Magic in THE CHILD EATER

My novel, THE CHILD EATER, was published in America July 7, after previously coming out in Great Britain, where it was listed in The Guardian’s Notable Books of the Year. Here, it’s already received a terrific review from NPR online.

http://www.npr.org/2015/07/16/423200086/-the-child-eater-has-an-appetite-for-dark-heartfelt-fantasy

If anyone is interested in setting up interviews, or reviewing the book, please contact Alex Knight, at alex.knight@hbgusa.com

Meanwhile, the paperback edition has come out in Britain, and for that I contributed an essay, Magic In The Child Eater, which I’m including here.

The Child Eater is about many things—heroism, secrets, child abuse, flying, and two boys who are bound together without ever knowing of each other’s existence. It is also about magic.
Magic is a major part of Matyas’s world. Though the wizards officially serve the king and nobility, they themselves are the true power. This is part of why Matyas wants to become a Master, for he hopes that magical power will allow him to escape the brutality and shame of his childhood.
Simon Wisdom’s world appears closer to our own, but magic hums beneath the surface. While Matyas actually becomes a sorcerer, Simon struggles to suppress what he and his father take to be simple psychic powers. It is only when Simon can glimpse the greater magical structure surrounding him that he can do what he needs to save himself, and generations to come, from the hidden figure of the Child Eater.
In creating a magical underpinning for the book, I wanted to make it a world of its own, rather than relying on an existing magical system. Of necessity I would take ideas from different sources, but not simply import a complete structure into my story.
I also wanted my sources to be not the ones we see all the time. It often seems to me that certain traditions get over-used in contemporary fantasy. Celtic Faerie lore has fueled a vast number of books, some beautifully written, but for me, at least, it has come to feel overly familiar. Almost the same goes for what some call Western Ceremonial Magic (or magick, as Aleister Crowley called it), with all its hordes of demons and angels summoned to serve the magician.
I realized as I tried to develop the book’s magic that it would need two things. The first was a sense of an overall structure, and a history that would lie behind it. The second was the actual experience of magic—what the power, and the knowledge, felt like, and what it might be to experience and understand the world in a completely different way. The power to cast spells, to alter reality itself, would certainly overwhelm someone who discovered he or she could do that. One of my favorite scenes in the book occurs when Matyas, now grown and a Master, returns to his parents’ inn, and then simply stands in a room, stunned at the realization of all the terrible punishments he could bring upon his father.
This is magic as personal power. For Simon it comes when he confronts bullies by saying out loud all their secret thoughts the second after they think them. There is another level of magic, however, when the Master suddenly perceives the vast and beautiful magical universe itself. To hint at such an experience, I drew upon Peter Lamborn Wilson’s passionate essay about Charles Fourier, in Wilson’s book, Escape From the Nineteenth Century. Fourier, who lived at the time of the French Revolution, believed that true revolution does not simply create a more just society, but changes consciousness itself. He believed that we see only a limited range of colors, hear only a narrow range of harmonies. Revolution must open the cosmos to us.
In the novel, I attributed these teachings to the mysterious founder of the Academy, Florian, whose writings most wizards find too difficult. Matyas studies them, not sure why, until the moment comes when he experiences a personal revelation. Carrying wood for his teacher’s fire he looks up at the Moon, seemingly caught in the horns of a tower, and suddenly he sees colors beyond colors, hears sounds beyond sounds, discovers the ordinary world transformed into wonder and beauty. Without even knowing it he begins to teach, to share, and all the wizards, and their students, and even the spirits, known in the book as The Splendor, gather round him.
For Simon, and his father Jack, magic becomes a thing of fear, in the person of the mysterious Man In Gray, who enters their lives in crucial moments. They will finally know him as the Child Eater, a sorcerer whose great power depends on hurting children. Veil, Matyas’s teacher, tells him that what the sorcerer does, known as the “Spell of Extension,” is a flaw in Creation itself, and the Creator wept when She discovered she could not make a world that did not contain it.
The idea for this spell came from a bizarre Jewish legend I discovered while reading The Tree Of Souls: Jewish Mythology, by the great Howard Schwartz, whose writings on Jewish folklore have influenced me for many years. Schwartz tells of the teraph, a talking head that can foretell the future. The origin of this idea comes from a mysterious Bible passage, where Rachel has married Jacob and the two leave her father’s tents to return to his homeland. The Bible tells us that she took her father’s teraphim (plural), but not what these are other than valuable, and small enough to hide among her belongings. Most commentators see them as “household gods,” but that’s a problem, since it would make the Mother Of Israel an idol-worshipper.
Over time, speculation about the teraph moved further and further from its origins. In the Middle Ages the idea developed that an evil sorcerer could lure a boy away from his parents just before he would be due to be bar mitzvahed, decapitate the poor child, and use his head as an oracle. In the novel, however, the Child Eater seeks something more basic than foreknowledge—life itself.
For the background to magic in the book I turned once again to Jewish myth, a famous and deeply mysterious story from the Talmud, “The Four Rabbis Who Entered Paradise.” It tells how the great Rabbi Akiva led three of his disciples into the heavenly palaces, and how all but Akiva came to a bad end. In the novel, Florian, her teacher, Joachim, and a mysterious unnamed “Other” travel “behind the Veil of the Creator” to seek help for humanity. Florian and Joachim return unharmed—and with the power of magic—but the third becomes corrupted, with a destiny that will work itself out over thousands of years.
Finally, there is the Tarot Of Eternity, which appears in different places throughout the novel. As someone who has read Tarot cards, and taught and written about them, for nearly fifty years, I am well aware that the cards originated as a game in Italy in the early fifteenth century, and only much later became associated with fortune-telling and spiritual symbolism. But I also am aware of a powerful myth about the cards, what I call their “secret origin.” In 1781, around the time of Fourier’s visions, two French scholars and Freemasons made the bold claim that the Tarot originated in Ancient Egypt and contained all the great teachings disguised as a game. This idea took off, and ever since, people have argued not whether the Tarot contains hidden secrets, but rather which ones.
In the novel, the Tarot Of Eternity—the “original” Tarot—does not foretell the future (Simon can do that all by himself), but acts as a link between the millennia, and, ultimately, Simon and Matyas. Near the beginning, Matyas encounters the cards, or rather what their magician owner calls “a copy of a copy of a copy.” He tells Matyas an ancient saying: “Whosoever holds the true Tarot Of Eternity, he shall be healed of all his crimes.” Matyas will not understand this until the very end of the book.

Published in: on July 24, 2015 at 2:57 pm  Comments (4)  

Amazing review of Shining Tribe Tarot

Anita Perez, who is a brilliant Tarotist and shaman, has done a review of my Shining Tribe Tarot that is as much a personal journey as a commentary on the deck. One thing for sure, it’s not the usual detached intellectual approach found in most reviews. For myself, I consider it the most amazing review I’ve ever received and I wanted to share it here.

When you’re there click on the link for her other blogposts, at The Metaphysician’s Journal. I’ll add the link here as well.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtpNmtptgzpsvQhS3viWehw

The Shining Tribe deck is out of print but I have copies if anyone should want one. There is also a limited edition Art Deck, printed directly from the original art, and hand cut on special paper. If anyone is interested in either one, write to me at Rachel@Rachelpollack.com

Published in: on February 23, 2015 at 6:33 pm  Comments (1)  
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BURNING SERPENT

Rachel:

Here is a wonderful article by Camelia Elias, about a reading she did on inspiration with the Burning Serpent Oracle. Besides developing a fascinating technique, it also demonstrates how the Burning Serpent can be used for what I call Wisdom readings. I’ve been doing such readings–asking a question about existence rather than just personal issues–with Tarot for a long time, and have recently started doing it with the BSO as well.

Originally posted on Camelia Elias' Taroflexions:

In a recent discussion with Rachel Pollack about inspiration, I suggested that we look at the etymology of the word. From Latin, inspirare, to be inspirited or to inspire, inspiration means not only ‘to breathe,’ but also to receive divine guidance when breathing in a certain way. What is thus suggested in this word is the idea that there is a breath that is transcendent. For me, then, any inspired kind of breathing is akin to a heroic act that reminds me of my first kiss.

IMG_4226I am fortunate enough to not only have such private conversations with Rachel, a brave woman of great wisdom and incisive reflective capacity, but also to receive her breathing my way manifested as words and through her own works. It excites me as well to see how she thinks of me, always inspiring me to do more, and be more. Here’s her dedication to…

View original 1,732 more words

Published in: on January 24, 2015 at 6:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

PRAISE SONG TO RAZIEL–A Prayer For Diviners

Recently I was asked to join some 200 writers worldwide in compiling a book of prayers to angels. Now, I’m usually not that angel-focused, but I immediately thought of the angel Raziel, who revealed the Book of Secrets to Adam in the Garden of Eden. The Book was said to be one of seven things that existed before Creation. When I did some research I found that not only did the Book impart mystical secrets, but it also revealed the future (we also can say that not only did it reveal the future, it also imparted mystical secrets). Thus, Joseph, the great image of the diviner in the Hebrew bible, was said to have used it when he did his dream interpretation, and when he scryed from his cup (Genesis 44:5)

My favorite way to write a prayer is to use African “praise song” model, where we don’t ask for anything, but sing the wonders of the being called upon.

As soon as I started writing this it came through in a great burst. The Hebrew phrase at the end, Kayn y’hi ratzon, was said by the priests of the ancient temple, and now some modern Jews. It’s usually translated as “May it be so, by God’s will.” I thought the Pagan saying at the end of ceremony, “So mote it be,” was much the same thing.

PRAISE SONG TO RAZIEL
A Prayer For Diviners

We sing our angel Raziel,
Giver of secrets, giver of letters.
He who gave the Book,
Blessed among the seven wonders that lived before Creation.
The Book of Secrets—

All that is hidden, all that will come,
Known and seen long ago, revealed in Paradise,
Sung to Adam, to Eve,
Soft among the leaves and pomegranates.

The Book—not pages—a sapphire—radiant
With letters of flame.
Praise Raziel, who gave it to Adam, to Eve,
Hidden from the angels, hidden even
From Gabriel of the Horn, Raphael the Healer,
Star-eyed Michael of the Sword, even Uriel, the Light of God—

Known only to Eve, only to Adam,
The Book of Secrets,
Passed to Noah to light the Ark,
To Abraham and Sarah concealed in their cave,
To Joseph, our beloved, our brother, our ancestor,
Joseph the Diviner, Joseph the Dreamer, who saw all that was hidden,
All future, all beauty.

We sing and praise you, Raziel!
Giver of Secrets, Giver of Letters, Giver of Truth
Kayn y’hi ratzon
So mote it be.

All diviners, of all traditions, may use this prayer,
And all those who seek illumination
And mysteries revealed.

Published in: on September 5, 2014 at 5:25 pm  Comments (4)  

Short (short) story

I’m working on a new novella for my shamanic noir hero, Jack Shade. This will be the third in the series, after “Jack Shade In The Forest Of Souls,” and “The Queen Of Eyes.”

I’ve just come to a passage that I realize could stand on its own, as a short-short story. That seems to be kind of a thing these days, so I thought, why not show it here? I won’t give the context, it really does work all by itself.

Here it is:

Jack had once made love to a blind woman, who’d seduced him by telling that she could see when having sex. What she didn’t say was that he would become blind. At first he’d gotten angry, and started to push her away, but she clung to him, saying “Please, Jack, let me have this. Your sight will come back, I promise.” So Jack had discovered what it was like to make love entirely by feel. After, he lay in bed while his partner got up, and for a moment he panicked when sight did not come flooding back. But soon flashes came and went, and then glimpses. He saw her standing in front of a full length mirror, staring and touching, urgently connecting finger knowledge to shapes she would try to memorize. Jack didn’t get up until his sight had fully returned. Then he walked over to where she still stood before the mirror, her blank eyes weeping. “I’m sorry,” he said, and tried to hold her, but she pushed him away.
“Go,” she said. “Please.”
“We could do it again. If not now—”
“No! It only works once. Then—then I have to find someone else.” Jack had gathered up his clothes and gotten dressed in the hallway, then let himself out.

Published in: on August 17, 2014 at 3:15 am  Comments (6)  

My copies of THE CHILD EATER arrived today, and I opened it at random to a favorite passage

Due to a shipping problem, my author’s copies of my novel, The Child Eater only just arrived. (Sort of like what happened with the copies of The Burning Serpent–see below, “Hermes Retrograde”)

Just earlier today I received a review of the deck and shared it here and on FB, in particular a comment I liked about the structure of time in the book. When I opened the box I opened it at random to one of my favorite passages, where Matyas, one of the two heroes, has a visionary experience. I thought I might want to share it here, but I would need to find it in the Word file, for easy copying. Well, I opened the file, moved the bar down to somewhere in the middle–and there it was! Not close by, the exact same passage, and in both cases right at the beginning.

Here’s the passage:

Far from driving him away from Florian, however, the strange experience seemed to intensify his urge to understand her more elaborate teachings, as if to prove to himself, he had not abandoned her. He continued to read the same passages over and over, now in both the tower and the library, as if they might change by where you read them.
And then one afternoon, after all that study, he was standing in the courtyard, with his arms full of wood, when someone said something about the Moon caught on Veil’s tower. He looked up, and yes, the crescent Moon appeared on its side right above the tower. He stared and stared it, remembering a passage in Florian, one of those he’d never understood, how “the Moon sings its horns on the Gate of Stone.”
Suddenly Veil’s tower lit up with color, colors he had never seen before, all up and down the stones, every one a different color. Veil’s tower wasn’t made of stone at all, it rose on color after color, singing colors, harmonies never heard before because they were never possible until this moment, until Matyas could see them and hear them.
He stared at the sky and saw that it went on and on, layer and layer of impossible colors that had never existed, and then he held his hands and they were made of color and song. He looked down at the blazing sticks of color that lay at his feet, and then the ground itself, and he realized that what had seemed like solid dirt and stone now revealed itself as vast lattices and harmonies of color, reds beyond red and blues hidden inside blue, all of them singing to each other, singing to Matyas, singing in Matyas, singing in the world, in every face. This was the song the Kallistocha had sung, hidden in the dark colorless trees, trapped there by the warriors of Heaven, yet still able to sing.
Matyas held up his hands, fingers spread wide, and color and song flowed over the courtyard, and the statues, the stone lions, were revealed as glory upon glory. Color poured from his fingers and his eyes directly into the open mouths of all the wavery shimmery forms that gathered round him. He was teaching now, giving truth, and didn’t even know it at first, until he detected, beyond the figures sitting in the dirt, Lukhanan and Berias and Lord Olan, the only ones who had not surrendered their fixed forms to shifting harmonies of music and color. Only, now Olan slid away from the other two, and sat down, and instantly all his rigidity dissolved into brightness. Matyas laughed, and the sky rippled out through the spheres of the planets, and they were not shells surrounding the dead Earth but songs and shouts, calling to each other in layers and layers of harmonic color.
He saw lights amid the lights. Bright sharp dots that hovered between the pillars, that fitted themselves among the listeners. The Splendor had come—not to help him, or protect him, but to listen. To learn.
Matyas had no idea how long it all lasted, for what he saw and heard changed time as well, so that instead of a steady flow it swirled and rose and fell and turned back on itself and flared up and died down.

Published in: on August 13, 2014 at 1:55 am  Leave a Comment  

New Review of THE CHILD EATER

Here’s a new review of my novel The Child Eater.

http://intellectusspeculativus.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/the-child-eater-by-rachel-pollack/

Here’s my favorite passage:

The Child Eater comes wrapped in a package that both reveals and conceals the novel it encloses. While mysticism and urban-fantasy-style ideas play a significant role in the novel, this is neither horror nor a “secrets of the universe” kind of book; its two entwined narratives are both coming of age, young adult-ish pieces that while set in different worlds with very different protagonists interact and parallel each other fascinatingly. This may be the greatest strength of the novel; Pollack has some themes that run across chapters virtually from the start, including the Child Eater of the title and the role of poetry, but other elements appear in one narrative earlier than the other, or are picked up in different ways across the two halves of the story. The Child Eater dances what is a structurally fascinating narrative dance, and spirals in towards a brilliantly executed conclusion.

The book is available in stores and online in Britain and Commonwealth countries, and in America from Amazon sellers (properly released in America next year).

Published in: on August 12, 2014 at 4:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

BURNING SERPENT AT AMAZON, NOVELS ON EBOOKS, JACK SHADE ON AUDIO!

This is a kind of catch-all, letting people know where they can find some of my work.

The Burning Serpent Oracle, jointly created by myself and Robert M. Place, is now available from Amazon. Well, actually, it’s available from me, but I did a magic spell to turn myself into an Amazon seller (who knows what else I might end up selling??). Just go to Amazon and type in Burning Serpent Oracle. And of course you also can order it from http://www.Burningserpent.com.

Meanwhile, other Amazon sellers have magically acquired copies of my new novel, The Child Eater, which is officially only for sale in Britain until next year. It’s getting great reviews, so if you don’t want to wait, you don’t have to.

Meanwhile some more, the British SF publisher Gollancz awhile back put together ebooks of all my previously published science fiction or fantasy novels, and the short story collection, Burning Sky, the title story of which has been reprinted three or four times. https://www.orionbooks.co.uk/search.page?SearchText=Rachel+Pollack

Meanwhile still more–some of you know that I’ve been writing a series of novellas about a contemporary shaman for hire named Jack Shade. The first of these, Jack Shade In The Forest Of Souls, has been done as an audio. Go to http://www.farfetchedfables.com

Have fun, reading and listening!

Published in: on August 3, 2014 at 1:04 am  Comments (2)  

RESCUING HERMES

Recently on http://www.Burningserpent.com I posted of the difficulties Robert Place and I had had getting our printed cards in our hand so we could send the finished Burning Serpent oracle to everyone who had ordered it.

It’s quite a story. Go take a look on http://www.Burningserpent.com

Published in: on July 9, 2014 at 12:14 am  Leave a Comment  

WAITING FOR HERMES

For those of you who have so patiently–or not so patiently–been waiting for the Burning Serpent Oracle to show up in your mailbox, I’ve written a statement about it on the BSO site, http://www.burningserpent.com.

It’s called Hermes Retrograde, and it describes what happens when you’re waiting for Hermes the Messenger (first card) to ride into your life–and the planet Mercury goes retrograde on you. Mercury is, of course, the Roman name for Hermes. Aiee!

Published in: on July 7, 2014 at 4:43 am  Comments (1)  
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