Myth and Magic EP 28 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag — Episode 28 SHOW-NOTES

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Folklore and fantasy themes aimed at creative writers: to start writing stories and challenge your brain with exciting ideas, dip into this kit-bag. Learn how fantasy worlds draw on real world history, mythology, and folklore. And there’s weekly news from the world of fantasy fiction too, plus fabulous creatures, studies on folk tales, nature fables and lots more mythical, magical fun.

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This week I explore what WONDER means and how to employ the emotion in your fantasy fiction by using what I call the: wonder-equation. Also, I look in some depth at creating a credible system of magic for your fantasy fiction and the wildflower of the week is the Anemone (my photo below)

What does WONDER mean and how to employ it in your fantasy fiction

As an emotion, wonder is compared to awe though awe involves an element of respect and a fear response rather than pure joy, so wonder is a joyous surprise that is usually produced by an unexpected or very rare set of circumstances or a remarkable series of events

The 16th century philosopher Descartes suggested that the emotional reaction to unexpected phenomena is wonder. And it’s more than mere admiration, it’s astonishment.

Perhaps wonder can be linked to curiosity through a simple equation: curiosity brings surprise and surprise brings wonder.

The the Polish-born American philosopher Abraham Joshua Heschel once wrote: wonder is a key emotion in living a worthy life.

It’s worth trying to evoke wonder in all of your creative writing, but it’s especially important when writing fantasy fiction. Think of it in this way: If a concept is unfamiliar to a reader, he or she will turn pages to find out more; if it becomes difficult to understand (but worth it and can be read easily) it will generate more interest, attention, and even enthusiasm. And when there is satisfying resolution, it will evoke great pleasure.
So follow the wonder equation in all your story ideas:

Create curiosity: bring peculiarity, rarity, distinction, strangeness, juxtaposition, and exoticism
Curiosity brings Surprise: delight the reader by giving rewards for hard work, provide compensation
Surprise brings Wonder: resolve all the puzzles you set, provide explanations, bring satisfying conclusions

Creating a credible system of magic for your fantasy fiction

If a hero or MC can snap fingers to make everything suddenly seem okay, or they can raise a loved-one from the dead, stop rushing the bullets in their teeth, fly at will, transform into whatever creatures they desire, travel time and they regularly act like they’re indestructible and almighty, where’s the tension in that? Where’s the drama? Your readers will soon be bored with a superman / superwoman character who possesses divine superpowers and can snap their fingers to resolve conflict. I always thought this was Superman’s biggest flaw. Why bother with a full plot? He could wake up in the morning, save everyone from possible harm, and then go back to sleep. A character, whether good or bad, is only interesting if he or she has flaws. And a story is only interesting to us if it contains conflict. And where is the feeling of anxiety if the reader already knows that everything will be fine because a character can snap their fingers or wiggle s nose and everything will get re-set to zero, nobody gets hurt, everyone lives, and there’s a happy ending. Life doesn’t work like that. The real world doesn’t work like that. Crap happens. And when it does, there is a sense of loss. And there is anxiety even even when crap doesn’t happen… because we all know that it will probably come. And there ain’t much you and I can do about it. So your fictional world should deal in this “actuality” too… the actuality that bad stuff will happen and there’s not much that many of your characters can do about it… but there might be, just might be, a secret hidden knowledge, a rare and dangerous cure, or some person with an incredible gift, that might possibly be able to provide a cure for the bad stuff. But, if that miraculous knowledge is “out there” then it must be extraordinarily rare or extremely unreliable or incredibly expensive (or, most likely, all three)… otherwise everyone (but especially the wealthy and the powerful) would have access to it wouldn’t they? In fact the selfish rich would probably squirrel it away for themselves and their family. (In fact, Queen Elizabeth the First actually had her own wizard / magician, Dr. John Dee, who had extraordinary powers. Other famous historical rulers did too.)

We know that Harry Potter and his friends work hard, very hard, to be good at magic. Magic is not easy and it is not free … if magic was free and easy then everyone would do it! We would all be wizard/magicians and there would not have to be hunger, poverty, disease, crime, disorder, chaos or anxiety in the world. But everyone isn’t a wizard/magician… very few are. So, why is that? Is it because only a small elite group has the innate talent to be wizardly or were born blessed with special characteristics that make them magical? Or are so few likely to become magical because it is extremely difficult, requires a lot of work, great effort, years of devotion, a life of dedication and will have other costs or burdens (perhaps hidden) that are directly imposed on the individual? I equate it to becoming a very good, first-class musician. It takes hours-days-weeks of practice to become a very good musician, you must focus on your talent morning-noon-and-night, you must dedicate your whole being to your art, every ounce of your energy, each thought, each word, every action, and even your dreams must be consumed by it. In fact, you probably won’t sleep, rest, or play, because that would hamper practice. And practice makes perfect. Soon, the only thing that is important to you is mastering your craft.

Magicians are like musicians. So, while Harry Potter and his friends are making a supreme effort to become better magicians, other average people like you and me are casually “wasting time” having romances, playing sports, listening to parents, living upstairs in bedrooms (and not in remote castles miles away from our families) dating, learning to drive, playing computer games, listening to pop music, going to fast food restaurants, etc. But the adept abandons all these things to improve his or her magical craft.

What type of magic do you want to create? Ceremonial or Sympathetic? I’ve already covered these categories in Episode of Myth and Magic.

Why? How will this magic propel the plot, add new dimensions, change or motivate characters, propel events or add tension and drama? Don’t forget Chekhov’s Gun principle

Now, check-out the Three Main Points of a Magical System:

Main point 1: Magic shouldn’t exist without a need for it. . .
nor without favorable conditions and without a trained and committed magician — the adept.

So determine the following:

The need for magic in the fictional world you ant to create. Why is it required? What is its function? (For example, does it replace technology, medicine, or chemistry?) If that’s what it does, then remember, you must consider the consequences of having NO technology, medicine or chemistry in your world and stick to it!) Ask what the conditions would have been like before you introduced magic into your fictional world and speculate what it would be like for characters if they lived in a world without magic. If it wouldn’t be much different or the story can be told without magic, why present it at all? Ask yourself what your fictional world would be like with and then without magic? Test a few ideas and speculate on outcomes. Could the monster be defeated another way? Could the Princess be saved by cunning, wit or strength (without) magic? Could the invading force be held back without a magical staff?

Then ask, who is adept? Why are these types adept? (Maybe they’re elves, so have evolved magical prowess over millennia, or maybe they come from a lineage or underclass, like Romani gypsies, so have a long history of learning and practicing magic within their hereditary group. Or maybe they are “specially recognized” individuals who get taken away to be isolated and trained for long intense periods of tutelage… these are the so-called Magician’s Apprentices ( like Harry Potter and his pals.) How long would it take an adept to become fully proficient in wizardry? Many years? A lifetime? Or, like a musician, would they never be satisfied with their proficiency? Would they never become“fully skilled” (like medical surgeons) so they must practice and rehearse their skills always-and-everyday to get better-and-better.

Main point 2: Magic has a cost, the cost must be paid before it can work. . .
paid by someone or something

it ought to cost
the cost might be effort, outlay, or a handsome price
the cost might be tremendous effort, or a few “silver pieces” (like Gypsy fortune tellers ask) or it might be a larger sacrifice, for example something that can’t be given up easily

Main point 3: Magic is esoteric (the secrets are kept by a few)

Ever wondered why Hogwarts is a castle protected by walls and a moat, lots of enchantments and spells, and is impossible for a Muggle to locate? Or why candidates for the Jedi Order are taken away from parents, at the age of five, to be asked to “release all earthly attachments; to let go of all they’ve grown to love,” before they begin a journey of initiation. Or that stage magician’s belong a secretive “magic circle”?

It’s because magic is esoteric.

Derived from the ancient Greek adjective esôterikós (which means: to belong to an inner circle) it came to define anyone who could belong to a subculture or clique that is outside “normal” religious ideas or viewpoints or has ideas that are at odds at with secular culture or established science; and whose members claim to have some kind of “higher knowledge” (think of Jedi, for example).

An expert in magical esotericism was the English historian Frances Yates, who studied in depth the lives of wizards such as the Renaissance heretic Giordano Bruno.

She concluded that there were six types of esotericism

Here is my spin on it, for fantasy fiction writers:

1: the idea of ​​ “correspondences” This is the idea that there are symbolic and real correspondences between all things in the universe. For example, the stars above us act in the same way (and even look the same) as the atoms we are constructed of — that is, the microcosm corresponds with the macrocosm
2: the idea of “living nature” This is the argument that the natural universe is imbued with its own life force and is a “living organism” in its own right (think of “the Force” used by the Jedi)
3: the idea of “mediation” This is the idea that some people act as conduits for ​​mediation, and that accompanied by rituals, symbolic images, mandalas, intermediate spirits and mantras, these people can provide access to “hidden” worlds or other levels of reality (think of witch doctors)
4: the idea of “transmutation experience” This is the emphasis on transformation through practice, for example, superpowers can be obtained through some kind of spiritual transformation (think of Gandalf the Gray becoming Gandalf the White)
5: the idea of “concordance” Many esotericists believe that there is a fundamental unifying principle for all religions and spiritual practices in the world. The principle of the idea of ​​concordance is that upon reaching this unifying principle, the different beliefs of the world will unite into one (think of the lyrics to John Lennon’s song “Imagine.”)
6: the idea of “transmission” In esotericism, due to its secret nature, the emphasis on transmitting teachings is through a process of initiation that allows the apprentice to gain access into an elite “magic circle” What happens to those initiates who fail to make the grade? They already know some of the “secrets”. Are they killed or, in some other way, silenced?

 

Wildflower of the week: Anemone

In my front yard (we call it front garden in England) under an upright blue juniper tree that my mum gave me several years ago (which she grew from seed) I have grown Anemones. They bloom at this time of the year and are quite startling in their beauty.

Anemōnē means “daughter of the wind” from the ancient Greek (ánemos, meaning wind) and the Roman poet Ovid (born 43 BC) suggests tells that the plant was created by the goddess Aphrodite (aka Venus) after her mortal (as in human) lover, Adonis was gored by a wild boar, and was killed. Aphrodite’s tears at his death mixed with his blood to gave rise to the anemone The name also used is the windflower.

These origin stories reflect the dual meaning of the arrival of the spring breeze (the windflower nods in acceptance, see my video) and the death of a loved one. There is also Christian symbolism here: Lent and Easter is the time of renewal and rebirth but will bring death before resurrection. The anemone remains “hidden” underground (when I got mine, they were hard little nuggety bulbs that needed to be soaked in water before planting) and doesn’t not emerge until Lent. When it emerges, fern-like leaf and blossom together, it is a thing of beauty.

In the Victorian language of flowers, the anemone represented a forsaken love of any kind. The According to Bucklands Book of Gypsy Magic, the Romani people considered it to be a magical herb and it was used to to ward off pests, disease and bad luck. Though some Eastern cultures believe that the anemone is a symbol of bad luck or ill-tidings.

CALL OUTS
IF you would like me to give you a CALL OUT on my show please check the criteria below then email me: promoter at rawramp dot com

CRITERIA FOR A CALL-OUT on the MYTH & MAGIC Show

*You must be a fantasy fiction writer, novelist, poet
*You must have an active twitter account
*You follow @neilmach on twitter
*You subscribe to my podcast
*You have a new book to talk about

INTERVIEW: If you want to come onto the show to talk about the book or anything to do with MYTH & MAGIC especially writing for it, please contact me via
TWITTER: @neilmach
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/author.neilmach/
The Email address given above

Moondog and the Reed Leopard - click here

Moondog and the Reed Leopard – click here

Myth and Magic EP 27 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag — Episode 27 SHOW-NOTES

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Witch Queen from Sneewittchen, Scholz Künstler-Bilderbücher Public Domain

Folklore and fantasy themes aimed at creative writers: to start writing stories and challenge your brain with exciting ideas, dip into this kit-bag. Learn how fantasy worlds draw on real world history, mythology, and folklore. And there’s weekly news from the world of fantasy fiction too, plus fabulous creatures, studies on folk tales, nature fables and lots more mythical, magical fun.

CLICK HERE for Episode

Apple >>>      SPOTIFY >>>

This week I visit encounter gifts from feathered friends, so look into the imagery of feathers; I ask – what is sorcery (maleficium) ? And discuss how you should you use sorcery in your fantasy and fiction project. I ask, what is an existential crisis? New science about vampires. Wild flower: Primrose

sparrow feather

sparrow feather

Wild Primrose Staines @neilmach 2020 ©

Wild Primrose Staines @neilmach 2020 ©

What I’ve Been Up To – Sparrow Gifts

Last week I encountered a very odd, perhaps magical, certainly charming and mysterious, experience. Out from my conservatory window I have been watching, each day, some cheerful little birds, house sparrows, that congregate in a hedge just outside my windows since the emergency began. I have been confined in my self-isolation for a bit longer than others because I had already been shaking off flu-like symptoms that I caught four weeks ago (it’s fine, by the way, and, anyway, self-isolation it’s the reality for any author – probably any artist, actually – we are very used to being confined in a “cell” for long periods with just our imagination to preserve us) so the house sparrows bring me a little dose of cheer each day. They tend to chatter and fuss non-stop, which is why they’re so much fun, and they play and flutter in the hedge (which is no more than about 12 inches from my window) and I’m fairly sure they can see me as much as I can see them.

But last Friday, something odd happened. I had been putting out some bird-seed for them (and experimenting with different feeders) because I’d noticed that sparrows will not go to feeders… I have some other feeders, about 10 metres from the hedge, that attract a whole load of birds… but never the sparrows… they seem content in chirping and cheeping in the hedge. But during the early part of Friday morning, they began to bring white feathers to the hedge.

Lots of the birds brought white feathers with them. And all the feathers they brought to the hedge were white, even though sparrows are grey-brown, flecked, but mostly hazel brown. The individual birds then began to stick the feathers on prominent bits of twig, as if they were putting up little flags. When I first observed this curious behaviour, I thought maybe they were collecting the feathers as nesting materials and were checking the size, softness and fluffiness of the feathers before abandoning them because, for whatever reason, they were unacceptable for nests.
But, very oddly, by noon the same day, although the sparrows had gone (they tend to play most in early morning) they’d left a huge amount of white-feather flags. I counted thirty, there may have been more.

I researched what this might mean and was surprised to find that, in some First Nation (native American) cultures, there’s a belief that a feather “sent from heaven” is a “gift” and that someone “up there” is saying “thanks.”

Of course, feathers (and perhaps especially white feathers) mean so much, from travel to spirit… because birds represent freedom and inspiration and have a connection with the limitless skies and the limitless beyond. That’s why Native American and Aboriginal tribes use feathers in their sacred ceremonies; feathers are a symbol of giving thanks and appreciation and, because birds are associated with “the heavens” and become consorts of the gods and goddesses – they might be able communicate messages to “those above.” Many cultures use feathers to lift their prayers and intentions to the gods. Is that why angels are portrayed with “bird-like” wings that have feathers?

In Celtic culture, Druids wore ornate feathered robes. Druids wore feathered robes in ceremonies that helped them understand the celestial realm. Ancient Celts believed that wearing the feathered cloak would allow the Druid to transcend our earthly plane to enter the ethereal [ETH EAR REE ALL] realm.

There’s also a (modern) idea that unexpectedly finding a feather, especially a white feather, is a message from our dearly departed. Perhaps it’s because feathers, once released, are no longer bound by the heavy burdens of this world so, like a spirit, they soar free into heaven. And might be used to communicate between realms. Feathers, as a symbol of the soul, are free to ascend. Artists have often used the symbol of a white dove to represent the holy spirit.

If you believe that feathers are a communication tool used by God or by the lesser gods, then their appearance is, perhaps, a reminder that we ought to listen to a bigger voice or a higher authority.

But I have another explanation, no less amazing, and it’s this. On Saturday morning all the white feathers were gone. Every single one. They haven’t come back. My guess (though I can’t prove it) is that the house sparrows had got up before I had and they’d taken all the feathers away, off back to their nests (that are under the gutters of out house.) That’s when I came-up with a possible scientific explanation for their white-feather gift giving that might be a bit more rational than the idea they were giving me messages; It’s this: were they sticking those feathers onto twigs to dry them out? A bit like hanging sheets and blankets onto a washing line, were they drying the feathers overnight? Once properly dry, were they then able to use the dry feathers to line their nests?

If this scientific explanation is true, (who knows?) it’s no less impressive and wonderful than believing that the sparrows were leaving little “gifts” for me, as a sign of their appreciation / thanks for putting seed out for them, is it?

Just to let you know, by the way, that luckily (and before they took all the feathers away) I had already taken a short video of the phenomena and some still shots of the white feathers in situ on my hedge. Go to my site neilmach all one word dot me and go to my show-notes to fin the evidence. Or type sparrow feather into my search box.

Good luck with your period of self-isolation and let me know if you’ve experienced anything odd, weird, fantastic, curious, or supernatural during your period of confinement. Tweet me @neilmach and I’ll share.

Myth & Magic News

There’s been news this week about a study published in the journal titled “Current Biology” into relationships formed by VAMPIRE BATS which tends to prove what we speculative fiction fans have known all along: Vampires “French kiss with blood” to form lasting bonds between partners.

Researchers have observed the mammals “kissing with blood” and have stated this sharing behavior appears to be an important aspect of their pair-bonding.

Prof Gerald Carter, author of the study and behavioral ecologist at Ohio State University said “Food sharing in vampire bats is like how a lot of birds regurgitate food for their offspring. But what’s special with vampire bats is they do this for other adults…”

He added that bats would “groom even after their fur had been cleansed, suggesting that the behavior was not just an issue of maintaining hygiene.”
Vampire bats are the only mammals to feed entirely on blood, which they get by biting larger animals such as cattle.
The flying creatures can drink up to half their weight in blood a day, unlike their other bat relatives, which generally dine on fruit, nectar or insects.

International researchers had recently analysed both the genome of the vampire bat and its microbiome – the microorganisms that live inside the gut.
They found that genome size was similar to that of other bats but the genome contained more “jumping genes” (DNA sequences that change position in the genome).
These were found in areas involved in immune response, viral defence, and both lipid and vitamin metabolism, suggesting they played a key role in the evolution of the bat’s specialised diet.

There are three kinds of Vampire Bat native to the Americas : common, hairy-legged and white-winged vampires. Vampire bats hunt only when it is fully dark. In addition to using low-energy sound pulses, it’s thought the bats also detect their prey, or the warmest spot on their prey, using thermoception (infrared detection.)

It’s thought the English word “vampire” originates from the Slovak verb “vrepiť sa” (to stick into or to thrust into) and so upír is to “thrust” and the notion of vampirism has existed for millennia and runs across cultures, from Ancient Greeks and Romans to northeastern India and Africa. Virtually all Slavic cultures have rich folk mythologies and customs around vampires. Yet, clearly, all these cultures would not have known of or ever encountered a Vampire Bat until the European colonization of the Americas in the 15th century (Christopher Columbus in 1492.)

What is sorcery and how does it work?

SORCERY aka Maleficium (malevolent sorcery) is an act of witchcraft that’s performed with the intention of causing damage, injury or harm. The association of sorcery with the Devil made Western witchcraft unique and differently experienced to witchcraft found in Africa and the Americas. From the 14th to the 18th century, witches that practiced sorcery were believed to repudiate Jesus and to replace his “love” with worship of the Devil and to make pacts with the devil.

Charges of maleficium are often prompted by little more than suspicion. It’s often just one person blaming another person for misfortune that’s been dealt to them. After the blatant ethnocentrism demonstrated by Trump during last week, towards the peoples of China, you might expect some kind of accusation (coming soon) that the Chinese people or government hid (i.e. they disguised the readily discernible early signs & symptoms of the coronavirus) from the outside world: in other words: something bad happened to us that cannot be readily explained, and if we feel that the Chinese don’t like us, we might also therefore suspect them of harming our society and all that we stand for, by occult means. It’s bound to come: and it’s an allegation of malevolent sorcery.

In France in 1022 a group of heretics in Orléans were accused of orgy, infanticide, invocations of demons, and blasphemy. They were part of a broad pattern of hostility against certain marginalized groups. It’s worth noting the role women played in such heresies which is why we stereo-typically think of “the witch” as female.

Methods of sorcery include:

* Incantations, i.e. chants that invoke evil spirits to do their work
* Divination, to predict future events
* Producing amulets or charms, to ward off evil spirits or guard against harmful events
* Making potions, to give cures against ills, or provide super natural powers
* Production of dolls & poppets (to represent enemies) to hold power over others

During the 13th century, sorcery was involved in many deaths. These were thought to be done through magic, but were probably more usually a result of poisoning. In 1324, there was a famous case involving Lady Alice Kyteller and a series of events caused by sorcery, in Ireland. A contemporary author wrote, “Lady Alice Kyteller was charged with performing magical rites, having sexual intercourse with demons, attempting to divine the future, and poisoning her first three husbands...”

If you’re thinking of using sorcery in your fantasy fiction novel, keep in mind the implicit malevolence of a sorcerer. For example, in the tale of Snow White (based loosely on an ancient Roman legend, by the way) the Evil New Queen (the witch-queen) practices divination and incantation “Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?” and administers a potion (the poisoned apple).

Also keep in mind the symbolism of certain articles and their implications, and possible interpretations. For example, in the Snow White tale we have the colours white (purity) red (blood or communion wine) and black (darkness) we have the apple (the woman Eve was seduced by the devil /serpent into eating forbidden fruit, seen as the apple) and also the awakening of Snow White when a prince offers the freedom (through love) of resurrection.

By the way, in a damsel in distress story there’s often a hero who must embark on a quest to liberate the damsel from an evil spell set by a sorcerer.

Magic Word of the Week: Existential crises

More of a term, I suppose, than a word, an existential crisis, in its simplest form, is when an might individual question whether his or her own life has meaning, purpose, or value. Many of us, in the coming weeks and months, might face our own existential crises… unless we have something spiritual, ideological or transcendental to cling onto. Or, if you are a humanist, and believe with conviction that the value and agency of human beings is not determined or dictated by some unseen supernatural force or entity, you might want to look at philanthropy: becoming directly involved in initiatives, for the public good, that focus on quality of life for other citizens, to make any sense of the emergency we are currently living through.

What is the point, meaning and purpose of human existence if we live life alone and we die? That’s the type of question that folk have been asking for millennia. And during a life threatening emergency or if we’re faced with unprecedented trauma, isolation, or he fear of losing those people (or things) we love most (for example, the notion of freedom) we are all most likely to fall into EC

psychologists and philosophers have long held that most of us will suffer some kind of existential despair if we are unable to handle unexpected and/or extreme life-experiences… that’s why so many folk hold onto or make a new leap-of-faith into the notion of an abstract belief, a spiritual being, or a religious / pseudo religious concept: if one believes in the existence of a reality beyond our limited world-view, it’s easier to “make sense” of things and we can think beyond any trauma we might endure. This is true even if the leap-of-faith is into an irrational belief, and probably intangible and empirically unprovable, nevertheless, it offers comfort and solace. For example, during the plague, folk believed in Talismans (and Abracadabras) and wore protective charms to protect themselves from catching the plague. And you’ll see for yourself, in news reports, that various people (even President Trump, who suggested drinking quinine last week) will try to tell you that “magical” cures might offer salvation and hope.

The collapse of consumer culture will probably accelerate EC in all our societies and will probably bring about more “faith adventures.” Watch this space!

Wildflower of the Week – Primrose

Last week, out for a little walk before lock-down, I saw a little primrose by a wall (photo on the show-notes). Also known as Easter rose or butter rose, it’s a symbol of the hope brought by Spring and the hope of heaven too (the rose-shaped blooms are often described as “stars” by poets) And the “prim” bit of the name means “early” or “first” i.e. prima (not proper, as you might have thought) thus: the first rose of the year. The Latin name is the same: Prim Ula.

In Ireland, the wildflower is known as the SAMHAIRCIN (aka The May Flower) and is considered the harbinger of Spring. Thus, etymologically speaking, it’s shares a connection with Samhain with its Celtic pagan origins and connections with protective and cleansing powers, and rituals involving spirits or fairies. Nevertheless, churches tend to decorate their interiors with Primroses, certainly at “Mothering Sunday” and at Eastertide.

The flowers and leaves of the Primrose are edible, the flavor is said to be like lettuce but perhaps more bitter. The leaves can be cooked into soup and used to make tea, and the young flowers can be made into primrose wine. They are said to have painkiller (analgesic) qualities.

Because they resemble roses (although they are not roses) primroses became a symbol for Rose Sunday, which is the fourth Sunday in Lent, and also, therefore, a symbol of the “mother church” as well as mothers in general. Through this, they are connected to the holy mother: the Blessed Virgin Mary whose symbol is roses.

CALL OUTS
IF you would like me to give you a CALL OUT on my show please check the criteria below then email me: promoter at rawramp dot com

CRITERIA FOR A CALL-OUT on the MYTH & MAGIC Show

*You must be a fantasy fiction writer, novelist, poet
*You must have an active twitter account
*You follow @neilmach on twitter
*You subscribe to my podcast
*You have a new book to talk about

INTERVIEW: If you want to come onto the show to talk about the book or anything to do with MYTH & MAGIC especially writing for it, please contact me via
TWITTER: @neilmach
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/author.neilmach/
The Email address given above

Moondog and the Reed Leopard - click here

Moondog and the Reed Leopard – click here

Main Image: Witch Queen from Sneewittchen, Scholz Künstler-Bilderbücher Public Domain

Myth and Magic EP 6 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag — Episode 6 SHOW-NOTES

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Folklore and fantasy themes aimed at creative writers: to start writing stories and challenge your brain with exciting ideas, dip into this kit-bag. Learn how fantasy worlds draw on real world history, mythology, and folklore. And there’s weekly news from the world of fantasy fiction too, plus fabulous creatures, studies on folk tales, nature fables and lots more mythical, magical fun.

CLICK HERE for Episode

Apple >>>      SPOTIFY >>>

This week I visit visit Chateau Brametourte in Lautrec; to see the haunted tower that inspired the story of the trapped maiden, Rapunzel. Inside the 11th century castle I look at apotropaic marks a.k.a. witch marks, and I consider cryptids. I also discuss the work of Michael Swanwick. My wildflower of the week is the Sunflower.

 

Chateau Brametourte in Lautrec

Chateau Brametourte in Lautrec Photo @neilmach

Locus in Quo – Rapunzel’s tower

Hi all

I’m back from the Chateau de Brametourte, in Lautrec having spent six days celebrating my daughter’s nuptials… The setting was this 11th century castle in Lautrec, Midi-Pyrenees, France sited between the World Heritage sites of Toulouse, Albi and Carcassonne. The castle is home to tales of Cathars, Knights Templar, Wars of Religion and is believed to be the inspiration for the “Maiden in The Tower” folk traditions.

The “The Maiden in The Tower” legend probably began life here at Chateau de Brametourte, Lautrec, France

although story the has striking similarities to a Persian tale included in the epic poem Shahnameh

Also, the early Christian Saint Barbara was supposedly kept locked in a tower by her father in order to preserve her from the outside world.

In Lautrec, France Local villagers say that the name Brametourte comes from a tale that’s nearly a thousand years old.  The Viscount of Toulouse came to visit his Baron and noticed the beauty of the Viscount’s young daughter.  He told the Baron that she might be a future wife for him and requested that she be preserved in purity for him.  She was locked in the tower for him to return, though he never did.

Local villages saw her calling and crying from the window of the tower and named her ‘Brame’ [crying] ‘Tourte’ [coming from the Occitane for ‘tourterelle’ or ‘turtle dove’].  It’s said she frequently reappears in the chamber, despite several exorcisms.

An alternate ending suggests a passing knight heard the dove-call cries from the chateau tower and went to rescue the lady…

 

Apotropaic marks at Château de Brametourte

Apotropaic marks at Château de Brametourte
Photo Credit @neilmach

Apotropaic marks aka WITCH MARKS are ritualistic protection symbols that have often been scraped into rock to ward off evil or misfortune. They are commonly found in houses and churches, in doors and on window frames.

Such marks have been found at Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, and also at the Tower of London

For example, the markings, at Creswell Crags on the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire border, include hundreds of letters, symbols and patterns carved in limestone walls put there to protect against witches and curses. The Creswell cave is the largest assemblage of protective marks in the UK.

It’s thought most apotropaic marks date between 16th century to the early 19th century.

Also, at Château de Brametourte, an apotropaic mark known as a “daisy wheel” or HEXAFOIL (6 leaf) guards the main door to the living space.

In grain barns, daisy wheel markings often protected door openings

According to Historic England the daisy wheel mark should not be confused with the (far older) pentangle lines that are thought to trap evil spirits into an endless line – these were first used as early as 3000BC

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Fantasy Writers Definitions: cryptids

cryptids are animals that are presumed to exist on the basis of anecdotal or folklorist evidence that might be considered insufficient by mainstream science. The best examples are YETI and LOCH NESS MONSTER, who have reportedly been seen countless times by scores of witnesses but remain, “unproven”

Ancient bestiaries or compendiums of beasts often included dragons, unicorns, basilisk, and griffins featured alongside genuine zoological specimens and were often created by men of science… for example Leonardo da Vinci created a bestiary.

Another state of affairs that causes a “grey area” to exist as to the origins of such beasts is that nature is itself remarkable and almost fantastical itself, so “nothing can be ruled out.” For example, the bunyip is a mythical creature said to lurk swamps, billabongs in Australia as is said to be ferocious black animal that swims and also walks on land, and is armed with with tusks. Yet southern elephant seals and leopard seals have been known to move up the Murray and Darling (Rivers) and although this is extremely rare and quite extraordinary … sightings by aborigines can’t be ruled out and probably go some way to explain the beast. Both cassowary birds and the duck-billed platypus were thought to be mythical until proven “real” by baffled naturalists.

Sea monster krakens are common in Scandinavian folklore and although were mentioned in studious bestiaries were thought to be entirely mythical until modern era scientists began to study deep-sea gigantism which have produced several examples of “krakens” inclduding giant sea-spiders, giant jellyfish, giant stingrays and the colossal squid … a huge cephalopod, that’s been found washed ashore in places such as Norway.

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Michael Swanwick

Swanwick has released the third installment of his “Industrialized Faërie” novels: The Iron Dragon’s Mother

His first: The Iron Dragon’s Daughter t combines fantasy and science fiction story telling to bring the tale of Jane, a changeling girl who slaves at a dragon factory in the world of Faerie, to build part-magical, part-cybernetic monsters that are used as jet fighters. Swanwick admits to having written it as a homage to J.R.R. Tolkien and to subvert fantasy tropes.

The new book is said to be lighter in tone to the previous, and yet still gritty and wry

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sunflower with bee in Staines 2019

A sunflower with bee in Staines 2019, photo credit @neilmach

Wildflower of the week THE SUNFLOWER

Helianthus annuus

Sunflower seeds were brought to Europe from the Americas in the 16th century

Traditionally, Native American groups planted sunflowers on the north edges of their gardens as a “fourth sister” to the crops of corn, beans, and squash. It’s thought the flowers have been “domesticated” for a least 5000 years.

Indigenous American peoples such as the Aztecs, Otomi and the Incas used the sunflower as a symbol of their solar deity

During the 18th century, the use of sunflower oil became very popular with members of the Russian Orthodox Church, because sunflower oil was one of the few oils allowed during the Lentern fasting

Among the Pueblo Zuni people of Southwestern United States the fresh or dried root is chewed by a medicine man before he sucks the venom from a snakebite and applies a poultice

A common misconception is that flowering sunflower heads track the Sun. In Tarn last weekend I observed that all sunflower heads drooped to the earth, but typically the sun flowers point eastwards. Nevertheless, the Spiritualist Church use the plant as their symbol

The same whorls and spirals seen in horns, teeth, claws are found in the florets and head of the traditional sunflower

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Myth and Magic EP 18 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag — Episode 18 SHOW-NOTES

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Folklore and fantasy themes aimed at creative writers: to start writing stories and challenge your brain with exciting ideas, dip into this kit-bag. Learn how fantasy worlds draw on real world history, mythology, and folklore. And there’s weekly news from the world of fantasy fiction too, plus fabulous creatures, studies on folk tales, nature fables and lots more mythical, magical fun.

CLICK HERE for >>> Episode Eighteen: 22M

This week I Discover the origins of Hogmanay. Is New Year about celebrating Elves who sent Trolls back home? Thinking about your own fantasy fiction project : what is your big idea? In this show I will provide you with some thematic suggestions for your own project. Also, find out who Enki was, and why this deity is connected with New Year. Also discover the ancient origins of January.

Happy Hogmanay

Happy Hogmanay

Happy Hob dy naa

Perhaps this ancient festival is all about invoking the hill-men (Icelandic viking “haugmenn” or Anglo-Saxon hoghmen) aka “elves” who are called to banish the trolls and send them into the sea… and after much wassailing, merriment and first-footing… the Scots tend to celebrate New Year’s Day (Ne’er day) with a special steak pie dinner.

In Scotland, the first Monday after New Year’s Day was traditionally known as Hansel Monday, or Handsel Monday. It originates from the old Saxon word which means “to deliver into the hand” … a time for handing-out tokens, gifts and cash to those who have helped during the year. Money received during Handsel Monday is supposed to insure monetary luck all for the rest of the year

Don’t forget on the Twelfth Night (January 5) to chalk your door (or even better, get a stranger to do it) to earn blessings and protection for your house for another year. The letters CMB – perhaps separated by crosses and numerals (that form 2020) – will suffice. CMB are the initials of the three Wise Men (Magi) Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar as well as the initials for a short prayer: Christus mansionem benedicat (Christ bless this house.)

The first day of a month in the Roman calendar was known as the calends, because it signifies another lunar phase. It’s where we get the word “Calender” from. But for a long while, the New Year started on the calends of March! Huh?

January (in Latin, Ianuarius) is named after Janus who is the god of beginnings and transitions in Roman mythology … but the original Roman calendar consisted of just 10 months totalling 304 days. But around 713 BC January and February were added to the year so each annual period contained 354 days (a lunar year.) So, get your head around this if you can, March was originally the first month in the old Roman calendar until Janus (the two-faced God of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, and doorways) gave his name to a new “First Month of the Year.”

January was known as “wolf month” by the Saxons and “oak moon” in Finland (oak moon) tammikuu

Cervulus or Cervula is the name of a Roman festival celebrated on the kalends of January.

In astrology this is the time of Capricorn (the tenth astrological sign in the zodiac). An amateur astrologer once told me that the symbol of the constellation is the “only mythical beast” but that only works if you believe the centaur is non-mythical (perhaps you do, which is why you listen to this podcast) anyway: the Capricorn symbol is a SeaGoat that’s based on Enki – the ancient Sumerian god of water, knowledge, mischief, crafts, and creation (also knwon as EA by the Babylonians.) The God is allegedly Hurrian in origin (the Hurrians were e Bronze Age people who lived in the area we now call Armenia) and the first temple to Enki was built in the area we now know as Southern Iraq more than 6,500 years ago… so Enki is very, very, ancient.

Enki was the keeper of the divine powers called Me, the gifts of civilization and therefore he is often portrayed wearing the horned crown of divinity and he’s considered to be the the master-shaper of all the world, the god of wisdom and the master of all magic. Because Enki came from the water and, in fact, brought everything into being from the water, for astronomers, the constellation is located in an area of sky called the Sea or the Water, that consists of many water-related constellations such as Aquarius, Pisces and Eridanus.

Unsuprisingly, really, Capricornus the original SEA-GOAT is also sometimes identified as Pan, the god with a goat’s horns and legs, who saved himself from the monster Typhon by giving himself a fish’s tail and diving into a river. PAN is a Proto-Indo-European god that I have discussed before, but he’s the rustic God of of the wild, shepherds and flocks, and the nature of mountains. As the character Pushan he acts as a PSYCHOPOMP and is the oldest (or most ancient) deity.

So, when you’re wishing your neighbors, colleagues and friends a Happy New Year think again! You are, perhaps, calling on the sleeping hoghmen to protect them from marauding trolls, wishing them a fortunate wolf month” under an Oak Moon or invoking the master-shaper of the world, Lord Enki himself with the Piper at the Gates of Dawn to bring them prosperity.

How to write phantasmagorical fantasy fiction

I’m currently writing my #85k90 novel. That’s 85,000 words in 90 days… and, by the way, I don’t cheat myself… I write a new novel from scratch when I enter this type of challenge. So this will be an entirely different project to my #NaNoWriMo manuscript of 2019.

Over the next ninety days I’ll try to provide you with the first steps you require to make your fantasy fiction a fact… not fantasy. I’ll continue to give you magical and mythical facts and news but I’ll also begin to propose some advice for your own work.

Anyway, I think that it’s time to start to develop a fantasy fiction novel WITH YOU and we have to start somewhere.

What literary element will come first?

Character?
Plot?
Theme?

You might have some juicy ideas about character and plot… but what about theme? My belief is that this must come first. Oh Scheiße (or a word to that effect) I hear you whimper. Yes, I know it will make your brain hurt… but think about like this. Did Tolkein really start with barefooted, fattish, weed-smokers? Did he even know where his main protagonists would take him? (Academics suggest the LOTR was initially intended to be one volume.) Urm, my guess is that he thought about his theme first.

WHAT’S A THEME? It’s the story’s BIG IDEA

Tolkein’s BIG IDEA might have been something along the lines of: will the meek inherit the earth or will they be tempted by evil along the way?

Likewise, is the The Chronicles of Narnia just about a bunch of kids using a magic wardrobe to visit another world? ( Lewis had been toying with the wardrobe idea for years, anyway.) Or is it a book about a terrible White Witch (probably based on H. Rider Haggard’s She, anyhow) who finds herself at war with a lion-hearted King-God? No, I’m guessing C. S. Lewis started with the theme of redemption… something along the lines of: could guilt (not sin) ever be forgiven?

So I suggest you start with your THEME. Once you have your BIG IDEA firmly rooted in the back of your mind, your characters and (later) your plot will be easier to sketch-out.

Now, I don’t expect it will be easy for you (but it will be a lot easier to work out your THEME before you start to write, believe me) because it is not a tangible thing. Nevertheless, it will (likely) set the tone of your work too. Just make a rough note, a hazy idea will do, to begin with, and then let the haziness ferment in your brain for a while. Once you’ve let the idea sloosh around in your brain for a while, try to write down what’s known as a thematic statement…

Thematic statements might include:

Does love have the power to destroy lives?
Is the world filled with morally grey characters or are there true Good and Evil characters?
What are the the consequences if a person seeks power over love?
Survival of the fittest
Can a person overcome prejudice and fear to bring about justice?
Is a person who runs away from society also running away from themselves?
Notice how these themes tend to be about the universal human condition or universal truths about being a human. Don’t worry if your book is about Dragons, Elves, Aliens or Warthogs… the point is that it WILL BE READ BY HUMANS (one hopes) so it must appeal to their nature.

Don’t worry – your theme doesn’t have to be original (just don’t nick mine, ha ha) REEDSY have a great little quiz you can try, if you’re still grappling with this idea: Why not give it a whirl? https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSct16CneLuaDpYWubPBMqhnl5QJVKdtz_Vr-JkeOMWj35qneA/viewform

The THEME for MY fantasy fiction novel (the one I’m writing right now with you over the next 90 days) will be : Can a person have two sides to their character or does one side have to die to allow the other side to live? PLEASE DON’T COPY IT!?! Think UP your OWN theme. And try to develop just ONE THEME.

Once you begin writing your first draft, you’ll find your THEME will become rooted in your mind and will help bring out your character’s flaws or will appear in any obstacles she/he/it will have to overcome to reach a conclusion and, depending on your ability, it might also reinforce your motifs. Don’t worry about this right now, the main thing is that you have a Theme to begin with…

Fantasy Fiction News Bronze Age burial mound damage

This week the BBC reported that police in in Monmouthshire, South Wales are investigating reports of “appalling damage” at a Bronze Age burial mound at Llanvaches which dates back 3,000-4,000 years.

WENTWOOD is the largest ancient woodland in Wales

The BBC say the “Gwent Police Rural Crime Team” have suggested the destruction was caused by off-road vehicles and said immediate prevention measures were being put in place.
The Woodland Trust shared pictures of its Wentwood site, near Newport, on Monday afternoon, where tyre tracks had covered the monument.
And the site manager Rob Davies said that the damage has been “an ongoing problem”
“A feature that is around 3,000-4,000 years old has been damaged within a few minutes,” he added.
“This is a Bronze Age burial mound, a scheduled ancient monument, and the damage caused is therefore a criminal offence.”

Burial mounds (often seen on maps marked as tumulus) were used by late neolithic people in Britain to bury their dead and mainly used between 2200BC and 1100BC . Two Round Barrows are located within Wentwood Forest.

An astronomical alignment at the Gray Hill stone circle near where the Wentwood Forest damage had been caused suggests alignment on the midwinter sunrise, downhill towards the South-east, between two standing stones, named the “First Piper” and the “Second Piper.” A distinctive notch on the horizon adds to the weight of evidence behind the solsticial alignment claim.

Tolkein talks about Barrow-Land when describing his “Middle-earth” and the famous home of of Bilbo Baggins (and Frodo) is a hobbit-burrow dug into the top of The Hill… not dissimilar to a Bronze Age mound.

Next week: Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?

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CLICK HERE to listen to >>> Episode Eighteen of MYTH & MAGIC 22M

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Myth and Magic EP 14 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag — Episode 14 SHOW-NOTES

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Folklore and fantasy themes aimed at creative writers: to start writing stories and challenge your brain with exciting ideas, dip into this kit-bag. Learn how fantasy worlds draw on real world history, mythology, and folklore. And there’s weekly news from the world of fantasy fiction too, plus fabulous creatures, studies on folk tales, nature fables and lots more mythical, magical fun.

CLICK HERE for >>> Episode Fifteen: 28M

This week I seek the definition of a wizard. I examine the origin of Merlin and see how he is curiously connected with all later wizards — both imaginary and real — from Faust to Nostradamus, to Doctor John Dee and Sir Edward Kelley — and onto Gandalf, Dumbledore, The Doctor (Who) and even Obi-Wan Kenobi. Also in this episode look at The Staffordshire Hoard and see how this discovery might explain dragon gold.

Edward Kelly

The Greatest Wizards

During Halloween week one of the guys I follow on twitter asked her followers to share their favourite wizards. Although Gandalf came up a few times, on the whole most of the characters on the list (there were hundreds of replies, by the way) were witches. But what’s the difference between a witch and a wizard?

In the famous 1960s TV show “Bewitched” male “witches” are described as warlocks. So why not describe them as wizards? Why is Harry Potter a witch, rather than a wizard? Before you write to remind me that Hogwarts is a school for witchcraft and wizardry let me give you (one) good & reliable definition of what a wizard is: Think of Gandalf, who was a member of the Istari i.e. The “Wise Ones” > Here’s the definition I use: a wizard is wandering being who resembles a human man but possesses far greater physical and mental power.

Do Harry and his friends have great physical and mental powers? Are they men? Are they wanderers? Or are they they (special) humans who work on perfecting their witchcraft & potions?

MERLIN of the Arthurian legends is probably the first wizard to be mentioned in poetry and text and could, actually, be the one-and-only true wizard… I’ll come to that later.

Myrddin Wyllt ( Merlin the Wild ) a Welsh bard, was first mentioned as early as 573 in writings, This curious old poet is said to have lived in the deep forest, he lived like a wild-man, with the animals, and it’s said he’d been blessed with the gift of prophecy. Myrddin was mentioned in the The Annals of Wales, a primary source of history about King Arthur. And it’s important at this point to underline the fact that Merlin (and Arthur) if they ever existed at all, must have existed long before the medieval period that we often associate with these characters. In other words, long before knights rode around in armour and performed chivalric deeds. These earliest tales of Myrddin are Roman or (probably) pre-Roman in origin. Our notions of Knights in shining Armour and damsels locked away in towers come (mainly) from Tennyson’s writings… which I’ll turn to later.

Myrddin’s legend closely resembles that of another north-British figure called Lailoken (LAYLE OCKEN ) which appears in Jocelyn of Furness’ 12th-century Life of Kentigern, an important founder of the post-Roman church in Strathclyde, who was said to have died in 612. Lailoken was said to have been a wild-man who lived in the Caledonian Forest, in the ancient Kingdom of Strathclyde and there have been (later) claims that Lailoken was also known as Merlynum (MER LI NUMB) – coincidental? And there’s a famous poem titled “The Conversation of Merlin and his twin sister Gwendydd” where she refers to Merlin by the pet name: Llallogan (Clagh Loghh An ) is this the same word as LAYLE OCKEN? In Welsh this word means: brother, friend and also (curiously) TWIN-LIKE which makes sense because he’s her twin… or is she referring to another twin?

Myrddin Wyllt

Myrddin Wyllt – with the Lady of the Lake or with Gwendydd?

A ninth century Welsh monk named NENNIUS wrote a “History of the Britons” in about year 828 and this was the first source to mention a military leader named Arthur, and academics point out this this work is probably the only historical basis for the knowledge of King Arthur that we have today. His history includes reference to a wizard.

But the more modern depiction of a Merlin character that we might recognize as the first great wizard comes from Geoffrey of Monmouth and his book Prophetiae Merlini – very much inspired by the “History of the Britons”. This tended to be a collection of the prophecies made by the Welsh figure of Myrddin (MERRH THIN) whom Geoffrey called Merlin. Like the history by the monk NENNIUS before, this was written in Latin. The book became “published” around 1130. Geoffrey of Monmouth (born, himself, around 1090) suggested that his book is based on old Brittonic tales, some of them passed down by word of mouth, as well as the accounts of the monk Nennius. One story of Myrddin’s prophetic talents tells the tale of how a King asked the wizard to interpret the meaning of a vision he’d had. Two dragons fought, one red and one white. Merlin explained that the Red Dragon was the British race, the White Dragon was the Saxons. The Saxons would win. This was an accurate prophecy.

It’s not know why Geoffrey of Monmouth changed the spelling of Myrddin (MERRH THIN) into “Merlin” in his Prophetiae Merlini but it’s possible (as a French speaking Norman) that he didn’t like the original name to be associated with the vulgar french word “merde” even though the text he used was largely Latin. If you don’t know what MERDE means, by the way, I’ll leave it to you to look up!

Prophetiae Merlini

Prophetiae Merlini

Tales such as “Culhwch and Olwen” and “The Dream of Rhonabwy” found within the The Mabinogion and are the earliest prose stories of Britain. The stories were composed in Middle Welsh in about the 12th–13th centuries and were taken from earlier oral traditions and have interested scholars ever since those early dates because they preserve the oldest traditions of King Arthur and, therefore, the figure Merlin. These works inspired later writers.

But it’s really Thomas Malory’s late 15th-century prose “Le Morte D’arthur” that brings us the glamour and adventure we normally associate with the Arthurian legends and the highly-dramatized account of the Wizard Merlin… brought to us as a character who begins as a wild-man of the forest and ends up advising Uther Pendragon (Arthur’s father) and eventually becoming the prophet of the Holy Grail and who is later tragically fascinated by the mysterious Lady of the Lake who entombs him (forever) inside the trunk of a hawthorn tree.

Witches' Tree by Edward Burne-Jones (1905)

Witches’ Tree by Edward Burne-Jones (1905)

It’s not known how much of Malory’s work influenced (if at all) the French astrologer, physician and wandering clairvoyant, Nostradamus (1503-1566 ) who was a man of science and religion yet dabbled in horoscopes, necromancy, scrying, and good luck charms (such as the hawthorn rod that he used as a wand). He’s famous for his long-term predictions, and you’ve no doubt heard of his world famous Almanacs. He was very much influenced by Chaldean and Assyrian magic which went back hundreds of years to the very earliest civilizations, and, if you met him, you’d have to describe him as “a wizard” i.e. he had a black cloak, black hat, long white beard. In addition to his almanacs, he also published books on potions. Is he another embodiment of Merlin?

A little after Nostradamus, the sixteenth century advisor to Queen Elizabeth 1st JOHN DEE ( you might have heard of him, too) was a wandering philosopher, alchemist and spy-master and one of the Queen’s favourites. Of Welsh descent his family claimed to come from Welsh royal blood. (coincidence?) When Elizabeth took to the throne in 1558, Dee became her most trusted advisor on astrological and scientific matters, choosing Elizabeth’s coronation date for her (for example.) DEE is known to have attempted to contact the spirit-world using a “scryer” or crystal-gazer, and took a great interest in the tales of Merlin, and used Arthurian legend to help promote an enlarging ‘British empire’ abroad. As he became more involved in occult practices, he drifted further from the church and science, and into the occult. It’s understood that he considered himself able to communicate with angels/demons. He was happy to claim he was a “new” Merlin.

A contemporary of his, Sir Edward Kelly, was also able to summon spirits or angels in a “shew-stone” or magic mirror and he allegedly knew the secret of the Philosopher’s Stone. I have added an engraving of Kelly into the show-notes (top of the page) because I wanted you to see that this guy is every-inch what you and I would describe as a Wizard in the Merlin tradition.

Both these wizards — DEE and KELLY — seem to have based many of their ideas on the works of the German Renaissance itinerant alchemist, astrologer and magician known (in English) as John Faustus. Many of Faust’s magical tales were sold and re-hashed in what was known as chapbooks back in the 16th century, these were a type of cheap street literature printed for the consumption of ordinary folk as small, paper-covered booklets, kind of the first ever “Penny Dreadfuls.” Nevertheless, DEE and KELLY were influenced by Dr. Faust who lived in Bavaria in around 1480 and was described as a philosopher, alchemist, magician and astrologer. He died in an explosion after an alchemical experiment went wrong, in about 1541. There are several grimoires or magical texts attributed to Dr. Faust. Presumably, some of these spell-books were owned by Dee and Kelly. Is he also a Merlin figure?

Dr Faustus

Dr Faustus

The Tudor playwright Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Dee and Kelly, portrayed Faust as the archetypal adept of Renaissance magic in “The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus” from about 1590. A 1620 woodcut illustration of Doctor Faustus (above) shows him to resemble a “customary” wizard, book in one hand, long staff in the other (no doubt made of hawthorn) and standing inside a protective circle wearing a magicians hat and fur-trimmed cloak… with a long white beard and white hair.

Much later, English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892; Poet Laureate from 1850, re-told the stories of King Arthur and the tales of his fatal love for Guinevere and the stories of the Knights of the Round Table in the 12 cyclical poems that made up the “Idylls of the King” published 1859 and 1885. These are a very Mid-Victorian read and tend to study the embodiment of the ideal Victorian “male” hero (the Prince Albert type father figure) and also contain explicit references to Gothic interiors, as well as Romantic appreciations of nature, and society’s growing anxiety about changing gender roles. The poems also tell of Merlin and the Lady of the Lake. Tennyson based these writings on the works of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur and the 13th century Mabinogion.

Is this figure… the eternal material body of Merlin, and also the fictional character-image of Gandalf, perhaps even Obi-Wan Kenobi and Dr. Who, and certainly Albus Dumbledore who “knows pretty much everything” … are all these figures the same person?

Are all these eccentric wanderers and learned beings (beings that resemble human men but possess far greater physical and mental powers) these alchemists, philosophers and wise-men… are they all reincarnations of the once and future MERLIN?

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Myth and Magic

CLICK HERE to listen to >>> Episode Fourteen of MYTH & MAGIC 28M

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Myth and Magic EP 15 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag — Episode 15 SHOW-NOTES

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Folklore and fantasy themes aimed at creative writers: to start writing stories and challenge your brain with exciting ideas, dip into this kit-bag. Learn how fantasy worlds draw on real world history, mythology, and folklore. And there’s weekly news from the world of fantasy fiction too, plus fabulous creatures, studies on folk tales, nature fables and lots more mythical, magical fun.

CLICK HERE for >>> Episode Fifteen: 26M

This week I explain why Harry is a warlock and not a wizard. I discover the earliest origin of wizard myths before examining the definition of warlock and touch on the witch trials of early-modern Scotland. I take a look at Daemonologie, and I think about the Roman roads of Britain and how they probably influenced the Kingsroad (and other straight roads) in A Song of Ice and Fire. Wildflower of the week: Wake Robin.

Dr John Fian

Dr John Fian

Last week I made the claim that MERLIN is perhaps the one-and-only WIZARD when I was discussing the definition of WIZARD and comparing a Wizard to a Witch. If you’ve been listening to the shows since Episode One you might be aware that I had already touched on Odin (also known in English mythology as Wōden — the old Norse God associated with wisdom, healing, sorcery and knowledge) and especially in his guise as a “wanderer magician…” J. R. R. Tolkien’s fiction was very much influenced by Norse history and it seems that Gandalf was inspired this figure aka Mr. Wednesday.

This Norse God is a shape-shifter but is most usually depicted as a one-eyed and long-bearded, white haired old man, frequently armed with a spear or staff, and he wears a dark cloak and a broad hat that hides much of his face. He’s usually accompanied by animals and birds (these are his familiars, that he talks to) and he can ride across the sky on “old slippy” if he needs to get anywhere (slippy is an eight-legged flying horse.) Does this remind you of Dumbledore?

I ought to have pointed out, last week, that MERLIN was either the incarnation (artificial or otherwise) of Wōden or a folk memory of this wandering Norse God.

Yet Wōden is far older than this Norse deity. The Romans knew of such a figure, so it’s possible we need to look much further back into history to find the first reference to the wizard. Perhaps back into the Proto-Indo-European pantheon of Gods.

And, yes, Proto-Indo-Europeans — these are the prehistoric people who lived about 4,000 years ago in the area we now know as Ukraine and Eastern Russia and who were farmers and fisher-folk and lived in climate with winter snow and invented the wheel and the plough and domesticated the horse — they probably believed in a sky-god (the SKY FATHER) and passed their history along using song-poetry. These very ancient people believed in an Otherworld that was guarded by a watchdog and could only be reached by crossing a river. They may also have believed in a world tree, bearing fruit of immortality, guarded by a serpent or dragon, and this hidden otherworld was tended by three goddesses who spun the thread of life. They had “The Striker” (a flying God with a hammer who is akin the the later Thor) and they had the water-God APAM NAPAT a figure that probably inspired the later Roman god Neptūnus, and the Old Irish water-god Nechtain. And they also had animistic deities: for example elves and nymphs. It’s from these very ancient beliefs that our image of the wandering wizard emerges…

By the way, it’s interesting to note that well into the 12th century A.D. and long after Norway had been “officially” Christianized, the Odin/Wōden character was still alive and being invoked by the Nordic population. In fact, even in recent times, if a person is woken by an odd noise during the night, they declare they hear “Odin passing by…

Anyway, I thought I’d try to offer some back ground to the figure MERLIN and later Wizards… especially Gandalf but also The Doctor and Dumbldore type characters… it seems they all come from one very, very ancient folk-belief and folk-memory, perhaps even an invocation… of the powerful figure of Wōden the wanderer.

WARLOCK

Last week I stated that the male equivalent of a witch is a WARLOCK. And this was the word that had been used to describe the male counterparts to Samantha Stephens in the 1960s television show Bewitched. It’s also (strictly speaking) what Harry Potter is learning to become.

A warlock is defined as: a person (typically male) who uses magic for or against others

The word derives from the Old English word: WǢRLOGA which means: oathbreaker or “deceiver” so it has dark origins.

The Old Norse VARÐ-LOKKUR, that means “caller of spirits” has also been suggested, though argued against, as a possible source word.

Although most victims of witch trials in early modern Scotland were women, what is less well known is that some men were executed as warlocks.

Witchcraft has such a long, fascinating and complex history that goes back to before the Bible, so the subject deserves special attention and I intend to examine witches & witchcraft in considerably more detail in the new year, and over special shows.

But just to concentrate on warlocks, I wanted to explain about the Scottish witch trials. In 1589 King James VI and 1st (he was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots,) visited Denmark where witch-hunts were common and, on his sea voyage, he encountered rough seas and storms that were said to be the result of magic. At least one of his ships (said to be the one that contained valuable gifts for his Queen) was lost in the storm. Upon his return to Scotland, he attended the North Berwick witch trials, the first major persecution of witches in Scotland, and after he saw the trial of the witches who had “caused” his ships to be struck by waves and winds, he set up a royal commissions to hunt down any other witches in his realm, and recommended torture when dealing with any suspects.

The Scottish schoolmaster Dr. John Fian was accused of bewitching townsfolk, preaching witchcraft, and, along with Agnes Sampson and others, of raising storms to sink the fleet of King James VI of Scotland. He was the first of a few warlocks that were tried and sentenced for witchcraft. Dr. John Fian endured having his fingernails forcibly extracted and his feet mangled in screw-down torture boots known as pilliwinks. These instruments of torture crushed his feet until they were no longer usable. It’s said he endured this torture without expressing pain. He was taken to the Castlehill in Edinburgh, strangled, and burnt on 27 January 1591.

John Stewart, Earl of Mar and Garioch, the youngest surviving son of James II of Scotland, (imprisoned and probably killed at Craigmillar Castle) was likewise accused of being a warlock by King James VI and 1st and arrested for treason.

King James VI and I was responsible for a book known as the “Daemonologie” a text book which focused on necromancy and the historical relationships between the various methods of divination and black magic. The text book also touched on werewolves and vampires.

It’s interesting to think that a book on Demonology would be published before an Authorized Version of the Bible. I shall discuss Daemonologie in more detail in a future show,

William Shakespeare is said to have used Daemonologie as a source book when writing and producing his Scottish Play – Macbeth.

John Napier of Merchiston (1550 –1617) the famous mathematician, physicist, and astronomer who “invented” the much-hated log tables (aka logarithms) (disliked by schoolkids of a certain age, ask your grandfather about them) was born and died in a castle and dabbled in alchemy, necromancy, and magic. He kept a black rooster as a familiar. He was widely known to be, and professed himself to be, a warlock.

During the European Age of Enlightenment (the 18th century) belief in the powers of witches and sorcerers began to die out and reports of warlocks became rarer.

Locus in Quo – The Roman roads of Britain

In the last episode of Myth and Magic I promised I’d cover ROMAN ROADS in Britain. Listeners from outside Europe, especially those from the continent of America or Australasia will be unfamiliar with Roman Roads, but they are a shared feature of the topography of most of Europe and also North Africa.

Those of you who are watching Britannia the fantasy television series will be aware that the Romans came to Britain in 43 AD (they set up my home town of Staines that same year) and stayed on until about 410 AD.

In Britannia as in their other conquered provinces, the Romans constructed a network of paved trunk roads to march upon. They hated horse riding (a common mistake in tv shows and movies is to have the senior officers riding around on white steeds: non-roman auxiliary troops were the cavalrymen, and looked down upon) but they liked long, straight, reliable roads to march their legions around on (about about 5,000 men, divided in several cohorts.)

Prior to the Roman conquest of Britain, merchants used unpaved track-ways, including the ancient ones that were probably first trod-down by herds and that run along the ridges of hills, one such trackway (still in use) is the Ridegway. But these were not of sufficient quality for the Roman Legions, so they set out to create an all-weather network of roads that was completed by 180 AD.

“Street” comes from the old word for paving :

Dere Street from Eboracum (York) to the Antonine Wall in Scotland
Ermine Street – London (Londinium) to Lincoln (Lindum Colonia) via York (Eboracum)
Fosse Way – linked Exeter (Isca Dumnoniorum) to Lincoln (Lindum Colonia)
Watling Street – London to the port of Dover

Here, where I live, on the Thames at Roman AD PONTES we are between the PORTWAY and AKEMAN street. PORTWAY run from London to Dorchester (Durnovaria.) And AKEMAN ran from London to Gloucester (Gelvum.)

Fantasy Writers Definitions – Chekhov’s gun

This month thousands of writers – both new and old – are diligently writing their 50 thousand plus words participating in the NANOWRIMO challenge. It might be a bit too late to bring CHEKHOV’S GUN to their attention… but nevertheless, it’s an important and useful “rule of thumb” for fantasy fiction writers.

The famous Russion play-write and short-story writer Doctor Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) came up with an important dramatic principle for his plays and short stories: every element in a story must be necessary and irrelevant elements should be removed.

every element in a story must be necessary, so if an element is removed the structure would “fall apart” irrelevant elements should be removed or they might be seen to make false promises to the reader or an audience

The “Gun” refers to Chekhov’s statement: “If you say, in the first chapter, there is a rifle hanging on the wall, the gun must go off… it’s not going to be fired, it has no right to be hanging there.

Likewise, if you bring a loaded rifle onto a stage, it must be fired by the end of the story. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.

Ernest Hemingway, for one, contradicted this “rule” on several occasions, and said he valued inconsequential details in his writings, but even he conceded that readers would inevitably seek symbolism and significance in these moments so, agreed with Checkhov that its wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.

Thinking about your own story and using the principle of Chekhov’s gun, do you have any “guns on walls” that serve no purpose? For example, a magic ring or special cloak that’s not used? A magical power that’s not utilized? Some deep mystical knowledge that is never mined? An animal or creature that is said to have magical or amazing powers… but then we never get to see how these are used. Got any of Chekhov’s guns? Yeah? Erase them now before they weaken your story structure.

Wild flower of the week: Trillium erectum

The Wake Robin, Beth Root or Stinking Benjamin, is a quickly fading plant from the Trillium family that are perennial herbs grown from rhizomes with three large leaf-like bracts that, in the case of the Wake Robin, are red in colour. These bracts are photosynthetic but are brightly coloured and resemble flowers.

The small flowers are carrion-scented (hence Stinking Benjamin) so attract scavenging flies for pollination. Eventually the flower petals wither, to leave behind a fruit that ripens into a dark red berry.

Trilliums are native to the eastern United States and eastern Canada, so don’t try looking for one in the European woodland.

The root was traditionally used as an aid in childbirth, hence the name “Beth root” (which is a corruption of “birth root”). Native Americans would use the root tea for menstrual disorders, to induce childbirth, and to aid in labor.

According to Buckland’s book of Gypsy Magic you can attract a lover with a pinch of Wake Robin. Just a pinch of the herb used in whatever you’re cooking will cause your lover to be drawn to you in a very strong and positively romantic way.

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Myth and Magic EP 8 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag — Episode 8 SHOW-NOTES

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Folklore and fantasy themes aimed at creative writers: to start writing stories and challenge your brain with exciting ideas, dip into this kit-bag. Learn how fantasy worlds draw on real world history, mythology, and folklore. And there’s weekly news from the world of fantasy fiction too, plus fabulous creatures, studies on folk tales, nature fables and lots more mythical, magical fun.

CLICK HERE for >>> Episode Eight: 30M

This week I start prepping for NANOWRIMO and I encourage any fantasy fiction writers listening to this podcast to begin plotting too! Today I look at the various stage of a Hero’s Journey and discover Markstein’s criteria. I also visit the Celtic Way and consider the race of Celts. I consider the Guardian list of the 100 best books of the 21st century and I ponder Gwyneth Paltrow’s (empty) bookcase and try to imagine the books I would like to add. The Wildflower of the week is the Blackberry.

Now its NanNo Prep Time are you ready to start plotting out your fantasy fiction?

What form is your protagonist going to take?

Male /female/ gender fluid?
Old, young, ageless?

What form is your main antagonist going to take?

Male /female/ gender fluid?
Old, young, ageless?
Special powers?

What form is your tale going to take?

A quest
Coming of age

How will you construct your fictional world?

How does it differ to (this) real one?
What are the similarities?
What technology does it have?
Does your fictional universe have its own internal logic
Have you created a timeline to ensure consistency and continuity

Will your fictional world comply with Markstein’s criteria?

If characters A and B meet, they are in the same universe
Characters cannot be connected by real people
Characters cannot be connected by characters that do not originate with your published work
Specific fictionalized versions of real people can be used i.e Robin Hood or King Arthur
Characters are only considered to have met if they appeared together in the story

What will be the Triggering Event ?

How does your protagonist resist the call to adventure? Why won’t he/she/it go? What’s preventing their adventure?

(After the first plot point, there will be several chapters where the protagonist is learning about the new world. They might be doing research, or discovering things in conversations. There needs to be conflict and tension, which builds up to the first Pinch Point.
This doesn’t have to be a literal battle, but it is the first major interaction with the antagonist. The antagonist might not be visible yet, but they should be the one pulling the strings. The antagonist is after something, and that something is tied to the MC somehow…)

What does the Protagonist have that the antagonist needs or wants?

What will be the first pinch point?

Midpoint—the shift from victim to warrior – (after the first pinch point, the protagonist continues to face new challenges, but are in a defensive role. They might make some plans, but mostly they’re waiting for something to happen and reacting to events rather than being proactive.) Why does the protagonist decide to take action. What turns him around from being a victim to being a hero?)

This leads to a second confrontation with the antagonist (the protagonist realize that everything is much worse than they thought, and they realize they’ve underestimated the antagonist’s power.)

The protagonist tries to fix things, but things keep getting worse and worse, leading to a total, devastating loss… so we arrive at the the dark night of the soul.

What will be the First Major Turning Point in the story?

How will the antagonist get the upper hand?

The Triumph:

(Perhaps, after a pep talk with a close friend, to “gird the loins” the protagonist finds a reason to fight, even if it’s hopeless. Even if it seems impossible to defeat the enemy, there’s no choice but to confront the antagonist.

But now he is prepared—he might have gained a valuable piece of knowledge or information. He might have a new weapon or new power, or he’s learned the villain’s weakness.
The final battle scene often includes a “hero at the mercy of the villain” scene, where the hero is caught, so the villain can gloat. Anyway it’s not a clear, easy victory. They fail at first, all is lost, the hero is captured, the enemy gloats… then the hero perseveres. With resolve and tenacity, the hero escapes and overpowers the villain.
Often the final battle scene also includes a “death of the hero” scene, where the hero, or an ally/romantic interest, sacrifices themselves, and appears to die… but then is brought back to life in joy and celebration.)

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CLICK HERE to listen to >>> Episode Eightof MYTH & MAGIC 30M

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The Guardian list of 100 best-books-of-the-21st-century

This list of ONE HUNDRED best books of the 21st century (not all are fiction) published this week by the Guardian newspaper, includes just six works that you might accurately describe as “Fantasy Fiction.”

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (her only Hugo Award winning novel… The Hugos tend to not be given to the same writer twice)
Darkmans by Nicola Barker
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin
Night Watch by Terry Prachett
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

Why is this speculative genre so under-represented? (George R. R. Martin isn’t listed at all, but perhaps “A Storm of Swords” and the subsequent two Song of Ice and Fire didn’t make the cut) Is it because fantasy fiction is (these days) is considered to be “Young Adult” and therefore, because the books (purportedly) speak to a younger audience they are somehow considered to be less meritorious?

Is “Dead Until Dark” (Charlaine Harris) young adult fiction?

Or:

Dark Lover J.R. Ward
Vampire Academy Richelle Mead
City of Bones Cassandra Clare
Twilight Stephenie Meyer
The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins , or
The Time Traveler’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger

Oddly (and to even things up a bit) the top 20 best selling books of the 21st Century, combined, have sold over a billion copies. These include:

The “Harry Potter” books, over 225M sold
The “Twilight” books, over 120M sold
The Hunger Games books, over 65M sold
A Song of Ice and Fire” over 60M sold
The Divergent Trilogy over 35M sold

That means more-or-less half of all books sold have been fantasy fiction. Ha! [Stats from https://elitewritings.com%5D

Wildflower of the week: BLACKBERRY

All along the CELTIC WAY at this time of the year, you can find Blackberries (sometimes called black-caps in the USA)

aka brummel kites, gater berry, cock brumble, blaggs and mooches.

I can tell you, from experience, these edible fruit from the genus Rubus make the most delicious crumble you’ve ever tasted and go particularly well with sharp cooking apples. The possess a heavenly scent that makes my mouth water with anticipation. When I was young, my sisters and I would go blackberry picking on open land and bring home baskets-and-baskets of berries so my mother could make jam.

Blackberries and raspberries both live on what we call, in England, brambles. Though raspberries are “domesticated” and can be safely grown as “canes” in a garden or plot… whereas blackberries are decidedly wild and would take over an entire garden if not hunted down and eliminated.

Unmanaged plants in the wild form a dense tangle of arching thorny branches and these are often cut into hedgerows and provide important protection for nesting birds and all kinds of animals.

A bog woman who was found naturally in a bog in Jutland, and had died in the pre-Roman Iron Age was found to have eaten millet and blackberries before she had been strangled.

It’s also thought that Blackberry fruit, leaves, and stems were used to dye fabrics and hair. And Native Americans were known to use blackberry stems to make rope.

The delicious loganberry – developed in 1880 in Santa Cruz – is one of the best and most flavoursome cultivars from the original plant.

Blackberry leaves are an important food source for caterpillars; and some grazing mammals, especially deer.

Scottish highlanders once twisted a bramble with ivy and grown to ward away witches and evil spirits.

It was once thought that on Michaelmas day (the holy day of angels 29 September) the devil spat and urinated upon all the fruit and so it was unwise to pick them any more. In Ireland a similar belief held that the pooka ( the nature spirit that I described in my novel Moondog and the Reed Leopard) were responsible for ruining the fruit by pissing on them ( a few weeks later than the devil in England, at Halloween tide.)

CALL OUT 25 SEPTEMBER Assaph Mehr

If you like the idea of togas, daggers and magic and an Urban Fantasy set in a quasi-Ancient Rome intrigues you, then try ASSAPH MEHR and his Murder In Absentia

A young man is found dead in his bed, with a look of extreme agony on his face and strange tattoos all over his body. His distraught senator father suspects a cult death, and knows who to call for discreet resolution.

Enter Felix the Fox, a professional investigator. In the business of ferreting out dark information for his clients, Felix is neither a traditional detective nor a competent magician — but something in between. Drawing on his contacts in shady elements of society and on his aborted education in the magical arts, Felix dons his toga and sets out to discover the young man’s killers.

Murder In Absentia is set in a fantasy world. The city of Egretia borrows elements from a thousand years of ancient Roman culture, from the founding of Rome to the late empire, mixed with a judicious amount of magic. This is a story of a cynical, hardboiled detective dealing with anything from daily life to the old forces roaming the world.

I like the idea that this book will appeal to fans of detective fiction as well as fantasy!
Well done, ASSAPH.

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CLICK HERE to listen to >>> Episode Eightof MYTH & MAGIC 30M

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