Sunday, August 21, 2011

New book! and: Hearth? Myth?

First, as promised, the new novella is live at  It's called SwanSong and it's based (pretty loosely!) on the Irish tale of the fate of the children of Lir.  You can find it from my author page.

"The Fate of the Children of Lir" is one of the three classic tragedies in Irish myth, the others being the story of Deirdre of the Sorrows (from the Finn MacCool cycle) and the fate of the guys who killed Lugh's father.  Only the third one really has a moral, which is: don't mess around with Lugh.

This leads kind of nicely into the rest of this post, which will be an attempt to explain why I chose the name I did for this blog.

For starters, I'm Neopagan, and among the flavors of Neopaganism I have briefly looked into is Druidry -- specifically ADF, an American Druid organization that would like to be a Druid church.  I eventually decided not to join.  But I did take away several ideas from them for my own spiritual practice -- among them, the idea of a hearth culture, or a specific cultural pantheon of ancient gods and goddesses that one concentrates on honoring.  ADF cautions both against adopting more than one hearth culture and against mixing-and-matching deities from various cultures.  But hey, like most Americans, I'm Heinz 57; I'm Czech on my mother's side and Irish-with-a-bunch-of-other-stuff on my father's side.  So my "hearth culture" is mix-and-match to start with.  And I've found myself drawn to deities from both the Slavic and Celtic pantheons, with an occasional nod to the Norse (the Cantwells were Normans who came to Ireland with Strongbow) and to some Native American gods (yes, we've got an "Indian princess" in the family tree a couple of generations back; sadly, I don't have enough Native ancestry to claim any tribal casino earnings).

To make things even more interesting, the Czechs themselves are mix-and-match.  I once ran across an article by an ADF member from the Czech Republic who said some modern Czechs honor not only to the Slavic pantheon, but the Celtic and Norse pantheons as well.  The Czech lands have been overrun by numerous folks over the centuries, among them the Celts, who passed through on their way to what we now think of as their homelands.  And of course the Northern tribes made forays into central Europe.

Anyway.  Suffice it to say that Mom was Czech and Dad was Irish (and stuff).  So I began to read myths and legends of these hearth cultures of mine, and ran across two that wouldn't leave me alone:  the Czech story of the Maidens' War, and the Irish story of the Children of Lir.  The rest is publishing history (ar ar! humor!).

But there's more than one kind of myth.  There are also the myths we tell ourselves -- our own personal stories that we use to justify our actions and our personal beliefs.  Geneen Roth, who wrote Women, Food and God, among other books, points out how damaging these myths can be, and how unconsciously we hold them.  It's not just, "If I eat that brownie, I'll gain three dress sizes and no one will love me"; it's, "If I allow myself to feel scary emotions, I'll die -- so I'll do X instead to numb the feelings."  X is often a destructive behavior, like overeating or cutting or compulsive shopping, and it can take therapy and/or years of self-insight to put these myths to rest so the behaviors can stop.  Neeve, the heroine of SwanSong, needs 900 years to find her way out from under her personal myths.  In The Maidens' War, Sarka needs to be trapped inside a mountain for longer than that -- but when she is free, she helps Maggie get to the bottom of her own story in a much shorter period of time.  And I believe that, like Maggie, we can discover our own truths in others' stories, so that it doesn't take us a thousand years to heal.

Mind you, I don't write with that as a conscious goal!  But I know I've found insights in fiction.  If my readers find insights in the stories I write, that's great -- but mainly I just hope they're entertained.

So:  hearth = both where we live and where we come from; myth = the stories we tell ourselves about why things are the way they are, both in our culture and in ourselves.

Hope you like the new book.

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