Oh boy…

So yesterday in my post announcing the fact that I’m now going by my actual “real-life” name, Sebastian, and have changed the name of my shop from Nornoriel’s House of Elf Swag to The Serpent’s Garden, I made the following remark in said post:

“I’m starting to branch out into making high-end stuff now (while I still have some mid-range items, and always plan on carrying reasonably affordable items in my shop), and “Elf Swag” is kind of not a name you want to buy $1000 sapphire necklaces from unless it’s made by Kanye West, and I’m not Kanye West.”

D: You are the Kanye West of the polytheist blogosphere.

Me: I thought I was the Pinkie Pie of the polytheist blogosphere.

D: Pinkye

Me: …*ded*

(a few minutes later)

Me: But I can’t be Kanye, because I’m not interrupting people’s blog posts saying I’M HAPPY FOR YOU AND I’MMA LET YOU FINISH, BUT BEYONSMODEUS IS THE GREATEST GOD OF ALL TIME.  OF ALL TIME

(much later)

Clarence (to me): Well you definitely married the deity equivalent of Kim Kardashian.

D: *offended pufferfish face* HEY!

Clarence: ?

D: MY BUTT IS NOT ANYWHERE NEAR THAT BIG

Me: Your lovely demon lumps

A few really important announcements

As I mentioned yesterday, Lammas (August 1st) heralds the one-year anniversary of my shop being ready for business (when I started to have regular inventory and make regular sales, as opposed to less than a dozen fluke sales in the years prior).  It has been an incredible year.  As a way of saying “thank you” to my fabulous customers, I am having a sale throughout the entire month of August.

With that being said, Lammas is a time of harvest, sacrifice, and return.  Between the season of Lammas, the Blue Moon this weekend, and the Sun being in Leo (a sign strongly connected to the arts and entrepreneurship), I decided it was time for something that I’ve been considering for awhile, which is a sort of rebranding.

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1. Starting now, I am now going by the name Sebastian Lokason in public Pagan spaces, including my shop, and especially including my blog. Sebastian is my actual “real-life” name.

There are several reasons for this.

I came up with the name “Nornoriel” when I joined a Druid order in 2010 (yeah) and it was the norm to take a Druid name; most members chose Welsh names.  That was commonplace enough that I decided to do something different and chose a Quenya name *hipster glasses*.  (This may have in fact been the most hipster thing I’ve ever done.  “Gwyffrwdwy is too mainstream, going with Nornoriel” – later on one of my kids with D got a Welsh name [Awen] so this is even funnier in hindsight [and D himself has a personal name that is really goddamn odd and makes “Nornoriel” look normal].)  I chose the name “Nornoriel” which is Quenya for “oak-garlanded” or “oak-crowned” because Druids and oaks, and choosing Quenya was significant because it is an elvish language and in case this weren’t painfully obvious to my regular readers, I kind of have A Thing with elves.

2010 also began my self-imposed exile from the Pagan Internet.  When I resurfaced to start using Tumblr in fall 2013, I went with Nornoriel because I was still sort of Druid-y and I had already been using that name in the few online spaces where I talked about Pagan stuff, and I was also too addled from the clusterfuck that was 2013 to think of a new name, so I figured why not.  The name Nornoriel stuck, and some people shortened it to Nono.

This was all fine and good until I became a Big Name Pagan, which is something I DID NOT EVER SEE MYSELF DOING IN LATE 2013 (and would have been shocked at the idea, quite frankly, as at that time the polytheistic blogosphere was dominated more by, ah, problematic points of view and I felt like I was shouting into the void and no1curr) – if I’d known I was going to become Mr. Popular, I would NOT have gone into Tumblr with the name Nornoriel.  I seriously expected all of five people to read my Tumblr and for the first month or so that was the case, till I decided to start opening my mouth on the Pagan stuff that would cross my dash.  Even after I made the jump to WordPress and expanded my horizons to Patheos and Witches & Pagans, I didn’t change the name because, again, I had too much going on to try to think of something different (at that time I was still wary about using my OMG Real First Name publicly), and I had been using the name Nornoriel long enough that I was afraid of switching it and potentially sabotaging myself.

But Nornoriel is not the easiest name in the world to spell (my stats frequently show search engines looking for “nornorniel”, “nonorniel” and “nonoriel”, none of which are correct; I’ve also had people tell me they’ve named video game characters and stuffed animals after me and they give a misspelled version of my name and I have to bite my tongue because I don’t want to be rude, but boy is that awkward; I had an Etsy seller call me “Nomoriel” the other day and I was like “OK I am 200% done with this name now”), and unfortunately, there is now a hair removal product called the NoNo (“you can use Nono all over your body, including your face!” is something my perverted-ass demon husband will never stop laughing at).  While I took the name before I was aware of my nickname becoming the ShamWow of razors, I have not been particularly keen on keeping it since that discovery.

More to the point, the name doesn’t feel like “me”.  My actual name is Sebastian.  Nobody at my house calls me Nono.  D tends to call me Seb or Sebby (or Subby :P), if he’s not calling me one of his pet names.  (He will still always call me NootNoot whether he calls me Nono or not.)  Nono or Nornoriel is a name I took to try to put some distance between my private life and my public Pagan community interactions, at a time before my life became doing stuff for the Pagan community (Making and such).

And the thing is, I chose Nornoriel at a very radically different time in my life.  I am literally a different person now. Which leads me to the next thing – I am a guy.  While I personally think of Nornoriel as a unisex name, using the name Sebastian is less confusing and far less likely to lead to accidental misgendering.

As far as confusion in terms of my online presence goes: in my (recently updated) author bio, I have Sebastian “Nornoriel” Lokason listed as my name.  The four books I currently have available for publication (Visions of Vanaheim, Voices of Vanaheim, Walking Between Worlds and Peace and Good Seasons) will remain under the name Nornoriel Lokason until I actually have some time to do a manuscript and cover edit of said books, which means “probably not for a couple years yet”.  That is a really LOW priority. (However, Voices of Vanaheim 2 will probably be released under the name Sebastian Lokason.)  My personal domain remains nornoriellokason.com though I am also changing my name on the body of the site itself (so you’ll see Sebastian Lokason as the site title); I am still at this time using nornoriel.lokason AT gmail as my e-mail address, as well and will probably continue to do so.

With regards to why I’m going by Sebastian Lokason on the public Internet and not Sebastian [Legal!Surname], it comes down to respect/acknowledgment of Loki as my father (and, as I’ve said several times now, that also sends a clear message to Nokeans of “you won’t like me and the feeling will be mutual”, which saves me some potential grief, as I have met Nokean Vanatruar who think I’m on the same page as them because Vanic stuff until they start spouting some stuff where I’m just like “um no”).

Now, if you’ve been used to calling me Nono, I’m not going to yell at you, but I’d really prefer to be called by my name, Sebastian, at this point (or you can call me Seb if you want, I dun kar).  It’s OK if you want to acknowledge the change by saying something to the effect of “Sebastian (Nono)” if you refer to me on your blog – that’s fine.  But that’s where I’m at now.

I am also going to be ordering new business cards.  The next several physical orders I ship out will be using the old ones but I intend on buying new business cards before it gets too much later in the month.  (Which is something I’ve wanted to do anyway and now I have an excuse.)

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2. In tandem with me now going by my actual name Sebastian, I have decided to change the name of my shop.

This too was a decision I’ve been chewing on for awhile.  D suggested the name “Nornoriel’s House of Elf Swag” as a joke in May 2014, while he was high, and it amused me, so I went with the name.  This was while I was still a hobby seller and was before I decided that kicking my Etsy shop into high gear was my best shot at crawling out of the abyss of being on a fixed income (as I am disabled, and that was my sole source of income before Etsy; my shop has made it possible for me to be self-supporting).  After I started doing Serious Business at my store this past spring, where I started making enough Etsy revenue every month to pay for rent, bills, food, and build up a savings, I very seriously began to consider a name change of the store, but I was hesitant to do so because I didn’t want to confuse everybody with a rebrand when I was just beginning to really succeed.

However, the time has now come for a rebrand.  In addition to the fact that “Nornoriel’s House of Elf Swag” is no longer a good store name when I’m going by Sebastian and phasing out use of the name Nornoriel (while not completely disconnecting the name), there are some other reasons why this is a good idea.  The first and foremost being that while I still make a lot of Vanatru- and elf-y type stuff, I’m not strictly making “elf swag” anymore – I’ve been making things for a lot of different People from different pantheons, and especially as of late, I’ve been making a lot of things for demons (or spirit-work involving demons), and have been picking up more demonolaters and Satanists as customers (which makes me happy).  The second is that I’m starting to branch out into making high-end stuff now (while I still have some mid-range items, and always plan on carrying reasonably affordable items in my shop), and “Elf Swag” is kind of not a name you want to buy $1000 sapphire necklaces from unless it’s made by Kanye West, and I’m not Kanye West.

I struggled with what to rename the store, and D said to me, finally, “Well you took my advice when I was joking, so how about you take my not-joking advice?”  So he gave me a store name, and it is an actually good name: The Serpent’s Garden.  It’s not too much mental gymnastics to connect The Serpent’s Labyrinth blog with The Serpent’s Garden shop.  It’s also a name that is still *~me~* and represents some themes of my me-ness in a single name (Serpent tribe, demons esp. Lilith and Lucifer, sinfully delicious things, nature, shedding skin and transformation).  (Speaking of Lilith, why yes that is Lilith on my shop header.  Lilith has become, ah, something of a Muse lately.)

Currently, my shop can be found at the URL https://www.etsy.com/shop/elfswag – however, I have put in a request to change the shop name.  When that request is approved, I will let everyone know, that said the old URL will still redirect to the new one.

At this time, my shop blog domain remains https://elfswag.wordpress.com/ but when I am able to change the domain here (I believe I need to purchase a domain redirect) I will be doing so.  The name has been updated there on the blog header as well.

2a. Yes I am aware I need to change the name on my (recently updated) pictures for my readings to reflect the change from Nornoriel Lokason to Sebastian Lokason.  I will get around to that within the next few days.

_

3. Finally – some of you may have already seen this both on this blog and elsewhere, but it bears mentioning in an actual official news post.

As of July 30th, 2015, I now have a new policy on layaway plans.

If you see an item that you would like but do not have all of the money for it up-front – for example, a $200 necklace – I would be happy to start a layaway plan with you, for example, ten payments of $20 or four payments of $50. Message me on Etsy and I will work something out with you.

However, there are caveats on this. Effective July 30th, 2015, this policy applies to new layaway plans:

-If you want me to set up a layaway plan on an item, you need to give me a time frame of how long it is going to take you to pay off an item and WHEN these payments are going to be made (once a week, once every two weeks, once a month, etc). If you are running into a financial issue where you need to delay a payment or change a payment amount, YOU MUST MESSAGE ME TO LET ME KNOW. (I can deal with this so long as I know what’s going on.) If I message you about a delay in payment (if we’re coming up on payday and you haven’t made the payment, and I’m trying to figure out when that payment will be made) and do not hear from you within two weeks, I will take your item off of layaway and refund your money (but will keep $25 as a non-refundable “deposit” for having reserved the item for you, so if you’ve paid less than $25 on it you don’t get a refund), and I will refuse to put any items on layaway for you in the future.

-You MUST make your FIRST payment on the item within two weeks of me setting up the layaway plan.

-You MUST make at least ONE payment a month on the layaway plan.

-You MUST have your layaway item paid off within six months (26 weeks).

-You may have a maximum of TEN items on layaway at one time.

If you cannot make your first layaway payment within two weeks, cannot commit to making at least one payment a month on your item, and cannot commit to paying off the item within 26 weeks, PLEASE do not ask me to put an item on layaway for you.

This policy change only applies to layaway plans started from July 30th, 2015 onward. If we have started a layaway plan prior to this date, I will continue to honor the layaway plan that we agreed to prior to my policy change. However, if you currently have more than ten items on layaway as of July 30th, PLEASE do not ask me to reserve more items for you until you have started making payments on the items you already have on a payment plan. This is not fair to me, as I invest a tremendous amount of money in supplies and put a tremendous amount of time and labor into my work and this is my sole source of income; I need to be compensated fairly for this.

I would also REALLY like those of you who have several items on layaway and have had items on layaway for awhile (as in, months where I’ve held several things for you) that have not been paid for yet, to start paying for these items.  Like I said, I will continue to honor extant layaway plans (for now, anyway), but it would be a tremendous help to me if you could make at least one payment a month.  If there’s something that you HAVEN’T started paying on yet or you’ve made only one payment on it, and your eyes got bigger than your wallet and you would like me to take this item off of layaway, PLEASE LET ME KNOW AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.  I WILL NOT YELL AT YOU.  (However, if you have only made one payment, it is not fair to ask me to refund you for that payment considering I have held that item in my shop for months and this has cost me potential money-making as a result – literally, I have had several people convo me about items that have been spoken for but never paid for, because I’d promised them to others, and have missed sales in trying to “be honorable” and honor agreements; that one payment counts as a deposit.)  The chances are reasonable that the item MIGHT be in stock when you eventually can afford to pay for it, and if not, I might be able to make you one similar to it.  But if you really don’t think you’re going to be able to pay for things, I need to know.  And IF you think you can pay off the multiple layaway items over time, that’s fine too – just please do not leave me completely hanging.  I am OK with things taking awhile if you’ve got an extant layaway plan with me, but yes, I do need to be a lot more strict with future layaway plans.  (It’s been a learning curve.  Things that were OK for me to do six months ago are not really OK for me to do now with the increased amount of business, and money that goes right back into the business.)

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4. I am in fact starting a 30 Days of Frey on August 1st, HOWEVER that 30 days may technically take me two months or so, because if I try to write a full-length Informational Post (TM) on my blog every day for a second month in a row, during a month that kicks my ass physically (I hate summer), I am going to wind up frying what’s left of my brain cells and I really need to catch up on my backlog of project work with the store (I have a bunch of necklaces and bracelets that need to be made and listed).  So that 30 Days is going to be spread out over August and September – which is still Frey’s time of year, IMO.  30 Days of Asmodai will be next, but that will probably be over October/November (which is a time I associate with him anyway – he really likes fall).  I *~miiiiight~* do a 30 Days of Lucifer series but depending on how busy I get with Voices of Vanaheim 2, that might have to wait until February 2016.  (And it’s a big might.  Despite heavy encouragement from the audience, I am VERY reluctant to talk openly about Lucifer here because of the flak that people tend to get for diverging from the popular viewpoints in the Luciferian community [and boy, do I – just my assertion that Lucifer likes coffee and smokes like a fiend, when he’s usually popularly portrayed by Luciferians as Mr. Ascetic Health Nut Guy, has gotten me on some people’s shit lists, and that’s some of the LEAST controversial doxa I have].  While I normally give zero shits about whether or not people approve of me, I still don’t like to court drama and unnecessary aggravation.  So we’ll see.)

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Re: the aforementioned sale – the coupon code ONEYEAR applied at checkout will take 15% off your order.  This coupon code MAY NOT be applied to custom work or spiritual services, but is good for use on my

as well as extant layaway plans on non-commissioned items.

This coupon code is good all throughout the month of August, and from now through August 4th, if you shop at my friend Beth’s store (who is also doing her own rebrand, yay!) as well as mine, let me know and I will give you a secret coupon code good for 15% off a future purchase.  :)

For Lammas

Excerpt from “The Compass Rose”, Voices of Vanaheim; the story of Qael, the current King of Vanaheim.

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The blindfold was taken off me, and I saw the light of sunrise breaking over the horizon. The sun lit the wheat field up like gold. I could smell the ripe wheat, as well as a faint touch of sweat of those gathered around me – it was a hot day, already hot this early in the morning.

The ones who brought me to this space turned my body to face my twin, as silver fair as the field was gold, clad in a white linen robe with the white gold Serpent torc around his neck – the one around mine was yellow gold. His usually smiling face was severe, his usually dancing green eyes humorless, in stark contrast to the play of the colors of dawn and the peace of the Vanic countryside.

My hands were bound in front of me, and my twin cut the ropes binding them with his dagger, a raven and twin serpents gleaming silver on the hilt. The blade was stained with blood – it had tasted his own on the summer solstice, where he was bled to feed the land; the dagger had to know his blood before mine, as he was the Queen and the embodiment of the land.

Then my twin’s eyes met mine, holding them, locking them in a sorrowful embrace. I could feel his pain, his reluctance – what was about to happen was going to be harder on him than it was on me. In that, we would both be sacrificed, in our own separate ways. But he would do what he must and so would I.

I’m sorry, he said to me, privately, between us.

Don’t be.

He took a deep breath and drove the knife into my throat. I love you, he said to me, before thrusting the knife into my chest.

I love you, aderano.[1] I fell, bleeding, pain shooting through my entire body, gasping for breath.

Have a safe trip, he said, and then everything went as white as my twin’s robe and I drifted away, no more pain.

_
I was on a road, cutting through a wheat field. I walked, watching the road shimmer beneath my feet, glowing brighter as the sky got darker with an increasing number of grey storm clouds. The wind began to rage, and a raven swooped down from light piercing through the clouds. Then the raven shifted form, my cousin Jae clad in a white raven feather pelt over black robes, his long blue-black hair stirring in the wind, his eyes as dark as the storm. “I came to keep you company,” he said to me, smiling a little.

“Did you bring any whisky?”

“You know I don’t drink that shit.”

“What good are you? Get out of here, you cheap bastard.”

We both laughed and Jae put an arm around me, walking alongside me. “Still a smartass even in death,” he said.

The storm clouds darkened and thunder rolled. The road was gleaming so bright it was starting to hurt my eyes, and the wheat of the field was like pure liquid gold, a sea of gold with tides rolling back and forth in the wind.

I found myself singing – a song called “Man of Constant Sorrow”, a Midgard song I was fond of, but with a few changes to the lyrics relevant to myself. Jae’s voice accompanied me on the refrain at the end of each chorus.

I am an elf of constant sorrow
I’ve seen trouble all my days
I bid farewell to old Vanaheim
The place where I was born and raised
(The place where he was born and raised)

For six thousand years I’ve been in trouble
No pleasure here on earth I found
For in this world I’m bound to ramble
I have no friends to help me now
(He has no friends to help him now)

It’s fare thee well, my old true lover
I never expect to see you again
For I’m bound to ride that northern Hel-road
Perhaps I’ll die upon this wain
(Perhaps he’ll die upon this wain)

You can bury me in some deep valley
For many years where I may lay
Then you may learn to love another
While I am sleeping in my grave
(While he is sleeping in his grave)

Maybe your friends think I’m just a stranger
My face you never will see no more
But there is one promise that is given
I’ll meet you on Hel’s golden shore
(He’ll meet you on Hel’s golden shore)

There was a moment of silence, and then Jae looked at me, and then he pointed up ahead in the distance. The sky was so dark with the storm it was approaching black and the wind was so furious I was surprised we were able to stay on the road; there was a swirling black vortex at the end of the road. “You have to go in alone,” he said to me, “but I’ll be waiting here when Her Ladyship lets you leave.”

“Presuming she will let me,” I said.

“I’m pretty sure that she’s not going to decide to keep you on your first trip there, avela[2].”

“We’ll see.” I hesitated, looking at the raging darkness ahead of me. I had been in battle many times over, and prided myself on having no fear – this terrified me. “I really could have used some whisky,” I said to my cousin.

“I’m sure there will be plenty when you get back.” Jae patted my shoulder. Then he shoved me into the darkness. There was a sound like serpents hissing, and a steady thrum like a heartbeat.

For a moment everything was all black, and then it was like the night sky lit up with a billion stars. I saw tiny gossamer threads connecting them, shimmering, making webs like that of a spider. Some of the webs interconnected – some of the webs interconnected to form runes. Without thinking, I reached out to brush my hand against the web closest to me, and a flood of images poured into my mind.

The face of my mother, her singing me and my twin to sleep, my twin and I curled up together in our baby crib long long ago, then crawling around on the floor, in the grass, babbling to each other in baby talk that made perfect sense to us as twins and not at all to anyone else.

I retracted my hand. There was no way I was going to get through this darkness to go to Her Ladyship’s gates without having to walk through the webs, they were everywhere. What the Hel is this, I said to myself.

…yes, came back a quiet, deep but feminine voice. I took a deep breath. You give your life for your people, Lord of Plenty, and here it is. Walk through, relive, so I may take what is mine, the debt owed me.

The threads of the webs looked like tiny perfect serpents, scaled, with faint rainbow iridescence in the detail. Depending on where they were located, different colors were emphasized, some gleaming more golden, some gleaming more green, some gleaming more violet, some gleaming more red, or more blue, while still mainly silver-white in the darkness – I was reminded of my twin. I couldn’t feel him anymore, and wondered how he was dealing with keeping vigil for my body on the ground in Vanaheim.

As if she could read my thoughts, I felt Her Ladyship give me a gentle poke on the chest where I’d been stabbed, and then she said, Move along. You don’t want to keep your twin waiting any longer than necessary, elvenking.

And so I moved along, the webs brushing against me, sometimes tangling around me, mental images and emotions, sensations, entangling me as I stumbled forward.

_

As Runekta Marusanat[3] approached, I tried to keep my spirits up, but I was honestly dreading the holiday, dreading the inevitable death. I didn’t want to be sacrificed. Even as I understood logically that I would be coming back later that day, and that it had to be done… I very badly did not want to go through with it.

I visited my uncle Ing, who since the change of hands in Vanaheim a year ago had become leader of the Boar tribe – a role that suited him better than King, where he could be more hands-on with the people than I, and reacclimate to Vanaheim after years of being too often in Asgard. He knew why I was there at his farm, before I ever told him. He poured himself some mead, and gave me some particularly well-aged whisky, and we sat watching the sunset, watching the grain in his field roll gently back and forth in the breeze.

“I’m a selfish bastard,” I said. “I have lost so much in my life… and all seemingly for a higher purpose… you’d think I’d be OK with sacrifice, what’s one more.  Shit, I even got killed and put back together some months ago, though this is different.”

“It’s still your choice,” my uncle said.

“How is it a sodding choice if the land goes barren and people starve and die, if I sodding don’t.”

“Because you could be That Guy who says ‘fuck all of you, I’m out of here’ and walk away, and not give a damn. If it were someone else… like if it were Hadiss, he wouldn’t want to die for everyone, not a populace that included outlanders and ‘mudbloods’ as he’s so charmingly put it.” Ing snorted.

I took a deep breath, and I said, “I’m afraid She won’t let me come back.” I meant Hel, of course.

Ing nodded. “It was the risk I took every year. She’s highly unlikely to want to keep you there your first time down… and from a strictly pragmatic perspective, it’s easier on her to just keep sending you back every year than have to chip in with the collective forces to find another king to replace you if she keeps you there. And I died every year for six thousand odd years and you see Hel never kept me. She’s probably going to keep sending you back.”

“Still, though.”

“I understand.” Ing poured me another glass of whisky, sensing I needed it. “But it’s wyrd.”

“I still don’t know why the fuck wyrd picked me for this job. My twin and I just happened to be in the line of descent, born in the right place at the right time, I guess, but wyrd really could have put someone better in there.”

“No, not really.” Ing sipped his mead, glowing in the light of the sunset. “You of all people are intimately familiar with sacrifice and loss. You have had control wrested away from you time and again… and you have come to understand it works itself out for the best… usually.” He downed his mead. “Not always. But often enough.” I sighed. I hate it when other people are right. “There is no greater sacrifice when one who has already lost so much, gives himself, trusting that wyrd will honor his sacrifice and do the right thing with it… when one who has had so much in his life outside of his control, chooses and controls this.” Ing’s eyes met mine, green like my twin’s but not as intense, and then a butterfly landed on his shoulder, as if the butterfly of chaos was agreeing with Ing’s perspective of order. It flitted off again, to go wherever it would. I sighed again. I was going to need a lot more whisky. “You will choose this, and you will choose this because it is right.”

“Why does my twin get to have all the fun?”

“He doesn’t,” Ing said to me, frowning. “The sacrifice he made was to open himself to love and trust, after he had been so hurt. It was more painful for him to do that than you will ever know or understand. He feared rejection, but he fought the fear, and the land honored that, rejoicing with him in beautiful spring… and every spring will be beautiful and fertile, so long as he reigns.” He poured himself more mead, and poured me another shot of whisky. “Yanlin reminds me of Gerda, but flashier.”

“‘Flashy’ would be the word for it. ‘Whore’ would be another,” I said, not unkindly.

Ing chuckled. “Some of my favorite people are whores. Like my sister.” Then Ing said more seriously, “You have it comparatively easy. You just get to die. Your brother’s sacrifice has been to live, every day battling with fear, to live and to want to live when for so long he wanted to end it.”

As someone whose life motto seemed to be “fire, ready, aim”, it was sometimes hard for me to remember that my twin was not as carefree and… sometimes reckless… as I am. I often acted first and thought later; he analyzed everything to death, worrying about every last detail. And while I had been through a great deal of tragedy, my default state when things were calm was happy-go-lucky… loud and enthusiastic, exuberant… my twin’s default state was that poetic melancholy, still waters running deep, such a sensitive little thing.

“So you both have lost so much, and yet give yourselves,” he said, “and just like the land honors your twin’s sacrifice to live with the joyful beauty of spring, the land will honor your sacrifice with the harvest, and many fertile seeds from what is consumed. And when you come back, you will come back clean… reborn, renewed. The pain of your past will feel farther away, you will be better able to walk the road of the present.”

“I really want to believe you.”

“All you can really go on with this is belief,” he said. “Faith. Trust. That just as you let go and things worked out, wyrd will lead you back.” He raised his glass of mead to me. “That love will lead you back.”

The sunset was becoming twilight now, and the first star shone upon us, and before long, the sea of stars emerged. Ing pointed to the bindrune compass pendant I wore around my neck, that I had worn every day since it was given to me. “You’ll find your way,” he said. “Have faith in wyrd, as I have faith in you.”

_
I made my way out of the webs, arriving at a gate, guarded by a severe-looking raven-haired woman wearing leather armor, holding a spear; wordlessly she opened the gate and I walked through, down a path into a crystal cave that looked a bit like a castle. The entryway was a long crystal hall, lit by torches; I heard running water in the distance. As I approached the end of the hall, with multiple avenues to turn – new caverns – I saw her, half-dead, half-alive, and she extended her living hand to me, so I knew I was truly dead.

“Hail, elvenking,” she said. “Come.”

I followed her into what seemed like a large underground city, with waterfalls and fruit trees, people roaming freely, in and out of different cave mouths, some of them gathered in different spots around the fruit trees to sit and talk, or knit, or play chess, or other activities.

Her Ladyship and I sat underneath a golden apple tree – I was reminded of Idunna’s apples – and we smoked a pipe together, watching the folk of her realm. “They seem quite happy,” I said. “You take good care of them.”

“I try my best,” she said.

“Does it get lonely? I know a ruler is set apart from their people, and you do not exactly have a support group in the above worlds, when so many fear you.”

“It’s a loneliness I’m used to.” Hel shrugged. “In my melancholy, I better understand the sorrows of the souls I take in, and strive the more to give them proper comfort and rest, before they are called back out again.”

“Aye, sorrow… ’tis something I know well.” I smiled, sadly.

“That you do.” Hel stroked my face with her dead hand, which was like ice.

I sang to her, the song I’d sang on the Hel-road, and then she encouraged me to sing some more, so I sang several other songs of sorrow and woe – the last in my set was a Midgard song called “Hurt”, from a band called Nine Inch Nails, covered by the great singer Johnny Cash – and at last I started to cry, not able to help myself.

Hel pulled me into her embrace, stroking my hair for a moment, and then she let go, and took my hand, in her living hand. “Come,” she said, “I have a use for your tears.” She led me to the river flowing through the caves. “Cry, Vanir Lord. The river runs a bit dry this summer.”

I cried like I had never cried before, cried to the point where I felt like I would start crying blood, my body so wracked with sobs. I cried not just for myself, but for my family, and indeed, for the pain my realm had known, thrice war-torn, forgotten and forlorn for too long by folk we had considered kin, only to be met again but misunderstood by most who engaged with us, at best. I cried for Vanaheim, and then I cried for the realm of Hel, for all who had died in sorrow and suffering, who had left behind family who sorrowed and suffered, and for Hel herself, for her loneliness… she who had been separated from her siblings when she was young… she could walk away from this place if she chose, but she stayed here, as bound to duty as I was, in the friendless way that rulers too often were, set apart from her people, but loving and serving them just the same. She was a kindred spirit, and I would willingly go to her once a year, if only to be around someone else who understood me for a brief while.

At last the tears subsided; I still felt like I had not given enough, though the sound of rushing water was stronger now, from a trickle to a roar. “Thank you,” she said, dried my tears with a lace handkerchief, and then kissed my forehead, her lips like ice. Not able to help myself, I kissed her forehead back, my lips lingering, as warm as hers were cold. I took a deep breath and I did what I can only describe as “blowing light” at her forehead, my arms around her, and for a moment she was wholly alive, her black hair turned silver blonde… she looked frighteningly like my twin for a moment, when my twin had been female. Then she was back to the dark hair, and half-living, half-dead, looking a bit stunned.

“Would you like anything to drink?” she said.

“Do you have whisky?”

She indeed had whisky. She had a glass of it herself; we sat in her feasting hall, watching people eat. “Nobody from the aboveworld has ever cried for me,” Hel said, softly.

“I’m sorry.” I didn’t know what else to say.

She pressed my hand to her heart… her skin was like ice again, but grew warmer under my touch, and I saw her eyes become too bright… and then tears flowed down her cheeks, silently. After a moment she took a small green glass vial and cried into it, putting a stopper in it when it was full – it didn’t take much – and she handed it to me. “If there is ever anyone dying, who you wish to not die, just then… sprinkle this upon them, and they will live, for awhile yet.”

“…Thank you,” I said. “But I can’t accept this.” I put the vial back in her hand. “People go in their time, when wyrd wants them. I can’t fight that, even if I wanted to. Not even Odin could fight that, with Baldur, and he’s a conniving dirty bastard.”

Hel laughed. I was shocked to see her laugh – I wondered if it was the first time she’d ever laughed. Her laughing out loud made me laugh, which made her laugh harder, which made me laugh harder, which made her laugh harder, which made me start to snort, which made her laugh so hard she started crying again.

She took her tears, and wiped them on the compass pendant. “May you always find your way, elvenking, even when you think there is no way.”

That was a gift I could accept; I took both her living and dead hands, kissed them, and pressed them to my heart. “Thank you,” I said to her.

She put the vial back in my hand. “A shot of faith, hope, and courage, then, if not a gift of life. For you, or anyone you think needs it, when their hope is gone. When they’ve lost their way.”

“And thank you for that, as well.” I took it from her, and she gestured to my necklace; I took off the chain, and slipped the vial onto the chain, so it rested next to the compass pendant. I blessed her trees, letting her cut me and I bled onto them, onto their branches, over their roots.

When all the trees were blessed, she put her arms around me, and then she said, “Go.”

“Aye,” I said.

She pointed the way, and on my way out I saw Baldur, bright and smiling, and he made his way to Hel’s side – she greeted him with “Hello, Valraven,” and put her arm around him, and he around her, and they kissed, softly. She was fully alive, and fair, with him standing beside her; I could feel her energy radiating and the trees and ground responding to it.

As Hel bore a somewhat unnerving resemblance to my twin, Baldur looked a bit like Yanlin, though blonde (Yanlin had brown hair), and without the wistful, haunting melancholy in Yanlin’s eyes. Seeing Hel and Baldur stand together, so much like my twin and his consort, made the hair on my neck and arms stand on end.

As above, so below, echoed in my mind. Queen of Fertility, Queen of the Dead. Not-twins, mirrors, opposite numbers.

Baldur’s twin, Hodur, was blind, and had accidentally killed him; Kaeherys could… see, and had saved Yanlin’s life once. Hel’s twin, Fenris, was the Wolf, in chains given by the Lawspeaker of the Aesir, his power fettered for he would devour everything otherwise; I kept my own rage tightly fettered, unleashing it only in service of the Law, as Vanaheim’s Lawspeaker. Baldur had died and then gave himself as Hel’s consort, his light and life where it was needed most, Helheim’s sun; my twin had arguably died a year ago, reborn as a new person – the person he always was, deep down – necessary to be able to have what he has with Yanlin, and their love was the Grail of Vanaheim, poured out like water, feeding the land with gentle rain, tears of joy.

I was yet more unnerved by this revelation, but it also “clicked” in my head, that moment of understanding. More mirrors, more opposite numbers, the double spiral between worlds, connecting them, the cosmic cycle of life and death.

It all made sense. For all that wyrd often seemed inexorable – a force of discord rather than order – the weaving was still in patterns. I was part of that pattern, part of something larger than myself. As are we all.

I gave one final nod to Hel and Baldur; I was glad she had him. But he could not be everything to her… she needed a friend. I could be that for her, when it was my time to walk the Hel-road each year. I wouldn’t just die to feed my people… I’d be visiting a friend. I’d be visiting family.

_
I felt a hard thump on my chest and came back into my body with a gasp, and shooting pain.

My twin was kneeling above me, wielding the Serpent staff we had been given; he had resurrected me, Jae had given the signal that I was ready to rejoin the living. Anar kissed my lips softly, smoothing my hair, his eyes bright with tears that were softly falling, silently. My wounds were already closing, with his tears falling onto them.

It had been the plan that Anar would then fuck me, to ground me back into my body – but he gestured for Syddan to come over. He was giving me to Syddan… formally acknowledging Syddan as twin of my heart, my soulmate. This will be the way, each year, Anar said between us, and I nodded. The love my blood-twin and adopted brother shared – the way they brought each other joy after both having known great sorrow – would feed the land for high spring, blessing Vanaheim with abundance; Syddan would be there when I returned each year, The Law honoring the debt paid, and the reaping. It was right.

“Welcome home, aderano,” Syddan said, leaning in to kiss me.

I kissed him back, hungrily; I watched as Yanlin put his arm around Anar, escorting him away from the ritual site… Anar was shaken, and would need his gentle care, and no doubt he’d enjoy “caring” for my brother – fun for the whole family. Then Syddan put his hand on my chest, where I had been stabbed, where I wore the compass and the vial of hope, where I had been struck back to life… touching my heart with his fire, and breathed on me, breathing his breath into me, his life.

Merendi[4],” I said, reaching up to him, too moved to say anything else. We kissed again, and he loved me before my people… claimed me before my people.

I was indeed home, and alive again… ready to taste life, and give the fullness of my life each year, to the land, to the Lady of the Dead, my rebirth a testament that nothing ever really dies, is just changed…like my very heart.

Love will find a way. Would you know yet more?

_

[1] Aderano: Vanic for “brother”.

[2] Avela: Vanic for “sweetheart, honey, sweetness”.

[3]Runekta Marunasat: “Feast of the Fallen”, the Vanic version of Lammas.  Where Frey was sacrificed each year until 2014 when Qael took his place as the sacrifice.

[4]Merendi: Vanic for “one who completes”.

Brand new in my Etsy shop: Lilith Devotional Necklace

A devotional necklace for the infernal goddess Lilith (also known as Lilitu and Lilla).

The seal of Lilith set in pewter with an onyx cabochon, on a strand of Australian black opal, hypersthene, astrophyllite, and larvikite beads, with Tibetan silver rose beads and pewter spacers.

The rainbow “dark fire” in the black opal is very hard to photograph properly but you can see some of it in a few of the pictures, which do NOT do justice to it. Hypersthene has a chatoyancy described as “black velvet” and there is a “labradorescence” to astrophyllite and larvikite, a subtle glitter in the light. The combination of stones was chosen deliberately, at her behest, to honor Lilith as Dark Mother.

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This necklace can be worn by a devotee, worn prior to invoking Lilith for workings, or gifted Lilith and placed on an altar with other treasures; can also be used as a portable shrine.

The necklace measures approximately 26″ circumference and is strung on sturdy monofilament with an easy-to-operate lobster claw clasp.

The necklace is $350 USD.  For the month of August, to celebrate the one-year anniversary of my shop, I am having a 15% off sale at my shop – the coupon code ONEYEAR applied at checkout will bring this necklace down from $350 to $297.50, a savings of $52.50.  I also do layaway payment plans and will honor the 15% sale price if you set up a layaway plan with me for this item this month, so we could do something like ten payments of $29.75; please message me and I will work something out with you.  However due to some experiences I have had, there have been some recent changes to my layaway policy, so before you message me requesting a layaway plan PLEASE read my shop policy page so that you understand my new rules regarding layaway.  (Note that my new policy does not apply retroactively to extant layaway plans set up prior to July 30th, 2015, but does apply to new layaway plans from here on out.)

(Please note that the ONEYEAR coupon code MAY NOT be used for readings and custom work – if you wish to commission me or buy a reading/channeling, please purchase this separately from items you intend on using the coupon for.)

Finally in honor of Lammas, my friend Beth and I are having a mutual sale where if you shop at her store in addition to mine from now through August 4th, let me know and I will give you a 15% off coupon good for a future purchase (and vice versa).

There’s lots of other things to see at my shop, and more will be added throughout the month.

30 Days of Loki: Day 30

XXX. Any suggestions for others just starting to learn about this deity?

Here is some of my sincere and heartfelt advice for those who want to get to know Loki:

1. Making offerings to him is a good practise to get into.  It doesn’t have to be anything big and expensive, necessarily (per se, though he does have a bad case of Ooh Shiny Syndrome and I totally enable that), it can be little things – candles, incense, food, libations.  These are tokens of appreciation and good will and demonstrate you’re interested.

2. Loki is one of the least formal deities I’ve met.  If you want to give him an offering, just give it to him.  If you want to talk to him, just talk to him.  You CAN do ritual to him, but if you’re not much for ritual and not an especially formal person, he’s not going to require this of you.

3. Be prepared for change.

Now, a lot of people I’ve talked with over the years are afraid of dealing with Loki because they seem to have this feeling, possibly brought about by reading the experiences of some other Lokeans, that if they become friends with Loki (or more), their life is going to fall apart and they are going to have some big radical life changes whether they want them or not.  This is not necessarily true.  There HAVE been Lokeans who have experienced this, several of whom are spouses which is kind of a different standard (the story of the godspouse whose mortal relationship goes south and they wind up having to leave them and find an entirely new life is frightfully common, and not at all limited to Loki-spouses [*waves hand*] but there are also godspouses who are allowed mortal relationships too, within certain guidelines [*waves hand again*]).  But not every Lokean I’ve talked to has been through the big cataclysm of everything getting burned down and rebuilt.  And if Loki DOES decide to go there with you, it means the Powers That Be thought you needed it.  But it IS entirely possible to work with Loki and still have something resembling a “normal” life.

That said, Loki may introduce you to some new experiences, new ideas, etc.  Loki has a knack for bringing things into your life that he thinks you need – new friends, new partner/s, new job, etc.  He’s VERY good at getting people unstuck if you need it.

4. Have a sense of humor.

5. Do have a clear sense of where your boundaries are, and enforce them.  Loki DOES respect boundaries, but the key is you actually have to have boundaries.  I find that too often a lot of people do not have a clear idea of what is OK with them and what is not OK with them, when they start working with deities.  This is actually a must-have skill if you start working with demons, because a disproportionately high number of employees of Lucifer’s realm are also lawyers so they need rules explicitly stated to them (or you need a deity [including infernal deities] who knows where your boundaries are and can help enforce them; D has a set of Rules that all guests need to abide by, here).  As ridiculous as this might sound, it might help to write out a list of things that you are not OK with, if you’re worried about it, like “It is not OK to come onto me, it is not OK to hide my things, it is not OK to visit me in the bathroom” (if you’re not OK with those things).  That said, sometimes Loki knows without being told, especially if he’s friendly with Someone you have an extant relationship with who will inform him about your boundaries or tell him certain things he should know, etc.  But if it’s something you’re concerned about, he’ll respect a list and won’t see it as “trying to tell him what to do”.

6. As I mentioned a few days ago, it is NOT necessary to be in a sexual or romantic relationship with Loki to be close to him.  It is also OK to just have Loki as a more casual friend and not become an oath-sworn devotee.  In the case of my life, I get something different from each of my partners, and I get something entirely different from my close friends, and I get something different from more casual friendships.  It’s much the same with Loki.

7. Oathing is very serious business.  You can actually have a deity as a patron and NOT oath to them (with a couple exceptions; Rofocale and Odin both require oaths if you want them as patrons, usually).  It is true that most people who claim So-and-so as a patron have taken formal oaths to that entity – I am in fact oath-sworn to Asmodai – but this is not necessary in every single case.  I’m not going to give you the conventional wisdom of “a year and a day” because we have a saying around here that goes “this escalated quickly” (“I know I just met you and this is crazy” is pretty much mine and D’s theme song), and very few Lokeans I know waited that long before Shit Got Real, but I would wait at least a few days before you make the decision to swear to have him as your main deity.  :P  And really think about what you’re doing, the implications of what you’re doing, etc.

_

Tips from the audience are welcome, as it might help any Lokan00bs reading this!  (“Lokan00bs” is a word now.)

Sale!

So on August 1st, 2014, I began doing Serious Business at my Etsy shop.  It was open before that, but I had made less than a dozen sales and was more of a “hobby seller” – Lammas 2014 was when I started to regularly make inventory and promote my shop (and the income from my store helped significantly with my move from Oregon to Connecticut).  I didn’t start to see the business I’m doing now until March 2015 (and even that was a lot faster than anticipated, I was expecting it to take at least another two years to do the kind of business I’m doing; that was one of D’s wedding presents to me), but that doesn’t mean the sales prior to that “didn’t count”.

In honor of the one-year anniversary of Nornoriel’s House of Elf Swag, I am having a sale from now, Thursday July 30th 2015, through Monday, August 31st, 2015.  The coupon code ONEYEAR applied at checkout will take 15% off your order. There are however caveats on this:

  • The coupon MAY NOT be applied to custom work or spiritual services, due to the cost of time and labor involved in putting together commissions and doing readings/channelings (where even a small discount on this is hurting me).  If you wish to buy a reading or commission me to do something, PLEASE purchase this separately from any items you intend on using the coupon code for.
  • This coupon code MAY be applied to layaway payments, if you’ve got items on layaway, with the caveat that it may not be used for any custom work on layaway, so if you’ve commissioned me to make a special something and that’s on a payment plan, PLEASE DO NOT use the coupon code for those payments (my commission rates are at the rate they’re at for reasons, which includes cost of supplies).  You MAY use the coupon code for non-custom layaways, so now would be a really good time to try to start making some payments on items you’ve had on layaway for awhile.  :)  This coupon code can also be used if you’ve got an item (non-custom) on hold.

This coupon code MAY be applied to my regular inventory of items:

How to use the coupon code?  When you are on the window for your cart, you will see the words “Apply shop coupon code” beneath the payment options.  Click that, type ONEYEAR into the box (one word, all caps), hit “Apply”, and you’re good to go.

Finally – If you want me to do layaway on an item you have your eye on – for example, if you see something like the Wild Irish Rose necklace and you don’t have $200 right now but you’d be able to pay me in installments, send me a message with the piece you would like to put on layaway and I will honor the 15% sale price with the caveat that you need to give me a timeframe of how long you expect it to take to pay something off – starting July 30th, 2015, I will no longer honor new layaway plans that take longer than six months to pay off.  (This does not apply to layaway plans that have already been set up, so if we set something up some months ago and you’re still working on it, it’s all right; this applies to new layaway plans, only.  That said, six months, or 26 weeks is a VERY reasonable amount of time to get something under $500 paid off and there are many Etsy sellers who are a lot more strict about time [as they need to be].)

In addition to all the current swag, there will be new pieces going into the shop this month, so check back often, and also check this space as well as my shop blog for info on new pieces as they arrive.

So!  Enjoy the sale.  And for this week only (through August 4th), to celebrate Lammas, if you shop at my friend Beth’s store in addition to mine, let me know and I will give you a special coupon code good for another 15% off a future purchase (which is always nice during the off periods when I’m not having sales).  :)

A few frequently asked questions on astral work and spirit!stuff

Awhile back I did a post on astral matters such as time and the astral, astral body issues (sickness, injury, pregnancy, whether you can get astral STDs or not), spirit sex and having spirit children, languages and the Otherworld, entities multi-locating, and whether they can eat/sleep/shit/etc – that post can be found here.

Here are a few other questions I’ve been asked over time about astral and spirit matters, but before I begin:

1. Disclaimer: A lot of what follows is my own personal experience and/or experiences others have privately related to me.  I am NOT speaking for everyone ever; if your experience with the following subjects is different, you’re not necessarily “wrong”, just different (nor are you necessarily “right” and me “wrong” – there are ways in which both of us can be right).

2. This is NOT an open invitation to ask me a bunch of questions about astral stuff, whether on this post or privately, I don’t have time for that.  If you DO have questions pertaining to the specific subjects I bring up here, PLEASE limit said questions to two and PLEASE understand that my area of expertise is Vanic elves and demons, so asking me something specific to Jotnar, Ljossalfar, fae, etc is something that I personally may not be able to answer (however there might be someone in the audience who can answer that question).

3. The following post is behind a “Read More” cut because it gets into subjects such as astral dismemberment and blood, which may be squicky or potentially triggering to some readers.  Viewer discretion is advised.

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