"Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes." ~Publishers Weekly review of Eolyn

"The characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst." ~Publishers Weekly review of High Maga

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Tree Magick

Good news this week! My short story "Creatures of Light" will appear in the fall issue of Adventures for the Average Woman. This is a tale of passion and brutality, an eclectic mix of romance, fantasy and horror set in an imaginary Age of Exploration. It's a very different world from EOLYN, and was a lot of fun to write.

The short came together thanks to both my writers' groups: TNBW and DHS. It was through TNBW that I met David Hunter, whose work in progress A Road of Blood and Slaughter contains the marvelous bestiary that inspired the character of Selenia. (And no, Selenia's not a beast -- well, okay, maybe she is -- but mostly she's a woman scientist very interested in strange and deadly beasties). Then, about a year ago, I had the opportunity to put Selenia in a story thanks to Tepring Cocker of DHS, who organized a secret pal activity for the holidays. My secret pal was Maddie McFadden, who asked for a 'high fantasy, maybe with a dragon'. "Creatures of Light" is not exactly high fantasy, and I kind of cheated -- just a little -- on the dragon. But Maddie liked the story anyway, and so did I, and fortunately so did Laurie Notch, managing editor of Adventures. I'll let you know when the magazine is available, but if you would like a preview visit the Works in Progress page on this blog.

As serendipity would have it, next Saturday I'll be hosting one of the DHS workshops at the Longview Literary Festival, together with Andrew Rambo. We'll be talking about -- you guessed it -- 'Creatures of Light and Darkness'. How to create believable and fantastical beasties for your work of fiction. The workshop is FREE and the fun starts at 2pm. Hope to see you there!

Those are my announcements. On to this week's topic, Tree Magick.

I've been working since last summer on a sequel to EOLYN, which has been a lot of fun, and a little distracting given that I still have some minor cleanup work to do on the first novel before we go to press. At any rate, moving into book 2 I've realized I need to put together a herbarium for Eolyn's world, to write down the different plants and their uses so I can keep things consistent going forward. So, I've gone through the original manuscript and marked all the places where the magas and mages use herbs or other plants for certain tasks. Now I need to sit down and catalogue everything in a separate document.

While I'm a little behind on putting all this information into one place for herbaceous plants, I do have a fairly decent catalogue of the sacred trees of Eolyn's world, their meaning and what they are used for in terms of magical purpose. I thought I'd share some of that with you today.

Alder -- Modern ecologists call alder a "pioneer species" because it is very well adapted to colonizing deforested areas. Hence, its meaning for the magas of Moisehen: Alder provides protection during transition. It is often associated with Raven or Crow. Alder is commonly used in funeral pyres, and also for making the sacred fire used to forge a maga's staff.

Ash -- Ash is a hardwood, strong but elastic, and historically it has been used for making bows, tool handles and (more recently) baseball bats. For the people of Moisehen, Ash is the symbol of strength and wisdom during times of sacrifice. Ghemena’s staff is made of Ash.

Fir -- There are many species of fir, and the one sacred to the tradition of Moisehen is very similar to the European silver fir, the first tree to be used as a Christmas tree. These trees can become giants, the largest on record having reached a trunk diameter of 3.8m and a height of 68m. Mages and magas consider Fir the 'staff of the forest'. Its roots can extend to the depths of the Underworld, making it a living bridge that unites the living and the dead, as well as the elements of earth, air and water. This very sacred tree can also be used to achieve powers of flight.

Linden – The heart-shaped leaves of this beautiful tree may be the source of its mythological role as the protector of Children’s Magic. Ghemena adds Linden to the traditional mix of woods for the sacred fire meant to forge Eolyn’s staff.

Oak – No magical herbarium would be complete without Oak, which is considered one of the most sacred trees in the tradition of Moisehen, conferring strength and endurance upon those it favors. Oaks are dominant trees in the primary forests of Moisehen, and their slow growth produces a very dense wood that is highly resistant to disease and decay. Eolyn’s staff is made from Black Oak, and Akmael’s from White Oak.

Rowan – Also called “mountain ash”, Rowan also produces a dense wood. In our own mythology, Rowan is a favored wood for magician’s staves, and the same is true in Moisehen. Rowan confers control, discrimination and discernment. Tzeremond’s staff is forged from Rowan.

Walnut – A hardwood that can be polished to a rich purplish brown, Walnut confers power for transitions and hidden wisdom. It is used to build the sacred fire for forging staves, and also for funeral pyres. Walnut is an important wood for Mage Corey, and IF he had a staff (which he might, or he might not…) it would be made from Walnut.

Willow – I still remember climbing and swinging on the vine-like branches of the willow that grew in my cousin’s backyard while we were growing up. So of course, Eolyn and Akmael had to have willows to climb as part of their childhood adventures in the South Woods. This tree embodies flexibility, strong inner vision, and a gift for making connections.

That's not the complete list, but it covers some of the most important trees of Eolyn's world.  I'll come back to the herbs later on down the line.

Today's photo is from the forests of Cuerici in the Talamanca Mountain Range of Costa Rica.   Although this is a tropical forest, its high altitude results in a cool wet climate that favors many plant species we tend to associate with temperate forests, such as oak, alder and blueberries.  These are the forests that inspired images of Eolyn's childhood home, the South Woods.