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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Christopher & Heather Dunbar on Celtic Myth

Celtic Mythology for the Dunbars

Heather: I find all mythology to be fascinating.  However, Celtic mythology is my favorite.  I grew up reading a lot of classical mythology stories, and it kind of got a little boring after awhile.  My interest in anything Celtic intensified in the mid-nineties, when I spent a wonderful summer in Europe as an intern.  I worked in Epping Forest around London and then backpacked through Western Europe.  The history and mythology of the ancient peoples in Europe just inspired me unlike anything else.  I wanted to learn more.  I still love learning about it.  It’s so multifaceted, and one could become lost in examining all the stories.
The Celts seemed to love tales involving characters who could be both villainous and heroic.  Today, many authors strive for the same thing in our books.  I feel proud to have a Celtic heritage (my family is primarily Germanic and Irish).  After my travels, I went back home to Texas and began to study everything I could about the Celtic tribes of Europe.  A lot of them suffered during the Roman era due to constant invasions, and their culture faded and merged with the Romans, except in Scotland and Ireland.  Today, more people are discovering the wonderful tales within Celtic mythology and realizing that the stories still resonate with us.

Chris: Until I met Heather, my only understanding of mythology had come from classical Greek and Roman mythology, and to a much lesser extent, Viking mythology.  Celtic, Asian, African, Polynesian, and many other mythologies were not covered in school.
I feel somewhat connected with Celtic mythology, as half of my heritage is from Celtic lineage.  The Celts were a great people, and their culture, beliefs, and language spanned all of Europe, western Asia, and even eastern North America, as recent archeological evidence has demonstrated.
Much of Celtic mythology has been lost, as the Celtic races have been usurped by other races and by other faiths, yet some elements of the Celts have survived, most notably in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany, the Isle of Man, and Cornwall.  Celtic languages (Irish, Scots, and Manx, for example), customs, and beliefs have seen recent revivals, and I am happy to learn of so many people who, like me, are rediscovering the Celts.

Our favorite Gods/Goddesses/Myth creatures

Heather: Hmmmm… there are so many to chose from.  Yet, I will have to admit that my favorite is The Morrigan.  I do love to read about other deities and heroes, such as Lugh, Brigid, Cernunnos, and Cu Chulainn, but The Morrigan just really spoke to me when I learned about Her.

Chris: I would have to say The Morrigan, though since the question below asks about Her, I will say that, given that they are the chief beings in our series, I would say vampires… though not the Hollywood vampires with which most people are familiar.  I like the old-world vampires, before even the name “vampire” was known.  These beings, who consumed the life essences of mortals, had many names, respective of their cultures of origin.  Deargh Du, Algul, Ekimmu Cruitne, Ekimmu, and Lamia are just a few names attributed to these blood-drinkers.

The Morrigan

Heather: I love Her.  She’s primal and dark, and a destructive force at times, but that destruction is necessary for creation to commence in this realm.  I sometimes think that if women read more about Morrigan and the women in Celtic myths, we’d realize how very powerful we are and that while we can nurture, we can also be a powerful force.

Chris: She is the ultimate woman… the ultimate feminist.  She is of war, death, and rebirth, among other things.  She does not let a man stand above Her… perhaps with Her, but not above Her.  She represents balance and equality, and if that balance is threatened, She acts.  She is also cyclical, timeless, often represented as either maiden, mother, or crone.  Terms like “Phantom Queen”, “One-Eyed Crone”, and “Crone of War” are often attributed to Her.  Because of these qualities, we chose Her to be a pivotal character in our series, and we even named the series after Her.

Celtic Myth in our books

Heather: When I came back from Europe, I started studying some of the more obscure myths from the Celtic lands.  At the same time, I think I was reading a lot of vampire fiction.  I loved researching all the different vampire myths from different countries, and one night I found the myth about the Deargh Du.  The myth involved a young woman of wealth that was forced into a marriage.  She hated her husband-to-be and then killed him and everyone at the wedding feast as revenge for her situation.
The actual story of the creation of the first Deargh Du is very short, since most of the tales were lost because the bards who told these stories and seldom wrote them down, and later when monks recorded these stories in writing, they did so with in an adulterated fashion.  However, I decided it would be interesting if the Deargh Du were a creation that came forth during the Mílesian invasion of Ireland, as that is one of my favorite legends. 

Chris: We incorporate mythological elements from numerous cultures the world-over.  Our main focus has been on blood-drinker myths from these varied cultures, but of course we also delve into gods and goddesses who bear similar qualities to Morrigan, such as Kali, Verethragna, and Zaltu, to name three.  When we cannot find specific names or gods / goddesses of origin in what mythologies we find, we create some of our own mythology.  I challenge our readers to research the mythologies we depict in our stories to not only learn for themselves the vast array of mythology not taught in schools, but also to figure out what mythology we have created ourselves.

About Morrigan Brood series

Heather: Originally, Morrigan’s Brood was a flashback from a manuscript I wrote titled Philosopher’s Stone.  It was sort of a run-of-the-mill urban fantasy with vampires.  Anyway, one day an editor took a look at it and said that my flashback to sixth century Ireland was entertaining and that it was better than the rest of the story.  I knew that my modern-day story was kind of dull, and I loved putting my research skills to the test.  With some encouragement from Chris, we began to rewrite the manuscript.  The story became an all-consuming project, and we’re such history nerds to begin with that the idea became to make a ‘vampire’ series set in the past that would correspond with historical events.

Chris: Our series revolves around a core group of blood-drinkers who live long lives and see history evolve around them, though some have a more active role in how history unfolds.  We orient our stories around notable events in our planet’s history, such as the Roman invasion of Briton, the Fall of Rome, or the crowning of Charlemagne, to name a few.  We incorporate as much history as we can find into our books, even what some people might consider mundane, like clothing, shopping, and trading.  We also, as we mentioned above, incorporate mythological and supernatural beings into our stories.
Of course we do incorporate the darker elements one might find if they stepped through a time portal and found themselves standing on the beach outside of Kent in 55 BCE or appearing in a brothel in Aachen in 801 CE.  These times, and others the stories take place within, were brutal, bloody, violent, and lusty; we do not withdraw from those elements in our writing.  Our goal is to stay true to the life and times of those eras.  Our readers will find blood, decapitations, defilement, torture, war, death, blood… did I say blood?  Blood. 
The Morrigan’s Brood Series I would not typify as an “alternate history” series, though some readers have suggested that term might fit.  On the contrary, we leave the written history to unfold as we know it did, unaltered.  What we dabble in are the gray areas of history, what happened behind the scenes so that what was written was written.  Couldn’t it be possible that long-lived beings derived from the gods and goddesses of the ancient world have been manipulating how history unfolds from night’s cool embrace?  How would we know one way or another?  Morrigan’s Brood delves into these gray areas and explains what “might” have happened.
So delve right in and help maintain the Balance!  Join the Journey!

Christopher Dunbar and Heather Poinsett Dunbar had agreed to giveaway Morrigan Brood to one lucky winner, check out my preview on Morrigan Brood tomorrow for the details! Don't forget to visit them HERE!


Vivien said...

Great guest post! It's nice to hear some insight into this story.

In Julie's Opinion said...

Wow! Thanks for all the information on why you use Celtic mythology in your books! I love all mythology, but especially Celtic mythology, so I can't wait to read your book :)
jwitt33 at live dot com

BLHmistress said...

I have read a few books with Celtic Mythology not as nearly as i would like, seemed for me I have been stuck so to speak in the Greek and Roman Mythologies more than any other.

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