Search This Blog

Jan 31, 2014

The Mythology of the Schattenreich: Brighid (Brigit)

Tomorrow is Caitlin Schwarzbach's birthday (see list of characters)!

Her birthday also coincides with the Celtic holiday of Imbolc, which is sometimes in Breton referred to as Gouel Varia ar Gouloù or The Festival of Light and also celebrated as St. Brigid's day.

To celebrate this important Celtic holiday, we're offering Primary Fault at 99 cents on Amazon worldwide through Monday, February 3, 2014 (outside of the U.S., this is converted to the local currency and may be a weird amount!) (,,,,,,,, for example) If you don't have a Kindle and would like to obtain a copy, please contact me via the email address for this blog or on my website contact form.

A recent review (thank you!) from portiabridget on her blog on portable pieces of thoughts (and also posted on Fantasy Barn (@Anachronist) had this to say about Primary Fault:

Reamer has created an intricately webbed reality where science and magic dance in a semblance of chaotic order. If you enjoy the occult, paranormal adventure, romance, police procedural, suspense, murder and many mixtures of each, this is the work you are looking for. I can hardly wait for more.

And now, about Brighid:

 Brighid, is one of those malleable Celtic figures, a deity, indeed one of the those truly worshipped as a triple goddess (in Irish mythology, the daughter of the Dagda) and equated (interpretatio Romana) with Minerva. According to John T. Koch in Celtic Culture, A Historical Encyclopedia, Saint Brigit of Kildare, a real personage who lived in the 6th century, and, although it seems this cannot be confirmed, was apparently co-opted by the Catholics and syncretized with the mythical Birgit (sometimes better to co-opt rather than demonize, right?).

According to Koch, she was a fertility goddess, patron saint of poetry and crafts and of livestock (especially ewes and cows). She is also associated with fire and light, hence, my appropriation of her as one of the Aspects (upcoming post) shared by the von der Lahn twins (they control Brighid's Flame as a part of their Schattenwerk arsenal). In the Schattenreich series, the congruence of Caitlin's birthday as being on the same day as the goddess Brighid is not lost on the von der Lahns.

 Here are some nice images of Brighid and symbols of her day! Here is a nice description of Brighid from the Official Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids with lovely pictures and poetry. And a place to start with exploring Brighid and Celtic goddesses on Wikipedia.

 Brighid's Day is a time for the lighting of candles. The dark times are waning!

a wreath and candles for celebrating Imbolc

photo credit: ToobyDoo via photopin cc

Jan 22, 2014

Mythology of the Schattenreich: Cernunnos

Pan-Celtic Lord of the Hunt(?)

The Horned One and his bestiary
I used the question mark at the end of the subtitle because including Cernunnos as one of the figures associated with an overarching Celtic pantheon, may not be entirely correct. According to John T. Koch, in Celtic Culture, A Historical Encyclopedia , there exists only a single written reference to Cernunnos, a statuary. His name is listed (with the 'C' missing) along with other Gallic, Romano-Gallic, and Roman deities. He is depicted as having a stag's horns decorated with what look like Gallic torques. This depiction of Cernunnos is in keeping with many other carvings of a similar deity figure, the most famous of which is the seated figure on the Gundestrup cauldron (at right), found in a Danish peat bog. This image is also purported by many Celtic archeologists and ethnohistorians (e.g., Miranda Green and Arnulf Krause) to be of Cernunnos.

The figure on the cauldron sits with legs crossed - a lotus-like pose - his antlers prominent, holding a ram-headed snake in one hand and a torque in the other. Other similar images of him have been found in locations throughout the former continental Celtic provinces, leading some Celtic historians to conclude they represent the same deity. Interestingly, the Cernunnos figure is often cited as evidence that the Celts apparently did worship their gods in a semblance of human form and even suggests the idea of deities that can shape-change, alternating between human and animal.

Medieval misericord; Vendôme, France
Many people have made connections with Cernunnos and other, more modern versions of Wild Men (e.g., Herne the Hunter, The Green Man), most of which apparently have no real documentation to support any congruence, despite similarities in a few of the names. Some researchers also postulate that conflation of Cernunnos and (Greek deity) Pan by recalcitrant Pagans resulted in the Christians demonizing him, although Elaine Pagels in her excellent but dense book The Origins of Satan argues convincingly that this is not the case. 

 Whether all or any of the assumptions and claims about the importance of Cernunnos to the conglomerate of tribes that comprised the continental Celts was true will likely be forever beyond our reach. Since he was apparently never romanized (interpretatio Romana), the Roman chroniclers never paid him much heed. That doesn't stop us from wondering just who Cernunnos was and how he was worshipped among the early Celts.

And that doesn't prevent fantasists such as myself from using the figure of Cernunnos for fictional purposes. Indeed, at least from what I've gleaned from the literature, Cernunnos fulfills - with a high probability - the idea, if not the reality, of a pan-Celtic deity . He was worshipped for fertility, prosperity, hunting, and his affinity for wild animals including (most often on depictions) stags, boars, ram-headed snakes, and, less frequently, bulls. It makes sense. What's not to like?

I knew I needed to use him. How to depict Cernunnos was my first dilemma. I chose a fairly subtle combination of traits taken from many sources that hint at a tripartite nature: fertility+prosperity, cthonic tendencies - but not truly Underworld, and Oracular wisdom. But there isn't much subtle about The Horned One himself. The Cernunnos of the Schattenreich series dwells in Ande-dubnos, the Breton version of the Otherworld where he commands his hunting hounds and his loyal Folk - which I refer to as the Tud, the Breton word for people or tribe.

He rules a significant thickly forested territory therein of Brocéliande, roughly equivalent to an ancient forest (according to Jean Markale) that spread across the center of Brittany. The modern-day forest of Paimpol in Brittany is often referred to as the real-world version of the legendary Brocéliande, but its provenance is confused by the, in some cases rather tawdry, connections to Arthurian legend that date back to the middle ages.

There is magic in Brocéliande, but...

This beautifully painted wall is just wrong, wrong, wrong.

Cernunnos has the ability to shift his shape to a certain extent (for example, his horns), but his Tud followers even more so. It is questionable whether the hounds can change form or whether they are truly hounds at all. Since no actual animals populate Ande-dubnos in my version of the Otherworld, this suggests that the hounds are not really, well, hounds.

 The torque and the ram-headed snake have been incorporated into my interpretation of Cernunnos. He wears the torque, of course, but it can also be wielded as an elemental even infernal weapon, forged as it is of gold and iron. Melusine, his mate (more on Melusine in a future post), has the head of a ram, the body of a serpent - a wyrm of old - and the face of a woman. She provides Cernunnos a channel, a direct link to her domain, the Dreams, which places the God of the Hunt firmly into the Jungian realm of the deep unconscious.

This pairing is what augments his masculinity, his power - his animus - and makes The Horned One a force to be feared for an unwary wanderer, especially of the female variety, in Ande-dubnos at certain times of the year when the veil between the Otherworld and the waking world is thin. Traveler beware.

Gundestrup Cauldron by Bloodofox (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Green man photo by Simon Garbutt

Photos from Paimpol, France by Klaus-G. Hinzen

Jan 8, 2014

Aeon Award Contest 2014

Albedo One

Ireland’s Magazine of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror
proudly announces the 9th International Aeon Award Short Fiction Contest:
The Aeon Award 2014
Grand Prize: €1000
Second Prize: €200
Third Prize: €100
Plus guaranteed publication in Albedo One for the top three stories
as chosen by our esteemed Grand Judges
Ian Watson, Eileen Gunn, Todd McCaffrey and Michael Carroll.

The Aeon Award is a prestigious fiction writing competition for short stories in any speculative fiction genre, i.e. fantasy, science fiction, horror or anything in-between or unclassifiable. The Aeon Award short fiction contest has been running since 2004 and has a Grand Prize of €1000 and publication in Albedo One! Second and third place contest prizes are €200 and €100 as well as guaranteed publication in Albedo One, the leading Irish magazine of science fiction, fantasy and horror. The contest opens January 1st and ends on November 30th.
Entering the Contest is Simple!

(1) Make sure to read the contest conditions and guidelines here, but in short: If your story is science fiction, fantasy or horror, is less than 10,000 words in length and has not been previously published, simply paste it into the body of an email with your contact details and send it to with “Aeon Award Submission” as the Subject of the email.

(2) Pay the €7.50 entry fee, which we have kept as low as is feasible, by simply clicking on this link, which brings you to a page where you can add the fee to your shopping cart and start the payment process (this page also has full instructions for paying the fee). We use PayPal to allow you to quickly and securely pay the fee using your credit or debit cards. Try it, it’s easier than you think!

We understand that rules in fiction contests and writing competitions can be confusing, so we’ve created a Frequently Asked Questions page for the Aeon Award Contest. We also welcome queries and questions, no matter how small, by email, to Frank Ludlow, at Alternatively, ask your questions in the comments section of this blog and I will pass them on to the contest administrators.

Still wondering why you should enter the Aeon Award contest? Then see our Why Enter? page.

 Thanks for your interest in the Aeon Award short fiction contest, and the very best of luck!!!

See this post on the Albedo One website.

Browse last year's shortlist.

See the 2012 winning and shortlisted entries.

What?! You've never read Albedo One? Try out a print or digital copy or place a print subscription order in the Albedo One shop.