Hello Llewellyn…

I am very pleased to announce that Kenny Klein and I will be writing a book about fairy tales together for Llewellyn! The book will be a follow up to Kenny’s last book, Fairy Tale Rituals. This book will focus on fairy tales NOT collected by the Grimms: tales from England, France, Russia and more!

We signed our contract today. The finished manuscript is due in June so stay posted for updates!

This will be my first book, but Kenny’s fourth. If you want to catch up on what Kenny has already had to say on fairy tales, check out two of his other books:

Through the Faerie Glass

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and…

Fairy Tale Rituals

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I am not Kenny Klein

I would like to take a minute to clear something up. I am not Kenny Klein.

I state this in the “About Me” portion of this blog, but some people are still confused. So I wanted to clear things up once and for all and talk a little bit about my more creative half.

I don’t talk all that much about my  personal life on this forum, I bring up New Orleans; I bring up personal moments that relate to entries; but mostly I use this blog to discuss things in Paganism that I find interesting or issues that fire me up. Paganism is a burning passion in my life, after all. And be warned, if you don’t want to read about my personal life and don’t have patience for a long rambling piece, this is not the blog for you.

This is the story of how Kenny and I met and came to be a couple.

My name is Lauren and I work for a library (and if you don’t think that isn’t very much like admitting that you’re an alcoholic, well, that simply shows that you’ve never worked in a library before).

I grew up in Newark, a blue collar town right outside of Columbus Ohio. I moved to Cincinnati to go to college and ended up living there for a long time. For the record, Cincinnati is another awesome river town with a lot of great art and music.

It was in Cincinnati that I met the Pirates; with that meeting, my life changed forever. While I had always known that I wasn’t Christian (my family is solidly Methodist), I didn’t realize until my late teens that there were other options out there. Of course I had heard of Wicca before, but it didn’t really occur to me that it was possible to seek it out, or that there was a larger Pagan community to explore. In central Ohio, it’s hard not get swallowed up by the overall Abrahamic religious vibe. But when I met the Eclectic bunch of Pagans who call themselves The Pirates, a whole new world opened up for me.

When the economic downturn hit Southwestern Ohio pretty hard, I knew that my job was no longer stable. It turned out that as they were downsizing my department, another job turned up in Columbus. I was sad to leave my friends in Cincinnati, but I reasoned that Columbus couldn’t be too bad. My parents were nearby, I had grown up there; and it was only two hours away from my friends, so I could still go back and visit everyone regularly.

There were certain flaws in my reasoning. Namely, I was miserable in Columbus. There were a few pirates that dotted the Columbus landscape, and I was lucky enough to spend some time getting to know them better. Between them and my Cinci family, I was generally kept on the desirable side of sanity. One of the Columbus Pagans runs a small festival that brings the Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati Pagans together in Central Southern Ohio: it was there that I met Kenny.

I did not like Kenny the first time I met him. Little did I know at the time, he was in the process of going through a frustrating break-up and was moving his life from Los Angeles to New Orleans. He had lived in New Orleans before Katrina, but had moved to L. A. to be near family afterwards. At the time, all I saw was an old curmudgeon who was quite content to mope in a corner of the kitchen and yell at the pirates for being too loud at his concert. (The pirates ran the kitchen and we had to put up with him all weekend; we were excessively loud at his concert).

Kenny did however connect with my best friend at that festival, and ended up staying with her and several of my other friends while he performed at the Ohio Renaissance Festival. He endeared himself to her, but I was still convinced of his overall curmudgeonliness. While he stayed with my friends, he gave them an open invitation to come down and stay with him in New Orleans whenever they wanted.

Now, at one point, the older generation of the pirates lived in New Orleans for several years. For various reasons, they ended back in Cincinnati, but we of the middle generation had been fueled with many stories of the “good ol’ New Orleans days” and of course we all wanted to visit. I had been trying to get to New Orleans for years and every time I tried, plans fell through.

In early December of 2010, my friend called me up and asked me if I wanted to go to New Orleans. The conversation went something like this:

Friend: “Hey! We were thinking about taking a vacation to New Orleans over Yule, want to go with us?”
Me: “Of course!”                                                                                                                                                                                                   Friend: “One small thing…”                                                                                                                                                                                       Me: “What?”                                                                                                                                                                                                          Friend: “We’re going to stay with Kenny Klein…”                                                                                                                                               Me: “*Sigh” I suppose New Orleans is worth putting up with HIM, fine.”

And so, on December 16th, 2010, we set out on the thousand mile road trip from Columbus to New Orleans for an extended weekend.

We drove all night to get there. I remember stumbling out of the car, sleep deprived and rumpled in my sweats, simply wanting to sleep for a few hours. I was even beyond caring that we were staying at Kenny Klein’s house or that I was actually in New Orleans.

Kenny will tell you that he opened the door in time to see me come stumbling out and that he was struck with how cute I was and with the fact that he didn’t remember me at all from the festival. (Not surprising; at the festival, I avoided him like the plague). My friend had warned him that I shared no love for him at all, but that I had promised to be polite. Great start, right?

Over that long weekend, I was struck by the huge difference between the man I had met at the festival and the man that I met in New Orleans. In New Orleans, he welcomed us with open arms into his home, spent the entire weekend showing us around the city and was just, in general, a warm and lovely host.

We returned to Columbus and I didn’t really expect anything to happen with the connection that he and I had made. I was a thousand miles away, there is a thirty year age difference between us, and how in the world would something like that work anyway? But…he started writing me and I wrote back and soon I found myself driving to New Orleans again; this time, by myself.

The first time I came to New Orleans, I knew that it was the city where I wanted to live. So with Kenny writing me, I took a chance and started applying for jobs. I figured, if nothing else, I’d have a friend in New Orleans to help get me through the move and I wouldn’t be entirely alone when I moved a thousand miles away from home by myself. Kenny graciously offered to allow me to move in with him, thinking that I could watch his apartment for him while he was away on his annual summer tour, and then when he returned,I could get my own place. (Kenny says his evil plan was to convince me to stay with him all along, but he and I were both too realistic to think that we would work out in this fairly impossible scenario). Fortunately (unfortunately?) in the midst of all this, I found him to be the love of my life. Needless to say, I never did get my own place when he returned from that tour…

For those of you who don’t know who Kenny Klein is, Kenny has been in the Pagan community for over thirty years. He and his  first wife Tzipora are responsible for spreading the Blue Star tradition of Wicca across the U.S. and Kenny was one of the very first Pagan musicians of the modern era. Moon Hooves in the Sand, Kenny and Tzipora’s first recording, which Kenny generally shudders over now, was pretty groundbreaking at the time. It is one of the first recordings of Pagan liturgical music (if you want to hear really bad recordings of the music that makes up Blue Star ritual, go listen to it). And they did something that no one else had done before. Pagan music was not readily available to the public when they started out. While Kenny and Tzipora didn’t work out in the long run, and their break-up is the stuff of legends now, their music and the tradition they spread has had a lasting effect on the overall Pagan community.

Kenny will tell you even now that he never foresaw himself being a Pagan musician. He grew up in New York in the 80’s punk scene and hung out with bands like the Beastie Boys and the Bad Brains and played at the infamous CBGB’s. As a teen, he struggled with Judaism and searched for something greater. He went to his first Wiccan ritual at The Magical Childe in New York City and as they say, the rest is history. He has been a Wiccan Priest for nearly thirty five years now. Kenny is one of the figures from that second generation of Paganism that took what Gardner and the first generation had started and really spread it around the U.S. for the first time. He was and is close with figures like Oberon Zell, the late Issac Bonewits, the Farrars and many other influential Pagans of his era.

Kenny with Hair in the 80's Punk scene

Kenny with Hair in the 80’s Punk scene

Kenny is a pretty polarizing figure, both in Blue Star, the tradition he helped found, and in the larger Pagan community. A lot of people in the Blue Star tradition itself don’t like Kenny at all and get upset with what they see as being his old fashioned viewpoints. A lot of them will tell you that he has left the tradition and doesn’t know what he’s talking about. A lot of other people find him to be loud and obnoxious. He is pretty open with his viewpoints, whether you like them or not.

A lot of other people sneer at us and question our age difference. They see me as the little girl he’s been able to seduce. Anyone who thinks this has probably never met me.

So here’s the deal: When people mistake my writing for Kenny (who has four books in print), it’s pretty frustrating. While he and I are a couple, and I agree with many of his ideas, my thoughts and especially my writing are my own. And while I’m lucky that my infamous boyfriend is willing to promote my writing, it doesn’t mean that he’s secretly the one actually writing it. Whenever I see someone congratulate him on a blog of mine, I get this image of Kenny in a bad wig, hunched over my laptop, looking around sneakily.

Through Kenny, I have gotten to travel all over the U.S. and I’ve been able to go to Pagan festivals and gatherings of all kinds. I have gotten to meet many fabulous Pagan figures, and I get to be privy to a lot of the secrets and the politics that make up the Pagan community. Despite being brought to Wicca by my relationship with Kenny, I am forging my own presence in this greater community.

I also get judged by Kenny’s past decisions (which weren’t always great) and his past wives (which for the most part have been a tableau of mental disorders). I guess that can’t be helped. I have been told I am a welcome relief by some who have gotten to know me.

It frustrates me that often people can’t simply be happy for two people who finally found a happy relationship together.

At the end of the day, controversial, infamous, annoying, outlandish or anything else, Kenny Klein is my S.O. I chose him and kept him, no matter what he wants to tell you. Accept that we are an unconventional couple or don’t accept us at all. Neither of us are exactly what you would call everyone’s cup of tea.

Either way, when you read my blogs, be aware: I am not Kenny Klein. I just happen to live with him.

Kenny and I in Salt Lake City 2011

Kenny and I in Salt Lake City 2011

The Gods Walk in New Orleans

I recently submitted a piece for an anthology about personal experiences with deity. The anthology didn’t end up happening (for lack of submissions), so I thought that I would post my piece here.

The Gods Walk in New Orleans

I don’t know about elsewhere, but the Gods walk around New Orleans like it’s nothing new. Let me tell you a story…

I woke up from a lazy Sunday afternoon nap, listening to my significant other work on a new song that he’s writing. This is the end of the time that he spends at home with me. For four months of the summer he’s gone, singing for people that I’ll never meet. He likes to use this time to prepare new songs and stories to tell. It’s always a pleasure for me to listen to him from other rooms, while he’s creating magic with his music. He doesn’t think it’s a big deal, but I know that these are things that I could never do. I’m fascinated by how easily he puts notes and chords together to create something entirely new. Poetry pours from him in waves that he either uses or discards without any thought that these words might never come back to him.

I woke up knowing that he had someone else in the studio working with him. The woman was singing with him and every now and again, she paused to murmur something too low for me to catch. I had fallen asleep earlier in the afternoon and had slept hard. He hadn’t told me that anyone was coming over, but since it was Sunday and he was working on the new album, I assumed that he must have been able to get a hold of someone to do some vocals for him.

I was buried under my great aunt’s afghan in the air conditioning and I was frozen in indecision. I was stark naked. We live in a shotgun apartment in New Orleans. If you’ve never been in a shotgun apartment, they’re a series of four or five rooms that run all in a line. If you want to get to the back of the house from the front, you have to walk through all the rooms in-between to get there. I was worried that this unknown person might need something to drink or to use the restroom and would have to walk through our bedroom to do so. Usually, being naked around people doesn’t bother me, but when it’s a stranger and I’ve had no warning of their presence, I prefer to be clothed.

I finally decided that instead of risking getting up and flashing whoever this poor, unsuspecting person was, I would remain under the blanket and sleep a little longer. It was Sunday afternoon after all and I had already indulged in an indecently long nap, why not snooze a little more? Maybe by the time I woke up again, they would be done working on the song and whoever it was would have left. The woman’s voice was soothing and my lover’s guitar strumming was softer than it might be, so I drifted back to sleep listening to the woman and my lover sing together.

I woke up a couple of hours later to realize that he was still working on the song, but the woman, whoever she was, had gone. I felt a sense of irrational disappointment. I had enjoyed sleeping to the music they made together. I got up, put on some comfortable clothes, and pulled out a book to while away the rest of the beautiful New Orleans Spring Night. The house was quiet and peaceful. There was nothing at all rushed and hurried about that long Sunday afternoon.

My partner made us dinner and we re-watched a movie that has always been one of my favorites. Somehow the topic of the afternoon came up. I asked him who he had found to work with him on the new song. He gave me a baffled look. “No one was here, baby, I was working on a song about the Goddess Diana…”

This is not the first time I’ve experienced the Gods and other spirits walking in our house. A whole slew of fairies live in the same studio that my lover sang with a Goddess in. My shiny hair pins and bits of jewelry disappear constantly, only to reappear months later. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night paralyzed with fear, realizing that something is in bed with me. At first I usually think that the cat has decided to come sleep with us, and then I realize that no cat moves or breathes like that. It’s a feeling akin to that which I felt as a little girl waking up from the nightmare and KNOWING that there was something sitting in the closet staring at me. And who knows? Maybe there was… The cat regularly plays tag with and talks to things that I can’t see. Invisible beings perch on my knees and sit with me as I read. Every now and again something bites me in a teasing manner. I think they know that I don’t like them. It’s difficult living in a house with fairies when you don’t necessarily appreciate them.

I meet Baron Samedi on the streets of the Quarter regularly. He peers out at me from the people who carry him with them. Occasionally a tall, skinny man in a top hat, with a skull face winks at me as he strolls by. When our house was robbed by the teenagers across the street, my lover and I offered blood to the Baron to watch over us and to give back threefold what had been done to us. He knows me now, in ways that others do not. I often worry about what other price we might end up paying.

My father used to tell me a story when I was a little girl, about when his appendix ruptured and all that he knew was that he was very sick. He likes to reminisce about waking up to see a faceless figure robed in grey sitting in the chair next to his bed. He said that that’s when he knew that it was time to go to the hospital. When I ask him how he felt about Death sitting with him, he piffles at me and says, “That? That was my guardian angel watching over me”. Maybe my father is right, maybe Death is his guardian angel. He still tells me that he talks to Death regularly and that Death always listens. Maybe the Death that my father knows and my Baron Samedi are familiar with each other and pass back and forth their knowledge of my father and I like two old men playing dice.

New Orleans is a magical place: it is an old place. Ghosts walk the streets of the Quarter amongst the strolling tourists. The LaLaurie mansion sits on the corner of Royal and Governor Nicholls. The house, supposedly one of the most haunted houses in America, seems to decide how it would like people to perceive it. There are days that I walk past it and it looms ominously over the rest of the street with a chill, forbidding air. Other days I pass by it and don’t realize that I didn’t notice it at all. Tourists regularly run into the Verti Marte, the little sandwich and grocery shop across the way, pleading with the people behind the desk to call 911 and tell them about a little girl that has fallen off the roof across the street. The grocers shrug their shoulders and tell the people to either buy something or to get out. She died nearly three hundred years ago, after all.

I like to walk up to the shore of the Mississippi. I spoke to Santa Muerte one night and she made her refusal plain by burning the candle, the wood beads, the chocolate and everything else that I had brought as offerings to her. My partner works with and regularly calls down the God Herne. His eyes change colors and his breath smells like new grass and my lover is no longer at home in his own body. The weather witches talk about leaving offerings to the Lady of Lake Pontchartrain. It is only when she is appeased that we don’t have hurricanes. Pontchartrain is easily forgotten by me, someone who didn’t grow up on her shores, but I know that she is always there. It was only six years ago that she rose up and took 11,000 lives. Those dead sleep restlessly in our cemeteries. They are awaiting the day where they can get up and walk about once more. Whenever I pass through one of their resting places, I leave an offering in hopes that when that day comes, they remember me and pass me by.

I thought that I was prepared for New Orleans when I moved here. But how can you be prepared for standing in the middle of the swamp and listening to a Voodoo Mamba wail into the night? The swamps of New Orleans are not like the forests that I grew up in. In some ways they are much more sinister, in others they are much more inviting. I have always heard stories of Will-O-the-Wisps, but never lived somewhere where I expected to see them. Here I do. New Orleans has opened up the world of that other place for me. Do the Gods walk elsewhere? I’m sure they do, but not in the ways they do here. Here they are almost like everybody else, busy doing their work and sometimes saying hello when they pass by…