5 Huath 2003

So over the next four months I'll be making my kit. In a weird way, I'm happy about it. Up until now, She's let me work with magic items, but not depend on any of them, except for my drum and guitar. Now I get to have magical tools, for the first time! No tacky silver shit from the witch store. Mine all have to be handmade by me, or handmade by loved ones who can whammy. I'm also allowed to be loaned magical objects for the trip by loved ones. Them's the rules. Of course, some people get wands and pendants. I get magic socks.

So I tell my friends what I'm going to be doing, and the result is much more positive than I expected. I figured they'd just think that I was crazy. Instead, they are enthusiastic about helping. Joshua is going to knit me magic socks with runes on them. Bella is making me magic boots, and a firebow - I'll have to start fires the old-fashioned way; fortunately, there's four months in which to learn this art. My daughter is going to make paper and hand-bind me a book to take along, with homemade ink and a quill pen. She knows that I can't be happy nine days without writing anything. Jay is going to knit me runic mittens, of the "bear-paw" sort with the ends that fold back and have fingerless gloves underneath, with runes for Warm And Skillful Hands, out of Black Welsh Mountain Sheep wool that he's hand-spun. Allyson will make me magic soap, and body paint to do a protective ward on my skin to send me off the first day. Wintersong and his bunch will do me a magic hatchet and shovel.

We discuss the issue of shelter. I think about tents and stuff, but Bella points out that she's been wanting to build a sweat lodge back there for some time now anyway, a permanent dome-structure out of chain-link frame covered in concrete and then earth-sheltered with turf. She wants to plaster the inside with more cement, and then paint Paleolithic hunting scenes on it in fire-resistant paint. We picked out the area and discussed supplies and time frame. She assures me that it can be whammied enough to show up on any astral plane, and I'll be able to sleep comfortably in it each night. Well, maybe not comfortably - my bad back will not enjoy sleeping on the ground - but better than nothing, in case it rains.

In terms of clothes....I've asked folks to donate me any old clothing made of natural materials - linen, wool, leather, cotton - that they don't want any more. There's more hamingja (luck and fortune) in clothing patchworked together out of stuff given to me out of love and friendship. Joan donated an entire bag of torn or too-small silk blouses, which can be cut up for underwear and shirts and lining for my jacket.

Tannin goes over my list of equipment with me, and brings up the issue of offerings, tolls, and bribes. I had forgotten about that. I will probably be required to visit any number of folk - Aesir, Vanir, Rokkr, Jotun, ljossalfar and svartalfar and duergar. Some may be hostile. All will expect gifts and offerings. I know that I can get into Fensalir - Frigga's hall - by bringing my spindle and offering to help with the spinning. I can get Willow to make me some blood mead to offer, and I think that the dwarves might like semi-precious stones cut into cabochons. I'd also like to melt some silver - gold is too expensive - down into small coins with runes on them, for paying tolls on other people's roads. I ask my friends to donate me any silver jewelry that they don't want any longer, and talk to the Hephaestus Guild about casting me coins, which they assure me that they can do sometime between now and October.

Joshua points out that the best charm for not getting lost is to bring a map. We decide to make me a cloak that will be one big appliqued and embroidered map of the Nine Worlds. Then I start looking at maps, all of which are different. I pull up as much lore as I can to figure out where things are in relation to each other. It doesn't make much sense at the moment - the drawn maps tend to have things moved around arbitrarily to suit people's sense of symbolism. That goes especially for Edred Thorsson's map, which is way too neat and tidy and molecular. "Hel's map is a thing of beauty," one member of the Helvegr list tells me, "but it's not allowed out of Elvidner." I'll have to send away for more maps.

I try to explain the theory of how this works to Ruth, who is new to the concept of walking between worlds. I handspin grey mohair and silk together into fine thread, and enchant it with a spell to confuse the steps of any who are trying to follow me with ill intent. I'll make knotted lengths to wrap around a stick, and undo them as I need them. They will have a physical form (the thread) and an astral form (the spell). If I'm, for instance, walking in Jotunheim (being physically in two places at once), and something comes after me, I can reach into my crane bag (which will be made of one of Bella's old leather skirts, and be embroidered with runes to give it soul), pull out the stick, unwrap a piece of thread, speak the spell that activates it, and drop it as I walk away. As it leaves my aura, it separates. The physical thread falls back to this plane, and the astral element of it stays in Jotunheim, and does its job.

Of course the magicked tools will keep their souls even when they're not in my hand - spells are a one-use thing - but they will be useful for dealing with things in those worlds. Or so I understand the process, and it's worked for me before.

Ironically, the one place that I'm not afraid to go is the place that most people fear - Helheim. I've been there before, brought by Her. I've just never walked there myself. I can sort of understand why I have to do this the hard way, the walking way. I'm so bad at directions, so spatially dyslexic, I can't find my way around anything until I've thoroughly walked it. So maybe it's important that I get the ground tour of the Nine Worlds, so that I can be sent to find things or people or anything else that might have gotten lost there. Or whatever else She intends for me to do. For years now I've been putting this off - yes, I'm a functioning shaman, but I've been putting off the actual tribal duties - on the excuse that I was a full-time single parent. Well, my daughter is almost of age, and she will be leaving within a year, and she hardly needs me now. I complained that I needed help, that I couldn't do it without assistance. Joshua was promptly sent over with a big astral package label saying, "For Raven: one servant, assistant, and shaman's boy." Now my only excuse is that I need more training, and clearly that's what this is.

We make jokes about the issue of ensouled artifacts. I kid about how so many of the types who get into trouble wandering about the Nine Worlds are warrior sorts - they go there with their enchanted sword and armor - imagine Elmer Fudd singing "Spear and Magic Hel...met!" to the Ride of the Valkyries at this point - and then, in the middle of being attacked by something, they look down and realize that they have no pants! After all, who thinks to bring magic pants? It's so unglamourous. And then six weeks later, they're in a shaman's living room, saying, "Well, uh, some troll ran up and hacked off my, uh, astral you-know-what, and, uh, this crone sort of ran off with it, and I, uh, haven't been able to get it up for six weeks, and could you maybe go and find it again for me?" And the shaman puts his hand to his forehead and sighs and says, "Where did this happen again? An old crone? OK, OK, I'll see what I can do...."

For what it's worth, my sword and armor are going to remain on the astral plane only. It's not that I can't get any. I have dozens of swords, but they aren't my sword. I was trained and drilled in soulsword techniques by the strict Gardnerian coven that I first trained in as a teenager, and my sword is made of my own prana, and is permanently sheathed in my body. I can put on astral armor pretty damn quick, too. But I'm thinking that it's best not to go around looking as if you're cruising for trouble, and anyway the sword and armor will be entirely useless on this plane, unlike boots and socks and pants and knife and cup and firebow. So the stuff that my body does not need to survive does not have to be physical.

My friend Gary gives me a book of embroidery patterns of Saami (that's Lapp herder people) folk designs, including ones from the spirit drums. They are adorned with stags and birds and hunters. I will put one on the back of my jacket to watch my back, and another on the case I'm making to protect my drum. Luckily I can recruit the Ancestor Thread Guild to help with the counted cross-stitch....it's good to be the King. At least it means that you have friends who will pitch in when you have to go on shamanic journeys.

Speaking of which....A voice very sternly tells me that I must formally turn rulership of the Kingdom over to one or more regents for the period of time that I will be away. I ask Bella and Sir Tannin formally to watch over the Kingdom for me during that time, and they agree. Bella will handle interpersonal problems, and Tannin, my senior knight, will deal with paperwork and administrative issues. I've never heard that voice before. The last thing he says is, "Come and visit me. I've been waiting for you." It is not a suggestion. I am ninety percent sure that it is Odhinn. He is also both king and shaman, I realize. Actually, he's the only god I know who combines those two archetypes. I expect that I do have a lot to learn from him, even if he isn't fond of my mistress.....