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elaine_andraste [userpic]

(no subject)

November 26th, 2006 (10:26 pm)

current mood: nostalgic

(Edna St. Vincent Millay)

Oh, come again to Astolat!
I will not ask you to be kind.
And you may go when you will go,
And I will stay behind.

I will not say how dear you are,
Or ask you if you hold me dear,
Or trouble you with things for you
The way I did last year.

So still the orchard, Lancelot,
So very still the lake shall be,
You could not guess though you should guess
What is become of me.

So wide shall be the garden-walk,
The garden-seat so very wide,
You needs must think if you should think
The lily maid had died.

Save that, a little way away,
I'd watch you for a little while,
To see you speak, the way you speak,
And smile, if you should smile.

Everybody should have such a noodle-spined namesake.

It can serve as an object lesson.


elaine_andraste [userpic]

The world is full of wonders.

August 12th, 2006 (05:05 pm)

current mood: indescribable

"ONE day a woman that I know came face to face with heroic beauty, that highest beauty which Blake says changes least from youth to age, a beauty which has been fading out of the arts, since that decadence we call progress, set voluptuous beauty in its place. She was standing at the window, looking over to Knocknarea where Queen Maive is thought to be buried, when she saw, as she has told me, 'the finest woman you ever saw travelling right across from the mountain and straight to her.' The woman had a sword by her side and a dagger lifted up in her hand, and was dressed in white, with bare arms and feet. She looked 'very strong, but not wicked,' that is, not cruel. The old woman had seen the Irish giant, and 'though he was a fine man,' he was nothing to this woman, 'for he was round, and could not have stepped out so soldierly'; 'she was like Mrs.-----' a stately lady of the neighbourhood, 'but she had no stomach on her, and was slight and broad in the shoulders, and was handsomer than any one you ever saw; she looked about thirty.' The old woman covered her eyes with her hands, and when she uncovered them the apparition had vanished. The neighbours were 'wild with her,' she told me, because she did not wait to find out if there was a message, for they were sure it was Queen Maive, who often shows herself to the pilots. I asked the old woman if she had seen others like Queen Maive, and she said, 'Some of them have their hair down, but they look quite different, like the sleepy-looking ladies one sees in the papers. Those with their hair up are like this one. The others have long white dresses, but those with their hair up have short dresses, so that you can see their legs right up to the calf.' "

The wonders of the modern age. Yeats is a sacred text, is he?

There was a crown and a bird in my tea leaves today. Somehow, I don't think that's a good sign.

elaine_andraste [userpic]

(no subject)

June 26th, 2006 (11:51 pm)

current mood: pessimistic
current song: Smithereens - Elaine

I walked down by the waterside today. The bluff is steep, and there are stones, round like London cobblestones, that you could turn your ankle on and have a terrible fall. There's a cottage at the top of it, about a mile down the beach from the manor house. Keith says it used to be brightly lit of an evening, summer or winter, but now it's cold and the spiders spin their homes over the grate.

I was never here while Fionnghuala was living.

In less than an hour, Eastern time, the book that has nothing to do with me will be officially released, though it's been on shelves for a week. I am thankful. The next one is about a white horse and a poet and Matthew the Magus. I'm barely in it. Which is a state to be preferred.

This book should have come out last week. When the days were longest.

This book is full of lies.

elaine_andraste [userpic]

a last few words on the Dragon Princes

May 7th, 2006 (01:39 am)

current mood: indescribable

Arthur remains an enigma. Ard Ri or general, Christian or Pagan, even his name is the subject of scholarly dissent. If he even existed, as some will say he never did. But I know where Arthur lies. I've combed my fingers through his ruddy-gold locks and I've seen the Gwragedd Annwn come down in the moonlight to bathe his body and straighten his head upon the pillow. I know that his story is true, as are all stories that last that long.

Arthur too was betrayed by flesh of his flesh, blood of his blood. Mordred, his only begotten son, slayer and slain. His sister Morgan, and his wife, fair Gwenhwyfar.

Lancelot came later, you know. An invention of the 12th century and of France, he nevertheless bedded queens and got children in the 5th, in Britain. In the earlier versions of the story, it was Mordred with whom Gwenhwyfar (and I have fallen into the Fae habit of spelling names any which way, without regard for what story or what culture they originated in. America aspires not to the melting pot the Elder Isles would liefer deny having become. there's an irony for you.) betrayed her King.

Ah, Gwenhwyfar. We'll stick with the Welsh for now, shall we?

There is no name in all the world with more variations. More spellings, more pronunciations. A name that has been popular in all its forms for fifteen hundred years: the name of a woman never to be forgotten, and never to be forgiven--but even now, somehow, beloved.

Jennifer, Guenevere, Geniveve, Gwenhwyfar. The white phantom of history. The fourth faithless queen of Britain, in an age--as is little remembered now--when the faith of queens was the die that struck the King and made fast his claim.

The white wave, breaking on the long old ocean of sorrow.

The doomed queen Findabair. So wrought into the stuff of story, she has no identity of her own.

Morgan could have become like that, I imagine. Sometimes you can catch traces of it, in her face, her voice, the bones of her hands. But Morgan, being Morgan... remains Morgan. Though history turn her into a feral dog, a nadder, a bar of iron, she holds fast. At the core there is always Morgan, and none can grip her as she grips herself. They say she's the Third Queen of Faerie, the queen without a Kingdom. I wonder, sometimes, if she is its true heart. Or no, not the heart, I know where the heart is.

The soul of it, faithless and wild.

It was not a faithless woman who betrayed Harald Godwinsson, the last English King of England, who was elevated to that rank by the deathbed choice of his immediate predecessor Edward, called the Confessor. Godwinsson faced immediate challenges on two fronts: from the Norman William the Bastard, later called William the Conqueror, and from the bloody warlord Harald Hardrada of Norway, whose invasion was supported by Godwinsson's brother Tostig.

Godwinsson met the Norse at Stamford Bridge on September 25th, 1066, and was there victorious despite the machinations of his own family. He and his battle-weary men were at their meat on September the 28th, so the ballads record, when word came that William the Bastard had landed on England's shores.

Godwinsson brought his exhausted men nearly three hundred miles in seven days, reaching London on October 5th. They met William's men in battle at Hastings, beside an ancient apple tree, under the banner of the white dragon of England, and it is recorded that they held the field against archers and superior forces "until the stars shone in the sky."
If his men had not been weary with traveling the length of England and back to fight Harald's own brother and a foreign lord, who is to say what might have happened? As it did happen-- well, sources vary. But according to some, it took three knights and an archer to hack Harald to death on the blood-soaked earth of England's most famous battlefield.

Thus the death of a Dragon Prince.

...do you begin to sense a trend?

But we that live in Fairy-land
No sickness know nor pain;
I quit my body when I will,
And take to it again.

--Tam Lin, Variant Verse (Traditional)

elaine_andraste [userpic]

(no subject)

April 11th, 2006 (04:11 pm)

current mood: moody

Damn him. Damn Keith MacNeill.

Of course he didn't mean it. Meant only the best. Didn't know, didn't think much of mentioning--hey, my girlfriend seems to be part-Fae, maybe your Queen would take her service.

Thinking that a mortal lifetime is short. That I could be bound by something else, perhaps. Found by a Seeker, like Kadiska. That the Mebd would be a better mistress. Thinking, maybe, even--how do I know?--thinking I would have a choice.

Thinking to protect me.

Damn him to Hell.

I fought the Mebd hard. As hard as I knew how. I know, it sounds like self-justification. Like a plaint for pity. I fought her, though. Except, she had my son.

She never harmed Ian. Let me see him, when she was pleased with me. I daresay, had I asked, she would have permitted Keith and me to marry. Instead, in deference to my wishes, she banned him from her palace. It was a petty vengeance, but for a while I found it satisfying.

I became a liar, a devil, a conjure, a thief. They used to hang iron over cradles to ward my kind away. My Queen left her changelings anyway, stole the human babies to serve all the purposes for which the Fae require mortal men and women. The world was more fluid in the old days. The power of the fair folk was paramount, and like the nature we represent, we were fickle and unfair, willful and cruel.

Things are different now. Now, woods-knights and snow-Queens, Leannan Sidhe and green men and woodwives and goblins and bogeys: we cling to the edges of things. We find our course; we take our due. We're remembered in the new tales as well as the old: the monsters come from the darkness of the spaces behind the stars now, or the depths of another time, and not from the limitless sea to the West--but the old knowledge behind the stories is the same.

Scholars will speak of archetype and psychology. In a Christian world, in a Muslim world--and thus, throughout the mortal world--the stories are narrowed to a simple dichotomy of good and evil... but there was more than that once. As the Indian Kali-ma was more than a Goddess of Destruction, so the Dragon was the oldest, wildest part of the mind: a thing later demonized, but necessary.

And the Beast most initiatory and deceptive is remembered. In the ancient symbols, in the shape of monsters in films and in games. The serpent under the skin. The old mother. Chomo-Lung-Ma, Dana, Tiamat, the Beast of Babylon, Lung Mung Ryu, Y Ddraig Goch: the Dragon Whose Pearl is the Heart of the World.

I suppose it shouldn't have come as a surprise to learn that she is real.

Or that she is bound.

What makes you leave you house and land?
What makes you leave you money, O?
What makes you leave you new-wedded lord,
To follow the wraggle-taggle gypsies, O.

--The Wraggle-Taggle Gypsie, Traditional

elaine_andraste [userpic]

(no subject)

March 19th, 2006 (11:29 am)

current mood: contemplative

Irmin--"Hermann"--the Cheruscan, Arminius of Germany, is remembered in song and legend as Sigurd, slayer of dragons. The dragon in this case was the Roman army, under their banners... but I outpace my narrative. Arminius was a German who served under Rome, and served well: he was said to be the finest general of the Western empire. The reasons for his desertion of Rome and return to his own tribe are unknown. Suffice it to say, in or about the year 9 C.E. Arminius turned his back on the legion and became once again Hermann the Cheruscan. He gathered the warring tribes of Germany and organized them in defense of that land. At Teutoberger Wald--despite Hermann's betrayal by his own father-in-law, a rival warlord named Segestes--Hermann so badly humiliated the Roman commander Varus that Varus committed suicide in disgrace. It is recorded that the Germanic peoples sacrificed their prisoners to Wotan on altars and gallows, until the wood dripped with bodies like ripe, taut apples abandoned to windfall and rot.

The German victory at Teutoberger Wald drove the Romans back to the Rhine, but Segestes still wished to be seen as loyal to Rome. The tribes might have been divided between the two leaders, had not the Roman commander Germanicus slaughtered women and old people among the Chatti. Segestes was forced to plead with Rome for protection. Germanicus came to Segestes' aid, and the Germanic chieftain then gave his daughter, Hermann's pregnant wife, into Roman captivity. There Hermann's son was born, and there he died.
Hermann defeated Germanicus the first time they met in battle, but on the next occasion, at the battle of Idisiaviso, the Dragon Prince was forced to withdraw. The Romans, however, were met by unheralded storms crossing the North Sea, and the large part of the fleet was destroyed. Tacitus tells us that it was as if all the earth and sea and the lands of Germany itself opened up their wrath upon the Roman ships.

As for Hermann the Cheruscan, although he--and perhaps the gods to whom he sacrificed--drove the Romans successfully from the Germanic lands, he was not ordained to die in peace. War followed his footsteps, and in 21 C.E. he was brought low--as is the manner of things--by his own blood, on the field of battle.

Rest in peace, dragon slayer. More peace than Arthur got. But then, you chose your sacrifice better, didn't you? It is said that the Dragon likes the lives of innocents better--but there were no doubt beardless boys among the Roman soldiers you tortured and hanged, as well as camp followers and children.

I wonder, sometimes, what Harold's price would have been. If he'd gotten the chance to pay one.


Cope sent a challenge frae Dunbar, sayin
"Charlie meet me an' ye daur;
An' I'll learn ye the airt o' war,
if ye'll meet me in the morning"

O Hey! Johnnie Cope are ye waukin' yet?
Or are your drums a-beating yet?
If ye were waukin' I wad wait,
Tae gang tae the coals in the morning

...Aye, it's gon' be a bluidy mairnin'

--Johnny Cope

elaine_andraste [userpic]

(no subject)

March 16th, 2006 (09:05 am)

current mood: cranky

Whiskey says grey horses are symbols of justice deferred. He says it has to do with Rhiannon.

He talks a lot about the symbolism of horses. I think he's over-invested in it.

Still, they show up a lot in the songs.

He's lighted aff his milk-white steed,
An' set this fair maid on,
"Noo ca' your herds, good lady," he said;
"Ye'll ne'er see them again.

--The Broom of the Cowdenknowes

Saddle for me my good grey mare
The big horse is not speedy.

--Black-Jack Davy

Then a halloo, my boys, and a cheery halloo
For the swiftest of coursers, the gallant, the true,
Forever shall horsemen in memory bless
Of the horse of the highwayman, bonny black Bess.

--Bonny Black Bess

Now rest, now rest, my milk-white steed,
My lady will soon be here,
And I’ll lay my head by this rose sae red,
And the bonny burn sae near.

--The Broomfield Hill

He's mounted her on a milk-white steed,
And himself on a dapple grey,
With a bugle horn hanging down by his side
And so lightly they both rode away

--The Douglas Tragedy

She turned about her milk white steed
And took True Thomas up behind
And aye whenever her bridle rang
Her steed flew swifter than the wind

--Thomas the Rhymer

And of course, last but not least:

The firsten court that comes ye bye,
You'll lout, and let them gae;
The seconden court that comes you bye,
You'll hail them reverently.

The thirden court that comes you by,
Sae weel's ye will me ken,
For some will be on a black, a black,
And some will be on a brown,
But I will be on a bluid-red steed,
And will ride neist the queen.

--Tam Lin

It was a red horse. A red horse.

How could I have forgotten that? The old stories will come back and bite you, if you forget them. The symbols still have power, and they tell their own tales, given half a chance.

It was a total conceit, about being a bishop on the chess board of the game. We're all pawns and players, both.

elaine_andraste [userpic]

(no subject)

March 16th, 2006 (08:54 am)

current mood: sarcastic
current song: Joni Mitchell - Little Green

She's at it again. No rest for the wicked; and never trust a biographer. Bards are all liars and thieves. They'll abscond with your woman, your gold, your history, and twist it this way and that. And then expect gratitude.

Or maybe I'm thinking of Cairbre.

Not that I can't see his point.

None of us is in the right. It's all lies and self-justifications. Ancestral wars can only be addressed with spells of mass amnesia; it is not merely human to hold a grudge. The Fae can remember a slight for generations.

Ah, but you're all so much better, aren't you? You humans. So charitable, so forgiving. So willing to let go of what you feel your ancestry entitles you to for the sake of compromise and peace--

Sometimes I think the human condition was set when the second amphibian crawled up out of the slime and kicked the first amphibian off the sunniest spot on the rock, and the first amphibian's descendants started scheming to get it back.

How are the Fae better, you ask? By what right do we judge?

Well, at least we admit we're self-centered, capricious, fickle, and cruel as cats. We may, in fact, take a positively indecent amount of pleasure in it.

It's downright Byronesque. In fact, I can probably even blame him for it. O, doom and tragedy!

We should really get over that. It's so unflattering walking round with your wrist pinned to your forehead all the time like that.

Another old entry, this one from 1997:

One can never discount politics in Faerie; not for an instant. Her denizens are very old, for one thing, and often bored. The Queens of Faerie are called the Sisters--half-sisters, in truth, as they share a father only. Who is Morgan's sire as well, so the story goes. But Morgan was got on a mortal maiden, and trained to mortal magics before she ever learned the ways of the Fae. So the story goes.

But I digress. I've never seen Àine, though I know the sprites she employs--red-caps and darker things than Gharne, Bean-Sidhe and blackdogs and creatures as fell and old as Kelpie, if perhaps not as strong. Jack-in-Irons is her headsman, and him I have seen, striding a distant moor swathed in rattling chains and the skulls of the Cat Anna's enemies.

I am told I am fortunate, to find myself in the employ of the bright Sister.

There is a game they play among themselves, to while away the immortal years. A game of idle queens. Where I, perhaps, am a Bishop. And Robin is a knight or a pawn. Or perhaps the Page of Cups, more likely. Those queens... I sometimes wonder what it would take to unite them.

Young Margaret sat in a tower high
And she's as pale as a milk white swan
When she saw a shadow on the plain
Come betwixt her and the sun.

"Oh, mother, is it a thundercloud
Or a flight of ravens in the air,
Or a black army with a silver flag
And a ragged man amongst them there?"

--Prince Heathen, Traditional

elaine_andraste [userpic]

(no subject)

February 12th, 2006 (11:35 am)

current mood: scared

For all the blood that's spilled in mortal lands
Runs through the springs of that countrie.

--Thomas the Rhymer, Traditional

Faerie is full of rules. It's like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, sort of. Or Bleak House. There's always another rule, another ayer of old laws, older laws, deeper magics and more paperwork. Take bindings, for example. The rule of bindings is threefold (isn't everything?):

  1. Only that which is fey in blood or nature may be bound by its name: all else must be bound by bargains or consent.

  2. That which is bound as fey is accorded the rights and powers of the Fae.

  3. The binding is incomplete until that which is bound has lost three bids to free itself, but: that which is bound must answer.

Seems so simple, doesn't it?

The other damned thing I should be finding a way to explain is Dragon Princes, but boy it isn't easy. The Dragon Princes arrive when they arrive to defend against some invasion, to reshape a society, to give birth to something. And not every revolutionary is a Dragon Prince, thank the powers that invested this set of rules. (There's a set of rules for everything.)

We get one every five hundred years. The Dragon is hungry; she demands her sacrifices. Thankfully, she does not need to eat often.

Sometimes people seem to resist this. They want to nominate their heroes for the job, as if it implied some special status. "William Wallace, why isn't he a Dragon Prince?" Or, "What about Shaka Zulu?" And the answer is, I don't know. Some are, and some aren't. And it's not a game. It's not a special status. It's not a gift.

I think it's all Tolkien's fault. Or maybe I should blame Robert Jordan, who I think is probably the most popular current poet of this idea of a chosen one, a sacrifice, a sort of you-know-who figure who suffers and buys redemption through his suffering.

The Dragon Prince isn't like that. There's no glamor involved in this gig. No poetry. No Roland and Oliver.

I know you don't believe me. You're too used to Disneyfied fairy tales. Well, let me tell you a story, then.

Vlad III of Wallachia, Vlad Dracula to give him his proper name, was born in 1431. His name means "son of the Dragon."

He was the son of a Wallachian voivode, one of five brothers borne by three different mothers. As a young man, he was given into hostageship among the Turks as surety that his father would remain amenable to rule. While there, he was educated in torture and the ways of rulership, and suffered outrages that shaped his character.

Returned to rule in the wake of his brother's death, leading a people under siege by the Turks and oppressed by the rule of Hungarian overlords, Dracula's tactics soon made him feared beyond the reach of his small principality. He subjected opponents and criminals--and those who merely offended his temper--to torment and death, in ways too terrible to bear contemplation.

His enemies, the Germans, dubbed him Tsepesh: the Impaler. But more truly, he visited the torments of all of Dante's hells upon his victims. Read up on it; I haven't the belly to list them here.

...and is remembered today as a national hero of Romania, a man who kept his country free in a time of conquest. A man who was killed and maimed, who bathed in blood, and who was betrayed and eventually assassinated by his brother Radu's command.

Thus the life--and death--of a Dragon Prince.

The world is smaller than it used to be. And in Vlad's age, the Prometheans had not yet come to power. They are a more modern invention, a secret society of the Elizabethan era that grew into a global conspiracy.

Admittedly, he's a worst-case scenario. Not all the Dragon Princes enjoyed their work as much as Vlad.

elaine_andraste [userpic]

(no subject)

January 26th, 2006 (03:11 pm)

current mood: cynical

Who built the bindings?

There's an interesting problem buried in that seemingly innocuous question. In the New World, the greatest wreaking of the Iron Age was completed at the moment when a golden spike joined the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific railroads. In Asia, along the course of the trans-Siberian, across the width of Africa skirmishes were fought and battles raged. The fey folk witched weather to blizzard and drought, sent the furious ghost-lions of Tsavo and angered the mortal warriors and spirits of the American southwest, killed workers by the hundreds along the railroad routes. Faerie had magic, and wrath.

Men had iron. John Henry, Paul Bunyan: the folk heroes of the industrial age wielded axes and hammers. Men had used to meet Faerie on Faerie's terms--with wits, with music, with Names and knotted hair and riddles told in the dark of the moon.

Men had iron.

Men prevailed.

What mystery there was stepped sideways, slipped elsewhere, ceased to be seen. And was soon enough forgotten, for the lives of men are short. Very short indeed.

The rules for humans are different than the rules for Faeries. The Fae can be forced. Bound. Enslaved. But humans... express or implied, they must give consent. Which is what makes this whole Merlin thing so complicated. They're mortal.

So if you want to control one, you have to get that consent somehow. For example, you could trick him into marrying you, if you were clever.

Hey, it worked for Nimue.


If you intend thus to disdain,
It does the more enrapture me,
And even so, I still remain
Your lover in captivity.

--Greensleeves, 16th C.

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