Classical Themes within the ‘Wolf Spear Saga’ series
Myths, magic, rituals, quests, places, people and animals; all of these elements are helping to shape the forthcoming tales in my ‘Wolf Spear Saga’ series. Here is the second of FOUR posts.
The Dark Goddess
She is a pre-patriarchal, ancient belief from Neolithic culture in many countries. Tomb burials, caves and the deep, dark ocean introduce us to the Dark Goddess. She rules the world’s ocean as well as the inner tides (our emotions, passions, psychic perceptions and soul regeneration). The ferryman of souls can deliver us to her in his glass boat, to the Sacred Isle where we enter the cave and pass through the veil to the Otherworld - the land of the dead. There is much to explore here in terms of characters’ responses to water and its powers, but also human emotions and how these fluctuate in various circumstances.
Boats and their contents have more than a passing link to the land of the dead. As well as ferrying those near death across a sacred lake to the afterlife, boats can take the form of offerings to the gods and vessels transporting offerings to the gods - treasure hoards defaced and buried in thanks for victory. Found most profusely in Denmark (though also in other countries), boats of war and the weapons of their defeated warriors have for millennia been deposited in lakes in gratitude of the gods’ protection. As well as afterlife journeys for characters, this provides us with response to conflict within societies and the rituals invoked. Boats themselves can have souls and characters, as can weapons such as valued swords or even amulets of the gods and goddesses of the time. Many of these themes are integral to my ‘Wolf Spear Saga’ series.
Consider: Hjortspring and Nydam boats from Denmark – deliberately sunk into lakes, these boats contain a multitude of offerings from vanquished enemies: swords; axes; spears; shields; chainmail; knives; horse tack; brooches; tweezers; ear spoons; bones of horses, lambs, calves and dogs.
Another way to the afterlife can be via a bridge, often linked to rainbows, found in Christian, Norse, Greek, Chinese and Australian aboriginal cultures, among others. Water was a sacred element through which one could travel to the Otherworld, so to cross it was to, in some respect, cheat death and almost magical. Tales of dangerous creatures inhabiting the undersides of bridges come from this concept, such as Norwegian Trolls, river sirens like the 'nix' and Celtic Kelpies in the form of horses or women, who would drag people down to their deaths. Flag Fen is an excellent example of how bridges over water held magical properties, where Iron Age people deposited metal, stone, ceramic and food gifts from the causeway. Bridges can also represent boundaries between earthly realms like county borders, or unearthly realms, both of which can present characters with problems depending on the purpose of their journey. I tinker with this theme in ‘Wulfsuna’ and also forthcoming ‘Wolf Spear Sagas’.
Bifrost – linking Earth to Asgard;
Sword Bridge – crossed by Lancelot to rescue Guinevere from the Castle of Death;
Bridge of Heaven;
Greek goddess ‘Iris’, who guarded a rainbow (from where ‘iridescent’ is derived)
- What classical themes most interest you?
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