Elven and Ornamental Hermit Magic

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!

Still from The Untamed, with Wei Wuxian L. (Xiao Zhan) and Lan Zhan (aka Lan Wangji) R. (Wang Yibo).

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.

Spontaneous and Cultivated 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.

Mediumship

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 KumuLook 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).

Divination

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.

Faery Cities

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.

Northern Traditions

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.)

This is one of two illustrations I commissioned from my youngest son, Paul F.S. Bauer, to show Elven variants on the Norse Elder Futhark runes.


Copyright Paul F.S. Bauer, 2017. All rights retained.

Witchcraft

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.

Hypersigils and Other Forms of Chaos Magic

These days I’m particularly influenced by Aidan Wachter’s two books, Six Ways: Approaches and Entries for Practical Magic and Weaving Fate: Hypersigils, Changing the Past, & Telling True Lies. I am currently exploring methods described in Weaving Fate, particularly the hypersigil journaling. I’m including this form hypersigil work in my fourth book, as something that the Hermits must begin to learn and use.

Magic Ingredients and Tools

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.

Astrology

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).

Ancestors

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.

Magical Combat

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. 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 early 2021.

☽☆☀️☆☾

Over 40,000 Words Since Nov. 1

The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits is humming along, thanks to National Novel Writing Month. There’s nothing like the challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month to get the creative juices flowing!

But I’m fortunate to have an exceptional muse for this second book, the Norse god Loki, who appears front and center as Lucky LaFey, a “sweet-talking drifter” with a fondness for donuts. But he but soon reveals his true identity to the merry band of newly transplanted “Hermits of Hermitville” and their magical mentors, the Elves of The Realm (saucily referred to as “Elven Overlords” when out of earshot).

Babe Bump, Oyster Olson, and Tomma Bedlam are still at the center of the second book, narrating most of the chapters. Oyster gets suprising news about his birth parents, Tomma settles into a polyamory triad, and Babe begins to master her talents as a medium. At the same time, they and the rest of the Hermits struggle with their exile from Hawai’i and their new life in Lake County, CA.

And even before the Elves can get their mortal charges up to speed on magical skills, a new villain, the Big Dipper, arrives on the scene. He’s big, he’s bad, and he looks exactly like Malibu Ken. He has his very own cult and is opening a resort in the hills surrounding the lake.

sunsetmalibuhs
The Big Dipper has an uncanny resemblance to this innocuous childhood toy.

It’s hard to write without giving spoilers, so I’ll just say I am having as much fun writing this second book as I did writing the first. My characters continue to surprise me and I love them all. Even, in a horrible way, the villains.

I have four queries out to literary agents and if they turn me down, I’ll send out another batch of letters. I believe in these characters and I believe in these books.

Thanks for reading!

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Announcing the Sequels

A_Fairy_Under_Starry_Skies,_by_Luis_Ricardo_Falero

Updated Titles:

First Book: The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits (complete).

Second Book: The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits (complete).

Third Book: The Queerest Quest of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits (2nd draft revision).

Fourth Book: The Perilous Past of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits (planning stages).

The first book was so long (170,000+ words) that my publisher has requested that it be turned into two books. The first two books both take place in Hawai’i. What is now the third book takes place in California. The fourth book will bring a deeper look into the history of the guild, and some of it will take place in England during the witchcraft persecution of the 17th and 18th centuries.

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Elf and Human Magical Intersectionality

This is an excerpt from Chapter Twenty, Stalking the Wild. Elves and the human “hermits” try to parse magical intersectionality and magical identities…

So Indigo did her best to explain. We did our best to understand. Scrying wasn’t so hard. It’s just fortune telling with a crystal ball or a mirror or a plate of water. Trying to see things. The rest of it was more complicated. Finally Indigo shrugged and said, “We’ll walk you through it when the time comes. Don’t worry about it.”

tom-obedlam-illustration-3

Jennifer sighed, “I thought magic adventures were supposed to happen to you when you’re a kid, not when you’re a post-menopausal rock ’n’ roller!”

“Yeah,” Massive agreed. “Hermitville ain’t no Hogwarts!”

“Yep, Hashtag Muggles No More.” Tomma giggled, while the Wubbies began to squeal for food crumbs.

The funny thing was, the Fey Folk were totally digging this exchange. They were apparently all avid fans of human movies. Archie said Elven academia was obsessed with critiquing movies and literature which depicted human encounters with magical beings and powers. There were even sub-disciplines which dealt with questions of magical intersectionality—various types of oppression and privilege involving magical and non-magical beings—as depicted in human media.

Aarrf was saying things like, “So, now that I’ve learned I’m only half-human, how do I present my authentic self in a culture based on werewolves and furry jokes? A culture that doesn’t even acknowledge that people like me exist? And I don’t exactly feel comfortable with the Otherkin community either, because I tend to see them as emotionally othered, not genetically othered. What do I do with my lived experience as an actual part-phouka? And does my phouka blood enable me to know the true phouka experience, as I wasn’t raised as a phouka?”

And Tomma was saying things like, “Maybe that’s just internalized self-hatred, Aarrf, that you can’t see that many Otherkin folk might also be genetically othered? I mean, look how our culture treats animals! How would you expect it to treat people who are part supernatural animal? Denial, that’s what!”

Breadcrumb was expounding on examples of sexism in Harry Potter movies, “People make fun of Hermoine for actually working hard to get better at magic. What’s up with that?”

And Roz was saying, “Yeah, and what about all that ‘sexy witches on Halloween’ stuff? As if we can only be valuable, magically, if we’re also sexy according to the false standards of beauty foisted on us by a sexist capitalist economy! As if our only real magic is between our well-shaved legs!”

“And our well-shaved armpits,” yelled Maxine.

“Or in our well-shaved…uh, nevermind,” Tomma pretended to look embarrasssed.

The professor was giving Parsifal an earful about human perceptions of class conflicts between so-called high Elves and “lower” magical beings like brownies and gnomes. “For example, in War for the Oaks, the queens of both faery courts are consistantly overdressed, which is supposed to indicate their high status among the fey folk, however the humans equate this with snobbery and despise it.” (Parsifal just fondled his puffy buttons and didn’t say much.)

“Like Miz P?” Tomma asked.

Meanwhile Septimus was muttering, “Well, we do like to dress up you know! The magic garment industry is one of the most important in the Realm.”

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Ornamental Hermit Movie Casting Fantasies

What follows next is FANTASY CASTING for (1)The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, (2) The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, (3) The Queerest Quest of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, (4) The Perilous Past of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. This is like a fan game, okay? It’s strictly for fun (unless the Wachowskis give me a ring). Got that?


Updates on May 1, 2021 and August 31, 2020: My understanding of my characters has deepened since I wrote the first version of this blog post. This is partly because some of my characters have gone through changes, and also because the newer books bring whole new casts of characters. I’ve also become aware of many new and staggeringly talented actors and performers since I started the first book in the fall of 2016. Many of these performers are LGBTQIA+, transgender, intersex, otherwise gender diverse, and/or perform drag. This revised fantasy casting list includes an increased number of such folx, particularly among the Elves and in the third and fourth books, Lucky LaFey’s witch daughters. There are also many roles for actors who are Black, Indigenous, and other actors of color.

As a writer, it really helps to have “a face” to give to my characters. Actors and performers are easily “recruited” in this imaginative exercise. And so, enjoy the list below. I can’t promise it won’t change!

mazzolani-10

This fantasy series is about a group of human misfits (the Hermits) and their collisions with magic and a variety of supernatural beings, while having crazy dangerous adventures. It’s a “coming of age” story for (human) characters who are already “old”– a tale of mid-life magic.

The Hermits of “Hermitville” (Book 1) and “Neoville” (Book 2)

• Babe Bump [Narrator] – Intersex, pansexual. Babe often functions as the quiet, emotional center of The Hermits, but no one should underestimate her. She’s a sexy burlesque performer and an intersex activist, as bold in her way as Tomma is in zir’s. And she goes through some wild changes!

Fantasy casting – I’ve always imagined singer and actor, Eden Atwood, (with darker hair). She’d be terrific. And this song is a perfect way for her to express her feelings for her new sweetheart! Eden has been “the face” of Babe almost since the first chapter.

• Tomma Bedlam [Narrator] – Gender fluid/non-binary, pansexual. Prounouns are ze and zir. Tomma is a BIG personality–complex, creative, provocative, funny as hell, sexy, confrontational, flippant, intelligent, and courageous. Ze is also extremely tender-hearted. Tomma is Babe’s best friend.

Fantasy casting – Lately I’ve been realizing that Disasterina (Dragula Season 2, Dr. Sado), created and performed by Treiops Treyfid, has the emotional range, physicality, and over-the-top humor that I associate with Tomma. Though I don’t see Tomma with quite the non-stop boisterous campiness of Disasterina, Tomma comes close in several scenes. I find myself wondering if the thoughtfulness (as well as the punk-drag energy) behind the creation of Disasterina would allow this performer to deliver the Tomma I imagine. It’s an interesting speculation!

• Oyster Olson [Narrator] – trans man, asexual, pan-romantic. Multi-instrumental musician with a particular fondness for blues harp.

Fantasy casting – Imagining Will Krisanda who played Max in the Brothers series, but slightly gothy and with a little grey hair added. For me, he’s been “the face” of Oyster Olson all along and I remain devoted to this fantasy casting choice. Will Krisanda has the kind of range that Oyster needs, as Oyster’s life takes many unexpected turns.

• Aarrf Perry – Gender queer (they/them) “human puppy” who is head of Hermitville security and disaster prep. Aarrf is “a stray” looking for a master/mistress as the book opens.

Fantasy casting – This character requires versatility and has a pretty intense character growth. I now imagine Dina Nina Martinez in the roll, as she’s funny as hell and I think she could carry Aarrf’s character arc.

• Joe Hillstrom – Cisgender gay man, photographer and personal trainer. Always looks buffed and well-groomed (in contrast to some of Hermitville’s other residents). He was a long-time resident of San Francisco prior to moving to Hermitville. He’s also Sidley Croom’s ex.

Fantasy casting – This is a role for a Black man. I originally imagined Chiwetel Ejiofor, because he can pretty much do anything as an actor and I love him. However, there are several actors who could do wonderful things with Joe’s character. Also there’s no reason a trans man couldn’t be cast as Joe.

• Glysandra Shakti Om – Cisgender woman, hetero, hippy neo-tantra instructor. Glysandra can be clueless but also overly sincere and earnest. A bit of a tantric femme fatale.

Fantasy casting – I originally imagined Helen McCrory (Peaky Blinders), but she has alas passed away! This is incredibly sad! However, there is no reason a trans woman or drag performer couldn’t be cast in this role. I think Victoria Elizabeth Black would be amazing as a slightly clueless tantra teacher with a heart of gold.

• Maximus Gordon – Cisgender man, hetero, polyamorous, kinky, musician and singer. He is tall, strong, super-capable (flies helicopters!), is sexy and has gravitas. Maximus is a former folk singer. His ex-wife and current girlfriend both live in Hermitville. They all get along, sometimes as a sexual triad.

Fantasy casting – This is a role for a Black man. I’ve imagined Maximus as someone with the stature and presence of Morgan Freeman, Idris Elba, Danny Glover, or Samuel L. Jackson.

• Sybil Perry – Cisgender woman, heteroflexible, polyamorous, musician and singer. Maximus’ former wife and folksinging partner.

Fantasy casting – I’ve imagined Annie Golden or someone like her who could give off a vaguely hippy vibe. Doesn’t have to be a cisgender actor but would be great if the person could sing.

• Maxine Richmond – Cisgender OR trans woman, heteroflexible, polyamorous, musician and singer. She is Maximus’ current GF. She and Maximus are a bit kinky.

Fantasy casting – Ever since I bought Rachel True’s Trueheart Tarot Deck, I’ve been seeing her as Maxine. Plus, she’s got a super adventurous scene in the second book and I can see this actor rocking it!

• Jennifer Juniper – Cisgender woman, hetero, musician and singer.

Fantasy casting – Another role for a woman of color, particularly Latina. Doesn’t have to be a cisgender actor but would be great if the person could sing.

• Frank Talk – Intersex man, heteroflexible, musician. “Hipster” or gamer persona.

Fantasy casting – This role should be given to an intersex actor, preferably someone with musical skills. No particular ethnicity. I haven’t found the right “face” for this character.

• Rozaline Rae – Cisgender OR trans woman, bisexual, musician/singer. Scottish heritage (plays bagpipes).

Fantasy casting – Imagining someone with a rock n roll persona similar to Poison Ivy (of The Cramps).

• Ginger Croom – Cisgender woman, hetero, age 70ish, winery heiress, Hermitville founder. Dies at beginning of the book. A “big” personality with lots of moxie and traces of her entitled upbringing. Seductive, charismatic. A redhead. She and her brother are rich white people.

Fantasy casting – Ginger is her 70s at the start of the first book. In the fourth book, we see a flashback to a younger Ginger Croom with her Elven lover – visualizing Christina Hendricks or Zackary Drucker.

• Sidley Croom – Cisgender man, bisexual, Ginger’s younger brother. Sidley has a somewhat stocky or large build, red hair, and a beard.

Fantasy casting – Anyone who could be cast as an older “leather” guy.

Elves of “The Realm” (All four books)

Note: The Elves (Eldar) have 29 genders in their world, depending on their “element” at birth and timing of developmental “shifts” over the course of their lives. The Elves are all pansexual. Elf names are given in Tolkien’s Elf language, Quenya.

• Professor Osbert Almond (Laurina Eälótë – Golden Sea Flower) – Professor Almond is a Human Studies expert. He has a very complicated love life. A bit overly formal and stiff. Works closely with Fantur Nen and Artanáro Alma. Mentor (and more) to Oyster Olson.

Fantasy casting – I’ve imagined Tom Hiddleston (but more gloss and gleam than Marvel Loki) and Alexander Vlahos (Versailles). Almond is supposed to be stunning. Long dark hair is required.

• Parsifal Berry Blue (Lúnë Pië – Blue Berry) – Breadcrumb’s father. Like his daughter, he is obsessed with human clowns. He’s a big goof who forgets to tone down his overwhelming glamour. Mentor (and more) to Tomma Bedlam.

Fantasy casting – The character is based on the real-life Puddles, the Sad Clown with the Golden Voice. Would love to cast Puddles (Mike Geier) in this role.

• Maud o’ Bedlam (Elemmírë Ohtar – Star-jewel Warrior) – Breadcrumb’s mother. Gothy, strong personality, physical (martial arts), a “straight man” foil for her husband, Parsifal. Mentor to Maximus and monitors Sidley.

Fantasy casting – At various times, I’ve imagined Eva Green (Penny Dreadful) in this role. But these days I like imagining Mj Rodriguez in the part.

• Breadcrumb (Titta Massánië – Little Breadgiver) [Book narrator] – A “manic-pixie-dream Elf” who is in love with human clowns. Dresses like one. Ditzy cute personality, martial arts skills. The “commander” in the first book. Mentor to Rozaline Rae.

Fantasy casting – Character based on Angela Mae, a clown and bellydancer who used to perform with Gooferman. Lately I’ve imagined Madeline Petsch in this role, as she can clearly camp up a storm without half trying.

• Gingevus Sitwell (Lindë Sorno – Sky Singing Eagle) – Brother to Septimus. A somewhat outdoorsy role. Mentor (and more) to Glysandra.

Fantasy casting: I’ve just seen some amazing photos of Ricky Martin. He’s now my current Gingevus!

• Hamfast (Nectë Morco – Honey Bear) – An unusually skilled shapeshifter, even for Elves. Mentor to Frank Talk.

Fantasy casting – I’ve imagined Brian Michael Smith (Queen Sugar).

Hamfast shapeshifting as Goddess Mal-i-bu Bar-bee – Imagining Candis Cayne in a cameo appearance as “the Cosmic Soccer Mom.”

• Nar (Artanáro Alma – Noble Fire Flower): Human studies expert, specialist in Asian magic traditions. Works closely with Professor Almond and Fantur Nen. Lives with “Nen” back in The Realm. Mentor to both Joe and Maxine.

Fantasy casting – Since I’m totally under the influence of The Untamed right now, I imagine Wang Yibo (who played Lan Zhan), especially for his range, martial arts skills, and experience performing magic acts on screen.

• Nen (Fantur Nen – Cloud Lord River): Human studies expert, specialist in Asian magic traditions. Works closely with Professor Almond and Artanáro Alma. Lives with “Nar” back in The Realm. Mentor to Babe Bump.

Fantasy casting – Again, from The Untamed, Xiao Zhan (who played Wei Wuxian), also for his range, martial arts skills, and experience performing magic acts on screen.

• Septimus Sitwell (Irmo Arwë – Long for Treasure) – Septimus is a specialist in materializing just about anything, human or Elven. Mentor (and Master) to Aarrf.

Fantasy casting: I’ve imagined both Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr. Strange, Sherlock) and Hale Appleman (The Magicians). This role has some campy aspects and either actor could pull this off.

• Who’s There (Yéva Sanomë – Who Will Be There) – Another unusually talented shape shifter. Also enjoys documentary filmmaking. Martial arts. Mentor to Jennifer and Sybil. 

Fantasy casting: Imagining Jamie Clayton!

Supernatural Beings (All four books)

• Vesta the SalamanderMaxi Glamour can create the costume and portray the “human-like” persona of Vesta, who haunts via channeling and “kundalini” surges Babe Bump.

• Nienna, Elven Goddess – Totally seeing Vander Von Odd as this stern Elven goddess who haunts Babe Bump.

P.S. I’d also put Vander Von Odd and Maxi Glamour in charge of designing the Elf costumes and body makeup when they’re “at home” in the Realm. 

Lucky LaFey & Family (Books 3 and 4)

• Lucky LaFey (Norse God Loki Laufeyjarson) – Yes, this is the Norse god wandering around Midgard as a handsome drifter, in search of his missing child. Long red hair, lanky.

Fantasy casting: If Hale Appleman (The Magicians) or Alexander Vlahos (Versailles) don’t end up as Professor Almond, either one could be a great Lucky LaFey as well. However long red hair is fundamental.

• Váli, Lucky & Sigyn’s Son – Teenager. Small role.

• Angrboda, Lucky’s Jotun wife and “Chief of Ironwood” – Powerful. Big personality. Currently imagining Biqtch Puddin, (Dragula).

• Sigyn, Lucky’s Aesir wife – Imagining Indya Moore, who is going to kick some Wethrini ass in a big way. (That was a spoiler.)

• Gyda, Lucky’s Witch DaughterBae Doona (Sense8).

• Runa, Witch Daughter – Kitana Kiki Rodriguez (Tangerine). Brief action role.

• Magnhild, Witch DaughterDahli, (Dragula).

• Ylva, Witch DaughterAngelica Ross, transgender actress (Pose).

• Thyra, Witch Daughter – The “punk rock” one. James Majesty (Dragula).

• Eerika, Witch Daughter – Lousiana Purchase (Dragula).

• The rest of Lucky’s Witch Daughters, not yet cast. Alva, Oili, Ase, Unn, Sigrid, Gunvor, Nanna, Ingrid, Eira, Asta, Sylvi — all could be played by trans women and/or drag performers. Not yet “cast.”

• Sophie “Socks” Lokisdottir – A transient human trans girl adopted by Lucky. Role for a trans actor. Thinking Sadie O’Neal.

Bad Guys (Books 1 and 2)

• Anna Phylaxia – Cisgender woman, hetero, pretend “domme,” CEO of Anna’s Wicked Wares.

Fantasy casting – I’m seeing Ave Rose (Sado Psychiatrist).

• Stanford Lawsome – cisgender, part-human, bisexual, Anna’s assistant. Half human.

Fantasy casting: Reeve Carney (Penny Dreadful) with bleached hair and a spray tan.

• The Lawyer® – gender neutral (ze, zir), Elsewherian supernatural foe, devotee of Mal-i-bu Barbee.

Fantasy casting: Imagining Jamie Casbon (Brothers) with a very corporate wardrobe.

• Sri Niri Nimrod – cisgender man, hetero. Self-righteous yoga guy with man bun, leader of a Hippie Doomsday Cult.

Fantasy casting: Small role but Landon Cider could do it…

Bad Guys (Book 3)

• Samuel Dipps aka “The Big Dipper” or “The Dip” – Wethrini supernatural foe. He looks like an orange, spray tanned “Malibu Ken” doll. This is a nasty villain! Landon Cider could do it!

Fantasy casting – Landon Cider could do it! Whoever it is, has to be immensely sleazy.

• Anna Phylaxia – Ave Rose plays the spoiled “Martha Stewart of Kink” and returns as a friend of Samuel Dipp. See Bad Guys (Book 1).

Film Crew (Book 1)

• Miranda Jackson – Cisgender female, lesbian. Documentary filmmaker. Have imagined someone like Lea DeLaria (Orange is the New Black).

• Shank Stoma – Trans or gender queer person (they, them). Camera. Imagining Hudson Krakowski (Brothers).

• Eddie Sedgwick – Nonbinary trans male (they, them). Camera. Imagining Em Grosland (New Amsterdam).

• Toledo Jackson – Cisgender male, hetero. Miranda’s goat-selling, former tweaker brother. Hippie dude. Imagining someone similar to Russell Brand, but even more unraveled.

Hawaiian (Kanaka Maoli) Neighbors (Books 1 & 2)

• Namaka Kamapua’a– cisgender woman, mother of two including kapu (sacred) child. Cast a Hawaiian activist.

• Uncle Iolana Kamapua’a – cisgender man, kupuna (cherished elder), age 70ish. Cast a Hawaiian activist.

• Keiki`okalani Kamapua’a, Namaka’s year old baby (gender not specified).

• Kia`i`okamauna Kamapua’a, Namaka’s ten year old son.

This fourth book takes the “Guild” back to its origins in witch-hunting England. It is about halfway through the first draft, but so far it has a lot of new characters, including Ornamental Hermit ancestors of the 17th and 18th centuries, “witch prickers” and inquisitors, and so on.

This “fantasy casting” is not only good fun, it is also a productive exercise for a white writer to step out of a tendency to “cast white” or “cast cis” and to broaden the character possibilities beyond a token character or two, tossed in as a sop to “diversity.” It is also a way to search out and appreciate the work of talented people who in some cases have less recognition or opportunity for roles than they deserve. This is also a bit of “magical thinking.”

So mote it be.

“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 five Kanaka Maoli families who have direct ties to that land and she 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.”

This means that when Ginger writes her will (and this is important to the plot), she assumes she can transfer ownership of this remaining twenty-acre plot to whomever she chooses, in the first case, to her brother Sidley.

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 very well be given back to its original owners, who are most likely Kanaka Maoli.

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?”

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Oyster Olson – Humble Bluesman Turns Wizard

Oyster Olson is a resident of the fictitious Hermitville Farm and Arts Collective near Pahoa, Hawai’i Island. He is one of twelve “hermits” (musicians, artists, and oddballs) invited to live at the intentional community by the founder, winery heiress Ginger Croom. At the beginning of the book, Oyster has been a resident at the farm for about six years. And he’s probably the most introverted member of the community at that point.

Oyster didn’t start out in my mind as a main character in my work of fantasy fiction, but he, along with Tomma Bedlam and Babe Bump, have grown to become the three main human protagonists. Babe does most of the first person narration, but Oyster and Tomma also narrate chapters, and the friendship between the three is one of my major pleasures in writing this story.

At the start of the book, Oyster is shy, reserved, and somewhat unfocused–unless he’s playing music! In the second chapter, during the farm’s monthly “Community Emergency Response Training” (CERT) drill, Oyster has trouble remembering the meaning of the triage colors* (red, yellow, green) as Tomma, participating as a mock “disaster victim,” is carried to the medical tarp on a repurposed surfboard. Babe notices his distraction, but also takes note of his “swoony” brown eyes.

Oyster is a talented multi-instrumentalist. He plays blues harp (harmonica), synthesizer, keyboards, and even harpsichord, with The Incredible Unstrung Band (the farm band). While skilled on keyboards, his real joy is playing the blues on his harp. At one point in the book he’s delighted to find that Babe recognizes a Charlie Musselwhite tune that he’s playing (Sorcerer’s Dream). Babe, a neo-burlesque artiste, tells Oyster that she’s been a fan of Musselwhite since her teens, and that blues and burlesque go together like “poke and poi.”

Oyster is a transgender man. He’s been keeping this private at Hermitville for personal reasons, but eventually confides in Babe, who is very out as an intersex rights activist. (Tomma, a gender variant person with ze/zir pronouns, figured out Oyster’s secret on zir own, but discreetly never mentioned it.) One wonders why Oyster didn’t confide in Babe and Tomma before, but as I said earlier, the guy is shy!

A_TransGender-Symbol_Plain1

Oyster’s growth in the book is a result of his growing friendship and intimacy with Babe and Tomma, along with his training in magical arts, and through the magical, multi-dimensional challenges and dangers they all face together.

If I were to cast Oyster’s part in a movie version of the book, I know exactly which trans male actor would get the part. He’s a little younger than Oyster (who is in his mid-40s), but could definitely carry the role. He’s got the right look and “vibe.” Just add a few gray hairs…

*Red-Immmediate Care, Yellow – Delayed Care. Green – Minimal Care. When I lived in Pahoa, HI, I took the CERT training. I had also taken it in Albany, CA.

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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Western Magic Influences

[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!

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