Here are the Elves (on the right) and their human students (at left). Artanaro Nar and Who’s There work with two Hermits each. Hamfast started working with Frank first, but when Frank leaves in the second book, Hamfast ends up working with the newest Hermit, Sophie Lokisdottir. The rest of the Elves teach magic to only one person apiece.
In The Guild of Ornamental Hermits fantasy novels, these Elves have also worked with one or more of the ancestors of each of their human students, dating from the 17th century onward. These ancestors were members of the Twelve Families who helped the Elves to found the ancient mystery school, The Guild of Ornamental Hermits. Sophie Lokisdottir is the exception. Hamfast has not worked with her ancestors.
Yes, these four dyads are the most swoony, as far as I’m concerned. However The Guild of Ornamental Hermits, consisting of human “Hermits” and Elves from The Realm, with a little help from Lucky LaFey (aka Norse god Loki) and assorted members of his extended family, contain many other passionate pairings and groupings. And not all dyads are exclusive.
The overlapping relationships: Babe and Oyster are deeply in love, but Oyster is asexual (though panromantic). So Babe sometimes spends “quality time” with Who’s There and Septimus. Tomma is also important to both Babe and Oyster, and they’ve even proposed to zir, as a unit! Tomma loves them back, but also has a new love, Parsifal. Parsifal is married to Maud and they have a child, Breadcrumb. So Tomma’s relationship with Parsifal also includes a relationship with Maud. (Elves are usually pansexual.)
But wait, there’s more!
Few divorces have been as amicable as that of Maximus Gordon and Sybil Perry. For many years they were together as the progressive folk duo, Gordon & Perry. They moved to Hermitville about twenty years ago and Maximus, a man of many skills and abilities, designed and built quite a lot of the eco-pods and other buildings. Sybil helped run a music program in the public elementary schools in Puna, and the two of them settled into life in Hawai’i Island. However, after a time, they decided to end life as a married couple and continue as friends. When Maxine arrived in Hermitville sometime later, Maximus was smitten and the two of them fell in love. However, neither of them would commit to monogamy, and when Maximus confessed his past explorations in kink with his ex-wife Sybil, Maxine became intrigued. Maxine and Sybil also became good friends and eventually lovers. Thus a fond kinky triad rooted and grew in Hermitville. There’s no doubt that they all have each other’s backs as well as each other’s kinks.
Sidley Croom and Joe Hillstrom have a complicated, on again-off again, relationship. They were together for many years in San Francisco, but when they broke up Joe moved to Hermitville at Ginger’s request. When Sidley moved there too, they got together again, sometimes as friends with “benefits” and sometimes trying for something that felt more permanent. But it’s been hard for both Joe and Sidley to strike a balance between their outside interests and their own intimacy. In the books, Sidley has flirted with the creepy Stanford Lawsome (Anna Phylaxia’s personal assistant) while also entertaining some fantasies about Anna. Sidley was also intrigued by both Septimus and Maud when the two Elves–posing as European circus and cabaret performers–set out to deliberately distract Sidley away from the Hermitville property, for an afternoon of dining, drinking, and hiking (never a good mix in Puna!).
As for Septimus and Maud, well, they have history too…
I've run the HeroForge.com portraits through a profile picture program. Really interesting results! Here are several ways of creating Tomma Bedlam's portrait. Tomma is non-binary, so to see zir feminized more in some renderings than others is really interesting.
What’s it like to live in a quirky, funky, queer-abundant, intentional community in the middle of a lush, tangled jungle? Well, for the “Hermits” of Hermitville, life is usually pretty good–play music, garden, take care of the goats and chickens, play music, make jam, sell at the Maku’u Farmers Market, garden some more, cultivate a complicated personal life, make art, put on shows for the local community, replenish the jam supply, and so on. That is, until the founder suddenly dies, noxious real estate developers want to take over, Elves appear, and the mysterious Book of Moons knows all but won’t tell all.
The books are set in a “not too distant future,” when the United States has ended its occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom, and the lawful government is reconstituting itself in earnest. All “transplants” must now decide whether to naturalize as Kingdom subjects or return to their points of origin. The Hermits were facing this choice anyway, but with all that’s going on now, can Hermitville really survive? And–more importantly– should it?
The original inhabitants of the islands of Hawai’i were and still are the Kanaka Maoli (also known as Kanaka ‘Ōiwi)–aboriginal people who are styled “Native Hawaiians” by the occupying U.S. “state” and federal governments. This term is also in common use, though not everyone understands its political and social implications (and I am not sure I understand these matters with adequate depth, either!). It is also important to know that the Kanaka Maoli had created a constitutional monarchy. The Hawaiian Kingdom had subjects who were Kanaka Maoli as well as legally naturalized subjects from the U.S., Europe, Asia, other Pacific countries, and so on. The Hawaiian Kingdom had fifty or so international treaties (including with the U.S.) by the time disgruntled descendents of foreign subjects, and a U.S. Navy ship, forcibly removed Queen Liliu’okalani from her throne and capacity to govern (1893).
Geography, Geology, and then some
The district is very geologically active and some of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is partially located in and/or adjacent to Puna. Most (if not all) areas of Puna are designated Lava Zone 1, 2, or 3. (These designations can make it difficult to buy or afford homeowner’s insurance.) This is a place where people may live for years, only to find that a lava flow, tsunami, hurricane, or earthquake can destroy their homes and community in far less time than it takes to drive to Hilo (the nearest city). Puna was hit particularly hard when the 2018 lava flow took out hundreds of homes and acres of land, as well as the Hawaiian language charter school, the Wai’opae tidepools, and the Ahalanui Warm Ponds.
Hawai’i Island is quite rural. Like most the other islands, it now lacks affordable homes for residents (for rent or purchase) due to all the vacation homes and other cost of living impacts. This means that Kanaka Maoli and many local people have fewer options or may even have to move away from Hawai’i to survive. There’s more to this than I can say here, but know that houselessness among Kanaka Maoli (and others) is a huge problem.
The district has many small towns, settlements, resorts, farms, and subdivisions. Kea’au and Pahoa are the largest towns.
The Hawaiian Homelands areas of Maku’u and Kaohe-Olaa are also in Puna. Explaining the Homelands is outside the scope of this blog, but suffice to say, the people eligible for these lands and homes are subject to a “blood quantum” – they must be 50% or more Kanaka Maoli. So not all people who are Kanaka Maoli can qualify for these small areas and limited resources. And of those families who can, some wait for years or even generations! Or never get in at all. This adds to the housing crisis.
The Puna district itself, and all of Hawai’i Island and the other islands, originally consisted of many land and resource management districts created by the Kanaka Maoli, called ahupua’a. This website says:
“The ancient ahupuaa, the basic self-sustaining unit, extended elements of Hawaiian spirituality into the natural landscape. Amidst a belief system that emphasized the interrelationship of elements and beings, the ahupuaa contained those interrelationships in the activities of daily and seasonal life. “
Compare the small areas of Hawaiian Homelands to the immense amount of land in Hawai’i Island and think about this for a few minutes. Then think about how this land was once managed and nurtured, in contrast to how it is used and abused now.
The Puna district is a place of numerous social “bubbles”: Kanaka Maoli families; “locals” (not always Kanaka, usually “local” means someone who has grown up and gone to high school in Hawai’i); retirees from the continental U.S.; vacation homeowners from the U.S., Japan, and elsewhere; people with small businesses or farms; people who work in tourism (such as those who run resorts like Kalani); visitors (including eco-tourists and yoga tourists); and people who “have always wanted to live in Hawai’i” (I was once in that category). Some of the latter include people of large means, some means, or no means at all (“coastal hippies,” new agers, visiting “woofers”–weekend organic farm volunteers, cult members, and so on). Puna is also said to have a large gay and queer community, though it is not very visible.
Sometime these bubbles, and the people in them, complement each other, sometimes they ignore each other (as best they can), and sometimes they clash. The transplants who come may either choose to ignore the history, political status, and context of this place and people, or they may try to learn about it, show respect, and align with Hawaiian values (here’s a list from one of the several Hawaiian Civic Clubs). Those who respect and align can often make reliable ally/accomplices for many of the important causes that affect Hawai’i: protection of Mauna Kea and other sacred lands, restoration of water rights to small farmers and communities, Kingdom restoration and sovereignty, depleted uranium and other hazardous military waste, invasive species, sustainable food, houselessness, and other ecological, cultural, and justice concerns.
Coastal hippies, yoginis, woofers, new agers, “deadbeats” and “druggies,” purveyors of tie-dyed clothing and incense, people who hog the outdoor tables on Taco Tuesdays at the health food store (“you can’t sit with us!”), and all those who live in intentional communities like my fictitious Hermitville, are they ALL Punatics? What is a “Punatic” anyway? Well, in 2008, the Urban Dictionary posted a definition offered by “Dev1n”:
“A deadbeat person living in Puna (An area in Hawaii) Often living on welfare and stoned into oblivion. Most punatics are unemployed caucasian jungle dwellers with open relationships.”
A more lyrical and appreciative explanation is offered on the blog Crow’s Word (June 28, 2017).
I’m using the word quite inclusively, like a Venn Diagram of overlapping micro-bubble circles, meaning everyone who is not Kanaka Maoli or local (e.g. a transplant from elsewhere), who could fall into any of those categories above. And there are more: people who make kombucha, people who attend Kalani Resort’s Ecstatic Dance (as I have done, more than once), people who come to surf and stay for the pakalolo (cannabis), people who live under tarps in the jungle, people who are actually in a cult out there in the jungle, people who think “kapu” signs (“sacred, stay out”) don’t apply to them because they are soooo spiritual, and… oh good golly, I’m getting snarky now!
I’ll stop here and end by saying that at least some of those people, even with the best intentions, may become annoying or worse when rubbing up against Kanaka Maoli people or culture. Want to include Pele in your tantra workshop? Have you asked permission from her or her descendents? No? Then don’t. You know…that kind of thing. I’m not a cultural gatekeeper (how could I be?), but witnessing such things used to make my skin crawl. More so, perhaps, because I am sure there have been times where I’ve been similarly clueless.
Two of my minor characters, Toledo Jackson and Sri Niri Nimrod, represent opposite poles of Punatic-ism. Toledo is a former tweaker who has cleaned up his act and now raises and barters goats. He’s a harmless, mostly kindly, sometimes annoying, rather addled figure on the local scene. People greet him with friendliness, however, and he might even be loved in some circles. On the other hand, Sri Niri Nimrod is my stereotype of a cultish (notice that red and orange clothing?), toxic, self-righteous, spiritually entitled bad egg that can be found anywhere, but is so much more disturbing (to me at least) when he/she/or they show up in Hawai’i. His confrontational style makes him a figure to avoid, and you really, really, really don’t want him bowing to you with a “namaste” ’cause you just know he means the opposite!
So are my Hermits of Hermitville “Punatics” or not? That’s a good question. They may very well fall into some of those micro-bubble categories. However they do try to be respectful and not annoying, and mostly act responsibly as allies/accomplices, and they are cognizant of enough aspects of Hawai’i’s history and culture to understand themselves (uncomfortably) as “settler-colonists” (thanks to the generous emotional labor of their neighbor, Uncle Iolana). But my Hermits do fly their freak flags as well as their Pride flags. They cannot help being products of their backgrounds and U.S. culture/counter-culture. Though they may wish to shed these kinds of entitlements in the lush jungle where they currently live, it may be impossible.
And when the Elves come to stay, well then… We shall see what we shall see.
In The Guild of Ornamental Hermits, the Elsewherian known only as The Lawyer™ is a secret devotee of “the Cosmic Soccer Mom,” the dreaded (yet sometimes strangely merciful) multi-dimensional goddess, Mal-i-Bu Bar-Bee. The Lawyer™ is startled to find representations of his beloved goddess in toy store windows on Earth, and understands that these supposed children’s toys contain awesome cosmic power, just waiting to be unleashed in all backwaters of the cosmos (such as Earth).
While one can be somewhat sympathetic to the fervent devotions of The Lawyer™, it is easier to condemn zir role in attempting to turn Hermitville into a posh eco resort at the behest of the archvillain, Anna Phylaxia, CEO of Anna’s Wicked Wares (purveyor of a line of fine BDSM-themed housewares, table linens, china, shower curtains and cutlery.)
The character of Mal-i-Bu Bar-Bee is an “Easter Egg” homage to an early (1990s) internet prank, a satirical letter in response to a supposed submission of an “ancient hominid specimen” to the Smithsonian Institute. I’ve always loved this letter, which I have discovered again, reprinted from T.H. Gray’s blog: https://peabodyslament.wordpress.com/…/smithsonian-barbie/
[Beginning of letter]
Paleoanthropology Division Smithsonian Institute 207 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington, DC 20078
Dear Sir: Thank you for your latest submission to the Institute, labeled “211-D, layer seven, next to the clothesline post. Hominid skull.” We have given this specimen a careful and detailed examination, and regret to inform you that we disagree with your theory that it represents “conclusive proof of the presence of Early Man in Charleston County two million years ago.” Rather, it appears that what you have found is the head of a Barbie doll, of the variety one of our staff, who has small children, believes to be the “Malibu Barbie”. It is evident that you have given a great deal of thought to the analysis of this specimen, and you may be quite certain that those of us who are familiar with your prior work in the field were loathe to come to contradiction with your findings. However, we do feel that there are a number of physical attributes of the specimen which might have tipped you off to its modern origin:
The material is molded plastic. Ancient hominid remains are typically fossilized bone.
The cranial capacity of the specimen is approximately 9 cubic centimeters, well below the threshold of even the earliest identified proto-hominids.
The dentition pattern evident on the “skull” is more consistent with the common domesticated dog than it is with the “ravenous man-eating Pliocene clams” you speculate roamed the wetlands during that time. This latter finding is certainly one of the most intriguing hypotheses you have submitted in your history with this institution, but the evidence seems to weigh rather heavily against it. Without going into too much detail, let us say that: A. The specimen looks like the head of a Barbie doll that a dog has chewed on. B. Clams don’t have teeth.
It is with feelings tinged with melancholy that we must deny your request to have the specimen carbon dated. This is partially due to the heavy load our lab must bear in its normal operation, and partly due to carbon dating’s notorious inaccuracy in fossils of recent geologic record. To the best of our knowledge, no Barbie dolls were produced prior to 1956 AD, and carbon dating is likely to produce wildly inaccurate results.
Sadly, we must also deny your request that we approach the National Science Foundation’s Phylogeny Department with the concept of assigning your specimen the scientific name “Australopithecus spiff-arino.” Speaking personally, I, for one, fought tenaciously for the acceptance of your proposed taxonomy, but was ultimately voted down because the species name you selected was hyphenated, and didn’t really sound like it might be Latin.
However, we gladly accept your generous donation of this fascinating specimen to the museum. While it is undoubtedly not a Hominid fossil, it is, nonetheless, yet another riveting example of the great body of work you seem to accumulate here so effortlessly. You should know that our Director has reserved a special shelf in his own office for the display of the specimens you have previously submitted to the Institution, and the entire staff speculates daily on what you will happen upon next in your digs at the site you have discovered in your back yard. We eagerly anticipate your trip to our nation’s capital that you proposed in your last letter, and several of us are pressing the Director to pay for it. We are particularly interested in hearing you expand on your theories surrounding the “trans-positating fillifitation of ferrous ions in a structural matrix” that makes the excellent juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex femur you recently discovered take on the deceptive appearance of a rusty 9-mm Sears Craftsman automotive crescent wrench.
Hermitville has its own community band, The Incredible Unstrung Band. The band usually consists of eight multi-instrumentalists, though sometimes additional musicians or dancers perform with them. The band’s playlist is eclectic, consisting of both original songs and covers from a variety of musical genres: blues, neo-vaudeville, classic rock, 1960’s pop, punk, psychedelia, world music, and more. The songs covered may be less well-known, such as Circus Contraption’s Wicked Fascinations and Susheela Raman’s Love Trap (both played during the Teatro Occulto performance at Hermitville, Pahoa), or they may be slightly silly, such as The Monkee’s Look Out, Here Comes Tomorrow (re-interpreted as an early polyamory angst song), with Tomma Bedlam as a new lead singer for the band during their first Eugene, Oregon gig.
Today I am sharing two illustrations I commissioned from my youngest son, Paul F.S. Bauer, for The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. There is a scene in the book where the Elves teach divination using the Elder Futhark runes, and I wanted the results illustrated. Paul added the additional design elements based on his own inspiration and I think they are perfectly appropriate for an imagined Elven adaptation.
I hope these beautiful illustrations will be published soon, along with the rest of the book! (For those who might ask, he has not illustrated all twenty-four of the Elder Futhark runes, only these six.)
This one below features a reversed Berkana, which is how it showed up in the rune casting for the chapter. These days, I don’t read reversals.
A word about the Elder Futhark Runes
Below is a chart of the Elder Futhark Runes. Though these runes are popular with contemporary Heathen and Northern Tradition pagans for divination and healing work, some of these Norse runes have also been adopted by white supremacists. In other words, it’s important to double-check sources of objects, books, artwork, memes, and jewelry that depict runes. The ADL Hate Symbols database is a good source of information. Elhaz/Algiz and Othala/Opila are two that have been co-opted by neo-nazis and white supremacists. If the Othala rune has “feet,” this is also apparently a sign that it is being used by these groups.
I am back firmly in fantasy novelist mode! This past weekend I put some character and plot development changes in place and continued the final edit on Dire Deeds. I revised the list of 29 genders of the Elf world; and sorted and organized files of character “faces” (a form of fantasy “casting” that helps my writing process). This is a series about “mid-life magic”–most of the human characters are in their forties or older and most are encountering magic for the first time.
The first book, The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, is set in a fictitious “Hermitville Farm and Arts Collective” in the Puna district of Hawai’i Island, during a “not too distant future” when the U.S. occupation has ended and the government of the Hawaiian Kingdom is rapidly reorganizing. Unfortunately, the Hermits of “Hermitville” realize their own occupation has had unintended mystical and spiritual consequences, causing the Elves of the Realm to return and revive the Guild.
The second, The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, is set in Lake County, CA. The Norse god, Loki Laufeyjarson, took over this plot with his search for his final missing child. But an evil Lake County cult leader teams up with a villain from the first book, to dump yet more challenges onto the newly reformed Guild (consisting of the “Hermits” and their teachers and guides, the Elves).
The third in the Series, The Perilous Past of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, will blend a contemporary plot with the origin story of the Guild, created during the times of witch persecution in Europe.
I began writing The Dire Deeds in 2016, during my time in Pahoa. I was very lonely so I began creating characters I wish I knew and a community life I wish I had. And I was homesick for the SF Bay Area. So naturally, these books contain a majority of LBGTQIA+ and BIPOC characters–all of whom get to do magic and have adventures.
Even as a child I never liked my first name, preferring often to simply use the letter “A.” I used to think it was because “Amy” seemed too wimpy and I also resented being named after a character in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (yes, my parents did that). I began to feel better about the name just last year, after I discovered that Amy is also the name of a gender-fluid Goetic demon. (I mean, you can never call a demon “wimpy,” can you?)
As a little kid, I was never an Amy in my imagination. I was Captain Nemo (20 Leagues Under the Sea), or Dr. Doolittle, or Sir Lancelot. I was also, often, a “Pirate Queen.” You see a pattern starting to emerge, right?
In my teens and early twenties, I went along with “being a girl” because I didn’t know there was an option. But I felt uncomfortable, never quite right. I’m artistic, intellectual–never athletic–so “tomboy” wouldn’t fit. I wanted love, so I became “a girlfriend” for a series of boyfriends, later “a wife” and “a mother.” I was and am other things too, but the stakes for success or failure in the gender roles were always the highest, the most precarious. As uncomfortable as I was in them–though I tried my best–I didn’t want to be “a man” or “a boyfriend” or “a husband” either. The concepts of gender neutrality, gender plurality, and gender non-binary, didn’t show up on my radar until I was in the middle of menopause. Yes, there was the old idea of “androgyny” in the 1960’s, and I was often attracted to androgynous people, but that didn’t seem like something I’d be able to do myself.
Anyway, there’s a long story behind all this and I’m not up to telling all of it now. It’s just that I only recently realized that the gift of being unpartnered for the last three years has given me the opportunity to discover an essential core truth. The truth is this: I have seldom felt like “a woman” (pregnancy and lactation the closest thing to experiencing that), though I’ve had to live as one. But I don’t feel like anything super nameable either.
I feel like…a creature…forced to wear an ill-fitting garment that hides zir true beauty. (And is the “garment” only made of ill-fitting concepts or is “the ill fit” more physical? Too soon to tell.) And so today I’ve claimed the pronouns of ze/zir, at last. I may not be able to do much about the ill-fitting garment, especially since the physical aspects are aging, but I can at least claim the right pronouns for myself.
On a literary note: Some readers of earlier chapters of The Dire Deeds have suggested to me that Babe Bump is my alter-ego. But though I’ve given Babe a number of characteristics and background details of my own, she’s not my alter-ego. My alter ego is Tomma Bedlam, if anyone is. Or perhaps ze is my teacher.