Twenty Things People Hate About Fantasy

I adore fantasy, and let’s be honest, so do you.

Fantasy is the best-selling genre of all time.

But there are people who hate fantasy titles. Yeah, really there are…

So what is it about fantasy that drives people away?

I did a little research into this and I discovered twenty things that fantasy haters don’t like about this most popular of all genres…

What can fantasy authors learn from this list, shared below? Well, maybe they can ration some of the worst stylistic elements and features. Maybe they can listen to the criticisms and make reasonable modifications.

Or, quite the contrary, perhaps they should cram their stories with even more of what those haters hate! After all, they’ll never get it…  but the genuine fans will love those qualities!

Either way, it’s good to know the flip-side of opinion…

20 things people hate about  fantasy

1.      Too little romance or too much romance turns people off. Fantasies seem unable to bring that comforting balance of “just enough” romance
2.      Some think “only children” are instinctively drawn to fantasy worlds, so they have pre-decided that fantasy is “not for adults”
3.      Some people dislike stories that are told without rules or limits
4.      Some find the language (terminology) of fantasy somewhat inaccessible
5.      Some feel fantasy fiction does not focus enough on human experience and individual problems
6.      Some don’t like stories with so many characters to follow
7.      Some dislike prose with so much fussy detail
8.      Some do not have the imagination to immerse themselves in fantastic worlds, it’s just the way their minds are hard-wired
9.      Some do not feel their life requires the escapism that fantasy offers
10.  Some dislike the flowery prose of fantasy

[with thanks to Tom Gaul]

11.  Some dislike the arbitrary power an author extends over character and plot development (i.e. inconsistent rules or ill-conceived magic systems)
12.  Some are unable or unwilling to  “invest” in the span of stories that make up an epic fantasy series… some fantasies tend to go on-and-on
13.  Some  believe fantasy fiction is geared towards the male reader
14.  Skeptics (that’s to say, people who doubt  something is true and useful) say magic is unscientific
15.  The same skeptics say that magic is unrealistic
16.  Worse still, those skeptics say magic is not intellectual or sophisticated enough for them
17.  Recycled tropes are a bore
18.  For some, the sheer size of a single fantasy novel is intimidating (let alone a series of stories)
19.  Fantasy romance is considered unrealistic
20.  Conventional rules of reality can easily be bent or hot-wired by the author; this is seen as short-cutting plot and character development, and so this is “unfair”

Thoughts or comments? Tweet me @neilmach

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Witch Queen from Sneewittchen, Scholz Künstler-Bilderbücher Public Domain

Myth and Magic EP 27 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag — Episode 27 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

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.

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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

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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 8 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag — Episode 8 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 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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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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Myth and Magic EP 16 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag — Episode 16 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 Sixteen: 25M

This week I visit Dozmary Pool in Cornwall to discover why The Enchantress, Coventina, Vagdavercustis, Ceridwen, Viviane / Nimue and even Saint Brigid of Kildare might all be the same character: Is she the mysterious and ancient being – Lady of the Lake?


My visit to DZAMOR’S POOL in the Duchy of Cornwall. November 2019

Who or what is the LADY OF THE LAKE?

Those of you who enjoyed and have followed the universe portrayed in the story of DC Comics Suicide Squad in particular Amanda Waller’s Squad will be familiar with the complicated character known as ENCHANTRESS. In one account June Moon stumbles across a magical being known as DZAMOR who can be materialized with the word “Enchantress”. But is there such a creature? Is the enchantress based upon any real-world myth and magic?

Earlier last month I traveled to the place where the ENCHANTRESS is said to have lived.
And it’s NOT a castle. It’s a lake.

Yep, she lived in the bottom of a lake! Weird yeah?

Are all these characters one-and-the-same? Lady of the Lake?

Are all these characters one-and-the-same? Lady of the Lake?

First we have to learn about a mystical goddess known as COVENTINA. She’ll help us understand where the enchantress comes from and from there we can attempt to age her.

Coventina was a Romano-British Pagan goddess of wells and springs. She is known from multiple inscriptions at one site in the county of Northumberland, England, an area surrounding a wellspring near Carrawburgh on Hadrian’s Wall.

I have touched upon this area of the UK before because it is a magical region. Nearby is a MITHRAEUM. This is a man-made structure built to resemble a cave and designed to be an “image of the universe” in which a soul descends and exits. The MITHRAEUM was likely used as a place of initiation into the cult of Mithras. So it serves as a temple of the mystery cult to the astrological Roman god Mithras. MITHRA is one of the oldest GODS and is known across religions. In Indo-Iranian culture his name MITRA in Sanskrit means “eye of the light” though it can also mean COVENANT or contract, perhaps alluding to the “contract” that new adherents enter into on initiation into the secret sect.

I’ll go deeper into MITHRAS in another episode but just to say that MITHRAS is an incarnation of Orion, and he is often seen portrayed killing the bull Taurus that is found beside him in the night sky. I might also add that this powerful GOD is often portrayed as a lion-headed man too and may be one of the earliest Hindu deities and very, very ancient indeed. You might be interested to learn, in passing, that MITHRAS was born from the rock on December 25! Curious, huh? It’s only recently been established by a new analysis by scholars that the ancient temple to MITHRAS at this site aligns with the sunrise on December 25 – in other words it aligns with the birth of Christ (the light in the world) on Christmas Day. Without wishing to distress or annoy Christians, it’s worth pointing out that 25th December is the first date following the Winter Solstice (the symbolic death and rebirth of the Sun) that the day lengthens (by a minute) and the early Christian church probably co-opted the Mithras and Sol Invictus “Festival of the Rejuvenant Sun” as the birthmark of Christ the Saviour to establish ascendancy over the long-held Pagan beliefs. From an astrological point of view: the Sun is reborn on the 25th December, is then visited by three wandering planets, and becomes surrounded by the 12 constellations of the zodiac As a schoolboy I was taught in Sunday School that the early Christian Church took over the pagan sites, beliefs and important dates to show people that the old gods had no power.

But back to the Northumberland MITHRAEUM. This is probably the only MITHRAEUM where artefacts depicting the Celtic war goddess Vagdavercustis [ VAG DAVER CEWS STIS ] have been found and the only known artefact of Vagdavercustis outside Germany. It was customary for Roman officials in their provinces to honour local gods as a way of maintaining local goodwill… but this seems a stretch, maybe. Because why honour her inside the temple to a mystery cult (where normal folk don’t have access) surely, if they wanted to honour her as part of some diplomatic/political act they’d have done it “out and loud” in a public place? Anyway, not much is known about Vagdavercustis [ VAG DAVER CEWS STIS ] other than she’s associated with trees and forests and is said to be the “protector of war dancers.”

It seems that, at some stage during the Roman Occupation of Britain, a second Mithraeum was built over the earliest part, using materials from the Shrine to the Nymphs. And in around 128-133 AD a new Mithraeum was built, on the remains of the earlier two, dedicated to goddess Coventina. It’s interesting that she shares a place and position with some of the earliest known Gods including a connection with the EYE OF THE LIGHT.

This place of worship became known as Coventina’s Well and CONVENTINA herself is depicted in nymph form – reclining, partially clothed, and associated with water. In the book titled “The Skystone” by Jack Whyte , the author represents Coventina as the LADY OF THE LAKE.

While considering Vagdavercustis at the MITHRAEUM is is also worth touching on the sorceress character mentioned in the Tale of Taliesin, set in Wales, and known as Ceridwen. KER ID WEN was a dawn goddesses and a white fairy, and became a pagan goddess and part of the Celtic [KELTIC] pantheon. She was known to be a shapeshifter (she could turn into a fish or an otter, as well as a bird) and she abided in a castle BENEATH the rather beautifully serene and (perhaps) fathomless Bala Lake, in Wales.

But we know the enchantress known as LADY OF THE LAKE (she has a name, by the way, I’ll come to that in a moment) from the legend associated with King Arthur. This mystical non-human creature plays a pivotal role in many of the Arthurian stories: she gives ARTHUR his sword, she enchants and traps MERLIN and she raises Sir Lancelot. But what do we actually know of her?

The enchantress named Viviane (pronounced VIV-ee-uhn) or Nimue (pronounced neem-OO-ay) also lived in a castle under a lake (like Ceridwen, so might be the same creature). She shares similarities to the dawn goddess and pre-Christain irish Goddess known as Brigid (pronounced BREED or BRIDE) whose birthday “The Day of the Bride” is celebrated as the first day of Spring, 1 February. She is associated with sacred wells and celebrated by modern Pagans along with her male (counterpart) the HORNED GOD. By the way, Saint Brigid of Kildare – the patron saint of ireland and perhaps an abbess or nun – may or may not be the same BRIGID! That’s because the tradition of BRIGID was assimilated and merged by Christians – syncretized into one myth. There is very little historical evidence that a “real” Saint Brigid ever existed (this suggestion is a bit controversial, I know.)

But back to VIVIANE – because she lives and exists in an underwater realm she’s a symbol of mystery and magic. And that’s probably why she inspires poems such as The Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott (later an opera by Rossini.) And becomes a main character in The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

But first The Lady of the Lake began to appear in French chivalric romances during the early 13th century. In these romances she aided humans (like a fairy godmother) and helped them fulfill their quests.

Later, in Sir Thomas Malory’s 15th-century definitive Arthurian tales Arthur and Merlin first meet this Lady of the Lake when she holds Excalibur out of the water and offers it to Arthur if he promises to fulfill a request from her later.

There are a number of locations in Great Britain that are traditionally associated with the Lady of the Lake, Bala in Wales (mentioned earlier) being one. The most famous and most recognized is DOZMARY pool. I was lucky enough to visit this place earlier last month. It’s on the remote and wild Bodmin Moor, in the DUCHY of Cornwall, on the South West peninsula of England, and close to JAMAICA INN (a real place and the inspiration for Daphne du Maurier’s 1936 novel and HITCHCOCKS 1939 feature film.)

The POOL is very strange (see the video I took at the top of the page). It’s likely that it hasn’t changed since the last ice-age and is an important ecological site because of this. In legend, it is here that King Arthur rowed out to the Lady of the Lake to receive the sword Excalibur. When King Arthur lay dying after the Battle of Camlan, Sir Bedivere casts the mystical sword back into DOZMARY POOL … to be returned from whence it came.

Llyn Llywenan ( in English: Yew Tree Lake) is a lake in western Anglesey, Wales. Anglesey is an island odd the North West tip of Wales and I’ll probably return to it in another show because it’s home to the druids.

The lake is situated in an area that has been settled since the Stone Age, and right through the Neolithic Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age.

There are uncommon aquatic plants growing in this silty lake that has a hazy island in the middle. Two neolithic burial mounds sit beside the lake. These probably date from about 3100BC (about the time that the second Scorpion King ruled Upper Egypt and Stonehenge began to be built.)

Finally, I have already mentioned this in an earlier show, but it’s worth repeating: The full French name of the University of Notre Dame, founded in 1842, is Notre Dame du Lac. This is translated as “Our Lady of the Lake.

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CLICK HERE to listen to >>> Episode Sixteen of MYTH & MAGIC 25M

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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

CALL OUTS?

Do You Want to Be Interviewed on MYTH and MAGIC — The Fantasy Fiction Writers PODCAST? CHECK THE CRITERIA HERE

Myth and Magic EP 6 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag — Episode 6 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 Six: 20M

This week I visit Chateau Brametourte in Lautrec; to see the haunted tower that inspired the story of the trapped maiden in the tower, Rapunzel. Inside this 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.

The actual tower at Chateau Brametourte, Lautrec

Rapunzels Tower

Hi all

I’m just 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, Franc aalthough 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 wtower 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…

 

Vast Apotropaic Mark in the cobbles at Chateau de Brametourte

Vast Apotropaic Mark in the cobbles at Chateau de Brametourte

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

Marian WITCH MARKS offer ritualistic protection to a bed chamber at Chateau de Brametourte

Marian WITCH MARKS offer ritualistic protection to a bed chamber at Chateau de Brametourte

Such marks have been found at Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, and 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 marks date between 16th century to the early 19th century.

At apotropaic mark is known as a “daisy wheel” or HEXAFOIL mark (6 leaf) guards the main door to the living space. A vast HEXAFOIL guards the main entrance to the Chateau.

In grain barns, daisy wheel markings often protect door openings

According to Historic England the daisy wheel marks shouldn’t be confused with the (far older) pentangle (five pointed) stars that are thought to trap evil spirits into an endless line – these were first used as early as 3000BC

Bunyip

Bunyip

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.

A sunflower bouquet at a wedding in Chateau de Brametourte

A sunflower bouquet at a wedding in Chateau de Brametourte

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, all heads drooped to the earth, but typically the sun flowers point eastwards. Nevertheless, the 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…

The Iron Dragon's Mother

The Iron Dragon’s Mother

Michael Swanwick

Swanwick has released the third instalment 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…

Do You Want to Be Interviewed on MYTH and MAGIC — The Fantasy Fiction Writers PODCAST? CHECK THE CRITERIA HERE

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?

Don’t forget to check the show-notes on NEILMACH (all one word) dot ME

IF YOU WANT TO BE INTERVIEWED FOR THE SHOW see the CRITERIA here >>>

Myth and Magic 3D graphic

Do You Want to Be Interviewed on MYTH and MAGIC — The Fantasy Fiction Writers PODCAST?

MYTH AND MAGIC: Fantasy Writers Kitbag: This weekly podcast explores folklore and fantasy themes.

Fantasy fiction writers and other creatives are encouraged to dive into this kitbag whenever they want to initiate or refresh creative juices. Imaginative writers and other fans of speculative fiction will learn how the fictional universe is often inspired by real-world history, mythology and folklore. There are also weekly news updates from the world of fantasy fiction, in addition to discussion about fabulous creatures, studies on folk tales, nature fables and lots more mythical, magical fun.

APPLE PODCAST LINK
LIBSYN PODCAST PAGE
MYTH & MAGIC ON SPOTIFY

I am looking to interview guests who want to:

Advertise or promote a new book, compilation, anthology or other fantasy-related project.

Explain how their book or work of art is based or influenced by specific myths and legends

Describe the magic elements in their work, and also

The guests are prepared to discuss:

* How they got into creating fiction or artwork for fantasy fans in the first place
* What was the first folklore / fantasy fiction they read and how did it inspire them?
* What real world history, mythology and folklore influenced their creativity.
* What are the most important elements of fantasy fiction
* Their favorite fantasy fiction writers

TO SET UP AN INTERVIEW AT A DATE/TIME TO SUIT YOU please reply when you’re ready to: author at neilmach dot me

The Wrekin

Myth and Magic EP2 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag — Episode 2 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 Two: 25m:26s
Apple >>>      SPOTIFY >>>
I take a trip to Shrewsbury in the Welsh Marches via The Wrekin — the landscape that inspired Tolkien’s Middle Earth and there I talk about the Horned God and the origins of the Arthurian legends. I visit Eton… the “real” Hogwarts for my birthday and I discuss the life of Toni Morrison (RIP). Later I discover the magical power of True Names and study the three types of myth. My fabulous creature of the week is: the Swan Maiden. My wildflower of the week is: Chili Pepper

WHAT I’VE BEEN DOING THIS WEEK:

When I started this show I didn’t think about connections…. some connections between the talking points and topics have been obvious… some have been obscure … others have been – frankly – eerie or hair-raising.

For example, this weekend I traveled 160 miles from Staines to Shrewsbury pronounced Shroosbury (like the animal, the shrew) — a name that derives from the Old English word Scrobbesburh or “Scrub” (as in bush) and Burgh as in town. Shrewsbury is the county town of Shropshire … also known in England (officially) as SALOP. No, I’m not kidding. Anyway, Shrewsbury is largely an unspoilt medieval town with timber framed houses and a red sandstone castle built by Roger the Great de Montgomery, the first Earl of Shrewsbury in 1070. The castle was rebuilt in 1643.

I went to Shrewsbury to compete in the Rocky Horror Marathon! You don’t need to know that, but it tells you a little more about who I am and what I do when I’m not writing novels! Anyway, before my trip I didn’t know that Tolkien had a connection with this area. I covered his “Black Country” in Episode One of the show. It is said that the Wrekin (pronounced REE-KIN ) was an inspiration for Middle Earth – the author lived near and liked to walk on this landmark. It’s a curious shaped hill that just sprouts from the earth without warning – like a grass covered Uluru / Ayers Rock . There is an Iron Age hill fort at the very top.

Stone Age man lived in this area around 2,000BC and they worshiped an unknown deity.

Though most scholars agree that the place known originally as Scrobbesbyrig was settled by Saxons in the 7th century.

Then it was in the Kingdom of Mercia (mentioned in Episode One of Myth & Magic). Shrewsbury became the county town of Shropshire around the beginning of the 11th century.

The town is situated near the River Severn about 9 miles from the Welsh border.

It’s claimed that King Arthur came from Shropshire, probably from near here. Academics believe Arthur was British warrior who, following the Roman withdrawal in the fifth century, defeated the invading Anglo-Saxons at the battle of Badon in 493AD. Excavations at the Dark Age capital of Powys, Wroxeter, about four miles east of Shrewsbury, have shown that in the fifth century the city may have been the most sophisticated in the realm. So Viroconium at Wroxeter was probably the “actual” Camelot and his crown jewels may have been hidden in Wenlock Priory, Much Wenlock. An Anglo-Saxon monastery was established here in AD680.

Horned God on the Gundestrup cauldron - 200BC photo credit Kern8

The Horned God on the Gundestrup cauldron – 200BC photo credit Kern8

Old Oswestry HILL FORT in the Welsh Marches (MARCHES means border lands) was built by “People of the Horn” who worshiped the “Horned God”. This was believed to be these peoples “Capital.” In traditional Wicca The Horned God is a dualistic god: bright and dark, night and day, summer and winter: in summer he’s the Oak King and in winter, he’s the Holly King. He has two horns (see above) to symbolize his dual nature. For Wiccans, the Horned God is the personification of the life force energy… (see also ZEE in Myth & Magic Episode One).

The Horned God leads the wild hunt . In this guise is he Herne the Hunter? And in the guise of the OAK KING and the HOLLY KING (there’s the dual face again) is he the mysterious Green Man?

I might return to the Horned God later and I will definitely be covering the green man in another show, as well as Herne the Hunter and the Oak King/Holly King. Look out for future episodes.

Back to Shrewsbury: The town appears in the Brother Cadfael novels by Ellis Peters (pen name of Edith Pargeter). The novels take Shrewsbury Abbey as a settin. Charles Darwin was born in the town in 1809

Eton College gatehouse : Photo Credit @neilmach 2019 ©

Eton College gatehouse : Photo Credit @neilmach 2019 ©

LOCUS IN QUO : EATON

Just five minutes from my home is the grand medieval Norman castle of Windsor. This is where a real-life monarch resides. The Queen rules over her subjects from stone towers that have been lived-in for a thousand years. Around the castle is the Great Park and this contains some of the oldest broad-leaved woodlands in Europe. If you wanted to see a fairy ring, this is where to go. The habitat is private and untouched.

Five minutes from the castle, and over a footbridge, is Eton College founded in 1441.

For many years the College Chapel was a place of pilgrimage because it holds important religious relics, such as a part of the True Cross and the Crown of Thorns as well as England’s Apocalypse manuscript. You might remember seeing pictures of Prince William and Prince Harry in their Eton school uniforms when they attended Eton: the schoolboys still wear striped trousers, long tailcoat, black waistcoat, white bow tie, stiff winged collars and a few boys still wear boaters (its an all-boys school by the way) I’ve never seen an Eton schoolboy wearing a top hat, but apparently this was a common sight just a few years ago.

Eton - Tea-towel seen by me in a shop window

Eton – Tea-towel seen by me in a shop window

The reason I mention Eton is that I think of this place as the “real” Hogwarts… isn’t it though? The boys go onto to become prime-ministers, bishops, kings, princes and maharajahs. They wear “costume” they belong to “houses” and they “board.” There’s lots of myth and magic to the place too: A recent study by the University of Reading claimed that the Montem Mound (a bump of earth where the Eaton boys regularly meet and chat) and was also the place of grand school initiation ceremonies for many years before the tradition was axed, is most likely a Saxon burial mound. Could that explain the slightly druidic nature of the initiation ceremony? Is the mound the source of the school’s power? [http://www.reading.ac.uk/news-archive/press-releases/pr728950.html]

The Eton school uniform - a sign seen by me in a shop window

The Eton school uniform – a sign seen by me in a shop window

MYTH AND MAGIC NEWS

RIP TONI MORRISON

Toni Morrison photo credit Zarateman

Toni Morrison photo credit Zarateman

There’s sad news that the Ohio born 88 YEAR OLD author of Song of Solomon (1977) TONI MORRISON has died.

In the late 1960s, TONI became the first black female editor in fiction at Random House in New York City.

She was was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993

Her father grew up in Cartersville, Georgia and, when a teenager, witnessed a lynching.

When Morrison was two years old, her family’s landlord set fire to their house, while they were home, because her parents could not pay the rent.

In 1949, TONI enrolled at the historically black Howard University in Washington, D.C., seeking the company of fellow black intellectuals.While at the Howard she encountered racially segregated restaurants and buses for the first time.

She graduated in 1953 with a B.A. in English and went on to earn a Master of Arts from Cornell

Her first published novel: The Bluest Eye – about about a black girl who longed to have blue eyes – has been described as a mix of history, sociology, folklore, and nightmare.

In 1996, television talk-show host Oprah Winfrey selected Song of Solomon for her newly launched Book Club. He horror/drama Beloved (1987) won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988 and was made into a film with: Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, and Thandie Newton in 1998.

In 1981 she released “Tar Baby” [I touched on the Tar baby in the Episode One show notes] and in a 1995 interview she explained: “A tar pit was a holy place because tar was used to build things. Tar held together the Pyramids and Moses’ little boat […] for me a tar baby is a black woman who can hold things together.”

MAGIC WORD OF THE WEEK

TRUE NAME

A true name is a name of a thing or being that expresses, or is somehow identical to, its true nature. And there’s a notion that knowledge of a true name allows one to affect another person magically.

For example, in the German fairy-tale of Rumpelstiltskin: the girl victim can only free herself from the supernatural power by learning his true name.

A legend of Saint Olaf King of Norway recounts how a troll built a church for the saint at a fantastic speed and price, but the saint was able to free himself from debt by learning the troll’s name.(By the way, Skaldic poetry of 1014 suggests it was Olaf who pulled down London Bridge)

In the English ballad of “Earl Brand” the Earl (betrayed by Woden) elopes with his beloved and the hero can defeat all his enemies until the heroine pleads with him by name to spare her youngest brother, and that’s when he loses his magical power.

In North English folklore there’s the belief that a boggart (a household spirit of mischief) should never be named. When a boggart is given a true name, it cannot be reasoned with.

You will know that in The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins uses a great deal of trickery to keep the dragon, Smaug, from learning his TRUE NAME.

In Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files a wizard or other magical being can gain power over anyone by knowing their TRUE NAME.

To protect yourself from magic, it’s best to stay safe and never reveal your TRUE NAME

Fantasy Writers Definitions: THIS WEEK: AETIOLOGICAL MYTH

Etiology is the study of the “cause” or “origin” of something.

Thus, an etiological myth, or origin myth is a myth that has arisen over time to explain the origins of some phenomena. Are fossils of dinosaurs “dragon bones”? Does a narwhal tusk explain the existence of unicorns? When it thundered, my mother would tell me that “God was pushing around his furniture upstairs.” Is that any different to the notion that thunder is caused by Zeus getting angry or Thor throwing his war hammer?

Linguistically, you have to be a bit careful of etymological reinterpretation for example, hamburgers aren’t “burgers” made from Ham. But are a foodstuff connected with Hamburg.

It’s said that there are Three Types of Myth :

* The aetiological myth – a “back story” that can be disproved by science or academic study

* The historical myth – accounts of an historical event that have been kept alive by what’s often called “folk memory.” But can be disproved by academic research. Most of the King Arthur tales can be put into this heading.

* The psychological myth – a divine force, coming from the outside, that can directly influence a person’s emotions. For example, the goddess, Aphrodite, is sometimes seen as the power of erotic love. Or the “Horned God” can protect a man’s masculinity.

Fabulous Creature of the Week: THIS WEEK SWAN MAIDEN

Swan Maidens on the Thames - photo credit @neilmach 2019 ©

My Swan Maidens on the Thames – picture taken last week – photo credit @neilmach 2019 ©

Wayland the Smith was a “weird and malicious craftsman” according to the famed folklorist, Jessie Weston.

He appears in Völundr’s poem from the Poetic Edda — a collection of Old Norse poems — the poem opens with a description of three swan-maidens … one morning Wayland Smith and his brothers find three women on the shore of the lake, who are spinning flax. Near them were swan garments, for they were Valkyries. Wayland and his brothers marry the women but they migrate (as swans) after nine years. It seems that the Swan Maidens were shapeshifters who could change from human form into swan form.

Therianthropy (shape shifting) has long existed in mythology, and is even depicted in ancient cave drawings

So it seems the SWAN MAIDENS are a folk memory of Migration and Settlement.

Tchaikovsky’s SWAN LAKE tells the story of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer’s curse – the tale most likely taken from a German folk story collected by Johann Karl August Musäu during the period: 1782 to 1786 (The Stolen Veil) Is Odette a SWAN MAIDEN?

Studies have claimed that the concept of the SWAN MAIDEN probably appeared during the Paleolithic period, in Pacific Asia, before spreading out through Europe and then across the world. The Maidens share characteristics with the “Crane Wife” (Japan) and even the half-woman selkies of Orcadian and Shetlandic legend – also shape-shifters who are trapped by man by having their (feathers) seal-skin taken from them.

The Elven princess Eärwen in The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien was referred to as a “swan maiden”

Alianora, a swan maiden, joins Holger on his adventures in the 1961 fantasy novel “Three Hearts and Three Lions” by Poul Anderson.

In the fantasy role-playing game “Dungeons & Dragons” (heavily influenced by Anderson’s novel) the Fabulous Creatures are known as Swanmays

Wildflower of the Week THIS WEEK : CHILI PEPPERS

My Chili Pepper - growing in my conservatory August 2019

My Chili Pepper – growing in my conservatory August 2019

My eldest daughter was kind enough to send me a Chili pepper plant for Father’s Day. (Father’s Day in the UK is on the third Sunday in June – it’s interesting that the day corresponds to the Sky Father’s Day i.e. the Midsummer solstice, don’t you think? (Sonora Smart Dodd, the daughter of an American Civil War veteran is responsible for the modern day annual celebration, but perhaps that discussion’s for another time). Back to my Chili – it’s growing well in my sunny conservatory (I have a picture above to prove it) and I’ve already got two nice fruits to eat.

Capsicum fruits have been a part of the human diet since 7,500 BC, and are one of the oldest cultivated crops.

When Christopher Columbus reached the Caribbean and the ship’s doctor encountered the Capsicum, he called the fruits “peppers” because the plants reminded the European of Black pepper (Piper nigrum) and they tasted hot and spicy. They are known as Uchu to the Incas.

The Pre-Columbian people had no monetary system but a handful of chilies (Rantii) would buy most things.

It is said the Columbus took some pepper seeds to the Hieronymite monks at The Royal Monastery of Santa María of Guadalupe in Spain so it’s assumed these were the first Europeans to discover the taste of spicy peppers and to cultivate them outside the “New World.”

In South Asia, it is believed that chili peppers have supernatural abilities, so they hang a few above the entrance to their homes to deter evil

Chili Peppers also guard against the EVIL EYE

Thanks to http://www.chileplanet.eu for the facts

CALL-OUTS

There are NO call-outs this week. But if you want me to mention you and your new fantasy fiction book or creative work (maybe it’s a poem or an artwork with a fantasy theme) why don’t you contact me at:
promoter at rawramp dot com

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

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

INTERVIEW: If you want to come onto the show to talk about your book or anything else to do with MYTH & MAGIC especially writing or creating for it, please contact me via
TWITTER: @neilmach
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Moondog and the Reed Leopard - click here

Moondog and the Reed Leopard – click here

SOUNDCLIP Credits Episode 2

Walking on leaves : imagiatv
High Chant : adharca
swan maidens : straget
Hunting Horn : Countrychap999
Church Bell: Ravishekhar
Detuned piano chord: RutgerMuller
Thunder: mikaelfernstrom

Myth and Magic 3D graphic

Myth and Magic EP1 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag — Episode 1 SHOW-NOTES

Myth and Magic Episode 1 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag —
Episode 1 SHOW-NOTES

NEIL MACH

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 One : 31m:25s
Tolkein’s Black Country, Godiva, Zee, St John’s Wort, Anansi, Confabultion

VISIT TO THE BLACK COUNTRY

Black by day, red by night

I’ve just returned from a trip to the West Midlands where I stopped in the “The Black Country.” I went up there to visit the Black Sabbath exhibition in Britain’s “second city” Birmingham. Some of you might know that Ozzy and Black Sabbath come from the Wolverhampton and Birmingham area but that’s a whole other story.

During the Industrial Revolution, this area became one of the most industrialized parts of Great Britain with coal mines, coking works, iron foundries, glass factories, brick works and steel mills.

Metalworking and coal-mining had been going on since medieval times but became highly developed during the mid-18th century.

The “Capital of the Black Country” Wolverhampton, and Bilston (where I stayed during my visit) and also Wednesfield (pronounced Wencefield) are all mentioned in Anglo-Saxon charters and chronicles. The Saxons migrated to the British Isles during the 5th century and brought their customs with them, especially their notion of kinship*. They were converted to Christianity in about: 590–660

The name Wednesfield derives from the old English: Wōdnesfeld that means Woden’s Field.

He’s normally portrayed as a long-bearded old man wearing a cloak and a broad hat. The old Irish believed he was a “seer and a prophet…” He’s Mr. Wednesday (played by Ian McShane ) in the TV adaption of Neil Gaiman’sAmerican Gods.” [Anansi the “spider” is also mentioned in the same novel!]

Woden in his guise as a wanderer Georg von Rosen

Woden in his guise as a wanderer – by Georg von Rosen

Wōden is an old Norse God associated with wisdom, healing, sorcery and knowledge

The reason you might find this interesting is because several characters from J. R. R. Tolkien’s fiction were inspired by this figure The appearance of the wizard Gandalf was particularly inspired his “wanderer” guise.

TOLKIEN lived in Kings Heath ( a suburb of Birmingham) with his grandparents in 1895 and later moved to the quiet hamlet of Sarehole on the outskirts of the Black Country, where he lived as a child in the 1890s. The area probably influenced his description of THE SHIRE.

It is claimed that Tolkein’s Mordor is influenced by his knowledge of the Black Country (in the Elvish Sindarin language, Mor-Dor means Dark (or Blackened) Land…) i.e. Black Country!

His character named Bilbo Baggins might have been based on an observation of the Mayor of the Bilston ( the town where I stayed during my visit last week.) Intriguingly, the Mayor that Tolkein knew was named: Ben Bilboe

To read more about Tolkein’s Birmingham here: https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/tolkien

* It’s a coincidence that Tolkein’s ancestors were probably of Saxon origin: hence the name derives from Tolk’s Kin although he was born in what is now South Africa.

 

BANBURY / COVENTRY

Banbury Cross

What’s the Difference between the Fine Lady of Banbury and Lady Godiva?

On my trip to the Black Country by National Express coaches, we stopped off to pick up customers at Banbury and, later, Coventry. And it got me wondering what the differences are/were between these two horseback ladies…

Banbury had many crosses (the High Cross, the Bread Cross and the White Cross), but these were destroyed by Puritans in 1600. Banbury remained without a cross for more than 250 years until the current Banbury Cross was erected in 1859 [shown above photo credit: Jongleur100]

It’s thought the nursery rhyme (Roud Folk Song Index 21143 )
attached to the town is a folk-memory of this “period without crosses.”

Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
And she shall have music wherever she goes

A cock horse might mean a high-spirited horse, or riding the horse that’s pulling the cart, or, as told to my by my riding instructor, it just means riding side-saddle.

The fine lady can been associated with Queen Elizabeth I, Lady Godiva (who I will turn to in a moment) or a 17th century socialite named Celia Fiennes who traveled England riding sidesaddle on horseback between 1684 and about 1703 in a period when lone female travelling, especially on horseback, was unheard of. Her travel notes became an (unpublished) memoir.

Fiennes saw many of the finest baroque English country houses while they were still being constructed and before the idea of “stately homes” was a thing.

Lady Godiva was the Countess of Mercia in the eleventh century. According to a legend she rode her horse naked  through the streets of Coventry to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation that her husband imposed on his tenants.

According to legend, just one person in the town viewed her naked ride, a tailor known as Peeping Tom.

The nakedness might be an allusion to Godiva’s penitential journey. The custom of the time was for penitents to make a public procession in a shift, (a sleeveless white garment similar to a slip) a very wispy garment considered to be “underwear”: thus, to all intents and purposes: Naked.

The dogma of the time taught that after atonement was complete any previous sin was no longer present on the sinner’s soul so they could continue life “in grace.”

Those familiar with the “Game of Thrones” (season five) will know that Cersei Lannister was forced to walk naked through the streets of King’s Landing as atonement. This part of the tale was perhaps influenced by the Lady Godiva story.

There are several artistic interpretations of Godiva, my favorite (though it’s a bit chocolate boxy) is John Collier’s Lady Godiva [shown below] now held in the Herbert art gallery, Coventry.

Lady Godiva by John Collier - Herbert art gallery, Coventry

Lady Godiva by John Collier – Herbert art gallery, Coventry

 

TADE THOMPSON

Tade Thompson

Tade Thompson

Last week TADE THOMPSON, a British-born Yoruba writer, became only the second writer of black African heritage to win the Arthur C Clarke award for science fiction.

Three out of this year’s six shortlisted titles were by writers of color, a reflection of the fact that some of today’s most exciting SF and fantasy writing comes from non-white authors

Tade Thompson’s Rosewater Part One of his Wormwood Trilogy set in a future Nigeria after alien “meteors” ave wiped out the USA and UK.

The book also won the Nommo Award from the African Speculative Fiction Society

http://www.africansfs.com/nommos

And, incidentally, a NOMMO is an ancestral spirit important to the Dogon people of Mali

NOMMO is a Dogon word meaning “to make one drink.”
Nommos are described as amphibious, hermaphroditic, fish-like creatures (hence the odd logo of the Nommo awards, see below)

African Speculative Fiction Society

African Speculative Fiction Society

Nommo was the first living creature created by the sky god AMMA At that stage I picture it to be something like a Mudskipper, but according to legend Nommo underwent a transformation and multiplied into four pairs of twins. One of the twins rebelled against the universal order which meant that AMMA had to sacrifice the “other” twin to restore balance and order. This “innocent” twin was dismembered and scattered through the universe.

The main character is Kaaro, he’s a “sensitive” that works for a government agency. Sensitives are able to enter the “xenosphere”, which is a mysterious alternate space where sensitives can meet each other, manipulate their appearance, and interact with one another. The world-building is excellent, with many ideas being “drip fed” into the mind of the reader.

MIDSOMMAR

Midsommar has also been in the news. With cinema goers asking how “real” the rituals are…

The 2019 folk horror film written and directed by Ari Aster is about solstice ritual. Set in a place called Hälsingland in central Sweden (but filmed in Hungary) Hälsingland was first described by the English poet Widsith in 1072 in his The Traveler’s Song (found in the Exeter Book.)

It’s likely that the summer solstice has been celebrated since the Stone Age

Mostly, in the British Isles, the midsummer observances have centered around “staying up all night” and keeping a bonfire alive on the Eve of St. John the Baptist and/or St. Peter’s Day to celebrate and rejoice in the “light of the world.”

A 13th-century monk (in Winchcomb, Gloucestershire) suggested that youths collected bones to burn. The bonfires, or Saint John’s Fires, explained the monk, were to drive away dragons, which were abroad on St. John’s Eve, poisoning springs and wells.

The parish church at Barnwell in the Nene Valley, said that parish youth would gather on the day to sing songs and play games served to repel witches and evil spirits. Midsummer was also a popular day for infant baptisms in the 19th century

The Cornish “Golowan Festival” possibly harkens back to Druid superstition and includes a dangerous “serpent dance.”

Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was probably influenced by the middle-German “wild man” tale of Der Busant. (The buzzard)

In Sweden Midsummer’s Eve is a de facto public holiday in Sweden with offices and many shops closed. Like in Norway and Finland, it is believed that if a girl picks seven different flowers in silence on midsummer night and puts them under her pillow, she will dream of her future husband.

Solstice is derived from the Latin words sol (Sun) and sistere (to stand still)

At summer solstice at Stonehenge an observer standing within the stone circle, looking northeast through the entrance, would see the Sun rise in the approximate direction of the heel stone

Let me know if you have any interesting midsummer rituals or observances in your area or you can confirm or deny any of the information I have presented here.

 

ZEE

All creation is part of a great energy, everything is worthy of respect, and all matter is connected through an unseen energy, think of it as the lifeblood of the universe. Some may know it as Godhead (the substance of God rather than the actual figure) and it’s an energy we can all tune into and use it through prayer and meditation.

This life force is known as: prana, chi, energy, earth energy, or the ether…

Perhaps, just as the blood in our bodies permeates every body of the flesh, but connects via the veins, this life force energy is concentrated in the ley lines, or the paths of the feng shui dragon.

According to Patrinella Cooper in her Romany book of charms, herbs and fortune-telling, the first step on the path to performing any magic is to recognize and harness to power of Zee.

These energy currents are known by most cultures across the world by various names but the Romani word for this life-force is: mi douvals zee … or just ZEE

 

CONFABULATION

CONFABULATION is a memory error defined as the production of fabricated, distorted, or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world, without the conscious intention to deceive

CONFABULISTS are very confident about their recollections, despite evidence to the contrary

NOTE: It’s not LYING because there’s no intent to deceive and the person is unaware that their information is false

Most cases of confabulation are due to brain damage, dementias or toxidrome caused by hallucinogenic drugs

There is a good theory that says CONFABULATION is useful for memory-disabled people to maintain their self-identity

If there are two memory processes: (verbatim and gist) and GIST processes representations of an event’s semantic features rather than its surface details (the details being the verbatim processes)

Most people process and store verbatim and gist information (memories) in parallel with equal credence given to both. But it’s feasible that some RECOLLECTORS or WITNESSES are stronger in Gist than they are, perhaps, with verbatim. And vice versa. We have this in my house. I tend to recollect the flavour and mood of an event while my wife remembers the miniscule details. And it is irritating (to me) that she doesn’t remember the spirit or feeling of a HAPPENING but I’m sure it’s equally v (to her) that I don’t remember times and places and, more especially, peoples names.

Studies show that verbatim memory declines between early and late adulthood, while gist memory remains fairly stable into old age.

Psychological researchers have noted that Schizophrenic patients tend to make up delusions on the spot which often become fantastic and perhaps increasingly elaborate with questioning

 

ANANSI

Anansi

Anansi in my hallway

Last Sunday a house-spider spun a web across my hallway (a much used passageway) between the time my wife went through the hall to get out of the front door and I had finished my morning coffee. I guess it took 20–30 minutes to build and I have a picture of the web and spider which I shared on Instagram [above]

This creature has prompted me to think about ANANSI.

ANANSI takes the shape of a spider and is considered to be the spirit of all knowledge in stories. So he’s an important “medium” for people like us… for storytellers.

He takes the role of trickster, he is also one of the most important characters of West African, African American and Caribbean folklore… although I first came across him when researching the Leni Lenape or Delaware people, the indigenous people of the Northeastern Woodlands, who live in Canada and the North Eastern United States. Incidentally, Lenni Lenapi literally translates as: ”The Original Men/Man”

Anansi stories were part of an exclusively oral tradition, and Anansi himself was seen as synonymous with skill and wisdom in speech * … could he spin a story in just 30 minutes?

Anansi is often celebrated as a symbol of slave resistance and survival, because Anansi is able to turn the tables on his powerful oppressors by using cunning and trickery…

As the creation narrative goes: there were no stories in the world. The Sky-Father, Nyame held them all in a giant box. Anansi liked the world, but without stories he thought it was boring, so he went to Nyame and asked if he could buy them. All the stories. The Sky-Father set a high price, so high he thought the stories were safe. But, in a series of adventures, Anansi won them all.

You might think that Anansi shares similarities with the trickster figure of Br’er Rabbit, through the stories shared by Joel Chandler Harris and his Uncle Remus narratives.

When I was a child, at school, we were made to read Br’er Rabbit stories. At the time the teachers and establishment didn’t think they might be racist or patronizing… and although Joel Chandler Harris’s stories tend to convey demeaning stereotypes, his aim (I think) was to accurately recount the tales he heard from slaves when he worked (himself) on the plantations as a young man. In that respect, he might be forgiven perhaps, for preserving an oral folklore that might have been lost. One such tale is the story of the tar-baby:

A tar-baby is a doll made of tar and turpentine and it’s used by the villainous Br’er Fox to entrap Br’er Rabbit. In the West African version, though, it’s Anansi who creates a wooden doll and covers it with gum, then puts a plate of yams in its lap… in order to capture the elf known as Mmoatia. The elf takes the bait, eats a yam, a strikes out at the tear-baby to get a response, and that’s when it gets stuck fast. It makes more sense that a sticky trap is set by a trickster spider than by a Fox, doesn’t it?

I’m aware that some will consider the tar-baby a metaphor or “racial slur” which is why I prefer the Anansi story and did not chat about this on the show.

* Another coincidence : As a child, JRR Tolkien was bitten by a spider. Was this Anansi giving him the skills to spin a story?

 

ST JOHN’S WORT

My St Johns Wort

My St Johns Wort

Many of you will know that I am an enthusiastic gardener here by the River Thames in Surrey. This week I purchased and planted two rare Hypericums. ST JOHN’S WORT. I already have one large bush and it’s so reliable and so golden-yellow that I decided to get two more.

This isn’t a gardening show so I won’t bother you with the special strains of ST JOHNS WORT I planted (but if you’re really interested, tweet or email me and I can let you know what I planted) but this is a myth and magic show and so I wanted to tell you about ST JOHN’S WORT and why it is famously associated with repelling ghosts and evil spirits.

You’ll see the yellowish shrubs with their bright-yellow rose-like flowers in concrete tubs and traffic islands all over the UK. They are so often used in modern landscaping because they are hardy and put up with all kinds of pollution and mishandling. But they are also considered, by some farmers and gardeners, as invasive pest weeds and its true than can poison cattle and livestock. Oddly, some of the plant’s leaves contain what look spots are around the veins (these spots are actually glands) and a proportion of these contain a red secretion that can stain hands and clothes. The flowers are at their best and brightest around Saints John and Paul’s Day that’s 26th June. This is not St. John the apostle by the way. Legend has it that those two saints were beheaded and the plant-leaves contain John’s blood. Although St John (the Baptist) has his feast day on June 24th and because this marks Midsummer and St Johns Wort was commonly harvested at that time, I suspect the two JOHNS are interchangeable. The herb was hung over pictures or icons of saints in houses at Midsummer… thus, the Latin name “Hyper” means OVER and eikon means picture.

Common Saint John’s wort has long been used in folk medicine to treat depression. The red oily extract was used by the Knights Hospitaller, the Order of St John, after battles, and probably has antibiotic properties.

The herb was once enthusiastically grown in Black Country gardens to ward off evil. The folk belief was that these plants “work” like a lucky horseshoe or making a cross on a loaf of bread, they just do it without bother. Even if you don’t believe in their magical properties, what’s to lose? You may as well plant one, enjoy the buttercup flowers, and sleep peacefully.

Sound Clip Credits:

Tribal Drum: peridactyloptrix
Bee and Birdsong: stujun
Succes Fanfare Trumpets: FunWithSound for Fantasy Writers News
Sleighbells: jsm1963
Ensemble of bells: vision_m
Horse clip-clopping: swiftoid
Magic Wand: __olver__

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

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