An author, once she or he publishes that debut novel, imagines, expects, and hopes for many things. I am no different. Something I never anticipated, however, was becoming a college assignment.
A professor at the university in question happened upon The Year-god’s Daughter. She read it and contacted me to let me know she was assigning it to her spring 2013 semester class. They’ll be writing up essays on the culture and ideologies covered in the book.
To those students in the class who dislike historical fantasy, love stories, and/or class assignments, I’m sorry you’re being dragged through this, (and I do remember some of my own university assignments…. some better loved than others….)
First and foremost, I sincerely hope the tale is enjoyed!
At Booksquawk, May 5, 2012:
These are dark days for Aridela – sometimes graphically so; what she endures is not euphemistically portrayed – but deep inside she clings to the hope that she can withstand the abuse and prevail in order to appease Athene and restore freedom to her remaining people. Chrysaleon, too, endures much. On the verge of death, he has visions of an out-of-body journey to the heavenly land of the gods that enlightens him to his new status as The Thinara King – the one man with the power to change the destiny of everyone in the mortal world. But will he choose the right path? see more
Reviews at Amazon: read them all
“On Inspiration…” Interview at Triclinium & The Red Room with Elisabeth Storrs, May 13, 2012:
The Thinara King is the second book in a series. What was the inspiration for this series and how many books can we look forward to reading?
Divine destiny is a deep-seated theme throughout. Constant regional earthquakes are interpreted by the ruling priestesses as omens, and most everything is imbued with celestial meaning. The reader is immersed in a vivid culture of devoted spirituality. Athene must be appeased with violent sacrifice and every year that sacrifice is the queen’s latest consort – a man who bested all other competitors for the honor of living large for a year and then allowing his blood to consecrate Crete’s soil.
At Historical Novel Review, January 7th, 2012
Set amongst the mystery of the Minoan Labyrinth and the heart-pounding thrill of the bull-dancing ring, The Year-God’s Daughter is the first volume of The Child of the Erinyes, a sweeping epic of a series spanning time from the Bronze Age to the near future. see more
Reviews At Amazon, 2011 and 2012: read them all
“There was a tendency in Minoan Crete to combine the goddesses into one deity.” Rodney Castleden, The Knossos Labyrinth
Athene is mentioned again and again on the tablets and records from Crete. Her name was spelled “a-ta-na,” and most agree this was an early form of Athene. On at least one tablet, the name “a-ta-na” is combined with “po-ti-ni-ja,” which is thought to be Potnia. Thus in my book, you’ll see the declaration “Potnia Athene,” used several times. It simply meant “Lady,” or “Mistress.”
It’s important to remember when reading The Year-god’s Daughter (and the connecting books, The Thinara King and In the Moon of Asterion,) that what we know about these ancient, pre-Hellenic deities is sparse and fragmented. That Athene existed on Crete and was very important is pretty clear. That there were other goddesses is not so clear; the various names might well have been titles used for different aspects or roles of the same goddess. My story takes place before the familiar pantheon we all know from Classical Greece. Most experts agree that Athene existed long before they did, and that she came from somewhere else, not Greece. So I chose to use Athene almost exclusively, incorporating the various names as alternate names for her. Athene was The Great Goddess, basically, and all these other images or personalities were simply variations of her. Robert Graves also influenced my decision to use Athene this way. In The Greek Myths, he talks again and again about Athene being a pre-Hellenic goddess of vast importance, to whom the sacred kings were sacrificed, and he shares with his readers many of her Names and Titles.
Many mythologists call The Goddess “She of Many Names.” Here are a few titles and names I used in The Child of the Erinyes.
POTNIA: “Mistress,” or “Lady.”
“The Great Goddess or Mother Goddess held sway until the very end of the Minoan civilization and was even for a time in a dominant position in the Mycenean pantheon, until her position was supplanted by Zeus. The Great Goddess seems to have been called Potnia, at least in the final decades of the Labyrinth’s history. The name recurs in place after place, not just on Crete but throughout the Mycenean world. Meaning no more than ‘The Lady’ or ‘The Mistress’, it nevertheless carried powerful connotations and resonances: it was clearly the proper name of an important goddess.” Rodney Castleden, The Knossos Labyrinth
“Potnia had a domestic aspect as a guardian of households and cities. She was the wife and mother, the dependable figure of order and reason. In a sense she represented the conscious mind. Hers, probably, was the double-axe symbol that we find at so many Minoan sanctuaries on Crete, but possibly the pillar and the snake were her symbols too.” Rodney Castleden, The Knossos Labyrinth
BRITOMARTIS: “Lady of the Wild Things.”
“There were wild goddesses too, associated with untamed landscape and consorting with wild beasts. . . . A chaste and free wild goddess, who was a huntress and tamer of wild beasts, is now often referred to as the Mistress of Wild Animals or Queen of Wild Beasts. It seems that the Cretans called her Britomartis, said to mean ‘sweet virgin’, and she became the Artemis or Diana of the classical period.” Rodney Castleden, The Knossos Labyrinth
Eleuthia: Goddess of mothers and childbirth
“She was named in the temple records at Knossos and her nearest sanctuary, the Cave of Eileithyia as it is known today, is at Amnisos. The Cave of Eleuthia was an important centre of worship from neolithic times right through the bronze and iron ages, into the Roman period. It is even mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey, Book 19. Inside the Eleuthia Cave is a natural stalagmite protected by an artificial stone wall, the focus of the cave cult and probably regarded as the manifestation or dwelling of the goddess Eleuthia.
Dictynna: Goddess of fishermen, or “of the net.”
It appears that Dictynna, too, was later merged with Artemis. Imagine how important fishermen were on an island like Crete. It’s not surprising they would have their own special goddess, “She who cast the nets.”
“grim faced.” A title of Athene’s, according to Robert Graves. The fearsome aspect, the face of Athene at the moment of death.
Meaning unknown, but this was one of Athene’s titles and/or names. If one types “definition of Areia” into Google search, what comes up are several sites describing Athene.
Laphria: “the goat goddess.”
Graves says that this was Athene’s title representing her as a “goat goddess.” He says that the word Laphria suggests that “the goddess was the pursuer, not the pursued.”
These days, the definition of “cabal” is:
1. The artifices and intrigues of a group of persons secretly united in a plot (as to overturn a government); also, a group engaged in such artifices and intrigues.
Merriam Webster gives these examples:
1. a cabal plotting to overthrow the government.
2. a conspiracy theory about the existence of an international cabal devoted to world domination.
I thought it would be interesting to have “cabal” in the Bronze Age Mediterranean mean something else, very different yet somehow linked to its modern-day definition.
In The Greek Myths, Robert Graves has these things to say. He uses the word tanist the same way I use “cabal.”
“Once the relevance of coition to child-bearing had been officially admitted, man’s religious status gradually improved, and winds or rivers were no longer given credit for impregnating women. The tribal Nymph, it seems, chose an annual lover from her entourage of young men, a king to be sacrificed when the year ended; making him a symbol of fertility, rather than the object of her erotic pleasure. His sprinkled blood served to fructify trees, crops and flocks, and his flesh was torn and eaten raw by the Queen’s fellow-nymphs – priestesses wearing the masks of bitches, mares, or sows. Next, in amendment to this practice, the king died as soon as the power of the sun, with which he was identified, began to decline in the summer; and another young man, his twin, or supposed twin – a convenient ancient Irish term is ‘tanist’ – then became the Queen’s lover, to be duly sacrificed at midwinter and, as a reward, reincarnated in an oracular serpent.
When the shortness of the king’s reign proved irksome, it was agreed to prolong the thirteen month year to a Great Year of one hundred lunations, in the last of which occurs a near-coincidence of solar and lunar time. But since the fields and crops still needed to be fructified, the king agreed to suffer an annual mock death and yield his sovereignty for one day – the intercalated one, lying outside the sacred sidereal year – to the surrogate boy-king, or interrex, who died at its close, and whose blood was used for the sprinkling ceremony. Now the sacred king either reigned for the entire period of a Great Year, with a tanist as his lieutenant; or the two reigned for alternate years; or the Queen let them divide the queendom into halves and reign concurrently.
The title Hecate (one hundred) apparently refers to the hundred lunar months of the king’s reign, and to the hundredfold harvest. The king’s death by a thunderbolt, or by the teeth of horses, or at the hands of his tanist, was his common fate in primitive Greece.
The twins’ mutual murder recalls the eternal rivalry for the love of the White Goddess between the sacred king and his tanist, who alternately meet death at each other’s hands.
The column, on which the Death-in-Life Goddess perches, marks the height of summer when the sacred king’s reign ends and the tanist’s begins. (At the heliacal rising of two-headed Sirius.)
This combat is mythologically recorded in the story that the Olympic Games began with a wrestling match between Zeus and Cronus for the possession of Elis, namely the midsummer combat between the king and his tanist; and the result was a foregone conclusion – the tanist came armed with a spear.
The historical setting of the Scylla myth is apparently a dispute between the Athenians and their Cretan overlords not long before the sack of Cnossus in 1400 BC. The myth itself, almost exactly repeated in the Taphian story of Pterelaus and Comaetho, recalls those of Samson and Delilah in Philistia; Curoi, Blathnat, and Cuchulain in Ireland; Llew Llaw, Blodeuwedd, and Gronw in Wales: all variations on a single pattern. It concerns the rivalry between the sacred king and his tanist for the favor of the Moon-goddess who, at midsummer, cuts off the king’s hair and betrays him. The king’s strength resides in his hair, because he represents the Sun; and his long yellow locks are compared to its rays.
In The Year-god’s Daughter, The Thinara King, and In the Moon of Asterion, the sacred king has a tanist, but I didn’t want to use that term. In my timeline, the word is “cabal.” At Mycenae, it simply means “brother,” but on Crete, the word “cabal” has twin meanings: brother and killer. The cabal is the king’s “tanist,” or symbolic “brother,” who also kills him, thus turning him into a god.
In the course of the series, the word “cabal” gradually and eventually transforms into its modern definition, which plays a part in the story.
In The Year-god’s Daughter, Aridela, Selene and Iphiboë sneak out of the palace to meet their fates. They travel by cart to Skotino Cave, which even these days attracts large numbers of tourists. It lies some distance to the east of Knossos.
Of course, in the Bronze Age, this cave would have had another name. I chose for my story The Cave of Velchanos.
At the outset of The Year-god’s Daughter, our Aridela is only ten years old. Yet, fired by divine insight, she enters the bullring, determined to win glory for herself. Because of this act, her life becomes inexorably linked to the lives of two men from Mycenae.
There are two, perhaps three meanings to her name: Utterly Clear, and One Visible from Afar. Robert Graves translates it as The Very Manifest One.
Four words I might use to describe her: “uncomfortable in her skin.”
I will add more about Aridela as books in the series become available.
From Dionysos (Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life), by Carl Kerényi:
“…we may assume that in one aspect of her being Ariadne was a dark goddess. Among the Greeks the epithet “utterly pure” was attached preeminently to Persephone, the queen of the underworld, although other goddesses also were termed hagne. What seems significant here is the intensive contained in the first part of the name. A similarly accented attribute completed Ariadne’s character and provided another aspect. The Cretans also called her “Aridela,” “the utterly clear.” just as they also called Koronis “Aigle.” She could appear “utterly clear” in the heavens. The lunar character of Ariadne can no more be doubted than that of the crow-virgin, mother of Asklepios, who was able to shine like light.”
“Ariadne is described as a girl “with beautiful braids of hair,” an ornamental epithet that Homer confers more often on goddesses than on common girls. According to the Odyssey, (XI 321-22), Ariadne was a daughter of the “evil-plotting Minos,”–an epithet that presupposes the labyrinth as a place of death. Ariadne, the king’s daughter, was mortal, since she was killed by Artemis. She committed the sin of following Theseus, the foreign prince. Homer knew the story of how the hero and his band of seven youths and seven maidens were rescued by means of the famous thread, which is held in the hand in executing the difficult dance figure. The thread was a gift of Ariadne, and it was she who saved Theseus from the labyrinth. Even in this story, which has become so human, Ariadne discloses a close relationship, such as only the Minoan “mistress of the labyrinth” could have had, to both aspects of the labyrinth: the home of the Minotaur and the scene of the winding and unwinding dance. In the legend the Great Goddess has become a king’s daughter, but there can be no doubt as to her identity. In the Greek period of the island she bore a name–although, as we shall soon see, she also had others–that is not a name at all but only an epithet and an indication of her nature. “Ariadne” is a Cretan-Greek form for “Arihagne,” the “utterly pure,” from the adjective adnon for hagnon.”
Carl Kerenyi also says: “Ariadne-Aridela, who had a cult period corresponding to each of her two names, was no doubt the Great Moon Goddess of the Aegean world, but her association with Dionysos shows how much more she was than the moon. The dimensions of the celestial phenomena cannot encompass such a goddess. Just as Dionysos is the archetypal reality of zoë, so Ariadne is the archetypal reality of the bestowal of soul, of what makes a living creature an individual.”
” In the union of two archetypal images, the divine pair Dionysos and Ariadne represent the eternal passage of zoë into and through the genesis of living creatures. This occurs over and over again and is always, uninterruptedly, present. Not only in the Greek religion, but also in the earlier Minoan religion and mythology, zoë takes the masculine form, while the genesis of souls takes the feminine form.”
From The Knossos Labyrinth, by Rodney Castleden:
“The princess Ariadne, at once Minos’s daughter and Theseus’s lover, is the mystic, mysterious, feminine heart of Minoan civilization. She is the dark and volatile beauty at the centre of the Labyrinth: princess, priestess, goddess, mistress. She flees from Knossos with Theseus, sailing away at night to meet an ambiguous fate. In some versions of the legend she is abandoned on another island in the Aegean. In some she marries the god Dionysos, in others she commits suicide. Whatever her later fate, she is that heart of Minoan civilization that was borrowed by the growing civilization of the Greek mainland and subsumed by it.”
And finally, Robert Graves says in The Greek Myths:
“‘Ariadne’, which the Greeks understood as ‘Ariagne” (‘very holy’), will have been a title of the Moon-goddess honoured in the dance, and in the bull ring: ‘the high, fruitful Barley-mother’, also called Aridela, ‘the very manifest one’.
In Greek mythology the Erinyes (pl. of Erinys; literally “the angry ones”) or Eumenides ( pl. of literally “the gracious ones” but also translated as “Kind-hearted Ones” or “Kindly Ones”), or Furies or Dirae in Roman mythology, were female chthonic deities of vengeance, or supernatural personifications of the anger of the dead. A formulaic oath in the Iliad invokes them as “those who beneath the earth punish whosoever has sworn a false oath”. Burkert suggests they are “an embodiment of the act of self-cursing contained in the oath”.
When the Titan Cronus castrated his father Uranus and threw his genitalia into the sea, the Erinyes emerged from the drops of blood, while Aphrodite was born from the crests of seafoam. According to variant accounts, they emerged from an even more primordial level from Nyx, “Night”. Their number is usually left indeterminate. Virgil, probably working from an Alexandrian source, recognized three: Alecto (“unceasing”, who appeared in Virgil’s Aeneid), Megaera (“grudging”), and Tisiphone (“avenging murder”). Dante followed Virgil in depicting the same three-charactered triptych of Erinyes; in Canto IX of the Inferno they confront the poets at the gates of the city of Dis. The heads of the Erinyes were wreathed with serpents (compare Gorgon) and their eyes dripped with blood, rendering their appearance rather horrific. Other depictions show them with the wings of a bat or bird and the body of a dog.
HOWEVER, Barbara G. Walker has something else to say in her The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets.
ERINYES: “‘Avenger,’ title of Mother Demeter as the threefold Furies, who punished all trespassers against matriarchal law. In her fearsome avenging aspect, the Goddess sometimes appeared as the Night-mare, with a black horse head wreathed with snakes.”
She goes on to say:
FURIES: “Also called Erinyes or Eumenides, the Furies personified the vengeful moods of the Triple Goddess Demeter, who was also called Erinys as a punisher of sinners. The three Erinyes were emanations of her. “Whenever their number is mentioned there are three of them…But they can all be mentioned together as a single being, an Erinys. The proper meaning of the word is a ‘spirit of anger and revenge’…Above all they represented the Scolding Mother. Whenever a mother was insulted, or perhaps even murdered, the Erinyes appeared. Like swift bitches they pursued all who had flouted blood-kinship and the deference due to it.
Greeks believed the blood of a slain mother infected her murderer with a dread spiritual poison, miasma, the Mother’s Curse. It drew the implacable Furies to their victim, and also infected any who dared help him. In fear of the Furies’ attention, lest they might have inadvertently assisted a matricide, people called the Furies “Good Ones” (Eumenides), hoping to divert their wrath.
Aeschylus called the Furies “Children of Eternal Night.” Sophocles called them “Daughters of Earth and Shadow.” Their individual names were Tisiphone (Retaliation-Destruction), Megaera (Grudge), and Alecto (The Unnameable). Some said they were born of the blood of the castrated Heavenly Father, Uranus; others said they were older than any god. Their antiquity is demonstrated by the fact that they were invoked against killers of kinfolk in the female line only: a relic of the matriarchal age, when all genealogies were reckoned through women.
Aeschylus’s drama The Eumenides presented the Furies pursuing Orestes for killing his mother, Queen Clytemnestra; but they cared nothing for the murder of the father. He was not a real member of the clan. When Orestes asked them why they didn’t punish Clytemnestra for murdering her husband, they answered, “The man she killed was not of blood congenital.” Orestes inquired (as if he didn’t know), “But am I then involved with my mother by blood bond?” The Furies snapped, “Murderer, yes. How else could she have nursed you beneath her heart? Do you forswear your mother’s intimate blood?” In short, the Furies harked back to a matriarchal clan system like the one in pre-Christian Britain, where “the son loved the father no more than a stranger.” Indeed the name of the archaic Triple Goddess of Ireland, Erin, or Eriu, has been linked with the triple Erinyes.
The Furies were also “fairies,” identified with witches because of their ability to lay curses on any who transgressed their law. Such “fairies” may have been real witches who tried to defend the rights of women against encroachment by Christian laws. Their modus operandi could have been similar to that of the Women’s Devil Bush society in Africa: if a woman complained to this society that her husband abused her, he soon died of a mysterious dose of poison.
Christianity adopted the Furies, incongruously enough, as servants of the patriarchal God. They became part of God’s penal system in hell: dog-faced she-demons known as Furies Who Sow Evil, Accusers or Examiners, and Avengers of Crimes. Their duty, as always, was to punish sinners. As “grotesques” they appeared on the tympanum of Bourges Cathedral, with large pregnant bellies bearing the full moon’s Gorgon face, and pendulous breasts terminating in dogs’ heads. Greek art, however, depicted them as stern-faced but beautiful women, bearing torches and scourges, with serpents wreathed in their hair like the Gorgons.
Although classical tradition understood the Fury as a symbol of the impersonal functioning of justice, yet she came to represent men’s hidden fear of women, an image apparently still viable. Psychiatric Worldview says:
‘To those men who are aware of contemporary changes it becomes abundantly clear that there are a number of openly angry women around….Men trained to recognize and enhance their own anger and aggressiveness in a society where rape and revenge are commonplace view angry women with alarm….Men see women project onto them the full extent of their own potential aggressiveness. The spectre of an angry Fury or Medusa’s head strikes fear in men, which is then often awkwardly handled because men are not supposed to display fear. A woman seeking only reasonable social or vocational equity may be perceived by a man as being out to get the kind of revenge that his pride would require had he experienced the narcissistic and practical wounds that she has sustained.’”