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.
I don’t just write fantasy novels about magic, I also study and practice various kinds of practical and devotional magic. Sometimes I blog about this. However I’m solitary, eclectic, and I don’t adhere to any particular “school.” I do describe myself as “witchy” but I’m not part of a coven. I also describe myself as “Lokean” (oath-sworn to Loki) and though I’m a member of The Troth, I don’t identify as a Heathen. It’s probably not surprising that what I learn and do in my own life has a lot of influence on what I write and include in the books. I also feel that the writing process is an act of magic itself.
I wrote a blog in December 2017 about Western Magic Influences and updated it somewhat in April 2020. But there’s a lot that I haven’t included or acknowledged yet. I’m now in the middle of the first draft of the fourth book (The Perilous Past) and find that the Hermits (human students of the Elves) are learning more sophisticated and diverse magic “systems” than I’d originally envisioned, including elements drawn from Westernized variations of some Eastern traditions (e.g., Neo-tantra) as well as the fictitious Elven magic of J.R.R. Tolkien.
Basically, the magic “systems” in these books are a blend of Elven ceremonial magic and Earth-based chaos magic, folk magic, Eastern energetic practices, Western-style sex magic, and the cultivation of ally and devotional relationships with the “other than human” people, both seen and unseen.
Preternatural and Magical Stuff
In The Guild of Ornamental Hermits books you will find time travel and time warps (bubbles out of normal Time/Space); interdimensional beings (Vesta the giant salamander, Elsewherians, Wethrini, and the Elves of course); interdimensional materialization of objects (Septimus Sitwell is a master); shapeshifting (Elves and the Norse deities excel); cosmic devotional practices; supernatural parasites; a magic book; local wights and deities; animism; ancestral relationships; and more.
However it’s not quite “anything goes.” There is magical mentorship (Elves to humans), plus there are protocols, permissions, and care taken to understand the spiritual/energetic impacts of certain kinds of magics and magical traditions in different places and times. This is especially important with regard to their impact on the Mortal Coil (aka Earth, Midgard) and spiritual beings in various localities. The first two books, The Dire Deeds and The Witching Work, are based on the premise that winery heiress Ginger Croom’s attempts to reestablish a 17th century English/Elvish mystery school in Hawai’i was a big mistake–no permission was ever asked or granted by the local powers, including deities–and that this tradition is particularly wrong and destabilizing for a chain of volcanic islands. (This is a metaphor for missionary colonization, if anyone’s interested.)
Elf Ceremonial Magic ala J.R.R. Tolkien and The Untamed
As an homage, I use the Elf deities and Quenya language that Tolkien developed. The Valar and Maiar deities are from his Silmarillion. The deities are often mentioned (in exclamations such as “Varda’s Stars!” and “Tulkas’ Toenails!”) though only Nienna, Lady of Mercy, actually appears in the books as a character. This is because she is channeled by Babe Bump.
I have come to envision Elf ceremonial magic as complex weavings of sound (chants and instrumental music), choreographed dance and movement, and directed energy. (Back in 2016, I originally imagined quasi-Wiccan types of ceremony.) By the end of 2019, just as I was becoming convinced that Elven magic had to be very embodied,steeped in dance and spiritually energetic movements (human examples include Tai Chi, Qigong, Hula, and Anthroposophical Eurythmy), I discovered the Chinese xianxia fantasy series, The Untamed (2019), based on the novel Mo Dao Zu Shi (Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation). The Untamed totally captivated me. In this series, magic was based on cultivated practices and performed with dramatic movements, swiftly flashing sigils, animated paper servitors, and powerful sound waves from Lan Zhan’s magical seven-stringed guqin. This was close to what I had imagined for my own Elves. (FYI, enjoy the fandom at https://modao-zushi.fandom.com/).
I also realized how much the movie version of the Elves in The Lord of the Rings owed to xianxia movies. For starters, compare the costuming and hair styles!
A Little More About My Elves
My original conception of the Elves was part Tolkien and part Emma Bull (War for the Oaks, Finder). I’ve taken Bull’s Elf/Human culture clashes a step further. The Elves in my books are deeply fascinated by human cultures, subcultures, and artifacts (when you’re immortal, how else are you going to amuse yourself?). In fact, three of the Elves mentoring the Hermits of Hermitville are academic specialists in “Human Studies.” Therefore it shouldn’t be surprising that the systems of magic they share with the human Hermits blends Elven and human magic traditions.
Here are some of the specific elements.
A Magic Book
For the human “Hermits,” The Book of Moons is their first encounter with a form of magic. Ginger Croom, Hermitville’s founder, has entrusted shy Oyster Olson with her copy of this strange text, shortly before her death. As he shares it with Babe Bump, the two of them begin to suspect a connection between Ginger’s funky “Hermitville” (a farm and arts collective in Hawai’i) and the mysterious Guild of Ornamental Hermits, created by twelve families in 17th century England. The book can become longer or shorter, changing its number of pages. It can also hide things, such as Ginger’s will. Another copy of the book appears later and is swiftly sent to The Realm (Alfheim) for safe keeping.
SpontaneousandCultivated Spiritual Energy: Kundalini and Glamour
Triggered by a mention of the “Secret Salamander” (Vesta) in The Book of Moons, Babe Bump experiences a series of spontaneous kundalini explosions. Like a warped fairy godmother, I’ve given this character something I actually experienced myself. Later Babe is able to hold hands with Oyster and their friend, Tomma Bedlam, and share this rush of energy.
Glysandra Shaki Om, one of the Hermits, teaches Western neo-tantra and comments on Babe’s condition shortly after her first experience. We also discover that Vesta can trigger these energy explosions in humans, though Babe is particularly vulnerable.
Elven “glamour”–a powerful, glowing charisma–is also a form of cultivated spiritual energy. The Elves increase and lower their personal glamour, depending on circumstances. It’s mostly an Elven ability but by the third book Oyster Olson also begins to manipulate his own glamour. Therefore the cultivation of spiritual energy in a physical body is definitely a part of the hybrid magic system used by the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. Such energy powers spellwork as well as individual transformation.
As mentioned earlier, skillful use of sound, music, and movement are also ways to increase spiritual energy. (Let’s not forget breathwork!) Plus, an act of sex magic to boost energy for a magic ritual takes place in the second book.
After her first kundalini experience, Babe Bump begins to experience spontaneous trance and begins channeling. She finds this extremely disconcerting and must learn how to manage. She most often channels Nienna (the Elf goddess) and Vesta, a (Roman) goddess of hearth and flame who is related to Zoroaster (Zarathustra), either as a mother or sister (depending on source). Vesta appears in the book as a giant, Kundalini-triggering salamander who enjoys human architecture (a lot!). In the book Vesta is also presented as “a cousin” to the Hawaiian Mo’o (water lizard spirits).
In these books, the Elves do not seem to function as mediums. It may be a magical talent or tendency of human beings. It is worth noting that in Hawai’i, there is a tradition of mediumship, which usually involves one person serving as a haka (“perch” for the spirits) and another as a kahu (caretaker) (Pukui, M.K., Haertig, E.W., & Lee, C.A., Nana I Ke Kumu—Look to the Source, Vol. 1, Hui Hanai, 1972, p. 46). I am also influenced by what little I know of the Norse tradition of obtaining prophesies and divinations from an entranced Völva (witch), which was part of the magic/sorcery tradition called seidr. The Norse goddess, Freya, was known as a practitioner and teacher of this magic. The Poetic Edda contains two poems of prophecies , Volupsa (Prophecy of Ragnarok) and Volupsa en skamma (The Short Prophecy of Ragnarok) (Crawford, J. translation, Hackett Publishing Company, 2015).
Scrying is the primary form of divination used by the humans and Elves. Norse runes are also mentioned (below). I am not very experienced with runes. I personally prefer to use tarot and pendulums, but these do not really appear in the books.
Meditation and Trance
Focused inner attention is foundational to most forms of magic. Some form of meditation is therefore “a given.” As a professional hypnotist and hypnosis instructor (among other things) I enjoy finding commonalities between self-hypnosis, guided imagery, and some types of magical workings. In the book, Babe Bump is trained in hypnosis though she mostly uses it for stage performances.
The elemental “faery cities” of Finias (fire), Murias (water), Gorias (air), and Falias (earth) are derived from Irish faery traditions and I first found mention of them on the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. These cities are important as they not only inform much of the magic of the books, but Elven genders are also based on the elements and these cities (among other things). The twelve Hermits of Hermitville also work in the elemental city groups based on their astrological signs. During part of their training, each Hermit tries to get a glimpse of each of these cities and their inhabitants. And they were encouraged (via meditation and self-trance) to contact spirits that reside in these cities.
When the Norse god, Loki Laufeyjarson, arrived in the third book (The Queerest Quest) (in the guise of Lucky LaFey, “a handsome drifter,” several Norse references came along with him. However, rune work is the only Northern-derived skill or tradition that the Hermits use (so far). (FYI, Tolkien’s writing was influenced by Northern traditions and he created a set of runes.)
The persecution of European witches forms the background of the fourth book as the reason for the creation of the original Guild of Ornamental Hermits. Some forms of folk or kitchen magic, as well as other forms of contemporary American witchery, may be found throughout the books. As mentioned in a previous blog post, Ariel Gatoga’s Witches Primer was super helpful as I began writing in 2016.
The Hermits are given special substances from The Realm, as well as tools to use. However, the Elves insist that tools aren’t really essential, though they are fun to use.
Ginger Croom secretly researched and recruited her residents of Hermitville and made sure that twelve astrological sun signs were represented. Otherwise, Earth-based astrology doesn’t play much of a role in the books. However star positions are one of several factors that determine an Elf gender (there are 29 in all).
The Guild of Ornamental Hermits was originally formed by the Elves and twelve human families in England. The themes of complicated family and ancestral ties are fundamental to the books. I won’t say too much about this as I don’t want to give any spoilers.
In Hawai’i, among the Hawaiian neighbors of Hermitville, there are also some heavy duty ancestral themes, as well as ancestral relationships with the ‘aina (land). A kapu (sacred) child may be one of the reasons that the Elves have been called in to do damage control at Hermitville after Ginger Croom’s death. The Elves even assist in creating an ancestral healing ritual to rid Hawai’i Island of foreign ghosts who are ancestors of four of the Hermits. This is one of the ways that “the Powers” (deities) of Hawai’i ask the Hermits and Elves to “clean up their mess.”
Personally, I’m heavily influenced by Daniel Foor’s Ancestral Medicine work and his courses in animism. (The influences of ancestors and ghosts is also one of the things I notice and resonate with in The Untamed.)
“Other Than Human” Relationships–Seen and Unseen
Of course my human Hermits form close relationships with their Elven mentors (sometimes jokingly called “Elven Overlords”). The Elves are very tangible and “human” (though their actual appearances are quite different). The Elves have previous associations with the “Twelve Family” ancestors and this determines which Hermit they work with.
Other examples: Tomma Bedlam becomes keeper of the “Wubbies,” magic peach children of great power. Ze loves them dearly. Babe has close associations with Nienna, the Elven goddess, and Vesta, the giant salamander. Breadcrumb (an Elf) bonds with a portion of the “membrane” left behind when Vesta “mates” with Ginger Croom’s cottage. The Elves also encourage the humans to be aware of and conversant with local deities, land wights, and the spirits of objects.
The sacred “Powers” of Hawai’i are not opponents, but they are insistent about the necessity to undo the harms caused by Ginger Croom’s spiritual colonialism and land purchases. The Elves and Hermits do their best to comply. The Powers never interact directly with the Hermits. Instead the Elves serve as intermediaries, as they are experienced with protocols.
As mentioned above, ancestors are among the unseen communities that the Hermits begin to know and cultivate.
The Elsewherian foe known as The Lawyer™ has a devotional relationship to the cosmic goddess, Mal-i-Bu Bar-Bee (who is not an Elsewherian). This is an example of relationships between two “other than human” characters. The selfish Anna Phylaxia (human), who has hired The Lawyer™ to help turn Hermitville into a posh “eco-resort,” has no idea that her lawyer is a preternatural being so this is an example of an inadvertant “other than human” relationship.
The humans and Elves face some dangerous preternatural foes, including the Elsewherians and the Wethrini. But their combat is seldom designed to inflict physical harm. Battles are often contests of wits and reality performances which seek to overwhelm the opponent’s sense of reality or banish them to other dimensions. Movement and gesture is essential to the creation of glamour and magic. The theatrical and musical talents of the Hermits are often put to good use in these battles.
Wards and protection rituals are also essential.
This covers almost all of the types of magic and magic traditions found in the four books so far. I can’t promise though that other things might not make their way into the fourth book, which is still in progress. Look to FuturesPastEditions for ebook publication of the first books in 2022.
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 updated my lists of Elven (ala Tolkien) names and words; plus revised the list of 29 genders of the Elf world; and sorted and organized several 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.
And why I’ve created a new social media group as a place for queer, trans, non-binary and pretty much everyone else who is “othered” and tormented by the soul-sucking, climate-changing, greed-slurping dementors of the world we live in today…
Since 2016, when I started writing The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, I knew that my characters would create a safe, vibrant place for people to learn and enjoy a new kind of magic–something that today I am calling MagicQ. In my second book (close to completion), my characters–including trans guy Oyster Olson, intersex woman Babe Bump, and non-binary Tomma Bedlam–are actively engaged in creating a new Hermitville Center for Arts and Magic as a place of refuge, inclusion, and empowerment for LGBTQIA+ people, and anyone facing violence and discrimination as a result of personal bigotry and systemic injustice.
Two days ago I learned about J.K. Rowling’s most recent transphobic statement on Twitter, in support of a woman who holds hateful beliefs about trans and otherwise gender diverse people, and who believes it is fine to discriminate against them. While I never thought of Rowling as someone who had great politics (I mean, she poured money into preventing Scottish independence, for gods sake…), I was startled and dismayed by her most recent public statement. I hadn’t been following Rowling’s transphobe trajectory but others have, as early as 2018 or before.
My kids (now adults) grew up on the Potter books–along with other, better works of childhood fiction. One of my kids is trans–and I will never forget how dismayed he was when he found out he was not going to Hogwartz when he turned eleven. However, he’s since claimed his place in the worlds of magic and witchery, and has even created a church for LGBTQIA+ people. To work for social change and justice is a magical, transformational act. This is the real thing, not make-believe.
Inspired by both my own kid’s action and the mission of my own characters, I’ve created The Guild of Ornamental Hermits group on Facebook, as a home for magicQ and its practitioners and allies. Since I am also a practicing witch, as well as a writer/blogger and sexologist dedicated to gender equality, as well as a mother–I can do no less and I also pledge to do more!
So, I say to J.K. (who also writes under a male name–go figure!!!) that in my world of magic and literature, she has now become “she who must not be named.” If she ever repudiates her current stance, and educates herself, and humbly serves as a fitting ally to LGBTQIA+ and other marginalized people, perhaps I’ll reconsider giving her a place on my bookshelf again. But til then I’m boycotting. I won’t be giving her books to any more young people.