Mythical Monday: The Magical Kingdom of Lyonnesse by Mae Clair

In the days when King Arthur ruled Camelot, an island nation flourished off the coast of Cornwall, among the Scilly Isles. Lyonnesse was a magical kingdom blessed with all things beautiful and abundant. The climate remained ideal year-round, resulting in lush orchards and fertile farmland. Beehives oozed honey and cows produced rich, thick cream. Even the poorest among the populace lived in charming cottages nestled among verdant gardens.

bigstock-Enchanted-Garden-3320524

Trade thrived between England and Lyonnesse, and although practitioners of white magic were common, the dark arts were unknown.

Some believe Lyonnesse was the home of Tristan, and that he was prince of this enchanted land. It doesn’t surprise me, given what I know of Prince Tristan.  His legend has long been a favorite of mine. Last February, I did a post about his doomed love affair with Iseult: Mythical Monday: Heartbreak and Valor. As tragic as their love was, perhaps it’s equally fitting Lyonnesse was eventually claimed by the cold waters of the Atlantic.

No one knows exactly how or why the island vanished, only that it sank into the sea around the time of King Arthur’s death. How sad to think that Camelot and this place of grace and beauty vanished nearly simultaneously. Perhaps, with the demise of Arthur’s shining dream, the nobility and virtue of Lyonnesse could not continue.

It is not, however, forgotten. Passing fishermen know to listen closely on a quiet day. When all is still, legend says you can hear the church bells of Lyonnesse tolling a dirge beneath the waves.

Mythical Monday: The Wild Hunt by Mae Clair

I’m digging deep into my memory for today’s Mythical Monday post. I’ve read multiple books in which the Wild Hunt factors into the plot, but can’t come up with a single title off the top of my head. Frustrating.

I’m sure I devoured most of them in the days when fantasy novels were my go-to genre. I remember several scenes vividly. Although I don’t read nearly as many fantasy tales as I once did, I still love a good supernatural/sorcerous novel, along with all of the eerie and ethereal beings that haunt the pages.

bigstock-Horse-Eye-In-Dark-39925873I’ve read stories with dragons and necromancers, dark faerie races and repulsive monsters. Ogres, doppelgangers and slithering beasts. Perhaps none is more frightening than the Wild Hunt – a band of ghostly phantoms on spectral steeds. They can be seen racing across a night-blackened sky or hovering just above the ground, a macabre host surrounded by undead hounds. The chilling sound of the Hunt’s horn echoes through lonely meadows and moon-splattered woods, striking fear into the hearts of all who hear it.

Myths of the Wild Hunt can be traced to Scandinavian and Germanic myth; later to Northern European countries. An omen of ill fortune, the Hunt foretells of looming catastrophe, often of plague or war, most certainly death.

Fortunately it is limited to specific times, beginning on October 31st and ending on April 30th, (Beltane Eve), of the following year. The height of the Hunt’s activity comes during the midwinter festival of Yule (December 21st). On that cold wintery night, travelers would do well to stay indoors, gathered close to the hearth where it is safe and warm.

bigstock-Log-Cabin-In-Winter-28568249In Norway peasants superstitiously left a measure of grain outside between Yule and Twelfth Night to feed the Huntsman’s horse in hopes he would pass them by. If caught in the path of the hunt, travelers knew to fall face down in the middle of the road. If fortunate, they would feel nothing but the icy paws of the hounds passing over their back. Legend says the Huntsman will graciously spare those in the middle of the path, but woe to he who attempts to track the hunt. That ill-fated soul will find himself a captive in the land of the dead.

In many tales, the Norse god Odin is the leader of the Hunt, riding astride his eight-legged steed, Sleipnir. The Saxon version defines Herne the Hunter as leader, and in many legends, King Arthur is one of the huntsmen.

When I think of the Hunt I always envision its wintry existence. Perhaps it is nothing more than the chilling specter of something supernatural blending with the innate cold of winter. The two twine effortlessly, conjuring striking images of silver moonlight, snow and phantom horses in my mind.

Winter will soon be officially upon us with the arrival of Yule on December 21st – the shortest day of the year. I love this month, a truly magical time, culminated by the arrival of Christmas Day. Even as I celebrate that joyous occasion I can’t help but be intrigued by the folklore of the past.

By the same token, I prefer to imitate those lodgers who huddled around their hearths on cold wintry nights, safe and secure in the warmth of their homes. As fascinating as the Wild Hunt is I prefer my December nights full of Christmas cheer, good Yule tidings and merriment.

What about you?

Mae Clair: The Booker Award ~ Five Fab Reads

I’ve been nominated by the talented Kate Meader to participate in the Booker Award.  Kate is one of my Six Sentence Sunday buddies whose excerpts always amaze me. Be sure to check out her blog for lively and engaging writing!

So exactly how does the Booker Award work? It targets literary and book-centered blogs.
The rules are simple:

Post your five favorite books of all time
Post the booker award icon
Nominate other bloggers to do the same

Here are mine:

CHECKMATE by Dorothy Dunnett
This is the last novel in THE LYMOND CHRONICLES a six book series detailing the life of Sir Francis Crawford of Lymond from 1547 through 1558. Lymond is undoubtedly the most aggravating yet mesmerizing character I’ve encountered in literature. I was never certain if I wanted to hit the man, applaud him or marry him!

The historical detail of the series is amazing. I’m singling out CHECKMATE because it’s the culmination of a massive read. I also love THE RINGED CASTLE, (second to last book) which takes place in the court of Russian Tsar, Ivan the Terrible. The only book I didn’t particularly care for was the second in the series, QUEEN’S PLAY, and that’s because I was so incredibly ticked by Lymond’s actions. Despite the gargantuan size of the series (each book is in the 600-700 page range) I’ve read it several times and am gearing up to read it again.

How to put this in highbrow literary prose? IT ROCKS! 😀

THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING
by T.H. White
I’ve been in love with King Arthur since I was a teen, completely enamored of Camelot’s king. I first read THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING in junior high and have gone back several times since. Not only was it a compelling and lyrical read, but it left me with an amazing impression of chivalry, justice and ‘might vs. right.’ Although I’ve never been a Lancelot fan it was an adjustment getting used to him in this adaption as he is portrayed as ugly, even hideous. I can still vividly recall sitting in the library in eighth grade and giggling over the Questing Beast.  Hmm…there might be a Mythical Monday post in that! 😀

THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING by J.R.R. Tolkien
My tenth grade English teacher introduced me to Frodo, Gandalf and the group. Up until that point I was reading mainly science-fiction. I had no idea the world of fantasy existed. Unlike most readers who started with THE HOBBIT and went on to read THE LORD OF THE RINGS, I read them in reverse. That’s probably why the FELLOWSHIP resonates so strongly with me. It was my first exposure to the fantasy genre and it was pure magic.  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read it.

A TALE OF TWO CITIES by Charles Dickens
This was a book I was assigned to read in junior high. Ugh!  Remember those? Despite the fact I’ve always been an avid reader, most of the have-to-read-books I was assigned in school made my eyes glaze over. That included a lot of classics (although I loved anything by Jack London and Mark Twain). Keep in mind, my reading of choice revolved around space creatures, monsters and anything ‘weird.’ Shockingly, I fell in love with this novel. Maybe it was the budding romantic in me. From the first page, I was sucked into the story and still love it today–not only for the emotional element but the historical detail as well.

THE ALIENIST by Caleb Carr
I loved the setting of this novel (1896 New York) and its blend of history, psychology and Sherlock Holmes-like detective work. It’s an historical crime novel but richly layered on multiple levels. There’s also an amazing sequel, THE ANGEL OF DARKNESS, which is every bit as compelling. I’m only sorry the author didn’t write a third with the same set of characters, particularly Dr. Laszlo Kreizler.

Another book I have to mention is THE TERROR by Dan Simmons. If you’re a frequent visitor to my blog, you’ve probably heard me talk about it before. The only reason it’s not at the top of my list is that I’m not sure it qualifies as a ‘literary’ read. The book is a richly detailed fictional account of Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated expedition to find the Northwest Passage in 1845. It combines elements of history, myth, horror and the supernatural and is by turns beautiful, lyrical, brutal and terrifying. The HMS Terror was one of two ships Franklin led into the artic, the other, the HMS Erebus.  The ships became trapped in the ice and the crews were never seen again. Simmons novel is a fictional accounting of what may have happened to the men after their vessels became trapped. If I had to name a single book as my favorite read of all time, it’s unquestionably this one.

And now, I’m pleased to nominate the following bloggers:

Sheri de Grom
Stephanie Ingram
L.J. Kentowski
Loni Flowers
Christina McKnight

What are your five faves?