Starhawk is one of the Big Witches in the modern Wicca movement, and Reclaiming is her San Francisco coven / community.
The video looks kind of cool and kind of silly. To some extent I guess you have to be there. To some extent, any public ritual looks a little silly. There's a big difference between working real magic in your coven and working a public ritual. In your coven, it's all about where you are spiritually. I remember our high priestess drawing down the Moon once, and I could swear she really had invoked something or someone ancient into herself.
In a public ritual, the leaders have to project what they're doing so the people in back can see it. Which means they can't really go to the same spiritual places they would in a private ritual. It's theatre; and after all, theatre started as ritual.
It's rare to find someone who is a truly spiritual person and a great showman. Myself, I've always envied people who could really take themselves somewhere else in a ritual. I can write a good ritual, and I absolutely know what it should feel like, but I can never really turn off my thinking brain, and that gets in the way.
But the Spiral Dance always raises power. And it looks like Starhawk is a great showman in addition to being an influential spiritual thinker. I bet there's a lot of power flowing around the circle tonight.
In Neil Gaiman's lovely short story and then comic ONE LIFE FURNISHED IN EARLY MOORCOCK, he writes about how he felt betrayed by C. S. Lewis's Narnia series, once he figured out that it was all a Roman Catholic allegory.
...until, last year, rereading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader for perhaps the hundredth time, it had occurred to him that the transformation of the unpleasant Eustace Scrub into a dragon, and his subsequent conversion to belief in Aslan the lion, was terribly similar to the conversion of St. Paul, on the road to Damascus; if his blindness were a dragon…
Richard put away the Narnia books, convinced, sadly, that they were allegory; that an author (whom he had trusted) had been attempting to slip something past him.
But not Michael Moorcock's Elric series.
At least the Elric stories were honest. There was nothing going on beneath the surface there: Elric was the etiolated prince of a dead race, burning with self-pity, clutching Stormbringer, his dark-bladed broadsword — a blade which sang for lives, which ate human souls and which gave their strength to the doomed and weakened albino.
Which might possibly be why I took it into my head to reread a bit of Moorcock lately. They are fine, short and yummy.
And, oddly, not very dark at all, when you compare them to almost anything Mr. Gaiman has written. Honestly, THE GRAVEYARD BOOK is quite a bit more disturbing. Funny about that. In THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, one boy is at risk of being killed. In the Elric books, the hero lays waste to lives and souls, serving the evil lord of Chaos, Arioch. A couple of times, the existence of all Earth is up for grabs. But it's all a fun read. Nothing truly disturbing at all.
I guess part of it is that in Elric, you know who's evil and who's not. On television, it's not the level of carnage that makes something acceptable for network or restricted to pay cable. CRIMINAL MINDS has horrific torture porn, and it's on broadcast TV at 10 pm. What puts a show on cable is when you're not sure who's good and who's bad. It's the shades of gray. DEXTER is a serial killer, but we like him. That's disturbing. Take NEVERWHERE. Is the Marquis de Carabas a good man? Mmm, no, not really. Is Hunter?
Maybe that's why I read right through THE ELRIC SAGA BOOK ONE with great pleasure, and have no need whatsoever to pick up the next compilation. It doesn't leave me with anything. While Neil's stuff pops into my head at odd hours.
Not because Neil's trying to slip something by. It's all there, the gods, the fae, London Under. It's not an allegory. But it is a fairy story, in the Tolkien sense. It's a new myth. Or as Puck says in Sandman #19, "It never happened, but it's true!"
That's what I'm trying to do in THE CIRCLE CAST: something you can read for fun, but which pops back up at you at odd hours. Something which never happened, but is true anyway.
And Morgan isn't exactly a good person. But I love her for who she is.
I saw Alexander Franchi's new movie THE WILD HUNT at the Festival du Nouveau Cinema. A group of medieval re-enactors head off into the country for LARPing fun. And the movie has a lot of fun with the cross between high fictional style and the LARPers' reality. But then it heads into the darker worlds of sex, myth and sacrifice.
Tiio Horn is a revelation as the girl everyone's fighting over in real life and in the fantasy. Watch her become a star over the next five years.
It's a love story, and it's about how we need myth to elevate our lives, and it's about how our drive for love and our drive for meaning smash into our mundane lives And you don't know where it's heading, or what the rules are, and yet it's satisfying and inevitable by the end. No wonder the film won Best Canadian First Feature at TIFF.
And it's beautifully shot and cast and all that.
Nice work, Mr. Franchi!
Ah, if only real medieval re-enactments were this much fun.
(Full disclosure: I was a story consultant on the film. But it has way surpassed the script I gave notes on two years ago.)
Okay, THE MISTS OF AVALON is a huge bestselling book with the miniseries to prove it.
But I had a lot of trouble getting through it, because I felt that Marion Zimmer Bradley did a terrible thing to Morgan le Fay: she made her a reasonable person. MZB's Morgan is a kind, loving person. The whole problem with Arthur is not her fault.
C'mon. Morgan was a Celt. The Celts did not value "being a reasonable person." They valued honor, and revenge.
Arthur's father Uter Penndragon murdered Morgan's father. It would be her duty to take vengeance upon Uter's family. To a pagan Celt, killing someone in Arthur's family would be a good and righteous thing; only a coward would fail to do it, or die trying.
But more importantly: Morgan pulls down the entire House of Britain. That's crucial to the King Arthur story. Arthur is the only thing standing between Britain and the oncoming Saxon invasion. After Arthur's death at Camlann, the Saxons push the British into the mountains of Wales. It is the destruction of the entire people Morgan springs from.
What kind of a woman would do that? Not a reasonable woman. A very angry woman.
A very angry woman whose anger is what makes her powerful. It is the anger that fuels the sorcery.
Because I don't, y'know, hold with the Harry Potter notion that magic is something you do between sandwiches. Magic costs. It has to be powered by something. Talent gives you the ability to shape it, but talent alone doesn't make a witch. Talent + will, that's where it comes from.
(In the Wicca I was taught, the four elements were Air ("to know"), Fire ("to will"), Water ("to dare") and Earth ("to keep silent."))
If Morgan hadn't been so angry, she couldn't have been the witch that she was.
Making her an angry woman makes her a great tragic character. It makes her maybe not a "good" a person, but you don't want "good" people in your stories, do you? If Othello hadn't been jealous, he wouldn't have got a play, would he? If Hamlet had been decisive, or if Romeo and Juliet had just chilled out a little before playing with knives ... no story.
Morgan's anger explains the other odd thing. After Arthur is mortally wounded, who comes to get him to take him to the eternal isle of Avalon? Morgan le Fay, his half sister.
Morgan loved and hated her half-brother Arthur. She loved him as a man and a king and as her own blood; she hated him as the son of his father.
The Circle Cast doesn't get into the whole King Arthur story. But it is very much about a girl who has to choose between vengeance and grace. She's a girl whose anger saves her, but also hurts her.
Maybe fifteen, twenty years ago I was reading Sir Thomas Malory's MORTE D'ARTHUR, the first real King Arthur romance. There was a sentence about Morgan le Fay that read something like, "and the third sister, Morgan, was sent to a nonnerie, where she became a grete clerke of necromancie."
I thought that was interesting. Normally necromancy (literally, black magic) isn't part of the lesson plan in nunneries.
And then I got to thinking about the story of Morgan le Fay. She's the daughter of Ygraine, the wife of the Duke of Cornwall, who Uter Penndragon falls in love with. Uter kills the Duke of Cornwall to sleep with his wife, and Morgan is sent off ... somewhere ...
And then she comes back the second most powerful sorceress of her age. So powerful she is able to jiu-jitsu Merlin into using his own magics to seal himself in a stone from which he can't escape.
Wow. How did that happen? How does a girl whose father has been killed, whose mother has been taken by the King of Britain, who is surely being hunted for... how does she become a powerful witch?
I thought that was a story that needed to be told. Which meant I had to figure it out.
Hence the book, THE CIRCLE CAST: THE LOST YEARS OF MORGAN LE FAY. It's about how a hunted girl without a father or a place to live becomes the badass sorceress we know and love.
This blog is about the book, and my thoughts about my version of Morgan, and other people's versions of Morgan. And it's about Wicca, which is where much of the magic in the book comes from, and the ancient Celtic war goddess raven cult, which is where the rest of the magic comes from.
And it's about Dark Ages Britain, which is when a guy called Riothamus lived. He reorganized Britain to fight the Saxons, rebuilt Cadbury Castle (which may be Camelot), and may have been the original Arthur. I'll probably write about places like Butser Ancient Farm, where they're doing really cool research on how the Celts lived during the Dark Ages.
And if you have questions, you can write me, and I'll answer them if I can.