Q & A with Linnea Tanner

Introduction

It is with great pleasure to share my interview with Luciana Cavallero, an Australian Author and Historian, that was recently posted on her website. If you click below, you will find out more about what inspired me to write Apollo’s Raven.

Q & A with Linnea Tanner

Come and meet Linnea Tanner in an interview about her debut book Apollo’s Raven. In her novel, Linnea Tanner weaves Celtic tales of love, magic, adventure, betrayal and intrigue into historical fiction set in Ancient Rome and Britannia. (Click here to go to the interview)

Colloration D.N. Frost Fantasy Author

Collaboration D.N. Frost Fantasy Author

Introduction

It is with great pleasure that I again introduce D.N. Frost, an exciting fantasy author with whom I’ve collaborated and shared my passion for Celtic mythology and traditions. I encourage everyone to learn more about D.N. and her epic saga Tales of the Known World published by TotKW books.

D. N. has twice been a guest blogger on my website. I was delighted on how she wove the meaning of the symbols of Celtic Tarot cards into some of the imagery I used in my book (Apollo’s Raven available April 10th). She recently re-posted these articles on her website which I encourage you to read:

http://www.dnfrost.com/2017/03/celtic-tarot-card-meanings-inspired.html

http://www.dnfrost.com/2017/03/celtic-tarot-cards-meaning-from-nature.html

Multi-talents of D. N. Frost

During our collaboration on the guest blogs, I learned of D.N. Frost’s other talents as a world builder and cartographer. She generates maps of new and past worlds that you can preview at her website:

http://www.dnfrost.com/2015/06/maps-of-known-world-resource-directory.html.

I asked D.N. to generate maps of Britannia, the Roman name for the United Kingdom. Below is the map of Britannia that she created. It provides a visual image of where the Celtic tribal kingdoms were located in 1st Century AD Britannia.

Map of Britannia Created by D.N. Frost

Collaboration on Apollo’s Raven

The backdrop for Book 1: Apollo’s Raven is in 24 AD southeast Britannia. D.N. Frost generated the map below of this region that was included in Apollo’s Raven to help readers visualize where the story takes place.

Map of southeast Britannia provided in Apollo’s Raven

Historical Backdrop to Apollo’s Raven

Southeast Britannia evolved differently than Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. After Julius Caesar’s military expeditions to the region in 55 – 54 BC, Rome strongly influenced the internal politics and trading of southeast Britannia. Many of the rulers in southeast Britannia were educated in Rome as hostages and adopted the empire’s taste for luxuries. Several powerful Celtic kings expanded their territories by conquering other tribes. There are written accounts that pro-Roman Celtic rulers pleaded for Rome’s help to intervene on their behalf.

Cunobelin, the king of the Catuvellauni, overtook the Trinovantes about 9 AD. He established his capital at Camulodunon (modern day Colchester). Recent archaeological evidence supports there was a Roman military presence before 43 A.D. that protected areas of Britannia vital to trading with the empire. This historical background sets the stage for the Apollo’s Raven series spanning from 24 AD to 40 AD.

I greatly appreciate D.N. Frost’s collaboration for creating the map of southeast Britannia that inspires the world-building for Book 1: Apollo’s Raven. 

Future Updates

More information about Apollo’s Raven can be found at http://amzn.to/2m17UJU. In the future, I’ll be providing updates on the release of the book, new posts on my blogs highlighting my research and other authors, and upcoming events.

Thank you for your continued support. Have a wonderful day!

Interview Anne Frandi-Coory

Anne Frandi-Coory, Author of Whatever Happened to Ishtar?

Introduction to Anne Frandi-Coory

It was my pleasure to interview Anne Frandi-Coory. She is the Australian author of the moving memoir: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ISHTAR?

The memoir is about Anne’s quest for coming to terms with her traumatic childhood when she lived in a Catholic orphanage and later in her father’s family household. This is also a fascinating journey of Anne’s Italian and Lebanese heritages which provide insight into generations of defeated mothers.

I was first intrigued with the title because Ishtar is a goddess revered for many qualities in ancient civilizations. This book touched my heart as it addressed universal issues that impact women today.

Read my review of WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ISHTAR (5 of 5 stars) on APOLLO’S RAVEN:  http://www.linneatanner.com/blog/3614-2/

Book Cover: Whatever Happened to Ishtar_Cover_Anne Frandi-Coory_Ishtar


Interview with Anne Frandi-Coory

What was the defining moment that inspired you to write your memoir?

Anne:

There was no defining moment as such; more a series of events over a long period of time. The continued feedback from my extended Lebanese family that I was ‘backward’ – a label I overheard often throughout my childhood had always left me feeling devastated and depressed. I desperately wanted people to know that I was intelligent, that childhood emotional and psychological trauma didn’t equate to ‘backward’. I tried many times, as a young mother, to communicate with my Lebanese family, but I could barely utter a word, while they continually talked down to me.

On another level, I found it difficult to talk about my childhood, and as a result my children didn’t know anything about my life, or that of my parents. I wanted them to be proud of me. I felt I didn’t have a past, a family history, and I wanted them to have one.

What was the inspiration for the title of your unique book title, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ISHTAR?

Anne:

I was brought up as a strict Catholic as were most of my Lebanese and Italian relatives and ancestors. I discovered during my research that the women in my family tree suffered terribly at the hands of their men and the Church…too many children, too much abuse and the constant praying that in reality achieved nothing. My extensive reading about ancient goddesses like Ishtar informed me that women were once worshipped for their fertility, but weren’t solely defined by it. Ishtar occupied the highest position in the Babylonian pantheon; she was the favourite goddess of the Babylonians. She was the goddess of fertility, justice, healing and war. However, once the three patriarchal religions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity rampaged across humanity that changed forever. Christian women were then expected to emulate Immaculate Mary, mother of God, an impossible task. In the Catholic system, females had two vocational choices; become a mother (married of course) or a nun! Disastrously, my mother became both.

Statue of Ishtar

Statue of Ishtar

Was there any aspect of your Catholic upbringing that still deeply impacts you today?

Anne:

Yes. Fear and hypocrisy. I was so terrorised by stories of the devil and the tortures of hell all through my childhood while incarcerated in Catholic institutions, that most nights I experienced the most horrific nightmares that left me with a racing heart that seemed to shake my whole body. I sometimes imagined I could see the devil watching me in a corner of the room, so my reaction was to hide under my blankets praying that God would save me. The adrenaline rush prevented me from sleeping. I am still afraid of the dark, and although I no longer believe in the devil or hell, I suffer severe panic attacks if my fragile feelings of security and well-being are undermined in any way. Deep down, I have this feeling that at any time, everything I have will be taken from me, including my family.

The belief that anyone who was a good practicing Catholic was automatically a virtual saint, came crashing down around me when I discovered, as a teenager, that they were human like everyone else and just as capable of committing ‘sins’! I remember being utterly devastated but from that moment, slowly over time, my belief in God fizzled out and died. I am now an atheist.

What would you consider some of your most enlightening moments in your research that helped you come to terms with your childhood?

Anne:

I was explaining to a psychologist that I believed I had paid for my mother’s sins. He was silent for a few moments, and then said: “That’s a very interesting choice of words”. We talked about why I believed my mother had sinned. After a couple more sessions, he said to me “Do you think it possible that your Catholic upbringing may have done more harm than the abuse you suffered at the hands of your family?”

All through my research, I kept thinking about the psychologist’s words, and as a result, I wrote a very different book.

I had come to realise that my mother wasn’t a sinner, and that the story of my childhood was merely a tiny inset in a very large picture. That’s why, although I began writing my memoir, I ended up writing an extensive family history spanning generations and countries. That in general, life favoured males over females. With the change in perspective also came acceptance of my traumatic childhood.

Was there a woman in your ancestral history who most sparked your interest and why?

Anne:

Probably Italia Frandi, my great aunt. She died long before I was born, but I was given a recorded interview with her daughter, in which she talks about Italia’s life and achievements. Italia suffered many tragedies in her life but she never let that prevent her from becoming an astute business woman who wasn’t afraid to stand up to the Catholic Church or a legal system that favoured men.

Based on your experience, what advice would you give young women today?

Anne:

Three pieces of advice:

Feel the fear, and do it anyway. I know that’s a well-worn cliché, but I know it’s the best way to combat fear. I would still be hiding behind locked doors if I hadn’t ignored my fears and taken the plunge into unknown waters. It made me more courageous each time I achieved a goal.

If people make you feel uncomfortable or unhappy, move on. Listen to what your senses are telling you. Life is too short and there is so much you can achieve in your lifetime if you travel without negativity weighing you down. I believe this philosophy has kept me physically safe and mentally healthy. 

Always strive to be financially independent…It will empower you to be in control of your life.

Do you plan to write any further books based on the research you’ve done on your Lebanese and Italian heritages?

No, but I have written a series of poems, short stories in themselves, about aspects of my childhood, cultural and family history. I have painted an image for each poem, or attached a photograph. I have also written a few ancestral short stories. I am planning to publish these in a book sometime within the next year, once I complete the series.

Biography Anne Frandi-Coory

Anne Frandi-Coory was abandoned by her Italian mother when she was ten months old and placed in the care of the Catholic Sisters of mercy in Dunedin, by her Lebanese father. All through her childhood, Anne’s Lebanese extended family, and her strict Catholic upbringing, influenced her to believe that her life of abuse and gross neglect was  because she was “paying for my mother’s sins”. Anne married very young and had four children. After they had left home, Anne decided to research her family history  to try and understand the reasons why there were so many defeated mothers in her family tree. Over a period of fifteen years, she traveled across the globe, sourcedoriginal documents and interviewed many  family members, both Lebanese and Italian. Most of the  women were devout Catholics, forced to marry brutal and uneducated men and subsequently gave birth to too many children. Seemingly, the women’s sole reason for living was to breed, pray to God for help, attend Mass regularly, and hope that the after- life would reward them for their ‘goodness’. Catholic girls had one other choice for a vocation and that was to become a nun. This had not always been females’ lot in life. Ishtar, the pagan goddess of fertility, love and war, empowered females to emulate her prowess for thousands of years. But patriarchal Christianity usurped Ishtar with its Virgin Mary, and females were stigmatised as whore or venerated as virgin/mother.

Anne Frandi-Coory now lives in Melbourne, Australia with her partner. She works from her home studio as a painter, poet and short story writer. She intends to publish a book of her works.


Further Information:

Order WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ISHTAR?:

Author Website Autographed Memoir: http://frandi.wordpress.com/buy-a-signed-copy-of-whatever-happened-to-ishtar-directly-from-the-author/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Whatever-Happened-Ishtar-Anne-Frandi-Coory/dp/1921642955

Customer Reviews: 

https://frandi.wordpress.com/category/latest-book-reviews-for-whatever-happened-to-ishtar/

Follow Anne Frandi-Coory:

Website:  https://frandi.wordpress.com/

Twitter:         https://twitter.com/afcoory

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Frandini/

Book Review: Whatever Happened to Ishtar?

Whatever Happened to Ishtar?Whatever Happened to Ishtar? Anne Frandi-Coory
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I follow Anne Frandi-Coory and signed up to receive notifications from her website frandi.wordpress.com to learn more about her Lebanese and Italian heritage. My curiosity aroused, I ordered  a signed copy of her memoir directly from her site and was deeply moved by it. Below is my book review.

GOODREADS BOOK REVIEW

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ISHTAR? (Australian author Anne Frandi-Coory) is a beautifully written and haunting memoir of a woman who finds herself by exploring her family’s heritage that contributed to her growing up without the love and nurture of a mother she most desperately wanted. What first attracted me to this book was the title, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ISHTAR? The Ancient Sumerian Mother Goddess Ishtar celebrates love, fertility, and sexuality. This title haunted me as I read the memoir because Anne’s mother, like many woman of her generation and previous generations, was harshly judged for her sexuality and had limited options to treat her mental illness and to fulfill her potential. The first part of the memoir is Anne’s account of her childhood while the second part provides a historical account of her Lebanese (father’s side) and Italian heritage (mother’s side).

Anne was institutionalized at the Mercy Orphanage of the Poor at South Dunedin in her early childhood. At the time, her father could not adequately care for Anne after he divorced her mother for infidelity. At the age of eight, Anne was removed from the orphanage and introduced to the real world under the care of her father’s family. However, they shamed Anne and associated her with her mentally ill mother they considered a whore. This part of the memoir is gut-wrenching and haunting because Anne had to overcome loneliness and self-doubt to find her full potential after marrying, having four children, and finding her life partner after a divorce.

However, what is most fascinating is the rich heritage and ancestral genealogy of both her father and mother to understand what nineteenth century immigrants to Australia faced. With no access to birth control, women faced multiple pregnancies or secretly resorted to self-induced abortions with crude knitting needles. The historical accounts that Anne researched help explain why her father and her mother were compelled to make their choices. I recommend this memoir because the story will stay in your memory as it covers universal issues of female sexuality, women’s roles and options, mental illness, and society’s harsh judgment that has defeated mothers for generations.

View all my reviews

Interview Skadi Winter, Author, Malin and the Wolf Children

Skadi Winter at Book Signing

Skadi Winter at Book Signing

Introduction Skadi Winter

It was my pleasure to interview Skadi Winter, an exciting author of MALIN AND THE WOLF CHILDREN. This is a story about a young German girl, Malin, who must survive alone in war-ravaged Germany and Poland in 1945. It is a journey of a young girl’s soul-searching for love and understanding to survive a time of violence, hatred, and prejudice to learn that even wars cannot change the eternal rules of crime and retribution.

Skadi developed a passion for learning languages and travelling at an early age, and read her first book at the age of five—the stories of Wilhelm Busch. She worked as a medical secretary in different sectors of the health service in Germany and England for over thirty years. Like many women of her generation, following dreams was more often not possible due to financial and personal circumstances and prejudice against a gender. Skadi is a grandmother of ten lovely grandchildren from mothers of four different nations. She is a storyteller that believes in the richness of prose and subtle poetry of words. She has completed another novel, Hexe.

I reviewed MALIN AND THE WOLF CHILDREN and gave it 5 stars. Not only is it thought-provoking story about a young girl’s journey of finding meaning in life during time of war, it is a beautifully written book that is rich in prose and symbolism.

Skadiwinter

 

Read my review on Apollo’s Raven: https://apollosraven.wordpress.com/2015/11/17/book-review-malin-and-the-wolf-people-by-skadi-winter/


Interview Skadi Winter

What was your inspiration for telling the story of Malin, a young orphaned girl in war-torn Germany during World War II?

Skadi:

When I grew up in a very little village near the French border during the early 1950ies, refugees from Eastern Europe settled at the outskirts of it. Those people were ‘outsiders’ and conspicuously watched by the natives; they had to live with jealousy and racism, were extremely poor as they had lost everything during their flight from the East. The worst thing was, they were Roman Catholics in a pure protestant community. Outcasts from a world then unknown to me. They spoke differently, dressed differently and seemed to be ashamed and hurt. They were my first encounter with people ‘from another, strange world’ to me. The more hurtful comments I heard about them, the more grew my interest in them. It still pains me thinking of their children whom I went to school with. I still can feel their loneliness, fear and irritation.

Is the reference to Wolf Children in your story from actual historical accounts of orphaned children who were forced to survive in the countryside during World War II? Although Malin is German, do the Wolf Children consist of all nationalities of orphaned children?

Skadi:

Later on in life, I stumbled across accounts of former Wolf Children when I met the sister of my mum’s second husband. Their family originated from Eastern Prussia. This was the first time I’ve actually heard of Wolf Children when this lady spoke about their flight from Eastern Prussia and children she had met. They all had been ethnic German children whose homes and land had been confiscated by Poland and Russia and on the long trek, through cruel circumstances, had lost their families, either through persecution, illness, hunger, cold and murder during their flight.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this story is how Malin tries to understand the calamity around her by reflecting back to tales told by her grandmother about Ancient gods and goddesses? What was your intention for including these ancient tales in this story?

Skadi:

Children often retreat into their own world of phantasy when they are unable to fathom the grown-up world around them.  During those hard times in post-2nd WW Germany, children more often had to deal with day-to-day life on their own as mothers and fathers (if there were any fathers left) mostly had been pre-occupied to survive hunger, homelessness, their own experiences with the atrocities of war. Children were lucky if they had grandmothers, often a central figure in their lives, caring for them. I always felt and feel deep sorry for a world where grandmothers don’t seem to have a place in life any more. As I see myself today, my heart and soul developed during those times nourished by my grandmother; she was the one listening and responding with love to my questions and fears. I think, children and grandmothers have a special relationship due to both being not (yet/any more) productive in society. Children as innocent learners, grandmothers as a source of life’s wisdom and beyond.

The other characters that Malin meets on her journey reminds me of ancient mythology where a hero / heroine must survive a succession of trials. On the journey, Malin accepts help from other people who may become as evil as the vengeful soldiers stomping through the countryside. One of these characters is Lubina? Was she intended to be the alter-ego of who Malin might become if she does not learn how to renew her life from destruction?

Skadi:

Ancient mythology has a source. As have ancient folk tales. Humankind always had to live with destruction, evil and good. Each destruction in life eventually leads to re-construction and this is my point. If we do not, or are not willing to learn from the past, eventually the same mistakes will be made. It seems to me that this is what life is all about: to make the right choice where it matters. In this sense, yes, Lubina was intended to be the alter-ego of Malin.

Another quality that I enjoyed in your book was the symbolism of animals in the story.  Would you provide an overview of the symbolism of the hare, crow and wolf?

Skadi:

The Wolf, a fearless predator, who sometimes kills more than he can eat.  A warrior who, if approached with respect and knowledge, can turn into a pet dog.  A pack animal, loyal, caring, protecting, nourishing, at the same time cruel in his persuasion. A fascinating animal, symbolizing man.

The Hares, born fully furred and with open eyes, can fend for themselves from shortly after birth. They live alone, their mothers only ‘visiting’ them until they are weaned. They don’t mate for life. They are promiscuous. They go crazy during spring equinox. They live in one area, usually all their life, seemingly bound to their land, at the same time free in spirit.

The crow, divine providence, wisdom. A mythical bird throughout most of the cultures of the world. Harbinger of death. Messenger of the Gods. A symbol of recreation.

Though your book describes the horrors of war, I was inspired by your theme of documenting memories through oral and written traditions so that future generations can learn from the past. Is there more you would like to add about your philosophy of story-telling of bringing hope to future generations?

 Skadi: 

Oral and written traditions are important, yet in our times more and more neglected and ignored, even laughed at. The people of ancient times drew their wisdom and knowledge from them and passed them on for future generations to learn, to be inspired and to prevent them from making the same mistakes over and over again.

Ancient myths formed our society as it is today. History of mankind started with tales being told. Words are the most powerful instruments of humans which differ us from the rest of animals. At the same time, the ability of making use of words has made us arrogant, god-like. I truly believe, there is magic in words.

Stories need to be told, by all of us. Traditions have to be passed on the same as myths. Grandmothers are a source of wisdom for future generations. I am writing because I believe, stories and tales, myths, magic, words are the most important tools to teach, to create, to nourish one’s soul, to inspire and to give hope. We are not alone, words connect us to each other.

 Do you have any other books or projects  underway that you would like the readers to be aware of?

 Skadi:

Oh yes. I am writing on a sequel to Malin and Hexe.  It might sound unusual as their stories are not directly connected but, both are based on one subject: How wars, political and social circumstances affect children’s souls throughout all times. There is a burning passion in me to write stories to give a voice to suffering and growing from it. I’d like to revive the old tales and ancient myths because they are there for a reason. If only to help us to survive, to give hope and make us understand the complexity of our history, leaving the actual facts to the historians. My intention is to look beyond the facts, to grasp the myths and pass the essence on. After all, meanwhile I’m a grandmother of 10 grandchildren J. They are my inspiration.

It has been a great pleasure to do this interview with you and that you and your books are a great inspiration to me, as a writer and a woman.

 

Further Information:

Order MALIN AND THE WOLF CHILDREN:   http://www.amazon.com/Malin-Wolf-Children-Skadi-Winter/dp/1496999851

Customer Reviews MALIN AND THE WOLF CHILDREN: http://www.amazon.com/Malin-Wolf-Children-Skadi-Winter/dp/1496999851


Follow Skadi Winter:

Website: http://skadiwinterlive.wordpress.com/

Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7240407.Skadi_Winter

Twitter:        https://twitter.com/skadiwinter1

Facebook:  http://facebook.com/skadiwinterwriter

 

Book Review Malin and the Wolf Children by Skadi Winter

Malin and the Wolf ChildrenMalin and the Wolf Children by Skadi Winter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Malin and the Wolf Children, written by Skadi Winters is a story about a young German girl, Malin, who must survive alone in war-ravaged Germany and Poland in 1945. Malin’s odyssey begins with her escape to the woods after she is brutally raped by enemy soldiers. In her journey into warfare’s darkness, she must find the resilience to survive in dead winter against all odds that advancing troops might harm her again. Determined to find her family, Malin garners strength to overcome the obstacles she faces by embracing fond memories of her childhood and tales told by her Grandmother about ancient gods and goddesses of the forest. Along the way she meets other orphaned children scavenging for food and shelter like a pack of wolves. To survive, she must accept help from strangers who may be as evil as the vengeful soldiers stomping through the countryside. Ultimately, this is a thought-provoking story about Malin finding hope that life can renew from destruction and that kindness can overcome the cruelty of revenge. She is a witness to the horrors of war, but she chooses not to lose her soul as a result of it. I highly recommend this beautifully written book that reminds me of an ancient legend where heroes/heroines transform during their epic journey.

Malin and the Wolf Children http://www.amazon.com/Malin-Wolf-Chil…

View all my reviews

You can follow Skadi Winter at the following:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/skadiwinter1
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/silviarahmanitehrani
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7240407.Skadi_Winter?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=facebook_tab

Celtic Tarot Card Meanings

Introduction D.N. Frost

It is a great pleasure to reintroduce D.N. Frost who has graciously agreed to provide another guest post about the rich symbolism of nature used in Celtic tarot cards. She is a talented fantasy author, cartographer, and world builder with a passion for Celtic mythology and traditions. I’ve had the privilege of working with her to create a map and world for my current project on Apollo’s Raven.

Welcome D. N. Frost! I encourage everyone to learn more about her ongoing projects on mapping and world-building and her epic saga Tales of the Known World which you can download electronically from her site.

Guest Post: D.N. Frost |Celtic Tarot Card Meaning | Apollo’s Raven

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Hello there! My name is D.N.Frost, and I’m the fantasy author, cartographer, and world-builder behind the epic saga Tales of the Known World. I love delving into the mythology and traditions of different cultures, and this guest post for Linnea Tanner was inspired by my love of Celtic mysticism. Enjoy!

The world of the ancient Celts is teemed with layers of meaning and symbols drawn from nature. Many of these assorted myths and traditions were amassed in detail by Anna Franklin, a well-known Celtic Pagan authority in the British Isles. One of her books accompanied a Celtic-themed tarot deck, and though tarot only dates back to the 15th century, the book and cards are steeped in ancient Celtic heritage.

This Celtic Tarot card depicts a Celtic shaman, alone in the forest with his familiar, the wolf.

Celtic Tarot Card: The Shaman

Celtic Tarot Card: The Shaman

Wearing deerskin, this shaman sits at his cauldron, beating his bodhran drum to call to the spirits. He brews a potion that helps him engage the spirit world, and a few of the potion’s ingredients surround him, notably the sacred herb vervain.

The path of the Celtic shaman was strongly tied to the land and the cycle of the seasons. By honoring the spirits of nature and learning their wisdom, a shaman sought to transform himself and expand his awareness. Conscious of the subtle connection between all things, Celtic shamans recognized the sacredness within everything, allowing them to form a bridge between the spirit world and the human world.

This shaman is shown brewing a sacred potion called the Cauldron of Ceridwen, which was believed to inspire eloquence and prophesy in those who drank it. This magic potion contained a number of ingredients, including rowan berries, sea foam, “Taliesin’s cresses, Gwion’s silver, flixweed, and vervain” picked on moonless nights (Franklin, 83). This potion was also used to create the Gwin or Bragwod drink used in sacred initiations, though the initiates drank it mixed with wine and barley meal.

The Celtic goddess Ceridwen is said to have captured the wisdom of the Three Realms in her potion. She charged the youth Gwion to keep the fire going beneath her cauldron, and one day he splashed three drops onto his finger. When he put his finger into his mouth to soothe the burn, Gwion instantly became one with the past, present, and future of all things. The knowledge frightened him, and Ceridwen decided to test his worthiness by appearing as a terrifying beast. Gwion fled, taking on the forms of different animal familiars, and these animal spirits helped him integrate his new knowledge. The goddess continued chasing him until Gwion took the form of a grain of wheat, and Ceridwen ate him. Nine months later, she gave birth to him as Taliesin, meaning “radiant brow.”

This legend of consumption and rebirth symbolized how shamanic initiates had to be absorbed into the womb of the goddess before emerging wiser and forever changed. The harvest festival of Samhain celebrated the two aspects of this divine womb, both the dormant seed that lies within, and the wisdom shared from the spirit world. This celebration used the herb vervain, an ingredient in Ceridwen’s potion and one of the most sacred herbs for the Celtic druids. Vervain was only gathered on moonless nights when the “dog star” Sirius was rising, and Celtic lore associates the wisdom of this herb with the wisdom of the wolf.

Ancient Celts viewed the wolf with awe and respect. Considered very wise, the wolf only chose to share its wisdom with certain people, and many shamans sought the wolf as their familiar. The wizard Merlin was said to have an old wolf companion during his years as a forest hermit. The white wolf Emhain Abhlac once met the druid Bobaran, who threw three rowan berries at the wolf, three into the air, and three into his own mouth to receive the wolf’s wisdom. The Gundestrup cauldron shows a wolf beside the horned god Cernunnos, and the goddess Brighid is often shown with a wolf nearby. The wolf was a totem guardian of Britain, and one of Brighid’s four sacred animals.

According to the ancient Celts, the winter quarter of the year was ruled by the wolf. Winter was a dead time, a time of purification while the earth rested in darkness and grew ready for the rebirth of spring. This period stretched from Samhain in October to the Imbolc festival in February, which celebrated the goddess Brighid with a giant feast. In ancient Gaelic, the month of February was known as Faoilleach, which can translate to “the wolf month,” “the storm month,” or “the month of bleak death.” For the Celtic shaman, the wolf taught about instincts and psychic intuition, as well as the cyclical powers of the moon. The wolf’s wisdom guided shamans to trust their inner voice and to seek their answers within.

This Celtic Tarot card depicts the warrior queen Boudicca of the equestrian Iceni people.

Celtic Tariot Card: The Chariot

Celtic Tarot Card: The Chariot

Boudicca led the Iceni tribe to fight the ancient Romans as they sought to conquer Britain. With woad spirals on her face, she cracks a whip from atop her chariot, drawn by one black horse and one white horse.

Horses were known as the chosen mounts of the gods, particularly the sun and moon deities. They symbolized the virility of the land itself, as well as strength and swiftness. The Iceni tribe derived their name from the word for horse, and Britain’s horse cults predate the arrival of the ancient Celts. Horses were shown on the earliest Celtic coins, and they were common god or totem creatures through the Iron Age and into the Bronze Age. For ancient Celts, horses represented the instinctive aspects of humanity, which often needed to be tamed and controlled. The horse’s master used the bit and bridle to control his horse, and this symbolized the intellect that tempered destructive impulses. While horses symbolized raw life-force, the reigns betokened the willpower and intelligence needed to harness this life-force effectively.

Fal, the Celtic god of horses and hounds, symbolized light within the darkness. In the cycle of the year, the northern quarter was called the Plain of Fal, associated with wisdom and truth. The Stone of Fal was the station of the yearly cycle connected with the winter solstice, when the midwinter sun was reborn. Ancient Celts believed this was when the horse goddess Rhiannon gave birth to her son. White horses represented the sun and were affiliated with the light of spring and summer. Like other white animals, white horses symbolized sky deities to the ancient Celts, while black animals were correlated with Underworld deities. Black horses, generally considered unlucky, were connected with the darkness of autumn and winter, as well as with the Underworld. They were an omen of death, symbolic of funerals and of chaos. A black horse was said to rule the twelve days of midwinter chaos between the old and new year.

Modern Celtic folklore still honors horses, and the horsing ceremonies of midwinter depict a play of death and resurrection. Also, May’s Beltane festival features the Hobby Horses of Padstow and Minehead. A black horse winds through town in a musical parade, and it falls to the ground whenever the music stops. Each time, the horse rises again when the music resumes, until the parade dies down at midnight. Then the sinister horse is considered truly dead, until it is born again in the fall.

This Celtic Tarot card depicts the Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire, England.

Celtic Tarot Card: Seven of Swords

Celtic Tarot Card: Seven of Swords

The hillsides of Britain are carved with many chalk horses, but this is the oldest carving, dating to around 1400 BCE. Sacred to both the ancient Celts and the earlier peoples of Britain, horses fostered the spread of Celtic civilization with their swiftness and strength.

Though ancient Celts carved the Uffington horse, the site was important to Britain’s Neolithic people. Well before the carving, the hill was part of a ley network said to harness dragon power. In fact, there is some dispute that the Uffington horse is really a dragon, since it looks down on Dragon Hill, where St. George allegedly slew a mighty dragon. It is said that nothing will grow where the dragon’s spilled blood poisoned the ground, and to this day there is a bare patch atop the hill. Near the head of the Uffington horse is a Bronze Age burial mound, and less than a mile away is a Neolithic burial chamber known as Wayland’s Smithy. There, legend has it, a magical blacksmith forged the shoes for the giant Uffington horse.

Ancient Celts believed that dead souls rode to the Underworld on horseback, and that horses carried living souls to and from the spirit world. Gods and shamans traveled through the axis mundi, or World Tree, and they tethered their horses to this tree before making the journey. Famously, the hero Conan traveled to the Otherworld on Aonbharr, the steed of the sea god Manannan. Aonbharr was said to make her rider invulnerable to any attack. According to Celtic lore, the white horse of the elf queen took Thomas the Rhymer to the land of the fairies, and Tam Lin stole a white horse to escape that fairy realm.

I hope you enjoyed this foray into the world of the ancient Celts! For more fun with prophesy and magic, visit me at DNFrost.com, on Twitter @DNFrost13, and on my Facebook page.

My love of cultures and mythology inspired an epic fantasy saga.

Let me send you my free ebook today!

References

  1. Anna Franklin, The Sacred Circle Tarot: A Celtic Pagan Journey; Llewellyn Publications, 2000.
  2. Paul Mason, The Shaman; Mixed media illustration. Sacred Circle Tarot: A Celtic Pagan Journey; Llewellyn Publications, 2000.
  3. Paul Mason, The Chariot; Mixed media illustration. Sacred Circle Tarot: A Celtic Pagan Journey; Llewellyn Publications, 2000.
  4. Paul Mason, Diplomacy: The Seven of Swords; Mixed media illustration. Sacred Circle Tarot: A Celtic Pagan Journey; Llewellyn Publications, 2000.