Witch Week 2019 Begins: Villains!

WW2019

…Witch Week, when there is so much magic around in the world that all sorts of peculiar things happen…
Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones

 

Witch Week, the annual celebration of favorite fantasy books has begun! Originally developed by Lory of Emerald City Book Review, the mantle was passed to Chris of Calmgrove and Lizzie of LizzieRossWriter.

For the next week, October 31st through November 5th, writers will be posting and discussing this year’s theme: Villains! This year is hosted on Chris’s blog and is where all the action will take place.

I am honored to be part of this wonderful event with a post up today on the White Witch of Narnia, the MOST high Villain 🙂

Here is the rundown of events for the week. So head on over WitchWeek2019 central.

Day 1: 31st October
Laurie Welch of Relevant Obscurity will look at a particular antagonist in the first published instalment of C S Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia.
Day 2: 1st November
Villains in graphic novels are examined forensically by Lizzie Ross.
Day 3: 2nd November
Joan Aiken’s villains in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase sequence are discussed by yours truly.
Day 4: 3rd November
Shakespeare has a full gallery of veritable baddies, some of whom are on the distaff side, as Sari Nichols of The View from Sari’s World will demonstrate.
Day 5: 4th November
Diana Wynne Jones’ Aunt Maria, from her novel Black Maria, is put under the spotlight by fantasy author and blogger Jean Lee.
Day 6: 5th November
Discussion of DWJ’s epic fantasy Cart & Cwidder.
Day 7: 6th November
Wrap-up post and the unveiling of the theme for Witch Week 2020, which will be hosted by Lizzie Ross.

Let the mayhem begin!

WitchWeek 2017 & The Days of the Dead

dia

 

In many traditions at this time of the year it is believed the veil between the living and the dead is thin. I don’t think it is any coincidence that Halloween/Samhain, the Day of the Dead and All Saints’/All Souls’ Day occur within days of each other. Darkness has begun its descent over the land and that always brings up death. Christians probably took up the earlier concept of the Pagan commemoration of the dead and made it their own, but instead of seeing this as a competition, I see it as complementary.

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I came to this conclusion as I worked on my guest post for WitchWeek, a week long celebration of fantasy books and authors hosted at the Emerald City Book Review. This year, the theme is Dreams of Arthur.  I finally understand the overlap of Paganism and Christianity that infuses King Arthur and Camelot: that King Arthur emerges from Celtic folklore, yet becomes very firmly placed in one of Christianity’s biggest mysteries, the Quest for the Holy Grail.

That the occupier appropriates the customs of the occupied is an important awareness, but it doesn’t mean we have to throw out the newer rites. During the last several generations the resurgence of Paganism, Witchcraft, modern Druidy and other non-Christian traditions continues to rise and practitioners reconstruct rites and ceremonies that, in my opinion, are a positive shift.

The last harvest is another theme we share. Just as in the old days people spent this time of the year gathering up the last of the harvest, bringing in the animals and making preparations for winter’s long period of indoor living, we do the same. This was made clear to me during the years I lived in Chicago when the changes of seasons—and the changes of activities—especially during winter, were in stark contrast to those of my native California!

crowmoonSo, as we begin to pull in both externally as well as internally we reap our modern harvest. And as we did of old we celebrate our ancestors and remember our more recent dead.

I wish everyone a Happy Halloween, Samhain Blessings, a meaningful Dia de los Muertos and Blessed All Saints’/All Souls’ days.

 

I am remembering my dad today, who died this year:

James Martin Welch
June 26, 1932-April 17, 2017

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Are you remembering anyone during this time?

 

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Join Lory this week in celebrating King Arthur, his Knights and the Camelot community with posts, a giveaway, lively discussions and a readalong of Kazuo Ishiguro’s, The Buried Giant!

#WitchWeekECBR-Two Books: Ray Bradbury, Kelly Barnhill

I am a little late in talking about these books that I read for Witch Week hosted by Lory at Emerald City Book Review, but I wanted to make some quick notes. The first is the classic, Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury and the second is a new title by Kelly Barnhill, The Girl Who Drank the Moon.

 

My Edition:somethingwicked
Title: Something Wicked This Way Comes
Author: Ray Bradbury
Publisher: William Morrow
Device: Hard cover
Year: 1962
Pages: 293
For a plot summary

 

In this classic by Bradbury two best friends, the almost 14-year olds Will and Jim, spend a horror-filled weekend together trying to get away from a hellish carnival. Told in a lyrical, almost poetic style that I really wanted to appreciate, I have to admit I was confused by it. I had to constantly reread and frankly, if I had not committed to this book  for Witch Week, I think I would have ditched it soon after starting!

But I persevered and discovered my confusion worked. My confusion was the boys’ confusion. Is Mr. Cooger really dead in the electric chair? And that little girl under the tree was Miss Foley their teacher who by nasty magic regressed in age? And whoever thought a hot air balloon could be so sinister as to hold a witch who was looking for fresh meat? And the Illustrated Man, I mean Mr. Dark, what was he and was he really going to take the boys into the carnival for ever and ever like some marionette doll?

One thing this style of writing did for me was to cast a spell over my imagination and force me to see a world of dimness and blurred vision. All the action happened at the edge of darkness, in fact, I don’t think the sun ever came out and coupled with a storm approaching and plenty of the action happening at night, I just felt weighted down.

The brightest spot for me was Mr. Halloway, Will’s father and the town’s night librarian, who has spent decades among historians and philosophers in his private realm of books. He is really the hero of the story, not just as the boys’ physical savior, but also as a voice for speaking your heart and emotion in the way he opened up to them about life. “Who are you?” both father and son asked and answered to the best of their ability. This ordeal surely strengthened their bond.

And finally, I really appreciated that the resolution to the horror carnival was to share love and joy. That because the carnival fed on the sorrows and disappointments of people, the cure was to be happy. Charles Halloway discovered this when he fought off the witch. What a comical scene: the evil old witch wiggling her hand in the air to slow his heart to a stop, while he is feeling it as tickles on his chest and cannot contain his laughter which in turn blows her out the door!

And I suppose that is about as good a resolution as they come because the alternative, to meet violence with violence, is always temporary.

 

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My Edition:drankmoon
Title: The Girl Who Drank the Moon
Author: Kelly Barnhill
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Device: Hard cover
Year: 2016
Pages: 388
For a plot summary

 

 

This is a beautifully told story of magic and witches, love and community…and a very big misunderstanding.

For centuries, each year the people of the Protectorate give up the youngest child among the families to the witch who lives in the forest as an appeasement against her doing anything terrible to the town. The ritual is performed with much solemnity, with only occasional protest from the parents, such is the belief in the efficacy of the sacrifice. On this particular day, however, the mother will not let her little daughter be taken and she is ripped from her arms. The ritual goes on as planned and the baby is left on the stone for the witch to take. After the procession leaves and as she has done every year for 500 years Xan, the witch, snatches up the infant and carries it by broomstick to loving families across the forest to the Free Cities.

Xan has never understood why this village leaves an infant to die, but is happy to deliver it to families who love children. However, this year she has become very attached to her charge and begins to take the longer route in order to spend more time with her, alternately nourishing the baby with goat’s milk and starlight as is normal. But she has become so distracted with thoughts of keeping this one that she doesn’t see that the moon has come out when she raises her hand to the stars and draws down moonlight instead, filling the baby with great magic.

The story progresses with the child Luna growing up under Xan’s tutelage, the magical creatures she plays and learns with and the mission to find her mother. Meanwhile, in the Protectorate, a young man whose child is next to be taken, decides he must end this practice and sets out to kill the witch. The misunderstanding is resolved, but not before tragedy and evil takes its toll.

This is a beautifully written book with characters both magical and human that are unforgettable. Barnhill handles tension and conflict well, and writes an easy flowing prose. Though this is a book for middle schoolers, as an adult I found it a very enjoyable read. The only weaknesses in the book are due to this age difference, I believe, as I would have liked more depth to the characters.

Oh, and I must mention the cover. It is exquisite. Here is a larger view.
drankmoon

Pierced at the ‘Caw’

I love crows. It is a mystery to me as to why they fascinate me, but I love to watch them and observe their lives. I do not fear them or think them evil, and believe a short freestyle poem on this hallowed day is appropriate!

On this night when the veil between this world and that of the Spirit is thin, may you be touched by the lives of your ancestors and may their memories always live in your hearts. Happy Halloween!

crowintrees

I love my crows.

They are liquid black beauty.

They strut as they walk, confident.
What do they know?

I am pierced at the ‘caw.’
It makes me pause; I turn my heading looking for something.
Something I know? Something I lost? Something I need? Something….

Catching the eye of a crowcrowmoon
is contact with magic, with Merlin or Diana.
It is a gateway to the Dreamtime, to The Deeps, to the Soul.

On the wing, scratching the ground for food, cawing into the wind, they turn my head, thrill my heart
calling me to the Universe they rule,
where I am my true self living in the magic of the Old Ones.

crowgravblav