The Worlds of Fantasy, Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction: Myth, Character, Magic and Plot
Articles by A. R. Stone
The pages that follow may be very difficult for you to understand in one sitting. I'm distilling down for you almost ten years of study. However, if you have taken writing classes and haven't heard much on plot, try to plow through some of this. Most writers approach plot unconsciously or with a few directions such as "beginning, middle, end" that you might have learned in High School. All I can tell you to encourage your study is that once you start seeing the maps described below, plotting becomes easy, fun, and transparent (meaning you can see it in everything you read). However, a word of caution: we are dealing here with the world of art. By necessity, art is abbreviation and gesture at reality. You will see this four-fold pattern in everything created by humans, but it is not human, it is only a creation. A real human could never be put down in a book--he's way too complex. But we're not writing about humans (or elves, or balrogs); we're writing about the art of humanity, or a psychological shorthand that points at things human. Our language is so good at this that we can say things about people that are based on stories, even phrases have to be understood in context and are extremely difficult for foreigners like "let the cat out of the bag" and "she was willowy and pliant, but withstood every storm". We say things in shorthand all the time, like "elves" which now implies a whole culture of elves that has nothing to do with reality. Except that it does, because it is part of the reality of a created language or story, which is what we are doing here. Language is what humans do; whether it first started as a territorial thing or a simple process of social communication, it is so complex now that it's a good chunk of what humans do.
I debated about whether to break this up into separate pages, or to repeat the same information with a SF twist, but I think it's important to try to read it all, even if you're not into magic. As a friend of mine said, "magic is technology so far advanced that we can't understand it. It'll make your work better. If you were to leap from page to page, you might understand it in the same amount of time, but it would be more confusing. So bear with me if some of this sounds familiar at first and keep reading for the familiar path always leads through the wood to a new land.
A note to Science Fiction writers: please be patient with the references to magic. This is because any technology that is far enough ahead of the real world will look like magic. You may also substitute "technological tricks" in the place of magic.
What is a story? Aristotle defines a story as the passage of a happy man thought unhappiness and back again or vice-versa (one comedy the other tragedy). Most people think of a story as having a beginning, middle and end. Something is resolved or some battle is won or lost. Although stories can be about anything, even animal stories are often human stories in disguise, so a story is usually about a person. A story can be very short or very long and can be about anything in the range of human experience.
For us, as writers, there are two other considerations: do you want someone to read it (like it) and do you want to sell it? (Hopefully many people like it!) I know this sounds kind of lame, but think about it. You are an individual and the chance of you liking a story that you write is pretty high, or would be except that you're trying to write like Tolkien or Herbert. The greater the audience you hope to attract, the slimmer the chance that everyone will like your story. So, if you're of the mercenary bend, you write what you think is popular; if you're of the artistic bend, you think the public should go to hell; most of us are somewhere in between. We want to make a living writing, but we love what we do and it's not fun, but okay to wait tables inbetween sales.
Despite what many writers have thought, editors are not in this business to make us miserable. They are editors because they like to read, and they like writing, and they want to make a living in the business, same as us. Many are writers or want to be writers. It takes talent to be an editor, talent that I don't have (since I'm dyslexic). Editors do you favors every day. They publish their specs or what their audience wants to read, if they know. Some have an intution about this and only know if a story works if they see it. Now, that's frustrating for everyone concerned. But most try to get beyond the basics and tell you what they like. That's where ghettos and genres come in. An editor will tell you that they only publish Steampunk and you go "huh?" and go look it up and try to write a Steampunk story. Site such as the Fantasy pages at Wikipedia go into great details of the sub-genres of Science Fiction and Fantasy. You read some stories, try to get an idea of how to proceed and copy the genre models. This technique is as old as man and works well, but not for everyone. Most sub-genres indicate setting or level of technology or kind of magic. A few, as seen below, will indicate a type of story or a character preference.
It is not always easy to bring a sub-conscious process like mimicry to light. But once it is there, you may wonder why you didn't see it before. Such is the case with plotting, the one thing every writing teacher absolutely hates to teach. But they will start you with the basics: beginning, middle, end. They will draw you a diagram that looks like this:
If this doesn't look familar, start taking notes; if it does, pardon the review. This is the plot map for a standard movie, short book or novela. In a short story there is usually no first conflict or dark moment, depending on how long the story is. The story is divided into thirds, with the last third divided into the climax and denouement. Notice that the action line is much sharper up to the climax. "Denouement" just means "wrap up". Let's take a familar story, say, Star Wars: A New Hope in which Luke Skywalker becomes a Jedi Knight and rescues Princess Leia. He's just wandering along and the first conflict is about a third of the way into the movie, about the time they leave the planet. Which makes the first conflict the effort to get past the Imperial cruisers and make the first jump to light speed. Obi Wan is with them and they're off to rescue Leia. The dark moment is two thirds through the movie and is when Luke realizes that Obi Wan just gave his life to get them free of the Death Star. Then the climax ramps up pretty fast and takes place with the dogfight to destroy the Death Star. The denouement is Luke and Han Solo receiving their medals and joining the rebellion. Pretty simple. But doesn't tell you much about all the stuff in between.
You can go through story after story and find a similar pattern. Althought The Lord of Rings is much, much longer, the patter is similar: Frodo wins through to Rivendell as the first conflict; they lose Gandalf in Moria as the dark moment, the climax is not then the defeat of Saruman, but the battle for Minas Tirith which goes on through the battle at the dark gate and the denouement as the marriage of Aragorn, the scouring of the Shire and the journey to the Havens. As you can see, quite a bit more stuff in between....
So, if we were to divide a movie, play or story into acts, you can see that this is what it would look like. In Hollywood jargon, the first conflict is now the first threshhold, the dark moment is the supreme ordeal, and the rest is the same. This is because Hollywood adopted a "cheat sheet" off of a plot that Joseph Campbell calls "the hero's journey".
Chris Vogler is the author of a best-selling books called, The Writer's Journey after Joseph Campbell's best selling book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces in which he describes "the hero's journey". If you are writing for the movies, PAY ATTENTION!!!! Most movies want this plot and this plot only. They will go so far as to take a book plot and twist it to fit this cookie cutter plot model. Yes, by my tone, these two books got my gall up. But I have my reasons; they are not trite, nor are they without reason. But this kind of story is a valid story and a popular story. I'd say "pardon the pun" but you won't get it until after you've read these pages. Sorry.
I strongly urge you to read both these books, but here it is in a nutshell. Campbell, after looking at thousands of myths, thought he discovered a monomyth that he called the "hero's journey". He took the standard plot model and made it a cycle like this:
Recognize some of the jargon? Here is the first threshhold and the supreme ordeal and the return is just the climax and denouement. Now here is the important part. Campbell recognized that the hero starts his journey in the ordinary world. (Remember Aristotle?) He then recognizes something wrong in the world and makes a journey into the OTHER WORLD (MAGICAL WORLD) where he battles for something to save his own world and then must return. The first threshhold is the gate to the magical world. In old myths, this gate was usually a gate to hell or the land of the dead, etc., etc. In shamanistic rituals this gate is very familiar and the shaman must pay a price to enter into the land where he can become a bird or animal or spirit. In fairy tales this threshhold is usually a wood, in many movies (i.e. Star Wars) is is a bar. There are always guardians at the gate so the hero must battle these guardians to prove himself worthy to go into space or go into the spirit world or pass into the world of the story. The passage through the gate is always a third into the story.
Campbell, using the language of myth, has our hero underground, so the approach to the innermost cave is merely the approach for the supreme ordeal. For Luke, it is a kind of cave as he and his friends must try to negotiate through the Death Star to save the princess. Usually in a hero's journey the hero is going to save a princess and must confront an aspect of his father which, in Luke's case, is an actual father, but always takes on the form of a powerful male who tests the hero, often killing one of his friends or brings the hero or one of his friends to near death. At the supreme ordeal, the cost is life, as in the case with Obi Wan. This is a magical way of saying that the hero must sacrifice part of himself that represents the problem with the old order. In Obi Wan's case, he is the last of the old order of Jedi. In Frodo's case, Gandalf is the last of the wizards, despite the fact that the evil wizards (Saruman and Sauron, Darth Vader and the Emperor) are still at large. Always, always, this sacrifice is answered by resurrection. Gandalf comes back cleansed, Obi Wan appears to Luke as a shining spirit. In many stories the resurrection/death ordeal is much more subtle, but it is always there in the hero's journey.
Then the hero must get himself out with the elixir of life and the princess (in Luke's case the Death Star plans and Leia, in Frodo's case, the phial of Galadriel or the ring and the Elves) and return to save the world. It is only by using the elixir that he can defeat the power image of his father. You'll see that in The Lord of Rings this situation is a little bit confused, but in The Hobbit it is very clear in that Bilbo uses the ring to confront Smaug. You must understand that people take some liberties with plot and sometimes stuff doesn't fit quite as well as Hollywood would have it fit. Here below is this journey written out in the stages put forth by Campbell.
You will note that Vogler's plot is right next to it, divided into acts. In the next section I shall compare several plots to get you familiar with the way this list maps onto real stories. You can see by these two lists that each author uses different jargon, but "the belly of the whale" is essentially the Death Star or Mordor and the Vale of the Anduin and the threshhold is the bar at Mos Eisley or Moria/Lothlorien/Cirith Ungor. For Bilbo, in a shorter story, the threshhold is the pass over the mountains beginning with the troll scene and ending with the goblins and Gollum; the belly of the whale is Mirkwood, the goblin lair or Smaug's hideout.
Tolkien didn't write too much about women, but in another hero's journey, The Matrix the center part of the story is very clear. For Neo, the threshhold is very sharp, starting with the bar scene and ending with his waking up on the Nebuchadnezzar and the belly of the whale is all the twisting, winding tunnels under New York. He has met the goddess, Trinity, and she represents tempation, in leading him to Morpheus, but she also represents the elixir although she shares this with the Oracle in a split casting where the female also serves as a companion of battle rather than as Leia does, a female that needs to be rescued. Morpheus acts as the father figure in The Matrix and ultimately ends up in that chair, almost killed by Smith. Neo goes through a clear apotheosis (turning into a god figure) in that he must beat the matrix at its own game, becoming "the One". Luke, too, ends up going through a transformation and becomes a Jedi. Frodo's transformation is a little different, but the other hobbits go through clear transformations into warriors. The ultimate boon is power over the world, the ring, the plans, the code--whatever makes the magical world tick.
Finally, in Campbell's map, the return is quite the involved process often with the hero refusing to return. Remember that in The Lord of Rings Frodo finally puts on the ring and declares that he has given in to its power. But usually, the hero is eager to return. But note, he cannot return until he understands that he has to rescue himself. So the outward elixir becomes an inner "fix" in that he becomes the nature of the elixir and is able to put the magic into being. Thus Luke is able to "follow the force" and Neo is able to cast his doubts aside and overcome the bullets of his mind and revive himself. In the end, he is the master of both worlds, having become a god in the magical world (or wizard or warrior) and then returning to the everyday world as a different person that people now respect and admire. Frodo, in a tragic ending, was never able to master the ring, and so gave up mastery altogether and departed for the West. But Bilbo became both a successful thief, respected by dwarves and elves and also regained his position at Hobbiton, rich and respected, but also suspected of being eccentric. Tolkien, less optimistic than Hollywood, never had his heroes able to "go home again". This is obvious when you look at the two World Wars in that Tolkien was British and returned to a destroyed and changed world and the "boys who went over there" largely were able to come home heroes.
Briefly, Vogler abbreviates and modernizes Campbell's myth map into a plot map. Note the rolling climax. This is obvious in something as involves as The Lord of Rings. There is some difference in that his resurrection is later than the apotheosis, but he also has a death and rebirth at his supreme ordeal. What he means by "resurrection" is the "rescue from within" where Luke hears Obi Wan say, "use the force, Luke", and goes with that. So Obi Wan dies in the supreme ordeal but is resurrected in Luke in the "resurrection" or "rescue from within".
In this section, I will get specific so that you can understand this plot structure without having to beat your brain in or read the books! Here is the one for Star Wars: A New Hope
I described a little of this movie plot earlier, but here it is summed up. Note that this summary is very little of what is in the two books I mentioned. Much of what they talk about is the different characters involved which I go into later.
Again, I described this plot earlier, but you can see how it also conforms to this map. I will repeat, if you want to succeed in Hollywood or doing a story that will become a movie, this plot is demanded in most movies that are action movies with heroes. I'll go into different movie genres later.
Here is a different story, Harry Potter and the Sorcer's Stone. J. K. Rowling did not deviate from this structure, so much so, that the game within the game (play within the play) of Quidditch follows the same formula. Note that in children's stories as in some books like Tolkien's work, the female is not so much a temptress or goddess as a companion (Hermoine) or even a gesture or an idea or an entire people (Tolkien's elves).
Over and over, you will see this heroic plot structure. Chose a movie or book with an obvious hero and take notes while you watch the movie. Don't be fooled by some movies where the hero is a girl Romancing the Stone or the hero's companion is a girl and the mother/elixir is something artistic as in the movie The Fifth Element. Some movies are very obvious like Men in Black II and some are not because the hero is not typical as in X-Men I. Sometimes as in the X-men movies, Hollywood has tried to take a main character from another kind of story and force him (or her) into a heroic plot. This is one of the many problems I shall discuss in the next section.
One note before I go on. With long, epics such as The Lord of Rings or George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire you can break up the stories into sub-stories that follow this pattern. Tolkien originally envisioned The Lord of Rings to be five books. Take his structure and put it into the pattern like so:
This can also be done with the trilogy structure of the movies and published books. For Martin and others who follow multiple story lines, each character must have their own path. Heroic characters with this kind of path in Martin's works are: Jon Snow and Daenerys, the Dragon Queen. The other characters are interesting in that they support much of my contention that this plot is not a monomyth. I shall talk about the others, Tyrion, Arya, Bran, Caetlyn, Eddard, Jaime and even Cersei later.
There are serveral things wrong with this monomyth. One of the first things you may notice (or not) is that this story is a boy's story. Hollywood has tried to appease the Feminists in making movies in which the hero is a girl or the girl is not just a love interest but a companion and helps the hero or even mentor's the hero. But classically, a "chick flick" is not a hero's journey. I like to think of James Bond. James Bond is the movies' ultimate hero. Could we stomach James Bond as a woman? There have been woman villians and companions and even M has become a woman, but Bond, alas, can never be Janet Bond. The best heroic female on the screen is the character of Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider movies, played with such great ability by Angelina Jolie, probably the best heroine in the business. She's a sex bomb, yes, but she is unemotional (by comparison) competent and goes about her business without a lot of fuss with the males in the movie. But let's just say, in a nice way, that Campbell was pretty clueless about women and their myths and stories. To call the hero's journey a monomyth is like saying that Jesus is the only religious figure there ever was. Yes, yes, to some people he is, but to some people this plot is all there is, too. No, I'm not being sarcastic--I find it very sad that one of the greatest mythographers of all time could be so clueless.
The heroic model is extremely popular with speculative fiction, Fantasy, action movies, and sub-genres of Science Fiction, usually tagged as "Space Operas". However, part of the more serious problem with the hero's journey, much more of a problem than the original assumptions of gender and role, is that it's inappropriate for several genres of fiction and many sub-genres of speculative fiction. It is completely wrong for mystery and PI fiction, wrong for many Westerns, wrong for hardcore Science Fiction, wrong for Romance, and wrong for a whole slew of what I call "witch fiction" or "superpower fiction". Superman is a hero with a hero's journey motif, Batman is not. Storm is a hero with a hero's role, Jane Gray is not. The Time Machine is a hero's journey, Journey to the Center of the Earth and Andromeda Strain are not, yet all three are valid stories.
You won't believe what writers have gone through to try to overcome the heroic prejudice. One of the most tormented popular writers over this problem is Anne McCaffrey. She often tries to put a female in a heroic tale, but ends up with a plot bog down and an strange attempt to bring in a Romance into the story that sort of works but also blows up the whole story. She is an excellent writer with wonderful backgrounds, fabulous characters, good writing skills and terrible, tortured, tormented and often crappy plots. I hope to save you from this syndrome. The easy way out is to just write heroice tales, like above. The creative way out is to understand plot and understand where it belongs in the genres. Here is an example of a famous detective story that doesn't work as a hero's journey.
If you don't know this story, see the movie. Please. It's vital that you see movies or read stories that are not the hero's journey. This is because if you only see white, you won't believe in other colors. I challenged my writing friends to come up with other plots than the hero's journey. No one could, although a specialist in Romance or Mystery will tell you that plot construct without really understanding it. You can mimic other plot constucts, but you will be mimicking what you read (not that bad a way to learn) and have no basic understanding. So if you're suddenly challenged to write a Paranormal Romance, you're stuck if you haven't read fifty million Romance stories (gag!). If you want a Fantasy that will appeal to men, stick to the hero's journey; but don't expect the other half of the publishing dollars--all those best sellers that appeal to women. And no, they're not all "chick flicks". With understanding, you can really get creative and write in different characters in the "wrong" plot and PULL IT OFF. Although Hollywood appeals to the mass market, if you want to stay creative, you have to experiment. If you're a good writer, you'll be able to do plot. But if you wonder if by the thousandth time you've written the hero's journey if there is not more to life, then read on.
"'O Fintan,' said he, 'and Ireland, how has it been
partitioned, where have things been therein?'
"'Easy to say, said Fintan:
'knowledge in the west, battle in the north, prosperity in the east, music in
the south, kingship in the center.'"
- The Settling of the Manor of Tara
I came up with four monomyths (quadramyths?). They happen to nicely tie in with the four kinds of magic, a four-fold caste system that almost every Terran nation has experienced, the suits in the Tarot, and a host of other interesting maps that deal with this mystical journey. There are two "male" maps and two "female" in that these maps are not gender specific at all, but tend to fall into those categories, probably for historical reasons, if any. They are mirror maps, two and two. One is passive and one aggressive. Understanding these maps will answer questions that editors put to you such as: "why doesn't your main character show psychological problems and development?". Bear with me. This is hard at first and gets much, much easier.
If you study mythology, you keep coming across a Mystery which is called "four into five" or "twelve and thirteen". The Babylonians were obsessed with the numeral 4, the Celts with the numeral 13. A wonderful book on magic by Alwyn and Brinley Rees called, Celtic Heritage: Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales goes to great lengths on this Mystery, tying it to similar myths in India, confirming that the Aryan tradition was absorbed by this mystery. However, it is not limited to the European cultures, but is universal. What makes the study of Irish and Indian myths so interesting is that this is the place where this myth is tied to almost everything 4/5 and 12/13, such as cardinal directions, the twelve winds of Greece, the suits of cards, the four and five fold magical systems, and others too numerous to count.
This is a map of correspondences and the four-fold way. This is just to familiarize you with the mythic structure. It is interesting to note that the Indian map is tilted so that Air is in the East and Earth to the South, Water to the West and Fire to the North.
What does this have to do with story? Well, let's start with the hero. The hero is an Earth figure. I'll explain this below. The other three main characters in the quadromyth map are: the Trickster who can also be a detective, a paladin, an anti-hero, a crusader, or an underdog; the Witch who can also be a rockstar, a priest, a talent, a power, or a goddess of creation/destruction; and the Bride who can also be the pauper, the innocent, the queen, the prince, or the land. These characters show up in key roles at their different stages in OTHER stories. For instance, Obi Wan, as the Mentor, is the last incarnation of the Trickster. Trinity is an early incarntion of the Bride and the Oracle is the last incarnation of the Bride. Jane Gray has several incarnations as the Witch, both as the student of power and as the destructress. The hero also has several incarnations, some of whom show up in his own story, like Darth Vader. Who would have though Darth Vader a heroic figure until the first three movies came out?
There are several problems that I want to address that concern the paths of non-heroic characters, plots of non-heroic genres, and truncated plots, or plots that don't follow the full cycle. The story of Anakin Skywalker is the full heroic cycle, that of the movies I and IV are truncated. Romance stories are generally truncated Bride cycles, Mystery stories are truncated Trickster cycles. Stories like the movie The Doors and The French Lieutenant's Woman are truncated Witch stories. This shall get clearer as we go.
In the following sections, I will go into great detail about these myths and their interconnection. I ask you (I plead) to read the next section on the historical development of these myth-stories. It is essential if you are to argue for them or to really understand them. Unfortunately there is not much in books that really talks about this subject, so I shall try to go slowly.
What is magic?
According to the dictionary, "magic is the use of charms and spells believed to have supernatural power over natural forces". 1 Once upon a time, spells and charms were stories. A magician, sorcerer, witch or wizard was a person who could, through a story or tale, effect the course of nature. They could bring luck to their people. They could send bad luck to other people. They could heal a person or curse another. In the beginning, all magical people had the ability to intercede with the natural world through a story, a song, a dance or any other magical actions that would attune their minds to the world of the spirit. Stories and songs were the way that humans knew anything about the world that they could pass on to others. Stories and songs let them bind time and understand the patterns of nature. Stories and songs let them pass on information about how to do this and how not to do that.
To this day, the art of the storyteller is the oldest art and still holds everyone in the world enthralled by its charm. You could say that magic is tied closely with the ability to tell a tale, but that is only part of magic. Another part is the ability to remember things and translate them into story. Another part is the ability to use language to catch the attention of others and lead them on a journey into the magical, or taleteller's world. Stories were once incantations that stayed the same from generation to generation. Adept storytellers learned thousand of stories and repeated them exactly as they had been told for hundreds and hundreds of years. Classes of stories were told for certain events: births, deaths, marriages, initiations. Some stories were easy to remember, little rhymes like "April showers bring May flowers". Some stores were involved and difficult and took weeks to tell. Other stories had to be acted out or were so strange and wonderful that only a few people could hear them, only at certain times of the year or day, or only under certain conditions such as after dark or before a fire.
Stories are more effective under magical conditions. Stories told around a fire take on a power that stories told in daylight while working do not. Stories told in a theater are often more effective than stories told on the playground. The greatest stories work the greatest magic when the audience participates in the story, making of it a ritual. When several people get together at midnight and chant the same words doing the same actions and spin out a journey into the magical world, they are all changed. They have become magical. Their spirits have been loosened from the bonds of the everyday and they are aware of the world in a way that they were not before.
Where did magic begin?
For early humans, the entire world was alive. Fire was alive. Wind was alive. Stones were alive. They lived in small groups and wandered from place to place following game, staying in a valley for a season, moving on when their food supplies were used up. They pulled up all the good roots in an area, ate all the berries, and moved on to the next valley. Often they came back to the same areas each year where there was a river where the salmon would spawn, or there was a cave that was warm in winter, or there were other groups who had things to trade.
At that time, magicians and witches and sorcerers were individuals who were different from the others. A boy who was lame might chose to be a wizard. A girl who had a birthmark might be encouraged to be a witch. For some reason a person was distinguished from the others and thought to be closer to the magical world. The magical world was the world around. A magician or shaman was thought to be able to understand more of the natural world. Maybe a girl could speak the language of birds or a boy could understand the language of the stars. Sometimes this person was very smart or very adept at understanding others. A person singled out to have an ability will often try to improve that ability. A girl who was very sensitive to the illnesses of the sick might be encouraged to learn more about sickness and healing. A boy who was very tuned to the ways of animals might spend all his time watching animals and become more and more adept at understanding them.
These people were good at small magic. When someone was sick, they could bring relief and healing. They knew ways to help a person believe in health, a large part of healing. They could relieve depression and anger and often acted very much like psychologists. They had a skill in intervention that caused others to turn to them when they were in love or hated another person. Their knowledge could bring luck to the hunt or guide the group back to a place rich in food. Little by little, the others in the group grew to depend upon these odd characters who were closer to the natural world and the spirit world than to the world of humans. Many shamans developed odd personalities or were often distinguished by some problem that made them crazy like epilepsy or schizophrenia. Sometimes they did not enjoy the company of others, preferring a life of solitude that made them even closer to the spiritual world of nature. If you have gone hiking and have been somewhere by yourself for a long time, you can begin to understand what it is to grow closer to the world of the spirit through connecting yourself to nature and disconnecting yourself from the manic world of humans.
Shamans began to look for people who they could train to take their place. In larger groups there might be a lead shaman and other helpers. The wizards often invented rituals to help bring the group together such as we see today in sweat lodge fasts before a hunt or the initiation of the young.
The rains came and the grass grew and the animals grew fat and sleek. But sometimes the rain did not come, or the snows stayed late, or there was a flood or a fire and everyone starved. The shamans were very helpful to their groups, but people also believed that a shaman could be very bad. To protect themselves, shamans blamed other shamans for bad luck such as disease or famine or disaster. So most of the battles between groups were one group trying to kill another group's evil magician.
Over hundreds of thousands of years people mingled with other people and shared their knowledge about the world. They gave the spirits of great things identities. There was a spirit of fire and a spirit of wind and a spirit of the bear and the elk and the goose. A sorcerer could channel these spirits and often adopted a particular spirit as his or her own. In rituals that grew more and more elaborate, shamans would channel the energy of a certain animal helper. People set up hearths with fire to welcome the spirit of fire into their homes. Everything was luck and everything was bad luck. Wizards were very good at knowing what was lucky and what was not.
Over the millennia, more and more people flourished. Little by little their group's territories overlapped the territories of other groups. Sometimes the food in a certain area would be so depleted that fights would break out between groups. As it became harder and harder to find food, people began to get smarter. They learned to guide the herds of animals to better grazing. They learned to go back to a place over and over to get the same harvest and then to burn back the weeds and jungle from an area to encourage the plants they ate to grow there. The herds of animals began to get used to their human guides and the plants changed as humans selected for one trait over another making the crops more lush and easier to eat.
After a long time, some groups began to stay in the same area with their herds and their agriculture. And other groups learned that they could sweep in and steal the food from the group who had spent all year growing it. But not only did the farming group have to worry about raiders, they had to worry about plague and fire and other natural disasters, sometimes as simple as having enough rain during the planting and not too much rain during the harvest. Animals could get sick and a whole herd die out. The settled groups were extremely vulnerable and depended more and more on their shamans to help them with a world that grew more and more difficult to manage.
Shamans and magicians of settled groups had to appease the angry spirits and thank them properly when things went well. They had to organize defenses against raiders and floods and fires and all the things that threatened their people. As the populations grew and groups invaded the territory of other groups and merged, the world began to get more organized. Shamans were no longer individuals with gifts. They became schools of shamans with elaborate rituals to be performed by the entire community in thanks or to appease the spirits who were now organized into hierarchies of gods.
Sometimes a group of raiders would stay in an area and take what they wanted from the group in exchange for protecting the group from other raiders. Large nations of people emerged, ruled over by a group of warriors for protection from raiders and a group of priests for protection from the gods. The priests invented stories and rituals and tied the warriors up into the spirit world to help protect the crops and herds from disaster.
The shaman of the nomads was sometimes a person who could manipulate the magical world, trick it into doing what he wished or steal from it gifts for his people. The shaman could also be a crazy person or a wise fool or a sensitive who channeled the spirit energy and often could not control it very well without years and years of practice and discipline and ritual. But when groups became large enough and dependent upon agriculture, two other kinds of wizards emerged.
In the rituals, one person was needed that would represent the goddess of the earth. The nomadic ritual was a journey into the spirit world, often much like a hunt. The ritual of the agricultural world was a play of the planting and harvesting of the earth or the birth and sacrifice of the herd animals. The entire year was managed into holidays for each step of the agricultural world, planting, tending, and harvest. The main spirit to be appeased was the goddess of the earth who would bring rain and warmth and bring forth fruit. A person was chosen to represent this goddess, not as a channeler, but as a perfect image of the spiritual world.
The other person needed in these rituals was her consort, the seed and the essence to make the earth fertile and abundant. Over the years, the play became more and more elaborate and ritualized. Each year the consort would be planted and harvested, born and sacrificed. This god and goddess were the "luck charms" of the nation. As they were raised up to godhood, they lived in glorious splendor until the time of the death of the consort. In his death, the consort would bless the land and take all the bad spiritual energy of the people out of their lives. His death would appease the gods and cleanse the people of sin and anger and fear.
At first, kings and queens were chosen. Then they were born into the warrior caste. But as the kings grew more powerful, they feared dying and began to choose scapegoat "play" kings to take their place every year. The priests began to devise more and more complicated ways to try to keep control over the spiritual world and the kings. A dance of power permeated the entire life of most people past 4000 BC as the masters of the material world struggled with the masters of the spiritual world.
The agricultural community was divided into subgroups or castes. There was a caste of slaves and serfs to do all the work in the fields. There was a group of managers and merchants who organized the laborers, and knew when to plant and when to harvest and how to store the grains and meat for times of famine. There was the caste of warriors who protected the people but also lived off the fruits of their labor. And there was a caste of priests who managed the spirit world, but also passed on all the knowledge of previous generations.
The priests specialized in knowledge of all kinds. Mathematics, astronomy, astrology, history, poetry, medicine, were among their talents as well as a knowledge of all the stories of the gods and the rituals to appease them. They survived by taking tithes from the rest of the nation in exchange for interacting with the gods. Among them were people of science as well as people who acted as oracles and channelers of all kinds of spiritual energies.
The warrior/nobles specialized in war and law and personal achievement and fame. They contended with one another for power and position, each one wanting to be the king over all the rest. They developed highly ritualized codes of honor and set up schools of war and combat. They were arrogant and loved to argue whether in court or on the battlefield. They survived by collecting taxes from those they ruled and confiscating loot from those they conquered. In exchange they had to sacrifice their best and brightest in war or to the gods to protect the people they ruled.
The farmers and merchants founded their caste on the values of group cooperation and self-sacrifice. They amassed personal wealth, but they were the real power behind the throne. They were courageous and honest and generous. They loved beauty and goodness and abhorred anyone who was dishonest in his dealings or unable to give all he possessed when he had to. For them, sports was all and betting on sports was a chief pleasure. Their teams played and did not combat, for team spirit demanded that each man act with honor and obeyed the rules of the game. They valued members of the warrior caste for their physical skills and legal knowledge and members of the priest caste for their problem solving abilities and their praise.
The last caste was the caste of hard-working honest folk who were the salt of the earth. They bled for the earth and slaved for the earth and gave to the earth. Among them beauty and physical prowess were the highest achievements. For them, the only way to advance in life was to journey into the world of magic and defeat some threatening monster, not only with tricks and secret knowledge and courage, but with luck. Luck was all to this caste. From them were drawn the scapegoats and the sacrifices, but for them, the spirit world would be heaven after they died. They were closest to the world of the spirits although they did not understand or rule it or own it.
1 Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, 1979, G. & G. Merrriam Co.
Most religions are organized around these castes. None better than magic or Wicca. One of the results of this old learning is the Tarot Cards with their four fold suit that shows up in modern playing cards: Earth/Disks/Diamonds, Water/Cups/Hearts, Fire/Wands/Clubs, and Air/Swords/Spades.
In Fantasy, as well as mythology, the story "rings" true if it is tied to the old myths. J. K. Rowling's series rings true to the old myths. At Hogwarts School of Magic, we can see clearly the four castes. They are: Ravenclaw, (Wands) for the gifted people of pure talent, Hufflepuff, (Cups) for the hard workers of beauty, Griffindor, (Disks) for the pure of heart courageous defenders of light, and Slitherin, (Swords) for the contentious elite who value honor and magical power. Because Harry is a defender of Griffindor, he pulls out the warrior's sword from the sorting hat, yet uses it for defense, not for his own ambition. He plays a team sport and is valued, not for his high marks or hard work, but for his goodness and courage.
It seemed obvious to me, after years of looking at Tarot cards, that they had been passed down in an incomplete or "bastardized" form. After looking at Aleister Crowley's attempts to reconcile the Major Arcana with the Kabbala and the Zodiac, I began to take a closer look at what could be done to help the Tarot to be more true to Western mythology and correspondence systems. I came to two conclusions. One, the Minor Arcana is missing a set of cards. Two, the Major Arcana is obviously the path the initiate takes to enlightenment and ties in with the path a person takes through spiritual life. They correspond too well to the various stories of the dark/light king's journey aided by the priestess, queen lover, crone goddess.
The Major Arcana is proposed to be a set of "force" cards acting upon the royal members of the suits, with the number cards of the suits showing positions along the path of action. Thus a fortune teller casts a fortune, the royalty cards stand in for people, and the major cards stand in for spiritual forces that influence the question. It seems to me that the major cards stand for levels of awareness or levels of development along the spiritual path. In studying some aspects of Sufism, a esoteric development out of Islam, it became obvious to me that the positions of the Major Arcana were similar to the Sufi "nafs". "Nafs" is related to the Hebrew "nephesh" or soul. It means something similiar to personality or the points of personality developed in a person by which the spiritual self is defined or ill-defined. Specifically, I see the points in the Major Arcana matching up with the animal, human and accusing nafs of Sufi spiritual development. They are also similar to many other esoteric levels of development.
The Sufis speak of a hierarchical arrangement of vegetative nafs, (reproduction, growth, nutrition); animal nafs, (rage force, sensual force, unconcious forces such as memory, imagination, and association, conscious perceptions); accusing nafs (super ego); inspired nafs; secure nafs; fulfilled nafs; fulfilling nafs; and complete nafs. The first card, the Fool, is the animal human and the next six cards are the journey out of the animal, including the Empress (sensual force) and the Emperor (rage force); the Chariot card begins the next flight of the human and accusing nafs as the initiate is born into self-awareness and goes through the various guilt, shame, and abstinence required to transcend his humanity; and after Death, Art begins the journey into the renunciation and poverty of the higher nafs until the integrated being is obtained at card number 22, named 21 which is the World.
Although the nafs do not fit perfectly, I believe that the intention is there in the three flights of seven cards in which each flight is closed with the purpose of that level. The first flight being the consummation of the marriage where the immature animal finally matures into the human consciousness; the second ending in the death of the ego and the transcendence through death and change into the ability to overcome the forces that run the self as a human such as self-accusation, intellect, sacrifice and blame; and the third ending in a card that signifies the loss of time and the gaining of the awareness of a larger picture after the initiate follows the sometimes twisted path of the saint.
This would be my reinterpretation of the Major Arcana cards:
Whether or not the cards were negative or positive might be whether or not a person was obsessed with achieving such a state (or losing it) or whether or not a person was absorbed in one state without awareness of that fact. The particular aspects of the state should be influenced by the Minor Arcana.
I believe that the addition of a third aspect of the goddess would bring the Tarot much more into line with mythology. The triple goddess and the twin god is a familiar theme from India to Ireland. This also makes the total number of goddesses twelve, which agrees with the Zodiac. In many astrological books, the zodiac was once ruled by twelve godesses and the generative, fixed, and mutible aspects were the three aspects of the goddess. Thus you had a triple goddess for air, fire, earth, and water, with four suits. The addition of a fifth suit raises the number of goddesses to fifteen, and is interesting only in that it adds another dimension to the original four. Western cultures play with four or five elements and dimensions, the fifth one being ether, heart, or some other intangible aspect of humanity or the heavens. I have added it here only to fill out the possibilities.
I have abstracted the names of the royality in order to give a better grasp of my interpretation of their meanings and de-gender the system. Although in a symbolic way the aspects of the mother or queen card are feminine, I think that each of us carries the ability to nurture, create, and develop any aspect of ourselves as well as life. To de-terrorize the crone aspect of the triple goddess, I have given her the power to transmit and transform through teaching, and also made her of indistinct gender since becoming old means that one plays less attention to being a student and more attention to being a guide.
The largest problem that I have with most interpretations of the Tarot is in the Minor Arcana. Many people are inconsistent with their interpretations of the cards' meanings. I have tried to interpret the cards in a consistent manner showing that the progress from ace to ten is toward the most intense manifestation of that particular aspect of human personality and the reverse is the overturning of the intense state to one of more freedom. This allows a clear path both in the obverse and reversed meanings of the cards so that the querant may see where the problem lays, or where the unconscious mind it leading. The most powerful use of the Tarot deck is in helping the mind relook at itself as any good psychology or religion should do.
Take a look at these charts again, they are spirutual paths, but they are also plot paths. According to Campbell in his book, The Masks of God, Primitive Mythology Fire and the Shamans came first, Air and the Wizards came second, Water and the Queens came next, followed by Earth and the Kings. All four paths involve taking a child to adulthood and then transforming them into magical beings: gods, spirits, monsters, whatever the form, human mythology and fiction are full of these beings. And this is what concerns you as a writer of Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror, is the interaction of these beings on humans or the transformation of a boy human into a king human or a man human into a superman or even a superman into a god.
But, wait a minute. Earlier I spoke of the Mystery of 4 into 5 and 12 into 13. Yes, because the whole purpose of society and human development is INTEGRATION of all of these paths. The "Fifth Element" is the integrated being. It was said that king needed to have all four castes mastered to be an effective king. This is another way of saying that, no matter what the path, you follow it to the center, over and over if necessary, until you pick up all the bits and pieces and become a total being. So fiction deals with broken beings, hopefully, on the road to becoming whole.
The Twelve-Point Caste System and Profession (Useful for Developing Societies)
The twelve into thirteen Mystery is about society. Each of the castes can be further modifided as "air of water" or "fire of earth". This leads to some interesting maps, but most of this is professional. Thus a person can be born into the noble(air) caste and be a philosopher (fire of air) or be born in the priest(fire) caste and be a singer (water of fire), etc., etc. Note that this chart can be a 16-fold chart and maps to the Myers-Briggs Personality system discussed on another page. Here is a chart of the main professional types and their caste orientation:
Investment would be: capitalists, merchants, owners, farmers, and other people with stocked wealth or funds.
Connection would be: salesmen, mothers, friends, lovers, and all people who seek relationships through grooming rather than combat.
Creation would be: (fiction) writers, artists, poets (non-performing), some priests, and other spiritual seekers.
Scholars would be: scientists, doctors, professors, and other people doing research for the sake of the learning. This ghetto is air of fire.
Reporters would be: writers, journalists, rebels, philosophers, historians and other observers and critics of humanity. This ghetto is fire of air.
Designers would be craftsmen of all kinds, especially those requiring apprenticeships. (earth of fire)
Agents would be: lawyers, brokers, spies, informers, advisers and accountants. (earth of air)
Protectors would be: police, firemen, guards, insurers and other people protecting society. (air of earth)
Enforement would be: soldiers, clerks, secretaries and all people aiding the ruling caste. (water of air)
Managers would be: directors, mc's, managers, overseers and orderers. (water of earth)
Trainers would be: teachers, trainers, and others aiding in skill development. (earth of water)
Builders would be: engineers, architects, and other craftspeople who do projects for investors. (fire of eath)
Performers would be: dancers, actors, musicians (performance), priests (who aid in public worship) and others who make their living doing something in front of others that is spiritual or artistic. (fire of water)
Composers would be: playwrights, poets, lyricists, and people explaining the arts to the public, some gallery owners or museum curators, etc. (water of fire)
Competition would be: atheletes, contestors and all people using their performance skills for combat, competition or in other ways for fame and glory or mastery over others. (air of water)
A healthy society goes clockwise, unhealthy the opposite or in some willy-nilly fashion. In a healthy society command can evolve into investment, investment into connection, connection into creation and creation into command, thus an athlete becomes a composer or performer or stays a trainer and does not become an investor or a soldier. I talk about this more in the pages dealing with societies and their structures. (see World Building page)
The Basic Four Plots
Circles and Figure Eights
A story has a protagonist and an antagonist. Most teachers of writing describe the following three patterns of conflict: man vs man, man vs nature, man vs himself. The first conflict is when the protagonist meets up with his enemy or his enemy's henchmen. The dark moment is when the reader feels that the protagonist shall fail. The climax is the final conflict with the enemy and the denouement is wrapping things up. Americans tend to like things all wrapped up; the French open ending leaves many things still unresolved.
As a game, we challenged writers we knew to map out Hollywood plots. Most plots match this format, yet some do not. For a list of plots that match the hero's journey format, see appendix A. In writing classes you might have heard mention of the anti-hero. This is a hero type that is not heroic, very much like Han Solo is to Luke Skywalker. As we looked more and more at movies that did not fit the hero's journey archetype, it became clear that these anti-hero stories were high on the list.
All throughout folklore and mythology there are descriptions of a certain character called the trickster. In many cultures, the trickster is a kind of god or demi-god or anti-god. In the Judeo/Christian/Islamic creation myth, the trickster or anti-god is Lucifer. In Norse myth, he is Loki, god of fire. In the Americas he is Coyote, Rabbit or Raven. In Africa he is Anansi. In India he is Shiva, again a fire god. In Greek myths he is Prometheus and Hades. In his book The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology, Joseph Campbell talks about this kind of god and his history. Evidence supports that most trickster gods were the gods of shamanistic societies, or old hunting cultures. When agricultural societies emerged, these gods were assumed into a new pantheon, usually as tricksters. The hero is the supreme god of the agricultural community. The hero is the god who dies and is reborn, or the grain. The trickster is a god who resembles the shaman. Often the incorporation of the trickster into the heroic pantheon, left the trickster as the enemy of the hero. He was chaos to the heroic order. He was a thief and a swindler and a con. He was able to tempt the hero from the path of good and he was selfish. The trickster only thought of himself in contrast to the hero whose virtue was his duty to the group.
More importantly, the trickster was a being from the magical world who appears in the ordinary world. Hundreds of myths show the trickster stealing fire from the gods and bringing it to man. For this, he suffers eternal damnation. In Gnostic tradition, Lucifer is the keeper of the knowledge of good and evil and gives this as a boon to mankind. Yet it is important to understand that the trickster may gift magic to the underdogs of the world, yet he never fights the gods, he always outwits them.
Here is our plot map again. The second map shows a "fall from grace" plot where the anti-hero is ultimately done in.
This kind of plot is usually called a cautionary tale or a tragedy. Hamlet follows these lines, but Macbeth follows this kind of plot even better, because Hamlet is a hero who is stuck in the role of a trickster. Here is the hero's journey with the mirror tragic plot.
Why a different map? From hundreds of stories, it is clear that the trickster deserves his own story. I t is only because we are a culture very enamored of heroes that our tricksters' stories are not so well studied. Yet the trickster's story is not a cautionary tale. It is a story of a magical being who comes to the aid of those who have suffered injustice.
Both the trickster and the hero are facing foes that are far greater than they. The hero relies on his friends made on the journey to help him out of any jams. He gains a magical tool to use against the antagonist. The trickster, in contrast, has no friends to help him. His sidekicks are those who hang onto his coattails wanting to see him work his magic. Yet the greatest reason that the trickster has his own story is that the trickster does not change. The hero is changed by his journey into the magical world and evolves through his problem into a greater person. The trickster's is summoned or happens into the ordinary world and effects a change in that world, not in himself. He does not learn by his experience. He often grows more cynical by his experience, but he brings about justice in a situation where the downtrodden have no other recourse. By his very nature, he his the complete opposite of the hero.
Before we go on to draw a better plot map, here is the trickster's map applied to a real story. This plot is from one of the most famous trickster movies of all time, Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars. This is another movie I urge you to watch, not just because it's fun, but because it changed Westerns. Clint Eastwood portrayed some of the best tricksters in the movies who were not comedians (like Buggs Bunny).
As an interesting side, the difference between this movie and the remake starring Bruce Willis is that Eastwood is a perfect trickster, silent, cynical, completely selfish, yet just. Willis's character is a hero in the trickster's shoes. Eastwood does not befriend people, yet he helps them. He often sneers at his hangers on and pretends that he despises them. Willis is friendlier, albeit cynical. And Willis gets the girl. No trickster ever gets the girl. He may rape the girl or kidnap the girl or try to take the girl, but he never gets the girl. For the hero, the girl represents his inheriting the kingdom, for the trickster, the girl represents what he will lose.
Let us look at one of the most famous trickster stories: The Godfather I
Although Campbell drew this little diagram as a way to show the circular nature of the hero's journey, it is not mythologically sound. First, it is important to understand that the hero's journey described by Campbell is a truncated story. The story goes as follows:
Novice hears call to adventure
Crosses threshold into magical world
Undergoes trial (initiation)
Meets the goddess (the land)
Meets the challenge of his elders
Becomes the champion for the land
Saves the land and is judged
Becomes the king
Consolidates his empire
Is called upon to sacrifice himself
Fights his fate and puts the kingdom in jeopardy
Is uncovered and accepts his fate
Dies for the sins of man
Is resurrected as the (his) son
This is the journey of the grain god all across the world for thousands of years. As you can see, the popular story ends with the champion saving the land. What we often do not see is his rise back into the world and the making of his empire, his war, his guilt, his death and resurrection. This is largely because this story was a religious mystery or too difficult to stomach (Anakin becoming Darth Vader).
When the hero's story is mapped out completely, is takes on the image of the figure eight. This was a sacred number and a ancient riddle that was seven into eight. Connect the seven points and the eight does appear. Traditionally, eight is a male number, nine a female number. Although these stories are gender independent, the nature of the hero was that he was the protector and the "charm" of the land, while his female counterpart was the land herself. One could say that the male element was the spirit of the land while the female element was the substance of the land. One is the actor, the other is the set, so to speak.
In most cultures, clockwise is the direction of the heroic, counter-clockwise the direction of the magical. Campbell understand this in his map, but the circular nature is confusing. By turning the "figure eight" from two curves into two squares, all of a sudden a map emerges with points of conflict that map onto the two written maps provided by Campbell and Vogler. By reversing the map of the trickster, since he is a magical being and all he would do would be anti-clockwise, we get two maps that will be extremely useful in helping your to visualize plot.
The Hero with a Thousand Faces The Sacrificed and Resurrected King
The World of the Common Day H1: The Fool
The Restless Spirit
The Call to Adventure
Refusal of the Call ll
Crossing the First Threshold H2: Fortune
The Belly of the Whale
Descent, Initiation, Penetration
The Road of Trials
Meeting with the Goddess
Woman as Temptress H3: The Lovers
Joining for Earth
Atonement with the Father
The Ultimate Boon H4: The Chariot
Refusal of Return
The Magic Flightt
Rescue from Within
Crossing the Threshold H5: Judgment
Master of Two Worlds
Freedom to Live H6: The Emperor
Consolidation of the Kingdom
Call to Sacrifice
Refusal of Call
Imperial Battle H7: The Sacrificed King (Hanged Man)
Dying for the Sins of Man H8: The Resurrected Child
In the complete sextet of Star Wars, the rise and fall of Darth Vader is a perfect image of the story of the Sacrificed and Resurrected King. The genius of Lucas can be better appreciated when we understand that each of the movies is a truncated hero's journey, yet the entire series is the full story. Most people are very uncomfortable with the idea that he hero turns into the imperial enemy, yet the nature of myth and story is to show how each person can grow through heroism and imperialism and still redeem himself. Without the rise into power, the hero is merely a champion and never becomes the father.
The Trickster's Justice
The Arrival of the Stranger T1: The Fool
Ignoring the Threats
Barred from Entry
Swearing Justice T2: Death
The Rise in the World
Testing, Rejecting, Killing
The Invisible Cloak
The Loss of Love
The Freeing of the Innocent T3: The Moon
Failure of the Father
Laying out the Deck T4: The Magus
The Set Up
A Moment of Remorse
Buried Alive T5: Justice
The Fall into Hell
The King of the Dead T6: The King of Hell (Devil)
Tormenting the Dead
The Challenge and the Tasks
Self-destruction T7: The Tower
Return to the Desert
Teaching the Next Generation T8: The Mentor (Hermit)
There are two more plots that interact with the two we have described. They are the women's plots: The Bridal Path or the story of the Princess Bride and the Moon Priestess's story or The Witch's Way.
The women's stories are different in that the men's stories are based on the Gaelic riddle 7 into 8 in which all of the seven points of the "male" journey lead to the completed cycle. One story is clockwise, the other counter-clockwise. The points of the compass dictate the points of conflict. The women's stories are based on the Gaelic riddle of the spiral 9.
The bride's story is a familiar story popularized by romance novels, yet essentially, the Cinderella story. Again, like the hero's story, the bride's story is truncated, ending usually at marriage. In Fairy Tales their is another popular story of the bride that completes the spiral. The bride becomes queen and eats her children and is condemned for it, is found to be innocent in a case of mistaken identity and is exonerated. The romance side of the tale is mapped on to almost all romance movies and books. The ogress story shows up rarely, in movies like The Hand that Rocks the Cradle.
Whereas the hero's story is about the protector of the land and his sacrifice to cleanse the land of sins and the trickster's story is about the righting of wrongs, the pursuit of justice and the vengeance of the gods; the bride's story is about the land itself. Many people mistake the part of the bride as passive. It is not. The bride's story is about the receptivity of the body to the transformation of energy into matter. The land is an agent of transfer and the danger to the land is the pollution of self-doubt, politics, or loss of integrity. Too many images tie this imagery into the loss of innocence which belongs to the hero's tale corrupted into a loss of virginity to turn an ancient tale into a cautionary fable for young women who should "stay at home and wait for their prince".
Here is the bride's spiral:
Like the hero, her story is clockwise, dipping down into the magical world and then up out of it to return. The story continues up and around the square of the men's stories to fall again to the threshold. This diagram shows a ninth point. This is a point where all the paths integrate and the complete human emerges. It is the point desired by all shamans, priests, and philosophers alike: the point of enlightenment. Popular stories rarely show that all paths lead into darkness and through the perils of false power and vanity, yet end up in the same enlightenment. These kind of stories are parables of paths that people can walk. These diagrams show in a visual way what the stories strive to show: that each path's ending, each character's achievement only happens when they tie together the forces and talents of each world. Each path goes back in time through the alien world, the main character rises into the world of choice, seems to go forward only to fall. Although each path is different, each is alike.
The paths of the female stories begin with the female in a more passive position, follow her rise into a position of power over others and then her fall through the abuse of that power back into a position of self-understanding. Like the hero, the bride's power emanates from herself and she must change herself to gain self-knowledge. The trickster and the priestess must learn how they change the world through the use and abuse of their power and learn self-understanding through self-control. The difference in these two counterparts is that the hero and the bride change because of their interaction with the world; the trickster and the priestess do not change but the world does through their action or lack of action.
The archetypical truncated Bride story is that of "Cinderella". Most Romance is modelled after this archetype, admitted or not. It has become the thrust of everything Feminists hate about the role of women and they have pushed women's stories into the two "male" story lines. Rather than give up on "Cinderella" or other Romances, we must embrace the other side of the tale, the story of Olivia (Caesar's wife) or that of the great queens who ruled their people through political alliances and subtle machinations. Many stories of kings are actually "queen in disguise" as the world of political connection is the Bride's realm whereas war and spying might be of the Trickster's realm, neither of these forces belong to the King or Hero, who rules by popularity and team spirit, weeding out those who do not conform. It is a sign of evil in a society when the figure of the Bride shows up not as Mary or Kwan Yin, but as a Vampire or Ogress or Voodoo Queen.
Briefly (I'll show more examples in the next section) here is the story of "Cinderella".
Like the trickster, the priestess or witch rises into the ordinary world from the magical where she learns to deal with the rigors of talent. This story, although not as common in fiction, is wildly popular as a tale of fame popularized in the tabloids. It is the story of poets and rock stars and people whose trial by fire is a trial of talent. Their talents "fall" upon them as though they were magical, like the brains of the trickster. These gifts set them apart, but do not make them desirable to the real world, as much as burden them with the ambivalence of those they contact. The trials of the priestess are those of envy and vanity and sloth as she is beset by those who want access to her talent. The demand is not for her body, as suffers the bride, but of her connection to the magical world seen in the many stories of oracles.
She passes through the stage of coming to grips with her abilities through point three, the moon, and becomes the priestess. It then falls upon her to weigh men for their abilities and spiritual integrity as it has fallen upon the bride to arbitrate men and their worldly disputes. She becomes the most powerful person in the pantheon of mythology, revered as much as the Mother Goddess, yet feared so much she is most often made into the mistress of the devil, Tiamat, Hel, or the Whore of Babylon. At point 6 she is the mistress of the beast, Strength. Her reign over the Titans is overthrown by the hero's entry into the magical world to steal from her the magical head of snakes that will kill on sight. Her power, let loose, threatens to turn the entire world into a desert of ice or fire or war. She emerges, finally as the Hope of all, the star in the darkness that heralds the return of life for the world.
The path of the priestess, or the Witch's Way is the most difficult story of the four to own and integrate. It is easier to imagine gaining a kingdom through bravery and heroism and then wanting to keep that kingdom and growing corrupt in the power that it requires to ward off threats to that kingdom. It is easier to imagine being the "belle of the ball" and then falling into the depression of being a young mother with an absent husband and falling prey to the politics of court and family, finding solace in another man even if it means standing with him betrayed and accused of abandoning the child. It is also easy to imagine being able to outwit the powers of authority and undermine their kingdoms and effect justice in an oppressed society where evil wears the mask of the greater good even when it means that one is banished forever from the light. Then one can imagine the bitterness at that judgment and the growing hatred and envy of all who are innocent and the pleasure in trying to trip up the fools of the world. There is even a kind of pleasure in imagining that all will fall, even one's own kingdom.
Yet it is more difficult to want the austere life of the priestess or priest, to renounce all through discipline and sacrifice of the ego and then to be abused for any goodness that comes of this discipline. It is difficult to then want to be kidnapped and abused for the "in" that one has gained with the eternal fire of creation and then punished for the merest slip of tasting the fruits of hell. It is easier to imagine the rage of frustrated anger against all of creation and the desire to wipe it all away, yet no one wants to be the one to cause Armageddon, no one wants to be the one to cast the bomb. However, as much as it is foreign to Western fantasy, this story is just as important to the health of our society as the others. One of the oldest stories of this archetype is "Toads and Diamonds".
Witch stories are often mistaken for Romances. Two very clear stories come to mind: The Piano and The French Lieutenant's Woman. Both these stories are villanized for having "passive" heroines who manipulate their lovers and suffer brutal consequences and are seen as bad examples of good movies for girls, but were made in the light of exposing the positions of Victorian women of talent. Knowing that they are NOT romances is a key as to why the romantic elements don't "work". I will later go on to contrast this kind of story with a Romance and show why it is one of the most important of "women's" stories to learn, especially for writers of Fantasy because it is a story of power and the mastery thereof. But briefly, here is the plot of the movie. Note that most of these movies don't work as well because the story archetype is much less understood. The important giveaway with both Sarah and Ada is that they do not look for Romance, but for a man to drag them down, and tame the spirit. They seek the descent into hell for the spirit, not for a relationship. When rockstars or poets get involved with their muses in the form of the femme fatale, it's considered decadent, yet romantic, when women do it, people's sensibilities are offended.
Here, I have shown you the basic plots, both in image form and as lists. In the next section, I shall dive into our available stories to try to show you as many examples as are realistic.
I shan't try to illustrate every plot here, but I will show you some and give you a list of popular books in our genres that you can map yourself.
The list here is pretty long, given that this is the most popular plot, and according to some editors, the only plot. Rather than give you endless plots, I've given you The Lord of Rings broken up into the original five volumes that Tolkien wanted. Like all good series writers, he tells a full story in each book. Please do this also with the movie versions in three parts, and try to fit the stories below into this mythic archetype, modified by Vogler. In doing this with The Lord of Rings you can see some patterns and see why some of the movie broke down (the bringing in of Arwen as an action figure). You may realize, like I did, that Shelob and Galadriel are the same mythic person, a smaller example of Varda and Ungoliant. Tolkien was fond of telling the same tale in different ways, that fit in with his original song of the Ainur. Tokien was a mythmaster and thus, was able to tell probably the best-loved tale in Fantasy.
Here is a (short) list of some stories in the heroic motif. Again, I will repeat, if you want to succeed in writing, stick with this plot, UNLESS you are writing: PI or Mystery Science Fiction or Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, or other kinds of Romance in Science Fiction and Fantasy--a growing field with much less competition if you can stomach it, or if you like Romance stories.
All the Harry Potter books
Dune, Children of Dune
Men in Black, I and II
Conan the Barbarian, Conan the Destroyer, Red Sonja
The Thirteenth Warrior/Eaters of the Dead
All the Bond movies
The Fifth Element
All the Indiana Jones Movies
The Nightmare before Christmas, Corpse Bride
All the Taran (Prydain) Books
All the Wizard of Earthsea books
Under Sea, Over Stone, The Dark is Rising, The Green Witch, The Grey King, Silver on the Tree
The Blue Sword, The Hero and the Crown
A Princess of Mars, all the other Mars books
The Time Machine
The Hobbit, The Lord of Rings
All of Mary Stewart's Arthur series
All of John Christopher's books, i.e. The City of Gold and Lead
A Fire Upon the Deep, Deepness in the Sky
The Snow Queen, World's End, the Summer Queen
All of Joan Aiken's books
All of the Oz books
Mythago Wood, Lavondyss
Witchworld and most of Norton's books
The Shining, most of Stephen King's books
The Star Trek movies, The Star Wars movies
The Three Muskateers
All the Matrix movies
Jon Stark's story - A Song of Ice and Fire
Interview with a Vampire
and the list goes on and on....
The third most popular plot, these stories gain favor in "cynical times" and appeal to a certain kind of personality, a harder, lonelier, smarter person who is critical of society and its illusions like success. It is important to remember, although I'll go through this more in the next section, that the trickster never gets the girl. Both Superman and Batman are paladins and Batman can be made into a heroic movie, but Batman never keeps the girl. Often times Hollywood will change this aspect of a story in order to heroize a trickster. Here are a couple of plots:
Please note that although almost any plot can be force into the hero's journey, we're trying not to do this. Some plots are more flexible than others, some have been Hollywooded. The trickster plot is not very common in Science Fiction and Fantasy, but is native to Mystery and hard-boiled Detective fiction. It is also very common in satiric Comedy, but the trickster is a common person in many heroic plots where the hero often fights the Dark Lord, or he is pitched against a trickster, who usually wins against the fumbling hero. I shall go into great detail of the position of the trickster in heroic plots later. Here are some plots to try:
Many of the Kung Fu plots
The Amber series
Sherlock Holmes stories
Arya Stark's story and Tyrion Lannister's story - A Song of Ice and Fire
La Femme Nikita, Leon the Professional
Most of the Robot sleuth books by Azimov
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Batman stories
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?/Blade Runner (although a PI plot, in the movie he gets the girl)
Wolverine's stories - X-men
Many X-Files stories
Despite the controversy of this plot type, it is the second most popular. Every generation of girls seems to re-identify with the story. It's much less common in our genres, but new sub-genres are opening up like Tor's "Paranoramal Romance" line (ugh). It is essential to remember that unless you have some sympatico to the kind of magical book you are writing (or technological book) then you will have trouble writing that kind of book. Below, in the section on magic, I have oriented it toward you as a magical person to help you understand if you will be good at writing Bride stories or would be better at writing Trickster stories. Again, remember, IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH GENDER!!! It'd be nice to see some Groom stories or Father stories and, of course, there are thousands of characters like Count Dracula who are bridal characters. When you read the magic sections it will become more clear what I mean. Here is the first plot, if you haven't seen this movie, do so.
You may at this point be scratching your head, which is why I put this plot in this list. I have taken the plot archetype from the fairytale motif, but you can see here that it clashes with the instances of this plot. This movie was controversial: most people thought it had very little plot and the female lead was a strange mix of warrior and passive bride. The basic psychology of this plot is that a girl is adopted or disconnected from her current family, but identifies with a "dead" member of that family. She is abused or somehow put upon by the current family power and appeals to a grave or shrine of the dead family member who nurtured her at one time. Then she crosses the threshhold with an invitation to go into the magical world. In most cases, she is invited, although gate passings can be modified (I'll explain below). Although she is invited through, she is unable to pay the price until she completes the impossible tasks and is helped by servants of the land and her dead relative. She then meets her lover, but flees him, wanting to discover if he is strong enough to protect the land. This is an essential step because she already has a good idea of what a bad protector can do. The search or trial begins but the love interest (this can be a man) picks the wrong person. Now this can also be a mistaken identity the other way, a plot device very common in Romance where the bride must chose between a prickly "right" man and a charming "wrong" man. The wrong man often exposes himself by picking the other bride. The next step, the bloody foot, is often neglected in "cleaned up" romances, but it is also essential. The wrong spouse (groom or bride) will be exposed through a sacrifice that leaves a tell-tale sign. Then things are righted and the wrong spouse is judged and punished, often with death. So, you see, this plot is a bride plot although no one in their right mind would call it "Cinderella!"
I will show you the Tam Lin plot, one of the most common Bridal Paths in Fantasy. Tam Lin plots are included below. Basically, anything is a Tam Lin plot if a girl has to save her lover from a false bride or queen. This is a very old motif in which the Queen of Hell (the bride snared to be the bride of the Dark Lord) tempts or kidnaps a young man and has to give him up as a sacrifice to keep her place. Note that this happens in The Matrix II where Persephone(!) demands a kiss from Neo to lead them to the Keymaker. Neo is lost in hell and Trinity has to go save him. Here is the plot:
This plot is a little pied, or scrambled, but actually shows a deeper pattern of a threatened child and an abortion and a spouse who changes into unfamiliar things. Psychologically, this plot could be strung over the entire cycle of the bride, but its essence is that there are two brides, there is shapeshifting involved in the bride or groom, there is the consequence of union (a child) and some kind of inheritance that gives the bride courage. The Tam Lin plot is probably as old as Cinderella and one could challenge the story of the goddess/bride with another archetype of a less passive sort in which the bride must fight the wrongful woman (stepmother?) for her lover's freedom. For Feminists who object to the passivity of the Cinderella stories, this is a good answer. However, there must be a passive element in the story, male or female, because the psychological essence is that the bride repsents the setting or the body or the basic essence of being. She may confront the actor in the form of the hero, the director in the form of the trickster, or the writer in the form of the witch, but she is the stage itself. Here is a short list of Bridal Paths, most of which are Fantasy.
Pride and Prejudice
Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty
Most of Anne McCaffrey's works although they tend to be half bride half hero
Beauty, Rose Daughter
Sansa and Caetlyn Stark's stories, Cersei Lannister's story, Daenerys's story - A Song of Ice and Fire
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
Dracula (this is a mixed plot--many Vampire stories are)
The Snow Queen
Fire and Hemlock
The Perilous Gard
Norton's "The Year of the Unicorn" (Tam Lin)
It is my opinion that there is the greatest opportunity for creative speculative fiction in this cycle. It is the most misunderstood, the most villanized by religion (see history above) and the most difficult to pull off or to sell. But it is popular: witness the fascination that people have with people of talent--rock stars, artists, poets, muscians, even whacky architects or religious gurus. Most witch stories are in the forms of biographies! The witch herself is an extremely vital character to magic makers in the form of the muse or the familar which the wizard uses to conjure spells. The famous wizard, Aleister Crowley himself and Robert Graves, AND Campbell allude to what Graves called "the White Goddess" who is a blend of the ogress bride above and the fire muse of creation below. It is important to understand that the bride is a genitive process, a transformation, a conduit that can be clogged or blocked or sullied. The witch is a creative process. Craft gods, smith gods and hunting gods all used to be goddesses, which is why familiars are still animal spirits. A good hint for witch stories is that the female is not a sexual power but a destructive or creative power and is coveted because she represents a weapon or cure or some other kind of appocalypic disaster, but, like Medusa, is not necessarily attractive for her sex. It is only brides and heros who must have physical perfection or normalicy. Witches are often represented by fire, but never by body allusions such as zombies, vampires, ogres, or other corruptive magic. Hers is corrosive, not corruptive. Hers can be illness, but always of the wasting kind like consumption not cancer. Often witches are marked by physical deformity like Bran Stark in Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire or Vulcan/Hephaestus, the crippled smith god.
However, a word of warning, this character flies in the face of American values, most particularily in the entertainment industry. I see it as a sign of health and hope to see images like that of the Black Phoenix in the lastest X-men movie. Compare her to the voodoo queen in Pirates of the Caribbean. But here are some other plots, although they are far and few in fiction.
Now here is a truncated plot on the other end of the cycle. You have to look at this plot rather from Andromeda's perspective as well as the scientists'. You can see how a simple Science Fiction story is actually part of this mythic structure. The interesting point is that Science Fiction afficiados like Space Opera, but they also appreciate this "heroless" tale that usually involves some advanced technology or some non-human threat or weapon or some other something that has nothing to do with the walking dead or psychodrama or swashbuckling fights. Yet this story is suspenseful, maybe more so for being so "real" and non-human. If you want to do non-human stories, this particular mythic cycle is rich with possibilities for plots.
This movie is an example of how strange the witch story can get when a person doesn't quite understand it. Now Jean Grey was set up as a love interest between Wolverine and Cyclops, wrong from the beginning, but it was so in the comics. In this movie, we actually have two witches: Jean and Leech Boy. You can see that Leech boy is already imprisoned as a weapon on the island by people trying to make mutants normal. There is some distracting footage with several mutants trying to opt (or not) for the anti-mutant drug. Jean Grey is summoned from the magical world when Scott goes to Alkalai Lake. She kills Scott, not a typical move by the witch to cross the border. Usually the witch goes on a limited time jaunt in the real world. We miss out on some parts of her story, unless you "fill in" with stuff from other movies or past information provided by Xavier of how she develops her powers and is a servant to Professor X. It is very important (and not missed, thankfully) that she is his servant and is TWO people in one. Notice the similarity with the Toads and Diamonds struggle where one girl is obedient and a good servant and does good and is rewarded with diamonds, and the other girl is wild and willful and a slut and is rewarded with toads. So although Jean is a love interest, it is important (and they show this) that she is not a woman to be desired, but to consume men and kill them by being too powerful. She is not bride material.
So we can forgive the movie for hashing up the plot somewhat and truncating the story that may be saved by a sequel. For Jean does not get a chance to recreate the magical world after she destroys the Dark King (Magneto) and his slaves. But she and Leech boy are obvious prisoners for their power and, although victims of a sort, are too powerful to be actual victims. I must admit that I was completely taken when they let Jean Grey catch on fire and showed her skin a shell over her power.
Here are just a few stories. We need more. If you find some, tell me or write some!
The Last Unicorn
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld
Many other of the Kung Fu stories
Bran Stark's story - A Song of Ice and Fire
Jean Grey/Phoenix's stories - X-men
Many of Harlan Ellison's stories such as "Harrison Bergeron"
Many of Jane Yolen's stories
The Mists of Avalon (mixed but much of this work involves witches and their stories)
In the last chapter, I talked about the story of the trickster. But is the plot for this story different or identical to that of the hero? Is it a different story only in content or also in structure? In answering this question, I became convinced that the story of the trickster was true in mythology and also in literature. I strongly believe that a resurrection of this story as a story in its own right and not just a heroic story with an anti-hero in the lead is desperately needed in our culture. Yet it was also just plain fun to discover this mirror image story.
It is possible to force trickster stories into the model of the monomyth by changing the parameters slightly. However, the entire gist of the journey that Campbell describes is the creation of the champion who will save the world from evil. In forcing a trickster as an anti-hero into the role of the hero, the audience is stunned by the cynicism of the story and left feeling betrayed. If the trickster's plot is honored, the audience is immediately on the side of the Stranger who becomes a symbol of the last bastion of justice in a corrupt world. The audience, rather than be stunned and shocked when the trickster falls from all goodness, knows that the price of freedom is bought with peace of mind and the price of stealing fire from the gods is endless torment.
The first part of The Godfather, like the first part of Star Wars is complete, yet open-ended Darth Vader escapes to give us the clue that the problems of Luke are still unresolved. The first of the Godfather series ends with Michael Corleone succeeding his father, yet there is an open end with his brother in Nevada. Both the hero's journey described by Campbell and the trickster story of The Godfather are truncated versions of the myth cycle of the light and dark twin kings. In the heroic cycle, the hero becomes the king and, sometimes, the tyrant, is overcome by a criminal, or chaotic, element, and sacrifices himself for the sake of his son. In the trickster cycle, the trickster becomes the king of the underworld that is destroyed by his own delusions and then he becomes the mentor or the wise man of the desert. So, in this plot above, the destruction and desert scenes are not resolved just as Luke does not sire a son and become the ruler of the kingdom. By the third movie in both trilogies (SW IV-VI) the characters are further in the myth, yet the myth is still not completed.
A lesser known movie, A Beautiful Mind, is a complete story of the trickster. Again, if this movie were forced into the heroic model, the audience would feel betrayed by Nash's paranoia and his inability to fulfill his heroic gifts. As the trickster against the world, we see him victimized by what society expects of intellectuals and he is a sympathetic underdog rather than just a crazed anti-hero. His alter ego roommate makes more sense as a projection of the trickster of Nash's mind rather than a mentor-fool companion on the journey.
There are two truncated story types that follow the trickster model that are as famous as the heroic cycle. They are the hard-boiled Detective story and a kind of Western popularized by Clint Eastwood. Each of these stories ends before the Trickster becomes the Dark King of the Underworld. In each of these type of stories, the Detective or the Stranger is set up at odds with the local constabulary. Sherlock Holmes stories can also follow this model.
In a Detective story, the detective may arrive at the house of a client or the client may come to him in the magical world. Whichever the situation, the Trickster is summoned from the magical world rather than forced out of the Ordinary world.
As a test, let us run the Maltese Falcon through the Hero's Journey plot line.
As it is clear, the story of Sam Spade, just does not fit the heroic model. And Spade is no hero: he is cynical, cheating with his partner's wife, drinking with the cops between swapping punches with them, not above duping a woman, and an all around likable guy despite his rough edges. The difference between a hero and a trickster is that a hero is out to save his world while a trickster is out for the justice of revenge. Spade makes this clear when he says, "when your partner is killed, you just have to do something about it, it's bad business if you don't." The hero admires authority figures, the trickster likes people only if they are basically good people down and out.
There are other differences between heroes and tricksters as far as their character and its development, but let us stay with the plot differences. They mirror each other in a way that is mythological as well as structural.
Mythologically, the hero must go into the magical world and return to his own world. He learns something along the way that makes him grow into a man or gain some insight into his personality. Almost every editor in the business demands this kind of character development, regardless of plot. They even insist that an anti-hero learn that he is broken for some reason even if he cannot fix the reason and the story is cynical or tragic rather than heroic.
The Trickster's journey mimics the many myths about a fallen angel similar to the myth of Lucifer. The Trickster arrives in the real world and is denied re-entry by the demons of the world who despise change. The trickster forces change by eliminating those who bar his entry. He is a spy, sometimes murdering by stealth, finally setting up those who oppose change in the world to "hang them by their own petards". The trickster oversteps his bounds sometimes and then must also be destroyed before he learns the final lesson of guiding without ruling.
One of the more common comments about Leone's interpretation of Kurosawa's Yojimbo, A Fistful of Dollars, was that it was violent and without a point. This is a common reaction to the trickster or the anti-hero that he acts for his own selfish interests and not to a "point" or a goal identified with the hero. This is merely an Industrial Western infatuation with the hero myth given that the times in which most of heroic stories became so popular was a time when the world was emerging out of a "Dark Age" of chaos and fear. Stories can predict trends, yet they also lag in cultures that are nostalgic for the "romantic age of chivalry". Of course, people are on their own journeys so they will identify with a character or a story that has personal significance for them. It is no mystery that these cynical hard-boiled justice stories became so popular in the "cynical '70's".Let us now look at the traditional plot path for a story and the analysis that Vogler has done for the movies.
Let us look again at the plot with Vogler's notes:
He also describes a delayed crisis plot and other slight modifications to the traditional plot line. He states that act one is about one half hour, act two is an hour, and act three is one half hour. This completes the two hour movie along the lines of the hero's journey. Most movies coming out of Hollywood follow this format.
Aristotle talked about tragedy helping people because it creates an atmosphere of catharsis. When a people are oppressed or when a person is feeling frustrated with the red tape of the world, trickster stories are often more appealing than the heroic. The trickster steals from the rich and helps those who are despised by the upstanding people of the world. The stranger without a name befriends whores and midgets and hermits and gravediggers and urchins. Hugo's Jean Valjean is probably the most famous trickster in literary history next to Buggs Bunny. In Les Miserables, Hugo tries an interesting twist where he reverses the roles of society so that the trickster is the hero, the whore and her child are the heroines and an urchin is a champion of the underdogs of Paris. The final scenes even take place underground as convict, Jean Valjean, eludes the policeman, Javert, in the sewers of Paris.
Jean Valjean's story is strung out, yet it follows the path of the trickster. Yet, unlike the hero's journey, we should not draw the plot as rising, but as falling, as we watch in suspense to see if Jean Valjean will escape the ultimate doom of prison.
In Les Miserables, the rough story follows this line. Jean Valjean escapes prison and is denied entry into the world. He earns the right to invisibility and enters his kingdom as Monsieur Madeleine, le Mayor. Javert discovers Valjean who flies to Paris with Colette. In the final scenes, insurrection destroys Valjean's peace with Colette as the army smashes the insurrection and Valjean escapes into the sewers with Marius, Colette's lover. Javert, having failed to kill Valjean, kills himself, and Valjean is freed of the chains that made him a convict.
Some people struggle with this novel to find the hero. The character of Marius is weak and Valjean is not heroic, but secretive, sly, and rises to heroism only when he is saving some wretch from the wheels of French justice. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is also a trickster story where tricksters are plotted against one another in a delightful dance of witchcraft, evil priests, and fools, both literal and figurative. The essential thing to remember in trickster stories is that the trickster does NOT get the girl. Sometimes he takes the girl or has a girl for a short time, but he never gets the girl, unlike heroes who always get the girl.
Why is this? The way to understand the difference between these two stories is to understand their worlds. To understand their worlds, it is necessary to take another mythological look at these two stories. The stories stem from tales as ancient as the Osiris-Set-Horus myth. This was an ancient twin king myth where one king was the rising sun and one king was the setting sun or the light half and dark half of the year. We still have vestiges of this myth in our own celebrations. Santa Claus is the Dark King, giver of gifts and wealth and wishes with a table so full it bends, wine running from his cups, and a tree laden with presents. Yet, aside from the figures of the rising and setting sun, let us look at the worlds.
The light half of the year begins in the sowed fields of spring. A boy dances across those fields, leading the bulls and sheep to their grazing. The corn sprouts and ripens and the muscles of the reapers shine in the sun as they sing praises to the harvest. The king has fertilized the land and the land is rich. The hero who has accomplished this rises up out of the darkness to strike down winter and usher in spring. The old king of winter is a scapegoat, burdened with the ills and trials of a hard land. The hero slays this old monster and is rewarded with giving his seed to the earth.
As the year turns, the hero becomes the king. His tenure is only until the harvest where he must lay down his life so that his son will be born out of his seed to the earth. Yet most times, the king does not want to die. The autumn rains do not come. The father, who was to give himself to the land now wants to control it and to dominate it. He fears his death by the hand of time, the hand of his brother, and he patrols his land with vigilance, turning with fear of betrayal on the very people he swore to protect. People pay him to appease his temper and he grows ever stronger.
Entering into this world (now become a desert of policed, cowed people bent over in silent fear), comes the urchin, born of a wind, of a thought, of the magical world. He is cynical, he is selfish, he is sly, he feels no fear, only a kind of disgust at the goons who guard the king's oppressive kingdom. He tricks them and the oppressed giggle with glee as the guards fall to the trickery, killing themselves or falling before the sharpness of the mind of this small man. His goal is not to attack the fastness of the king, but to undermine it, to spread the chaos of guerilla war and insurrection. Finally the oppressive tyranny falls and hell reigns with chaos. But the king has left a seed of hope: a new generation to rise up and conquer the Dark Lord.
He does not bring fertility to the land. He brings death. He brings the hunt and the slaughter of animals to survive the long winter when the earth sleeps. He may steal Persephone, but he has to give her up during his rule. His land is the land of dark and cold and dormancy when people go inside to work on art and literature. He is talented beyond talent, but he has no son. He finally overthrows the king and often murders him with his own hand. He sets up hell upon earth, full of riches, usually stolen, full of gold and trophies (including wives) where the dead eat but gain no sustenance and envy forces them to perform for the Dark King as he demands anything to fend off his winter boredeom. He tests people over and over and casts the losers into his wife's firey pit. He is king of the magical world, where th hero must go to obtain the magic he needs to restore the earth to bounty and so the cycle continues.
In practical terms, to set up a trickster story, the rule and order must be oppressive. The Old Western town is ruled by rival mobs. The streets of New York are controlled by crooked cops. France lies throttled by the necessity of marshall law. Some opportunist, having made his fortune, now has bought out the town and is greedy for more territory. The enemy has bigger guns, bigger armies, bigger might and power. The trickster must always be able to survive by his wits, and wits alone. In the heroic story, the background must be the bleak land of rival gangs, of lack of law and order or it is a dark empire, ruled by greed and whimisical ambition like the backdrop in Star Wars or Dune.
Another big difference between these two stories is in the reactions of the side-kicks. The hero gains friends who protect him and help him, even to the extent of bossing him around. They are older and know better, even the fools. The trickster has no friends, but he has hangers-on who follow him to applaud his antics. They fear the trickster and do not get too close to him. They may trust him, but they do not seek intimacy from him, often leaving him when they feel affection for another. He protects them, saves them, but he is a loner, always. Anakin Skywalker is a hero, Obi Wan Kenobi is a trickster. Han Solo is a trickster in a heroic role (he's cynical, but he gets the girl). Wolverine is also a trickster (compare to Cyclops who follows the rules) but he fights the Dark Lord in a heroic context although he doesn't get the girl. Prince Corwin is a hero in a trickster's tale; he's cynical, but somehow the best of the brothers and Oberon's heir. The possibilities are endless.
The final difference between these two stories is in the character's relation to the world. The hero is affected by the world he enters. He must take the magic inside of himself in order to make the change within himself that will allow him to overthrow the Dark King and make the land fertile again. The trickster is in the ordinary world, not the magical world. He brings magic into the ordinary world and constantly suffers for it. He may be a sharpshooter who pays for his ability in having to kill greater and greater giants. He may be an intellectual who must force his mind to overcome greater and greater problems. But, and pay attention, HE DOES NOT CHANGE. This alone may be the greatest problem editors and writers have with this story archetype. The trickster does not take in to himself a change. He does not grow. His path is downward. To grow would be to get more cynical, more bitter, and more evil. He may do this, but essentially, at the end of the story, he has not changed his personality. He has changed the world. The hero helps the world grow through changing himself. The trickster changes the world by exposing the old, worn out, corrupt system that throttles it. Look back at the caste maps. The hero is a protector, part of a team, the son of the Earth. The trickster is an orphan, a loner, of a ruling caste, secretly longing to manipulate people, but he never plays as a team; he does not protect, he rips away.
Later, we will take a closer look at the characters of the trickster and the hero, but there are three points to remember in plotting the path of the trickster.
1. The path is downward, a mirror image of the hero's journey.
2. The world is corrupt, oppressed, and hard.
3. The main character does not change.
Like the trickster, the witch comes out of the magical world and into the normal world. Her mirror, the bride, moves around the spiral clockwise. The witch's path is anti-clockwise. In looking at the full spirals, you can see that both stories have to come back to the line between worlds. The bride dips down in humble attempts to gain her man and then rises up to threaten the world, arching over the world. But she falls back. The witch rises up in the world as shooting star then falls into hell and only rises back out of it's destruction.
However, the energy is opposite the male stories. The bride is the one who does not change; the witch is the one who does, but in different ways from the men. The bride represents water, or the pool or the basic essence. She must deal with the corruption of the body, not the corruption of morals like the hero. Her story is more basic than his. His is social, dealing with the kingdom. Hers is personal, dealing with her own family. She must come to some realization about something physical inside of herself that blocked her or made the waters of her energy polluted. This is why all the rigamarole about "virgin brides" and that crap. It is not literal, but spiritual in that the basic essence was pure at birth and becomes filled with pollution. The bride seeks to purify herself, and this was reflected in all her religious rituals. Her role is sexual as well as basic, so all the junk about celebacy and purity of body comes in here. She becomes the bloated whore who eats her own children and is seen in many male instances like Baron Vladimir Harkonnen in Dune.
In contrast, the witch's story is a story of change. She does not change herself as much as she changes her story or the history of self, the creation of self. The bride seeks to return to purity, to undo self; the witch seeks to take on selves like clothing, changing so fast that she is bewildering, theatrical, a chimera of stage or stage-like life. David Bowie was the quintessential witch figure. But she does this to hide herself or from herself. So her change involves changing change. She is not the world, she is the creator of the world. She is Sofia, the goddess before the gods, Rhea, or the first one. She sings the song and creation unfolds, but she has to change the song when creation gets tainted by evil. The difference between bride stories and worlds and witch stories and worlds is that in the bride world people are concerned with life, prolonging life, eternal youth, health, family, sex, what happens to the dead bodies, the passage from mud to life to mud again. In the witch story or world, people are concerned about the soul's health, and issues sucha as armageddon, alien (life) invasions, ecological disasters, plagues, famines and genocide play a larger part without the intense personal focus. The bride's concern is individual, the witch's concern is for the entire planet. The trickster's story is personal: what people do to each other; the hero's story is epic: what do races do to each other.
So, although Arakkis is a witch setting for a heroic plot, dealing with huge effects on entire planets, the Water of Life, the Bene Gesserit, the Harkonnen are all elements of a bride's story. Note that there are no individual warriors in Dune there are the Fremen versus the Empire, the Atreides versus the Harkonnen, showing that the plot is heroic. Contrast this to someone like Phoenix/Jean Grey who fights alone for something larger than life or justice or protection of the clan. But she is also self-tormented.
The other large marker for a witch story is that the main character is man against himself. The bride and the trickster are man versus man, but the hero is also man against himself, but more like men against themselves. The bride is troubled by other people intimate with her. The trickster is plagued by other people who are strangers to him. The bride is a difficult character and story for men in our society because it is the family against itself in intimate situations. The trickster is more acceptable to men but distancing to women in our society because the trickster is never close to those he may use or hunt or help. Holmes does an effective job of locking Watson out of his most personal life. The trickster is alone. The bride is just as strung up in the mess of interaction, but all of her interactions are full of connection and feeling, whether hate or love. The hero is a person that most people can identify with because he loves his friends and they hate the bad guys. Paul Atreides loves his people and hates the Harkonnens. He feels betrayed when the female world of the Bene Gesserit exposes that he is a Harkonnen--he wants nothing to do with the bridal element in the story and it disgusts him. However, for the witch, who is as much a loner as the trickster, the battle is within and often rife with all kinds of problems "dealing with demons" such as drinking and drugs and other coping strategies. The witch puts out magic, magic that creates worlds or the illusion thereof and never puts forth herself. This makes the witch and her story difficult to identify with since we never get to know her, only the razzle dazzle of her talent.
Most witch stories are co-opted by heros. This is why in ecological disaster movies, the hero gets to save hiis small band of people. The mad scientist is usually a villian, rarely the subject of sympathy. He can be in a personal scientific story like Frankenstein where we sympathize some with Dr. Frankenstein, but much, much more with the bridal monster who is like a child. People love to watch the downfall of talent, but rarely sympathize with someone who has godlike abilities and is too messed up to tie their own shoes. There is one exception and it is important. There exists a story of a novice trying to come to grips with the demons within to become enlightened. Note the word: is that a fire word, or what? Part of the problem that Fantasy and Science Fiction writers run into is that writing about the religious or religion or even enlightenment is a sure fire way to get shunned. The taboos in our society are heavy and we have little in the way of Eastern traditions where a man might go in quest of god, except in the narrow confines of Christian imagery such as in Paradise Lost. This is a shame, because, traditionally, Fantasy and Science Fiction allow us room to explore the very nature of man and the gods themselves.
So, in brief: trickster and bride stories are intimate, small in setting, limited in number of characters, person to person. Hero and witch stories are national in scope with groups representing sides or aspects of spiritual status. Here is where you can get the "cast of thousands" books. In trickster and witch stories no one really bonds with the others, there is a distance and it is hard to get to know the main character. In hero and bride stories the characters are sympathetic because they bond easily. Hero and witch stories have an active protagonist, wizard and bride stories have passive protagonists. The trickster directs people to do his bidding; the bride manipulates them usually with hedonistic promises she cannot fulfill. The hero acts out against people or to save people, but the witch acts against or for the world, not people. To her, people are merely part of the world, not separate from it, or even from her own mind. The bride and hero deal on a human basis, the bride to save the body, the hero to save society. The witch and trickster deal with spiritual aspects, the wizard with words and ideas, the witch with emotions and creation. The witch and trickster are magical beings in the real world; the bride and hero are humans in the magical world.
Since I am a visual person, I have a preference for this kind of map as opposed to the lists, but here are the four lists:
Point One is maked by the fool card, but is the situation of the child or of the main character in the naive form, or native form, called so well by Campbell, "the ordinary world". This is obvious in hero and bride stories where the ordinary world is, well, ordinary. Usually the trickster or witch story begins with the arrival of the trickster or witch into the ordinary world at Point Two, but often some preamble is given to explain the magical nature of these characters. In Amadeus we are given a sampling of Mozart's ability before the actual story begins. In X-men III we are enticed by a side story of the mutant cure and Scott's unhappiness, so the story doesn't begin with the witch (Phoenix). In trickster stories, the story often opens with a death or a crime, onstage or offstage in the case with Sherlock Holmes. Or we see the trickster holed up in his magical fortress that extends into the magical world: Baker Street, Nero Wolfe's house, Poirot's apartment, on and on--even a car can serve as a hole. For witch stories, we often hear of the witch rather than have her onstage, i.e. "there is this amazing musician that I knew, his name was Mozart". Every once in a while we start before birth to explain the god-struck nature of the person of talent as seen here from The Forgotten Beasts of Eld.
The Wizard Heald coupled with a poor woman once, in the king's city of Mondor,
and she bore him a son with one green eye and one black eye.
Point Two is the threshhold or the gate or the passage into the other world. The hero must prove himself at this point with his first fight with the doorguards. The mentor often does the job for him such as Obi Wan does when he uses a Jedi mind trick on the imperial stormtroopers at Mos Eisley. The bride hears a general invitation to go into the other world. The trickster has been at the gates, having heard the warning and having heard the threats of the doorguards and slips out when a death opens the gates with the passage of a soul into the magical world. The witch is sent on some errand and happens to fall out of the magical world and her task is to return before the world is harmed somehow by her ability which is normal in the magicala world but too much for the normal world.
Point Three is the point where the main character encounters a member of the opposite sex, or a person who represents a reward, a side effect, or a goal of the journey. Many fairytales end right after this point. The character has gone through the personal part of the journey. The hero has been through some trials and got his group together; the trickster has taken on his secret identity and has set up a magical handhold in the real world or gathered enough information to formulate a plant; the bride has been helped to be able to accept the invitation, and the witch has dealt with the effect of her own powers on herself and learned enough to use those powers. At the top of the eight or the height of the spiral, the character has confronted the first evidence that there may be a return. The purpose of all the preparation "clicks" at this point, at about half-way through a truncated story, at the first quarter of the full cycle. Anakin Skywalker marries his queen, Luke rescues Princess Leia, Michael Corleone has lost his first wife, and Jean Grey asks Wolverine to kill her.
At Point Four the truncated story is almost over, the first loop having been made. Here the first incarnation of the character is complete. The hero is the hero, the bride is the bride, the trickster is the trickster and the witch is the witch. From her on out, the transformation is not into the incarnation but out of it. It is said by the Myers-Briggs people that the most extreme point in the personality is reached as a teenager, the rest of life should be mellowing from the extremes if growth is not arrested at this point. The real message of a truncated story (other than brevity) is that most people find that they are "finished" by the time they reach college. This idea precipitates the fall because this is not tenable. No person can stop, they must go on and, for most, that passage is down. This is not necessarily a bad thing. As a matter of fact it can be a willed thing, a way to disenchant the self from the image of the self to get at the real self as is shown so clearly in Batman Begins. However, in many cases it is a culmulation of desires or a rise of apathy that causes this "fall".
Do you think that Queen Victoria, upon taking her consort king, looked at herself and thought, "I shall become trapped in my role of queen, so ossified and stuck that I shall drag my children through hell to keep my position?" Of course not. At this point, your character had better think that they are doing it all for good. Even with the witch who often has a suicidal wish built in, she must somehow think that she can get out of the trap that she has set around herself. But there is a suble desire in all of us to cut loose, to grow out of what we grew into, a perversion of sorts. Every spouse wants out, every parent wants to abandon the child, every ruler wants to run away, every success wants failure, every crime wants punishment. Of course this is not practiced, just a nagging in the back of the mind, especially when times are hard. At the moment when the thief is running he thinks, "it'd be such a relief to be caught and have it over with." This is pretty normal for real people, but not very normal for characters. Just as stories are abstracted from reality, characters are exaggerated from reality and this kind of thinking may be sympathetic, but bad for your story. So go ahead and make your characters gung-ho and maybe they can think that they deserved what they're going to get, but not before they get it.
Point Five is the crossover point and is called Judgement and Justice because of this. There is a fine line between the two, important to understand. HEREIN IS THE BASIC CUT IN FANTASY!!!! Stories with judgement are stories set up in MORAL MAGIC, or magic that is between light and dark. Judgement has to do with kings, countries, law, and settled and civilized peoples. A judgement is formal, is part of the structure of society's order. At this point the prince (hero) or princess (bride) gets made into a king or queen. Think of the ribbon that Princess Leia pins on the boys, it is the judgement of an authority figure to elevate them in rank.
Justice is very, very different. Judgement is a pronouncement, justice is fairness. She carries those scales, remember? Justice operates in the other kind of Fantasy: WILD MAGIC. This is a magical world, not of light and dark, but of powers that have to stay in balance. Often what occurs is that some war knocks the balance loose and something must be done to make some god go back to sleep--usually a human sacrifice. The irony is that human sacrifice is much more a part of the bride's world than any of the others and often the god (goddess) that needs appeasing is some kind of representative of eternal life or anti-life or some other kind of body monster, hungry for a hero. Almost all human sacrifices are to appease Kali-type body goddesses who are in their dark form (dark magic) putting us right back into the religious motif of a sacred king dying to save the land. Why does Anakin turn to the dark side? To save the life of his wife, to find out the secrets of life and death. The Emperor represents the dark goddess who eats people. In a true story of justice magic and not judgement magic, the forces must be balanced by, 1. a wizard who knows the right words acting through a familiar (optional), or 2., a witch who uses her fire power INHERENT in her being to balance the world. The balancing act affected by the trickster is always intimate, human justice, for the witch it is balancing forces out of whack by some flaw in the world. This is obvious in well done Fantasy such as The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. Justice magic or wild magic is largely amoral. Fantasy ghettos such as "Sword and Sorcery" like tricksters or heros in witch world settings with more action and less worry about light and dark. The evil in these books is almost always a berserk abuse of bridal power in some kind of cannibalistic ritual or life-prolonging magic for some at the expense over others. Watch the Conan movies and you'll see what I mean.
Point Six is the point of power of the second incarnation, an extension of the first, or the abuse of the first. The hero becomes the tyrant. The bride becomes the evil queen. The trickster becomes the devil. The witch becomes the weapon of armageddon. At this point the character becomes the bad force for the mirror story, but these are mixed and matched with creative abandon creating a variety of battles between different characters, which I shall go into detail later. But there are basics: the Dark King of Hell is often paired with a hero, the Tyrant is often paired with a trickster, etc. Often one aspect of the character is paired with a later aspect in an eerie mirror like we see in Star Wars. Because the Emperor is not a Dark Lord, but an Evil Queen, we see the focus shifted onto Darth Vader as father fights son. The Evil Queen is echoed in all their battles with Jabba the Hutt. This is also the case in The Lord of Rings where the hero is pitted against the Dark Lord, but the Dark Lord is too distant, so we see a battle between the Hermit (Gandalf) and a Dark Lord (Saruman) which gets interestng as we can see where Saruman could be saved; and we get a bride battling an Evil Queen in the figure of Eowyn and the Witch King, who has extended his life unaturally. Tolkien plays with extensions on all the characters using the ring as a focus of opportunity. (More about this later.)
At Point Seven, the extension into the abuse is overturned in two ways. For the hero and bride, the expectation is that the human will be sacrificed to save the human. Thus the king offers his life for his son's security, the queen gives up her life for her babies' safety. This is a generation turnover or a re-incarnation or resurrection. For the witch and trickster, the world must be destroyed, not the incarnation. Hell must freeze over, so to speak, or the walls must topple down. This is because the power that was manifested in the Devil and the Weapon was built upon the ideas that people had, not upon anything tangible. It is blown away when it meets reality. There was never any dust, for dust to dust, because this is head and heart magic, not body or society magic. If the kingdom was not vested with authority but arose out of peoples fears and desires then when those fears and desires are uncovered, there is nothing. Both these paths are much more Eastern than the hero/bride paths.
Point Eight forms the return back to the baseline. The tyrant's resurrected son shines forth as the wheel of light turns. The vicious mother who ate her own breaks down and rises up, incarnated as the mother of all beings, compassionate and temperant. The devil walks out of the destruction and into the wilderness, still alone, but now wise and able to focus his mind on nothing but the here and now. The weapon has burst and the night has come down, but the star shines on the desert as the witch now nourishes the new world with truth and the living light of the infinite.
At this point, we might all be able to sleep again, but there is one more step. At Point Nine, all these energies meet into the real human, strong, compassionate, wise and true. It'd be nice to see more fiction oriented toward this goal.
One of my discoveries was in using the Tarot as a way to define spiritual journeys, thus giving labels and names to crisis points on the paths. Here is the basic set up of the minor arcana.
I have left off the fifth way because it might not fit into the four-fold path of stories but act as an integration. (more to explore!) Here you can see my attempts again to make each of the paths into a spiritual movement both away and toward. We're concerned with one direction in our stories, but it might be possible to do some plots in the other direction? Usually the reverse or obverse merely indicates the ambivalence inherent in most human action.
Here is the tarot matched up with the hero's journey.
And the trickster's justice:
And the bridal path:
And the witch's way:
By looking at the maps together, I hope that you can begin to get a picture of what happens inside the mind of the character who is involved in the storyline. Later, we will mix and match these to show you how you can get very creative with one kind of character in a foreign plot. For right now, try to get a sense of the up and down direction of the struggle and how, at each level, the direction is up to the character. Although humans go up and down (a lot!) characters usually don't, otherwise we'd have to spend our entire lives reading one book! But they might consider it.
"I am the womb of every holt,
I am the blaze on every hill,
I am the queen of every hive,
I am the shield of every head,
I am the tomb to every hope."
- The Song of Amerigin restored by Robert Graves
The following desciptions will be in order of the mystics: Water, Fire, Air and Earth. So if you're writing about a hero, look at a water character (bride) as a foil character or an opponent. It is important to read all the descriptions so you know how the different characters will conflict.
Water Magic or Being Magic
"Sometimes I've been to a party where no one spoke to me for a whole evening.
The men, frightened by their wives or sweeties...the ladies would gang up in a corner
and discuss my dangerous character."
- Marilyn Monroe
As a nation, we are entranced with physical perfection. The perfection of the body, from the Beatles to Miss America, from Arnold Swartzenegger to Sophia Loren, is adored from afar by millions of fans who want to be them or know them or love them. Yet beauty is also a part of personality and gets more important as people age. In ancient times, this kind of attraction was known as charm and shows up in names like "Prince Charming" or "Charm School". To the ancient Celts, charm was known as rath or rhad and also meant "grace" "favor" "gift" or "bounty". In Greek, beauty was related to ripeness or maturity, but also to the individual athelete, the sleek discus thrower or the lovely gymnast.
If your character is in a situation where people are fighting over them as if they were an object, then they might be a victim of charm. If your character finds themselves obsessed over someone's looks without caring who they are or what they say or if they like your character or not, your character might be a victim of charm. For the ancients, the most common spell of all was a love charm. Hundreds and hundreds of stories are told about the effects of charm and how one lover will turn from a true love for the charm of a false love or how a person will go through hell only to wake up realizing that they were a victim of love.
Being in love can make anyone beautiful. Being happy can make anyone beautiful. Youth and health contribute to beauty. Beauty can be contrived, but usually beauty is projected from a person without conscious intent. Most people react to beauty and it is the most basic of all gifts and the most difficult to control. Usually people want to augment their own beauty even before they lose their health or youth or otherwise suffer a loss of beauty and a loss of attraction.
The origins of physical perfection lie in the appreciation of the bounty of the earth. Beauty is represented by the direction of south or west, the Tarot suit of cups, the element of water, and the caste of serfs or performers. The magic of beauty or water, seems to be a passive magic, easily victimized, easily used and abused, easily polluted. But it is not passive, it flows with a cleansing property of its own. Beauty is an elixir, the holy grail, the water of life, the nourishment and fertility of the waters upon the earth.
Being magic is not a passive magic however it may appear. The path of water magic is a spiral path of ever widening waves, growing in power and in magnitude as the waves expand. Although it would appear that some people are just born beautiful and attractive and physically healthy and strong, this is not the case at all. Even though some people are gifted in this direction, any character (or person) can flow along this path. Everyone can learn the charm of holding the cup of bounty and fertility and learning to ripen into grace.
The path of water magic is to project or to protect the Body. The body may be health, it may be beauty, it may be a feeling of well-being or it may be attractiveness. This is a picture of the path again:
You can see from this, that as your character goes further from the center along the path, the urge to project the body image or body magic throws their spirit into wider spirals of inability to find satisfaction. This feeling of being off center urges your character to protect their body with magic that becomes every more confining as they spiral back inwards. The connecting base line draws a "shortcut" between depression, disappointment, and saturation and awareness, abstention and growth as the spirit either learns to break free of the spiral or becomes trapped to repeat the same curves over and over again. Of course depression can lead to awareness, disappointment can lead to abstention and saturation can lead to growth.
A more famous spiral is the yin/yang symbol, of a circle that is half white and half black. The power of Eastern magic is in the ability to balance yin and yang, together called chi. The path of water magic is thought to be yin or female and passive, but engaging in water magic means that a character must learn to balance the spiral of their own body. For some this means diet and exercise, for characters the path is more subtle, learning to balance charm with privacy or learning to balance pride and intrigue.
You have probably heard it said that "the body is a temple" but it is more than that. The body is part of the spirit and the temple is part of the worship. No matter where a water charmer is, being there implies a temple or a center of being. Many are content to have their bodies be a center of their being, yet others extend this "house" to an actual setting such as a garden, a home, a temple or a court. Another name for water magic is court magic which is what we are concerned with in fiction.
This kind of character who neglects water magic because of their obsession with other magics can find themselves becoming a slave to their body (Vladimir Harkonnen) just as people who are concerned only with their bodies can find themselves slaves to their emotions, their imaginings or society, (Conan the Barbarian). This is why, in schools of magic, everyone learns the basics even though they may specialize in only one path.
Fire Magic or Blazing Magic
"Diana in the leavës green,
Luna that so bright doth sheen,
Persephone in Hell."
Garland of Laurell - John Skelton
"What is a television apparatus to man, who has only to shut his eyes to see
the most inaccessible regions of the seen and the never seen, who has only to imagine
in order to pierce through walls and cause all the planetary Baghdads of his dreams
to rise from the dust?"
- Salvador Dali
On this path lies the crux of witchcraft. For thousands of years people have been persecuted for being on this path. Unlike beauty and physical perfection or heroism, this path is not one that most people would choose (and few editors). Although some envy the ease and facility of the "god-given" gifts, talent is a burden as much as intelligence, looks or popularity. Even our language is rife with anger toward this kind of magic. Witch originally meant a wisewoman or wiseman. Wicca means wisdom. Wizard also means wiseman. Even the words for knowing have been subjected to this white-washing. Cunning just means "to know". Guile means "responsible". Guilty means taking responsibility or to have chosen. Wild means merely self-willed or proud. Wish means to strive after. Crafty means skilled or competent. Shifty meant to arrange, scoundrel meant a clever person or a poet, shill meant to separate, and witty meant wise. Weird meant simply to become and wily meant a person who was competent or a person good at divination.4
Most of these words are Anglo-Saxon and became problem words when the Normans conquered Britain. Celtic words for witches seemed to have vanished long before the Anglo-Saxon invasion, leaving only words like "druid". Yet the Celts left a huge body of folklore relating to witchcraft or the Craft as some people call it. For the Celts, witchcraft was not the witchcraft of Satanic ritual, it was religion. Only in the 9th Century when Christianity underwent a housecleaning, getting rid of modified Celto-Christian churches, did many of these customs and rituals become part of the Devil.
The path of talent begins with a child who is possessed. Talent is considered to be a gift of the gods and not considered to be in the same class as looks, brains, or strength. Since the dawn of humans, people with talent were considered to be outsiders or set apart. These people became healers, artists, shamans, channelers, prophets, poets, and priests. Many times they had some kind of related problems with borderline personality disorders or insanity or physical handicaps. It is widely said that this caste was the only caste into which people were not born, but chosen for, or reborn into. There is such a wide variety of people who are marked by the brand of talent from Einstein to Jim Morrison of the Doors, from Greek sybils to faith healers, from historians and poets to Mozart and Thomas Edison and Louis Pasteur that it is confusing. This caste encompasses a wide range of mystics, scientists, doctors and artists all of whom share one thing in common: they were marked by their talent, they lived for their work, and often suffered misunderstanding from their fellows.
Magically, the difference between fire/emotions and air/thoughts is not that air magic is for those who are smart and fire magic for those who are inspired, but rather that fire people create and make and channel and translate ideas into reality, whereas air people solve crimes, debate philosophy, organize data into patterns, and summon up magical services rather than channel magic. If a wizard is a person on the path of air, his familiar is a person on the path of fire. Wizards use magic, witches make magic. Beauty is magic, or the setting of humanity's play and must struggle to "let it be". Justice uses magic to right wrongs or seek out wrongdoers and is the director of the actors. The heroes are the actors and must obey the laws of script a nd director upon the stage that is set for them, and everyone watches them as they seek magic and sometimes die for magic. But talent is the writer of humanity's play. Talent is the maker, the creator, the word across the void. Talent, like beauty, cannot act. Talent, like justice is not changed by the play. Talent is outside the play and yet can create and destroy the play itself.
Talent has two big struggles. Learning to discipline the fires that rage through the self and learning to build a bridge to the rest of the world. Unlike beauty, talent's path does not go into the magical world and then rise up triumphant into the real world as beauty's assets turn her from a lover into a political power. Talent's path is counter-clockwise and shows her weakest in the real world and growing more powerful as she takes the plunge into the magical world. Talent must walk a path where her struggle to deal with the fires of inspiration is in front of people in the normal world, a path that can cause extreme alienation from and scorn for everyday people. Unlike beauty, talent's way to connect to others is not through compassion. Talent must connect to others through creation and even that can become a distancing factor if the world is not ready for the visions talent tries to present.
Although talent's path is fire and emotions, these are not the emotions of connection, but the emotions of creative inspiration and a connection, not to people, but to the magical world. Beauty connects to the magical world through physical perfection and is weak and strong there. Talent connects to the magical world through an emotional or psychic tie and is dependent upon that tie for the ability to create. Many artists and some scientists have talked about intuition and that they don't fully understand their own gifts. Some people just do "what they feel", for others the process is much more involved and sometimes explainable, sometimes even more mysterious. Every talent on the planet knows that even given 90 percent sweat, there is still that 10 percent inspiration. There is a reason why this caste represents the "back". Beauty's right hand is that of magic; the hero faces it, looking for it, justice is often a trickster, relying on that left "sleight of hand" and is more often a criminal than not. But talent's back is to the magical world as i f magic were the blazing sun behind and she could only see the light by the shadow that she casts. You may begin to see why this character is so hard to draw but is a vital opponent character or effect character, a mad scientist, a Medusa, a power that is unknowable but is ravaging the land.
There is an intense struggle going on here that every practitioner of magic and every religious person is aware of, even in books. As science advances out of mysticism, the battle here is for understanding versus intuiting and people (and characters) on this path fall to vicious infighting about who has real knowledge and whose knowledge is untenable. Some people recognize that today's magic is tomorrow's knowledge but there is little tolerance on this path for the ways others might get their own knowledge. This is evident in some of the most famous witch opponents like Drax in the Bond film Moonraker.
As the spiral swings down the projection of emotions becomes more and more contemptuous and intolerant until finally the path is rife with a desire to defame others to protect the character's own brand of knowledge. (Drax again). The reverse of this Tarot path shows a growing resignation as talent nears the center of fire where heat and pain have killed off any real ability to feel or create. Truly, the talent is his own worst enemy as seen so clearly by the flaming careers of Mozart, Morrison, Plath and Newton. If your character follows this path, the rule of discipline is not just useful, it is life-saving. As more and more is understood about the creative process of making magic, we may know better how to save the souls of these talents before they burn themselves alive. To put this into novels may heal the breach and the fear that many people have for advanced science.
Air Magic or Summoning Magic
"The True Self is the meaning of the True Will; know Thyself through Thy Way.
Calculate well the Formula of the Way.
Create freely; absorb joyously; divide intently, consolidate completely.
Work thou, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, in and for Eternity."
- Aleister Crowley
"For the people in government, rather than the people who pester it, Washington is an
early-rising, hard-working city. It is a popular delusion that the government wastes
vast amounts of money through inefficiency and sloth. Enormous effort and elaborate
planning are required to waste this much money."
- P. J. O'Rourke
People no more trust Intellect than they do Talent. This may seem rather odd since they trust without question someone who is beautiful or popular. It is because of charm. The god and goddess of water and earth magic, hold their magic through charm, or the grace and bounty and luck of being who they are. The witch and the magician do not have charm. They are from the other world and are great wielders of magic but do not stand in for magic. Magic is an instrument for the magician. He is, not a maker of magic, but a user and learner of magic. Yes, this is the traditional followed by most wizards in fiction: Gandalf, (note his connection to the eagles), Dumbledore, (with his Phoenix familiar), Dalben, (with his book), and other conjurors, men of secret words, wielders of the power to spell things. This is verbal magic, be it words or semiotics (gestures and signs).
The power of water magic is in clan politics and the power of earth magic is in defending the clan, but the user of air magic is the master of intrigue. He is the director of the created world and has the job of getting people to do as he sees fit. When he needs to change the rules, he uses a familiar, otherwise he knows the rules so well that other characters seek him out and dance to his instructions. The task of air magic is to set straight the willful deeds of the actors, to oppose them, to expose them, torment them, and sometimes, reward them. The user of air magic is the great Picador, or tormentor or demon or trickster. He is the representative of individual justice and individual power in a world of the collective. He is an outsider to ravage the clan, a gangster to steal the loot, a barbarian at the gates--he is the chaos of wind and the fresh air of the wild rushing into the stagnant empire.
At one point, this character was the shaman of the tribe, wearing his bird cloak, taking on the masks of raven or eagle, coyote or monkey and running back and forth and forth and back between the two worlds, settling disputes between the gods and humankind. In these modern times, his magic is almost as strong, for his greatest profession was always law. He is both the lawyer and the interpreter of the law, sometimes the judge or the vigilante or the insurrectionist.
One of the greatest stories of air magic was written recently by Victor Hugo. It is called Les Miserables and is a social protest against the conditions of those who had no recourse, the whores, the criminals and the social misfits. Jean Valjean is a great trickster, set up for the entire book as the ideal of the law against the letter of the law, the policeman, Javert. And whose side are we on? Well, Jean Valjean's, of course. Hugo's mastery puts us on the side of the underdog.
When the common situation of people becomes repressive and law is in the hand of political pull and political favor, the trickster stands forth as the righter of wrongs. For this, he is often violently punished.
In Nazi Germany, a group of students started an undergroud newspaper in Munich to protest the actions of their government. They were executed. In Soviet Russia people rushed manuscripts out of the country written by dissidents trapped in Gulags. All through history and all through fiction, the written word is the secret path to freedom.
All over the world, trickster stories are often more popular than heroic stories, especially when the heroic is the oppressive and the politics of the day are killing off more people than they are helping. But inside everyone is a bit of the wind, a bit of the trickster. We always secretly desire to see that holier-than-thou hero poked fun of or tormented a little. And the soldier and policeman was always a target for fun by those who could not fight back.
Perhaps the most popular of tricksters is Buggs Bunny. For those of you who are enamored of Aleister Crowley and hold Magick to be in the highest of studies, there is Buggs Bunny. For the magician to be effective, as every shaman knows, he must be, in part, Buggs Bunny. He must have that irreverent fearless attitude of the underdog fighting back and winning through guile and not a little zaniness.
Air magic is the typical way that Intellect comes into magic. Intellects desire to use magic, to wield the tools of magic, to control magic and to make magic do their bidding. For many characters of this sort, the path of fire magic is too uncertain, producing unclear results. It is unwieldy and requires discipline for no reward. Air magic, while just as powerful, seems easier to use and dominate with the mind.
For the key is the mind. Air magic is mind magic. It is deception and trickery and the great ability that humans have to follow the clues to solve the mystery. Yet, at its heart, air magic is necessarily irreverent. To begin to take it seriously is the first mark of of the wizard losing his edge.
The paths of air and earth magics are not spirals. They represent the Celtic mystery of 7 into 8 or 8 into 9. Like the witch/priestess path, the magician's path rises into the normal world and falls back down into the other world. The path is that of a figure eight because water and fire magic are magics that are traditionally female, meaning that the initiate must be receptive. Air and earth magic must be sought after and caught and then forced into shapes and uses. The initiates of receptive magic must clear the mind and then feel infused with the power of magic. The initiates of sought magic must tangle with it and never feel infused but in control. They see the results without channeling the force.
Air magic has been called selfish magic, because the user is an individual and works for justice, not for the common good. (Malfoy, Saruman) If he works against the common good, justice is often called revenge. Two of the greatest characters of air magic are Michael Corleone, as the Godfather, and the "man with no name" trickster in A Fistful of Dollars. Both of these characters looked like they were operating outside of the law for their own selfish interests, yet neither one was doing this. They were both fighting desperately for justice. Another model of air magic, is Sherlock Holmes.
You will note that all these characters have trickster elements no matter how violent and dark they may seem. Behind every one of them is the con man whose weapons are not brute strength and moral backing but brains and skill. The other reason air magic is called selfish magic is because the seeker of earth magic asks for help and gives help and must battle the enemies he finds cooperatively with the help of those he has found on the road. The magician does not seek help and only gives help reluctantly, often brutally or with great irritation and impatience when thanked. Watch Sherlock Holmes played by the great Jeremy Brett. He hates being thanked and he hates working with other people.
The way of the magus involves intricate spell casting. The magus, unlike the witch, does not channel magic, he must summon magic, often through the use of tools who may be human or animal as well as inanimate. His incantations are not the wordless songs of the dark, but the involved spells of words upon words, most of them foreign. He knows languages and knows histories and knows all the laws of heaven and earth. His passion is knowledge, but unlike the fire witches, he does not seek to create or build or learn for the sake of the spirit. He seeks knowledge so that his spells may be more effective at conning people. He must work alone to try to trip up those who have oppressed and hurt others.
Often, when he escapes the gate at the threshold of the other world, some poor soul has cried out to him to investigate a murder or avenge a death. Yet, even as a criminal investigator, he is said to be more like the criminal than the policeman.
There are some injustices that are injustices by the gods against humankind. In seeking to right these wrongs, the trickster comes into his own as the magus. The greatest of these injustices is mortality. Many magicians spend all their lives trying to reverse mortality. But many more go from here to there listening to the wind and helping little people who cannot help themselves against the powers of the world. Yet woe to him who crosses the trickster. As most Buggs Bunny cartoons depict, the path of personal revenge is a delight to those who practice this magic. Remember their lawyer profession. One of the most popular stories is that called "the biter bit" where one trickster hoping to con someone, cons another trickster and the second trickster goes for revenge. Suit and counter suit. There is nothing that air magic loves more than to pit itself against someone, anyone for justice, yet sometimes just for fun or out of boredom.
Earth Magic or Protection Magic
"Let him who seeks continue until he find.
When he has found, he shall wonder.
When he has wondered, he shall reign.
When he has reigned, he shall rest."
The Gospel According to the Hebrews - Clement of Alexandria
"Let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blendings
and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity,
as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star,
and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life."
- John Muir
Of all the magical paths, this is the one most revered today. This hero archetype is present in many of the great religions of the West but also shows up in almost every story medium. Harry Potter is a hero. Luke Skywalker is a hero. Frodo Baggins is a hero. Heroes can be paladins, or defenders of a creed--a kind of crusader. They can also be anti-paladins. Superman is a paladin and a hero. Batman is a paladin and a trickster. Luke Skywalker is a paladin and a hero. Han Solo is an anti-paladin and a hero. Michael Coreleone is a paladin and a trickster, thus the "honor among thieves" saying. Buggs Bunny is a trickster and and anti-paladin, chaos is his game. The difference in a serious trickster story versus a comedy is the paladin or anti-paladin role of the main character. Often the "comic relief" character or crusty heroes are just anti-paladins.
Heroes can be men or women. The most popular characters today are female heroes. Red Sonia, Lara Croft, Eowyn of Rohan--the list is long. Many authors specialize in the female heroine. Anne McCaffery and her co-writers have done more to popularize the female hero than many, yet many Andre Norton books were about heroic witches. Remember, the hero is just a protector on a path, not a muscle-man. Joan Wilder, the Romance writer in Romancing the Stone is on a hero's journey and goes into the jungle with high heels. Many writers used to have female heroes and mess them up by throwing in too many elements of water magic. Captain Janeway of Star Trek: Voyager, is an excellent example. She indulges in empress politics in the emperor's chair and is unbelievable as a captain.
Heroes can be a defender of the people or just out on a hero's journey to overcome some problem in themselves. The main identifying marker of the hero is that he (or she) has recognized some psychological deficit in himself that is reflected in the outer world and undergoes a journey to correct this problem so that he may qualify as the champion. The hero, unlike the magician or the witch is changed by his magical quest. While beauty is transformed into a goddess the magic of water, the hero is not transformed, but improves himself to rise to the election of the kingship. Upon his sacrifice, he becomes the god when he takes up the sins of the people to make him the seed that will grow into grain.
The hero is nothing without his group. Harry Potter is not a seeker all by himself. He is the seeker for the Griffindor team. Luke does not fight a lonely fight, he joins the rebellion. Batman works by himself, the dark knight of a dark empire, fighting the vigilante's fight on the sidelines of the law. He has no love and loses love, again and again. Superman fights from his crystal palace, but he is aided by his father's image, and later by Superboy and Supergirl. He works for a newspaper as a John Doe and loves deeply the princess of the story, Lois Lane. The hero is almost never seen without his love interest who represents the elixir. The hero is also innocent. Batman seems to be out for revenge, and one would never call him innocent. Blood is on his hands. Superman, who has fought as many "bad guys" is completely innocent, remains innocent and keeps his hands clean. He fights over and over as a defender, not as a pseudo-criminal who feels the challenge of another mastermind. Although Batman sometimes has to save people, he does not smile when he does so, it is done because he has to, and often goes against his nature. His best "mate" was Catwoman, who was on her own quest and did not join with him.
The hero is a character that almost everyone desires to be when they are very young. He is the quarterback and the head boy. He is the president and the general. He is the fireman and the fighter pilot. Your mom is the one who says be a doctor or a lawyer, and only because they make the most money. Doctors are seen as both arrogant and holy; lawyers are almost universally despised as necessary parasites. Not so the policeman or the fireman or the soldier, even though they also work for tax dollars. Politicians are often seen as dirty lawyers, but the president and the king are the leaders of the nation.
The hero is the one who finds magic through his actions. Sometimes he stumbles upon magic. Often he bumbles into it. Sometimes his mentor pushes him into magic. The hero, unlike the trickster, seeks something, yet often doesn't know that it's magical, only that it's what everyone seems to want him to seek. He was born to his fate. He follows his fate. Later, he is doomed to his fate. He does not make his way any more than the princess makes her way. He is an actor, often badly following the direction of the air magic mentor. Only as he becomes the champion does he embrace his fate and find his magic.
Earth magic is not just the magic of the soil--the agricultural mystery of the planting of the seed. In Celtic cultures, earth magic is the magic of rock and stone, of mountain and craig. The most famous stones of the British isles screamed when the king pass over them. The stupas of Southeast Asia are both phallic and holy rocks. People all over the world climb mountains, some in holy pilgrimage, some for the challenge. Rocks are landmarks, rocks are the most photographed of landscape features, often against the background of water.
Rock is worn down into soil, made fertile by water, made a desert by wind and blasted and melted by fire. This simple observation is the four magics in a nutshell, so to speak. Earth magic meets water magic and the miracle of life and death and love takes place. Earth magic meets the wind and eventually, no matter how stoic the rock, it will wear down. Earth magic meets fire and all hell breaks loose as the world is destroyed and remade.
The path of earth magic is also that of seeking wealth or gain or abundance. This magic is the knife edge of success and popularity. This magic is social magic and the path is the path of the material world often craved and envied by the other three magics. Here, no amount of warning about chasing material goals is necessary. The goals are material, the stuff of earth, the substance of life, the heart of cultural exchange and the stuff of wars and civilization. Here are the jewels of the world, and the earth magic to defend them. Every hero must chase a talisman, a symbol of the disks in the Tarot cards, the diamond that will help his people.
Of course there are spiritual ways to chase material goals and there are ways that damn the spirit. But the way of damnation of the hero is not in the world, it is in himself. So much of the hero's psyche has passed into our culture that editors demand that characters grow and change and overcome problems. People in public life are applauded for overcoming personal problems. Children and their parents are infused with the culture of personal problems. The child is the hero and his parents are the crux of his problems. Culture is blinded to the fact that people on other paths do not have problems with themselves as much as they have problems with others. The group is never blamed, only the individual. This is the problem of the hero and the core of his path, but it is not the core of the other paths.
Water is active. Fire is active. Air is active. Rock is not without the help of another element. Heroes need others the way that rock needs other elements to turn it into soil. There are plenty of rocks in our Solar system; it is only the Earth that is fertile.
The path of the hero is a preparation for interaction with the other elements. He must hone his mind and his psyche and his body to fight and battle and win his way through. He is rewarded for this with all the riches this life can give him. His payment is there and his greatest challenge is that he must make this payment at the end, after the prize is won and he is living the good life. The others often pay up front, but the hero must, after having all, willingly and gladly give it up for death. That our society ends most hero's paths with the championship won, is a sad, sad neglect for the magic of earth magic which lies in the great mystery of the sacrifice.
"The problem with beauty is that it's like being born rich and getting poorer."
- Joan Collins
Imagine that wherever you went, whatever you did, however you acted, everyone would think that you were a bitch or a bastard if you did not sleep with them or marry them or otherwise make them the happiest humans alive. The burden of physical beauty and health is not just the envy Beauty provokes in others, it is the decision made behind her back that she must make another happy. If you are ugly and have always felt so, it may be some consolation to know that many beautiful people often feel ugly, even when they are chosen to represent traditional values in an elaborate pageant of marriage. It used to be that the most beautiful girls and guys were always called upon to sacrifice themselves for the good of the community, first in a marriage to the god or goddess, and then in dying for that privilege. Many fairytales are based on this ancient myth. All religions of the agricultural world have gone through this myth cycle from the Aztecs to tribes in Borneo, from the Egyptians to the Norse.
The gift of beauty is the hardest one to control. People wildly envy it. If your character is beautiful they often will find that there is no privacy and they have no life of their own. I once knew three different men who were so physically attractive to women that all they had to do was look at a woman from across the room and the woman would fall in love. Each of them took advantage of this talent and each of them had incredible problems with getting rid of the very woman that they had attracted. Beautiful women are often taught to deal with their natural power, but abuse it in other ways and often feel that no one sees them as people. To do an effective Beauty character, you have to put in these physical qualities. The only one more beautiful than Lizzie Bennett was her sister.
Prostitution is a very real thing. Yet prostitution can be subtle. A person with some kind of power of the attractive kind is always tempted to use that power to gain something for themselves. To Beauty it always feels like she is doing the buyer a favor. It always feels like she have sold herself. Yet of the greatest gifts a person can give to another is the gift of physical love and this includes parenting a child. So often, too often, the exploits of Beauty are held up to be despised few books ever deal with a parent glowing with the love for a child. We see mothers and fathers as wolves protecting their young, but rarely do we see them glowing with this kind of genitive/reproductive magic.
Magic, like all spiritual paths, seeks to take the initiate away from the false self. The trick of this is that the false self does not want to go away. A person (character), in order to keep the self, will latch onto the magic as the self, identify with that magic, and substitute the magical self for the real self in another false self that will be much, much more powerful than the original false self of the child. Almost all incantations and rituals are there to protect the initiate from latching onto the magical self as the real self.
You may have felt this at some time. Dancing, biking, fighting or running or some other sport may have put you in a state of mind where you felt free. You think, "this is my REAL self", as you experience the joy of freedom or the joy of success or the joy of ability. No, it is not your "real" self. It is the experience of losing the false self, of opening a door. You may have felt this when painting a picture or singing a song or writing a poem. You feel the power of the magic flowing through you, feel the waters coursing through your fingers or your voice and you have thought, "this is the REAL me", nothing else matters. Again, it is the experience of magic, of the spirit cutting loose from the shackles by which you have bound it all these years. A character in the midst of experiencing will feel magical power; putting this in their internal thoughts is the best way to show their magical character. But you have to be there--you cannot write about what you cannot imagine.
There are several pitfalls to being beautiful, most of them personality faults that may show up in a character like Cercei Lannister or Guenivere and others of Arthur's story. You have heard of them: vanity, jealousy, envy, arrogance. There are many associated with craving beauty: lust, envy and jealousy. Beauty in the spiritual world and in the world of magic is not necessarily physical, so keep that in mind when you draw a character. Some of the best Beautys have been ugly at first sight. Beauty has to do with purity, temperance, and mercy. True water magic is the magic of compassion. Many stories of saints talk about their ability to be compassionate. Most stories of physical success do not talk about compassion. What makes beauty a trap is substituting an object of beauty for an action of beauty. True beauty is active. False beauty is an object, a thing.
Water, when made an object, stagnates or grows polluted. Water, to be a spiritual source of health, must flow. To look at beauty as an end, or as an achievement, is to confine the magic. After a short time, the magic will begin to stagnate and then panic sets in as the wizard attempts to de-pollute the waters. This is impossible as long as the waters are confined.
Here is a quiz to help you understand whether or not your character will think of water magic and beauty as an object or as a flowing action. (Maybe both?)
A = usually B = sometimes C = mostly not
_____ 1. Does your character want to be beautiful/handsome/physically desirable?
_____ 2. Does your character think that life would be easier if they were more attractive?
_____ 3. Does your character watch people who are considered to be attractive?
_____ 4. Would your character have endless trouble overcoming ugliness in themselves?
_____ 5. Would your character have endless trouble overcoming ugliness in another?
_____ 6. Does your character look for physical perfection in a mate?
_____ 7. Is your character freaked out by people who are old but otherwise healthy?
_____ 8. Does your character have set ideas about what they find attractive in others?
_____ 9. Does your character usually find the same kinds of attributes attractive?
_____ 10. Is it important to your character to make the best looks-wise with what they have?
Add up your character's points. A = 2, B = 1, C = 0.
0-5 Your character doesn't have a problem with objectifying beauty.
6-15 Sometimes your character has a problem with objectifying beauty. You might want to think about the situations in which they will have this problem
16-20 Objectifying beauty is a trap for your character. Perhaps a villaness?
A = usually B = sometimes C = mostly not
_____ 1. Does your character find most people beautiful/handsome/physically desirable?
_____ 2. Does your character think that life can be made more attractive and beautiful?
_____ 3. Does your character want to draw beauty from everyone they meet?
_____ 4. Does your character find it easy to overcome ugliness in themselves?
_____ 5. Does your character find it easy overcome ugliness in another?
_____ 6. Does your character look for someone to love?
_____ 7. Does your character see some people growing more beautiful as they age?
_____ 8. Does your character find each person unique in the way that they are desirable?
_____ 9. Does your character find that they can't define beauty?
_____ 10. Is it important to your character to live life as if they were beautiful?
Add up your character's points. A = 2, B = 1, C = 0.
0-5 The path of beauty will be a challenge, but worthwhile.
6-15 Your character will meet challenges yet they will find many things easy on this path.
16-20 Although this journey will be easy for your character, the end result is always worthwhile.
"I think of myself as an intelligent, sensitive human being with the soul of a clown
which always forces me to blow it at the most important moments."
- Jim Morrison
A character engaged in fire magic falls into the pitfall of identifying with that magic, of transferring the self into the created world. Often times, if that world becomes popular, the character can wake up one day and find visions and distortions of that world all around them to the point where they feel that they are trapped in a world of their own making but not of their owning. The other common scenario is that the creator's vision is distorted to the point where the character can recognize that they are the author of the creation, but is repelled and sickened by the way in which the vision has been warped. The best example of this was nuclear energy being used for destruction, mirrored in many Science Fiction and Fantasy scenarios.
This caste is looked upon by the other castes as the people who solve the problems and come up with the gizmos or jingles or fads or toys for the rest of them to use. The warrior caste has always employed members of this caste to make weapons for them or build bridges or design engines of war and oppression. The farming caste has always had members on hand to design a new plow or a more beautiful car or to recount the history of their exploits against the people they have enslaved. The serfs have always been interested in new houses, new clothes, stuff to watch while they weren't working and pretty new baubles to decorate their children.
Although Harry Potter has no good examples of students of fire magic, this figure abounds in Science Fiction stories like Star Trek. Data and Spock were both members of this caste as well as Deana Troi and Dr. Crusher, although, like most actresses, their characters were played more as love objects. Dr. Polaski is much more true to type for this caste. In the Back to the Future series, Doc Brown is the "mad scientist inventor" so loved by Science Fiction fans. In The Lord of Rings the dwarves were members of the caste as were the Noldorin elves, of which Fëanor was the most famous member. And another member of this caste is--you guessed it--Morgoth. The battle between the Noldor and Morgoth is the most famous fire magic battle in Fantasy.
If you know the story of Fëanor, you will know that this elf, as talented as he was, dragged the entire race of Noldor into exile over his creation of the Simarils. He was passionate, intensely jealous, defensive and proud of his ability beyond all reason. Other, older characters of myth have not been so clearly enmeshed in the pit of fire magic, but they have gone to great sacrifices for wisdom. Odin lost an eye, Hephastus was lame, Bran lost his head as did Medusa. To be realistic, this kind of character must lack a certain humanity that was sacrificed to their passion.
I mentioned the fairytale Toads and Diamonds in the section about water magic, but the tale applies here even more strongly. Here, the products of the voice and hands are either black with the ash of destruction and plague or gems beyond the value of gems. In the story of Toads and Diamonds, one girl is said to be obedient and polite and the other was a proud slut. The origin of the word "slut" was not a prostitute as it is today, but a cruel woman. Slut" and "slattern" are all part of the same word group that is rooted in the Anglo-Saxon slidhan "to injure, wound" and slidhen "evil, hard, cruel, savage, backbiting".1 The "bad" girl in the tale is not a whore, but has a hardness of spirit, a slight on her soul.
Tolkien tells us that Morgoth was a Lucifer figure who fell from grace because his song was conceived in the arrogance of his own mind and he, too, suffered from a slight on his soul. The result was all the evil of Middle Earth.
This slight or soul injury can lead a person engaged in fire magic to compensate, but it can also lead to a wound aggravated by envy and a hardness caused by scarring from childhood taunting. The worker of fire magic may feel slighted by all of humanity, feeling misunderstood for her creation and desiring fame from it and blaming humanity for its blindness in not appreciating them. This character may feel that the short cut to getting their work out there is fame itself and not understand that fame is a penalty for creation rather than a reward. Often a little fame does more harm to a creator than no fame, insuring an identification with the creation. The fame that it inspired throws the fire worker into a pit of craving attention and fearing to reach beyond what has proven successful.
The problems involved with creative success and psychic success are a sloth of the soul in that the wound is soothed and the person begins to chase pain killers rather than see that the wound is part of what lets through the fire and light of the other world. Unlike Beauty, Talent must break the original vessel of the soul and build a pyre upon that destruction to show forth the light of fire. This unwillingness to destroy the false self results in a very warped view of the self, the magic, the creation and the world itself.
The following questions may help you to understand this psychic sloth.
A = usually B = sometimes C = mostly not
_____ 1. Does your character deserve to be famous or well known?
_____ 2. Does your character think that life would be easier if they were well known?
_____ 3. Does your character watch people who are considered to be famous?
_____ 4. Would your character have trouble overcoming bad luck in themselves?
_____ 5. Would your character have trouble overcoming bad luck in another?
_____ 6. Does your character look for a mate who can further their career?
_____ 7. Is your character freaked out by people who are talented but refuse opportunities?
_____ 8. Does your character have dreams about how they should be treated?
_____ 9. Does your characterdespise or belittle people who do not share their visions?
_____ 10. Is it important to your character to be ruthless with what luck they have?
Add up your points. A = 2, B = 1, C = 0.
0-5 Your character doesn't have a problem with a psychic sloth.
6-15 Sometimes your character has a problem with thinking they deserve more. You might want to think about the situations in which your character's expectations outweigh their efforts.
16-20 Psychic sloth is a trap for your character. A arch-villian mad-scientist?
A = usually B = sometimes C = mostly not
_____ 1. Does your character find most people skilled in some way or other?
_____ 2. Does your character think that life can be made more gracious and inspiring?
_____ 3. Does your character want to inspire everyone they meet?
_____ 4. Does your characterfind it easy to overcome envy in themselves?
_____ 5. Does your character find it easy overcome psychic flaws in another?
_____ 6. Does your character look for someone to inspire?
_____ 7. Does your character see some people becoming more admirable as they age?
_____ 8. Does your character find each person unique in the way that they are skilled?
_____ 9. Does your character find that they can't define inspiration?
_____ 10. Is it important to your character to create the life they live in?
Add up your points. A = 2, B = 1, C = 0.
0-5 The path of Talent will be a challenge, but worthwhile.
6-15 Your character will meet challenges yet they will find many things easy, on this path.
16-20 Although this journey will be easy for your character, the end result is always worthwhile.
5A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, J.R. Clark Hall. 1894, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Great Britain.
"Force and fraud are in war the two cardinal virtues."
- Thomas Hobbes
Imagine yourself with the brain you have today back in the first grade. You have several options. You can keep your mouth shut and play along as if you were a first grader. You can protest that you're well beyond that intellectual level and try to get someone to believe you. You can think up ways to amuse yourself.
I once heard a story of a boy who made realistic dummies out of old clothes and hid in the top of a tree that leaned over a street. When a car came racing along, he threw the dummy down so that the driver thought he had hit someone. The driver would jump out of his car in a panic to the faint maniacal laughter of this boy.
There once was a boy who thought it was fun to set off firecrackers under other kids as they sat at their chairs and worked. Another, forced to help some slow kids because he was fast, taught them all the wrong answers with elaborate stories about why.
If your character is a trickster, they're like that bored adult stuck in the first grade. People fear, even if they admire, the trickster. Other children ridicule intelligence with a mania that reeks of a deep-seated fear. The trickster is the wolf in the sheep's clothing. He is the little guy who torments and misleads the big, stupid guys in every story from David and Goliath to the antics of Buggs Bunny. He is called nerd and wise guy and beat up on every playground around the world. Even the greatest warrior in the world, Cuchulain, was a small boy, picked on and ridiculed.
But the problem for the trickster is not that he is bored and that everyone despises him for his talents, but that he is--not wants to be, not thinks he is--better than those around him. He joins an elite, often of one. Cynicism and arrogance sets in early as this trickster learns to use the people and things around him to get what he wants. Unlike Talent, he is usually not guilted into feeling the need to give up his talents for the sake of anyone who asks. He feels a need to get revenge on the world that despises him for the best he is. He feels sometimes that he will never be popular, and that, as an ape, he will always have the wrong smell, so it's every man for himself out there. If he grows up in an environment where his skills are challenged and his competitive urges are met, he will grow into a power that can use the very air itself to work his ambitions. He then becomes a Bill Gates or a Cardinal Richelieu or a Richard Nixon or a Napoleon or a Karl Marx or Lenin; in the fiction world this translates into Saruman or Merlin or Batman.
When one rises to power using tools, then everything is a tool. If the tools are effective the mind may start to identify with the tools, especially the greatest tool, the mind itself. The debate procedures become more fascinating than that is debated. The trading of power becomes more of a game than the favors that are traded. Power breeds power and tools breed tools and the game is all that there is to distract the mind from warping in on itself.
Words themselves are fascinating tools. Not a creator of words, the user of air magic is nevertheless entranced with words. The written word, the spoken word, the foreign phrase, the shibboleth, the password, the secret phrase, the double entendre--the fascination with words is the greatest part of air magic. One could say that air is words, for the breath of the spirit was the Word. Man is the namer of things the maker of words. The magician is a word master, using words to distract, to bewilder, to confuse, to lead, to con, and to gain power. His greatest weapon is the word.
In ancient days the greatest power was not the sword. It was the ability to lampoon or to curse or to satire. The power of the magus is the ability to bring down empires with a few, well placed, words.
Some people make out the great Merlin to be a fire wizard. Others make him a magician. He was probably a combination of the two or a fire maker born into a world of warriors where he learned the value of the well-placed word. Warriors used to try to intimidate one another with posturing and shouts and curses. Now, warriors rely upon their spy networks and their technology to show up the enemy. For the user of air magic, the world of men is a world of war. His birds are the raven and the eagle, the falcon and the vulture. His animals are the serpent and the wolf and the other animals of winter, predators and scavengers. He is represented by a fish by the Gnostics, but it is the shark or the barracuda or the sharp beaked salmon, predators all.
Battles of wits or battles to lampoon or mock someone are the battles of air, the battles of the trickster and the masters of power. Yet the other side of air magic lies within the ancient game of dueling, including games of chess and Go. As with the ancient art of debate, these duels are highly ritualized and battles of honor. All of the etiquette that has arisen from dueling is part of this elaborate ritual of honor, from our modern handshake to the exchange of greetings. Bowing, an Eastern ritual is one of the greatest examples of air magic. Bowing is a subtle game of power where honor is weighed, challenged and status is decided. Users of air magic, being the ruling class were so honor bound that they could afford none of the relaxed attitudes of the lower castes. If you want to distinguish between your fire wizards and air wizards, the servant of fire should be oblivious to courtesy or rank and only respect the artifact. The servant of air will use his power to intimidate, but he is always involved with forms, courtesies, (or lack of it) and all the intricacies of one on one combat.
Rituals of eating and hospitality and marriage, birth and death were part of the farming caste, but rituals of war and greeting were formed by the ruling castes. For the worker of air magic, the sword is a significant part of the magic and the discipline of the sword, knife and bow are all ancient arts of skill used by his caste. Falconry and hunting were ruled by this class. If one of the lower castes were caught hunting, it was called poaching and punishable by law.
Although workers of earth magic are those who accumulated wealth and material objects, the warrior caste was the one who valued everything and coveted it. Users of air magic often see in their quest for power a quest for wealth that is due to them for their skill and position. Much of what they do can become a con to try to get this wealth and buy power and more wealth with it. Not for them is the exchange and the market and the quest for a bargain. For them is the tax and the fee and the retainer and the looted goods of people under them.
The pitfall of mental success is twofold. If you battle and win and battle and win again, power begins to go to your head and you become enamored with your superiority. If you summon up greater and greater power and technology to try for the big game, you may become so wrapped up in the study and lore and guts of this power that the game pales by comparison and the goals fade in light of the rules of the conflict.
For the Lord of Air is the practice of noblesse oblige, or generous and responsible behavior associated with rank or power or ability. As much as he may despise them, if the Lord does not have to have compassion for people as much as he needs to be generous to them. Generosity does not mean giving out gifts in a Godfather sense, it means learning that avarice is your enemy and that giving of power and wealth and ability is a way to exercise it without belittling an opponent. There is a widely observed fact that the nouveau riche flaunt their position by belittling others while the person of many generations of high class is gracious, generous and so secure in their position that they can afford to be caring. Show this in your wizards rather than a Middle Class wizarding world populated by Malfoys or Harkonnens.
The following questions will let you know if your character is nouveau riche or new to the power and magic of air, or if they can handle it with grace and responsibility.
A = usually B = sometimes C = mostly not
_____ 1. Does my character find that they need to tell people what to do?
_____ 2. Does my character think that life would be easier if they were in charge?
_____ 3. Does my character watch people who are considered to be smart?
_____ 4. Would my character have trouble overcoming stupidity or clumsiness in themselves?
_____ 5. Would my character have trouble overcoming stupidity or clumsiness in another?
_____ 6. Does my character look for a mate who will help their ambitions?
_____ 7. Is my character freaked out by people who have abilities but are downtrodden?
_____ 8. Does my character have a strict code of honor?
_____ 9. Does my character scorn people who do not share their code?
_____ 10. Is it important to my character to advertise what brains and abilities they have?
Add up your character's points. A = 2, B = 1, C = 0.
0-5 Your character doesn't have a problem with arrogance, a sure mark of insecurity.
6-15 Sometimes your character has a problem with thinking they know more. You might want to think about the situations in which your character would want to take control.
16-20 Arrogance is a trap for your character. Your character thinks they're upper class and they're not. A biter and climber, a rebel, a dealer?
A = usually B = sometimes C = mostly not
_____ 1. Does my character find most people competent in some way?
_____ 2. Does my character think that life can be made more just and equitable?
_____ 3. Does my character want to listen to everyone they meet?
_____ 4. Does my character find it easy to overcome scorn in themselves?
_____ 5. Does my character find it easy overcome hypocrisy in another?
_____ 6. Does my character look for someone to challenge them?
_____ 7. Does my character see most people growing more wise as they age?
_____ 8. Does my character find each person unique in the way that they are competent?
_____ 9. Does my character find that they can't define intelligence?
_____ 10. Is it important to my character to live life as if they were just?
Add up your character's points. A = 2, B = 1, C = 0.
0-5 The path of ability will be a challenge, but worthwhile.
6-15 Your character will meet challenges yet will find many things easy on this path.
16-20 Although this journey will be easy for your character, the end result is always worthwhile.
"The only thing you owe the public is a good performance.
- Humphrey Bogart
The expression "bambi eyes" is used for children who have learned the art of charm. Charm is more than beguiling those who would harm the child or deny them something. Charm is innocence. Charm is the ability to channel luck or bounty or grace. Charm is now confined to silly things like rabbit's feet and lucky pennies, but it used to be something that humans had, in particular, one human had. A young person who has charm is one who seems always to get out of every scrape completely innocent. All heroes have this kind of charm. They are set up at odds in a horrible situation and yet, somehow, escape it. They do not escape by skill like the trickster or by channeling destructive energy like the witch, but through some kind of just dumb luck.
All gamblers know of "just dumb luck". You can do everything right and have everything fail. But you can also do nothing right and still succeed. Some people are gifted in this way. If they learn to put forward this gift, they learn early that they will be the ones picked for the team, regardless of their size or skill. If they are smart, they really want to be on the team and they will practice their skills and hone their abilities and learn to trust their instincts.
None of the other magics can rely upon instinct like earth magic can. Fire magic makers must learn to use intuition, but earth magic seekers must learn to "trust the force" as they say in Star Wars. Trust is a significant part of this process, for a seeker of earth magic often learns that he or she is just born with abilities and skills for a particular action or fate. Sometimes they doubt this, but the most common thing said by successful people was that they always just knew that things would go their way.
This kind of magic has been studied and some have tried to teach it. Books like Do What you Love and the Money will Follow and Follow Your Bliss are books that try to get people to access this magic and trust in their fate. Unfortunately, they don't work for anyone except members of the earth magic clan. Books for other magics exist such as The Art of War for users of air magic and Women Who Run with the Wolves for people of water magic and biographies of poets and artists and scientists for makers of fire magic. Iron John, The White Goddess, Fire in the Belly, The Hero with a Thousand Faces and Fire in the Belly are all earth magic books as well as the hundreds and hundreds of hero's journeys such as King Arthur's and Frodo Baggins's.
The problem with success is that success breeds success and wealth breeds wealth and most heroes are successful, not just because of luck, but because of birth. People struck by fortune are almost always blind to the fact that it is fortune and not some ability or innate skill in and of themselves. Although true heroes are possessed of a natal humility, many heroes can feel deep down that they are on a crest of a wave and that they have no control over it's crashing. Early on they begin to look for security and, in particular, security within their group.
They wear the "right" uniform. They look nice and upstanding. They adopt the lingos and language of their group of choice. They affect all the body language and the prejudices of the group. They mimic the elders of the group, beginning with that first mentor, the father. They do all they can to keep that star shining and to keep that spotlight from going away. For them, social success is material success and the success of the team is the success of the members. For every hero wants to be the most popular member of the winning team--the quarterback. In the Harry Potter books, J. K. Rowling makes this even more clear in that Harry wants to be and is the seeker of the winning Quiddich team. He does not want to be the leader, but the seeker, the hero and the person who wins the game.
When a person (or character) is socially successful, their way becomes the right way. Often this leads to a confusion of values. The values of earth magic are material, not a moral code like that held by the warriors or air magic. The value of earth magic is life, abundance, wealth, riches, and security. These are all values of the agricultural roots of earth magic, in that the hero is the charm or luck that makes the harvest abundant enough to last the winter. The values of earth magic are values that PROTECT the group against anti-life threats such as famine, war, death and want. A moral code cannot do that.
In the sarcastic words of a trickster friend of mine, "it starts with not have time to mow your lawn and, suddenly, they see you as eco-fascist against their democractic values". You must take this warning for what it is: politics and morals will kill earth magic. The earth is not made fertile and abundant by fear and xenophobia. Fear is your earth hero's greatest enemy. It will disguise itself in a threat to the random values of his group. Fear is the mind killer.... We live in an age of fear. For the politicians and warriors of air magic, there is no fear, for a hero there is--a lot of it. For a hero have something to lose. But earth magic protects the land, not the king. I will repeat this. Earth magic protects the land, not the king.
Your hero cannot personalize glory and charm. It is a gift. To command and serve this gift, they cannot control others to keep it coming, so to speak. The hero cannot make them shine the spotlight at himself. By the hero's own actions, by the way they perform the quest, the light will shine. You have to try to understand that nothing about this path is personal. It does not matter if your hero win the game, but your hero have to play in the best way that they can. (Think of Eowyn.)
To understand that the heroes are the charm of the land, and that they are not the "best person for the job" but the chosen person for the job, it may help you to try to answer these questions.
A = usually B = sometimes C = mostly not
_____ 1. Does my character crave a battle to give their life purpose?
_____ 2. Does my character think that life would be easier if they were a winner?
_____ 3. Does my character watch people who are considered to be successful?
_____ 4. Would my character have trouble overcoming failure in themselves?
_____ 5. Would my character have trouble overcoming failure in another?
_____ 6. Does my character look for a mate who can help them in the struggle to succeed?
_____ 7. Is my character freaked out by people who will not defend the rights of others?
_____ 8. Does my character have morals about how they should live their life?
_____ 9. Does my character condemn people who do not share their morals?
_____ 10. Is it important to my character to fight the best with what they have no matter the odds?
Add up your points. A = 2, B = 1, C = 0.
0-5 Your character doesn't have a problem with a personalizing glory.
6-15 Sometimes your character has a problem with thinking they made a mistake. You might want to think about the situations in which your character's preparations outweigh their abilities.
16-20 Personal glory is a trap for your character. Another Darth Vader? A Mordred? A Feyd Rautha?
A = usually B = sometimes C = mostly not
_____ 1. Does my character find most people courageous for some reason or other?
_____ 2. Does my character think that life can be made more plentiful and abundant?
_____ 3. Does my character want to help everyone I meet?
_____ 4. Does my character find it easy to overcome failure in myself?
_____ 5. Does my character find it easy overcome failure in another?
_____ 6. Does my character look for someone to help?
_____ 7. Does my character see some people growing more content as they age?
_____ 8. Does my character find each person unique in the way that they are courageous?
_____ 9. Does my character find that I can't define the good fight?
_____ 10. Is it important to my character to live life as if you were brave?
Add up your points. A = 2, B = 1, C = 0.
0-5 The path of heroism will be a challenge, but worthwhile.
6-15 Your character will meet challenges yet will find many things easy on this path.
16-20 Although this journey will be easy for your character, the end result is always worthwhile.
"Her discourse with each man in turn
Is beautiful, is marvelous,
The heart of each one breaks
With longing and love for her."
- Sickbed of Cuchulain
The path of water is represented by the Tarot suit of cups. The most famous cups are the Holy Grail of Arthur's Knights fame, and various magical caldrons, the most famous of which is the Cauldron of Dagda. If obsession with physical perfection can be likened to concern about the appearance of the cup or cauldron, then the path of water can be likened to the magical gifts contained within the cup, chalice, grail or cauldron. This is the water of life.
The gifts of the cauldron appear in many forms. One invocation runs thus:
The gift of form,
The gift of voice,
The gift of fortune,
The gift of goodness,
The gift of eminence,
The gift of charity,
The gift of pure maidenhood,
The gift of true nobility,
The gift of apt speech.1
Another text runs thus:
A small wave for your form,
A small wave for your voice,
A small wave for your speech,
A small wave for your means,
A small wave for your generosity,
A small wave for your appetite,
A small wave for your wealth,
A small wave for your life,
A small wave for your health.2
These gifts or waves can be connected to points along the path of the spiral.
Find a way to introduce your readers to each of Beauty's gifts of the Cauldron. First, describe her, of course, but not in a trite way. The other gifts will come out in the following excercises.
The difference between superficial beauty and real beauty comes with speech. Speech is magical because it comes from within a person and is inspired or uninspired. No matter how ugly a person is, the first sign of real beauty is through communication, usually speech, sometimes the eyes or the hands, and sometimes through action. But it is a connection kind of action or eye contact. It is through speech that the spirit becomes nurtured and it is through ceasing contact that the self is drawn back and protected. You cannot spend pages and pages convincing your readers that your character is beautiful--forget it. But through their actions and words, it can be obvious.
There are several exercises that your character can do to help them meet the challenge of venturing on this path. Show these to the readers through action and dialog and you won't fail to convince.
1. Acting out of Love
Whenever your character hears something like an invitation given to them because someone wants to connect to them, there are two responses: acting out of love or acting out of fear. Love simply means opening the spirit to receive the light of the water of life. Fear means closing down the spirit and shrinking back to protect the self. Your character might do this out of exhaustion or out of unwillingness to "get dirty" or out of real physical fear of what might happen. Often a response out of fear is tied to a physical state. But habituated fear is a negligence of the spirit, a kind of sloth that prefers isolation so that your character doesn't have to respond. Make your character respond in some situations and not in others. If your character responds at first and then does not under stress, it will be more understood. A sain character always responds in this way.
2. Giving the Proper Response
Some people watch themselves in the mirror to see what kind of responses they give. Set up a mirror to your character--how do they respond? The question to ask them is this, "are you speaking in toads or in diamonds?" This does not mean watching their language or speaking with the proper accent. That is acting out of fear. This means does your character's words convey beauty and compassion or do they convey hatred, arrogance or ugliness? Every time your characters opens their mouth to respond to a person, do they act as if that person were someone they care about?
The proper response means that your character understand the differences between politeness and consideration, between confidence and vanity, and between nobility and pride.
3. Acknowledging Humanity
The easiest thing to do is to treat everyone as if they were robots. This means that if they do not respond in the way that your character wants, they get offended and repeat and repeat their orders and instructions to get people to respond correctly. The next easiest thing to do is to treat everyone as if they were monkeys. This means that if they do not respond in the way that your character wants that they scream or rant or bat their eyes in order to manipulate the response that they want. Part of developing the skill to speak compassionately is to engage the humanity or the spiritual in people. Does your character practice this? Do they learn it from a mentor? This can be a very effective learning magic scene.
4. Granting Beauty
Beauty is a current, a flow, a nurturing stream in the form of human interaction. Beauty can be around your character. Every interaction must be infused with beauty until every action from and around your character is a spirit driven action toward growth, health and compassion. Women can do this naturally in their conversations with other women, often called "grooming". This soothes the emotions and helps the health of the group. Men mistake the language of women as a language of something other than diamonds. It can be either. If your character is Beauty, they will try to respond to others in this way.
1 Invocation of the Gifts, translated from the Scots Gaelic by Caitlín Matthews. Ladies of the Lake, Caitlín and John Matthews. 1992, The Aquarian Press, HaperCollins Publishers, London.
2 West Highlands,A Midwife's Baptism of Water, The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom, A Celtic Shaman's Sourcebook, Caitlín and John Matthews. 1994 Element Books Ltd., Shaftesbury, Dorset, Great Britain.
"My candle burns at both ends;
it will not last the night;
but ah, my foes, and oh, my friends - it gives a lovely light!"
- Edna St. Vincent Millay
"'I wish you wouldn't keep appearing and vanishing so suddenly;
you make one quite giddy!'
'All right,' said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly,
beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained
some time after the rest of it had gone.
'Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin," thought Alice;
'but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw
in all my life!'"
- Lewis Carroll Alice in Wonderland
For the prince and princess, the threshold, or initiation, card is Fortune, an opportunity, a challenge, an invitation. For the priestess and the magus of fire and air magic the threshold card is Death in the form of actual death or change. The doorway between the magical world and the real world is like a gate that swings one way. For the princess, or beauty, the gate swings wide in invitation, welcoming her or him to lose themselves forever in the land of the sidhe. The threshold guardians stand in polite attendance like the enchanted mice who were the footmen for Cinderella's carriage. For the prince, or hero, the gate is closed and he must rush past the guardians who will roar at him and push the gate open with all his strength. He is worthy of entrance if he can push his way past the gate.
But the magus and priestess are going the other way. For the magus, or trickster, using air magic, he waits until the gate opens for a death and then he slips out as the dead soul passes in, crying for him to avenge them if their death was foul. He is an escapee from the magical world, free to wreak havoc in the ordinary world. For the priestess, the gate lies open, the attendants gone. But she cannot pass unless she leaves herself behind and passes into the ordinary world as a kind of double of herself or a shade of herself. Only her creation is visible, whether that creation involves an image of a self or not is moot.
The hero must fight his way back into the real world. The princess bride or stolen lover must beg or buy their way back into the real world. The magus will eventually be caught, condemned and banished back to the magical world. However, the priestess has limited time before her body, left behind in the magical world, begins to decay. If she tarries too long in the real world, she returns to a body withered and diseased.
This magical flight back across the threshold is in the back of the mind of every novice of magic. It is signified by the great goddesses Maat, who weighed the souls of the dead, and Tiamat, who cried for the final judgement. The hero hones his weapons to pass the test and be judged worthy. The bride stocks up things to sell to be valued enough. The magus learns the art of the spy or criminal to effect justice and be judged. Yet the priestess merely feels the clock ticking, or the candle burning at both ends, for she is on borrowed time. But let us go back to the myths and see what we have for the witch.
Here is the Matthews breakdown of two Celtic threads of inspiration. This is from "The Nine Gifts of the Cauldron" of Vocation which, according to the Matthews "is analogous to the gifts of the nine hazels of the Well of Segais--the source of all poetic inspiration".
The Cauldron of Vocation,
gives and is replenished,
promotes and is enlarged,
nourishes and is given life,
ennobles and is exalted,
requests and is filled with answers,
sings and is filled with song,
preserves and is made strong,
arranges and receives arrangements,
maintains and is maintained.
Another text, The Colloquy of Two Sages runs thus and refers to the gods of Dana who were the three sons of the goddess Brigid who was inspirational to poets, smiths and healers:
I am the son of poetry,
Poetry, son of reflection,
Reflection, son of meditation,
Meditation, son of lore,
Lore, son of research,
Research, son of great knowledge,
Great knowledge, son of intelligence,
Intelligence, son of understanding,
Understanding, son of wisdom,
Wisdom, son of the three gods of Dana.
The Matthews put the two together thus:
Poetry: sings and is filled with song
Reflection: maintains and is maintained
Meditation: preserves and is made strong
Lore: promotes and is enlarged
Research: requests and is filled with answers
Great Knowledge: gives and is replenished
Intelligence: arranges and receives arrangements
Understanding: nourishes and is given life
Wisdom: ennobles and is exalted.1
Again, we can play the correspondence game and match up points on the spiral.
If you play with the maps, you can begin to see what Talent has to do (in fiction as well as real life!). At the gate, Talent must reflect. At the meeting with the muse, Talent must meditate. At the mastery of point four, Talent has lore, but goes down to bury again in study. Looking at these old "maps" is a way to gain creative insight into a character's path. There are several exercises that you character can do to help them meet the challenge of venturing on this path.
1. Acknowledging the Gates of Death
People in the West do not understand suicide. Only in the Japanese ritual of seppuku is it made clear that the purpose of suicide is to focus the soul on the eternity of the moment. One of the best descriptions of this ritual is in the book, Shogun, by James Clavell. On this path it is very helpful to show your character undergo an initiation ritual that involves death of the self. This will help your reader to understand that the way through the door is not actual death, but the leaving behind of the body given for the taking up of the spirit created. A ritual of this nature should be solitary and involve a fasting period and some kind of change that indicates that the death of the old self has occurred: a name change, a costume, some kind of hair cut or other ritual mourning sign.
2. Preparing to Bind the Will
The next step involves a total humility of the spirit. It is awful. Your character must be able to face it with complete willingness, politeness and obedience. If Talent cannot rise above psychic sloth and prepare the spirit for the discipline it needs to survey the fire, then back off now and do not attempt this path until a later time. Have your character practice humility or do it yourself. Usually taking a menial job is good, but working as an apprentice is better. Look how many of the Kung Fu episodes show these tasks. They are also implied in Dune. Make up some tasks; fairytales are full of them.
3. Listening to the Ashes
Your character does not know who their teacher will be. Part of humility is realizing that a teacher or guide may very well be a stone or an idiot, or both! (Kung Fu - "The Cenopath") Part of the pride of the slut in "Toads and Diamonds" is that she sneered at her teacher and thus could not learn.
4. Preparing the Pyre
Without stuff to burn, a fire will die. You must understand that it is your character's soul that will burn. To give up a soul to the burning, Talent will have to have a soul that constantly renews itself or they will burn up. Part of a good burning is preparing the pyre. Your character needs a base from which to work. Either it will be a room or a place (good) or in the mind (better). Envision a place in your character's mind that is a place for constant destruction and resurrection of their own soul. It must be personal and it is better not to share it. This makes for excellent ESP, even telepathic attacks on this space in the mind.
1 A Celtic Shaman's Sourcebook, Caitlín and John Matthews. 1994 Element Books Ltd., Shaftesbury, Dorset, Great Britain.
Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious
If you say it loud enough you'll always sound precocious
- Mary Poppins
What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant intelligence of the child
and the feeble mentality of the average adult."
- Sigmund Freud
To the users of air magic are the codes of ethics, conduct, etiquette and rules of procedure. They are the inventors and discovers of story line and direction. Just as the initiate of water magic can make no rules being the setting of the human drama and the seeker of earth magic can make no rules being the actor of the human drama, the user of air magic is the director and the interpreter of the creator's play. The director is always cited last in the credits to a movie: the actors are cited first after the title. His is the tone that will shape the play and he is the one who can bend all the powers of his skill and technology to try to effect the writing, to give the play his "stamp".
The ability to verbalize is often the first of the initiate of air's talents. The child takes breath and spews a whole world of random observations and thoughts. At first, all reading is aloud. But sight is also of equal importance to the user of air power. Usually this is not his own sight, but the ability of others to see, or not to see. The sleight of hand is worked most effectively under the patter of misdirection. Almost all of the skill of the child of air is geared toward getting control of the human drama. Whether it is control of the set, the actors or the writing is not as important as just getting control. This means comprehension, understanding, modeling, and practice, practice, practice. Usually practice means dueling. Dueling means pitting yourself against skilled opponents, or sometimes not so skilled. This is a way to enchant your audience as in the dueling scene in Harry Potter II.
Yet, in all users of air magic, the mind is the supreme tool. The words make the mind. The senses are useless unless applied to the problem at hand. The hands struggle to solve the problem or to practice the con. Often the two are intertwined as a child's stories, observations and lies are intertwined. Some users of air magic never learn the difference between reality and non reality or the map and the territory it seeks to map. Often, even in hero's journey stories, the studies are those common to workers of air magic.
The threshold for the initiate of air magic involves a trick, so the first thing the magician must know is how to get through the gates. The gates between the ordinary world and the magical world that the trickster inhabits open inward and cannot be forced. The trickster must bide his time and wait for a death to open the gates or someone else to get entrance to the gates from the other side. Often times, the trickster just "hangs out" at the gates like the scene in The Godfather I where Michael Corleone is sitting with Kaye at his sister's wedding. The call to go forth into the ordinary world is usually a message passed from the lips of the dead as they first enter the other world, often still filled with the rage and passions of living.
Again in The Godfather I, Michael is still "hanging out", a civilian on the sidelines of the world of crime, after his father is hit. Then he hears his brother raging about vengeance and claims that he can do this for his father, he can get revenge for the family against the powers that have compromised his father.
Sherlock Holmes, another trickster, usually just "hangs out" in his rooms at 221B Baker Street and does not act but sinks more and more into boredom until someone comes to his door and asks for help in seeking out justice or solving a crime.
To be in the right place at the right time for entry onto the path of air, often your character must affect a "hanging out" at the gates. It helps if your wizard know all the languages, including the language of the birds, and it helps if they're friendly with the threshold guardians. Maybe play a few rounds of dice with them and let them win.
Not always is the entry into the real world to get justice or revenge for a wronged soul. Sometimes someone might ask your wizard to solve an impossible problem or to help them attack a tyrant. Sometimes the wronged souls are so because of some elixir being held back by the forces of the earth against the rules of society. But the trickster never goes into the ordinary world unless called upon by some injustice or "imbalance in the force". The purpose of air magic is to shake loose foundations, to rip off roofs, to reveal the cloaked, to stir up trouble and to change the course of events--otherwise to direct. The director does not direct unless the play calls for direction. The greatest mistake the trickster can make is to want to take over the play. I will explain why later.
The first place the initiate of air magic must do is to go to the scene of the crime. Before your character leaves the gates of the other world, you'd better have a map ready for them of the ordinary world or directions to the scene of the crime. Tricksters are usually having to slip by powers that would put them in prison for their audacity, so the directions had better be pretty clear.
In another movie, The Crow, the wronged soul returns to the ordinary world to get revenge for himself and his fiancée. He does not know the way, but figures out pretty quickly that he has to follow his familiar, or the crow. A way to navigate in the real world is to have a familiar or a maker of fire magic to help your wizard find the way to the scene of the crime. The familiar will not show anything else--it goes against the laws of magic.
For your wizard, the worker of wind and storm, the law is the Law, and they must adhere strictly to the code or the law or the rules of magic. So, in order to leave the magical world, they'd better know the codes.
So, to summarize the skills your character needs to follow this path:
Knowledge of languages.
This also means a knowledge of a trade or the lingo of a trade if your situation demands that your wizard adopt a disguise. Wizards must think like spies. They must be able to blend in.
Solution to the problem.
This means that your wizard can solve the problem. If they can't they'll have to run for their life. No one gets in more trouble than a magician who thought he could solve the problem, winged it, and had it blow up in his face.
A map or directions.
The map is not the territory. Your wizard has to be able to read maps. This means maps of the land, maps of personalities, maps of souls, maps of secret rooms, maps of books, anything that is a key, an index, a code, a translation, or a clue. If you're going to get the Minotaur, you'd better have your ball of string.
Be familiar with the codes.
Know your manners! Manners are not for friends who know each other. Manners are to use in front of strangers, usually antagonistic strangers. Part of your wizard's razzle-dazzle act had better be a familiarity with the rules so that they don't trip up and give themselves away over a slip of the tongue. This means also that they'd better know the regulations and rules of all gaming in case they have to fight a duel.
Well, you can begin to see why the wizard, of all the people on the path, must go to school. It takes brains to get along out there. If the trickster is not ready, he hangs out some more. This is the worst path to trod when you're not ready. Why? Not because they'll endanger their health like the makers of fire magic, or get tangled up in family politics like the queens of water magic, or even stumble around like a fool on the path of earth magic, but because everyone is after them. Your wizard is starting out on this journey outnumbered and outgunned. You can't make up for brains with brawn. You have to fight smart.
There are three schools of fighting.
The School of Grace (Women wizards, warriors like Eowyn and Arya Stark)
Manners, dancing , bowing, turning the right phrase and the right way. Graceful fighters impress everyone with the beauty of their cold, cold perfection. Here is the power of those who can negotiate the courts and ballrooms of the powerful and influential.
The School of Speed (Little guys galore live here!)
If you are fast, you can get in and get away without anyone being the wiser. Quick fighters are those who can pummel their enemies while their enemies are turning around and around trying to figure out what's happening.
The School of Strength (Great wizards like Gandalf)
This means physical strength, but it also means mental strength. If you can out think with the sheer strength of your great mind, they'll be impressed, no matter what you do. Great minds are often spared by any enemy for some later task just as the strong man is spared.
The Christian church tried out this archetype on their monks, but the politics of the magic of air and the devotion of the magic of fire is a combination that is turbulent and destructive. Because of the nature of air magic, being traditionally of the warrior and noble caste, priests who practice both magics find themselves trying to rule the powers of creation through men and their actions. It is usually best if the director and the writer are different people although, if it works, it can have some amazing results such as the rise of Arthur through Merlin's machinations.
Mythologically, the magus is only the magus because he has killed the king. He is the incarnation of the dark king or the tanist who must kill the ruling body in order to give the world winter and, ultimately, the rebirth of spring. He is the slaughterer, the sacrificer, the vision of Old Man Time with the scythe of justice waiting to lop off the head of the reigning power.
But before that, he was the one who decided on the tenure of the sacrificial king, the real power of the throne. He was the body of nobles who controlled trade, decided lawsuits, gave live and death and weighed out the value of people. There are carryovers of this power all through the pantheons of the ancient religions from Maat to Hera and Zeus to Thoth, Hermes to Hades and Thor to Heimdall and Loki. Most of these images are completely jumbled as though each time one of them was taken up into the pantheon some of their powers went this way and that, torn by the wind whether to protect them or to defame them, we can only guess.
To become the master of the winds, your character must be multi-talented. If the trickster relies too heavily on one talent, they are weak in the others. Think of the lawyer, the magus of the courtroom. He must rely on different forms of air magic so that he can hit the jury or the judges from different sides. Traditionally, the wind had 8 directions in the West and 12 in the East.
Graigos (NorthEast) the power of bribes
Boreas (North) the power of position
Maistros (NorthWest) the power of weapons
Ponentes, Dietikas (West) the power of secret knowledge
Garmpas (SouthWest) the power of teasing
Nautias, Austria (South) the power of flattery
Sirrocas (SouthEast) the power of secret treasure
Levantes1 (East) the power of bargaining
With the winds, your wizard has the ability to defame, expose, uncover, and remove. These powers, when used for the sake of justice, will work to that end. These powers when used in the service of avarice or ambition, will turn back upon the worker and make him the biter-bit or the trickster who tricked himself. This is a very funny position and one that will hurt your wizard's pride and their standing beyond recovery. You can also try to get another magus who is doing evil to use these powers to this effect and turn about the biter-bit as the Lawyer Portia does to Shylock in The Merchant of Venice when she says that it says nowhere in his contract that he can shed any blood when getting his pound of flesh when greed and revenge made him accept no other payment.
But the powers of wind are the powers that your character can summon. A Wizard calls up these powers to use the winds to tickle, excite and betray others into falling into the set up. Using these winds requires enormous skill to direct them exactly as your wizard wishes to the effect that your wizard wishes.
If you wish the longer road, your trickster can learn the power of the clear mind, or the power of summoning the wind to clear a space in their mind and leave behind only the power of emptiness. This is a difficult power to explain to one who has not experienced it. Mediation practice is designed solely for this reason. The Tao is a life-long study of this kind of magic of clarity. The twelve directions probably came to Europe with Marco Polo and the influx of Eastern disciplines from the Arabs and other traders.
The Wind Rose
Solanus (E.) the power of patience
Eurus (S.E.) the power of meditation
Euroauster (S.S.E.) the power of reflection
Auster (S.) the power of song
Notus (S.S.W.) the power of knowledge
Africus (S.W.) the power of understanding
Zephyrus (W.) the power of poetry
Stannus (N.W.) the power of lore
Ireieus (N.N.W.) the power of research
Boreus (N.) the power of intelligence
Aquilo (N.N.E.) the power of exchange
Volturnus2 (N.E.) the power of conversation
In nature the power of clear air or clarity is the ionization of the atmosphere after a storm or the air at high altitudes. Some people say that the air has a blueness to it under these conditions. (Some authors have exploited this quality) Learning these powers may seem trivial to you. I warn you, they are not. If you think that they are ways of filling the mind, your wizard may be ruled by avarice or ambition. They are ways of emptying the mind or tuning the mind to the harmonies of the spheres, as the alchemists used to put it. There are layers and layers of tie ins from personality charts as the planets drifted through these constellations. But beware, too much in the way of correspondences can bring in too many winds all battling in a cyclone of chaos. Use maps, if it helps, but remember that the maps were made from a human mind to map a human mind. Maps are not the mind itself.
The trick of wind power is to use the power without it touching your wizard, without them grabbing it and holding it and identifying with it. Your trickster should use patience without being patient. Use knowledge without being knowing. Use intelligence without being intelligent. Use exchange without being exchanged.
The best way to manage wind magic is to not use it. Yes, I said not use it. Have your character show some restraint. Have your wizard wait. Observe. Learn. The most powerful magicians are ones that use the least power. When you are as old as Gandalf, you may see more clearly through the emptiness of the path of experience and understand the power of chi, which is acting without action or directing without direction. There are hundreds of riddles to this contradiction, most of them are solved by experience or age. It is the young and foolish on this path who fall the hardest.
1 Campbell, Joseph, The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology. 1959 Viking Penguin Inc., New York.
2 Pring, J.T, The Pocket Oxford Greek Dictionary. 1982 Oxford University Press, Oxford
"Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into
thinking they can't lose."
- Bill Gates
"When I was six or seven years old, growing up in Pittsburgh,
I used to take a precious penny of my own and hide it for someone else to find....
I always 'hid' the penny along the same stretch of sidewalk up the street.
I would cradle it at the roots of a sycamore, say, or in a hole left by a chipped-off
piece of sidewalk. Then I would take a piece of chalk, and, starting at either end
of the block, draw huge arrows leading up to the penny from both directions.
After I learned to write I labeled the arrows: SURPRISE AHEAD or MONEY THIS WAY.
I was greatly excited, during all of this arrow-drawing, at the thought of the
first lucky passer-by who would received in this way, regardless of merit,
a free gift from the universe....It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so
malnourished and fatigued that he won't stoop to pick up a penny. But if you
cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will
literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies,
you have with your poverty, bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple.
What you see is what you get."
- Annie Dillard Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Earth magic is heart magic. Your hero cannot seek a path with his mind, he must be there and have his heart tell him "hey, this is the path". The best way to find a path is to go on a mission for the king. Almost every earth magic fairytale begins in this way. The old king is dying, his sons go to find him the water of life. Someone is stealing the king's fruit, the sons spend the night in the orchard to capture the thief. The old king dies and orders the boys to go off and seek their fortunes. Your hero may not be the son of a literal king, but every worker of earth magic is the son of a king. Whether that king/father/teacher/guardian is old or young or tyrannical or just or weak or strong--his command is a good reason to go out into the world.
Another good reason to go out into the world is to learn the language of the earth. In fairytales often the hero must learn the language of the beasts or the stones so that he can accept their assistance. You should know by now that no hero walks alone. He has sidekicks, mentors, animal helpers, buddies--he must accept help where it is offered in a humble and gracious way.
Traveling is the best way to understand that your hero is a defender of the world, a member of the population and of your world. Traveling lets your hero see the faces of other people so that he will not fear them. Fear for your hero is not-knowing. Xenophobia and hatred begins with not being able to see the face of the enemy or only seeing his differences. Traveling out of the kingdom out into the world automatically makes your hero humble, as all strangers have to be humble. Only the workers of air magic can go to another place and afford to be scornful of the help. It's far better for your hero to go someplace and be the help. Pulitzer prize winner, Robert Olen Butler, talks about his experiences in Viet Nam that led him to write, Good Scent from a Strange Mountain. He was the only one he knew who, when called up for duty in Viet Nam, actually made some effort to learn the language. His experience in that land was the opposite of the men he knew because of this. Because he knew the language and the people of this country had a real face for him and were not just "slant-eyed gooks", he was able to come back from Viet Nam a larger person, a better person, a person who had found the path instead of a nightmare. Can you do this for your character, and, through him, your reader?
Another person I know talked of his experience as a child on an air base in Germany. He went to the military school on the base, but he played soccer with the locals. He was able to learn German and he remembers being in Germany with great fondness for his experiences on the playing field and with his fellow soccer players. He belonged to Germany in a way that none of the other kids did. He had found a path.
Another kid, from a rotten neighborhood, got to join a Parks program in which he spent the summer building paths and doing grunt work through a national park. At the end of the summer he took back with him a piece of the park and later went on to be a ranger and an activist for conservation. He feels himself a protector of wild life and wild spaces that generations after him will appreciate. In this, he has found a life-long path. Give your character something like this. Give them a group to belong to and a positive experience in the world. Make them soldiers of Rohan and Gondor.
Poverty is one of the tenants of this magic. As Annie Dillard says, one must live a life where "finding a penny will literally make your day". Yet even more damaging to the hero is the denial of experience and fearing to leave the home. To find a path, the hero must leave her home, because leaving home is often the only way to find her home.
Adopting a Stone
One of best ways for your hero to find a path is to adopt a stone. This does not mean he carries around a stone, but goes to place and make it his. Part of earth magic is owning and possessing. Other people use things or destroy and create things. Your hero's part is to own them. The most earthy and rooted people are those who have adopted a stone or a mountain or a field or a tree or a river and watched it through the seasons, walking along it, getting to know it, making it part of you in a way that true ownership does. Ownership means knowing and understanding. The best defender is a person who knows what he defends and knows it well enough to confuse and befuddle invaders. Owning means making a map, not literally, but in your heart. Knowing the seams and creases and chips and pieces and substance of the stone. Have your mentor ask your hero to adopt a stone. Remember little Anakin? He wore a stone around his neck and gave it to his girl.
The first thing that a commander will want is a man who knows the territory or the path. If the path is your hero's, if she fully owns and understand the path, she can be a guide or a pathfinder for others of a team that is defending a territory. Your hero will fight better for something that he knows, owns and loves with all his heart. Remember, sometimes seeing something means leaving it and returning with new eyes.
A stone does not have to be a thing; it can be a profession. Adopting a profession is just as involved an ownership as adopting a mountain. Some people adopt families, but this involves more magic than is on the earth path. Adopting a stone is between your hero an the stone. People cannot be owned in the same way.
Remember, ownership is love. Love means open hands to go forward to a thing. If your hero feels the fear and wants to retract, have her listen to her heart. Always make your hero follow his heart, no matter what others may think about it. If she gives up a fortune to save her soul, she have saved her soul.
Learning to Listen
Other workers of magic must learn to listen in order to do something. Your hero needs to listen just to listen. Listening is learning to hear over the flood of voices in your mind. When Luke Skywalker is trying to fight becoming a Jedi, he gives excuses and wise old Obi Wan says "now that is your father talking". Listening is learning to listen to the heart over the voices of those your hero may respect and love and fear.
Listening is a scary thing. Sometimes your hero will hear things that will make his heart race with the idea of doing something wild or adventurous or radical. (Paul Atreides and his dreams). Every path into the unknown is scary to contemplate. What listening means is feeling this feeling over the fear of failure, the fear of loss, the fear of rejection, the fear of harm, over all the fears that are associated with the secure, warm den of your home.
Your hero must listen. Listen to the wind rattling the door. Listen to the rain on the roof. Listen to the thunder and the far off voices of the storm. He should feel how comfortable he are. How warm and full and sleepy in the pack of his fellows. This is the temptation, this is the sweet taste of security that hides the steel jaws of the trap of a greater fear. The longer your hero postpone your trip, the more settled she will become and the more tightly she will be bound. The time for binding is later, not now. Now your hero must be free to run hither and thither seeking the path.
"Great events make me quiet and calm; it is only trifles that irritate my nerves."
- Queen Victoria
"Hallow the body as a temple to comeliness and sanctify the heart as a sacrifice to love;
love recompenses the adorers."
- Kahil Gibran
Many people object to the magic of Beauty because they think it is passive magic. We have all heard from people talking about what is called, "The Cinderella Complex". What these people fail to see is that the spiral of Cinderella stops at the marriage, at the meeting of the lovers. The spiral continues around past point four and five and into stories of the Empress, or the Queen that Cinderella becomes. There are familiar stories, such as that of Guinevere and less familiar stories such as many of Shakespeare's comedies like A Midsummer's Night's Dream and A Winter's Tale and tragedies such as King Lear and MacBeth. Akira Kurosawa's Ran, a Japanese King Lear, is probably the best example of water magic gone black through the misuse of political intrigue through the Lady Kaede, wife of the eldest son, and the best depiction of good water magic in the Lady Sue, the wife of the middle son. If you are interested in water magic, I highly recommend this movie as a counterpart to the more passive Western princesses like Cinderella and Snow White.
The greatest trap of water magic is not disappointed love, but in the power of being able to get people to do what your queen wants through their being bewitched. Lady Kaede and Lady Sue have both seen their families killed by the tyrant, Hidetora. The ladies are married off to the sons of Hidetora so that he may control their lands, a common practice in feudal empires. Lady Kaede gets revenge for her family by manipulating the downfall of Hidetora and his sons. Lady Sue, a paragon of Buddhist values, sets an example that causes the exposure of Lady Kaede and her death. Although these two women are hemmed in by the Japanese male dominated culture, it is very clear in the movie that they are the land and they are the elixir and they are the power of water moving through the court politics.
As an attractive person ages, superficial attraction can be traded off for a more dangerous and powerful attraction. As a person gains experience in using the drives that bind people to their bodies against their souls this person can work magic of a subtlety and evil that is more insidious because it is hard to trace back to the source. Trickster magic is very easy to trace although a practice called bewildering. Oppressive earth magic is easy to see although hard to overcome. Fire magic rarely touches other people but will destroy their environments and is impossible to combat directly. But the flow of water is sometimes only visible where it is dammed up. People do not realize that they are ensnared until it is too late and the waters have eaten away the foundations of their souls.
Most women (characters and people) have engaged in the evils of water magic at some time in their lives, usually when they were mothers. The petty politics of a family are usually not to be compared to the far reaching devastation of court politics, but the effect on the woman (or man) practicing the magic is the same. It can damage the soul as much as prostitution can. The effect that politics has is to force the power to keep circling the magic maker until the waters become a whirlpool. The waters flow, but only around and around the center until anyone who comes close is swept up in this maelstrom of death and destruction. Most women at this center find that the power of attraction is not the power to attract love, but the power to attract hate. The attraction is still there, no one can resist, but the elixir is now a poison and everyone dies slowly of bitter resentment.
The darkness of the poisoned elixir will show through in the face and the body. Your queen will have to spend more and more time trying to cover up the damage from within. (See "Snow White" and The Snow Queen) People who age with the light of the elixir growing more and more strongly become exceptionally beautiful. Even art and music can be attractive but heavy with the poison of hatred.
The power of the Queen affects everyone around her. As the King and Queen age into their power, the King is calcified as the Queen becomes more and more mobile. Patriarchs of families hold court and people come to them, but matriarchs are into everyone's business, and know everything that goes on and have spies everywhere. (Many spy masters are enuchs) Many times a man will act this way or have people who work for him that act this way for him if he is in a position of power. But there is no denying it that the politics of manipulation is water magic. Earth magic politics is that of confrontation, water magic stabs people in the back in the middle of the night.
The spiral of power politics moves from disappointment and eminence at point five across to point ten and back through saturation, appetite, debauchery and sacrifice. The responsibility of the Empress or Queen is to go from point five through a positive loop encouraging temperance and health and charity and growth, again, through example.
The secret is this. When one is steeped in the power of water magic, the temptation is to act upon it. The secret is to be, not act. The secret is to breath in and sing beauty through the voice. The temptation is to breath out, urging people to act as your arms and legs, bringing you prizes, bringing you treats, bringing you power, bringing and bringing and bringing until you are so glutted that you have nothing left but self hatred and over saturated debauchery to distract you. No matter how your queen is tempted, she must not ask to receive. The more she gives away, the more beauty that she create, the more she will receive, but it will be the light of the soul, not material objects.
When your characters are on the path of learning to channel love and water, interaction with others is a way to practice compassion. When a character is steeped in the power of attraction and is the Queen of water, she must refuse any gift that comes to her and refuse any person who throws themselves at her. Absolutely. Without hesitation or ambivalence. The queen must refuse anyone who wants to do something for her at this stage. The only thing she can do is to set an example. And all of her time should be dedicated to setting the example of compassion, creativity, love, health and purity. Now what queen in fiction has ever done this? So it should be a struggle.
Some people think of charity work as fruitless and a kind of noblesse oblige or a token thrown to the unfortunate to relieve the guilt of the rich. If your queen is infused with water magic's power, charity is one of the few things that she can do besides the creative arts or healing that will benefit her more than the world of the court. Learning the art of giving without expecting a result is the best gift you can give your soul at this point. (This is a powerful contrast in The House of the Sprits, a modern Fantasy by Isabel Allende.) Your queen needs to exercise compassion, but more importantly, at this point, she needs to exercise generosity of spirit. Giving does not mean giving material goods. It means giving of the soul: spending time to uplift those around her, to bring love where there is pain and of bringing healing where there is fear. When a bride/queen accomplishes this only half-heartedly, she arrouses scorn and becomes a Mary Sue character or a weak character like Sansa Stark who should be sympathic, but is only ridiculous. Sansa tries, but she has all the wrong modivations and comes off unsympathetic. For your bride/queen to pull this off YOU MUST BE IN HER MIND, you must show her sympathy and compassion as overriding any disgust or fear.
Testing true generosity. I did this quiz differently--you have to put yourself in the character's shoes!
1. Have I ever given anyone a present and then reminded them of it at any later date?
2. Have I ever given anyone a present and been disappointed when they gave it away?
3. Have I ever listened to someone wanting to do me a favor and asked them for one?
4. Have I ever told anyone something about another person for the effect?
5. Have I ever allowed anyone to give me a gift to apologize or make me happy?
6. Have I ever refused a gift because I was hurt or angry?
7. Have I ever given of my time just to shut someone up or make them happy?
8. Have I ever given something because I felt guilty?
9. Have I ever thought about giving, or planned giving something?
10. Have I ever felt better about myself after giving?
If you answered yes to any of these questions (yes any) your queen has fallen into the temptation of pride and needs to work on true generosity. True generosity means that she is giving because she has an abundance, because she is overflowing, because she cannot keep what she has. It has nothing to do with the gift or the receiver or the use of the gift. If your queen falls into these traps more often than not, she is in the trap of the whirlpool.
1. Have I ever asked someone to do something for me?
2. Have I ever used someone to get someone to do something for me?
3. Have I always politely refused to let someone in love with me do things for me?
4. Have I ever threatened anyone with rejection if they didn't do what I wanted?
5. Have I ever threatened anyone with emotions if they didn't do what I wanted?
6. Have I ever promised to do something for someone in exchange for their doing something for me?
7. Have I ever promised a favor knowing that I wouldn't follow through?
8. Have I promised someone else's favor in exchange for someone doing what I wanted?
9. Have I ever used anyone for any reason?
10. Have I ever refused to say "I love you" because I was angry or hurt or put out?
If you've answered yes to any of these questions, your queen has fallen into the trap of politics. She needs to see people as humans, not as robots. Occasionally, she may fall under fire of someone who sees interpersonal cooperation as helping one another if she refuses help. This can get really complicated. If they put her under fire, it means that they, too, are engaged in politics. Sometimes men will engage in a team building exercise that means that they all have to learn to help one another. This is very different from political manipulation, but, unfortunately, most men and women mix politics in with it, even on the playing field. The clue is this. If anything in the team smells of a popularity contest, it's politics.
Politics usually begins between spouses or, more often, between a parent and a child. Children are the victims of political manipulation every day. It is often in this relationship, (yes, fathers, too) that compassion and love break down before political manipulation, especially if the child is fighting back. Most Fairy Tales show this scene of family politics too clearly with the evil witch in the role of honor. Love gone bad stories always start with politics.
The point where you find that your queen has become the Empress or a powerful agent of an Emperor or in some position where she are the center of intrigue and politics but also at a pinnacle of attraction she must make the jump between earthly power and magical power. This transition means that she must give up the Empire to become a God or Goddess. In some religions, it is permissible to become a saint, or someone who is enlightened. This is the same thing. Your queen must reject eminence for true nobility just as she has rejected power for generosity and politics for compassion.
Here are the steps your queen has to follow to become a goddess (or god).
1. She must be in tune to the land.
2. She must become the land.
3. She must give birth to the land.
4. She must transform the land.
5. She must transcend the land.
Yes, I know. But I shall explain. I'm going to direct this at you in a effort to help you see it better.
Becoming Tuned to the Land.
Have you ever had the experience of being out in the wilderness or in your garden or out in the world and were able to feel the world in and through you? Perhaps late at night you have lain under the stars and felt the earth wheeling around? Have you ever had your house around you feel as though it were a part of your soul projected outside of yourself? If you have had the experience of feeling like you were with the world and not just a person living in the world, then you have felt attuned to the land. With discipline, you can feel that way all the time, but if you feel it once, you can write about it.
1. The Healing Qualities of Water.
Have your queen create a water fountain or a sanctuary for water. Water is her path, water is flowing through her, part of her tuning process can be made more easy with water. Daily, she should create a ritual "washing" or "baptism" where she can wash her hands or her face or dip her fingers into the flowing water and wash herself of the feelings that are blocking her soul. This ritual must be private and can be as simple as taking a bath as long as her bathroom is a kind of sanctuary.
2. The Pilgrimage of Water
Create a time when your queen can visit some kind of stream or lake or ocean natural water. (Beginning of Snow White). Hiking alone there or with a loved one can create a deep feeling of accord inside of your queen. People all the time talk about the healing power of the sea. Lakes and streams and rivers can be just as wonderful. Try to go as often as you need to (even if it is just a fountain at dawn) to feel the presence of water that is greater than yourself. Then put that feeling into words.
3. The Imagery of Water
If you swim or not, try to meditate every night as you go to sleep with the image of yourself floating in water. Let the water rock you, nurse you, and soothe away your problems. Can you give this to your queen? Use water imagery to help show her struggle. Having a queen turn to ice is very impressive as a way to show a different sort of prison than that of the swamp.
Becoming the Land (Again directed at you!)
Have you ever looked at yourself and realized that you are yourself your own planet? Not in the silly sense of being a host to micro parasites, but in the sense of being explored or being a substance or being a mysterious country beyond the rim of the known world. If you've ever massaged a person, you might have felt their geography and topology and realized that they were a structure and a substance. Realizing this will make you realize that you are yourself a vessel and a land to bring forth life. Not in an animal sense, but in a sense that real land is something to be occupied and won and owned and lived in and upon. If you let your children climb upon you you may have had this feeling of being something substantial to them as if they were circling a planet. Use this feeling and try to write about it.
Giving birth to the land, actual application of water magic.
These excercises are not actual birth, although actual birth can be a part of this function of water magic. This is understanding the nature of genitive creativity. One of the better things a person engaged in water magic can do is to grow a garden. If gardening does not appeal to you, take a ceramics or painting class or become a baker. If you don't feel a creative bone in your body, go to the beach or a sand box and make sand castles. Do something but use your hands to do it.
How do you feel when engaged in making? (Except artistically frustrated!) Do you feel that concentration, of learning how to guide the hands and how to push and dig and prod until you see a shape that you like or a change takes place? Creativity is not just a head thing. It is a hand thing. Your hands are instruments of creativity.
If you can remember this feeling, think of manipulating your brain in the same way. Think of manipulating your spirit. Think of pouring water into the powder of your mind in order to create flowing earth. What excercises can your character engage in to learn these disciplines? Think of the Bene Geserit. There excercises were to observe and to use their bodies as weapons. How could they have changed their excercises to help people and channel water energy rather than trap it?
Transforming the land.
After you manipulate the land of your mind, you will begin to see a transformation as the form accommodates flow. If you feel a blockage or a problem, go back to your water. That is your inspiration. You are the vessel, your spirit is the elixir. This is the essence of godhead is in freeing your spirit to flow forth across the land and transform it into godhead. It is essential that you understand this magic (or any magic) to write about it. Every book or story should have a bad example of energy blocked but also a good example so that people do not just react to your story out of fear, but out of inspiration.
"The torpid artist seeks inspiration at any cost,
by virtue or by vice, by friend or by fiend, by prayer or by wine."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Two rivers run too deep
The seasons change and so do I
The light that strikes the tallest trees
Will light a way for I
Will light a way
Up toward the sky
It's a blue sky
To lose along the way
The spark that set the flame
To flicker and to fade
On this the longest day"
- U2 "Indian Summer Sky"
Drugs and alcohol have always played a part in religious rituals, magical quests, and spirit journeys. They played a part also played by fasting, sleep deprivation, meditation, dancing, chanting and other mind-altering states. Many people in the last century rationalized the use of drugs for the purpose of awakening the spirit. Most religious teachers do not recommend the use of drugs for this purpose because of the dangers of not being able to control the state. Most primitive (and not so primitive) rites have a guide who carefully watches the initiate to make sure the the "trip" is not a nightmare. Nevertheless, many people on the path by themselves swear by the use of drugs. Sometimes the state resists access through any other way except drugs and Talent find herself getting into a very bad loop where the more of the drug she takes, the less it works as her mind and body habituates to the drug and the state slips away.
Writers, musicians, artists and other creative souls are besieged by the question of finding inspiration. Beginning students always ask, "where do you get your ideas?" Unfortunately, the real answer is that if you have to get ideas, you've no business trying the force the issue. Since so much of the arts is dedicated to finding a vehicle for marketing, the quest for ideas is often the veiled quest for money. While this purpose is not bad in and of itself, usually this quest is tied to earth magic and clashes badly with fire magic which deals with inspiration and channeling the spirit world through some creative medium. This the reason why so many artists are not good at marketing and vice versa creating often unbearable clashes between people of different goals and different values. Try hard not to put marketing into your fire worlds. Talent is inspired by his creation, and pursues the path no matter what money he gets or not. In most archaic settings, but not in futuristic settings, Talent has his own world, that of the artisans or the priests or both.
Channeling the spirit world or trying to forge new territory into a realm that has been--until now--not well understood, is always work that requires an enormous energy from the individual. Groups can sometimes forge new territory together, and again, drugs can help create a bond like that of a shared experience or a shared past can create a bond. And, again, in the controlled environment of ritual this bond can be immediate and fruitful, but a bunch of guys just getting together to try to bond through drugs or any of the other mind altering states can just be a bunch of guys all trying to overcome each other's problems. This is painfully true often with people who walk the path of fire because they often have so many problems already with interaction and relationships to groups. If you are going to do a realistic fire magic--STAY AWAY FROM PROBLEMS! This flies in the face with the demands of the editors, but so be it. The fire initiate has trouble with one problem, controlling the fires of talent.
Music has a particular ability to alter the mind state. So does darkness. Much of fire magic involves interacting with the dark, one of the reasons it has such a bad reputation. A wonderful image of fire magic is in the story, Vassalisa, where Vassalisa returns home from the witch Baba Yaga with the fire that her stepmother sent her for. She runs through the woods at night with a stick. Upon that stick is stuck a flaming skull. The skull burns up her stepmother and sisters when it looks at them after she gets back home. The story is a combination story as so many witch stories are, a witch world with a bride/witch mixed main character. But Vassalisa is sent for fire and may be a remnant of a much older story.
So much of the imagery of fire magic is dark due to the long era of Christianity. Christianity is an advanced form of an earth and water based religion. In the long years that Christians have persecuted every image of fire and air magic that they could, they have made fire magic among the most dark and most painful magics to access alone .
Yet the real problem that people have with drugs on this path is when the drugs become part of the persona, the invisible cloak, or become part of the way that the personality copes with the real world. There are hundreds of stories of poets who are alcoholics and suffer the vagaries of the moon, high and writing to depressed and drinking. The essence of the creative spirit is manic/depressive, and images of the moon are a symbol for this. George MacDonald even wrote a story about this imagery called, "Little Daylight" about a princess who becomes a crone on the dark of the moon.
The spiral of Beauty arcs up into the real world where the initiate goes from being a lover into being a queen or an empress. But the spiral of Talent is the fall back into the underworld beginning at the gate of struggle. She masters herself in the real world and then must go into the darkness. If she cannot, she may be forced to by circumstances beyond her control. This cycle can occur over and over in a micro-mirror of the larger cycle of life. When you draw this character, you can use imagery to show the waxing and waning of Talent without the discipline to keep on track. If Talent cannot face going back into the other world, she is often dragged there by the Dark King like Persephone. The horrors of the realm of the dead are aggravated by ravages of the body left behind and the initiate may turn to spirit numbing drugs to just make it through the day. Whatever the price by the fall into the land of the dead, drug use usually begins as part of the veil to keep the spirit safe from the real world.
The cycle of addiction is often started by struggle and resignation while in the midst of trying to make something work or doing actual practice or work, or some tedious part of the creative cycle. The initiate gets into loop of apathy and a suspended spirit, giving excuses like "I'm still doing research" or "I'm trying to get ideas" or other postponing excuses while the clock is ticking. The awareness of time can aggravate this problem, making the initiate run even more quickly for the mind numbing bottle. Often the path becomes protective, and the spirit is destroyed and suppressed and the self defames the self in an orgy of envy and self hatred.
The path through this trap is more than temperance. It is more than self-will. It involves the burning up of the parts of the soul that hang onto the real world. Material comforts play such a big part in this trap that all religious orders are full of warnings about greed, gluttony, lust and other real world sins. If the initiate to fire has been inspired by any of the products of the real world they will often return there with a burned out soul, looking for inspiration, but settling for comfortable forgetfulness.
Testing ties to material traps. Note that I again use the second person to help you "get into
your character's head".
1. Have I ever used something sacred to me to pay my rent? Did I feel used?
2. Have I ever caved into using my talent for the gain of others out of guilt?
3. Have I ever caved into using my talent for the gain of myself because others loved my work? Did I feel used?
4. Have I ever turned to some comfort food or drug to try to escape myself?
5. Did I find that what had helped me escape from the real world worked to escape myself?
6. Have I ever envied other people so much that I mimicked their behavior even though I
7. Have I ever gone against my spiritual intuition for the sake of compromising on my work?
8. Have I ever tried to fill myself when I felt empty?
9. Have I ever coveted another's work because my own was not going well?
10. Have I ever rationalized my behavior? Did I find that drugs/alcohol helped me do this?
If you answered yes to any of these questions (yes to any) your character has fallen into the temptation of self
abuse and needs to work on a cleansing fire. Cleansing means that Talent is purging the ashes from
his spirit, cleaning the hearth of bones and bits and pieces of unburned material. Cleansing means
more than "turning a new leaf" it means turning from the real world back to the practices
and disciplines that attracted Talent to the fires of the spiritual world in the beginning. Talent may
also find that the ravages to his body may require twice as much discipline as he ever had before
and he may want to seek help in dealing with the shock and side effects of trying to purge and burn
himself back to an inspirational state. Letting go of another material abuse--that of body
image--can help. There are few things that can destroy fire energy faster than grief about a body
image. Most sole characters on this path find it impossible to get past the Moon. This is why
many of these people are found in a group, even a small group like Bran Stark find himself with
the Reeds. Bran Stark is one of the few fire characters in modern fiction and is well worth considering
if you want to write this kind of story.
The next round of questions involves realizing pressure from outside Talent that may be contributing to the feeling of needing a heavier veil or wanting to run away. (Again in second person)
1. Have I ever felt the need to do work that was marketable?
2. Have I ever felt pressured by a mentor to go into a field that was lucrative?
3. Have I ever been encouraged to do work that did not appeal to me?
4. Have I ever felt guilted into doing uninspirational work for the good of mankind?
5. Have I ever worked for bread in a field that was close but burned out my desire to do my own work?
6. Have I ever come out of work into the real world and felt a shock?
7. Have I ever been irrationally angry at having to earn my own way and waste my time?
8. Have I ever felt bad about doing my own work because it didn't benefit anyone?
9. Have I ever worked under the burden of supporting another financially?
10. Have I ever been censured for not being a team player?
You have to realize that in Western cultures the farming castes have risen up and just about made the entire culture fit their own heroic values. They also drag along slave values, but rarely, if ever, do they do anything but disparage warrior and priest values. Warrior values are criminalized, but priest values are openly ridiculed in public if grudgingly acknowledged in private. Often people on the fire path who have "sold out" or been financially successful with their work are among the worst to criticize doing work for spiritual value rather than material value.
The point of work in the farming and slave castes is for material gain and comfort. This kind of in the warrior caste is openly despised as being "beneath" them since they live off of tithes collected in the form of taxes and rents. But work for the priest caste, whether a scientist, an artist, a poet, a doctor or a priest is a calling. The work is done because of itself, because the spirit is accessed through these doorways. This is almost incomprehensible to the other castes. Show this in your conflicts between fire characters and others.
As a consequence, you will find that most everyone in the story is against this (these) characters, like in the stories of dwarves who live in separat societies. The magic they do is "black magic", the work they do is "non lucrative and frivolous" and their values are "anti-family" and "anti-productive". Think of it this way. The other castes need fire to light their hearths and cook their food. They fear the flaming skull, which is the epitome of fire magic, and they fear the forest fire, the lighting strike--any fire that is destructive and a threat to their crops, their goods, or their homes. If Talent's values have nothing to do with crops, goods, or homes, yet need the fire to burn out dead wood, then Talent is going to have trouble. Big trouble. Most fictional characters of Talent are enemies for this reason.
Unlike water magic, which must flow, unobstructed, through the initiate in order to work effectively, fire magic must be held. It can, like the fires of the Vestal Virgins be a sacred fire on a hearth in a temple, or merely a fire on a hearth in home. It can like Baba Yaga's fire, be held within the confines of a skull to light a way through the woods and burn out the souls of wrongdoers. It can be a bonfire, lit as a beacon on a high hill. Yet, for fire magic to be magic, it must be set on a clean hearth, tended, fed and kept from spreading or going out.
This is dark magic, or magic from the night. Fire magic is represented by the moon, the planets and the stars, all of which are celebrated at night. Many say that Stonehenge was a monument to the great passage of the sun and a place of ritual for the gods and goddesses of the earth and the harvest. Before that--long before--it was a place for the priests and priestesses of fire to watch the planets, the stars and the moon. Create temples or places for your characters to watch the stars or burn fires. This is an ancient and very vital part of many holidays still.
The gods and goddesses became mixed up, the new ones taking on attributes of the old. At one time, water magic--fertility magic--was of the sea and lakes and springs and rivers and fields under the sparkling rain. As the goddess grew, she took on all the attributes of the goddess of the moon, the wild animals and the fire. This goddess was as late as Artemis and Persephone to the Greeks, Diana to the Romans, Brigid to the Celts. Yet her cults were far, far older than modern man himself. They have found evidence of the hearths of fire "worship" in Neanderthal caves as far away as East Asia that are as old as c. 400,000 B.C.1
A moon or star or fire priestess is not a representative of the goddess on earth. She is a channeler of forces and a communicator of messages from the spirit world around. Fire has always been an aid in helping the mind to see what cannot readily be seen.
In times of old, stories and histories and knowledge and spells were not written down. They were memorized as chants or songs. Song, for humans, is a way to remember things as well as being attuned to the spirit. Some people suggest that song accesses the right brain, non-verbal, visual centers. Song and chants are used to bring about a trance-like state of high awareness. Even today, when people camp out they sings songs around the campfire. Although this is a far cry from a priestess in a cave chanting out messages from the other world to the flames of a fire, the magic is still there. Every feels the attraction of sitting in the dark with a fire, singing.
As a the High Priestess of the Moon and Stars, this is Talent's magic. She is Vassalisa running through the woods with a skull of fire. She is Brigid standing with her 18 priestess in a spiral around the sacred fires of Ireland, chanting to the rising moon. She is Artemis waiting for the rising of the Bears, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor or the Wolves, Canis Major and Canis Minor. His is Vulcan/Haephestus pounding ore in the heart of the volcano. He is a Noldor or a dwarf making light into a jewel. His is the great star, Sirius, around which Stonehenge was originally built worshipped by the Egyptians.
The holiday of fire is at Candlemas, around the first of February. This day was originally dedicated to Brigid. But fires were lit at all the major holidays. At the beginning of the year, in any of the ancient Western religions, all the fires in the land were rekindled from the sacred fire. All over Europe, the ancient holidays of the Celts are still celebrated with fire. Although when people wanted something, they went to their nearest holy spring and gave a gift to the goddess of the waters in exchange for her mercy, fire was never a gift giving celebration. Fire is an ecstatic celebration and was used more often for cleansing. Animals were blessed and cleansed by leading them through two fires.
Part of fire is the fuel for the fire. One of the most sacred images to Celtic poets is "the green and burning tree" signifying both the tree between the world of the living and dying, but also the burning branch. Wood was classified as to how well it burned and the most popular were the holly and the "yule" or apple and other members of the rose family, pear, cherry, hawthorn, and the witch's tree, Rowan. The word for Rowan in Gaelic is "luis" which means "burning" both referring to the color of the berries and the leaves in fall as well as the wood. Rowan thickets are found in ancient oracular places as well as near stone circles. The original stake to kill a vampire was of Rowan. Rowan berries were the "apples of immortality" and the tree was said to ward off lightning. Poets wands were of hazel and ash and the oracle/priestess's wands were of rowan.
The priestess of fire is also a priestess of flowers, or a maid of flowers like Persephone who became the Queen of Hades. Her trees wer trees of the Rose, Rowan at Candlemas, Hawthorn at Beltaine, The Briar at the equinox, the Apple at Yule (uile - apple) and the Blackthorn.
You can light fires in a book, but in a more modern setting Talent can celebrate fire magic with candles. Scented oil burners are also a good way to celebrate fire. Candles should be lit at dark, and celebrations should be held during phases of the moon. Rituals may include meditaion, incense, singing and chanting, the recitation of poetry (not of spells) recalling the names of spiritual friends. Rituals may be oriented to the West or to the North to the stars or the moon, but never the sun. Plays can take forth in the flickering light, shadows of history or drama or caution.
Through fire magic, the human world is created. The master of fire magic is the writer of the human drama. Understanding fire magic is to learn the difference between the created world and the world around. All of human endeavor, all rules, all customs, all culture, all clothing, food, shelter, things--anything manmade, has been created through fire magic. Celebrating fire magic involves learning the power of the fire of creation.
To do this, is is necessary to destroy something. If your character has a fireplace, it is easy to burn something, which is best. But burning a symbol in a candle or lamp creates a deep resonance with your reader of this character's ability to channel. Try writing scenes where herbs are thrown into a brazier and then the chant is begun to channel the spirits of the other world.
Pick something that has soured for your character. Whether it is a note from a past love, a piece of writing that didn't work, a drawing, a picture of someone, a doll--it must be something that will burn. Try is yourself. Burn something yourself. Burn your old stories that didn't work or some notes. You will be surprised at how cleansing this is.
This is the purpose of fire magic. Talent must celebrate the world around through the passages of the moon and sun, the seasons and their creatures, but only through the destruction and creation of something of the created world. As soon as Talent picks a flower or cut down a tree or trim a branch, it is in his hand and represents the created world, or the world that a human has effected. Be aware that music or singing will give this ritual a reality that almost nothing else will, especially if everything else is silent. The fire Priestess (Priest), the stars, the moon, the dark, the fire and the singing is the magic, and of the most effective in a book or movie. Funeral rituals that involve fire are the most dramatic, birthings by a the light of a fire--so much done by firelight in movies evokes a spell of the Priestess that is hard to forget.
1 Campbell, Joseph, The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology. 1959 Viking Penguin Inc., New York.
"The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others
and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us,
and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak,
the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls."
- - Elizabeth Cady Stanton
"Men of sense often learn from their enemies.
It is from their foes, not their friends, that cities learn
the lesson of building high walls and ships of war."
To use air magic, your characters are not filled with wind. They must call up the wind and trick it into obedience. To do this they need tools. The tools of the spirit are breath tools. Many Eastern religions focus on breath as the first part of a mental and physical discipline. The tool of the spirit of wind is the breath and the word.
As Hermione points out in the first book of the Harry Potter series, how you say a word is just as important as the words that you say. "WIN gar di a Lev i O sum!" For many people in the Mideast, the shibboleth/sibboleth pronunciation is still regarded as a valid test of character. To many people of this area, Americans sound like snakes because they have so many S's in their language. How many times have we not fallen flat on our faces for the mispronunciation of a word!
For many people the correct pronunciation of local landmarks is a test of foreigners. For others a slip of vocabulary or pronunciation is a mark of class. Vocabulary denotes profession and level of learning. Since ancient times, secret societies have included the shibboleth as part of their recognition rituals as well as their handshakes. And in every spy novel, the spy must steal or know the secret passwords.
In The Lord of Rings, one could enter the gates of Moria but speaking "friend" and entering. Gandalf spent much time over this riddle until he realized that "friend" was a password. In Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, one must know the password to the door, "open, sesame!" Secrets and secret chambers are always guarded in the magical universe by the password. In Harry Potter: The Chamber of Secrets, Harry had to speak parselmouth, a shibboleth form of a password. No one outside of Slitherin House had ever spoken parselmouth before.
The Lingo, the Ancient Tongue or the Lingua Franca
Latin is a famous magical lingo, so is Greek. Every profession has its jargon. Most books of magical spells require a working understanding of Latin and Greek the universal languages of the sciences and the arts since the fall of the Roman empire. For Moslems, Arabic is this universal tongue and must be learned to read the Koran. Further east, Sanskrit and Urdu are the languages of choice. In many professions there are still magical holdovers. In astronomy, there are stars named by Arabian astronomers such as Betelgeuse and Aldebaran, but the constellations are as old as Babylon and a carry over from the astrologers of that era.
In another famous Fantasy series, Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising, the magical book is called Grammarye. Merlin had a book of grammar. Grammar simply means letters or writing. In ancient times, only a very few could read and write. In tales of Ulster warriors, the upper class was supposed to be able to understand the magical language of Ogam which was a tree language carved into rods. Runes are another form of language whose magical letters have outlived their users. Although the writing of these grammars was a priestly affair, warriors and tricksters had to be able to use these writings to work the magic of air.
Semiology is the science of signs. Much of the way that magic works is by accompanying hand signs or gestures or "a flick of the wrist" when using a magic wand. Body language is a form of semiology. Understanding body language can get you through many scrapes better or as well as language. Another part of semiology is the art of dressing and art of carrying the right tools with you. A stethoscope can help you masquerade as a doctor. A legal pad can help you pretend to be a lawyer. The science of signs is vital to disguise.
The art of riddling is a dying art. It used to be as much a part of magic as spells were. In many many stories the hero must answer correctly a riddle. Often the trickster as part of the threshold guardians would ask the riddles. There are as many forms of riddles are their are forms of poety. Many riddles are of the priest caste, but again, warriors need to know the answers to pass challenges and tests.
The art of humor is vital to the users of wind magic. Perfecting the art of physical and verbal humor is a talent that will get you into the holiest of sanctuaries. All forms of humor fall into the trickster/magician's hands: satire, lampooning, punning, mimicking--whatever works, use it.
Cursing used to be a weapon of a warrior as much as his sword or shield. All of the Ulster heroes could curse. Often entire houses could be brought down with a curse. The only place that cursing survives is in school yard taunts. One of the greatest weapons that a trickster can have on the school yard in the face of the cohesive groups of earth magic bullies is name calling. The use of names on attractive girls or powerful boys can win a trickster the respect of others who have been oppressed.
You might hesitate to call technology magic, but it is in a way. If you took any of our common technologies back a thousand years, you'd be burned as a witch. Yet the warrior caste has always appreciated technology that gave them an edge over the settled people they pillaged. A reading of historical conquest is a reading of the history of technology. What is made by fire magic is used by air magic, again following the ancient pattern of wizards and familiars. Minos, king of Crete, was a user of air magic, and Daedalus was his engineer or familiar. President Kennedy, another of the warrior class, (high ranking political family) had his chief engineer of the space program, the rocket scientist Werner Von Braun (fire magic indeed!), who had been on the team of German engineers during the war who built the first rocket launched bombs that nearly destroyed Britain. Von Braun could have cared less about war, he was only interested in getting to the moon. Captain Picard has his Commander Data; Captain Kirk has his Spock. When stories are technial, the warrior caste and tricksters must have access to engineers, scientists, and other "tech" people.
Over and over again we see this pattern in technology and it is a famous one in Science Fiction as we see in Star Trek: The Next Generation's Captain Picard (who can recite his famous line of warrior ancestors) and Data, (himself a creation by a worker of fire magic). Note the common pattern of use: Data is used over and over and told to shut up when his use is over. The pattern is not so common in Fantasy where the hero's journey is more common than the warrior king and his band of defenders of the earth against some horrible monsters or detestable enemies.
During war, air magic takes over as the dominant magic. In times of peace, earth magic prevails. If your wizard is on the path of wind and war erupts, he is in the best position to both help others and help his own ambitions if he can get your hands on a new technology to harness the power of the wind to destroy the enemy.
If there is no war, most workers of air magic are more than a little bored. Makers of fire magic have to prostitute their skills toward making trinkets and better ways to sell cars when they are out of work, so to speak, but workers of air magic often have to resort to internal squabbling, usually in long and involved lawsuits (or duels) between powerful families or in trying to help the destitute to overcome the crushing powers of the state as a criminal defense lawyer or the leader of a social protest or as a detective or as a criminal.
The Master Thief story remains one of the more popular, especially among the destitute who rely upon the trickster to right social inequalities. For the farming castes and the serf castes, luck is everything, but for the makers of air magic, luck is made. Luck is merely having a better plan and better tools than the local constabulary. But before you get the idea that to use air magic there must be a war or your characters must resort to crime, there is a third alternative.
Les Miserables is Victor Hugo's masterpiece. Hugo excelled at writing stories about the trickster. His half-villians are famous the world over such as the priest in The Hunchback of Notre Dame who lusts after the fire gypsy, Esmeralda. In Les Miserables, the story of the once thief turned benefactor and then fugitive, Jean Valjean prevails. But in this book is one of the noblest pictures of a worker of air magic, the leader of the ABC Society, Enjolras. In the story he leads the Paris insurrection of 1848 and dies at the hands of the police. It was this vision that sustained the writer, Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and responsible for the Objectivist movement, during the horrors of the Soviet Revolution. Her books are filled with air magic "heroes" who are not firemen or soldiers, but philosophers.
The way to call up air magic in a time of peace is to be a watchdog of the reigning culture. Air magic was designed to be a check on the oppressive tactics of the farming and merchant castes who desire security before individual rights. A healthy society has its questioners who are the first to be imprisoned when security is threatened.
The current mode of calling up the wind is the internet. Around the world, workers of air magic, whether they are tricksters, hackers or watchdogs, use the internet to create chaos and stick pins into anyone who is getting too fat off the land at the expense of the workers. This is a kind of name calling that comes naturally to the user of air magic. Any time you sit down to email you are involving yourself in air magic, no matter who you are.
The biggest mistake anyone can make is confusing warrior-controllers with warrior-watchdogs. Often they come from the same family. Because of the natural contention of air magic, because it is a magic heavy in honor and individual egos, it works as a check and balance of the socialist mentality of the farming caste. The barometer of social health is in reading the effectiveness of air magic to harass and stir up earth magic. Think of it this way. If earth magic is a rock, then air magic makes a soil by nagging at it for generations with maybe a little help from a lightning strike. The same check and balance exists between water magic and fire magic. When the growth of the earth gets too thick, a fire will cleanse it out and make room for new trees.
It is not one magic against another, but a balance and dance between the magics that makes the world work and the human drama go forward.
Your wizard may suffer the punishment of Prometheus who brought fire from the gods to mankind. If he brought about a change in the ordinary world, but in doing so racked up a host of enemies, he may be on the run. Or at least they look like enemies. They should be enemies. Your trickster would want revenge if he was in their shoes. On and on he thinks on the problem inventing shadows and traps. The mind is not something he can just turn off. If your wizard is under punishment, he may fall into the pit.
It is difficult to accept that he has done them a favor and now he is being punished for it. He solved the problem and now they turn on him, telling him to shut up. Things sour for him. The tastes of the world, once the hard won taste of heaven, now pale and cannot please him any longer. Everything is less satisfying, everyone is stupid and silly and not at all worthy of your attentions. The big enemy is down and now all that is left to pester him are all these flies of little brains who cannot challenge anyone, let alone your wizard. Sound familiar? The problem is that somewhere out there there has to be someone who can beat him at his own game. Your wizard can wait around for another ungrateful soul to trample him down or he can take steps to protect himself.
Sound familiar? This is the dark king's hell. Saruman is re-designing Isengard. Voldemort is gathering his slaves. Khan is holding hostages on a captive ship. Once made a criminal, all things are crimes, so why fight? I t's him against them.
As you can see from the markers of the path of air, the loop and the trap concern boredom, evasion, argument and interference. Law becomes crime, truth becomes artificial, investigation becomes inquisition. The air is flat, the wind is gone, and the staleness of the pit is overwhelming. Pleasures become perverted, curiosity becomes morbid.
King Minos of Crete kept a monster from his own siring in a labyrinth constructed by his familiar, Daedalus. He demanded from his enemies seven youths and seven maidens every year to feed this monster. Finally, the monster was killed by Theseus, assisted by Ariadne's thread. Loki, chained to a rock, was subjected to poison dropping into his eyes by a snake. His wife caught the poison, but when she emptied the pan, Loki screamed with pain. Hades, bored and frustrated, kidnapped Persephone and dragged her away to hell with him. He tricked her into eating the pomegranate seeds just as she learned that she was to be freed.
The dark king's rule is childless and loveless and tasteless. All he secretly desires is to be freed by the enemy he fears.
Many animals, in their fear, puff themselves up to look larger. Cats do this, some lizards and a little fish called the puffer fish. Sometimes the kingdom of hell is a very small kingdom and the perceived slights against the king are very great indeed. Envy fills him and vanity over what little power he has over men. He lords it over the people he can and puffs himself up so his enemies will think him large and powerful. He does this with cars and lavish parties and gifts and promises and crime.
The true noble is marked by none of these bourgeois ploys. He does not have to prove anything to anyone. He accepts his punishment by the establishment as his due for helping those less fortunate because he did not help anyone for reward, only because they needed someone to help them. In his power, he is magnanimous. In his fortune he is generous. In his ability he is humble. And everyone can see that he has no enemies or they have scattered all, like the rats they were.
Testing true nobility. (First person--get into your trickster's skin!)
1. Have I ever given anyone advice and then denied them more when they didn't follow it?
2. Have I ever helped someone's career and been disappointed when they back stabbed me?
3. Have I ever power brokered? Done someone a favor with the idea of getting one back?
4. Have I ever slandered someone to promote my ambitions?
5. Have I ever encouraged people to give me stuff in exchange for empty promises?
6. Have I ever flaunted my assets to encourage people to come to me for help?
7. Have I ever told someone "caveat emptor" when they've had a legitimate grief with me?
8. Have I ever given something away because the gift will destroy their reputation?
9. Have I ever planned events for show or to show up people I envy?
10. Have I ever felt better about my career after a successful plot?
If you answered yes to any of these questions (yes to any) your trickster has fallen into the temptation of fraudulence and needs to work on true nobility. True nobility means that he is acting because he has an obligation, because he is superior, because he desires the brethren of angels not devil slaves. Nobility has nothing to do with fame or impressing anyone. If your wizard falls into these thoughts more often than not, he is in the trap of the puffer fish and may be better as a villian.
Yet, everyone knew that Hades was fabulously rich. Another dark king was Midas who turned everything around him into gold. This is a bad combination: having riches beyond the dreams of wealth, having power over everyone, and having nothing to do. Often the mind turns against itself and creates realities that have nothing to do with the senses. The mind has no room to range out, beyond that stifling throne room stacked with treasure. Were is the challenge and the freedom of movement? Where is the flight upon the wings of the tornado?
The mind craves movement. It will make movement when none is given it. One of these self limiting reliefs from boredom is paranoia, or dreaming of an enemy.
1. Have I ever forced someone to rat out someone else?
2. Have I ever used someone to get someone to do something to an enemy?
3. Have I always politely refused to retaliate on partial knowledge?
4. Have I ever threatened anyone with exposure if they didn't do what I wanted?
5. Have I ever threatened anyone with ruin if they didn't do what I wanted?
6. Have I ever sworn to judge anyone without mercy if I feel them in my way?
7. Have I ever seen everyone in black and white and not allowed any small slips?
8. Have I exposed the enemy of an ally and now fear that my ally fears me?
9. Have I ever lost my sense of humor?
10. Have I ever wanted just to kill off everyone?
Remember Hades who had to trick Persephone to get her to stay with him? Another form of paranoia is keeping a wife, not out of love, but out of fear. A wife can be another stack of gold, bought and won and locked away, a trophy. One of the greatest lusts and fears of women is to find a sugar daddy who will free them from material want, but lock them up for perverse pleasure, far from the light of day.
One of the earliest signs of paranoia for your trickster is his having a wife that loves him, like Loki's wife, and inventing a reason why she secretly does not. This is extremely easy to do. He can become wildly jealous and possessive over a wife of beauty and suspicious and tyrannical over a wife of talent. And when the pitiful jester performs his tricks before his dark throne and actually makes her laugh, the Dark King secretly fumes and envies the sound, as the trill of a bird in a dark cage. For this, her may punish her.
Of course, he will be vulnerable if he loves a wife. And if she is touched by the hand of the enemy he will become wildly paranoid in his efforts to protect her unless he has a jealous streak and sees her hand in the hand of your enemy. All in all, paranoia will destroy even the little bit of love and compassion that has followed him into hell. Nobility will raise your wizard king above these fears and let him see his wife for the queen she is, even if she is queen in exile.
If your trickster has kidnapped a wife in a play for power, or if she is his familiar, these years in hell can help solidify his relationship and let him see light in a place of darkness. Even if she is destroyed in the war to undo your Dark Lord's kingdom, he will have a light in his hand for the rest of his life when he are set loose to wander instead of wandering in the dark.
"Some boys kiss me, some boys hug me, I think they're O.K.
If they don't give me proper credit I just walk away
They can beg and they can plead but they can't see the light, that's right
'Cause the boy with the cold hard cash is always Mister Right, 'cause we are
Living in a material world, and I am a material girl"
- Madonna's "Material Girl" by Rans & Brown
"You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body,
but you will never imprison my mind."
- Mahandas Gandhi
As a walker of the path of earth magic, your hero has to hone his physical skills. In turn, these skills can help him stave off attackers. We hear too much in our society about men who rely too heavily on their physical strength for defense, turning instead upon those they love. But that does not alter the fact that most often your hero's defense is not verbal, not deceptive, not psychological, but straightforward, involving the skills he learned on the playing field.
Part of the defense is knowing when to fight. Often the Finn learned the skills of the hunt to avoid becoming prey themselves. The hero's leap, mimicking that of the salmon, was used by the hero to get away from someone as well as to chase someone down. Part of the defense is knowing when the best defense is an offense. Preemptive attacks are very effective, yet among the most dangerous to use effectively without increasing your hero king's general paranoia.
The East is deep in skills of the martial arts. Most of these arts are defensive arts and some are more dance-like or strictly for dueling. Tai Chi Chu'an is a better art for water magic initiates, Karate or Fencing for air magic initiates. Kung Fu is one of the best of the defensive arts and one of the most abused by outsiders to try to intimidate people weaker than they. I cannot urge you enough that if your hero decides to take a martial art, you should go to school or get a master. Learn the philosophy with the art for that will save your hero's soul. Skimming the surface of things is the hero's biggest downfall. He must root to the earth and own the skill. The shallow rooted plant will dry up and fail to thrive and blow over in the slightest wind.
Skills learned on the playing field are among the best. Your hero not only learns physical coordination and control, but she learns when to attack, when to defend, when to run, when to stand her ground, when to act on her own and when to hold back. The better sports for earth magic initiates are the sports that are more social and less hierarchal. Soccer is better than American football. Team swimming is better than individual swimming. Tennis doubles is better than tennis singles. Part of the skill set is working with another, not just combat. Leave dueling sports like tennis singles to warriors. Your hero is a hunter and a soldier, not a warrior. Warriors fight for fun. A hero fights to defend. There are many ancient schools like that of the fianna who were a group of warriors in the East portion of ancient Ireland (East=the Farming Caste) who learned to fight as a team, competing for fun and learning to work together. Do not have your knight be a hero who will challenge everyone-- have him be part of a fighting unit or school.
That is perhaps the simplest way to put the trap of "defense by arms". Is your hero fighting for fun? Does it give him a thrill to beat someone, so much so that he attacks people who are not up to his own skill level? He's becoming a Tyrant. If he gets a thrill out of the competence he shares with his teammates, pitting himself against teammates to only make the whole unit better, he is a true hero and avoiding the tray of oppression.
The best situation for walkers of the path is a win-win scenario. They all get together, they play a great game, everyone hones their skills and gets a good workout and everyone goes home the better for it. Exchange and marketing are also a large part of this path. Good economics means that everyone wins. Someone sells something, someone buys something, they both are better for the exchange, richer and happier.
Have your hero avoid defrauding someone. To defraud someone, to sell cheap goods or to do a bad job or to exchange out of anger and revenge rather than joy and winning is to act out of the earth and to lose balance and roots. Rootless soldiers, like the Japanese rogueronin, a plague to everyone. Defrauding someone is beating up someone who can't fight back very well. Bad for your hero's soul.
The other thing for a real hero to avoid is showing off. Sure, your hero feels good about her abilities and the fact that her team has won. The women (or men) throw themselves at a winner. Indulging in the good life too early will lead your hero to that warm, secure trap of a den. Sometimes that trap's name is Woman. Eventually your hero will want to sire a family, but a king sires a family, not a fool or even a champion. A hero should know in his heart when he is ready to become the king. Then he will get all the rewards of life and feel that he deserves them. Getting them too early short circuits learning enough skills to become the champion. It chokes a hero's roots and smothers him. Even though the girl may be by your hero's side through the journey, they do not marry until the end of the first cycle.
In The Right Stuff, astronaut Gus Grissom is seen loading his suit down with dimes before he goes into orbit to sell a dime that has been into space to collectors. The writers of this movie show how he fell into the trap of selling his luck and when he lost his luck (lost the spacecraft) his life was a living hell for a while. Astronaut Glenn is portrayed almost as a goodie-goodie, refusing all the favors and treats of fame and fortune and protecting his wife from publicity. He is remembered in a better light for his love of family instead of wanting to sell his fame.
Also remember, that society itself defends a hero. If the hero goes outside of society's bounds, she is off her path again. If society is in flux, a hero may find herself having to take sides and break the bounds of the other side. Part of defense is knowing enemies. Knowing enemies for a walker of the earth path is as simple as knowing friends. If friends are threatened, the hero who defends them will automatically be fighting the right enemies. A hero will never be condemned or blamed for defending her friends or her team, no matter what the circumstances. Going out there and looking for enemies is the best way to lose friends and lose the way. Soon, everyone will be an enemy.
In a healthy society the dance of the trickster and the tyrant will keep the rules fair and equitable. A hero's job is to defend against the dark king or the creator run amok. Society is on his side in these situations. He will feel it. The rules will help him, not hinder him. As soon as he questions the rules of the game, he starts questioning himself. He may be on the wrong path and you will have lost your hero. This might be good, but if you are writing the hero's journey this can lead to distraction and a major plot bog-down. Many writers suffer from this.
Sufi mystics talk about what is called "rage force", one of the two driving forces of the animal world. In humans, sometimes this force is seen in its pure, naked form, in times of war, during times of great stress or in criminals, yet it is usually overcast by humanity into a force controlled so that it becomes a tool of oppression, control, direction and restraint. When it is revealed, humans look upon it with fascination and horror naming it torture, sadism and megalomania. But who among us does not admire the king or the leader or the self-made financier? We feel that to lay aside this force inside of us is to submit to the herd, completely. The meaning of the Greek "krat" or the Celtic "smacht" involves the subjugation of the other, or hearing the other's voice inside oneself to discipline the self as in hearing the voice of authority within. The word "tol" was the word for a man--a human--who had learned to attack as an act of will, not fear, from a hollow inside the self where no voice roars out in threatening rage.
In the stretch that the hero makes from his championship over the demons of the other world and his escape to bring the elixir to the real world he marries, he fathers a child and becomes the all father, the king or the emperor. The trap of this phase is to want to hang onto the rewards that championship have won, to be that champion over and over again. The temptation is to turn this force that made the hero effective against the enemy into a rage against aging that is taken out on those who are not responsible and those who cannot fight back.
The trap takes the king into frustration and then to competition and then to pacification of rebellion or punishment of desertion of his cause. Around and around, the enraged father attacks his children, attacks his wife, attacks his people and, in fearing retaliation or rebellion, orders his men to tighten up and start the witch hunts for any other signs of rebellion.
What is the root of this fear? He is secure. He is fortunate. But he is aware that he must give himself up and his satisfaction turns sour for fear of someone stealing it away. A good king is he who has passed the test of true courage. A bad king is eaten away by the little fears he was able to repress in his championship. In the peace, he has time to worry and to give way to self doubt and loneliness. Gone are the days of the pack. Gone are the days of games and youth and winning just to play again. He is feeling age creep up on him and his fear rises in the dark of his soul. He has ceased to listen to the voices of the earth and gives ear to those voices within.
Testing true courage. (Try to identify with these aspects of the hero-king)
1. Have I ever saved anyone and expected them to remember it later?
2. Have I ever helped a buddy and then felt betrayed when he wasn't there to help me?
3. Have I ever kept the team together just for old time's sake and not to play any games?
4. Have I ever felt the cold fingers of death at the moment of victory?
5. Have I ever resented fate for being capricious against me?
6. Have I ever struck out at someone without thinking just because I was worried?
7. Have I ever yelled at someone to shut up when I was the one who refused to listen?
8. Have I ever wanted something so badly that I couldn't enjoy it when I had it?
9. Have I ever worried that time was taking my power from me?
10. Have I ever felt relieved after a good fight with someone I care about?
If you answered yes to any of these questions (yes to any) your hero has fallen into the temptation of worry and needs to work on true courage. True courage means that he is able to face what comes along, when it comes along and not to have to stay up at night waiting for it or something just because he thinks something might come along. It has nothing to do with the ability to defend himself, but with his ability to listen. If he fall into these traps more often than not, he is in the trap of the tomb and your hero is now Midas or the Tyrant.
A hero may reach a point in his wanderings where he wants to be settled and marry into a kingdom to call his own. He may fall in love with the land and never want to leave it. He may want to be buried there. The problem with planning for death at this stage is that he may make a tomb of his home without meaning to. "As the thinker thinks, the doer does", so to speak. If he is looking at death, his body will respond with fear or relief, both of which may not be the right feeling for the right time. Now is the time to celebrate life. Yes, he may be mortal, but fearing it won't make it go away. So many kings fell into this trap and left behind huge tombs as momentos of this folly, that my words should not fall on deaf ears. Life insurance is a con to prey upon these fears, so are different legacy set ups. As a writer, this is an unexplored facet of the hero's journey, but not a popular story. It hits a nerve in this society. People like Arthur and Paul Atreides until it is time for him to die.
The other trap for the king is to fall prey to deafness.
1. Have I ever heard something wrong?
2. Have I ever swore that I heard the voice of my father in the voice of my son?
3. Have I been sounding like my own father when he yelled at me?
4. Have I ever threatened anyone with disinheritance if they didn't do what I told them to?
5. Have I ever threatened anyone with my fist if they didn't do what I wanted?
6. Have I ever decided that a person was after something just because of a similarity to another cry for help?
7. Have I ever denied a loan or help to someone because I didn't like something they said?
8. Have I kept someone around because their words matched my fears?
9. Have I ever refused to listen?
10. Have I ever laughed at someone because I thought them a fool?
People are only as good as you treat them. If you treat them as robots to listen and obey you without question or response, then you will not hear them. If you learn to listen to the boy who cried wolf!, you will hear wolf! every time you quiet down enough to listen. Everyone is filled with internal voices that tell them why they're not worthy. If fortune put you where you are, these voices may overwhelm you. If you defeated one of your friends who was better than you are just by a fluke and won the kingdom, those inner voices may be quite overwhelming. Courage has nothing to do with not feeling fear. Courage is feeling the fear and refusing to be deaf to the outer world. It takes courage to be a champion. It takes more courage to build a home and a family. As a champion, you know your enemies and have them at arm's length. As the king you are surrounded by friends and your enemies are far away, but your attachment and ownership is so great that you have much, much more to lose than that green boy who beat the dark king. It would be good for people to deal with these aspects in their lives, which they can do through fiction, but be warned that it is a sensitive topic.
In every land, there are fortune tellers and fortune tellers. The ancients rarely did anything without an army of seers and oracles directing their decision making. Part of it was pragmatic: if anything went wrong, one could blame the oracle, yet much of it was because people often understand that they see their fate one way and those around them see their fate in a completely different way. The more responsible a person was for the livelihoods of others, the more they needed to see the fate that others saw for them. Even as late the 19th Century, kings and queens were still put to death in order to appease angry gods; a large part of the benefits of being a king went to counteract the scapegoat nature of the job. Thus, the greater the responsibility, the more the kings, warriors, farmers and priests relied on fate, seers, casters of the future, and the associated riff-raff that surrounded those who might be sincere in trying to predict a course of action.
In linguistic history there are body people and head people--people that count their citizens by body or people who count their citizens by head. This determines the nature of their politics. Body people tend to be centralized and authoritarian and workers of earth magic. Head people tend to be nomadic or decentralized and workers of more shamanistic, individualized, air magic. In modern times, the heads and bodies tend to be mixed depending on the linguistic history of the country. Yet, for almost all peoples, heroism is in the heart, although having guts, spleen, or liver implies another kind of courage. For the Greeks, Romans and Celts the, heart was reserved for those who fought from the chariot or from horse with the spear or the lance. Those who lived by the spleen or with guts, were the ditch diggers and the infantry or those of water magic, the serf caste. For the cultures of Earth, the image of the chariot has been replaced by the image of the knight and then the image of the bomber pilot or sea captain--the man who must control a vehicle while at the same time fighting his enemy. The man of heart must be a man of control, strength, endurance and ability, and is saluted by both head and body people as the pinnacle of glory and gallantry. In almost all cultures, this warrior of the vehicle is not a god of war, but a god who drives the sun across the sky. The god of war fights man to man and is for the common soldier. Ra, Helios, Lug and Mithra are all chariot drivers who fight with spear.
The graduation from common soldier to champion means that fortune has rolled the dice and the wheel and a god has arisen from the ranks of the people--a hero of the heart. What makes a hero of the heart?
Victors are greeted with certain expectations. In the languages of the Celts, the word "neart" and all its variations was meant to signify strength, power, plenty, but held in its meaning a responsibility to prevent or the avert disaster or evil. When a figurehead king was elected, it was because of this "charm" he possessed, and like a charm, he is expected to ward off evil.
The word to describe this hero of the heart, or figurehead king was the opposite of the word "smacht" or tyrannical power. The abuse of power was punished by the Celts who outlawed kings of this sort.
People who scoff at the civilization of nomadic or non-centralized peoples should take a look at this fine line drawn between these two kinds of power associated with kings or rulers or leaders. Even the Classical Ancients with all their thirst for empire, knew that a man who possessed smacht and did not possess neart was not long for power and often would overextend his troops and bring upon the people the cataclysm of high taxes, plagues, invasions as a form of retaliation--all manifestations of the anger of the gods.
Victory was never attributed to smacht but always to neart. Only the charmed would have the power to bring the gods upon the side of the victors. It is difficult for republicans to understand this ancient idea--easy to dismiss it as superstition. Yet, earth magic heroic legends support this truth and the Holy Grail could only be found by a person of such purity of spirit that it begins to sound like the charm desired of the Celtic kings.
The height of the path of the initiate of earth magic is here, when he passes through the magical world and is deified. At this point, he can no longer act the part of a man. He must take on the responsibilities of the god king or the scapegoat. This magical event is still celebrated among people like the Catholics with their Feast of Fools.
As the god, a walker of the path of earth magic has passed through the valuation of the judgment of the queen and won the elixir or holy grail or other such prize. These prizes were symbols for the ability to charm the land or to make it fertile. At this point on the path, the champion took his winnings which included the kingship and the queen and was set up, not only to defend the land against invaders, but to defend the soul of the land against any angry gods.
It is difficult at first to deal with this daze of glory. Most successful champions are naturally humble and do not find themselves entirely comfortable with power, property, family and wealth. Roman champions, riding in the chariot at the head of their victory parade were whispered to by a slave who reminded them in the noon of their glory that they were mortal and what fate would give, fate would take away. Knowing that you will have to pay for this will make it easier to take what is given to you as your reward, not for what you have done, but for what you will do. The danger, of course, is with all pre-payment, you might not want to do the work after the reward.
The path of the spirit here seems easy as your hero's star rises and everything seems like heaven on earth. Everything is beautiful and everyone is gracious and happy. The land celebrates the wedding with pomp and partying that lasts for days and days. This is time to fatten up or to draw up the energies of the world into your godhead to return them to the earth fertilized with the true spirit of courage and purity. This is the time to have a family and to own the land in which he resides, over which he rules.
For most characters who can feel that their home is their castle, this is an easy ride and it is not too difficult to take up the mantle of godhead, especially if everyone wants him to. Ruling is tedious and the sacrifice he has to make will be horrible, but for now, all is roses.
During this time it is important for your hero to use his power as a god in the naming of things and in the owning and knowing of things. Have him walk through the garden of the spirit and name what he sees there. Have him enjoy each branch and each leaf. Uncover each stone. Hike every trail and look at every sunset. Now is eternity and now is all.
"When I find myself in times of trouble Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
Let it be, let it be. Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.
And when the broken hearted people Living in the world agree,
There will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted there is Still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be.
Let it be, let it be. Yeah There will be an answer, let it be.
And when the night is cloudy, There is still a light that shines on me,
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
Let it be, let it be. There will be an answer, let it be.
Let it be, let it be, Whisper words of wisdom, let it be"
- Lennon and McCarthy
Perhaps the worst of people's nightmares lies in the black magic of the water path. Here is the ogress who eats children and the black cults of Kali. If the initiate gives way through politics and disappointment and increasing appetite to carnality, then the body is lost and the body begins to feed on itself and those closest to it.
If you go back to the history of magic and the agricultural roots of water magic, you can see that the black magic of water is the rot of plant stuff giving back in the cycle of life to the rich earth that will support the new crop. This image is of death, but in these communities, death led to life and then to death again, following the cycle of the plant life around them. Although this is a sacred image, it can be a trap. Queens who get trapped here become obessed with death, disease and dying to the neglect of the other parts of the cycle. In the television hit, The Sopranos, Tony's mother, Livia, lives locked in this horrible trap probably in a tribute to that other great ogress: Livia of I, Claudius. Watch either one to see this villianess at her greatest power.
Motherhood and generation of this kind is also tied to death. In many, many tales we read about the queen who stands accused of killing her own child. She is often judged and condemned for this, taking a shape in which she cannot defend herself or actually going to the block to await death for her crimes. More often than not, she is wrongfully accused and those who love her must sort out the mess to exonerate her. Part of these stories were political as the church called for a pogrom on abortion and exposing babies, but it is a fact of life and death that is shouded in deep taboos.
Most witchcraft was supposed to involve rituals of death and cannibalism. Witches led the young to their deaths, most often young men. This witchcraft would also take the form of a fairy or a queen of the underworld stealing a young man away to stay with her until he grew old. Even Shakespeare's Titania fought with Oberon over a boy that she had stolen. Often queens were accused of taking young lovers and of having much of their court politics go on in their beds.
Two wonderful example of two "witches" of water magic are in the movies, Dangerous Liasions and The Hand that Rocks the Cradle. In both of these movies, like in Ran, an evil queen is set up against the good. In both movies, the villianesses are given excellent reasons for being where they are. The Marquise de Merteuil is an excellent example of a Queen stuck in the political trap of being the center of a whirlpool. She is set up against Madame de Tourvel who epitomizes the magic of love and compassion and shines with it even up until her death. The Nanny in The Hand that Rocks the Cradle is an excellent example of a Titania figure, who will steal away little boys and girls, appearing attractive, yet hiding away a soul eaten away into blackness by hatred and revenge. She is set up against the pure and wrongfully accused wife.
Over and over again we see this juxtaposition of the good queen and the bad. The Fairy Godmother and the Evil Stepmother. Or the Ogress Witch and the spirit of the Good Mother. Whenever you see double imagery like this it is a warning of a trap on a magical path. But it needs to be set up correctly. In Dune it is not. Chani and Jessica are not enough to stand against the evil of the Bene Geserit. Not understanding this point on the Bridal Path leads writers to strange characterizations and giving mixed messages. Even horror stories would be better off to contrast the two. All too often there is some trite explanation that man is mortal and that extending life is false, just as taking it is evil. One of the most misunderstood parts of Western society lies here.
Just as stories like Toads and Diamonds warn of the dangers of misusing the voice, stories with mistaken mothers, evil stepmothers, ogresses and such warn of the dangerous position of being a mother or a matriarch and falling into the trap of carnality through politics or hatred.
At this point in the spiral, a character is strongest in water magic and will be strongest in black magic. The witch here will still be unbearably attractive to some people, especially those with some secret guilt or desire to harm themselves. Although most people would deny ever wanting to be in this position, most people find it fascinating to listen to stories of mothers who turned on their children or the femme fatale who kidnaps men and leads them to their deaths.
Some cultures still revere this dark reverse of compassion. Many have divided their worlds into devils and gods and put this image into the devil category, but leaving it there to tempt people as much as they are tempted by other images of failed spirituality. Rabid Christians fear this image so much that they burned hundreds of women over it. Psychologists love this image, making it into an archetype of the good/bad mother who terrorizes every infant and toddler with nurturing it and eating it that is carried over into adulthood.
If you are interested in Wicca and magic as a spiritual journey, you will run headlong into this image in other people's minds. You may find yourself accused by people who, fearing magic, have this image in mind. (Anti Harry Potter people, for instance.) Especially among those who desire to steal the elixir of life. As a women age (and some men) they grow from being desirable in and of themselves, objects to be stolen or owned, to becoming a misrepresentation of this primal fear of a magic that will steal the lives of others. An old person, an ugly person who is still attractive, a person who is attractive but in a confusing way will be accused of being this ogress or a Lady Kaede or a Marquise de Merteuil.
Until your queen stands accused, she has no idea of the power of this accusation. This is not the accusation of a jealous husband who has found her out, but the accusation of the lover who hates being attracted to her and accuses her of bewitching him, drawing back in horror. This is the accusation of the mother or mother-in-law who accuses her of abandoning or messing up a child. It can hurt even more if it is the child himself at any age.
In the book The Lord of Rings, Sam and Frodo are with Galadriel at her water mirror in her water garden. She has passed the test of the ring, but Sam, angered by what he has seen in the mirror about the Shire being ravaged, says to her to take the ring because she would set them straight. She replies sadly that that is how it would begin. Galadriel, who is 7,000 years old and who has passed many tests of pride and false nobility, knows that no one walks onto the dark path without some good, but misinformed, intention. She is a glowing example of a queen of water magic who represents the land of Lothlorien, a land of light and healing and spiritual beauty of the like not found anywhere else in Middle Earth. In his brilliant language of myth, the light of Galadriel appears when Frodo faces the carnivorous Shelob, a giant spider who reeks of her own filth and eats all light. Tolkien has cleverly shown us Galadriel's end should she take the ring, whatver her original intention.
As Galadriel says to us, we may want to be guilty. We may, with good intentions, want to set straight a wrong like the Nanny in The Hand that Rocks the Cradle. We may, with good intentions want to expose all the evil around us such as the Marquise de Merteuil wants in Dangerous Liasions. We may want to avenge our tragedy upon evil people as Lady Kaede does in Ran. Of all the workers in magic, the only one who can set to right these things is the worker of air magic. He is a kind of Sherlock Holmes or Miss Marple or Portia from Two Gentlemen of Verona. Air magic is the magic of justice and law and revenge. Water magic, used in this way, leads the maker down the road to the ogress to Shelob.
Often in magic making, a person of power seeks to use other magic or seeks to use their magic on another path with terrible results. A maker of air magic cannot use the tools of trickery and unraveling truth to attract people any more than a maker of fire magic can successfully use the talents of channeling creative inspiration to attract people. Yet both magics are used to this end and the makers almost always suffer for it.
Watch for these signs. Use them if you want to show this ogress in action.
1. Wanting to right a wrong using her magic of generosity as a tool for justice.
2. Wanting to destroy a people who are evil using her magic of healing for destruction.
3. Wanting to protect an innocent from attack by using her magic of compassion for defense.
These three instances are general descriptions of situations that cannot be handled by water magic.
1. No matter how you (the author) feel about it, water magic cannot be turned to judge right and wrong. Your queen must stand, as Jesus stood, and say, "forgive them for they know not what they do." She cannot take up the cause of an individual against the state. She cannot take up the cause of an individual against another. The only situation in which you can use water magic is in the situation of need, and she can help to bring that need to light.
2. No matter how evil someone is, or a group of people, no matter if they threaten the world or if they are spreading destruction, water magic cannot be used to stop them. To do harm, even to deny healing is to pervert and pollute the healing springs. Your queen's job is to heal all those who have sickened, not to decided who should be healed and who should be hurt.
3. No matter who is threatened, she cannot protect them. Now this does not mean that your queen cannot stand in the way of someone threatening her child, it just means that the magic cannot be used for protection. It is not that kind of magic. Water is not particular like that. Trying to use water magic for protection is to call up universal destruction. As much as it may hurt your queen and the people she loves, she must realize that compassion is not protection. This lesson is almost impossible for real parents to learn, let alone fictional parents!
Your queen can only channel this magic, it has no substance. If you treat it as if it had substance or your queen as if she could make it go where you wanted, you will deny the lesson of Galadriel and create the Dark Queen or the Black Sow who eats her own young.
The hardest lesson for people to learn is not how magic can help, but how it cannot help. Everyone has good intentions. It is difficult to see the consequences. In all stories, warnings are often ignored.
"The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking...
the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind.
If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker."
- Albert Einstein
There is a real human problem that comes with pyromania. Arson is a crime that is very attractive to some people. Fire is often used as revenge, but also because the power to destroy is very attractive. Usually fire workers confine their destructive urges to self-destruction or the destruction of relationships with people close to them, but there is a real danger to spread destruction as far as it will go if your witch feels suppressed or sickened by what is going on in the world. Often, I have listened to people say that all the humans should be killed off in a plague or that they should leave the planet for the animals. Some people look at humanity as a plague. These attitudes are very common for characters on the fire path.
Another image of the person strong in fire magic is that of the Tarot card "Strength" or Crowley's depiction "Lust" representing the Whore of Babylon, a figure in the Biblical story of the Apocalypse or the Book of Revelations. Other figures of this nature show up in other Gottdämmerung stories: the giantess Hel, the queen of the Titans, Tiamat, and fire gods that accompany them such as Loki and Shiva. The end of the world is often rife with fire, ice, and plague.
Part of the fear of fire magic is in this position of destructive power. The maker of fire magic can tame the wild beasts of destruction or set them loose. The lion, another image of the destructive powers of fire represents the end of the agricultural year in many cultures. The star, Regulus, in Leo disappears in July to show again at the equinox. This passage through the sun of any of the signs of the zodiac has been used for time keeping. In 4,000 B.C. this passage of Leo was at the summer solstice and coincided with the "death" of the sun as the days began to grow shorter. At this time, most of the images of the sun were female and the moon was male. The passage of stars through the sun's fire was a strong image that gave fire magic it's popularity. It is only appropriate that the image of the destruction of humanity should be this lion goddess or Regulus.
Fire magic was also dominated by the image of the raven, a harbinger of war, the wolf and the snake who also play large roles in the Norse apocalypse. For the Norse, the end of the year was heralded by the first sighting of Antares, in Scorpio, and the setting of Sirius, in Canis Major. Hel who was represented by Regulus between them right at the arrival of winter.
Over and over again, a the person who creates the world, feels the need to wipe it clean with destruction and start it again. This is often the case in any venture of creativity. At some time in the creative process, Talent will feel the urge to destroy the created world so that she might start anew. Some people never publish for this reason. In metal smithing, anything that has served its purpose can be cast into the fire to be made into something else.
Often a creation might be used as a weapon. Over and over again the story of Medusa is enacted. The head of creativity is cut off by a champion to be used to vanquish enemies. In this case, the creator may feel betrayed to the point where she (or he) feels that humanity itself is perverse and should be purged. Unless Strength understands that she is the one who can bring hope to humanity, then she shall continue to be responsible for the destruction that has been unleashed. Many of the people who worked on nuclear power turned into champions for the harnessing of its power and the "banning of the bomb". The smith is not the one who begins the war, but the smith is the one who had made the weapons.
Weapons are not only the tools of war, but the tools of sickness. In ancient times, witches were as responsible for sickness as they were for healing sickness. This included soul sicknesses as well as body sicknesses. Over and over again, if a person became sick it was because they were cursed by the "evil eye". All a witch had to do was the Medusa trick--her very presence would freeze the soul and cause it to sicken and often die.
Very little do people understand the nature of creative power. They sometimes have celebrated that the hand that brings forth life also takes it away (water generative creativity), but they feared the passage of the spirits though a witch and never trusted her to not pass along bad spirits as well as good. Something lucky was often turned into something unlucky with very little thought. Since much of the creative process cannot be done as a cooperative venture, then the process is unseen, hidden in the folds of that cloak of invisibility. What is unseen can be good or bad--how is one to know?
The fact of the matter is, that for fire magic, there is no good or bad. There is making and cleansing and they are often part of the same process. The blackened face of the maker of fire magic is hardly ever realized to be no part of good and evil--remember this is wild magic, not moral magic. For some, everyone must be drawn up in the battle of good and evil, so if the maker is reluctant to take sides in the drama of the false world, then he is cast down, he is despised and made evil. The bringer of light becomes the king of evil. Prometheus is tied to the rock for bringing fire to humanity, the witch is burned in the cleaning up of society.
Another of the ways that the destruction can get out of hand is through the maker herself. Fire is a dangerous tool. When a hearth is dirty the fire doesn't burn properly. When the hearth is ill prepared, or fed improperly, the fire spreads into the world, wiping out everything in its path. Sometimes there is the urge to pile on all the fuel available all at once just to see how large the pyre can get. Sometimes there is a soul weariness that settles upon the tender of the hearth who forgets to clear the ashes or poke at the fire. Sometimes the fuel runs short. At other times the tender turns away, distracted and the fire jumps and spreads outside its bounds. Not always are fires caused by someone stealing the flame.
None of the paths of magic are easy, but the path of fire requires the most self-discipline. The wizards of water and earth magic have to prepare themselves, but after that, is is a matter of continuing to follow the heart's path and not to grow abusive. The path of fire requires more and more discipline the further it is walked. For as the created world grows, its destructive power grows until it becomes a possible weapon of Armageddon. It is Strength's responsibility to manage the flame so that it does not get out of control, just as it is also her part to tend to the flame so that it does not die.
"To all those who still wish to talk about man,
about his reign or his liberation,
to all those who still ask themselves questions about what man is in his essence,
to all those who wish to take him as their starting-point in
their attempts to reach the truth...
to all these warped and twisted forms of reflection we can only answer
with a philosophical laugh - which means, to a certain extent, a silent one."
- Michel Foucault
If persons entered a dispute and the verdict is for one and against the other, the Celts had a specific term word for the settlement. Reparations were made, an agreement was forged and the lawyers had a field day. History has never seen a people so enamored of law, legal matters, and lawyers as the Celts, not even modern Americans. Kings and queens were not allowed to settle disputes. Law, for the Celts was a thing of lawyers, not of the farming caste, but of the warrior caste.
The rulers and farming castes were concerned with the weight of things and people. Literally. Everything had a price or a value. Each man had a price, literally. So did each tree, each animal, each slave, even a bird or a deer in the wood had a price. Only land was not valued. They said that a thing weighed is only a thing that can be carried away, thus a grove had a price only when it was cut.
Lawyers of the Celts had a word that they used for determining the value of things that was separate from the legal consequences of interaction. If a man was killed, it was a matter for lawyers to decide on who shall pay whom what. It is a matter of kings to decide how much the man was worth.
In the Mediterranean empires, the land was priced and the things that went with the land, or property were priced and all was granted by kings according to the status of the grantee. It was a royal matter to determine if a man was free and thus not part of a priced property and all laws are decreed by the king. Now, were all Celts slaves according to their Roman conquerors? The Romans got around a moral issue by seizing upon the wergild habits of the Celts and another moral issue by learning that none of the Celtic lands were already owned. If the opposite had been true, had the Celts successfully invaded Greece or Rome in their infancy, would the nobles of status have accepted any more readily the price of their heads?
The crux of black magic for anyone on the path of air, for anyone of the warrior caste for that matter, is greed--the valuation or collection of things in order to improve status. This means people, land, and things. It is no surprise that most legal matters involve the valuation or right to ownership of goods, property, and people.
The proper position of the user of air magic is that of transfer or agency. All magic is involved in change. Earth magic is involved in transmigration or transubstantiation as the energy of the soul is changed into matter and back again. Water magic is involved with transcendence as the position of the soul is changed. Fire magic is involved with transformation or with the creation and destruction of the soul. Air magic is the magic of transference, translation or transition. Air magic will not work when you pile up a bunch of crap to block, channel, or thwart the wind. With all that stuff in his soul, the wizard falls and then he cannot find the wind in the pit of hell, surrounded by the mountains of gold.
At Beltaine, the stories were of feminine conquests, of powerful women who captured the souls of innocent men and kept them in the other world until they rotted. At Samhain, which was the death of the year and the rise of the dark king of winter, old Santa Claus with all the riches of Hades, the stories were of the abduction of maids to rule the dead at the side of the frozen king. This king was always childless. He did not abduct the young flower queens to create abundance on the earth or to enrich his soul with love. He took a wife because she was a jewel to be possessed.
In the language of the soul, the trickster or the magus may take a mate, but she will be a helper and share with him the passions of knowledge and creation. After he falls, if he takes a mate, she will be a pale lily, a Persephone who will fear him and stifle in his underground kingdom even if she comes to love him--even if he adores her. In the ordinarily world he may cross the path of the princess or witch, and usually, he rapes her. In the magical world he may rule beside the queen of hell in her dark face or in her burning. When his kingdom is destroyed, she is often there with him, a captive weapon, to help him face the hero, with all the Titans of the outraged Earth at her command.
Greed, lust and ambition are all temptations to the user of air power. He has been an outcast, an outsider, and may want something for himself. He is surrounded by slow clods who cannot come near to grasping his skills and he may want to kick them around. A skilled fighter, he may tire of always winning. Punished by the gods for doing what had to be done, he might want revenge. Even the sacrificial wine of the earth tomb is not as bitter as the poison dripping from the fangs of the snake of knowledge.
He must feel this bitterness, feel this rage, and let it pass through him, like the winds of winter. The snows will blow, the fires will rage, but this is the season of bitter brew. This is when experience and all the lessons of the Wind Rose will sustain him and prevent him from falling into the back biting winds of injustice. Here are some exercises for your wizard.
Do not swallow the poison.
The poison of punishment is not the wizard's. He is chained to the rock for defying the order of the made world. He must not be tempted to swallow this brew. It is there to blind him and make him suffer. This is the point where, if your wizard has acted for the sake of justice and justice alone, someone will be outraged and grateful enough to try to lessen his pain. He must be gracious and accept their help and do not scream at them just because they are within reach and his enemies are not. Gandalf accepts help when he is imprisoned in Isengard. Saruman spits on the help Gandalf then offers him back.
Do not strain against the bonds.
Yes, the eagle will eat our your wizard's liver every day. These are the kind of bonds where the more he struggles the tighter they will get. He will only hurt himself.
Do not swallow the food and drink for the dead.
Take a lesson from Persephone. Do not let your wizard eat of the food for the dead. It is tasteless and the drink will not quench thirst. It is not the food of the soul, but the food of the sins of gluttony and greed. The dead wail because they want and are not satisfied. He can taunt them and tease them, but do not dine with them. This is a great scene in Matrix II where the king of hell goes on and on about how good the wine and food is. But he also tempts a woman to take. For this demonstration of his weakness, his wife, Persephone, betrays him and shows Neo the keymaster.
Do not call up the wind into the pit.
If your wizard does this, he will have a tornado. The wind has nowhere to go. The higher the walls he have built in the years of accumulation, the worse the wind will be if it comes. No, your Dark King's salvation is the earthquake, the flood, or the fire. If he longs for destruction from his own magic you will change himself. His job is not to change himself but to change the world. This is another of those situations where the more your wizards try to use their own power, the less effective it will be in freeing them and the more effective it will be in making them suffer.
"I'll be floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee."
- Muhammed Ali
Many people have felt the thrill of victory and have felt the joy of being successful and popular. Many people have enjoyed the fruits of their labors and rested after they have climbed the hill to the top. Sometimes people have failed, or in fearing failure have not tried. Sometimes they have been caught up in events far beyond their control and have lost everything before the moment of glory.
Yet what most people (an characters) on this path fear more than anything else is the downward swing of the wheel of fortune when one has been at the heights. Most people spend their lives staying at the height and training their children to keep the wheel from turning. Yet there is a saying, "shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations". This means that one man can make a fortune, pass it on to his child, but that the grandchildren will suffer for it squandering or mismanaging it away.
These are actual life stories. But the path of magic is a spiritual path, related in stories and religious dramas, an interaction between the soul and the natural world. The path of earth magic is the path of the dying and resurrected king, and yes, Jesus was a walker of this path. But so are so many other characters from stories--it's just rare to see the end. We have some beautiful stories other than the story of Jesus as examples. In the North among the Celts and the Norse there are the stories of Arthur, Beowulf, Baldur and Llew Llaw Gyffes or Lugh of the Silver Arm. In the South, Osiris is the Egyptian variant, the Greeks had too many to name--Adonis, Apollo, Dionysus, Heracules--and the Romans passed to the world the story of Mithras that is still celebrated today among secret societies. In fiction we have endless examples of this kind of hero/god. Aslan, Frodo, Paul Atreides, Anakin Skywalker and many, many more.
Yet over and over we here tales as late as the 19th Century of scapegoat kings who wriggled out of their service to their people in offering up a substitute slave to take their place as the sacrifice. For thousands of years people have wanted the glory and not wanted to pay the price.
In reality, the price was death. Spiritually, the price is the death and rebirth of the soul. In reality, this drama is reenacted over and over again as each generation gives up its health and power and life to the next generation. Even if technology extends the human life span indefinitely, this drama will continue to occupy the walkers of the path of earth magic.
No one wants to die. Know that. You are not the first, you will not be the last, (yet). Even with immortality there will be the magic of the dying king. The problem with the magic of the dying king, is that it is not the dying that is the magic, it is the rebirth. No king who offered himself up knew that he would live again. But there are ways to manage the fear and ways to insure that his death, physical or of the soul, will not be wasted.
Although the dream of monks and saints has been the everlasting glory of heaven, nature does not support this dream. Sex is mortality and mortality is sex. Sex, not in the procreative sense, but in the birthing of a new generation. Each year the vegetable puts on this furious show of setting seed in time for winter. Each year the animals go through the fury of birthing and raising the next generation before the winter. In the tropics, the show goes on all year, sometimes as sharply marked by the arrival of the monsoon. People who followed the path of agriculture had to understand this cycle to survive.
There is a joke that people from the Northern States who move to the south, plant all their seed in April and May like they did up North. If they were depending on these crops to survive, they would all die, for the season begins in Arizona and Florida and Mexico in the autumn so that the crops can be harvested before the blistering heat of May and the floods of summer. To deny this cycle of growth, harvest, death and rebirth is to deny knowledge of the earth. Yet, over and over, each generation wants to hold on, to offer up a substitute. "Take him, so that I might live a little longer". In the greatest of fears, people invented stories of vampires, creatures who could only be immortal by taking another life. Mythologically, the Tyrant King appeals to his wife to make him live longer. Only a true king like Aragorn, gives up his life, in the face of his wife's protests and weeping. This quest for immortality is one of most popular in all fiction, especially speculative fiction.
Like all these characters, in your deepest fear, you must realize that to hold onto your soul, you condemn yourself to a living hell where you must take the souls of others to keep your soul alive. Here is Lord Voldemort, Count Dracula, the black kings of Numenor, and the crux of many Satanic rituals. For most of these kings, the elixir of life is blood, usually the blood of an innocent.
For the soul, drinking this blood means finding a source of nourishment or life that will sustain your own. Psychologically this takes the form of buying that hot car or dumping your older wife for a young one or getting a hairpiece or a facelift or wearing clothing affected by the young. It is called a mid-life crisis. For the soul, the mid-life crisis is more serious. It is a restlessness combined with a lethargy as if your brain was on fire but your legs were paralyzed. It is accompanied by dreams of smothering and suffocating while the body is paralyzed. You begin to feel bound and restless but unable to free yourself and panic begins to set in. Mythologically it is the arrival of the images of the tomb. Almost all heroic kings were buried, not burned.
The popular television series, The Sopranos, stars an aging don who is suffering from the panic attacks of the dying king. His psychiatrist keeps telling him that he is in denial and that his attacks are stress related and have to do with his issues with his mother. But for Tony Soprano, this kind of advise is belittling for he is being smothered alive in his tomb and at his side is the crone of his mother, actually trying to kill him. He has tried all the mid-life remedies. A young girl friend, boats, cars, trips to Italy, drugs, drink, but the only thing that works for him is murder--not murder of his pals that makes him even more claustrophobic, but murder of people he sees as threats to the group.
What Tony does not understand is that he is locked into a loop in the path that will lead him deep into dark magic. But he understands it in his heart, in his soul. What Tony's soul wants is to die, well not to die, to reincarnate. But Tony is in the dark. He cannot see his resurrection, his reincarnation. All he can see is death, closing in. That it is a real thing with his mother overseeing his torment is a story element. This is a perfect example of how we make our lives fit the path of the soul. In a story, the elements of the story always reflect the path of the soul. If we see patterns in our lives and in our psyches it is because we have spends thousands and thousands of years seeing the world through these soul paths.
What will help Tony are two things. What will help Tony is to become blinded by the light of his resurrection. Because he is locked into a religion that considers there to only be one resurrection, they might encourage him to be reborn into Christ. Because of Tony's background, he will dismiss this as a state that he is barred from--which is true, he is beyond the cure of faith. At several points, Tony survives a near miss with death and he is elated. What he feels from these physical misses is his soul's capture of the light of his resurrection for one moment. Many people grow addicted to these near misses with death and love the feeling so much of surviving that they put themselves into greater and greater risks to feel it over and over. The problem with this is that the soul rapidly habituates to this "thrill" and it requires more and more of an effort to achieve it.
What Tony needs is the vision of his soul's transmigration.
Before he can achieve this the second thing that Tony needs is forgiveness and nourishment from the triple goddess. He is attended by the crone, the matron and the girl but his shrink is right. His relationship is healthy with none of these women. His queen is engaged in complicated family politics and Tony panics every time she harasses him about them. His mother is also engaged in complicated family politics. His daughter is still innocent and seems to be, from the story, Tony's one way out. The only time he feels really good about himself is when he begs the blessing of his daughter and she grants it, graciously, with all the power of love and water magic. If Tony's queen and crone embraced and forgave him in this way, he would be free of the feelings of claustrophobia. At times, Carmen is able to forgive him, but then she's off into the politics again. Tony needs to shake her out of it and to get her to give to him the water magic that will help him back around the corner, through the death of the king.
You see, for Tony's soul to be reborn into the light of the rising son, into the warmth of the turning year, into the bounty of the next generation, he must have this blessing. He is torn by his mother who grins at him from the darkness where her own stagnation and horrific appetites have made her into an ogress of death who watches for him, frightening him out of his wits. Notice, Livia is always eating. Her name connects her to the queen of politics from Caesar Augustus's household who was always trying to poison him and get her own son, Tiberius on the throne. Although his shrink doesn't really understand it, it is Tony's mother, or the ogress of his fear is the one blackening his vision of resurrection.
I shall go into the complexities of the relationships with other characters in another section, but the path of the king is never solitary. Some may suffer the dark night of the soul alone, but not the king. Remember this when you write a full hero's journey. What the king does to others shall be done back to him.
This completes an introduction to the basic characters and their magic on the paths. I will spend some time now, not with characters as much as the abstractions of magic and how they manifest themselves in your world.
Here is our map again based on old mythology and folklore, adjusted to Europe. If you want to use an Eastern map, rotate this one one quarter clockwise so that air is to the east and water to the west. In the section on correspondences I shall go into details of why these elements are grouped together, but for now it is only important to understand how your world is affected by these kinds of details.
On the world building pages there is a considerable amount about technological levels, religions and other
cultural decisions for you to make. For now, let us consider three:
Is religion and magic the same in your world? Is religion merely an extension of mythological or natural forces?
Examples include: Lord of Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire, Narnia, Witch World and Earthsea.
Is religion never mentioned in your world and magic or technology a separate instance of happenstance?
Examples include: Harry Potter, Amber, and Prydain.
Is technology (magic) tied up with mythology and religion a part of humanity that is explained away in an agnostic fashion?
Examples include: Matrix, Dune, Mythago Wood, Foundation and Empire, Star Trek.
The reason for these questions is that, in the first kind of world, magic is very tied to caste. The correspondences are tight and the world depends on the characters acting in the spirit of gods or forces. It is a top-down world, often with a strong cast of spirits or gods. People practice according to their religious standing and old magic is associated with old gods. The epic is most often found here.
The second case avoids several issues of metahysics, cosmology and offending readers religious sensibilities. Even in the case of Amber, which is a complete universe, Zelazny doesn't tap into the issue of religion except for the peoples in alternate worlds that the Princes of Amber use in their battles. Many people enjoy magic or historical Fantasy or a good story without dragging in the deeper issues of cosmology. This does not mean that these books are lightweight or not serious, but that their focus is on humanity and more ethical issues such as life extension and abusing lower life forms and battles for light and dark.
The third instance is more common to Science Fiction and Science Fantasy, but is found in worlds that are not concered with cosmology, but put religion into a part of human psychology, necessary or not. These worlds often have a plethora of religions, one for every race. They are more realistic, but the mythological questions have to be universal and tied to man, more philosophical. The battles tend to be over human nature versus other nature and what makes man man. Often characters come right out and talk about their belief in God (or gods) but the story is not dependent upon it; it is merely a personal feature of a character.
Here is a four-fold map of the first kind of world:
This world pattern follows that of the six gods(goddesses) of the world: air, earth, water who are fighting an evil force, usually darkness. The "old" magic may refer to the fourth pair who are not mated and have no children. If a god makes a people out of mud, he may be the god of fertility rather than fire. Tolkien follows this map fairly closely, taking his gods as he did out of European mythology. If you are interested in this kind of world, you must study anthropology and I seriously recommend the work of James Frazer (The Golden Bough and others). Even if you make up your own cosmology, if you deviate from the European model, you may have to do some explaining.
You also need to see through forms such as knowing that Aslan is a God of Fertility tied to the earth even though he appears, in some respects, to be the God of Fire. He is the son of the High God and this gives him away as a heroic god of love. Sometimes a writer will put a higher god in the middle (as Tolkien did) and call the others spirits or lesser gods. All of your characters will be involved in the Goddamerung, or the battle of the gods. They will usually be trying to fight off the legions of the High God's evil twin or brother.
Let's take an example from Tolkien. Obviously the wizards are associated with Manwë and say so. They are agents of the High God and their powers make them vulnerable to corruption through anger or pride. Gandalf and Saruman mirror Manwë and Melkor. Manwë is married to Varda, whom the elves revere. She is a goddess of light, but also has an evil counterpart in the form of Ungoliant, whom Morgoth convinces to take down the lights of Varda. Varda is seen both as a creatrix and as a goddess of mercy. The counterpart for Varda in Middle Earth is Galadriel, who is much more of an Artemis, and thus puts Varda more into the fire/light goddess realm than the water goddess of compassion. Galadriel is matched with Shelob in the battle.
Although the dwarves revere Aulë and he is a smith god, he is the spouse of Yavanna and is a blend of the God of Fire and the God of Fertility. The masters of spirits, Námo and Irmo are Gods of Fire and paired with grievers and healers, involved with dreams, visions, and the slain. Tulkas and Oromë are combinations of fertility and fire gods, being involved with dancing and hunting and wrestling and most involved in Middle Earth. Although the gods are complex and show a mingling of Tolkien's knowledge of latter European mythology and older, it is clear that the Ents and Dwarves are both associated with the gods of fire, the Elves with both air and water, Men with Oromë, out of the east, more fertile than the elves, but of the earth; and the orcs are corruption of air and water into beings of warped values who live in darkness. The Elves are caught up in the battle between light and dark, some of the more heroic men join with them, while the Ents and Dwarves go into the battle only when their own peoples are threatened.
The point is to be creative with this map, but show why are doing what. If you wish a traditional Fantasy, stay with this map and it will feel right no matter what names you assign to whom. For instance, in Norton's Witch World her shapeshifters did not have allegiance in the war and were looked upong as outsiders. She had people who lived apart, consecrate to special wild places of power. Her witches had to stay unmated and channeled forces rather than wove spells, although they used instruments to channel better. She did almost the entire series without the wizard caste and it is considered to be Sword and Sorcery or not books of the higher battles of light and dark although her witches sometimes dabbled in the dark. They were corrupted by trying to manipulate others with their channeled power. This world fits very strongly into this map.
It will take some study before you are familiar enough with this kind of map to invent one of your own. But take heart, you already know a ton just from having gone through school and learned some basic mythology. You are surrounded by mythology and more so if you've been involved as a fan. The idea of this book is to reinforce what you've observed, point you to other observations and then encourage you to get creative. How far you deviate from tradition is up to you, but the further you go, the more you have to explain....
Here is a four-fold map of the second kind of world:
Rather than a god map, this is an ethical map. Each kind of magical being will be driven by ethics and fight over ethics rather than as an extension of the godspirt. This map works well for any world, but for the second class of world above, it is pretty much the only map. See the section on correspondencs for more involved details of animals, trees, etc., of these castes. For now, it is important to locate your magic uses and give them a reason to conflict. Good/bad battles are on the vertical with the heroes getting involved, usually for good. In the air caste, the good/bad conflict is personal, in the water caste it is more life-threatening to all. I shall go into a host of "devils" later, but keep in mind these demographics. The body caste involves all those who want to be young or beautiful or live forever. Corrupt counterparts usually do this by feeding on the others. The mental caste involves all those who want power to influence others. Usually a dark counterpart here is noble, but tainted in some way, like having reptile eyes. The fire caste involves all those who make weapons, are weapons, or are enslaved to others for power, also those who are outcast. The earth caste involves all those who want a team or to impress others or to manage others, both heros and bullies, mercenaries and protectors.
The entire battle of Amber with a little bit of exception mentioned by Zelazny is in the air caste, among the royal family who all pretty much hate each other. Prince Corwin has drifted a little into the earth caste and recuits helpers and wishes to serve his father and Amber more than for personal gain. In Harry Potter the four houses are along this caste system with the main battle between the dark counterpart of air who is corrupted by his desire to defeat death. Voldemort is a mix, but so is Dumbledore. Harry and all fight for Dumbledore as a team to protect the magical world.
This map works well outside of Fantasy, giving Science Fiction a more traditional feel. On most military ships you have the captain and red shirts, the science officers and blue shirts, the engineers and navigators and all in gold shirts and the support staff as a mix but of lower rank.
Here is a four-fold map of the third kind of world:
This kind of map is not so much a map of magic as it is a map of instances. From this map, you can easily see that the Bene Geserit are in the body caste, the Mentats in the mental caste and the Landsraad-Guild in the merchant caste, although a case can be made for the Guild to be in the spiritual caste. The background of Dune is water, the water of life, the water of death, water for Arakkis.
In The Matrix the Matrix is clearly of the mental caste, a machine of logic and "communications" yet it has elements of the body caste (using humans as batteries) and the social caste in the security and defense systems as well as the arrival of Neo in a classical heroic tale. Compare this to a movie like Andromeda Strain or the first Star Trek movie, most of which explores a huge cloud surrounding V'ger. Spock announces at one point that V'ger is like a child on a quest to find the creator. Many Science Fiction stories have impersonalized antagonists who are only so because humanity doesn't understand them.
It is also fun to compare characters like Khan who clearly has a personal vendetta against Captain Kirk, and Lt. Barkley who, when taken over by an alien, develops scorn for humans after becoming a genius but has no real intention to hurt anyone. (Note that one of Barkley's first accomplishments is in the arts.) Science Fiction is a better venue at confronting unintentional antagonists of no brains (Andromeda) superbrains (Barkley, V'ger) or completely alien brains. It is a good venue for exploring extensions of human social systems like the Borg (earth caste) or the Klingons (air caste). Horror is almost exclusively contained in the water caste with its issues of post-death monsters, vampires, parasites and abductions, but some Science Fiction combines horrific elements such as X-Files and many Star Trek episodes.
World can be of one caste and your characters of all four. Note that Harry Potter takes place in a wizarding school placing the world clearly in the air caste. This is emphasized by the "true wizarding families" being an elite that often allies with the Dark Lord. But there are all kinds of characters. The Dementors are demons of the fire caste, sucking out souls, making it cold, and changing emotions, but they also are a little bit of the body caste. Dragons are clearly of the fire caste and the merpeople of the water caste. Note that in Harry Potter IV Harry has to steal a clue in the form of a riddle in a dragon's golden egg, then rescue a loved one from the merfolk and then fight his way through a maze, fire, water, earth right around the wheel to his ultimate test, the duel with Lord Voldemort.
I mentioned that Dune was a water caste world and Witch World a fire caste world. Earthsea announces itself, issues of immortality and possession and dark-dwelling gluttons against wizard, priestess, and prince heroes. The form of your world can be multi-caste, but try to do only one at a time. A master at this was Tolkien. I shall go into details later, but there is a pattern you can follow. Use weapons or magic from the counter-clockwise caste against a world with a protagonist of the clockwise caste or the other way around. Thus fight ice zombies with fire using self-sacrificing heroes. (Jon Stark over the Wall against the Wights and Others). Fighting a minotaur in the maze with a sword and a ball of string by a pair of lovers. Fighting an invading virus with a potion/serum by elite, in-fighting crusaders. (The Doctor/Scientists of Wildfire against Andromeda with alkalai/acid blood.)
Also look at one caste of hero with same caste weapon fighting in a tangent caste world villians of the other tangent caste. Werwolves fighting vampire rulers with light bullets (Underworld). Programs using spells to fight shapeshifting security thugs. (Matrix) These are all creative variants on the one caste world/character/opponent model. Once you get familiar with these patterns, mixing and matching can be more believable and "mythologically correct." As in drawing people, much of a person's brain is devoted to humanity's stories. The way to make people "believe" your speculative fiction is to know when to keep to a human form and when to branch out.
If you are adept at your patterns, you can mix and match any characters, any magic (technology) and any plot. It may be a better idea, as a learner, to try to stick to one plot and magic and do your experimenting with your characters. This is what is acceptable now in the markets although forms of magic are now becoming more widely accepted. At first, try to stick to one magic or tie your magic to the person doing it.
The Hero's Journey Plot
Earth magic involves a team effort. It involves trust and love courage and "toughing it out". Earth magic reinforces a hero's plot.
Water magic involves working with the body, potions or elixirs. It involves compassion, a healing instinct,
patience, and obedience. The heroic plot is affected by water magic in two ways. The magic can be of the
antagonists in that it is a way that they have sought to stay young or ward off death or manipulate others
psychologically through physical attraction. The magic can be used by the hero and his gang but the plot will
shift from merely fighting off the bad guys and protecting the kingdom to trying to use healing and parenting
skills to help the young. Water magic makes the heroic plot that of a more intimate journey to heal the self
or someone in the family. Often the focus is on finding a mate.
Dune(note that this book is a mixed book, a hero's journey involving a ruler in a water world)
Fire magic involves working with the spirit and the emotions and learning how to deal with talent. It requires
a one-on-one apprentice pattern and the strength to deal with major forces that overwhelm the emotions. The
heroic plot can be populated by enemies of the fire sort, a plague, a doomsday weapon, an alien destroyer, but
the face of the enemy is very distant. If the heroic plot uses fire magic, the plot becomes a story of personal
spiritual development. Rather than follow the plot through bravery, the hero has to master some power within
himself. He often becomes alienated at this point and the gang is distant or down to one or is in his head. He
may still become king, but he wanders by himself, wrestling with inner demons connected to his power. This
story can turn into a simple engineering story as well.
The Jargoon Pard by Andre Norton
Mythago Wood, Lavondyss by Robert Holstock
Air magic involves using the mind. It involves the quest for justice, competition, perversity and quickness.
You may find your tongue-tied hero having to learn to be glib or relying on an especially quick friend. The enemy
is often a Dark Lord of spells if the air magic is bad. If the magic is neutral or good, the hero finds himself and
his group as underdogs fighting back against a personal enemy. This is no longer fighting the Dark Lord, but
fighting the entire world of wizards or programs or spells and codes. Most confrontations are duels and an
emphasis is put upon personal honor and ability rather than just relying on the team's courage. These stories
can be mysteries, but are more often rebellion stories or oppression stories.
Harry Potter all books - note Voldemort is a mixed Dark Lord, air and water
Matrix all stories.
The Bridal Path
Water magic reinforces a bride plot. The plot was designed to teach her the elements of compassion and free flowing purity of spirit and the healthy body. Many bride stories are dark and light.
Fire magic affects the bride plot in making the journey spiritual rather than toward a mate, it's often toward
a nunnery. Mating in this story with this kind of background is often solitary with a couple lost in a wilderness,
disowned by their own kind. If the magic is bad or used only by the antagonists, the bride's quest for a family
and health contrasts against the background of a plague or post-war desert with the threat of germs or
something impersonal to the health of her family. In fire magic on a bride plot, the bride is often a witch and
sworn to celebacy but makes an exception when she finds the right mate. Often the mythic elements of both
these worlds get mixed: the gifts of the dwarves, fire and ice, and shapeshifting. These mixed elements can
indicate a mixed world and plot.
The Year of the Unicorn, The Crystal Gryphon by Andre Norton
Beauty and the Beast the television series. (many animal groom stories are of this mix)
Air magic affects the bride plot as the body becomes competitive and the relationship with the groom
(or bride) becomes more combatitive. One of the forms of this plot is the "Comedy of Manners". In sub-genres
of Paranormal Romance, relationships with ghosts often fall into this mix. As above, the enemy magic might be
air magic with a powerful dark lord trickster spelling and directing people. If the bride goes underground to
save a groom, she may fall prey to this lord of hell. This category is wide open in Fantasy and Science Fiction,
belonging more to love stories among the elite that Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy were known for.
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
Underworld although the "enemies" are shapeshifters, the bride plot is more affected by history, symbols and an elite ruling class.
Earth magic mixes well with the bride plot as the hero and bride are compatible and the tale may be just a
retelling of the hero's story from her point of view. If the earth magic is a bad influence, the bride will be faced
with a gang or a force or an army of people surrounding a tryrant. In a good way, she uses the qualities of
earth magic in the way that the hero can to win friends who will help her in need. She becomes a larger bride,
a princess of an empire, concerned for her people as if they were her family.
Dragonflight, Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey
Restoree by Anne McCaffrey
The Witch's Way
Fire magic reinforces a witch plot, but rarely are the two found in pure form. Fire magic tends to be part of a character more often than it is part of a plot.
Air magic affects the fire plot in that the seeker of knowlege more often becomes a seeker of justice or a different kind of knowlege more common in the air caste, just as a journalist. X-Files is a good example of traditional fire characters (both Scully and Mulder) in an air magic environment, often pitted againt water magic foes. The air magic enviornment, of course, is the FBI. Mulder is an outcast because of his interest in the paranormal. Note the traits of a fire personality, obsession with his work, outcast by others in the air world, inability to speak comprehensibly, using talents and skills not commong in his normal world, thought to be crazy. Scully joins him with some urge to "set him straight" in a more water magic fashion, but quickly caves into defending him. She has a confusing demeanor, but take some note that she remains aloof from liasons with men in the field and gives the impression that she is not man hunting. She is also devoted to her work and speaks the work lingo. They are pitted against a huge agency of "feints withing feints" where they do not know who the real enemies are. The world is rife with secrets and secret passwords, computers and weapons. They often have to track down criminals or defend those too weak or outcast to help themselves.
Earth magic is a more common plot than a background world of magic. As a background of oppressive character, the fire plot works well against it. The fire witches are outcasts and the earth magic world is dedicated to the security of the group of like people. They may call in a witch to help fight off a power, but usually the magic of earth and fire are too far apart to be common. If a witch was to be in an earth magic world, she would give up her god-talent for gathering together a group of talent greater than herself to help fight a battle against a dark lord. This is almost familiar, but not quite. The closest anyone's come to this kind of combination is in X-men plots where Professor X or Magneto or others gather together mutants to do battle against humans or other mutants. Fire witches do not like working together, so you will find conflicts over powers, not over women or morals or ways to battle. But in most X-men scenarios, the individuals are marked with other magic over their basic mutant powers: Wolverine, Mystique, and Rogue with water magic, Storm with air magic, Cyclops with earth magic, Sabertooth, Toad, Beast and Professor X with air magic. Magneto is a true fire mutant as are Phoenix/Jean Grey, Leech Boy, Mystique and Night Crawler. The ability to have a background magic overlayered with fire magic people with individual magical personalities is what allows X-men to have such a complex world.
Water magic is more compatible with the Witch's Way in that a witch can modify her path to include a mate
and a family. Many of Andre Norton's books are of this combination. Water magic modifies a witch plot to make
her search for a home a combination of controlling her own talents with the idea of becoming appealing to a mate.
Many fairytales are also of this combination confusing spiritual values with family and mating in a female. Their is
another kind of tale that is common in this combination, that of the sexual deviant, or tales that focus on a
journey to come to terms with being gay or a sexual alien or having uncommon family structures. Many popular
stories combine sexual deviance with artistic ability to get around the usual celebacy of fire magic with a sexuality
usually unaccetable to the normal world. Another kind of character is a fire character who has unusual abilities
and is in a water profession like healing, herbalism, mothering, teaching or prostitution.
The Left Hand of Darkness Ursula K. LeGuin
The Mists of Avalon Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Trickster's Justice
Air magic supports an air world but the combination is not very common in Fantasy although much more so in Science Fiction. This may seem odd, but the trickster is a good character, but his story is often set in an a world of other magic to set him off as more of an outsider. Or other people star in the air magic world and the trickster plays other parts such as the villian or a mentor.
Earth magic will modify a trickster's justice so that the trickster is poking at the establishment and less of a stand alone character. He may be part of a group trying to overthrow the oppressive nature of a bad earth magic world, or the ruler of a good earth magic world. His path works extremely well as he falls from grace saving the earth magic, cast out by those who recruited him to help. This is a popular Science Fiction plot in that a trickster, once having done his magic, is set upon the path down by the ingratitude of those in the world that fear him. Unlike the fire plot, the trickster will not turn on the world as much as he will drag people of it into hell with him. Thus defenders of the status quo become members of the crime world. Although The Godfather is not magical, this is a familiar enough movie to use it in describing this combination. Another book that offended many readers was the Thomas Convenant series in which a trickster went into an earth world and many made the assumption that he would be heroic. He treated the earth world in which he was expected to be a hero with the trickster's usual scorn and went around raping charcters and destroying villages and doing things that jarred with the sensibiltity and magic of the world. Donaldson's point was that he would be the one to win, but putting a trickster on a hero's journey is sorely tempting him to defy that journey and make a mockery of it. A reluctant hero like Han Solo becomes a more serious resistant hero with the trickster tendencies becoming offensive traits and disgusting the reader. So be careful!
Water magic worlds work well with any story. They are basic enough to human myth to creep into stories without the writer meaning them to. Many tricksters do well in a water magic world where they fight the trickster's battle for justice in a world concerned with issues of health, longevity, genetic purity, family, and connection through marriage. It's actually hard to avoid putting some water magic in a novel and not just letting water magic characters stay off on their own. Once that water of life shows up, eveyone wants a drink! Vampire stories are often trickster stories as well as other horror motifs. A trickster is often pitted against or allied with an ogress character. This was common in the recent movies Pirates of the Caribbean where the pirates, natural tricksters, had to deal with water magic pirates or seek out water magic weapons to get revenge. The second movie was a good trickster plot wrapped up in almost nothing but water magic: cannibalism, an immortal heart, a voodoo love queen, a ship full of corrupt men who were avoiding death. Water magic was so prevalent in this movie that it lost some of its cohesion and the trickster focus fell short of its promise and put the main trickster in a strange arena where what he fought was not big enough to be really threatening but was more comical in a way that Johnny Depp played up yet made the plot fall apart. Tricksters are often too powerful for the more basic magic of a water world, so you have to balance out this problem using more threatening rewards and dangers to actually threaten the wizard/trickster effectively and engage the audience.
Fire magic and air magic work well together and are Science Fiction's basic combo. Science Fiction writers love trickster stories in post-Appocalypic worlds or pitted agaist Armageddon weapons. They love pitting an elite warrior against a weapon of such magnitude that he is overwhelmed. None of the confidence here that makes the water magic world look a little foolish! Many Star Trek episodes were of this sort and most of them boiled down to the captain or his champion fighting a battle of wits against a doomsday machine or monster of such magnitude that it was too impersonal to understand. Viruses and bombs are very popular in Science Fiction stories. Where the hero has trouble defeating this kind of enemy, the trickster comes into his glory, unravelling clues and chasing down obscure facts to try to get at the secret to destroy the weapon that will wipe out civilization. Many James Bond movies, although set in an earth framework, pit Bond, a trickster against some kind of mad scientist with a bomb. Knowing how this combination of trickster on hero's journey in fire magic world is a sure-fire way to do a popular story. However, the crowning achievement of a trickster's tale in a fire magic world is Zelazny's Amber one of the best fire worlds ever invented. Zelazy draws a world of created worlds and lets his trickster family each play with world creation. Read this series for the best illustration of this combination.
When writing out different plots, play with combinations. This is not a beginner's practice, but one to use when you have been thoroughly though the main magics.
This is the next complicated part of plotting. Once you've picked your character and his journey and world, it's time to pick an antagonist, a love interest or attachment (can be work or a pet!), a mentor, and sidekicks, relatives, comrades, followers, and a host of minor players. These characters will identify a character as a hero even if he has trickster values (Han Solo) or a witch even if she has bride values (Jean Grey). I'm going to use our four-fold maps again, just for visual clues for those of you who, like me, are lysdexic!
This is a map showing the four main character types and their deviants according to some kind of influence from another magical type. This might better explain for you the slight difference between a paladin and a hero or a scientist from a performing artist. (See social map above showing professions.) I'll start with a straight tale first and then show you some modifications. The images below will start to give you a better idea of the story as it involves other people.
Here is the traditional map of characters as laid out in the monomyth. There are many, many variants on the antagonist, almost none on the mentor and the love interest. Your antagonist might be a representative of the world in which you find your hero as mentioned in the section above.
In the traditional hero's journey, the love interest represents the land, the princess, the elixir of life, the distillation of all that is needed by the hero to mirror his own energy and to act as a catalyst to further his resolution to his problem. She (or it) is his inspiration, his prize, his goad, and the secret that he must learn to see inside himself, but reflected into a male energy. I know this is a bit complicated, but reading Campbell's book should help. This is where you get into deep discussions with Jung, Freud and all about anima, complexes, mother junk in wives, and the usual stuff that is involved with god energy in the opposite sex. I'll talk more about her in the next sections.
The mentor is typically the trickster come through the entire cycle. The sidekicks represent comic relief or other trickster images. The hero usually does not companion other heros unless he's part of a team hero, rarely done and difficult to do. In Harry Potter Hermoine is here (trickster) with Ron (comic relief). Although they are both heroic characters (in Griffindore) they represent tricksters in that they fulfill a part mentor role to the hero while keeping him going. Dumbledore is a mentor as well as Hagrid and other teachers. Although they may be personalities of a different caste, their roles are well-defined to advise Harry. So, on one side (water) you have the goad and goal, on the other (air) you have advisors and helpers. Most tradtional hero's journeys follow this pattern.
As I mentioned, the antagonist can be all over the place, but for most tradtional hero's journeys, he is some kind of fire magic, anathema to the hero. The antagonist can also be a problem, the world, or spooks from a hero's mind and does not always have to be a real person. Actually, very little of modern Fantasy follows this antagonist motif. Most antagonists are combinations of air and water (Harry Potter) or all three (Lord of Rings). In Science Fiction you see many many more instances of fire antagonists, most of them disembodied or alien. Only in epics such as Gilgamesh or Sigfried do you see the traditional opponent in the form of the dragon or Tiamat. This opponent is female in energy but is almost never depicted this way as heroes cease to face wicked witches or their fiery fiends.
Here is the trickster's map. Note the shift in characters. Tradionally, the trickster does not marry the lost love or whore, but neither is she an antagonist. However, he often kidnaps or marries his weapon supplier. So the partnership is with fire, but the partnership is not that of romantic interest. The trickster usually has pretty awful relationships with women, given his circumstances. He either uses them or sets them free of the story through death or sending them away. I'm sure the shrinks have fun here, but this shows how story motifs are of the human psyche but not responsible for it. The same patterns of male/female energy exchange in the hero are not shared by the trickster, for his is not a reproductive relationship. He is not of the body (if you'll pardon the pun). As the dark king or the fallen Loki, his wife provides a way for him to avoid some of his punishment and she is almost invisible unless he has kidnapped her as a power. (Morgoth/Ungoliant, Sauron/Shelob, Magneto/Phoenix) He almost always has to use a fire character as a way to boost or make his magic happen. Tricksters are almost always pared with some kind of priest-familiar, Kirk with Spock, Voldemort with Nagini, Dumbledore with the Phoenix, etc.
The other main relationship a trickster has is with the earth characters. He can have admirers in the way of thugs or admirers who are biographers like Holmes with Watson or Nero Wolfe with Archie. It is important to note that these admirers are not necessarily in the category of "friend" another heroic motif that people try to put on tricksters. They have loyal servants, people who think themselves the trickster's friend, admirers, hangers on, slaves, parasites, but they themselves have as many problems with friends as with lovers. This is because this character is not a connection type. He plays a vital role in society but is a character abstracted, not a grooming character. In a way, he is above the ape level of human interaction where the bride and hero are obviously more involved in the life of the social animal. The trickster will do what he thinks is right, equitible or just, but he won't get all mushy and call people his friends. The other character here is the counterpart of the mentor, called the child after the last incarnation of the hero/tyrant. Often in trickster stories there is a child or child form who is pursued or harassed or acts as a symbol of the trickster's quest. It's actually surprising how often this figure shows up in these stories in the form of a small, weak innocent at risk.
The trickster's antagonist is usually a group and not an individual. If he pursues an individual it is almost always his own double. (Holmes and Moriarty) Sometimes this double has slipped into the dark world through some contaminant from another caste. (Dumbledore and Voldemort in that Voldemort used to be pure air caste and gave it up for immortality. The relationship between Gandalf and Sauron is also similar but Sauron went closer to Morgoth and got fire magic, same with Saruman.) So the trickster's antagonists usually are faceless and have no "characterization" outside of their function in society: police, soldiers, thugs, etc. If the trickster is out for vengeance, he is fighting himself with values that have slipped from the right path and is often more SYMPATHETIC with his enemy than he is with his friends.
And here is the bride story, very different, yet similar. In this story, we have helpers, both animal helpers and the fairy godmother or dead mother, and a pair of suitors. In the Cinderella story, the wrong suitor is a mock bride. The story involves doubles again, or a triangle, the tension of a pairing story. This pattern often shows up in any situation where the reader encounters the bride. In a heroic story, the hero's sidekick may be in competition for the bride or he may meet two brides and have to pick the right one.
The other characters that you don't see on this map are the rest of the family. They are almost always of the same sort of magic as the bride, holding her back or entangling her in the lake through which she must flow. In the Tam Lin variation, the bride's opponents are often undecided between the bride and the wrong bride and show remarkable ambivalence as they hinder the wrong bride (Queen) one moment and hinder the right bride (Princess) the next. One of the great powers of the bride story is that almost everyone who helps the bride has a twin equivalent who hinders her. They are not always the same person, but it is frustrating for some people to read these stories in that the bride is always having to decide who will help her without any clear delineations on who is in which camp. This symbolically represents the body that lives moment to moment and not society or the mind that has more clear boundaries between goal helpers and goal hinderers.
This is not to say that the bride has no enemies or friends, but as the cycle progresses, her own husband often becomes her "enemy" in mistaking her for a false bride or in a battle of shape changes that pass over each spouse as they try to pin down the shape of the intimacy and find out that it has many moods. Think of water. Wind is irritating but invigorating, stone is just there but can be made fertile, but water is all different things, depending on environmental influences. "Love is a many-splendored thing" and is often said to be as painful as it is wonderful.
Like the hero, the bride has help. She almost always gets magical help and not help from her own in the water caste, or among her suitors. Her helpers are magical beasts or spirits or trees or artifacts like combs and mirrors or fairies and witches. One of the more common positive aspects of the witch is in these stories. This is where you can go wild in this kind of story: inventing magical beasts and helpers and what they can do to help the bride. Many girls spend hours and hours with horses and dragons, again not because of some perverse psychology of control, but because a princess needs a unicorn or a dragon or a carriage drawn by mice. What if your bride is a groom? What would help him then? Remember "Puss in Boots?" How about a sports car? Get creative and do your own helpers. It's almost as much fun as designing weapons of this caste. It is also good excercise to design both aids and weapons to get you used to the tool nature of the fire caste.
The first thing you will notice about this map is how abstract the character tags are. The point is this: the tags are represented by people, but only barely so. For the witch, they often remain abstracted and hardly take on any personality. This is another reason why this story is one editors hate. It is an interior story like that of the trickster, but an interior story about the witch, not about society.
Women, men, drugs, booze, food--they all come and go, but they all represent comfort, compassion, distraction, rest, release, a bolt hole and the halt of the witch's way. Often these elements show up together: a woman with drugs, a man with a nice house, a light shining out of the darkness saying: "eat me and go to sleep and in the morning you will be lost." When the fire has died and the wolves run away and the moon wanes the comforts of the body become unbearable and the witch wavers, wondering why she has to suffer. Talent has turned its back, the muse is burned out and the desire is only to rest, please, to rest. Well, maybe there is rest, but then the burden is to get back up, then, isn't it? It's often disappointing to readers to find out that a love interest is secretly the witch's enemy unless she hops castes and changes her story. A common story is that the witch will give up her magic for a man (or a woman). This is often projected onto life where the cry of the lover is, "if you loved me, you'd give it up!" Well, you're the writer. Will he give up his love? It's even worse for readers when the witch uses the lover to drag her down and try to turn away from her power and then casts him aside just as readily when she feels the return of inspiration. She goes to him when the fire has died, not when it's blazing.
The earth represents oppression and is almost always in group form. There is one case in which this enemy is personified and that is in the story of the talent who is overshadowed by another talent or a manager or both. The manager. How often that makes real artists shudder. The manager rushes in and beats up the artist, not understanding the power, but only wanting the money it brings in. A common story is when one talent holds back another talent. This is often the case when one talent is popular and the oppressed talent is original, showing the movement of the oppressing talent across the square toward the earth: popularity and money.
And she has a third enemy: the threat that comes from the air caste. Worse than the manager, her is a person(s) who will use her to control others or get what he wants from others. Einstein might have pointed at the atomic bomb, but those who made it were working for the threat. Again, this shows the tool nature of fire, in that talent is always vulnerable to the other castes.
Does the poor witch have any friends? Not usually, except in the one instance of fellow talents. With them, there may be competition and jealousy, but there can also be great bonding and fellowship in search of the Truth. Only with her own does the witch come out of the tool and object trap to be with others of her kind as they search for the guiding star that leads humanity up out of the world and into transcendence. This may sound a little goofy, but think on it. What do religious orders do? They search for a way out of being human. They try to get enlightened. Sometimes their powers compliment each other and sometimes they can be mated talents who act as one being against the world. So the rescue of the talent story, to make it human and extra-personal may lie in the talent's relationships with other fire beings.
Look again at the large map. You can see the drift in main characters. What happens when you put a Paladin using an Artiste against a group of Romantic Heroes? Answer: The Phantom of the Opera. What about a Reluctant Hero against a Doctor Scientist with a Magical Spouse? Answer: Moonraker. What about a Philosopher Scientist against a Royal Guide using a Doctor Scientist and having Engineer admirers? Answer: Star Trek: First Contact. Name any combination and then think of a story using that combo. I dare you. It's impossible to think of something that hasn't been done, but it's fun. I think you begin to see the possibilities. In the next sections, I'll explain some of the rules of war and love...
Here again is the spiral and figure eight of all four plots. Point two is a conflict point at the gates. Usually the main character is not directly involved, being too young or too fresh out of one world. The charcters involved at the gate are minor and the conflict here tends to be very stylized. For the hero, the gate involves some kind of fight and, at times, the death of a minor character. For the trickster, the fight is one-sided, often some thugs beating up an innocent or a crime taking place (usually murder), but again, no one personal, usually a stranger. For the bride and witch there is no violence at the gate, but the conflict is between the bride and her (non)family usually over some arrival or invitation or anticipated event which draws the bride into the magical world. For the witch, the transition is usually abrupt and brought about by family or friends, more like getting kicked out of the nest.
The next point where the main character might expect conflict is on the road to Point Three. This kind of conflict is more of a testing conflict, nothing serious (relatively) but plenty of action. The antagonist remains a little distant for the hero and trickster, and friendly for the bride and witch. The real conflict at Point Three and leading up to it is with the love interest. The hero encounters the goad and inspiration of the goddess. The trickster meets two women who represent two forms of oppression: one as a whore-type, cynical but adjusted to oppression; the innocent woman is still fighting in some passive way, but by her nature a complete victim. In short stories, these characters are often omitted. The trickster has a pretty stereotype reaction to punish or scorn the whore and to release the innocent, showing the duality of his persona.
The bride has been snubbed or finds the true groom inaccessible and is consoled by the false groom. In other configurations of this tale, the right groom is made to look bad by the sympathies of the wrong groom. This doesn't have to be literal: the right groom can just be away and the wrong groom be an alternative life or other group of friends that show a kind face to the bride, offering her a way out from the path. If she follows them, she will soon learn that they, too, are prickly and full of thorns and the trap is to see yet another bed of roses and jump ship again. For the witch, this part of the path involves the discipline of the self, usually demonstrated in the rigors of working for a teacher who cracks the whip rather than is patient or comprehensible. Every time she slacks off, the whip cracks, but there is nothing personal to it, or the teacher is no one she can identify with. If she turns away and feels sorry for herself, the teacher does not come after her, but if she returns, she is punished more heavily. The conflict here is with self, weighing guilt and intuition against overt discipline and loneliness. Remember that this story is much more internal than the others.
Yet the conflict that I want to talk about comes between Points Three and Four, at the height of the spiral in the foreign world. This is at the point where the main character makes the first transition between being a Fool or a child into being an adult. In fiction, this is exaggerated. The main character takes on a mantle of godhood or something larger than life. He becomes the universal, or distills down the allusions from the beginning of the book into the symbol of the theme that the writer is putting forth. Your theme can be spoken in straight words or in fiction, but until this moment, it is words. In the actions of the main character against the antagonist the theme is demonstrated through action.
Now your theme is whatever you can think up. But the theme drives the conflict here and is the core of the conflict here. No more pussy-footing around your ideas--this is it. The main character must now represent the theme of your story. Let's look at some stories to give you a better idea--I'll list a number of them in the hopes that you've read or watched some of them. If not--HEY! Your first duty as a writer is to read.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Man against Man - Trickster's Justice - Air "magic" in an Earth World
Theme: Society creates criminals independent of morality.
Jean Valjean the criminal versus Inspector Javert the policeman
Jean Valjean, in his new disguise as a Mayor of a small town that had once been prosperous, has drawn the attention of Javert, the only one who knows his real identity as an escaped convict. Jean Valjean is known for his amazing strength. He chooses to save a man who is crushed by a cart rather than let the man die. He then gives himself up to save a man who was arrested as Jean Valjean to keep that man from the gallows. Javert seizes upon this disclosure to put Valjean back into prison. This conflict clearly illustrates the theme, society represented by Javert and the natural moral man represented by Valjean.
Star Wars: A New Hope by George Lucas
Man against Himself - Hero's Journey - Earth Magic in an Earth World
Theme: The harder an empire crushes its citizens the more will rebell against it, or force cannot lead to victory.
Luke Skywalker is represented by a champion (often in heroic tales at this point) against Darth Vader
Princess Leia says this theme to the commander of the Death Star, but it is illustrated again and again in the following way. Obi Wan knows that the only thing that will stop the Sith is not to fight agressively but defensively and sometimes not to fight at all. In his battle with Darth Vader, once he sees that Luke and the others are safe, he just opens his arms for Darth Vader to slay him. As Luke runs forward to take revenge, Obi Wan's voice is heard saying, "run, Luke, run!". Obi Wan's sacrifice is thus revealed not to be a sacrifice but a way to rebel--to fight force with no-force, a common theme in Eastern countries and not very common in the West. Thus he illustrates the theme by showing that more force does the opposite of a sure victory. The entire series is illustrated in the various ways that the heroes give up fighting and trust to the force to see them through. By trusting the force, Luke takes on the force.
Dune by Frank Herbert
Man against Nature - Hero's Journey - Earth Magic in a Water World
Theme: Environment demands adaption; the higher the failure rate the more successful the survivors.
Paul Atreides versus the rest of the known universe in a face-off through the "Water of Life". This conflict here is not as clear as the other conflicts, but represents the theme. It is not an action shot as much as it is the culmination of Paul's environment against him. Part of this test is in his initiation to ride the giant worms, the other part is in his becoming the Kwisatz Haderach, the ultimate breeding project. The set up in this book has been an allusion to Paul being the ultimate in breeding controlled by the Bene Geserit, but Jessica, Paul's mother, rather than give the Bene Geserit the breeding line or a controlled child, follows her instincts and births Paul, a rogue element in the plan. Through confronting the Fremen under Harkonnen oppression at the right time, fate in this books puts Paul through the eye of the needle forcing him to become what his environment has bred him to be, but far more given that he has been thrown into other pressures. By taking the Water of Life, he is able (he tells this, we don't see it) to face down the Spacing Guild and the Emperor and literally be in all places at once, becoming a true super being and illustrating the theme of the book in the revelation of his person against all the failures.
The Lord of Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
Man against Himself - Hero's Journey - Earth and Air Magic in a Water (and a little Fire) World
Theme: As man seeks to control his environment he corrupts it.
Frodo Baggins (one of the heroes) faces a Wight as he and his companions are locked inside a barrow.
Frodo, representing everyman, is given the key to controlling nature in the One Ring. Many of the characters are tested by the ring, and are eager for control or see that control cannot bring about a return to peace and beauty. Frodo, alone in the barrow with his friends unconscious, rises up against the futility of the paralysis of death and fights against his own fear, thereby showing himself to be worthy of resisting the temptation of the ring. Although this is one of the many cycles of this tale and although there are others with more conflict--man against man--the theme is in man's resistance to make over nature in his own image out of pride or fear. So Frodo must overcome his desire to use the ring again and again. However, in this one small scene, we see that Tolkien really wants to show that when a man triumphs over his own weaknesses he can defeat corruption.
The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
Man against Nature - Witch's Way - Air and Water Magic in a Fire World
Theme: It is only by accident that man has not been wiped out of existence, yet he takes for granted his superiority
The scientists of Wildfire versus Andromeda
Although this story is a very different kind of story than we're used to, it does conform to these maps. The conflict point of this story (although it's not the same place on the map) is not when the facility shuts down, but at the point where the virus mutates, demonstrating the theme. We have been led along to understand that a screaming baby and an old man on sterno somehow have been saved from Andromeda's potency. At the point when they are just on the verge of figuring out that it is blood acidity that protects people, Andromeda merely changes into another kind of threat, showing the theme. It is a bleak theme, rather anti-man. Although the hero scientists figure out how to defeat Andromeda, the strain changes and wipes out all their discovery in an eyeblink. Ultimately, they survive, but as a cautionary tale we hear the refrain, "but for how long?".
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
Man against Himself - Witch's Way - Fire Magic in an Earth World
Theme: Beauty cannot be hoarded but must be let go to exist
The Unicorn versus the Red Bull
Although this book looks like many things, it is the Unicorn against herself in a clever device wherein most people are doubled. They are valid as characters, yet it is only through the double vision that the theme can be illustrated as one person will be caught and the other slipping again back and forth. The unicorn has finally made it to Haggard's castle and is ready to fight the blind bull who has driven the other unicorns into the sea. She finds that she cannot face down the bull and retreats before him. But the wizard, who has no control over his power, performs a shape-shifting spell taking the unicorn from the unicorn and leaving behind a woman. Still possessing the unicorn's beauty, she starts to lose it, locked inside the castle in the body under the eyes of the hoarder. She refuses to use the weapon that she is. It is only at the end that this story turns inside out again. The difficult part about these kind of stories is that the path is not against an enemy, Talent loses control over the world she has created and sees it corrupted. It is only in the reflection of what she thought was the world that she can see what is not what she thought it was. Without submitting to the change into a woman, the Unicorn would not see what a unicorn was.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
Man against Man - The Bridal Path - Water "magic" in an Earth World
Theme: Love overcomes the boundaries of pride and prejudice.
Elizabeth Bennet versus Fitzwilliam Darcy
This theme may sound trite to you and it even the title, but it is subtle in that every character in this book represents an aspect of the theme, common in Victorian novels that were more moralistic than those 150 years later. The talent of the writer lay, not in hiding the theme, but in exploring its every variation. The bride story here reaches its top spiral in the "magical world" when Elizabeth, visiting her friend who has married a foolish man, meets again with Darcy whom she knows has prevented her sister from marrying his friend and has defamed and cut off his adopted brother. Darcy proposes marriage and Elizabeth tears him to shreds. They both demonstrate the very height of folly in this scene as Elizabeth, blinded by her prejudice, cannot see that Darcy is the right man for her. She revenges herself on him for Jane and Wickam yet he defends himself in a letter and dashes her prejudice aside. She then must bear the brunt of this as Darcy secretly saves her family from humiliation and ruin. It seems a long way now to her end point of being a bride worthy of Darcy, humbled and shamed, she swears to fix herself (search for the spirit) without hope of winning his admiration.
A wonderful excercise would be for you to take your favorite stories. Start with novels that are movie length, because long novels like The Lord of Rings often have several journeys in cycles and short stories are often full of gaps that the reader has to fill in. It takes some skill to imply these scenes without wasting valuable story space dramatizing them. Movies are pretty easy since they are so tightly structured. Name the kind of elemental conflict that you learned in school: man vs man, man vs himself, man vs nature. Then try to work out the magic of the main character, the world, and the opponents. Then try to sift out the theme, which should be abstract and universal. Then look at the story. If the writer is more traditional, he illustrates the theme in almost everything, especially in the magic. If she is more modern, the theme might almost be too obscure to sift out. This is a style choice. Some editors object to "old fashioned" books with heavy themes. Some demand a clear theme, but not pounded on the reader's head. Name the main character and the main antagonist. Then look for the main theme conflict, usually in the middle to the last third of the book--it won't be the climax.
Starting a Book
It's often too diffictult to start a book at the beginning. It may be much easier to start a book with this conflict. Then work into what leads up to it and then look at the results of it. If you can get a clear conflict with a clear theme, no matter how muddled the rest of the book, this high point will secure the reader's satisfaction. Books are to entertain, but books are humanity and not just decoration. To write a book without a theme is not a bad thing; it's just an art form that is not a novel, but some other exploration. You can do this, but it's usually classified into "Literary Fiction". Most ghetto genres are traditional and less flexible with theme, altough Science Fiction readers are more forgiving than most if your science is good enough. Fantasy readers aren't. Don't even challenge it. It's hard enough to do something other than the hero's journey. Write if you want, but for your friends, not for the expectation of publication. Yes, I know rules are meant to be broken, but you're facing down the whole of fandom on this one--I know, I've tried (and am still trying with a Witch's Way story with no heroes).
I spoke in the above section about basic conflict and how this ties into what is taught in school. Where this conflict, and romantic conflict become interesting is when you scramble the basic patterns, which is one of most creative things a writer does. You may start with a Paladin versus a Tyrant King, but then change the two characters into women. The Paladin may be an trickster but work water magic, a kind of healer for the abused. However, before we get too carried away, let's take a look at some patterns that many help you to find your way through the mazes of conflict. Above, here again is an expanded main character map.
Here is the spiral again. Look and see that a hero's journey is the reverse of the trickster's and the bride's a reverse of the witch's. This is the way that mythological conflict is created. When the hero is at Point Three, meeting his romantic interest, he is also at the same point as the witch and the trickster at Point Seven when they are moving from the king and queen of the dead (magical world) to the destruction of their kingdom. This is what makes the witch available as a weapon to use against the dark lord with the help of the bride. As the hero and bride move to Point Four, the witch and trickster become more powerful, creating a line of conflict along the top/bottom of this spiral. The opposite is true. Point Three and Four are for the witch and trickster the height of their spirals into the normal world where the Tyrant and Empress are moving along the line of the height of their power to their deaths. Thus a trickster faces two women in the normal world, one who doesn't belong there and one who is corrupt and may be a powerful dark queen. He faces the emperor/tyrant with little more than his wits.
These four characters form the backbone of a story. The child/mentor goes along with the trickster/hero as a guide, and the images of the bride/witch as hope and mercy also show up for the girls' stories, but the conflict between the two spirals/figure eights is the basis for conflict in the myths. This is expanded from the basic conflict, learned in school, where protagonist meets antagonist. In a short story the four characters are often cut to two, but in a novel it is better to show all four.
Here are the same variants above, but in their most corrupt forms. You should realize that you can sub in your own earth/trickster or fire/monster for the tags here. You can immediately see that in The Hobbit Bilbo, an earth hero fights off Smaug a fiery destroyer. Yet Smaug has the personality of a hoarder, a little bit like a dark lord, speaking in riddles and with intention to deceive. So Smaug is a fiery destroyer who practices air magic. Also note that there is no rule that says that a hero can't face down either the queen or king of the dead at Points Three through Four because they may both be there. One may be passive or the hero might face different aspects of each. There is also no rule against the queen of the dead being an ogress queen, although that is not the path of the bride normally. She might be a witch caught by water magic and then subsumed by the nature of health, bodily corrpution and immortality. In this guise, she may still practice fire magic showing heavy shapeshifting, breeding viruses to kill off the world, or being obsessed with light, warmth and fire (Shelob/Ungoliant) in some terrible memory of her earlier days.
But go wild. Why not have a hero face everyone in his own caste? His bride can be a heroic companion who has water tendencies or even fights with air magic. He can face down a tyrant sort on the map above who is paired with another tyrant sort. A cutthroat manager and a corrupt general? It is important to the myth only that one of the dark mirror images be passive and one aggressive and ditto for the other pair. Thus, in a heroic story, the hero is paired with some kind of love interest but he or she has to be more passive--not one on one with the hero, but when they, as a pair, face off the other pair. Leia might grab a gun from Han Solo to blast their way out of prison, but Luke faces Darth Vader alone with her in the background, maybe as a hostage, a victim or just hoping he can do something, or starting the engines while he's doing in the villian. This is one of the things that got heroines a bad rap. In the story, they must be the shadow character in the pair, but in their own story, the opposite is true. So we end up with stick men and women standing up in place of the love interest who just look silly. It's imporant to create passivity, not helplessness. The secondary charcters are not supposed to upstage the main protagonist and antagonist in their scene. So do a scene for the secondary characters facing their pair and leave them alone when the four get together. An excellent example of this is in Matrix II when Persephone sits quietly during the meeting and then approaches Neo later after they have left in disgrace. Even in X-men III Phoenix stands passively by when the X-men confront Magneto. She only goes into destruct mode after he is disabled.
Traditionally, heroes fought off the trickster dark lords and destructive queens of the dead because this was a religious conflict as the new agrarian religions replaced the older shamanism. Many stories of myth are merely historic accounts of the fall of gods in preference to others. Some religions devoted to a new, patriarchal sky god that came out of the Aryan invasions put the demons in female form to further distance themselves from the earlier, agrarian religions. Most blended, some very creatively as in Catholicism. Unfortunately, we have to deal with this religious legacy in dealing with stories. That doesn't mean that you have to cave into it. C. S. Lewis became a devout Christian yet his main "god" in his Fantasy series was Aslan, a lion who had strong ties to other animal lords and queens, often in the shape of a lion or bear or stag. Lewis was able to stay to his strong beliefs while digging into mythology for a creative variation on his own stories that "rang true". Aslan submitting to the knife of the White Witch at the Stone Table is old magic indeed, from the depths of our own mythology, dating back before the Babylonians! No matter what you write, you have to run into the human legacy and much of that is religious only because religion has been tied in the past to knowlege, myth, story, song, science, cosmology and a host of other human interests in the world around us and the world of people. If you have strong beliefs, use them. If you don't have any interest in mythology, then go ahead and write. No matter what your background, you've absorbed so much mythology through story that you may be able to write work that "rings true" while "winging it". Some of the best writers did no world building at all beyond a simple map and succeeded extremely well. But if your work is sagging and you don't know why, you may find inspiration in studying this kind of work.
Above we looked at different kinds of magic in our study of the flavor of magic in the world. It is also important to know how one magic will conflict with another. Let's look at the ethics map again:
Earth versus Air
There are 48 combinations here. If we deal with only opposing magical castes, you have 24 opportunities for types of conflict depending on your cast. Once you choose your hero's type, then you are limited to three types of conflict with air or earth magic, one with the bride, one with the dark lord, and one with the queen of the dead. Same with the trickster: one with the witch, one with the tyrant and one with the corrupted queen. So the number of conflicts to chose fromm are vast, but the conflicts are three basic per story. In some epics you might have more than one story thread and do the story from a hero's viewpoint and a brides, etc, but the time involved is too long for a normal novel or movie.
Earth magic is intuitive magic and it is the magic of charm. An earthworker is, frankly, charming, but in our book that means popular, successful, rich and or attractive. He has the ability to get others on his side, not through convincing them, but though his innocence and charm. Later, he uses more force, but his team members, no matter how oppressive his army still reveres him although they may now find him frightening. Earth magic is not as much fun to write about as the other magics because it seems so, well, normal. Just because it is normal, doesn't mean it's invalid; it means only that we're surrounded by it and don't even see it anymore. I'm going to try to remedy that.
Earth magic is resistance. Harry Potter, Frodo Bagging and Neo were all resistant, stubborn, and could knuckle down and bear up under attack. Akido teachers talk about "hara" which means belly, but relates to the center of gravity, the belly and pelvis. Earth magic is low to the ground or of the ground. So the worker of this kind of magic has great inertia or in more positive terms, has great integrity. Remember how long it took the Hobbits to begin to show signs of being "worn down" by the ring? Gandalf admitted that he would feel the bad effects almost immediately. Earth magic is a dog who bites down and then won't tear loose, or a badger, a better example of an earth animal. When your worker of earth magic uses it, he lowers himself, and trusts in his ability to withstand. He must trust. An earthworker without trust is useless. He must be strong enough to endure the wrath of other magics, and his power lies not in attack, but in defense.
For air magic, the opposite is true. Air must move, must attack to defend. Workers of air magic speak their magic, wave their wands and summon the powers at their aid. This magic is the most popular and well known of magics, so much so that I don't need to say much about it. Above all else, the worker of air magic must be fast. Their defense relies upon speed and the ability to not be there when the attack comes.
When these two meet, it is the bull versus the eagle. If the eagle is a trickster, he may be more like a mosquito to an elephant (also an earth symbol). If the bull is a hero he may be more like a terrier fighting off an invading griffin. But the basic strategy is that the air worker will try to run around the earth worker and the earth worker will glue to the ground and bear down. Both must keep coming back. If the earth worker is the weaker, he must bear the repeated attacks, hoping to wear down the eagle. If the air worker is weaker, he must hide out and run as each hideout is crushed and hope he's not too injured to build the trap for the giant to blunder into. Earth magic abused is brute strength. Air magic abused is a tornado.
In cross-sex conflicts, the air woman will run circles around the earth man, making him a little dizzy and crazy at her constant harassment or stream of talk. Hermoine Granger, although on Harry's team, makes him and Ron roll their eyes at her constant stream of talk that they almost can't understand. She is wit and audacity and way more intelligent than our earth man seems. She'll be much smaller, fast and lithe, full of vinegar and spite as well as laughter, jokes and puns. In a power situation, the air destroyer is going to oppose the hero not by being cynical and too wise but by being invisible or incomprehensible. He may try to understand her in order to find a way to defeat her and can only do so if he's learned the language of the birds or can see the invisible.
The air man will try to con the earth woman who politely refuses him over and over. Think of Han Solo, an air sidekick and Princess Leia, who is a water/earth mix. He just thinks that if he talks fast enough, and comes up with the right combination, he'll overcome being scruffy-looking. Usually air people are attracted to earth because of earth's great beauty or popularity. At first Han Solo was only interested in Leia because she was rich until she showed true spunk and "tough get going" qualities when they broke out of prison. The dark lord may wish to use an earth weapon or kidnap and earth bride. To do this, he must find a way to buy, corrupt, wear down or otherwise pique the woman of this magic.
Earth versus Water
Unlike Air, water must not push forward as much as it must not stay still. So obstructions and damming must not occur in water magic channels. So if earth magic acts as a rock, resisting other magics and air acts as a force pushing against other magics, then water must remain untouched by other magics by letting them pass into the body and back out again. Water magic is very visceral and body images apply to it quite readily. Water magic is familiar to us in the language of health, especially in some Eastern medicines like acupuncture. Any terminology that talks about flow and blockage is water magic.
For earth and water magic to cooperate, water must flow around earth, into earth and soften and nourish it. Water magic is also unique in that it has little power by itself. It is both easily tainted by other magics but also needs other magics to perform its magic. So the combination with earth magic when earth can trust and grow forth with charm is augmented and made even better by water flowing across the land. The positive combination of magic in earth and water is: bride and hero.
It is in the negative combinations that conflict arises to block water or flood earth. The earth becomes a stagnant swamp full of rotting life or the stream is filled with rocks and is too perilous to navigate or dammed and starves the country below. The dark queen will flood the hero, try to corrupt him and rot him. A water queen will exert this force on a tyrant, who will fight back with more and more oppression of stone--higher walls and defenses. The tyrant, in turn, will crush the life out of a witch, trying to keep her in the stone walls of a well, unable to flow or move.
In creative changes, if a trickster is using water magic against a tyrant, the water is driven underground, to calcify and become acrid and undrinkable, eating away at the earth in sinkholes. If a hero meets a dark water lord, he fights in a magical land of zombies, vampires, monsters and cannibals. If a water witch tries to deal with a tryant or ogress, she shapes the power of water, mermaids, krackens, sea monsters and silkies and the earth magic tries to catch and tame these beasts. If an water ogress meets an earth witch she can only offer the power of a corrupted life, which the earth witch resists in the power of the herd, a leap of the deer past the ravaging mother of death. A bride who meets the earth witch in her destructive mode faces a world that is a desert, burning with volcanoes. She must creep across it, hopeless and searching for someone to love and somewhere to thrive.
Earth versus Fire
Earth and fire do not combine to serve a higher purpose. Earth magic resists the explosive nature of fire, bakes under the heat of the sun and freezes under the cold of the stars. Heroes meeting the fire witch in her destructive form often want to run the other way. However, the tyrant will use Talent, something we see all too often in the normal world, where an oppressive agency demands of talent the means to be rich and popular. A tyrant will use the flame to light the darkness of his realm or to torment those who oppose him or to ward off his fear of the night which is too much like the grave.
Brides of fire can do little here for hero or dark lord except to serve. A bride of fire will be an animal-bride, tied to the hero, not though love but through her use to him. This combination is often found in books where some tragic bride figure cannot charm the prince, but offers up her soul in the form of music or other gift. The dark lord will accept this gift, giving the bride only enough to keep her loyal, yet the hero is ambivalent, full of guilt in not responding to this generosity except in friendship. A fire ogress here is one of the greatest fears of the trickster as she consumes his soul while promising him immortality though fame. A fire ogress bargains here with the tyrant, over and over paying to keep him in power while she secretly plans the corruption of their world.
Water versus Fire
This combination of magics is creative although not usually productive unless harnessed by a third force. Water magic is not blocked by fire, but cancelled out. In that explosive conflict sometimes much is learned or created in the form of art. A bride who meets a fire hero is one who cannot live with him and cannot live without him. They fight and then make up passionately and then fight again. This is one relationship that has the most shapeshifing of all romantic encounters, although any combination in this corner will involve magical beasts and shapeshifting. (see picture below) A bride who meets a fire dark lord is doomed, utterly doomed. Although the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera was on a quest for revenge for societies ills against a disfigured child, he used fire magic against the bride/singer. She fell under this charm of music even though she knew it was doom. He can only expect pity from a bride and so he loves and hates her.
When the bride meets a witch queen here, they can share magics making one of the cooperative relationships of the two pairs. In her role as queen of the dead the fire dark queen will help the water bride, often using her powers over animals and spirits. This is the traditional role of the fairy godmother, but since the witch has not gone through her destructive mode, she often is wayward and the bride fears to trust her or does not understand her help. When the reverse occurs, the witch is not helped by the ogress queen, but seduced by the temptations of the body. A fire hero here will fall into a pit of debauchery and lose his way, lose his friends unless they cling to him, following him from opium den to den catching bits of poety he lets fall. If he is a fire trickster, he will seek out the ogress queen to get her secret for immortality.
Fire tricksters meeting water tyrants result in the most spectacular of conflicts. Here, the tryant rules the seas and the trickster sails a boat of song or drives a plane powered by secret fuel. The waves rise up to smack him from the skies and he must use every trick he has over his talent to calm the storm. A water hero meeting a fire dark lord is almost overwhelmed, for his beauty and attraction do little against the giant of fire who swings his flaming hammer down to pound out molten metal. He does better with the queen of the dead, able to seduce her into giving up her secrets of destruction or convincing her to destroy hell for his sake.
Water versus Air
When water meets air weather happens: snow, rain, fog, mist, but nothing comes of it without an earth magic force in the book. This combination is full of deception, fog, misunderstanding and strange language as the mind disconnects and things are done that are rationalized and not understood. Here is one of the most corrupt unions, made so because it is so stable. As the bride/queen and hero/tyrant grow together, they fight each other. But a dark lord and an destructive queen often trade well together to create an empire of evil immortals. How often horror explores this! An air tyrant or a dark lord may be made more powerful by a realm populated by zombies or vampires. There exists no moralty to make them fear bargaining with the water witch for the dark power over life.
When a bride goes into the dark lord's realm, her beauty troubles him and makes him aware of what he has lost in the normal world. Often he will help her, often against the will of his queen. He will give her the password to the gates or money to get free. When a trickster is lost in the normal world, often dying from the tyrant's thugs, a witch from the water world will help him, although the shape she shows to him is not visible. She will be a slave or an animal who will help him and then move on, flowing away. This touch may rouse him enough to keep on fighting. If the bride meets an air hero, he will woo her with words. If an air bride meets a water hero, she will sigh over his beauty and his strength and seek to aid him with her intelligence. They may go through the magical world surrounded by a cloud that will baffle and blind their enemies.
An air witch meeting a water tyrant will dive down into the waters from above, to rise back up and fly out of the pounding storm. She learns the taste of living in two worlds, drowning and rising back up again into her element of wind and word. If she is a water witch, she takes on shapes to survive in the tyrant's realm of law and crime. This may be as simple as a university student who rides the ways of authority in a large school through changing talents with each class. A water trickster will do a similar thing when faced with an air tyrant, but he will do it though trickery, not through appearance. A water trickster is the "trickiest" of tricksters, a con artist of immense attraction, able to persuade people and make them do what he wants just by gazing into their eyes. A dark lord here, is as I said, one of the most fearsome opponents, as he commands the legions of the undead, not the dead who are only shades, but the undead who are bodies without souls, only able to do his bidding.
Fire versus Air
Here is another deadly and spectacular conflict. But here is also the salvation of humanity in the force of the word and the talent of the soul. The witch and trickster aid each other, but together often have no moral drive or compassion for humanity and may destroy the human world to bring forth a magical union of a new being. Air and fire magic combine to give us visions of interstellar travel and the toys of the gods. Here is nuclear power as well as the mundane path of the word, showing us the soul. This is the home of philosopy as well as science and learning. But this is the home of those people you know with no social skills who are as unattractive as they are unaware of it. Even brides and heroes here are subdued by the power of mind and spirit and attract through these ways rather than with the basic signals of the body.
A bride who meets a dark lord is kidnapped and taken to hell to serve. A fire trickster who meets the ogress queen must win her respect with his ability to shape fire and steel. A witch who meets an air tyrant is silenced and daunted and imprisoned by the force of the word, propaganda, slander, law and crime in the name of the state. A trickster who meets the ogress of fire has to walk into the jaws of the harpy, resisting her ability to slay him with a look, learning the secrets to answer her riddles and seduce her with words.
A fire hero who meets the dark queen of the air will ban together his engineering team to outrun the exploding tear in space. An air hero will gather his forces of logicians and lawyers to try to prevent the destruction of the world when he meets the dark witch of fire. A bride of fire will sing her song in the depths of the dark lord's mansion, a tear running down as she pales, unloved yet desired beyond reason. A bride of the air will try to reason with the dark lord of fire as he sulks, unable to free himself from the doom of his own inventions.
The above image is just a way to see what conflict will dominate the clash between magical caste--a kind of magical cheat sheet, but use it as a gesture, not a rule. These pages are only to guide you not tell you what to do.
Clashes between fire and water magic, for instance, will be rife with shapeshifing. Clashes between fire and earth magic will result in battle. Spells and conjuring should be expanded in Science Fiction to mean science or the application of knowlege and tools. Revelation means that earth and air conflicts involve deception, truth, duels of fact versus lies. Generation means that in this conflict (or cooperation) beings will be generated or killed, or beings will be exaggerated such as the creation of giants. So these conflicts involve usual generation in children, but also magical generation in the form of the undead or dwarves or other made creatures. The battle between air and water usually involves the magic of immortality or the water of life or some other spell or such that will lead one to triumph over death. See the character pages for more on how to mix and match magic, personality and mythic journey.
One of the things I've talked about is crossing the gate. This is the barrier between the magical world and the real world. In truncated stories, the characters do it once and return at the end of the book. This would be at Point Two and then again at Point Five. These points I've labeld with the Tarot cards as Fortune or Death for the entry through the gate, Fortune into the magical world and Death into the normal world and the return as Justice (witch and trickster) and Judgment (bride and hero). Again, these two differences indicate the kind of magic, Justice being wild magic that has been balanced and Judgment being light and dark moral magic in which light has triumphed over dark.
Gates are not as important to regular fiction as they are to Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. The magical world in normal fiction is usually just unfamiliar to the main character. Most action in a witch/trickster truncated story takes place in the normal world and the gate is merely an indication that the main character has been invited in to play a part in the normal world. Often the magical homeworld is not shown at all. This is not the case in Speculative Fiction.
Gates as Natural Boundaries
Rivers, forests, oceans, going into the air, going underground are all indicators of the passage into the other world. Sometimes a river or wood can be the whole of the magical world and going into them is passing into the other world. Going into a city is also a boundary, but man-made, not natural. Here, I shall talk about natural boundaries of the Earth type.
The hero wins his way into the magical world with the help of the mentor. In most cases, if the mentor is the high point of the trickster, the magical boundary is met with a magical word. In many other cases where the mentor is absent or to be met, the magical boundary has to be won through by bravery. Often the guards at the gate will back down if the hero shows the right mettle. In the hero's journey, the gate is always guarded. The hero's world is a crowded world. His story concerns society and groups interacting with groups. One of the more popular natural boundaries that the hero crosses is the wood. The wood is populated by locals who are often tree spirits and often seem malevolent but are usually just left over bits of wild magic. The hero is unfamiliar with wild magic and may appear to be trespassing as he does not know the proper etiquette. If he has a mentor in the shape of an animal, the animal will know the proper etiquette. The etiquette is usually something pretty slight such as putting your horse backwards as you go through the gate or closing your eyes.
The bride gets lost in the magical world. Often she is driven there or chased. Other times she is invited as a general invitation but gets lost on the way. In cases of the Cinderella variety, she does not have the proper attire to go into the magical world and risks being rejected there. Very seldom does she go with other humans, but she often goes with a beast guide who is the last incarnation of the shapeshifting witch. In many stories, the witch has to be killed and eaten (not by the bride) to gain entrance into the magical world. This is a holdover from a time when the bride paid for entry with the offering of a sacrifice, usually the life of an animal companion. It indicates the ancient reason the other world was breeched and that was to rescue someone from the land of the dead. It is only in modern times that the world of the dead is a magical world and not some form of Hades. In many bride stories the gate may be guarded by only one person, the old crone who wants to eat the sacrifice, made popular in tales where she shows up as the wicked old witch. It is telling that this is the bride meeting herself in a vision of what she has to become.
Coming out of the magical world, the trickster gets out in two ways. The gate opens in, so he cannot get out by himself. Although the barrier is not a real gate, he is barred from exit. Either the boat is on the far shore or the wood entered from the magical side just gets people lost. He waits for someone to die and then slips out the gates with some kind of deception: a magical cloak, a trick, etc. Often the dead person raises such a ruckus when they enter about being murdered that he is chosen to go as a way to get justice for the dead, a kind of dead's man's law. If he is not involved in a death, then he has to trick his way out. He makes the door guards drunk, he gambles with them for the priviledge, whatever he can con or trick to get out into the normal world. He may have stolen something from the gods and has to bribe his way out. Whatever he does, it involves some kind of sleight of mind, even if he steals the key to get out of Hades, he has to run with it before he is caught.
The witch's story is very different. She is sent on a mission for something in the real world wanted by the magical world. She is often under great duress and is given some time limit or she will die or her family will die or things will blow up because the magic is working itself loose. She often goes with the hope of creating a new magical world in the place of the old one before the old one is destroyed, again showing that her own self is in the cycle of destroying the magical world as she is expelled into the normal world to build anew. It is as if in becoming the Star, she then loses her memory and becomes the Fool again. The mark of the witch story is that the clock is running. Stories on a time limit or that involve time are usually tainted by witch magic. Another mark of this kind of story is that she may be sent out into the normal world with a bad shape, not a disguise, but a shape as a punishment. If she is going to save someone held hostage or dying, she may be also required to wear the shape of the penitant. Often this shape is age or ugliness.
Examples of Natural Gates, Passages or Highways between Worlds
Beauty and the Beast
The Hero and the Crown
The Jargoon Pard
Eaters of the Dead
Under Sea, over Stone, Silver on the Tree
Mists of Avalon, other Arthur Tales
A Cave or Passage, Natural, a Mountain Pass, with or without a Cave:
The Grey King
Glinda of Oz
The Last Unicorn
Conan the Barbarian
The Wizard of Oz
The Blue Sword
The Prince in Waiting
And there are manmade gates or gates accessible only by technology. These gates can be as simple as a door or a dolmen and as complicated as trying to cross magical boundaries in the galaxy. (A Fire Upon the Deep) These boundaries can be made by the gods and require magic words to cross. Try to think of any way one could pass into another world. An elevator? Climbing a tree? A closet? Reciting a charm as one goes through revolving doors, a different charm for each world? Ursula Le Guin uses a charming idea for a group of stories called, Changing Planes in that one can only go to her worlds while stuck in an airport waiting for a plane change--how delightful!
The reason I've put enough emphasis on gates, is that they are a huge part of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Often people love these books because they're like travel books and going on the ride is almost as much fun as playing in a different world. I watch movies over and over like 2001: A Space Odessy and The Fifth Element just for the shots of space. I grew up with the moon lauches and it's a way to pretend that I can still go into space. Play on these quirks of this kind of fandom--give us a ride!
Bifrost - Asgard
The Snow Queen
Tombs of Atuan
Eaters of the Dead/Thirteenth Warrior
Conan the Destroyer
The City of Gold and Lead
A Song of Ice and Fire (gates in the wall)
Passages through Space:
Deep Space Nine
The Magician's Nephew
Bars, Cities, other Social Gatherings:
Gates can take on many forms, like a phone line in The Matrix movies. Start looking for boundaries between worlds and think about ways to create your own and populate them. George R.R. Martin did a clever duplicate of Hadrian's Wall or the Great Wall of China with his own ice wall between the Seven Kingdoms and the Wilds. Gates are a vital part of speculative fiction and you should devote some time to creating a magical barrier that keeps normals from entering the magical world just by accident. Lewis was a gate master: a wardrobe, a picture of a ship, a train wreck, even a real gate or two. Andre Norton liked rocky gates that were bound with magic. Tolkien was more subtle with half his world as a boundary between one magic and another. Experiment!
And don't neglect the form of transport. Sometimes a character goes through a boundary via magical transporation. This is obvious in Science Fiction, but in Fantasy watch how many times a hero makes a journey on a horse, a dragon, a train, a subway, a boat, an elephant, a whale--even a flying car. Designing transport is one of the more fun aspects of these genres and will hold your story and the transitions together.
In film there are many ways to do transitions: white out, black out, similar image merge, etc. In writing there are similar tools, something I don't teach here, but should be among basic writing skills. I will talk about the mythological transition and what elements indicate a transition around the spiral or figure eight. Here again are the four basic plots:
First Transistion: Introduction to Story
This may seem obvious, but you need a little intro to let the readers know what kind of story they're getting. Usually we see the character or hear of the character in a benign place and then the story is announced through a herald or a caller or an announcer. In Sherlock Holmes stories Watson may see someone coming up to the entrance of 21B or the landlady will announce a caller. From the description of the caller we get an immediate sense of story. In hero's journey tales, the hero is called upon to help. This may be obvious as in Star Wars IV with Leia's message to Obi Wan Kenobi that Luke sees by accident or subtle as in the computer typing a message to Neo while he is asleep.
Why would the character ever go on the story? The first transition must be convincing. The bride's family situation must be intolerable or something she just wants to change very badly. Although, in Pride and Prejudice Lizzy Bennett seems content, we all know that she just can't go on living with that crazy of a mother breathing down her neck. To stop her mother from arranging a bad marriage, Lizzy has to do something. And we know that she's poor and the estate is entailed, so she can't just put up with it. Luke Skywalker feels too guilty to leave his family, so they have to be killed so he has no alternative. In stories, unlike real life, the main character should feel no real desire to stay put, except in the case of the witch, who is sometimes thrown out of the magical world. To be sympathetic, your main character really has to be a bit down and out, sometimes a lot down and out. The worse the inititial situation the more the readers will be rooting for the main character to find a way to remedy it.
The Second Transition: Crossing the Gate - After Point Two
I spoke above of gates since they are so important to our genre of writing, yet you need to show a character transition at this crossing. Here are the stereotypical reactions: the hero gets "cocky" with a need to prove himself enforced by his winning through the gate. He feels lucky at this point and a little arrogant. The bride feels an initial response of enthusiasm followed by dejection and worry. She often weeps here or covers it with humor, but we know she's hurting inside because she sees how hard it will be to leave her mother's house. The trickster is often grouchy at this transition if he is reluctant and going on a journey to justice because he is put upon by honor or revenge for someone innocent. He often curses out his clients for making him leave the comfort of his home. If he is at a hotel at this point, he's disgusted with the bedding or by the coldness of his reception. The witch, if she's not drunk, is on the run here or hiding. It must be obvious to her (and us) that she is not going to have an easy time in the real world. We must really be behind her taking that drink to blot it all out or falling asleep in a barn in tears. Although she is quiet and tries to comply she's an orphan in a strange land and has none of the cynicism of the trickster to grit her teeth and bear it.
This second transition shows the weaknesses of your character. You must show their situation in one and then their inner demons in two. We must know that the situation is difficult and that the character might not make it. A book is not about an easy journey. Showing emotional breakdown during two or just after two is a way to convince the reader that the boundary has been crossed and gets your reader ready to go with your character to try to make things better. At this point try not to show strength or other indications that the character will win. But your character cannot breakdown in any old way and cannot throw a fit that is out of character. A bride must be tender and innocent; a trickster must be a little disgusted and cynical; a hero must be loveable but a bit annoying in his high hopes for himself; and a witch must be desperate and a little pyschotic and overwhelmed. This transition is an emotional one and shows the basic failings of personality as it is in the innate character. The reader must know that there is no way the character will win with that personality. The bride must "toughen up", the trickster must "mellow out", the hero needs "a piece of humble pie" and the witch needs to "get a grip".
HOWEVER, we also should see examples of what the character faces in learning their lesson too well. We should see a apathetic trickster hanging out, maybe just gambling, a witch who is too popular and powerful, obviously having sold her soul, a bride who is too tough and cynical about love, and a hero who is overly modest. Sometimes we don't see this in a straight character mirror, but in a mentor figure or a vision of the opponent. One of the minor characters should be an exaggeration of what we want a little of in the main character. You can also beat in the point and show minor characters well on the path that the main character is on, cynical mercenaries, arrogant bullies, hysterical wives and alcoholic artists. Often a writer will show just a tad of weakness in a main character contasted with super weakness in a minor character, often for comic relief. We laugh at the ridiculous minor character thinking "the hero could end up like this." Look for exaggerated characters on either end of the spectrum.
Pride and Prejudice
Elizabeth Bennett is rejected at the ball and bears it with good grace. Her best friend Charlotte Lucas marries in cynical relief, glad to have her own house; her sister, Lydia, marries foolishly on a whim showing hysterical weakness. Where will Lizzy fall?
Star Wars I
Anakin Skywalker is a bit overconfident at winning the pod race and getting off planet. We get Jar Jar Binks as an exaggerated fool who swaggers and tries to fawn on people with his "charm". We also get a contrast in the character of Qui-Gon Jinn as being overly modest. These characters are mirrored in the droids with C3PO as sure of his own worth and R2D2 as being underplayed.
Nine Princes in Amber
Prince Corwin faces down monsters as he tries to find out information at his sister's house. We see Florimel as an example of weak apathy and Random as too cynical and untrusting. Corwin is constantly contrasted with his brothers and sisters in this game of thrones with them all showing signs of apathy or grasping selfishness without much in the way of justice or fairness or objectivity.
Peter Lake wins through from being tossed off a ship to leaving the Baymen to having to flee the orphanage to having to flee the Short Tales in a fast series of repeated scenes showing his transition into the world of New York told in flashbacks. In each scene we see Peter trying to cope and others around him "burning up" or dying in their struggle to survive. We see characters having become saints and those who have become whores and winos and dying orphans. The imagery is very rich, almost all having to do with the obsession of work contrasted with debauchery.
The Third Transistion - Coming into the Self (after Point Four)
In this transition, we must see the positive self and the battle to get there. In the truncated story this is the point of greatest conflict with the antagonist where the main character "wins" some kind of respite, learning INTUITIVELY what must be done, but not having enough of a grasp to put this lesson into conscious practice. In a story, this intutive knowing may show up in the sacrifice of another character. It may also be demonstrated in the conflict just how much more the main character is going to have to push. The odds here look pretty overwhelming despite this conflict being resolved for the protagonist.
In the hero's journey, the hero usually loses a mentor here or almost loses his life. He must see that his winning against the forces of darkness requires an effort on all the members of the group. He has to bite his tongue and often realize that he might have to soothe some ruffled tempers, which the mentor has done up until this time. He realizes that, as team leader, he has to grow up fast and get out of his own moodiness and try to carry the team into the big battle. He is more sure of his faults and may voice them here in protest as the bride urges him to take charge. He knows that he is too weak to overcome the dark lord, but he also knows that he has to try. He is at his most vulnerable here and the reader must feel his lack of confidence. The transition has involved a death or near death, so the grieving scenes during this transition must be acute and full of the hero's remorse and self-blame. This transition also involves a rest period, a down time of doubts and grief.
In the bride's tale, the bride has learned that she does have what it takes to win the heart of the right man, but she is in despair of his knowing it. She has done all the hard work to make herself acceptable, competing with other brides, serving the groom's family, trying to bear up under scrutiny and cover up any slights presented by her family. She may have even had to go to great lengths to prove herself to those around the groom who wanted her out of the picture. The groom may have even proposed and she fled but she realizes now that he was the right one and she knows that she has "thrown out the baby with the bath water". The misunderstanding has been resolved that caused the big conflict, but now she knows that she is stuck. There is a quite moment here, too, where she may go on a trip or hide in her home, convinced that she is in love but that he doesn't love her.
In the trickster's story, the trickster has just released the woman who could have made him happy. Either she has died or he got her out of the picture, knowing she was too good for him on this journey and that he is putting her in danger. This conflict where he loses her convinces him that he is worthy to take on the bad guys. Rather than having a down period here, we have a time of increased war, showing that he has to grit his teeth and keep fighting, especially if he is covering up having sent away a woman that was desired by the enemy. A near miss that might have killed his love tries again and he might end up in another battle where he is severely wounded. The pace increases in this story with no ups and downs as round upon round of battles are played out with each costing the trickster more and more. Think of Buggs Bunny--there is not much down time between ever increasing weapons in crazier and crazier battles. Remember also that this character does not change, so the breath he takes between battles is not for self-reflection or remorse, but to strengthen his resolve.
In the witch's tale, the witch is busy here setting up the trappings of the world she has made to cover up her identity or translate it into a form that humans can digest. Her big conflict with with herself and we see that she has become strong enough to share her art/science and not just give into temptation. She is not yet at the point where she will be imprisoned, but we must see the rise of people who are envious of her talents, maybe even the shadow cast by the dark lord or tyrant who has heard of her potential for use in his plans. She has become large enough through her talent that we see the ravens flying overhead. People have noticed her and she often goes deeper into the mystique, trying to put forth the work to keep herself from being used. Again, she does not change as much as she comes into control. Having won the battle against self, we now must see the hint that she will now face the world. This is not a down time, but a ramp-up transition, like the trickster's. It is not a literal ramp-up but a psychic ramp-up with more and more tension in all the imagery and action. A sudden shift of color or location or mood will give the reader the handle on this transition.
The Fourth Transition - Justice and Judgment
Here is the gate again and the ending of most truncated stories. It is the wedding or the righting of wrong, the arrest or the imprisonment. This transition changes worlds and the setting is what the reader must see, not the interior of the character's head. This transition is often abrupt if the book is not ending, resulting in a kind of death or shift of fate mirroring that in Point Two. You must be able to deal with moon in this transition. For a heroic tale, you must be able to shift from the big battle to a celebration. In the bride's tale you must be able to shift from a confusing search for the bride or the bride's journey to find the groom to a wedding. In the trickster's tale you must show that he has trapped himself in the corner and is found to be guilty. Even if he is not "guilty" in the eyes of the innocent who were abused, the gods have judged him guilty and he will pay the price for justice with his own freedom. You must be able to show the fall of the evil doers but then show how the trickster pays for this by being cast out, locked up, or chained to the stone to have his liver torn out.
In the witch's story we have seen that she was being stalked in the last transition and then caught in the climax, but now we see her back in the magical world, having won back her place or freed the hostages or somehow both lost and gained in the Gaelic way so evident in the songs of Portugal and Spain, the sadness of joy or the pleasure of pain. She is often now imprisoned at the side of the dark lord or exiled with him, willing to suffer for his sake or for the pain of being what she is. Hers is a complex psyche and not straightforward enough for Germanic peoples to feel comfortable with. She has learned that to be herself is destruction and so she goes into a veiled existence, trying to ride it out. Showing her here is to show her passivity and helplessness in SITUATION, not in character. Using outside imagery you can convey the mood of the situation and contrast that to her strength and patience and quiet meditation. Her torment is over and now she is quiet within while the world is tormented without.
The Fifth Transition - Death and Destruction (After Point Seven)
We don't have much in our modern story that deals with this transition. It is ghettoed in religious mystery. I will use some religious imagery to show you what this transition is. During the fall of the main character we have seen an exaggeration of the qualities which allowed them to succeed. In the bride and hero their qualities turned outward and preyed upon those around them. In the witch and trickster, their qualities turned inward and made them more cynical and apathetic. After the point where they meet their mirror antagonist, now in the form of the protagonist of another story and have been destroyed, the go through a catharsis or a resurrection. This is the point in Christianity where Jesus is taken down off the cross and put into the tomb. Aslan is cut free of his bonds by the mice and cried over by the girls. The ogress has been put to the pyre and saved at the very last minute. The kingdom of hell has been overturned in the battle of the Titans.
For the hero/tyrant and the bride/ogress, this period is one of intense quiet of the interior. The other characters are wailing and full of grief or full of astonished anger. Everyone else in the story must be full of rage or grief or angry surprise. In the trickster/dark lord and the witch/destructress there is another kind of quiet, that of the cessation of all life. You can hear the grains of sand falling. Movies sometimes go into slow motion, silent action for this destruction scene and then stay silent. Everyone is gone. During this transition, you must have your characters alone, the others having died in the destruction or run away. There are no friends around to mourn. The last battle must be so tense that this scene is a shock. The death scenes are quiet at the moment of death and then filled with wailing. The destruction of the world is noisy at the apex and then silent. The world is gone. You have to show the bewilderment and then rising knowlege in the witch and trickster that it is over.
The final transition is not so much a transition as it is a reunion or a revelation or something that is not a change in the book but a discovery. The door to the tomb is opened and no one is there. The queen steps down off her pyre and walks away through the angry mob to the nunnery. The hermit walks away into the dark desert. The stars shine above the desert. The journey of the character to the border must be momentum, not requiring the effort, but have already been set up. Neo has died and we see the sun rise. This scene is often symbolic and full of imagery that is very religious. Be careful or deliberate in using this imagery, this is a delicate scene and may leave your readers feeling fulfilled or offended. Be respectful of the word.
This is a very short section explaining a little of the social reasons for a truncated plot. Obviously, there is the fact that everyone else is doing them. Then there is a time factor. Then there is the avoidance of the heavier parts of religious mythology. You should be aware of the social implications.
Truncated plots often show the taboos of a culture or what they fear. The fact that American readers enjoy a truncated hero's journey so much is indicative of the success/popular orientation of American culture. When a culture starts seeing the rise of tyranny--before it is there--they often favor the more cynical trickster stories or stories of the fall of a hero in a less-shortened version of the "fallen king" as we see in Lucas's full Star Wars cycle. I was amazed at how many boys of about ten years of age heavily identified with Anakin turned into Darth Vader. That, I thought was a heavy indicator to all writers and editors that the hero's journey stories of yesteryear are no longer psychologically satisfying to young boys waking up in the post-Columbine school system.
Of course there is much room for sociological speculation. One of the upturns over the last decade or so has also been the rise of images of the corrupt queen in place of the bride. From the popularity of vampires to the images of voodoo queens, this image is haunting American audiences, literally. Along with the rise of these images of the corrupt queen are images of the queen of destruction; the two are often mixed.
The failure of American society to show more than a truncated bride story is also telling. Rather than raise up Puritan prejudices, Feminists have pushed for a bride/companion to the hero or female heroes. The hot issues of abortion and child abuse show a little of why no one can get away with publishing a full tale of the bride who eats her own children. Yet the ogress haunts other stories as if she demands getting in time in her own story or not.
The same goes with the "lost tale" of Talent that we see truncated as a cautionary tale of what happens to rock stars--that they are punished for having too much of what other people envy. Not showing the full cycle of this story avoids all the issues of responsibility when the witch turns destructive, but also hides a vital and wonderful part of the "feminine" psyche that is exempt from child-rearing and sexuality. The image of the witch appears at random, usually in male form, and is more popular in speculative fiction than in mainstream fiction. Until the full cycle of this story is celebrated, society always stands in danger of blowing itself up. Eastern discliplines teach control over the self, yet how many people even know of control? Most of the time those who engage in these teaching are already "hip" to them and the mainstream of society dives into debauchery of the soul regardless of the consequences of greed and excess.
So, yes, by all means do what is popular if you have to make a living doing this. But as readers, rather than writers, if you want to support alternative fiction, buy and read alternative fiction. In our market-driven societies, that is the only way of seeing more and more stories in their full glory instead of the nasty bits cut out. Remember the story of the witch--we are all, as writers, witches. It is our will which makes our world. Of all people in society, we are the one who can actually effect a change of the story rather than just direction or action or setting. Go for it!
One more final section before we go onto other subjects. The above stuctures apply well to certain lengths of story. Think of the full cycle of Star Wars. This is a full cycle of the hero/tyrant/resurrected king. It is six movies, say about two hours each. This is one way to do a larger book or series. Most Arthurian tales are told in trilogies or very large books. Examples are Earthsea, Amber and The Matrix.
The other form of epic is more common. It is a telling of a truncated story over and over in cycles. This is the structure of The Lord of Rings, Harry Potter, Taran and other series that involve a longer look at the hero's journey. Some tales, like that of the trickster's work out well in a story series of truncated tales.
The final way to do an epic is becoming popular and is seen in Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire where, instead of several tales of the world, he does one series of books with several tales all interwoven. If your book is more historical, this can work very well. The stories of the Silmarillion could be bundled into a history in this way. Tolkien followed each character and overlapped as necessary like a body of myth. Be warned: this requires a very, very clear idea of each story pattern and a very, very deft hand at jumping from character to character. My guess is that most people might write these as separate stories and then weave them together, but that poses other problems with tracking details such as what character was where when so that they don't run into each other without you knowing it. Laugh, but you'd be surprised at how complicated it is writing it and not just reading it!
The nature of schooling is that first you learn and then you experiment. Often with publishing, first you write what the market wants and then you drag your fans into your baby, like Stephen King did rather unsuccesfully. You have to realize that if you fans like your hero's journey tales, they might feel betrayed when you switch on them with a full tale or a trickster tale. Warn them so that they go out of curiosity and don't get caught wanting one tale and getting another. But have fun! This career path is full of bumps and bruises, so if you don't have fun doing it--don't do it. A labor of love may be a hackneyed phrase, but it really applies here. Good luck!
For further pages on symbolism in plot and character types and putting magic into worlds, look for the other pages.