The Day Before Leaving

my tattooI got my tattoo. It really hurt, more than I expected it would, and it still hurts like crazy. Guess all those macho folks who claimed that "their tattoos didn't hurt all that much" were either lying or had a much higher pain tolerance than me. It makes my arm ache, and it's hard to raise it. Hopefully it will heal up some before I have to leave tomorrow, or it's going to be hard to do any manual labor. I would have liked to have had more time to heal it, but Mulysa, although an excellent tattooist, is a bit of a flake and kept forgetting to call me back and schedule the appointment. However, one isn't supposed to bargain over magical things.

It's the nine-letter word HELGRENZE, which modernly means hellbound, but it originally meant oathbound to Hel, and that's the meaning that I use. It's in black runes - Haegl Ehwaz Laguz Gyfu Raido Ehwaz Nyth Algiz Ehwaz, and each of the runes also has meaning to me. Haegl is Hel, of course, my first allegiance, but it is also the rune of Hail, the rain of chaos, and I can't deny that this has been so much a part of my life. I've been trained by its constant unending stream of misfortunes that I can't halt to be strong under fire. Newage types may think that the stream of misfortunes was something that I could get away from if I "just had the right attitude", but no. It's training. Hel needs a war zone correspondent, medic, counselor, and special ops agent, and you don't train up one of those by letting him live in relative comfort.

There are three Ehwaz runes, the rune of the Horse that means slow progress. What comes to mind is three horses, one black, one white, and one red - the progression of colors that marks the third gender path. The first horse, right next to Hel, is the black one, and that's both Baphomet - one of my main teachers on this path - and my dead spirit-father Valraven, whose symbol is the winged black horse. To ride the black horse is to ride with the dead, to the paths of the underworld, to be Lord of the dark places. Dealing with the dark parts of people's psyches is part of my job. Not to mention my ever-increasing work with the dead - as Josh commented, just as a priest has to put up with old people complaining about their goiters and gallstones, shamans have to put up with dead people bitching. In my case, the dead transfolk who crowd me, screaming for justice. I ride the black horse, on the paths of darkness, which I know so well.

The next runes are harder. Laguz is the rune of Water, meaning Flow, and I have such a hard time with Flowing, I'm wrapped so tight. I so often resent how I have become a door through which messages and information and orders flow, whether I will it or not. It's hard for a control freak like me to be used, often without warning or consent. Yet I have to learn to flow with it, to open and let it come without resentment, because I have no choice....this is the way things are going to be for me, the rest of my life, and I'd better learn to "lay back and enjoy the rape", as the nasty politicians say. Josh and I have taken to doing sexual yoga exercises designed to open me up - I won't go into detail, but it works surprisingly well. We're going to do this tonight, to get me good and opened up for this journey, where I cannot afford to be closed to stimuli and vision.

The next rune is Gyfu, the rune of the Gift, the Crossroads, and Partnership. I must never forget that this path brings gifts as well as terrors. I have been blessed with a wonderful wife and an amazing boyfriend, and I am so damn lucky in love. Who cares if I don't have money, or that I can't hold down a real job due to the demands of this one? I have people who love me enough to put up with all this shit, people who love me for who I am. I have a whole kingdom full of folks who went out of their way to help me get stuff together for this trip. I can walk through the combat zone and not be touched - only Hel gets to beat me up. I know what I'm supposed to do with my life. What more do I need? I need to remember to be grateful.

Raido, the rune of the Road.....the road I walk tomorrow. Shamans "journey", and that's part of what defines them. They go to places that other people can't, and fix things. That's the road this symbolizes, not just my personal path.....the road that I will ride, on the beats of my drum, not just this month, but many times. This is the orientation tour, not the end result. Also, Raido echoes my Sagittarius sun.

The second Horse is the white horse, the horse of Rules and Honor and Law, and it is a hard one to rise. Both my shaman job and my kingship job are bounded by geases and rules, some of which I only discover when I trip over them. "Gee, can I do this? Uh....guess not."The white horse is hard to ride because he keeps only to a narrow path, and he refuses to stray off into that interesting-looking side road....not because it's necessarily wrong, but because it's just not for me, not this time around. I get few choices, but I get surety.

Nyth is the rune of Need, the firebow without which our ancestors would not have survived. It is also the rune of No, the boundary and limit. This rune, to me, says: Remember that you have a body, that you live in this material world, that you need to take that into account. Your physical needs cannot be neglected in favor of your job, or you will not last long. And I do want to be an old shaman-king someday, and still be hale and able, if possible.

Algiz is the Elk-rune, the rune of challenge, the upraised hand, the rearing horned stag. It is for Herne, the Hunter with whom I do have a bond, who has promised to protect me on this journey, whose little crow I keep as a token. Maegen will be going with me on the trip; we're putting up a hook in the hermitage to hold her cage. She is starting to fledge out with her permanent black feathers. Hail Herne, Keeper of Predator and Prey, by all your many names.

The final Ehwaz is the red horse, and I don't know what that one's for. I expect I will find out. After all, I'm still in training, I don't know everything yet. 37 years old and still not fully trained....soon, I hope.

People have been wonderful about my kit. I've been getting amazing gifts from everyone. Ken Russell stopped by yesterday; apparently he'd read my site and told his little daughter Maia (or Maya??) about my quest, and she insisted that I needed some important things. He brought me a glass bottle of seawater - don't know what it'll be useful for, but if people say that I need it, then obviously I need it. Maia donated a scrap of her magic security blanket (her "blay"), blue with cows and moons, to tie around the neck of the bottle. All the protective hamingja of a small child's faith. It's one of the rules of journeying that you read in folktales - when children or animals say, "You need this," then you need it.

Allyson, the Martha Stewart of paganism, has given me a beautiful gift basket containing magical soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and a deodorant stone, all handmade from natural materials with the appropriate protective herbs and powders. She's also made an offering for me to give to the elves of Alfheim, as I was rather stumped about that. It's a set of marzipan runes, complete with a golden bag, each one rolled in herbs and spices appropriate to the meaning of the rune.

Tannin brought me magical ink in a double bottle (so it won't spill) and is getting me some mead for my day in Asgard. My daughter Jess spent days making handmade paper with bits of herbs in it, and Josh bound most of it into a journal with a leather cover, and the rest is for notes for me to write. My clothing is all made - shirts, pants, my "unmanly" skirt - and had runes embroidered on it, and is charged. I made a jacket from Bella's old skirts - lots of hamingja - lined with silk from Joan's old blouses, in the Sami style, and Josh embroidered a Sami neckband for it with a geometric pattern that symbolizes the Midgard Serpent. I took real shed snakeskins and stitched them in under the band of embroidery. The back has a needlepoint Sami design of the stag-hunter god from a shaman's drum, so that Herne will watch my back. I put elk antler dust under it. Jezanna enchanted a towel for me, and Jay Grace, one of our Ancestor Thread guild members (the pagan fiber arts guild) knitted me magic mittens, bear-paw style with the top that folds back to reveal fingerless gloves, out of hand-spun wool with "Warm Hands" knitted into them in runes. Wearing all that charged clothing is very buzzes around me, although I get used to the feeling in a few minutes.

I collected silver jewelry from all my friends that they didn't want. Some gave me their wedding rings from dead marriages. The Tashlins - Wintersong, Fireheart, and Summerwind - melted it all down and made silver coins to give away as offerings. They made jokes about how they'd gotten real good at putting a whammy on things with a Dremel tool - they engraved bind runes on the coins. They also whammied me a hatchet, and named it "Raven's Wing". Wintersong magicked it to be sharp and safe, and refuse to chop into human flesh. He tested it by swinging it at himself, which he admitted was a dumb trick, and one that Fire and Storm would have not approved of at all, but it worked.

My cloak of the Nine Worlds is awesome. Joshua and I have worked on it for five months, taking it with us to all sorts of places. My guitar has a new magic case, as does my drum. Bella has lent me a knife with an antler handle, and Joshua woodburned runes into my cup, bowl, and spoon. He also embroidered them into all the wool socks we bought, making jokes about feeling like a mom sending a kid to summer camp, with his name sewed into everything.

I made my crane bag out of another of Bella's old leather skirts, with patches and embroidery for anti-theft. It is enspelled to be very monogamous, and to bite anyone who picks it up except for me. It likes me, and when I sling it over my shoulder it feels like it's "cuddling" me.

One day left.