By East S.M.
Perhaps you are in your season of romance, or maybe horror grips your current reality. Everyday our living stories play out for anyone to read. If your life is a magnificent work of fantasy fiction, what genre would it be?
The tone defining my ancestral home is rich in vibrations of myth, and mystery. Southeast Kentucky holds the very soul of one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, the Appalachian Mountains. Superstition is part of everyday conversation around here. We have stories for days about creatures that roam our woods, caves, and underground mines. Even more inspiring, my hometown is the only U.S. city built inside of a meteor crater. This strange mountain birthing my story left me no other choice. The story of my life was destined to carry tones of the occult.
Am I made from space dust?
A question I posed often when lost in my growing imagination. Even at six, my wild mind had me connected to the moon and stars. My passion for storytelling began in the woods where I would run carefree day and night. Trees held me safely in their arms as I played in the deepest parts of nature discovering worlds and words beyond anything I had ever known.
However, this town surrounded by the majesty of nature’s mountainous cathedral, isn’t all magic and mystery. Our history is steeped in hardship that in certain ways still reflects the present. Lack of employment opportunities and county wide poverty tells a darker side of Appalachian Mountain life. Sprinkled like stars in that dark night are the people, true salt of the earth dwellers that wear their ability to survive like a badge of honor. Those surrounding me led lives more dramatic than the characters from the stories gifting my temporary escape. When a town holds this level of melancholy in its soul the bones of its people ache from perseverance and pushing past.
Superstition and sacredness walk hand in hand through the mountains. Appalachian farming did not happen without the assistance of literature known as The Farmer’s Almanac. The astrological station of the moon found in that book determined all kinds of daily decisions from planting crops, best fishing days, scheduling medical appointments, to when to wean a baby. This annual digest of predictions became an early inspiration that naturally deepened my love for the occult.
The Appalachian mystic is a rare archetype found hidden in the deep hollows. The women who raised me were gifted in the art of divination. Teomancy (the art of reading tea leaves) or palmistry were their preferred methods of many used, but the art of Tarot captured my heart and soul. The Fool’s journey is like the hero’s journey in myth. The quest to grow and evolve the soul captivated me like my beloved characters.
I see divination, specifically Tarot, as a creative or critical way to find resolve/peace for life’s uncertain or curious moments. In devoting my life to studying the philosophical layers and spiritual value in that artform, I discovered the combination of cards creates an endless possibility of story. I use that inspiration as a creative writing tool in crafting my story.
Although superstition, mountain legends and unique origins held firm to the foundation of the area, it was met equally by the foothold of traditional religion. I am a mystical creature of nontraditional making and like the Fool, I found my own call to adventure. I desired travel and answers, so I took the leap and left. I moved out of the crater an hour South where I found community as a performance artist in the fringe arts. I also started to travel the world observing other healers and occultists. My vision became clear; seeking the unknown and existing comfortable here was part of my life’s quest.
There is power in observation. The mountain that birthed me gifted me that power by showing me the magic that happens when choosing to hope or perseverance in the face of hardship. I saw people making the best of little of nothing every day. Living in the energy of survival gives you a unique perspective on how you receive the experience of living. What is good for one is evil for the other and nothing is fixed on either side.
A perfect alchemy of circumstances in my tiny part of the world created a Divine presence, a force that runs deep in its people. That force isn’t rooted in good or evil; it simply exists. The light or darkness of that force is determined by what we bring to the situation from within, allowing that experience to meet us where we are. Supernatural or paranormal labels acknowledge things manifested from other realities. Those stories support characters defeating evil in the name of collective good. Good does not always equal fair and depending on your experience that can be limiting. The occult acknowledges our own force merging into the law of nature, allowing our inner magician to utilize that connection to create a desired outcome.
As an adult, I facilitate sacred workshops throughout my region. Through embodied movement and other artistic expressions these classes focus on exploring death, creation, ritual, sexual expression, etc. Teaching my community merged the storyteller and inner mystic within, and she is thriving!
Life is full of magic and endless possibilities. I feel empowered by chasing the meaning of a story that continually evolves. The dark monsters inside of us teach as much as the inner sage. I author occult fantasy stories because I am both good and evil, light, and dark. My writing breathes easier in the occult lane because I am an occultist.
Or it’s because I really am made from space dust!
A cosmic being in her own right, East S. M. currently resides in Knoxville, Tennessee where she teaches divination, and sacred movement classes. Her debut novel Mercy’s Quest – The Return releases June 21, 2022. This book is the first in an anthology that reimagines the Spirit world, the human condition, and the necessity of both evolution and devolution within our lifetimes. For more information visit https://theartisteast.com/. You can also follow East on Twitter, Instagram and Tiktok.