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Friday, June 29, 2018

Book Release - Desire and Ashes

I'm excited to announce that the 7th book in my Between the Worlds series 'Desire and Ashes' is out today in paperback and on ebook.

From the back cover:
Bookshop owner Allie McCarthy is settling into life as a new mother along with her two spouses. She's got her hands full with an infant and a business to run, trying to walk a fine line between the human world she considers her home and the world of Fairy which is becoming more and more of a presence in her life. The last thing she wants is another complication in an already complicated life.
Then leaving work one night she finds a man collapsed on the sidewalk near her store, who has somehow been left an emotional blank. She has no idea how or by who but when she calls emergency services for help Detective Riordan, Allie's friend on the town's police force, shows up and tells her this isn't the first person they've found like this. The police mage has no idea what's happening to these people because they show no signs of magical trauma, but the police are hoping that Allie might have some ideas. Detective Riordan asks for her help investigating the case. She wants to say no; she's had her fill of being dragged into dangerous situations trying to do the right thing. But it quickly becomes clear that she is going to have to get involved whether she wants to or not because the town is in a lot more trouble than anyone has realized – and if the true cause comes to light before Allie and her family can stop them she’ll be the prime suspect in a crime the Elven Guard punishes by death.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Good Fairy Fiction

I often talk about my concerns with modern fiction and its portrayal of fairies, particularly the way they end up being humanized. While I understand why this happens and I can even appreciate it when reading it I see a lot of material from fiction that is clearly purely from an author's imagination making its way into modern pagan belief as if it were genuine folklore. Obviously that's a concern to me on multiple levels. Because of this I was recently asked for a list of books I would recommend for people looking for good fairy-themed fiction.

Top Recommendations
These are the main books that I suggest people look for if they want good folkloric depictions of fairies in modern stories. No books is going to be 100% perfect but these are as close as I can think of, and they are also good stories.

Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett - a book in Pratchett's Disc World series I chose Lords and Ladies specifically because his view of the elves here is pretty spot on for how inhuman and inhumane they can be. To quote the book: “… people didn't seem to be able to remember what it was like with the elves around. Life was certainly more interesting then, but usually because it was shorter. And it was more colorful, if you liked the color of blood.”

Faery Sworn by Ron C Neito - a very creative story but overall fairly true to the folklore. Some variance on what the Seelie and Unseelie courts are called, but does a great job of including things like aversion to iron, viciousness, time slip between Fairy and earth, and etiquette. My only critique would be at the idea that there are only single beings in some of the categories we know from folklore, ie 'the kelpie' 'the nucklevee', but that's a fairly minor quibble.

The Knowing by Kevin Manwaring - hard to find at the moment, an excellent blend of older fairylore and the modern world. Based on the story of rev. Robert Kirk but imagining his descendants into our time, very accurate to older fairylore.

Secret of the Kelpie by Lari Don - a children's book, beautifully illustrated, and extremely true to folklore. A nice and necessary balance to many modern urban fantasy and young adult books that try to paint kelpies and other unseelie fairies as the good guys.

Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar - a unique look at urban fairies, although I usually try to avoid stories of small winged fae this one is worth the read. I particularly liked the multicultural aspects the author brought into the city fairies.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark - complicated story about magicians in 19th century England but has a great deal of fairylore in it as well as accurate depictions of the Good People

Spiritwalk by Charles de Lint - set in Canada, focused around a building, great mix of Celtic and North American fairylore.

Secondary Recommendations
These are also good books, however they do venture further from the folklore and need to be read with a grain of salt.

Modern Faery Tale series by Holly Black - gets points for portraying fairies along mostly traditional lines, and as ruthless and often cruel; loses points for tons of YA tropes and some major plot holes.

The SERRAted Edge series and Bedlam Bard series by Mercedes Lackey - Primarily written in the 90's the SERRAted Edge series* looks at the aos sidhe in modern America and includes a lot of folklore as well as some creative innovation, like the elves reacting to caffeine as if it were an addictive drug. The series is a bit dated at this point. The related Bedlam Bard series, which is set in the same universe and has some crossover, is also decent.

Toby Daye series by Seanan McGuire - modern fairies in America, reasonably close to folklore in many respects especially as regards politics in Fairy.

The Elfhome series by Wen Spencer - really interesting and creative look at an alternate reality where science has created an interdimensional gate that has accidentally shifted modern Pittsburgh into elfhome. Mixes tech with magic in fun ways, and uses Japanese folklore as a base, however it does take some creative liberties with that folklore that a Western audience may not fully recognize.

So there you have it. That covers my main recommendations and some secondary recommendations. Generally speaking I think most urban fantasy, while my favorite genre, tends to fall into the secondary recommendations (I'd even include my own in that by the way) because in order to create the story liberties with the folklore have to be taken, especially where there are romantic themes or subthemes which is almost the entire genre. It's often a safe bet to say if the fairies or a fairy in the book are main characters and even slightly relatable or sympathetic then liberties are being taken with the folklore (Faery Sworn is a notable and unusual exception).

*caveat I do not recommend the newest book in the series, Silence, which is co-written by Cody Martin. It ventures far from the rest of the series, and while the folklore isn't entirely inaccurate the book is not well written.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Morrigan's Call Retreat 2018

 The beginning of June, for the fifth time, I headed off to the Morrigan's Call Retreat to share in fellowship with other people who honour the Great Queens. Every year I teach workshops at the Retreat and help in the rituals; I see old friends and make new connections with people. My experiences over the years have been good ones and I always write about them when I get back.

Bridge entering the location of the Retreat

This year has been a bit different for me and was both bittersweet and nostalgic.

Last year I shared a cabin with three friends, Mel, Angela, and Jaime. It was a cabin that I had been in before and I like staying in; it has personality. We had a good time bunking together and it was fun to be with friends. The location is beautiful and last year we woke to the sounds of crows in the trees and the nearby river. It was nice to stay with friends I don't see in person often, like Angela and Jaime, and I enjoyed spending some time with Jaime at the Retreat because she and I had a variety of similar interests including fairylore. And she's just a great person to be around in general.
 At the end of last summer Jaime was killed by her ex-boyfriend.
I still miss her.
This year I was in the same cabin, with my other two friends, that we were in last year and it was hard not to think of the person who wasn't there. It was both good to remember how happy she was there and sad to be reminded of what had happened. We set up a picture of Jaime in the cabin so that she would be with us again*; I certainly found my mind going to her often over the weekend.

I was also faced with dealing with the way that my spirituality has shifted, whether I wanted to or not. Ireland 2016 was pivotal for me, which I wrote about after I got back, and as time has gone by things have only shifted further and settled into what they started to become then. I had to accept my dedication to Odin ending and now at this year's Retreat I have been faced with my dedication to Macha ending as well. My understanding of myself in relation to the work I do and the way I have honoured the Gods has had to be re-assessed, which is not a bad thing but is not an easy thing either. Being in service to - dedicated to use a more relatable term - the Othercrowd and realizing they mean that to be an exclusive focus in most ways requires some realigning on my part, especially as the idea of that kind of monofocus has never been part of my mindset before.

This was the first year that I wasn't able to attend any other workshops. It isn't that I didn't want to, in fact I had planned to, but I found myself instead in several good very in-depth conversations. So rather than getting to soak in other people's structured wisdom and knowledge I learned from others organically and casually, sitting around a table as the sun set or walking through the woods. There was a lot of conversation and a feeling of building community in a different way, directly one-on-one through discussions rather than in workshops.

This was also the first year that I had a lessened role in the rituals at the Retreat, something that related to my shifting spirituality. My role as a priestess is no less active - actually felt more active this year in my service to the Daoine Maithe - but it was not expressed by speaking for or allowing Macha to speak through me. That, for me, is in the past. The rituals were still powerful and moving and I was glad to have the role in them that I did; people seemed to find both the rituals and the Temple moving.

I taught three workshops at the Retreat: Meeting the Morrigans, Shapeshifting in Irish Mythology, and Fairy Queens. It's always difficult to judge how classes are received but as far as I was able to tell they seemed to go well. There was a lot of interest and they are all subjects that I could talk about for more than an hour easily so there was lots of material to go over. The Fairy Queens class was especially fun to do for me as I work on my book project with the same focus.

This year in many ways was one of transition for me and that can be a painful thing even when it's necessary. One thing that has stayed the same throughout the years is the feeling of community and unity that comes with the Morrigan's Call. So many people from diverse paths and diverse backgrounds and yet everyone for those few days comes together to honour the Morrigan. It gives me hope see it, and to see it continuing from year to year.

the river near our cabin

* there was also a lovely framed picture of her in the Temple

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Verba Scáthaige - a translation

Today I am going to offer a translation piece I did from the Ulster Cycle, a look at Scathach's words to Cu Chulainn when he left her training to return to Ireland.

Incipiunt uerba Scathaige fri Con Culainn oc scarad doib isna rannuib tair. Ro scaith do Choin Culainn lanfogluim in milti la Scaithaigh. Do aurchechain Scathach do iarum ind ni arad m-biad, con-eipirt friss tria imbass for ossna.
Imbe eir hengaile
arat-ossa ollgabud
huatha fri heit n-imlebair .i. tain bo Cuailgne
Cotat curaith ciallfaithir
fortat braigait bibsatur
bied do chailcc culbeimnech
cruoch fri srut Setanta .i. proprium nomen do Choin Culainn.
Tithis fithog foibharamnus
fethal feula fedchlessaib
fearba do Breig m-braitfiter
braighit di thuaith tithsithir
tren cithach coictigis
cichis do buar m-belata
ba hoín fri slog sirdochrae
silfis de fhuil flandtedman
fernaib ilib idlochtaib
cuan dia-lilis loscandaib
lin do-fedat ildamaib
ilar fuili firfith-
for Coin Culainn cen colainn
Ceisfe alag n-enchride
al de dalaib dedairbe
didirn brodircc brisfithir
bruthaich fri toinn trechtaide
frissin m-belend m-bandernech
belenn di chet clesamnach
cichet biet banchuire
baiti Medb sceo Aillellai
arat-osa ollgabadh otharlighi.
Ucht fri h-echtga irgairgi
at-chiu firfeith Finnbennach Aei
fri Donn Cuailngi ardburach & cetera.

Here begin the words between Scathach and Cu Culainn as they parted in the eastern area. This occured after Cu Culainn completed his military training with Scathach. Scathach foretold to him then the things to happen in his life, speaking through imbas forosna [poetic illumination].

When arises a bird-of-valor
Vast-danger awaits you
Few against a great herd, that is the Cattle Raid of Cooley
Harsh against your senses
Striking necks to breaking
Your [sling] stones will be buffeting
Gory against Setanta's stream, that is your proper name Cu Chulainn.
Swearing oaths stripping young trees
Halidom of bloody weapons-feats
Cows to Breig [Meath] will be raided away
Your people's captives will be slain
Strong blows for a fortnight
Your cattle will go on the crossroads
You alone against a marauding host
Showers of blood, deadly-blood-red
On the shields of many warriors
A band who clings like vermin
A multitude they will lead many cattle
An abundance of deep wounds
On your flesh Cu Chulainn
You will suffer a wound of heart-blemishing
Beyond the second partition of it
Therefore urging ravaging battle-breaking
Furious against a thundering wave
Against a hero of iron-blows
A hero of many weapon-feats
A women-troop will beat their breasts
Overwhelming Medb and Ailill
Healing in a sickbed awaits you.
A face against long-fierce slaughter
I see well-muscled Finnbennach Ai
Against the Donn of Cooley loud bellowing and so on.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Dangerous Things - A Poem

I may be cynical
but I have earned it
so I laugh
I do
when I hear people
talking about
the Good People
being drawn by wind chimes
and shiny baubles
although I probably said
much the same once myself.
I shake my head
at the idea
that They wish us
nothing but well.
Cynical, yes
sharp as a thorn prick
coated in blood
sharp as salt heavy
on the tongue
sharp as the longing
for an Saol Eile.
They have never been
and people forget that
at their own peril
It is always
degrees of risk
My life used to be
my own
before the rath
before the cave
before the fire on the hill
My hair used to be straight
My heart used to be whole
People can keep
their windchimes and baubles
their human made 'elf-locks'
misnamed madness
their wishful thinking
I will tell you plainly
wishes are dangerous things.