lighting candles and thinking good thoughts. Witchcraft is expansive, it can fit these new people in.
But we have lost and intentionally subsumed the other (and the Other for that matter) along the way. We have accepted a certain degree of trendy outsider but only so far, only what is still acceptable to the wider mainstream. We hate being embarrassed by those people*, the ones who make us all look bad by going too far, by being too queer, too ethnic, too macabre, too spirit-ridden, too dramatic, too big, too different, too outside the norm. Too much. Satan? Definitely off limits. Making pacts with spirits? So early modern witchcraft-ish. Necromancy? Too Hollywood. Oh mainstream witches may talk about all of these things repackaged into more palatable forms but the real gritty bloody practices no. And then there's the people who we politely segregate, the ones we suggest make their own spaces and get out of ours, the people of color, the transpeople, the gender non-conforming, people from specific cultures. Actual inclusion is too messy. Too intersectional and difficult and requires making space and letting people speak for themselves instead of speaking for them.

We talk a lot about spirits and Gods but we don't seem to actual live that talk. There's no teeth to the belief.

We have forgotten the power of feasting with the Devil and dancing with the Queen of Elphame.
We have forgotten the need to heal with magic when there is no money to heal with doctors.
We have forgotten the rage of the unheard victim who knows they will find no justice in any court and turns instead to a moonless night and thorns and clay.
Well...some of us have forgotten.
Because it's easy when we live in relative comfort and safety, when danger is an idea rather than a reality, to forget the visceral needs that drove and still drive people to feast and dance and heal and hex. It's easy to forget when we are part of the comfortable majority, in any sense, what it's like for those of us who are not, who live on the fringes. Who don't choose witchcraft for for gentle reasons but for survival and defiance. The disabled, the queer, the marginalized, the unwanted. And the people for whom witchcraft isn't a choice but an inheritance, a culture, a way of life. People for whom witchcraft is about power.
We need to remember all of these things.

Its time and past time to stop worrying so much about what the mainstream thinks. They will never stop trying to make us like them and they will never accept us based on our attempts to be just like them unless we sell our souls to their God. It's time to start living in our own power, to get our hands dirty and bloody again, to go out under that dark moon and feast and dance - or at the very least to accept that some of our witchcraft kin do so and that they are witches as much as anyone else is. To embrace defiance.
Acceptability politics won't save us. Witchcraft that is inclusive and wild just might.

*my usual disclaimer that no I do not mean actual predators or dangerous people here. They deserve to be shunned and should be

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Kionan's First Solstice - A Between the World's Short Story

In canon short story from my Between the Worlds series. Taking place after the events in book #7 Desire and Ashes this is a a solstice story in the spirit of the stories in the Fairy Gifts anthology.
It was written initially for a few friends and shared with a social media fan group but now I'd like to share it here for anyone who follows my blog and enjoys my fiction. It runs around 3700 words.

Kionan's First Solstice

Winter Solstice

Allie jerked awake to the realization that she was alone in bed and the sun was up. These two things were both unusual – normally Kionan woke her up before dawn and although Jess sometimes did get up early Bleidd slept in if he had any choice. Realizing she was by herself and it was nearly seven a.m. was concerning and she propped herself up on one elbow, shoving the mess of her unbrushed hair out of her face. There was nothing but silence and she was certain that neither Kionan nor either of her spouses was in the attached nursery which only increased her concern.
Trying not to panic she sat up, pulling at the oversized tshirt she slept in which had twisted around her body as she slept. With a careful effort to control her emotions she reached out to Jess and Bleidd, “Guys? Where are you? Where’s the baby? Is everything okay?”
She felt Bleidd’s amusement washing over her, even as Jess answered, his voice chagrined, “Sorry my heart we didn’t mean to worry you. You were sleeping so soundly when Kionan got up we thought it would be a kindness to let you keep sleeping. So we got up with him and brought him downstairs.”
Another panicked thought chased away the concern over why they weren’t in the bedroom, “Oh! You didn’t open any of his gifts with him did you?”
Now Bleidd was laughing, the feeling tickling through her mind, “Of course not Allie. We’re in the kitchen feeding him porridge and watching Luath through the window. He’s getting a kick out of watching her play in the snow.
Indeed,” Jess agreed, sounding less amused. “I’m afraid he’s wearing more food than he’s eating.
Ah, okay,” Allie thought back, blushing and glad they couldn’t see it. She should have known they wouldn’t get up with him on his first winter solstice and start opening gifts without her. “Let me hit the bathroom and then I’ll be right down.”
Allie struggled the rest of the way out of bed, stretching, then stumbled to the bathroom. Her bad ankle was stiff although not overly so, but she still took a few seconds to roll her foot around trying to loosen up the muscles. It was always hard to get started in the morning, even after almost two years living with the injury. Returning to the bed she sat and rubbed her left foot and leg for a minute, knowing it wouldn’t help but reassured by the action anyway. When felt like it was as good as it was going to get she reluctantly slipped on her titanium ankle brace, the silk padding cool enough to make her shiver. After several months wearing the brace she fastened it quickly without paying much attention to the action or the slight easing of the perpetual ache as the unstable joint was supported.
Before heading downstairs she also took some time to brush her hair out, although she didn’t bother to pull it up or get dressed beyond the shirt she slept in. All of her roommates were gone, spending the holiday this year with their respective families or significant others, so it was only her little family in the house. Leaving her blackthorn walking stick leaning against the wall she hurried to join her family.
She limped down to the kitchen following the alluring smell of coffee and the sound of her 7 month old son laughing hysterically. The coffee smell was promising but she knew from experience that the laughter meant a big mess. Kionan’s favorite pass time at the moment was making messes, and he enjoyed them most when they involved food. This was a hobby that Allie’s fairy hound appreciated, but no one else in the house liked, especially as he had an uncanny ability to get food in people’s hair. She almost felt bad for her spouses. Almost.
Entering the kitchen she found Bleidd and Jess both doing their best to get a spoonful of porridge into Kionan’s mouth – Bleidd holding the spoon, Jess acting as a distraction - as the baby laughed and tried to grab the spoon. Both adults were wearing a good amount of the food, and the table, floor, and wall were liberally splattered as well. Allie smothered her own laughter at the looks of intense focus on the men’s faces and turned to get herself some coffee. “I don’t suppose you’ve gotten any of that into him have you?”
“You’d be surprised,” Bleidd said, dodging a chubby fist and managing to get half a spoonful between Kionan’s gums. The baby swallowed dutifully, making happy noises, then before Bleidd could be too proud of his success grabbed the spoon and sent the rest of its contents flying across the table.
Allie took a big gulp of coffee to avoid laughing out loud. Jess sighed heavily. Taking pity on them, and grateful that they’d let her sleep, she said, “Okay well, you know what, I think he’s done, and you two are, umm, well why don’t you guys go grab a quick shower and I’ll get the kitchen cleaned up okay?”
Jess hesitated but Bleidd didn’t, setting the spoon down and grabbing Jess’s hand. “We’ll be quick.” He paused, giving Jess an appraising look as he pulled the other elf to his feet. “Well, we won’t be too long anyway. Then we can open presents. I know you’ve been very excited about Kionan’s first holiday.”
“And our wedding anniversary,” Allie reminded him smiling and hoping their shower shenanigans weren’t too distracting to her while she was watching the baby. She moved over to the table, grudgingly impressed with the sheer level of mess such a small baby could create.
“Ah, yes,” Jess said, leaning in to give Allie a kiss without getting any of Kionan’s breakfast on her. “Happy anniversary my love.”
“Hard to believe its been a year already,” Bleidd said, tugging on Jess’s hand. “We’ll be back. Try not to have too much fun without us.”
“Shouldn’t I be saying that to you?” Allie quipped as they disappeared down the hall into the bathroom. Smiling she grabbed a kitchen towel and started getting Kionan cleaned up. By some solstice miracle he had managed not to get any food on his own clothes or in his high chair, so once his face and hands were cleaned she left him sitting there and quickly got the rest of the room straightened up. As she worked Luath came in, panting slightly from her run outside. The dark hound yipped when she saw Allie and then joined her at the table licking up any porridge she could reach. This delighted Kionan who bounced in his chair and shrieked. Allie gave them both an affectionate glance as she cleaned porridge off the wall. “You two are conspiring together aren’t you?”
Luath yipped again, her tail wagging slowly, then she yawned and stretched watching Allie for a cue. Allie scooped the baby out of the high chair, mess adequately cleaned up, and balanced his weight carefully on one hip. “Okay guys let’s go into the living room and get a fire started and turn on the tree lights. We can’t open any presents yet but we can look at them.”
Luath’s tail wagged harder for a moment then she trotted ahead to the living room, Allie and Kionan trailing behind. Allie moved a bit faster down the hall than she usually would have, trying to ignore the emotional energy coming from the bathroom, glad that Jess and Bleidd were enjoying themselves but not wanting to get sucked into their activities. Her control was much better than it had been but it wasn’t perfect.
In the living room Luath trotted over to lay down in front of one of the couches and Allie set Kionan down in his playpen, wincing at the pain that shot through her ankle, then moved over to turn on the lights on the tree. That done she headed over to the fireplace to get a fire going. In her grandmother’s time the fireplace had been more decorative than anything else but since Jess had moved in it saw regular use, even in the summer. Allie suspected that it was habit for him because he was so used to using fireplaces in Fairy or even in the Outpost, although her house – their house she reminded herself – had a furnace and oil heat. But the truth was she enjoyed the fires and the cozy feeling it gave the living room which had always seemed like such a formal place. As she worked to get the fire to catch she glanced over and saw that Kionan had managed to get himself into a sitting position, a skill he had only just mastered, and she grinned at the baby.
Starting the fire proved harder than she’d expected and after a dozen failed attempts she sat back glaring at the still un-burning kindling. She shook her head then glanced around, feeling like she was doing something inappropriate even though she knew she wasn’t. It was the subconscious knowledge that her grandmother and her cousin wouldn’t approve, but at that point even if their ghosts were watching she didn’t have the patience to keep wasting time. With a last furtive look around she traced an elven rune in the air over the wood piled in the fireplace and muttered ‘tihne’.
With a soft whoomp the wood caught fire, crackling cheerfully a few seconds later. Allie sagged as the energy needed for the spell rushed out of her, but it was worth it. Closing the bronze chainmail-like fire screen that hung down over the fireplace she crawled over to the playpen and sat next to Kionan, “Not too bad a job by your old mom, huh Kion?”
“I wasn’t aware you knew that spell,” Bleidd said from the doorway.
Allie jumped slightly, turning to see both Jess and Bleidd standing regarding her. Their hair was dry, probably courtesy of Belidd’s magic since he never hesitated to use it even on small things, and they were wearing the loose pants and shirts they slept in. Jess was looking thoughtfully at the fire; Bleidd’s eyes were locked with Allie’s, his expression amused.
She blushed. “I read about it in a book. It’s pretty useful, though.”
“Indeed,” Bleidd agreed crossing over to join them. “I use it regularly, as I lack the patience to try the more mundane method.”
She snorted slightly, not doubting him for a minute. “So, are we ready to open presents?”
Jess had remained standing, and at her words he shook himself slightly, as if he’d been lost in thought, then smiled widely. “Certainly. How should we start?”
“Let’s get Kionan out and he can open his first,” Allie suggested. Before she could stand Bleidd had risen to his feet and lifted Kionan out, placing him in Allie’s lap with a smoothness of motion she could only envy. Jess picked one of Kionan’s gifts from under the tree and they got started with the traditional gift opening, although it was more the adults opening and Kionan watching than anything else. Still Allie enjoyed it, both the feeling of family celebration that came with the tradition as well as watching her son touch, smack, and drool on his new toys.
By the time they were finished with Kionan’s gifts he was doing the slow blink that Allie knew by now meant a nap was coming on. She stood carefully, picked him up just as carefully,  and laid him back down in the playpen, tucking his new fleece blanket around him. He yawned and stuffed the corner of the blanket into his mouth, sucking happily on the fabric as he dozed off.
She sat back down, shaking her head slightly, “We really are lucky that he’s such a good baby, you know.”
Jess and Bleidd both gave her puzzled looks, so she elaborated, “Most babies aren’t nearly this easy about things like naps.”
They exchanged a baffled look between them then shrugged, making Allie giggle slightly. Kionan was the sum total of their experience with babies after all so they had nothing to compare him to. Not that Allie had any more experience than they did, but she had gotten more than enough stories from customers and friends, as well as reading every baby book her store carried, to feel like she had some sense of babies more generally. Before she could start to expound on the subject though Jess had moved to the tree and returned with another gift, which he handed to her. She took the box and immediately knew that it was a book, which intrigued her. She had no idea what book Jess would have gotten for her.
“Happy solstice, and happy anniversary,” he said, sitting down on the floor with them. “I wasn’t sure what sort of gift would be appropriate for an anniversary so I hope this suits both occasions.”
“It’s okay Jess I know that its confusing,” Allie said beginning to carefully peel back the shiny wrapping paper.
Bleidd snorted, “Yes humans do love any excuse to give gifts.”
Allie paused in her unwrapping, “I don’t hear you complaining when you’re the one getting the gifts.”
His eyes twinkled in the reflected tree light. “Its one thing from you or someone else – Jason perhaps – that I have some meaningful connection to. But the reciprocal obligations of this obsessive gift giving are mind boggling.”
She giggled, not sure how serious he was being, and finished opening the present. The book was heavy and leather bound and the title was written in Elvish. “Oh! ‘The Study of Magic in the Borderlands’, this is Jaerillys’s treatise on magic since the Sundering! Wow. Thank you so much, Jess, I love it.”
She caught the look of raw envy that Bleidd was giving the book in her hands, a new, and by elven standards rare, work by a well-known mage from Jess’s clan, “Don’t worry Bleidd you can borrow it to read as soon as I’m done with it.”
He smirked at her, raising an eyebrow to acknowledge that she’d caught him in a moment of open jealousy. Before he could come up with a clever diverting joke, Jess had turned to him and handed him a gift as well. “For you Gadreene.”
 Bleidd opened the present with a careless ripping of paper, his expression flippant – until he saw what Jess had given him. Incredulous he looked at his spouse. “Jess?
“Do you like it?” Jess asked shyly, as Allie craned her head to see what Bleidd was holding. In his palm was a pendant on a silver chain. The pendant itself looked like it had been carved from bone in the shape of an owl with a single pale opal-like stone set in the middle.
“What is it?” Allie asked, curious.
“It’s a protection amulet,” Bleidd said, his expression oddly vulnerable. “High level magic, and hard to come by because they are neither cheap nor easy to make.”
Allie and Bleidd both looked at Jess, who was positively beaming. “It was luck and synchronicity that I came across it, truly, and I had the chance to purchase it from a human, if you’ll believe it, who didn’t even know what they were selling. But I knew when I saw it that it would be ideal for you – you can keep it charged and it will protect you from physical harm to a degree.”
Allie looked at Jess in open mouthed awe, impressed that he’d managed to find something so perfect, something that would be useful to Bleidd and also set her own mind more at ease over Bleidd being back in the Guard. “For someone who doesn’t know much about gift giving holidays, you are really, really good at this.”
He laughed, pleased at the compliment, and the sound seemed to free Bleidd from whatever paralysis that had held him. He slid the pendant over his head, sliding it into his shirt, then leaned over and pulled Jess into a tight embrace. When he finally pulled back Allie would almost swear he was blinking back tears, but she and Jess both carefully avoided drawing any attention to the emotions, as they knew that Bleidd didn’t like open vulnerability. Allie found herself wondering if anyone before Jess and herself had ever expressed real concern for his safety.
Untangling himself Bleidd stood and went to the tree, returning with two small gifts. He handed one to Allie and one to Jess before sitting back down. Jess opened his first, revealing an ornately hilted dagger. Bleidd smiled as Jess unsheathed the blade, and Allie could feel the magic in the small weapon. “I enchanted it myself,” Bleidd said proudly. “It won’t ever lose its edge and any wound caused by it will be difficult to heal and prone to bleed freely.”
Allie looked at her husband in real surprise, caught off guard by the viciousness, but Jess was obviously thrilled. He resheathed the weapon carefully then reached out to pull Bleidd in for a quick hug. “An excellent gift love, I’ll treasure it. I can wear it with my uniform and it will surely be useful.”
They turned to Allie who shook away the reminder that elves were extreme in all things and carefully opened her own gift. Inside a small white box she found a silver necklace, a triple spiral pendant with stones at the end of each line and in the center. After a moment she decided the stones were moonstone, and as with his gift to Jess she could feel the slight tingle of magic in it. “In an enchanting mood this holiday were we?”
He grinned broadly, reaching out and taking the necklace which he clasped around her throat. It hung just above her collarbone. “The four stones reminded me of us, you, me, Jess, and Kionan. And yes I did enchant it. Why not when I can? As long as you are wearing it you won’t feel cold.”
“I won’t- wow. That’s pretty cool,” Allie admitted. “That’s a major enchantment.”
“Yes, it took me all year to set,” he admitted.
“Wow,” she said again, impressed that he’d gone to the effort. She knew that as these things went in Fairy it wasn’t considered that important, but to her it meant a lot. And it was certainly not something she’d ever have been able to afford to get herself. “This is great, Bleidd.”
He smiled and hugged her, and she could feel how genuinely happy he was. She pulled back then struggled to her feet, glancing at Kionan who was still soundly asleep. “Well compared to both of you my gifts probably won’t seem that impressive, but it took me forever to pick them out so that should count for something.”
She limped over to the tree as behind her Jess said, “Whatever you have gotten us I am sure we will be pleased my heart.”
She looked where she’d left the gifts but they weren’t there. Confused she searched the area under and around the tree. Finally Bleidd asked, “Is something wrong?”
“Well, ah, I can’t find them,” Allie admitted. “I left them both right here…but they aren’t where I put them”
Frowning Bleidd and then Jess joined her, all of them looking around for any more gifts. “It’s not like they got up and walked away,” Allie said, frustrated. “They must still be here.”
“What did the paper look like,” Jess asked.
“Ummm, red with holly leaves on it.”
“Like this?” Bleidd said straightening up next to the couch holding some shredded paper.
“Yes! Wait – oh no….Luath you didn’t.”
“Didn’t what?”
“Didn’t eat the presents,” Allie said, her heart sinking.
Next to the couch the fairy hound looked from Bleidd holding the shredded paper to Allie and whimpered, tucking her head under her paws.
“Oh no,” Allie said again, sinking to the floor. “Of all the gifts why did you have to eat mine?”
“Allie!” Bleidd snorted, indignant but also amused.
“Well,” she said, as Jess sat down next to her and wrapped his arms around her shoulders.
Bleidd joined them, “Will these gifts be reappearing in a few hours?”
“Ew, no,” Allie said, making a face. “Thankfully we won’t have to be trying to recover them. they were paper so they are really gone-gone.”
“Can the gifts be replaced?”
“Yes but it won’t be the same giving it to you later.”
“It’s alright, its will still be the same gift.”
“Why don’t you tell us what you got us?” Jess said, trying to comfort her as she glared at Luath who whimpered again, sensing Allie’s displeasure.
“It just…I guess I might as well. I mean it’ll take time to replace things…Bleidd I got you tickets to see that band you like, Mortal Coil, when they come to Grisburg. I thought we could make a date of it the three of us, if Jess wanted to go too, or if you don’t want to go Jess, since you don’t really like heavy metal, Bleidd you could invite whoever else you wanted. And Jess I got you season tickets to the theater here in town. I know you’d mentioned wanting to get more human culture and I thought going to see plays would be a fun way for you to do that.”
“Those are very thoughtful gifts Allie,” Bleidd said gently.
“Well currently they’re being digested,” she griped. “But I can get everything replaced. Thanks for understanding.”
“I think the theater sounds very interesting,” Jess said, hugging her closer.
Allie shook her head, then started giggling quietly, “You know only we could end up having gifts eaten by a hound on our first family solstice.”
“I’m not sure about that, but when you think about it, it is rather funny,” Bleidd said, smiling. “And I for one am just as glad it wasn’t mine or Jess’s that she ate.”
“Very good point. And I guess we may as well laugh about it,” Allie agreed still giggling as she leaned against Jess. “Happy solstice guys. And Luath you stay away from my new book.”
The hound wagged her tail slowly as Allie kissed first Bleidd then Jess. I guess this was a pretty good holiday she thought to herself surrounded by their love and hopefully the first of many more.

Copyright Morgan Daimler 2018