This post was a contribution to a series done by the wonderful writer Mary Victory. Follow the link and enjoy some fabulous authors (including those in the new anthology River) as they talk about their experience of ‘place’ and how they write it.
Place has character, there is no doubt, but in ancient myths, folk lore and fairy tales, place was not inanimate; it was divine. The land, rivers, mountains and valleys all were embodiments of the Great Mother – Gaia to the ancient Greeks, Ki to the Sumerian and Tutskwa I’qatsi to the Hopi. In Hinduism and Buddhism she is Bh’mi, to the Celts, Danu, to the Tongva, Chehooit. In Hawaii she is Haumea. Archetypal in being, always feminine, always our great Mother Earth.
In truth at first Chaos came to be, but next wide-bosomed Earth, the ever-sure foundation of all the deathless ones who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus . . . Hesiod 700 BCE
If we go back far enough, we all come from a people, a culture, who worshipped Mother Earth as divine, a creative being who calls forth our reverence and respect. It’s not surprising that we resonate to stories that empower these ancient beliefs. They ring true, deep in our bones.
I was raised on a land where not so long ago the Ohlone people hunted. Growing up my brother and I would find evidence of their passing, relics and artefacts that would make an anthropologist’s eyes bug out. We weren’t taught the same beliefs as the Ohlone, but their love of the land, our Mother Earth, rubbed off, as did some of the customs—like sitting on the ground, letting bare feet touch the earth, thanking a tree for its shade, smiling at the moon.
The land and her treasures influence my writing. How could they not? First was fuelled a short story, Wolf Being, a three hundred million year history of California, the Ohlone, and the beautiful Grey Wolf who once hunted there. The story turned out to be a prelude to my six book ‘Earth/Gaela’ series, the novels exploring a post apocalyptic 24th C Earth and a parallel Gaela, a preindustrial magical hegemony where everything is a ‘thou’ not and ‘it.’ What a different that perspective can make!
When we remember our land is sacred and there is a divine spark in all things (and isn’t it curious how quantum physics theory now supports these notions?) our hearts grow bigger, more generous, more loving. I invite you all right now to stop what you’re doing, go outside, plant your feet in the ground and listen. What stories is Mother Earth telling? I hope some of you will write them down.
Because we could use more books like River, indeed one of the best explorations of ‘place’ as character – alive, potent, divine.