Father Thames with urn at Ham House - photo credit Ethan Doyle White

Myth and Magic EP3 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag — Episode 3 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 Three: 23m:22s
Apple >>>      SPOTIFY >>>

This week I consider Old Father Thames and have a conversation about other river gods and later go deeper into the river Naiads. I visit the Lammas Fields and look out how, at Lammastide, the local medieval monks potentially inspired our image of Father Time and also, even, death. I discuss the Grianan of Aileach and talk more about the Wanderer (Woden) who probably inspired the fictional figures of Merlin and later Gandalf. I also discuss the bildungsroman genre of fiction. My magical word of the week is: VERÐIR … a word that imparts: warden trees and wraiths. My wildflower of the week is: The Water Lily

As you know, I live besides the River Thames in Surrey, England. I’ve been busy with my writing projects this week, so have not traveled far. But a take a wander daily along the river bank at Staines to visit Old Father Thames. The river helps calm my mood and provides inspiration and recovery.

The river Thames has been a site of pagan ritual, sacred rites and popular celebrations since ancient times.

Peter Ackroyd’s “Thames – The Sacred River” is the best source of knowledge about what is known as “London’s river” but is actually the longest river in England (215 miles) and passes through several manifestations from Thames Head to Tideway before it meets the North Sea.

The river has its own deity: “Old Father Thames” whose hair and beard becomes the waves and rivulets of the river itself : bringing to mind the Ganges and Shiva. According to the Journal of Biological Chemistry up to 60% of a human adult body is water. So the notion isn’t too hard to get to grips with. A human can be a river and a river can be a human

The Prince of Rivers - Achelous - depicted as a mosaic in Zeugma Turkey

The Prince of Rivers – Achelous – depicted as a mosaic in Zeugma Turkey

The over-arching River God is probably Achelous. Sophocles suggests he can become:

“ A rambling bull [once,] then a writhing snake
of gleaming colors, then again a man
with [an] ox-like face: and from his beard’s dark shadows
stream upon stream of water tumble [d] down”

Since Roman times this river god is often depicted reduced to a mask and used decoratively as an emblem of water, “his uncut hair wreathed with reeds…Is this the Green Man?

Green man Water Spout

Green man Water Spout

According to Greek myth Achelous is the source of all knowledge. He mourned the loss of one of his horns (in combat with Heracles or the Roman Hercules) and this horn became the fabled “Horn of Plenty” … the cornucopia that becomes a symbol of Thanksgiving and harvest. Ackroyd suggests that this horn transforms into an URN when held by OLD FATHER THAMES [see top photo] suggesting, perhaps, that once tamed… the river can be fruitful and life-giving.

One curious thought, though… Achelous has been given the gift of perpetual self-renewal… so he holds the secret of eternal youth. Thus, the term: The Fountain of Youth…
Yet why does the Thames deity choose an “Old Father” as a guise?

LOCUS IN QUO – This week: The Lammas

Monk with Scythe

Monk with Scythe

LAMMAS is celebrated on 1st August and marks the annual wheat harvest, which is the first (of three) harvest festivals to be celebrated each year in Europe.

On LAMMAS day it was once customary to bring a loaf of bread to church, made from the new crop of cereal, which began to be harvested at Lammastide, the period that falls halfway between the summer Solstice and the Autumn September Equinox.

The “First Loaf” was blessed by priests, and in Anglo-Saxon times, it might be employed in protective rituals : for example Lammas bread might be broken into four bits, to be placed at four corners of a barn, to protect the rest of the year’s harvested grain.

The LAMMAS feast is also known in Britain as the “Gule of August.” Apparently, the word GULE just means feast in ancient Brittonic

In the medieval agricultural year, Lammas also marked the end of the hay harvest that had begun after Midsummer, and the beginning of the cereal harvest.

Here, in my hometown, we have a Recreation Ground known as THE LAMMAS. This is an ancient word and comes from nearby LAMMAS fields. These were Thameside meadows. Nearby there’s an ancient crop-field (Thorpe Hay Meadow – owned and managed by the Surrey Wildlife Trust ) that was once farmed by monks from nearby Chertsey Abbey. This crop field is thought to be the last remaining example of an untouched Thames valley hay meadow in Surrey. The monks once grew ancient strains of meadow barley in this place (the field has been preserved unfarmed and unsullied). When you visit you can see the same wild grasses (growing on the edges) that were farmed by monks in the 7th and 8th century. I like to imagine a monks, wearing a dark habit – making the first cut of the LAMMAS barley at Lammastide. He stops for a while to rest upon his Scythe, but it’s August, so he keeps his hood over his brow to avoid the sun’s strength on his bald head.

What does that image conjure up to you? To the people of of Staines, Egham and Chertsey in about year 675 this man represented the good things in life: bread to eat, beer to drink, the first harvest, hope and strength, and the expectation that starvation in winter could be avoided…

But you also might imagine that the image of a monk wearing a hooded a habit, and carrying a scythe, might signify quite the opposite: death?

Chronos

Chronos – does the God remind you of anyone?

Father Time is the personification of time . In Greek mythology – Cronos, or Kronos, is depicted as carrying a scythe or a sickle and a festival called Kronia was held in honour of him to celebrate the harvest. Cronos was later identified with Khronos – the personification of time – and, during the Renaissance, this notion gave rise to the idea of “Father Time” wielding an harvesting scythe and being placed in charge of a man’s timespan on earth

English words that derive from Khronos include: chronology, chronic, anachronism, and chronicle.

Grianan of Aileach Ringfort in Co. Donegal

Grianan of Aileach Ringfort in Co. Donegal

MYTH & MAGIC NEWS: This week – GRIANAN OF AILEACH

This month the Irish Government listed the ancient Grianan of Aileach fort, just seven miles from Derry city, in County Donegal, as a national monument.
It is perched above the Co Donegal village of Burt and attracts thousands of visitors every year.

The fort is a powerful manifestation of what remains of ancient Ireland and on a clear day, from its pinnacle, it is possible to get a glimpse of three counties-Donegal, Derry and Tyrone. The commanding and spectacular waterways of Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle lie to its west and east respectively.

But, in the 19th Century the fort, once home to kings of old Gaelic order, was rapidly disintegrating towards extinction. It was however saved by the vision of one man who spearheaded its restoration just over 140 years ago.

The Victorian archaeologist George Petrie first surveyed the Grianán of Aileach in the 1830s

The earth banks of the hill-top ringfort are probably late Bronze Age or Iron Age and there’s a small spring deidcated to St. Patrick and Petrie found a circle of ten stones and some interesting artefacts including an ancient gaming board.

The word Grianán means sunny place and there’s a theory that the hillfort might have been a Temple to the Sun.

It’s probable that the Kings of Aileach held their inauguration ceremonies at the fort and it became a “ceremonial” capital of their realm. It’s said that St. Patrick blessed a symbolic flagstone at the fort and it’s believed that this is the inauguration stone known as St. Columb’s Stone and now found in Belmont House School, Derry.

The Dagda

The Dagda

According to Irish folklore, the ringfort is said to have been built by THE DAGDA who was a father-figure, a king, and a famous druid…

THE DAGDA was a bearded man who wore a cloak and carried a magic staff – see above (the tip on one end of his staff could kill, while the other end would revive and heal.)

The DAGDA was also known as “the horseman” “the great father” and the “horned man”

Does this description you of anyone? See Episode One (Wōdan) in his guise as “The Wanderer”? Is this also Gandalf or Merlin?

And, also, is the Irish DAGDA the same fellow as the Cerne Abbas Giant? i.e. the so-called “Rude Man” of Cerne. I’ll return to this subject in a later show.

The sacred Temple of Uppsala, in Sweden protected by a Warden Tree

The sacred Temple of Uppsala, in Sweden protected by a Warden Tree

MAGIC WORD OF THE WEEK: This Week VERÐIR

In Norse mythology the VERÐIR is a warden spirit, believed to follow the soul of every person from birth to death.

The English word “wraith” is derived from the word, along with “ward” and “warden”

It is said that a warden of a dead person could also become a revenant, haunting particular spots…

Later, under Christian influence, the wardens became what we think of as: guardian angels

A very old tree (most often a linden, ash or elm) that grows on a farm lot is often dubbed a “warden tree”.

These Guardian Trees were said to have been taken from sacred groves – as saplings – by the pre Christian Germanic peoples who settled Europe.

It is said that the sacred Temple of Uppsala, in Sweden was protected by a Warden tree – an evergreen yew, probably.

Is this the inspiration for the weirwood tree as depicted in “A Dance with Dragons” from A Song of Ice and Fire ? And the HEARTS TREE in the Godswood?

Fantasy Writers Definitions: This week BILDUNGSROMAN

In literary criticism, a Bildungsroman is a “coming-of-age story that follows the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood.

The first Bildungsroman is agreed, among scholars, to be Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship a book written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Thomas Carlyle translated Goethe’s novel into English, and after its publication in 1824

The genre evolved from folklore tales of a dunce or youngest child going out in the world to seek his fortune…

Emma, by Jane Austen and Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley are both fine examples of the Bildungsroman novel as is the: “Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison (as discussed in Episode 2 of Myth and Magic)

A parody of this genre is “The Magic Mountain” by the German novelist, Thomas Mann and written in 1912.

I’m currently reading “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt (2013 ) I guess that I have put it down more than once… I’m enjoying it though I admit it’s heavy going… it’s the literary equivalent of eating too much bread pudding… nevertheless, this Bildungsroman won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and follows the coming-of-age of protagonist Theodore Decker as he rises from poor little rich boy to become an arch-criminal in an epic tale that reminds me of the worlds described by Charles Dickens.

The heroic fantasy novel “The Name of the Wind” or The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day One, by Patrick Rothfuss is probably one of the better recent fantasy novels that share similarities with the original Bildungsroman books.

A Naiad by John William Waterhouse

A Naiad by John William Waterhouse

Fabulous Creature of the Week: THIS WEEK NAIADS

The Lyndhurst, Hampshire born English sculptor David Wynne specialized in creating wonderful artworks that often captured the flow of movement found in water and especially rivers. We’re lucky to have his Five Swimmers Fountain (1980) here in Staines. He also produced River God Tyne, Girl with a Dolphin (at Tower Bridge) and Boy with a Dolphin (1974) – at London’s Cheyne Walk. Perhaps he was most famous for his design of the “EEC” fifty pence piece that has the interlocking & holding hands of the partners (1973) but, right now in BREXIT BRITAIN… that’s another story. His “Swans-in-flight” is to be seen in the Armstrong Auditorium on the campus of Herbert W. Armstrong College, Edmond, Oklahoma, and always makes me think of SWAN MAIDENS. and his statue of a boy on a magical horse, “The Messenger” can be seen in Sutton, south London.

David’s nymph-like creatures have always reminded me of Naiads (pronounced NY-AD)

Typically these are female spirits associated with fresh water (Oceanids are saltwater) and were often the object of local cults. In England coming-of-age ceremonies were often held by the spring, to gain local naiad’s favor. Fresh waters have always been important for ritual cleansing and springs are often credited with magical medical properties. Oracles were often situated by ancient springs with a resident Naiad.

Famous naiads include:
Appias who lived in the Appian Well near the Roman Forum
Pallas the daughter of Triton who was accidentally killed by Athena who created the Palladium in her memory
Ismene, the wife of Argus
Memphis, the naiad of the Nile River

Was the Lady of the Lake (Arthurian legends) a naiad?

Evidence of the fusion between Arthurian legend and middle-Christian history can be found in the full name of the University of Notre Dame: Notre Dame du Lac. (our lady of the lake.)

Water Lillies where I was staying in Shrewsbury last week

Water Lillies where I was staying in Shrewsbury last week

Wildflower of the Week: THIS WEEK WATER LILY Nymphaeaceae

My mother told everyone that I was born when the first WATER LILY in her mother-in-law’s pond unfurled her Nymphaeaceae petals to take in the sun.

Now I’m lucky enough to live in a place where wild WATER LILLIES grow. And around about my birthday (they were 2 days late this year) I see the blossoms emerge on the River Thames. Water lilies are rooted in soil under the water, with leaves and flowers floating on the surface

Water lilies do not have surface leaves during winter. So they are a sign of High Summer and, indeed, LAMMAS.

The white water lily is the national flower of Bangladesh and the seal of Bangladesh contains a lily floating on water. The blue waterlily is the national flower of Sri Lanka. It is also the birth flower for the star sign Pisces.

Nelumbo is a genus of giant WATER LILLIES also known as LOTUS. It is is the floral emblem of India and Vietnam.

Nelumbo nucifera, also known as the Indian lotus or the Sacred Lotus is grown as a crop. It has been cultivated for its edible seeds for at least 3,000 years. The stamens can be dried and made into fragrant herbal teas and the leaves can be used in steaming.

Hindus venerate the plant: Vishnu is described as the “Lotus-Eyed One” and its unfolding petals suggest the expansion of the soul from its muddy origins. This encapsulates spiritual promise.

In Buddhist symbolism, the lotus represents purity of the body, speech and mind. Because the lily floats above the murky waters of material attachment.

According to tradition, the second Buddha was incarnated as an eight-year-old child appearing in a lotus blossom floating in Lake.

John William Waterhouse - Hylas and the Nymphs Manchester Art Gallery 1896

John William Waterhouse – Hylas and the Nymphs Manchester Art Gallery 1896

In Greek mythology the lotus-eaters were a tribe of people who lived on an island and whos only crop was the Lotus (although this might well have been the fruit of the Jujube
tree.)

The fruit had narcotic properties and thus caused the island’s inhabitants to live in peaceful apathy. Thus, a LOTUS EATER is someone who spends their time indulging in pleasure and luxury rather than dealing with practical matters.

A NYMPH is a minor female deity – usually young and beautiful – and found in rivers and springs. A common Renaissance motif was the sleeping nymph – the idea of a nymph sleeping in a grotto or spring .

In Waterhouse’s 1896 oil painting “Hylas and the Nymphs” (above) the servant Hylas is depicted being enraptured (and later he was abducted) by water nymphs while seeking drinking water in a pond of water lilies. The yellow water-lily that I see this time of the year on the Thames can clearly be seen growing in the water and adorning the nymphs hair.

CALL-OUTS

Eve Paludan

Eve Paludan

EVE PALUDAN is a paranormal, mystery, urban fantasy and fantasy writer who tends to create paranormal mystery romances

Eve’s popular “Witchy Business” WITCH DETECTIVES series brings supernatural witch mystery with wittiness, spirited dialogue, relationships and paranormal kicks.

At the heart of the tales is ELLE Chambers. Elle Chambers is an insurance investigator, and one who solves cases using unconventional means. Supernatural means. Elle is a witch.

The books are kinda unusual because they redefine vampires in a new and unconventional way…

Fans say the series is, “enjoyable, believable and entertaining…”

Brian S Converse

Brian S Converse

BRIAN S CONVERSE is a Father. Husband. Veteran and writer of science fiction / fantasy / horror

His RAJANI CHRONICLES that started in 2017 and with illustrations by the amazingly talented Lawrence Mann (West Yorkshire ?) follow the exploits of a Detroit police lieutenant named James Dempsey – he’s on the verge of career burnout – but finds himself aboard an alien spacecraft with others from his apartement block, and provided with extraordinary powers. In fact, it seems he’s been abducted by the aliens… to help the Rajani fight off dominion from the Krahn Horde. The magic element revolves around stones that bring powers from within.

Episode 3 of the Chronicles came out this summer when Dempsey’s super-powered humans face their final battle…

If you want me to mention you and your new fantasy fiction book or creative work (maybe it’s a poem, an artwork with a fantasy theme or some specialist knowledge) 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

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/author.neilmach/

SOUNDCLIP Credits Episode 3

Irish Pipes : chripei
Monastry Bell : BristolStories
Grass Cutter: SilentStrikeZ
Waves : amholma
Distant Horn : onderwish
Ghostly howl : JanIsAGuy

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
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/author.neilmach/

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

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

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