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Diodorus Siculus FTW

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In keeping with my current fascination with Greek mythology (perhaps because I’m currently taking a really good class on the subject) we’re going to talk today about the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi.  For those of you who don’t know her–and I’m using the term ‘her‘ to refer to a position and not an actual person–the Delphic Oracle was a very important figure in the ancient world.  Even kings and conquerors visited the Oracle–the Pythia–and heeded the prophecies which she handed out.

One such story is the story of Croesus, the King of Lydia.  Croesus was one of the richest people known in ancient history, and was apparently wealthy enough to warrant his own epithet in common language–someone would be said to have been as rich as Croesus.  Croesus wondered whether he should go to war with Cyrus the Great, who was unifying lands that would soon become what we know as the Achaemenid Empire–or the Persian Empire.  Cyrus deserves ten posts dedicated completely to him on his own, but he’s not the subject of today’s little rant.  Croesus, before making such an important decision, visited the Pythia to ask for her prophecy.  The Pythia responded with something like “If you go to war, you will destroy a great kingdom.”  Croesus gathered his forces, went to war with Cyrus the Great, and was subsequently crushed.  The Pythia had given him a truthful answer–it was his own kingdom, though, that he destroyed.  Other famous visitors to the Pythia included Lycurgus, Solon, Philip II of Macedon, Cicero, and the Emperor Nero.

How did one petition the Oracle to receive a prophecy from Apollo?  Let’s see if I can simplify it.

First, the applicant had to purchase a sacred cake at a fixed cost, and leave it on the altar outside.  From there, the applicant moved inside and sacrificed a goat, or maybe a lamb, carefully guided through the process by the priests.  Once the sacrifice was made, the petitioner was allowed into a room where they could hear the Pythia speak, but not see her.  The Pythia would have the question posed to her by the priests, who would interpret her ramblings from the state of enthousiasmos (“divine enthusiasm”) and translate them into the form of an epic poem, which would be presented to the petitioner.

delphivaporsThe Pythia, on the other hand, had her own preparations to make.  She either bathed in, or drank from, one of two
“sacred springs” at Delphi in order to purify herself.  She chewed, or maybe burnt, Laurel leaves–the sacred tree of Apollo–to prepare herself to receive the god.  She then went into an enclosed space, and climbed onto a tripod which sat over a chasm, breathing in “sacred” vapors that would send her into the trance-like state.  Plutarch described the vapors as being “sweet,” and even described an instance where the Pythia died as a result of too much divine inhalation.

The thing is, there weren’t any springs found at Delphi that ran through the temple, nor was any chasm discovered at the site.  Scholars long believed the tales to be fanciful, perhaps to try and explain the trance-like state into which the Pythia would put herself.  Reading some of the papers, the words scoffing at the idea of “sacred vapors” practically get up off the page and sneer at you.  The quickness with which ancient sources, like Plutarch, were dismissed is wild to read.  One such account by a man named Diodorus Siculus–a Greek historian who visited the site at Delphi and wrote about it–were completely shat upon by the establishment.

A summary of what Diodorus Siculus had to say about the Pythia at Delphi:

“In Diodorus’s narrative, it was this chasm, and the powerful vapor that emerged from it, that led to the initial discovery and installation of an oracle at Delphi. He recounts the story of how a goatherd noticed that
his goats, approaching a particular hole on the mountainside, started to shriek and leap around. Goatherds began to do the same when they approached, and also began to prophesize. The news of the spot spread and
many people started leaping into the hole, so “to eliminate the danger, the locals appointed one woman as prophetess for all. They built her an apparatus [the tripod] on which she could be safe during her trances.”

~From Oracle, Princeton University Press

portrait_man_bce_050-025_2_mus_hamburg.428x0-is-pid7313Diodorus Siculus came along, talked to the locals and said “look everybody, this girl is basically just getting high.”  Scholars have long discounted his story as fanciful, saying that he probably had trouble imagining that the spirit of the god of Apollo could enter the Pythia, because Greeks had strange notions of the spirit–a lot of mental back-flipping to explain away his account.

The funny thing is, in the year 2000 a group of scientists published a *study in Geology magazine about the site at Delphi.  As it turns out, Delphi sits at the center of two fault lines, and has been a hotbed for seismic activity since ancient times.  There were recorded earthquakes there in the past.  The scientists were able to not only identify the faults with modern technology, but determined that a spring probably flowed through the Temple of Apollo at one time, and that a chasm probably did run through the Temple of Apollo.  Furthermore, though scientific methods, they determined that the rocks beneath the Temple of Apollo at Delphi produce a gas called ehtylene.  Ethylene was used as an early anesthetic, and can produce feelings of detachment and euphoria.  In higher doses, it can cause mania and death.

The kicker?  Ehtylene has a sweet smell.  It was also found in natural springs near the site.

The Pythia on the Tripod-by-H.Leutemann

Just imagine this one staggering fact–the fate of kingdoms, of empires, was partly decided by the ravings of an old woman who was sitting in an enclosed room huffing gas for most of the day.  This is why I love history.

It took just over two thousand years, but in the end, Diodorus Siculus was vindicated.  Turns out his story makes a lot of sense, and is further backed up by the writings of Plutarch on the matter.  So raise a glass in the man’s honor sometime, he deserves a libation or two.

*The link goes to Nature magazine, but it’s a story about the same study.

In case you missed it, Child of the Flames is now available on Amazon Kindle.  Get your copy today!

Omophagia

maenadI’ve been thinking about this lately, so I figured I’d write some of it down.  Maybe you guys will find this as interesting as I do.  Maybe you’ll just think I’m morbid.

I want to talk about the Maenads.  Now, some of you are raising your fingers in the air, saying “Hey, I remember those from True Blood!”  Some of you might know more about them than that, and might be saying “Aha!  He’s talking about the crazed followers of Dionysus!”

True, and true.  More than that, though, I wanted to write down a few stray thoughts I’ve been having about their rituals, especially the culmination of their rituals.  Let’s go into more detail–bloody, gory detail.

So, Dionysian rituals were famous for being revels of complete abandon.  In fact, that was sort of the point.  There are lots of festivals dedicated to Dionysus, now, and they were varied.  Before someone decides to flay me for leaving out the City Dionysia, or dithyrambs, or the fact that they were the origins of Greek tragedy, I know–but we’re not talking about all of that today.  Though, I suppose my penchant for writing fiction has its origins in Dionysian ritual.

Give your thanks to Dionysus, you pitiful little mortals.

The Maenads were the crazed female followers of Dionysus, the priestesses of the god of the grapevine.  They were known by the animal skins they wore, the wreaths in their hair, the fact that they danced barefoot, handled snakes (they got there first, Pentecostals), and the thyrsus–a rod wreathed in vines, and topped in leaves or pinecones.

maenad

The Maenads went up into the hills to perform wild rituals by the moonlight.  In short, imagine a bunch of intoxicated, crazed women dancing until they’ve worked themselves–and everyone else–into a frenzy.  The whole point was to reach something called ecstasis, a religious fervor so great that it sent everyone into a state of abandon.  At the height of this fervor, an animal would be tossed into the center of the crowd.

There, it would be torn limb from limb by hand, and eaten raw by the frenzied mob.

This practice is called omophagia.  Now, the weird thing about this practice is that it’s not exclusive to the worship of Dionysus–or his Roman counterpart, Bacchus–it actually turns up in different places all over the planet.  In places where primitive tribes have been met with more advanced chroniclers, there have been rituals described that bear striking resemblance to those of the Maenads.   Dancing crowds, intoxication, abandon, and at the height of the rituals, no matter the details–omophagia.  In Divine Madness, there was a scene described in Africa where a ritual took place that bears such a startling resemblance to those of the Maenads that I had to read it twice.  One horror story even mentioned a woman who, at the height of her religious fervor, tossed her baby into the crowd, where it was subsequently torn apart and devoured.

Frightening.

Most people regard the practice as having arisen from Dionysus’s birth myth–that he was ripped apart, but born again.  But others believe that Dionysus was the representation of something older, something more ingrained into the human psyche.  Dionysian rituals represented a return to the primitive, a regression to something more brutal.  What strikes me as odd is how often the practice pops up in history, and throughout cultures who haven’t heard of one another.  Does it serve some purpose in society–perhaps an evolutionary release valve of our more brutal instincts, like an ancient version of the Purge?

K12.12Dionysos

I’ve become really intrigued with Dionysus.  His worship was so varied in scope, and so wild in its extremes.  On one hand, you’ve got the origin of Greek tragedy, and a god who relishes in the heights of human creativity.  On the other hand, frenzied mobs ripping apart animals with their bare hands and eating them raw–the depths of human depravity.

Another interesting aspect was how afraid the Romans were of the worship of Bacchus.  They outlawed his cult, and sought out those who practiced the rituals.  There are all sorts of wild stories about the worship of Dionysus/Bacchus.  Alexander’s mother was apparently a follower of Dionysus, and there’s even a story that the wife of Spartacus was a priestess of Bacchus, though I’m not sure of the second’s credibility.

So, yeah.  I just wanted to take some time to share these weird little thoughts with you.  I really don’t know why.

~D.W.

Child of the Flames is Here

Available now at Amazon

Available now at Amazon

So Child of the Flames is now available over at Amazon.  Head over today and get your copy–or you can borrow it for free as a Kindle Unlimited member.  Also, you can lend it to friends and family for up to 14 days, even if you’re not a member.

Head over and check it out right now.  Like, now, Carl.

Git to it.

When you’re done, feel free to leave me an honest review, tell your friends, and subscribe to me somewhere.

ML&R

~D.W.

The Cult of Aeglar

A Treatise on the Cult of Aeglar

“During the birthing years of the world, the Gods bestowed their gifts upon their new creation. Evmir forged the world, and his brother Eindor gave it magic. Devla formed the wild forests and the beasts within, while Neesa handed down art, love, beauty, and music. Bast made the laws and forms to govern the world, and Aastinor instilled war and revenge to drive humanity to enforce it. Even Saarnok had his place, tending to the souls of those who lived a foul and evil life, holding them in the Six Hells and bringing pain and suffering to the world so those living there would appreciate life.
One God, however, did not partake in the making of the world. This God grew jealous of his immortal kin, of the gifts they handed out freely to this new creation. Aeglar knew of magic and of forging, like the brothers Evmir and Eindor. He would rule mankind with these abilities rather than grant them freely. The more the world grew, the more his jealousy festered in him. As humanity built itself up in power and knowledge, Aeglar sat and watched. He saw that in people there was great strength and purpose, but there was also fault. Humans had within them greed and lust, the need to aspire to something greater than what they were.
So Aeglar went into the world and walked among its people. He whispered in the ears of men and women that shared his envy, telling them of the arrogance of the Gods. He spoke of power that the Gods hid from them still, that humankind was destined to be so much more. He taught them secrets that he had kept through the forging of the world, giving them to a select few in exchange for their worship and obedience.”
~From “The Gods Among Us,” written before the Second Great War.
I think it worth mentioning, curator, that no one this scholar has been able to find has any written records of the Cult’s true origins. These passages, and others like them, are the first appearance of the Cult in history, though we cannot be completely sure. This account is taken from a religious text. The Cult itself denied any requests to view a written history, and interviews with members yielded only mythological answers to questions about their origins. The leaders of the Cult of Aeglar are a secretive group, and declined any request to meet personally.
What this scholar has been able to gather from reading historical accounts throughout Alderak is that the Cult of Aeglar most likely formed in Lesmira after the Treaty of Duadan of was signed with the Sevenlands. The Cult is a widely known anti-sorcery organization, and there exists no mention of it in the historical record until Lesmira signed the Treaty. There has always been an undercurrent in Eastern society that is fiercely anti-magic, and it seems most likely that the Cult arose from various groups of political dissidents that banded together in order to put pressure on the Lesmiran monarchy. It was two years after the signature, the year 501, that the Cult attempted to assassinate the King and Queen, and were summarily banished from the Lesmira forever.
The Cult has been known to openly protest policies it regards as “pro-sorcery” all over Alderak, but at its core the Cult of Aeglar is a military organization. It has used its might for political bullying before, and it is suspected of much worse. Stories abound about the Cult abducting those born with the spark of magic in their blood and carrying them off to meet some grim fate, though these allegations have never even been officially investigated. This scholar has personally interviewed wizards from the Lesmiran School of Magical Arts that insist the Cult has attempted to abduct them, and many wizards report incidents of being followed and harassed when traveling outside of the country.
The Cult operates openly in every country on the Eastern Continent except for Lesmira. They have a particularly strong presence in Dannon, but are widely regarded as religious zealots in the lands south of the Moravian grasslands. There are rumors that some members of royalty and other world leaders may be secret members, or supporters of the Cult, though no proof currently exists.

Child of the Flames

Coming August 1st

Coming August 1st

Child of the Flames is coming this Monday, August 1, 2016.

It will be released on Amazon at $0.99.

It’s a story of revenge, of tragedy, of triumph.  And it’s got blood, swords, and magic.  What more do you need for a good story?  It’s been a long time coming, and now it’s finally here.  I know you guys are just as excited about it as I am.

I know a lot of you have already read up to The City Under the Mountain, and may not want to start back at the first book.  However, Child of the Flames is not The Sentient Fire.  It’s a new book through and through.  While many of the same things happen (you can’t revise and not hit the plot points) they happen a bit differently, and to characters who are much more three-dimensional.  In short, The Seven Signs is maturing a bit for it’s relaunch.

You can certainly just pick up at The Oath of the Blade when it comes out if you want, and you won’t miss anything, nor will you be confused.  But, if you’re like me and you re-read the entire Game of Thrones, or Wheel of Time, every time a new book came out because you forgot a lot of the story…

Child of the Flames will be enjoyable for you.  It’s like re-reading, only with new writing 😉

(You guys should know that I love you–that’s the first time I’ve ever used an emoticon, after years and years of refusing to do so.  I broke my prohibition for you, ‘cuz I love ya)

So look for Child of the Flames on Monday.  You won’t be disappointed.

 

Child of the Flames

Coming August 1st

Coming August 1st

Child of the Flames is coming this Monday, August 1, 2016.

It will be released on Amazon at $0.99.

It’s a story of revenge, of tragedy, of triumph.  And it’s got blood, swords, and magic.  What more do you need for a good story?  It’s been a long time coming, and now it’s finally here.  I know you guys are just as excited about it as I am.

I know a lot of you have already read up to The City Under the Mountain, and may not want to start back at the first book.  However, Child of the Flames is not The Sentient Fire.  It’s a new book through and through.  While many of the same things happen (you can’t revise and not hit the plot points) they happen a bit differently, and to characters who are much more three-dimensional.  In short, The Seven Signs is maturing a bit for it’s relaunch.

You can certainly just pick up at The Oath of the Blade when it comes out if you want, and you won’t miss anything, nor will you be confused.  But, if you’re like me and you re-read the entire Game of Thrones, or Wheel of Time, every time a new book came out because you forgot a lot of the story…

Child of the Flames will be enjoyable for you.  It’s like re-reading, only with new writing 😉

(You guys should know that I love you–that’s the first time I’ve ever used an emoticon, after years and years of refusing to do so.  I broke my prohibition for you, ‘cuz I love ya)

So look for Child of the Flames on Monday.  You won’t be disappointed.

 

World of Eldath: Magic, the Blessed, and the Learned

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Many scholars throughout the years have attempted to discern exactly what magic is and where it came from.  Its effects have been studied by the School of Magical Arts, the Conclave in the Sevenlands, and even the Minsdurim Academy, upon occasion.  There are multiple books on the subject, the foremost among them being Garland’s Song of the Fabric of Creation.  Still, at the time that this report is being written, this scholar has found no invention, scientific method, or even a magical device that can test the essence of magic and tell us what it really is and where it came from.

The accepted view by most laymen is that magic is the “fabric of creation” or the “material of creation” left over from when the Gods forged the world.  Such a simplistic explanation can be credited to the Epics of the Gods and the mythology that most religious texts perpetuate.  The general idea, explained by a Devlan Devotee, is that Evmir shaped the world and everything we see from a magical base material.  The phrase so often repeated is that he  “commanded the world come forth from the ether”.  When asked exactly what magic is, or what the “ether” is, most religious explanations fail to satisfy, as they so often do.  If one wants to learn of magic, one must go to a wizard.

According to representatives of the Conclave of Wizards, children who are born with an inherent connection to magic, referred to as “Blessed”, begin to show signs of the power between the ages of seven and fourteen years.  This range is not as accurate as it could be; the Conclave admits that some children may go for years using magic undiscovered by their scouts or their parents.  The manifestation seems to correlate directly with the children aging into sexual maturity, though there have been cases which seem to show no correlation.  Sometimes trauma has been shown to be a direct factor as well, though those cases are rare.  Findings from the School of Magical Arts directly support the information from the Conclave.

Magic is described by wizards as having an empathetic nature.  It apparently responds to emotions felt by magic users, and those emotions can either intensify, confuse, or entirely null the effects of their intended spells and evocative castings.  By their own admission, the use of magic can be a very dangerous undertaking.  Wizards have been known to lose control of their powers and kill themselves–or others–because of the emotional factors at play, though the Conclave assures me that such things are rare and easily controlled and prevented through proper training.  Strenuous mental discipline is the best deterrent, according to those who traffic in the use of magic.

Magic apparently responds to outside stimuli as well.  It has been shown to resonate differently with different materials, such as brass, stone, various gems, and even water.  Mathematical and geometrical formulas seem to evoke a response from magic, as do certain shapes in nature, the most common of which is the circle.  This scholar had heard rumors of a great circle constructed in the bowels of the Conclave called the Crux, but any reference to it, or request to see it, was met with denial.

The most interesting magical reaction seems to be with music.  Apparently musical tones have an intense effect on magic, and the Conclave has studied the phenomenon for a long period of time.  They have found that the most interesting reactions seem to come from entire compositions of music rather than individual tones, as if the music produces an emotional response from magic, as ridiculous as that sounds.  The theory seems to hold water when compared with the earlier knowledge that magic responds to emotions from those who use it.  The two phenomenon seem to be intertwined somehow, though sufficient time and effort would be needed to study it further.

Magic seems to be able to perform almost any action the wizard can imagine, though the boundaries of such power are blurry and undefined at best.  Most wizards seem to operate on their own preconceived notions about nature, and such a thing can be a serious deterrent to studying magic’s full potential.  Some of the more mundane uses for magic, such as moving large objects or producing a small light from nothing, can be as simple or as complicated as the mind of the wizard wielding the power.

This scholar personally listened to two different explanations on how one would move a rock with magic.  One wizard preferred to simply seize the rock with his “Kai”, as he put it, and move the thing a small distance.  He explained that in his mind, he pictured carrying the stone in a large, invisible hand.  The second spoke of an invisible force holding the rock to the ground already, and he simply pictured himself coaxing the force to let go for a small amount of time while he moved the rock.  The results were the same, though the methods were clearly different.

Wizards do seem to have a limited amount of endurance for using magic.  Each person would appear to have a different threshold for holding a certain amount of power, and it has been determined by the Conclave that every wizard grows slowly stronger over time.  Exposure to the power also seems to lengthen the lifespans of all wizards, though it is said that most older magic users retreat from society in order to better commune with the strange energy.  It is also said that wizards heal faster than normal people, and are more resistant to disease, though the factor by which this happens is minimal.  It has been demonstrated to this scholar that magic also cannot heal any ailment with reliable results.  The two things may be connected, and that subject may warrant further study in the future.

It is possible for those born without the ability to touch magic to gain it through careful study and training.  In the Sevenlands they call those wizards the “Learned”.  The differences between Learned and Blessed magic users stop at the method by which they gained use of the power.  There appears to be no correlation between the method of training and the final ability and strength of any wizard in question.  This would suggest that physical properties and breeding do have some effect on these phenomenon, though those effects have yet to be studied.

From A Treatise on Magic and its Effects, by the Magister Sir Umril Genhardt, of the Tauravon Archive.  Written in the year 1066, archived in 1067.

Hope you guys enjoyed that little tidbit about the setting.  I’ll be uploading little blogs like this to help flesh out the story for you guys, as the World of Eldath will be an ongoing setting for stories long after the Seven Signs is finished.  More news on this to follow, and I’ll talk to you guys soon.

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Child of the Flames

childoftheflames02

The Seven Signs, book one. Coming in 2016

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a blog.  I recently started school again, and my life has been pretty hectic since.  If I’m not working on overhauling The Seven Signs, I’m writing something in APA format.  The neat little schedule I worked out for myself while finishing The City Under the Mountain was pretty much thrown out the window.

So, what have I been doing, you might ask?

I’ve been working on what will be the new Big, Bad Book One:  Child of the Flames.

What’s changing?  Well, let me try and explain.  During The Sentient Fire, I really felt like I could have dived into the story a little more than I did.  There were a lot of things happening behind the scenes during the first book that I never illuminated, so I’m illuminating some of them.

Also, Shawna’s part in the story is getting more of an overhaul.  Earlier today I finished writing the opening scene to the book, and it’s about ten times more exciting than before.  A large part of the first book was her flight from the Red Swords, yet she got little “airplay” in the original book.  She’ll get more this time around, and you know it’s going to be bloody.

I may have mentioned my original intention to give the book a stylistic polish, and that will be happening as I go, as well.  It’s weird returning to this story so many years later.  Sometimes I read parts of it and cringe at the writing, but I guess that’s the way it goes with art.  You’re never really happy with it, but it is kind of fun to go back and rewrite some of the parts to give them a little more punch.

So far, January is still a good date for the release of the overhauled series.  As the date gets closer I’ll keep you guys updated, but as of right now I’m sticking with that.  Don’t forget to like, subscribe, follow, and all of that.  Check me out on Facebook if you’re so inclined, or follow me on Twitter.  To get the updates as they come straight from the source, join my mailing list, the Conclave.

Talk to you guys soon.

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