April Daisies

Daisy, the flower of April, is associated with the planet Venus and the deities Freya, Artemis (Diana), and Thor.

“April showers bring May flowers,” they say. But its nearly April and April flowers are pretty important as well.

Daisy was said to have sprung from the tears of Mary Magdalen and associated with April whose “showers are sweet with fruit” according to Geoffrey Chaucer. Daisy is a “feminine” flower whose element is water (according to the alchemists). According to an old saying, spring has not fully arrived until you can step on 12 daisies. Daisy can be used in magic to promote lust and love. Thor used daisy-chains when he disguised himself as Freya to fool the giant  Thrymer, who wanted Freya as his wife.

When you were little, do you remember plucking the petals of a daisy while reciting, “S/he loves, s/he loves me not?” I remember my aunt plucking a daisy from my grandparents’ garden and asking the flower this question about her fiancé. This repetitive questioning will reveal the true feelings of a potential lover. Picking the first daisy of the season will make you an uncontrolled flirt and sleeping with a daisy under your pillow will bring an absent lover back to you.

Daisy can be eaten to relieve stomach ulcers (as Henry VIII did). King Henry’s family came from Wales, where daisy was used to cure insanity, treat smallpox, tumors, jaundice and skin diseases. According to an ancient Celtic legend, daisies came from the spirits of children who died at birth; therefore daisies are also associated with innocence.

Spring and innocence and love all go together, right? Pluck a daisy and hold all three in your hand. Gather a vaseful of April daisies and attract spring and innocence and love to your house.

“Is fiction, which makes fact alive, fact too?”

Alexandra Cheira, a scholar of fairy tales and mythology at the University of Lisbon, recently presented a paper about the Come Hell or High Water trilogy at a conference. Her paper examines the relationship between historical fact and legend in the books; she uses the question Robert Browning asks in The Ring and the Book as the title for her paper (and I use it for the title of this post). Alexandra says that the interplay of fact and fairy tale in trilogy presents “a whole picture of the city, in which well-done research is matched by believable story-telling, so much so that the realistic narrative is interspersed by supernatural occurrences which do not strike even the most skeptical reader as out of character.”

She also writes that “the narrative structure is also well-balanced between realism and fantasy, with the description of the conferences, the delegates and the general camaraderie that accompanies them acting as a down-to-earth catalyst for the supernatural parts. The narrative tone is informed – but never lecturing – and the reader does actually learn a lot on a variety of subjects without realizing it.”

Alexandra concludes, “All in all, Morris has managed to create an urban-historical fantasy which pairs fiction and fact and brings to question what is real and what is imagined. ‘Fiction’ is an aid to ‘fact,’ something that can better a story, so that Morris’s ‘fictional facts’ do indeed ring true in the wider context of the novels.”

I am very happy that Alexandra chose to discuss Come Hell or High Water in her paper at the conference. As with all good critiques, she taught ME something about the books that I had not realized as I was writing them!

Santa Muerte

Santa Muerte? Any relation to “Santa Claus?” Nope! Read on!

The Eric Carter trilogy by Stephen Blackmoore is one of the best series of urban fantasy on par with Dresden Files , by Jim Butcher, in its imaginative use of folklore, myth, and artistic creativity.

Eric Carter, a necromancer who not only sees dead people but can cross back-and-forth between the realm of the living and the dead and can cajole the dead in various ways, flees from Los Angeles to keep his family and friends safe from a gangster who is threatening him through them. But his sister is murdered and he returns to LA to find the killer and bring him (or her?) to justice. Discovering that the murder was not only horrific but magickal as well, Eric is forced to seek the assistance of Santa Muerte, one the goddesses of death. This assistance comes — of course! — with a hefty price tag which comes due in the second book of the series. (Hungry Ghosts, the third and final installment of the series was finally released last month, at the beginning of February. I have been looking forward to it since its original release date, which was scheduled for last July!)

Santa Muerte has been in the news herself recently. The Roman Catholic bishops in US condemned the very popular cult of Santa Muerte, which is growing rapidly and spreading across the southwestern US. Although the goddess has roots in the medieval “art of dying” handbooks that people consulted in order to prepare for a good death or dying in a holy manner, her modern devotees seem to often be drug dealers or paid killers. (The medieval handbooks are still good to consult as we modern folk prepare to face our own mortality. We will all die, although most of us pretend that we will never die. Preparing to face death is better than being surprised; making plans for how we wish to die is a good thing whether we die in the 15th century or the 21st.)