QQ Excerpt: Lucky LaFey: Character Sketch

Lucky LaFey is a new main character who appears in the third volume of The Guild of Ornamental Hermits series, The Queerest Quest of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. This third book takes place in Lake County, CA.


Lucky LaFey is a drifter. He wears his mileage lightly though he’s travelled the roughest of roads. However his vocabulary is excellent and his manners are often soft and deferential enough to mark him as having come from “a good home.” He can say “ma’am” and “sir” without a trace of hipster irony. He’s insatiably curious. You’re as likely to find him in a small town library as you are in a big city pool hall.

Tall enough, slender but muscled, green eyes, an age that’s hard to pin down… Lucky’s been known to dye his long red hair jet black. He’s the handsome devil who breezes through town, dances in clubs, picks up odd jobs and odder people. He may break a heart or two when he leaves (but he’s never broken a family).

“What did you see in him?” (Besides that voice, those eyes, the hair, those oddly scarred lips?)

“I don’t know exactly, but I felt like he ‘got me’, ya know? He really got me!”

And she/he/they/ze will remember him for the rest of their lives.

Lucky’s a natural actor. He’s toured with regional theater companies, garnering rave reviews of his almost “chameleon-like” ability to really become the character. And yet, acting was never his passion–just another way to meet people and pass the time. He’s picked up sleight of hand tricks with coins and cards and has a rapid-fire “patter” that’s both hilarious and beguiling. But that’s just a way to win a beer or whiskey on a bet.

Because he’s handsome and his hands are clean, some have mistaken him for a hustler or a gigolo, and tried to play him that way. Yet money never changes hands when it comes to Lucky and sex. Oh, but that’s not to say there’s not a transaction involved! It might be “that ring you’re wearing,” or “my friends and I could use another round” or even, for those “lucky few,” “tattoo my name on your ass so next time I see you, I’ll know you really love me.”

And then he’s off in the night, laughing. (Someone told me once there’s a secret Reddit group for people who’ve gotten those tattoos.)

His own tattoos are faded: a snake biting its own tail on his left bicep, a wolf on his right,  and over his heart, a small skull with half the face of a girl. If you could lift Lucky’s hair from the back of his neck, you’d find a tiny broken heart, but few people have ever been allowed that liberty. Lucky might let you get close, but not that close.

Sometimes you might find Lucky among the “Burners” or hopping trains with young nomads like “Sock Monkey” and “Crash.” He’s learned that people are friendlier when he sits on curbs with a kitten (he loves his animals and always finds them good homes). To hear him tell it, Lucky’s been “a ski bum, a surfer, a demolition derby racer, and a line cook at some top New York restaurants.” He claims to have been married (twice) but never talks about his wives or kids. He plays the guitar and sometimes you might find him sitting in with other musicians in some scruffy bar, or strumming it pensively, alone under a tree in a park.

Don’t offer him a cigarette when you sit down to listen. He gave it up years ago, after that trip to Tibet.

To hear him tell it, Lucky’s been everywhere and done everything. He’ll talk of having one memorable night with Janis or that time in Paris when he posed in drag for Brassai. And then he’ll look you in the eye and laugh, daring you to challenge him (“You couldn’t have! You’re not that old!”). The funny thing is, you almost believe him! He makes you want to believe…

So perhaps it was inevitable that the lanky sweet-talking drifter known as Lucky LaFey would find his way to our new Hermitville Magic and Arts Collective. I found him one morning, comfortably asleep in the hammock that hangs on our wide front porch, with only a backpack and a paperback book for company. I stared at him. He was improbable. His bright red hair caught sunbeam light and threw it back like prism sparkles. And then he yawned, opened his emerald green eyes and grinned at me. It was a look from someone much bigger than a human soul. My heart pounded and all I could think was, “Here comes trouble…”

Lucky LaFey, aka Norse Loki, as rendered in HeroForge.com.

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You Need a Scorecard to Keep Track…

Here is a list of some of the relationship configurations involving the characters in The Guild of Ornamental Hermits fantasy series. Check out our characters showing their pride on the LGBTQIA Gallery page. Kink and nonmonogamy are represented as well. (I’m not even including most of the Elves in this list.) There are a couple of spoilers here:
 
1) There are twelve human characters who are residents of Hermitville. Each one has an Elf mentor (most of these mentor relationships are nonsexual).
 
2) Spoiler: Babe Bump (pansexual, intersex woman) and Oyster Olson (asexual, pan-romantic trans man) become fond of each other. Tomma Bedlam (pansexual, trans, non-binary person) makes three.
 
3) Tomma is also involved with a butch lesbian (former) lover and there may be a surprise Elf/Human triad in zir future.
 
4) Divorced couple Massive Max and Sybil are kinky and still sometimes get together when their lover Maxine can make it a trio.
 
5) Joe Hillstrom and Sidley Croom are an on-again, off-again gay couple with a long, complicated past.
 
6) Hermitville’s founder, Ginger Croom, may have had a Fey lover in her youth.
 
7) Spoiler: Aarrf, a gender non-binary human puppy, finds an Elven master.
 
8) Glysandra, a tantrika, is Ginger Croom’s tantra partner, even though they claim to be “not lovers.”
 
9) Are Nar and Nen lovers, or just good colleagues?
 
10) Sidley Croom also hooks up with at least one “bad guy” and has had hopes for several other liaisons.
 
11) A few characters have human/fey parentage (backstories in the second book!).
 
12) Parsifal and Maud (Elves) are a dyad but also part of a larger group marriage.
 
13) A giant salamander that really loves buildings.
 
14) The Elves are all pansexual. Also, there are twenty-nine possible Elven genders.
 
And yet, with all this, I haven’t written one single explicit sex scene, nor do I intend to do so! It’s kind of more fun this way.

“Dire Deeds” Story Set in The Restored Hawaiian Kingdom

The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits takes place in Hawai’i in a “not too distant” future. As I work my way through the second draft, it became obvious to me that I wanted that future to consist of a recently restored Hawaiian Kingdom, one that (within the context of my fantasy novel) is still in a state of initial transition, yet is firmly established as a international, political, plausible reality.

In other words, in the future described in my book, the United States and its military is in the process of removing itself as per agreements and treaties made with those who represent the new Kingdom government and its multi-ethnic subjects: Kanaka Maoli (“native Hawaiians”) and descendents of Hawaiian Nationals who were subjects of the Kingdom at the time of the theft and occupation of Queen Liliu’okalani’s government and kingdom (1893). (The Queen is pictured below.) Kingdom restoration is now a “done deal” (in the book) and everyone living in Hawai’i has to deal with it, one way or another, including the Hermits of Hermitville on Hawai’i Island.

800px-Liliuokalani_sitting_on_chair_draped_with_feather_cloak

Before I get into what this means for my work of fiction, please check out the reality. For historical background, political considerations, legal context, international status, and current affairs regarding the actual Hawaiian Kingdom, you can go to Hawaiian Kingdom Blog, particularly this entry: U.S. Commits “Acts of War” against the Hawaiian Kingdom (Jan. 17, 2018). My novel may be a fantasy, but there are good reasons for considering restoration of the Hawaiian Kingdom as possible, plausible, and righteous, though it is not yet in a politically negotiated process with the U.S. (even if it should be).

Back to the book. Like everyone else who is not an actual descendent of a Kingdom citizen circa 1893, the Hermits of Hermitville have been living in Hawai’i as settler/colonists in a belligerently occupied nation (until the restoration of the Kingdom, of course). This status is at first unknown to them, as they’ve drunk the standard American “Hawai’i statehood” Kool-Aid. This is a status that Hermitville’s founder, winery heiress Ginger Croom, doesn’t understand either until she’s about ten years into her settlement on two, twenty-acre agricultural lots in the Puna District of Hawai’i Island. While she still doesn’t quite understand the land title issues, she does come to understand that a great wrong was done and she’d like to do something to give back to the community. Her way of making amends–or reparations–is to give over one of the twenty-acre lots to the Kamapua’a ‘Ohana and four other Kanaka Maoli families who have direct ties to that land. Ginger also establishes a building fund for them (in keeping with American philanthropic tradition). She keeps the remaining lot for the Hermitville Farm and Arts Collective. Like most people who purchase real estate in Hawai’i, she believes in her fee simple ownership. As a wealthy person, she also still thinks of what she’s done as a “gift.”

But Ginger and the rest of the Hermits never reckoned on the actual restoration of the Hawaiian Kingdom in their lifetimes, and now the question is whether to ask to become naturalized citizens of the Kingdom–and if granted this and if permitted to stay, to renounce U.S. citizenship–or to return to the continental U.S. The Hermits, being a fairly progressive bunch, are strongly considering asking to stay, but they too don’t understand that even if they are granted citizenship, that the twenty-acre land base of Hermitville may be returned to its original stewards/owners, the Kanaka Maoli families.

I asked a couple of my Kingdom activist friends for some guidance as to what might happen in a restored Kingdom government, regarding a will created by someone who is not a descendant of a Kingdom subject (on or before 1893) but who has made provisions for transferring ownership of Hawaiian land to an heir. One friend [a former lawyer–waiting for permission to use his name] talked about the initial seizure of much of Hawaiian land by (1) the U.S.-backed, so-called “provisional government” (an act of war) and (2) the later U.S. “territorial” government (there was no treaty of annexation, by the way), and (3) the “state” of Hawai’i. He said:

“There were raids on estates, the government, etc. I would EXPECT that these deceitful and fraudulent land transactions will be examined and evaluated AND, when good reason is found, that these deeds and/or other methods of conveyances will be reversed AND the lands returned to their rightful title owners, or if none can be found, to the valid konohiki of those lands OR, if not valid, to the government.”

Note: Wikipedia defines konohiki as “a headman of a land division or ahupua’a of the Kingdom of Hawaii who administered the land ruled by an ali’i chief.” This definition is in accordance with that found in the Hawaiian Dictionary by Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert (p. 166).

Lynette Cruz, Ph.D., Kupuna at Hawai’i Pacific University, commented, “Might have an issue with title transfers after 1893.” [Update: thank you, Lynette, for correcting my terminology – “subject” is the correct term, not “citizen.”]

In present day Hawai’i, complex discussions of the validity of land title after 1893, based on the Hague World Court of Arbitration’s affirmation of the continuing existence of the Hawaiian Kingdom (but not the government) as per Larsen Vs. the Hawaiian Kingdom, have featured in some cases of foreclosures and defective title.

Unknown to the Hermits, however, forces even more complex and mysterious than Hawai’i land title matters will soon force them into an even more complicated relationship to the question, “Should I stay or should I go?”

The Kingdom Flag

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Why a Tale of “Mid-Life Magic?”

'Fairy_Islands'_from_the_book_Elves_and_Fairies_1916_by_Ida_Rentoul_OuthwaiteI grew up reading fairy tales and fantasy fiction. I always wanted to see myself as one of the characters in whatever I was reading and/or have that character’s abilities. Childhood examples include: Captain Nemo in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (for having the coolest submarine and for being disgusted with humanity); Doctor Doolittle (for being able to talk with animals); and pretty much any fairy princess you can name (for magic adventures and caskets of diamonds, rubies, and emeralds) – except the Disney variety, thank god. I’m too old for that to have had much, if any, impact on my childhood! I loved and devoured books by Edgar Eager, E. Nesbit, Madeline L’Engle, C.S. Lewis–and of course J.R.R. Tolkien (in my teens). By the time I was eighteen, I had most of the Andrew Lang collections of fairy tales, each volume a different color. And the only relic of my late father that I possess is a book of Japanese fairy tales he sent to me after the divorce, when I was about four years old.

My children of course went through the Harry Potter series, C.S. Lewis Narnia books, and Tolkien. My ex and I read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings to each kid, more than once. (Tolkien really wrote for the breath and voice. It’s astonishing when you read those books aloud.) And there were other writers and other books. For my oldest, a number of brave girl warrior type adventures, and Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks and Finder. For my youngest, the Redwall series (Brian Jacques) and Bartimaeus series (Jonathan Stroud).

So my life has been steeped in such tales, and now, as I am older (much older), I want the magic adventures to continue, with characters that are my age or thereabouts. One of the few stories that has come close is A.S. Byatt’s The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye.

Plus, I have had my own true-life collisions with “mid-life magic” and this has been an unexpected and fascinating development. Sexology (I’m a sexologist) pales somewhat by comparison.

So, The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits is a story about (mostly counter-culture) people over the age of 40, and some who are much older. The Elves, for example, last a lot longer than humans and don’t age at the same rate. And I, as the writer, am able to wave my magic word wand around and grant attributes and situations, as well as varied genders, sexual preferences, and magic “superpowers” to the characters who have come to populate the Hermitville and The (Elven) Realm of my imagination.

And in that way, the magical adventures continue!

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“Hermitville in Hawai’i” – A Subtext of Spiritual Settler/Colonialism in Occupied Lands

Hawai’i nei (beloved Hawai’i) has struggled with many, many forms of invasion over the last few hundred years – people, invasive species, political, military, economic, spiritual, and so on. The results have not been happy or sustainable for either the islands themselves or for the original people, the Kanaka Maoli. This blog is not going to cover these issues here – there are too many, they are complicated, there are better sources – particularly from Kanaka scholars and activists (I’ll list some links at the end) – and my intention is not to try to represent. Instead, the blog entry is personal.

I’ve got an eighteen-year history of public and private support for the cause of Hawaiian Kingdom independence, as well as other issues in Hawai’i (support for preserving the sacredness of Mauna Kea and opposition to the TMT, anti-GMO, anti-military occupation, and so on). And I had an intimate, long-term relationship with a notable activist which ended last year, shortly after I moved from California to Hawai’i with the intention of at last making a life together. (This stuff happens. Sad, but it does.) I do have some other friends in the movement there – but things between us feel awkward right now. I left Hawai’i and moved back to California. (A change in location which didn’t change my status as a settler-colonist, but at least I am closer to my kids, mom, and most of my friends.) [Note: I co-created the above two websites.]

While I was living in Pahoa, in the Puna district of Hawai’i Island (Jan. 2016-Sept. 2017), dealing with my own post-divorce crazies, extreme homesickness for my kids and friends, and the “oh no! everything’s all wrong!” realizations about my new living situation, I was also the quintessential outside observer, a role that I am used to performing. What I observed were the social and conceptual “bubbles” created by transplants like me and their tenuous connection to the reality of Hawai’i and its people. There was plenty of lip-service paid to being on the island: products in the health food stores, for example, were usually branded with some kind of “tropical” or “island” names and imagery. But I don’t recall seeing very many, if any, locals and/or Hawaiians at the local ecstatic dance. (However, the Wednesday night market at Uncle Robert’s was another matter.)

So what I’m saying is, there were counter-culture hippie bubbles, retired “mainlander” bubbles, military bubbles, tantra bubbles, spirituality bubbles and other kinds of (mostly white) American bubbles. Many of the people in these communities seemed determined to only nod in passing at the deeper realities (if they recognized them at all!), and to skim over anything harsh or else complain in private. Yes, there was racism at the bottom of a lot of it, and cultural erasure, and entitlement, and more. I remember an incident at the water aerobics class I was taking (and really needed!). The teacher was telling us to step “like an Irish jig” and two Hawaiian women asked what that was, in all innocence: “We’re Hawaiian. We don’t know what that is.” The instructor ridiculed them as if everyone should obviously know what an Irish jig was. Right there, in Hawai’i, the home of the sacred dance of hula! I didn’t go back again.

(Of course there are also many ethnic communities that interwine and overlap in Hawai’i, besides what I mention above – Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Micronesian, Tongan, Samoan, etc. – but this blog is focusing on the “mainland”-type bubbles.)

I didn’t want to dive into some comfort-making bubble of invading ex-pats, but though I kept my distance from them and developed a bad case of social anxiety (exacerbated by the logistical/social difficulties of almost thirty years of multiple-chemical sensitivity), I was no better than the rest of my fellow transplants. In fact, I felt worse. With what I knew and espoused, what right did I have to come there? When it was evident that I wouldn’t be continuing my commitment to the native man who was my partner, any possible excuse for my being there evaporated. I had also been ineffective as an activist in Hawai’i (as meetings were generally NOT fragrance-free and my request for clean indoor air seemed to be interpreted as an unreasonable request for privilege). And so my dream of helping to advance these various causes as a someday naturalized citizen of the restored kingdom also came to an end, along with my love affair. (Yes, for many, many years, I was certain I would have applied for naturalization, if it had been possible. I even have a Hawaiian Kingdom driver’s license!)

So, while struggling with “adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood” (my official diagnosis) as well as some health issues and general heartbreak, I started writing The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits during the 2016 National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The book was a way for me to include my observations about “bubbles” as well as my growing interest in paganism and the practice of non-denominational magic. I continued to write all year and added another 50,000 words during a 2017 NaNoWriMo “sprint.” (And I’m about finished with the first draft.)

Okay, that’s a lot of personal context there. But I offer it so that you’ll understand why this book has a serious premise at the heart of its fantasy. That premise is… some “imports” to Hawai’i should never have happened, and that includes spirituality imports. It is ironic that I deepened my exploration of the magical traditions of my DNA ancestors while living in Hawai’i, but it seemed the only pono (just or upright) thing to do. The message that came to me was that I needed to be deeply connected to my own ancestors and traditions in order to properly conduct myself as a guest of the ‘aina (land) and the local spiritual powers, even as I began to say my goodbyes.

In the first book, Ginger Croom, a winery heiress from California, has bought forty acres in Puna, and established the Hermitville Farm and Arts Collective. She later gives twenty acres to five Hawaiian families who have ties to that land (as a sort of apology, I suppose) and then hand-picks and recruits non-Hawaiian people from the West Coast and invites them to come live at the farm. She has her reasons for who she selects and why, but none of “the hermits” are aware of them at the beginning of the book. As the book progresses, it becomes clear that what she hoped to create should NOT have been established in Hawai’i without permission, or in close proximity to an active volcano. I can’t say more than that without creating spoilers – but you might be forgiven for thinking that the book contains metaphors for early missionary activity in Hawai’i. The unspoken assumptions of settler-colonialism and occupation are also referenced and/or challenged in various ways throughout the book. Anna Phylaxia and her real estate schemes for Hermitville represent just one kind of “evil force” active in Hawai’i, perhaps one of the most obvious.

What do the Hermits and Elves (yes, there are Elves) have to do to contend with all of this? Well, you’ll have to read the first two books to find out.

These books are fantasy. They are a tale of mid-life magic, among other things. It’s about a merry band of quite diverse misfits who are getting old in the wrong place, who are forced to learn magic, and who become responsible for clearing up the mess of their own misguided occupation. The book is mixed with humor, whimsy, satire, and serious ideas. Not everyone will like it. But as I write and tell this story, I am also doing what I can to meet my obligations to bring attention and awareness to certain communities and issues that are touched upon in the book. Blog posts such as this one are part of that responsibility. Hawai’i saved my life (another story) and so I owe it.

Here are links to websites pertaining to the Hawaiian Kingdom and other issues in Hawai’i. Please visit them.

First, enjoy this video of this strong and beautiful protest song, Kaulana Na Pua. Lyrics and song history.

Hawaiian Kingdom Blog

Many excellent documentaries by Na Maka o ka ‘Aina.

Noho Hewa – The Wrongful Occupation of Hawai’i. The fierce documentary by Anne Keala Kelly. Here is a review of the film, re-published in her blog.

Dr. Haunani Kay Trask, video 1982.

Dr. Haunani Kay Trask, video 1985.

McKinley Lies, with Dr. Lynette Hi’ilani Cruz, video 2011.

Journey to Justice, Part 1. With Dr. Lynette Hi’ilani Cruz and Eiko Kosasa. Part 2. 2012.

Liko Martin and Laulani Teale, “All Hawai’i Stand Together.” Another beautiful song.

Hawane Rios, Mele ma ka Mauna, “Warrior Rising.”

Pohakuloa – Now That You Know, Do You Care?

Stop Bombing Hawai’i. [I co-created this website with Linda-Faye Kroll.]

More links to come. This is only a small sample of informational links available.

Resistance

Intersex Characters in Hermitville

Babe Bump, the book’s primary narrator, and Frank Talk, one of Hermitville’s fine musicans, live in bodies that have intersex variations. However, Babe and Frank each deal with a different set of circumstances, as the intersex variation of each character is different.

Babe was born with partial androgen insensitivity. Fortunately for Babe, her parents resisted medical and social pressure to force genital surgery on her. She self-identified as female at an early age and so did not want androgen therapy at puberty. If you want a simple label, you can think of her as a woman with XY chromosomes. Babe is generally “out” as an intersex person as she is an activist for intersex and trans rights (as well as a well-known neo-burlesque performer).

Frank keeps his condition relatively private, but confided in Babe during the first few months of their residency at Hermitville. Frank has 47 XXY chromosomes, which is known as Klinefelter Syndrome. Most of the other Hermits don’t know, mostly because Frank doesn’t think it is any of their business. He is a performer and he focuses primarily on his music.

Though I am not intersex myself, I included intersex characters in this book, as well as other gender variant and sexually diverse characters, for several reasons – including my background as a sexologist and commitment to sexual and gender rights, and just a general sense of fairness. In the interest of greater visibility, more such characters need to be included in a majority of written and filmed materials. However, characters with such variations do not necessarily need writers to be hyper-focused on the variations, either. This is just be a part of who they are, not the totality of their identities or the totality of how we view or understand them.

So, even though this is fantasy fiction (I’m not an Elf either, but I’m writing about them), I am hoping to do my part to help heighten visibility and awareness for a number of different types of people who are marginalized, including many people in the LGBTQIA etc. categories. The struggles that Intersex people face are almost beyond imagining (including forced surgical mutilation) and yet are very little known to the general public.

I encourage readers to check out these links:

United Nations Intersex Factsheet

Organization Intersex International USA and the Intersex Campaign for Equality

Mx. Annunaki Ray is an intersex activist with many incredible links and blog posts. Check out the page on links for intersex allies, including this printable PDF from OII.

Below is the symbol for Intersex Awareness Day (Oct. 26) and Intersex Day of Solidarity.

flag

Finally, if a movie is ever made from this book, I would want intersex actors to play the intersex characters, trans actors to play trans characters, and so on – so all these folks could get more work!

An infographic created May 29, 2022.

Western Magic Influences

Image via InKarnate.com

[Updated and revised yet again, April 5, 2020.]

Since 2016, I have been researching magical knowledge, neopagan traditions, and other esoteric resources for The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits and the sequel, The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. (A third book is also planned.)

A_grotto_containing_a_magic_circle,_books_and_mythical_creat_Wellcome_V0025853
Creative Commons/Wellcome Images. A grotto containing a magic circle, books and mythical creatures. Etching by J. Vezzani after G. Rocchetti.

Here are some of the sources and teachers who have been and are important and inspirational since I began writing these fantasy novels. I absorb ideas from these and other sources, however I combine what I learn in a fictional way to create my own version of an Elven magic tradition practiced by the secretive Guild of Ornamental Hermits. This tradition is eventually passed on to the ragtag residents of the Hermitville Farm and Arts Collective, much to their surprise.

Again, I emphasize: nothing that I am writing in my fantasy novels should be considered an accurate portrayal or reflection of the teachings and sources below.

Even so, I want to take grateful note of the teachers and books which have helped me create a fictional magical system and who have led me to a personal passion for magic and witchery and the development of my own esoteric practices.

The first important source was Ariel Gatoga’s recordings of his course, A Witch’s Primer, which provides basic instruction in “non-denominational witchcraft.” Ariel is an engaging teacher and I always find his approach refreshing. His was a cheery voice during a very depressing period in my life (late 2016-2017). I’ve enjoyed his Druidic Craft of the Wise podcasts as well, especially A Charmed Life. In addition to his website, Ariel can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. He has a wealth of offerings–videos, lectures, classes, and a forum–so please check him out and follow him on social media.

The second important source was Dr. Daniel Foor’s Ancestral Medicine website, lectures, book, and classes. His work conveys a practical, accessible path for working with ancestors. Foor’s work is grounded in animism (among other things) and I am so glad to have found these teachings. Now in a world turned upside down due to the coronavirus pandemic, I plan on taking Foor’s newest offering, Bring Out Your Dead–Ancestral Healing for Poxy Times.

Gatoga and Foor were two of my most meaningful discoveries during the first year of writing and learning.

Podcasts such as Missing Witches (hosted by Risa Dickens and Amy Torok),  Bespoken Bones (hosted by Pavini Moray), Witchwave (Pam Grossman), and Down at the Crossroads (hosted by Chris Orapello and Tara Love Maguire) continue to provide thoughtful conversations with practitioners and authors. Orapello and Maguire recently published their own book, Besom, Stang, and Sword: A Guide to Traditional Witchcraft, the Six-Fold Path & The Hidden Landscape.

Also influential:

Aidan Wachter’s Six Ways: Approaches and Entries for Practical Magic, particularly with regard to working with non-visible beings.

Sex, Sorcery and Spirit: The Secrets of Erotic Magic and The Elements of Spellcrafting: 21 Keys to Successful Sorcery, both by Jason Miller. Very practical!

Sigil Witchery: A Witch’s Guide to Crafting Magick Symbols by Laura Tempest Zakroff. (Frankly, I need to spend more time with this book.)

• Outside the Charmed Circle: Exploring Gender & Sexuality in Magical Practice, by Misha Magdalene, published in 2020, is an extraordinary help in thinking through these topics and relating them to magical practice.

• For tarot divination, I rely heavily on The Ultimate Guide to the Rider-Waite Tarot by Johannes Fiebirg and Evelin Burger.

I have a lot more magic books in my library of course (ditto for tantra and hypnosis, which are also influential) but the above are the ones I seem to go to the most.

For historical perspective, I have enjoyed Magic in the Middle Ages, taught online by instructors at the University of Barcelona, via Coursera. This class provided some wonderful background on one period in the history of European magic, as well as the criminalization of witchcraft and spellwork.

In 2017, I discovered “inclusive heathenry” and “Northern Tradition Paganism” via The Troth and Hrafnar, and various Lokean websites and groups. I currently have a devotional practice that includes a few deities in the Norse pantheon: the trickster god Loki Laufeyjarson (my “most trusted one”); the Vanir deity, Freyr, and his Jotun wife, Gerda; and Freyr’s sister, Freya. (In daily practice, I also honor the Celtic Brigit and the Egyptian cat goddess, Bastet.)

Cosmic Muses

Though not at all a part of the “Western Esoteric Tradition,” I have to say that the Hawaiian “volcano goddess,” Pele, was a major inspiration while writing The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. In fact, I read an early draft of the book to her, aloud, as an act of devotion and gratitude for the time I spent in Hawai’i. Much as I am awed by this powerful being, I can’t help feeling somewhat relieved that I moved from Hawai’i seven months before the 2018 lava eruption in the Puna district, which took place not far from where I used to live.

Once I started working on the second book, The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, Loki Laufeyjarson emerged as the book’s patron and muse, as well as a major character. In fact, his search for his missing son drives the book. I have also read much of the first draft aloud, as an offering to Loki.

Finally

Like most writers, I could probably write a novel-length list of influences but I’ll stop here. The Guild of Ornamental Hermits novels are “a work of art, on the whole, but showing the influence of too many schools” (as Oscar Wilde wrote of his character, Mrs. Cheveley). But in this case, I hope this isn’t a bad thing!

August_Natterer_Hexenkopf_Vorder_und_Rückseite
August Natterer: Witch’s head, c. 1915, Prinzhorn Collection – public domain.

 

Edith Sitwell and Tom o’ Bedlam

Here are two of the most pervasive and enduring influences on me, as I make my way through the writing of this work of fantasy fiction.

First, Edith Sitwell’s English Eccentrics, which has a chapter on Ornamental Hermits. Some of England’s “landed gentry” really did hire ornamental hermits to flit about in the shrubbery for their amusement. I believe this should be a 21st century career choice, with better wages and job security, even a union, of course! The San Francisco Chronicle once rejected my (somewhat satirical, somewhat serious) advocacy of a unionized Hermits Guild as a career option for people in need of work (I would have applied!), but the editor did compliment me on providing the most obscure literary reference to come across their desks! I still think a Hermit’s Guild could have made neat use of cast-off costumes from ACT and Beach Blanket Babylon!

In fact, in 2016, the village of Adleburgh advertised for a professional “village idiot,” which I am convinced is very much in the spirit of Ornamental Hermiting.

ornamental-hermit

Secondly,  Tom o’ Bedlam, a poem written (most likely) in the 17th century, author unknown. And this musical version by the Rude Mechanicals. The late Michael Rossman, of Free Speech Movement fame, is the vocalist. Nay, more than a mere vocalist! He became Tom when he sang. Should this book ever be made into a movie, I’ll lobby hard for this version of the song to be part of the soundtrack. My character, Tomma Bedlam, named zirself after this poem. The “madness” of another character also loosely follows Tom’s trajectory.

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/339842

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