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

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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CLICK HERE to listen to >>> Episode Fifteen of MYTH & MAGIC 26M

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Myth and Magic EP 7 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag — Episode 7 SHOW-NOTES

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 Seven: 30M

This week I go high onto the moors and heaths, as I travel to Exmoor to explore how moorland habitats have been used by fiction writers to convey wilderness, wildness and magic. I learn about Pixie mythology and visit the ancient Moorland village of Withypool where Lorna Dorne was written. I think about using scrying in fantasy fiction plots and talk about floating timelines. I also examine ABCs also known as phantom cats or mystery cats. The magical wildflower of the week is Morning Glory.

Exmoor

Exmoor

What I’ve been up to – trip to Exmoor

EXMOOR is a picturesque area of hilly moorland in west Somerset and parts of north Devon on the South West Peninsula of England. The ancient 250 square miles of moorland is named after the River Exe. If you can picture the personification of Britain in the form of Britannia, facing the Atlantic, her left foot and ankle is the South-West peninsula.

For those listeners unfamiliar with a moor — we have several in the British Isles, we even have one here in Staines, about ten minutes from my home on the river , and in fact Britain has over 10% of all of the world’s moors — a MOORLAND is an upland habitat characterized by low-growing vegetation on acid soils. Moors are considered to be rare and vulnerable habitats and, in fact, Staines Moor has been almost continuously under threat from land developers and those who wish to exploit its minerals and natural resources. The new threat to my local moor comes from plans for Heathrow (airport) expansion.

Moors differ from Heaths (heathland) because they are generally on higher ground, have a less gentle topography, and have cooler and damper climates. Nearby to us is some famous Surrey heathland. Heaths are man-made and were probably manufactured habitats created about 6,000 years ago in the Late Stone Age and Bronze Age for agriculural purposes. They are still managed from grazing, even now, though they are normally kept as important rare habitats.

Exmoor was once a Royal forest and hunting ground and was designated a National Park in 1954 and declared an environmentally sensitive area in 1993. The coastline between Porlock and Foreland Point, which I explored on my visit, forms the longest stretch of coastal woodland in England and Wales. The scenery includes magical waterfalls, dark caves, rocky headlands and steep ravines. At Parracombe there is a neolithic henge, so we can guess the Moor has been inhabited since stone age times.

The moor is recorded in the Domesday Book (1087) and there is evidence that Sheep have grazed on the moor for more than 3,000 years. The area was center of the wool trade in the Middle Ages.

On my visit I saw Exmoor ponies (a distinct breed of pony) standing in groups by thorn trees. These are probably the oldest remaining wild horses in Europe.

Sightings of the famous “beast of Exmoor” which I will cover later in the show first started to be reported in the 1970s, though after 1983 and the loss of several scores of sheep (possibly a hundred) the government took action and sent-in the Royal Marines to hunt the elusive creature down.

Puck

Puck – an illustration from the title page of Robin Goodfellow: His Mad Pranks and Merry Jests
1629

Pixies are associated with Exmoor. (Piskies are normally associated with Cornwall).Pixies are said to congregate on high moor and perhaps inhabit stone circles, barrows, dolmens and ringforts. They might also live underground in the spectacular caves seen in the area.

Pixie mythology is believed to pre-date the Roman invasion of Britain. In the early-Christian era the Pixies were said to be the souls of children who had died un-baptised. Later, in the 19th century, some historians suggested the name pixie was a racial remnant of the Pictic tribes who used to painted their skin blue. This theory has since been largely debunked.

Several Exmoor place-names are associated with Pixies and Pixie Day takes place annually in the East Devon town of Ottery St. Mary in June. The day commemorates the legend of the pixies being banished from the town (where they caused a nuisance) to local caves known as the “Pixie’s Parlour”

Zoologist Charles Spence Bate (an associate of Charles Darwin) stated his belief that: Pixies were evidently a smaller race, and, from the greater obscurity of the … tales about them, I believe them to have been an earlier race. (1873)

the English historical novelist Anna Eliza Bray who studied Pixies (1854 ) suggested that pixies and fairies were two distinct species of folkloric mythical creature.

J.M. Barrie’s Tinkerbell sprinkles “pixie dust” was she a pixie? And the nature-fairy Robin Goodfellow also known as Puck is said to be a friendly pixie.

withypool

Old Withypool Buttercross

Locus in Quo: Withypool

The word Withy means “willow” and WITHYPOOL is the “capital” of EXMOOR. Although it is a small village located on the River Barle with a population of no more than 200.

The area has been inhabited since the Bronze Age and a Stone Circle can be seen on Withypool Hill.

In the 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer was in charge of the village in his duties as forester of North Petherton.

R. D. Blackmore reputedly wrote part of of his new romantic novel Lorna Doone : A Romance of Exmoor (1869) in the bar of the Royal Oak Inn at Withypool. The author was raised in Exmoor, although he was born near to where I live, along the River Thames (in Berkshire) and lived most of his long life about five miles from here around the twons of Twickenham and Teddington. Nevertheless, Blackmore is considered to be an Exmoor artist and there’s even an area of Exmoor (Valley of the Rocks) near Lynton and Lynmouth that’s known to tourists as “Doone valley.”

In the 1930s the Royal Oak Inn was owned and operated by a retired a spy-ring leader named Maxwell Knight. He was a man known to the James Bond author Ian Fleming. It’s thought that Fleming based his “M” character on the publican — M is the Head of the Secret Intelligence Service in the James Bond novels.

Myth & Magic News – True Fiction

TRUE FICTION is a new series devoted to exploring just that. Each week we’ll take you beyond what you’ve seen on screens to explore what inspired the fiction we love. Hosted by actor Kurt Indovina, each episode investigates the origins of pop culture’s most compelling stories. Kurt speaks to experts to find the truths within the tales and to analyze how and why the stories have been imprinted on us and our culture.

But the TV show isn’t just about monsters and made-up universes. Even pop culture’s more grounded touchstones have fascinating histories, like the very real murder that served as the foundation for Twin Peaks, for example, or the tumultuous history that makes Jackie Chan punish himself for our entertainment.

You can see the True Fiction show on the GameSpot Universe YouTube channel. This is a YouTube portal that offers gamers recaps, features and episode breakdowns of their favorite TV shows and specializes in giving viewers some fun fan theories from successful shows.

The TRUE FICTION show begins this September 22 and the producers say new episodes will be released each Sunday.

The link for the TRUE FICTION show is here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRgUg0jJUgGMadGPzzmu8cw

The Crystal Ball

The Crystal Ball by John William Waterhouse – 1902

Magic Word of the Week – Scry

SCRYING

Scrying is “seeing” or “peeping” into the unknown i.e. the future using a device, generally a Crystal Ball. In this respect scrying differs from:

* Clairvoyance – because this is seeing the future in visions, like Fiver does in Watership Down
* Augury– because this is predicting the future by watching natural signs, often birds in flight, like Romulus and Remus did before they founded Rome
* Divination – because this is prophesy using ritual i.e. tarot cards or bones. In my recent novel Moondog and the Reed Leopard, Moondog’s gypsy mother-in-law uses tea leaves to foretell her daughter’s fortune

Reflective, translucent, or luminescent surfaces are used in Scrying. Crystals, stones and glass are the favorites. Who hasn’t looked into a piece of colored glass and fancied they might have seen something unworldly?

A magic mirror is an often used as a plot device. The idea became popular in the Snow White fairy-tale, when a mirror on the wall was used by the jealous queen. The Wicked Witch of the West also uses a crystal ball in The Wizard of Oz movie.

Obsidian “candles” or Black Candles are used for scrying in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series and the sisters scryed with crystal in the popular TV series Charmed.

Joseph (he of the Technicolour Dreamcoat fame) might have used a polished silver chalice for scrying, according to the Bible… A steward claimed a highly polished chalice was used for divination when it was planted in Benjamin’s sack. See Genesis.

Skeptics suggest that scrying is often the result of delusion or wishful thinking… therefore it can be useful plot device for a fantasy fiction author who might want to mislead readers into thinking of an alternative ending or want to suggest that a character is feeble-minded or open to wishful thinking. Think about using a crystal ball in your next plot…

One final thought on scrying: It might be considered an archaic and faintly ridiculous pastime, to gaze into a shiny mirrored surface and attempt to see if the future has anything to offer us or find out if someone fancies us… but according to Statista 2.71 billion people do some scrying every day. That’s about a third of the world’s population staring into a mirror to “see” the future and find out if they’re loved and who by… just a thought.

Fantasy Writers Definitions – Floating timeline

Five Go To Mystery Moor

Julian would have been thirty-three by the time the adventurers met for their final foray…

A floating timeline or sliding timescale is a device used by fiction writers in long-running serials to explain why characters age little or never at all over a period of time – despite real-world markers such as notable events or advents of technology happening around them. Many readers will be familiar with the concept through comic-book series. For example, The Punisher character meets Spider Man in a contemporary New York setting even though he is depicted as a recent Vietnam War veteran… in “real world” terms this meeting would have been circa 1962. Likewise, the Archie Comics characters are “trapped” within a 1950s retro- style Riverdale for over 70 years — never ageing beyond his time at Riverdale High even though the stories run from 1942 to 2015 (in comic book form) and beyond those years on television.

Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five” series of novels, that followed the adventures of Julian, Dick, Anne and (George) – and dog Timmy have twenty-one summer holiday adventures filled with picnics, rock-pooling, lemonade, and bicycle trips… though the five are perpetually youthful (though the oldest, Julian, eventually reaches adulthood from when readers first meet him, aged twelve.)

If Blyton hadn’t used a Floating Timeline device in her series, Julian would have been thirty-three by the time the adventurers met for one final foray, at Tinker’s field in 1963.

Castles, moors and smugglers rocks feature in many of the Famous Five stories. In “Mystery Moor” they camp with gypsies on moorland… but by 1963 (at the end of the series) the world of horse-drawn caravans, ghostly lights and smugglers dungeons had been replaced by an appalling “Real World” set of child murders (the so-called Moors Murders) a serial killing crime that appalled all of British Society. I remember that it felt as if they ( Ian Brady and Myra Hindley) had stolen-away the innocence of the post-war Britain.

JK Rowling famously disapproved of “trapping” her characters within a floating timeline. She wanted the Potter kids to experience all the pleasures and pains of growing up and developing in ‘real time.’

My Morning Glory

My Morning Glory – 18 September Staines UK

Wildflower of the Week : Morning glory

My Morning Glory is looking particularly magnificent as I do this podcast in the early morning sun on this cold yet bright autumn morning down near the River Thames, here in Staines, England. It’s the third year I’ve grown these magnificent blooms from seed. I’d prefer the blue blossoms, if I’m honest, but they don’t make any headway in the cool climate of Britain.

Plants from the Convulvus family with their funnel-shaped showy blooms include some useful ones especially the sweet potato. In the British Isles the common name for these plants is: bindweed

But the most showy members of the family are the exotic looking Morning Glories… In fact mine is Ipomoea sometimes known as picotee morning glory and these are extremely popular plants in Japan. Believed to have been introduced into the country from China or via Korea in the 8th to 9th centuries, city dwellers keenly grow new colours and they are often used as adornments along Temple roads.

Morning Glories tend to only unravel into full bloom in full and bright sun. Thus, their common name makes sesne. I’ve noticed that quite often my plant here in Britain loses all its blossoms by lunchtime.

The plants and especially the seeds are extremely toxic – though Aztec priests used the plant’s hallucinogenic properties in rituals. The seeds of morning glory can produce a similar effect to L.S.D. when taken in large doses…and give the user some lucid hallucinations.

If you grow morning glory from seed be aware that it can become an invasive species – all members of the Convulvus family tend to entwine, knot and bind other plants.

As well as belladona, jimson weed, and hemlock – Morning glory can also be used in the preparation of a Flying ointment

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Myth and Magic EP 4 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag — Episode 4 SHOW-NOTES

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 Four: 26M

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This week I visit Oakley Court castle, where the Rocky Horror Picture Show was filmed. This leads me to think about how science fiction differs from fantasy fiction. I discuss the origins of science fiction, a genre that goes back further than you might think! I also discuss standing stone circles and introduce fantasy fiction fans to the remarkable similarities between aliens and faeries. And, anyway, what’s the official definition of a fairy? I congratulate Zen Cho, the author of “The True Queen” upon her recent win and and explore the tales of wandering knights and Mythopoeia. I also study the beast known as a Griffin and see how you might eat some Fat Hen.

Oakley Court by Neil Mach 2019

Oakley Court by Neil Mach 2019

I’m still buzzing, having just returned from my weekend at OAKLEY COURT CASTLE, in Windsor for the Rocky Horror Picnic organised by the fantastic Time Warp Official UK Rocky Horror Fan Club… as I’m sure you know the show is a tribute and send-up of various cult movies including Hammer Horrors (many of which were made in this castle) and B movie science fiction:
Flash Gordon (in his silver underwear) humanoid aliens in “The Day The Earth Stood Still) and Claude Rains in “The Invisible Man.”

Oakley Court

Oakley Court

Therefore, I thought this was a good time to discuss how Science Fiction compares with the Fantasy Fiction genre of speculative fiction…

The first Science Fiction novel was titled : A True Story by the Greek-speaking author of Assyrian descent named LUCIAN OF SAMOSATA

Lucian wrote it in tongue-in-cheek style, to ridicule the superstition, religious practices, and beliefs in the paranormal that were held then… and still are.

In his novel he covered topics such as: encounters with aliens, travel to outer space, interplanetary warfare and the colonization of planets. He also expounded the idea of crossing the Atlantic to colonize new worlds… This was 1400 years before Columbus. Yes, it seems amazing, but the novel was probably written in year 160 A.D.

Although others, including the ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes could boast they wrote futuristic works before Lucian and Aristophanes produced several works that included SCI-FI elements such as air travel to other worlds… nobody before LUCIAN had created such convincing science.

As well as jinns,mermaids, talking serpents, talking trees, and other forms of life, some stories within One Thousand and One Nights ( the Arabian Nights, 8th-10th century) included SCI Fi elements.

And Shakespeare’s The Tempest included a “mad scientist” character … which was an idea taken-up and expanded upon by Mary Shelley in her Frankenstein, 1818. The Curse of Frankenstein by Hammer Films was made in 1957.

 

HG WELLS, Woking, Surrey

HG WELLS, Woking, Surrey

English writer Herbert George Wells (H G WELLS) lived in Woking, Surrey near me (and Oakley Court Castle… did he ever visit? ) — in 1895 — with one of his students, named Amy Catherine Robbins. While in Surrey, he planned and wrote The War of the Worlds (hinted-at in the Rocky Horror Show) and also The Time Machine, and he completed The Island of Doctor Moreau.

WELLS is often called the “Father of Science Fiction.” He wrote “The Invisible Man” in 1897.

One of WELLS greatest contributions to the science fiction genre was his insistence that the story should be as credible as possible, even if both writer and reader knew certain elements are infeasible… this allows the reader to accept ideas and open minds, this today is known as creating “the plausible impossible” So, while neither invisibility nor time travel were new in speculative fiction, Wells added a sense of realism to these concepts which readers found fascinating.

As a visionary author WELLS foresaw : the advent of aircraft, tanks, space travel, nuclear weapons, satellite television and something resembling the World Wide Web. As an author, what have you foreseen? How do you strive to add plausible realism to your fantasy works? Please tweet, I’d love to know…

 

Rollright Stones Picture Credit Midnightblueowl

Rollright Stones Picture Credit Midnightblueowl

The Stone Circle of Staines

An Elva Plain Stone Circle lies on the southern slope of Elva Hill. From the hill, the east is dominated by Skiddaw, and seen across the Bassenthwaite Lake. Situated on a level terrace on the Lake District hillside are 15 stones – the tallest is under one metre and they form an almost perfect circle about 40 metres in diameter. Only 15 stones of the original 30 remain.

Elva Hill is known as a fairy hill and the name may well derive from an old Viking name meaning place of the elves.

The site probably dates from late neolithic times, and has been linked with the trade in neolithic axes. The route was from the factory sites in the central fells through Borrowdale.

Although little is known about the NINGEN STONES, here in Staines, it’s thought we once had our own circular alignment of standing stones on the Southside of the River by the ancient port of Hythe. Curiously, we also have an historic “London Stone” in Staines which marked the western boundary of rule from the City of London. There are other interesting “corporation” marks too. But the Nine Stones perhaps formed a circle and are mentioned in Chronicles from Chertsey Abbey (founded 666) so it seems the Stones were still standing after the Roman occupation of the town. It’s not known when the Stones came down (the Abbey was dissolved by Henry 8th in 1537) but it’s thought they might have been used to create foundations for the Staines bridge circa 1228. But that’s just a guess.

Late neolithic standing stones are common in Northern Europe and the British Isles. There are approximately 1,300 stone circles in Britain and Ireland. The Carnac Stones in France, which I’ve visited, are thought to be among the oldest in the world, and are estimated to have been built around 4500 BC (that’s long before druids.)

Near me are the Rollright Stones (also Rollendrith) of Long Compton, near Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. The folklore of the area has long suggested that a king and his knights were turned to stone by a witch (possibly Old Mother Shipton aka Ursula Soothtell… she’s the witch who, according to Samuel Pepys, predicted the Great Fire of London.) Legend holds that as the church clock strikes midnight, the King Stone comes alive and, with the knights, they re-animate of on certain saints’ days. Many modern-day Many Pagans believe that the stones harness “energies” and seek to meditate at the site. And Alfred Watkins suggested that the Rollright Stones were part of a long ley line.

Many theories have been advance to explain their use, but no theories adequately explain why folk took such considerable communal effort … quarrying, transportation, digging trenches, laying foundations and final construction. By the way, Henges are slightly different to standing stone circles , though they often share characteristics (see Avebury.) A henge is normally defined as a circular earthwork. The emphasis is on Earth. It’s thought the word henge is a backformation from Stonehenge, and Stonehenge is not a true henge.

Europe is not the only place to find standing stones: Ancient stone circles are found throughout the Horn of Africa. Booco in northeastern Somalia contains a number stone circles. And in the Ethiopian and Eritrean highlands, megalithic circles can also be found.

Since the effort required to plan and build such huge undertaking has been seen as “superhuman” most of these ancient circles have fables or fairy tales attached to them. One of the common myths is that the circles are enchanted. Are they connected with Fairy Rings? The mystery of these stones still attracts inventive storytelling. For example, New Age enthusiasts have maintained that the standing circles are UFO landing pads

When asked whether a fairy and an alien could be the same thing, the Fairy Investigation Society at http://www.fairyist.com reminded readers of the following:

I) Fairies and aliens are both described as non-human humanoids: sometimes with pointy ears.
II) Fairies and aliens are often associated with bright lights.
III) Fairies and aliens need humanity for reasons that are not clear (in either case) which is why they constantly interact with homo sapiens.
IV) Fairies and aliens both kidnap humans.
V) Fairies and aliens are unpredictable in their behavior, in ways that are neither entirely good nor entirely bad

The longer OED defines a fairy as : ‘one of a class of supernatural beings [diminutive in size] and in popular belief is supposed to possess magical powers and to have great influence for good or evil over the affairs of man.’ Though fairyist clarify this definition by adding that fairies are, essentially, “living supernatural humanoids”

Living – they’re not ghosts
Supernatural – mystical, miraculous,
Humanoids – they’re not dragon-shaped or unicorns. So, a mermaid might be the approximation of a fairy and a naiads (see episode 3 of Myth and Magic ) almost certainly.

Zen Cho

Zen Cho

Fantasy Fiction News 28AUG – Zen Cho

A work by a Malaysian author has won a Hugo Award, widely considered to be the premier award for science fiction. If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again, by Zen Cho, received the Hugo Award for Best Novelette at a ceremony during the 77th World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) in Dublin, Ireland, on Aug 18

According to Cho, the story was written after she had struggled with a very challenging writing project that had left her feeling like a failure.
She told the Star: “It’s about how life is about more than success and failure, but also how it’s important that you don’t give up on the things you really want…”

Born and raised in Selangor, Cho, 33, is currently based in Britain, where she works as a lawyer.
She is the author of two novels, Sorcerer To The Crown (2015) and its sequel, The True Queen (2019). She also edited the anthology Cyberpunk Malaysia (2015).

The Hugo Awards are a set of literary awards voted on by members of the current World Science Fiction Convention and presented annually by the World Science Fiction Society for the best science fiction or fantasy works of the previous year.
First awarded in 1953, they are named after Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the pioneering science fiction magazine Amazing Stories.
Cho’s Hugo Award-winning story is about an imugi (a Korean dragon) who wishes to ascend to dragonhood.

The British educational writer William Edward Hickson is credited with popularizing the proverb:

‘Tis a lesson you should heed:
Try, try, try again.
If at first you don’t succeed,
Try, try, try again.

Although it’s often attributed to King Robert, the Bruce, who his in a cave after the Battle of Methven [ 1305] and observed a spider spinning a web yet failing time and time again until finally succeeding. The story is, of course, linked to the maxim: if at first you don’t succeed, try try try again, though it has never been suggested that Robert the Bruce ever said those words. It’s thought the entire account might in fact be a version of a literary trope, probably invented by y Sir Walter Scott and shares similarities with the story of Tamerlane and the ant

Check the author: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Zen-Cho/e/B0087QJ6OA

Knight Errant Silhouette

Knight Errant Silhouette

The Knight-errant

The KNIGHT ERRANT is a figure of medieval chivalric romance literature.

The WANDERING KNIGHT is a character who breaks free from his world and (perhaps humble or magnificently grand) origins, to right wrongs and to assert his own chivalric ideals.

Because he is motivated by idealism his goals are often illusory.

The template for Knight Errant fiction are the heroes of King Arthur’s Round Table who wandered the realm in search of the Holy Grail.

Cervantes brilliantly caricatured these knights in his 1605 novel Don Quixote

A knight-errant typically performs his deeds in the name of a lady, so at the heart of the tales is Romance. The love is often forbidden or secretive.

They often find themselves facing almost impossible foes, such as dragons, lions, giants and enchantresses.

Fantasy Writers Definitions – Mythopoeia

Narnia, Middle Earth, Westeros and Blake’s Albion all share the same approach : a determination by the author to create a substantial new world [world building] with its own mythology that is distinctive and, perhaps, varies from “real world” mythology.

Mythopoeia aims at imitating and including real-world mythology, and is often designed to to bring mythology to mainstream audiences…

Mythopoeia literally means “myth-making” and has been used since ancient Greek writers used the notion as a device. It was popularized by Tolkien in his poetic book: Tree and Leaf.

It incorporates the essay “On fairy-stories” , originally meant for a lecture, where Tolkien defends the right of writers to create beautiful stories with little or no apparent connection to “The real world”.

Works of mythopoeia are often categorized as fantasy or science fiction but they fill a niche for mythology in the modern world,

Circe”  is a good example. This feminist re-telling of “The Odyssey” given from the perspective of a minor character [Circe, who is the daughter of Helios and a naiad] conveys the essential nature of Greek mythology without taking anything away, but, rather, adding complexity and depth to create what can certainly be described as a “believable” mythological universe.

Harry Potter book series also live exist within a mythopoetic universe and many of Neil Gaiman’s novels, but especially Neverwhere and American Gods function in a similar way.

Phillip Pullman created an alternative Judeo-Christian mythology in His Dark Materials.

And, of course, the best example of Mythopoeia comes from the movies: with Star Wars as a fine example of modern myth-making. George Lucas once said, “I consciously set about to re-create myths and the classic mythological motifs [in Star Wars.]

Griffin of Oakley Court

Griffin of Oakley Court

Fabulous Creature of the Week – Griffin

The gables and pinnacles at OAKLEY COURT are surmounted by heraldic beasts. Most of these creatures resemble MEERCATS (though I’m sure they’re not ha ha ) But some might be talbots (hunting dogs) otters, thylacines, and griffins. But WHAT’S A GRIFFIN?

Griffins have the back legs of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle; and sometimes they have talons as front feet . In heraldry, they are most often used a symbol of divine power.

Grypos (in Greek) means “hooked” so it’s thought the name comes from that root word (an eagles head has a curved beak.)

Griffins first started appearing in Ancient Iranian and Ancient Egyptian art in about 3000 BC and although griffins were popular in Persian and Egyptian cultures, they were also depicted in the Throne Room at the Bronze Age Palace of Knossos in (now) CRETE. That’s circa 1,100 BC.

The etiological ( origin myth – see Episode 2 of Myth and Magic) that might explain the origins of this magical beast are the fossil remains of “beaked” prehistoric creatures including, perhaps, Protoceratops [see below.] They might also be based upon sightings of the griffon vulture, in flight. The Eurasian griffon vulture is one of the largest of the “old world” scavenger birds and has been known to feed on animals as large as a red deer.

Protoceratops hatchling at the American Museum of Natural History in New York

Protoceratops hatchling at the American Museum of Natural History in New York

In legend, griffins mated for life. If either partner died, the other would continue their life alone. This made the griffin an emblem of the church’s opposition to re-marriage.

A hippogriff is supposedly the offspring of a griffin and a mare

In heraldic shields, the griffin is used to denote strength, military courage and leadership…
Perhaps that’s why Dumbledore has a griffin-shaped knocker???

By the way, Gryffindor means golden griffon

The English fairy tale “ Jack the Giant Killer” (compiled around 1711) and set during the reign of King Arthur includes reference to a griffin. If you see a Griffin around your town, or while you’re on vacation, send me your photo!

Wildflower of the Week – Fat Hen

Chenopodium album

Common names include Lamb’s Quarters, Bacon Weed, Dirty Dick, Goose Foot, and FAT-HEN

These days its seen growing on disturbed, nutrient-rich soils in places like waste ground and rubbish tips. It’s the commonest English “Goosefoot

Chenopodium is extensively cultivated and consumed in Northern India as a food crop

The leaves and shoots are eaten like spinach (it’s from the spinach family) and the seeds are high in protein, vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium.

Napoleon Bonaparte relied on the seeds to feed troops during hard-times.

Archaeologists have found carbonized plant remains at archaeological Iron Age, Viking Age, and Roman sites in Europe and some Stone Circles… as far back as 2,400 ago, suggesting this plant was eaten by hunter-gatherers as well as cultivated as a crop after the Neolithic Revolution.

The wild-flower names (lambs, pigs, geese, hens) suggest this plant was also used extensively as livestock fodder.

Tollund Man is a naturally mummified corpse of a man who lived during the 4th century BC, during the period characterized in Scandinavia as the Pre-Roman Iron Age.

He was found in 1950 on the Jutland peninsula, in Denmark.

British author Margaret Drabble employed the image and study of the Tollund Man symbollically in her 1989 novel: A Natural Curiosity.

In the second stanza of The Tollund Man by [shay-mus] Seamus Heaney, the poet mentions the last meal of the human sacrifice:

“In the flat country near by
Where they dug him out,
His last gruel of winter seeds
Caked in his stomach…”

His last meal was likely to have been FAT HEN

JULIE MODLA

JULIE MODLA

 

Call Out of the Week – 28 AUG JULIE MODLA

Julie released her novel “A Fool’s Journey” in May.

She says it’s a “magical fairytale for grown ups” and the tale follows gallant a young man ( a character based on “The Fool” from the tarot deck) who begins a journey filled with mystery and discovery As he moves between characters, he wonders if they truly do have his best interests at heart…

If you want me to call you out and you’re a fantasy fiction writer, why not tweet me or DM me on facebook?

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