Monday, September 22, 2014

Imbas Forosnai: Poetic Inspiration of the Irish Filidh, by Ali Isaac

       I have recently discovered Ali Isaac, who blogs about Irish mythology and writes stories utilizing it.  She has done an impressive amount of research on this subject, and since I'm not particularly well versed in Irish myth, I thought one of her posts would enhance the topic of my blog, namely, the adaptation of myth in fiction. 
       Oh, by the way, Ali is writing a series called the Tir na Nog trilogy.  Check them out when you go over to her blog to read the rest of this post.  I haven't read them, but I'm about to put them on my To-Read list on Goodreads, because they definitely seem like my kind of book!  FYI, "Tir na Nog" means "Land of the Young" and is a name for the Irish Otherword. 
The Salmon of Knowledge
       Something which intrigued me during my research for my latest book, Conor Kelly and The Fenian King, was Fionn mac Cumhall’s ability to call forth his magical powers and divine the future by sucking or biting on his thumb.
       The story goes that, as a boy, whilst serving an apprenticeship with the Druid Finegas, he catches the Salmon of Knowledge and cooks it for his master. As he turns the fish in the pan, he scalds his thumb. Instinctively, he places his thumb in his mouth to cool the burn, thus ingesting the tiny scrap of fish skin stuck there, and acquiring the salmon’s knowledge. Afterwards, he has only to touch his thumb to his mouth to foretell the future, and seek the answers to his questions.
       According to the Senshas Mor (an ancient book of Brehon law), Fionn uses this power twice in the story ‘Fionn and the Man in the Tree’. When the Sidhe steal the Fianna’s food three times in a row as the food is cooking, Fionn is enraged and chases the thief back to his Sidhe-mound. A woman slams the door behind the thief, trapping Fionn’s thumb. He pops the injured digit in his mouth, and receives some kind of divine knowledge which he recites in a poem. Later in the same story, he discovers the identity of an escaped servant by putting his thumb in his mouth and chanting an incantation.
       This act of looking into the future and chanting or reciting prophecy in the form of poetry is called Imbas Forosnai (imbas meaning ‘inspiration’, in particular the sacred poetic inspiration of the ancient Filidh, and forosnai meaning ‘illuminating’ or ‘that which illuminates’). It involves the use of sensory deprivation in order to pass into a trance-like state.
Read more of this post HERE.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Life of Hercules: The Golden Fleece (The Young Jason)

Seventh of a series. Here are the earlier posts:

Here is a detail of one of my drawings, showing Is'a'pai'a
 carrying ta'ta'wa'tze| on its back across the river.
Believe it or not, I couldn't find a really appropriate
 classical picture showing either the crossing of the river
 or the first meeting of Jason with Pelias.
       Hercules was an Argonaut -- a member of Jason's crew on the ship Argo who shared in all the fantastic adventures of this crew of doughty Champions. Hercules was not a major participant and he left the Quest before it was finished, but since it was important in his life, I had to take it into consideration as part of my series The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head.
       Those of you who are reading the series may have guessed that Is'a'pai'a, the young outcast Tramontane Warrior, is the stand-in for Jason. The early part of Jason's life forms a fascinating story of its own.
       (Parenthetically, the name "Jason" means "Healer," and so I called my character "Is'a'pai'a," which in the Shshi language means "Healing Warrior.")
       When you read The Wood Where the Two Moons Shine, you should see many parallels with the early life of of Jason.  It's a little complicated in its relationships, so I'm going to quote directly from Robert Graves' Greek Myths (section 148, "The Argonauts Assemble"):

       "After the death of King Cretheus the Aeolian, Pelias, son of Poseidon, already an old man, seized the Iolcan throne from his half-brother Aeson, the rightful heir.  An oracle presently warning him that he would be killed by a descendant of Aeolus, Pelias put to death every prominent Aeolian he dared to lay hands upon, except Aeson, whom he spared for his mother Tyro's sake, but kept a prisoner in the palace, forcing him to renounce his inheritance."
       In my rendition, Pelias is Wei'thel'a'han, believed to be an offspring of the Highest Mother's Sea King.  He is a tyrant from across the sea who invaded and seized the fortress of Hwai'ran'chet (Iolcus), only to find that the current Mother's primary King happens to be Wei'thel'a'han's sibling, both hailing from the fortress of Fet'ro'chet.  At that point the Seer/Sorcerer No'tuk'a'nei (who has no direct equivalent in this part of the myths, except as the oracle who predicted the death of Pelias) foretells that a scion of the fortress Fet'ro'chet would cause Wei'thel'a'han's death.  So Wei'thel'a'han, who is desperately afraid of death, commits a great atrocity, slaughtering every individual, nymph, and egg in Hwai'ran'chet who was laid after the coming of Fet'ro'hma'no'tze, the King in question.  However, Wei'thel'a'han is quite superstitious and fears to kill  its own sibling, so Fet'ro'hma'no'tze is simply removed from the presence of the Mother and imprisoned.
       Can you see the parallels?  Fet'ro'chet the King represents Aeson.

       Graves continues, "Now, Aeson had married Polymele [equivalent to the Mother Ti'gan'ta'zei in Hwai'ran'chet] ... and bore him one son.  ...  Pelias would have destroyed the child without mercy, had not Polymele summoned her kinswomen to weep over him, as though he were still-born, and then smuggled him out of the city to Mount Pelion; where Cheiron the Centaur reared him, as he did ... with ... Achilles ... and other famous heroes."
       In my rendition, the fortress's former Seer smuggles out one small, shriveled egg after telling everyone that it surely was infertile and offering to take it to the Charnel herself.  Instead, she takes it into the Spirit Hills, to Zan'tet, the principal fortress of the Yo'sho'zei (equivalent to the Centaurs), where Vai'zei'a'parn the Leader of the Yo'sho'zei, cares for it.  Ultimately, it hatches into a little nymph whom Seers name Is'a'pai'a.  These same Seers then caution Vai'zei'a'parn that when Is'a'pai'a passes its fourth molt, it must be sent away to seek a great northern hero who would teach it how to be a true Champion.  (I think I just invented this last part, but it certainly makes sense.  Nobody would want Wei'thel'a'han to learn of the existence of Is'a'pai'a before it matured, and this was a way to get Ki'shto'ba into the story.)

       Now, a second oracle warned Pelias to beware a one-sandalled man, and one day on the seashore he encounters exactly that.  Graves writes, "The other sandal he had lost in the muddy river Anaurus ... by the connivance of a crone who, standing on the farther bank, begged passersby to carry her across.  None took pity on her, until this young stranger courteously offered her his broad back; but he found himself staggering under the weight, since she was none other than the goddess Hera in disguise.  For Pelias had vexed Hera, by withholding her customary sacrifice, and she was determined to punish him for this neglect."
       Therefore, when Pelias asks for the name and lineage of this stranger, Jason blurts out the truth.  "Pelias glared at him balefully.  'What would you do,' he inquired suddenly, 'if an oracle announced that one of your fellow citizens were destined to kill you?'
       "'I would send him to fetch the golden ram's fleece from Colchis,' Jason replied, not knowing that Hera had placed those words in his mouth." 
       Of course, this is exactly what is destined to happen, and so the Quest for the Golden Fleece was launched.  The problem is, how does one adapt all that to the termite culture?  Termites don't wear sandals, after all.  And how can Is'a'pai'a carry the Mother Goddess on its back?  But it makes very good sense that the same vengeful Highest-Mother-Who-Has-No-Name who engineered the downfall of Thel'or'ei for violating the prime directive of the Shshi worship system: thou shalt not harm the progenitors who give you life! -- that this same goddess would be enraged at Wei'thel'a'han for its own violent treatment of the life force. 
       Anyway, I'm not going to tell you how I did it!  In the picture above I purposely blocked out the lower part of Is'a'pai'a's six legs!  It's a pivotal event in the latest volume to be published, The Wood Where the Two Moon Shines, and if you want to know, you'll just have to read the book, or preferably the whole series, first!  


Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Wood Where the Two Moons Shine Is Published!

Front cover
The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head
Volume Five
The Wood Where the Two Moons Shine
is now published!
Only one more volume to go!
       Here is the description of v.5:
Back cover
The Companions arrive at the Hidden Fortress and meet Vai’zei’a’parn, the Leader of the Yo’sho’zei, who was Is’a’pai’a’s mentor.  Is’a’pai’a finally learns the story of its origin – how its egg was laid in Hwai’ran’chet at a time when that mighty fortress had come under the domination of an invading tyrant named Wei’thel’a’han.  Here the treacherous No’tuk’a’nei, a power-hungry Alate Seer-Sorcerer who happens to be the hatchmate of Vai’zei’a’parn, convinced the new Commander that a nymph of a certain lineage would be the agent of its death.  Since the current King of the fortress was of that lineage, Wei’thel’a’han ordered the destruction of every egg laid and every individual hatched since that King came to the Mother.  In the midst of the ensuing slaughter, one egg was rescued and taken to the Hidden Fortress, where it was given to Vai’zei’a’parn for safekeeping.  Is’a’pai’a hatched from this egg and now it learns that its destiny is to be the Champion who delivers Hwai’ran’chet – and its own Mother – from the clutches of the Tyrant and its evil Sorcerer.
       The Companions linger in Zan’tet, where a seemingly harmless adventure ends in disaster.  Ultimately, Ki’shto’ba and its Companions depart to finish the Quest to reach the sea before venturing into Hwai’ran’chet.  Accompanied by the newly acquired 11th Companion, the group soon encounters the 12th, who guides them to the shore.  Arriving at sunset, they can at last see the Golden Path on which thy must tread. 
Many prophecies will find their answer as the future continues to unfold.  In the final chapter, a ship has been built and the Quest for the Golden Fungus is about to begin.  The leadership of the Quest then passes to Is’a’pai’a even as the Companions learn the meaning of “The Wood Where the Two Moons Shine.”
A Word on Volume Six
The final volume in the series will be entitled The Revenge of the Dead Enemy, with all the ominous implications that phrase carries -- and you'll know what I mean if you've read the earlier volumes and remember the prophecies of certain Seers.  I hope to have v.6 published well before Christmas.  It will complete the questing begun by Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head, Di'fa'kro'mi the Remembrancer, and their Companions way back at the end of The Termite Queen.  However, it doesn't complete the whole story, so
There must be a sequel!
And it hasn't been written yet!
My plan is to write one more book, which will probably be entitled The Buried Ship at the End of the World.  I expect the writing of this book to go a bit slow.  I haven't really written anything new (no major fiction at least) in several years, so I expect to be rusty.  In the meantime, I've also gotten older (I assume nobody has gotten younger over the last few years!) and less energetic. 
Furthermore, Di'fa'kro'mi won't be writing the last volume.  I won't say more than that right now, but the person composing the book will be inexperienced at the Remembrancer's craft  and he will have to narrate the tale in the third person.  I'm so used to Di'fa'kro'mi's point of view that I may find it hard to get inspired.  But maybe when I actually start writing, I'll get into it.  I have some notes already, and I intend to do some more mythological research.  I also mean to make a chapter outline and stick to it, so I won't make my usual blunder of letting the length get away from me.  I guess I really am a planner, not a pantser!  Improvising is disastrous for me!
In the meantime, those of you who haven't read any of the series have some fun ahead of you!  Here are the links where you can buy all my books, or scroll down the sidebar for individual volumes:
Amazon (Kindle should appear by 9/10/14)
(and all other Amazon branches)